Tuesday 29 December 2009

Interruption to services


Some may have noticed that I have been very quiet in the blogosphere over Christmas - This was due to a traumatic situation at home which has now thankfully passed. My wife was admitted to hospital with clots on both lungs and spent 4 days in intensive care. All is well now and while treatment will be ongoing she is to be released home tomorrow. :)

Pic above shows me visiting Nicola - What do you think of the look?

Wednesday 16 December 2009

And now for something completly different........


This is why we in Ireland are able to sleep easily in our beds at night knowing that our safety and welfare is in good hands (Thanks to @sinabhfuil (twitter) for the link)

Sunday 13 December 2009

The Salvation Army - Changing with the times!

Wow! Saw these girls outside Rockerfeller Center in New York last week - As you can imagine I had to make a generous donation after this :)

Sunday 6 December 2009

The Sunday After......

I dreaded this morning - I knew that the parish had been thrown into turmoil by my words on the Murphy Report. But I underestimated the generosity and love of my parishioners - I should have known better - I am blessed indeed to have so many great people in our church and in all the churches in this area. It has been a hellish week but at the end of it I feel that despite all the hurt and all the pain it was the right thing to do. Here is my sermon as delivered today:


Sermon – Advent 2 2009

Friends – This will not be a normal sermon – Indeed it is probably not a sermon at all but I owe it to you to explain myself for my statement on the Murphy report and all that followed last week.

I am painfully aware that I have upset and hurt some members of the RC community by my remarks on the report. I have written to Bishop Walsh and his clergy to apologize. That letter is to be carried in next weeks Guardian.
I also embarrassed and upset some of you. I have no idea how many and who, apart from those who have spoken to me, and among those who have come forward it has been a quite mixed response.

However those who are hurt and embarrassed are clearly deeply so and that is a source of huge regret to me. To you I apologize without reservation – It was never my intention but that may be cold comfort at this time. I do hope that with time the hurt will fade but that is something largely beyond my control. I actually seriously considered resigning in the last couple of days such was my distress at the results of my actions last week. I had some very kind calls and messages from a number of people from all sides of the community and only for them I would not be here today. Some were from Survivors of abuse, and they were I think what tipped the balance. And along with this some very hurtful things were said to me by people I consider friends, and I know that a lot of this is rooted in anger and hurt and the heat of the moment, but I like each one of you am human and not without feelings and sensitivity.
Yes I brought it on myself – no argument - Some here may think I deserve it and more? – None of you asked me to raise my head above the parapet and perhaps as some have suggested I would be better off keeping quiet.

Rightly or wrongly that’s not who I am – It never was and I don’t think it ever will be, even after all the horrible aftermath of the last week! It was keeping quiet that allowed children to be brutalized and so many lives destroyed.
Many have said it was not my place – Well whose place is it to speak up for children if it isn’t those of us who call ourselves Christian? Let me remind you what Jesus has to say:
“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea” Mark 9:42

Biblical scholars are united in the belief that Jesus is here talking about either little children or young believers. Either way it is not in the least ambiguous. I am no fundamentalist but that is pretty straightforward. Children are children and abuse is abuse – it doesn’t matter what denomination they are. As Christians we are all responsible for ‘these little ones’

And the Murphy report is not just history – If it was I probably would have remained silent. When I read it, and I did read a large amount of it – I am still reading it – I saw a situation where there is ongoing non-cooperation with the State in child protection by certain individuals in a sister church at the highest level. I read of an explanation of how a lie is not a lie and how it is alright to cover up abusers for the sake of the church. I read of people still in office today who fundamentally failed the children in their care and who those children must still witness today in office without consequence for their failures And I asked serious questions about the whole area of compulsory celibacy because there has to be a reason why statistically there have been so many priest abusers in our sister church compared to other churches and may still be as yet undiscovered.

Yes we have had abusers in our church and while at a lower level it happens and is none the less devastating – And incidentally we all of us have a duty of care if we have any concerns to raise them with the relevant state authorities. If there is anything that can be done to minimize this risk then it should be investigated not simply brushed under the carpet as a subject forbidden to discuss. That is not a luxury any church has – we are all answerable to the law.

That is why I raised the thorny subject of compulsory celibacy. Where children are at risk there is no room for polite tip-toeing around each other. I am sorry for the pain I caused to those who least deserve it but it is nothing to the pain of those who have been brutalized by those who were supposed to be their spiritual guides and protectors and who may be abused in the future. All the child protection legislation is no guarantee of absolute safety. This world is not a safe place but we have a duty as Christians and following the instruction of Jesus to do our very best for ‘these little ones’

I didn’t make my statement to build a platform for myself as somebody suggested to me – indeed my biggest regret in all of this is that I have become a distraction from the important issue of the Survivors – We cannot afford the indulgence of turning this incident into an inter-church war – That would only further diminish these little ones who are our primary responsibility. I am going to read a poem that was sent to me directly this week by a survivor of Artane in Dublin:
A Survivor Responds
Dedicated to every abused adult (where-ever) whose childhood was stolen & to pray there is never another child who becomes another token of this horrible crime.

“The Story of me and Many More, A Child after the before”
I am the sky- whose cloak will not blue
I am the sea- whose tide will not turn
I am the moon- whose silver will not hue
I am the sun- whose orange will not burn
I am the day- whose light will not bright
I am the night- whose darkness will not light
I am the tree- whose root is dead
I am the flower- without a head
I am the fish- whose fins will not breathe
I am the bird- who will not eat seed

I am the scab- that just will not heal
I am the neural- that just cannot feel
I am a smile - that remains frozen
I am a choice- that was never chosen
I am a year — without a season
I am a reason - without a reason
I am a whisper - that cannot vibrate
I am a scream - that cannot migrate
I am a prison - whose cell will not open
I am the cell - where space is so choking

I am a house - that has no foundation
I am a country - without a nation
I am the hell - that is in my centre
I am the heaven — that has no banter
I am Christmas - without its infant
I am a gift box - without its present
I am the present — that is now past
I am the past - that is now present
I am a heart - without a soul
I am the secret - never told
I was lost - and still not found
I was frightened - no solace around
I am a curse - no man can swear
I am the abused - no one was there
I done no crime -1 served a dictum
I done no wrong — I am a victim
I was the wrong - that was never right
I was defenceless -1 could not fight
I was that child - who was un-nurtured
I am the man- that still is tortured

(To the Lucky ones who escaped this ordeal)
I am a child abused- a man confused
Just one of many- that were used
To you all - who escaped this ordeal?
If you were I -that is how it would feel?
To be a CHILD ABUSED

I was a Child once like many more
Then someone came and closed that Door
Since then I just gave up hoping
That it would ever again open
You SEE I am a CHILD ABUSED.
With a Title I didn’t choose
And when I became that abused child
That was the last day of my “Life”…!!!
Oh yes, to others it seemed like I had life
But inside, I was never really ever, “Alive”!

Footprint
I somehow still believe there is a God
But ask over & over "Where the Hell he was"?
When I was a child being "Abused"!
Like so many others being "Abused"!

.........................................

Friends,

I am the parent of a child who will be forever vulnerable,

The parent of a child who will always be a child.

The parent of a child who will one day be alone in this world when Nicola and I are dead and gone

A child who may one day be in the care of those I will never meet

And if so, I hope there are people there who will speak and act without looking over their shoulder to protect him and others like him. I may not be able to help my son then but I make no apology for speaking for others who were and are the most treasured gift that any of us can ever receive – a child.

Thursday 3 December 2009

And we get wound up about Civil Unions!

This speech made me think, especially in the context of our difficulty as a State in enacting Civil Union legislation: What are we afraid of?

A Letter to the Roman Catholic community of North Tipperary & Offaly

Dear Friends,
I have lived in Cloughjordan for over eleven years and one of the things that makes me want to stay here is the tremendous amount of ecumenical goodwill and cooperation throughout the wider Christian community.

