Favourites Politics Religion

The Hater’s Handbook. Confirmation bias and cultural bigotry.

This is a brief guide on how to demonise and oppress a group you hate and fear. (Or alternatively, as in Dick Cheney’s case, rob and plunder).

The first step — and this might seem obvious, but it still bears repeating — is to blind yourself to the deep-seated illogicality of your position. Remember, you will never be an effective oppressor if you harbour the slightest doubt that you might somehow be wrong.  This is fatal. Therefore, you must first eradicate all traces of critical thinking from your mind. Remove all tendencies to see the other person’s point of view.

If you can’t manage this, you should not try to oppress anyone. You are a lost cause.

First choose a big lie. It doesn’t matter what the lie is, provided it tends to cause general revulsion towards the group you wish to oppress.

Once you’ve selected your lie, you must then keep repeating it no matter how many times it’s exposed as a lie.  You must never deviate from your lie, but you must at every opportunity try to smear anyone who disagrees with you. They are, in fact, filthy, dirty, extreme-Left, homosexuals, blacks, immigrants, dole-scrounging Muslims, Jews, Catholic perverts.

Now, here’s the important stuff you need to remember.

The Big Lie that facilitated the USA attack on Vietnam was that North Vietnamese forces had attacked a US warship.  They didn’t, but the press swallowed it.

The Big Lie that allowed Cheney’s armies to overrun Iraq was that Saddam somehow was involved in the 9-11 attacks when he was in fact a sworn enemy of Osama Bin Laden, and presided over a secular state where religion was not allowed to impose itself on day to day life, where women had equal access to all professions and all educational opportunities. Saddam might have been a despot, but he was no Muslim fanatic, yet the press swallowed Cheney’s big lie, and so began the bonanza for Halliburton, the company Cheney had absolutely, without question, separated himself from. So began the asset-stripping of an entire nation and the birth of ISIS, all thanks to the Big Lie.

The Big Lie that continues to facilitate Israel’s destruction of the Palestinian people is that they are somehow a threat to the Israeli people.  And thus we watch, every couple of years, as the massive war machine pounds the world’s biggest concentration camp to rubble with the loss of thousands of lives.

We witnessed the same techniques in Ireland recently, when certain home-grown groups chose to spread insane lies about gay people with a view to defeating the marriage equality referendum.  They pushed the lies that the referendum had to do with adoption, with starting a family and most bizarrely, with surrogacy.

They pushed lies about gay people being sexual abusers. They pushed lies about gay people being something other than our own sons, daughters, brothers and sisters.

Ultimately, they projected a lie based on their own self-hatred and when they met resistance, they sought to demonise those who called them out on their lies, but then an amazing life-affirming thing happened. The Irish people rejected the lies and sent the fundamentalist groups home to sulk in their socks and vests, trying somehow to convince the world that a 60-40 referendum win was a defeat for democracy.

Confirmation bias is a terrible thing, defined by some as a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.  As more and more people desperately try to escape ISIS, the creation of the West, the new Big Lie is growing stronger, and that lie is simple. All Muslims are evil.

le eithne rescue

Perhaps the most egregious example of it occurred recently when the Daily Mail and the Telegraph reported a shocking story of a devout Muslim father who prevented his daughter’s rescue by beach lifeguards because he believed she would be dishonoured by being touched by men.

What the Mail and the Telegraph conveniently glossed over was that the incident occurred in 1996, because that wouldn’t suit their poisonous narrative.  They found a negative story about a single Muslim and that was enough to project onto all the Muslims in the world, as if there had never been a stupid Christian.

What the Irish media who slavishly repeated the story failed to mention was that we have similar experiences in our own history, the most horrifying of which was the death of 35 young girls in a Cavan orphanage, prevented by prudish nuns from being rescued  because the nuns didn’t wish the firemen to see them in their night dresses.  By the same token, we’ve had recent court cases involving Jehovah Witness parents seeking to let their children die in hospital rather than allow blood transfusions, but such stories don’t fit the anti-Muslim narrative and are therefore never called up when confirmation bias is at work.

This is why some Irish people will look on with equanimity as people drown in the Mediterranean despite the best efforts of our heroic naval service, and yet, in the middle of the horror, there is at least some comfort to be found, since our sailors are working so hard to save the lives of those people fleeing from extremism and oppression.  But on the other hand, it’s hard to escape the suspicion that many Irish people are secretly glad to keep them away from our prosperous comfortable shores.

If we had an education system that was not religious-based, but which instead encouraged critical thinking, perhaps we’d be able to avoid some of this stupidity but unfortunately, that debate is only just starting, and so we continue to be subjected to narratives based on hysteria, prejudice and ignorance.

If you don’t believe me, just take one look at the poor-man’s Golden Dawn calling themselves Identity Ireland.  A bunch of clowns, admittedly, with a stupidity exaggerated by the internet, but fascists all the same.

This is the sort of ignorance we need to challenge at every opportunity, not only here in Ireland, but wherever we encounter it.

Favourites Religion Sexuality

Father Ted meets Monty Python as Brother Dougal hits Limerick in the fight against the evil gays

Normally when I wake up in the morning, it isn’t entirely an episode of Father Ted and it might not even be completely Monty Python, though at the moment there’s a strong feeling that it might be mostly Game of Thrones.

A man meets a man’s beloved daughter in the market for an early curry.

A man’s daughter goes for intensive hair treatment.

