Irish Constitution of 1937, which happens to be older than every one
of Europe's constitutions save Belgium's (and Britain's unwritten one),
begins with the words
“In the Name of the Most
Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final
end, all actions both of men and States must be referred, we,
the people of Éire, humbly
acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ,
who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial ... etc”
Though an article granting special recognition to
Christian churches and Judaism was
removed in 1973, this preamble remains.
So does Article 40.6.1.i:
“The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious,
or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in
accordance with law.”
However, since 1937 no blasphemy law has been enacted
and only one case of blasphemy has been brought before the courts. The
case in question was
“Corway v Independent Newspapers”
in 1999, in which Ireland's Supreme Court
“in the absence of any legislative definition of the
constitutional offence of blasphemy, it is impossible to say of what the
offence of blasphemy consists”.
In other words, for over six decades, the constitutional
ban on blasphemy has been happily dormant and evidently harming no-one.
Yet last month, out of the blue and in the midst of the
worst economic crisis since the founding of the State, Dermot Ahern, the
Justice Minister suddenly finds he has too much time on his hands.
So decides to create
an anti-blasphemy crime with an exceedingly low threshold and tough
“grossly abusive or insulting in relation to
matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a
substantial number of the adherents of that religion; and he or she
intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such
It would authorise the police to take a break from catching
murderers, rapists, child-molesters and thieves so as to force their way
into private premises in order to seek and seize blasphemous material.
Convicted blasphemers would face a hefty €100,000 fine.
And why is the proposed definition so open-ended?
To be blasphemed against, all you have to do is to decide to get
Suppose my religion is kissing dog-turds and I have only
managed to convert one other person. Nevertheless, every Tuesday,
our Holy Day, the pair of us go out looking for dog-turds to kiss.
Next thing, some thug comes along and disrespectfully kicks away a dog-turd
I am planning to kiss, tells me my religious practice is stupid and
unhygienic and guffaws loudly at me. Well I and my co-religionist,
who represent 100% of our congregation, are naturally outraged.
When the dog-turd kicker then goes on to mock my religious practices in
his blog and dares us dog-turd-kissers to abandon our sacred faith, we
decide that our outrage knows no bounds. So naturally we whinge to
the police and in due course the blasphemer has to cough up a hundred
grand. With any luck we can then bring a civil suit and claim
another hundred grand in damages for ourselves.
The proposed law is an open invitation to be outraged,
on the part of not just conventional religions but wacky ones as well (some would ask how
you can tell the difference). There exists another unwritten but
universal law that if you provide an incentive for certain behaviour,
whether good or bad, you will get more of it.
Thus Mr Ahern's Defamation Act can only foster more
blasphemy (whatever that is), the very thing that it supposedly sets out
Again, why is he doing it? Who wants it?
Mr Ahern's claim that the Constitution obliges him
(after 62 years!) to formulate a blasphemy law is disingenuous.
For the way he is designing it runs far beyond what
Eamon de Valera
and his fellow framers could have envisaged. It is quite clear
that they wrote the Constitution with an overwhelmingly Catholic bias -
you can see this from the Preamble alone - and perhaps also to a
lesser extent a Christian bias. So when Article 40.6.1.i was
written proscribing blasphemous matter, and in the same breath indecent
matter, it is clear that it was the Catholic/Christian faiths and morals
that were to be protected. Indeed, the provision dates back to
English common law aimed at protecting the established church, the
Church of England, from attack.
The notion that the framers intended similar protections
for non-Christian faiths is preposterous.
It is similarly preposterous to think that today's
Christians are going to start invoking the would-be blasphemy law, when for many
decades they have accepted with equanimity outrageous insults to their
religion without letting their outrage get out of control much less lead
to mayhem and murder.
If such blasphemies (to a Christian) don't cause havoc in
the streets, it means that Christians have learnt to accept criticism.
Indeed, if a faith cannot stand up to slating and mockery, it isn't much
of a faith. Christians (and I am one) don't need the law to
protect their religious beliefs.
On the other hand, can you think of any particular group
that might decide to be massively and easily offended by blasphemy, to
the extent of rioting and killing hundreds of people? Inflamed by,
for example, a few pathetic
cartoons, or a
teddy bear, or remarks about a prophet's taste in
women? A group that would undoubtedly welcome a law which,
should they wish certain blasphemers to be persecuted and punished,
requires only that they express outrage? A law that allows them
alone to decide, by their level of outrage, what is blasphemy and what
For the wilder elements of Islam is precisely whom the
new law is intended to appease, or at any rate it is the only group who
will “benefit” from it.
Only the most cursory of analysis, such as I have just
laid out, is sufficient to draw the conclusion that Mr Ahern's proposed
new law is designed solely to appease Islamists not Christians.
Stupid as Ireland's hapless Justice minister may be, this will be
obvious even to him. Why he would want to present such appeasement and
foster such mayhem is known only to him. But it is part of a
general trend among the enlightened intelligentsia in the west to
accommodate the principles of sharia at every opportunity, from the
Archbishop of Canterbury onwards.
If the Minister were really concerned about the constitutional
provision, rather than kow-towing to Muslim sensibilities, he would construct his new law in terms of Christian blasphemy only, as the
framers of the Constitution undoubtedly intended.
Or he would remove the provision altogether. The
excuse he trots our for not doing so is that “in
the current economic environment” it is not
to hold a referendum to delete blasphemy from the Constitution.
But this is to ignore the referendum that will be held in October 2009
to vote down the Lisbon Treaty (for the second time). A blasphemy referendum could be held
simultaneously for little extra cost, and the problem would simply fade
away, since the outcome is not in doubt.
