The Standards Of Our Time

It is hard not to get angry and just switch off, but what is being discussed on Liveline (Irish radio phone-in) as I write is a legitimate question: Is it unfair to judge the actions of Cardinal Brady in 1975 by the standards of our time?

Quick summary: While still a priest he had a role, though apparently little more than a secretarial one, in a church investigation of allegations against the notorious serial child rapist Father Brendan Smyth. The case is among the most infamous, because Smyth was allowed to keep raping for many years despite this and other internal investigations.

As far as Brady is concerned, his job was to take down and pass on testimony to his seniors for investigation, not to act on it personally. He feels that he discharged his duty by playing his part in the system that he trusted. The criticism rests on the fact that this evidence was never acted on by those authorities. Given his personal knowledge, should Brady have gone above and beyond what he saw as his duty to pursue the matter, perhaps even drawn it to the attention of social services or police?

It is true that things were different. Nowadays it virtually goes without question that a child’s complaints should be thoroughly investigated, and given the high likelihood of anyone who has sexually abused children doing so again, not to act on credible evidence is tantamount to reckless endangerment. Things were much less clear-cut in 1975. It was not something much spoken of publicly. The standards of the time – such as they were – did not abhor child sexual abuse any less, but they worked on the widely-held supposition that something so horrific was an almost inconceivable rarity.

In other words, these standards were based on the effective suppression – by individuals, the church, and other institutions – of the truth about the prevalence of child sexual abuse. So to judge Brady by the standards of his time would be to judge him by standards he played his part in creating. That could not be acceptable.

We must nevertheless attempt to put ourselves in his position, and needless to say it is not one any of us would like. There was no guarantee that legal authorities or social services would have taken things any further, and to speak out would have almost certainly brought down the severe disapproval of superiors and peers within the organisation to which he had dedicated his life. I do wonder how many of us can honestly say that we would have gone beyond what we saw as our duty. I hope I would, I know it would have preyed on my conscience if I had not, but I can’t be sure if I would have broken rank.

And I certainly would not have risen to the position of cardinal if I did. Which is worth contemplating. People who become cardinals are precisely the people who don’t break rank, but suppress their own consciences and follow the interests and assurances of their organisation.

So I actually care little if Brady stays or goes. Whoever takes his place as cardinal will also be a cardinal. The important lesson here is about allowing any organisation to act as a law unto itself.

Tully’s Of Kinvara

The heart brings me to the almost insolently pretty coastal Galway town of Kinvara, into a recklessly cute pub called Tully’s, and out the back to the barn. But this is the best bit. A big ol’ barn, but an atmospheric venue. Load of bands playing, including my friend Niceol Blue.

And I’m in the mood. So if you’ll excuse me this evening I’ll keep the words to the minimum, and turn the pictures up to eleven.

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Help! It’s Aer Lingus

Finland - Where they'll do anything naked

It’s all right, I don’t need help really. It’s just the only wordplay I could think of. For today was May Day, a feast dedicated to Spring. Except in Ireland where it’s dedicated to Mary, because only the Catholic Church could transform a feast of fecundity into a celebration of sanctified virginity.

Of course before the Christians it was Bealtaine, still by tradition the first day of summer, and we’ve never let the fact that it’s usually raining deflect us from that.

And God it was miserable today. So it made my mind up. I have just now booked my holidays. I’m going to sunny Finland. Seriously. It’ll probably be much warmer than here, come July. I plan a week or so of simple rustic pleasures. Camp on an island, take saunas, get naked, chop wood. Though not in that order.

So I’ve just been through the usual “Ryanair or Aer Lingus” juggling game. The last time I went Finland way I just plumped for Ryanair, unrealising that if I’d gone with Aer Lingus I would have only paid a little more to fly straight in Helsinki where my friend actually lives, as opposed to Tampere, a tiny airport that’s a short bus ride – and then a very long¹ train journey – north.

So this time I gave Aer Lingus serious consideration. Just as well – Ryanair doesn’t fly to Finland anymore. Not directly anyway. You can go there from Stansted. Alternatively, you can fly from Dublin to Tallinn in Estonia, from where it’s a pretty short hop. There may be other ways you could make it, it’s not too easy to figure this out with their site, but taking a two-step trip with Ryanair is out of the question anyway. If the lateness of their first connection causes you to miss the second, they take no responsibility.

They’ve been a great influence on Aer Lingus though. It’s no exaggeration to say that the national airline is often actually the cheaper now. OK, in some respects their service has just plunged to Ryanair’s level, but at least you don’t get the feeling that if you click the wrong thing on their site you’ll lose a kidney. With Ryanair everything you press seems to raise the price, including the back button.

Mind you, there are signs that Aer Lingus might be going that way. It would be easy to get the impression that even after you’ve bought your ticket you still have to pay for your seat! In fact it’s an option to book a seat, but it’s not very obvious that you don’t have to.

I called it the national airline; of course, it’s now 3% less national. Abu Dhabi carrier Etihad just got a bit. We buy their oil, they buy our strategic transport infrastructure. That’s going to end well. And with the country’s finances being in the state they are, speculation is rife that the government will sell off its share. My flight’s not until July; by the time I take it, it may not be with an Irish airline.

  1. Though this being Finland, very fast and reasonably priced.

Recommended Stealing

And yesterday was a fine day indeed, as it turned out. I think I met more new people than in the previous year altogether. This is good, this is what I need. One of the reasons you get too dependent in a relationship is that you stop knowing other people. I have restoration work to do on my social life.

First I was at the book launch of a local poet, Thanks for Nothing, Hippies by Sarah Clancy. Nice stuff. Then a meeting of activists against the Fiscal Compact, which was the main inspiration for yesterday’s piece. This was stimulating because I’ve done nothing like it for many years. As a cartoonist, a commentator on events, you try to keep actual political activity at arm’s length. I have never joined a party, association, or union. I’m even pretty reluctant to sign petitions. Being right at the coalface felt like a safari – even a spying mission.

The meeting was addressed by an economist, Professor Terry McDonough, and it was pointed out to me that I had done cartoons for a book he co-authored a decade ago. So I thought to check and, yes, you can buy a book I illustrated on Amazon. Lord knows, there may be more of my work available there. After all I forgot this one completely. It’s nice to be reminded that I do more than I think.

I even found a good review of it – from an anarchist newspaper:

Each section is self-contained, well presented with graphs, charts and cartoons.

How’s that for recognition? Also:

Order, buy, borrow or steal “Mind your own business” then pass it on to fellow workers. Probably the most user friendly handbook on economics/industrial relations in print.

Recommended stealing! There’s no higher praise from anarchists.