Sexual abuse

Jimmy Savile BBC report parallels with Catholic church scandals

Janet Smith’s report on Jimmy Savile has found no evidence that senior managers knew of his crimes.

Of course, this is not the same as saying they didn’t know, only that they left no trail leading back to themselves, but it’s still enough to give the BBC some comfort. Today’s senior managers must be chortling over their port and stilton at their decision to pay only £1 million to Saville’s victims while reserving £6.5 million for the lawyers who operated the inquiry. Money well spent.

By a simple process of reductio ad absurdum, we can reason as follows. If senior managers really didn’t know what Jimmy Savile was up to then the BBC was run by the most incompetent buffoons in the history of broadcasting. But of course the BBC is probably the best operation of its kind in the world. Ergo, it was not run by fools and therefore yes, of course they bloody-well knew, just as the Catholic bishops knew.

They all knew.

Everyone, inside the BBC and outside was well aware of Savile’s proclivities. Everyone from the janitor to the Director-General must have had at least an inkling that a violent sexual predator was at large on their many premises. A rapist with untrammelled access to vulnerable young people, facilitated by a culture of deference very similar indeed to the obsequious forelock-tugging once enjoyed by Catholic priests in Ireland.

The parallels with the Catholic church are astonishing both in the way the BBC allowed the abuser to continue for so long, and also in the way the establishment has prioritised its own survival over the rights of the victims and the demands of natural justice.

Imagine having an inquiry that is not allowed to compel senior managers to give evidence. What is the point of such an inquiry? What precisely is the difference between the aloof distance of these functionaries and the haughty disdain of the Roman Catholic bishops when first confronted with the reality of what their priests had been up to? Remember Cardinal Cathal Daly’s flaccid defence that he had no authority over Brendan Smyth and therefore no right to intervene.

Of course, Janet Smith’s report isn’t entirely without merit. One thing that comes out very clearly is the amount of fear that existed in the BBC. Fear of angering an abuser so well established he had the power to destroy people’s careers. Fear of disturbing the equilibrium of the princes of the BBC church. Fear of being disbelieved. Fear, perhaps, of physical assault by Savile who in his younger days was not only a rapist and a psychopath but also a violent thug. Fear of being charged by the very police Savile had in his pocket.

Calling the report a whitewash, a lawyer representing 168 of Savile’s victims pointed out that the BBC bishops only had to scratch at the surface to find out the truth. Savile attacked children from 10 years of age in every single BBC building he visited. Many well-known presenters including Terry Wogan and Esther Rantzen reported their concerns but BBC bosses did nothing because they had no hard evidence, thus violating one of the fundamental rules of child protection. They applied a legalistic standard of proof, just as the Catholic bishops did, instead of intervening to protect the children by severing all relations with Savile.

Just like the bishops, the BBC placed children in danger.

The obvious question is still unanswered. Was Jimmy Savile part of a paedophile ring in the BBC? Were other members of such a ring protecting him? Do members of any such ring still remain in senior BBC positions?

The BBC needs to learn from the experience of the Irish Catholic church, whose credibility has been utterly demolished by its evasions, its failures to confront the truth but most importantly its assumption that people are fools. If they had any sense, they would immediately appoint an independent person to examine all of their operations because if they don’t, this thing will continue to haunt them. All they need to is phone the Archbishop of Dublin if they want to know the dismal truth.




Full text HERE

Conclusions HERE



Sexual abuse

HSE foster home scandal


It takes a lot to silence a parliament and frankly it takes a lot to silence me, but this story about the foster home in the South-East leaves us all speechless.

The Health Board, as it was in those days, knew that children were being abused in a foster home. They knew that somebody in that house was in the habit of violently assaulting children entrusted to the care of that house and therefore they stopped sending children there. They knew that people were being raped there. Raped! And yet, for another thirteen years, they knowingly continued to place “Grace” in the power of this rapist. Not only that, but they sent Grace’s money to this rapist.

They subsequently refused to acknowledge their negligence and failed even to recognise that the victim or the victim’s family might deserve an apology.

