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Showing posts from 2023

A Changing Ireland

  A Changing Ireland         Gerry OShea “ You talk to me of nationality, language, religion ,” Stephen Dedalus declared in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. “I shall try to fly by those nets.” In response, one of his nationalist friends asked Stephen the bottom-line question “ Are you Irish at all?” According to the most recent Irish census that question is answered in the affirmative by no less than 23% of citizens who identify as non-white Irish. The number of Irish citizens born abroad, increased in 2022 and now accounts for 12% of the population. The biggest non-native groups come from Poland and the UK followed by India, Romania, Lithuania, and Brazil. In 2021, the year preceding the census, over 89,000 people moved to live in Ireland, with India and Brazil leading the way. How do the people feel about the big infusion of foreigners into the country? A 2020 Economic and Social Research Institute study revealed a gap between the public and private perceptions and a

Prospects for A United Ireland

  Prospects for a United Ireland         Gerry OShea ARINS, Analyzing and Researching Ireland North and South, is the rather unwieldy title for an important joint project of the Royal Irish Academy and the Irish Studies Department of the University of Notre Dame. The Irish Times newspaper lends its name and prestige to the work which recently published its second annual report. The purpose of this effort involves focusing on the beliefs and feelings of the communities in both parts of Ireland about transitioning to a united country. The identical polls used in the North and the South endeavor to provide a snapshot of what people believe about various social, economic, and political issues related to the desirability of a united Ireland. The study does not presuppose or advocate for any constitutional change. The polling method is very thorough, involving in-home interviews of 1000 respondents chosen in each jurisdiction to represent the diversity of both populations. The margin o


  Challenging Times for the Catholic Church         Gerry OShea Historians see the revolutions in America (1776) and France (1789) as ushering in the modern era. The 19 th century in Europe can be understood as an ongoing struggle between the old order driven by men holding on to their lands and privileges against powerless rebels who were denigrated as mere rabble.   The Catholic Church looked very favorably on hierarchical structures and strongly opposed the new Enlightenment thinking that was spreading throughout Europe. For example, the pastoral leaders in Rome, all-powerful potentates, viewed themselves as part of the status quo, fiercely opposing the growing calls for democratization. Pius 1X, better known as Pio Nono, called together the First Vatican Council in December 1869 and in a carefully orchestrated vote successfully convinced the assembled bishops – with only a few exceptions – that pronouncements issued from the papal chair about faith and morals could not be er
  Egalitarianism in America           Gerry OShea The dictionary defines egalitarianism as a philosophy affirming the equality of all people without regard to nationality or accumulated wealth. This belief based on shared humanity draws its meaning and gravity from 19 th century Enlightenment teaching now co-opted by every religion agreeing that there are no second-class citizens. The American Constitution names equality before the law as a basic belief with no exceptions. In dealing with former President Trump, the Department of Justice and various State Attorneys General repeatedly highlight this principle while explaining that their legal decisions cannot be adjusted to give any extra value to the prominence of the person facing charges. George Orwell had his gimlet eye on the repressive policies of the Soviet Union when in his allegorical novel “Animal Farm,” published in 1945, the pigs declare that “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others.” This famous Orw

Questioning American Democracy

  Questioning American Democracy       Gerry OShea President Lincoln in his famous Gettysburg address delivered in November 1863, summed up the dream of a vibrant democracy for America in his famous words, “Government of the people, for the people and by the people.” Who can argue with such noble sentiments?   America never functioned as a perfect democracy based on the Gettysburg ideals. For instance, twice in recent times in Bush v Gore in 2000 and Trump v Clinton in 2016 the candidate who got the most votes lost the election – hardly a good advertisement for democracy. There is, of course, a constitutional reason for these aberrations but it does raise eyebrows about the fairness of a system anchored on belief in the equality of all citizens. Still, democracy is alive in America featuring hotly contested elections for local and federal offices. However, the system is in crisis since the last presidential election, won by Joseph Biden. His opponent, Donald Trump, representing

The Gaza Conflict

  The Gaza Conflict           Gerry OShea James Baldwin, the great writer and civil rights leader, reflecting on the origin of most wars wrote, "People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.” His words certainly resonate throughout the Middle East when we think of the unending conflicts between Shia and Sunni or Jews and Arabs. I read recently about an event that happened back in 1956 at a kibbutz located near a border fence where Palestinian fighters attacked the Jewish settlement. A security officer named Roi Rotberg confronted the attackers but lost his life in the ensuing fracas. Moshe Dayan, then Israel’s chief of the general staff, happened to be in that neighborhood attending a wedding and was asked to give an oration at Rotberg’s funeral. Speaking of the Palestinian killers he asked: “Why should we complain of their hatred of us? Eight years they sat in the refugee camps of Gaza and saw in front of their eyes how we turned their lands and the villag

Who Pays the Bills?

