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Abusive Schools in Ireland

  Abusive Schools in Ireland           Gerry OShea Gabriel Byrne’s Broadway play Walking with Ghosts deals with the actor’s life growing up in Dublin as the eldest of six children in a working-class family. It is a dramatic memoir of his young years, dealing impressively with his early school and church experiences before moving on to heartbreaking family tragedies and his own successful battle with alcoholism. At age eleven, in the early 1960’s, he was recruited as a likely candidate for the Catholic priesthood by some order with a preparatory junior seminary in England. There, he liked studying Latin and was lauded by his teacher as a possible future classical scholar. In one of the high points of the play, the Latin teacher invited him to his room for a chat. The priest questioned him about his sexual propensities while grooming him for grotesque sexual molestation which occurred on that day. In a poignant scene from a later point in his life, Byrne speaks on the phone with

Reflections on the Midterm Elections

  Elections Reflections              Gerry OShea Despite the positive results for democracy that emanated from the recent midterms I am still completely perplexed by the happenings in American politics since the last presidential election. Saying that we live in extraordinary times does not begin to capture the extent of the moral and political confusion that has engulfed the country. It is mind blowing that more than half of the candidates representing one of our two main parties ran for office on the outrageous assertion that Donald Trump was cheated out of victory in the last election. They assert - without blushing - that he should still be at the helm in the White House. Sixty judges reviewed the results and not one could find the slightest evidence of any chicanery. We hardly need to explain that in a democracy the one who gets the most votes in an election (in America in the electoral college) wins the contest. All these Republican candidates and leaders in the various sta

Catholics and the Presidency

  Catholics and the Presidency             Gerry OShea In 1933 President Theodore Roosevelt told two of his trusted advisors, Henry Morgenthau Jr., a Jew, and Leo Crowley, a Catholic, “you know this is a Protestant country – Jews and Catholics are here by sufferance.” A hundred years later, these two religious groups are no longer outsiders, but traditional Protestanism still carries real heft in political circles. People associate religion with conservative politics. Evangelical Christians and churchgoing Catholics tend to support the Republican Party while people deemed liberal in both groups join Jews, Blacks and secular voters to populate the Democratic party. It is hard to imagine a freethinking candidate, unattached to the Christian mainstream, securing a Republican nomination for high office. Similarly, an aspiring Democrat who, for instance, condemns gay marriage would vainly appeal for approval in the Democratic community. It is highly ironic that two of the top three De

Reflections of an Immigrant

  Reflections of an Immigrant             Gerry OShea I came to America on a student visa in the summer of 1968. I travelled with a college friend, Ignatius Coffey, who hails from Labasheeda in County Clare. We were attending University College Dublin (UCD) after completing a second year studying the Arts curriculum. As evening students we were making our way by working in various jobs because our parents could not afford to cover our living expenses. So, we arrived in New York on the last day of May with very few dollars in the back pocket wondering if this new country would give us a break. I had uncles and aunts in New York who were a big help in providing meals and subsistence. A first cousin’s husband, who worked in Woolworth’s warehouse in Harlem and who was one of about six shop stewards in the Teamsters Union there, found us a job in his place, despite the line of American students knocking at the door. The pay was good and we worked every hour of overtime that we could

The Midterm Elections

  The Midterm Elections           Gerry OShea When John Healy, the great Irish Times columnist in the 1970’s, faced covering a bewildering political situation in Ireland he would playfully plead with his readers for help. “Riddle me this!” he would ask as he started to draw the readers into the complexities of whatever conundrum he was writing about.    I feel like Healy’s assertion applies in spades as we look towards the  elections on November 8 th because they involve so much emotion and are so crucial for both parties and, indeed, for the future of American democracy.  Republicans are justifiably confident that they will benefit from the traditional midterm negative judgement on the party in office. In addition, all the polls point to the rising cost of food and gas as the number one voter concern.  I read about a woman in Colorado who bought a dozen eggs for 80 cents two years ago but who is now paying twice that for half a dozen. The official inflation rate of 8.2% is exo

Michael Collins - Part 3

    On December 5 th 1921 the British Prime Minister, reminding Griffith and his colleagues that the Dail made them plenipotentiaries, issued an ultimatum: sign the treaty document or face immediate and terrible war. Collins knew that many of his colleagues at home would be outraged at any oath to the English monarch which clearly reneged on their promise of fealty to an Irish Republic. Just how difficult he found signing his name on the document can be gauged from Churchill’s assessment: “Michael Collins rose as if he was going to shoot someone, preferably himself. In all my life I have never seen such pain and suffering in restraint.”   In the last letter he wrote to a friend from London, he unburdened about the depth of his painful misgivings. “When you have sweated, toiled, had mad dreams, hopeless nightmares, cold and dank in the night air. Think – what have I got for Ireland? Something she has wanted these past 700 years. Will anyone be satisfied with the bargain? Will any

