Category Archives: Ireland

Turn Off The Blue Light – a liberal campaign in a conservative country

Since the 2011 elections in Ireland, law reform on the issue of prostitution became an issue with some support from opposition parties who were likely to become (and later did become) the new Government. Since then, the issue has received as much attention as any social issue would at a time when a country’s economic woes are far more of a concern to the majority of the population.

Last year, a campaign called Turn Off the Red Light was run with a view to ending sex trafficking in Ireland by making it illegal. The campaign is run by over thirty civic organisations and has been supported by a group of well-known Irish men including the singer Christy Moore. It focuses heavily on the need to protect women working in the sex industry from potential abuse.

In rebuttal to this, a counter-attack called Turn Off The Blue Light has been launched by sex workers and supporters in favour of liberalising the laws on prostitution (and general sex work) in Ireland. They accuse the TORL campaign of wanting to impose a moral agenda on the subject.

The advertisement images put forward by both sides are thought-provoking.

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Filed under Ad Campaigns, Culture, Current Affairs, Ireland, Women

Unicorns & Town

British film director Sir Ridley Scott launched a global film making contest for aspiring directors. It’s titled “Tell It Your Way”. There were over 600 entries.

The film could be no longer than three minutes, contain only 6 lines of narrative & be a compelling story. The winner was “Porcelain Unicorn” from American director Keegan Wilcox.

It’s a story of the lifetimes of two people who are totally opposite, yet, very much the same – all told in less than 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, back in Ireland, presumably in an effort to boost the local economy, a website called DublinTown has been launched. An initiative between Dublin City Business Improvement District and local small business owners, the site highlights all that ‘Town’ has to offer both to locals and to tourists. It’s beautifully laid out and the video for the launch has been doing the rounds on social networking sites. It does make me miss the Dublin between the canals.

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April 30, 2012 · 11:57 am

Dan Savage’s struggles with the Catholic faith reflect those of the Irish youth

This week, the Catholic Church once again made headlines for its antediluvian rhetoric when it publicly reprimanded America’s largest and most influential group of Catholic nuns for promoting what it called: “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

Putting aside the eyebrow-raising assertion here that the Church sees itself as incompatible with the equality of women, let us take a look at what exactly the group (the Leadership Conference of Women Religious) was promoting. This from Reuters: “the Vatican reprimanded [the LCWR] for spending too much time on poverty and social justice concerns and not enough on abortion and gay marriage.”  Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby founded by sisters, said that she was stunned. “I would imagine that it was our health care letter that made them mad,” Sister Campbell said. “We haven’t violated any teaching, we have just been raising questions and interpreting politics.” To remind any readers who are a little rusty on their Gospel, Jesus spent his life talking about poverty, social justice and our duty to the poor, as exemplified in this passage:

“21Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. 22And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.” – Mark 10:21-22.

Meanwhile, regarding the issues of abortion and gay marriage, so much more fascinating to the Vatican than boring old poor people, Jesus said: nothing.

The Church has announced that it is appointing Archbishop J. Peter Sartain as delegate to ‘oversee reform initiatives’ in the LCWR. In other words, a man is being sent to rein the crazy women in.

This incident, on the greater scheme of things, is unimportant. There have and will continue to be many like it and nobody is too surprised that the Catholic Church appears to be out of touch. However, it is an exemplary portrayal of a Church which most Irish people (especially younger generations) feel no longer represents their beliefs. Indeed, a Church which, they feel, has abandoned them completely.

Concurrently, statistics are telling us that Irish people are moving further and further towards a secular consensus. More than eight in every ten Irish people want the church and state to be totally separate, 65% strongly agree that this should happen, and less than three in ten have quite a lot or a great deal of confidence in religious groups.

Nevertheless, this is not to say that Irish Christians have stopped believing. The results of Ireland’s 2011 census showed that 90.5% percent of people still identify as Christian, the vast majority being Catholic. While observers and pundits in other parts of the Western World proclaim a kind of Great Atheist Arrival, where atheism has become almost completely ordinary in the mainstream, I do not believe this is the case in Ireland. I think many young Irish people want to be Christian, they want to believe in God, in a higher power and in system of life based on faith in a divine creator.

