We need Jacques Attali over here for a bit. Mr Attali, a highly intelligent Frenchman, is one of those people who work behind the scenes but are pretty important to the running of our everyday lives. Among other things he was the first president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, a bank from which many a community group here indirectly got a bit of funding.
But Mr Attali was also a bit of a prophet; he is famous for writing a book about thirty years ago which clearly stated that the music industry, and records in particular, was in for a huge decline. The selling of records would come to an end and the recorded music world would all but collapse. He is also credited with many other accurate predictions.
I took the liberty of calling Mr Attali the other day and asking him what he thought of the chances of success in the talks process: I was not surprised by his answer.
“Too many demands. You cannot ‘ave talks wiv all dees demands. De English want welfare reform before dey go any further. The UUP want Martin McGuinness to crawl to them and the DUP want whatever they can get. Now, mon Dieu, I see that Mr McGuinness is making the building of a road another precondition for the talks to succeed. What will it be next? No turkeys at Christmas, Belfast to host the Olympics, Sepp Blatter for Pope!”
“In de future der is only stalemate. When half de people don’t want to work wiv de other half then der is nothing you can do. Dey will patch something up and dat will do for a while but soon the cracks will reappear and the hatred will come forth. Irlande du Nord will become poorer and poorer and de people will struggle from day to day. C’est la vie!”
Where is the A5
Yip, Uncle Martin, has made the building of a new road from Derry to Aughnacloy a precondition for the next Stormont session. What a way to run a country! Maybe Martin intends taking another shot at the presidency and wants a better road just in case he gets in.
“The deputy first minister has said he will not agree a programme for government after the assembly election if work on the A5 road does not start in 2016.
Martin McGuinness said he is confident that the project between Derry and Aughnacloy will "definitely happen". The total cost of the 55-mile upgrade - which would create a key cross-border business route linking Dublin to the North West - was to be £850m.
At a Sinn Féin public meeting, held in Derry on Wednesday night, Mr McGuinness said he "spoke to Peter Robinson and he is also committed. I have nailed my colours to the mast on the project.” (BBC News)
Keep fiddling, Nero!
So Monday mornings talks begin like this: Villiers, ‘I want welfare reform.’ Unionists (of all shapes and hues) ‘We want to go back to 1967.’ Sinn Fein, ‘We want a bucket of tarmac and a shovel.’
You have to admit, Northern Ireland and its ragtag politicians can make you laugh. But the people in the queue are not laughing. Nero Hamilton can fiddle away all he wants but as he fiddles the queues are growing.
Janice Smyth of the Royal College of Nursing called on Hamilton to return to work and take the waiting list problem in hand and make it a priority.
"Obviously the minister doesn't nurse patients and provide the medical care to patients but he does provide the leadership and the accountability and whilst he's not there, we don't have that," she told the BBC.
Fearghal McKinney of the SDLP showed the stupidity of the situation when he said: "I understand he's got difficulties about recent murders, but his own colleague Arlene Foster is in government, but she's looking after the pounds, but Simon is not looking after the patients."
Are you a Prod waiter or a fenian one?
I wonder, is there a Protestant waiting list and a Catholic one. The problem for any minister in government is that when they take blanket action it hits everyone. When a minister decides to plays wee games with people’s lives he has no way of knowing what way it will pan out.
What is it in us that we have to hate? I am not just talking about us in this shambles of a country. All over the world there are wars going on that show the hatred between people. Somebody wants a bit of land so they take it, some place has oil, let’s invade. In a world of plenty people are starving. And when we don’t get what we want we blame God, and if he’s not about we blame the IRA.
It reminds me of an old headline: ‘Three RUC men die when police car crashes into tree. The DUP say the IRA planted it!’
It’s a pity our politicians can’t look a bit deeper at life.
A man who looked deeper
Brian Friel was a man who could look into the heart of things and bring out the truth in a way that few others in the 20th century could. I have seen a good few of his plays, ‘Philadelphia, Here I Come,’ which we studied at school, ‘Translations’ and the one that haunts me most, ‘Dancing at Lughnasa.’
Dancing at Lughnasa was one of those dark, humorous plays that told the story of the disintegration of a family and how people had been wronged, used and abused. Friel was a realist, looking at the corners of Irish life that some people liked to think were never there at all.
Philadelphia, Here I Come, was a play about a young man leaving Ireland to go to the United States. Like so many people who left before, this young man did not want to leave at all. Friel portrayed this wonderfully by having a Gar (public) and Gar (private) to show the two sides of the main character Gareth O’Donnell.
They hold up a mirror
People like Friel play a very important part in our society. They hold up the uncomfortable truths about ourselves and show them to us in stark reality. They are not the conscience of society, that is the job of the Catholic Church, but they do force us to look closely at our preconceived ideas.
On the subject of plays, did you ever see a play called ‘The History of the Troubles According to My Da.’ That was a great play, supposedly funny or a comedy, but the play has a couple of very poignant scenes that should cause us to think.
Could we write a play about our current crowd up on the Hill? I don’t think so; they are not deserving of even the sarcasm of the people. Last week Nolan asked the question on his programme, “Would we want direct rule back again?”
My answer: what difference would it make? The only thing that I would object to would be the MLAs continuing to draw a salary while so called talks are going on to set up a new Stormont.
A wonderful way to start a war!
Anyway, in fairness to the IRA, they are now being imitated by armies all over the world. In the time honoured tradition of P O’Neill walking into a pub in Belfast and saying that ‘ye’s have five minutes to get out,’ one of Putin’s generals did the same thing to the Yanks in Bagdad.
