Did you, like me, feel nauseated listening to the Anglo tapes?
What made you sickest?
Was it the fact that our country was being set up for one of the biggest stings in history?
Was it that our financial regulator was laughed at as a bumbling fool by executives of the failed bank while the bank’s management was plotting a huge scam?
Was it the Ross O’Carroll-Kelly yuk-yukking as they discussed inflicting a gigantic lie on the citizens of this state?
Any of that is likely to induce nausea, but for me, it was something else. It was that small word “they”.
The strategy is that if you pull them in, you get them to write a big cheque and they have to keep, they have to support their money …
Who did these executives think they were talking about when they discussed the possibility of sucking money from a third party to compensate for their bank’s incompetently-managed affairs? Did it dawn on them at all that the burden they were about to inflict on the country they presumably claim allegiance to was tantamount to sabotage?
Did it bother either of these two chuckling fools that they were discussing undermining our society?
I don’t know, but it certainly doesn’t come across in their jocose conversation that they had the slightest understanding of how the Anglo chicanery would impact on their fellow citizens and perhaps that’s where the clue lies. Maybe neither of these inflated fools had the least grasp of what it means to be a citizen. Perhaps their citizenship is in a different country, a place where AIB was “Allied”, where Irish Permanent was “Permo”, where Bank of Ireland was simply “Bank”. A place, in other words, where arrogant, self-regarding tosspots like “Drummer” and Fitzy felt they were entitled to game the entire State, regardless of the consequences for the little people.
I can’t begin to express the extent of my contempt for these people and their like, but however contemptible we might find them, what level of disgust do we retain for the political idiots who believed the lies and placed our country in hock for generations to come so that leeches might remain in comfort to the end of their days?
It would be a mistake to think that these two fools controlled the scam, but they’re close enough to the core to be aware of the subtleties. What this tape reveals is the extent of cynicism that pervaded Anglo, and perhaps the other banks as well. It reveals that there was a mindset oblivious to notions of civic responsibility.
Did the senior bankers regard themselves as citizens of a nation with concomitant responsibilities? On the face of the evidence, the answer has to be no, and yet they continue to live among us, availing of the protections due to Irish citizens.
There’s no point in my pretending to be an avid fan of programmes like The Voice of Ireland, because you wouldn’t believe me after everything I’ve said about reality shows, about X-Factor and about talent contests in general. But Aoife McLoughlin, a local Limerick girl, is a contestant and I wanted to find out more, so I gave her a call. I didn’t catch up with her or track her down, as they do in the mainstream media. I simply found out her phone number.
Have you got ten minutes to talk about The Voice of Ireland?
And that was it.
What did I want to discover? Well of course, since I’m an absolute sceptic, I wanted to find out if there was any substance to the whole thing. What’s it all about? What are the judges like? Is it a scam?
More importantly, I wanted to explore what the artistic influences are behind a person like Aoife. I didn’t know much about The Voice, but too often, on shows like X-Factor, all we see is the caricature behind the human being and when I looked on RTE’s own website, I wasn’t reassured:
Aoife is studying journalism and works in make-up. She gets angry at the word ‘pimple’ and worries about her cat constantly. She likes to indulge her girly side by logging on to Chictopia.com. The first singles she ever bought were Zig and Zag’s ‘ZigZaggin’ and ‘Mmm Bop’ by Hanson. Aoife has been given some strange presents in her time including an ‘Ireland’ snow globe with Irish dancer girls in it.
As it turns out, Aoife is completing a journalism Masters, couldn’t care less about the word “pimple” and says the cat is well able to look after himself. Under severe interrogation, she does confess to buying Mmm Bop at the age of ten but says she found her style the same year when she got the first Bjork album, followed by Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins and Sneaker Pimps. I’m starting to wonder who writes those blurbs.
BTR: I’m interested to know about your early musical influences.
Aoife: Classical. My Dad is a huge fan and so was my Grandad. I learned the Swan Theme from Swan Lake when I was a toddler and later on, when I was about seven, my aunt gave me a white piano. Three of the flat keys weren’t working and it was probably out of tune, but I taught myself to play Für Elise.
BTR: That get’s fairly complicated as it goes along.I tried to learn it myself when I was a kid but I couldn’t manage all those curly bits.
Aoife: I know, but I managed it anyway. She laughs.
BTR: But you must have been interested in other stuff.
Aoife: Oh yeah! Of course! When I was really, really young, three or four maybe, my parents had this huge stereo thing with a glass door and all those different tape players and stuff.
Aoife. Yeah. And they had the Righteous Brothers. What’s the song?
