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Haughey Finds Out Albert Reynolds Died

– Satan, come in here, I want to talk to you.

– What is it, Boss?

– Look at the state of this office.  How can you expect me to do business from this hovel?  It’s embarrassing.

– It did me fine, Boss, before you took over.

– Well, it doesn’t do me.  Why are the walls not lined with Old Masters as befits a man of my culture and erudition?

– I don’t know, Boss.  Sorry.

– Anyway, Satan, that’s not why I sent for you.  What’s this I hear about Albert Reynolds?

– Oh, he died, Boss.  

– I know he fucking died!  Do I look like a fucking idiot?

– Eh, no Boss.

– What did John Major call him?

– Oh, eh, ah, well, I don’t rightly know that now, Boss.  Don’t rightly know that, sure enough …

– You don’t know.  I see.  Well, I heard that Major called him a Statesman.  A fucking Statesman!!  After all the shit I went through with Thatcher and her silver fucking teapot.  By the way, where is the old bitch?

– She’s in the Falklands lounge, Boss.  Sinking large Belgranos with Pinochet.

– Good.  Keep her there.

– Will do, Boss.  No bother.

– They’re saying Albert brought peace to Ireland.  Albert, the country ‘n’ western king of the rural fucking dancehall brought peace to Ireland.  They’re calling him a statesman, Mr Cat-And-Dog-Food.  A statesman.  What do they say about me, Satan?

– Oh, they say you were a great lad entirely, Boss.  A grand fella.  Yeah, that’s what they all say.

– Do you want to leave through the window?  Tell me the truth!

– You won’t like it, Boss.

– Tell me.

– They say you were a fraud, Boss.  A chancer.  A crook and a con-man.

– Et tu, Brute?

– Come again Boss?

– What branch of the Satan family are you from?   

– I don’t know, Boss.  I was adopted.

– Jesus Christ preserve me from fools.  Get out to reception and bring Reynolds in.   I want to deal with his case personally.  At least I’ll have that satisfaction.  

– Boss, I’m sorry but I can’t do that either.

– Who’s in charge here, Satan — you or me?  Do what I tell you.

– I’d love to, Boss, but it seems Mr Reynolds won’t be coming here.

– What the fuck do you mean he won’t be coming here?  Wasn’t he a leader of Fianna Fáil?  They’re all fucking here, the bastards.

– Not Mr Reynolds, apparently, Boss.  It seems they’ll be sending him somewhere else.  All the details are printed here on this sheet.

– One page.   How appropriate.  Do you think they’d be able to fit all my achievements on a single page?  My culture, my sense of history, my grasp of fine detail, my overarching strategic vision, my deep insight, my sensitivity, my courage, my modesty, my prodigious member, the Plough and the Stars, the King of the Fairies …

– I’ll just be on my way Boss.

–  … my glorious career, my fearless championing of the underdog, my podium finish in Paris, my windmills, my boat, my horses, A Fistful of Dollars …


–  …my unswerving devotion to a United Ireland, a nation once again, Top of the Pops, Lord of the Rings, the Seven Samurai, my Irish solutions to Irish problems, my drainpipe-climbing feats.  Nuclear fission.  World peace.  Oh, I’ve done the State some service.  They know’t, but they call Reynolds a fucking statesman.  What do you think of that, Satan?








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ISIS / ISIL / Islamic State a Direct Consequence of Failure to Learn From History

Who could fail to be baffled by the dramatic military successes of the Islamic group, known variously as ISIS, ISIL the Islamic Republic and Daesh?  How, you might ask, is a lunatic rabble of religious extremists able to win formal set-piece battles against well-constructed armies?

It’s simple.  They might be lunatics, they might be religious extremists, but they are most certainly not a rabble.

And if you want to know how they came into existence, the man to thank is Paul Bremer, the US Presidential Envoy to Iraq who ascended to his throne in May 2003.  Bremer might not quite have worn a toga or laurel wreath on his head.   He might not have had oiled Nubians fanning him with palm fronds.  He might not have arrived in an imperial trireme.  He might not quite have had slave-girls peeling his grapes, but in his own mind, Paulus Maximus was every inch the Proconsul, with absolute power to make whatever decision he thought fit in this new province of Pax Americana.

And what a singularly ignorant clod the idiot Emperor Georgius the Dense chose as his first Proconsul.


When Bremer made his disastrous decision in 2003 to disband the Iraqi Republican Guards and to sack any public servant with the remotest connection to the Ba’ath Party, he turned his back on the lessons of history.  He failed to remember that at the end of WW2, the Allies promptly enlisted their former enemies as allies.

Having flattened Germany, the Allies immediately began rebuilding it.  The defeated Germany was dealt with badly under the terms of the Versailles Treaty, but not crushed completely, so that within 20 years Europe was at war yet again.  After 1945, when much of Germany was in ruins, the Western powers chose a path of reconstruction.  They helped rebuild West Germany and co-opted it as  an ally in NATO.  Likewise in the Pacific war, after a savage conflict, the allies chose the expedient path of engaging with the Japanese, assisting in their economic recovery and ultimately consolidating a relatively permanent peace.  They accepted the surrender of the Japanese in Indo-China, and immediately re-armed them to act as a military police force, thus saving the cost of occupation.

Of course there were occasional ugly incidents such as in Greece where the Allies turned on the Partisans who had supported them throughout, and annihilated their former friends, but most of the time we don’t like to talk about such things.

Bremer, who in his hubris once compared himself to Douglas MacArthur, also failed to study the writings of the master political adviser, Niccolo Macchiavelli who said that there are only two ways to deal with opponents: men should be either treated generously or destroyed.

Why?  Because if you merely hurt them, they can eventually get back up and kill you, whereas if you show them kindness, you might win an ally.

