Monday, March 30, 2015

Who dem bones?


W B Yeats by Augustus John
Click on any image for a larger version

I thought I had debunked the main potential scandal surrounding the island in Lough Gill in Sligo which is identified with W B Yeats's well known (& worn) poem The Lake Isle of Inisfree.

It was Inisfree before it was Rat Island and as far as the official record is concerned it has always been Innisfree.

But, following this year's Family History Day at DCLA I am reminded of another controversy that is far from solved. Anthony J Jordan reminded us that there is still doubt about whose bones are actually in the grave attributed to Yeats in the Drumcliff graveyard and that one raises this question locally at one's peril.

I'm sure there are many such cases around the world, but that one reminded me of one closer to home. In Yeats's case the bones had been moved from the original grave leading to the possibility of wrong identification when the Irish State finally decided to repatriate them from France in accordance with the poet's wishes.

The case I'm thinking of is not one of wrong identification but of the impossibility of identification following the removal of all the remains from St. Peter's church graveyard in Aungier St. to St. Luke's in the Coombe in 1980 (most) and 2003 (remainder).
The burials from the churchyard of St Peter’s, Aungier St (founded 1685) were exhumed by order of the RCB of the Church of Ireland, prior to private sale of that site. The work was carried out by Fanagans Funeral Directors in 1980, under an exhumation licence. The resulting work has been found to have been crudely carried out, by modern and archaeological standards. ‘Three hundred and six polythene bags of human bones, along with 31 timber crates, total representing c. 1,200 individuals, were taken to the crypts of St Luke’s church, and stored there. In addition, 19 lead coffins were placed here’ (Doyle 2001, 4). A block wall was constructed to safeguard the bones. This wall has since been breached, and the bones scattered over the south west area of the crypts.

The site of St Peter’s graveyard, Aungier St, was re- excavated in 2003. On present evidence, and prior to the strat graphic analysis, the date of the burials which remained in the graveyard of St Peter’s cannot be determined, due to the level of disturbance caused by the mechanical exhumation in 1980. More data may be forthcoming from the Consultant Osteoarchaeologist’s analysis of the remains.

The burials from St Peter’s which were placed in the crypts of St Luke’s are jumbled, and uncontexted, and it would not be possible to assemble the bones to individuals. In addition to the crude removal, and storage in groups in bags, the remains have been subsequently vandalised, and now constitute a vast charnel heap.

St. Luke's Conservation plan (2005) p66

I haven't yet checked out some of the famous people who might have been buried in St. Peter's and whose individual honouring is now moot.

There is one person I know was buried there, General Charles Vallancey. I am aware of him through his confrontations with Major Benjamin Fisher, who built the Martello Towers. Whether the General's bones were jumbled in the general confusion or whether he was in a lead coffin and is possibly still identifiable I don't know.

Coincidentally, I tweeted about him only recently in his capacity as a self promoting but delusional expert in the Irish language, and funnily enough that tweet was retweeted just this morning.


This morning's coincidental retweet


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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Family History Day 2015


Greg Young
Click on any image for a larger version

Family History Day in the Dublin City Library and Archive (DCLA) in Pearse Street is always a great occasion.

It gives a number of those who are pursuing their own family history, or that of others, an opportunity to present their results to a receptive audience. I have done three family history presentations on these occasions and they are a wonderful way of getting you to organise your material for getting it across to an audience. They also give you the incentive to quality control your research and to pursue further avenues that suggest themselves in the course of preparation.

DCLA, and Máire Kennedy in particular, are to be commended for providing this wonderful service.

And it is a service, not only to those who have results to present, but to others who are not quite there yet, and to those who have not yet started into this branch of research but who might be inspired to do so by days like these. Even for those who are not involved in research, and who don't intend to be, most of the presentations are sheer entertainment and an education in themselves.

Anyway, nuff pontificating and down to this year's event.

Greg Young, who has been in the family and local history area for a good few years now, kicked off the day with a talk on the Smyth family of Dublin who were parasol and umbrella makers. This had been the subject of his thesis for his Certificate in Local History, a course run by NUI Maynooth in collaboration with DCLA. I have commented on another student's output in an earlier blog post.

Greg's presentation was hugely interesting. His pursuit of the Smyth family brought us through the family's highs and lows: a new start up family business; expansion of the business and its extension to many city locations; it's decline and the descent of the family into poverty; the Bishop's religious prejudice which removed the children from their (non-denominational) schooling to be taken into care, an act which further fragmented the family. Make you sad and angry at the same time.

And then there was the product. The umbrella evolved from the parasol, from keeping off the sun to keeping off the rain. They were originally clumsy heavy things but Smyth's steel technology for the ribbed umbrella made them a more viable proposition. They were made on the premises and some of the locations crossed over with my own family's shoemaking traditions, such as at Wood Quay. In those days particular trades grouped in particular streets.

Greg was clearly anxious to give the best presentation possible. This was his first talk of this sort. He needn't have worried. The next step is the book.


Joan Sharkey

He was followed by Joan Sharkey, from Raheny Heritage Society. Joan is an old hand at this and for her contribution on this occasion she told us how she set about filling some apparently intractable gaps in her own family history.