I know I have hurt and angered many Roman Catholics by what I have said in recent days following the publication of the Murphy Report. I apologize unreservedly for doing so. It was not my intention though I feared it was inevitable. However that does not absolve me from the need to say I am sorry for the hurt I have caused, especially to the vast majority of my Roman Catholic sisters and brothers who are already so hurt and horrified by the findings of the Murphy Report. Neither do I seek to become a distraction from what must be the focus of this report and that is the survivors. They are who this is about, not my pride or any high moral ground that some might think I seek to occupy.

So, why did I get involved in this? Why like most representatives of other churches did I not maintain a polite silence?
The principal reason was out of a genuine concern for the survivors which must be paramount. They are not just the business or the concern of Roman Catholics. All Irish citizens be they Catholic, Protestant, Jew or Muslim, Atheist or Agnostic have a responsibility to them. We owe it to them to make sure that no institution, religious or secular is allowed to do this ever again. My own church incidentally is not blameless in this area and in all I have said I would never want to suggest otherwise.

The second reason I felt the compulsion to speak out may surprise some in the light of all I have said. It is my love for the Roman Catholic Church and so many of its people priests, lay and religious. I have said it before in other forums that I owe my priestly vocation primarily to the support and nurture of members of that Church. I would especially point to a very formative period in my faith journey when I attended Gortnor Abbey Co-ed Convent in Crossmolina Co. Mayo. There the Sisters of Jesus & Mary modeled open and inclusive Christian Community in a way that left a lasting impression on me. They have been with me throughout my journey and took up the front row of Christ Church cathedral at my Ordination. Their sense of vocation and outreach beyond denominational boundaries has been a huge influence on my ministry.

There are so many others I could mention but please understand that in the light of my experience I couldn’t contemplate ‘kicking’ the Roman Catholic Church at any time (As the Irish Catholic newspaper alledged) and especially now. I consider the Roman Catholic Church as a sister Church – Yes there are differences and ongoing pain in that relationship due to the ban on Eucharistic hospitality and the official position of the Roman Catholic Church which is that as an Anglican priest my orders are ‘null and void’. But it is not all one sided. To my continuing shame we in the Church of Ireland have still failed to distance ourselves from the historic but deeply sectarian ‘39 Articles of Religion’ which are published in all our prayer books, and to which all those ordained must subscribe (I crossed my fingers when I had to subscribe to them as do many but that is not enough – they should be consigned to history where they belong).

But for all our problems I see our churches as friends. Relationships on the ground where it really matters are excellent in most cases and increasingly we are working side by side in a new Ireland which has less and less time for Christian disunity and recognizes it for the scandal that it is. And yes, churches should as the editorial in the ‘Irish Catholic’ suggested ‘offer support and prayers’ to each other in difficult times. But how do we best support one another? Is it by polite silence or is it by speaking openly and honestly to a friend? Surely the days of ‘Tea-cup ecumenism’ and the forced politeness that went with it are dead? I hope so. I hope our relationships have matured beyond that. I believe they have and that is why I felt I could speak as I did.

I want the Roman Catholic Church to triumph over this Cancer that is destroying it because Ireland needs a vibrant and effective Roman Catholic Church whose integrity is unquestioned. And so I made comments about the role of the Nuncio in obstructing the enquiry and about the primacy of survivors. I asked questions about the possible role of compulsory celibacy and a morality that can excuse lying to protect abusers. I highlighted these issues because I honestly believe that they are issues the Roman Catholic Church must address if it is not to be destroyed by militant secularists and sectarian bigots (some to my shame from my own Church of Ireland) who will unlike me happily dance on its grave. I believe it is that serious and as a friend I am not going to sit back and let it happen.
Yours with genuine regret for the hurt I have caused. Stephen

The Murphy Report & My Response - Some Clarification and an Apology

This letter was in response to today's editorial in the Irish Catholic newspaper which made some statements about me and my response to the Murphy Report which I felt did not accurately reflect the tone or intention of my article, and used material from other sources than my article. On contacting the paper I found the Deputy Editor, Michael Kelly most helpful and at his suggestion I wrote the letter below in response.
I have had a lot of feedback since the original article and subsequent interviews on Radio and in the papers. Some of that feedback has expressed genuine hurt at my comments and I apologise without qualification for the hurt that I have caused. The letter below hopefully sets out the context for my comments and my motivation for going public with my thoughts.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dear Editor,
As a regular reader who looks forward to this excellent paper every Thursday morning I was disappointed to find myself so unfairly represented in one of two editorials running in the issue of 3rd December. Under the heading, ‘Kicking the Church’ I was firstly described as coming from Galway, when in fact I am a Dub now living in Co. Tipperary. That in itself would not have prompted this letter but there was a second far more serious charge laid at my door; that I had ‘called for the prosecution of Cardinal Connell’( NOTE * See below letter) I want to go on record that I said no such thing either in print or in a live interview. To clarify, what I said was this:

‘Anyone named in the report, be they cardinal, bishop, priest or lay, garda or civilian, should be investigated and where evidence of criminal behaviour or neglect is found they must be prosecuted, not for the sake of revenge, but for justice, in particular justice for those who paid the ultimate price at the hands of these vile abusers’.

This article can be read in its entirety on my blog where it was first published (http://paddyanglican.blogspot.com/2009/11/response-to-murphy-report.html)
In my comments I named only one person, Bishop Willie Walsh and there it was to praise him. I commented that he ‘has consistently represented the marginalised and put them first – He understands that the role of the church is on the margins not dominating and controlling society’ When he subsequently came under fire following remarks he made about Bishop Murray of Limerick I defended him in an interview published in the Nenagh Guardian on 2nd December. I referred also to the Papal Nuncio and the Pope, but in both instances by their office and not their names. No mention was ever made by me of Cardinal Connell.

I shall not deal with references to my father in the same editorial (Archbishop Neill of Dublin) as he is not my keeper nor I his and he is well able to defend himself.

The final charge directed towards me is that I was ‘impolite’ and was ‘kicking’ the Roman Catholic Church when it was down. Those who know me will know this is an unlikely scenario, but I am also aware that words written in black and white on a page with no nuance or context can convey an impression other than intended.
I know I have hurt and angered many Roman Catholics by what I have said. I apologize unreservedly for doing so. It was not my intention though I feared it was inevitable. However that does not absolve me from the need to say I am sorry for the hurt I have caused, especially to the vast majority of my Roman Catholic sisters and brothers who are already so hurt and horrified by the findings of the Murphy Report. Neither do I seek to become a distraction from what must be the focus of this report and that is the survivors. They are who this is about, not my pride or any high moral ground that some might think I seek to occupy.

So, why did I get involved in this? Why like most representatives of other churches did I not maintain a polite silence?
The principal reason was out of a genuine concern for the survivors which must be paramount. They are not just the business or the concern of Roman Catholics. All Irish citizens be they Catholic, Protestant, Jew or Muslim, Atheist or Agnostic have a responsibility to them. We owe it to them to make sure that no institution, religious or secular is allowed to do this ever again.

The second reason may surprise some! It is my love for the Roman Catholic Church and so many of its people priests, lay and religious. I have said it before in other forums that I owe my priestly vocation primarily to the support and nurture of members of that Church. I would especially point to a very formative period in my faith journey when I attended Gortnor Abbey Co-ed Convent in Crossmolina Co. Mayo. There the Sisters of Jesus & Mary modeled open and inclusive Christian Community in a way that left a lasting impression on me. They have been with me throughout my journey and took up the front row of Christ Church cathedral at my Ordination. Their sense of vocation and outreach beyond denominational boundaries has been a huge influence on my ministry. There are so many others I could mention but please understand that in the light of my experience I couldn’t contemplate ‘kicking’ the Roman Catholic Church at any time and especially now. I consider the Roman Catholic Church as a sister Church – Yes there are differences and ongoing pain in that relationship due to the ban on Eucharistic hospitality and the official position of the Roman Catholic Church which is that as an Anglican priest my orders are ‘null and void’. But it is not all one sided. To my continuing shame we in the Church of Ireland have still failed to distance ourselves from the historic but deeply sectarian ’39 Articles of Religion’ which are published in all our prayer books, and to which all those ordained must subscribe (I crossed my fingers when I had to subscribe to them as do many but that is not enough – they should be consigned to history where they belong).

