‘Babies for Sale’…the danger of spectacle vs. news

Once again, we in Ireland are distracted from the critical issues of the day – by the spectacle of outrage at historic wrongs.

Where’s the outrage at our government’s failure to cope with current crisis after crisis?

Does anyone in Ireland share what I experienced in 2012 when I first read about our shock and horror at this headline ‘news’? And then again 2013? And headlines again this year?

Not about the actual news. Rather about the fact that it was and is “news” to no one.

But, if it really was news to you in 2012, 2013 or this year, ask yourself – Why?

Memory is imperfect – so let me frame mine with context. I knew that babies were for sale in Ireland in 1961 or 1962 when this photo was taken.

This black and white image frames my understanding of Ireland in the early sixties.

By 1965, we’d moved to Manhattan so I can say with certainty – this realisation predates that. And my recollection is that it was at least a couple of years before – when I was 7 or 8. (Context again, my Grandfather died in 1960, my grandmother in 1961.)

The desk was my father’s. It wasn’t really a ‘working desk’, it sat in our living room – you know, that rarely-used room (even in America).

My only memory of my father sitting at it was after church, so on a Sunday. My grandmother sat in that white club chair to the right, my grandfather next to her in an unseen wing chair. I can now surmise that it was for a once monthly (perhaps quarterly?) bit of correspondence on my grandfather’s behalf.

The letters were sent to Ireland.

The stationery – Cranes, I think, was thick and bordered and it came out of a box. This fascinated me. It was curious, I suspect, because to my young self – boxes meant presents.

With a brief letter which I have a vague sense that my grandfather was prompting him to write, another tissue-like envelope was enclosed. It contained “a dollar”.

Or what I assumed was a dollar – as that was the only denomination I’d ever seen mailed to me in birthday envelopes from my Aunt and Grandmother.

So whether it was a $20, $50 or $100 bill – it matters not. What my very young self knew, was that people were poor in Ireland and this was for Grandpa’s family.

Another time, I walked in – from school or play – I don’t recall, to the hurried exit of our next door neighbour – Mrs. Curry.

She brushed past me, and I thought it odd. She was a grown-up, and she had been crying.

I asked my mother – “Why is she crying?”

In whatever age-appropriate language my mother used – she told me that Mr. & Mrs. Curry couldn’t have a baby and that made Mrs. Curry upset.

I was baffled. By the time I was six, I was quite expert on the subject of where babies came from – and the unfortunate circumstances of my own arrival.

My best school friend was Donna Cavagnaro. The year before, she’d delighted in informing me that she was adopted. She was special. Her parents came and picked her out. My parents had to take what they got!

So I declared, “She shouldn’t be upset she can pick out a baby, like Donna!”

And my mom told me that’s exactly what they planned to do. They were saving up to get a baby from Ireland.

Now, whether it was those envelopes I’d seen being sent, or perhaps she’d said something specific, I don’t know. I do know my distinct impression was that you bought babies in Ireland. Before 1965.

There were several other adopted children in my Marymount, first through fifth-grade classes. I knew of one girl who, with her brother, came ‘from Ireland’

And until moving here in 2008, I thought nothing of it.

“Taking the Soup”

I had a lot to learn when I “blew-in”.

First, after my grandparents died and my parent’s split (not sure I ever put that together before), there was no “Irish” influence in the household. It was just that of my mother’s Italian family. Hence, I was pretty unprepared for life here.

I thought I’d moved to Ireland, I live on the Cooley Peninsula. It turns out, it’s not actually Ireland. It’s a place known ominously as, “the border”.

Oh, I had a vague notion you didn’t wear orange on St. Patrick’s Day – but not much beyond that.

So this expression “took the soup” was utterly new to me.

I knew some Carlingford folk who were Catholic. The long deconsecrated Church of Ireland serves as the historic centre here. On a shortcut through the cemetery grounds with another American blow-in – I was surprised to see a cluster of headstones bearing a family name I knew. I mused aloud, “That’s odd, they’re Catholic aren’t they?” She, in a fairly ugly tone, responded – “Well, they must have taken-the-soup“.

I guess my expression said it all – so she explained just what was involved in trading away your soul to feed yourself and your family. I nodded.

Deep down, I was flummoxed. I’m a mother. If feeding my children involved a conversion or worse – I’d not have hesitated – in the 19th century or now.

And this was the first of many lessons I continue to take on board in coming to understand life in this place of unforgiveness.

This recent headline drives home the reality that every day, in 21st Century Ireland.

Irish people willingly continue to “take the soup”.

Primarily in swallowing a litany of untruths sold to them by a government-controlled press – but even more heinously in the way we fall for historic scandals dug up and recycled to serve as spectacle. They suck up hours of airtime and column inches, distracting us from the relevant truths at hand.

That 2012 headline, well known to me in 1962, was rolled out again in 2018 – just to distract from the week’s news about Maurice McCabe, Vicky, Emma, Steven Teap and more evictions. 