She was chasing up missing Usshers (the family, not the theatrical employees). She took us on a fascinating trail of detective work, squeezing blood out of the stones of boring official records. Many of these were in the USA & Canada where some of the missing family members had ended up. She also relied heavily on the online records (subscription) of the Irish Petty Sessions (or what has now become the District Court). If someone appeared there, never mind what he was up for, she now knew that he existed and where he was at the time. And if, like me, you are still searching for an ordinary decent criminal (ODC) in the family this is clearly the place to go. This sort of stuff is addictive.


Conor Dodd

Conor Dodd, who is now working as a historian with The Glasnevin Trust, brought us up to date on the extensive range of data now available, principally about those buried in Prospect Cemetery in Glasnevin. The service now includes access to a genealogical advisor (part time) and he stressed that, in the normal course, people are only charged for what is found. So the Trust is actually going out of its way to encourage people to draw on its facilities.

He showed us how the various data sources are interrelated and outlined the richness and limits of what is available.

He also reminded us that the Trust is a private venture which is dependent on the income it raises from its activities. This has not stopped it from undertaking, in recent years, a major cleanup/restoration in Glasnevin cemetery in order to bring it back to the state envisaged by its founders. The "Garden Cemetery" concept is coming back in. So if you are contemplating a leisurely stroll of a Sunday afternoon, there's no better place to go. (I have to declare an interest here, I love graveyards - well, most of them).


Anthony J Jordan

Anthony J Jordan gave us the run down on the Yeats family. It was at times hilarious, at others sad, and at yet others outrageous. That WB fella seems to have been an insufferable individual, though Anthony did more or less persuade us that he wrote great poetry.

You will notice the absence of a screen in the above shot. Anthony gave us an old style presentation regaling us with stories for the imagination in which the imagined illustrations went well beyond the capacity of a Powerpoint screen.

He told us it was quite late when he came across the controversy over WB's bones (ie whose bones are in the grave in Drumcliff). He recounted how, when he gave a talk on the subject in Sligo, he was accused of undermining tourism in the county. A bucket collection for a DNA test would seem to me to have been a more appropriate reaction. But there you are. Leave well enough alone and to hell with the begrudgers.


James Curry

The final session was on the Fitzpatrick family and the satirical journal "The Lepracaun" produced over a decade at the beginning of the twentieth century by Thomas Fitzpatrick.

James Curry is co-author of a book on Thomas Fitzpatrick and The Lepracaun which was launched at this very spot just a month ago. Thomas's cartoons were beautifully drawn and took a poke at hypocrisy in high places and the various pecadillos of politicians and other very important people. Thomas's death in 1912 was headline news and the poor, who he always stood up for, were caught up in a combination of grief and pride on that occasion.

James replayed a first class short video about the book which Philip Bromwell made for RTÉ.

Appropriately enough for a family history occasion, James reminded us that Thomas's artistic and cartooning skills have now passed down to a fourth generation.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

EU Flagging


French Embassy Dublin, July 2008
Link to blogpost

I am seriously pissed off with the upside down flying of the EU flag. I have drawn attention to this many times both on this blog and on my website. Just to illustrate the scale of the offence I have pulled all those previous observations together into this post with links to where I raised matters originally.

There is one new one, spotted by Vivion Mulcahy, on the European Parliament's Facebook page today. This is a second strike for the Parliament, as you will see below. And remember, these are only the occasions I (or Vivion) happened to have noticed over the last while. God knows how many more there are out there, both noticed and un-noticed by others. On one occasion I had to convince an EU ambassador that it was actually possible to fly the flag upside down. And believe you me that took a lot of convincing.

The whole thing is a bit ironic given the extent to which the EU Commission insists on very precise signage on all EU-funded projects throughout the Union.

You can click on most images for a larger version.


Hungarian Embassy Dublin, September 2008
Link to blogpost


EU Commission Office, Dublin, May 2012
Link to blogpost


Sinn Féin video, May 2012
Link to blogpost


TG4 & Phoenix Magazine, January 2013
Link to blogpost



European Parliament, carried in online edition of
Irish Independent, 28 May 2013

Link to blogpost




Sásta Festival, Wexford Town, June 2013
Link to item on my website


Wyatville Road, Ballybrack, July 2013
Photo: Niall O'Donoghue

Link to blogpost


Irish Times online edition 13 August 2013
Link to blogpost


Kylemore Abbey, August 2013
Photo: Vivion Mulcahy

Link to blogpost


European Parliament, Luxembourg Square, Brussels
on Euro Parliament Facebook page, 23 March 2015,
spotted by Vivion Mulcahy

Link to EU Facebook post







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Friday, March 20, 2015

TŶ BACH


That Sleeve, designed by Gráinne Ghleoite
Click on any image for a larger version

I had occasion recently to search through my remaining few vinyl LPs to see if I had a copy of Téanam Ort, a first recording by a Dublin Irish language folk group called TŶ BACH. The LP was recorded in a studio in the heart of Belfast at the height of the troubles in 1974. I had got a copy because I was involved in the recording as a fiddle playing extra member of the group for the duration.