They even contrived to lie to a parliamentary investigation.

They consigned a vulnerable woman to years of rape by a violent pervert, even though they knew the house was a threat to her safety.

They allowed unspeakable things to happen. Things so violent that they will shorten the woman’s life.

They facilitated the vile career of a violent rapist by their supine attitude.

It’s the Irish equivalent of the Fred West story and yet, if news reports are to be believed, all of these functionaries still hold their jobs and still deal with vulnerable children.

As I said, it takes a lot to silence a parliament, but that’s what happened today when our national assembly took a day out of its calendar so that the Director general of the HSE could address the Public Accounts Committee. It was one of those days when we might take some pride in our democracy. A day when all of us, no matter of what political stripe, united in our horror at the things that took place in this foster home.

Tomorrow, our prime minister will announce the dissolution of the current parliament, but we can hope that his final act might be to announce an inquiry into the things that caused this horror. And then perhaps we might be able to study the official mindset that allows such things to happen. But for a change, perhaps we will also see an investigation and maybe even some civil servants going to jail.

Somebody needs to be jailed for this dreadful thing.

Is there any difference between the HSE abandoning Grace to the control of a rapist and the Magdalene scandal?





Litvinenko murder for Dummies

The KGB murdered their former colleague Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 using Polonium-210 because he was an honest cop who crossed Putin. It’s that simple.

(For simplicity, in this article we’ll refer to all manifestations of the Russian security service as the KGB even though it went through many transformations up to the current FSB).

The Kremlin can complain about the manner in which the inquiry was conducted by Sir Robert Owen. It can point out, quite correctly, that some of the evidence was given to the inquiry in secret by MI5 and MI6 and it  can claim that this discredits the report, but it would be wrong, because the public evidence on its own is enough to point the finger straight at Putin.

At the time of his murder, Alexander Litvinenko was a 43-year-old ex-KGB agent who had been living in London with his family for six years. An obviously honest and conscientious man, Litvinenko first became alarmed in 1991 when he learned that a crime gang,  the Tambov group, was shipping Afghan heroin through Uzbekistan and St Petersburg to Western Europe. He was convinced that the Tambov group had close ties to public officials, including both Vladimir Putin, a recently-retired KGB man based in St Petersburg and Nikolai Patrushev, future head of the KGB.

Later, as an officer of the KGB’s Organised Crime Unit in Moscow, he became a close friend of Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky by saving him from arrest and thereby, as Berezovsky saw it, saving his life. That debt would soon be repaid.

By the late 1990s, Litvinenko’s honesty had become an intolerable nuisance for the authorities, and especially for Vladimir Putin, with his refusal to kill Berezovsky perhaps being one of his his worst sins. But his biggest transgression was to go public, along with several fellow officers and reveal the catalogue of illegal instructions they had received, ranging from basic corruption to outright murder.

The Soviet Union might be gone, but a former KGB lieutenant-colonel was in charge of the country and that man had spent too long with “the organs” as he called them, to change now.

Litvinenko was a dead man, and he knew it.

After three arrests, three imprisonments and three trials in which the shoddy evidence collapsed, it was time to get out and so, with support from  Berezovsky, Litvinenko and his family secretly fled Russia and set up home in England, successfully applying for political asylum and later for citizenship.

For the six years he had left to him, Litvinenko never stopped writing about the corruption of Putin’s Russia, which was either a deeply stupid strategy or a fatalistic Russian recognition that they were going to get him one way or the other. And they did, in the classic, bumbling style of all spooks.

We all have a James Bond image of Soviet-era spies that simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, as the case of Jerzy Popieluszko should remind us. The dissident priest, long a thorn in the side of the Polish secret police, was murdered in 1984 in circumstances that would be farcical if they weren’t so brutal. The secret police first tried to obtain an untraceable gun, but failed. Then they tried to fake a traffic accident by dropping a concrete block on Popielusko’s car from a motorway bridge, but that attempt also failed. Finally, they kidnapped him, beat him to death and dropped his body, weighted down with a stone, into a reservoir, where it was discovered only two weeks later.