Weeks later we were still distracted by it while the Oireachtas Banking and Finance Committee was hearing testimony about a 31 billion euro spend to save the money and skins of corrupt bankers and politicians.

We are unwilling to hear the truth about how austerity, homelessness, evictions, trolley counts and dying mothers are the price we are paying for the government’s protection of those well-heeled enough to be protected by crony politicians, and shielded by a silent and colluding press.

The Irish Media is not a fit pillar of this Republic. If it were – you would have known what I knew – 55 years ago.

Call, email, write or Tweet your TDs and Senators. Find a directory to their contact details here.

#EnoughIsEnough.

For a powerful insight into the consequences of an ignorant public, consider the work of Gemma O’Doherty, a well known Irish reporter and Seamus Maye. He ought to be equally well known – but as a soft-spoken and tireless campaigner with a unique experience of Ireland’s big business, politics, law courts, media and corruption/”legal” corruption, he gets less coverage than he should.

Both were part of a TEDxLongford panel of “Changemakers” on 29. June 2018.

An article on the subject can be found here.

A video of the presentations can be found here, shortly.

For a further look at the absurdity of calling the St. Patrick’s Guild revelations “news” in 2018, consider what was know in 2010 – “In the wake of the Ryan and Murphy reports…”. Little or no action followed.

 




Communication, Confusion & Irish-isms

The author, a fellow blow-in, and I have often discussed the challenges of understanding and being understood – even though before my arrival from America and his from England via Israel – we’d thought of English as our first language.

Lest you think we exaggerate – I refer you to this “So You’ve Got an Irish Passport Because of Brexit…” article

IRISH-ISMS

Many Irish people share a powerful belief that they are the world’s best communicators. While foreign visitors are encouraged to kiss the legendary Blarney Stone in Blarney Castle if they wish to become more eloquent, the Irish are reputed to have a natural way with words and a natural gift of the gab.

But do they?

As a veteran 20-year blow-in, I have noticed a distinct gap between what many Irish people say, what they really mean, and what the listener interprets.

For example,

  • if you are told that you are “brutally efficient,” you are not being given a compliment. It is being intimated to you that your efficiency is putting others to shame.
  • if you are told that you are very decisive, do not be tempted into believing that you have just been complimented. You are being told that you are too pushy.
  • if you are told in a meeting that you should feel free to ask further questions, be careful. The real message is that you shouldn’t ask any annoying or embarrassing questions.
  • if someone giving a presentation asks for honest feedback, your honest opinion is the last thing they want to hear. All they are asking is for you to go easy on them. And
  • if someone describes your presentation as “desperate,” it does not mean that the presenter was in despair. It means that the presenter was rubbish.
  • Be careful when someone tells you “I am a little disappointed.” What they mean is that they are mightily disappointed.

You have to learn to interpret what might sound like encouraging feedback.

“I’m interested in your idea,” “Could you please expand on your idea?” and “The jury is still out on this” all indicate that the other person thinks that your idea is rubbish.

When someone says to you, “I didn’t understand”, don’t make the mistake of believing that they did not understand. You are being told categorically that you don’t understand.

You might be tempted to interpret “Don’t get ahead of yourself” as advice to slow down. In truth, you are being told not to be such a big-head.

If someone is being described as “bold”, the intention is not to praise that person’s bravery. It is to indicate that the person is brazen and cheeky.

And do not be confused when someone asks you, “What’s the story?” or “Anything strange?” All they are asking is “How’s things?

If you are told that something is grand, do not expect anything large to appear. It’s the Irish way of saying that “everything is fine”.

And do not expect a technician to come around to check your gas meter when you hear that someone is a “gas man”. It simply means he is funny.

“Oh, stop!” is not, as it sounds, a request to stop talking or to stop what you are doing. It simple means “Don’t go there”.

If a person is described as thick, it is not their physical girth but their (lack of) mental faculties that are being described.

And if you hear someone being described as giving out, do not wait around to receive a free lunch or a free anything else. It means that the person likes to complain.

A person who is described as being on the pig’s back is not participating in a strange race, and a person sucking diesel is not really indulging in this dangerous pastime. Both expressions mean that a person is doing very well.

My examples so far involve possible misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

But there are also plenty of Irish-isms where the visitor has no inkling of what the other person is saying.

It is quite a stretch of the imagination to realise that an eejit is an idiot, that the jacks means the bathroom, that banjaxed means ruined and that ‘a cute hoor‘ is ‘a chancer‘ or someone Americans would say was “unqualified” or “pushing his luck

My favourite impenetrable Irishism has to do with compliments.

Most people in Ireland do not know how to take a compliment. It makes them uncomfortable. Often the body language that follow is to actually push it away.

If you compliment a woman on the dress she is wearing, the stock response you are likely to receive is, “I got it at Penny’s.”

Instead of simply saying thank you.

The wearer will ward off the compliment by claiming that the garment was purchased at discount clothes retailer Penny’s.