Bremer, on the other hand, chose neither the path of utter destruction nor the path of reconciliation.  Instead, the civil-servant-turned-viceroy, the man given complete executive power in Iraq, decided to sack every public servant with even the most tenuous links to the Ba’ath Party, thereby demonstrating a profound failure to understand the nature of totalitarian states, where it is necessary to have at least one family member in the Party, or else face exclusion.

Not only did Bremer sack the civil service and lose the services of the very people who could have managed the State apparatus for him, but he also disbanded the Republican Guard, a highly professional and battle-hardened branch of the Iraqi armed forces.  Furthermore, by sacking so many civil servants and soldiers, Bremer removed the weekly wage from millions of people, thus ensuring that Iraq became even more unstable.   Instead of recruiting the backbone of a new Iraqi army, he lost the services of the most professional soldiers and at one stroke he provided the insurgency with its best fighters.

History showed that Bremer and his masters were wrong.  By demonising the Ba’ath party, Bremer revealed that he was just as much a victim of populist conditioning as everyone else.  He demonstrated little understanding of the subtleties, instead relying on a good guy / bad guy John Wayne analysis.  Someone should have taken him aside and reminded him that his own country co-opted the worst of the worst Nazis to work on their rocket programme because it made sense.   If the US could work with Nazis, they could certainly work with Ba’athists, but unfortunately a comic-book level of political analysis won the day.

Bremer had defeated Captain Extreme.  But even then, he wasn’t finished.

To compound all his other mistakes, Bremer insisted on immediately privatising the 200 or so companies that manufactured everything in Iraq, from paper to cement, from televisions to toilets, and this is where ideology creeps in.  After all, why would an occupying power be so concerned about getting what they considered to be inefficient state enterprises into private hands, rather than stabilising a chaotic post-war economy?

In what sort of world-view is such a thing the priority, rather than restoring public services such as health, transport, water-supply, electricity or education?  The answer is simple.  It’s a priority among the small number of ideologues who surrounded the bumbling figure of GW Bush, including Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, to whom Bremer reported directly.  The so-called neocons, whose unswerving belief in The Market cared nothing for culture or history, or for anything enduring in the world apart from profit.  The neo-philistines.

From 1995 to 2000, Cheney was Chairman and CEO of Halliburton the vast energy conglomerate.  He resigned from his position as Vice-President of Halliburton in 2000 when he ran successfully in the US Vice-Presidential election, and in compensation, received a severance payment of €36 million.  Small surprise then that Halliburton should have received such a huge share of the spoils as Iraq was systematically asset-stripped following Bremer’s decrees.  And what a shock that Halliburton, the company with which Cheney no longer had any connection, should be awarded the contracts to supply everything the US military needed as it bedded into the cradle of civilisation.  Everything from porn to popcorn.

When Bremer decided to privatise Iraq, with a complete removal of all controls and all taxes, he might as well have put up a sign saying Vultures Welcome, because the carrion birds descended in flocks and they stripped bare the bones of the ancient country, old Mesopotamia, where the Euphrates meets the Tigris, where the Garden of Eden now bore the scars of tank tracks.  A country, incidentally, that had never done a single thing to the United States.

Not only that, but Cheney’s former company took control of the oil industry and, out of the profits, they forced Iraqis to pay the USA for invading and destroying their country as well as taking a healthy slice for themselves and their ex CEO who of course had absolutely nothing to do with any of it, having resigned in 2000.  Interestingly, Cheney is now a board member of Genie, the energy company exploring in Israel and Palestine, just as news filters through of a massive gas discovery off the coast of Gaza.

All of this gives a clue to the nature of this apparently-new thing called ISIL or ISIS or simply the Islamic State, an extreme Sunni movement with strong links to the vile intolerant Wahhabi sect that rules Saudi Arabia.

Saddam Hussein was not a religious Muslim.  Indeed, he wasn’t religious at all, but he was still a Sunni, in the same way that many Irish people call themselves Catholic or Protestant even though they believe nothing and never step inside the door of a church.  It’s a cultural thing.

Saddam’s power-base was the Sunni people of Iraq, only 20% of the population, and his domination of the majority Shia caused vast resentment, especially with his war against the Shia-dominated Iran, egged on by his US handlers.  Let’s not forget that in those days, he was the Americans’ favourite dictator, though that was to change when he made a fatal mistake.

Suddenly we had talk of weapons of mass destruction, and we had the embarrassing spectacle of Colin Powell showing the UN little cartoon pictures of trucks for which, to his credit, he subsequently confessed his shame.  Colin Powell WMD presentation United NationsEven at the time, before the slick graphics we have these days, it was a patently silly attempt to pin the blame on Saddam for something he did not do, despite all his other domestic crimes.

He was a vile dictator.  We can all agree on that, but the world is full of vile dictators, and none more vile than the ones who run Saudi Arabia, yet nobody ever spoke of invading them, for some reason.  At the time of the invasion, there was another dictator, Kim Jong-Il, who was threatening to fire genuine, verified weapons of mass destruction at an American ally, Japan, but nobody suggested invading North Korea.

Meanwhile, Dick Cheney, whose official role as Vice President consisted of nothing at all apart from staying alive in case the President croaked, launched an unconstitutional campaign to drag America into a war of aggression on behalf of Halliburton.  Every speech he made mentioned Saddam and 9/11 in the same breath, and his campaign was so successful that, to this day, a sizeable proportion of Americans believe Iraq was behind the attack on New York, even though Saddam and Osama Bin Laden were sworn enemies.

For all his faults, Saddam was not an ideological Muslim.  In his Iraq, women could do whatever they wanted including rising to the tops of their professions, dressing as they wished, acquiring a full education, marrying whoever they wanted to and all the other things that Bin Laden detested, as a religious ideologue.  Alcohol was freely available.  There were no religious police.

And yet, bafflingly, Saddam was the one targeted as the extreme Islamic terrorist, whatever that word means.

