Paragraph from the Mahon Tribunal findings, image courtesy Simon Carswell

Fifty years and God knows how much money to reach a conclusion that – let’s face it – we already knew. Madness?

No, worth every penny. Because the “everybody knows” needed to be brought out and made official: Politics in Ireland, and planning in particular, is filthy, stinking, riddled with the most blatant corruption, bent. That’s official.

And now it’s official we can begin to dismantle it, to make politics fair and open in this country. No more blind eyes can be turned now that a little boy – well, a panel of judges – has pointed out that the Emperor is walking around with his giblets out. It will be a huge task, but at least we can face up to it and make a start.

There will be resistance, even now, from all corners of society. Because you know that while some of us feel this as fresh air on our faces, there are a lot of people in Ireland – a hell of a lot of people – who will see it as a loss for their team, a massive letting of the side down. Huge numbers of ordinary voters who were loyal to their party not in spite of but because of its corruption, who genuinely believed they were advantaged by nod-and-wink politics. Because that was our political culture, and the parties did nothing to discourage it – to say the least.

They were not advantaged of course, not the vast majority of them. In fact it disadvantaged all voters, in favour of those who could afford to purchase their political representation wholesale. Because political corruption destroys democracy, raising a secret aristocracy in its place. What is your vote worth, when others are paying cash?

Priestly Identity

Why would the Vatican think that further separating seminarians from other students can help prevent them abusing children? If anything, becoming more enclosed and collegiate will make them less likely to reveal the criminals within their ranks, not more. What this tells us about the Church’s mentality is shocking, but not surprising. Inevitably a religious institution, even one as worldly and cynical as this, reverts to magical thinking: As God’s representative on Earth it cannot be wrong, not fundamentally. Therefore the causes of abuse must come from outside. It stands to reason.

The further implication is that the problem can somehow be traced back to the slight liberalisation that paved the way for more open seminaries. Plenty living people can attest to being abused before Vatican II of course, but such evidence is invalid because it doesn’t fit with the magical thinking. Or indeed, with the general prejudice in the Church against openness.

But what is worse, it shows the Vatican still resisting the idea that clerical sexual abuse is its fault. It must have been tainted by exposure to other people. Other, less pure and spiritual people. Women, is the word that’s not being spoken aloud here. If the Catholic Church can somehow blame women for child abuse, it will.

This is wilful self-delusion. Of course the problems of the Church do not come from the pernicious influence of ordinary people. They come right from the soul of the institution – the belief that it is an instrument of the will of God. This is what allows it to consider itself above the law, to ‘protect’ its own members from justice, to let them keep raping.

The Catholic Church can never be trusted with children until the day that it admits it is not an organisation carrying out God’s will. And that day will never come.


It's all about projecting a market-friendly image

Enda Kenny just rang the opening bell on the New York stock exchange. He spoke for many of us I feel – indeed, for his whole country – when he uttered the immortal words “Me love you long time, five dollah”.

OK, possibly not his exact phrasing, but we won’t quibble over details. The gist of his appearance was that the country has invested in a new tub of lube and we’re ready once more to give the markets what they want. What did we learn from our recent, unhappy affair with global capital? That we’re a bottom, it seems. Not a lot else.

The Taoiseach is there to assert that we’ve put our financial house in order. Pretty much. Well, it’s still in a subsidence zone, but compared to some neighbouring houses it’s very very well propped up. That’s all fine, but what about Wall Street’s house? Foolish borrowing and mismanagement of the euro were factors, but it was the unstoppable flood of credit that washed away the foundations and caused the entire economy to slide into the sea. And that all began with the wilful pretence that bad debt could be magically turned into a good investment – basically, a confidence trick.

Shouldn’t it be Wall Street ringing the bell?

On Top Of Clare

Having made it to the top of Corkscrew Hill, we pause for a short celebratory dance.

Taken on the Galaxy Note’s 8Mpx camera, then given the ‘Antique’ effect. I’m very pleased with the quality of the camera. A lot of the images I saw in reviews looked a little unsharp, but the results are much more impressive in real life. And though the picture of the old sign I put up yesterday is definitely soft, for a shot in low light indoors without flash I’m more than satisfied.

The way we came.

