Saturday, June 20, 2015

Yeats & Howth


Pat Liddy
Click on any image for a larger version

In this decade of celebrations, including the 150th anniversary of the birth of WB Yeats, some serious effort is being put into claiming the poet for the Northside, well, part of him, at least.

Yeats's connections with Howth are tenuous enough. He lived there for three years in his late teens. He has the odd reference to the area in the odd poem. But that seems to be it.

Nevertheless that did not deter local TD and Minister for Culture, Aodhán Ó Riordáin, from organising a Yeats walk in Howth earlier today.

Our guide was the ubiquitous Pat Liddy (above).


An enraptured Aodhán Ó Riordáin

Aodhán (above) contented himself with what he referred to as the "housekeeping" ...


No rest for the wicked

... and, of course, him being a Minister, keeping in touch with the powers that be.


Pat's portable Public Address System

We had assembled at Howth DART station where Pat had given us an introduction and we had then wended our way up what he called the "sloping road" to St. Mary's Abbey. The abbey was originally founded when the monastic settlement on Ireland's Eye became too dangerous a location for the monks with the advent of the Vikings.


A smouldering Ireland's Eye

Pat was quick to draw our attention to the fact that they were probably still out there on the Eye (above), though God knows what there is now left to pillage. An alternative explanation is that this is just the remains of the other day's fire still smoking itself out.


Balscadden House?

Following this the group split up, with the fitter members doing the trek around to Balscadden House where Yeats lived for that briefest of brief periods.

I went back to Findlaters for the poetry readings but not before taking a distant shot in the direction of the house. And no, it's not that big house. It appears that all I got of it was the greenhouse at the extreme right of shot.

I missed the house because I didn't know what I was looking for and I'm not enough of a literary type to have wondered about it previously.


The real Balscadden House
Photo: Collette Gill

However, you can see the whole thing above (including the greenhouse), thanks to Collette Gill, who was also on the walk and who knew what she was at. Collette's focus is normally more on Clontarf/Raheny where she will be remembered particularly for her trojan work on commemorating the 1014 Battle of Clontarf all through last year.


Findlaters: initial confab

Back at Findlater's, it's first things first, with Fiach Mac Conghail, looking more like he was planning the actual Rising itself, rather than just sorting out his reading of Easter 1916.


Aodhán and the four readers

The first reading was by Fiach Mac Conghail who read Yeats's Easter 1916. This is a well known poem and I suppose the line that always stays with you is A terrible beauty is born.

The next was from Joanna Siewierska who took her life in her hands and recited rather than read her favourite poem, In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz. Joanna is of Polish origin, has just completed her Leaving Cert, and is Deputy President of the Irish Second Level Students Union (ISSU). Her poem was gently delivered and very evocative.

The third contribution was from Laura Harmon, orignally from Cork but now in Dublin, who is currently President of The Union of Students in Ireland (USI). She also did a daring read, The Lake Isle of innisfree. It is a poem that I like despite its being hackneyed to death on school curricula and elsewhere. I actually lived on Innisfree very briefly way back in the distant past. I have heard W B Yeats reciting the poem (on radio) and it was woeful. He declaimed rather than recited it, but I suppose that was the style of the day. Laura's reading was much softer and intimate and a pleasure to hear.

The fourth and last contribution was from Brigid Quilligan, Director of the Irish Traveller Movement and herself a Minceir. She read The Stolen Child which she said transported her back to her youth every time she came in contact with it.


The Stolen Child

My own connections with Howth do not go back as far as Yeats - a mere seven decades. And my then tenuous connections with the artistic world never blossomed, though had I sat for a real artist like Gordon Brewster, who knows what might have become of me.

Mention of Gordon does, however, remind me of a further minor, but not entirely irrelevant connection. It was through the Yeats family that Gordon met his wife to be, a young lady from the North Strand who they asked him to teach to draw. At that time he was living in Strandville, not far from the house where WB had briefly lived some forty odd years previously.

Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention the Cocoa, well heralded by Aodhán, and the drink the Great Man drank as he wrote. This was served after the readings. I didn't get round to sampling it, but then I'm a Horlicks man myself.


Don't believe a word of it

I started with Pat so I'll finish with him here making a (finger) point which seems to be received with some degree of scepticism, by his nearest neighbour at least.


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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Gordon Brewster - In Memoriam


Gordon at work

Remembering Gordon Brewster who died on this day in 1946.

Gordon was Chief Cartoonist with Independent Newspapers and subsequently head of the Art Department in the first half of the 20th century.

One of my proudest moments was to give a talk on him in the National Library of Ireland last November in the presence of three generations of his descendants.