Meanwhile, a man wanders around town, trying not to wear too many faces until a man stumbles across a bunch of lunatics and a man’s mask slips.

irish society for christian civilisation rory o'hanlon father ted

Seven magnificent men, or perhaps a man detects six men and a boy, reciting prayers to the old gods and the new before setting out on a dangerous mission. A man salutes them and then a man goes for a coffee, with cream because after all it is a Saturday.

That’s where Game of Thrones evaporates and our Saturday morning becomes very real, as long as you consider utterly bizarre a form of reality.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, here come a bunch of men in cheap business suits wearing sashes made from recycled Munster flags.

Men are wearing red capes across their suits for no clear reason. Six men and a boy are wearing capes. Six cape-wearing men and a boy in a cape are handing out pamphlets against homosexual marriage.


Irish Society for Christian Civilisation



Irish Society for Christian Civilisation


Ah! Now I have you. Marriage should be between a man and a woman from the eighteenth century. That makes perfect sense.


Irish Society for Christian Civilisation Rory O'Hanlon

What is this? everyone wonders.

Is this a promotion for today’s clash between Munster and Ulster? Is this a  gesture from Munster in favour of gay rights?  After all, Munster Rugby facilitated a massive table quiz in support of equality only two days ago.

But then it dawns on us. No self-respecting gay man would wear anything as tacky as these people are wearing, even in support of a cause. I wouldn’t wear it myself, for that matter, and I have the dress sense of a Jack Russell. They must be bigots. The B-word. The word that the homophobic fake institutes would try to prevent everyone from using.

Our hackles rise, perhaps unreasonably until we get talking to them and we discover that yes, they really do hate their fellow man and woman.  They really do detest people who don’t fit their template of what constitutes god-given sexuality.

I find myself talking to one of them, who tries to explain that it’s all about the children.

Let’s call him Rory.

I tell Rory it’s not. I tell Rory the referendum is about two people getting married.

Rory tells me marriage is about having children.

I tell him it’s not. I tell him people who can’t have children also get married. Post-menopausal women. Men who have had a vasectomy. People who don’t wish to procreate. I ask him if these marriages are invalid in his eyes.

Rory doesn’t want to know.

I tell him the supreme court has decided a married couple are a family.

He still doesn’t want to to know because this man, as it’s becoming clear, is not interested in facts when he can have his own private fantasy instead.

I ask Rory about the interesting robe he’s wearing and the elaborate clasp he uses to hold it together.


Is that the emblem of an ancient equestrian order? I ask him.

No, he says.

Are you a front for Opus Dei?


Are you the Order of the Holy Sepulchre?

No, he replies.

Then who exactly are you?

That’s when Rory goes off message and tells me something he shouldn’t.

We’re the Irish Society for Tradition, Family and Property.

Are you? I ask. And how long have you existed?

About fifty years, he replies.

Really? Fifty years?


Are you a private company?




Fair enough.

Sharon appears, not by magic but by coincidence since this is Limerick, this is the Market and this is how things happen when lunatic fringe groups try to overwhelm the common decency of Limerick people.  Sharon has her son Pete with her, raised by two mothers and not obviously suffering from having three horns on his head.

Irish Society for Christian Civilisation

This is my son, Sharon tells Rory. He was raised by two women.

Rory recoils.

Look at him, Sharon says.

Rory looks at me.

Look at him, I say.

Rory looks at Sharon.

Look at him, says Sharon.

Rory looks at me.

Look at him, I say.

Eventually, Rory looks at Pete. It’s clear that he has never imagined a real, genuine human being raised by a same-sex couple. Rory seems perturbed.

Rory O Hanlon lectures mother and son

Shake his hand, says Sharon.

Pete appears a little disgusted but he extends his hand and Rory reaches out. This territory seems new to Rory.

Ask him how he is, Sharon says.

Rory says nothing, so Pete explains that he’s just fine, that the two women who raised him did a great job and that he doesn’t understand why Rory is trying to stop his mother being married.

Rory, we all agree later, is the least effective campaigner we ever met. We all agree that Rory is utterly without facts, arguments or even a firm conviction. Everyone is baffled. Why did a man without facts go on a mission to Limerick? Why did he voluntarily get himself eaten alive?

It gets worse for Rory, unfortunately when he engages in an argument over the religious anti-gay pamphlet he and his caped crusaders have been handing out.

Let’s have a look at your ten reasons why gay people shouldn’t get married, Rory is told, by an angry passer-by.

Point 1. It isn’t marriage.  

That’s right. It isn’t marriage. We’re voting to make  it marriage. Bullshit!

Point 2. It violates natural law. 

We have only one law in this republic and it it isn’t your law. Bullshit!

A crowd begins to gather. Rory smiles manfully.

Point 3. It denies a child a mother or a father.

Divorce and separation do that.  Not gays. Bullshit.

Irish Society for Christian Civilisation Rory O'Hanlon

Point 4. It validates the homosexual lifestyle. 

In other words, you hate gays. Bullshit.

Point 5. It turns a moral wrong into a civil right.  

Don’t lecture me about morals.  Bullshit.

Point 6. It does not create a family but a naturally sterile union.  

Are you telling post-menopausal women they can’t get married? Bullshit.

The crowd begins to murmur support.

Point 7. It defeats the State’s purpose of benefitting marriage.  

Don’t tell me the State’s purpose. Bullshit.

Point 8. It imposes its acceptance on all society.

You don’t get to veto other people’s lives. Bullshit.

Point 9. It is the cutting edge of the sexual revolution.

Sorry kid. You’ve missed that by about fifty years. Bullshit.