So that’s a good start with photography. My next task is to find a browser that works well enough for primetime. Coming from MicroB on the N900 I am a little spoiled, but there really doesn’t seem to be such a thing as the perfect mobile browser yet. Of the ones I’ve tried so far – the inbuilt one, Firefox Mobile and the hot new Dolphin HD – I think Dolphin has the edge. Though this is mainly due to how easily you can make it display sites as they would appear in a desktop browser rather than a simplified mobile view. (Why would I use that, this phone has a higher resolution than my desktop PC…) Every one fails in some way when it comes to complex tasks like – well, like the one I’m doing right now, editing this blog. The WordPress interface just seems to overwhelm the touch metaphor. For example, the menus that pop up when you hover over them with your… Ah. Can’t really hover over them with your finger. Not until someone invents some sort of sonar finger-detecting screen at least

It’s worth mentioning though that the same pen technology as used here does precisely that on a tablet PC, which is why it was chosen by Microsoft. On a capacitive (or resistive) screen position is only detected on contact, so a touch is equivalent to both a mouse movement and click. A digitizer pen gives its position when it’s near the screen, so it is capable of triggering hover events like opening a menu. The hardware is in place therefore on devices like this phone and the Note 10.1 tablet, it just isn’t in the software.

Will such mouse events be available when support for them is introduced with Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich)? We can hope.

Where The Hell Am I?

Well I suppose we had to do something a little mad for St Patrick’s Day. Quite unexpectedly, I find myself driving to Doolin – a distance several times greater than any I’d driven before. Challenging too. Corkscrew Hill – a slalom for cars. A lovely meal, somehow ending up spending the evening with a couple from Texas – him a retired Navy pilot – and almost stealing beds in an unattended hostel.
Driving backthrough Clare, the whole Burren and its stars to ourselves.

Mná Mná

Niceol Blue seems to get mentioned on this blog more than any other person. That’s what comes I guess of having a wonderful voice and a computer almost permanently in need of repair – two things I have a weakness for. But she also organizes Mná Mná – Women in Music, a monthly showcase gig for musicians and particularly singers who are female. I’m worried overseas readers won’t get the title. Suffice to say, Mná is the Irish for Women, and is pronounced – more or less – “Mnah”.

It’s been on once a month for almost a year now, but to my shame last night was my first visit. I’ve been missing something good. A thing like this could so easily be what I might call… excessively supportive. But thanks to what I can only guess are hidden reserves of steely ruthlessness, the standards are excellent. Three acts last night, each worth the entrance.

Next month will be a special gig for their first anniversary – definitely one to watch out for. You can sign up for notifications here.

Getting To Know Your Android

Screenshot of Android 4 on Galaxy Nexus
Android 4, which I don't have yet

Ah, the slow terrible frustration of it…

I’m trying to be good here and give my new phone’s battery the best possibly start in life. I was advised that the way to do that is to completely flatten it and then recharge it for seven or eight hours, while switched off. Several times. That means I can’t use it while it’s charging, and as most of what I do want to do means going online, I can only squeeze maybe eight or ten hours of messing around with it out of a day. No of course that’s not enough!

Connecting it to the PC would charge it too, so I can’t synchronise it properly and, what’s much worse, can’t download the latest firmware. Ah! Nerd hell. And of course, I can hardly use it as my working phone either. So for the first few days it’s an invalid.

Just as well perhaps. At least I’ll have had some practice using it before anyone sees me trying in public. Having a phone as noticeable as this and not knowing what the hell I’m doing with it has too much comic potential. And I’ve never had an Android phone before (well, I did have an experimental Android install on my N900, but it wasn’t really usable), so I’ve little experience with it.

It has to be admitted, Android is a whole other operating system.There’s a lot I like about it already, but there are constant reminders that it’s not Windows or Mac OS, or even Maemo. I think what I miss most is control keys. Control+z especially… After that, definitely arrow keys or an equivalent. Moving back a single letter, for example, is not easily done by poking text on screen. I feel like the interface was conceived to work with single as well as multi-touch input, and in consequence is more restricted than it really needs to be now. But the Swype keyboard at least tries to make up for that, and works impressively well.

Plus I haven’t really used a capacitive screen before. With the N900 I could hit tiny links and so on with a fingernail, without having to zoom in, and it’s frustrating now when that doesn’t work. Basically I have to unlearn what I spent the last year learning.

First world problems.