Background material here

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David Hedigan - In Memoriam


L-R: Niall O'Donoghue, David Hedigan RIP, Felix Larkin

On this day, Bloomsday, last year, David Hedigan did a Joyce reading at Niall's Martello Tower in Killiney. It was not only Bloomsday but his wife, Susan's, birthday.

It is fitting to remember David today, he died on 30 March 2015, RIP.

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Attribution


The Swastika Laundry in Lansdowne Road in the 1960s
Click image for a larger version

Those who know me know that I have a very open attitude to sharing information. I have a website and some blogs for a number of years and people are welcome to use the material I have compiled. I have done a whack of research on family and local (Killiney) history over the years and I have made the results available through illustrated talks and extensive background pages on my website. I am normally thrilled to see my stuff appearing on other people's sites.

So no problem there. I really only have two conditions (and expectations) when people use or draw on my stuff. I would like, and am entitled to, some credit for the material, and all I'm talking about here is a mention of the source. And I do not like people, either explicitly or implicitly, claiming that my material is in fact theirs.

I think that is a very reasonable attitude and I have put a Creative Commons notice on my blogs and website so that people are aware that they are free to use the material for non-commercial purposes, provided they credit it to me and do not mess it up.

Anyone who has asked me about material has found that I am not only happy for them to use it, I am prepared to help them and put in some extra work myself if this is needed.

So I have got a bit pissed off on a very few occasions over the years about what I consider unreasonable use of my material, the most recent of those being yesterday. I thought then that I would mention these few in a blog post, just to get it off my chest once and for all.

Old Dublin Town

This is a very interesting website and the webmaster has put a huge amount of work into it and deserves a lot of credit for assembling such a vast range of relevant material. I have only two gripes here.

Two of my pictures appear on the site without any indication of where they are from. The first is of the Swastika Laundry (above) on a page dealing with the laundry. And the second appears on a page dealing with Nelson's Pillar. There is no mention of where these came from though both are on my site. The first appears in my Signs of the Times section, and the second in an extended slide show on Nelson's Pillar.

My second gripe concerns a video which appears on the Nelson's Pillar page and which is viewable either on the page or on Youtube. The soundtrack is The Dubliners on Nelson but the visuals consist almost 100% of pictures from my slideshow. The Dubliners are given credit, not on the page but on Youtube, but I am not mentioned.

Ballybrack Parish

I lived in the parish for about twenty years and only left after getting married in this fine church. The parish subsequently acquired a chapel of ease in Killiney village. This is St. Stephen's and it is a beautiful little church. Imogen Stuart was the artist in residence for its construction and fitting out and she did a fabulous job. I took some photos on visit to Killiney some years later and they can be seen on my site. Imagine my surprise when in more recent times I was checking out some material in the parish newletter online only to find the complete set of my photos up on the parish site without any mention of where they came from. Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, they are now gone off the parish site, swept away in a site revamp.

Dublin, the old days and ways

This interesting Facebook site appears to be of relatively recent origin and consists of a group of people who have an interest in Dublin's history and photographs relating to it. I don't know why it is a closed group, but as the only way I could check it out was to apply to join, I did just that. After a slight hiccup with the admin I was admitted and started checking out some of the rare old photos. I fairly quickly came upon a piece about a grand uncle of mine complete with a photo of his old premises in James's St. I was well into the text when I started feeling there was something familiar about it and then realised that it was actually a piece I had written for the Pues Occurrences blog in 2010. It appeared here without any attribution and one could be forgiven for thinking that the admin who posted it had written it himself.

Being the neurotic that I am, I posted a comment giving a link to the source of the text and photo. I also gave a link to a page on my site dealing extensively with a bridge, across the Grand Canal at Fatima, which had been referred to in the discussion on the post. And I also linked to a page on my site which gave a lot of background to a talk I had given on my grand uncle some years back.

I took it, from the blue line on the left of my comment, that comments were moderated, but imagine my surprise when I exited the page later to find I was no longer a member of the group. Fortunately I still had a copy of the page open and took a screen shot which you can peruse here.

The discussion was lively and shaping up well and I was looking forward to participating in it and talking to some of the people who had actually crossed the bridge while it was still there. If you're really excited by this little adventure of mine you can see an annotated version of my exchanges with the admin here.

It was a truly weird conversation as far as I am concerned. Remember, I am the injured party here. He is behaving like I have injured him and then to rub it in he offering me personal advice. I understand he is a hairdresser by profession and, in this case, he would clearly be better confining his attentions to the outside of other people's heads.



So there you have it. Anonymous testimony to the worth of my work all over the internet.

Friday, May 29, 2015

What Constitution?


Catherine Murphy, TD
Click on any image for a larger version

I see it all as very straightforward.