BTR: Lovin’ Feelin’?
Aoife: No. No no, the other one. Unchained Melody. Oh God, I loved that. And Enya.
BTR (flinching): Enya?
Aoife: Yeah. The harmonies. But then there was Springsteen taped off the TV. Born in the USA with his red bandanna. and then when I was five, Santa brought me a tailor-made Michael Jackson suit and his new album. Bad. Best present ever.
BTR: You were pretty eclectic for a five-year-old.
Aoife: I suppose. Then when I was nine or ten, I got into 90s Trance. I’d prefer to forget that though. Will you leave it out?
Aoife: And I got the Corrs album.
BTR: You’re only saying that.
Aoife: I’m not! It was the one where they covered Fleetwood Mac.
We pause briefly to discuss the blues band known as Fleetwood Mac as opposed to the later ABBA soundalike of the same name.
BTR: What next?
Aoife: That’s when I got a Walkman and I bought this CD. I don’t know why. It was a Mozart collection.
BTR: More classical.
Aoife: Yeah. But Gorecki was a huge influence on me. His Symphony No 3 especially. One of the movements is based on a prayer written on the wall of a Gestapo cell.
BTR: Sounds like you were on the road to a career in classical. Did you ever study formally?
Aoife: I had singing lessons for three years with Jean Holmes.
BTR: So you know all about technique and breathing and stuff like that.
Aoife: I know a little bit about it, but you can always learn more, and the Voice has been great like that. I’ve learned so much.
BTR: What age are we at now? About 14?
BTR: Were you into Alanis Morisette and Robbie Williams?
Aoife: No. Never. I didn’t like Alanis much and I was never into boy bands. More stuff like Blur, Oasis and Suede. I loved Brett Anderson’s vocals. Then there was the Irish guy. The Father Ted guy, what’s his name?
BTR: Neil Hannon?
BTR: I agree.
Aoife: Then there was Annie Lennox. HUGE influence. And Kate Bush. Leonard Cohen. Echo and the Bunnymen. Another huge influence. Later on, Queens of the Stone Age, Nirvana. Tori Amos — massive!!
She’s on a roll. Prince. Paul Brady. The Blue Nile. Paul Weller. The Who. The Stones. Pink Floyd. Arcade Fire. Eels. Super Furry Animals. Elbow.
Aoife: Discovered Tim buckley by hearing the Cocteau Twins version of Song for a Siren in a movie, so I was led on to folk from Buckley to John Martyn. And currently a new guy John Smyth from the states – check him out, tap guitarist, amazing voice. Brilliant! Gives me shivers!.
BTR: Any more?
Aoife: Yeah. Neil Young, obsessively.
BTR: Which Neil Young? Harvest or Pearl Jam?
Aoife: Harvest. And of course, the Band. I love the Last Waltz. Lately, I’ve been listening to Daughter, Bat for Lashes and Laura Marling.
BTR: We could be here all night, couldn’t we?
Aoife: Yeah. I listen to a lot of stuff.
BTR: How about other influences?
Aoife: Film. Scores and soundtracks. Labyrinth. Dark Crystal. Donnie Darko.
BTR: Soundtracks can make the difference between a good film and a great one. Paris Texas. Apocalypse Now.
Aoife: I loved Hannibal’s Vide Cor Meum by Patrick Cassidy. I love David Arnold’s Requiem. Tim Burton and Danny Elfman.
BTR: Tell me a little bit about the show. How did you get into it?
Aoife: By accident. I applied but I never thought I’d be called. I just went along for the experience, to force myself into appearing before an audience.
BTR: Has it helped you?
Aoife: Oh yeah! I’ve learned so much about performing in public, about TV production, about projecting myself, about having the right mental approach, about being professional. It’s been amazing. I have real confidence now.
BTR: What about the coaches?
Aoife: They’re all great.
BTR: You have to say that.
Aoife: I don’t. They’re all great. Really nice.
BTR: Is Sharon tough?
Aoife: Sharon is brilliant. Note perfect.
BTR: I suppose you’d expect that coming from such a musical family. Which one plays the fiddle?
BTR: Are you sure it isn’t Jim?
Aoife: It’s Sharon.
BTR: I knew that. Will we call it a wrap?
BTR: Just one last thing. You don’t worry about your cat constantly?
Aoife: No, but I do a lot of work with wingless pigs and orphaned unicorns.
We’re approaching the seventh anniversary of this website in one form or another and I have to say, during its inception, I never suspected that it would cover so many different things. I thought it was just a way of venting but instead it became a vehicle for all manner of rants and a means to expose all sorts of thieves, crooks and con-men.