There could be only one explanation: oil, which was Saddam’s fatal mistake.  He thought he could he could trade oil in Euros instead of dollars and that was the line he crossed, the line that Cheney’s people simply would not tolerate.  Saddam had to go.


Let us return to the Republican Guards, an elite force composed mainly of Arab Sunnis.  There were no Sunni Kurds, though there were a few Arab Shia and a few Christians, but of course, that’s no surprise.  After all, even Saddam’s foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, was himself a Christian.  It wasn’t so much about belief as about identity, in much the same way that Northern Ireland loyalists identify as Protestant without having the slightest understanding of what the term means.

In a blink, Bremer threw all these people out of a job.  The best, most highly-trained soldiers in Iraq, from General to Private, were kicked out at the side of the road without a penny in their pockets which in itself was a gigantic affront to the traditional Arab notion of dignity.  Furthermore, old tribal enmities began to reassert themselves, now that the Sunni hegemony was so unceremoniously deposed, and thus, with nowhere else to go, the professional soldiers of the old Republican Guard, people trained to the highest standard by Britain and the US, expert in strategy, engineering, logistics, artillery, special operations, armour, mechanised infantry and everything else, were suddenly at the disposal of the extreme Islamist movements who saw the opportunity to move into Iraq and fill the power vacuum.

At the same time, the US supported an Iraqi government which was completely dominated by Shia, thus guaranteeing that the disenchanted insurgents would be forever excluded and continually militant.  Who wouldn’t be?

Bremer, by his utter stupidity, won no friends.  Even the arch-conservative Newt Gingrich called him  the largest single disaster in American foreign policy in modern times.

It’s no surprise that the ISIL crowd have taken so much land in Iraq.  This is not a disorganised rabble.  This is the former military elite in Iraq, a force trained in Harvard Business School, the LSE, Sandhurst and West Point.

Make no mistake.  We’re not dealing with religious lunatics.  This is the old Saddam elite seeking to re-establish itself in Iraq, and if they have to put up with a few nutcases for the moment, that’s an inconvenience they’re prepared to tolerate.  But let’s not make the other mistake of thinking that this is a bunch of desert tribesmen riding camels and waving antique rifles.

Never mind what ranting fool of a mullah is put forward as their supposed leader.  There are real brains behind this movement.  This is a formidable, highly-trained professional force, created and drilled to the most exacting standards by the West.

It would make sense to do a deal with them because they won’t simply go away.


Related posts

A different view : ISIS consolidates

The Terror Strategist

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Global Language Dictionary — Official Israeli Manual of Spin

israel project words that work frank luntzAll right,   I admit it.  I finally found an Israeli propagandist I can not only admire, but some day hope to be like, though it seems improbable, since  Dr Frank Luntz is plainly so good at what he does.  I don’t mean that in any snide way, incidentally, in case you thought I was trying to belittle the man’s skills.  Far from it: Frank Luntz is a PR genius, a manipulator of meaning sans pareil.

I must apologise to all my right-on friends, but when you come across a master of his craft, you have to stand up and applaud.

After all, anyone who has been visiting this site since its shaky start eight years ago will be aware that I simply love language and its possibilities.   You might not like the things that are said here, but I hope you’ll agree I do my best to maintain standards and therefore, when I come across a document like The Israel Project’s 2009 Global Language Dictionary, I have to set aside my personal views.

Dr Frank Luntz is a man I might get on with very well if we happened to meet up in one of his favourite New York haunts.  He seems to be a witty, erudite, articulate individual.  I think I’d like Frank because we have much in common and although I will admit that I’d never be able to match his intellect, that’s the way life deals out the cards.   There you go.  We’re all born into an unequal world and I know Frank wouldn’t hold that against me.

Who is Frank Luntz, is that what you asked?  Well, Dr Frank Luntz is the man who said It doesn’t matter what you say.  It’s what people hear.  And how right he is.

Ignore the oxymoron that he works as an analyst for Fox News and try to forget the dismal fact that he advised George W Bush.  Frank is still a gifted spinner.

For years on this site, I laboured under the sad misapprehension that people listen to and read carefully what is being said, when in reality they do nothing of the sort.  What actually happens is that they grab onto some trigger word or phrase that resonates with a pre-digested thought they prepared earlier.

How many times have I had to deal with some fool telling me what I really meant, instead of reading what I actually said?  Dr Josef Goebbels (what is it with Doktors and propaganda?)  understood this point very well, even if his assessment of the English is a little harsh..

The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. 

Dr Frank Luntz’s Global Language Dictionary is a handbook to be used by advocates for Israel — in other words all those thousands of volunteers across the world who go on radio and television articulating the Israeli position in their continuing   struggle to correct false ideas about Israel’s righteous position.

The document correctly identifies the only media constituency relevant to Israel: the persuadables.  These are the people who are not already implacably on the side of Israeli policy come what may, and therefore the language needs to be be seductive, rather than militant, much like — and I am truly sorry to be making this parallel but it seems so apt — much as Adolf Hitler needed to sound conciliatory in order to win over the moderates in the 1930s.

I thought it would be a good thing to take Dr Luntz’s spin handbook and turn it around.  I thought it might be good to write as a Palestinian who had studied the Israeli spin handbook.

From here on, this is the Palestinian speaking, using the Israeli propaganda handbook, word for word, apart from the necessary substitutions.


Let me be clear at the outset that I am not perfect.   I have made many mistakes when talking about Israel and for that I’m sorry.  I hope those I hurt will forgive me.  I care as much as the next man about the dangers that Israelis face.   I hope that in time, they can find a way to live with their Palestinian neighbours in peace.  I hope they can elect leaders who are willing to build peace.

I also recognise that we can’t roll the clock back, but we can move the clock forward and we can create new realities if only the Israeli government is willing to put aside the men of violence.  It’s a basic right of all children, including the children of Israeli parents, to be raised without a culture of hatred.  Children should not be raised to kill others.   Israeli teenagers should not be gathering on hillsides to cheer the bombing of Palestinian children.  No child should be abused this way.  Israeli children deserve better.

It’s plain that ordinary, decent Israeli citizens are not driven by the hatred of the religious extremists, whose charter is clearly written in the Torah, from Genesis to Deuteronomy.   This charter calls for the slaughter of all enemies of Israel and even though the Israeli administration claims to have abandoned this, it is still in existence.  When Israel renounces the extremists in its leadership, we hope and pray that peace will one day be possible.

We know that the Israelis deserve leaders who will care about the wellbeing of their people, and who do not simply take hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance from America and Europe, put them in Swiss bank accounts, and use them to support terror instead of peace. The Israelis need books, not bombs.

There is NEVER, EVER, any justification for the deliberate slaughter of innocent women and children. NEVER.

Are Palestinians perfect? No. Do they make mistakes? Yes. But they want a better future, and they would work towards it, given a chance.

And we want Israelis to have a better future as well. They deserve a government that will eliminate the terror not only because it will make my children safer—but also because it will make their children more prosperous. When the terror ends, Israel will no longer need to have challenging checkpoints to inspect goods and people. When the terror ends we will no longer need a security fence.

Achieving peaceful relationships requires the leadership—political, business, and military—of both sides. And so we ask the Israelis … Stop using the language of incitement. Stop using the language of violence. Stop using the language of  threats. You won’t achieve peace if your military leadership talks about war. You won’t achieve peace if people talk about pushing others to the sea or to the desert.

Palestinians know what it is like to live their lives with the daily threat of terrorism.   They know what it is like to send their children off to school one day and bury them the next. For them, terrorism isn’t something they read about in the newspaper.   It’s something they see with their eyes far too often.

Is it too much to ask that the Israeli leadership condemn all terrorist activities? Is it unreasonable to insist that they stop killing innocent children before Palestinians jeopardize their security and make concessions for peace?


See?  It’s a multi-purpose spin manual.

As I said already, Frank Luntz is a genius and I applaud him for his gift.

Talk about Iran-backed Hamas terrorists and you’re on a winner.   As Frank advises his students, stay well away from any talk of Palestinian families having been kicked off their land by Zionist terrorists because, as we all know, Arabs are the terrorists.  Isn’t that right?

It’s a fascinating document, detailing with refreshing frankness based on solid research the propaganda that goes down well in the States and the kind of spin that crashes and burns.

Sometimes it falters a little as, for example in the way it handles Iron Dome.

Israel now longs for a time when it will have a rocket-shield that will be able to protect from rockets in Gaza so Israel no longer needs to go to war there to stop the rockets

Hmm.   I suppose Dr Frank will have to re-work that paragraph in the next version of his spin manual.

The manual also offers plain advice on hard questions.

If an interviewer asks if you were ever under rocket attack, just lie and say yes.

Have you spent time where the rocket attacks occur?

If you haven’t, then you shouldn’t be fielding questions on television about this issue. Palestinian spokespersons have been very effective by saying they have been to the locations of the attacks and therefore can more accurately report on what’s really going on. You simply must be prepared to respond to this question with “Yes, I have been there, and let me tell you how terrifying it is…”

Avoid the religious justification for taking Palestinian land even though that is your only justification for taking Palestinian land, and of course, when all else fails, just bullshit them until they shut up.

If you get bogged down in justifying proportionality, again, use rhetorical questions.

Rather than affirmatively stating the exact measure of force that should be used in these situations, use the rhetorical question to compel your debate partner (or the audience) to reach the answer that is obviously favorable to you: “Every day Hamas deliberately fires rockets into Israeli communities…

— “What do you think is a justified response?”

— “How do you propose Israel can stop these rocket missile attacks?”

— “What is a legitimate response?”

This is wonderful stuff, which every student of misinformation should study and again I applaud Frank Luntz for his skill, but when taken in conjunction with some of the stuff the Israeli embassy to Ireland has been putting out, the message is disturbingly redolent of messages many decades ago in Europe.

israel next

Wonderful though Dr Luntz”s linguistic gift is, do we want to let language carry us down that appalling highway again?

Oh, and by the way.  One final warning from Dr Frank.  Don’t ever talk about separate but equal.  Ever.  It would carry too much resonance of apartheid and naturally Israel would never, ever engage in that sort of obscenity, being a moral, upstanding democracy and a beacon of freedom in the Middle East, even if it did happen to be a longstanding ally and supporter of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

But that was in the past and we can’t go back there, right?

Meanwhile, Israel’s Condor Legion continues to pound the Guernica of the East.



Here’s Penn and Teller on Frank.



The Global Language Dictionary




Arts Favourites

Tom Collins, Sign Artist, Gives a Gilding Appreciation Workshop

Here’s Tom Collins, a Limerick-based sign artist.

In this video, he’s offering a lucky few the opportunity to gain an appreciation of water gilding, an ancient craft that hasn’t changed in a thousand years.




Have a look here at Tom hand-painting a sign.

Favourites Religion

Bishop of Tuam Issues Press Statement on Mother and Baby Home Scandal

The bishop of Tuam has released a statement in which he seeks to distance his diocese from the appalling treatment of the women who were locked up in the notorious Mother and baby Home.

In doing so, he follows in the footsteps of Cardinal Cahal Daly, who also sought to distance himself from any responsiblity for the monstrous behaviour of Father Brendan Smyth, the paedophile whose activities brought down a government and first exposed to the world what was really going on behind the veil of sanctity in Ireland.

Daly, you might recall, pointed out that he had no authority over Brendan Smyth, because the priest was a member of the Norbertine order and was therefore under the control of his religious superior within that order.  This was why, according to Daly, he could not intervene in the priest’s rape of children.  He was powerless to do so.

Oddly enough, this lack of power didn’t prevent Daly’s successor from intervening in the activities of another priest who was also a member of a religious order.  Cardinal Seán Brady who, as a young priest, had sworn abused children to secrecy on pain of damnation, had no hesitation in stepping in when Father Iggy O’Donovan, an Augustinian priest in Drogheda committed a transgression in 2006.

His crime?  Iggy O’Donovan celebrated an ecumenical service with a Protestant clergyman, in a spirit of reconciliation and solidarity.

Thus we had two bishops of Armagh, one of whom could not stop a member of an order from raping children, while another was ready and willing to prevent a member of another order from reaching out to his friends and neighbours.

Bishops, as we have seen, are powerless when it suits them to be powerless, and that’s where Michael Neary comes in.  Michael is Archbishop of Tuam and I’m sure he’s a perfectly decent chap in his own way.  His response to the Ryan report seemed genuine enough and his unreserved apology on behalf of the Catholic church was convincing in its sincerity, but like most of his colleagues apart from Diarmuid Martin, Michael is a slave to Bishopspeak, just like any longstanding official  in any monolithic organisation, and his press release showed all the symptoms of that enslavement.

Michael’s primary purpose in issuing the press release seems to be this:  to distance his diocese as much as he possibly can from the Bon Secours order, in the hope that as little dirt as possible will stick to his predecessors.  That’s why he says as follows:

As the diocese did not have any involvement in the running of the home in Tuam we do not have any material relating to it in our archives.

Michael is being, as a bishop might put it, disingenuous.  The reality is that the Tuam Home would never have been set up in the first place without the express wishes of  Archbishop Gilmartin.

His Grace the Archbishop of Tuam is anxious that the Bon Secours Sisters should go there, Mr Jordan advised a meeting of Galway County Council.

Sadly, no photographs of Dr Gilmartin surfaced, but here’s a picture of his successor, Dr Walsh, who also had absolutely nothing to do with the Bon Secours Nursing Home.

Bishop of Tuam
Via @Limerick1914


There are many ways of exercising control, as we all know.  It is not necessary to manage an institution in order to control it, and anyone who ever had the chance to observe a community of nuns at close quarters will have seen how obsequious and grovelling they were to even the humblest clergyman, never mind a prince of the church.

When Dr Deeny, the Chief Medical Officer, unilaterally closed Bessborough Home because of the number of children it was killing, the Papal Nuncio complained him to DeValera on the order of Bishop Lucey of Cork, even though the home was run by nuns.

The bishops knew everything and the bishops controlled everything.  Let us not forget that this bishop of Tuam was the very same one to whom the entire county library catalogue was submitted for vetting.   Gilmartin selected the books to be burned, and yet, somehow, Michael Neary would have us believe he was a benign, bumbling old Santa Claus figure who had nothing to do with the systemic oppression of women in post-independence Ireland.

Isn’t it time Irish Catholic bishops stopped insulting our intelligence?

Bishop Michael must have written his press release hastily because he seems to have overlooked the fact that the 796 children on Catherine Corless’s list are not buried in a graveyard.  We still don’t know if they were thrown into a septic tank, but the fact remains that their location has not been established.

He also seems not to realise that the women who were incarcerated in the Home did not give up their babies, but were coerced by the nuns, by the local clergy, by their families and by society at large into doing so.  Or more to the point, he knows that full well and he’d prefer if you wouldn’t realise the same thing.

This is a characteristically  cowardly statement, of the sort we have come to expect from Irish bishops.  It attempts to push responsibility onto the nuns and away from his own office, while at the same time looking to gain the high moral ground by offering to seek a dignified re-interment for the remains of the children in what he calls consecrated ground.

The mealy-mouthed arrogance of that sentiment is astonishing.  To think that those children, or their abused mothers, would want to lie in the sort of ground Michael Neary regards as consecrated simply repeats the insult that was visited on them by Neary’s predecessors and by the nuns they controlled from 1924 to 1961.

This prelate needs to go away, meditate and be quiet.



Full statement from Michael Neary

Banking Favourites gardai Law

Seanie Fitz Applies For Free Legal Aid

Seán Fitzpatrick, former CEO and Chairman of Anglo-Irish Bank has applied to have his defence costs paid by the State  after his recent acquittal in the Circuit Criminal Court, and guess what?  He’s right.

I hope Seánie Fitz gets his costs, because in doing so, he will have exposed the iniquity of a criminal justice system that penalises innocent people.  As anyone who reads this site regularly knows, I’m no flag-bearer for the people who ran the worst bank in history, but in this case, I think Fitzpatrick has a valid point.

If you’re arrested and charged with an offence, no matter how frivolous or malicious that charge might be (assuming, of course that an Garda Síochána would ever do anything so improper), you’ll be stuck with your legal costs even if you’re acquitted.  Unless, that is, you happen to be a useless lowlife with 87 previous convictions who never worked a day in your life.  In those circumstances, the State will be happy to provide you with a defence team free of charge, even if you’re subsequently convicted for the 88th time.

But if you’re an ordinary Joe who happens to fall foul of the system, no matter how innocent you are, you might find yourself faced with ruinous legal costs.  In Ireland, it’s not necessary to be guilty to be punished.  All you have to do is be charged and you will have a gigantic de facto fine imposed on you for the privilege of demonstrating your innocence.  You will have to  pay because you’re one of the people who work to earn a little money.

This is an everyday reality faced by people who are acquitted in court.  Despite being innocent, they have to find, somehow, the tens of thousands of euro it took to convince a court that the State had failed to prove its case.

That’s why I think Seanie Fitz should get his costs.  Not because I have any sympathy for him, but because he was acquitted and is therefore innocent.

And because I’d like to have my costs covered too, if the State should decide to charge me with a crime I didn’t commit.