Point 10. It offends God. 

I don’t believe in your god so don’t give me this bullshit.

Rory looks at his feet as light applause breaks out. His golden clasp glistens in the weak sun, a lion rampant with papal cross. He declines to explain where the image came from.

Is that the insignia from some equestrian order? I ask.


Are you Opus Dei?


Are you the Knights of the Order of the Sepulchre?


The Knights Who Say Ni?


Never mind. Are you Knights?


Then why are you wearing that ridiculous robe? Don’t you think it’s a bit gay?

Rory doesn’t answer so I challenge him.

Don’t you think gays deserve to suffer like everyone else?

What? he says.

Let them get married, I tell him.

Later I discover that Rory has not been entirely honest with me. The Irish Society for Christian Civilisation, named on the pamphlets he’s handing out, is indeed a limited company registered in Ireland, and the same Rory O’Hanlon is a company director. If, as he claimed, it was over fifty years old, he must have founded it when he was a babe in arms, but actually, the truth is more prosaic.  According to company records, it was set up in 2004, and that, to the best of my knowledge, is not fifty years ago. It seems Rory’s Christian beliefs allow him to tell direct barefaced lies.

Oddly, when asked the title of his group, Rory seemed to slip. Instead of calling it the Irish Society for Christian Civilisation, he called it the Irish Society for Defence of Tradition, Family and Property, perhaps unconsciously echoing the title of its parent organisation, the American Society for Defence of Tradition, Family and Property.


Rory, by the way, is a brother of Ardal O’Hanlon, otherwise known as Father Dougal and not a man remotely associated with such strange ideas.

Father Ted comes to Limerick, however vicariously.

As we leave, I tell Rory that I hope this has helped him to re-evaluate his own prejudices, though I don’t have high hopes.


More about Rory
















Favourites Religion

Ancient longing for power behind religious opposition to same-sex marriage amendment

Let us not be under any illusion that religiously-driven opposition to the marriage equality amendment has anything to do with marriage, or with children.  Let us not delude ourselves that it has anything to do with concern for society.  Let’s not pretend it has any relation to ethics, morals or the greater good of society.

Let’s not even imagine that it’s motivated by religious conviction, because it is not.

The opposition to marriage equality is all about power.  This is all about an ancient privileged class using religion as a flag of convenience.  It’s about a profoundly undemocratic tendency staking out its territory, reacting with fury as the formerly-compliant Irish peasantry yet again dare to make their own mind up without waiting to be told what to think.

Though its spokesemen and spokeswomen might be unaware of it, they form part of an unbroken chain of privilege that goes all the way back to medieval times, even though individually they might not all have grown up in privileged circumstances, but that’s how privilege works.  Some have it, others compete for it and some are destined always to be ground under foot.

Order of the Sepulchre  Iona Institute

The likes of the Iona Institute, while undeniably at the shabby end of the yearning curve, are also the most vocal, since that’s what aspiring aristocrats are like when they’re still mere squires hoping for better.  Opus Dei, on the other hand, is an altogether more Patrician brand of ideology, deeper and broader than the shrill salesmen of Iona, but still part of the same continuum, longing for the return of a time when they ruled benevolently over a peaceful and compliant Irish people.

And there’s the problem.

The Irish in recent years haven’t been doing what they were told.  They voted for divorce. They legalised contraception. They decriminalised homosexuality. They closed the Magdalene laundries.   They abolished the industrial schools. They stopped condemning single mothers.

Such impertinence was never a problem in the days when princes of the Church, men like Cardinal Paul Cullen and Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, bestrode Ireland in their colossal hubris, and yet the likes of McQuaid and Cullen were anathema to the covert power structure that gave rise to Opus Dei and its latter-day bargain-basement half-sibling, the Iona Institute.

The last thing such tendencies needed or wanted was an ostentatious display of influence.  These are movements that operate in the shadows, emerging perforce only in the form of obviously proletarian spokesmen like David Quinn and slightly-less proletarian demagogues like Breda O’Brien as the need arises.

Now, I know full well that this is beginning to sound like a demented version of a Dan Brown novel, but that’s  the territory you find yourself in whenever you contemplate silly constructs like Iona and Opus Dei.  The madness is contagious, but still it exists, and therefore, to reiterate, there are people who would always prefer to remain in the shadows.  People David and Breda will never meet.

The men with their hands through the hole in David Quinn’s back will never emerge from the half-light because these are not the sort who benefit from the full glare of the sun. These are the sort who prosper in the penumbra, pulling the strings of hopeful dancing puppets like Quinn, even though he will never be fully welcome at their table.  The tragedy is that he knows it, yet he can’t hide it any more than he manages to hide the accent he grew up with, though he tries, embarrassingly.

That perhaps is the most telling thing about a man such as Quinn, and at the same time the thing we most cringe at, on his behalf.  Not one of Quinn’s puppet-masters tries to disguise the accent of his birth, and why would he?  After all, that accent speaks of centuries of privilege.

Does anyone seriously think the likes of Clongowes Wood sprang spontaneously out of the native rock when the English left this island?  Does any Irish person seriously believe that this is not a society riven by class based on catholic privilege?

It’s true that the aristocracy existed in Ireland before the arrival of the Normans, but it is also true that a parallel class retained privilege based not on Irishness but on adherence to power and later on allegiance to Rome, and that class continued to hold privilege for the same 800 years that the Wolfe Tones banjoed on about.  I never heard those musical freedom fighters resisting the power of the other colonial class.

