Archive for May, 2010

Gandhi Policy is Thankfully Ignored in Cork But Sadly Missing in Listowel

May 24, 2010

A few months back an extraordinary situation unfolded in a far from extraordinary town in a rural part of Ireland. The situation punctuated the conviction of a man for the sexual assault of a young lady. Just before and after the sentencing took place a crowd emerged. When I originally read this story I assumed that I was about to be told about the convict being attacked by an angry mob. Far from it.

The crowd was there in support with the convict. This might be considered loyalty for a dear friend or relative, I guess? I don’t approve of what you did but you’ve shown remorse for this horrendous mistake and I shall stand by you? They hugged and back-slapped, shook hands and shared words of support.

This was a man who has not shown remorse. Who denied the incident to the end. Whom a court decided drugged a young lady, took her to a secluded place and sexually assaulted her. Sexual assault is one of most horrendous of crimes. Let’s not understate this.

I’m not interested in this convict. I’m interested in the action of his supporters and the people of Listowel.

Now catholic priests don’t have a leg to stand on in the Ireland of 2010. And the guy who went to the court to embrace this convict led down every catholic in the world. I somehow don’t remember that part in the bible. Counselling a man who feels he was perfectly right to sexually assault a young lady in the dead of night.

What emerged during and after this case was that a large proportion of the Listowel community had hounded and harassed this lady. This poor victim. From the moment she reported the crime this continued. Our country was divided once again. People in Listowel in support of the convict. Every other person outside of that town in support of that victim. I mailed the rape crisis centre in Kerry to pass on my support to this young lady and was joined in thousands of Irish people, the vast majority of whom were from outside Listowel.

And so the situation calmed. Or so we thought.

Today’s Irish Independent reported that this victim continues to be harassed in her home in Listowel. Several incidents have taken place, involving the door of her home being kicked down and her side entrance being forcibly opened. It took some time but the council have now provided her with extra security locks and flood lights. Gardai, the Irish police force, are reportedly supportive and I hope they bide their time and take those responsible down.

The Gardai get an awful lot of slack when they make mistakes. I guess that’s true of all police forces? Well this week I shall be mailing the Garda Ombudsman and the head office of the Gardai to congratulate them on a wonderful job last Friday evening.

In the county bordering Listowel, an armed man walked into a bar and threatened staff and customers with deadly force. A newly formed, armed wing of the Garda happened to be in the area and were quickly on the scene. They entered and were threatened by the gun-wielder. The Garda made the decision to shoot this man and did so without placing his life in danger. The man is in a stable condition in hospital.

In the Ireland of 2010, a police officer shooting a criminal remains an extraordinary event. These brilliant Gardai handled this situation with control and due care for the assailant, the customers and themselves. They are a credit to the force and should be commended for their work. In my opinion we have no right to say No when No should be said if we do not say Yes when Yes needs to be said.

And then a parallel stuck me.

Should the harassers in Listowel be allowed to inflict this undeserved punishment upon the young lady that was sexually assaulted? If someone kicked in your door? If this continued? If this was reported to the authorities and they were unable to collect enough evidence for a conviction?

A gentle Indian man once wrote a letter to the government of the British Empire. It explained that violence should not be met with violence. His reasoning? ‘An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind’.

Gandhi showed the world the power or an unarmed group or peaceful protesters who stand up and say No! The Listowel situation shouldn’t be met with vigilantism, in my opinion. But there are other options. There must be decent people in Listowel, lots of them. People who can stand up and say No!

Malawi Solidarity With the HomoHatred of the Catholic Church

May 22, 2010

I feel powerless and I despair. How is it that so many injustices populate the twenty-first century? And how is it that so many of us feel that no action we could take could make any difference? We see activists around us making valiant efforts to change the world for the better. Often to little immediate effect. But we can inform ourselves. And we can say no when no needs to be said.