The inept killers were caught, tried and jailed, sparking the popular upsurge that led to Solidarity’s victory in 1989, but at least that murder didn’t have the Prime Minster’s fingerprints all over it. General Jaruzelski was as free as the next man to denounce it.

Litvinenko’s murder, although almost equally inept, would be nowhere near as deniable, for a very simple reason. The killers poisoned Litvinenko with Polonium-210, an extremely rare radioactive metallic element, produced only in Russia, but that in itself wouldn’t matter very much if we didn’t know the amount of Polonium-210 produced every year.

It’s not measured in tonnes or even kilos. The entire output of Russian Polonium-210 for an entire year is 8 grammes. That’s a quarter of an ounce. An entire city, based around a huge reactor, strains and labours for a full year to turn out a quarter ounce of this material, and that’s the stuff Litvinenko’s assassins took with them to London, even though Russia usually exports its entire output to the USA.

Polonium-210 is about 200 times as radioactive as radium, emitting both gamma-radiation which makes the air around it glow blue, and alpha particles, which are Helium atoms without their electrons. These are the things that kill you. They won’t go through your skin, but if you swallow the stuff, the alpha particles destroy your soft inner organs. They kill the cores of your cells. One scientist described them as nuclear bullets.

To put it in context, a single gramme of Polonium-210 is enough to kill fifty million people and sicken another fifty million. Nuclear weapons aren’t always explosive.

Scientists use Polonium-210 in tiny amounts as a radioactive source in extremely accurate measuring instruments and it has also been used as a power source for small devices in space exploration where the radiation isn’t a major issue. It has a half-life of about six months and eventually it decays to lead. Its only other known use is for murdering spies, a task at which it is extremely effective.

This is where all the fingers begin to point not just at Moscow but at Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

The two clowns who administered the fatal dose to Litvinenko clearly had no idea what kind of substance they were dealing with, as later scans of their hotel rooms would show. One of them even poured the remainder of his stash down the sink in his room after getting Litvinenko to drink some tea contaminated with the stuff. But by a crude calculation, the two assassins had in their possession about €40 million worth of Polonium-210 and it’s a safe enough bet that they didn’t buy that out of their KGB expense account.

They had enough material in their possession to wipe out a good-sized country and they had it in central London.

Now, in a country like Russia, hardly a decade and a half after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a country run by a former KGB officer, is it plausible that the man at the highest level didn’t know about this operation?

Is it believable that Putin could have been unaware of two operatives running around London with a substance that could in theory kill everyone in Britain?

Is it credible that they would have been there without his express approval?

Finally, why was it so important to kill Litvinenko?

There can only be one logical answer: he had information that threatened the survival of the one man who could approve sending this nuclear weapon to London.

In some ways, the Brits are showing great restraint in their response to the inquiry report. Many countries would have treated the Litvinenko murder as an act of war.



Boris Berezovsky found dead




Official inquiry 


Independent (UK)










Crime Sexual abuse

Giving birth reduces trauma of rape, says farmer on Vincent Browne show

vincent browne rape abortion

I’m just going to leave this here without comment. A farmer on the Vincent Browne show, opposing abortion, explains to women that giving birth reduces trauma of rape. There really is no need to say anything more about this. I suppose it’s what a lifetime thinking of women as heifers reduces a man to.





Toothache versus death. Six thoughts.

I was feeling fairly miserable. Pretty sorry for myself. Decidedly self-pitying, with a horrible toothache as I drove home after a failed attempt to see the dentist for reasons outside everyone’s control.

Let me be frank about this: I am not good with dentists, ever since Doctor Vaid in London EC4 decided the best way to remove my impacted wisdom tooth was to cut it in half, and then decided after two hours of drilling that he couldn’t do it. Dr Vaid’s failure to remove the offending tooth didn’t diminish his capacity to charge money though, and so he cost this callow youth a month’s wages for the privilege of doing nothing at all while I accidentally ate my jaw for the next four hours.

