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From the kitchen table

From the kitchen table

Sex education: Parents need to be proactive, not reactive

 

The headline was sickening…’Cork secondary school investigates ‘rape list’ found in boys’ toilets’. The allegations sent shockwaves around the country, and so they should. Now folks, I remember a  time when writing a cheeky note to a fella or a girl you fancied in class and leaving it on his/her desk or slotting it into one of their copies was viewed as exciting and risqué; and, if I’m honest…cute. 

  However, there is absolutely nothing cute about a situation where boys allegedly single out young girls and add them to a so-called ‘rape list’ which they post on their school’s toilet wall, the end game being that the girl ‘with the most ticks will get raped’. Nay, that’s perverse, devious and highly disturbing.

  And, while I know the school at the centre of these alarming revelations has moved swiftly and is doing everything possible to deal with the wretched situation, this latest incident has come hot on the heels of another highly startling report where Gardaí are investigating an allegation that an 11-year-old boy raped a 9-year-old girl in a field over the Easter weekend. How does an 11-year-old child get to this level of sexual activity? Now while both of these alleged incidents occurred at different ends of the country, the fall-out from each will have a catastrophic and wounding effect on everyone involved.

  You see readers, it appears that in a culture which encourages ‘sharing’ information and images freely, and, the wide usage of smartphones and the availability of pornographic material, it’s clear that some kids/teens are going to believe there is absolutely nothing wrong in engaging in certain, let’s say, questionable activities; believing it’s all part of their normal sexual development.

  And while yes, being curious is definitely part and parcel of growing up, as is a heightened interest in sexual activity, coupled with trying to figure out who you are, etc., parents absolutely need to ensure that everything their child is exposed to as part of the learning process should always be age specific; with emphasis placed rigidly on consequences, because, let’s face it, no pre-teen/teen comes complete with a clear understanding of cause and effect, now do they? It’s a parent’s job to be proactive and try to recognise the triggers.

  Don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude, and there’s nothing wrong with your teen engaging in age appropriate consensual sexual communication, so long as you, the parent, discuss everything with them beforehand; in particular the worrying upward trend of ‘sexting’ (a ticking time bomb among kids, in my opinion), and place strong emphasis on the serious consequences and pitfalls attached to it. Not to mention the emotional distress it causes for both the sender as well as the receiver. It’s time for some parents to stop using the internet as their babysitter and their kids’ teachers as their primary sex educators and moral guardians. The teacher’s job is to deliver academic skills, and while the issues around life skills, sexual relationships and gender respect should be included in the school curriculum, if you wish to educate your children regarding the onslaught they face in today’s technological revolution – especially when it comes to exposure to certain adult material – then the discussion must begin at home.

Comey turns out to be a ‘dorky dad’!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that former FBI Director James B Comey is on a book publicity tour; hawking an opus I’ll highly likely buy, simply out of nosiness.  However, I’m disappointed in his level of pettiness; a behaviour which is unbecoming of an individual who was previously entrusted to head up the USA’s federal law enforcement agency, responsible for its day to day operations. 

  My opinion of Comey lessened slightly when, speaking to ABC last week ahead of the launch of his much-anticipated tome, ‘A Higher Loyalty, Truth, Lies and Leadership,’ the 6’8” one didn’t come across as the cool clean hero I’d hoped he was; rather instead, he presented like a bitter, vitriolic begrudging little man as he gave a physical account of the perma-tanned one who once famously issued him with his P45!

  Now I’m not referring to Comey’s comment that Trump is “morally unfit,” to be president of the US, because I’d have to agree with him there and respond with ‘er, no s**t Sherlock, tell us something we don’t know!’ I mean, we’ve read The Donald’s erratic tweets, his latest being to label Comey a ‘weak and untruthful slimeball’…an invective one would hardly expect the most powerful individual in the world to use.

  But you see readers, while I initially thought Comey was the bigger man, and not just height-wise, but righteously, his bitchy remarks regarding Trump’s hands not being ‘as large’ as his own, and the fact his face is ‘slightly orange, with bright half-moons under his eyes,’ has diminished him (in my eyes) from the tall, dark, brooding, tell-it-like-it-is sexy specimen of everything a high-ranking, powerful law enforcement officer should be, to embarrassing dorky dad. In my opinion, Comey’s unvarnished physical description (of Trump), gave us the impression he was not quite a bona fide champion; and if I was his PR I’d advise him that until his book is on the bestseller list, while he’s doing future interviews, (no matter how half-hearted the effort might be), he should at least make an attempt to preserve his relationship with the media!

 

 

 

 

Why I’m dedicating this week’s column to the memory of Ann Lovett and her baby son

 

 

On a bitingly cold, dark, dismal January 31st in 1984 Ireland, an innocent 15-year-old went to the grotto of the Virgin Mary, and, heavily pregnant and in the throes of agonising labour, without the benefit of a soul to comfort her, lay down on the frozen, filthy ground and gave birth to a baby son. Ann Rose Lovett must have been terror-stricken. Her infant died, and, later that afternoon, tragically, so did his poor mammy. Had she lived, Ann would have been 50 last week. Her baby boy would have been 34.

  On the 20th anniversary of Ann’s death, while working for the Evening Herald, I was tasked with heading to Granard in County Longford to see, in my then editor’s words, “what the mood is like”. I made a call to Emily O’Reilly, the journalist who broke Ann’s tragic tale back in 1984, to see if she’d any words of advice. In 2004, Ms. O’Reilly was our country’s first female Ombudsman, later being elected as European Ombudsman…her advice was to wish me luck and to ”tread carefully”.

  Well folks, ‘the mood’ was hostile. It’s a painful subject for the lovely people of Granard, who told me back then, (when I identified as a journalist), that they just “want to forget”. Fair enough, but I’m personally finding it impossible to forget, and the scandal of what happened to that poor girl still covers this entire country, most especially the town of Granard, like a dense fog to this very day.