RTÉ wanted to publish some details of an arrangement Denis O'Brien had with IBRC (formerly Anglo Irish Bank). Neither O'Brien nor IBRC wanted the information published, on the grounds that it would damage his/their commercial interests, and they got a court injunction prohibiting RTÉ from publishing it.

Clear so far.

Catherine Murphy, TD, subsequently stated in the Dáil (Irish lower house of Parliament) that O'Brien had been getting significant loans at below market rates and, as IBRC was owned by the State, that this amounted to a massive taxpayer subsidy.

O'Brien's lawyer immediately requested most of the media not to publish Murphy's remarks as either the information was already injuncted or he would obtain an injunction to prohibit publication (I haven't seen the letter so I don't know its precise wording).


Tweet of original article by Irish Times at 16:50 28/5/15
Live link

Most of the media reacted by pulling any copy which contained the controversial information. For example, the Irish Times had already published it online but quickly pulled the item and a sanitised version was not issued until some seven hours later. This is the paper that not so long ago consciously broke the law to protect its sources.


Broadsheet.ie's response
Live link

Broadsheet.ie, on the other hand, stood its ground. It also revealed that it had received a legal letter from the O'Brien camp.


And Peter Murtagh, of the Irish Times, did the clever thing late last night and tweeted a link to the Dáil transcript on the Oireachtas website.

Personally, I think the issue is still very clear. Words spoken in the Dáil are guaranteed absolute privilege under the Constitution as is their reporting. Therefore no lawyer or judge can stop the media reporting Murphy's words in parliament. And that includes RTÉ.

The injunction, whatever its merits otherwise, is not relevant to the reporting of Parliament and the constitutional guarantee trumps any court decision. The only relevance of the existing injunction in this case was whether Murphy would give any weight to it in deciding whether or not to say her piece in Parliament. Once it was said it was protected.

So I'm still very clear on the matter (though admittedly I am not an authority in this area).

What disturbs me is how the bulk of the media immediately ran for cover when they got the legal letter. These are the organs on which we depend to defend our right to information and our freedom of speech. If they can be upset that easily they are clearly not up to the job.

Some politicians have called for the Dáil to be recalled to debate the matter, but it seems to me that it is not a matter for Parliament at this stage. It is a matter for those media who have buckled under a piece of legal blustering and fallen down on their duty to report faithfully what goes on in Parliament. Such reporting has a specific constitutional guarantee, for God's sake.

It is up to Parliament itself to deal with the issue of whether if feels Murphy's statement constituted an abuse of privilege or not.

I would be very interested to see the justification, if any, for the issue of the legal letter and to see its precise wording. I would also like to see whatever legal advice the media got which led them to pull their copy. There is something not very right going on here and it needs the light of day shone on it fast.

Brian Lucey has an interesting nuance in his latest blog post. The implication is that if this were to become a regular occurrence and people's reputations were being destroyed by false accusations rather than by revelations in the public interest, something would have to be done about it. Possibly, but that's for another day.


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Thursday, May 28, 2015

HEAD 7


Click any image for a larger version

Following the passing of the same sex marriage referendum the next stage will be the drawing up and implementation of the required legislation.

One of the controversial aspects of the campaign was the position of religious ministers as solemnisers of civil marriages. At present, in the Roman Catholic Church, for example, the religious ceremony has the corresponding civil ceremony tagged on to it, so to speak. From the couple's point of view, this simply involves them signing the civil register in the sacristy after the religious ceremony. The priest is a registered civil solemniser and so the marriage is thereby recognised and recorded by the State. In my day we all knew that the couple adjourned to the sacristy "to sign the register", but I am sure very few of us, me included, ever fully appreciated the niceties of what was happening.


Proposed exemption - click for larger image

Bringing in civil same sex marriage created a potential problem for the Church. In fulfilling his civil function a priest would now be performing a marriage which, while it would only involve a heterosexual couple in this case, did include in its remit the marriage of same sex couples. This led the Church to threaten to withdraw their priests from the solemnising of all civil marriages if the same sex marriage referendum was passed.

Even worse, the Church feared that the inclusion of same sex unions in the civil definition of marriage might result in their members being obliged to solemnise such unions on behalf of the State. So the Government promised them an exemption and this is reflected in Head 7 of the proposed draft legislation above.


Bert & Ernie to top cake - click for larger image

However, the whole area of exceptions has the potential for opening up a can of worms as illustrated in a recent case in Northern Ireland where a bakery refused, on religious grounds, to supply a cake with a pro same sex marriage slogan on it. The bakery has been found guilty of infringing equality legislation. This has made the church in the south very nervous as the solemnisers' exemption is simply being proposed in law and is not enshrined in the constitutional amendment.

