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Democracy in Northern Ireland - Past and Present

Democracy in Northern Ireland Gerry O'Shea
If we identify a functioning democracy as a political system where the principle of majority rule prevails, then Northern Ireland has a sad and unfortunate history.
Decades of agitation resulted in a 1914 Home Rule Bill passing in Westminster that yielded some limited powers to a government in Dublin. Irish nationalists celebrated this new proposal, seeing it as a first step to a fuller system of self-rule.
However Unionists, who were strong numerically in the province of Ulster, virulently opposed any involvement with a Dublin government because they feared that Home Rule would inevitably lead to Rome Rule, and they also viewed the majority Catholic culture as inferior to what the Protestant Ascendancy had to offer.
They organized and trained a large and determined militia and imported big quantities of arms from Germany warning the British Government that they were willing to fight with guns and bombs any effort to implement the Home Rule B…

Gays and the Catholic Church

Gays and the Catholic ChurchGerry OShea
Thomas Aquinas, the famous Dominican priest and theologian, promoted natural law as a sound basis for ethical teaching. This approach followed the great Greek thinkers and in particular Aristotle who used human reason alone to deduce binding rules of moral behavior.
Major problems have arisen as a result of the limitations of this natural law thinking when dealing with sexual morality. It was central to Pope Paul V1's controversial 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae which banned the use of condoms or the contraceptive pill even for married Catholics, basically because, following Aquinas' model, the moral order dictates that one may not stymie or interfere with the natural procreative purpose of sex.
This papal edict was disregarded by almost 90% of Catholic couples as impractical. It has the distinction of being the first Vatican encyclical honored, in Shakespeare's words far "more in the breach than in the observance."
In the late …

The European and Local Election in Ireland in May 2019

The European and Local Elections in IrelandGerry OShea
The recent European and Local elections held in Ireland on May 24th provided some interesting and significant results in both parts of the island.
The Sinn Fein vote in the North held well in the nationalist community there, but in the South the party dropped about a third of its support, shedding close to half its representatives in local councils and failing to hold two of its three seats in Europe.
This collapse was not anticipated by the pundits and led to widespread speculation about why so many voters abandoned the party.
It was Mary Lou McDonald's first election as leader of Sinn Fein after decades of Gerry Adams at the top. He registered very well with Republican voters because of his close association with the revolution in the North. Adams claims controversially that he was never a member of the IRA but he certainly had the whiff of cordite which drew credibility from a significant number of nationalists in every consti…

Moral and Pragmatic Considerations about Healthcare in America

Moral and Pragmatic Considerations about Healthcare in AmericaGerry OShea
The provision of health care in any society has a strong moral component. Who gets treated in hospitals and clinics and who pays the bill lead inevitably to ethical considerations.
The famous Hippocratic Oath, clearly including a moral dimension, instructs doctors not only to protect their patients from disease but also from "harm and injustice."It also warns physicians not to prey on patients' vulnerability for their own gain.
The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 asserts a universal right to adequate health care for citizens of every member country. In recent times the American Medical Association, which previously resisted government interference in their domain, has come out for the right of all citizens to comprehensive health care.
In addition polls show that between 65% and 75% of Americans, including 51% of Republicans, favor a system of health care for everyone as a right. Wh…

Divisions in the Vatican

Divisions in the VaticanGerry OShea
On February 10th, 2013, Pope Benedict shocked the world with his announcement that he would step down from the papacy at the end of that month. He promised that his contribution to the church in retirement would be "a life dedicated to contemplation and prayer."
He chose rooms in the Vatican for his domicile and announced that his title would remain Pope followed by the descriptor emeritus. He continues to wear the pectoral cross and the white garments which are seen for centuries as part of the papal regalia, and he is comfortable being addressed as Your Holiness.
This rather haughty behavior raised hackles in many places with Diarmaid McCulloch, the renowned professor of Church history in Oxford, predicting ominously that "two popes is a recipe for schism."
Francis, true to his belief in a modest lifestyle, lives in Casta Santa Maria, a guesthouse for visiting clergy where he eats in a self-service cafeteria and gets his coffee fr…

Ireland in 1919

Ireland in 1919Gerry O'Shea
November 11th, 1918 is remembered as Armistice Day which effectively ended the First World War. The Treaty of Versailles was signed six months later in June 1919; it confirmed the victory of the Allies and a humiliating defeat for Germany.
The British perspective on The Great War, as it is called, gained widespread public support in Ireland in the early years of the fighting. Army recruiters were given the green light by the powerful Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) and indeed by the Catholic Church many of whose leaders felt that they were supporting their co-religionists in Belgium.
Following the upsurge in nationalist sentiment after the 1916 Rising, theappeal of a rejuvenated Sinn Fein gradually outstripped the IPP, which lost its popular leader, John Redmond, to a heart attack in March of 1918. The Republican appeal was especially strong with young people, who were greatly empowered by Westminster legislation which massively extended the franchise in I…

Taxing the Wealthy

Taxing the WealthyGerry OShea
Capitalism has lost its appeal for many young people. In a recent poll, 51% of Americans aged from 18 to 29 stated that they feel more positive about socialism with just 45% affirming the capitalist system. This represents a hefty 12% decline in just two years.
What has caused this dramaticchange? A few statistics that indicate serious dissatisfaction with the status quo may give some indication of the issues involved. Since 1989 the working class share of total income in America has declined from 45% to 27%. Four out of ten citizens complain that they don't have the means to pay an emergency bill of just $400. Only 14% of private sector workers have access to paid family leave.
Meanwhile the rich have done very well. There are more millionaires and billionaires than ever before in the United States. The stock market is flying, benefiting mainly the richest 10% who own 80% of the shares. Sales of luxury boats and cars have never been more ebullient.
With …

The Amazing Peter Buttigieg

The Amazing Peter ButtigiegGerry O'Shea
A few months ago very few people outside of Indiana had heard of Peter Buttigieg and fewer still could pronounce his surname. That has changed because now he is recognized as a serious candidate for the Democratic nominationto contest the presidential election next year.
He describes himself wryly as "definitely the only left-handed Maltese-American, Episcopalian, gay, millennial, war veteran in the race." He could have added that at a mere 37 years he registers as the youngest candidate in the large Democratic field, just two years past the minimum legal requirement for serving in the White House.
Elected mayor of South Bend, Indiana, in 2012, he sees himself as a new kind of politician, inviting comparison with Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, senior statesmen ahead in all the early polls for the Democratic nomination, but both in their late seventies, forty years older than the mayor.
Buttigieg graduated from Harvard and was selected …

Review of "We were Rich and we Didn't Know it" by Tom Phelan

We Were Rich and we Didn't Know it by Tom Phelan
Review by Gerry O'Shea
John Joe Phelan, the author's father, is the central character in this engaging memoir about growing up in a 52-acre farm in Mountmellick, County Laois in the Irish midlands in the 1940's and 1950's. He is the undisputed boss of the house, determined to provide for his wife and family, working seven days a week to eke out a living at a time when most farmers in Ireland were defined by subsistence.
Mr. Phelan, a dominating paterfamilias, struck oil when he married Annie Hayes from a neighboring family. Sheknew her place in the Phelan house, taking care of all domestic matters; a flock of Christmas turkeys allowed her some extra holiday money every year and was the extent of the contact she had with the farmyard.
Annie was always treated with love and respect by her impetuous husband, a rather angry and frustrated man, who on most occasions yielded to her moderating promptings when he tended to explo…