Archive for the 'Politics' Category

Feb 16 2009

A Light At The End Of The Recession Tunnel

Published by under Blog,Politics

Or Tips to Get Through the Downturn:

A Doris/Magee Short Film

2 responses so far

Feb 03 2009

Some Things Don’t Ever Change

Published by under Blog,Politics

From Bock the Robber, this is one of the funniest of all the many Obama thingies going around at the mo. It’s funny ’cause it’s true.

White Man's MEss

No responses yet

Jan 28 2009


Published by under Blog,Movie Review,Movies,Politics

In recovery mode on Sunday afternoon, we decided to go to the cinema to see Frost/Nixon. In truth, I didn’t know much about the story prior to seeing it and I had only ever seen short clips of the interview between Sir David Frost and former US President Richard Nixon, upon which the film is based. I was wide eyed and open to the film. But I had not expected to be bowled over by it – from the opening scenes, I was gripped. Ron Howard, in his first great film since Apollo 13 in 1995, lets the story play out like Rocky without the boxing ring.




In one corner, we have David Frost, trying to salvage what’s left of his flagging career, while in the other corner we see Nixon believing that this interview is an opportunity to get the American people back on side.


Michael Sheen, who in previous roles has imitated both Tony Blair and Kenneth Williams, manages to capture Frost’s mannerisms and, in particular, his vocal inflections while avoiding parody (this is where I felt he fell down in his portrayal of Blair).


Frank Langella‘s Nixon is careful, calculating and unnerving, clearly enjoying how uncomfortable he makes his sparring partner. To unhinge Frost, Nixon throws inappropriate questions (Did you fornicate last night?) and off-the-cuff comments at him and for the most part his ploy works. I believe Langella has secured himself an Oscar for Best Actor for this role, where he does more than simply imitate Nixon, he embodies the man. From very early in the film I ceased to see Langella on screen, but instead was immersed in what Nixon would do and say next. In possibly the pivotal part of the film, the camera lingers on Nixon’s face and Langella, without saying a word, speaks volumes with his weatherbeaten features, desperate expression and lost, defeated eyes – a scene that will become a classic.


Matthew MacFadyen as John Birt, stuck in the impossible position of Frost’s producer, Oliver Platt as Bob Zelnick and Kevin Bacon, as Nixon’s aide, Jack Brennan, offer strong support, but its Sam Rockwell, as James Reston Jr., author and expert on Nixon and the Watergate controversy, who shines, not allowing us to forget for a single second how badly Nixon let down the American people.




Frost/Nixon is as much about television and its part in modern politics as it is about the infamous interview. Howard examines the role of pop journalism in shaping political views and this is perhaps the thing that lifts the movie out of the trap of being a wordy stage play, but instead produces a layered drama with plenty to bring the viewer back for a second sitting.


Although we know exactly how it will end, the build up to the final interview is actually exciting, the tension produced between the desperation of both men is unrelenting and as the credits role you may even feel a twinge of sympathy or the fallen President.


The negatives? Well, strangely, I only found negatives when I went about researching this post. It seems the story is a somewhat polished version of the truth. Stripped from the script is any mention of Nixon’s 20% stake in any profits from the interviews (surely a great incentive for him to have a dramatic revelation in the final parts of the interview). Indeed the historical, political and social impacts of the revelations are heavily overplayed in the film.


However, Howard is not making a documentary here and as an exciting piece of fiction, as a dramatic interplay between two great forces, this film is one of the finest ‘Based on a True Story’ films I have ever seen. I am reminded of Shattered Glass, Serpico and Quizshow as films that dramatise real events without dehumanising the characters. Frost/Nixon can sit proudly amongst these.





2 responses so far

Jan 27 2009

Why Do We Have A President?

Published by under Blog,Politics

Mary McAleeseWhy do we have a President? Really! I know that McAleese (and the other Mary before her) do a lot of charitable work and such and certainly raise the profile of Ireland abroad, but apart from acting as a figurehead of sorts, what’s involved in the role? There are certain legal aspect to it such as signing off on Bills and having vetoes, but do we need a President for this?


From what I understand, the last time the presidency was up for grabs, no one even contested it and Mary McAleese was returned by default. Surely that alone has to be an indication that in has become an irrelevant institution. Any thoughts?


15 responses so far

Dec 16 2008

One Day International – Blackbird

Published by under Blog,Music,Music Review,Politics,TV

One Day International InterviewA couple of weeks ago, Darragh interviewed One Day International in Le Cirk. I took a few photos and managed to purloin a copy of their album, Blackbird.


I threw it onto my iPod last week and listened to it on the way home on the DART. The first track, Closed Doors, was nice. It was simple and sounded like a lot of middle-of-the-road pop songs out today. Though not overwhelmed, I enjoyed it and looked forward to an album I could right a pleasant review about.