It suited the covert privileged Rome-based class to promote the Catholic persecution narrative and it still suits them, because that story writes them out of history, which is fine.  As always, in every story where poor people seek freedom, the most convenient story to tell them is the one that suits you most, and in the case of Ireland, the best tale was the one about Catholic oppression.

It’s still the best tale, even though, ironically, when the Brits left in 1922, a new oppressor emerged in the form of the Rome-based conservative ideologues who immediately set about getting rid of every civil liberty imposed on us by the jackboot of British imperialism.  They eliminated divorce.  They got rid of contraception. They ramped up the industrial schools. They introduced the crudest form of literary censorship anywhere outside of Albania.

These people, who were always in power, seamlessly took over control of the medical profession and the law where their descendants remain to this day.

These people were never persecuted or oppressed, though they would like you to accept otherwise.   These people would like you to believe that somehow they represent a traditional version of Irish society when in fact they represent an ancient tyrannical tendency that we thought we had thrown off, but which in reality we still fight against.

Organisations such as the ridiculous self-styled Iona Institute, contain people who are also members of the equestrian orders that invaded the Holy Land as crusaders.  This is not Monty Python humour.  This is fact.

The marriage equality referendum means nothing to the mindset of this movement.  It has nothing to do with religion or principle, but it has everything to do with power and pragmatism.

If they lose, they lose and they’ll move on to the next fight.  If they win, they’ll plan to repeal some other advance of the tolerant society.  It might be divorce.  It might be contraception.  Who can tell?

We can understand the mind of the ideologue, but who can grasp the intentions of ancient power-hunger?




Favourites Sexuality

Lawyers For Yes tear apart every last Opus Dei lie about marriage equality

Lawyers for Yes is a new group, much as Mothers and Fathers Matter is a new group, but with one major difference.

While Mothers and Fathers Matter is a front for Opus Dei, and is utterly unconcerned with facts or truth despite its religious motivation, Lawyers for Yes is composed of people who actually know something.

They don’t have “legal advisors”.  They are actual legal experts.  Senior Counsel.  Experienced solicitors.  People who understand the law and who are in a position to say precisely what the implications of the proposed Marriage Equality amendment are.

And they have produced a guide that blows every last lie of the Iona Institute and MAFM out of the water.

Here are some of the points they make.

The potential to have children is not a defining characteristic of marriage. The courts have consistently emphasised that a married couple without children is a ‘family’.

This is one of the most pernicious lies put out by Opus Iona.  The constitution emphatically does not define family in terms of children.

As the document points out

The State does not require opposite-sex couples, whom it permits to marry, to be fertile, to be of child-bearing age, or to make a commitment to procreate. It is the commitment of the marriage partners to one another, not the having of children, that is the sine qua non of civil marriage.

It continues as follows.

The view that marriage must be open to the procreation of children is demeaning to couples who are incapable of procreating. It is likewise demeaning to couples who begin such a relationship when they no longer have the capacity to conceive. It is demeaning to adoptive parents to suggest that their family is any less a family and any less entitled to respect and concern than a family with procreated children. It is also demeaning to couples who voluntarily decide not to have children.

Civil partnership

On the fallacy that civil partnership is the equivalent of marriage for same-sex couples, the lawyers explain clearly that the key difference which continues to exist between civil partnership and marriage is the fact that civil partnerships do not have constitutional protection or recognition.

The State is not obliged to guard with special care and protect from attack the institution of civil partnership. Civil partnerships are not constitutionally recognised families and, therefore, are not considered to be a fundamental group in society.

A crucial consequence of this is that the legislation providing for civil partnership could be amended or repealed.


Children deprived of their mothers

The Iona / Opus Dei alliance is promoting the nonsense that same-sex marriage will somehow deprive children of their parents, a position that the lawyers have little time for, dismissing it with mild contempt.

The argument that “a child has a right to a father and a mother” presupposes that marriage equality will deprive them of a father and a mother. The overwhelming majority of children in Ireland are born to co-habiting or married heterosexual parents. Not one of these children will be deprived of their mother or their father by marriage equality.


Mum and Dad do best

By the same token, they have scant regard for the desperate claim that children raised by a man and a woman do better than those raised by two people of the same sex.  Neither the Psychology Society of Ireland (PSI) nor the American Psychological Association agree with this claim, and the APA  has explicitly dismissed the claims of the  Alliance for the Defence of the Family and Marriage, quoted by Iona / Opus Dei, as  outdated and contrary to the position of professional psychological bodies.

To quote the APA, which is actually qualified to pronounce on psychological matters, in distinct contrast to both Iona and Opus Dei,

On the basis of a remarkably consistent body of research on lesbian and gay parents and their children, the APA and other health professional and scientific organisations have concluded that there is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to parental sexual orientation. That is, lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children.

That seems fairly clear, but  the president of the PSI has something to add.

Empirical studies have failed to find reliable differences between the children of same-sex and heterosexual couples with regard to their gender identity, gender role behaviour, sexual orientation, mental health, or psychological and social adjustment.

Next time a spokesperson from Iona/Opus Dei appears on the radio or TV, can we hope that a journalist will confront them with these statements?


Same sex marriage will not give people the right to adopt a child.  Nobody has that right now and nobody will have it in the future, even if same-sex marriage becomes legal.   Adoption is about the suitability of a person or a couple to adopt, and same-sex couples already have the right to apply for adoption.  This right will not be affected by the referendum, since adoption does not require people to be married.

