Thursday, May 6, 2010

Begging for Alms.

According to the newspapers the Bishop of Ferns, Dr Dennis Brennan, has called on his parishioners to set up a fund to help his church pay compensation and legal bills arising from child sex abuse claims. 60,000 euro per annum over twenty years is the amount requested. A tidy enough sum one might say and the first question that comes to mind is why should the ordinary parishioner be asked to cough up for something they are not responsible for? Secondly, isn’t his church in ownership of some very valuable property? Couldn’t some of that be cashed? Does the church produce a yearly balance sheet giving financial information such as assets and liabilities, income and expenditure? That sort of information would enable the people of Ferns to assess the Bishops appeal better. I’m sure Bishop that you are aware of that biblical piece of wisdom, “that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of an needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven”. Sell some property Bishop and you’re killing two birds with the one stone. You’ll raise enough to cover the compensation and legal bills, and make the path to heaven easier! Dr Willie Walsh the Catholic Bishop of Killaloe and I are on the same wavelength: he sees no reason why property should not be sold to raise funds, he also thinks the Pope should meet the victims of child clerical sexual abuse. Father Fortune from Ferns paid the ultimate price, a total tragedy, but how many others have even acknowledged the wrong that was brought on these children. Previously when trouble arose the Hierarchy’s answer was to move the culprit on to another diocese. The recent visit by the Irish Bishops to the Pope brought no answer to the question. As far as we were informed the only thing they were instructed to do was to stick together. Could that have been a reprimand to Archbishop Dermuid Martin who sought to have a little light thrown on the matter.
Enough said about the church. We are confronted daily in our newspapers with reports of neglect and abuse of our children. What are our leaders, the HSE, and social services doing about these scandals? Like the church they are acting like the three wise monkeys, see no evil, do no evil, hear no evil’. Only the other day Alan Shatter brought to light the leaked story of Tracey Fay, only 18 yrs. old, who died of a drug overdose, the only way she knew of ending a life of horrendous abuse and neglect since babyhood, and that was eight years ago! How-an-ever, Mr Barry Andrews, Minster of State for children has recently set up a State appointed panel to investigate and report on the death of children in Stare care. A move in the right direction!
We have also heard of another leak, this one about Trevor Sergeant, an honourable man by all accounts, who went to the cops with certain information three years ago. Willie O’Dea also took a dive but continues to be paid for a job he will not be doing, and George Lee was in and out before you could blink. Nobody asked his opinion on matters important it seems. Some time ago we were promised transparency in all matters political. So far the transparency we get is through leaks, and the information is three years old.
St Patrick’s Day is coming up fast and the usual suspects will by heading off to foreign climes. The excuse given for this yearly exodus is that they are off selling Ireland. Humm, do the French leave France on Bastille Day or the Americans immigrate on the Fourth of July? Here at home I suggest that Corporal O’Dea, who is temporary at a loose end, take the salute at the GPO for the march past. Any monies spent on carousing stays at home, or better still, collection boxes be passed around, the proceeds go towards the relief of abused children. In the Celtic tiger years we squandered money like it was confetti, now is the time for a bit of belt tightening but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the needy. Abused children come into that category!
Members of any religious denomination are subject to the laws of the land just the same as lay people, so when, one might ask, will the State prosecute the perpetrators of child sex abuse? Don’t hold your breaths! So far, I can only think of one, Father Brendan Smith, but hope springs eternal!
Should the people of Ferns wish to set up a fund, it should be clearly stated that it is for ‘abused children’. Jeffers.


Both books I read this month were set in Israel and interestingly both contrasted how things were there in the forties and now in the present day. “A pigeon and a boy” by Meir Shalev (Paperback: Shocken: 12.00 euro) was originally published in Hebrew and was sent to me as a gift by some Israeli friends. It is a wonderfully evocative novel, revolving around Yair, a disaffected Jewish tour guide who is experiencing a mid- life crisis. Yair’s move to leave his rich and beautiful American wife Liora and strike out on his own is precipitated by the death of his mother, with whom he was very close. His mother leaves him a bequest in order to find “somewhere of his own” and in his quest for home we witness his parallel search for his identity. Juxtaposed with Yair’s engaging story is that of a young boy raised on the kibbutz, over forty years earlier who develops a passion for homing pigeons.

Shalev navigates skilfully between these two characters, their eras and their stories and I found this captivating. I particularly liked the character of Yair as he is reunited with his childhood friend Tirzah, and pursues a search for his identity. He reflects on his upbringing in the well to do home of a Jewish paediatrician and why he always felt like the ugly duckling amidst his beautiful family.

The novel explores what is it to be a parent an d a child and is permeated by a yearning for a sense of belonging – a spiritual as well as a a physical home. Although the book is vividly descriptive of both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv at particular points in their history, it is principally about human relationships, not politics and I found it tremendously moving. It is also a lovely “coming of age” story in terms of the ill-fated young pigeon fancier, so would make good reading for older teenagers.

The second book, “When I lived in modern times” by Linda Grant ( Paperback: Granta: 9.60) was discussed on BBC Radio 4 some time ago and so coincidentally I acquired it just before I received the Shalev! Grant is a British Jew and her book tells the story of Evelyn Sert, a young hairdresser from Soho who (also after her mother’s death) sets out to find a new home in the Palestine of 1946. Having endured the rigours of the London blitz and a slightly precarious upbringing where she never knew her father, Evelyn feels she is tough enough to face the adventures that await her in the brave new world of Tel Aviv. However, after a baptism of fire in the tough, communistic setting of the Kibbutz she eventually finds refuge back in the city, where her vivid impressions of the time and place paint a powerful picture.

Grant describes the burgeoning state and its people very well, and her depictions of the Bauhaus architecture in Tel Aviv, espousing all that is “modern”, epitomise the blossoming post-war spirit of the late 1940s. The author also shows how the Palestine of the time had become a cultural melting pot for people from all over Euroe who were looking for a new place to build a home, some with more success than others.

Evelyn’s adventures are recounted with energy and her relationship with an enigmatic young freedom fighter make for a great plot. I did find the depiction of their relationship a little two-dimensional in places, although Grant’s portrayal of the British ex-pat community in their dying-days is clever and is a homage to the end of imperialism. This writer s does have a very journalistic eye and is a good story teller, but I think I found the characterisation in Shalev’s novel more satisfying and authentic. Both good reads….

I hope to visit my friends in Israel later this year and both these stories were instrumental in deepening my understanding of that troubled and fascinating part of the world.

Angie Ruane


No comments: