Archive for November, 2012

Men and women must decide?

Posted: November 29, 2012 in Irish, Unpublished

“The unborn do not have an unqualified right to life: that qualification centres crucially on the pregnant woman and only she should decide.”

This is how Vincent Browne rounded of his biased and subjective opinion piece in the Irish Times on Wednesday 21 November.

His opinion is one that has been fostered in recent weeks and even years, and it attempts to convey the ‘right and sensible’ thing to do and say. The words and sentiment behind ‘right and sensible’ are important in any debate.

They are words and phraseology used by one side in a debate to silence and censor opinions from the other. You know the kind of – “…all right thinking people will believe that…” – kind of thing? In other words “…if you don’t agree with me you are evil…” The kind of language that can result in a stunned silence from the opposition. A stunned silence that not even the most oppressive regimes could dream of.

A baby is created by man and woman. The baby grows within, is carried for nine months and is born of the woman – not the man. The woman endures the physical pain this demands of her – not the man. She also benefits from the indescribable joy of childbirth – so too the man. She also participates in the child’s upbringing – so does the man.

Why then should she be the soul decision maker in giving birth? Why should she be allowed deny the man the joys of child birth and child rearing?

Should the woman be the soul decision maker? Would this not reduce the role of a man to that of a mere semen donor?

It takes two to make a baby and where it takes two to raise that baby it must also take two, at least, to make decisions over that baby’s right to life and upbringing. Isn’t this ‘right and sensible’ too?

People rightly complain when men walk away from pregnancy. Why then would they want to exclude men when they (do as is required – no brownie points for this) stay? Isn’t it also contradictory, given that some believe the woman has the singular right to decide, that the husband’s opinion, in Galway, was much considered, sought and used by certain groups recently?

Since the tragedy in Galway, people have taken to the streets and elsewhere to express their anger. They have apparently been waiting for the government to do something for the past twenty years. Did I miss something? A twenty year protest?

The fact is, there was no significant twenty year campaign for changes to abortion law. None of any significance. And definitely none that made the Government, or any other body, sit up, take notice or amend the constitution or legislation. They were asleep and now they are angry.

One such group, who organized recent protest rallies, via social media, posted that the protests’ purpose was to “…ensure the changing of Ireland’s abortion laws to ensure that this never happens again to another woman in Ireland…” Wouldn’t this have been better to hold these over the last twenty years?

The fact remains that we still do not know exactly what, how or why happened in Galway.

They say “civil and criminal law has no place in any pregnant woman’s healthcare. Politicians and legislators can never be in a position to decide what is best for any and all pregnant women in Ireland. The people to make the best decisions on what is right for any given pregnant woman’s health in any situation are that pregnant woman and her medical team”. No place for the man as you can see.

They say “…legislation to allow for abortions where a pregnant woman’s life is at risk must be passed IMMEDIATELY, in line with the X Case Supreme Court ruling of 1992 and the subsequent X Case referendum of 1992. Delay on this simply cannot be tolerated and is utterly inexcusable…” Please read the medical council’s guidelines – they allow for abortion.

They call for the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution, Article 40.3.3, which states “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right” to “be removed”. Why? What’s wrong with equality?

However, when asked to clarify their position on social media I was met with abuse. Everything ranging from “go fuck yourself” to “don’t feed the troll” to passive aggressive “…well if that’s what you think I will not speak to you…” type language. Incidentally they have completely misunderstood the word ‘troll’. Unless of course ‘troll’ means expressing a different opinion or asking people to explain theirs. If this is so then, yes, I am a ‘troll’.

And what about the chants of ‘shame, shame, shame’ at recent rallies? Using the guilt trip eh? A tactic often used by organisations, to great avail, in Ireland of the past I would have thought? How did that work out?! Speakers at that same rally also used the British as another guilt trip type technique. I mean, is there any other topics more likely to enrage the Irish than the Catholic Church and the British? Appalling tactics – and tactics they are.

It’s more than ‘shame’ that people cannot properly debate. Given the importance of this debate, I fear for those who really need or really want an abortion beyond the medical council’s guidelines. With folk like this shouting their corner that day is further and further away.

I am not a member, nor will I be, of any organized group speaking on abortion or rights to life of the unborn. I simply would not fit in to the philosophy of one or either or all of them.

I’m neither ‘pro-abortion’ nor ‘pro-life’ nor ‘pro-choice’. These are just labels and positions. Labels and positions are quite dangerous if we believe they are completely real. More importantly labels don’t get to the issues and concerns we really need to discuss.

Labels and positions express superficial needs and wants and, in this case, mask reality. A reality that excludes men from a monumental stage in their lives, not to mention that of the child’s life. But that’s probably just being right and sensible.


Investigating Ireland

Posted: November 12, 2012 in Irish, Unpublished

Last weekend I attended a talk at DIT Aungier Street on Investigative Journalism. I went with the intention of learning more about being an investigative Journalist. It was just a 90 minute talk, including Q&A, so that might give you an idea of the depth we could go in to.

