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25th Aug, 2016


A few days ago I had a post here asking if "political correctness" has gone too far as I believe it has. I wrote that "sacred spaces" were appearing in some universities where 'political correctness' tries to shut down debate about the right-to-life, the nature of marriage, immigration, etc. This becomes a threat to free and open debate and therefore to free and open societies.
Nowadays, if you are against open-door immigration, you are considered a 'racist', if you oppose gay marriage, you are a 'homophobe', if you oppose abortion, you wish to 'oppress' women and deserve to be expelled from polite society and 'no-platformed' at universities!

The Rose of Tralee International Festival is based on the love song "The Rose of Tralee", by William Mulchinock a 19th century wealthy merchant who was in love with Mary O'Connor, his maid. Since 1959 the Festival has grown, incorporating centres from all over the world and is firmly established on everyone's events calendar. TV live coverage of the Rose selection has helped install the Festival in the national psyche with over a million people tuning in. This year's Rose of Tralee is the Canadian 'Rose'.

Entrants are interviewed on aspects of their lives. This year the Sydney 'Rose',  Brianna Parkins, was allowed to say during the interview: “I think we can do better here in Ireland.  I think it is time to give women a say on their own reproductive rights. I would love to see a referendum on the eighth coming up soon. That would be my dream.”

This is in reference to an ongoing debate in Ireland about the repeal of the 8th amendent to our Constitution which guarantees the “right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

Pro-choice campaigners believe the wording means abortion rights in Ireland are too restricted; anti-abortion campaigners want it to remain the same.

The Rose of Tralee festival describes itself as apolitical and does not encourage political statements.

21st Aug, 2016


So the Rio Olympics are over. Between blanket coverage of the games on TV and radio and the corruption that came to light I’m glad it’s all over! It all reminds me of a book I read some years ago.

Although Irish has been used as a literary language for at least 1,500 years and is compulsory in all State primary schools very few can speak the language. It has been argued that use of the language by non-Irish writers has nothing to do with a specifically Irish identity.

Dutch-born Alex Hijmans came to study in Galway University in the west of Ireland. He learned to speak Irish fluently and has published three books in the language. One of these, Favela, is an account of his life in Brazil where he now lives. A favela is a slum or shantytown on the outskirts of large cities like Rio de Janeiro. It is estimated that there are about 1,000 favelas in Rio alone!  The principal focus of Hijmans’ book is on the lives, culture and spiritual beliefs of those living in these ghettoes.

We saw or overheard nothing of these during the last couple of weeks!

19th Aug, 2016


Irish School-leaving results were published on Wednesday. Great joy for many, great sadness for others. Many secured sufficent points for university places but will find it almost impossible, because of high rents or lack of accommodation, to take up those places. Ireland is no longer a place for young people, or indeed for old people either. The fates of the two generations are, in fact, linked.
There is a looming pensions crisis. Will the State, which is to say the taxpayer, continue to be able to pay the State pension at today's rates? Add to this is the increase in the ageing population and the soaring cost of health.

Both young and old are becoming more and more dependent on fewer and fewer tax-payers. It has been calculated that by 2055 there will be two working people supporting one pensioner! No country could afford to go on like that and it is young people growing up today who, above all, are going to have to bear the burden of a system which is building up huge numbers of economic dependents. Because of this, many people are postponing marriage and having a family.

Another reason for postponing starting a family, of course, is the enormous value young people put on their personal freedom. One must be able to keep new cars on the road, several foreign holidays, gym membership and busy social life! No parents should have to compromise their own enjoyment in favour of having children. In other words, having children, in the minds of some, should not have any impact on one's luxury and leisure activities. Proper family formation is no longer affordable.

18th Aug, 2016


Religion is superstition! So say many. Newspapers generally treat it as such and only cover a negative approach to it.  Each day, I read what they themselves consider a fairly serious newspaper - not a red-top. Each day a half page is devoted to horoscopes.

The "science" of astrology makes the pre-assumption that our mind is connected to the universe. As I understand it, the sun would appear to "enter" or pass through a different constellation each month. These twelve constellations are called the Zodiac.

Is not this absurd? Has the theory been supported by science? Surely not. The whole thing is hogwash.

Astrologists believe that a person's behaviour, emotions, and fate are heavily influenced by the month of that person's birth--i.e. that person's astrological sign.

My date of birth is in June. Apparently my own Zodiac sign is therefore Gemini.  My newspaper today tells me to tread lightly, that my hunger for the big wide yonder may be heightened as claustrophobia sets in, I'm advised to take little steps towards my goals, not to jump in with two feet, to mellow out a bit more, and to be philosophical about a changing landscape.

What poppy-cock! Does my newspaper take this rubbish seriously? If not, why waste half a page each day on it while the practice of my religion is considered superstition!

14th Aug, 2016

Has "Political Correctness" Gone Too Far?

Our newly appointed Minister for Health objects to people who say that political correctness has gone too far. Has it? When political correctness tries to shut down debate about the right-to-life, the nature of marriage, immigration, etc. it becomes a threat to free and open debate and therefore to free and open societies.

So should we be worrying about 'political correctness'? We are seeing the growth of what are called "safe spaces" in our universities. These are designed to 'protect' students from hearing opinions that they find 'offensive' or 'oppressive'. All offending opinions are excluded from these 'safe spaces'. Speakers with 'oppressive' views are denied speaking platforms.