This all provoked me into wondering what other exceptions might need to be provided for. And what other, even tenuously related, issues might be lying around which could be tidied up by tagging them onto the proposed legislation. There is a tradition in Government of tagging even unrelated outstanding issues onto legislation which happens to be going through the Oireachtas. The Attorney General's people don't like this as it leads to very confusing legislation afterwards but it is not always their call.

Now would be the time to sort all this out as the relevant legislation is about to be rushed through the Oireachtas before the summer break.

Bakeries and other such product and service providers would be one area for consideration.


Gerry's teddies - click for larger image

But what about Gerry Adams's same sex teddies. What if Gerry were to turn up before a solemniser with Tom in one hand and Ted in the other and ask that solemniser, politely one hopes, to perform a union. What then?


Modest double bed - click for larger image

Or, leaving same sex aside and just considering creature comfort, and possibly even a bit of heterosexual hanky panky, what about those old folk in Father Scully House who are currently denied double beds?

I'm sure the list is endless.

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Áine


Áine Bean Uí Shúilleabháin
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Sadly, Áine died this morning.

So I finally have to forgive her for her one indiscretion that I know of personally.

In the early 1950s she revealed to me that there was no Santy Clause. I don't remember if I was devastated or if I'd had my suspicions, but it is an event that I still remember. Mind you, she must have been very convincing as I had received an actual letter from Santy himself only a year or two previously.

But then, you could always believe Áine. A feisty woman with a great sense of humour and a twinkle in her eye, but straight as a die.

I got to know Áine when she was our next door neighbour at No. 41 Orwell Gardens in the early 1950s. We were staying with my granny then, and my mother and Áine became friends and, as I remember, attended the Rathmines Tech together for a period.

The Ó Súilleabháins were the cause of me going to Coláiste Mhuire after my ignominious rejection by Synge Street.
.


No. 41 Orwell Gardens, as it is today (2011)

After we moved to Ballybrack, I still had contact with the family through Áine's husband Donnchadh, who was General Secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge and Secretary of the Oireachtas (now Oireachtas na Gaeilge to distinguish it from the national parliament). Donnchadh died unexpectedly in 1989. I also maintained contact with her daughter Bríd through our common involvement with the theatre and beyond.

Sad to say, I did not keep up any regular contact with Áine, all my own fault, though I did meet her a few years back and she was in fighting form.

She was 96.


Church of the Holy Child, Whitehall

Sympathies to Bríd, Gerry and family.

May she rest in peace.

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Where is it ? No. 37


Click image for a larger version

To see all the quiz items click on the "Where?" tag below.

To see all the unsolved quiz items click on the "unsolved" tag below.

Update - almost immediately

Damn him. He's done it again. Felix Larkin gets the prize. The cheque is in the post.


But I have solved the mystery. He is the only person who reads my blog and when I post one of these quiz items he races out of the house and walk the streets of Dublin till he finds the answer.

Well done Felix.


Google Street View. Shadow is of Pepperpot Church

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Michael Edwards 2015



Click any image for a larger version

Michael Edwards has done it again. And this time the exhibition in the Donaghmede Shopping Centre has a slight change of style.


This year we have a series of exhibitions each from a different photo club. Currently on display are photos from St. Benedict's club in Kilbarrack. The standard is very high and there are some really fabulous shots.


The scheme works as follows. The studio invited 6 camera groups to exhibit for 4 weeks each. The public will view and vote for 10 out of each group. At the end they will exhibit the top ten from each group and these will be judged for The Michael Edwards Trophy 2015 and finalists 1 to 10.

The exhibition is run in association with the shopping centre and sponsored by Dublin City Council, who, incidentally, are doing great work promoting culture all round the city and right through the year.

So, if you're in the area, do drop in, checkout these great photos and leave your vote.


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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Liberation Day



HAPPY LIBERATION DAY
Click any image for a larger version

Yesterday, 9th May, was Liberation Day in the Channel Islands. This is when islanders celebrate the end of the Nazi occupation in 1945. The islands were unique in being the only part of the "British Isles" to have been occupied by the Nazis during WWII. The occupation had its brutal elements and the Nazis turned the islands, and Jersey in particular, into a huge fortress with massive surface and underground defences, mostly built by very badly treated POWs.

So the people of Jersey, the island with which I am most familiar, had much to celebrate on this day in each year following the end of WWII. This year was special as the 70th anniversary and it was seen as marking perhaps the end of those celebrations in which aging survivors of the occupation could take part in any numbers.

So I tweeted my friends in Jersey a happy Liberation Day and I meant it. What follows refers to Jersey alone.