I am a Christian who hates encountering blasphemy
against Christianity, though I am pretty relaxed when it targets other
But I am firmly with the
pro-blasphemy crowd on this. I would not support even a
Christianity-only blasphemy law.
As I inferred earlier, if I fear that I and my
co-religionists will lose our faith simply because people say offensive things
about it, then we might as well let it go anyway because it means our
convictions are entirely tenuous.
Barack Obama is the latest
in a long line of US presidents to try to strong-arm Israel into
accepting a two-state solution. (Actually, this would be a
three-state solution since in 1946 the Palestinians were already given
one, called Jordan, whose first significant act of foreign policy was to
declare war on Israel when it was formed two years later.)
Once again continuing the
policies of the predecessor he despises, Mr Obama cites George Bush's
Roadmap for Peace. He urges Israel to fulfil its Roadmap
commitments to halt West Bank settlements and open its borders to Gaza
etc, while studiously ignoring the trivial requirement that Palestinians
“immediately undertake an unconditional cessation of violence”,
to quote from the very first sentence.
This is a momentous
sentence indeed, because in just a few words it solves the whole
Middle East conundrum: once the Palestinians stop attacking, the war
is over and permanent negotiations can be quickly concluded.
Unfortunately, it doesn't work the other way round, as has been
tried many times.
However only Israel, it
seems, it expected to stick to its side of the bargain. It is too
much to expect the other side to cease its violence.
But the new Israeli prime
minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, is a tough nut for Mr Obama to crack.
Indeed, it is likely that their recent meeting was the first time in his
life that Mr Obama, cocooned hitherto in his Chicago left-wing
semi-academic semi-crooked milieu, has encountered serious, rational,
intellectual confrontation. For Mr Netanyahu is not someone to
roll over under the Messiah's charm and oratory; Israel's very survival
depends on his fortitude. And right now, Mr Netanyahu cannot
foresee any circumstances in which he would dare countenance a new
For what would it look
Well, actually there is
already a model, called Gaza. To all intents and purposes it is
already a 100% Palestinian state, with its own elected government
and - thanks to lavish funds from the EU, US and various Arab states - an
income far beyond what it is actually able to earn,
plus the support of 370 million Muslims, its
Arab and Iranian neighbours. And not a Jew in
If ever there was a laboratory to
experiment with how Palestinian statehood might look,
Gaza is surely it.
And what a horror. For its own people
and for its neighbours, especially Israel under relentless rocket attack.
Far from trying to build a nascent
nation, with schools, hospitals, police, public services, government
institutions, the Palestinian leadership immediately set about
destroying whatever the Israelis had left behind when they unilaterally
pulled out. This included a
thriving agricultural industry with revenue and profits and other businesses, yet within hours,
the Palestinians had destroyed all those infidel green houses, and now - quel surprise - Gazans are short of food (and everything else).
And this early destruction occurred, remember, under the rule of
Hamas (like there's a fundamental difference).
Even mighty Egypt is horrified at what it
sees on the other side of its eastern border. That's why it continues to imprison Gaza's population rather than open its crossing
at Rafah and risk having untold numbers of Gazan Palestinians run riot and
cause mayhem within Egypt.
Moreover, there is no sign that Gaza might
just be going through a difficult birthing phase as it transits to some
better place. If anything, it’s getting worse under Hamas. There is no sign of any
mollification in the way Gaza is governed, or in the anti-Jew propaganda spewed
over the airwaves or indoctrinated into schoolkids. And the thought
that Gaza - or Palestine - could ever become a normal state where, for
example, Jews and Christians can freely live and participate, as Muslims do
within Israel, is just laughable. Racism, Judaeophobia,
Christianophobia and apartheid are deeply ingrained in the soul of the Muslim
and Palestinian world. Hamas, Fatah, Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia:
not one has ever wanted to see a Palestinian state so long as Israel and
Jews exist. It is only deluded Westerners such as Mr Obama who dream
of a two-state solution. Everyone else wants a one-state Muslim-only
What you see in Gaza today is what you
will get in a new Palestinian state. Perpetual war until Israel is
gone and every Jew is dead.
And Mr Obama expects Mr
Netanyahu to sign up to this?
hostile remarks about this post appear
on this discussion site (search with the term
by anonymous contributors “hugh”, “milker”, “The
Scientician” (why are they so terrified of using their own full
Rather gratifyingly, none of
them even attempts to refute a single point in my argument.
Their main counter-argument seems to be that I am a “neo-conservative
This is clearly intended to be an ad-hominem insult designed to shut
down all discussion, but I find their
observation rather flattering. ;-]
So long as you're not a member of the political class, and
not British, the expenses scandal unfolding in Britain over the past
couple of weeks has cheered everybody up. Diddling taxpayers money
for duck houses, moats and pornography: what a laugh for the non-diddlers
and non taxpayers.
A lot of the sniggers are, I predict, going to die out
over the coming months however. Because the more awful British
politicians look and the more they set about putting their house back in
order - and they are certainly doing this - the more politicians in the
rest of the west are going to get nervous. Already the expenses
scrutiny is spreading to the target-rich area of EU politicians in
Brussels, an entity whose financial accounts have not been signed off by
the Auditors for 14 consecutive yeears.
To me it is inconceivable that similar
expenses shenanigans are
not also going on in other upright European countries, France, Italy,
Germany, Romania ...
And how long before the Americans too start shifting in
their seats and examing their shoes? We all know that President Obama is, how shall we
say, relaxed about being surrounded by crooks. Can he be the only
one? A lot of American politicians are going to be destroyed for
expenses scandals, you can be sure.