It wasn’t until, a few years later, that I was about to leave London for good and had my InterRail ticket booked, that  the impacted wisdom tooth decided like Vesuvius to re-erupt, three days before embarking on the ferry. It is not fun having your jaw bone extended by a growing tooth.

Eventually, I tottered through the door of a well-known London hospital dental department and bumped into a junior doctor I happened to know.


To whom I will always be grateful.

What happened to you? she said, staring at my grey sweating face.

Carol, will you please just take this fucking thing out?

Wait there.

I waited. They did X-rays. They poked and prodded. Eventually they said No, there isn’t an anaesthetist. No can do.

Anaesthetist? I said. I don’t care if you knock it out with a lump hammer.

All right, they said. Sign this.

And so it came about that a very fine man indeed, whose name I sadly forget, but whose tribal scars are forever etched on my memory, removed the remains of Dr Vaid’s failed attempt at dentistry. And so it came about that after a couple of days eating only soup, I somehow found myself on the hovercraft from Ramsgate to Calais.

Oh, don’t get me started with dentists. I hate them. I fear them.  And yet I know I can never live without them.

The latest thing is a bad toothache and I know, I simply know, that it will not turn out well, but as I later found out, everything is in context. I spent the weekend in pain rather than go to a stranger because we all have our special dentists, don’t we? There are few relationships more intimate than the one between us and the Keeper of Pain. You trust him not to hurt you and he trusts you not to bounce that cheque. Besides, how many thieving charlatans have we all met in our lives? Utter crooks who find ten more fillings you never knew you needed.

No. I’ll stick with the pain for a trustworthy dentist but unfortunately I screwed up completely today, failing to realise my guy goes home at one o’clock on Mondays.

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

On the way home, cursing my bad luck, I passed a junction a microsecond after a stolen car zoomed out, with screeching tyres. I saw it through the side window and then it skidded behind me, missing me by perhaps three or four inches. I saw it in the mirror, heeled over on two wheels as the driver failed to take the right-hand turn. I saw it hit the kerb, ride up on the grass, power through a couple of street signs and accelerate again off the grass onto the road to threaten the lives of more law-abiding people.

My first thought was, These car-thieves will probably be defended as disadvantaged, socially-marginalised victims.

My second thought was Fuck them.

My third thought was, Hey, you were worried about a toothache. A second sooner at the junction and you’d be dead.

My fourth thought was, That’s true.

My fifth though was, Why am I using that to justify the behaviour of utter skobes?

My sixth though was, Fuck them.

I still only have a toothache. I’m still not dead, but it’s no thanks to them.

Fuck them. I didn’t force them to live like that.

But at least I’m still alive, and that puts my toothache in context, though I would very much like to inflict toothache on my near-killers.



Crime Film

Escobar – Narcos Season One

I don’t know what it was. It could have been the busy weekend, it could have been laziness or it could have been straightforward getting old, but for some reason I began to feel tired and drowsy, an overwhelming sense of lassitude enveloping me and I realised there was nothing for it but to go for a snooze.

Not a power nap. I needed a real, full-on sleep though it was only 7 pm.  Snoring, sweating, the full nine yards.

I hit the sack and slept like a dead man for three full hours until my eyes popped open like Dracula with a stake poised above his heart, temporarily undead and unlikely to sleep for the foreseeable future.

What ya gonna do?

What else can you do?

narcosI started watching the first episode of Narcos, a treat I’d been holding in store for just such a moment.

Now, I did actually know about Pablo Escobar and the Medellin cartel. I knew what a smart operator he was. I knew about Escobar’s posturing as a Robin Hood figure and I knew that, on a certain level, his activities benefited the poor in his own comuna. I knew he made vast sums of money by smuggling cocaine to the USA where he found a ready market and I knew he was a violent, ruthless criminal.  But I didn’t realise how vast his fortune was or how extreme his capacity for violence. I didn’t fully grasp the sheer scale of his activities, almost, though not quite, rivalling the power of a sovereign state.