I had rehearsed with the group in the intimacy of one of their sitting rooms and still vividly remember the shock when we went into studio and were placed miles apart. This, no doubt, suited the recording crew who wanted four virgin tracks for the mix, but it didn't suit me as I couldn't relate to the rest of the group being in the next parish, so to speak. I think that arrangement took somewhat from the gusto and group sound but, nevertheless, it was an LP and as such a fairly status item in its time.


Two of the members of TŶ BACH on the Eisteddfod Field:
Gearóid on guitar and Colm on mandolin

As you might read on the record sleeve, if you had one, the group was formed after the musicians in question, Colm, Gearóid and Ken, had paid a visit to the 1973 Welsh National Eisteddfod in Ruthin in North Wales.


Gearóid & Colm again,
with third member, Ken (in red), in the background


The musicians went down a bomb both on the field and in some of the pubs around the town. The wider group of Irish who went to the Eisteddfod from Craobh Móibhí of Conradh na Gaeilge had also practiced some modern Welsh protest songs, yn Gymraeg and in part harmony, and this also made a great impression as the Welsh normally sang this class of song in unison and most of them would have been very dicey on the words beyond the first verse.


The Tracks

The tracks on the record were a mixture of traditional Irish ballads, some new protest songs and some taken from a store of modern Welsh songs.


Donnchadh Ó Súilleabháin

I can't bring up the 1973 Eisteddfod without mentioning Donnchadh Ó Súilleabháin, who, as General Secretary of Oireachtas na Gaeilge, was responsible for the Oireachtas stand (above) on the Eisteddfod field. He was also responsible for me going to Coláiste Mhuire, a fully Irish medium school, for my primary and secondary education though there was nary a word of Irish in my family.

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Question of Trust



REBLOGGED from RetiredAndAngry


‘Independent’ child abuse inquiries: A question of trust?
Posted on August 12, 2014 by retiredandangry

A Guest Blog by Chris Hobbs


The issue in relation to possible, systematic child abuse by establishment figures, has, over the last forty years, been like a bad penny which has appeared time and time again only to be buried on each occasion by a surfeit of loose change before making another unwelcome appearance.

When I was a young Met officer in the 80’s, every policeman and woman in London knew of rumours surrounding Cyril Smith and we all waited for something to happen but it never did. As is becoming apparent, Cyril Smith may well be the very large tip of a very large iceberg. The question is whether enquiries announced by the Government will succeed in their objectives or indeed whether establishment figures in the Government actually want every skeleton to be laid bare given the fact that obtaining the decision to hold any form of meaningful enquiry was very much akin to pulling teeth.

What is becoming apparent is that the keys which may help unlocking the truth of any establishment cover up could well be in possession of retired police officers together with those employed by MI5 and indeed other government employees including customs officers and Home Office civil servants.

Already there are clear signs of cracks appearing in the establishment dam: Lancashire Special Branch officer Tony Robinson stated that in 1977 he was compelled to hand over a file containing allegations against Cyril Smith to MI5 referred to by all Special Branch officers as Box 500.

Paul Foulston, a detective with the Thames Valley force, claims that an attempt was made by Special Branch officers to prevent him from interviewing a young man in relation to a murder enquiry. Foulston and a colleague interviewed him anyway and were told of Smith’s sexual activities with young men.

In the 1980’s Don Hale, described as a young campaigning editor in Bury, was handed a file compiled by MEP and well known Labour party figure, Barbara Castle. It allegedly contained the names of 16 “high profile” politicians who supported the aims of the Paedophile Information Exchange. Hale stated that his office was raided by Special Branch officers who confiscated the file and threatened him with ‘jail’ if he printed anything in relation to Barbara Castle’s dossier. Hale also stated that Cyril Smith visited his office the day before informing him that the allegations were ‘poppycock.’

Recently retired former Detective Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll gained legendary status when he led the enquiry which saw two of Stephen Lawrence’s killers, David Norris and Gary Dobson, imprisoned. DCI Driscoll’s reward for ensuring there was some justice for Stephen and Stephen’s family was to be forcibly retired from the Metropolitan Police. Doubtless those who made this decision, which infuriated Doreen Lawrence, would have poured over his personnel file which may well have contained details of his ‘falling out’ with senior officers in the 1990’s

Clive Driscoll’s investigations into possible child abuse within children’s homes in Lambeth during this time revealed the names of suspects who were politicians. Sharing these allegations with senior officers was enough to get him moved off the case. He had little choice but to hand over the relevant file upon his departure which has contributed to the current speculation that this was yet another cover up to protect establishment figures.

Most recently Barry Strevens, Margaret Thatcher’s Special Branch bodyguard for many years, revealed that he privately warned Mrs Thatcher of rumours concerning Sir Peter Morrison, Mrs Thatcher’s trusted aide, and his predilection for young boys. Those rumours originally emanated from a senior Cheshire police officer.

Theresa May and her advisers will be as aware of the above facts as anyone else and these facts, when added to the missing files in the Home Office, can only pour petrol on the bonfire of cover up allegations.

