Snow White with the Big Arus

Or should that be brown envelopes?

There once lived a beautiful Princess in a land so green, it was known as the Emerald Isle. And her home was a grand palace known as the Arus. Everyone loved her in this verdant land except her step-mother, the Queen Kathleen. There came a time when the nasty jealous Queen was so upset after tolerating the beautiful Princess for 14 years that she decided it was time to banish her from the Arus.

Now word got out that Snow White was to be banished and seven green dwarves came to her rescue. However, while they had all agreed that Snow White was a wonderful person, they decided one of them should take her place in her Arus. Now, while doing their best to keep in with the beautiful Princess, they plotted and schemed behind her back to get the people to pick one of them. While none of them could boast any great talents or virtues, the people of this enchanted land must make a choice on the selected day -October 27th 2011. Everyone in the land was extremely sorry to hear that their beautiful Princess was going into a deep sleep and didn’t relish the thought of another seven years without her.

The seven green dwarves (some claimed to be greener than others) were Molly Bloom, Gabby Blueshirt, Mickey Dweedledee, Marty Two Shoes, Seanie Bald Og, Rosie Lee and Wavy Davey. You’d travel a long way to find a more diverse bunch of dwarves.

Molly Bloom had developed a hunch-back from carrying so many quangos around the country. Her soliloquy ranted on about the value of being involved in all of her organisations – “They were easily worth €200000 a year to her,” she said. Her links to the Soldiers of Destiny, a disgraced brotherhood who had brought shame to the Emerald Isle, were causing her many sleepless nights. She had spent some time with Snow White in her Court Council, where they discussed dresses and shoes among other important things. Her poster tried to rival the beautiful Princess for youthful looks and caused much consternation across the land.

A temperamental little upstart of a dwarf was how Gabby Blueshirt was widely described. His shirt was a present to him from some grateful members of his family for keeping out a nasty uncle who had a habit of eating bread with several of their enemies. Never one to shirk a fight, he stalked one of the very green dwarves for several weeks calling him all sorts of murderous names. The lovely people of this land could not warm to Gabby and despite his family being the big noise in the country, there was no hope of him replacing Snow White.

As dwarves go, Mickey Dweedledee was small in stature and quiet by nature. Prone to recite poetry or possibly jump on a jet to fight for some civil or human rights issue in a far flung land, he let us all know that he was the ideal woman for the job. The only problem was, he often used that foreign tongue called Erse (useful in the Arus) so nobody could understand a word of what he said. He was known to smoke wacky backy, a funny type of tobacco mixed with natural herbs and go to rock concerts – not bad for a seventy year old pensioner. With a happy family behind him, he is hopeful the good people will rock with him into the Arus.

Now this great and green island had been torn in two by our nasty neighbours, leaving some of our wonderful people on the other side of the border. Marty Two Shoes was one of these and word has it, he might have been up to no good up there, stirring up all sorts of murder and mayhem. He got the nickname of Two Shoes for his habit of getting out of bed in the dark and putting onto his feet whichever shoes came to hand. As a result, he could never remember which shoes he was wearing during the ’70’s and ’80’s. The ones that caused him most grief were the PIRA brogues, which were so tight he couldn’t think straight when wearing them. When he stepped across the border to join the other dwarves, he wore an odd pair of soft and peaceful slippers but the good people could still hear him coming with his bodyguards and kept asking him awkward questions about his old shoes. Gabby Blueshirt was a real pest.

Rosie Lee, another lady dwarf came in search of Snow Whites palace, having variously lived in the estranged land across the border, in a foreign land far across the ocean and also on the Emerald Isle. She has been known to sing for her supper with a copy of the Palace rules in her hand, while trying to explain how she managed to be a citizen of three nations. Her family is small and troublesome, even stooping so low as to slash her tyres and say nasty things about their own brother. Poor Rosie has taken so much time off, no-one knows what she stands for and has no hope of getting into the Arus.

Now there came a bald dwarf to the show, strangely called Seanie Bald Og, who refused to use posters in case people would draw on his pate. A dab hand at making a deal or two, he has courted the disgraced Soldiers of Destiny to row in behind him as he was one of them once upon a time.  Be careful Snow White if he asks you up for a dance – without a note in his head and two left feet, your toes could suffer. Now Seanie has sneaked up the pecking order and all the other dwarves are trying to stick knives in him.  If he gets the good people of the green land to back him, he could be a real pain in the Arus.