Who’d have thought that Sean Fitzpatrick, of all people, would become the champion of the Squeezed Middle?



Favourites Religion

Book-Burning in 1924 Ireland

The Ireland of 1924 was a bleak place for anyone who didn’t subscribe to a narrow, rigidly Catholic view of the world, as the following newspaper extract shows.

The most conservative revolutionaries ever, as Kevin O’Higgins described himself and his colleagues,  wasted no time in getting down to ultra-orthodox business, stamping out everything that didn’t fit in with their emotionally-dysfunctional  outlook on life, and that included books.  Barely eight years later, of course, in another European country, book-burning would assume an even more sinister place in history, but the ignorance was the same.

The overbearing intolerance behind the acts of intellectual vandalism was no greater in Germany than it had been in Ireland, only two years after achieving freedom for a small elite and selling it to the masses as a great act of  liberation.

Just read this, from the proceedings of Galway County Council in 1925, in case you doubted what sort of country the freedom fighters carved out for the weak, the poor or those with the temerity to think for themselves.  Is this any different to behaviour we’d expect from the Taliban, or any of the other ignorant, oppressive religious extremist groups we like to condemn these days?

Context: this book-burning took place in an Ireland where unmarried mothers were classified as offenders.  It happened the same year the Tuam mothers and babies home was set up, where the Bon Secours nuns used the young women as slaves and penitents, and where 800 children died of malnutrition and neglect in the name of Christianity, because the Irish people were so ashamed of themselves, of their humanity and of their very survival that they treated their own daughters as pariahs and criminals.

The boldfaced text in this extract is mine, for emphasis.  The italics are from the original.

Personally, I find the arrogance, the ignorance and the sheer hypocrisy of this mindset staggering, but unless we face up to the fact that this is the State our freedom fighters carved out for themselves and their cronies, we have no future as a mature independent nation.



Book Burning in Galway 1928Contingent on the co-operation of the Archbishop of Tuam and the clergy of the county generally, as well as the intention of the scheme after the dissolution of the Irish advisory committee of the Carnegie Trust in 1924, it was agreed that the catalogue of the then circulating stock of libraries be submitted to the Archbishop of Tuam. Certain books were strongly objected to and on instructions from the Carnegie Trust the books and all existing copies of catalogues were withdrawn.

They may be classified as:– Treatises on philosophy and religion which were definitely anti-Christian works;

ex professor de obscenus novels of the following type —

(1) Complete frankness in words in dealing with sex matters;

(2) insidious or categorical denunciation of marriage or glorification of the unmarried mother and the mistress;

(3) the glorification of physical passion;

(4) contempt of the proprieties of conventions;

(5) the details and the stressing of morbidity.

The events related took place between December, 1924 and February, 1925, and the books in question never found part of the stock handed over to the County Council when they took over control of the library.

Since the disposal of the books in question was at the express command of the Carnegie Trust at a date prior to the taking over of the scheme by the County Council and thus in pursuit of an agreement to which the Council’s Library Committee was never a party, the Sub-Committee feel that the discussion of this matter is irrelevant, and that no useful purpose can be served in continuing it. By some oversight, several of these books got into circulation, and strong complaints had been made to members of the Committee about them.

Mr James Lee proposed that the report be adopted and Mr Eamonn Corbett seconded. Mr Corbett said that the burning of the books had received a lot of publicity. Mountains had been made out of molehills and the committee had been made a kind of cockshot. Whatever was done was honestly and conscientiously done in the moral interests of the people and they feared no publicity or criticism and had no apology to make.

Mr Peter Kelly said that not one per cent of the Irish people could object to the books that had been burned at the last meeting.  He thought that the kind of books that had been burned were one-and-sixpenny novels “in which things were put slightly bluntly.”  Every book written by Bernard Shaw should not be withdrawn.

The sub-committee’s report was unanimously adopted.



Credit for the research goes to Liam Hogan (the excellent @limerick1914 on Twitter).

Source: Storify

Arts Favourites

Brian McMahon Retrospective Exhibition

Brian McMahon retrospective

Just go and see this.  Just go, that’s all.

Here’s forty years of magnificent work, gathered together in one magnificent old building.  This is an outstanding example of a working artist doing what an artist does, because he doesn’t know how to be anything else and he doesn’t know what it is not to paint or draw.

You might as well ask a dog not to bark.

How many people are lucky enough to have one of Brian’s astonishing, vibrant, sculptural oils?  Let them be thankful for owning a piece of wonder, and now here it is, all gathered under one restored roof; the old Sailors’ Home on O’Curry Street, later an RIC barracks and a Garda station but now a rescue project thanks to the Shannon and Foynes Port Company.

What a superb building, but how sad that the elements have done so much damage to it that even the very plaster needed to be hacked from the walls.

And yet, in a fine moment of serendipity, how appropriate that those same bare brick walls, never intended to be exposed, form the background to Brian McMahon’s exhibition of his life’s work?

If this show was in Dublin or Dún Laoghaire, it would be covered by the Irish Times, but since we’re “down the  country” as they say in the national media, it will have to be covered here instead.  Go along.  Soak in the ambience, the decrepitude, the crumbling magnificence of the whole thing, and that’s just the artist.  Enjoy the old pile of bricks, but most of all enjoy the 40-year career of one fine artist.

Do it immediately.

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Arts Favourites Gilding Society

Limerick and Chips

I love this town.  I love the endless pool of multi-talented bastards who inhabit it.  I love its edginess.  I love the way Limerick looks at the world and says, Come in at your own risk, we are who we are.

We are a strange crowd and that’s what sets us apart, but in a nice way, you know?  In a nice way.