I knew about the US government’s involvement in South and Central America, or some of it, at least.  I knew, for instance, about the influence of National Fruit and Nabisco on the murdering elites of Nicaragua and El Salvador. I knew about Ollie North’s adventures with the Contras and I knew about the CIA killing of Chile’s democratically elected president, Allende.  But I’m not sure I knew quite what a ferment of anti-communist paranoia the Reagan-era US embassies were, to the exclusion of all other considerations. Despite the manifest stupidity of US policy south of the border, I’m not sure I realised quite how dim-witted and ham-fisted it was, though later examples, most notably in Iraq should have reminded me.

Narcos is narrated by a US spook in Colombia, a DEA officer operating in an extra-judicial capacity, usurping the role of police in a sovereign country. It traces the tensions between the American embassy and a Colombian government determined to protect its autonomy despite US pressure. It illustrates the utterly insane Reaganist obsession with communism in the face of genuine threats like the vast coke trade that was destroying the American streets. It shows how the administration chose to sacrifice its youth to drug addiction rather than divert its focus from a spurious political bogey-man.

Escobar wasn’t a monster and the show properly doesn’t portray him as one, since monsters only exist in comic books. Real people do monstrous things. Real men like Escobar, who love their children, their mothers, their wives, their cousins, do dreadful things and Escobar was undoubtedly a ruthless man willing to carry out cold-blooded murderous acts in order to protect the  empire he’d built up. But to call him a monster would only relieve us of the responsibility to think about what he did. It would allow us to retreat into a world of cartoon certainty populated by cartoon bad guys and cartoon good guys. In other words, the cartoon world of current US foreign policy that has brought us Afghanistan, Iraq and latterly Syria.

Escobar wasn’t a monster. Escobar was a murderous, violent criminal but he had moments of compassion, moments of generosity and moments of love along with moments of savagery, cruelty and barbarity, exquisitely portrayed by Wagner Moura, who not only had to gain 40 pounds for the role but also had to learn Spanish, though that was probably easy enough for him, being Brazilian.

Narcos invites us to consider the parallels between Pablo the Colombian drug dealer and the great geo-political forces he barely realises he’s provoking. He sees himself as a monarch. He sees himself as a benefactor to his people. He regards himself as a feudal prince and everything that follows is directly as Nicolo Macchiavelli might have advised him.

Pablo Escobar would have prospered very well in 15th century Venice or in 20th century America, if only he had been born into the Patrician ruling class of that classless society. After all, the only difference between Escobar’s brutality and ruthlessness and that of the USA has been a matter of scale, as Narcos makes clear to anyone watching with an analytical eye.

But of course, you can watch it on a different level and just take it as pure entertainment.  It’s up to you.

Leave aside the parallels and the allegories, strip out the analysis and Narcos still stands up as one serious heap of but-gustin’, chair-grippin’, breath-holdin’ shoot-em-up fun.

I love Narcos.

But now, suddenly, it’s five in the morning and power-naps mean nothing. Shit.


Crime Murder

ISIS – why killing your soul is worse than killing your body

ISIS is destroying Palmyra. It’s systematically taking the ancient city to pieces, with no regard for history or tradition, and what it’s doing is vile, but yet there’s a line of thinking that seeks to shut down such thinking because after all, what’s an old temple when people are being murdered?

Go away.

You can kill me with a bullet. You can kill me with an axe. If I’ve created a special place for you in my heart, you can even kill me with a word, but that’s all right.  Who’ll be dead except me?

Who’ll be heartbroken?

My children.

My friends.

Who’ll celebrate? Perhaps one or two religious fanatics I’ve argued with, but that will be it. I’ll be gone and in time, my memory will fade. You could even argue, as some do, that there is no such thing as me or you. That when you lie down to sleep you might as well die, since you have no certainty when you wake up that you are the same person.

Whatever. The reality is that we’re all transient, we all spring up, live a little life and die, sometimes horribly, sometimes with regret and sometimes in a glorious high-speed fireball.

But of course, some of us die in the most miserable way possible, by losing our souls to ignorance, and we do it standing up. Some of us are nothing more than the walking dead, animated by hatred and stupidity, controlled by cynics and directed by witch-doctors.