A long time out in the field, the grass has started to grow over Wavy Davey and no matter how hard he pleads with Snow White, her step-mother, the Fairy Queen doesn’t fancy competition under her nose. He has been out and in again like the tide while trying to look after his overseas friend, who was fond of playing with boys, causing many of the good people to look the other way. James Joyce might have liked to have this queen dwarf strut his stuff up in the Arus but unless he gets an invite on Blooms Day, that’s about as close as he will get.

If only Snow White knew what was going on, she might have made her peace with Queen Kathleen and stayed on for another few years. Enjoy your sleep while your subjects make their choice on the dwarf to follow in your footsteps.


How to say sorry?

After all the controversy over the numerous Catholic Church sex scandals across the island of Ireland involving members of the religious community and particularly impacting on children/young victims, a move is on to find a suitable way to create a memorial to focus the pain suffered by so many innocents. I would like to propose an idea that might find favour by helping those most affected.

The topic was aired on RTE’s late show last night (Mon 10th Oct) and the panel included  past victim Colm O Gorman of Amnesty International Ireland, Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald and renowned author, Colm Toibin. Several ideas were proposed, including using a former Magdelan laundry as a type of museum, creating robust legislation and structures to prevent future recurrances and creating literary and artistic works to highlight the abuse. Also, the panel suggested designing a suitable monument as a focal point for victims to have as a reminder for all of the physical and mental anguish they suffered.

All of the ideas had currency and deserve to be promoted in the opinion of the panel and in my own also. The overwhelming view was that there should be a suitable monument to remind all Irish people of the disgraceful behaviour of members of the religious, both perpetrators and their superiors who covered up their evilness time after time, even when public opinion was firmly turned against their secretive ways.

From my walk on the Camino (see blog), which is still a “religious” pilgrimage, the idea occurred to me that some sort of a walk of reconciliation and cleansing might work for the victims. If it had a focal point where a dedicated centre for counselling and forgiveness could be put in place to allow those suffering to have somewhere to allow them an opportunity to vent their pain, it might work. Doubtless, many victims are no longer in touch with or will have anything to do with the Catholic Church. Therefore, there should only be a token religious presence but it should be an essential element, as the religious community have to make their recalcitrant colleagues answerable to their innocent victims.

South Africa proved to the world that they could put decades of brutal degrading behaviour from its white dominated Apartheid regime behind them in their Peace and Reconciliation process. Others have followed suit, including our own Peace Process in Northern Ireland, so my suggestion is on similar lines but with a more permanent and ongoing element to it.

Every diocese in Ireland has been affected to a greater or lesser degree by these scandals – some never aired as victims could not bring themselves to go public with their pain. In prime position, Dublin, Cloyne and Ferns dioceses created most headlines but many others had their share of clerical abusers creating private and public havoc in quiet parishes all around our island.

As my suggestion is based on the concept of the Camino de Santiago de Campostela (Way of St James), which has several different walks starting at remote locations both across Europe and in Spain itself, an established Irish walk will help to kick start it. Irish walking enthusiasts have established the Wicklow Way over the last 100 years or so, stretching from Rathfarnham in Dublin, to Clonegal on the Wexford/ Carlow border. As the Ferns and Dublin dioceses are two of the principal sources of clerical sex abuse of children, this walk links both. Why not extend it another few miles along the Slaney to the seat of the Ferns diocese in Enniscorthy and create an appropriate centre there for reconciliation purposes?

Enniscorthy, apart from being my home town, has a long history as a focal point. It was an early fortified Norman settlement, it is world renowned as the main centre of the 1798 United Irishmens Rebellion, it was the last rebel outpost to surrender in the 1916 Rising, it has been the Cathedral town of the Ferns diocese for centuries and it is at the end of the tidal rise on the Slaney river, a former trade route.  It has a large Psychiatric Hospital, St Senans, which is currently being wound down and could likely be available in the short term as a reconciliation and accommodation centre.