One Day InternationalThen I heard the second track, Little Death, and my opinion completely changed. Quirky, with an upbeat melody fused with a melancholy lyric, I was excited to hear what would come next.


I wasn’t disappointed. Track after track of great tunes makes Blackbird one of the best albums I’ve heard in years.


Lead Balloon is a theatrical number, reminiscent of Rufus Wainwright‘s prime, while Sleeping on Trains is a dark and moody track, like a lullaby for a very bad child. Like many of the tracks on the album, it has a slow, wistful beginning which escalates to a damning crescendo. Maybe not unique, but certainly ahead of the game.


One Day International InterviewMiss Your Mouth, one of the most marketable singles on the album, is another beautiful tale of lost love. It’s a delicate with a memorable melody, without being a repetitive pop tune.


Shiver begins as an instrumental piece showing the perfect collaboration between Cormac Curran on piano, Eimear O’Grady on cello and bassist Danny Snow. It makes you think that this entire album could be a great movie soundtrack; this piece would be a flawless score even without the introduction of the simple and glorious vocals of Matt Lunson.


Not Over You has some of the finest lyrics on the album. Like much of the album, it speaks of loves lost but not forgotten.


Do you remember the moment we met?
I can remember we spoke about shortness of breath.
Do you remember not showing for work
And sleeping together late on in the afternoon?


Black is the Bird is the title track and deservedly so. It captures all that is great about the band. Beautiful piano sounds, haunting melodies, memorable tunes and gorgeous vocals.


One Day International InterviewAs I listened to the first half of the album, I began to draw comparisons between One Day International and acts such as Duke Special, Cathy Davey, Lisa Hannigan and Divine Comedy in particular. I was then pleasantly surprised to reach track 9, Aliens, which I already knew from Neil Hannon‘s version on The Cake Sale. I actually thought it was a Hannon penned track and I was delighted to discover that Lunson is the writer. A tiny bit of research told me that the Cake Sale’s producer, Brian Crosby, also had a hand in Blackbird.


Big Surprise and Darken Your Door close out the album on a downbeat and sad note. Further evidence of the theatrical nature of this album are in the lyrics of Big Surprises.


If you go down to the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise.
They’ve taken all of the trees away, right before our eyes


Darken Your Doors continues the melancholic lost love theme and as it ends I find myself clicking the buttons that bring me back to start all over again.


One Day International are playing The Button Factory on 18th December and tickets are available here. The album, Blackbird, was released in October and is available on iTunes here. For more information on the band, check out their blog.


6 responses so far

Dec 10 2008

Assisted Suicide

Published by under Blog,Politics

I‘m opening it up for debate. Ahead of Sky Real Lives’ documentary tonight where they show the final moments of Craig Ewert‘s life, after he travelled to Zurich to end his life with the aid of the Swiss firm Dignitas, I find myself wondering if I am for or against it.

Watching the news earlier, where they were reporting the fact that the DPP have decided not to prosecute the parents of Daniel James, who also travelled to end his own life, I was happy that they were not going to hound his grieving family, but I thought it unfortunate that yet another opportunity to discuss the legal repurcussions of euthanasia on a national scale had passed by.

There’s a huge part of me that believes that if someone is suffering and has no hope of recovery, they should have the option to end it all in a dignified and safe manner. Of course, there’s a part of me too that believes the legalisation of euthanasia is a slippery slope that may lead to it becoming a means of health care cost containment or the rejection of the importance and value of human life.

Pepsi are already making light of suicide as an end to depression – they seem to believe suicide is an effective marketing tool…


Where do others stand on this?

6 responses so far

Nov 10 2008

Dead Reckoning – The Reply

Published by under Blog,Politics

Following on from my previous post:


True to form, rather than simply moaning about it, a friend of mine, G, contacted to make his feelings known on their exploitation of the possible assassination of Barack Obama, and to seek an explanation as to how they could offer such bets.


Here is G’s email:


From: G** [mailto:**]
Sent: 08 November 2008 02:19
To: Support; Whelan, Susan; Robertson, Ken; Power, Paddy
Subject: For the attention of Patrick Kennedy Re: Obama Bet


Mr Kennedy,

I would like to bring to your attention, and express my utter disdain and disgust over your advertised bet Will Barack Obama survive his first term as president? To take bets on whether a man will live for the next 4 years is truly deplorable and is reminiscent of Roman gladiatorial times. Would you like Barack Obama to make sport out of it for you? Maybe something like The Running Man would be in order?

I understand that you have taken the bet off your website, but it is still available at one of your many betting shops, and I believe the current odds are 12-1 A good show of support for the leader of the biggest economic power in the world.