That’s ISIS, an army of zombie apostates, thousands of young men rendered stupid by religious certainty and the goldfish attention span of a Facebook junkie.

Palmyra Baal Shamin

Make no mistake. ISIS could only have been possible in the 21st century, for it is only now that we have managed to separate our young people from all sense of tradition, and it is only now that we could have supplied them with the professional military control systems bequeathed to them by Paul Bremer’s insane decision to fire all the Iraqi high command.

The problem is that when apostate zombies like ISIS go on a murderous rampage, they choose to kill everything. They try to eradicate not only the people they hate, but also their memories. They try to kill the very soul of a people, its culture, its heritage and its memory.

It’s not new though.  The fine Christian Crusaders ran riot in Constantinople in 1204, destroying its magnificent library, as did the Serbs of Sarajevo eight centuries later when a professor of literature led the burning mob that sought to eradicate the memory of Bosnian Muslims.

Certain ignorant tribesmen destroyed the Hindu Bhamiyyan monuments in Afghanistan, as did the ignorant hicks who rode tanks though the mythological Garden of Eden during the second American invasion of Iraq, the military intrusion that soon gave rise to the ISIS bacillus now spreading across the planet like an antibiotic-resistant hospital infection.

It’s true that we should be horrified by the murder of innocent people, though sadly, it seems we’re not, to judge by the resistance we see in our country when anyone suggests helping the victims of this appalling disease that is ISIS.   Ironically, those who argue against compassion share a great deal in common with the warped message of the torturers, masquerading as Islam, and the killers driving the current wave of refugees out of Syria and Iraq.  People like our own home-grown Identity Ireland, while probably unaware of it, are just as ignorant and just as uninformed as the ISIS fools and therefore just as intolerant. Luckily, these people are still peripheral in our country but we have no guarantee they will always be so marginal and that’s why we must challenge their stupidity at every opportunity.

Germany has undertaken to accept 800,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq this year alone. Sweden has placed no limit on the numbers it will take in, but meanwhile, Christian Ireland continues to operate the vile Direct Provision system, while mobilising the weak against the weak.

This is a country where billions were somehow found to save the fortunes of bankers and investors.  This is a country in which the national debt was doubled in order to accommodate the needs of the wealthy, all paid for by taxpayers. And yet, perplexingly, a narrative was contrived in which one poor person impoverishes another. Somehow, poor refugees coming into our country are the ones depriving our own poor people, instead of the many billionaires we protected at the cost of our children, our futures and our self respect.

How was this achieved? Perhaps it’s not all that different from the ISIS destruction of Palmyra.

Perhaps those who  control the way we think have managed to disassociate us from the places and the traditions we inhabit.

It would be nice to think that all we need is a reawakening of our great Irish egalitarian tradition, but unfortunately, we Irish have no glorious history of defending the oppressed.

In the new great migration, for the first time we find ourselves forced to create a new vision of altruism, as the Swedes do and the Germans, but truthfully it’s hard to see us rising above our narrow, self-interested concerns.


Related posts

Religion Sexual abuse

Former Cardinal Sean Brady still minimising role in Brendan Smyth sex abuse scandal

You have to hand it to these old bishops — they don’t give up easily.  Even when faced with facts of the most appalling starkness, they always keep a little in reserve against the awful day when they might be asked an even harder question.

And so it is with Seán Brady, formerly known as Cardinal Seán Brady and before that known as Father John Brady, a canon lawyer who interviewed (or in his own terminology, interrogated) a boy who had been raped by Brendan Smyth.

Previously, Brady claimed, and continues to claim, that he was only a minor actor in the process whereby a young boy was sexually abused yet again by Brady and his fellow clerics who asked the child a series of invasive questions that must have traumatised him beyond words.

Following the interrogation, as Brady described it, he swore the child to secrecy, while the child’s father was kept outside the room.  Demonstrating an unerring ability to avoid reality, Brady ventured that it was wrong to exclude the child’s father from the interrogation when in fact the truth is that it was wrong to hold such an interrogation in the first place instead of calling the police and telling them about the abuse.

