Girl About Townby Frieda Klotz
- Has justice really been done for Phoebe Prince?
- Dublin, then & now
- Patti Smith, Ireland and the Catholic Church
- Ireland's war on women
- Haiti puts Ireland's troubles in perspective
The papers are full at the moment of the idea that justice has been done in the matter of Phoebe Prince's suicide. Criminal charges have been brought against nine teenagers, including statutory rape, violation of civil rights with bodily injury, harassment and stalking.
The New York Times report stated, "The charges were an unusually sharp legal response to the problem of adolescent bullying, which is increasingly conducted in cyberspace as well as in the schoolyard and has drawn growing concern from parents, educators and lawmakers."
But one of the shocking pieces of information to emerge from this tragedy is that school teachers and administrators were indeed aware of the bullying and did little or nothing to prevent it. While Prince lived, the crimes were known about, but went unpunished.
A mother takes a walk with her child along Dublin’s North Wall quay. Both have auburn hair, and the water glistens a deep blue. This is modern Dublin, evident in the woman’s business-suit and the child's stroller, which must be worth several hundred euros.
It’s one of the striking images in the "Dublin, Then and Now" exhibition currently on show at the Irish Consulate in New York. The exhibition brings together images of Ireland’s fair city from 1963, and 2003, clearly showing the change that has occurred in between. The photographs, collected by the Irish American Heritage Museum, will soon tour around the country: on March 13, they move to the Commodore Barry Club in Philadelphia and after that to other Irish centers, possibly touching in at Fairfield Connecticut, Buffalo New York, Mineola and San Francisco.
Chairman of the board of trustees at the Heritage Museum, Edward Collins, says the exhibition is an emotional experience. “People who have a chance to see it should see it because it will move you,” he told me. “It’s a moving exhibit. The photographs are stunning: the way Marvin Koner captured life is very poignant.”
Patti Smith is a rocker, poet and memoirist and, having read her memoir "Just Kids," I can also tell you she is Irish -- in ancestry at least. She grew up in Germantown, Pennsylvania, and her family was poor; she tells how as a child she would play games with her siblings, taking the roles of Catholic against Protestant.
"We fought the wars of our Irish grandfathers, the orange and the green. We wore the orange yet knew nothing of its meaning. They were simply colors."
When Smith moved to New York, aged 20, she was homeless and a little lost. Soon, however, she found a partner-in-crime, Robert Mapplethorope. He too, was of Irish-English heritage, from a devout Roman Catholic family.
You wouldn’t expect a country like Ireland to be accused of breaching human rights. Our little green nation is best known for its rich culture and friendly customs. We’ve never invaded another country or annoyed anyone too much.
But on Thursday the respected international advocacy group Human Rights Watch published a report saying Ireland deprives many of its citizens of their basic entitlements.
The report is called “A State of Isolation.” It tells how the government blocks the way of women who look for information on abortion or seek care abroad.
It's only Wednesday but this is already an astonishing week. Ted Kennedy's death has proved the Republicans' gain. Scott Brown will stand in the way of the healthcare legislation Kennedy himself fought for and desired. In Haiti, meanwhile, a great crisis plays out that puts our concerns in the US or Ireland in shadow. The death of Irishman Andrew Grene brings the tragedy even closer to home.
Monday was Martin Luther King day and I went to a tribute to King at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Gospel singers sang their hearts out. There was talk of problems and progress, and (muted) praise of Obama. But mostly people spoke of Haiti. Brooklyn has the largest diaspora population of Haitians in the world. The actor Danny Glover -- of "Lethal Weapon" and "The Color Purple" fame -- was keynote speaker, and he wondered what MLK would think if he were alive today (he would be 81). Glover's voice cracked, as he said King would ask why Haiti was so badly treated by history.
Like Haiti, Ireland has a closely-bound diaspora community. We've all known that unnerving feeling when it seems every Irish person is somehow connected to us, or to someone that we know. When I read the obituary of Andrew Grene I realized I had taken a class on Shakespeare with his half-brother, professor Nick Grene at Trinity College Dublin. But the Grene name was doubly familiar: I had also read translations by his father, a respected academic at Chicago University, unaware till now that the two Grenes were related.
And no, it's not her politics.
Sarah Palin is a love-to-hate figure, a woman of absolutes and contradictions. The glowing skin, the perfectly made-up face, the sexy spectacles combined with political power -- as a working mother of five, she's a modern woman who does it all. With only a few cracks on the surface to show for it.
Women heading towards 60 do not usually have affairs with teenage boys. That's one of the things that makes the Robinson scandal so mesmerizing -- that, and the fact, of course, that the trio of money, religion and politics are involved. But turn the story on its head: A politically powerful woman chooses to go against convention and follow her own desires. Amidst all the sleaze, could we take something positive from it?
Out of all the newspaper reports I read on the subject, just one touched on this aspect of the story. In her analysis of the Robinson family's turmoil, the Sunday Tribune's Northern Ireland reporter Suzanne Breen noted, "from a feminist perspective, perhaps Robinson's affair with her toyboy is to be savoured. How many aging men enjoy young sexy girlfriends without anyone batting an eyelid? And as a woman of pensionable age, her libido is surely to be celebrated."
She went on to point out several problems with such an interpretation: the creepy fact, for instance, that Mrs. Robinson had known her lover since he was nine years old.