It seems obvious that many of these allegations would have found their way into the domain of the police. Within the Met, Special Branch was regarded as the safe pair of hands, albeit a reluctant one, for sensitive issues; even those which did not strictly fall within their remit. Files, such as those ‘lost’ by the Home office’ could well have come into the possession of Special Branch either as originals or as copies either directly or via MI5. In addition further reports may well have been placed on Special Branch or other police files in relation to relevant allegations, intelligence or even just rumours.

The reputation the Metropolitan Police Special Branch (MPBB) had for ‘not leaking’ was probably behind Margaret Thatcher’s firm assertion that the MPSB’s ‘A’ Squad, which protected leading politicians and other VIP’s, would not be merged with other police units including royalty protection. Barry Strevens was then a popular, highly regarded senior officer within ‘A’ squad.

It may well be that amongst other former ‘A’ squad officers there could well be held details of the indiscretions of politicians they were protecting. It extremely likely that where such indiscretions bordered on legality or which could have resulted in a public scandal they would have been reported by the officers themselves in which case details would have been placed on secret files.

The question is whether police files belonging to any force and containing potentially damaging allegations can be readily detected if indeed they haven’t been destroyed. Derbyshire’s Chief Constable Mick Creedon was able to secure access to a number of sensitive files in relation to his enquiry in respect of MPSB’s undercover policing operations.

However damaging reports in relation to establishment figures could well have been placed in files which themselves were given innocuous titles that would make them difficult to locate. The Met originally seemed to indicate that they are in possession of some files before such admissions disappeared behind a wall of obfuscation.

If we look at the number of officers who were just involved in the events mentioned above which are now in the public domain, and then add on others ‘with knowledge’ such as supervisors, the senior officers probably up to Commissioner/Chief Constable level and indeed those who actually handled and minuted the relevant documents and files together with police staff (civilians) responsible for indexing and filing then we already have a significant number of individuals who could provide valuable assistance to any enquiry.

Of course there are probably other relevant documents, files, intelligence reports and even crime book entries that have not come into the public domain all of which will have passed through the hands of police officers and possibly police staff at all levels in a variety of police forces.

The statement by such an esteemed former retired officer as Barry Strevens may well put other present and former officer’s minds at rest, at least to some extent. Barry could hardly have gone any higher in the chain of command with his concerns than to the Prime Minister herself.

‘Officers with knowledge’ however would be indulging in a form of whistleblowing and, those officers whether serving or retired, will be only too well aware that whistleblowing in the police service can be most kindly described as a lottery.

They would have seen former colleagues treated appallingly after they had reported wrongdoing or poor operational decision making and been aware of the dubious elements operating within the Professional Standards Departments of many forces. It is those ‘PSD’s who are the police who investigate the police.

Past and present officers would be considering the worst case scenario if they came forward with information. There would be an appointment with investigating officers probably of DC or DS rank who would have been allocated the task as an action. The resultant statement or report would be passed to a middle ranking or senior officer for consideration. In most cases this would be expedited in the usual way, however there is a not insignificant chance that an ambitious officer looking to enhance his or her CV and climb up the police career ladder, could well closely scrutinise the statement/report in order to see whether the officer, by failing to come forward earlier, may have committed an offence.

This could be one of “conspiracy to pervert the course of justice” or, the once rarely used but now extremely popular “misconduct in public office.” The matter may be pursued by the squad itself or passed to the force PSD. There then could be a ‘career enhancing’ early morning raid where laptops, desk tops, tablets, mobile phones, documents and even a moribund ancient Kodak instamatic lying dormant in the attic would be seized.

Further enquiries including the examination of seized articles would go on for months before the file is passed to the ‘independent’ Crown Prosecution Service where again the file would sit for months. Even if it were considered that the case would have not a snowballs chance in hell of surviving an examination by a jury, that individuals life and indeed that of his family, would be in shreds.

Those outside the police service and other public service employees such as the NHS may well find the above scenario implausible but police whistleblowers such as James Patrick, Dave Mckelvey, Brian Casson and Howard Shaw would beg to differ. Those in any doubt can simply Google the above names in conjunction with ‘police.’

Even the arrest of one serving or retired officer would be hugely advantageous to those in the establishment who have no desire to see any form of enquiry. Those in the process of considering whether to come forward would then see any such action as a pointless and dangerous exercise.

This, of course, leads us into the argument as whether there should be some form of amnesty for those officers ‘with knowledge’ of events, documents or any other form of information which could be relevant. Peter Garsden, president of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, said, quite rightly that any amnesty would need to be carefully put together. He pointed out that this couldn’t apply to any police officer who was actually part of a paedophile ring and of course he is absolutely correct.

There would have to be a line in the sand drawn and it can be argued that any amnesty consideration should be applied to those who were ‘with knowledge’ of a cover up rather than those who actually instigated or ordered that cover up or were actively involved in abuse activities themselves. It could well be that few, if indeed any, police officers from either Chief Constable/Commissioner rank down to a ‘lowly’ constable would thus be accountable if those who actually instigated the cover up were at the highest levels of government, the civil service or from elsewhere within the establishment.