But for all our problems I see our churches as friends. Relationships on the ground where it really matters are excellent in most cases and increasingly we are working side by side in a new Ireland which has less and less time for Christian disunity and recognizes it for the scandal that it is. And yes, churches should as the editorial suggested ‘offer support and prayers’ to each other in difficult times. But how do we best support one another? Is it by polite silence or is it by speaking openly and honestly to a friend? Surely the days of ‘Tea-cup ecumenism’ and the forced politeness that went with it are dead? I hope so. I hope our relationships have matured beyond that. I believe they have and that is why I felt I could speak as I did.

I want the Roman Catholic Church to triumph over this Cancer that is destroying it because Ireland needs a vibrant and effective Roman Catholic Church whose integrity is unquestioned. And so I made comments about the role of the Nuncio in obstructing the enquiry and about the primacy of survivors. I asked questions about the possible role of compulsory celibacy and a morality that can excuse lying to protect abusers. I highlighted these issues because I honestly believe that they are issues the Roman Catholic Church must address if it is not to be destroyed by militant secularists and sectarian bigots (some to my shame from my own Church of Ireland) who will unlike me happily dance on its grave. I believe it is that serious and as a friend I am not going to sit back and let it happen.
Yours truly,
Stephen Neill

UPDATE
* Re Cardinal Connell - In the interests of transparency I have now discovered that the Irish Catholic report on this stems from a remark I made in a conversation on Twitter! - I had totally forgotten it and it was not part of any public statement and was a soundbite out of context. However a caution to me that the Irish Catholic are watching me and even following me on Twitter!

Tuesday 1 December 2009

A Survivor Responds

This was posted publicly by an unnamed Artane survivor on my blog in response to the previous post. It seems have been written in 2006 and has previously circulated. It is so powerful and shattering that I feel the need to share it with a wider audience. I reproduce it below with the dedication which accompanied it:

Dedicated to every abused adult (where-ever) whose childhood was stolen & to pray there is never another child who becomes another token of this horrible crime.

“The Story of me and Many More, A Child after the before”
I am the sky- whose cloak will not blue
I am the sea- whose tide will not turn
I am the moon- whose silver will not hue
I am the sun- whose orange will not burn
I am the day- whose light will not bright
I am the night- whose darkness will not light
I am the tree- whose root is dead
I am the flower- without a head
I am the fish- whose fins will not breathe
I am the bird- who will not eat seed

I am the scab- that just will not heal
I am the neural- that just cannot feel
I am a smile - that remains frozen
I am a choice- that was never chosen
I am a year — without a season
I am a reason - without a reason
I am a whisper - that cannot vibrate
I am a scream - that cannot migrate
I am a prison - whose cell will not open
I am the cell - where space is so choking

I am a house - that has no foundation
I am a country - without a nation
I am the hell - that is in my centre
I am the heaven — that has no banter
I am Christmas - without its infant
I am a gift box - without its present
I am the present — that is now past
I am the past - that is now present
I am a heart - without a soul
I am the secret - never told

I was lost - and still not found
I was frightened - no solace around
I am a curse - no man can swear
I am the abused - no one was there
I done no crime -1 served a dictum
I done no wrong — I am a victim
I was the wrong - that was never right
I was defenceless -1 could not fight
I was that child - who was un-nurtured
I am the man- that still is tortured

(To the Lucky ones who escaped this ordeal)
I am a child abused- a man confused
Just one of many- that were used
To you all - who escaped this ordeal?
If you were I -that is how it would feel?
To be a CHILD ABUSED

I was a Child once like many more
Then someone came and closed that Door
Since then I just gave up hoping
That it would ever again open
You SEE I am a CHILD ABUSED.
With a Title I didn’t choose
And when I became that abused child
That was the last day of my “Life”…!!!
Oh yes, to others it seemed like I had life
But inside, I was never really ever, “Alive”!

Footprint
I somehow still believe there is a God
But ask over & over "Where the Hell he was"?
When I was a child being "Abused"!
Like so many others being "Abused"!


Written by an anonymous victim? 2009

Saturday 28 November 2009

A Response to the Murphy Report

It is the eve of Advent Sunday as I put these thoughts together – A day on which we are called upon to ‘cast away the works of darkness and to put on the armour of light’. It could hardly be more appropriate in the aftermath of the Murphy Report which is surely a tale of darkness and depravity almost unparalleled in our nation’s history. We must indeed cast away these ‘works of darkness’ but that is not enough; we must ‘put on the armour of light’, i.e. we must do whatever needs to be done to protect the most vulnerable from those who would prey on them and those despicable individuals who would cover their sordid tracks.

So where do we start?
Starting at the top, we should expel the Papal Nuncio who along with his colleagues in the Vatican, including the Pope and his predecessors has demonstrated absolute contempt for the legal authorities of this State. They have actively frustrated and subverted the criminal investigation of clerical child abuse through non-cooperation and non-disclosure. This has undoubtedly delayed the uncovering of abusers and meant that many more young vulnerable lives have been damaged and in some cases destroyed. If any other nation’s representatives had facilitated this we would have no qualms about sending them packing. Our actions now will demonstrate whether this state has truly broken free from the shackles of the Vatican.

Anyone named in the report, be they cardinal, bishop, priest or lay, garda or civilian, should be investigated and where evidence of criminal behaviour or neglect is found they must be prosecuted, not for the sake of revenge, but for justice, in particular justice for those who paid the ultimate price at the hands of these vile abusers.

The ‘formation’ of priests will have to be investigated – If there is something inherent in it that has bred so many abusive clergy then that needs to be identified and challenged. My own church, the Church of Ireland, part of the Anglican Communion is not immune to clerical child abuse but it is far less prevalent and has been at broadly similar levels to that in society as a whole. I have a strong suspicion that the high incidence in the Roman Catholic church is not unrelated to compulsory celibacy – Whether these deviant individuals are attracted to a boys only club with access to vulnerable children or perhaps that the repression of sexuality within the priesthood leads to such twisted manifestations of sexual behaviour I am not sure – I suspect both are factors. This is not an excuse however – There is no excuse for this abominable crime.
In the light of what has happened the church can no longer simply say they are forbidden to talk about priestly celibacy! If this discipline contributes in any way to the situation it is certainly not of God. Historically it was not primarily theological but pragmatic reasons that led to the discipline of compulsory celibacy in the Roman Church and it only became universal in the 12th Century. It may need a radical rethink!

Similarly if there is something in that same formation that supports and reinforces the culture of silence that has sheltered abusers then that too needs to be determined. If the concept of ‘Mental Reservation’, used by Cardinal Connell to justify lying about abusers to civil authorities, is as mainstream in so called Catholic Moral Theology as it now appears one would have to wonder just how moral that theology is. It seems to me that morality has been supplanted by a perverted legalism that is not so much immoral as amoral.

Up till now I have been reluctant to comment on this issue in a sister church – As a convinced and committed ecumenist, which I still am, I did not want to be seen to be point scoring, but this is to serious to hold back for fear of jeopardising friendships. The deliberate and systematic cover up is inexcusable and a complete betrayal of children and the Gospel – Incidentally I think the disconnect is not remotely as prevalent on the ground among the parish clergy – The problem seems to be at higher levels where some bishops have not only let down children but also the vast majority of clergy who were not abusers and now find themselves tarred with the same brush.

We are very lucky in this diocese of Killaloe where I am based to have a Roman Catholic bishop of the stature of Bishop Willie Walsh who has consistently represented the marginalised and put them first – He understands that the role of the church is on the margins not dominating and controlling society. Christianity and power don’t mix! That is another lesson that all the churches, my own included have to take on board. We are called to be ‘not of this world’ which does not mean that we are above the law and a law onto ourselves but rather that we are called to minister to those who this world would hurt and destroy. Ironically in a selfish attempt to hold onto a power that should never have been held by the church, some have destroyed those who they were entrusted to protect. I can only hope and pray that this is truly the end of this tragic chapter in our nation’s history – firstly for the sake of children who of their nature remain vulnerable regardless of child protection policies, and secondly for a church which set free from its bondage to power could do so much more good among those who have been marginalised in so many ways in our world today.