To create a visual focal point, a suitable monument could possibly be built on somewhere like Vinegar Hiil, where c.1,200 Irishmen gaves their lives in a heroic but doomed stand for freedom in 1798. A suitable monument could stand out on the skyline above Enniscorthy, announcing to all who see it that it signifies the shame brought to all Irish men, women and children by a perverted minority who hid behind their clerical garb and were protected by the Church they “served”.

In addition to the Wicklow Way, walks could eventually be developed to originate in all Cathedral towns across Ireland, and UK routes could be focussed to the ports of Liverpool, Holyhead, Fishguard and Pembroke, as well as via the airports. Victims, their friends, family, society at large and, of course, religious pilgrims could all partake in these walks. A depository could be created at journey’s end where tokens such as a toy, to signify loss of innocense, and a stick or stone, to signify anger at the abuse inflicted by the priest, monk, brother or sister perpetrator, could be left. These tokens might be carried on the walk to signify the pilgrim’s pain and leaving it in Enniscorthy might help to lessen some of the mental and physical anguish suffered both in their childhood and through their lives into adulthood. 

Society at large is horrified at the pain and suffering foisted on the innocent members of our community by a perverted minority and will support such an initiative. When we see thousands doing the annual Croagh Patrick pilgrimage, also Lough Derg and growing numbers of Irish pilgrims doing the Spanish Camino, surely there is potential support for this idea to take off. Very little in the way of new walking routes have to be put in place to kick start it, a ready made building with space for a centre and possibly basic accommodation exists, so it is only the will to make it happen that needs to be girded. A suitable monument on sacred Vinegar Hill might prove a more difficult obstacle, but where better than the scene of one of our bloodiest and bitterest defeats in our slow march to nationhood, to be possibly used as a similar symbol for victims of clerical abuse.

Let us not forget the pain many have suffered behind closed doors and clerical garb while we, the majority, were in blissful ignorance of it all. It is time for us all to demonstably share some of their anguish. Let us walk together, talk together and grow together from Dublin to Enniscorthy and may many other routes converge there in time to come.

Women in the news

With all the doom and gloom around us thanks to our own delinquent bankers, poor ecomonic management and the bursting of the bubble that was our Celtic Tiger, it was mostly testoterone super-charged males who dragged us down. This week, it seems, the fairer sex have decided to take centre stage.

Angela Merkel has managed to gird the loins of her fellow MP’s in the Bundestag by getting them to support her policy on how to deal with the latest Euro crisis, thanks mostly to Greece and it’s chaotic finances. Looking to increase funding into the EU rescue fund and also Germany’s guarantees, she succeeded in rallying support and carried the day by 4 votes. All of the troubled nations of Europe are glad she has the reins at present – good on ye Angie baby.

Katarina Knezevic 20

Over in the land of the embattled Silvio Berlusconi, another lass has come out of the woodwork to create yet another headache for the priapic Italian Prime Minister. A 20 year model and former Miss Montenegro, Katarina Knezevic, has claimed that the sex obsessed PM has asked her to marry him and has presented her with an expensive engagement ring. She claims that he has only been with her for the last 2 years, since his spilt from his wife, and rumours of so called “bunga-bunga” parties are false. Amid rumours of her trying to blackmail the randy PM, her own background is reputed to include links to a Montenegrin godfather Ratko Djokic, killed in a shoot-out in Stockholm in May 2002. How I’d hate to be an Italian living abroad trying to justify the shenanigans of their wayward Prime Minister, especially when the country is in severe financial difficulties at the same time.

Back at home, we received the shocking news that Karen Walsh, a Galway born pharmacist, had been convicted of murdering a frail 81 year old grandmother, Maire Rankin, using a crucifix as a weapon and implement of sexual torture in Newry, Co. Down on Christmas Day 2008. A Northern Ireland jury found her guilty yesterday and she is on remand awaiting sentence. What a strange world we live in – a well educated and self-employed successful business woman loses the plot by killing a kind old lady, her next door neighbour, in what appears to have been a vodka fuelled attack. The old lady’s family had the worst nightmare of a Christmas present anyone could possibly imagine and her assailant acted as if she was a concerned neighbour and was in denial all though the trial, despite substantial incriminating evidence against her.