It was quite useful in many ways. The speakers had a lot of useful knowledge to impart. I can’t actually remember their names but one had worked for RTE’s ‘Primetime Investigates’, one for The Irish Independent and  the other for The Irish Examiner. The lady chairing the talk, had worked on a number of ground breaking investigative pieces for World in Action in the UK.

To cut a long story short – the calibre of speaker was high.

However, one thing struck me about their and other pieces of investigative journalism. It struck me that the personal opinion, of the Journalist and possibly their editor, seemed to dictate what got investigated, what did not and the depths to which it was investigated.

These Journalists used expressions like “the public has a right to know” and “who shouldn’t be President”. I then wondered – what gives them the right to determine what the public has a “right to know” and who “should/n’t” be President?

If you go through the spec of any half decent training course or instruction manual on conducting an investigation, be it in Journalism or even in the workplace, it will tell you that the most important thing in any investigation is checking and double checking the facts. This is the philosophy that the Watergate guys adhered to and indeed all good investigative Journalists adhere to. Nowehere does it say “form conclusions based on your personal opinion”.

Yet in the fallout from the defamatory ‘Mission to Prey’ documentary, it was mentioned that the sloppy Journalism exhibited could have originated from the anti Catholic Church bias in RTE. Were they checking the facts?

Even where the facts are correct, how do we know there isn’t something else equally or even more pressing that the public should know about? Who decides what the public should and should not know? Should media folk be making those decisions for us?

The speaker from the Irish Independent, said he worked on the investigations into David Norris, Mary Davis and Sean Gallagher. Sean Gallagher seemed to give him most delight as he spoke about him most. He even called it “an example of the fun you can have” with this sort of stuff. He told us about his trip to Cavan where he uncovered the shocking truth about the first field ever owned by Mr Gallagher. It was 8 acres in size and not 20 as apparently told by Mr Gallagher. Good to know we have such skilled investigative Journalists on hand to uncover such scandals.

Is that something the public really needed to know? The field story told by Mr Gallagher, during the campaign and many many times before the campaign, in his life as a dragon and as a motivational speaker, was used to inspire many an individual and business owner to take life into their own hands. Mr Gallagher and his talks inspired many to stop complaining and to take action and responsibility for their own life – a point missed in the investigation and one which Irish Journalists would do well to take on board.

If facts are so important then surely RTE would not have used tweets, they later had to apologise for. The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland upheld a complaint by Mr. Gallagher against RTE’s ‘Frontline’ and ‘Today with Pat Kenny’  programmes. RTE were made apologise. An apology that would come too late as that show cost Mr. Gallagher the election. Ah well, they got their man. No harm in apologising so.

So do investigations tell us what we “need to know” and do the even report the facts? Do the facts, when Journalists are bothered to find them, miss the true meaning of what the individual is about? Why did Sean Gallagher warrant such attention and why did Michael D get off so lightly? Was it an editorial decision some where – ‘get Gallagher’?

This Irish Independent Journalist investigating Mr Gallagher, placed great importance on the number of business failures Mr Gallagher had after investments made through Dragon’s Den. Any business leader will tell you, you learn more from failure than you do from success. All great achievers have failed many more times than they succeeded? Is that why it’s a point missed by Irish Journalists?

He told us that while Michael D was equally investigated, they could not find anything on him except a few off the wall comments on Nicaragua. Well I find that difficult to believe. Every other candidate was subject to the most in depth investigation until their participation in the race was no longer important. Michael D was the exception.

Michael D was a member of a couple of different political parties over a period of 50 years. Was he really not involved in anything the public don’t know about and should?

Furthermore if they couldn’t find anything on him then I ask what was he doing all this time in politics? The Chinese say “better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without one”

So, be it Michael D or Sean G – who decides if the public has a right to know? Are the media our moral guardians? The same media who hacked into the mobile phone voicemail accounts of dead people, run defamatory documentaries or block a man from becoming President through unsubstantiated tweets? This media?

As most Journalists in Ireland sign up to the same code of NUJ ethics as their colleagues in the UK, it’s not good enough to say “Leveson would never be needed here”.

All of sudden the Irish Journalists, who went to great lengths to write about the similarities between the Irish and our near neighbours, prior to and during the British Queen’s visit, moved just as quickly to distance themselves from Leveson.

Do these guys really get to decide the ‘shoulds’? It was well rumoured, during my Ógra Fianna Fáil days that the Irish Times had a list of Fianna Fáil folk they wanted ‘to get’. Why I wonder? Is it as Ivan Yates once said on Questions & Answers many years ago “keep Fianna Fáil to the bottom with the exception of Sinn Féin?” There’s a distinct anti-republican sentiment to that bitter statement.

Does that same anti-Irish Republican sentiment exist among Irish Journalist as an anti-Catholic philosophy existed in RTE? Was Sean gallagher’s close association with Fianna Fáil the reason for their attack?

When are we going to shake off that civil war mentality? For many years those of a republican persuasion were accused of maintaining civil war politics. Now that Republican politics has been sidelined the Anti-Republicanites are out for revenge. Revenge they lacked the courage to pursue in years gone by.

Is it, as Psychologists speaking at the recent Psychological Society of Ireland annual conference suggested, “time we grew up as a nation”? Of course at that conference the usual “…the Queens visit was a first step…” type of comment was made. You’d wonder what they mean by this?

Do they mean such visits show our maturity as an independent nation or our maturity to join the British Commonwealth followed by entry into the UK? Several of our economic Journalists (David Mc Williams, Dan O’ Brien and Stephen Collins) have been laying in-roads for some time.

We await for the next investigation on the ‘shoulds’ we Irish are maturing to…

What exactly what are we Irish remembering today?

I understand that many different countries fought in World War 1 – hence it being called a ‘World’ war – and it wasn’t just the British, with a large contingent of Irish men and women, who fought the Germans.

I would like to ask – are we remembering what some call “brave men and women”, are we remembering what some call “traitors” as they still call the arch in St. Stephen’s Green, are we remembering one of the main purposes of the first Word War – ‘The Rights of Small Nations’ – of which we are one?

Brave men and women I agree. I also agree that Al Capone, Margaret Thatcher, Charles J Haughey and Indira Gandhi were brave men and women. It doesn’t mean I support any of them though.

When I was first taught about the Irish who fought in the Great War (as World War 1 is known) I was never ever taught to hate them (as some revisionists would have you believe) or even see them as traitors (and this is despite being educated in a border county, considered to be ‘very’ republican, at first, second and third level schools and colleges).

What I was taught, by our media and our politicians, was that being ‘very’ republican or even mildly republican was a bad thing.

I was taught at school that many joined the British Army to assist the Irish campaign for Home Rule. Home Rule never materialised and some say the 1916 Rising was responsible for this. Some say the Rising made no difference as the British had no intention of honouring and any such promises or implied promises.

We will never know if Home Rule would have happened or not. What we do know is that the UK government have not always been honourable in their dealings with Ireland on matters of Irish self determination.

In later years I learned that some joined the British Army out of a desire to make money to feed their families. Work and money were scarce at the time and Dublin had some of the worse slums in the world. It is understandable they would join up for these reasons.

Others joined out of a sense of wanderlust and some may even have believed in the need to ‘stop the Germans’ or some similar ideology. Strange that ideology is at the bottom? Was the First World War not about the ‘Rights of Small Nations’? Were we not a small nation?

In recent years in Ireland the campaign to remember the Irish who fought for the British has gained momentum. The visit of the British Queen added to this momentum. Funny I supported her visit as it was to be one of many many steps towards reconciliation and understanding between us and our near neighbour. Was I wrong?

Like many other arguments out there, the balance seems to have been ignored. It seems we have gone from a position of ignoring these people to venerating them on the cross.

On a Social media page in north Dublin (who are using the poppy as their avatar for today – a page for the entire community where it is based, not a special interest page) one poster claimed that joining the British Army at the time was your ‘civic duty’ and joining the British Army was in fact serving “your country”. News to me!

In any case it makes little difference to me. Irish people still join the British Army today and that is a choice I respect. I respect that it is their decision alone to make. I do not respect that most armies commit a socially acceptable form of murder.

I have friends who are ex British Army (British citizens). On the basis of friendship and that they are British citizens I donated to the poppy fund this year for this first time. I may even do it again next year!

However, the ‘civic duty’ argument is a dangerous one. Informing on your neighbours in Germany in the 30s and 40s and in Eastern European states up until the 80s and in some states today was/is considered ‘civic duty’. Up until the 90s in Ireland it was also part of our civic make up that Homosexuals could be imprisoned and the death penalty was still legal. So ‘civic duty’ is an extremely dangerous argument.

So what are we remembering today? Are we remembering “brave men and women” or are we remembering those that fought for our then enemy when their skills were needed here? Are we remembering the ‘Rights of Small Nations’? Of which we are still one. It’s an important part of the debate that needs to be discussed.

We must not air brush elements out of our history no matter how much apparent reconciliation and understanding we are engaging in. True reconciliation and understanding comes when we can all have our equal say. A proper debate on this could even honour these “brave men and women” even more.

Regardless of their reasons for joining, the men and women who did so were/are brave and must always be remembered. We must also remember that they fought for an empire that denied this ‘Small Nation’ its freedom, and so much else in the process, whilst fighting a war in the name of ‘Small Nations’!

Incidentally I have asked the administrator of this north Dublin social media page if they will use a Lilly as their avatar next Easter. I have yet to receive a response…