  My first port of call was to the grotto to say a prayer for the young girl who was found crying and dying in the dirt beside her infant son; who was never afforded the dignity of being named. Three days later, both were buried, fated to become two of Ireland’s tainted unmentionables; legacies of the fierce and cruel stranglehold the Catholic Church had on this nation of ours.

  My second stop was to St. Mary’s Catholic Church, its steeple clearly visible high on the hill, cloaking the town like a dark spectre. Look, I won’t go into detail regarding my visit, because I genuinely don’t wish to upset the Lovett family, or the decent people of Granard, but, following my little chat at the parochial house, I was run out of town. Yep, word spread that a nosy journalist was asking questions, resulting in staff at the accommodation where I’d planned to stay packing my bags and leaving them at reception. Apparently they didn’t have a room after all. A burly thug approached me on Main Street, and, in a threatening voice, fist close to my face, told me what would happen to me if I didn’t “get the f**k out of town”.

  I wasn’t easily intimidated and headed to Cnoc Mhuire Secondary School, the ‘caring institution’ where Ann attended, to find out just how ‘caring’ they were, and asked how staff (back then), had failed to act and help this petrified child, who sat in class each day, clearly heavily pregnant. The response (at the time) was shocking; evidence of the decades-long wall of silence dutifully erected around allegations, speculations and above all, dark, shameful secrets that nobody was willing to breach. Undeterred, I continued up the hill to Granardkille graveyard – where Ann and her baby are laid to rest – and said a prayer. It was there a local lady approached me and revealed her son (whom she insisted, and I believed her, was not the baby’s father), had befriended Ann. This lady was the only friendly face I encountered that day; and, 34 years later, on the anniversary of Ann’s 50th birthday, and while times have changed and the schools/businesses/churches, etc., employ different personnel now, no more details of her story have amassed; most notably not the identity of her baby’s father.

  Tragically, three months following Ann’s death, her teenage sister was found dead of an alleged prescription drug overdose. I wrote my story, and it was published in memory of the brave young girl who was outrageously crucified for falling pregnant outside of marriage. As someone who was herself a teenage mother in the ‘80s, (but with the benefit of a wedding ring), I dedicate my column this week to the memory of Ann and her baby son; we must never forget them. Their deaths remain our national shame because collectively, as a society, we must all be held responsible. May they rest in peace.

Scarla’ for ya McGregor

Flamboyant, outrageous, ostentatious, notorious and legendary, etc. There are many adjectives that describe MMA fighter Conor McGregor. He’s built a reputation, fortune and image around bawdy showmanship and, as a fellow Dubliner, I’ve admired him for it. But, given last week’s disgusting behaviour, let me offer alternative adjectives…vacuous, vapid, imbecilic ignoramus. To be honest, McGregor’s latest (probably) pre-planned publicity stunt, where himself and his hangers-on appeared to go on a violent rampage and allegedly gate-crash a UFC 223 media event, will likely go down as one of the most embarrassing and shameful incidents in Irish sport. According to the New York Police Department’s spokesperson, “he (McGregor) has been charged with three counts of assault and one of criminal mischief”.

  N-n-n-n-ice one Conor, you’ve managed to turn a mediocre event into a scene of utter chaos. Not exactly coola boola behaviour for one of Ireland’s most bankable and, to many, influential role models, now is it bud? I’m scarla’ for ya. How will your career ever recover from the fall-out? Ya numpty!

 

Issues raised by high profile ‘Belfast rape trial’

 

Do I have my own opinions regarding the recent high profile ‘rape trial’ in Belfast, the alleged self-professed ‘top shaggers’ and their grotty locker room banter, and indeed, the overall outcome? Of course I do…but I’ll be keeping it to myself!

  However, I did read, listen and follow all news reports generated around the proceedings, and it wasn’t until after the verdict had been reached – (with, I stress, all four accused being found not guilty) – did I comment on social media, to say three things. One, we must accept the court’s verdict, and we do of course accept it; it was a difficult trial for all involved. Two, I wished to acknowledge the sheer courage and determination of the complainant and her family during the trial. And three, I wanted to encourage anyone who has been affected by sexual abuse/rape/assault or who has been hurt in any way to make a report to the Gardaí today.

  You see, readers, given the massive publicity this trial generated, given the sordid, demoralising, dispiriting and highly offensive moments it provided; given the graphic front page headlines it spawned, given the fact that Crown Courtroom No. 12 appeared to have perversely become a tourist destination with voyeuristic day-trippers and supporters of the accused men, as a rape survivor I was troubled. 

  I became fearful that, in the wake of everything that’s happened, there’s a significant possibility that victims, in particular women, will be too fearful to come forward, and this alarms me greatly.

  Let me make it clear to anyone who this week is reading this and feeling vulnerable and afraid, and who needs clarification around the reporting of a rape in the Republic of Ireland, that we handle things differently here. So please, please seek the Gardaí’s help or at least contact a support group. Here in Roscommon, (and indeed the Republic  generally), our system provides for a better level of privacy, with neither the complainant’s nor the accused’s identity being revealed. Remember this fact.  

  However, I’ll make it clear that rates of conviction are pretty low, and, for various reasons surrounding my personal complaint, disappointingly my own attacker never saw the inside of a Dublin courtroom. This, readers, is because there lies a deep chasm between due process and what is the highly complex legal requirement for the prosecution to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that a complainant was raped. It’s a profound process, but it does not mean the complainant is not believed. In fact, the Gardaí dealing with me were amazing; they were hugely supportive and they were behind me one hundred per cent all the way. To this day I’m so glad I reported him, I’m so glad I sent the Gardaí to his door and I’m so glad he was investigated. I hope to God my report deterred him from attacking or raping another woman. And, even as I still bear the physical and mental scars of that vicious attack, I’m a resilient aul wagon with, I have found, impressive bounce-back ability and survival skills. 