What follows is comical – if not sad: A newcomer to Ireland, and to English – anxious to sound like the locals, was told that her hair looked nice. She answered, proudly primping the new do and responded: “Penny’s”.

In addition to authoring business books and articles- Yanky is available for training – for both corporates and individuals new to Ireland in both our nuanced language and our comfort and facility with “Constructive Ambiguity”.

Yanky Fachler is a copywriter, author, corporate trainer. He has written literally millions of words for his clients, thousands of blog posts, ads and articles. He has authored and ghost written dozens of books; 200 business book reviews, speeches, articles and newsletters. His way with words also extends to the spoken word: he has made dozens of appearances on TV and radio; he gives motivational talks and keynote speeches; he delivers communications skills training; and he has given over 100 history talks. Yanky’s speaking engagements outside Ireland have taken him to the USA, UK, Poland, Canada, Israel and the Czech Republic. Yanky brings oodles of imagination and his own brand of infectious enthusiasm to everything he does.




Bankers’ Self-Interest, 2 Households Homeless & Suicide

The Author will remain anonymous as this case is still in litigation. We share the story to encourage others who were similarly treated or misled by their banks – to come forward.

My story:

The “Bank” is now involved in trying to repossess my family home, along with my partner, his wife and children’s family home. And it looks like they will be successful.

We both have been left with no money at all. One of our employees committed suicide and both my business partner, a husband and father of five young children and myself, a single retiree, have had a decade from hell.

We were transparent in all our dealings with our bank manager (we have had at least eight of them). We were careful to give them prior knowledge of our plans, to provide them with expert reports on planning, development, finance, architectural and engineering strategies, and in every way, we were model customers.

The fact is that this bank decided to take over and sell our assets to save their own balance sheets and no court in Ireland seems able to help.

We never stood a chance. As one of our eight assigned managers said, “You have cracking properties”. Another said, “We’re not playing games”.

How could this be?

Most people who fell foul of the Irish banks could not pay their mortgage because they had lost their job in the recession, or for some other reason were prevented from making their monthly repayments.

Since the publication of the independent report on RBS which investigated the treatment of small and medium sized businesses, I have looked around the Irish banking scene, and it has become clear that the Irish banks followed along the lines laid down by RBS’s global restructuring scheme.

We fell into that category of customers severely injured by the banks.

We were the customer who had a good business, a family home, and whose assets were claimed by the bank, sold off either by receivers or the bank itself, and the money used to swell the bank’s own coffers.

Our bank followed exactly this plan.

In 2004 we had a hundred-year-old property rental business, part rent-controlled tenants, part commercial lettings. We had almost no borrowings and the business had €5 million in cash reserves. Today we have nothing.

Our bank, with whom the company had a long and satisfactory relationship until 2008, suggested two things to us.

First, that we should keep our cash on deposit with them, take out a mortgage for our respective homes, and expand our business for which they promised a very substantial loan.

Perhaps I am a fool, perhaps I am just too trusting. Myself and my business partner agreed. I’ve always lived at the same address in Dublin. My grandfather and my father lived there in a unit on the top floor. The rest of the property was let out. When my father died I bought the house over from the rest of my family. I mortgaged the property to our bank and just drew down what I needed to purchase their share. That would have left enough money to repair the property to allow the commercial letting of all but the top three rooms which is and was my home.

My partner and I concentrated on the business, and repaired and renewed various buildings, to make our property business more efficient and effective, and to increase the value of our assets.

We came up with a plan for a major development on one of our sites. We needed to buy some adjoining properties. We had talked about this to the bank over a period of years from 2004-2007. They had agreed to support us.

In fact, the development was their suggestion!

In conversation, they agreed to lend us €8 million to fund the purchases and the renovations and to develop the site so that it would be lettable.

When it came to look for the money, two things happened. The bank made us wait for more than a year and then came back with an alternative proposition; they would not lend us the €8 million, but a considerably lesser amount, about €7 million. Second, by telephone call a senior official of the bank told us that we would have to invest €1 million of our own money if we wanted the loan. We took the money, invested our own million euro with the bank and waited for the €7 million loan approval.

Now, the story gets a bit strange.

The bank transferred us into the specialist property group, which seems to be just like the RBS GRG, i.e. a group of valuable properites and other assets ripe for the banks taking. We were summoned to an important meeting at the bank. One manager told us that the meeting he would work with us, that we had such a good track record with the bank and so on.

But at the end of the meeting another manager said “we’re going to cancel the €7 million loan”. Shortly after which, the bank began to put serious pressure on us.

It told me to let out those parts of my home to commercial tenants. To do that I asked to draw down the balance of the mortgage to bring the lettings up to a current standard. I was and have still been refused.

We could not continue with this. As for developing the business development site, we had spent much of our cash, buying the properties, but the banks failure to provide the development money meant we couldn’t continue.

And it is from this I conclude that the bank deliberately brought about a situation which enabled them to take the company assets (17 properties) by appointing a receiver over the companies. To date this receiver has never notified us. We are the directors and sole shareholders of the results of the receivership.

We don’t know what was sold, when and for how much.

If there is anyone out there who has had the same or a similar experience, please let us know so that we can show a pattern and see what can be done.

Empowering Change here – you are welcome to share your story – or invite one of our colleagues to interview you about your similar circumstance – message your details in the box at your right.




Irish Mothers & Property Rights

Our guest contributor highlights the very different outcomes when it comes to the property rights of a married vs. an unmarried woman:

“Unmarried Irish Mothers Have No Rights”

Yvonne Walsh is an unmarried Irish mother.  Perhaps not a politically correct distinction to make in this 21st century Ireland of alleged equal status for all.  But no such basic property rights are enjoyed by these women.

Before the law, it seems nothing has changed.

Yvonne has been detained in Mountjoy prison for almost two months* based on a charge of contempt of court. She refused to abandon her family home with her twin girls based on a court order to vacate her home back in 2015.

Equal status does not exist for Irish unmarried mothers,

Yvonne’s rights were ignored by her ex-partners’ solicitor; he was required by law on the conveyancing of the family home to obtain Yvonne’s Consent, to guarantee Yvonne got independent advice, to insure Yvonne and her babies were protected, to register Yvonne’s name on the property. This practice has occurred for centuries across Ireland because solicitors ignore the rights of unmarried mothers.

Life happened, Yvonne and her partner broke-up, years later Yvonne found herself as a lay litigant in person before Judge Marie Baker desperately fighting to keep her family from homelessness. It is a home that had no mortgage, a property embroiled in her ex-partners commercial dealings.

Yvonne sits in prison because she is an unmarried mother in Ireland with no rights.

Contrast this with the outcome for the married Catriona Fitzpatrick

Also appearing before Ms. Justice Baker, she claimed she knew nothing of her husband’s financial dealings, she did not consent, and her informed consent was not obtained.

She is the wife of Sean ”Seanie” Fitzpatrick, former chairman of Anglo Irish Bank, who, while acquitted of all charges of financial irregularities, had resigned in December 2008 under a cloud when details of secret loans he had taken out with Anglo were revealed. He was declared bankrupt in 2010.

Catriona Fitzpatrick prevailed. She walked away from the same courts with millions of euros in property and her husband’s Anglo Irish Bank pension retained. A pension funded by the Irish taxpayers.

Yvonne Walsh still languishes in prison.

 

*Jailed Friday, 4. May 2018.

Tom Darcy, Author, Waiting for the Sheriff; Co-founder Right2Homes

#YvonneWalsh  – for more information on hashtags currently in use on the subject – See Driving Excellence in Ireland, a Hashtag Primer




Why we tell these stories…

Because nothing changes until we cease to view our neighbours as them and we as us.

Take for example the aftermath of one hearing before the Orieachtas.

Padraic Kissane – the gently determined, brave and caring Financial Advisor who encouraged four of his tracker mortgage clients to step forward and testify before the Finance Committee.

This was critical – a watershed moment in Ireland. The tracker mortgage abuses were well known to members of the finance committee, to the bankers and to journalists – but it was not until we had four human faces and stories – that any thing was done.

In a quiet moment, that afternoon, I witnessed a colleague ask him:

“But how did the banks think they would get away with it?”

His response:

“They used our Irishness against us.”

And for nearly a decade it worked. And to some degree it is still working. They had counted on us to be too ashamed to come forward.

And beyond shame, we are ill-informed. While the rest of the world worries about “fake news” – here in Ireland, we suffer “no news”.

And a predisposition to “willfull blindness“.

The absence of a free and vigorous press undermines any hope for accountability from government.

We have few choices.

  • The state owned and operated RTE carries little to ‘out’ anything but historic wrongs (justice here requires a 30 year fermentation process). And we roll out coverage of long forgotten scandals every time we wish to distract from a current political embarrassment. Let’s roll out the long acknowledged adoption scandal to distract from disclosures tribunal, and let’s celebrate a reunion of Magdalene Laundry survivors to take some of the heat off the Cervical Check scandal. Any wonder we have a well used hashtag in Ireland – #NoCountryforWomen
  • The (not very) Independent News & Media PLC has an editorial policy of having it’s reporters “get with the programme”. Theirs. Summed up simply – if it’s good for big business report it. If it’s troublesome to our friends and allies – don’t.
  • Everything you need to know about a free and fair press can be found in the unapologetic way both the Taosieah and the press embraced the idea of a “strategic communications office”. And there is precedent. It’s best illustrated by a headline: The deValera Divine Right to Rule the Irish Press

And lest you think this reflects the work of conspiracy theorists, a well organised group of bankers, academics, lawyers, and professionals worked together for 4 years – coming together with a piece of legislation to be introduced in 2017 when the Dail came back into session.