For Paddy Power to be taking bets over whether or not a man will be assassinated shows a complete lack of ethics, decency and common sense. I can assure you that I will be cancelling my account and will not be using Paddy Power again. I would also suggest you instruct your shops to remove this bet, refund any current wagers and make an apology on your website.

I look forward to receiving your thoughts on this matter.



Paddy Power replied with a very well considered and, in my view, acceptable explanation of their stance:


Subject: RE: For the attention of Patrick Kennedy Re: Obama Bet
Date: Sat, 8 Nov 2008 14:50:29 +0000
To: **


Hi G**,

Thank you very much for your email, I appreciate the opportunity to clear this matter up.

Contrary to recent reports Paddy Power never have and never will offer odds on Barack Obama to be assassinated.  The market which has been misinterpreted was on Obama not to finish his term which covers political reasons for cutting the term short such as impeachment and resignation – Richard Nixon resigned and Bill Clinton came close.

Because of this misinterpretation we have now clarified our betting and simply offer individual odds of 28/1 on Obama to resign and 33/1 on him to be impeached among the scores of other Obama special bets which have been requested by our customers.

I hope this has helped clarify the matter.

Kind regards,

Paddy Power


They are an intelligent bunch in and I have no doubt that they were using the ambiguity of the bet to incorporate assassination as one of the possible ways he could fail to serve a full term. That said, they were not explicitly accepting bets on his murder and they did make efforts to rectify their mistake, if you view it as a mistake.


I think they acted reasonably on this. Anyone else? Did Paddy Power act irresponsibly or is this just another case of the media creating a story where there is none?

10 responses so far

Nov 07 2008

Dead Reckoning

Published by under Blog,Politics

President Barack ObamaPresident-Elect Barack Obama’s relentless and tiring electioneering has ended in success, and now the hard part begins. Obama must now turn his head to running a country in the midst of one of the worst economic crises in its history, where unemployment levels are rapidly rising, the educational system is failing, foreign policy is driving wedges across the planet and to top it all off, he must contend with potential attempts on his life.

Already, two white supremacist skinheads were arrested in Tennessee over plans to go on a killing spree and eventually shoot the President-Elect. And it would be naive to think this was an isolated event. There will be more attempts: authorities know this; Obama knows this; in fact, the media virtually counts on it.

Paddy PowerOf course, true to form, Paddy Power has even offered odds on it occurring. This morning they offer odds of 12-1, down from 16-1 yesterday, that Obama will not finish his first term in office due to assassination. This is disgraceful and should be discouraged. Now, where can I get a piece of this action?


Go on, people seem to be terrified to talk about it, for fear of being crass, but I remember a lot of talk around the time of Bush’s last ‘victory’ that suggested he was a bigger target than ever before. I would not be surprised if there is a successful attempt on his life. I sincerely hope it doesn’t happen, but odds are there will be numerous attacks. What do you think? Will he make it through the full term?

7 responses so far

Nov 05 2008

President Barack Obama’s Victory Speech

Published by under Blog,Politics

President Barack ObamaIf there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.


It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.


It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.


It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.


It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.


I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he’s fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation’s promise in the months ahead.


I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.


I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation’s next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House. And while she’s no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.


To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics – you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you’ve sacrificed to get it done.


But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to – it belongs to you.


I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington – it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.


It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.


I know you didn’t do this just to win an election and I know you didn’t do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime – two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they’ll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor’s bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.


The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there.


There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.


What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.


So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers – in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.


Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House – a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, “We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.


And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down – we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security – we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.


For that is the true genius of America – that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.


This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.


She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.


And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.


At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.


When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.


When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.


She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “We Shall Overcome.” Yes we can.


A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.


America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves – if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?


This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time – to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:


Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America


From BNO News

5 responses so far

Nov 05 2008

President Barack Obama

Published by under Blog,Politics

President Barack ObamaAfter a relatively short election results night, Barack Obama has been declared forty forth President of the United States. From about 2.30am GMT onwards, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion. Once it was clear than Obama had taken Ohio, the first Democrat to win the  state since 1964, it was almost a dead cert. Then, at last, at 4am, Barack Obama was declared the winner with 273 electoral votes, taking California and Washington. The first African American President – a huge and important moment in time.

John McCain’s camp will undoubtedly be taking stock today, wondering where they went wrong and I’m sure there’s plenty of people who can point to the choice of Sarah Palin, the poor use of campaign funds, the connection to Bush and the strength of Obama’s campaign as being major factors. But there’s very little point in doing a post mortem.


The Democrats have taken back the US Presidency for the first time in eight years and we can only hope this will spark a change. And not just a change for the US citizens, but a change for the world, a change in the world’s current economic standing and a change in how the US interacts with the world – surely a major change in US Foreign Policy is due. This is hopefully the start of a great time for the US and for the world as a whole.