Maybe that’s inevitable when you embark on this sort of venture. I don’t know.
One way or another, we’ve arrived at a crossroads. For various reasons, I haven’t found myself in a position to post over the last few weeks, and I’m wondering if there’s any reason to continue doing this ridiculous thing. I don’t know and that’s why I’m asking you.
Do you think there’s any point continuing this bullshit? Is there a demand for it?
Maybe there are plenty other people doing the same thing – – I don’t know.
What I do know is this: there are all kinds of frauds, chancers, bunco artists and con-men out there, all deserving to be challenged, not to mention bad politicians, crooks and sleveens. And for the last seven years, this site has been challenging those bullshitters, but sometimes it’s hard to keep going unless there’s some sort of feedback, so please let me know. Should I keep going with this or should I celebrate the seventh birthday of Bock and put it to bed?
Folks, you have no idea how much effort goes into running the site, so please let me have your views on this.
It’s up to you: should we carry on with this nonsense or not?
A group of Labour TDs and senators are proposing a bill to amend the current Employment Equality Act.
Why is this important? Because under our current law, any religious grouping can sack one of its employees if it considers that person’s lifestyle unsuitable. And since the clergy control so much of Ireland’s educational and healthcare infrastructure, it means that any disapproving priest, bishop or nun can chooose to sack a nurse, teacher or doctor on a whim, if they happen to be living with another person while unmarried, or if they happen to have a child born outside marriage, or if they happen to be gay.
That’s modern Ireland for you, the Ireland that pretends it has thrown off the attitudes that gave us the Magdalene Laundries.
Perhaps you thought this law dated back to Victorian times? Think again. It was passed in 1999 by Ahern and his cronies.
I wrote about this some time back, and I have little to add to what was written then, so why not just repeat that post here?
Did you know that in this country, Ireland, it’s perfectly legal for a clergyman to sack a State-funded teacher, nurse, doctor, or even a janitor in a church-controlled school or hospital if they decide that something about the person undermines the religious ethos of the institution?
It could be something as simple as living with another person while unmarried, or having a child outside marriage. It could be because the teacher, nurse or doctor doesn’t hold approved religious views, or, for example, abandons the Catholic church in protest at the behaviour of the clergy in raping children or covering up that crime. It could be for writing to a newspaper.
Any of these things could entitle somebody like the discredited Bishop Murray, or any of his colleagues or proxies to sack you, even though your salary and all running costs of the establishment are paid for by the exchequer.
That’s because of an exemption in our employment law, which is worth quoting in full:
37.—(1) A religious, educational or medical institution which is under the direction or control of a body established for religious purposes or whose objectives include the provision of services in an environment which promotes certain religious values shall not be taken to discriminate against a person for the purposes of this Part or Part II if—
(a) it gives more favourable treatment, on the religion ground, to an employee or a prospective employee over that person where it is reasonable to do so in order to maintain the religious ethos of the institution, or
(b) it takes action which is reasonably necessary to prevent an employee or a prospective employee from undermining the religious ethos of the institution.
See that? Under the direction or control of a body established for religious purposes. In other words, any church, any religious order, any diocese.
Look at section (b). … action which is reasonably necessary to prevent an employee or a prospective employee from undermining the religious ethos of the institution
That means sacking you if they don’t like how you live or what you believe. It’s what happened to Eileen Flynn.
You might be thinking you have recourse to an appeal system, but you do not. This is a specific exclusion from the equality act for the benefit of the Catholic church.
You might be thinking that this law comes from the Dark Ages and it will soon be fixed to bring it into line with modern practice.
Think again. The Minister for Justice who introduced this act was our old friend, John “Expenses” O’Donoghue, and his boss, the Prime Minister of the day was Bertie “Opus Dei” Ahern, the same man who gave €1.3 billion of public money to bail out the clerical child abusers.
They passed it into law in 1999. Isn’t it amazing how these things go round in circles?
Now. Think about that for a while.
While you’re thinking, I’ll just remind you that Bertie agreed to give control of our new State-funded €1 billion national children’s hospital to his former employers, the Sisters of Mercy.
I suppose the Virgin Mary is the Willie O Dea of demigods, always ready to slip in a good word for a constituent needing a favour, but at the same time always ready to stand beside the man of influence and claim the credit.
Cast your mind back to 1879, a time of oppression when the spirit of the Irish peasantry had been broken by the Famine and when landlords were free to evict their tenants wholesale, just as they were doing to Scottish smallholders.