In an effort to garner attention and support for the bill – over 200 press releases went out in the late spring.  Individual reporters and PR professionals received it well and wrote plenty of copy. None of which got past the editors desk for publication.

Undaunted – they had their press conference – in Ireland’s – 33rd County. Irish Central covered the launch of the bill at the famine memorial in Manhattan. Given that…

..it caters to 34 million Irish Americans and 70 million Irish diaspora and receives 3.5 million unique visitors per month.  It has a large and quickly growing social media following, including 500k Facebook followers, 33k Twitter followers, and 13k followers on Instagram.  The website also enjoys a newsletter subscriber base of 250k.

The Irish press finally picked it up.

Church and State have colluded to maintain power by silencing citizens. And it works. Shame has kept us collectively quiet and accepting of the unacceptable. We have been afraid to rise up and take charge.

So here are some of the unreported stories I’ve experienced alongside beleaguered friends and colleagues:

  • Litigant told by judge – I paraphrase – “You are right, this falls into the spirit of the law – but since the law is so poorly written I cannot rule in your favour”
  • Banks claim to be negotiating – I know 2 cases where new property valuations come in- at let’s say €500k. Owner offers it. Offer rejected.
    Keep in mind, no matter the original debt – all the bank or #vulture it is to be sold on to – will get for it is “market value”. To make the sale of tranches to #vulturefunds attractive – these properties need to be included – there are too few good faith negotiations.
  • Owner scraping by, has two properties, one mortgage. Wants to sell one – can’t afford the tax for the “on paper” capital gain. Worse – one, a Dublin property would be an excellent first home- but can’t come to market because it’s rental income secures the debt – she wouldn’t have on the second property if one could sell the first and pay it down.

These are just three of the stories people are afraid to tell – and to what end would one stand up and be counted?

The press doesn’t cover them anyway. And look what happened to Jonathan Sugarman and Maurice McCable. Stand up speak out and they’ll besmirch your reputation – or worse. This is no country for truth-tellers or whistleblowers.

People paying €600-€1500 a month in good faith – agreed amounts on account of their distressed loans – are typical of the ones whose loans are now being sold. These are not deadbeats vacationing in Spain – as we’ve been led to believe.

I highly recommend Margaret Heffernan’s TED talks on Wilful Blindness and her closing from the second –

Dare to Disagree

The fact is that most of the biggest catastrophes that we’ve witnessed rarely come from information that is secret or hidden.
It comes from information that is freely available and out there, but that we are willfully blind to, because we can’t handle, don’t want to handle, the conflict that it provokes.
But when we dare to break that silence, or when we dare to see, and we create conflict, we enable ourselves and the people around us to do our very best thinking.
Open information is fantastic, open networks are essential.
But the truth won’t set us free until we develop the skills and the habit and the talent and the moral courage to use it.
Openness isn’t the end. It’s the beginning.

Please – find your voice, tell your story and be willing to listen to and engage with your neighbours – whose stories need to heard and understood.

We welcome your feedback and submissions. Relevant academic articles and examples of best practice elsewhere are of particular interest.

Tell us your story via video, voice memo or the written word. Unedited or unpolished is fine. Send your copy, video links or audio files to info@eveearley.com.

 

 




Pro Bono Publico

A simple latin phrase. Generally, it refers to work undertaken, voluntarily, for the public good.

For our purposes, we’re setting out a space for storytelling. It too is undertaken, voluntarily, for our collective good.

Here we will explore what’s legal vs. equitable in Ireland today.

A wise mentor has suggested that while the recent movement to #Repealthe8th Ammendment to the Irish constitution might have simply prevailed, it was storytellers and the authenticity of their stories that gave rise to the landslide.

I didn’t matter whether they were fact based, clinical observations by doctors or heart wrenching stories of personal tragedy, which in an earlier time, might never have been told.

No longer ashamed, women and men told us their painful, personal narratives. They shared their circumstances and we glimpsed decisions so tragic, so fraught and often, so lovingly made, that we responded to their authenticity. We came to understand the punishing burden of having to travel alone – far from, often loving, and supportive families.

And to have to return to a legacy of grief complicated by silence, guilt and shame.

In the telling, these stories spread and sowed the seeds of empathy. Effectively.

Exit polls would suggest that 50% of “Yes” voters do not support abortion on demand. They did not see it as an abortion referendum. They chose to vote for a right of self determination.

Here in this column we hope to engender that kind of empathy for our neighbours, friends and families suffering under similarly oppressive economic, legislative and regulatory conditions. Too many of us are faced with practices and policies which undermine our ability to provide for ourselves and our families.

These are not tales of woe. Look elsewhere for sagas of victimhood.

These stories are simply exemplary. They might all be punctuated with- “There but for the grace of the gods go I“.

And each is followed by a very specific call to action.

Because, at the heart wrenching core of each story is a simple truth.

It did not have to end this way. For the many, for the few and for the whole of the country.