As Lawyers for Yes point out

The Children and Family Relationships Act, 2015 allows adoption by same-sex couples. A same-sex couple, who are civil partners, and who live together, may apply jointly for an adoption order, in the same way that a married couple can. 


as they are civil partners and not a married couple, they will not have the constitutional protection that a married couple, who have adopted a child, have. If the referendum passes, then those couples may marry and their adopted children will have the same Constitutional protection as adopted children of opposite-sex married couples.

This is what Iona /Opus Dei don’t want to happen.  They do not want the adopted children of same-sex couples to have the same constitutional protections as all other children, which seems rather strange, since they present themselves as defenders of children.

Assisted reproduction

Iona/ Opus Dei have opposed assisted reproduction for heterosexual couples since the procedure became available.  As the document points out, this is the primary way in which infertile couples become parents, whether they happen to be man and woman or whether they are of the same sex.  It has nothing to do with same-sex marriage.

Donor-assisted Human Reproduction

The Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 sets out a comprehensive scheme for the attribution of parenthood in assisted reproduction. The Act provides that the legally recognised mother of any child is the woman that gives birth to him or her. Provided that adequate consent is obtained from all parties, the Act allows for the woman’s spouse, civil partner, or cohabitant to be recognised as the second legal parent of the child. The Act deals with opposite-sex and same-sex couples in precisely the same way, hence, donor assisted reproduction raises the same issues for all parents, regardless of their orientation. 

In other words, this has nothing to do with same-sex marriage.


Surrogacy can only be addressed through careful regulation. But these issues apply equally to surrogacy arrangements entered into by opposite-sex and same-sex couples alike. Again, very many of the couples availing of surrogacy are heterosexual. Surrogacy is availed of by couples in Ireland without regulation at the present time. This usually involves the couple travelling abroad to a country where commercial surrogacy is available. The passing or otherwise of the Marriage Equality Referendum will not affect this. The only change will be when legislation is introduced to regulate surrogacy.

Again, in other words, surrogacy has nothing to do with same-sex marriage.

Boiled down to its simplest terms, the No side has only one argument: same-sex couples should not raise children.

Since we know from the testimony of experts that same-sex couples raise children just as well as all the single parents in the country, who comprise 30% of our society, and all the heterosexual couples, this is not just plain nonsense but a deliberate, cynical lie.

The only other alternative is that these people simply have a profound distaste for the very notion of same-sex relationships, and there’s only one word for that.

The prejudice that dare not speak its name.





Here’s the full document.  Read it and use it.

Download (PDF, 1.6MB)




Favourites Religion

Top Vatican exorcist warns of sexy vampires

The first exorcism I ever heard about was the one Jesus did at the city of Gadara, which wasn’t really a city at all, but a village, with the usual biblical elders and lepers and fallen women.

In Gadara, Jesus finds a man possessed by demons, and asks him his name.

My name is Legion, replies the possessed man, in the standard polyphonic demon-possessed voice, and then the multitude of devils beg Jesus not to cast them into the abyss, because they know who he is and they realise he’s omnipotent.  They’re afraid, because even demons have feelings, but Jesus is in no mood for this kind of nonsense, so he he clicks his fingers and casts them out of the possessed man.  With no host to inhabit, the demons immediately fly into a herd of pigs, a very big herd of 2,000 swine, who immediately go apeshit and run down a hill into the sea, where they all drown.

Jesus is delighted.  See?  he says.  See what I did?

Jesus is an idiot, because he doesn’t realise he has cost the town its entire livelihood by killing all their pigs when he could simply have banished the demons into the outer darkness like any normal omnipotent deity would do.  Like, for instance, Q might do.

No.  Jesus had to have a big spectacle and now there are bloated pig corpses floating everywhere, polluting the water, stinking the place up and making a mockery of everything the Gadarenes have worked for all their lives  They’re bankrupt, thanks to Jesus, and they waste no time telling him so.   The elders come forth, and they tell Jesus to get the fuck out of the town right now, unless he wants to be torn limb from limb.

That’s when Jesus begins to wonder if he might actually be Brian.

Why were Jews keeping huge herds of swine?  Simple: Romans.

There’s no prohibition on Jews herding pigs, as long as they don’t touch the meat of a slaughtered animal, and the Gadarenes were making a nice living supplying the occupying Roman forces until Brian turned up.

Such was the inauspicious beginning of Christian exorcism.

Fast forward two millennia to Peter Blatty’s novel The Exorcist and you’re looking at the only other time in history that large numbers of people read a story about a fictional exorcism.  In fairness to Blatty, his plot was better, though not funnier, than the story Mark wrote for his new Roman audience a mere 30 years after the events he described.

I know which one Professor Giuseppe Ferrari liked best as a lad, if his latest utterances are anything to go by.

Who’s Giuseppe?  Oh, he’s a leading Italian exorcist who gave a lecture recently as part of an exorcism course, but let’s not pause to think about that just for the moment.  Instead,  I’ll just tell you that one of the things he warned his student exorcists about was the danger of sexy vampires.

sexy vampires

Sexy vampires in the likes of True Blood and Twilight, according to Il Professore Ferrari, are leading young people to experiment with occult forces.   You can see that Giuseppe didn’t get out much as a young man, or even as the old, celibate man that he is today, because if he had got out, he’d know that a vampire simply is sexy.   He’d know that without sex, a vampire is nothing.

If Giuseppe hadn’t been obsessing about demons as a child, he would have got it straight away, just like everyone else in the world.

Vampires = Sex.