This he did not do, and neither did his fellow clerics.  His bishop didn’t do it and Smyth’s superior in Kilnacrott Abbey didn’t do it.  In fact, his superior did nothing at all and neither did the bishop, apart from a temporary ban on Smyth hearing confessions.

Brady today admitted to the Historical Abuse Inquiry that the only purpose of the interrogation was to see how the priest could be rehabilitated, and that there was no awareness of the needs of the child, which of course is utter nonsense, since the entire country knew, and had always known, that child abuse is a crime.

Brady was 35 years old at the time and a canon lawyer, which was a rare enough thing.   He was no mere note-taker as he proved when he went on to interrogate other children on his own to verify the complaints against Smyth.

Brady also swore these children to secrecy.

As a result of Brady’s inaction, along with the indifference of his fellow clergy, Brendan Smyth went on to rape children for a further two decades.

Brady speaks the truth when he says that there was a shroud of secrecy with a view not to destroying the good name of the church, and yet he and his fellow clerics dictated to the Irish people since time out of mind what sort of sexual activity was acceptable and what was not.  As recently as last March, Brady’s successor as Archbishop of Armagh stated that that  gay people who have children are not necessarily parents.  Only last month, Eamon Martin attempted to tell the Irish people how to vote in the marriage equality referendum, and in return, received a gigantic two fingers from the electorate.

In general though, apart from one or two outbursts, the bishops remained circumspect, leaving a few fringe groups of fanatical religious ideologues like the Iona Institute and Mothers & Fathers Matter to make the futile political running.

Brendan Smyth didn’t cause this collapse in respect for the Catholic bishops.  They brought it on themselves by their inaction in dealing with sexual abuse and their arrogance in continuing to lecture grown adults about sexual morality in a country that had moved on and left them behind on their moral atoll, like the last Japanese soldiers in the Pacific.

As a result, the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland are now reduced to impotent bystanders, while their role as spokesmen for the orthodoxy has been reduced to half a dozen dysfunctional religious lunatics ranting on Twitter.

How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!


Seán Brady and the Brendan Smyth Sexual Abuse Cover-Up

Cardinal Seán Brady’s Apology

Civil Partnership — Cardinal Brady Makes A Fool Of Himself Again




Construction Crime

Berkeley Balcony Disaster

Six young people are dead and seven more are in hospital, some with  injuries described as “life-changing”.

The balcony these kids were standing on didn’t collapse because of anything they did but because it was rotten and yet the victims continue to be blamed for their own deaths and their own injuries, though there is no evidence to support such prejudice.  Even the New York Times ran an article about drunken Irish students on J1 visas, resulting in a storm of criticism and a grudging apology from the paper.

Some people on Twitter tried to claim that the deaths and injuries were due to kids crowding the balcony and even, as one individual asserted, falling over the edge.

For the avoidance of all doubt, here are the facts: the balcony collapsed.  Nobody fell over anything.

The balcony collapsed because it was rotten.  The balcony collapsed because it was built with timber that rotted — a most perplexing thing in an 8-year-old building in a city afflicted with drought.

The balcony collapsed because the joists projecting from the wall simply crumbled under the weight of the people standing above, as the photographs show. The joists fell apart like damp dust.

berkeley balcony

Now, some people have suggested that the balcony was therefore overloaded, and I’ll deal with that presently, but first, I have to point out that since the balcony was plainly rotten, the builder has no defence.  He constructed a new building that, within eight years, killed six young people and catastrophically injured another seven.  There’s no escaping that fact.

As for this talk of overloading, let’s dispose of it immediately.

What is overloading?  Simple. It’s when a structure carries more load than it was designed to support.

How much load should a balcony be designed to support?

Simple. It’s as many people as the balcony can physically fit, plus the same again, just to be on the safe side.

That’s responsible design.

The engineer should have designed, and the builder should have constructed, a balcony that could hold not thirteen, not fifteen, not even twenty, but twice that many, just in case the circumstances arose.

Why?  Because not to do so might lead to the deaths of people and because it would be very cheap to make sure nobody died.