  For a list of support services in Roscommon/surrounding counties, log onto www.hse.ie. Remember, you are not alone.

 

Nobody had the guts to say ‘No, Taoiseach!’

 

Despite the fact that a review concerning the media campaign regarding Project Ireland 2040 has found there was no basis to allegations that the Government’s Strategic Communications Unit (SCU) had breached the Civil Service Code, blurring the lines between the use of taxpayers’ money around promoting and seeking favourable coverage for Fine Gael politicians in advertorials, and objective journalistic coverage, etc., it’s understood the ‘cost neutral’ (insert snigger here) controversial outfit will shut up shop by July.

  Now as someone who has, in the past, worked hard around creating, developing and (successfully I might add), delivering certain   high profile public relations and communications strategies at Ministerial level both here at home and in the EU, it’s my opinion that the whole humiliating, inglorious disgrace stank to high heaven. And why? Well, for the key reason (in my capacity as a former communications consultant), the unit itself did the one thing it should never, ever do…it became the story!

  As a taxpayer however, I viewed the operation as possibly a ruthless and crafty splurge of public money in order that style consultants could ensure politicians looked ‘photo fabulous’ in designer gear while shamelessly, audaciously and brazenly plastering on the poor mouth as they told us poor eejits that the country is pot-less. Effectively holding nothing in the reserves to house the homeless, sort the trolley crisis and re-open Roscommon hospital’s A&E Department.

  The review, which was carried out by the highly competent Mr. Martin Fraser, found that ‘some of the public comments made about the SCU have been disproportionate, hurtful and offensive.’ Fair enough. Mind you, what I found offensive is the fact that not one advisor, spin-doctor or so-called guru had the guts to stand up to publicity-lovin’ Leo and say, “Er no Taoiseach, no…reel in the smug supercilious head on ya there son. Irish history is littered with arrogant, idiotic Taoisigh…do you really want to be remembered as another one?” I know I’d have said it!

 

Social media and surveillance

 

 

Every time you sign up to a social media platform and share information, you’re taking a risk! Anyone who thinks otherwise is a twat! So while I was really cheesed off, I wasn’t in the least bit surprised to learn that data analytics company Cambridge Analytica, who specialise in ‘psychographic’ profiling, had reportedly harvested data from 50 million Facebook users, effectively ‘creating personality profiles’ (based on food, drink, vehicle, TV show preferences, etc.,) to target voters in an alleged ‘collusion’ between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 US election.

  In fact, readers, I was more flabbergasted at the utter naivety of people being ‘stunned,’ ‘staggered,’ and ‘shocked,’ that this was happening. Mind you, these ‘astonished’ individuals are the very ones who share every single minutiae of their mundane lives from how many times they pee, to letting us know where they are at any given hour…‘checked in at Terminal 2, Dublin airport,’ ‘eating a burger at XYZ,’ ‘drinking cocktails at ABC’, etc. Oookay then, so we defo know you’re not at home and that state-of-the-art 60” HD TV you bought last week is just waiting to be stolen!

  I mean, if you’re going to seriously breach your own personal security and believe what is probably the most ingenious mass surveillance tool known to humankind, (gathering more intel than that curtain-twitching aul wan down the road could ever accumulate), wouldn’t hoover up all that juicy data and exploit it – as opposed to respecting it – then you’re too pea-brained to be allowed have a social media account.

  Now while these damning revelations and allegations has led to concerns and scrutiny regarding how Facebook handles our personal data (which by the way it gathers and profits from), I’m also concerned about an article in the Irish Independent which stated ‘A 2011 audit by Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) said Facebook’s security measures were “not considered sufficient” to prevent third party apps from unauthorised use of personal data” – and I wonder why weren’t sufficient intervention strategies put in place to prevent this latest data grab?

  Now while I regularly update my privacy settings and I’m careful about what I post on social media, this extremely exploitative operation has made me more aware, and I went into my account to see if I could make myself any safer when posting on Facebook. Facebook, by the way, is a wonderful platform to connect and keep in touch with family and friends, so I’m not trying to demonise it, just trying not to fall prey to its micro-targeting techniques.

  Below are the precautions you can take:

• You can delete your account altogether or put it into hibernation.

• If that’s not an option, log into Facebook, go into ‘settings’, look at the ‘Apps’ button and click on it. See which Apps you’ve entered through Facebook and click on ‘disable’ to get rid of any you don’t want; especially third party ones.

• Go back into ‘settings’ and below the ‘Apps’ button, you’ll see ‘Adds’…click on this and you’ll see all of your interests logged there by Facebook. Yep, it’s like a CV of things you’ve either liked or have researched which are now being used to target you through advertisements on your page; go into each one and delete them today.

Letter to Celeste Erlach…

(The harassed mother of two whose open letter, (rant) to her husband, detailing his flaws, went viral last week!)

Dear Celeste, dear misguided, silly little Celeste…so you want a perfect husband do ya? Someone who puts his dirty washing into the linen basket as opposed to beside it; someone who manages to bring the dishes from the table to the dishwasher yet can’t actually cope with placing them inside the machine, someone who’ll not just ‘watch the baby,’ but who’ll soothe it, change its nappy and rock it to sleep as opposed to eyeballing the snooker while the rugrat munches the dog’s food; someone who doesn’t need constant instruction regarding his shortcomings, someone you can trust to do the weekly food shop without worrying he’ll come home with a year’s supply of Pringles and forget the rusks…that right? Well love, let me know how that works out for ya!