There is clearly an uphill struggle ahead. The recession will need to be battled, there is an education crisis, the war still rages and can’t be easily concluded and more than all of this, the impression the rest of the world has of America needs to be turned around. Is President Obama the man to do this? Time will tell.



On a sidenote, this is my 300th blog post. I’ve enjoyed every bit of the last 300 and look forward to the next.

4 responses so far

Oct 24 2008

Oh My God, What Have I Done?

Published by under Blog,Politics

I didn’t know I could vote?

Best. Viral Thingy. Ever.

(courtesy of Rick)

5 responses so far

Jul 07 2008


Published by under Blog,Politics

Andrew has written an excellent piece on the situation is Zimbabwe. I urge you to pop over and read it. It’s a shocking piece which focuses on the human element and the effect of Mugabe’s regime on the individuals in the country.

You would have to made of stone not to be deeply upset by this image. This is Blessing Mabhena, an 11 month old boy, whose legs were deliberately broken by Robert Mugabe’s thugs in order to punish his father for being an opposition councillor in Zimbabwe. You can read the full story here. I found myself just staring blankly at the computer screen for about ten minutes after reading this story, unsure of what to do next.

He also points to Bryan Mukandi’s new blog on, which is also worth checking out for his post on Zimbabwe.

7 responses so far

Jun 27 2008

The Irish Values Debate: Part Two – Catholicism And Its Role In Irish Society

Published by under Blog,Politics

This is probably the most important area when discussing the origins of Irish Values, and also the hardest one to write about without giving a very biased view. I have a sincere loathing for the Catholic Church. I have a long list of bad experiences with priests and the  Church (not that type of bad experience, don’t worry) and the simple fact that the Irish Church is, for many, synonymous with abuses, paedophilia, lies, conspiracies and power-mongering surely points to the Church as being a generally bad influence on our lives.

That is, of course, not entirely true, because nothing is ever black and white, is it?

At the Dublin Writers Festival, Lean, one of the coordinators, was eager to remove the question of Catholicism from the floor. She wondered why, firstly, other religions weren’t being discussed – the broader Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc. – but also why the panelists were reluctant to look at values beyond the religious divide – those of Atheists or those of people who are simple not religious. It is true Catholicism is the major religion in Ireland – the last census revealed 87% of the population considered themselves Catholic (the second highest religion was Church of Ireland at only 2.85%). When we look at those born in Ireland only, the figure rises to 92% (Church of Ireland at 2.35%). So, it is understandably important to spend time looking at Catholicism, but when other surveys reveal regular mass attendance in stark decline, we must wonder what influence other religions and cultures are having on our nation, we must ask how many of those Catholics truly have faith or are they simply marking an X in a box because they were raised Catholic.

These are not irrelevant questions but they are questions I can’t fully answer. I will attempt to look at the influence other cultures and beliefs are having on our society though.

What did the Roman Catholic Church ever do for us?

(any excuse to play some Monty Python)

Figuratively speaking, they did indeed build our aqueducts and roads. They paved the path of Irish education and pumped money into the fledgling Irish healthcare system at a time when Ireland was horribly impoverished.

On a grander scale, and bringing us back to morals and values, I spoke about the Ten Commandments and other guidelines handed to us (or perhaps foisted upon us) by the Church in my opening post on the topic; the Church gave us the basis for our moral code. We were told to live good lives, love our neighbours (not their wives though), be good Samaritans, be generous and charitable. When Catholicism first came to Ireland around the fifth century, the priests believed they were guiding beacons, ready to tame the savages. And to some degree they may have been right. Churches were built and communities and parishes grew around them. People would gather and pray and community spirit developed. The Church infiltrated ever aspect of our lives and this continued to be true right the way through to the encroachment of Protestantism on Irish life. Priests would hold mass in makeshift churches in forests, with rocks for altars, and many would still cling to their beliefs and the comfort and guidance the Church would provide.

So, at some point, did things just go wrong, or were there always questionable practices at the core of the institution?

The Papal Visit and What Went Wrong?

In 1979, Ireland saw its greatest ever mass gathering – when Pope John Paul II visited our country. It is odd that from this pinnacle moment things began to change. Mass attendances declined, the number of people entering the seminary dropped dramatically and, of course, the scandals began to break.

Allegations of child abuse, sexual abuse, cover ups, enslavement and cruelty began to surface publicly in the 1980’s and came to a fore in the 90’s. There are supporters of the Catholic Church who will say that these were mainly isolated incidents. I refute this – compensation payouts to date exceed €1billion (only €128million of this being paid for by the Church), this does not point to isolated incidents; mass cover-ups from high ranking member of the Church do not point to isolated incidents; the revelations of the Magdalene Laundries and other institutions are not isolated incidents; and the Ferns Report (and the Church’s efforts to block it) make it very clear that these incidents were widespread in the Church and were well known about among the upper echelons of the administration.