Sadly, poor old Giuseppe wasted his life locked away in a world full of demons, shades, homunculi, succubi, lycanthropes, White Walkers, Yog-Sothoth and the Loch Ness monster.

Giuseppe, in other words, is the saddest poor git who ever wore shoe-leather, and yet this man with paranoid delusions about hobgoblins and a fear of sex is held in the highest esteem by the new old Pope who agrees that werewolves roam our rooftops and can only be stopped by celibate men waving beads and shaking bottles of water at them.

The Pope thinks this is so important that he’s made sure every Catholic diocese has at least one trained exorcist.

In even the most deprived parts of the world, every diocese has a trained exorcist.

Let’s think about the Pope’s priorities.

Not a trained endocrinologist, oncologist, gynaecologist, obstetrician, anaesthetist or orthopaedic surgeon.

No.  An exorcist.

These are the people who claimed their missions saved Africa from superstition.

These are the people who, today, seek to influence the outcome of a civil referendum on a civil matter in our country.





Favourites Religion Sexuality

Catholic Bishops and the New McQuaidism

What’s the New McQuaidism?

Well actually, it’s the old McQuaidism, dressed up in the clothes of tolerance, but it still hides a lead-filled crozier beneath its humble cassock.

Today on RTE, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh gave a bravura performance of New McQuaidism when he came on radio to defend the comments of his colleague, Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin.

bishop kevin doran

Kevin, you might recall, stated that  gay people who have children are not necessarily parents, and that the jury is out on whether people are born gay.  It was an unedifying spectacle, to see a 61-year-old celibate virgin pontificating on civil unions between people who have actual real-world experience of raising children, and it ran him into a storm of criticism, including a rebuke from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, whose keenly-attuned political antennae are always twitching, especially when his fellow princes of the church blurt out ill-considered statements without first engaging their brains.  Diarmuid went so far as to avoid expressing confidence in his colleague, so we can only imagine what kind of imbecile he called Doran in private.

Archbishop Eamon Martin (not to be confused with Diarmuid), popped up on radio today and treated us to the entire gamut of episcopal nonsense, including their beloved conditional apology, which normally runs something like I’m sorry if I caused any hurt.  But Eamon added a nice twist to it by creating the Vicarious Episcopal Conditional Apology, since Bishop Kevin himself didn’t have the balls to come forward and defend his position.   If Bishop Doran’s remarks caused offence, I’m sure he didn’t intend it, said Archbishop Eamon, or words to that effect.

It was a nice try by Eamon, close but unfortunately no cigar, since nobody cares what offence Kevin might have given. People were far more worried about the homophobic hatred he might have helped to stir up, resulting in assaults, attacks and physical harm.  What people heard was a cleric demeaning his fellow citizens in a question that doesn’t affect him personally and has nothing to do with his day-job since it isn’t a church matter.  Here he was, avoiding apology by employing the thoroughly-discredited clerical device of the conditional apology, while at the same time apologising for the wrong thing, in order to distract attention from the kernel of the issue, which is equality.

Martin then went on to compound the foolishness of his position by insisting that marriage (even civil marriage, over which he has no authority) must be open to procreation.   Therefore, we must presume that the bishop is opposed to marriage for post-menopausal women or those who have had hysterectomies, and to men who have had vasectomies.

This prelate seems to believe that Canon Law is also the law of the land.  They really must think we’re completely dense, and who could blame them considering the supine response of the RTE interviewer who failed to challenge the bishop’s ludicrous assertions?

Should his opinions on civil marriage equality be respected because they’re based on faith?


They should be respected if they’re based on facts, logic and common sense.   Otherwise, they should be dismissed as the bigoted tosh they are, dressed up in the false clothing of clericalism.  Our laws are not based on faith.  As far as possible, we hope they’d be based on logic, on rational thinking and on justice, not on the irrational religious beliefs of some cleric who has never known marriage or parenthood.

Why didn’t the RTE journalist put it to the bishop that this is a Republic where laws are not based on religion?

Why wasn’t the bishop challenged to explain why his belief in the supernatural makes his views on marriage equality worthy of respect?

I think it’s because he didn’t approach it as John Charles McQuaid would have done, with pomp and arrogance, but instead tried to insinuate his nasty little prejudices into the public space in a fake-humble sub-Daniel O’Donnell monotone, repeating empty platitudes about equality while at the same time working actively to deny his fellow citizens the sort of respect he demands for himself and his fellow celibate virgins.

The bishops seem to want it every way.  They can’t demand a change in civil law, based on their belief in the supernatural, any more than they’d tolerate civil powers interfering in the rites of their church, but that’s the New McQuaidism for you.  The same as the old McQuaidism but without the purple robes.

They haven’t moved on at all since Cardinal Paul Cullen planted his magnificent episcopal foot in Ireland 160 years ago.

Was Bishop Doran right?  Is it possible to have children and yet not necessarily be a parent?  I suppose it is,  in the same way that it’s possible for a man to be a Catholic bishop, but not necessarily a Christian.



Positions held by  Kevin Doran prior to his appointment as bishop.

