Monday, August 24, 2009

Revelation of the day

The Board is listening to The Temper Trap.
More understated than Passion Pit, but still worth a rattle.

Pontificating, as always

Cardinal Sean Brady, speaking in St John's Cathedral at the weekend, attacked the Government's move to normalise same-sex civil partnership for tax and social welfare purposes.

Well that's hardly a surprising statement, is it? After generations of moulding the shape of Irish society in its conservative image, one can hardly expect the Catholic Church to suddenly change tack on homosexuality, what with the filth and the nonsense of it all.

Thankfully, this country has matured to a point whereby the Primate of All Ireland can condemn one of the most significant pieces of civil legislation in years, and the rest of us can simply shrug and carry on with the realpolitik of living in a modern world.

In 1937, De Valera wrote a constitution that was in effect an iron rod for the values and provisos of Archbishop Byrne and the Church. The result, on a social level, was almost 70 years of cultural conservatism that made it impossible for any debate on divorce, abortion or sexuality to take place without the condescension of the clergy and the placards of their congregations.

Opinions are the fuel of democratic society, of course, but in Ireland it was always the priest who claimed the deciding vote. No more.

Only the most rigid minds will be able to say that the rationalisation of civil partnership law to protect non-traditional family units, such as gay couples and long-term cohabiting partners, will be a bad thing.

Cardinal Brady may not like the movement away from the traditional nuclear family model, but not liking something does not make it vanish.

The fallout of the Ryan Commission's report into the institutionalised rape and abuse of generations of children under the eyes of the Church has broken whatever respect Irish people once had for the will of the cardinals.

The Ryan report was a traumatic moment for this country, but if the long-term result is a rational, secular society, it may yet prove its worth.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Football? Bloody Hell

Were you at the match on Wednesday? The Board was, flicking his press badge round and round in a failed attempt to entertain himself while that exhibition of 'soccer' sucked the life out of 20,000 people.

Still, he managed to gather himself and produce something barely legibile on what was a painful occasion, but an occasion nonetheless:

HMMMM. Were it not for the purple sunshine and our love for the grand sporting occasion, international soccer’s Limerick debut might be remembered as an uncomfortable and fidgety affair.

But the air was warm, the pitch was pristine and the banners were witty. And according to estimates, the match is expected to have generated as much as €5 million for the local economy. Perhaps it wasn’t so bad.

Still, Munster rugby and its shining city on the Thomondgate hill have been built on a sense of excitement and rapture. Perhaps we have grown too used to the sight of Denis Leamy dislocating men’s faces under the roar of the East Stand. Very little by the way of exhilaration was seen beyond Hassett’s Cross on Wednesday evening, and the night was drained because of it. Three-nil to the Antipodeans and not a wild bushman in sight.

It was a bit of an anticlimax.

But there was still crowds and noise and colour, of course. This is the national team, after all, and had Limerick failed in its patriotic duty to support them the angry ghosts of De Valera and Archbishop Byrne themselves would have appeared, wielding copies of Bunreacht na hÉireann like batons.

Mayor of Limerick Cllr Kevin Kiely was introduced to Irish and Australian players via a red carpet beforehand, a moment he described as “overwhelming”. “It was a great moment for myself and for the office of the Mayor of Limerick. I wouldn’t take any notice of this result. Limerick was the real winner last night.”

Once the swells of fanfare had peaked and the Spanish referee had blown his whistle, the struggle began. Ireland’s performance was stoic at best. Were the Irish team a mime on a Parisian stage, Oscar Wilde would have called him a dullard.

Australia were all intent and industry, passing and moving with ease. Then, twice within six minutes before half time, Tim Cahill scythed through the Irish defence to put the tie to bed.

Giovanni Trapattoni, the Ireland manager, seemed flustered by it all. Were this 1973 and Cahill had been Luigi Riva, Trap, the catenaccio purist that he was, would have fractured his shins and the ball would have rolled pleasantly to safety.