An empathetic ear, a creative or nuanced approach by a bank manager, a housing executive, a taxing authority or a judge – all would have served to curb the number of homeless, the displaced, the many suffering mental and physical distress –  and ultimately the hundreds dead by suicide.

We welcome your feedback and submissions. Tell us your story via video, voice memo or the written word. Unedited or unpolished is fine.

Just don’t hold it in – we have nothing to be ashamed of. #DontGoItAlone

Send your posts, video links or audio files to info@eveearley.com

 




Dear Daddy…

I miss you. And Happy Father’s Day.

I miss your sense of humour, your wisdom and the very un-Irish, Talmudic way you drove home your messages, with questions.

And yet, even selfishly, I’m not inclined to “wish you were here”. The world you imagined has not yet materialised.

How lovely it would have been had your story neatly concluded as did Judy Collins’ My Father story in her song.

Remember telling my 5, 6 & 7 year old self all about the natural world? All about Five Acres and Independence?

You’ll be pleased to know it’s still in print. Good thing too – because while it was meant to teach subsistence living to a post-depression generation – there are a few generations coming who will likely need it.

More on the economics of that why, another time.

Recently, I found a musty old copy of “The Silent Spring” which looks a lot like this one here.

Though a funny thing happened as I re-read it. I heard your voice. Not while reading Rachael Carson’s words – but in remembering all your asides. You know – the ones where you imagined that I’d live in a house with a rainwater cistern built into the plumbing or irrigating the garden. Where the sun and wind would contribute to my energy usage. And where I’d be using grey water from the dishwasher and washer to flush the toilets.

Sadly though, not yet. And likely not even in my lifetime.

Do you remember telling me that the oil embargo in ’73 was a good thing? We were going to drive smaller cars, rely less on fossil fuel and run cars on electricity. Electric cars took another 40 years and they’ve still not caught on. Cars only stayed small until we forgot. Less than a decade on.

We recycle now, as you said we would. Though not universally. Landfills overflow, and the oceans are full of plastic. A dead whale was found in Thailand with 17 lbs of plastic in its gut. Even fresh water streams are polluted with micro beads of plastic from the synthetic clothes we wash.

And while the bald eagle is back, I’m afraid the last male Northern White Rhino died this year. Few seem to notice that we’re losing about 150 plant, insect, bird and mammal species every day.

I remembered another lesson recently, on encyclicals, labour and social justice.

I was six.

How much did you think I could understand? Did you know we wouldn’t have enough years to talk about these things when I was grown? Or was it just the heady, optimistic times in which we lived?

I can still hear your belly laugh when I came home from First Grade with the campaign rhyme –

Kennedy in the White House talking on the phone, Nixon in the dog house chewing on a bone.

And then he won. An upstart Catholic in the White House! You were sure that meant there would be attention paid to social justice. Sure wasn’t that why the “Power Elite” fought so hard against “the papist”?

And it was John XXIII’s time. I can still here the passion and faith with which you explained why you’d been an organiser, why labour unions were so important and how it had been the words of Pious XIII’s Rerem Novarum which inspired all that in you. You explained it all in my Communion year. You wanted me to understand the significance of a that year’s Papal Directive on Christianity and Social Progress.

For what it’s worth – the only part that really sunk into my young brain was the point you made about my uncles, your brothers. They were steel workers. You said they worked harder at back breaking work, than you did at a desk. You could do your job to 65 or 70 or beyond – but their bodies wouldn’t last to pension age. That was why a balance between labour and capital – as well as respect for the difference in an earned vs. an unearned dollar – was important.

How did you know that I’d remember enough?

Is that why you went on at great length about social justice, job provision and social safety nets? By then I was 10, 11 and 12. I loved the long drives and the stories you told during our Sunday visits – touring through the reservoirs, parks and forests built by the CCC workers. I remember well your stories that their lives in those camps, bleak though it was, offered the only homes and work available.

I remember all the buildings we visited – most artfully embellished with friezes and sculptures owed to the New Deal’s WPA architects. Pragmatism born of desperate times, enhanced by a respect for the creative.

Often I recall your awe for the power of what the public and private sector could accomplish in the sheer depth and breadth of the infrastructure projects, iconic skyscrapers and the monuments you’d point out in our drives around New York City, upstate New York and New England.

I live in Ireland now.

We visit and I giggle most Saturdays mornings in all but July and August. It’s then that I bring in wood and peat for the stoves. It makes me recall your beleaguered expression and shaking head when you described life in Ireland on return from Grandpa’s funeral here. You always began with – “Kiss the American ground you were born on…” followed by vivid and unattractive descriptions of the third world country Ireland was then.

With each filled basket, I can conjure the look. Your loving eyes are firmly fixed on me from over the top of your glasses. I hear you exclaim, “You silly witch, did your grandfather not see to it that we were born in a world of boilers and indoor plumbing?”

And so he did.

But clearly there was a circle in need of closing.