UNFINISHED BUSINESS

It seemed a good day, without hopefully spoiling the party, to recall some unfinished business left over from the liberation. There was an opportunity then to revamp the whole system and also free the islands, and Jersey in particular, from a much more embedded occupation dating from previous centuries.

The island is a Crown Dependency, which means it is directly governed by the Queen who appoints its principal officers. It has appropriated much of the nomenclature of a modern democracy but its structures remain essentially feudal. Asserting one's human rights under the present system is somewhat haphazard in its results and can depend very much on the proximity of one's association with the ruling clique.

The montage above is of Philip Bailhache, the more prominent of the Bailhache brothers, both of whom have held most of the island's major offices over recent decades. Philip, a former Bailiff and currently Senator and Foreign Minister, is seen as the puppetmaster though it is clear that there are others pulling his strings.

His most recent contribution to good governance on the island was to try and sabotage the current inquiry into decades of child abuse and cover-up, an area in which he is seriously conflicted himself.


REVOLVING DOORS

This is Philip's brother William. Currently Bailiff, he was previously Attorney General during a period when many prosecutions of alleged child abusers were either dropped or refused. His period in office at that time will hopefully come up for review in the course of the current inquiry into child abuse on the island.


ONE MIKE THAT WILL NOT BE TURNED OFF TODAY

The policing function on the island is complex. Each of the twelve island parishes has its own police force and it is only in more recent times that an all-island force has been developed to any significant degree. There are serious contraints on the all-island force, including political ones, and recent years have seen these exercised aggressively by the establishment when it illegaly sacked the police chief and smeared the senior investigating officer as their inquiries into earlier child abuse were getting too close to the bone.

A more compliant central policing régime was then recruited, the current head of which is Mike Bowron (above), renowned for chatting to ordinary people in the street and ignoring them when they come as supplicants to his office. The wide discretion available to the policing function in Jersey (there is no separate independent prosecution function) means that whether you are charged with an offence or not frequently depends on who you are.

The reference in the caption is to Philip Bailhache, then Bailiff and Speaker in the States (Parliament), turning off the microphone of the then Health Minister, Stuart Syvret, as he tried to raise the question of child abuse in the House on an earlier Liberation Day.


PROTECTING MORE THAN DATA

Emma Martins is the Data Protection Commissioner. Her principal contribution to the island to date seems to have been (i) to support the "Gang of Four" in their effort to have Stuart Syvret brought before the courts (another partial institution) for publishing information which was clearly in the public interest and (ii) to have Stuart's blog taken down from Blogger/Google on spurious legal grounds.


HAUT DE LA GARENNE - a misdemeanor, move on

It would be unfair to leave out Emma's daddy, John Nettles aka Bergerac, whose BBC TV series was set in the island and was shooting footage at Haut de la Garenne (the notorious centre of child abuse) while there were still children resident on the premises. BBC have recently called off a rerun of the series in the face of public protest. In recent times Nettles has attempted to downplay the significance of the centre. I really couldn't leave him out as Emma has declared that she frequently takes her daddy's advice.

The above are most of the tweets I tweeted yesterday for Liberation Day.


I couldn't finish, however, without recalling this event from the obverse of the liberation coin. Arising directly from his principled conflict with this deficient system of administration and justice, Stuart Syvret has already done a few stints of porridge and may yet come to do more.

So let us wish a happy LIBERATION PHASE 2 to the people of this beautiful island.

Note: you can see all the tweets here. You may have to click "Show photo" to see individual images.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Prince Arthur's Sword


The Calm before the Storm
Click any image for a larger version

The National Library's lecture theatre at about a quarter to one today (6/5/2015). Very much the calm before the storm. The room started filling up and at about five past one the storm broke.

Mark Leslie, second in succession to the Leslie Baronetcy currently held by his uncle Jack, launched us into his family's tempestuous history, peppered with fascinating stories and all the while way up the social ladder.

It all revolved around the family home, Castle Leslie in Glaslough Co. Monaghan, now a very high class hotel and equestrian centre.

The title of Mark's talk was "Norman Leslie and the Sword of Prince Arthur". Norman was Mark's grand-uncle who had a very colourful career in the British Army, so much so that he was awarded a specially inscribed sword by Prince Arthur, first Duke of Connaught.

Norman died at the Western Front in 1914 while leading his men in a charge and holding the sword aloft as befitted an officer. While his body was subsequently located and buried, the sword could not be found.

Many years later, a Belgian farmer, ploughing his field, unearthed the sword and seeing the inscription returned it to the War Office who returned it to the Duke of Connaught, who in turn returned it to the family. It is a treasured heirloom which now surfaces on important family occasions.