Is it any wonder people are turning away from the Catholic Church in their droves? The disappointment people must feel in an institution that has been a guiding light for Ireland for so so long is magnified because the Church was our moral compass and when our compass is in such a broken state, we are asking ourselves how we will ever find our way again. So we look to new religions, so we look to new outlets, so we look to the West in search of answers and guidance.

I remember reading about the replacement of religion with ‘fashion culture’ and consumerism and this makes sense. For many of today’s youth, communities are built in the shopping malls and guided by Hello, OK, Glamour and Cosmo. It is not surprising that many people look to The OC, One Tree Hill and Hollyoaks as a basis for a values system. I’m not saying it is right (quite the opposite), but it is not surprising.

Does the Church Have the Right to Interfere/Intervene in Our Lives Anymore?

In short, absolutely not! I would argue that it should never have been in that position of power in the first place. The good things that stemmed from the Church are still evident in our lives today, but those good deeds should never have elevated the Irish Catholic Church to such a position within our society, where today they still influence political opinion.

The Church long ago gave away their right to preach about morals, about values. Today’s Ireland has moved on. Many of us ‘live in sin’ everyday of our lives and to hear that priests offer marriage guidance classes in this day and age is a disgusting act of hypocrisy. Even the Church has conceded that it needs to take a step back from our educational system, something that should have been addressed many years ago. This is the fault of the government rather than the Church, however.

The Future

In 1979, Pope John Paul II said “Be what you are, and you will set the world ablaze…Rather than conform to the world, the world will conform to you”. Well, I apologise for distorting his words, but by continuing on its current course, rather than set the world ablaze, it will see its world burn down around it, and by not conforming to a modern world, the world will simple move on without it.

In 2012, the International Eucharistic Congress will be held in Ireland for the first time since 1932. Bock talks about it here, and Twenty here while Dublin Blogs looks at it in a slightly less emotional way here. The 1932 gathering reportedly saw 25% of the Irish population attend at some point. I find it hard to imagine today’s Ireland (easier as it is to travel now) managing a fraction of this attendance.

In the 1970’s more than 90% of Irish Catholics said they went ot mass once a week. Now trhe nuimber is 44% (and this includes a strong Polish immigrant contingent). Although this is a dramatic drop, the level is still high amoung Western nations. It will be interetsing to watch how swiftly that numbere declines further.

Á la Carte Catholicism is also maintaining a certain amount of followers where the ban on sex before marriage is ignored, where contraception is the norm. Other practices, such as confession, are being dropped while the likes of marriage, christenings and communions still play a huge part in the lives of Iriah people.

160 priests died in 2007, while 9 were ordained, and 228 nuns were lost being replaced by a mere 2 new nuns. This is further exacerbated by the some highly publicised moves by some Catholic Priests to Protestantism, the Church of Ireland. Rev Dermot Dunne, a former Catholic Priest, became Dean of the Church of Ireland’s Christ Church Cathedral and made a point of kissing his wife while standing on the steps of the cathedral as he took up his new post.

It is predicted that the current number of priests, over 4,700, will drop to less that 1,500 by 2028. Father Eamonn Bourke, director of vocations in Dublin, said “some priests are even reluctant to offer priesthood to people as a valuable way of life. It will take a long time to increase this confidence”.


The days when almost everyone was a church-going Catholic, when the parish Priest was revered and when Church doctrine was central to public policy and private life are no longer. Catholicism is a relic of the past. It’s outdated and it’s obvious that few are devoted to it anymore; if people were truly interested then they wouldn’t have manning shortages in the priesthood. Perhaps if they updated the religion they could attract new followers, but their death-grip on traditions is what has them in their current state. If they don’t modernise to keep-up with modern society then the Church will not survive the ever-growing generation gap.

Once responsible for forming the communities in Ireland, the Irish Catholic Church is now in search of a community of its own.

In this post I have discussed the role of the Catholic Church in Ireland, but I have been lighter on the subject of Irish Values. Towards the end of my series of posts I will try to nail down our Core Values and discuss, among other things, the Church’s part in defining them.

Update: In my next post on the subject, I hope to talk about New Communities, New Cultures, New Ideas and New Values, with an emphasis on how the Internet and other technologies have changed both Irish life and the global landscape.

17 responses so far

Jun 18 2008

The Irish Values Debate: Part One – What Are Values?

For two reasons, I have decided to divide my thoughts on this topic into a few posts. Firstly, as we are now all well aware, I’m incapable of brevity and I have so much to write on this topic that it has to be divided across a number of posts. Secondly, this topic does seem to have some very definite chapters to it and I would like to get peoples opinions on different sections of the debate before delving into the whole thing head first.