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This weekend, as part of the City of Culture thing, we had a celebration of chips, and why?  Everyone likes chips, apart from the people who don’t like chips, otherwise known as liars.  We’re not a pretentious town.  We tend not to give our eating-places spurious French names or pretend to love things that are plainly disgusting and that no sane human being would swallow, although yes, it is true that we have one or two cringe-inducing restaurant names and a small bunch of folks who like to go on about truffles, but you’ll find gobshites everywhere.

What a mad weekend.  Culture and Chips with the Tomcat Festival and the very same Spiegeltent in which Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich performed, combined  to give us Limerick at its finest.  Random pianists playing in reclaimed city-centre open spaces and in posh department stores like Brown Thomas.  Traditional craftsmen offering free workshops in the art of water-gilding.  Screen-printers making tee-shirts for kids in the street.  Flash-mobs, tangoing, street-haranguing.  Activism.  General childishness.  And of course, a chip competition, or to be more specific, the World Chip Championships.

Everything with chips, including the wonderful Jerry Fish (and chips) in the  Spiegeltent and my man, Jack Loughman, aka Jack Lukeman, aka Jack L, who made the tent his own and who can surely now die happy after a breathtaking performance in the same space occupied by the divine Marlene.

Credit must go where it’s due, though in no particular order.  The council is constantly on the receiving end of abuse, sometimes fairly and sometimes not, but in recent times, perhaps because younger staff are now involved,  it seems to have realised what the rest of us knew forever, that Limerick is a place buzzing with creativity.  So yes, well done to, eh, whatever it’s called now that it’s been combined.  As usual, of course, no marks to the elected councillors.

Credit also to Dolans, who demonstrated the ability to make a public event into a welcoming, embracing thing, without keeping people behind barriers.  With the antiquated model of event management employed in Limerick up to now, there has always been  far too many shabby VIPs, friends of the organisers, and not enough important people.  It’s time everyone in Limerick felt themselves a participant at these events, and not just simply an onlooker at the other side of the fence.

Needless to mention, without the input of the TomCat people, the town wouldn’t have had the same buzz, and therefore, much kudos to them, especially the good folks of the Blind Pig, Mickey Martin’s and Bourke’s Bar, but also to the traders of those streets, including Karl Kleiser the best piano-supplier in Ireland,  who all pitched in to support the weekend.  I’ll be adding details as the week goes on.

It all goes to show that when a town comes together, so much is possible.  I was proud of Limerick this weekend, not only for the Barcelona feel (without the pickpockets) but also for the Munich-style Gemütlichkeit .   It could have been any town, anywhere in Europe, almost, but at the same time, we never lose the edge.

That’s Limerick City, kid!  Great stuff.  Much to fix, but much more to be proud of.

Limerick city of culture and chips tomcat festival


Limerick city of culture and chips tomcat festival


Limerick city of culture and chips tomcat festival

Limerick city of culture and chips tomcat festival


Limerick city of culture and chips tomcat festival


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Limerick city of culture chips tomcat


Limerick city of culture chips tomcat


Nothing new about Irish political elite’s callous indifference to human suffering

With all the hoo-ha following the kicking delivered to the government parties by the electorate, you might have imagined that they were guilty of something shocking and  unusual by the standards of Irish politicians, but of course, they’re guilty of no such thing.

Anyone arriving from another planet — Germany for example — might easily believe that the Labour Party had  imposed crushing austerity on the weak and the poor when in fact the most that any junior partner in the current coalition could ever hope to achieve would be some sort of cushioning of the blows.  What’s more, it was inevitable that the junior partner would sustain most of the damage from irate supporters when election-time came around.  If Labour didn’t know that when they went into partnership with Fine Gael, then they don’t  deserve to survive.

It says a lot about the buttoned-up nature of Irish public life that people like Pat Rabbitte and Eamon Gilmore take refuge in pomposity, put on the suits and grind out the clichés with a straight face instead of doing what any self-respecting left-leaning politician would do:  ring the alarms.  Tell the truth.  Admit that they were going into government with a party whose history contains a deep-seated contempt for the weak and the poor.

Just tell the truth.  It’s going to be bad, but we’re going into government with these guys to stop it being even worse.

If Labour had shown that sort of honesty, they wouldn’t be on the floor now, but instead, at one and the same time, Labour sold out and bought in.  They sold out their principles and they bought in to the power trip.

Who could forget Rabbitte’s extraordinarily self-important performance when he expounded  on the reasons why Ireland had to go along with Shell’s theft of our energy resources, including a detailed lecture on the scientific background?   It was probably the moment when his credibility hit the floor, this man with a vague Arts degree and a lifetime working as a union official, trying to sound like he knew what he was saying as he puffed and huffed on highly complex technical matters that he patently did not understand.

In doing so, Rabbitte offered a clue to the real underlying problem, which we’ll return to presently.  But for now, let’s focus on the Irish State’s indifference to the weak, the poor, the sick, the old and the vulnerable.  Despite our longstanding habit of congratulating ourselves for being the most compassionate nation on the face of this earth, or any other, the historical reality doesn’t support our fantasy.

It’s true that we’re more than willing to dip into our pockets for some go-away money whenever we see people suffering on our TV screens, but we don’t want to pay for a proper system of supports here at home.  We don’t want to pay the sort of tax it would take to provide these services.  More to the point, we don’t want to burden the wealthy with the sort of taxes they’d have to pay in a fair society, we don’t want to impose the sort of corporation tax any normal country would charge, we don’t want to deny the lawyers and the doctors the sort of outrageous fees that would get them laughed out of most other EU countries.

That’s why the Rape Crisis Centre in the Mid-West has to close for a month due to lack of funding. If you were planning to get raped, hold off till next month.  This isn’t a good time.

That’s why HSE officials have been phoning people to find out if their terminal cancer went away.