  Look, while it’s clear you’re no longer basking in the feel-good glow of new motherhood, where you thought that, come the baby’s arrival, this wonderful man you adore (who has never so much as washed a cup) would suddenly morph into Mrs. Doubtfire, thinking that publicly shaming him on social media would help your marriage/parenting woes, suggests that you need your head examined love!

  If my husband were to post my shortcomings (of which I’m certain there are many) on Facebook, I’d divorce him…end of. So cop on Celeste, and understand that all relationships come with their own set of standards and expectations and when they fail, the very last thing on your mind should ever be to have a public discussion around them; but rather to sit down and torture your husband; sorry, chat with him.

  Bear in mind missus, that when you love someone and have invested a major portion of your life in a relationship/marriage with them, it can be easy to overlook certain annoying patterns/behaviours, and while that doesn’t mean you have to put up with them, it does mean you owe it to that person (and yourself) to try to iron things out in private and give them a chance to address them and, if you’re lucky enough, to correct them.

Have a wonderful Easter everyone; enjoy your yummy eggs! xx

 

Was Leo forced to prick the balloon of his own pomposity?

 

June 2017, Leo’s first, and highly significant visit to 10 Downing Street, where, gushing like a guileless ingénue, the man who is leader of our country, the man upon whose expertise we depend, rhapsodised like a gauche fanboy, revealing how he felt “a little thrill” at being in the big house with boss lady Theresa May, and how he was “reminded of that famous scene in Love Actually where Hugh Grant does his dance down the stairs”. Oh how we all laughed and chalked that boob down to whimsy.

  March 2018, An Taoiseach’s first visit to the White House, where, making its way from head to mouth, bypassing brain completely, Leo served up an idiotic faux pas regarding how he played an important role in having planning permission turned down for a wind farm to be built next to Donald Chump’s pile in County Clare following a panicked ‘wats da story bud’ ‘phone call from the future Pres to check out the sitch! Revealing how, (as our then Minister for Tourism), Leo, like an obedient newbie, said he ‘phoned the council to suss it out, because, after all, the big cheese American businessman was concerned about the negative impact of such a project.

  However, as Irish journos gaped in awe, not knowing when to put a sock in it, loose-lipped Leo, unrestrained, jumped into the dog pen with a massive pork chop around his neck and  further effused how, “the president has very kindly given me credit for that although I do think it probably would have been refused anyway!”

Brain over! Turn him off. Insert coin. Turn him back on again!

  You see folks, Leo’s lack of judgement not only caused an absolute rumpus here in the aul sod…and among many of the boys and girls of County Clare, it also makes us the laughing stock (and I’m not talking about cattle with a sense of humour here Leo), across the entire globe, causing me to wonder if our leader is still waiting on that brain donor to arrive, and worse, if everyone who heard his major gaffe now believes this country is built solely on brown envelope totting business people and those who’re (allegedly) engaged in ‘cute hoorism’ politics!

  Either way, in the cold light of day, using what can only be described as emergency homespun PR wisdom, Leo was forced to prick the balloon of his own pomposity and quickly clarify that he didn’t contact Clare County Council, but in fact contacted Fáilte Ireland regarding the wind farm! Oookaaay, if ya say so.

  However, in light of this dung heap, it’s my humble opinion that, if we’re to allow what appears to be a highly inexperienced individual who theorises that making immature jokes while representing us on the world stage is endearing to lead this country, then I’d suggest the riskiest thing we should allow Leo to do in the future is parallel park his fancy car without the aid of power steering!

Acquittal brings clarity and strengthens rights of the householder

In the same week Gardaí investigated a break-in at the Kilkenny home of a 98-year-old woman, the acquittal of 20-year-old Dubliner Martin Keenan in the State’s first murder case to be defended under the Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Act 2011 by a ten men and two women jury is no doubt seen as a relief to the many homeowners and farmers whose lives have been blighted by the scum of the earth.

  That said, let me mention this law is not black and white – however, it does allow a citizen to use ‘reasonable’ force when defending their dwelling. Now while the word ‘reasonable’ is loaded with ambiguity, let me try to explain that under Common Law, something which a jury must consider when taking into account the outcome is the  question…did the homeowner have an opportunity to retreat? Basically, if the intruder was coming at you with a weapon, did you, (homeowner), have the opportunity to leg it out the open back door behind you, and did you use it, or did you retaliate? Ya with me?

  However, in order to deal with this aspect, the 2011 Act now means the jury are not permitted to have any regard to the fact that you, (homeowner), could have retreated or even had the opportunity to do so and not take it. But instead place, (I suppose), themselves in your shoes and deem it that you are entitled to stand your ground and defend yourself and your home; with the only question being…did you use ‘reasonable’ force.

  Now; here’s the thing readers, you can only rely on this Act if you’re defending your actual home; you cannot rely on it if you’re defending your business! You see, under Bunreacht Na hÉireann 1937, your home, (dwelling), is protected and if anyone enters it illegally, it’s viewed as an act of aggression. Now that doesn’t mean you can go chasing the intruder down the road, around the corner and attack them…that’s called revenge!

  So please keep in mind that while the key word is ‘reasonable’ force, it’s never, ever, okay to take the law into our own hands; we are not James Bond with a license to kill; but if we perceive we are under threat we all have a right to defend ourselves.

 

 

There’s something about Mary...

 

 

They tried to shut her up, but thankfully they failed! And so, last week, while giving a speech during International Women’s Day at the Voice of Faith in Rome, former President of Ireland Mary McAleese (a woman I greatly admire), told it like it is when she described the Catholic Church as an “empire of misogyny”.  