Any such instructions would have been passed to Chief Officers either directly or perhaps via MI5 and thence down the ladder to those officers, such as those carrying out the raid on the Bury newspaper, as described above. It is surely by working their way back up that ladder that investigators will establish from where these instructions came, whether from the highest levels of government or perhaps from within the police service itself.

Rank and file police officers back in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s had a deep, unconcealed, loathing of paedophiles and any instructions to cover up such activity would have been deeply resented. Those arguing against an amnesty will argue that those officers and other officials should have spoken out or ‘whistleblown’; they will also state that the argument, ‘we were only obeying orders,’ can never be sustainable.

My own analogy would be to liken the plight of the concerned officer to that of a lone, non-swimming’ passenger on the deserted deck of a fast moving ocean liner who suddenly sees another passenger falling overboard.

It would be an utterly pointless exercise for that individual to respond by diving over the side himself in what would be a fruitless attempt to effect a rescue.

Such was the situation faced by police officers in during this period. Any attempt at whistleblowing would possibly have resulted in that individual being prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act and even then there would be no guarantee of the issue in question being exposed. ‘D’ notices could have been employed to thwart any publication or, more likely a discreet phone call to the editor in question. Attempts to raise concerns internally would have been slapped down with dire warnings of disciplinary proceedings and instructions to ‘obey orders.’ That officer’s career would then be permanently tainted or totally ruined.

For those who may well pour scorn on the above, they should be reminded that even in the enlightened era of the 21st century to this very day, police, NHS and civil service whistleblowers have a torrid time if they attempt to raise concerns either internally or externally. Promises in relation to NHS whistleblowers have proved worthless and it would be a foolish officer indeed who places his faith in new whistleblowing protocols laid down by the College Of Policing. Even if official sanctions are not viable every rank and file police officer is familiar with the term, “doing his (or her) legs.”

The next question those ‘with knowledge’ will be asking themselves is in relation to the veracity of the relevant enquiry which has not got off to a great start with the appointment and then resignation of Baroness Butler-Sloss. They will remember the fate of David Kelly, arguably the most famous whistleblower who allegedly committed suicide after his identity was revealed as the individual who articulated concerns about the Government’s Iraq policy to journalist Andrew Gilligan. They will also remember dubious machinations around the subsequent Hutton enquiry.

The fact that the Chilcott Iraq Enquiry Report is still unpublished due, it would seem, to the joint efforts of both major parties, will again hardly boost the confidence of those ‘with knowledge.’ Even when the final report is it revealed, it is likely to contain omissions which, had Sir John Chilcott had his way, would be published in full. With tragic events unfolding in Iraq, most would view the reports publication in its original entirety as desirable, yet it could be that what is now a humanitarian disaster approaching biblical proportions makes this possibility even more remote.

Even the Leveson enquiry was tainted by claims that the Met had claimed a ‘public interest immunity certificate’ which prevented the disclosure of a report which allegedly contained details of improper behaviour by a very senior officer.

We have already seen that recent child abuse disclosures in relation to political figures have damaged all three parties. All parties will realise however that major political damage will be sustained by whoever is perceived to have actually instigated and orchestrated any cover up. Little wonder that efforts will be made to ensure that a few details as possible will emerge before the next general election.

Concerns of those ‘with knowledge’ will hardly have been allayed by the treatment of John Vine, the governments ‘Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration’ who may now never obtain his deserved knighthood.

John Vine’s role could be described as a permanent enquiry into the shortcomings of the UK Border Agency and UK Border Force. Let’s remember the word independent here, as with the forthcoming enquiry into child abuse.

John Vine’s reports were frequently both thorough and damning and articulated the concerns of front line officers. There seems little doubt that this irritated the Home Office who began manipulating and then actually redacting sections of reports on spurious national security grounds; John Vine of course, would need no lessons from the Home Office on factors that presented a threat national security.

That John Vine’s independent status was undermined and Sir John Chilcott’s report will not be presented as he would have wanted it, can only lead to the conclusion that the announced and already troubled ‘independent’ enquiries could also be interfered with and manipulated especially when it comes to presenting the final report if that report was found to be damaging to political and establishment interests.

What is clear is that the terms of references of any enquiry need to include some form of guarantees for police officers, police staff, MI5 personnel and civil servants whether serving or retired who ‘have knowledge.’

Those individuals, mistrustful of contacting the police or the enquiry direct should also be able to approach an impartial gateway which will secure their interests before contact with police or the enquiry is made. This, as stated above, will not protect those who have been involved directly in paedophile rings and indeed it is regrettable that the shameful way police forces have treated ‘whistleblowers’ and the discreditable conduct of elements within force PSD’s including the Met’s Department of Professional Standards, makes this necessary.

Those ‘with knowledge’ may regard whistlebowing to the media as the preferred option. The clumsy and failed attempt by the Met to use the Official Secrets Act in 2011 to get the Guardian to reveal sources plus the fallout from the Leveson enquiry may inhibit potential whistleblowers from contacting the mainstream media.

Another option could be the online Exaro investigative news website which has fought a relentless campaign against child abuse cover up with the result that many obstacles placed in its way by officialdom have been overcome. It even managed to secure the support of more than 100 MP’s from all parties which has played no small part in forcing the governments hand in relation to inquiries.

