Ireland's Child Care Institutions during the 20th. Century. Fo'T: The most vivid and passionate stories - banished babies, cruel orphanages, old abuses of power - have concerned things that went unnoticed, or at least unarticulated, at the time. News has often had to be redefined, not as the latest sensation but as that which everybody knew all along yet could not say.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


... Connect: It's 55 years since the "penny catechism" was first published. Sometimes known as "McQuaid's catechism", the green-covered book "approved by the archbishops and bishops of Ireland" has sold 32,000 copies since its re-publication 10 years ago. Like the Faith of Our Fathers CD that became a bestseller a decade ago, the catechism appeals to traditionalists and nostalgics.

In 1951, when it was published, Eamon de Valera and Winston Churchill were returned to power as taoiseach of Ireland and prime minister of Britain. Ireland's Ernest Walton and Britain's John Cockcroft won the Nobel Prize for physics. An Austin A40 car rose £31 in price to £685. In Europe, the final Nazis convicted of war crimes were hanged. It was the year too in which the US condemned Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to execution for spying. JD Salinger had The Catcher in the Rye published and Britain's youngest Tory candidate in that year's general election was 26-year-old Margaret Roberts. She married Denis Thatcher that year too as her still war-damaged country held its Festival of Britain. The BBC proclaimed: "People do not like momentous events such as war and disaster to be read by the female voice."

Clearly, it wasn't only Ireland that was a different country then. But more than a half century later, Ireland appears even more transformed than Britain, Europe or the US.

Instead of promises of "indulgences", we hear, for instance, guff about "tracker mortgages". In that sense, of course, perhaps little has changed. In 1951, the catechism assured us that for making and saying the sign of the cross, we were guaranteed "an indulgence of 100 days". Made and said using "holy water", the indulgence was tripled. An Act of Contrition yielded "an indulgence of three years" or "a plenary indulgence if recited daily for an entire month". Few people under 50 will recall the distinction between "plenary" and "partial" indulgences. ("Plenary" meant remission of the entire punishment whereas "partial" commutes only a portion.) Few people over 30 will know that a "tracker mortgage" is one where the interest rate is variable but will always be a fixed percentage above the European Central Bank (ECB) base rate. (At least, I didn't and had to seek a definition.) Yet, despite today's irritating, gushy and breathless hard sell of financial "products" - when, if anything, they are "processes" - there are other notable differences between Catholic Tiger Ireland in 1951 and current Celtic Tiger Ireland. Question 249 in McQuaid's catechism illustrates the point. "What is forbidden by the fifth commandment?" it asks. Answer: "The fifth commandment forbids murder and suicide, and all other acts that inflict bodily injury on ourselves or on others."

Whoa! Whoa! What about "mortifications" and sundry practices of flagellation - self and others - that were revered and encouraged at the time? What about the savage beatings in schools, particularly in industrial schools? Question 251 asks "What are they bound to do who have caused bodily injury to others?" The answer makes clear that "they who have inflicted bodily injury on others are bound to make good the loss they have caused". This isn't, of course, always possible. But even when it is, do you really believe the "archbishops and bishops of Ireland" have attempted to conform to the words "approved" by their often hypocritical predecessors? Have they seriously tried "to make good the loss" their Church has caused?

Perhaps some have but as a body, the hierarchy has seemed excessively consumed with protecting itself. It continues to be too. Anyway, from Question 1, "Who made the world?" (answer: "God made the world") to the final question (443) the green penny catechism allows us to see a country that was, in effect, a theocracy. Along the way, such arcane matters as limbo, actual grace and sacramentals are defined. Perhaps their equivalents today are those absurd financial "products", return risk and APR. The "Paddy and Mary Solemns", who attended weekly confessions, practised penance and amassed indulgences are mostly dead now. They have been replaced by people who not only understand but presumably believe ardently in tracker mortgages, return risk, APR and the rest of the advertising guff.

The theocracy that was Ireland has been replaced by an economy. Half a century from now - say in 2056 - are we likely to view the tracker mortgage crowd as we now characteristically view, with a certain scepticism and arguably even mild disdain, the amassing of indulgences? Who knows? But as banks get bigger and wealthier while churches lose congregations and even close, it's as well to be aware of the transitory nature of ideologies. Written on the back of the penny catechism is the phrase " . . . what is most deplorable of all, how tranquilly they [ cultured and knowledgeable people ignorant of religious 'duties'] repose there . . ."