  Now understandably, Mrs. McAleese’s  perspective, and indeed her attitude, has raised the ire of many. One of those she infuriated is a so-called educated gentleman whom, upon approaching me to ask my own opinion on Dr. McAleese’s address, ranted like a stroppy spoiled brat, using some highly scurrilous and offensive terms to describe our esteemed former President. When I told him I agreed with her, the cantankerous curmudgeon then struggled to contain his demeanour as he spewed forth with bilious insults relating to women and their role in the Catholic Church! Wow, proof indeed, if it were needed, that education clearly doesn’t (necessarily) equal good manners.

  Mind you, said, ahem, ‘gentleman’ (I’d love to call him a more colourful term but this is a respectable family publication), wasn’t best pleased when I gave him short shrift; my parting shot being to direct him to climb down out of a certain part of his anatomy because he clearly wasn’t as eminently qualified as Mrs. McAleese to address the role of women in the Church.

  You see, readers – I applaud any woman who has withstood a two-term presidency of this country. Indeed, one of the proudest moments of my own career while working at RTE, (and I’ve had many proud moments as a journalist/producer; for example it was very satisfying when I investigated and exposed a paedophile ring), was the day an invitation to afternoon tea with our then President McAleese arrived on my desk.

  The official envelope from the Áras was received with great excitement in my Montrose office, and I immediately headed into town to treat myself to a Roland Mouret dress for the big occasion. Couldn’t afford that now! 

  I thoroughly enjoyed my visit, which was spent drinking tea and eating petit fours and scones with Mary…that’s what she told me to call her, as we exchanged the highs and lows of being working mothers, etc. That’s all I’m going to say about our ‘off the record’ chat because I wasn’t there as a journalist, I was there as a guest of this woman, who obviously feels genuinely let down by a religion and a Church she loves deeply.

  But I can see why, given his alleged description of female theologians as “strawberries on the cake,” that Pope Francis may not be a fan of our Mary! But to be honest ladies, the Catholic Church has tortured this specific metaphor regarding our  gender for so long it should really be sent before a tribunal at The Hague! Just my little joke, but I do hope you can see how ludicrous, outdated, institutionalised and unbending the Catholic Church can be, and how accurate and appropriate Mary McAleese’s speech was.  

  I mean, all this woman did was reasonably and passionately call for equality and change, in order  that women would be included in the decision-making process of our doctrine! I don’t think that’s too much to ask…do you?

 

More explosive allegations, but we must stand by our local Gardaí!

 

We’re familiar with Garda ‘whistleblower’ Maurice McCabe and the excruciating difficulties he’s experienced due to an alleged rancorous  smear campaign levelled against him because he tried to do the right thing, the honest thing, and expose certain issues around penalty points, etc. So, last week, when I heard how two Garda civilian staff members, analysts Lois West and Laura Galligan, had claimed they’d endured ‘15 months of torment’ regarding pressure placed on them to approve ‘incorrect homicide data’ they knew was iffy – and which, they quite rightly, had a problem with doing – I wasn’t really surprised.  In fact, I’m incensed that apparently certain violent individuals’ capabilities to inflict serious harm, even death, on their innocent victims, (including some women who were killed in their homes), is being allegedly inadequately investigated and misclassified as non-crimes.

  Under what must have been intolerable pressure to keep schtum, these women, having found no joy when they raised issues with senior Gardaí, (who allegedly dismissed and disparaged them), then allegedly, (there’s that word again), took their concerns to the Policing Authority, ‘in confidence’, which bizarrely ‘leaked back to senior Garda management.’ So, who snitched them out and were Lois and Laura bitten by the watchdog?

  Look, if these explosive allegations are found to have substance, then the authority whose aim it is to identify mechanisms that encourage ethical and professional practice and prevent wrongdoing in this organisation needs to take responsibility; and, as a matter of urgency introduce innovations to improve the public’s trust, confidence and perceptions of what I genuinely believe, is, overall, a fine police force.

  We must get behind our local Gardaí, folks. We must show them our support and respect, especially during this very difficult time. Remember, these are honourable men and women doing a difficult and dangerous job protecting us and our communities for a pitiful salary, and these scandals shouldn’t negatively affect their personal integrity. Next time you see a local Garda in the street, smile, say “Hi” and let them know they’re valued.

 

 

Resilient Rossies rallied together and weathered the storm

 

 

It was the best of times…it was the worst of times…but I’ll begin with the best! Last week, as deliveries of food, letters, parcels and newspapers were interrupted (totally understandable due to hazardous conditions) during Sneachta-geddon and Storm Emma, I have to commend this particular family-run publication for managing, (in the face of extreme adversity), to go to print and reach our wonderfully loyal readers. Indeed the knock-on effects of our bitterly cold snap was such that bosses at the highly reputable Irish Examiner took the unusual step not to print. The last-known missed edition, (I’m certain someone will correct me if I’m wrong), was in November 1972 where journos engaged in a 24-hour stoppage in protest at the jailing of reporter Kevin O’Kelly who was found to be in contempt of court. O’Kelly spent two nights in prison for refusing to answer questions about a tape relating to his RTÉ radio interview with a then IRA member. He stood by his principals, and rightly so. Any journalist who compromises their professional integrity would be effectively committing career suicide. But I digress. 

  Back to Sneachta-geddon and a shout out to all local businesses who prioritised staff safety above profit, taking the humane decision to shut up shop; these include Paul and Fiona Healy, proprietors of this free, community newspaper; they got it printed, wonderful distributors got it out, and at the same time placed emphasis on staff safety! I have to mention hubby’s lovely boss Ken O’Shea who texted all employees regarding closures during the alert. Well done to all.

  Of course there were many stories of ordinary everyday folk stepping up to the mark to help each other. To name but a few, my good and generous friend Mike Power invited anyone who needed company and a bit of warmth to drop in for a bowl of soup by the fire; my gorgeous friend Lyn Hagan allowed drivers who got stuck to park their cars safely inside her driveway. Credit also to my fabulous neighbour Julie Kennedy, who, along with catering and medical colleagues at Roscommon Hospital, stayed in a local hotel to ensure they were on hand to provide patients and staff with food, sustenance and critical medical care! Heroes!