Remember, you read it here first.
Remember, you read it here first.
Here is a suggestion for Westminster.
Those MPs who represent constituencies outside London should receive just
two sets of allowances and not a penny more:
One fixed monthly allowance, unvouched, sufficient to cover
accommodation in London.
How they spend it is their business.
Taxpayers shouldn't care if they
decide to sleep on a park bench and pocket the
or reside in a palace paying the extra
So long as they show up and carry out their
The other allowance would be reimbursement for the vouched expenses to
cover actual travel between the constituency and London, with prior
agreement on the class of travel.
Meanwhile, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and the rest of
the British political establishment are telling everyone that they're sorry, so sorry ...
There were two cyber contributions this time, the second of
which prompted me to write this issue's lead item about what a future
Palestinian state would look like.
Superheroes are starting to bug me Comment to MacLeans, Canada's top-selling news
magazine Enjoyed this article. The proliferation of movie superheroes is most
peculiar, and the way that these days they never encounter bad guys who
resemble any actual bad guys like, for example, the ones that Daniel
Pearl or Theo van Gogh met up with. But at the end you erroneously
attribute to The Incredibles that famous epigram,
“when everyone’s special
Learning nothing from history Comment in the
Spectator-hosted Melanie Philips Blog on 12th May 2009 Gaza is the model we must perforce look at when contemplating the
creation of a second Palestinian state (the first being Jordan). For
Gaza is, to all intents and purposes, already a 100% Palestinian state,
with its own elected government and - thanks to lavish funds from the
EU, US and various Arab states - an income far beyond what it is
actually able to earn. And not a Jew in sight. If ever there was a
laboratory to experiment with how Palestinian statehood ...
“We are a government that defeated terrorism at
a time when others told us that it was not possible ... We have been
able to defeat one of the most heinous terrorist groups in the world.”
Mahinda Rajapakse, president of Sri Lankan, speaking to its
Just as peace came to Northern Ireland
after the military defeat of the IRA, or at least its neutralisation,
we can now expect peace to follow in Sri Lanka.
Sadly, peace will not come to the Middle
until Arab terrorism is militarily defeated,
and only Israel is making any effort t oward this.
And for those who say military violence
I would respond with only two words:
- - - - - - U S A - - - - - -
“We were not - I repeat - we were not told that
waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods
Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Congress
and second in line for the presidency should Mr Obama die,
denies that she was briefed by the CIA in 2002 and 2003 about
waterboarding, though the record shows she was.
So since she failed to object at the time,
her objections now are hypocritical.
She may be driven from office as a result.
“We understood what the CIA was doing. We gave
the CIA our bipartisan support. We gave the CIA funding to
carry out its activities. On a bipartisan basis, we asked if the CIA
needed more support from Congress to carry out its mission against
al-Qaeda. I do not recall a single objection from my
Republican Congressman Porter Goss who was at the same briefing
as Ms Pelosi on 4th September 2002
in his capacity as chairman of the
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,
of which Ms Pelosi was a member.
“I can now confirm that the Bibles shown on
Al Jazeera's clip were, in fact, collected by the chaplains and
Major Jennifer Willis, a US military spokeswoman,
explains the fate of privately-owned Bibles
translated into Afghanistan's Pashto and Dari languages,
after Al Jazeera TV ran a critical report.
They were destined for US soldiers in Bagram
in case they wished, in their private time,
to give them, legally, to Afghan friends and colleagues.
The Obama administration wishes to deny to its own soldiers
the democratic ideals of freedom of religion and of the press
that such soldiers have given their lives to foster for others.
“The new dog I have is only five months old and
his name is Champ, ... the smartest, coolest dog in the world.
My dog is smarter than Bo, [President Obama's] dog.”
Vice President Joe Biden, for reasons best known to himself,
decides to insult his boss's new pooch,
to homonymously share a name with Mr Biden's son Beau.
Quote: “During the second hundred days, I will learn to go
off the teleprompter and Joe Biden will learn to stay on the
President Obama gets his own back
with a self-deprecating joke
about his loose-cannon Vice President
“There was also controversy when she [beauty queen
Carrie Prejean, Miss California] stated her opposition to
same-sex marriage. [Competition judge Donald] Trump pointed
out that even Obama does not support same-sex marriage, and also he
pointed out that he personally believes that marriage is a sacred
institution between a man and a series of progressively younger
Jimmy Kimmel, US late night chat-show host
- - - - - - V A T I C A N - - - - - -
“The Holy See supports the right of your people to a
sovereign Palestinian homeland in the land of your forefathers,
secure and at peace with its neighbours, and within internationally
Pope Benedict XVI supports the creation of an
additional Palestinian state
(he seems to have forgotten about Jordan)
without, it seems, placing a conditional onus on Palestinians
to behave in a civilised manner,
and in particular to stop attacking and vilifying Jews
and hounding Christians from the Holy Land.
As such, his words amount to moral posturing.
- - - - - - E N E R G Y - - - - - -
“For every three new barrels that we find and bring
onstream, two are needed to offset field declines. And each
new barrel requires more money and brainpower to produce than the
barrel it replaces.”
Jeroen van der Veer, Chief Executive of Shell
[where I worked for thirty years]
- - - - - - I R E L A N D - - - - - -
“Tesco should leave Ireland ... What has Tesco
offered us since they came over to Ireland? All we’ve seen is
them exploiting Irish suppliers and continually pushing the prices
down. They have been seeking price cuts of up to 20 per cent
recently from Irish suppliers or else they will simply remove these
products from their shelves. That’s disgraceful carry on.”
