Wednesday, October 26, 2005

National pride

At the weekend Fianna Fail Ard Fheis the Taoiseach announced the return of commemoration of 1916 with a military march past the GPO from next year (90th anniversary).

[Aside....I enjoyed a great belly laugh from Miriam Lord's light hearted article in the Irish Independent on Saturday. She evoked a brilliant image ...."It'll be like Red Square in O'Connell Street next Easter. Socialist Bertie on top of the GPO taking the salute in a Russian hat and the might of the Irish army parading a few missiles and their new tanks. Fly pasts. Gunboats on the Liffey."..... Yes indeed, 1916, 1917, what's a year between comrades?!]

Assisted by the recent IRA cessation I do welcome the spirit of enhanced pride in our cherished Irish heritage, history and imagery. I mean this on two levels...

1. I recall the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising when I was at school. We were taught to have pride in the brave men and women who fought for Irish freedom from Britain. There was an RTE serialized drama on TV depicting all the events of Easter week 1916. The rebel Irish leaders and their forces took over the GPO and other buildings, read a proclamation, put themselves in the front line. Fought openly and bravely for freedom and either died fighting or were captured and executed. I know they were using violence to achieve their ends whilst slow political moves were afoot. However, it's hard to compare the 1916 Rising to the modern IRA practices of cowardly bomb planting with mass civilian deaths, secret executions and racketeering. Moreover, the modern IRA's cause to bludgeon Northern Ireland, where the majority are loyalist, into Irish unity was always completely misguided. Of course the IRA ceasefire has to be welcomed and has opened the door for us to recapture some pride in our identity. We should celebrate the birth of our independence in 1922. Regarding 1916, even though it was a violent event, I do feel that the Irish Government should take control of it's remembrance. It has to be better than the Sinn Fein/IRA folk hijacking it.

2. I was at a funeral a few years ago of an lovely elderly lady who was devoted to her country and language. Her funeral mass was conducted in the Irish language and there was an Irish flag on the altar. A lady in green clothing read prayers in Irish. One part of me said that this is beautiful....another part of me associated the imagery with a modern Sinn Fein/IRA propaganda event. How horrible to have such unwelcome negative thoughts invade my mind. The modern IRA had caused this. Let's hope they are finished with senseless violence for good and we can restore all our rightful pride in what we are.

As a footnote...There are those who say Bertie's plan was a master stroke for the Ard Fheis to win some political ground from Sinn Fein and that he didn't get other parties involved in a prior debate. Yes indeed, but so what? That's one reason why Fianna Fail are successful - good PR. Fine Gael could arguably claim an equal or better republican pedigree but never use it.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Nelson's Pillar, a quick route to the top!

We approach the 40th anniversary of the blowing up of Nelson's Pillar in March 1966. I was 11 years old when that event occured and I must be one of the youngest today who can tell a tale of being up the famous pillar. My little story is also a reminder of an era of exceptional respect for the clergy.....

One of my pals had an aunt who was a nun. In 1965 she took my pal and I along with a few of his siblings into O'Connell Street, Dublin to see the movie Mary Poppins. This movie seemed to be running endlessly for up to a year in the Metropole Cinema (the cinema is long gone - it was beside Eason's bookshop).

Coming out of the cinema after the matinee the towering Nelson's Pillar dominated the street. This wonderful nun said she would take us up to the top of the pillar as a further treat. We joined the end of the very long queue leading to the pillar. In her penguin robes the nun was instantly noticed by the ticket men. Within seconds we were being ushered past the hundreds of waiting people to the pillar entrance. My initial reaction was one of utter shock to be jumping a big queue. In school or elsewhere I would be a dead man walking! I looked nervously at the faces in the queue as we walked briskly past. Everyone was looking at us. However there was not one word of anger, no scowling faces. Quite the opposite in fact - I recall many warm smiles and even a few pleasant salutations to the nun as we passed. My shock melted into a wonderful sense of privilege and the nun grew hugely in my respect for her powers. We were like royalty, this was red carpet treatment!

We wound our way gingerly up the poorly lit narrow spiral stone steps inside the pillar. On eventually reaching the top we looked down at O'Connell Street far below and triumphantly noted the size of the queue still stretching up the street. To me the shaft of the pillar below us really seemed too narrow and fragile to support us all on our high viewing platform. We were even looking down at the roof on the huge GPO nearby. I also had a close look at the statue of Admiral Nelson himself on his pedestal just above us.

It was a great and memorable day. I enjoyed Mary Poppins, the excitement of Nelson's Pillar and I learned (alas temporarily!) that it was good practice to have a nun with you in a long queue!