UPDATE:
This post referenced in Irish Times today in article by Patsy McGarry: HERE

And also on RTE Drivetime 30/11/09 HERE approx 55 mins in from beginning of show

Nuncio responds Here

Thursday 26 November 2009

When is a lie not a lie?

This is an early report on the Murphy report on clerical child abuse in Dublin Diocese, released today - Makes for very disturbing reading:

Church 'lied without lying'

PATSY MCGARRY, Religious Affairs Correspondent

Thu, Nov 26, 2009

One of the most fascinating discoveries in the Dublin Archdiocese report was that of the concept of “mental reservation” which allows clerics mislead people without believing they are lying.

According to the Commission of Investigation report, “mental reservation is a concept developed and much discussed over the centuries, which permits a church man knowingly to convey a misleading impression to another person without being guilty of lying”.

It gives an example. “John calls to the parish priest to make a complaint about the behaviour of one of his curates. The parish priest sees him coming but does not want to see him because he considers John to be a troublemaker. He sends another of his curates to answer the door. John asks the curate if the parish priest is in. The curate replies that he is not.”

The commission added: “This is clearly untrue but in the Church’s view it is not a lie because, when the curate told John that the parish priest was not in, he mentally reserved the words '…to you’.”

Marie Collins, who was abused by a Dublin priest, “was particularly angered by the use by the Church authorities of ‘mental reservation’ in dealing with complaints,” the report said.

It continued that Cardinal Desmond Connell had explained the concept to the commission as follows:

“Well, the general teaching about mental reservation is that you are not permitted to tell a lie. On the other hand, you may be put in a position where you have to answer, and there may be circumstances in which you can use an ambiguous expression realizing that the person who you are talking to will accept an untrue version of whatever it may be – permitting that to happen, not willing that it happened, that would be lying. It really is a matter of trying to deal with extraordinarily difficult matters that may arise in social relations where people may ask questions that you simply cannot answer. Everybody knows that this kind of thing is liable to happen. So mental reservation is, in a sense, a way of answering without lying.”

Example of how they experienced the use of such ‘mental reservaton’ by Church authorities in Dublin were supplied to the commission by Mrs Collins and fellow abuse victim Andrew Madden.

In Mrs Collins’s case, the Dublin archdiocese said in a 1997 press statement that it had co-operated with gardai where her complaint of abuse was concerned. She was upset by it as she had reason to believe otherwise. Her support priest Fr James Norman made inquiries and later told gardaí he that when he did so, the archdiocese replied “we never said we co-operated fully” - placing emphasis on the word ‘fully’ - with the gardaí.

In Mr Madden’s case, Cardinal Connell emphasised he did not lie to the media about the use of diocesan funds for the compensation of clerical child sexual abuse victims.

He explained to Mr Madden he had told journalists “that diocesan funds ARE (report’s emphasis) not used for such a purpose; that he had not said that diocesan funds WERE not used for such a purpose. By using the present tense he had not excluded the possibility that diocesan funds had been used for such purpose in the past. According to Mr Madden, Cardinal Connell considered that there was an enormous difference between the two.”

In May 1995, Cardinal Connell denied that diocesan funds were used in paying compensation to abuse victims. When it emerged on RTÉ in September that year that Ivan Payne was loaned €30,000 by the archdiocese to pay compensation to Mr Madden, Cardinal Connell still insisted this was not compensation by the archdiocese. He threatened to sue RTÉ, but did not do so.

Monday 23 November 2009

Is the Parish Pump the limit of our Vision?

The country is in climatic and economic chaos. Homes and businesses are being destroyed by floodwaters and an avalanche of failing enterprises & consequent unemployment, both accelerating at an unprecedented rate.
Meanwhile in a parallel universe somewhere between Oz and Tir na Nog, public sector workers who have secure jobs, income and pension are withdrawing service because they feel they have endured more than their share.
They are not alone in that! I feel that too as one whose job description hovers somewhere between the private and public sectors. Private sector workers and employers feel it too. We are all justly indignant at economic mismanagement and corruption on a national and global scale and we all resent having to dig deeper to bale out those who showed us little generosity in better times. It offends our sense of justice and fair play in the same way as we were incensed by the ‘Hand of Henry’ incident in the World cup qualifier.

Though it will not raise enough money to avoid further widespread economic pain there needs to be some more tangible and extensive sacrifice by those in positions of power and influence such as Government and banking if we are going to ask people on lower wages and even social welfare to accept cuts in their income. There is no credibility in a Taoiseach earning more than the American president lecturing people earning less than a tenth of his income on the necessity to accept further cutbacks. It just doesn’t ring true! We are a small island economy on the verge of bankruptcy and we cannot afford the illusion of being a major player on the world stage. If the citizens are to cut their cloth according to their measure then so must those who would lead and perhaps even inspire us.

There is a danger however that the anger that we all feel, public and private sector alike, blinds us to a few home truths. This government that oversaw the spectacular demise of our economy did not drop out of space. We elected them. They came from our ranks. They were shaped by our demands of them. And what were those demands? We treated them like fixers, local councillors writ large. The dual mandate may have gone but that didn’t change anything; we still expected them to look after our right of way, our sons’ or daughters’ planning permission, and our passport applications. We expected them to spend their days chasing rural funerals and to attend every public event across often scattered communities. And on top of that we expected them to be efficient and expert legislators fully aware of the minutiae of what was going on in their respective departments and committees. No matter how much money we threw at them that was always going to be an impossible ask. Oh and not content with the impossible we also expected them to somehow perpetuate a system where personal wealth grew exponentially and taxation fell in equal proportion. Are we honestly saying we had no part in this? Did we really believe in this Neverland Economics or did we hope that it would last long enough to see us through?
Well now we know the answer and sadly there is no hidden pot of gold for us to fall back on. It seems that the once wealthy bankers and property developers were smoking what they were selling. There is no solution to this economic crisis that does not and will not inflict universal pain.

In looking for the silver lining in our economic meltdown there are those who said that this would bring us closer together; that in shared adversity we would pull together. That it seems was a vain hope! In good times we looked after number one and so it is today.
We are reaping the rewards of parish pump style government that became trapped by narrow sectional interest and now the unions are leading us down a similar blind alley that will only further divide and polarize a society that needs more than ever before to discover a shared responsibility for a shared crisis.

Sunday 22 November 2009

Elikya Gospel Choir come to Cloughjordan

Superb service this morning thanks to the inspirational music of 'Elikya' (Hope) Gospel Choir. This just a small sample which I grabbed at the end of the service on my phone camera. There was a great mix of styles and pace but all beautiful and inspirational.



From their website: CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT THE CHOIR

How it happened (Origin)

Elikya Choir is a gospel choir and began in 2001 as a project initiated by Doras Lumini (an organisation for refugees and asylum seekers in Limerick), and the Irish World Music Centre at the University of Limerick with the primary objective of promoting multicultural diversity and integration. In February 2006, it was awarded a charity status. Their aims include:
* To present an avenue where peoples of all cultures, races and backgrounds will come together to sing songs of praise and thanksgiving
* Provide to the people of Limerick an African traditional music as an alternative to the Irish traditional music.
* Provide a forum where everyone and from every culture or race will find a sense of belonging.
* Introduce Limerick to some of the cultural and traditional values of the African, including the use of African drums and other singing instruments.
* Provide a forum of workshops where the Irish and non-nationals will learn how to sing and play and understand some aspects of the African people and other ways of singing and to also create an awareness of the philosophy of Elykia Choir.
* Render services free of charge for the greater majority of the people and the community as a whole whenever and wherever needed. (They do this with the hope that they will continue to introduce this rich culture to Ireland and also to maintain good relations with the society).