Mark Leslie launching his talk

So that explains the title of the talk. Norman had also been probably the last British Army soldier to engage in an officially approved duel. That arose out of his womanising and he was lucky to survive it.

We heard about Mark's antecedents, including a bishop who defied Cromwell, and in more modern times, a relation who got away with wearing a tiara which was bigger than the Queen's at a royal reception in Buck House.

If I were to recount the many other great stories I'd be here all night so I'll just say that this was one of the, if not the, best talks I've ever been at, and if it ever comes to a location near you in the future make sure not to miss it.

And if it doesn't and is being given in a faraway place, make sure you travel to it.

You won't regret it.

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Saturday, May 02, 2015

Photographing Children


Click on any image for a larger version

A recent trip to TESCO found this man in the foyer. He was offering photos in period costumes for children and families. I thought it was a great idea and asked him if he'd mind me photographing him and his stand for a blog post. No problem.

So I took the photo above. I was immediately approached by a security man who told me photos were not allowed in the foyer. I explained that the man was quite happy having his photo taken. Made no difference. Photos were not allowed in the foyer. People might not want their photo taken.

This gave rise to a maelstrom of speculation in my head. Might I have incidentally included a couple who were having a clandestine affair. Might someone have pulled a sickie and gone on a shopping expedition. Might some proud Southsider fear being seen on the Northside. The possibilities were endless.

Anyway, I put away the camera (with its precious photo) and took a shot of the other side of the stand, with the rack of period clothes, on my way out. Where was the security man then? Just between ourselves, he's half way down the foyer behind the dresses. As obscured from me as I from him.


I am not against data protection, but really, when it's carried this far it's just plain nuts.

I was in my local village one day a good while ago when I spotted a procession of kids passing through. On closer inspection they had horror masks and painted faces and a variety of spooky costumes. It was apparently a school spookwalk for charity. I thought it would be nice to blog a photo of such an interesting happening and took out my camera. This was immediately spotted by the kids who started playing up to it. All good humoured. I even gave my card to one of teachers and said I was thinking of blogging a photo.

Imagine my surprise and horror when I subsequently got a phone call from the school principal, who turned out to be as embarrassed as I was, but "would I please not use the photos". Apparently the Principal would have had to get releases signed by all the parents and that would be another big task on top of the already overloaded day job. I had no problem laying off the blog post and sent copies of the photos to the Principal for use in the school.

But I really thought it was all going a bit far and that it was such a pity that the great sense of fun, innocence, enthusiasm and happiness of these kids was being overshadowed by such an all-pervasive sense of fear on the part of the adults. Anyway, not my call.

It is a bit unnerving though to think that I and all those around me are walking around inside a cocoon of copyright. Maybe I should stop saying hello to people in the street in case I inadvertently burst their cocoon.

Then I read in today's paper about new RC Church rules on parents taking photos of their children on church property during Confirmation. Worth your while to read the piece. Not only do the restrictions appear unnecessary, they are positively cruel in this digital day and age. It is one thing to ask people not to disrupt or distract from the ceremony when taking photos, but another to prohibit them altogether.

Anyway, I'm making my personal protest below in visual form. This is my first holy communion day in 1951. So there.


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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Hairline Cracks


Frances Oldham, Chair of child sex abuse Inquiry,
and the Victoria College £10 note
Click any image for a larger version

It is nearly a year now since I did a rundown post on the situation in Jersey (CI). This is not because nothing has been happening there. There has been a lot of developments. But my general Jersey posts have been more by way of a background introduction to the scene there and the Jersey Bloggers have been doing a great job keeping the pressure on and reporting to the world at large.

For convenience I had copied my Jersey posts to a separate blog "Introducing Jersey" and will do the same with this one. That blog also lists the blogs I follow to keep up with current developments in Jersey.

The Inquiry

Probably the most significant development in the last year has been the work of the inquiry into institutional child sex abuse. The inquiry has heard evidence about abuse from survivors and is now moving into its second phase where it will hear from those who were in varying degrees responsible for the running of the institutions being highlighted. The children's home at Haut de la Garenne has achieved worldwide notoriety for the extreme abuse carried out there and for the insensitivity of the BBC in filming the series Bergerac there while there were still children resident on the premises. Another institution was Victoria College, illustrated on the Jersey £10 note above. The addition of the cameo of Frances Oldham is my own doing.

Among those who genuinely want to see a full and open inquiry, opinion is sharply divided about the current set up. On the one hand this is the only show in town and some are anxious to make the maximum use of it to get closure for survivors by having them testify, and to show up the perpetrators of abuse and cover up by exposing them to full public view.