1977 – 1980, Catechist/Chaplain, Ringsend Technical Institute, Dublin City VEC

1980 – 1983; Diocesan Education Secretariat (Advisor VEC Schools)

1980 – 1990; Occasional Teacher of Midwifery Ethics, Coombe Women’s Hospital

1983 – 1990 Chaplain, University College Dublin,

1990 – 1995 Spiritual Director, Pontifical Irish College, Rome, Irish Episcopal Conference

1995 – 1998 Curate, Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Foxrock (Dublin)

1995 – 2001 Lecturer (Philosophy & Catholic Social Teaching) Mater Dei Institute of Education

1995 – 2003, Occasional Teacher of Midwifery Ethics, National Maternity Hospital

1996 – 2011 Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Bioethics, (Secretary) Irish Episcopal Conference

1997 – 2012 Member, Ethics Committee Saint Vincent’s Psychiatric Hospital

1998 – 2006 Diocesan Director of Vocations

1998 – 2005 Parish Chaplain, Saint Anthony’s, Clontarf

2000 – 2006 National Co-ordinator for Diocesan Vocations , Irish Episcopal Conference

2001 – 2007 Lecturer (Philosophy, & Catholic Social Teaching) Milltown Institute of Theology & Philosophy

2001 – 2013 Member, Board of Governors Mater Misericordiae and Childrens’ University Hospital

2001- 2013 Member, Board of Directors Mater Misericordiae University Hospital

2003 – 2006 Coordinator, European Vocations Service (EVS) Elected (approved CCEE)

2005 – 2013 Consultor, Congregation for Catholic Education

2005 – 2009 Parish Priest (Saint Kevin’s, Glendalough)

2009 – 2012 Parish Chaplain (Saint Vincent de Paul, Marino)

2008 – 2012 Secretary General, 50th International. Eucharistic Congress

2008, Diocesan Director for the Permanent Diaconate

2013, Administrator, Sacred Heart Parish, Donnybrook;
Midwifery ethics.  Let’s just ponder that for a moment.

Favourites Health

Residents of Public Nursing Homes Are Deprived of Human DIgnity

I’ve been visiting a public nursing home very frequently, and I’ve been shaken by some of the things I’ve noticed and some of the things I’ve been told.

The clue is in the name.

Nursing home.  That’s Home.

I can see nothing homely about the public nursing home I’ve come to know so well.  What I’ve seen is an institution, a place where everybody — staff and residents — are institutionalised.  But what’s tragic is that it wouldn’t have to be like that if only attitudes were different.

Ireland has a strong authoritarian streak, limited only by our membership of the EU that forced us to comply with certain basic norms, whether we liked it or not.  One of those norms is this: people are entitled to their essential human dignity.  This is not something in the gift of any other human being.  It is not to to be offered or withheld at the whim of a ward manager, a cleaner, a nurse, a doctor, a kitchen assistant or a clerk.

And yet, from what I can determine, human dignity is withheld all the time in nursing homes under the control of the HSE, though in a more subtle way than the days when a staff member felt comfortable threatening a resident: take your pills or I’ll bust your jaw.  Legislation and the fear of the HR department have changed that, but neither law nor HR administrators can change mindsets.

That”s why there’s no more overt bullying, or at least not when anyone is watching.  Instead, it’s covert and insidious.

Let me give you a few examples.  Would you, as a grown adult tolerate anyone addressing you as Good girl or Good boy?

Would you, if your mobility became reduced due to an injury,  tolerate anyone berating you for dropping food on the floor?

How would you react if somebody constantly spoke to you in an exaggeratedly loud voice?

If you had diarrhoea and vomiting, how would you like being told you’ll have to wait?

How would you feel about a uniformed authority figure assuming you have  some cognitive disability even though you know you are far better read than they are?

How would you, as a grown adult, like it if you had no defensible space, no privacy and no say in the decisions made about your living conditions?

How would you like it if you had nowhere to keep your personal possessions or the little luxuries that a grandchild might bring?

How would you feel if those little treats mysteriously disappeared in the middle of the night?

How would you feel if you had no entitlement to a key for a locker?

How would you like it if your clothes went to a common laundry  and if they returned stretched, shrunk or not at all?

I know that a nursing home is not a hotel.   I realise that all residents have health problems of one sort or another,  but a nursing home is not a hospital.  It’s a home.  It’s the only home the residents have or will ever have, and yet, the regime in public nursing homes is all about authority, at the expense of the residents’ dignity.

Let me ask a few questions.

Why does a nursing home physically need to look like a hospital?  Why is it painted in the soulless hospital cream?

Why can’t there be semi-private spaces that people can retreat to when they feel the need?

Why do staff need to wear uniforms?

Why can’t staff address residents in a normal conversational tone of voice as equals, unless they happen to know the resident is deaf?

Why can’t staff assume that a resident is compos mentis unless they have evidence to the contrary?

What would be wrong with basic courtesy towards another human being?

Why are staff given to understand that they have authority over residents when in fact they do not?

Why do some staff think they have a right to discipline residents verbally, as they might do to a child?

Here’s a revolutionary idea: what would be wrong with asking residents how they’d like their homes to be organised?  How about consulting the people who live in public nursing homes, listening to them with respect, and doing what they request, as far as practicable?

It’s all about respect in the end.

It’s all about dignity, and most of it would cost the HSE nothing, since basic courtesy is free.  In all likelihood, the staff would never think of treating their own family or friends the way they treat their vulnerable, powerless residents, unless they wanted a strong reaction.  A very strong reaction indeed from those of us who aren’t impaired in one way or another.

There is nothing worse than being rendered powerless, but sadly, as with all Irish institutions, the only way this will change is through fear, and in that regard, we can only welcome the appointment of the Confidential Recipient, Leigh Gath.

I might just get in contact with this admirable woman.  And I might just install a hidden  video camera that operates even when I’m not there.

What do you think?

Failing that, I might get legal on their ass.





Crime Favourites Policing

Garda Reform Most Extensive in History of Force

An Garda Síochána is to be reformed, apparently.