Who we are & Membership
Elykia comprises of members from the DRC, Angola, South Africa, England, Ireland, Holland etc. At the very beginning, members were mostly peoples from the Congo who were and or living in Ireland because the choir sings predominantly in Linglala, but over time, the uniqueness of the choir opened doors to people from all other parts of the world and continues to do so. It has seen witness the growth of talents and size where they have people with some of the most remarkable voices ever heard across Ireland

Saturday 21 November 2009

Norwegian Choir Wow Cloughjordan

This most unusual choir of 5 voices has only been formed for 2 months and yet they sound as if they have been playing together forever! Beautiful voices and haunting melodies combine to give a wonderfully uplifting experience. As yet unamed the choir are thinking of calling themselves 'Clough' after Cloughjordan Co. Tipperary where this performance took place on Nov 21st 2009. We look forward to more :-) The performance took place in St. Kieran's Church where I am rector.








Friday 20 November 2009

Not content with the All Ireland - Kilkenny Cats try to steal Obama

What a week! Bad enough that we should have world cup qualification stolen from us but Kilkenny are once again trying to muscle in on Moneygall and President Obama's ancestry. See the article here, and also below.

A couple of points relating to this article - Yes of course Kilkenny is part of the story but very much to a lesser extent than Moneygall.

1 Moneygall is not the 'alleged' birthplace of Fulmouth Kearney - It is the birthplace!
2 The actual location of the family home has been located and it is not 'waste ground' but is a house on the main street with some of the original structure of the cottage that preceded it visible. This research was independly conducted by TCD genealogists at Eneclann
3 The tomb in Kilkenny is not therefore “the only tangible link” to Obama but is in fact a far out Great Great Great Great Grand Uncle of President Obama's!

I am glad to see that Mr Rooney was not hoodwinked by this slight of hand by Kilkenny and is still minded to bring the President to Co. Offaly. I am sure the President if he comes will want to visit both sites and indeed perhaps Shinrone, Co. Offaly as well where there are also genuine links to the President. Other links can be promoted without the need to do down the widely acknowledged primary site in Moneygall.



Kilkenny in episcopal pitch on Obama ancestry

MICHAEL PARSONS in Kilkenny

Thu, Nov 19, 2009

WHILE BARACK Obama continues his nine-day visit to Asia, the campaign to establish his Irish ancestry has intensified.

Kilkenny has become, after Offaly, the second county to pitch for inclusion on the itinerary if he decides, like many Americans, to visit Ireland in search of his roots.

Yesterday, in scenes worthy of The Da Vinci Code, the US ambassador visited the medieval St Canice’s Cathedral to investigate, at first-hand, reports of a tomb which allegedly proves the connection.

Dan Rooney, accompanied by his wife Patricia, was shown the grave of John Kearney, a bishop of Ossory and provost of Trinity College, who died in 1813 and was, according to researchers, the great, great, great, great granduncle of Mr Obama.

The ambassador, who plans to brief the president on this newly-discovered branch of his family tree, said that Mr Obama is “very much” interested in his Irish heritage and “wants to come” here. However, no date has yet been pencilled in for a visit because the president’s schedule is “so full”.

Mr Rooney, who was appointed by Mr Obama, said that “the first time I met Barack the candidate I told him, ‘you’ve got to come to Ireland’ and he said, ‘I’ll go with you, that’s great’.”

The Kilkenny “claim” on the US president may prompt a stand-off with residents of Moneygall in south Co Offaly. The village, with a population of 298, on the Dublin-Limerick road is the alleged birthplace of Fulmouth Kearney, a shoemaker’s son who emigrated to America in 1850 after the Famine and became Mr Obama’s great, great, great grandfather – on his mother’s side.

But, although the Offaly bloodline is more direct, there is no physical structure around which to develop a tourist destination. The site where the Kearney house once stood is today a patch of waste ground. The one-acre plot is owned by the county council – which had planned to use it for social housing but is now reportedly considering building a “heritage centre”.

The authorities in Kilkenny are hoping that the tomb – which Pat Nolan, director of the Irish Origins Research Agency described as “the only tangible link” to Mr Obama – may help to secure a presidential visit and boost tourism.

The mayor, Cllr Malcolm Noonan, is sending an invitation to the White House. The Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, a native and resident of Co Offaly, has already invited Mr Obama to Moneygall.

Mr Rooney diplomatically hinted that the president could visit both destinations. The impeccably blue-collar credentials of Offaly’s Fulmouth Kearney – who embarked on the American Dream as an illiterate farm labourer in Indiana – may appeal to a Democrat president.

But, as the Church of Ireland Dean of St Canice’s, Norman Lynas, pointed out, Kilkenny’s John Kearney represented “the eminent side of the family that you’d want to be associated with”.

On a day of unexpected connections, Mr Rooney, who is also chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers, said his football club currently employed a security guard called John Kearney who is “extremely Irish”.

© 2009 The Irish Times

Thursday 19 November 2009

The Hand of Henry - Sing this song and register your protest!



No time to waste! - Circulate this far and wide until Monsieur Henry is brought to book - And remember: No Baguettes, No vin francais and I'd rather wear a beard than use Gilette!

Monday 16 November 2009

INTO - With friends like these, who needs enemies?

I have just penned this letter to the papers:

Dear Sir/Madam,
In common with many clergy in Ireland I am a school manager and Chairperson of the parish school Board of Management. (I am aware that that is an issue in itself but that is a discussion for another day.) Today, in this capacity I received written strike notice from INTO (Irish National Teachers' Organisation), informing me of the forthcoming industrial action on Tuesday 24 November 2009.
I was not at all surprised to get the letter but I was surprised and disappointed at the tone of the letter. It informed me (in bold type) that 'members in all schools have been directed to withdraw their services on that day. Accordingly, INTO members will not attend for work on Tuesday 24 November 2009. Yours sincerely........'
My disappointment stems from what the letter failed to say as opposed to what it said. There was no expression of regret for the disruption that this would cause for children and families and nor was there any acknowledgement of the discomfort most teachers feel in withdrawing service. In my experience the vast majority of our teachers have a deeply vocational attitude to their work and despite the common begrudgery surrounding their hours and holidays serve us and our children exceptionally well. The teachers that I have the pleasure of engaging with are women and men with a real love for their work and the children they teach.
These teachers deserve better than the abrupt communication delivered on their behalf by the INTO. If I was a member of that union I would feel badly let down. In the current financial crisis there is an emerging consensus that we need as a people to express common ground and to build a sense of shared rights and responsibilities. This arrogant and callous communication will only serve to deepen division and confirm prejudice. I would implore teachers to make sure that they are better served in future for this is a betrayal of their integrity by those who are supposed to be their allies and fellow professionals.

Yours
Rev'd Canon Stephen Neill
Modreeny Rectory,
Cloughjordan,
Co. Tipperary

Bones are for Burying

Most interesting column by Sarah Carey in last week's Irish Times re the fate of human remains disturbed on an ongoing basis during our building boom. A very sensible and sensitive piece: Read it HERE

Thursday 5 November 2009

Some useful advice for the Anglican Communion


I came across this today in 'The Irish Catholic' Fr. Rolheiser is one of the main reasons I read this paper. If we in the Anglican Communion were to follow his advice how much better things might be. His columns are available HERE

On Litmus Tests for Christian Discipleship

2009-11-01

We live today with a lot of polarization, both inside of our churches and in society at large. There is something healthy in this, despite its bitter underside. Moral outrage and anger is in the end an indication of moral fervor. We still believe in things, in right and wrong. There's virtue in that.

But that being said, there is also something very unhealthy in our present situation, one within which sincere people can no longer have a civil and respectful conversation with each other over certain moral and religious issues because each side ultimately disrespects the other, convinced that the other has sold out on some issue that constitutes a litmus test for moral goodness. Inside the church and inside of our civic political processes, invariably, each side, liberal and conservative alike, has one issue that is its ultimate non-negotiable and which constitutes the litmus test by which to judge the moral and religious goodness of everyone else.