Right from the start, this little State has been based on property rights.  Our Constitution is founded on the very notion of defending private wealth, but long before de Valera framed the Constitution under the careful scrutiny of Archbishop John Charles McQuaid,  independent Ireland was created by people who cared nothing for fairness. Was it not Kevin O’Higgins, the Free State’s first justice minister who described himself and his colleagues as  the most conservative-minded revolutionaries that ever put through a successful revolution? 

To such people, emigration and TB were allies.  In all their talk of Irish freedom, these revolutionaries were not thinking of the poor, the downtrodden, the sick, the uneducated, the hungry or the vulnerable.  That wasn’t  Irish freedom in their ultramontane Catholic world.  These people were thinking of freedom for their wealthy friends and family to become even wealthier, freed from the interference of the British establishment.  They dreamed of a new Ireland, dominated by clergy, by doctors and by lawyers, where the population were free to follow their orders, instead of obeying a non-Catholic foreign elite.

Fast forward thirty years to the Mother and Child Scheme, where Archbishop McQuaid found common cause with those privileged medical consultants who stood to lose money and authority over their patients, if you want an example of Irish freedom in microcosm.

O’Higgins himself, a member of a privileged and wealthy elite, presided as Justice minister over a notorious system of political assassination and torture, carried out under the guidance of a murderous thug, Joe McGrath, who went on to become fabulously wealthy via his Sweepstakes fraud.  Look at the surnames of the families that went on to dominate the legal profession and medicine in Ireland.  See how many of them are the descendants of those who took power in 1921 in the name of Irish freedom.

Ardnacrusha Shannon SchemeLast week, I had a friend visiting, and since we had a free day to spare, I took him on a whistle-stop tour of interesting places around Limerick, including the spectacular Ardnacrusha hydro-electric scheme.

Tellingly, there were those in the 1920s who opposed the Shannon Scheme on the grounds that it was a form of Communism but even now, nearly ninety years on, it’s still a deeply impressive achievement.  A huge canal taking most of the flow of the River Shannon through cuttings of rock and 18-metre-high embankments, delivering  400 cubic metres of water per second to  the four great turbines that eventually came to supply 80% of Ireland’s electricity.  It was deeply impressive for its time — briefly becoming the biggest such scheme in the world — and has been used as an inspiration by many great civil engineering projects around the globe since then.  It’s still impressive, as anyone who has approached it on the water will tell you.

But it was also a place where 4,000 Irish labourers worked in conditions of misery, where entire families shared cow-sheds with a dozen other families, rented to them by local farmers who charged the working men 20 of the 35 shillings they earned weekly for the privilege.  And those 35 shillings were what the government insisted Siemens-Schuckert must pay, and not a penny more, because they saw the Shannon Scheme as a way of forcing wages down nationally.  People walked hundreds of miles in the hope of finding work at Ardnacrusha, many of them forced to go there by their local labour exchanges.

Does any of this seem familiar?

Inevitably, given the starvation wages and the appalling conditions, union problems were going to arise, but luckily, the very man was on hand to act as labour consultant to Siemens:  none other than Joe McGrath, murderer, torturer, former head of the dreaded CID and future multi-millionaire thanks to the Hospital Sweepstakes.  With Joe’s help, and by leaning on any local officials who dared to comment on the dreadful conditions, the government of the day, good Christians to a man, forced the project through, despite the many deaths from injury and sickness.

At least it was all done in the new free Ireland and not under the yoke of foreign imperialists.

These same conservative revolutionaries built a free Ireland that was far from free if you were poor.  A labourer’s child caught stealing an apple or playing truant could expect to be sent to an industrial school, to be raped and beaten by the Christian Brothers.  A girl who became pregnant could expect to be placed in the tender care of some order of sexually-frustrated nuns who took their libidinous rage out on her, making of her a slave and in many cases killing the offending baby through neglect and flinging it into a mass grave, as we have seen in reports this week.

childrens home coffins

They went on to ban contraception and divorce.  They created a theocracy where all unapproved foreign literature was banned, at least as far as it was accessible to the poor who might possibly be corrupted by having their intellects stimulated.

They handed every last means of making a profit over to the same elites who had goaded them on when they fought for their bizarre notion of freedom, and it wasn’t just Fine Gael’s predecessors, Cumann na nGaedheal.   Dev’s crowd were no strangers to trickery either, then or now.

After all, it was Fianna Fáil that tore up the railways so that the Roche brothers could build their Roadstone empire, a conglomerate that eventually went on to build the concrete wall around the Palestinians in Israel.  That same company somehow managed to get the construction of the hugely-profitable Westlink toll bridge in Dublin, for which the State had obligingly provided the M50 motorway infrastructure on each side of the river crossing, thereby delivering the customers to their door.

I promised to return to the real underlying problem.

Clearly, there’s something profoundly wrong with us as a people, since we don’t seem to have any fellow-feeling for each other.  We seem to lack a sense of solidarity even though you might point out how great we are when it comes to sporting events and the like, but that’s not the same thing.

We clearly have no solidarity when it comes to defending rape victims.  We provide the fewest medical consultants per head of population compared to every other country in Europe.  We have a police force that has been exposed for its utter insularity and suspicion of the ordinary citizen.

We’re capable of producing thoroughly heartless bureaucracies, as we have seen with the HSE which not only delegates junior officials to ask parents if their children still have Down Syndrome, but which makes women under threat of  breast cancer wait until they form an administratively convenient cohort.  Our doctors let mothers die in childbirth rather than face the wrath of a rabid Catholic minority.

Forget all this old nonsense about the Irish being the most compassionate people in the world.  This is a savage, heartless little country, red in tooth and claw, where only the rich survive unharmed.  If you want proper care, hop on a bus and cross the border where they suffer under the jackboot of British imperialism.

There is no tradition in this country of governments caring about the wellbeing of our citizens, and I don’t know why people now are behaving as if they’re surprised.

We, as a nation, need therapy.


The Shannon Scheme strike

Social history of hydro-electricity in Ireland