In today's Ireland, where the currency is loot not indulgences, will people not come to laugh at and be embarrassed by this age of gushy flogging of financial "products"? Make up your own mind.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Science and Art of Impaling Cows

It's a long-standing belief that if you sneak up on a cow while they're sleeping and push their big bodies on one side really hard, a cow will literally tip over. This is an ancient game called "Sneaking Up On The Cow, Tipping it over, Raising it high and then Impaling it on some nearby railings. "

I've heard many stories on this ancient peasant pastime. Many have told me that they successfully Snuck-up/Tipped-over/Raised-high a cow by themselves but unfortunately I've only heard one person ever who was definite that Impaling A Cow was actually possible .

I'm a skeptic, and I've always had my doubts. These stories of such amazing achievement have always had one constant: the cow impaler supporter in question is always drunk.

Is it really possible to Sneak-up/Tip-over/Raise high/Impale a 1400 pound cow. If so, why the hell would anyone want to do such a thing?

Using the extensive research facilities available to me (I googled: Impaling A Cow) and the results were startling.

1. The Science of Cow Tipping
2. Albert the Bull

And this gem from Dundalk in Ireland actually !!!!

Sacred cow impaled on the altar of senseless vandalism

“Tain-ya”, the multi-coloured life sized paint cow, has become the latest victim of the wanton vandalism that is becoming an epidemic in Dundalk. “Tain-ya” was donated by the Naughton Foundation as part of a sculpture park in Ice-House Park only a few weeks back, but went missing last Thursday, only to be found impaled on a fence, damaged and an attempt made to set to work of art on fire.

No actual live being was injured during the writing of this piece - except maybe the ego-driven eejit whose raison d'etre is to malign Institutional Abuse survivors.

Here's a pic of "railings" in Letterfrack

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Thank you.

Why shouldn't I possess a private eagerness,

an anticipation all of my own,

Such that it crams every corner of my soul.

And I had sworn I would never again open the door

Of my senses to any outward appeal.

But I have not kept that vow

and this dismays me.

Even though I, again, have tasted

The tangible loveliness of life,

Seen colours as pristine as the

beginning of life .... and love.

Passion or compassion? I can't tell.

My heart and soul rushed to take it in.

But you have given me a gift,

And in that giving you have honoured me.

I have found the grace, the sense of worth.

And these new things have wiped away the hurt.

Thank You

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Curtin case will proceed

Chairman 'determined' Curtin case will proceed

Miriam Donohoe, Political Staff 07/11/2006

The chairman of the Oireachtas committee set up to investigate alleged misconduct by Circuit Court Judge Brian Curtin said last night he is "determined" the committee will proceed and complete its work despite a delay in the start of official private hearings yesterday. The hearings were adjourned for a week following a request from Judge Curtin's legal team to the committee last Wednesday to allow them more time to carry out their investigations. It is understood Judge Curtin sought a six-week adjournment but after a five-hour meeting the committee agreed to adjourn for just one week.

The committee chairman, Fianna Fáil TD Denis O'Donovan, said last night "each and every member" of the committee is "resolute" that it will complete its inquiry despite the adjournment. He told The Irish Times: "Unless the courts stop us we are determined we will proceed next Monday." Committee sources said there was anger at the adjournment request as all members had cleared their diaries for the private hearings expected to last two weeks. Eighteen witnesses, including one from the US and several Garda witnesses, were also on standby for the start of the hearings yesterday.

The committee is to report to the Dáil on allegations relating to the discovery of child pornography on Judge Curtin's computer. Judge Curtin was charged with possession of pornography following a Garda search in May 2002. He pleaded not guilty and was acquitted on
direction of the court in 2004 as the search warrant in the case was out of date. He brought unsuccessful High Court and Supreme Court challenges to the planned Oireachtas inquiry into whether to impeach him.

A report by independent experts on records held on Judge Curtin's computer was completed in August. The report also examined financial and other personal records to see if they were in any way connected or linked to information and files discovered on his computer. Details of the report will be formally presented to the committee when the hearings get under way next week.

© The Irish Times

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