For some the single issue is a moral one (abortion, gay marriage, justice for a particular group), for others the single issue is an ecclesial practice (church attendance. membership in a particular denomination), and for others the single issue is dogmatic (women's ordination, the uncritical acceptance of scripture or of church authority, syncretism). But invariably one issue is singled out so as to become the basis for an ultimate discriminating judgment, a litmus test, as to whether someone else is worthy of religious and moral respect.

But is this legitimate? Can a single issue become a litmus test? What does Jesus say on this? What do the scriptures say on this? Can one single moral or religious issue be seen as constituting the very essence, the center, the non-negotiable heart of Christian discipleship?

In a sense, yes, though this must be carefully nuanced. As well, each New Testament writer formats this in a different way:

In the Gospel of Matthew the moral heart of discipleship is articulated by Jesus in what we call The Sermon on the Mount. At its center lies this challenge: Can you love an enemy? Can you truly forgive someone who has hurt you? Can you bless someone who has cursed you? Can you be good to those who have done you harm? Can you forgive a murderer?

This challenge is what sets Jesus' moral teaching apart from others and gives it its unique character - and its real teeth. This is meant to be the distinguishing mark of a follower of Jesus: He or she can love and forgive an enemy. If the Gospel of Matthew, or perhaps the New Testament as a whole, gives us a litmus test for discipleship, this might be its one-line formulation: Can you love and forgive an enemy?

Luke's Gospel makes essentially the same point in a different language. There Jesus challenges us to be compassionate as our heavenly Father is compassionate and then goes on to define that compassion as a love, like that of the Father of the Prodigal Son and Older Brother, that lets its light shine on the bad as well as the good, that reaches out and loves irrespective of what is deserving and what isn't. The litmus test here might be worded: Love each other beyond differences and beyond what you think is deserving of love. Do not love just your own kind or someone who reciprocates. Embrace in love as widely as God embraces in love.

The Epistles of Paul capture this in the distinction Paul makes between what he calls life in the flesh as opposed to what he calls life in the Spirit. The former, life in the flesh, is characterized by "lewd conduct, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, bickering, jealousy, outbursts of rage, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factionalism, envy, drunkenness, and orgies." When these exist in our lives, Paul cautions, we may not delude ourselves into thinking we are living inside of God's spirit.

Conversely, life in the Spirit, for Paul, is characterized by "charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness, long-suffering, endurance, mildness, kindness, generosity, faith, and chastity." It is only when we these qualities are manifest in our lives that we may understand ourselves as walking in true discipleship.

For Paul, the litmus test is not one, single moral issue but rather a whole way of living that radiates more charity than selfishness, more joy than bitterness, more peace than factionalism, more patience and respect than negative judgment and gossip, more empathy than anger, and more willingness to sweat the blood of sacrifice than to give into the temptations of the moment.

This is not to suggest that particular moral, dogmatic, and ecclesial issues are not important; some of them are a matter of life and death. But Christian discipleship is not just about our actions, it's also about our hearts. The essence of Christian discipleship lies in putting on the heart of Christ. Proper morality, defense of truth, and life-giving church practices follow from that - and, when rooted in that, they become respectful, forgiving, and loving.

Monday 2 November 2009

The School Ansaphone

The school Ansaphone - an essential piece of equipment in all schools. As a school manager this is sooooo true - I love it!

Saturday 31 October 2009

A great country this for old men!

The law is truly an ass! Welcome to Ireland 2009 where a pervert 57 year old dentist can take advantage of a vulnerable trainee dental nurse, unbuttoning her top despite her protests on the pretence of 'checking the buttons' and gets away with a €1000 euro fine while a consensual sexual encounter between a teenage boy of nineteen and a teenage girl of 16 ends up in the boy getting a criminal custodial conviction and an entry on the sex-offenders register! And we expect people to respect the law!

I don't like Saints!

Sermon for All Saints 2009

I want to start today with what may sound like an extraordinary statement:
I don’t like Saints!
Does that sound odd on this day of all days - All Saints Day? It may sound heretical to suggest that there is a problem with Saints, but I think Saints rather than inspiring us in our lives of faith can actually be a hindrance to our walk with God.
You might well ask what is the problem with the Saints – Surely people who led godly lives and did heroic deeds of self sacrifice for the sake of their faith should be celebrated and revered as the Church has traditionally done. What about St. Peter and St Paul, or more recent saints such as Mother Teresa or indeed our own St. Brigid or indeed St. Kieran who has a particular association with this group of parishes? Should they not be revered and celebrated. Actually No, I don’t think so or at least not in the way we tend to celebrate the Saints and have done through the ages. We have made of the Saints impossible role models who in the way their lives have been portrayed make us feel inadequate and guilty for our failings. We have attached to them a perfection that Christ himself never demanded of any of his followers. We have turned them from icons to idols always an easy line to cross and one which the Church has continually done through the ages.
There is an almost direct equivalent in today’s celebrity culture though at least in the celebrity culture we are aware of the warts as well as the achievements of our cultural idols. When it comes to Saints things are very different – they are painted in terms of their virtues with little or no account of their vices and yet like all human beings they had their vices….and were all the more human for them.
It is very hard for you and me, mere mortals, to identify with an image of almost sterile perfection.
It is neither realistic or attractive – It may fascinate us but we cannot ultimately relate to it. We really do the Saints a disservice when we portray them in this way. We actually devalue their witness because we dehumanise it and make it impossible for us to aspire to. I am named after St Stephen, traditionally the first Christian Martyr (I don’t aspire to that for one moment) I would love to think I had that courage but I doubt it - but I would love to know more about him – Apart from his Martrydom all that is concrete is that he was one of the first deacons of the Church – There was probably a lot more to St. Stephen, plenty of weaknesses and failings, plenty of idiosyncrasies, but all we tend to think of is a heroic martyrdom.
So one thing is clear, the lives of the Saints as presented and celebrated are heavily edited – all we get are the highlights and like watching the highlights of a great sporting occasion they are no substitute for the real thing. We miss those little seemingly insignificant moments which might actually have allowed us to identify with them.
The other problem with the Saints is that it is all about them! What do I mean by that? Well it is all about their achievements and their witness when it really should be about something or someone else entirely. The stories of the Saints are not about heroic human beings but rather about God’s extraordinary Grace working in them. It is not about them – It is about God! The Saints are not saintly because of any innate virtues but rather because they were open to God and so more perfectly fulfilled their God given potential, a potential in which we all share! How often are we told that we were created in the Divine image? What does that mean? It means surely that we ALL can be Saints of God and it certainly means that we are ALL called to be Saints of God. We all have the potential to mirror something of the Divine in our lives, not the totality but something and that is surely the most extraordinary privelage.
And sometimes it is in our imperfection that God is revealed. One of my favourite and I think most profound lyrics from contemporary music comes from Leonard Cohen and it is this – ‘There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in’.
The wonderful story of our faith is that we are acceptable with all our flaws and imperfections. By becoming incarnate god has sanctified the whole of Creation and revealed in Christ the incredible potential, not just of humanity but of the whole created order. It is not about the Saints but it is about God, a generous God who calls us all to participate in helping this beautiful world achieve its true potential to mirror the glory of God.
Amen.

1 Parish 2 US Presidents! Are we blessed or what?


See the report below: President Josiah Bartlett is coming our way shortly. Actor Martin Sheen is a familiar sight locally as his family hail from Borrisokane where he is to film his latest work, STELLA DAYS.
Irish Times report HERE
and below:

An Irishman's Diary

Frank McNally

Sat, Oct 31, 2009

IT IS ALL of 100 years now since an Irishman living in Italy became so impressed with the potential of a new, fast-growing entertainment medium that he decided to introduce it to his home country. So in October 1909, he went back to Dublin to make the arrangements. And two months’ later, a week before Christmas, he opened Ireland’s first dedicated cinema at No 45 Mary Street.

It was not exactly a success. Partly because all the films he arranged to screen were in Italian, the cinema struggled. But undaunted, the would-be impresario – James Joyce – returned to Italy and went on to make quite a name for himself in another of his big interests, literature.