Writers Festival ‘Debate’

As I have already said, the Irish Values Debate at the Project Theatre on Thursday evening, chaired by Emer Coffey, with Ivana Bacik, Roy Foster and Alan Gilsenan on the panel, was less of a debate and more a case of widespread agreement. There were so may issues that were not analysed and attacked to their fullest and there were yet more areas that were completely avoided. I said in my post on Friday that I would return to this topic as there was plenty I wanted to add to last Thursday’s debate but was unable (I’m not a Senator, Historian or Director, you know).

These views are simply my opinions. They are far from set in stone and my views and viewpoints are constantly shifting. This is healthy – it allows me to be persuaded by reasoned arguments and adds to my minuscule knowledge base. So, I opening encourage comments on this topic and would love to hear the views and ideas of the blogging community, from first time readers, from anyone who might be interested in where Ireland is and where Ireland is going, from a moral standpoint.

What are Values?

I suppose this is going to be the hardest part of the piece. Opinions are easily constructed, but facts, figures and solid explanations of the current state of affairs is harder to draw up. Each section of Irish society has its own set of values, from those who differ politically to those who differ socially and financially, from those who differ in religious ideas to those who differ in age and era in which they were raised. So, it would be a long and arduous task to list and compare all of these values, which is why, I think we need to look at the core values of the Irish, the set of morals and ideals that makes up our collective moral code.

There are values which are common to much of the civilised, developed world. Common decency is a term that was bandied about last Thursday but I’m not sure the panelists entirely understood what it meant. I’m not sure I do. It seems like such a vague concept and yet each of us probably has a defined concept of what ‘common decency’ means. The trouble is, my common decency may be your social faux pas. But surely there are points within this concept of ‘common decency’ which we all adhere to. Hense the ‘common’ part of it.

Be kind to others – or at the very least don’t go out of your way to cause harm to others. Immediately we have an element of selfishness creeping in. We would all like to to consider ourselves kind individuals, but how many of us are truly kind to those around us when we are in a hurry to catch the bus, when our favourite TV show is starting, when we’ve had a rough day at work. It’s far too difficult to bolt down a true definition of something as simple as ‘Be kind to others’. I think, for the sake of petty argument we will examine ‘aspirational common decency’. This covers the values that we each aspire to and for the most part seek to achieve. There will always be dips in the graph but the dips act as the exceptions that prove the rule.

Aspirational Common Decency

So, what comprises Ireland’s ‘aspirational common decency’? Yes, be kind to one another – not bringing harm upon those around you. Taking it further – help those in need. Ireland has a great reputation for charitable acts and, as a nation, we give generously. So, can we chalk this up as another Irish Value? I think so.

Is forgiveness an important part of the common decency package? I’m not sure – I don’t think so. In my limited experience forgiveness has rarely featured, with many people baring grudges for a very long time. Perhaps forgiveness is a virtuous trait afterall, above that of a common value. I doubt many people would rate being forgiving as an important facet of their character. I look forward to being corrected.

Religion and Ideologies

I do not want to bring religion and ideologies into it yet because there are many values and rules of morality that are particular to some religions, which make them no more nor less valid than other values, but I want ot focus of the common core values at present. But I would propose that for the most part, beleaguered beliefs and blind faith have been replaced with rationality and the scientific process.

I will briefly touch on the Ten Commandments, as I hope to return to the Church’s influence on our morals and our values in a later post. The Commandments (and many other Church teachings) provide us with a set of rules to which we should adhere.

1. I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not have false gods before me.
2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
3. Remember thou keep the Sabbath Day.
4. Honour thy Father and thy Mother.
5. Thou shalt not kill.
6. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
7. Thou shalt not steal.
8. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.

Needless to say, some of these we will discard as religious dogma for the moment (false Gods and the Sabbath Day are religious values and I will cover them in another post), some of these are more than a mere value-set. They are law. We should not kill, and yet capital punishment is still practiced in much of the Eastern world and in the very Western land of the USA. So, there is still some ambiguity even in this most obvious value.

It is illegal to steal and I guess the false witness thing could be construed as the origins of laws on fraud. But adultery, though frowned upon by many, is almost acceptable in today’s society. Coveting your neighbour’s wife and goods – surely ‘keeping up with the Jones’ is not just accepted but even expected in some circles? As for honouring thy father and mother – it is increasingly common for there to be no father in the family (I will accept that sometimes it is the mother that is no longer around too) and I have met some parents who absolutely should not be parents and deserve no ‘honouring’ whatsoever. When I was younger it struck me as odd that Commandment number 4 did not include ‘honour and respect thy children in return’.