I understand that two journalists were to speak on opposing sides of the abortion debate at Oxford University. They were 'no-platformed' because the very title of the debate - "This house believes Britain's abortion culture hurts us all" - was deemed to be "anti-choice" in and of itself. The event was cancelled.

Is this attitude growing? Are our universities, which are supposed to promote the free and open exchange of ideas, now dedicated to shutting down such exchange with their new 'safe spaces'?

It seems to be easy now to press a charge of 'hate' or 'abuse' against someone and the law takes it very seriously. If you are against open-door immigration, you are a 'racist', if you oppose gay marriage, you are a 'homophobe', if you oppose abortion, you wish to 'oppress' women and deserve to be expelled from polite society and 'no-platformed' at universities!

12th Aug, 2016


At a family gathering the other day my grandniece and her siblings, when speaking to their father and mother, always called them John and Orla. . . . "John, when are we leaving"? I was horrified!

When I was growing up all the kids in our village referred to their parents as Mammy and Daddy. This was the common thing in Ireland as a whole. As we grew older it sometimes became 'Mam' or, when in the third person, 'Me Ma' or  'De Mammy' although even grown men still used 'Mammy'.

Then Mum and Mummy and such like were  imported from England. Used mainly to sound 'posh'.

Next, influenced no doubt by American TV, 'Mom' and 'Mommy' were imported with such Americanisms as 'candy', 'prom', and 'cafeteria'. We went to the 'pictures'. Now we go to the 'cinema' to see a 'movie'! Of course "Mammy" is also associated with the deep south in the States - is there an Irish connection!

But 'John' and 'Orla' .... Never!!

10th Aug, 2016


Every summer the Queen of England's Young Leader Award recognises and celebrates exceptional people aged 18-29 who are taking the lead in their communities and using their skills to transform lives. It is a unique initiative which recognises that young people have the ability to make a huge impact in their communities. Often young people do not recognize that they possess these qualities in themselves.

The leader of one of our own groups working in sub-Saharan Africa won an award last month. Edmund Rice International is a non-governmental-organization committed to working for children and young people who are marginalised because of poverty, lack of access to education, legal status, environmental degradation, or involved in armed conflict.

I ask myself, 'What makes a good youth leader'?

I presume one would have to have a desire to work with young people in some existing local organization or group such as a football team, school programme or summer camp. This would require good leadership skills, patience, dedication, and good listening skills.

To be an effective leader, I think, one would need to get to know the group's interests, likes, dislikes and goals; to care about the group, to love working with young people, to give them attention and inspire them to grow and learn and to establish a trusting bond with individuals and group.

It would be important, too, of course, to be  able to think up creative ways of involving and motivating young people in various activities such as singing, painting, field trips, doing arts and crafts, etc.

A good leader would also have to be prepared to spend time with a group. This might mean working extra hours, even week-ends.

This is quite a daunting challenge to undertake and more power to those prepared and ready to do it. What amazes me is that there are still  so many accepting challenges even when there is no "Queen's Award" at the end for it.

9th Aug, 2016


8th Aug, 2016


Is a tabula rasa a board that has NEVER been written on, or is it a board that has been written on but the writing has been erased?

90% of Junior schools in Ireland are under the control of the Church (especially the Catholic Church). Over the last few years this situation has been constantly contested because, it is said, children are being indoctrinated in them.

I have been a teacher all my life using chalk and blackboard. Some may remember them. Those blackboards were written on over and over for a hundred years in some cases. Can they be called a tabula rasa?

Now, I ask myself, is a child born with a tabula rasa, or has everyone both a good inclination and an evil inclination from birth and the free will to choose between them. Are these inclinations built into nature?

I’m not sure I understand tabula rasa. Are all attitudes and behaviours the result of external conditioning or is human nature to be considered separate from our behaviour? I’m inclined to think that Christianity would hold this latter belief since the soul is new at birth. With each new being comes a new soul and thus a new mind to be shaped. How does this occur?

It is unethical to tell children anything that is objectively false (unlike ordinary fantasies of childhood like Santa Claus) and may lead to long-lasting beliefs in falsehoods. It is important for the child to understand what is true and what is not, e.g. that some groups of people in some irrelevant way, should be treated differently and should not have the same civil and human rights as everyone else. The question then arises, should children be taught about a personal God who can influence our lives. Can this be considered ‘indoctrination’? Perhaps a parent or a teacher could cope by saying; ‘well, some people believe that . . .’  'other people believe differently' and add ‘now can you think of a way to find out which is true’? In other words teach them the skills of enquiry.

For me, being a Christian is like having visited another country that other people deny the existence of. The Kingdom of God is, as it were, a place I have been to, so I don’t fear discussing it or feel threatened by people’s arguments. 

I'm sure all this is utter rubbish!

5th Aug, 2016


Recently Sports and Religion have been beset by scandals of one sort or another. How should we react to such corruption? Should we cease to be involved in these institutions or should we continue to be involved and try to reform them? If we truly believe in them we will stay.

Many, many people have had their lives transformed for the better by sport and take great pleasure out of it.

The same goes for religion. Religion, despite all the charges that can be made against it, has also transformed countless lives for the better down the ages.

So those who really believe in sport or Church cannot walk away when these institutions have problems.

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