I returned a century after he left. Nearly 50 years after he died. I wasn’t actually aiming for ‘his Ireland’, though I find myself stuck in it. As penance for some as yet undetermined failing, I work at telling your stories, sharing your wisdom and hoping that as America has abandoned it’s promise, moving forward, Ireland can adopt it.

The call to ‘my Ireland’ came after years on an annual course. The week long events were set in Sligo, Cavan, Antrim, Donegal, Down and Mayo studying Jung and archetypal psychology.  Here I met Bridget, Grace and Maeve – in a place where feminine characters and the land dominate in myth. That divine feminine is what called me and where my hope for this place resides.

Here I experience the ancient and natural worlds as you shared them. Living close to the land demands a respect for riotous springs, abundant harvests and the work of just showing up for the hard labour in between.

It invites us to celebrate the seasons.

I closed a circle with that as well. I am at home with an agrarian, eight season calendar. I felt it while rearing your granddaughters in a faith tied to festivals like Imbolc and Lughnasa known to them as Tu Bishvat and Sukkot.

And I live in medial space.

Literally. On the border of Ulster – just beyond the Pale. And not far from Mary Gale Earley’s home place. Her journey informs so much of my understanding here. From Ireland to America, Protestant to Catholic, who could have imagined that a quote from John Henry Newmans faith journey printed on her memorial card, would serve as insight into my struggle to understand this land of them-uns and us-uns?

And figuratively. I live as you did. Devout in your faith, and excommunicated nonetheless. Neither in nor out of Rome’s good graces. I too, live as the other – an American neither Catholic nor Protestant neither in or out of communion with my neighbours.

And always, I carry with me your good humoured observation that –

We’ll get there, by degrees. The way an Irishman goes to heaven.

And while ‘we’ll’ not get where you thought we were going in my lifetime, I’ve every confidence that your granddaughters will move the world in the direction of your dreams.

They made those very same road trips, they heard you marvelling at those miracles of social and economic progress albeit through my voice, and learned the optimism and sense of possibility that your “Greatest Generation” brought to the world. And I’m reminding them here.

I offer every 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 year old too much information, enthusiastically – knowing that something will come of it. Even if it takes a generation or two.

And because, it’s been 38 of these June Sundays without you – I’m reminded of another song from the sixties, Who knows where the time goes?

So for now –

Good-night; ensured release,
Imperishable peace,
Have these for yours,
While sea abides, and land,
And earth’s foundations stand,
And heaven endures.

When earth’s foundations flee,
Nor sky nor land nor sea
At all is found,
Content you, let them burn:
It is not your concern;
Sleep on, sleep sound.

Reciting Parta Quies comforts me.

And makes me smile remembering another look over the top of your glasses, with a beleaguered expression and shaking head. All while lamenting over your lot to have had a daughter who favoured the work of Houseman over Yeats, Joyce and countless other Irish poets.

He was, in your words, “That drunken, gay, Brit”.

Sleep on, Daddy, sleep sound.




“Where will you be five years from today?”

The question is posed by author and creativity consultant, Dan ZadraHis book has the look and feel of a child’s book, which leaves us open, available and curious.

This book celebrates the “want to’s”, the “choose to’s” and the “I can’t wait to’s” in your life”. Whether you’re just finishing school, starting a new venture, celebrating a milestone or envisioning your retirement, you are the hero of this story.

It’s less a work-book than a play-book.

Random list-making exercises invite us to explore what we value.

“Live your life on purpose” is a call to action – and we’re encouraged to write a personal mission statement.

It’s a book of motivation and inspiration. This isn’t a to-do list – it’s a road map.  And a training manual.

“You are the hero of this story”

…and you’re thinking – “Who me? There’s not a heroic bone in my body!”

So, let’s make “hero” a bit less intimidating.

First, throw off the superhero images. Just showing up and being available is Job #1.

Accepting the challenge to live life more purposefully, to imagine a new future and to lay the foundation for a new life stage – is what we in the storytelling business call – “The Hero’s Journey”.

It was described by Joseph Campbell, author of The Power of Myth.

Myths give external explanations and stories for internal strifes. Slaying monsters is slaying the dark things inside of you. If you’re telling yourself “oh no! I couldn’t do that! I couldn’t be a writer!” that’s the dragon inside of you, and you have to slay it.

Simply stated – our heroic journey begins with saving ourselves.

And then:

“Strong people stand up for themselves. Stronger people stand up for others”  Chris Gardner

And #DontGoItAlone – get in touch if you think I can help.

Not familiar with Joseph Campbell’s work?

Hollywood film development director, Christopher Vogler summarises it brilliantly.

 

Here’s what we know about heroes, they-

  • are usually reluctant
  • are often resistant
  • will have to face down fear
  • will survive, wiser for the experience

 

 




Driving Excellence in Ireland, a #Hashtag Primer

If you’re new to following current events in Ireland – this is for you.

Ireland in 2018 is a very hard place to be.

Correction. Ireland until late 2017 was a very hard place to be. Thanks in large measure to #Housing & #Homeless activists as well as #Together4Yes and #Repealthe8th campaigners, things started to change in late 2017.