  I have to mention my darling number one daughter who arrived six weeks prematurely during the great storm of 1982 when my own beloved dad, along with his colleague, the legendary Paddy Reel, got marooned at Dublin Airport as they tried valiantly to get flights airborne and weren’t heard from in three days. I was so concerned, despite being heavily pregnant, I walked the 12 kilometres in the snow to try to find my dad. No transport, no mobile ‘phones, no internet and no info back in 1982! Turns out himself and Paddy slept on pool tables, along with other crew members in the ALSAA sport’s club ‘till they could dig their way out.

  Anyhoo, No. 1 child, (now 36), rang me from Dublin to say, “Dad’s car’s stuck in the snow Mam.” Me: “Oh no, what gear was he in?”  Daughter: “OMG Mam, what’re ya like, he’s wearin’ his Penny’s padded jacket and the gloves and beanie he bought in New York…what does it matter what gear he’s in?” Me: “I meant was he driving the car in a low gear!!!” Number one falling about laughing: “Ooops, sorry”.

  Well done to Shannonside Radio’s regular news bulletins who kept us all updated regarding the unfolding situation…didn’t hear a  mention of us on the national stations. And our wonderful council staff who gritted and cleared main roads; you’re all only massive! I must mention our Herculean fire and ambulance service, the Gardaí, the army and the Civil Defence who went above and beyond. Heroes the lot of ya!

  Then we had society’s most nauseating,  heinous delinquents; the thugs who broke into their community supermarkets in certain parts of Dublin, and of course the loathsome cretins who smashed their way into a jewellers at Golden Island…scumbags, the lot of ya!

 

Farewell Emma, we will miss you

 

I cannot, will not, allow this week to go by without paying my respects and admiration to one of the bravest, most resilient women I’ve ever had the pleasure to interview, and whom, since 2015 I kept in touch with via email/text…the talented author, loving wife, devoted mother and self-professed ‘cancer vixen’ Ms. Emma Hannigan. Emma, whom I’d never met face to face, lost her long and inexplicably brave battle with cancer last week; and, always placing others first, emailed that I was ‘so kind and thoughtful to get in touch,’ with her when I’d read she was fighting cancer for the 10th time.

  As someone considered ‘at risk,’ with breast cancer on my father’s side of the family and ovarian cancer on my mother’s, I was constantly monitored prior to my own radical hysterectomy and now through BreastCheck, and I fully understood Emma’s decision to undergo major surgery to reduce her risk. However in spite of this amazingly fearless woman’s valour, she was devastatingly diagnosed for the first time back in 2007, setting in motion her 11-year confrontation with a disease she managed to kick in the nuts until it finally got the better of her last Saturday.

  Rest in peace you beautiful, fearless angel. My heart is broken for your husband Cian and children Sacha and Kim. An exquisite and vibrant light, one which we will never see the like of again, has been extinguished in this world.

 

 

The right to ‘bare’ arms – and anything we want!

 

Last week, during what has been described as ‘a promotional event,’ A list actor Jennifer Lawrence was scandalously criticised by what I can only describe as a pack of joyless Femi-nazis for wearing a barely-there dress. Now you know the sort of mirthless Minnies…they’re the ones who cough and splutter into their G&Ts claiming how much they hate men and all they stand for! 

  “She looked frozen and out of place” screamed one hack. “Why is she wearing a skin-baring gown surrounded by men in coats?” asked another. “Inequality!” lamented a scandalised Irish radio contributor. Then we had Helen Lewis, (deputy editor of New Statesman, a British political and cultural magazine), getting her armpit-hugging-reinforced-gusset-granny-knows-best knickers in a twist, saying “This is such a quietly depressing (and revealing) image.” Er, to be honest Ms. Lewis, what I find ‘depressing’ is the surging storm in a D cup spurned on by green-eyed, resentful, bitterly spiteful harpies with nothing better to do than slag off a beautifully talented Oscar winner…and all because she chose to wear an eye-catching, albeit revealing Versace gown at a photocall to promote her movie, Red Sparrow.   

  Personally, I’d have stood in the nip in sub-zero temperatures if someone agreed to pay me just a fraction of Jen’s salary…soooo, what do you have to say about me?

  Look, I’m sick of these judgemental hessian sack-wearing shrews who continuously try to pit women against each other when what we all really should be doing is empowering and helping each other. I mean, OMG, why is it that some members of my gender are such massive buzz kills they have to stand firmly on the twin pillars of venom and hostility while battering the sisterhood? So what if a woman, any woman, whether an actor, office worker, child-minder, columnist, beautician, hairstylist, etc., etc., etc., wishes to bare her bits in a slinky little slashed to the waist, cut to the thigh number? So what if she wants to wear six-inch heels in the depths of winter! It’s her perogative! Troll off and mind your own bloody business and allow those of us who are happy to rejoice and embrace equality to dress without duress.

  You see readers, as a feminist myself, I believe in the equality and the empowerment (without limitations) of all women; however, this resurgent and sinister profile of the so-called ‘Femi-nazi’ with their misguided notions that all men are the enemy who must be defeated at all costs worries me. Our gender doesn’t need to emasculate men to feel empowered, nor do we need to engage in fringe extremism by publicly tweeting, squawking and bellowing like she-devils regarding such immaterial social issues like ‘slut-shaming’ a sister for looking fabulous in a designer frock!

  Being a feminist is being a champion of women’s rights. Being a feminist is endorsing, supporting and lobbying for the equality of all women; in all walks of life. Being a feminist is helping each other. This is what I believe in. And…if a man wants to hold open a door for me or rise when I enter a room…great. I love it. It’s called manners, and I say thank you!