PS - I wonder if that nun is still alive, I don't even recall her name, she was a kind person indeed.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Ireland and World Cup

Okay, from lastnight's Swiss drawn match result we are out of the soccer World Cup next year. Sad.

I'm going to add my very humble personal opinion to the huge pile contributed from self-apppointed experts who look at team performances. My only qualification is some sort of analytical and tactical mind and having watched plenty of soccer and listened to real experts for at least 35 years. Hence I know more than Brian Kerr ....mmmh....I'm sure he's scared!

I've noticed one thing our players either don't do at all or do badly - and all the really great teams of the past are good at. This is the skill of directly and properly tackling the opposition's defence - coupled with simultaneous tight passing - making space and thereby creating an extra fraction of a second of time in front of the goal at edge of the box. I know it's much easier said than done. It's down to player skills and excellent teamwork. Brazil were always superb at this and so were the great Holland team of 1974. Argentina and Italy did it well also. I guess we just don't have good enough players and/or they don't have an opportunity to practise and play long enough together as an international squad to make this work smoothly.

I thought about our lack of properly tackling the Swiss defense all through the game - it was particularly evident in this match. I was pleased to hear a real expert after the game - Liam Brady - point out this problem clearly.

There we go, I've had my say........I think I'll stick to the day job.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Knighthoods conferred on Irish people

I'm wondering how to feel about the British conferring knighthoods on Irish people. It seems like a good compliment at face value.

I recall Bob Geldof's reaction at the time for his knighthood. Many folk thought he might refuse it, being the maverick he was. Bob was delighted to accept it - saying to one reporter "Of course I accept it. If someone offers me a cup of coffee, I accept it". What he meant was that if someone gives you an award in a spirit of generousity why should you not accept it?

Is it a problem because the honor comes from the British, our old oppressors? I know that many British in centuries gone by saw ordinary Irish folk as some kind of humanoid ape-like creatures who uttered a gibberish language. Now they are conferring some of us with knighthoods out of respect for exceptional deeds. Seems we need to put the past behind us at some point. Furthermore - if someone accepts a knighthood - what's wrong with using it? If someone gives you a gift then it is polite to use it. It seems like hypocricy or least ungratefulness otherwise.

One is only entitled to use the "Sir" title if technically a UK citizen. Furthermore it is silly to "insist" on being called Sir XYZ. Someone might put the title on display on cards and communications but it is crazy to get upset if some just decides to call you Mr. XYZ. Displaying the title is a mark of gratitude and respect by the recipient to the doner. It's entirely a matter for others if they decide to address the person with it or not.

Above are just my spontaneous views. I might be persuaded to think differently!

PS - I also recall Bob Geldof being asked what the Queen said to him at the conferring. It seems she asked him was it difficult for him to travel to get there (London and the Palace). Bob(dressed in pinstripes and tie) told her:"Not as difficult as getting into these clothes!" apparently the Queen enjoyed a knowing chuckle at this.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Paddy Power Last Supper billboard advert

My article below titled "Humour and Religion" was published in Letters section of Irish Independent newspaper on 17 Oct 05. The editors removed some of my original sentences which I've included in italics below. I've no problem with that - it does keep the core sentiments and is more compact. They also dropped the capital H in "Himself" when referring to Jesus...I was trying to be respectful, but the Indo clearly didn't go for it!.

The controversial billboard, while it lasted, contained a light hearted joke that the Last Supper was not the time or place to be gambling. Is this really so grossly offensive?

Granted the image might arguably have offered more intelligent humour and been in better taste had it excluded Jesus Himself from seemingly being personally involved in the gambling process at the table. I say this because if we think a little deeper, would it really be impossible to imagine the disciples engaged in gambling at just the wrong time? We are talking about ordinary unsophisticated fishermen, who, in their well intentioned but fallible humanity, had at different stages either fallen asleep when they were asked to pray, denied Jesus after having promised not to, and betrayed Him for money. Moreover, Da Vinci's huge and dramatic Last Supper fresco was actually capturing the very moment after Jesus had announced that one of those at the table was about to betray Him. So I think the joke could have been wittier thrown more firmly on the disciples and maybe showing a contrastingly exasperated Jesus. Of course those in the advertising world don't always use too much sensitivity of thought on the subjects that they exploit.

Even though the advert as displayed perhaps wrongly poked some fun at Jesus Himself, there nevertheless is a general point to be raised. Are we still at the stage that there is no room at all for any humour in any interfacing on religion? I've listened to some Christian teachers say that Jesus was likely to have had a sense of humour - His ability to draw an attention span of groups of children being one clue. I think one of the problems is that many of us when approaching the subject of religion still fail to see the importance of both the recognition and inclusion of many valued aspects of our humanity. Our humanity in a very positive way includes humour and laughter.