Fragments 2006-11-09

On the periphery of the vast Liffey Valley shopping centre in west Dublin, there is a wall topped by railings (see picture). Behind the wall live thousands of people, excluded not just from Liffey Valley but from society generally by poverty and neglect. Liffey Valley is a monument to one of the great injustices perpetrated on the poor of the city.

Since the 1970s there were plans to build three major town centres in west Dublin: Tallaght, Balgaddy/Neilstown and Blanchardstown. After many years the town centres of Tallaght and Blanchardstown went ahead but not the one in Balgaddy/Neilstown.

The developer, Tom Gilmartin, thought of building the proposed town centre at Neilstown but quickly realised this was not nearly as attractive a proposition as building a shopping centre on the junction of the N4 road to the west and the new M50. He had plans to link the two areas, but even this modest gesture to the welfare of the 20,000 plus people of Balgaddy/ Neilstown was abandoned when Cork developer Owen O'Callaghan became involved.

Councillors were induced to abandon the people they represented and permit the building of the vast Liffey Valley emporium. No town centre for the 20,000 people of Balgaddy/ Neilstown, no library, no post office, no social-welfare centre, no low-cost  supermarket, none of the usual facilities associated with town centres.

Suspicious concern for the welfare of children

The anxious concern of the government to enshrine in the constitution specific rights for children is suspicious for two reasons.

Although the constitution does not specify children's rights, several judgments of the Supreme Court have specifically stated that the constitution protects the rights of the child. One judgment states: "The child also has natural rights... the right to be fed and to live, to be reared and educated, to have the opportunity of working and of realising his or her full personality and dignity as a human being." Another judgment says: "There is nothing in the constitution to indicate that in cases of conflict the rights of the parent are always to be given primacy."

Also, this government made it clear two years ago that it couldn't care less about the rights of the child. It instigated a constitutional amendment which removed the right to citizenship of children born in Ireland. And, incidentally, the Supreme Court had earlier decreed that an Irish citizen child could be deprived of the care of their foreign-born parents or, if necessary, deported.


Grealish claims concern for the 'plight' of separate families

'Grealish raises plight of undocumented Irish with Senator Ted Kennedy' was the breathless PR release on behalf of the PD TD Noel Grealish. He apparently raised "the plight" of the thousands of undocumented Irish in the US who are separated from their families for long periods of time with Senator Ted Kennedy. If Noel Grealish is so concerned about the "plight" of people separated from their families, where was he when his party colleague Michael McDowell broke up families, deported the mothers of children left stricken in Ireland? Was there a squeak of concern, let alone protest, from him?

But then, that's different. Those were Africans who don't need families.


Sinn Féin and money

Sinn Féin has been given permission by the US authorities to raise funds in America. Gerry Adams is currently in the US for a ?500-a-head dinner in Washington hosted by the Friends of Sinn Féin. If successful, Sinn Féin could glean several hundred thousand dollars for its election fund here.

But why should donors in America be permitted to influence the outcome of elections in Ireland, north or south? And yes, the purpose of the exercise is to influence the outcome of elections, otherwise what is the point?

By the very same token that rich people should not be permitted to buy political influence and power, neither should foreigners be permitted to interfere in the Irish electoral process.


Beaten square and square

The hullabaloo over the fracas in Croke Park on Sunday 5 November in the compromise rules match between Ireland and Australia has been vastly overblown. The "violence" was by no means one-sided and there have been worse instances of violence at Gaelic games without anything like the current outrage.

One suspects the outrage is a diversion from the humiliation inflicted on the best of Irish Gaelic footballers by Australians who had no experience playing with a round ball and who overwhelmed the Irish with their speed, skill, tactical nous and general athleticism. Even allowing for the professionalism of the Australian players, the contrast was marked.


A year on and no report

Noel Hannigan, who assaulted 14-year-old Brian Rossiter in Clonmel on 9 September 2002, two days before the boy was found in a Garda cell in a coma from which he never recovered, was sentenced to two years' imprisonment on Monday 6 November. In the case, the state accepted that Brian Rossiter did not die as a consequence of this assault, which raises the question, why did he die, having been in Garda custody?

An inquiry established by Michael McDowell (who had ignored representations about the case for a year) to be conducted by Hugh Hartnett SC, has been in existence now for over a year and still no report, even though the issues to be investigated are limited in time and involve relatively few persons.


On this day: 11 November 1215 - Jews, Muslims and the Lateran Council

The Fourth Council of the Lateran summoned by Pope Innocent III took place in November 1215. Several canons drafted by the pope dealt with the dogma of transubstantiation, condemnations of various heresies, the proclamation of Papal primacy, rules related to the sexual incontinence and drunkenness of the clergy, calls to war in the form of the fifth crusade and a few ordinances to do with Jews and Muslims (referred to as Saracens). But there was more. Canon 67 of the Lateran Council referred to "the treachery of the Jews" in the practice of usury (ie lending money with interest). Canon 68 said Jews and Muslims must be required to wear different dress because "it happens at times that through error Christians have relations with the women of Jews or Saracens (Muslims), and Jews and Saracens with Christian women. Therefore, that they may not, under pretext of error of this sort, excuse themselves in the future for the excesses of such prohibited intercourse, we decree that such Jews and Saracens of both sexes in every Christian province and at all times shall be marked off in the eyes of the public from other peoples through the character of their dress."