It appears that a Russian general walked up to the door of the American embassy in Bagdad and told the Americans that they had one hour to get out of the skies over Syria or they would be blown out of it!
Now that’s what you call diplomatic relations between the superpowers!
Will he or won’t he….that is the question.
On the subject of superpowers, do you remember last week we heard that the Pope might be coming to Ireland in a couple or three years’ time? Dublin is hosting a large Vatican conference on the family and it is usual for the Pope to attend and I said that the naysayers would soon be out in force. It started before lunchtime on Monday, a couple of hours after it was announced that the Pope might be coming.
Talkback, that wonderful gauge of Northern Ireland public opinion, had a representative from a new group that I had never heard of before, on the programme. The group was Atheist NI and some man whose name is not important enough to remember, came on to give his views on the Pope coming here.
“I would count the cost of the security etc. of his coming and count the money that he is likely to bring in and if there is more to come in than the cost then I would welcome him,” said Mr Atheist. Thai’s it: draw up a potential profit and loss account on the visit of the Pope and if there is money to be made he comes and if not he goes!
What a way to see life. Imagine if we applied that to everyone in our lives. It reminds me of the old song by Tammy Wynette, ‘No Charge,’ the one about the girl who comes up to her mum with a list of chores done:
“For mowin' the yard, five dollars, For makin' my own bed this week, one dollar, Goin' to the store, fifty cents, Playin' with little sister while you went to the store, twenty-five cents.
Takin' out the trash, one dollar, Gettin' a good report card, five dollars, And for rakin' the yard, two dollars, Total owed, fourteen dollars and seventy-five cents.”
We all remember how Tammy answered the girl and showed her the stupidity of her argument. When the interviewer challenged the atheist if this was the way he saw the world he sheepishly tried to say that it was not, but the cat was out of the bag.
How many legions has the Pope?
None: he doesn’t need any, he has a greater weapon.
How can a wee old man, leader of a country with less than 10,000 of a population, be such a superpower that half the world or more hates him? He has no guns, (in all my times to visit Rome I have only seen the Swiss guards with spears) no air force nor boats, he does not even have a drone and sure what country is a country now if it doesn’t have a couple of drones, yet the mention of a visit by this wee man sends people into fits of rage.
Now that’s a superpower. He went to America and the place came to a standstill; the world’s most powerful men sat and listened to every word he said, enthralled by his greatest weapon, for which the world has no answer. And the weapon of this little superpower is, wait for it, The Truth.
You see, I have learned something over these past years of reading and studying the Catholic faith and here it is in a nutshell and it is also what makes Pope Francis the leader of a superpower: “If a person with an open mind and a heart that is willing to be taught by God, reads or listens to the teaching of the Catholic Church properly explained, then there is no arguing with what the Church teaches.”
And today in Rome
This should come as no surprise. The church has had two thousand years of figuring things out, slowly examining every possibility and moving with great caution. At any one time, this day in this year, there are literally hundreds of philosophers and theologians over the world, working on ideas and proposals that come before the church.
At this moment, the second part of the synod on marriage and family life is just beginning in Rome. There will be a couple of thousand bishops, all men with degrees and most of them having doctorates, as well as hundreds of other psychologists, psychiatrists, lay people of all sorts, who will toss the issues about, think, debate and argue for weeks, months and years before they finally reach a decision.
The Mass for the opening of the synod took place on Sunday past. Did you notice anything about the people who were there to take part in it? There were a lot of women. I didn’t count, (St Peter’s holds well over 10,000 people) but a big percentage of the people there for the synod were not the stereotypical ‘old men with a frock.’
So, what was your gripe, Mr Atheist?
That is what makes the Pope the leader of a superpower who can reduce ‘Atheist Anywhere’ to a babbling imbecile: his argument is properly thought out, built up layer upon layer and uses that thing that is obviously missing from all atheist argument; reason. Which brings me on to my next point:
“For a person not to believe in God, and by extension, the teachings of the Church, there is always a decision not to believe.”
We notice this most when we talk to atheists; they can always tell you the time and the event that caused them to become nonbelievers. But really, when you look at it more deeply, and if you can get the atheist to be honest, you will find that the person was living in some way that was against the law of God, and they could not admit they were wrong. So in that case the easiest thing to do is to pick holes in the Church, (usually the priest) and solemnly pronounce that “I don’t believe in a God who would allow this or that to happen,” while really desiring to carry on living the life that is against God’s law.
We human beings can justify anything!
And now for something completely different
But how do we justify laughing when England is put out of the rugby world cup? What is it about poor old England that we all love to see them humiliated on the football or rugby field?
The ordinary English person is as nice a person as you could meet. They are affable, pleasant and charming and yet we so want to see them stuffed when they play in the World Cup, be that in rugby or soccer.
We mustn’t allow ourselves to believe that this sporting rivalry is what we truly think of the English. It is only a game and we enjoy seeing them lose, but in our hearts we know that the English are just like the rest of us. Anyway, I support them when it comes to the best game in the world, cricket.
If you think there is any better game than cricket it is because you haven’t took the time to learn the rules and strategy; when you do that you would never look at any other game again.
Now, I’m annoyed with myself. I have gotten that tune of No Charge into my head and I can’t get it out again. I hope the same hasn’t happened to you.
The views expressed are not necessarily those of the editor but are the views of the writer. Any comments, please submit to