It is clearly prepared to ‘die in a ditch’ over the issue and it is hard to see them ‘giving up’ a bona fide whistleblower in any circumstances.

Even with all suggested safeguards in place however together with the persistent watchfulness of Exaro, there will still be doubts as to the whether the political will exists for such inquiries given the potential damage the results may cause. This in turn will result in there being constant public suspicion that establishment interests will attempt to manipulate both the enquiry and the final report.

Courtesy of Chris Hobbs (retired ex-Met)

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

FOI


I posted a comment on The Story blog some time back relating my own experience operating Freedom of Information legislation in its early days in Ireland.

There have been a lot of developments in this area since then and I have not kept up with them. In general it seems the system has been made more difficult and expensive for those seeking information although there are lots of promises around to reverse this negative trend.

In any event, I thought it might be interesting for people to have an insider's view, however brief, of how this operated in the beginning. So I have reproduced my original comment below.



I dealt with a number of FOI requests pre-2000, including one on a very high profile issue.

I operated the Act as I thought it had been intended: maximum release consistent with things like commercial sensitivity, cabinet confidentiality, privileged legal advice, etc. Fees were nugatory, if charged, which in most cases were not.

As a citizen, but clearly with inside knowledge of the process, I thought it worked well on a number of fronts. For example, it made a lot of information, which could be avoided being given in Parliamentary Questions, available, by right, to the requester. An aspect which was not often touched on was the protection it provided for the individual releasing the information. Without it they would have been in contravention of the Official Secrets Act. It was also of some use to whistleblowers who could prime a requester to seek information which they could then release with impunity.

As a civil servant dealing with requests, it drove me insane. Even with the best will in the world, records were not held then in a form which made finding and providing them easy. Filing systems were on a totally different basis which had not anticipated FOI. Most records were hard copy and a far cry from the push-button compilation imagined by the public. No additional resources were made available to those processing requests and simultaneously juggling the day job. The use made by journalists of material, which took a lot of resources to assemble and often contained very meaty material, was often derisory. I recall one file, which took a lot of compiling, simply resulting in the publication of a photo (not included in the file) of a former Supreme Court judge in a pair of shorts on a pier in Kerry. That said, I did have dealings with what I consider serious journalists and I think, in those cases, we ended up mutually respecting each other.

So, overall, my attitude was one of welcome for the 1998 FOI, particularly from the point of view of the citizen.

I’m penning this just to get one person’s thoughts from both sides of the fence on the record.

I don’t have any significant experience of implementing FOI post 2000, but I can imagine that must have been a period of serious retrenchment. The original act was drawn up by Eithne FitzGerald who knew exactly what she was doing, but many of her colleagues didn’t and many of them and their successors were subsequently appalled at how it operated in practice.

Certainly, for a brief period, at any rate, it looked like it was changing the culture. You have been using it since and would be the better judge of how it has now turned out.



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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Raheny News @ 40


Report on arson of thatched cottage 2002
Click any image for a larger version

Raheny News is 40 this year and will soon be issuing its 1,100th edition.

The first edition of the "Green Paper" came out on 2 February 1975 "after trials and tribulations, problems with typewriters, with a stubborn gestetner printer, with the search for news and content". It was produced "by a small band of volunteers, led by the first editor, Liam Flynn, gathered in the home of the curate Fr. Con O'Keeffe on St. Assam's Road" and its fair to say it hasn't looked back since.

It has reported on many historical local events, such as the Stardust fire on St. Valentine's Day 1981, and the arson of the thatched cottage in Fox's Lane in October 2002 (above). But these were exceptional events. The paper reports local sports results in great detail, records local deaths, reminds us of upcoming festivals (religious and lay) and, in general, keeps the local people in touch with what's going on around them.


Thatched cottage, Fox's Lane, 2006

The thatched cottage is still there at the entrance to Fox's Lane.


Exhibition in Raheny Library

During the month of February 2015 Raheny library hosted an exhibition of some of the gems from the Green Paper over the decades.

Here's wishing the paper another forty years. It is a huge community resource in the area and I'm sure many copies are sent abroad to keep emigrants connected to their place of origin.

And it has managed to keep the real (inflation adjusted) price of the paper almost stable. The original price in 1975 was 2p which would translate into about 2½ cent. The consumer price index has increased about sevenfold since then while the nominal price of the paper has increased by about eightfold, giving an increase in the real price of just over 10%. But who would baulk at forking out 20 cent for such a valuable resource?

Unfortunately the paper's website seems to have lapsed so we'll just have to hope for a new start in the near future.

I edited such a paper once myself, though on a smaller scale and for a very short period long ago, so my wishes are from the heart.


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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Writers Wall


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This is the north wall of Raheny library.

Where, I wondered, had the Wifi gone?

Well, it's been moved to free the wall for its new use.

This is about to become the writers wall (with a current working title Raheny & Beyond: A Literary Heritage).

The idea is to record the names of local writers, past and present, on the wall. So far the list stands at 39. Some of the names will be more familiar than others.

