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Call off the blimp!

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Let’s call off the blimp, because Mr President is not coming after all.

Well, not yet, at any rate!

It has been amazing to hear so many people in Ireland express regret that President Trump has postponed (or cancelled) his Irish visit this coming November.

They were so fired up that many said they were looking forward to joining a political protest for the first time.

Irish protesters had to reach out to their counterparts in the UK, who turned out in their thousands to make the President feel so unwelcome when he visited London back in July.

Sorry, they said, we won’t need to ship the giant orange “baby blimp” to Ireland after all!

People in Dublin were really looking forward to the sight of a giant baby Donald in a nappy floating across the skyline.

And a hugely successful crowdfunding campaign had already covered the cost of bringing over the six metre high blimp within days of being set up.

Everyone, it seemed, wanted to be part of mass protests against the US President. The sens…

Just another Sunday afternoon at Shannon

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It’s just an ordinary Sunday afternoon at Shannon Airport.

Funny how, in an upside-down world, the small group of peace activists waving flags at a roundabout are made to feel like criminals while the police force ‘protects’ members of the most powerful military in the world . . .  just a few metres down the road.

It’s almost a pantomime at this stage, as everyone knows his or her role.

On the first Sunday of every month, the peace activists descend upon the roundabout on the fringes of the civilian airport.

They unfurl their banners and flags, and commuters, bus-drivers, or cars containing families honk their horns in support as they drive by in sunshine, hail, wind, rain or snow.

It’s some record. They haven’t missed a first Sunday of the month for over a decade now and, indeed, the protests have been going on for a lot longer.

They wish they didn’t have to meet at the roundabout, that they could find something better to do on a Sunday afternoon. But every month they feel a need to…

They stood together in an Irish town

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They stood together, side-by-side, in solidarity in the heart of an Irish town.

Their hearts beating loudly, but their heads held high.

These were once the marginalised, the forgotten ones, the ones who were never supposed to speak out, express their pain, or make much of their lives.

As children, they were called the ‘Home Babies’.

Or . . . the children of the ‘fallen women’.

Or . . . the illegitimate ones.

Or . . . appallingly, the bastards.

Bastards –  the disgusting word of choice of a judgmental society, which allowed the imprisonment of innocent women and children to go on for decades.

There were thousands of children like them all around Ireland, malnourished, tearful, forced to march to school in hobnailed boots; forced to arrive later than the luckier ones who were considered “legitimate” in the eyes of a Church and a State which never cared much for their welfare.

There but for the grace of a God who didn’t show much concern for them in the first few years of their lives.

T…

Pope Francis and the long lost innocence of the Irish

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In far more innocent times, as children, we got up at the crack of dawn. I remember the excitement in the family home, as we arose and prepared for the biggest and most symbolic walk of our young lives. I still recall the folded deck chairs, the home-made sandwiches and flasks of tea, the yellow and white flags.

At the house, the looks of envy on the faces of the younger siblings and the two grandmothers, who were not old enough or able to join the mass exodus on foot to the racecourse on the other side of the city.

We met up with the cousins, seeing the sense of adventure in their eyes, and the adults around us gave us a sense of what a huge moment this was in our shared history.

There were thousands upon thousands at the racecourse, corralled into zones at the biggest event I had ever seen. This was bigger, even, than an All-Ireland final and a ripple of excitement went through the crowd as the helicopter landed near the grandstand.

And, then, the immortal words . . .

“Young people…

Palestine, politicians, and the passion of ordinary Irish people

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Of all the countries in Europe, Palestinians seem to have a special place in their hearts for the people of Ireland.

It was etched into the faces of the young footballers from Gaza when they were guests of honour at a game between Galway United and Dundalk FC two years ago.

What kind of country, they wondered, would allow them to take pride of place on the pitch before a big game featuring the league champions, mingle with the crowd, and even meet the President of Ireland afterwards?

The things that childhood dreams were made of, as they represented their country, their people, with such pride.

There were tears in their eyes when the entire main stand rose to its feet to chant “Stand up for the Gaza boys!” in the second half of an exciting game.

They were made to feel so special.

It was clear from the pride of their coaches when they spent a day in Kinvara. The small rural community had boycotted Israeli goods while the tiny place where they live was being bombed to bits, causing the…

Victims vow to protest when Pope Francis visits Ireland

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The only surprise about the revelation that survivors of institutions and clerical sex abuse are planning to protest during the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland in August is that anybody might be surprised.
There are thousands of people across Ireland, the UK, the USA, and Canada who are waking up to the injustice inflicted upon them and their families. They are determined not to be silenced anymore.
They want the Catholic Church to face up to the abuse inflicted on young mothers and their children in both Magdalene Laundries and Mother and Baby Homes throughout much of the 20th century. As far as many of them are concerned, the religious orders have never faced up to their crimes.
All across Ireland, hundreds of people believe they may have uncles, aunts, brothers, or sisters scattered across the globe.
They believe they have close relatives in cities such as Boston, Chicago, or New York who have no idea of their own true identities, as they were adopted out, illegally and for cash,…

Nobody could have imagined how much Ireland has changed

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For a country which used to lock single mothers up in laundries for the ‘crime’ of having children right up until the 1980s, Ireland has utterly changed.

A country which branded a woman who became pregnant for a second time as a “repeat offender” seems to belong to a different planet from the Republic which voted overwhelmingly in favour of abortion rights on Friday.

Gone are the days when children were taken from their mothers in Mother and Baby Homes throughout the country, in some cases to be adopted by “good” Catholic families in the United States, perhaps illegally and certainly against the wishes of the heartbroken women.

In many cases, Gardai, priests, or family members had transferred the young women to those bleak homes, because the shame of having a baby outside marriage was too much to share with neighbours or friends. Those women just “disappeared”.

For those of us who were too young to vote on the Eighth Amendment in 1983, which gave equal rights to the mother and the un…