TD Ned O’Keeffe, a wealthy parliamentarian
from the discredited ruling Fianna Fáil party,
objects to Tesco, a British supermarket chain,
providing cheaper goods to its Irish customers,
employing ten thousand mostly Irish people and
contributing millions in taxes to Ireland's exchequer
- - - - - - M O T O R S P O R T - - - - - -
“[Ferrari have been]
rivalling the manufacturers of Viagra for cornering the market in
Motor racing journalist Peter Gill
draws a conclusion after the Spanish Formula 1 Grand Prix
In 1987, a front-loading roll-on-roll-off vehicular ferry called the
Herald of Free Enterprise, laden with vehicles and passengers, sailed
out of Zeebrugge in Belgium on a routine crossing to Dover in England.
It was 7 pm on a dark Friday evening in March. However, with the vessel barely beyond the confines of the harbour and
sailing at a brisk 33 km/hr, the Assistant Bosun had not closed the bow doors.
As a result water flowed in to the vehicle deck,
quickly flooded it and within five minutes capsized the entire vessel
onto her port side, with the tragic loss
The cause of the catastrophe was straightforward: the
Assistant Bosun's inability to read Japanese.
Shortly before the ship sailed he had taken a nap,
having first set his brand new alarm clock - a gift from his loving wife
- to wake him in good time to close the bow doors. Yet because the
instructions were all in Japanese he set the alarm wrongly and
overslept. Could happen to anyone who didn't pay attention
in Japanese classes at school.
To prevent such a disaster from recurring, the Assistant
Bosun was fired and all other Assistant Bosuns were given intensive Japanese lessons.
As a result, ferry
operations resumed in total safety.
What's that? You don't think this would arrest
such accidents? You think it's preposterous to blame
the Japanese language? Even though had the Assistant Bosun understood the
alarm clock instructions he would have woken up in time and closed the doors?
Well how about these as alternative explanations.
There was no system,
automated or human, to check that the bow doors were
Indeed there was, as the official enquiry
“disease of sloppiness, and negligence at every level of
the company's hierarchy”.
There was a rush to get going in order not to be
late for the time-limited slot available in Dover, as waiting for
another one would lead to major delays.
During loading, the bow of the ship had to be
ballasted down to lower the upper deck in order to make it level
with Zeebrugge's loading ramp, as the two facilities were not
designed for each other.
Under time-pressure to
depart, the ship had to set sail before she could fully de-ballast the bow-end, so
she remained low in
And the speed at which she raced off - 33 km/hr -
generated in the shallow water of the harbour a particularly big bow
wave right in front of the lowered bow and the open bow doors.
So the water simply poured in.
The car deck was one big chamber with no watertight
bulkheads which could have prevented sinking or capsizing by
confining the flooding to a few compartments.
The reason for the time pressure was that Dover was
too small a port to comfortably accommodate current levels of ferry
traffic. So if a ship missed its slot, it was in for long
wait, which would then mess up the schedules for days ahead.
This was a notorious and well known problem but,
pleading poverty, the Dover Town Council had repeatedly rejected
plans to extend the harbour so as to relieve the pressure, or
alternatively to restrict the number of ships using the port.
I give this real life (and death) example to illustrate that, when industrial
accidents occur, you can always find a quick and easy answer, in this
assistant bosun couldn't read the Japanese instructions for his new
alarm-clock, so he overslept and didn't close the bow doors when the
ship set sail, which let the water in and resulted in the ship
But such an answer will always be wrong, and to take
action on it will do nothing at all to prevent future accidents.
Leading to a given accident, there is always an array of
much more complex factors, and many different people in diverse
organisations, always difficult to discover and unravel. That
illustrates this - poor management of the ship, of the ports, of the
council; sloppy systems design; inadequate maritime design; succumbing
to time pressure; wilfully neglecting known problems. Responsible
in varying degrees were the ship's crew, its officers and its
owners/directors; the port managements in Zeebrugge and Dover; the
leaders of Dover Town Council; the designers of the ship and of the
port; the marine regulators.
Yet if a company's intention is to avoid future injuries
in an activity for which it is responsible, it is these more complex
issues it must explore and uncover and rectify, not the simple and easy
things. The same goes if it is society as a whole that wishes to
minimise accidental harm and death, which it surely does, and which is
extensive official enquiry followed the Herald of Free Enterprise
accident. Indeed, the only comfort that victims and their families
might draw from an accident is that the lessons learned from it will
help prevent the creation of future victims.
As I have often exhorted investigation teams, it is
fundamentally immoral to allow such deaths and injuries to be valueless,
to be in vain.
Actual accidents (and near-misses) provide golden
opportunities because they prove - beyond any doubt - that part of a
given system is seriously malfunctioning, and will continue to do so
until put right. The challenge is to ferret out the malfunctions
and fix them.
That is why I was concerned when I read last month that Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings, an
engineering consultancy, along with Peter Eaton one of its directors,
became the first company and individual to be
prosecuted under the UK's new
Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007” , designed to impose tougher penalties for deaths in the workplace.
Alexander Wright, 27, a geologist was taking samples inside a pit on a
building site in Gloucestershire when the pit collapsed on him, killing
The Act provides for brutal penalties that cannot be ignored: Mr Eaton faces a life
sentence; his consultancy an unlimited fine.
The legislation was prompted by public outrage following
major accidents such
as the Paddington rail collision in 1999, attributed to
“a catalogue of [management] failures to act”,
which killed 31 people and injured 400. Over 300 people are
work in the UK every year, or
4.9 per million of population. (The figure in Ireland is
proportionately much worse -
nearly 70 such fatalities, or 15.5 per million). That is an awful lot of
unnecessary death and suffering.
The desire of the general public, on viewing some ghastly
accident on their TV screens, to see guilty corporations crushed and heads
rolling is understandable. But the real question is whether punitive
legislation such as the UK is now enacting will improve the overall safety
situation or not.
The answer is unequivocal: No, it will not.
And here's the reason. Every accident, by definition,
is the result of an array of failures. To dig right down to uncover
these failures, the root causes of the accident, requires a very thorough
of the scene of
of the systems
of the existing
of the training
of the work
practices of employees,
such as morale, attitudes and relationships,
of all the
associated bodies that might or might not impinge on the accident -
contractors, subcontractors, clients, suppliers, partners, government
functionaries, to name but a few.
Such discoveries can only come from talking in depth to real
people close and not so close to the event in question, and trying to elicit
honest information and recollection, and persuading them to divulge
documents and data. People hate talking to investigators in such
circumstances and it is a hard job to encourage and reassure them.
Responsible, ethical companies will always do their best to
make all this happen and to co-operate with the authorities to the fullest
extent. But this requires a kind of Faustian bargain - that, short of
deliberate sabotage, the failures uncovered by disclosure and openness do
not lead to punishment.
“Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007”
breaks this pact spectacularly and the law of unintended consequences will
ensue as night follows day.
From now on, the objective of any major investigation,
from the Corporate perspective, will
no longer be to uncover the truth but to protect companies and individuals
from the rigours of the law. And it will not just be senior managers
trying to keep their heads down, but everyone involved in an enterprise, for
fear he/she might be the next to be marched off to prison for a silly
mistake at work (all mistakes are silly).
How can it be otherwise? When do turkeys vote for
So future Heralds of Free Enterprise will be sunk because
junior employees don't speak Japanese, and that will be the focus of the
Since the real causes of accidents will not be found out or
put right, the unintended consequence of punishing Corporate Manslaughter
will therefore be to foster more, not less, Corporate Manslaughter.
And those victims will die in vain, solely to satisfy the conceit of
rabble-rousing, thoughtless, amoral lawmakers. Those extra deaths
would better be called Lawmakers Manslaughter.
I sincerely hope Ireland does not follow the UK path, though
it has been
mooted and Sinn Fein is
Some people (eg me) are viscerally allergic to Gerry
Adams and his cohorts in Sinn Féin. Nevertheless, I have always
had to acknowledge that they, the odious IRA and I share the Catholic
faith, for better or worse. However it has not stopped me
wondering why the Vatican rarely if ever excommunicated the avowed
murderers and apologists of these outfits, a sanction that in their
sanctimony they would have hated.
The murders have stopped, thank God, but the sanctimony,
it seems, lives on ...
Gerry Adams was baptised and brought up a Catholic.
He still declares himself a practicing Catholic, religiously attending
Mass every Sunday and receiving Holy Communion. And of course
Catholicism is a de-rigeur distinguishing feature of Irish
Republicanism, as compared to Northern Ireland's Unionists who are, of
course, Protestants. The struggle is not about religion per se or
proselytisation, one side is not trying to convert the other; but religion is the team jersey that the respective
Republican sanctimony was revealed in a recent
“The Meaning of Life” in which
Mr Adams attempted to demonstrate his
In fact he exposed himself as a sham and a fraud, so bound up in his own hubris
that he cannot see that his own words give the game away.
A few examples from the Q&A session, with my (sarcastic)
observations in navy italics.
Do you believe in God?
In other words, no.
believe in Guardian Angels
This is a surprise, as it seems to be his only supernatural
Do you believe Jesus was God?
I don't know.
He was a mighty man, but it
would be better if he weren't God.
You cannot be a Christian, never mind a Catholic, if you
don't believe Jesus was God.
(of Jesus from death after his crucifixion)?
I don't know.
Again, the Resurrection is a founding tenet of Christianity.
Will you come face to face with your Creator after
I'm not sure.
Ah, so even theism itself is a doubt in his mind.
What do you
feel about other Christian faiths?
I often feel Protestant, eg Methodist or
You obviously don't feel Catholic, but neither are your
beliefs Christian or even, apparently, theistic.
Do you go to
No; I have no need of a
Especially one who might
learn your dark secrets.
Yet for Catholics, Confession of your sins to a priest, an
annual obligation, is the only certain way to get them
forgiven and so avoid hell. Moreover, you are not allowed to receive
Holy Communion unless you have been to Confession.
Do you believe in the real presence in Holy Communion?
I don't know.
Such transubstantiation is another of the founding tenets of
Catholicism, ie that bread and wine are transformed at Mass
into the body and blood of Christ. If you don't
believe it, you cannot be a practicing Catholic.
What do you believe when receiving Holy
The breaking of bread
is symbolic; other than that I don't know.
So why do you receive it? To impress others?
Whom do you pray to when you pray?
who have gone before me.
But not, evidently, to God, so what's the point of your
What do you pray for?
children's prayers, the Hail Mary & Our Father -
and in the Irish language.
No wonder God loves the Irish.
Do you believe your prayers are listened to?
Isn't that the big question?
You pray only to unspecified dead people (suicidist Bobby Sands?),
pray to no apparent purpose, don't believe your prayers are
listened to, don't seem to believe there is even a God.
So why bother?
Did you go
to Mass during the Troubles?
I resolved to remain a Catholic, even though the Catholic
hierarchy supported internment and other anti-IRA measures.
What has that to do with your Faith? You either
believe the Catholic truths or you don't. Priests'
behaviour, good or bad, doesn't alter the truths.