I recognised just under half the names on the list: Douglas Appleyard, Eanna Brophy, Roddy Doyle, Joe Duffy, Frank Gallagher, Stephen Gwynn, Marie Elizabeth Hayes, Pat Ingoldsby, Neil Jordan, Declan Kiberd, Colm Lennon, Seosamh Mac Grianna, Dennis McIntyre, Christopher Nolan, Seán Óg Ó Ceallacháin, Maureen Potter, Erwin Schrődinger and Joan Sharkey.

And the great thing is that the list will not fill the wall, so there will be plenty of room for other aspirants as they are recognised, discovered, or publish their first book.

So I'm getting out my quill, bat's blood and vellum and having a go.


Update 23/3/2015


The "finished" product

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Monday, February 23, 2015

The Lepracaun


Larry O'Toole
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Old Cartoons are becoming the in thing. In recent times we have had two books on important cartoonists in Ireland: Felix Larkin's Terror and Discord: The Shemus Cartoons in the Freeman’s Journal, 1920–1924 (Ernest Forbes), and James Curry's Artist of the Revolution (Ernest Kavanagh). I have done a talk in NLI on the cartoons of Gordon Brewster. And now we have another book on those of Thomas Fitzpatrick which appeared in his own publication The Lepracaun which ran over the period 1905-1915.

And a fine book it is too. It is beautifully produced with a foreword by Jim FitzPatrick, an account of the life of Thomas Fitzpatrick and his satirical publication, The Lepracaun, and a fine selection of very well presented cartoons with explanatory commentaries setting their context. I have to confess I have only skimmed it so far but am looking forward very much to digging into it.

The book was launched last Thursday evening (19/2/2015) by Larry O'Toole, Deputy Dublin Lord Mayor (above), and you could see his heart was in it. Fitzpatrick's cartoons demolished pretentiousness, lampooned vested interests and cut very quickly to the political chase. A man after Larry's own heart.


Ciarán Wallace

He was followed by Ciarán Wallace, one of the books two authors, who gave us a run down on the cartoons themselves and convinced us that their target was virtually anything that moved. No element of society, and particularly of the body politic was spared.


James Curry

James Curry, the other author, gave us a run down on the life and times of Thomas Fitzpatrick who was a very interesting fellow, well suited to running a satirical magazine and producing its quality cartoons himself.


Jim FitzPatrick

Thomas's grandson, Jim FitzPatrick, told us some more about his grandfather but he was clearly thrilled at the amount of new material revealed by the authors' research. Yes, that is Jim (Che Guevara Poster) FitzPatrick (if you haven't already clicked on his name above) and one of the big thrills for him was to find how much of his own style he may have owed to his grandfather though he had been totally unaware of this until faced with the information and pictures in the book.


Conánn FitzPatrick

Jim said he fairly chucked the cartoon path himself as he was no good at it but told us that the tradition is carried down through his own son Conánn who could toss off a good cartoon at the drop of a hat. The book's frontespiece, based on the cover of the original Lepracaun, and produced by Conánn, looks like a cross between Alice in Wonderland and a modern animation film. This is not surprising as Conánn is a lecturer in digital animation at the University of Ulster.

The book is published as part of Dublin City Council's contribution to the Decade of Commemorations, 1913 - 1923. The series editors are those two stalwarts of the Dublin historical scene: Mary Clarke and Máire Kennedy. The book is available from Four Courts Press

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Click Tweak Print


It's great when stuff gets moving locally. Readers may remember Michael Edwards's excellent photo exhibition in Donaghmede Shopping Centre some while back.


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Well, he's off again. This time with a workshop/course covering taking photos, processing (Photoshop) and printing them.

The course has two in studio sessions: (i) an introduction to the course and your camera, and (ii) a Photoshop class. There are also two outdoor sessions: (i) a morning on location in St. Anne's park, and (ii) an evening on location at night.

Participants will be able to submit two of their best photos for inclusion in a mini-exhibition in the Donaghmede Shopping Centre.

Course starts on next Wednesday (25/2/2015), cost is €99 and further details can be got by emailing (info@photograph.ie) or phoning Michael (01 8470110).


Click image for larger version

And I gather a camera club has now been set up in Raheny. Hopefully that will lead to another exhibition of local talent in the near future.


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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sáirséal agus Dill


Seán Sáirséal Ó hÉigeartaigh & Brighid Uí Éagartaigh
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I have just listened to a radio programme which brought me straight back to my schooldays. Cian Ó hÉigeartaigh and his sister Aoileann have just published a large tome on the history of their parents' publishing company Sáirséal agus Dill. Seán founded the company in 1947 and his wife kept it going for a further 14 years after his premature death in 1967.

Máirtín Ó Cadhain, speaking at Seán's funeral, credited Seán with the salvation of writing in Irish.

I remember this publishing house very well. I had some of their books in school.


Stair na hEorpa nearly gave me a nervous breakdown. It came into the classroom at a critical point. We were changing over from the old Irish script (with the séimhiús) to the new Roman script (which substituted a "h" for the séimhiú). This was a severe culture shock and the text suddenly looked like gobbledegook (or Welsh!). We eventually got used to it and here we are today.



