Across The Pondby Paddy Duffy
- "Guns & Roses" - How left wing coalition might be Ireland's Labour Party's only hope
- Home thoughts from abroad can cause serious January blues - New year blues for immigrants leaving their families again
- 2012 a tale of two Northern Irelands - from the celebrations of the Queen's Jubilee and the Olympics to the violent Union flag protests
- The Irish langauge, the X-Case and youth voices heard: Being Young And Irish Seminar concludes
- Belfast's Marie Stopes clinic -- the last thing vulnerable women need is a culture war over abortion
At this stage, there seems to be only one option, one that isn't all that palatable to some, but it's not like Labour have a choice: alliance with Sinn Fein. It won't be easy for the ex-Stickie dominated Labour to countenance a move jokingly referred to as a "Guns & Roses" coalition, but ultimately what choice do they have? The long wished for unification of the left in Irish politics should and could have happened a few times over in the last two decades, but for Labour to maintain any relevance in the next decade and beyond, they need to become a senior partner in a cogent force advocating genuine social democratic principles. Once the old embarrassments of the Sinn Fein parliamentary party finally stand down, and it's only a matter of time before they do, the only obstacle remaining will be outright snobbery. But if Labour can't detach themselves from their death grasp with Fine Gael for the "politically naive" or "economically illiterate" Sinn Fein, then pride will surely come before a very large fall.
In times past, such altercations and conflagrations such as this would carry with it a certain degree of community justification, as ammunition in an eternal rally of "Whatabouttery". But in today's Northern Ireland at least the daft actions of the 1% are ridiculed by the rest of us. All progress, so it's said, depends on the unreasonable man.Northern Ireland has made great progress in this last year, sportingly,civically, commemoratively, things we can be proud of and build on for 2013. It's important we don't let the unreasonable flag-beaters undo it all.
But try telling that to those who proclaim to be pro-life but never say a word about a child’s welfare post-womb, picket services for vulnerable women and throw words like “murder” around while they’re doing it. It never fails to amaze that for people who seem to care so deeply about the life of the unborn, they can be so callous in their treatment of actual human beings.
You never know where it might lead.
But 2016 is miles away, and plenty of time for someone else to surge through. Or, more likely, for one of the aforementioned front runners to slip up.
Now more than ever, Ireland needs people of skill, talent and imagination to speak up and share the ideas that will shape and influence the way we think, act and work well into the future. We owe it to ourselves and to generations ahead to build an education system that helps encourage that, and all the incredible things borne of such a system. Ours is a generation that faces disappointment regularly, but we have to use that disappointment to strive to do better for ourselves and the young people that come after us. Ireland needs to learn from it’s mistakes, and then become a better teacher.
Sometimes, it seems that imagination is a slave of modernity. You can look around you and see the swirl of technological gadgets that assist your living and generally consider the relative ease with which you live and think to yourself: how can we possibly top this? Are there any quantum leaps left? What possible thing could our kids complain in a “back in our day” manner to our grandkids?
Maybe it’s because summer is closing in, but this week we may have already got the silliest story of the season.
On Tuesday, Starbucks, the most famous thing to take its name from a Herman Melville book now that Moby doesn’t seem to be making records anymore, launched a UK marketing campaign to dovetail nicely with all that Jubilee business. Except, they made a now infamous geography malfunction. Now, social network marketing campaigns can be a difficult needle to thread at the best of times, but whenever you send out a tweet asking what makes proud to be British from your Irish account, you’re just asking for a hiding.
This week in County Offaly they celebrated the one year anniversary of President Obama coming to town by opening his ancestral home in Moneygall. There in attendance were the US Embassy’s director of communications, Barack’s long-lost cousin Henry Healy and Canon Stephen Neill (Trading – quite successfully - as “Paddy Anglican” on Twitter) to mark the event.
It might be seen by some as a tenuous attempt at notoriety on the back of the most powerful person in the world, but Moneygall is right to take its place among the surprisingly plentiful locations all round the island to which The 44 can trace their ancestors.
That way, by the time they come to vote at 16 they'll not only be ready, they'll be able and willing too.
Every so often you see a story and think “How the hell is this still a thing?” The furore around Galway’s proposed Che Guevara statue is one such story.
If you decide not to go down the drink yourself into a Daily Mail-outraging stupor on St Patrick’s Day, you can always go home, perhaps with a takeaway, and watch a good oul Bank Holiday film, often with an Oirish twist (Sean Connery as an Irishman in Darby O’Gill anyone?) but sometimes without (Tropic Thunder, as RTE showed last year, crosses all ethnic barriers. Except maybe Vietnamese ones). Sure what else would you be doing?