Integrity, Respect, Diversity and Chivalry

The Irish value education and spirituality (not just religion) is part of our culture. Other values such as integrity, respect for oneself and for others, trust, honesty, a duty to bear the consequences of our actions and general politeness and chivalry are global values that we strive for to differing levels. In recent times, we have rapidly needed to incorporate diversity into our value system – cultural diversity and the acceptance of new people, ways of life and behaviours. But are these values that we strive for or are they merely foisted upon us without us having the opportunity to discuss and choose this direction? This raises the issue of collaboration with the new cultures, the question of social equality and unity through diversity. We need to ask ourselves if the acceptance of other cultures enhances or ‘muddies’ our own culture – we must decide if this is a good or bad thing.

National Pride has always found a place in Irish society. In modern times with GAA being in vogue, along with the Irish language (thank you Des Bishop) is Neo-Nationalism a core value of the Irish people today? And how does this (if it does at all) conflict with the influx of foreign cultures?

Recent times have seen ambition and an emphasis on social and financial success come to the fore. This has always been in existence but is certainly easier to see in Celtic Tiger and post-Celtic Tiger Ireland. We will need to ask if this emphasis on ambition has been to the detriment of creativity and amiability.

Environmental awareness too has seen much media attention in recent years, but do we consider it part of our value system? Should we? How much do we owe our descendants to look after our natural resources, our air quality, our landscapes?

I mentioned chivalry above and it’s fair to say that ‘chivalry’ is an old fashioned word, but does that mean chivalry is no longer relevant? Ladies and gentleman with ‘old-fashioned’ good manners, please and thank yous, punctuality, opening doors for people (not just women), modesty, being a good father/mother/husband/wife/partner, honesty, dressing tidily out of respect for others, genuine interest in others (not always talking about oneself), integrity and discretion – these are all aspects of chivalry. Some or all may be relevant, some may be pointless and antiquated. Think on this: is there such a thing as modern chivalry, where, out of respect for others, we excuse ourselves from the table before checking our Blackberry’s?

Is chivalry anachronistic and no longer a requirement in todays society? I don’t believe so, but it perhaps needs a redefinition.

Politics and Irish Life

Should we lump political duty into our developing value set? Politics may have once been a noble pursuit, but that idea has long been superceded by moral flexibility, naked ambition, manipulation and the pursuit of power. I have heard it many times that those who want to become politicians should never be allowed. Recent years has seen some awful political disgraces in Irish society, but for the most part we, as a nation, have just accepted it and moved on. So, while political duty and honesty within politics should be part of our set of values, I suspect it is not. I suspect most of us just don’t care.

The Debate?

These are my views on what Values are and, in particular, what values are relevant and should be under discussion when we look at the current state of our nation and the future of Ireland. But the questions that I hope to debate are firstly whether these values have changed significantly over my lifetime, over the past quarter of a century, and secondly has the change been a positive or negative thing for Irish society. Has our value system changed for the better – are we better people as a result, are we a better society as a result – or has our looser morals and loss of ‘traditional values’ made for a darker society – are we losing our identity as the friendliest people in the world, are we heading for ruin?

Over the few posts I put together on the issue of Modern Irish Values, maybe we’ll find the answers, but for the moment, I am asking the question, what are Values? Have I been too broad in my definition? Have I left something out? Are there any values which are quintessentially Irish or is our debate destined to be one of world values and global identity?

The Irish Values Debate – What are Values?

Update: In my next post on the subject, I hope to talk about The Role of Catholicism in Irish Values, looking at it’s past, the current situation and what role, if any, it will play in Ireland’s future.

5 responses so far

Jun 13 2008

Dublin Writers Festival – Deutchland’s Descendants, Dilapidated Debates And Dublin’s Droogs*

Published by under Blog,Politics

This evening was a very varied affair. As I raced from work, I began to question this volunteerism that Darragh had inspired in me. I was reminded that inspiration can be negative too. Someone inspired Hitler, someone inspired Stalin, someone inspired Bush and Darragh inspired me.

My first duty as volunteer for the Dublin Writers Festival is to collect award winning author, Justin Cartwright, from the Morrison and escort him to the Project Theatre in Templebar. That took all of 5 minutes.

Once at the venue I was given a variety of duties, one of which was providing the microphone to audience members during the question-time section of each event. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to watch, firstly, the readings and discussion between Hugo Hamilton and Justin Cartwright, and secondly, the ‘debate’ with Ivana Bacik, Alan Gilsenan and Roy Foster. David McWilliams was a disappointing no-show.

Deutchland’s Descendants

Hamilton and Cartwright read sections from their respective novels, Disguise and The Song Before it is Sung. Both novels address issues which arose from a post war Germany and while the books are both quite different in style, it is understandable why these two authors were paired together.