Michael Collins - Part Two

  Michael Collins – Part Two            Gerry OShea Michael Collins’ leadership was at the heart of the Irish War of Independence. He oversaw the revolutionary plans with Richard Mulcahy in Dublin but the decisions about confrontations with the Crown forces in country areas was appropriately left to the local leaders. Only 18 people were killed during 1919, the first year of the insurrection. No wonder the British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, dismissed the sporadic attacks by Irish Republicans as the actions of “murder gangs” that the police were well-equipped to handle. By the time of the truce in July, 1921, he had learned that he was, in fact, dealing with a major national insurgency. A week after the mayhem of Bloody Sunday, Tom Barry’s famous West Cork brigade killed seventeen Auxiliaries in an ambush at Kilmichael, near Macroom in County Cork. This defeat shocked the military and political establishment. In revenge, the Auxies burned large parts of the city of Cork, and Ll

Christian Nationalism

  Christian Nationalism                      Gerry OShea During the summer, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia proudly highlighted her identification as a Christian nationalist.   In typically exuberant language she declared: “I am being attacked by the godless left because I said I was a proud Christian nationalist. These evil people are even calling me a Nazi because I proudly love my country and my God.” Fellow congresswomen Lauren Boebert and Mary Miller are on board with their colleague’s views in this area. Many other leaders from the political Right also align with these opinions including Governor Ron DeSantis who propounds the esoteric theory that “the nation’s founders did not desire a strict separation of church and state.” The Governor likes to quote from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, “Put on the full armor of God, so you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” – except he alters “the devil’s” to the “left’s.” The outcome of the inevitable

Michael Collins - Irish Revolutionary (Part one)

                           Michael Collins – Irish Revolutionary             Gerry OShea Michael Collins was born in 1890 in the townland of Woodfield, near Clonakilty in County Cork. He was the youngest of eight children born to Michael John Collins and his wife, a local woman named Mary Ann O’Brien. It was an unusual match insofar as the father was 61 when he married Miss O’Brien who was just 23. Mary was pregnant with their oldest child, Margaret, before the nuptials, a circumstance that would certainly have invited censorious gossip in those days. Michael attended a local school where he was influenced by stirring nationalist stories told by his teacher Denis Lyons, a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), and also by a local blacksmith, James Santry, an old-time Fenian, whose forge was located near the school. He took the Boys’ Clerk Examination in 2006 and obtained a job in London with the Post Office Savins Bank. In his new domicile where he lived with his siste

Strongman Politics

    Strongman Politics              Gerry OShea Donald Trump is America’s strongman. On election night in November, 2020, he claimed that with over 70 million voters he had won the approval of a greater number of Americans than any previous presidential candidate, but he didn’t reckon with the fact that his opponent earned over seven million more votes than he did. His strength comes mainly from his ability to identify the grievances felt by many Americans. In his announcement that he was seeking the Republican nomination for the presidency in 2015 he pointed to illegal Mexicans allegedly raping women in Texas and promised to deal aggressively with such ugly lawlessness by immigrants.   Never mind that the crime statistics in that state did not validate his assertions, and that he himself has been accused of rape or sexual assault and harassment by at least 25 women since the 1970’s. His words at the campaign launch were tapping into the need to blame someone for the vicissitudes

We Need strong Trade Unions

  We Need Strong Trade Unions                    Gerry OShea Two recent stories come to mind when I think of the vital importance of trade union membership. First, I talked to my friend John OShea at a memorial mass a couple of months ago about his recent retirement as a carpenter. John is not related to me although we grew up a few miles apart near the beautiful town of Kenmare in the southwest corner of Ireland.   He is still a vibrant young man at 60, so I wondered why he bowed out so early. John explained that he had worked for 34 years mainly with Eurotech, always in union jobs. His union-negotiated pension provides a good retirement income that allows him to retire and spend more time with his family as well as pursuing wider interests. By contrast, I was approached last year by a former colleague at work who was distraught about her father. I never met this man, but his daughter described him in glowing terms as someone who often worked two jobs to provide for his wife and t