Fast-forward almost half a century and a not dissimilar drama played out in a small, north Tipperary town called Borrisokane. Too late for Joyce, Ireland’s love-affair with the movies was by now in full bloom, consummated nightly in such vast picture palaces as Dublin’s Carlton and Adelphi. But like many rural towns, Borrisokane still didn’t have a cinema, until one man determined to change this.

The unlikely Joycean figure was the local parish priest, Canon Cahill, who – defying the clergy’s traditional suspicion of the medium – decided that the town would have a silver screen. The priest was a cultured man, but also a steely one: known for his habit of swimming daily in Lough Derg, even in the winter of 1963 when the lake froze and he had to bring a pick with him to break the ice.

He was used to getting his way; so the necessary money was soon raised. And in April 1957 the Stella Cinema opened in Borrisokane’s Clarke Memorial Hall.

With a proper sense of occasion, Canon Cahill made a speech beforehand on the cultural importance of film, a medium that – at 60 – was about the same age as himself. He paid tribute to the pioneering Lumière brothers. And with a warning to the audience not to clap too hard – “It’s a very old building”, he brought the lights down on Marching Along , a musical biopic about bandmaster John Philip Sousa.

There were many better films shown during the Stella’s heyday – Casablanca, The Third Man , and All Quiet on the Western Front , to name just a few; along with such less celebrated classics as Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman . But it was a short heyday.

As mass entertainment, cinema-going had already peaked by the 1960s. Television was on the rise. And in May 1967, barely 10 years after it opened with great hoopla, the Stella closed almost unnoticed.

Its story is similar to many others in small-town Ireland. We might have heard nothing more about it but for two locals. One was Michael Doorley who, in 2002, wrote a book called Stella Days , a glowingly affectionate tribute to the old cinema. The other was a woman called Mary Anne Phelan.

The latter had emigrated to the US many years before, where she became Mrs Estevez. Her children were called Estevez too. But she is better known to posterity as the late mother of one of Hollywood’s greatest actors, whose stage name is Martin Sheen: a man deeply proud of his Tipperary roots and – incidentally – now about the right age to play Canon Cahill.

One thing led to another. And although the details are still being sorted, it is hoped that filming of Stella Days, directed by Thaddeus O’Sullivan and with a cast including Sheen, Stephen Rea and Romola Garai (of Atonement and Inside I’m Dancing) will begin soon, shot partly on location in and around Lough Derg.

Sheen is not Borrisokane’s only link with Hollywood, as it happens. Although born in Dublin, the once famous silent-movie director Reginald Ingram Hitchcock – Rex Ingram for short – spent formative years in the Tipperary town, where his father was Church of Ireland rector.

Not to be confused with the actor of the same name, Ingram reached his peak with such films as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) and The Prisoner of Zenda (1922). A contemporary film-maker once called him “the world’s greatest director”.

But that was arguably not the greatest compliment paid him.

Unsurprisingly, he also came to the attention of the aforementioned Irish-Italian cinephile, Mr Joyce: earning a reference in Finnegans Wake as “Rex Ingram, pageant master”.

Of course, Finnegans Wake is widely regarded as a heroic failure, a bit like Joyce’s Volta cinema. For more encouraging omens, Borrisokane and the makers of Stella Days might look to another Italian source, the 1988 film Cinema Paradiso . Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, this concerned a veteran cinematographer’s return to his Sicilian birthplace for the funeral of an old friend, the projectionist in the local picture house who had inspired him as a child to make movies The film is about friendship, coming of age, love, and loss: all considered against the background of a small-town cinema. It did poorly on initial release in Italy. Then the producers cut half an hour out of it for international release, and it took off: winning the special jury prize at Cannes and the best foreign film Oscar, en route to earning status as a popular classic and reviving the Italian film industry.

© 2009 The Irish Times

Friday 23 October 2009

Trapatonni to lead Ireland to historic victoire!

Here's to Trapatonni- - The Corrigan Brothers encourage Trap to fry the French like their fries! No Mercy! (Or should that be Non Merci?)

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Canterbury has finally lost the plot!

++Rowan seems to think ecumenism is about being walked on! Will anyone rid us of this meddlesome priest? Please!!!

Sunday 18 October 2009

Obama plays the waiting game


Most interesting column by Andrew Sullivan in today's London Sunday Times:

President Obama may seem to dither, but he is ready to strike

There is a strange quality to Barack Obama’s pragmatism. It can look like dilly-dallying, weakness, indecisiveness. But although he may seem weak at times, one of the words most applicable to him is something else entirely: ruthless. Beneath the crisp suit and easy smile there is a core of strategic steel.

In this respect, Obama’s domestic strategy is rather like his foreign one — not so much weakness but the occasional appearance of weakness as a kind of strategy. The pattern is now almost trademarked. He carefully lays out the structural message he is trying to convey. At home, it is: we all have to fix the mess left by Bush-Cheney. Abroad, it is: we all have to fix the mess left by Bush-Cheney. And then ... not much.

The agenda may be clear. He wants an engaged Iran without nuclear weapons. He wants to be the first American president to enact universal health insurance coverage. He wants a sane two-state solution for Israel/Palestine. He wants to leave Iraq without having it blow up on him. He wants to find a way to solve the AfPak Rubik’s Cube. He wants to allow gays to serve openly in the military. But on all these things, it’s mid-October and still ... nothing substantive. So obviously, he’s a total fraud and failure, right?

Wrong. When Obama moves, he moves with chilling swiftness. The stimulus package went through Congress like a speeding bullet. The appointment of Hispanic judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court was as clean as these things can be. But these were matters over which he had almost complete control. When he doesn’t have such control, he takes another tack.

He sets out a goal and then he waits. He waits for the other players to show their hand. He starts a process that itself reveals that certain options are unfeasible, until he is revealed by events to have no other choice but ... well, the least worst practical way forward. He always knows that things can change, and waits for the optimal moment to seize the initiative.

On Iran, for example, he has done not much more on the surface than open up direct talks. Beneath, you see deeper shifts. His election itself and his Cairo speech laid some important groundwork for June’s Green revolution.

He managed to inspire the opposition without throwing his lot in with them (playing the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, with finesse). In America, he has slowly defused the debate away from the polarising “Are you a patriot?” or “Are you with those scary Muslims?” to the more realistic: “If we want to keep Iran from having a nuclear weapon, what’s the least worst way of trying — or is it impossible after all?”

By waiting, we learn. We now know, for example, that Russia’s president, Dmitry Medvedev, is more sympathetic to sanctions against Iran than Vladimir Putin. We learn more about divisions within the Tehran leadership. We may also discover that even with a transparent, good-faith engagement from Obama, the Chinese and Russians have no intention of shifting. That will leave him with a clearer, if narrower, set of policy options. The president can afford to do this because he has more power than anyone else. But he doesn’t have total control, especially as America’s global power is balanced by China, India and Russia. He’ll act when he knows what the options really are. And not until.

On health insurance reform, you see the same cunning. Universal insurance is now all but certain in some form, but how to restrain costs remains a difficult challenge. One way would be the dreaded public option, or rather a compromise in which a public option would be available, but only if individual states approve it for their own populations. Obama knows the public option, insofar as most Americans understand it, is popular. So why not get his opponents to fight it in their states where they can be hurt, rather than nationally, where they can tar Obama as a “socialist”. Sneaky.

It may not happen, of course. But what’s important to note is that it’s still possible even at this late stage. After months of wrangling, his near-ideal solution is still viable. (Compare that with how Hillary Clinton’s fared in 1993.) He has fudged without cornering himself with a commitment he will be unable to fulfil, while leaving open the best practical option in the near future. That way, whatever happens, he will get the credit.

And he has framed the debate so that the Republicans find themselves as their own worst enemies. Support for Obama’s health reform was sliding until August’s right-wing temper tantrum. Since then, his approval ratings on the issue have steadily climbed, and Democrats are increasing their lead in congressional polling.