Hugo Hamilton’s Disguise is an explorative piece, examining the concept of personal identity, through his character, Boris Opp. Opp was a Jewish child in Germany who was rescued by the father of a woman who had just lost her own young child in the war. The father encourages her to raise Opp as her own child in replacement of her lost son. It would be many years later before Opp would discover the truth and embark upon a personal journey of inner discovery in order to concrete his own identity as a Jew raised without the knowledge of his heritage.

This search for identity is a theme Hamilton returns to time and time again, and it is understandable. He was born of a German mother to a nationalist Irish father and was raised on a strict linguistic diet of German and Gaeilge, which just made him view the English language as a taboo challenge that he would face in secret. It is clear that in these roots of learning he not only found his calling as a writer, but also found a question he would ask himself repeatedly throughout his life – “Who am I?” This question of identity is at the heart of his work. Reading three passages from Disguises, Hamilton was a treat to listen to – lacking in ego without being self-effacing, he proved to be engaging and interesting.

Cartwright, on the other hand, introduced his novel by telling us that one reviewer described it as nothing more that an exercise in smugness. The audience laughed, I laughed, but it became evident very quickly that this reviewer may have hit upon something. He spent far too long reading a passage (I say passage, but I fear it extended over a number of chapters). The novel’s concept of a grad student who had become obsessed with the story of (and the videoed evidence of) the hanging of the conspirators in a plot to kill Hitler sounded fascinating. Intrigue, secrecy, the uncovering off a mystery, murder, shocking outcomes and historical relevance made this novel sound like a fantastic read, however Cartwright‘s over indulgence in the use of sex and sexuality throughout even the ‘short’ piece he read for us showed us an author who’s mind was clearly wandering as he wrote. The constant reference to sex served no purpose and seemed to be thrown in at some very inappropriate points. Perhaps he was aiming to shock, perhaps he was trying to emphasise that even in the depressing post war times of the Fatherland sex was as vital a part of daily life as the struggle for existence. But I doubt it. It felt more like the ramblings of a man who got bored with his subject matter and wanted to throw in a little titillation.

That said, I found him entertaining and the chairperson’s constant referral back to Hugo Hamilton on a number of points betrayed her own disinterest (probably not the right word, but I won’t go so far as to say dislike either) in Cartwright and made the discussion an enjoyable one to deconstruct. Hamilton may have been the nicer, more amiable participant, but there was no getting away from the fact that this was Cartwright‘s show – the high volume of audience questions, geared towards him and his novels made this self-evident.

Dilapidated Debates

The festival brochure built the next event as a debate – a debate on Irish Values. We are told that Independent Senator, Ivana Bacik, the most eminent and distinguished of Irish historians, Roy Foster, Ireland’s most prolific documentary maker, Alan Gilsenan, and economist, broadcaster and writer, David McWilliams, would together unpick the moral and social fabric of 21st Irish society. Answering such questions as “has Ireland’s newfound prosperity changed our core values?” and “was the Ireland of old a purer, simpler and therefore kinder society?“, these participant were to debate the present state of Ireland’s moral code, if indeed we have one at all.

Roy FosterDisappointingly, there was to be no debate. The poorly chosen lineup were more like a group of friends having a chat – from the panel there were very few novel points raised (if any) and all were either too fearful or too lazy to be drawn into a discussion, by the audience, on the relevance of Catholicism (or Christianity) to today’s core values, on the influence of consumerism (Roy Foster pointedly said he would only briefly touch on this point, as if being instructed to avoid it) and indeed, none would be drawn on what the core values of today’s Ireland are or should be. Ivana Bacik was the only panelist who seemed interested in having a true adversarial debate but even she, in her opening address, made it clear that this would be a far more discursive affair and even apologised in advance for the possibly that she may become too hostile. No such luck!

Perhaps, had McWilliams shown up (I still haven’t found out why he was unable to attend) he may have added more to the ‘debate’, focusing on the impact of economic shifts on our society, but I doubt it. There was too much friendly patting on the backs going on for this to be anything other than a lighthearted event.

There were so many points that were only briefly discussed and all without any depth. There were a number of issues which were brushed over, as I mentioned above, but there were a number of extremely relevant and interesting issues that I would have expected to have been discussed as a matter of course , which never arose at all. I hope to talk more about this subject over the next day or so.

Dublin’s Droogs*

After the event we taxied up to the Bernard Shaw in Portobello where DublinStreets presented ‘Shoot Me: A global exhibition of Street Style and Street Art‘. I have never before been surrounded by such trendiness, oddball creativity is dress sense or general ‘I’m so uncool, I’m cool‘ attitudes. The site looks at the various styles of Dublin’s modern cultural scene and doles out some very unusual pictures. I think Darragh will follow up with a more indepth look at the site and its ‘art show’ in the Bernard Shaw, but in the meantime, check these out:

*Droogs refers to the teenage über-fashionistas of Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, who dressed insanely to rebel against society’s conservativism

5 responses so far

Next »