  However, sadly there are those who insist on promoting this misdirected notion that all men are insensitive, misogynist a**eholes…these are the ones who’re doing the most harm to our gender. Why? Because they are creating a generation of men who feel castrated, feeble and useless…and that’s just mean and unjust!

 

Is this the demise of diesel cars?

 

Last week, Minister Denis Naughten launched his Anti-Illegal Dumping Initiative and well done to him; I hope local community groups, (who do amazing work), manage to get their hands on  much-needed funding to gear up and stay on top of those selfish, dirty, under-handed, ignoramuses who jettison their waste willy-nilly around our beautiful Roscommon countryside.

  However…while I’m handing out much-deserved plaudits to our lovely Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, I need to ask him these questions…why is his Department penalising us diesel car drivers with higher levies on fuel, having previously actively encouraged us to ditch the petrol and buy diesel because ‘it’s greener’? And, can Mr. Naughten kindly give us a heads-up as to how many more ways his Government is deciding  to screw us before we don’t even have enough money for a litre of milk and a loaf of bread?

  I mean, seriously folks, when I saved and saved and shelled out for a second-hand diesel car last year, I honestly didn’t think I’d be treated like an environmental terrorist by the very people who encouraged it and whom, by the way, now rob me of €1,100 a year tax for the privilege of driving (and wrecking) it on what’s left of our pothole-filled, substandard dirt tracks masquerading as roads!

The ‘Black Widow’ preferred Bible to my classes

She thought she’d pulled off the perfect crime but Catherine Nevin, the individual who orchestrated the assassination of her hard-working gent of a husband Tom back in 1996 – believing she’d live life as a much-minted merry widow – is now deceased. Good riddance. I’ve said before that I delivered education/training courses in prisons, including the Dochas Women’s Centre, but the high profile manipulative so-called ‘black widow’ was never an attendee at any of my classes, apparently preferring instead to read the bible and study her books relating to the law. Maybe my little lessons were too twee for madam.  

  However, I’m going to divulge that, like many of us, (come on, admit it), the dark deceiver did somehow capture my morbid fascination and curiosity for the simple reason that, as a narcissistic femme fatale, Nevin was media gold! I hope Tom Nevin is resting in peace and I hope his lovely, dignified family have at last found closure.

 

 

If you lend your car, be prepared to face possible consequences

 

 

I don’t know about you, but there’s no way I will allow anyone other than mise and he-who-worships-the-very-ground-I’m-going-under to drive my car…it’s my pride and joy and besides, it costs me an absolute fortune to run! Now it’s older than dirt at this stage, but it’s new to me and I love it, and if I’m honest, even though himself is fully licensed to drive every vehicle you can name, and he’s fully insured to drive my car, I still hate handing over the keys when I’m not sitting in the passenger seat beside him. Now don’t get me wrong; he’s a good driver, but as he’s much taller and bigger than me, he moves the seat back, he also lowers it considerably, messes with my side and rear mirrors, adjusts my dash cam, fiddles with my pre-set radio selection, leaves muddy-size 12 footprints on my mats, and Mother of Divine God…he snacks; often leaving crumbs as evidence!!! Aaagghhh!!!

  Okay, you get it; I don’t like to share my vehicle, even with a fully qualified, professional driver whose record is exemplary. Therefore, if an inexperienced learner wanted to sit behind the wheel of any vehicle owned and insured by me, (even my own flesh and blood), my answer would be ‘No!’ Why? Because, unlike the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, I actually have a brain!

  Look, let’s be honest here, there’s a major concern regarding the amount of deaths occurring on Irish roads, even though according to www.rsa.ie, in 2017 we saw ‘a decrease in road deaths with 159 fatalities compared with 186 in 2016.’ And, while I do recognise there is, thankfully, a slight drop in those statistics, given the poor standard of driving I witness each day, (like the fool who followed me all the way from Athlone to Roscommon town last Tuesday while continuously texting on his ‘phone, and the divvy who raced through the level crossing as the barriers came down, barely clearing it before they smashed his car’s roof), I believe we’ve probably reached a crisis point regarding accidents on our roads.

  In addition, when you look closer at the RSA’s figures and see that 12 of the recorded fatalities involved learner drivers – with 10 of them associated with unaccompanied L plate holders – you can see why I’m glad that at last, the Government has decided to grow a set and hopefully run with adding the ‘Clancy Amendment’ to the Road Traffic Bill, whereby any car owner who allows an unaccompanied learner/unlicensed driver to use their vehicle could face prosecution under new measures approved by the Cabinet. 

  Now I don’t care if you’re a parent giving your child the loan of the car for a quick run to the supermarket for emergency milk; the fact is, if you allow an immature learner driver, or an unlicensed driver behind the wheel of what is potentially a lethal weapon in inexperienced hands, then you’re an irresponsible buffoon and you deserve to be prosecuted and you deserve to have your car seized! End of! Of course I’m not heartless, folks, I do know it can be difficult to refuse your child/nephew/partner/friend, etc., when they beg you for your car, but when you hand them those keys you’re also handing them your personal reputation, your insurance, your excellent driving record, and now, given the proposed Clancy Amendment, your guilty conscience, and to be honest, you may, (I don’t know, I’m guessing here), be refused insurance in the future. Remember that and then ask yourself…is it worth the risk?

 

Guys…where’s this place they call Roscommon? (Love, Leo)

 

According to various media reports, as a result of Leo’s I’ve-got-big-plans-for-you-suckers-if-you-keep-voting-for-me spin last week, Athlone has been declared as the ‘capital of the midlands.’ Woo hoo, how exciting, but I wouldn’t go breaking out the bubbly just yet!