Do you have
any ground rules of what you would or would not do for the
But he gave not a single detail or example, in particular
whether, in the name of Republicanism killing, knee-capping,
bank-robbery etc are OK for a Catholic.
Wonder why not?
don't remember Jesus advocating such things.
Were you in the IRA?
I was not and am not a member
of the IRA.
Yeah, right, Gerry, we all believe you.
These are the words of a man who thinks it makes him
look good if people think he is a Catholic, but has absolutely no
conviction about Catholicism at all, or even Christianity or even the
existence of God.
Moreover, every Sunday when he goes to
Mass, he undoubtedly joins with the rest of the congregation in reciting
Nicene Creed (“We
believe in God
... in Jesus Christ the only Son of God ... [who] became
etc). This public affirmation of Catholic faith is crystal clear
about such matters.
Mr Adams is quite entitled to whatever supernatural beliefs or
non-beliefs he wants. From a moral or legal point of view in a secular
world, there's nothing wrong with being an agnostic or atheist (until
you're dead). But his behaviour in regard to Catholicism,
as revealed in this interview, is pure sanctimony. He is the
epitome of someone for whom the great 17th century French playwright
Molière coined the name
Why am I not
surprised? What else can you not believe about his words?
Successive US presidents (eg Bush I,
Bush II) have for decades overstepped the mark in demanding that the EU admit
Turkey to its Club. Somehow they seem to think that America has a
say, if not a right, in determining membership, though EU leaders
continue to try to disabuse them of such a notion. Of course it is
understandable that America would like to be nice to its NATO ally,
especially at the expense of others than itself. To America, it is
immaterial that Turkey is a country which
is situated (but
for a tiny chunk) outwith the geographical confines of Europe,
GDP of $12k pp sits far outwith the economic envelope of Europe
($33k pp), and
77 million Muslims is even more outwith the ancient
Judaeo-Christian culture and Graeco-Roman historical legacies of
and that as such its admission to the EU would cause
massive upheaval within Europe, changing its face and dynamic forever,
and not for the better.
America has no business lecturing EU leaders on this
issue. And this coming from me, an avowed Americaphile and EU
The latest president has, as in so much else, continued
his much disparaged predecessor's policy, by calling for the EU to admit Turkey.
On his recent
Apology Tour, he backed Turkey's application,
“Turkey is an important part of Europe ...
the United States strongly supports Turkey’s bid to become a member
of the European Union ... Turkish membership would broaden
and strengthen Europe's foundation once more.”
President Nicolas Sarkozy of France was the first EU
to tell President Barack Obama to mind his own f***ing business.
Washington wants to suck up to Turkey in order to
strengthen the NATO alliance, a totally laudable objective. But
there is more than one way to skin a cat. Instead of its
long-standing campaign of strong-arming the EU to admit its friend, why
not admit Turkey into the US instead?
There is plenty of scope and it would allow Mr Obama to
demonstrate that America is truly multicultural and indeed
at war with Islam”
(even though Islam remains at war with it).
Moreover, Americans, if Mr Obama is
typical, would probably not even notice they had gone up to 60 States
because they don't know how many they have anyway (it's so hard to count
those fifty little stars). Furthermore, the precedent of distant,
non-contiguous States, large and small, becoming an integral part of the
the Union, was established back in 1959 when Alaska and Hawaii were both
Not yet in office, and already
Mr Obama had
lost track of the size of his future empire. As this video clip
shows, he bragged during his campaign that he had so far visited
57 States and that only two
remained unvisited by the Messiah: the land of his
(Kenya Hawaii) and the land of his much-feared
vice-presidential rival (Alaska), interestingly the two non-contiguous
So that makes it 59 US States in all.
Let Mr Obama admit Turkey as the 60th.
I'm sure no-one will notice another big
Guest-Blogger Allen kindly provides technical
information of use for those worldwide who are up to their chins
trying to handle claims which
agricultural pollution problems relative to intensive pig production
on land and/or
claims in respect of piracy and shipping off East Africa and Indian
9th May 2009
Pig Slurry /
a Sweeter Smell in
Southern Netherlands /
a Safer Sea off the Somali Coast
Recalling how you speak
in such depreciative terms of the manner in which the pig population of
the Southern Netherlands contributes in a less than positive manner to
the “scent” of the countryside not to mention killing fish in the
rivers and, given your own close connections to the sea, I thought that
I’d pass on a novel idea of an Irish friend who has been involved at
various times with oil exploration, development, importation, shipping
His idea is to fit
super-tankers and ordinary tankers and all manner of other merchant
marine, passenger and naval ships with pig slurry tanks to be filled
from suitable pig slurry storage systems at ports in countries around
the world where there is substantial pig production and resulting slurry
The ship-board slurry
tank systems would be fitted with powerful fire-hydrant type pump and
hose systems so that the slurry could be discharged at sea and in
particular, discharged at other craft at sea that might be manned by
persons unknown who are desirous to board without invitation and to take
over the said super-tankers etc.
There are parts of the
world, eg the Somali coasts, the Gulf of Aden etc, where pigs and
everything associated with them including pig slurry, are considered
abhorrent by the local population for some inexplicable religious
I believe that my
friend’s idea would help you to become a national hero for eliminating
the odour of pig slurry from vast areas of the Netherlands and a
world-wide hero for solving all the piracy issues currently plaguing
shipping on the Somali coasts, the Gulf of Aden etc firing only foul pig
slurry but not a single bullet!
There could even be a
Nobel Prize for advancing the cases of a Greener Environment and Peace
When would you plan to
Editor's Note: The same technique
would work admirably at the security fence protecting Israel, except
those Jews, no less than Muslims, won't touch the dreaded porcine
waste. That's the problem with a shared heritage.