In the most radical restructuring since the formation of the force, Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has imposed strict limits on doughnut use and announced intensive courses on the correct pronunciation of “vehicle”.

Hawks are to be curtailed.  No member of the force will henceforth be able to buy more than twenty items at cost price from retailers in any given year.

Young drunken off-duty gardai who flash identification at fellow night-clubbers  before beating them up will from now on be called in front of the Super, who will be required to say For fucksake lads three times. before shaking his head ruefully.

Any Garda checking out a car for a friend will be required to provide a reason before looking up the ownership details and passing them on.

Gardai will not, in future, be permitted to copy personal information about citizens from the PULSE system and place it on their personal laptops, if their children are likely to use the laptop for Facebook.  Gardai without children will be exempt from this requirement.

However, Templemore will continue as a monastic settlement, where recruits are taught that society consists of two groups: An Garda Siochána and potential criminals.

An Garda Síochána, unlike the PSNI, will continue to be a security agency as well as a police force.

There will be no concerted attempt to confront the entrenched inertia that keeps the force rooted in the attitudes of the 1920s, diverting allocating  resources to such vital tasks as the enforcement of pub licensing hours.

An Garda Síochána is dragged kicking and screaming into the 1950s.




Favourites Writing

Hunter S Thompson’s Tenth Anniversary

It’s a full ten years since Dr Raoul Duke bade us a buckshot goodbye.   Can you believe it?  Ten years since the God of Gonzo checked out in the manner of his own choosing, with extreme violence and no doubt prodigious amounts of drugs, drink and artillery.

Hunter S Thompson

I hope he’s over there now in some giant Hunter S Thompson Hell-Heaven complex with a pint of tequila, a pint of rum and a pint of raw ether.  A dozen amyls.  Uppers, downers, screamers and poppers.  A bag of grass.  100 pellets of mescaline and a blotter of the finest Heaven-Hell acid.

Sitting naked on the verandah with a constantly-loaded Colt .44 Magnum, shooting at passing Richard Nixons and swigging Wild Turkey.

Samoan attorneys to get him off whenever he kills a random Nixon and prim English cartoonists to record the moment in demented unchristian sketches  of decadence and depravity.

Whatever I learned about writing, I learned  from  the likes of Thompson.

He had no respect for authority figures.  He gave us permission to break the rules, to be crazy if we felt like being crazy, but always to be passionate and committed, and if possible, to be funny.  From Sonny Barger’s Hell’s Angels  stomping him almost dead to Nixon arguing with him about football, from mint juleps at the Kentucky Derby to cocktail-dressed lizards gnawing on the necks of their companions in a revolving sky-scraper bar, Thompson was always a trail-blazer, a man who defined the rules instead of following them.

If anyone wanted to learn how English should be written in an insane world, Hunter S Thompson was the man to show them.

Pump up those tyres to 500 psi, Dr Duke.  Crack another amyl.  Tear off a corner of the blotter, let loose a volley of .44 slugs, rev up that rumbling V8 and floor that pedal.

May the ride never end.

Favourites Religion

Masterminds of the Right

Back in 1992, Emily O’Reilly published a powerful little book called Masterminds of the Right in which she identified the  ideologues who drove the assorted right-wing religious campaigns of the preceding decades.

Fintan O’Toole has listed these groups in the Irish Times as follows:

  • The Pro-Life Amendment Campaign (PLAC)
  • The Congress of Catholic Secondary School Parents’ Associations
  • The Irish Catholic Doctors’ Guild
  • The Guild of Catholic Nurses
  • The Guild of Catholic Pharmacists
  • The Catholic Young Men’s Society
  • The St Thomas More Society
  • The Irish Pro-Life Movement
  • The National Association of the Ovulation Method
  • The Council of Social Concern (COSC)
  • The Irish Responsible Society
  • The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children
  • The St Joseph’s Young Priests Society
  • The Christian Brothers Schools Parents’ Federation

What wasn’t so obvious was that all these impressive-sounding guilds, associations and congresses were actually the same people using different titles, just as today we have spuriously impressive titles like the Iona Institute.  What was even less obvious was the guiding mind behind the entire backward-looking campaign.

John O’Reilly was an engineer with Dublin Corporation, a man of considerable organisational ability who somehow found time out of his onerous local authority duties to run a huge campaign against everything from contraception to divorce and abortion, while continuing to stay in the background.

O’Reilly was the man who had his young daughters order contraceptives from the Irish Family Planning Association in order to secure a prosecution against that organisation in the mad old days when you needed a prescription to buy a balloon.

His hand was behind every right-wing movement in the Ireland of the 80s, but now it seems he has handed the reins to a new generation.

You see, John O’Reilly is a director of Beatha & Slainte Teoranta  and  interestingly, a fellow director is young barrister, Lorcán Price, impressively active at the age of 29, in lecturing grown Irish adults on family values.

John founded B&ST with Dr Berry Kiely of the  Pro-Life Campaign, Mary Barrett, Marie Vernon of SPUC, Joe McCarroll, poor old bumbling drunken right-winger Desmond Hanafin, and Owen Doyle.

Lorcán, by pure coincidence, also happens to be a director of Catholic Comment, founded by none other than Senator Rónán Mullen, and a former chair of Ógra Fianna Fáil in Galway West, but we won’t hold that against him.

He’s also a director of VIE Limited, founded by John O’Reilly, Dr Berry Kiely, Marie Vernon, Des Hanafin and assorted other right-wingers.

They haven’t gone away you know.