I also had not only Albert Folens's French course book, Nuachúrsa Fraincise, but had Albert himself teaching me with it. There was an element of fiction in this book as far as Albert's class was concerned. We were learning French through Irish, hence the need for this particular text book. But Albert didn't have hardly any Irish so we were effectively taught through the direct method.


And then there was poor Julius Caesar. Never made it to Ireland but his Gallic Wars were now published with Irish language footnotes. What next? Mind you, this particular book was not quite up to the rigours of our Latin class and had started to come apart by the end of the year.

Sáirséal agus Dill also published Bás nó Beatha, a translation into Irish by Máirtín Ó Cadhain of Saunders Lewis's rallying call to supporters of the Welsh language in 1961/2. Lewis's call, Tynged yr Iaith (The Fate of the Language), was originally a radio broadcast and then a pamphlet which became highly influential in the subsequent development of the fortunes of the Welsh language.

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Where is it ? No. 35



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I was trying to make up my mind whether to blog the above intersection and give out stink about all that was wrong with it, when the idea occurred to me to include it in the Where is it series instead. So I anonymised it and included it above.

It's not really a difficult one and when it's solved I'll turn this into a slightly longer blog post.

Answers in comments below please.

Update

Well, as I said in the comment below, that didn't last long. Correct solution from @Wayupnorth.


It's the M1/M50 intersection with the M50 continuation (R 139) going off to the right towards Coolock/Clare Hall.

An unholy mess, if ever there was one.

For example, consider the complication in coming from airport heading south, via M1, and exiting via M50 extension (R139) for Malahide.

You enter M1 from airport in the leftmost lane. You then have to quickly wiggle your way into the CENTRE lane for the Malahide exit, despite the fact that you are actually turning left. When this first came in I ended up twice going west/south on the M50. Hair raising stuff.

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

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Tracking Dublin


Kevin Whelan
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The 2015 Gilbert Lecture, in Dublin City Library and Archive, was given this year by Kevin Whelan. The subject was Dublin as a Global City but this formal title gave little indication of the roller coaster ride that was to follow.

The angle was the waxing and waning of Dublin over time, but from a global perspective. The question asked was, how important was Dublin on the world scene and why.


Roman Times

Kevin started way back before Roman times when we really didn't figure at all. When the Romans finally got as far as Britain, it seems they didn't fancy going any further into what was to them a hostile and cold environment compared with the Mediterranean. And, anyway, if they overshot they might fall off the edge of the flat earth of its day.

It was only with the coming of the Vikings that Dublin assumed a global importance, becoming a hub for their conquests and trade along the west coast of Europe. In recent times there has been a tendency to stress the benefits of the arrival of the Vikings, but Kevin left us under no illusions. These guys were slavers and ruthless. They considered themselves superior, under Thor, to the milksop Christians they encountered along the way. Generally speaking they killed the men and took the women home as slaves. Hence the high proportion of Irish DNA in Iceland, for example.

The Viking empire waned during the 11th century (and, despite the speed and broad scope of his talk, Kevin even managed to mention Diarmat mac Máel na mBó and the Cavanaughs.)

When the Normans came (1169), the focus turned from being outward and coastal to fixating on Britain and to some extent Europe beyond it.

The next point of inflexion was after 1492 when Ireland became a link between Europe and "newly discovered" America.

After 1800 its importance faded as the focus shifted to London as capital of the UK and as trade/transport restrictions were imposed on seagoing traffic.

There was a further recovery after 1900, both in global transport and also in the city's world image through its literary figures who part colonised the English language and turned it into something of their own.

Finally, Dublin opened up again as a Euro/American hub as US giants set up European headquarters here in their commercial/digital assault on Europe. And, Dublin now ranks well in many international league tables even despite the recent crisis/downturn.


Larry O'Toole

I haven't really summarised the presentation but rather given a small flavour.

Kevin was introduced by Deputy Lord Mayor, Larry O'Toole, who (humorously) compared Kevin's many qualifications and achievements to his own "two years in a tech". Larry not only enlivened his own introduction but carried on from the sidelines providing a foil to Kevin's many humorous references to Dublin's distant southside. Larry is from Wicklow and Kevin from Wexford, but no doubt they both consider themselves honorary Dubs at this stage.


Margaret Hayes

In opening the proceedings earlier in the evening, City Librarian Margaret Hayes gave us a rundown on the Library Service's packed programme of events for the year. She then handed over to Larry to launch the book version of last year's Gilbert Lecture.


Larry O'Toole

Larry then did a great promo for the library service and promptly launched the book.


Séamas Ó Maitiú & Larry O'Toole

Last year's lecture was entitled Alleys, annals and anecdotes: a new look at Gilbert's History of Dublin. It was given by Séamas Ó Maitiú, and, if you are interested, you can see it and some previous Gilbert Lectures here.

Kevin Whelan's presentation is expected to be uploaded to the same site in the course of the next few weeks.

L-R: Máire Kennedy, Librarian Dublin & Irish Collections;
Kevin Whelan, Michael Smurfitt Director of the Keough Notre
Dame Centre Dublin;
Mary Hanafin, Councillor, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown;
Margaret Hayes, City Librarian;
Larry O'Toole, Deputy Lord Mayor & City Councillor.


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