Just a couple of contributions over the past month:
Lazy journalism exposed by online hoax Comment in the Irish Times Well done, Shane, a magnificent
experiment that has exposed journalistic laziness across the globe.
Though not, of course, within the Irish Times ;-] But how can you
be so sure that ...
Silvio Berlusconi, prime minister of Italy,
yells across at the US president during a G20 group photoshoot.
Queen Elizabeth looked around and complained,
“Why does he have to shout?”
on both the left and right agree that the last thing a government
should do in the middle of a recession is to cut back on spending.”
President Barack Obama.
But if I as an individual short of
must cut back on my spending,
where is the logic that a government
- which is but an assembly of individuals - should increase
“I think it is important for Europe to understand that
even though I am president and George Bush is not president,
al-Qaeda is still a threat and that we cannot pretend somehow that
because Barack Hussein Obama got elected as president, suddenly
everything's going to be OK.”
In Strasbourg during his
President Obama trashes the previous president
to non-Americans, as usual
“We meet today as three sovereign nations
joined by a common goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat
al-Qaeda and its extremist allies in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
A rare and welcome display of unequivocal belligerence
from President Barack Obama, after meeting with
Presidents Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Asif Ali Zadari of
Mr Obama has never talked of
other than his political opponents.
- - - - - - M I D D L E E A S T - - - - - -
“[Syria] can demand the Golan Heights in
exchange for peace, we will demand peace for peace.”
Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's hardline new foreign minister,
makes a startlingly simple demand of Syria
who want to re-open peace negotiations.
“If a woman says no, the man has the right not
to feed her.”
Ayatollah Mohammed Asef Mohseni
explains the workings of the new Afghan law
signed by president Hamid Karzai
which mandates that Shi'ite women must submit to their husbands
- or go hungry.
Apparently this generous arrangement
means he is not allowed to rape her.
“In the early years
of Muslim history, the 8th-9th century of the Christian era, the
battle over free or rational thinking was fought and lost in
Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid caliphate and the heart of the
rapidly expanding Islamic empire and civilization.
“The Muslim free thinkers,
those who insisted upon rational inquiry and reason to be taken
legitimately as one of the means to understand and explain
revelation, were officially labelled as blasphemers and apostates,
hounded in public and silenced by imprisonment or capital
“Then the inevitable followed, the lights began to go out
in the Islamic civilization and eventually darkness prevailed.”
associate professor of
at the University of Western Ontario in Canada,
explains how, over a thousand years ago, denial of free speech
brought a burgeoning Islamic civilization
to an abrupt halt.
the Muslim world into what he calls
“black hole of ignorance,
bigotry and violence”
which prevails to this day.
“We expect these tourists will convey a positive
message to their citizens back home that the situation in Iraq is
Abdul Zahra al-Telagani, a spokesman for Iraq's tourism and
is talking about newlyweds who (for €165)
have spent their nuptial night in Saddam's palatial boudoir
in his presidential palace at Hillah, some 100 km south of Baghdad.
Though Mr al-Telgani is undoubtedly a determined optimist
in the face of Iraq’s remaining violence,
this nevertheless is another example of the normality
that is creeping up on Iraq
thanks to the crushing defeat of Al Qaeda there.
- - - - - - C A M B O D I A - - - - - -
“I am responsible for the crimes committed at S-21,
especially the torture and execution of the people there. May I be
permitted to apologise to the survivors of the regime and also the
families of the victims whose loved ones died brutally at S-21 ... I
beg their forgiveness.”
Kaing Guek Eav, a senior Khmer Rouge apparatchik
known as Comrade Duch,
at his trial for war crimes at a UN-backed tribunal
in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.
He used to be the director of Tuol Sleng, or S-21,
the regime's most notorious prison and main torture centre,
where between 1977 and 1979 thousands of men, women and children
were tortured and up to 17,000 of them killed.
The last, despairing call from the pilot of a Super Puma helicopter
flying from BP's Miller platform in the North Sea,
just before it crashed into the sea with the loss of all sixteen
18 kilometres east of Aberdeen in Scotland.
The Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy poignantly
“Every day brave men and women work [in the North Sea]
to bring us the oil and gas our country needs.”
Quote: “I take
full responsibility for whathappen[ed] ,
and that's why the person responsible went immediately.”
Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown
by making one of his senior personal aides responsible, after he
tried to orchestrate a smear campaign against senior Conservatives
give us a big grin to the camera ... No, no, let's see your teeth.
He hasn't got the best teeth in the world, but you can afford to go
and get them done now if you like.”
Claire Balding, smart-alecky BBC TV sports commentator,
embarrasses jockey Liam Treadwell,
just after he has heroically won the Grand National
riding outsider Mon Mome at 100-1.
She and the BBC later apologised.
- - - - - - I R E L A N D - - - - - -
Quote: “The report contains not one single piece of evidence
to support the assertion that the museum contains any looted art
objects. No evidence has ever been produced by Dr Samuels that
the Hunts had any connection of any kind with any Nazi in the
pre-war period, apart from contact in the normal course of his
business as an art dealer with the director of the National Museum
of Ireland, Adolf Mahr.”
Brian O’Connell, director of Shannon Heritage,
refutes the calumny that Ireland's
a legacy of philanthropists John & Gertrude Hunt,
contains artefacts looted from Jews by the Nazis.
“One could say my life itself has been one long
soundtrack. Music was my life, music brought me to life, and music
is how I will be remembered long after I leave this life. When I die
there will be a final waltz playing in my head, that only I can hear.”