Ireland, my home, was a theocracy for many years. In the 1930s our leader, An Taoiseach, Eamon deValera wrote a new constitution for a nascent nation. This was proofed by the head of the catholic church in Ireland, a fact that astonishes many Irish people today. But in the Ireland of the 1930s, sales to the Irish people had to be wrapped with a Vatican Shroud and topped with the bow of Sunday homily support.

In the last twenty years this has changed. In 1991 we were first allowed to purchase barrier contraception without a prescription from a general practitioner. And today our government is moving towards the legal recognition of same sex marriages. This is supported by many people in Ireland, but perhaps not the majority of voters? No matter. One of the wonderful aspects of European legislation is human rights law. It doesn’t matter whether you dislike homosexuality. We Europeans recognise the right for any two adults to be have a relationship. To receive the same legal rights, regardless of the gender of those involved. It may not be utopian yet, but we’re getting there.

I was astonished this Wednesday! An article on the bbc website reported that a judge in Malawi had jailed two men due to their homosexuality. I was stunned to read that the judge had imposed a 14 year hard labour sentence! I was further amazed to hear the basis for this sentence: to keep these men away from Malawian society and to place fear in the hearts of all. I was finally saddened to silence by the HomoHating taunting of ordinary Malawians as these men were taken away to prison.

Thankfully, I was heartened to read the response of the United States and United Kingdom governments, though the Irish response is noticeably absent to date. Both governments reacted with astonishment. However, one can be certain that no action will be taken against Malawi for this despicable act.

Interestingly, many of the HomoHaters in the world believe they are going to heaven. One religion professes that same sex relationships are the basis for paedophilia. Yes, it would be hilarious if not so bigoted. Another professes that a camp person should be beaten with a stick day after day until they come back one day de-gayed and thank you for curing them. It appears that HomoHatred is their way to heaven.

This week was also defined by several articles relating to the Pope. I held up such hope for this guy. He once stood in the site of the World Trade Centre in New York City and apologised to the victims of child abuse committed by members of the catholic church in the United States. I held out such hope.

This week also embraced the one year anniversary of the Ryan report. This publication detailed an astonishing collection of abuses committed by members of the catholic church upon children in Ireland. Some of us protested by signing the book of support for the victims of this abuse. Some of us protested by refusing to go to church. Some of us protest by letting no pro-church comment go unchallenged. I just don’t understand. The vast majority of people who attended catholic mass one year ago continue to do so today. In doing so they applaud and legitimise the churches’ response to this holocaust, as I believe it will one day be recognised. Perhaps I’m being very naive, but I believe that many of these assailants will be successfully prosecuted in the Ireland of the twenty-first century. We’re not prefect but we’re not Malawi.

Of course this is about money. If the church admits responsibility then it will have to financially compensate each and every victim. So from the Pope to the person who still attends church without protesting, money is placed before justice for abused children. The irony of the next newspaper article was not lost on me. A Bishop in Northern Ireland is reported to have spent a week visiting different parishes to perform confirmation ceremonies for catholic children. This guy is reported to have asked each set of these children to donate some of the money that is traditionally received though confirmation gifts to the church! No protest of any kind is reported to have taken place in the church. No doubt upset parents felt they should not ruin their child’s special day any further. This is totally understandable. But yet will they return to church next weekend without a word of protest?

In Portugal this week the Pope stood up and pronounced that same sex marriage is a threat to the very existence of the Universe or something. It was typically HomoHating, the man is consistent. I think your organised protection of multiple child abusers might be more of a threat Sir. Shame on you.

The Pope no doubt sleeps soundly in his bed tonight, secure in the knowledge that his system of HomoHatred is being fully supported in Malawi. Perhaps he’ll pay them a visit some day soon to celebrate the incarceration of those without sin.

The words of the enlightened are so often ignored by those who profess to support them the most. There is one religious text that can be summarised in one line: Love one another as I have loved you. There’s another text too, which can be summarised in one sentence and should be adhered to by anyone who proclaims that they work in God’s name: God is always watching.

Footnote: On May 29th 2010 international pressure resulted in the pardon of the two Malawians convicted for homosexuality. Please see the post related to this, which will be entered shortly. Mic