Come the 92nd minute and David Carney’s absolutely sublime third for the visitors, few home fans were reckoning with more than thoughts of the quickest way home.

But should the quality of the fare be allowed to sink what was, after all, another exhibition of Limerick as the nation’s second sporting capital? “We’re absolutely delighted with how things went, off the pitch anyway,” said Thomond Park stadium director John Cantwell. “It’s a pity about the result but we were happy to bring another group of people to Thomond Park for the first time. It’s now really established as an international venue.”

The organisation was indeed spot-on, the pitch was like a carpet, it was only a pre-season friendly, Australia are 21 places above us in the FIFA world rankings and Cyprus were reddened 6-1 by Albania on the same night. These all grew into more than just a bag of small mercies on another historic night for Limerick city.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Like Rushdie before him

The Agitator and Leader of Men really boils The Board's blood sometimes.

There's his encyclopedic knowledge of everything, his perma-cool wit that is as dry as a sandbox, and his ownership of at least two Tribe Called Quest albums that I don't.

Like Piers Morgan and my housemate Padriag before him, The Agitator was always dangerously close to becoming the latest target of a Chalkboard jihad.

Alas, the trebuchet of professional fury is now pointed squarely at his desk, just three yards from my own.

He's only gone and used the funniest line ever written in his review of the River Bistro in this week's Limerick Chronicle, stirring more chagrin than The Board even knew he possessed.

In reference to a big portobello mushroom, he said this:

"My fungus was humungous."

Jihad. Jihad I say.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Revelation of the day

The Board is in talks to become Viceroy of the second British Raj, and intends to set up his capital in Shimla in the coming days.

Incidentally, there are several openings in my new cabinet.

The posts of Minister for Silly Walks, Minister of State with responsibility for Chicken Gravy and Attorney General are all available.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

In the eyes of the law

So that's it. One of the most heartbreaking, bitter and divise chapters of recent Irish history ran its full course on Wednesday when 44-year-old Pearse McCauley and 52-year-old Kevin Walsh walked out of Castlerea prison in Roscommon.

The last of the men convicted of the manslaughter of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe in 1996 have received their freedom. The rule of law has been served. But the bitterness of what these men did and the grief for the life that they took will last longer than the minutes and hours of any prison sentence.

Not since the murder of Mayor George Clancy and ex-Mayor Michael O'Callaghan on March 7 1921 had Limerick been so brutally forced to confront such intimate violence, be it in the name of national independence or the crimes of subversives.

Of course, by June 1996 too many people in Northern Ireland had endured lifetimes of fire and murder. But the peace of Main Street, Adare and the stillness of our opinions in the Republic were broken that day.

When societies and nations and regions are torn apart by endless struggle, their wars become self-fulfilling. The rape of Darfur, the destruction of Gaza City, the burning of West Belfast. If we allow it, they become inevitable monuments to human failure, over and over again.

People will forever need cold, personal examples to shock them out of apathy. What is already emerging as the symbol fo the recent Iranian protests - the pictures of 400,000 people gathered at the foot of the Azadi monument in Tehran, or the video of Neda Agha-Soltan being shot through her chest and bleeding to death?

Jerry McCabe's killing, coming as it did at a time when the IRA was fracturing and the shape of post-Troubles politics was beginning to form, was the example that a mute and uncertain Irish civil society needed to convince itself that peace, and nothing else, was required.

No doubt McCabe, the understated family man from the Ennis Road who enjoyed his golf, would not like anyone to consider him a martyr. His life and death were more about duty, respect and the quiet dignity a man can earn from national service.

But 13 years later, as the last of his killers walk free, that is how we must consider him. In an Ireland where Sinn Fein seek a path into the mainstream while collecting convicted IRA killers from outside of prisons, they as much as anyone should remember that visible paths to peace are the only ways forward that the Irish people will accept anymore.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Revelation of the day

The Board is busy.
To pass the time, read about Slick Willy's return to international diplomacy and the Orient here.