Maurice Jarre, prolific, Oscar-winning French composer who died last
He wrote the scores for 170 TV and cinema productions,
including Dr Zhivago, The Longest Day, Fatal Attraction, Gorillas in
Except he never used these words.
The quote is a
self-confessed fake inserted, as a
by Dublin sociology undergraduate Shane Fitzgerald
Wikipedia, and then picked up by countless lazy journalists
for obituaries in the BBC, the Guardian and across the world.
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy
is a delightful novel-style history of modern Israel and Palestine told
through the eyes of a thoughtful protagonist from either side, with a
household lemon tree as their unifying theme.
But it's not
entirely honest in its subtle pro-Palestinian bias, and therefore needs
to be read in conjunction with an antidote, such as
This examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in
the Gulf of Mexico.
BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded it through adventurous
acquisitions, aggressive offshore exploration, and relentless
cost-reduction that trumped everything else, even safety and long-term
Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in
refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in
The Macondo blowout was but an inevitable outcome of a BP culture that
had become poisonous and incompetent.
However the book is gravely compromised by a
litany of over 40 technical and stupid
errors that display the author's ignorance and
It would be better
to wait for the second (properly edited) edition before buying.
As for BP, only a
wholesale rebuilding of a new, professional, ethical culture will
prevent further such tragedies and the eventual destruction of a once
mighty corporation with a long and generally honourable history.
nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart’sincredible story of survival in the Far
East during World War II.
After recounting a
childhood of convention and simple pleasures in working-class Aberdeen,
Mr Urquhart is conscripted within days of Chamberlain declaring war on
Germany in 1939.
From then until the
Japanese are deservedly nuked into surrendering six years later, Mr
Urquhart’s tale is one of first discomfort but then following the fall
of Singapore of ever-increasing, unmitigated horror.
After a wretched
journey Eastward, he finds himself part of Singapore’s big but useless
Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in
1941, he is, successively,
part of a death march to Thailand,
a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma
railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),
regularly beaten and tortured,
racked by starvation, gaping ulcers
and disease including cholera,
a slave labourer stevedoring at
shipped to Japan in a stinking,
closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,
torpedoed by the Americans and left
drifting alone for five days before being picked up,
a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until
blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic
distraught and traumatised on return to Aberdeen yet disdained by the
British Army, he slowly reconstructs a life. Only in his late 80s
is he able finally to recount his dreadful experiences in this
There are very few
first-person eye-witness accounts of the the horrors of Japanese
brutality during WW2. As such this book is an invaluable historical
“Culture of Corruption:
Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies”
This is a rattling good tale of the web
of corruption within which the American president and his cronies
operate. It's written by blogger Michele Malkin who, because she's both
a woman and half-Asian, is curiously immune to the charges of racism and
sexism this book would provoke if written by a typical Republican WASP.
With 75 page of notes to back up - in
best blogger tradition - every shocking and in most cases money-grubbing
allegation, she excoriates one Obama crony after another, starting with
the incumbent himself and his equally tricky wife.
Joe Biden, Rahm Emmanuel, Valerie Jarett,
Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Steven Rattner, both Clintons, Chris
Dodd: they all star as crooks in this venomous but credible book.
ACORN, Mr Obama's favourite community
organising outfit, is also exposed for the crooked vote-rigging machine
This much trumpeted sequel to
Freakonomics is a bit of disappointment.
It is really just
a collation of amusing
little tales about surprising human (and occasionally animal) behaviour
and situations. For example:
Drunk walking kills more people per
kilometer than drunk driving.
People aren't really altruistic -
they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.
Child seats are a waste of money as
they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.
Though doctors have known for
centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection,
they still often fail to do so.
Monkeys can be taught to use washers
as cash to buy tit-bits - and even sex.
The book has no real
message other than don't be surprised how humans sometimes behave and
try to look for simple rather than complex solutions.
And with a final
anecdote (monkeys, cash and sex), the book suddenly just stops dead in
its tracks. Weird.
A remarkable, coherent attempt by Financial Times economist Alan Beattie
to understand and explain world history through the prism of economics.
It's chapters are
organised around provocative questions such as
Why does asparagus come from Peru?
Why are pandas so useless?
Why are oil and diamonds more trouble
than they are worth?
Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?
It's central thesis
is that economic development continues to be impeded in different
countries for different historical reasons, even when the original
rationale for those impediments no longer obtains. For instance:
Argentina protects its now largely
foreign landowners (eg George Soros)
Russia its military-owned
businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs
The US its cotton industry
comprising only 1% of GDP and 2% of its workforce
The author writes
in a very chatty, light-hearted matter which makes the book easy to
However it would
benefit from a few charts to illustrate some of the many quantitative
points put forward, as well as sub-chaptering every few pages to provide
natural break-points for the reader.
This is a thrilling book of derring-do behind enemy lines in the jungles
of north-east Burma in 1942-44 during the Japanese occupation.
The author was
a member of Britain's V Force, a forerunner of the SAS. Its remit was to
harass Japanese lines of
command, patrol their occupied territory, carryout sabotage and provide
intelligence, with the overall objective of keeping the enemy out of
is admirably yet brutally frank, in his
descriptions of deathly battles with the Japs, his execution of a
prisoner, dodging falling bags of rice dropped by the RAF, or collapsing
in floods of tears through accumulated stress, fear and loneliness.
He also provides some fascinating insights into the mentality of
Japanese soldiery and why it failed against the flexibility and devolved
authority of the British.
The book amounts to
a very human and exhilarating tale.
Oh, and Irwin
describes the death in 1943 of his colleague my uncle, Major PF