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Confederate Monuments

Confederate Monuments Gerry OShea
Deirdre Clarke, a young Irish-American teacher with roots in Rockland County, posted a statement on Facebook recently dismissing the opinions of some of her friends in the Irish community who were arguing that statues of confederate leaders should not be removed because they are part of our history. Deirdre responded that based on that logic they would have no problem with an Oliver Cromwell Memorial in Dublin or a similar statue in Cork recalling the antics of the Black and Tans.

John Mitchel, a leader of the revolutionary Young Irelanders in the 1848 rebellion, presents an interesting case in this debate, especially from an Irish nationalist perspective. He fought for the principles of equality and fair play for all Irish people, irrespective of religious affiliation. Coming from a Presbyterian background, he decried the demeaning anti-Catholic tirades by English Establishment leaders and their supporters. Mitchel saw clearly that subjugation of Catho…
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Reflections on Ireland in the 19th Century

Reflections on Ireland in 19th Century Gerry OShea
Many historians believe that the century beginning in 1800, just after the American and French revolutions, inaugurated the era of modern history worldwide, and it certainly ushered in a momentous epoch in Ireland. It started with the British government closing down Grattan’s parliament(1782-1800) in Dublin and taking full control in Westminster of all legislation for the country.

Daniel O’Connell dominated Irish politics like a colossus for the first half of the century. His signature achievement, Catholic Emancipation in 1829, which allowed Catholics to serve in parliament, can be seen as the final nail in the penal laws which kept the Irish in thrall for the previous hundred years. Only substantial landowners could vote in Westminster elections but the powerful and exuberant O’Connell was elected to parliament, and he became one of the dominant figures in London politics, highlighting not only the grievances of the Irish peasantry bu…

The Main Issues in the Presidential Election

In Jonathan Haidt’s best-selling book, The Happiness Hypothesis, he presents an interesting metaphor, explaining human behavior in terms of an imaginary elephant and its human rider. The big animal represents the emotional and instinctual drives in every human being while the much smaller rider symbolizes a person’s rational side which incorporates planning and intellectual activity.

The contrary elephant often resists the urgings of the person on his back and indeed his animal preferences frequently prevail. The suggestion in this comparison is that our actions are driven much more by raw emotions and family culture than by calm reason. Rationality plays its part, but mostly a lesser role than we like to admit in our decision-making.

Applying this thinking to our current political situation, we can safely say that 40% of voters will support President Trump in November with approximately the same number guaranteed to show up for Joe Biden. All recent polls support this political analysi…

The Prosperity Gospel

The Prosperity Gospel Gerry OShea
About five years ago I was invited to play golf with a priest from my home county, Kerry. He was working as a missionary in Maracaibo in Venezuela, and he was spending a few days in New York before going on to Ireland for a vacation.

We played in the State Championship Course off route 9W in Rockland County, and afterwards we stopped for a meal and a few drinks in Kennelly’s Bar, close to the exit from the course. The conversation was lively because we shared a strong interest in Irish games with a special affinity for Kerry football.

He told me about his work and his life as a missionary in Venezuela. I was surprised when he related that his most challenging assignment involved advising the local Catholic charismatic organization. He explained that without direction they could easily veer into elitist thinking, convinced that their special relationship with the Holy Spirit would bring all kinds of benefits, including financial enrichment.

He focused on …

Change in America in June 2020

Change in AmericaGerry OShea
The death of George Floyd in Mineapolis from torture inflicted in broad daylight has led to days of protest all over the country and beyond. The event was filmed by a brave young woman who stood her ground close to the location to capture a clear video showing a manacled Mr. Floyd on the ground pleading with a policeman who had his knee on his neck that he was choking from lack of air. The torture scene lasted close to nine minutes before the prisoner expired on the street.

The horror video told the story very clearly of a prisoner in custody being tortured, and the response was an outcry of shock and disbelief from people all over America. The community feeling of revulsion brought to mind a line from an Irish rebel song, “the wailing cry went up to very heaven.”

A few weeks previously we learned about another black man, Ahmoud Arbery, being mowed down in Brunswick, Georgia while he was out jogging. This happened a few months earlier but, amazingly, no acti…

Our Anti-Science Government

Our Anti-Science GovernmentGerry OShea
A major debate is underway in America about how best to deal with the greatest crisis faced by the country since the Great Depression almost a hundred years ago. Two clear positions can be identified in this national discussion, each one representing separate belief systems and values about how to deal with the current pandemic.

It brings to mind the fault line in the 19th century between Enlightenment thinkers for whom scientific results were sacred and conservatives who wanted to hug the accepted traditional wisdom of those times.

The life and work of Charles Darwin come to mind. His researchculminated in the great scientific manual, The Origin of Species, which claims that humans evolved from lower forms of life over many millennia. This thinking ran smack into serious trouble because of the seven-day creation story in the Book of Genesis.

Today the Vatican has no problem accepting the results of Darwin’s scholarly research, but some fundamentalis…

From Patrick Pearse to Brother Mick

From Patrick Pearse to Brother MickGerry OShea
Most Irish people would name Patrick Pearse as one of the greatest Irish heroes. He led the Easter 1916 Rebellion in Dublin that lit the flame for the Irish War of Independence which led to the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty. This was considered a successful outcome by most nationalists, even though they had to accept that six of the Irish thirty two counties remained under British control.

Some commentators question the wisdom of the 1916 Revolution, arguing that, considering the bloodshed and division that it caused, we might have been better to settle for the watered-down version of John Redmond’s 1912 Home Rule Bill. Following that line and letting the imagination ramble, a Home Rule parliament might have invited Pearse, a prominent nationalist and educator, to serve as the first Minister for Education in a Dublin administration.

Such imaginary ruminations allow us to focus on his commitment to progressive educational principles, which were sad…