  You see, while it may be “a great day for the country” as a whole, as the suits decamped to Sligo, (I’m sure they’d have come to Roscommon if only they’d known where we are), to launch their €116 billion Project Ireland 2040 Plan, I realised that despite the fact the politicians have again overlooked our beautiful county and its wonderful people when planning their ‘vision’ (don’t believe me…ask the Rosalie Unit residents), there are many who’ll probably forgive them because hey, sure didn’t they rock those Hollywood-style smiles and designer suits. And didn’t they dazzle us with that impressive PowerPoint presentation – not to mention that big fat photo-op for Leo, whose boyish charm is the viscus grease with which his publicist uses to oil his expensive spin machine.

  Well Leo, you may be able to bewitch, beguile and enchant the faithful with your promises – which, when decoded, appear to say –I’ll-do-absolutely-nothing-nada-nought-zero to enhance Roscommon’s economic growth.

  As for Rosalie residents like Mr. Dan Connaughton, whose heartbreaking story which featured in last week’s issue upset me enormously (and I wish the family, indeed all of the families, the very best possible outcome to their extremely distressing plight), I have to say, that when push comes to shove, as far as Roscommon goes, I believe our leaders, (except local representatives who do a great job on our behalf) just cannot be ars*d. In fact, I’m going to ask if we possibly have a government (in Dublin) being run by some who possess a minimum level of intelligence, and who were voted in by a majority endowed with the exact same abilities and brainpower.

 

Why I’m troubled by allegations concerning day care centre in USA

 

It’s a common fact that children are cared for primarily by their parents. However, as we know, thousands of children across this country happily attend a daily childcare facility of some sort. Now, the motives for this vary, but I’d imagine the main one would be that both parents are working and the relatives, for whatever reason, are unable to step in and help, meaning the obvious choice is very often a childminder, a crèche or an after school day care facility, etc.

  Now there has always been much debate regarding the effect early childhood care facilities can have on small children, but I’m not going to get into that here, except to say I believe they can play a fantastic role in lending valuable support to busy parents.

  However, as choosing a childminder or crèche is probably one of the more difficult parenting decisions you’ll have to make –believe me, I know only too well – I want to ask what happens when those who work at that facility cheekily step over the line, and, instead of operating in a support role to you, the parent, do something to your child that’s totally against your wishes?

  Let me explain. Last week, two mothers living in the USA posted ‘before and after’ images of their toddlers on social media as evidence to support very serious accusations against their Washington day care centre, where they say staff had ‘waxed’ their kiddies’ eyebrows! Can you imagine?

  According to a distraught Alyssa Salgado, “these women” at the Boys and Girls Club of Benton and Franklin Counties, “decided to wax my daughter’s uni-brow,” with Glenda Maria Cruz claiming the same atrocity had happened to her one-year-old son, saying, “Today my life changed, I never thought something like these would or could happen to my son”. (Sic). 

  Now I don’t know about you readers, but if anyone laid a hand on a hair, eyebrow, limb or any other part of my child’s/grandchild’s  anatomy without my permission, (unless of course it was necessary in a life or death situation), the Gardaí would literally have to peel me off that individual’s body, because I’d go ballistic! What (allegedly) happened to those two babies in childcare is, in my opinion, assault.

  How dare anyone make a decision to alter a child’s appearance without the express permission of the parents…it’s outrageous. Now of course I’m certain this violation would never, ever happen in Ireland. No way! Our childcare facilities are staffed by highly professional and genuine individuals, and I’m sure when they read this, they’ll be genuinely sick to their stomachs.

  Those working in the care industry down these parts know that parenting styles differ, and they would expect and welcome those who’re leaving their kids with them for eight to ten hours a day to discuss how they want their angels to be ‘raised’ during this time. You see folks, I believe childminding, like parenting, is a tough job. Those we entrust with our most prized possessions are, we expect, patient, caring and loving professionals (so treat them as such). But do –  leaving no room for ambiguity – make your wishes and expectations for your child known to them in as clear and concise a manner as possible.

  At the end of the day your childminder is not your kids’ parent…you are!

  In the meantime, authorities in the US are investigating the (alleged) assault on these two toddlers, saying, ‘The Boys and Girls Club takes these allegations seriously and will work to support the investigation process’.

Enet! What has the State got to hide?

I hate to be a pain in our lovely Minister Naughten’s derriere, but did you know that journalist Gavin Sheridan submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request regarding details of the State’s contract with broadband provider Enet, only to have it denied? This was appealed, with the Data Commissioner ruling in Gavin’s favour; however the Department appealed this to the High Court, eh, which also ruled in Mr. Sheridan’s favour. Ya with me? Ah, but then the Department appealed to the Court of Appeal.

  Now this is very troubling, especially as I’m led to believe that since 2010 a grand total of 799 FOI requests were lodged and not one of them has reached this level of legal scrutiny in a bid to (allegedly) keep something concealed from the Irish people.

  You see, public money is changing hands; so the public has a right to know what’s contained in this broadband contract; and trying to keep the contents hush-hush is going against the very function of the Information Commissioner. So maybe Minister Naughten and his Department could explain the reasons for this brush-off to poor confused little Miriam and let me know what mitigating circumstances they have for disrespecting not only the Irish people, (voters), but also the decision of the High Court?

  Bottom line…we want to know, (have a right to know), what’s going on with this Enet ‘deal!’ Are we getting enough bang for our buck? What has the State got to hide?

  And while I’m at it, I hope Micheál Martin & Co. are squirming this week. It’s due to their stupidity this initiative tanked in the first place! If they hadn’t privatised Telecom Éireann with their reckless, sale-of-the-century style economics back in 1999, rural Ireland wouldn’t be knee-deep in this cr*p! Pack of eejits!

 

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