The kids went out on the balcony because they relied on the builder to construct a safe building. The ordinary citizen is entitled to rely on the expertise of a professional such as a builder or a structural engineer.  There is no responsibility on a 21-year-old student to usurp the expertise of professionals and second-guess the loadbearing capacity of a balcony or anything else.

And yet, this is all academic since the issue isn’t even the original strength of the structural members used to construct the balcony.  This is about the manner in which those components deteriorated.

It’s not  that the joists weren’t strong enough on the day they were fitted.  It’s that they rotted in less than eight years, in a dry climate.

These kids who lost their lives didn’t die because they were irresponsible or because they were drunk.

They died because they placed their faith in professionals, as we all do in the course of our daily lives. Unfortunately, the professionals failed these kids badly.

These deaths were foreseeable, and somebody should do time in jail for it.


Crime Music

Crowdsourcing a country song — the Ballad of Randy Howard

I don’t mean this to sound in any way disrespectful to the late Randy Howard, country singer and songwriter, but the manner of his demise is the most country thing I have ever heard in my life and it only seems fair to pay him an appropriate tribute.

Who’s Randy?  An Outlaw, that’s all.  A man who shared a stage with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams Junior.  One of those who rejected Nashville with all its country ‘n’ western schmaltz.  A serious performer of the country art.

How did he die?  In an exchange of gunfire with a bounty hunter, that’s how.  In a hail of God-given lead at the ungodly young age of 65.

randy howard killed by bounty hunter

Randy had a few convictions for DUI, and he’d lost his licence for it, thanks to an oppressive Washington-based federal government that doesn’t understand an American’s right to freedom of conscience.  But on top of that, he was facing charges of a fourth DUI, possessing drugs paraphernalia, possession of a firearm while intoxicated and driving without a licence.  A normal Tennessee boy, in other words.

Randy lit out for parts unknown.  He’d already done jail time for DUI and he wasn’t going back there, so when bounty hunter Jackie Shell showed up at his door, he wasn’t about to go quietly.  Now, anyone familiar with the Western genre will know instantly that the bounty hunter is the lowest of the low.  Lower than a gunslinger. Lower than a drygulcher. Lower than a rattlesnake. Lower, even, than a back-shooter, so it’s hardly surprising that Randy Howard cut loose with a volley of bullets.  Who wouldn’t?

Unfortunately, he only winged the low-down bounty-hunting rattlesnake and in the gunfight, Randy took a slug.

He died.  Randy up and died.

Jackie Shell, meanwhile, ended up in hospital for surgery, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, quoting his mother, Mary Jane.  We don’t know yet if he’ll collect the bounty, since it’s by no means certain the reward said Dead or Alive, but he doesn’t seem to have been on Randy’s property legally.  With any luck, the low-down drygulching back-shooting rattlesnake will end up in his trailer nursing a sore shoulder and thinking twice about door-stepping another country outlaw.

Meanwhile, we need a tribute to Randy, and it seems only fair to write him a song.

The Ballad of Randy Howard.

Here’s my plan.

Let’s all contribute a few verses.  Between us we’ll knock it together into a decent song and then I’ll get some of my musical friends to record it.  We’ll put it up here in honour of Randy Howard.

Here’s what we have so far.  After this, it’s up to you.


Randy Howard, a friend of mine, loved his truck, his dog and his gun.

But a wanted poster on the wall sent Randy on the run.


One night, a bounty hunter, a killer known as Shell,

Rolled up to Randy’s hide-out, like a critter straight from Hell.



You low-down bounty hunter, you ain’t nuthin’ but a coward

And I ain’t goin’ nowhere or my name ain’t Randy Howard



Come out now Randy,drop your gun, you’ve gone and jumped your bail.

This paper I got here in my hand says you’re bound for the jail.


No bounty hunter never set a foot inside my door.

And you ain’t gonna be the first, you son of a Texas whore.



You low-down bounty hunter, you ain’t nuthin’ but a coward

And I ain’t goin’ nowhere or my name ain’t Randy Howard



Git to thinkin’, y’hear?