However, there are serious reservations in some quarters about the structure of the inquiry, the closeness of its ties to the Jersey and UK establishments, and the sometimes sloppy way in which it has set about its business. These are articulated by former Health Minister, political prisoner and current blogger, Stuart Syvret.

Funding for the inquiry has also been controversial as costs (mainly legal costs) have escalated from the £6 million originally envisaged to something in the region of a final expected cost of £20 million at present. There is no guarantee that the final bill will not exceed this amount. Some have been using the escalating cost, forecasting a final outcome of £50 million or more, in an attempt to stop the inquiry in its tracks. So far, they have been unsuccessful and the States (Jersey Parliament) has recently supported the Chief Minister's proposal for an extra £13 million by a large majority, although most of the "cabinet" seem to have voted against. Nevertheless, people are generally uneasy about the escalating costs and stricter ongoing monitoring arrangements are being put in place in an attempt to control them. It does not help that the money is going to well paid lawyers, some of whose chambers are well connected with the establishment.

The current inquiry poses a serious dilemma for someone like Stuart Syvret. He would be a key witness by virtue of: his previous role as Health Minister responsible for children's services; his role as a whistleblower which the establishment has gone to great lengths to suppress (by imprisoning him and having his original blog taken down); his role as a public representative in whom many of the survivors have confided and to whom they have provided evidence over the last 7 years or so; and his role as a fearless blogger showing up the rottenness of the establishment. But in cooperating with the inquiry he would be leaving himself open to legal retaliation unless the inquiry were to give him some form of unconditional immunity. As it stands they won't even finance some initial legal advice for him, and, since the establishment have reduced him to social welfare, he is hardly in a position to pay for this himself.

If he doesn't play ball, the inquiry may lack vital evidence and so come to a weaker conclusion. If he does, they may still come to a weak conclusion and by implication devalue his contribution which might otherwise be valuable in any follow up.

As of now, he seems to have decided not to participate. He says this is a personal decision and he is not advising others one way or the other.

There is a parallel controversy going on over whether Jersey should be covered by the (hopefully) upcoming British inquiry into child sex abuse and whether the current Jersey inquiry should be merged into it. The current fragmentation of British inquiries (Britain, Northern Ireland, Jersey) does not make sense given that both victims and perpetrators moved freely across these territories and that these movements contributed to the guilty getting away with it for so long.

The Parapet

It is not an easy decision to stick your head above the parapet in Jersey, any more than it was in Gallipoli or on the Somme. You are in serious danger of having it blown off.

I mentioned Stuart Syvret above and I have covered the fate of Police Chief Graham Power and Senior Investigating Officer Lenny Harper in earlier posts.

The last year has seen the bankrupting of former members of the Jersey parliament, Trevor and Shona Pitman. This resulted from them losing a legal action over a cartoon that they considered defamatory and the authorities opting for the severest available penalty when they could not afford the legal costs. My own gut feeling is that they were set up with the cartoon and that the authorities were only too happy to opt for the most severe penalty which, while it was not to the financial advantage of those who won the case, did effectively deprive the Pitmans of their parliamentary roles.

Rico Sorda started blogging as an investigative reporter some years ago and has done sterling work. He has, however, incurred the wrath of the resident public nuisance, and he and his wife have been subject to death threats and a vicious campaign against her in her place of work.

Neil McMurray and Bob Hill have continued attempting to hold the authorities to account with very solid and authoritative blog posts, and I'll bet they have not been free of retaliation, though they have not advertised it.

The Craven Media

Both the BBC and the Jersey Evening Post have continued their craven support of the establishment. I have the impression that they are too embedded to even think of doing otherwise. There have been some slight cosmetic changes but nothing to rock the boat.

The highlight of the Post's existence must surely have been during the Nazi occupation when everyone read it and its copy carried a higher authority. I sort of had a soft spot for the Post since they published my letters in 1961 and criticised my online Nazi references last year, but we mustn't allow this personal affection to cloud our judgement.

I had wondered over the years how a local branch of the much respected BBC could be so captured by a corrupt establishment. Post Savile revelations from HQ show that it was very much in the house style. Some years ago BBC Jersey published an "official" report which purported to criticise the then Chief of Police who had been making a nuisance of himself by having the temerity to support the exposure of child sex abuse and of the ensuing cover up. BBC has had the former Chief's response to its accusations in its possession for a few years now but refused to either publish it or even refer to its contents.

I can't really comment on Channel TV, or ITV Jersey, or whatever it is called, as I don't know much about it apart from it having got a prize a while back for a scissors and paste job which passed for investigative reporting.