Now, at least, there is hope.

My February post, On Social Change in Ireland, “we’ll get there…” reflects that shift. And some of the challenges.

On arriving in 2008, “You can’t say that!” was a near constant refrain when I’d reflect back the insanity of life here. A New York reared blow-in, I was identified in my earliest days as “that cheeky American woman”.

After a lifetime recovering from a shaming and silencing childhood (just like most here), I wasn’t buying the idea that the silent-secret-keeping was anything but toxic.

My attempt to address it in a 2012, TEDxBelfastWomen talk met with mixed reviews; novel then, the message seems to be hitting home now.

So, I’ve been cheeky. I’ve found cheeky Irish people. And together we’ve helped to inspire many who were contemplating cheekiness – to get over their reluctance. Our message is simple: #GoForIt (or #JFDI if you’re not easily offended).

If you’ve found your way to us lately, perhaps it was by way of one of these-

  • #YvonneWalsh – A mother of two jailed for refusing to leave her home which would render her children homeless.
  • #VultureFunds – The world has it’s share of problems with them, but our government invited them in and gave them a tax free and virtually unregulated status. #MichaelNoonan
  • #Homelessness The current tally is over 10,000 homeless with over 4000 of those children.
  • #Whistleblower It’s not safe to be a #Whistleblower in Ireland. Pretty much guaranteed you’ll be permanently unemployable, broke and ostracised.
  • #DisclosureTribunal is a current (#MauriceMcCabe) #Whistleblower investigation. Before him @WhistleIRL Nothing will come of it – it never does. Perhaps because any evidence obtained is inadmissible in court. It’s the way the powers that be remain untouchable.
  • #TrackerScandal– Originally 5000, then 33,000 now nearly 40,000 deliberate bank overcharges. The highlight of which was that no one believed it until #PadraicKissane had 5 clients appear before the Dail Banking and Finance Committee. “How did the banks think they’d get away with it?” he was asked. “They used our Irishness against us”. Meaning – they counted on our shame to keep us silent.
  • #Nama – The National Asset Management Agency – great idea in theory.
  • #FF/#FG – Fianna Fail the party in power at the crash/Fine Gael the party in leadership since first in coalition with #Labour, currently in a confidence and supply agreement with #FF.
  • #CervicalCheck No news blackout here. The they tried. The #HSE didn’t advise women or their doctors of misread cervical smears. But news got out on the back of #VickyPhelan‘s lawsuit and subsequent testimony before #DailEirann. The scandal is described in this Irish Times article.

And a few we’d like to see take off –

  • #CherishedChildren – A reminder to many that in Ireland’s founding document, there lies a promise- “cherishing all the children of the nation equally”
  • #Transparency & #Accountability – A reminder that we must relentless demand it. Transparency International produced a report for Ireland in 2009 and updated it in 2012 – the measures they suggested have, to date, been ignored. Nevertheless – there is a SpeakUp.ie site and a on it a helpful video on how to “speak up safely”. #GoForIt – please.

#CalltoAction

Ireland moved from a Third World Country in the 50’s & 60’s – with 1/2 the economy dependent on remittances, to a First World country during the 70’s and 80’s – owed in large part to Diaspora investment. Philanthropists built universities, brought jobs and significantly impacted the business and civic culture.

We need that leadership now more than ever.

 

We used to ask you to come home or send money.

Neither are required. Simply share your experience, your wisdom, and the optimism that seems to characterise the Irish when the leave here.

And if you’re here in Ireland – speak out.

  • Tell your stories.
  • We have nothing to be ashamed of.
  • Nothing changes until we do!

The #CherishedChildren of the Republic need homes, healthcare and stability.

#WereBetterThanThis

 

 

 

 




A Failure of Leadership – Ireland 2018

On Housing and Homelessness

Who is Yvonne Walsh and why does she matter? Think of her as the canary in the coal mine.

Thank you, Caroline Lennon-Nally

#YvonneWalsh, the poster child of everything that is wrong about home repossession in Ireland.

Yvonne’s efforts to engage with the government approved Vulture Funds, to protect her home and children, were undermined and short-circuited by a technicality. As a result, Yvonne has refused to back down on the charge of contempt; and her children can stay in their home as long as she’s kept in prison on the contempt charge.  Whilst the detail is complex, the situation is not. Under no circumstances should any woman, in this modern age, be sitting in prison on a contempt charge defending her home.

The National Housing Agency has no suitable options as is the case for thousands of other families defending their position.

This situation needs to be recognised and resolved by the Irish Government. Yvonne, innocent of crime, incarcerated and degraded, needs to be released from prison to rerurn home to her children.

This entire issue of forced homelessness for families and children needs a National solution and Yvonne needs our full and immediate support. Let us not forget that Yvonne is representing a vast number of women and mothers right across the social structure in Ireland.

The Irish Government has a number of solutions at their disposal. Yvonne must be released now.