  Who pays the Bills?        Gerry OShea   Conservatives love to preach about their core commitment to limiting the power of big government, their worst bugbear. So, it is not surprising that America’s spending on social benefits, as a share of GDP, is a great deal stingier than other Western countries. We trade higher take-home salaries for less generous safety nets.     This distaste for an intrusive central authority is not confined to spokespeople for the Right - it is shared throughout the population. However, teasing out the implications of this hatred of government interventions reveals major differences between the two main political parties in America. For those on the political right, this commitment is formulated around the need for fiscal discipline, and they lambast the rulers in Washington for disregarding this principle. They argue at every turn for a balanced budget or for policies that at least move in that direction.     People are urged to consider the negati

An Irish Unity Referendum

  An Irish Unity Referendum         Gerry OShea As well as burning through five prime ministers since the Brexit referendum in 2016, the decision to leave the EU ushered in years of economic decline in Great Britain. The Tory argument that drove the change promised that by stripping their country from the domination of bureaucrats in Brussels they would invigorate the local economy and open the door to a new era of English supremacy. Brexit was carried by less than 52% of the electorate in the United Kingdom, but, significantly, it was rejected by the voters in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Polls show that if the British people were asked today to decouple from the European Union the proposal would be roundly defeated. The damage is done and Keir Starmer, the Labor Party leader and odds-on favorite to be the next British prime minister, has assured the electorate that while his party will actively pursue policies of close co-operation with the EU they will not put the country th

Next Year's Presidential Election

  The 2024 Presidential Election       Gerry OShea Senator Mitt Romney in announcing his retirement from the Senate last month suggested that the two current likely major-party nominees for the presidency should step down: “I think it would be great if both President Biden and former President Trump were to stand aside and let their respective parties choose someone from the next generation.” More problematical for Mr. Biden than the ruminations of the Utah senator are the results of a recent CNN poll where 67% of Democrats said that they hoped he would not be renominated, reflecting widespread concerns in his own party that the president who will be 82 on Inauguration Day is too old for the job. Imagining him dozing off when a sharp mind is needed will constitute the mocking parlance promoted by opponents. Democrats point to the impressive list of legislation that has emerged from President Biden’s first term. The American Rescue Plan protected workers’ pensions, as well as prov

Up the Republic

  Up the Republic!             Gerry OShea Up the Republic, they raise their battle cry, Pearse and McDermott will pray for you on high From “Legion of the Rearguard” – a Republican Civil War song The goal of an Irish Republic was central to the debates and arguments surrounding the Treaty negotiations that were headed in the Irish delegation by Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins while the British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, led his team on the opposing side. The proposals that emerged offered dominion status, the same political freedom as applied in Canada and Australia, to a new Irish Free State. This fell far short of the 32-county republic sought by the Irish delegation. For some dominion status was a major achievement, involving the departure of all British forces from the new 26-county state and the end of foreign rule with all its entanglements. It offered far greater political freedom than any of the Home Rule Bills proposed in the British parliament over the

Cafeteria Catholics

  Cafeteria Catholics               Gerry OShea Accusing someone of being a cafeteria Catholic implies that the person picks and chooses what he or she believes from the broad board of church teaching. While the expression is heard less today, it was commonly used in the past, meant as a derogatory judgement implying that the recipient should decide for or against the whole panoply of church beliefs.   The Irish language expression, Tadgh a da thaobh , (a person who takes the two sides in any debate) conveys this sense of indecisiveness, of trying to please everyone. I recall a man named Freddy in my home county, Kerry, declaring over fifty years ago that he did not accept his church’s declarations about limbo, where, according to clear church teaching, good people, including babies who died before being baptized, ended up with no hope of ever enjoying the presence of God. Freddy was a bachelor farmer in his fifties, who explained to anyone who would listen that he knew two set

Artificial Intelligence

  Artificial Intelligence      Gerry O’Shea Thinking machines are being constructed in Silicon Valley by a few teams of men with a scattering of women that could solve many of the problems of the universe or destroy the world in a few minutes. One top AI engineer stated recently, “we are creating God. We are developing conscious machines.” These exuberant words were not uttered in a boastful manner, rather they were made as a phlegmatic statement describing his unusual line of work. Keep in mind we are talking about mini-machines comprised of billions of microscopic transistors and various wires that zig-zag and are interconnected in incomprehensible ways. We are still in the early stages of these developments, but already stories can be written in the exact style of Ernest Hemingway or the King James version of the bible. Then there is a promising growth in new medications and in people using AI therapists instead of humans. The Irish Department of Education is re-considering