Alternative Media

I may be over optimistic but I have the impression that, in more recent times, the blogs have been steadily increasing their readership, both in Jersey and beyond, and that they are becoming the staple diet of those seeking some balance and sense of reality in their sources of news and information. I sincerely hope this is the case as the bloggers are not only doing trojan work but are taking serious risks in fighting corruption in such a small and feudal based community.

The Voice for Children blog has a solid record in general reporting but particularly in its video interviews. Its recent interview with Chief Minister Gorst was ground breaking and a welcome recognition by some element of the establishment of the serious role played by bloggers in the unfolding story of the island. MSM eat your hearts out.

Election

There was an election to the Jersey parliament late last year but it really hasn't changed anything much. It's mostly a case of the same old compliant faces with the same little merry-go-round at the top.

Jersey does not have a party system. People are elected (often unopposed) on an individual basis and this is a system that seems to suit the establishment very well thank you. Recently, an effort has been made to inaugurate a party system with the establishment of a new party, Reform Jersey, with Deputy Sam Mézec as its chairman, but so far its impact has been very limited. Still it is a step in the right direction. Deputy Montford Tadier, another of the good guys, is also a member of Reform, as is Deputy Geoff Southern. Outside the party, but very much attempting to hold the authorities to account is Deputy Mike Higgins.

Meanwhile, the establishment have attempted to consolidate their hold on Government by instituting a system of Cabinet co-responsibility in tandem with an increase in the Chief Minister's power to appoint and fire ministers without reference to parliament.

On the debit side too (I think) is the return to parliament of Deputy Andrew Lewis, who, as Home Affairs Minister, was implicated in the illegal suspension of the then Police Chief, Graham Power. Deputy Lewis has a lot of questions to answer. Perhaps his re-election will make this self-proclaimed integrity-promoting candidate more answerable to parliament and the public. Who knows? One lives in hope.

Failing Entity?

Jersey has long been a rich place even if not all those living there are rich. In the real economy its exports were agriculture and tourism. But the big money for the few has been in the financial sector (tax haven). The financial sector globally is being tightened up and, as Stuart Syvret has argued, not enough attention has been paid to developing the real economy. One of the results is now an emerging public finance deficit which was denied before the last election but is now admitted.

Apparently, there is no Plan B. So the island may be in for a rough ride in the future.

Those Cracks

And finally, the cracks.

The power elite have run Jersey very comfortably since the end of the Occupation. They remained relatively untroubled by the widespread child sex abuse which they have succeeded in covering up. They have been helped by a public who were either unaware of, or uninterested in, the corruption at the heart of the system. However, it is getting harder now to ignore what is going on and the bloggers are playing a large part in shedding light on the malfeasance.

Philip Bailhache has long been seen as one of the puppeteers and a man with many questions to answer. Up to recently he has managed to divert any efforts to hold him to account. Some years ago he was seen reading confidential official documents to which he should not have had access. He traduced the witnesses but finally had to back down, sort of. More recently he appears to have had direct or indirect access to a confidential document which is part of the current child sex abuse inquiry and he, or someone on his behalf, has been in apparently inappropriate contact with the chair of that supposedly independent inquiry. He unsuccessfully attempted to stop the inquiry in its tracks just as it was getting to the stage of calling in those with responsibility for child care in the past. He had been a Governor of Victoria College when abuse was taking place there.

Last year, former Deputy Shona Pitman was run down by a car which crashed a red light. The police have been negligent in following up this incident and have been obstructive in providing Shona with documentation to which she was entitled, namely a copy of her own statement and insurance details for the driver of the car. The latter, I assume, in an attempt to obscure the identity of the driver. Following Shona's interview with Voice for Children, and further comments from her on that blog, insurance details were finally provided and it appears the identity of the driver is not without interest. This narrative is now in the public domain. Without the bloggers it would presumably have remained hidden as have such incidents in the past.

These are hairline cracks in the system, but in a period when the inquiry is in full swing, and when part of its terms of reference are to flush out political interference in the justice system, the fireworks may be about to commence.

Satire

It is said that you are not fully mature if you can't laugh at yourself. So let's end on an uplifting note.

Voice for Jersey has recently been giving airtime to Lord Reginald Hamilton Rawley Tooting-Jones III who has been taking some potshots at the system.

And Reform Jersey, the only actual political party so far, have done a pictorial satirical analysis (below) of the present shadow party system on the island. To understand this fully you would need to have some familiarity with the existing make up of the parliament which is quite complex and strongly biased in favour of the status quo.

Stay tuned.


A shadow party analysis of the current parliament
Thanks to Reform Jersey
Click image for larger version

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Gorgeous Curvy Lady


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Could this be you? The details are on the poster (above). The shop is Tempted in Raheny, Dublin 5 (below).


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