Whether this desire is instinctive or socialised, it is nonetheless there. I know very few Irish people of my generation, or any other generation, who describe themselves as atheist. In some cases, they will call themselves agnostic. The vast majority will describe themselves jokingly as ‘lapsed Catholics’ or as ‘dirty Prods’. That is still an identification with a system of belief. My contemporaries still believe in God.

The long-running weekly hour-long radio program This American Life, produced by WBEZ in Chicago and hosted by Ira Glass, is broadcast across America by Public Radio International.  Primarily a journalistic non-fiction program, it has also featured essays, memoirs, field recordings, short fiction, and found footage. Basically, for an hour every week, it gives America a compressed version of BBC Radio 4.

Last year, it invited the author and columnist Dan Savage (founder of the It Gets Better campaign) to speak about his relationship with Catholicism, one which had lain dormant for years until it was resurrected by the death of his mother from cancer. It is both hilarious and upsetting. It is as close a description of my generation’s feelings towards religion as I could think of. A deep, strong desire to be part of a greater, familiar community of belief. An inability to reconcile that desire with a Church that says condoms spread AIDS and protects rapist priests.

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Filed under America, Current Affairs, Ireland, Laughs, Life, Religion

When Amy Came To Dingle

This week, it was at last confirmed that Amy Winehouse, who died last August, had done so as a result of massive alcohol poisoning. The following short documentary was aired in Ireland about a month ago and features a small gig Winehouse did in a town called Dingle, on the Westernmost tip of Europe.

The presenter is none other than my favourite Irish DJ, Annie Mac and the stripped down style of the music shows Amy at her very best, just before she became one of the most famous, and hunted, women in the world. Between songs, snippets of the interview she did after the gig are both fascinating and tragic, given the downward spiral her life went into almost immediately afterwards.

It is worth nothing that, since her death, her final album Back to Black has become the bestselling British record of the 21st century.

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Filed under Celebrities, Ireland, Music

Norris -> President

The following is probably the best summary of current events in Ireland regarding the upcoming Presidential elections. For those of you unfamiliar with recent goings-on, the main point of interest is an ageing senator named David Norris, who couldn’t be more controversial a figure if he tried. He’s an openly gay, Anglo-Irish Protestant whose campaign has encountering no small amount of difficulty, leading him to bow out of the race at the beginning of August, only to re-enter last Friday:

David Norris made late-night television history Friday, appearing on the RTÉ network’s Late Late Show to address the personal allegations that have derailed his Irish presidential campaign. The Irish presidency is a largely ceremonial position, a national spokesman job really, with no legislative or executive power but a good deal of cultural clout. And for months David Norris — the openly gay, avowedly intellectual writer, Trinity College Dublin literature professor and ceremonial Irish senator — has been challenging and reshaping the Irish cultural zeitgeist like no public figure of his time. But is that a good thing? 

Read the rest…

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Filed under Current Affairs, Ireland, Politics

Hey, I know her!

Since my new flat doesn’t have internet yet, I’ve been woefully behind-the-times when it comes to the latest internet memes and fads. This would not usually bother me until I realised my parents were more clued-in than I was. Unacceptable.

My mother (I know) sent me this earlier in the week. It’s a great clip and of particular interest to me as the blonde girl, Rebecca Winckworth, is an old friend of mine.

For those of you not hugely into rugby, Josef Schmidt is the current coach of Leinster rugby who brought them to victory at this year’s Heineken Cup.

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Filed under Ireland, Music, Rugby

Happy Bloomsday

Every year on this day, celebrations are held in Dublin and across the world to commemorate the life of James Joyce, and re-enact the events in his book Ulysses, which covers one day (the 16th of June) in the life of Leopold Bloom, as he travels through Dublin in 1904. Joyce chose this day for his book because it was the day he and his future wife Nora Barnacle went on their first ‘date’, walking to Ringsend together.

And just in time for the big day, a man in Dublin claims to have solved a riddle in the book: “Good riddle would be crossing Dublin without passing a pub”. More here.

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Filed under Books, Culture, Ireland