Recently I started a new job in Belfast, namely as a question writer for a TV quiz show. As you might expect it’s a conversation-starting occupation, as proved to be the case when talking to a taxi man a few days ago. When I jokingly asked him if he’d ever take part in a quiz on telly and maybe win a bit of money, he said back without much consideration: “Ah sure I’d be no good on things like that, I don’t have any qualifications or that."
As I write this, Ian Paisley remains in the intensive care unit of the Ulster Hospital, and like everyone else in the media I’ve been reflecting on the career of an incontrovertible political giant of these islands.
But it’s incredibly difficult.
The documentary on Colm Murray, RTE's sports anchor, promised to be must-see viewing, and yet extraordinary difficult.
Apart from having a long-term interest in US politics I also have the sleeping patterns of a musician, so that means watching coverage of the Republican Primaries isn’t such a taxing thing for me to do. From a sleep point of view that is, in pretty much every other way it’s tough going.
While walking round Dublin of a crisp, pre-Christmas morning, you couldn’t help but be taken aback by some of the posters adorning the city buses. As if the sharp Arctic air wouldn’t take the breath out of you easily enough, seeing Meryl Streep made up uncannily like Margaret Thatcher for her latest film would wind a man for sure.
The film in which Streep plays "The Iron Lady" is being released this very week, which is as intriguing as Meryl Streep’s makeover is terrifying.
At Sunday Mass in Raphoe last week Fr Dinny McGettigan, in addition to praying for the recent dead, also prayed for Colonel Gadaffi. It raised a few eyebrows elsewhere in Ireland, and indeed beyond, but it didn’t surprise me at all, because I’ve known Fr Dinny for years.
During the tremulous time following the 1992 general election, the embattled Taoiseach Albert Reynolds was handed a lifeline. With his grasp on power hanging in the balance, Reynolds went to an EU summit in Edinburgh at the end of that year and secured £8billion in European structural funds. Even his most optimistic supporters were expecting something closer to six. Emboldened, Reynolds told his press secretary, “Now watch me put a government together”.
I have to hand it to you Americans: you’re very early starters.
About a year and a half to go before Obama attempts to get re-elected and already high-profile Republicans are queuing up to get on the good ship More Heat Than Light. We’re not nearly as organised here.
Which is strange, considering our race for the Presidency is a lot more open than the one you’ll be having next year. No incumbent, a range of quality candidates either in the ring or loitering with intent around the ring, but with a couple of months to go the race for the Presidency is still very much in the blocks.
At the end of this week, we’re likely to feel a bit bereft.
After all, given the febrile flurry of the last fortnight where we’ve hosted the Queen, the President and, eh, Portuguese football fans, you’d be forgiven for wondering who was next. The Pope maybe? The ghost of Che Guevara? Shirley Bassey? Alas, no. No visitors next week. But even though Obama has left us, at least we have the man who nicked his lines in front of his face.
The BBC is, after all, the best in the world at the very numerous things it does, and any broadcaster who wouldn’t want to work there has a serious salt deficiency. It’s also very much a world station, so it’s not a case of joining the Beeb means he’s betraying his roots or something mad like that.
But I have to confess, it’s a perplexing move to me. Ryan, arguably the biggest presenter in Ireland, has taken on the role of National Flag Waving Morale Officer very much to heart of late, emphasising with metronomic consistency on both his radio and TV shows that the country needs good news, to accentuate the positive the country has to offer and realise what a great little country we are.
The fundamental problem with writing about an experience as profound as seeing and hearing the Dalai Lama speak is that the feeling it gives you is very hard to verbalise. Thankfully, the man himself has no such problem verbalising complicated concepts, and I came to realise that how he says what he says is as important as what he says. His is a wisdom that is more powerful stated than assumed, and it was wonderful to hear.
The reasons for the Dalai Lama being in Ireland and my being there to see him go back several months. The Possibilities Civic Forum was dreamed up a couple of months ago by three great Irish NGO’s: Children in Crossfire, Afri and SpunOut.ie, groups that do a host of inspiring work on social justice and well-being both at home and abroad. As a long-time member of the SpunOut family, there was no way I wasn’t attending. Their combined resolution to organise an event that could bring individuals and local groups together and energise them in their pursuit to change the way we do things in Ireland was, in every sense, a long time coming.
You could feel the 2,000 strong audience felt the same, as speaker after inspirational speaker was awarded rapturous standing ovations that came from their socks. Richard Moore, the founder of Children In Crossfire and the Dalai Lama’s hero, was a special highlight of the day. Blinded at the age of ten by a rubber bullet in his native Derry, Richard is a truly extraordinary example of forgiveness and compassion. Not only has he let blindness or bitterness consume him, but he’s dedicated his life to helping other children in conflict zones. He even sought out the soldier that shot him, and the two are now friends. It was hard not to well up listening to him speak.