Now look ahead to next year. The impact of health reform will be initially all positive: more and more people able to get insurance, without the full costs being felt. The stimulus package has been so steered towards spending in 2010 (sneaky again) that it will doubtless boost the recovery as the mid-term congressional elections approach. And, with health reform under his belt, Obama could easily pivot from his liberal base towards an emphasis on fiscal responsibility — which puts the Republicans on the spot and appeals to independents.

In other words, he has kept most of his options open. He is thinking further ahead than the Republicans. If he gets real universal coverage, he will be an icon on the left and thereby get more breathing space to tilt to the right. That’s why he may well not make a big move or decision on Afghanistan any time soon. It would be nuts to either alienate or please his liberal base until he gets healthcare passed.

But if healthcare passes, and the economy revives, Obama will have dodged several premature traps. And he will then be in a very strong domestic position from which to deal with Iran and Afghanistan and Israel. My sense is that on the really divisive issues — accountability for torture, and gay rights, for example — he intends to wait for a second term. If that enrages his base — as it has — they have few other places to go. And he looks bipartisan by resisting them. At the same time, he has not explicitly ruled out bringing justice to the torturers or rights for the gays. He’s able to balance a commitment to the right thing with an almost chilling ability to restrain himself from doing it.

As a long-term political strategy, you can see the method in his apparent meandering. Yes, there are vast risks. It may still fail. And yet, when you look at it closely, you see that in all this, he has both maintained his vast ambitions and yet shrewdly minimised the political risks to himself. This is cunning, not weakness. And one day, his opponents will realise it.

The Men who built the Motorways

This new song from the Corrigan Brothers tells the story of the forgotten men who sacrificed home and family to build the motorways of the UK. I wonder how similar is their story to the East Europeans who have built our motorways? Time will tell. Anyway a great song and a great video to go with it.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

In Defence of Moneygall

This vile column appeared in yesterday's Irish Independent (12th October) and prompted me to write to the paper in response.
My letter was printed (somewhat edited) in today's edition. SEE HERE
Scroll down to see the original unedited version as sent to the paper.

Original Column:

A proud day for Ireland ...

By Ian O'Doherty
Monday October 12 2009

Sure, some people -- all of them racist, obviously -- have raised their eyebrows at Barack Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace prize.

Sure, those doubters have pointed out that he hasn't actually done anything since he came to power and, in fact, his approval rating is now falling faster than Drogba in the box.

But the fact that Obama won the prize certainly tells us one thing -- you don't need to actually do anything to win it.

However, those people who are carping about the award are missing one big point -- this is great news for the witless simpletons of Moneygall who seem insistent on claiming Obama as one of their own.

No doubt we can expect a re-release of the emetic 'There's No One As Irish As Obama' and street parties from the proles down there trying to bask in some distantly reflected glory.

Interestingly, the Mayor of Ennis was the first to congratulate Moneygall, saying: "As the mayor of a town which produced the greatest boxer the world has ever seen, may I be the first to congratulate Moneygall on now having a Nobel prize winner as one of their own. Sure aren't we a great little country altogether."

Henry Kissinger was quick to add his congratulations: "Unlike me, Barack Obama did not have to be involved in an illegal war to win his prize. Oh wait, that's not entirely true."

- Ian O'Doherty

My letter (Unedited):

Dear Sir,
Not for the first time your columnist Ian O'Doherty has seen fit to launch a gratuitous and highly offensive attack on the people of Moneygall. In his column on Monday 12th October entitled 'A proud day for Ireland' he reflects on the mixed response to the award of the Nobel Peace prize to President Obama. Like many he is highly cynical about this admittedly premature award and even as a huge admirer of President Obama I would have a sympathy with this view. It may well have been better to wait until his politics of change bore demonstrable fruit. Although one could also point out that the gestures he has already made towards former 'enemies' of the US mark a sea change in America's relationship to the rest of the world.
However O'Doherty declares this is not the real point and he goes on to say that '[the award] is great news for the witless simpletons of Moneygall who seem insistent on claiming Obama as one of their own'.
He also speculates on a 're-release of the emetic 'There's No One As Irish As Obama' and street parties from the proles down there trying to bask in some distantly reflected glory.'

To describe anyone, never mind a whole community as 'witless simpletons' is cheap, nasty, lazy and trashy journalism and not something I would have associated with one of the quality national papers on this Island. It drags your publication into the gutter and is a betrayal of the many fine journalists who write for your paper.
On what basis does O'Doherty spew out such bile?

There is no denying that the people of Moneygall and indeed Offaly in general are very proud of their real and proven historical link with President Obama. At a time in our history when there is so much bad news is there anything wrong in celebrating an individual who has inspired people the world over to believe that there can be a better tomorrow? As one of the party from Moneygall who had the privilege of attending the Inauguration I will never forget the spontaneous joy and hope that was so evident in Washington on that historic day. I fail to understand why the people of Moneygall should have to apologize for celebrating this.

As to the song by the Corrigan Brothers; it celebrates not only Obama's Irish roots but also his Hawaiian and Kenyan roots too. It's a fun ditty and love it or hate it, the song captured the extraordinary diverse background of an outstanding world figure and brought a smile to many faces the world over.

It might surprise O'Doherty that the US administration are treating the Moneygall link very seriously indeed. The previous acting ambassador Robert Foucher has already visited the village and only last month a senior member of the Embassy staff visited the village to draw up an outline plan and itinerary for a future Presidential visit.
I cannot imagine that this would have happened without the approval of the President himself.

One is tempted to observe that Ian O'Doherty's initials are only two short of making him an idiot but that would be coming down to his level of insult. I do feel however that for the sake of the integrity of your paper if not for the reputation of the good people of Moneygall an apology and withdrawl of the undeserved slur is in order.

Yours truly,
Rev'd Canon Stephen Neill (Church of Ireland Rector of Moneygall)

Saturday 10 October 2009

Nobel Prize - Obama's take on a surprise announcement

This morning, Michelle and I awoke to some surprising and humbling news. At 6 a.m., we received word that I'd been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009.

To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize -- men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

But I also know that throughout history the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes.

That is why I've said that I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations and all peoples to confront the common challenges of the 21st century. These challenges won't all be met during my presidency, or even my lifetime. But I know these challenges can be met so long as it's recognized that they will not be met by one person or one nation alone.

This award -- and the call to action that comes with it -- does not belong simply to me or my administration; it belongs to all people around the world who have fought for justice and for peace. And most of all, it belongs to you, the men and women of America, who have dared to hope and have worked so hard to make our world a little better.

So today we humbly recommit to the important work that we've begun together. I'm grateful that you've stood with me thus far, and I'm honored to continue our vital work in the years to come.

Thursday 8 October 2009

And Michelle too!


It seems that not alone does President Barack Obama have Offaly roots but so too his wife Michelle. See here for the story as recorded at Irish Central.
And here in the NEW YORK TIMES
And CHICAGO TRIBUNE
See Megan Smolenyak's research here - On video
This time however the story is not a cause for pure celebration, but a reminder of the despicable practice of slavery, for it seems if the research is correct, (Knowing Megan Smolenyak I am sure it is meticulously researched), that Michelle's ancestor was a young slave girl Melvinia Sheilds who was once traded for $475. Melvina would go on to have children with an Irish-American slave-owner named Shields whose ancestral home is in Ballysheil, County Offaly.
I wonder how the President and First Lady will greet this news - We cannot rewrite history but one has to wonder is this a chapter that will prove too painful to revisit or would a Presidential visit provide an opportunity for the First Lady to highlight the ongoing crime of human trafficking in which Ireland is complicit.
One thing is certain; It is a fascinating twist on this already intriguing story.

Saturday 3 October 2009

A Saturday afternoon in Limerick


Aaron & I headed into Limerick this afternoon to see the Corrigan Brothers play at a charity gig in aid of Limerick Mental Health Week - Good fun and a bit of Tai Chi to warm up / de-stress before the gig. See the pics HERE

Friday 25 September 2009