Another Irish woman has made news for her stance against the ESB and EirGrid and was sent to jail by the High Court until her contempt is purged. Teresa Treacy is a 65 year old farmer from near Tullamore, Co Offaly and she has made a determined stand against pylons being erected on her land, requiring the removal of a large portion of trees on her farm. Her family and supporters are horrified at the heavy handed tactics of the semi-state bodies and are mounting protests in support of her stance. She has managed to get the national media to look at her case and has created huge embarrassment for ESB and EirGrid. To add insult to injury, as soon as she was jailed, the tree fellers moved in and cleared a large area of her wooded lands.

Will Mary Davis overcome the odds and the onerous weight of quango/board patronage to make it a hat-trick of Marys in the Arus. She will in my arus but unfortunately, we are unlikely to see a person of real stature as our next President – whoever gets the people’s nod will be a poor reflection of his or her immediate predecessors. Michael D is still in pole position and as long as he keeps his nose clean, the position is his to lose. I always thought he was a bit of a woman anyway, so maybe the staus quo will stay female in the Park.

Ball in, game on

With all the players now selected, the race for the Park is finally properly engaged. Dana Rosemary Scallan and David Norris left it mighty late but got there by the skin of their teeth. Norris has been the most frustrating of the candidates, first in the queue, jumped out and finally realising that there was a genuine groundswell of goodwill behind him, he squeezed in the door as it was closing.

Some of the candidates are well established in our collective awareness at this stage but few are tickling our fancy. Gay Mitchell pulled a stroke by playing the party loyalty card to get the Fine Gael nod – his right of centre, Christian Democratic values might not register well with a modern Irish electorate and the big block of Fine Gael voters are certainly not enthused. His street fighting instincts and “establishment” credentials might not be the ideal qualities to justify elevation to the top job at the Arus. In the end game, his transfers could be the deciding factor – will his coaltion partner benefit sufficiently?

Michael D Higgins, the father figure and elder statesman of the Labour party, has quietly established a healthy foothold in the national consciousness and could be a major beneficiary of transfers as the field shortens. His age might militate against him with a younger electorate but he should certainly be in the last 2 or 3, fighting hard for that cherished prize to round off an illustrious career. Transfers will be crucial.

Universally dismissed as an also ran, entrepreneur Sean Gallagher will give his all to make a good fight of it. As a former Fianna Fail executive member, we could still see a ground swell of the Soldiers of Destiny rallying behind him to help thwart the Shinners in their shot at the wide open goal. His transfers could be decisive, should a late surge in the poll come for him.

Another early runner was Special Olympian Mary Davis and slowly her star has been rising. She has kept her head down when controversies were flying back and forward, working diligently in the background developing a support base. If she can stay ahead of some of the other less  fancied runners, she should be a substantial beneficiary of transfers and could well be a dark horse when the final names are awaiting elimination. Watch this space.

Dana, like Mitchell, has a strong identity with the Christian right and has come too late to the table to be a realistic candidate. Again it will be interesting to see where her transfers go but there might not be enough to make a huge difference.

The big two so far in the media stakes are Martin Mc Guinness, parachuted in by Sinn Fein to snatch the big prize to put them in poll position for the 1916 centenary celebrations and out again, in again David Norris. Both have been subjected to huge media scrutiny and will be on the defensive for the next 4 weeks. Questions about IRA membership, bombings, shootings and snubbing of the Queen have been the daily scourge for Mc Guinness as he struggles to shake off his controversial past. Norris has a cloud hanging over him thanks to his inappropriate letters of support for his former lover over the statutory rape of a 15 year old in Israel.

Despite these controversies, both candidates continue to hold good public support and will more than likely be in the frame for the last few places on the podium. The key issue – how will they fare in getting cross candidate transfers? My guess is they won’t do well and will watch nervously as Michael D and possibly Mary Davis pick up steady support as the others depart. Given that Fine Gael are more likely to favour a Labour candidate, my money will be on Michael D with Norris a close second.

The Irish people will decide wisely at the end of the day. The two Marys have made the Arus “the Peoples Palace” and certainly whoever succeeds will definitely be worthy of the electorate’s trust to represent Ireland for the next seven years – will we have a street fighter, a gay, an intellectual, a do-gooder, a singer, a Provo or an entrepreneur? Over to you.