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  Symbolic Politics in Northern Ireland        Gerry OShea 102 years ago, James Craig, the first prime minister in the new statelet in Belfast, proclaimed that his parliament was designed to have a Protestant majority “in perpetuity.” The results in the recent elections in Northern Ireland shattered unionist hegemony because Sinn Fein easily outpolled their main rivals, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), by about 65,000 votes giving them the most seats in parliament. Symbols play an important role in life in Northern Ireland which was set up as a sectarian statelet. For instance, mention of 1690 and the Battle of the Boyne to loyalists or 1916 and the Easter Rising to nationalists is likely to elicit a powerful emotional response suffused with pride and visions of past glory. The results of the recent elections there may well have little impact on everyday life in the province. However, at the symbolic level it would be hard to overestimate their significance.  The Sinn Fein
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  Homosexuality and the Catholic Church               Gerry OShea Up until 1973 homosexuality was considered a mental illness, meaning for instance, that any member of the medical profession in the United States, identifying as gay, was liable to lose his or her license. In those years, sodomy was listed as a crime in 42 states.  The cultural milieu in most Western countries which allowed this blatant discrimination has changed dramatically in just a few years, and gays now can comfortably proclaim their sexual orientation without fear of recrimination. Pete Buttigieg represents a good example of this transformation in American life. From a modest leadership role as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, he ran for the nomination of the Democratic Party in the last presidential election. He acquitted himself with distinction in all the debates and public appearances, often accompanied by his husband, Chasten. Mr. Buttigieg now serves as the Secretary of Transportation in the Biden adminis

Putin's Invasion

  Putin’s Invasion             Gerry OShea I was among the many “experts” convinced that Vladimir Putin would not invade Ukraine. Our thinking still seems logical: why would he attack the second largest country in Europe – smaller only than Russia – and start a continental war in the 21 st century? What would drive him to initiate a major murderous conflict, drawing the anger of most people in Europe and beyond? Why make Russia a pariah nation, viewed contemptuously almost everywhere? On the evening of February 21 st , three days before the Russian invasion, President Putin spoke at length about his beliefs in an interview on Russian radio. He angrily attacked NATO for its alleged eastern expansion, accused Ukraine of aggressive behavior and condemned the presence of Western missiles on Russia’s borders. However, most of his tirade was directed against Ukraine’s sense of nationhood. “Ukraine is not just a neighboring country for us. It is an inalienable part of our history, cu

The Irish Civil War

  The Irish Civil War               Gerry OShea The Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiated with British prime minister, Lloyd George, was signed in London in December 1921. The cabinet in Dublin narrowly accepted it by a vote of 4 to 3 with strong disapproval expressed by the president of that executive, Eamon de Valera. His opposition and the ominous closeness of the cabinet vote was reflected in the Dail debate when, after days of heated discussion, on January 6 th , 1922, sixty-four representatives voted for it with fifty-seven opposed. Some historians believe that if the vote had taken place before the Christmas break the Treaty would have been defeated. The clear holiday message from many Irish people was that they did not want a renewal of war. Michael Collins argued that the agreement ended British rule in most of Ireland after more than 700 years of occupation, but Eamon de Valera pointed out that they had fought for a republic and the Treaty requirement to pledge fealty to the Br

Global Warming and the November Elections

  Global Warming and the November Elections         Gerry OShea By far the biggest difference between the two main political parties in America resides in their differing approaches to the threat of global warming. Democrats want to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to counter what they see as impending weather disasters while Republicans, amazingly, refuse to admit that there is any real problem. No other democracy has a serious political grouping which simply denies that this problem exists. Former President Trump heard no Republican complaints when he withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, which was drawn up under the auspices of the United Nations and approved by 196 countries late in 2015. It set clear goals for reduction of greenhouse gases and required all signatories to account for their progress. Shortly after his installation as president in January 2017, Donald Trump withdrew America from this international agreement. He explained that he didn’t

Challenges Facing the Catholic Church

  Catholic Church Challenges          Gerry OShea For the first time in history the number of people in the United States who identify as belonging to a church, mosque or synagogue is less than those who don’t associate with any established religion. Just 47% of American adults identify with a particular creed, down a prodigious 20% in just two decades. This decline can be directly attributed to the growth of “nones.” This burgeoning group covers people who declare no religious affiliation. The decline is particularly notable in younger age groups. Only 36% of millennials express any church allegiance while 58% of baby boomers remain loyal to some religious denomination. Overall, 21% fall under the ”nones” umbrella, a larger number than any denomination, except for Protestants. Among Christians, the decline is particularly noticeable among Catholics where the drop-off is twice the Protestant exit numbers. Non-college graduates showed a more pronounced reduction than college gradu

Irish Language Renaissance

  Irish Language Renaissance             Gerry OShea I recall well a moving story that Maurice Brick, author and fluent Gaelic speaker, told me many years ago. He comes from the heart of the Ballyferriter Gaeltacht in West Kerry, and he was sent to a special hospital in Dublin to get treatment for a guttural problem when he was ten years old. At the time, the only language he spoke was Irish. That was all   he heard in his home and community. However, none of the nurses or ward staff understood a word he was saying. In fact, they dealt with their unusual arrival from Kerry, talking in a strange vernacular, by giggling at his unusual speech. Being away from his family and unable to connect with those around him was a frightening situation for the youngster. However, there was a nun on the staff who realized his predicament even though she too was not competent in Irish, but she came to his bed every night to read him a story in English. He remembers well the book she brought, Robi