It was Lord this and Colonel that, but the story doesn’t run entirely in accordance with the Catholic-nationalist narrative beaten into every Irish child since the foundation of the State. Take the example of Canon Ulick Burke, a Catholic clergyman from Knock in County Mayo who happened to be a substantial landowner. This kind, Christian gentleman raised his rents and threatened his tenants with eviction unless they somehow found the money to pay him.
It was the time of Davitt’s Land League, an organisation hated and denounced by the Catholic hierarchy, and it was the Land League that organised a rent strike among Father Burke’s tenants. John McHale, the Catholic bishop of Tuam, was not impressed and neither was Archdeacon Bartholomew Cavanagh, who happened to be the parish priest of Knock. Cavanagh was having none of this opposition to the wealthy and the powerful, especially when the wealthy also happened to be members of his own clergy, and perhaps this is why his denunciation of the strike from the pulpit in Knock was so extreme. But Cavanagh miscalculated. Twenty thousand people gathered outside his church to protest, causing Burke to lose his nerve and to reduce his rents by a quarter instead of increasing them.
It mattered not a jot to Cavanagh, a man who clearly gave little thought to the question of what Jesus would do, and for very good reasons. Jesus wasn’t his deity of choice.
Three days after the mass protest outside the church, ghostly apparitions appeared on the walll of the church. Precise, identifiable, ghostly figures, including that of St John the Baptist, even though nobody had the slightest idea what the man ought to look like. There was a little sheep and a woman, presumed to be the Virgin Mary for no particular reason.
A crowd gathered to see the projection on the wall, but even though one of the visionaries called to the priest’s house to tell him, Cavanagh wouldn’t come outside. Given that he was, in theory, a fervent believer in the occult and supernatural, it seems odd that a man of the cloth would not at the very least peep out his window and have a look, but not the sturdy Father Cavanagh. His behaviour seems doubly strange, since it was less than thirty years since Cardinal Paul Cullen had first established the cult of Mary in Ireland, unless Cavanagh already had his own information about what was really happening.
And as we know, the magic lantern stunt paid off in spades, with Knock becoming a huge international money earner. No viral internet marketing campaign there.
A hundred years later and a thousand miles away, the Virgin Mary was happy to step in again and look after a different bunch of crooks when the friars of the Franciscan monastery at Medjugorje came under investigation for corruption. The bishop of Mostar was on to their crooked little games and they were facing dissolution by Rome when suddenly, as if by a miracle, a half dozen local teenagers, incredibly telegenic and Hollywood-ready, began to see images of Mary and before you know it, Medjugorje was deluged by planeloads of BVM-believing Irish people who can’t get enough of the Mother of God.
It went to such extremes that even during the Bosnian war of 1992 to 1995, Medjugorje was untouched, thanks to an agreement between the leaders of the factions in the three-cornered war. They were making so much money from the Irish pilgrims that nobody wanted to disturb the status quo.
Sometimes, though, the Virgin Mary pulls on a flak jacket and gets right down there with the special forces, as she did when Pope John Paul II was shot. Afterwards, he gave thanks for his miraculous survival because, of course, everyone else who was ever shot has died and therefore it had to be a miracle.
He thanked Our Lady of Fatima for saving him. Not Our Lady of Lourdes or Our Lady of Guadelupe, or Our Lady of Knock. They were off somewhere else, saving true believers from bad stuff, but not intervening in Turkish earthquakes or Bangladeshi floods, or curing AIDS or getting rid of cancer. No. Instead, they were busy doing the Willie O Dea thing by getting constituents special favours in return for the single transferable prayer. The religious PR system at full throttle.
Is it all harmless? That’s what I’d have to ask. Is it any different to the Lord of the Rings?
Well, yes. It is. Unless you happen to be a complete geek, you know that Tolkien made all of that up. And even if you dress like a Klingon, the chances are you know that Star Trek isn’t real. Besides, if you think it is real, you can get help.
And yet, millions of people not only believe that the Virgin Mary space hero exists, but also that she talks to them.
By what standards is this not a mental disorder? Fixed, false ideas, impervious to reason. Isn’t that the definition of psychosis?
We never reached an age of enlightenment or logic, even though we have many logical people in the world today. Most people have no interest in thinking things through — they just want the sound-bite, the 10-second video clip on Sky News, and that’s what the media feed them, in exactly the same way as the major religions. We still believe in magic, which is simply another word for nonsense, and it’s possible to persuade people of anything.
That’s why so many people in the world believe that a biscuit can become a man. Marvel Comics wouldn’t get away with it, but the Vatican does.