Thursday, November 26, 2015

"Independent" Jersey "Care" Inquiry

Trevor Pitman

An explosive interview with former States' Deputy Trevor Pitman.

I had been intending to do a post on the shortcomings, to put it at its mildest, of the Jersey Child Sex Abuse Inquiry, but pending that you can blow your mind with this interview.

If you have any difficulty viewing it on the blog, you can view it on Youtube directly.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Raheny Christmas Tree

I keep rattling on about how Raheny, although it is close enough to Dublin's city centre, has kept a village atmosphere despite the steady expansion of this suburb over the last half century. This has been evident at the Raheny Festivals and it was also evident at the turning on of the Christmas lights on Sunday last.

Part of the main street was blocked off to traffic and the resulting space was packed tight with people of all ages. There was the inevitable squad car with its flashing blue lights. Gardaí were on special duty and stewards in high visibility jackets kept a wary eye on the proceedings.

The occasion kicked off at 3.30pm but I didn't arrive until it was nearly time to turn on the christmas tree lights at 5pm.

There was music a plenty, from the ballads and carols of the choir and its accompanying guitarist ...

... to the rousing sound of the Dublin All Stars Marching Band, with its innovative multi-material French Horn ...

... and a bit of percussion from Santy himself - well, you know what I mean.

Nuff of the entertainment, it's nearly time to get down to business. Ian Dempsey is this year's celebrity MC and here he is introducing the tree to an expectant crowd. And no, I don't want any Hitler sound tracks thank you. This is a serious matter, though the young lad on the right has not quite made up his mind.

On the left is celebrity GAA All Star and local lad, Brian Fenton. Brian was man of the match at the All Ireland final in September when Dublin beat Kerry for the Sam Maguire Cup. I haven't yet forgiven him for putting Mayo out of the Sam.

But first we pause for the blessing. Rev Norman McCauseland just missed this occasion by days last year. He arrived to take up duty in the Raheny & Coolock Church of Ireland parish at the end of November to replace Rector Jim Carroll who had just retired. So this year he gets his innings and we get a Protestant Christmas tree.

It's a fierce cold day but local photographer and historian, Leo George Devitt, is not deterred and thanks to his North Face gear is on hand to record the event.

At the end of the communal count down, led by Blossom Ireland, the lights are turned on and it's officially Christmas.

Next day, with the crowd dispersed, the tree can be seen in context, on the open space between the Marie Hayes memorial cross and the old church site and graveyard.

It will remain there until early January next, under the watchful eye of the mini-ravens who patrol the graveyard.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Michael Edwards Awards 2015

Vacant premises, Donaghmede Shopping Centre

Before some nice lady expires from an apoplectic fit, she might just consider the following (i) yesterday was international men's day, so we guys are due a bit of slack, (ii) these premises, despite appearances, are actually vacant - a victim of the recession, and (iii) the Donaghmede Shopping Centre is trying to make us smile in the face of adversity with posters on the windows of vacant premises, of which this is not the only one.

If further mitigation is needed, I am happy to report that, in an activity that I associate mostly with men, women came away with two of the ten prizewinners trophies from last night's photo awards. OK, I know, it's not 50%, and it is an activity without a glass ceiling, but hopefully this will encourage more women to participate in the competition in the future.

Michael Edwards & Ray McManus

Michael Edwards, who has a photography shop and studio in the Donaghmede Shopping Centre has been running these awards for the last 10 years and they are a wonderful outlet for the local camera clubs. Six clubs participated in this year's competition and they came from a fairly wide area around Donaghmede - from as far as Howth, for example.

In fact, local involvement has been massive with about 100 entries each from the six local camera clubs. The public then voted in their numbers, about 2,000 voted, for the best 10 photos from each club and these 60 photos formed the basis for the final overall winner and 9 finalists' trophies last night.

This year's adjudicator was Ray McManus, a world renowned sports photographer, and a man who, apart from picking the winners, added enormously to the evening's entertainment.

Dermot Edwards

Michael's is a family business and his son, Dermot, was busy last night making sure that everthing was in place for the awards ceremony.

Ray introduced himself telling us in no uncertain terms that he was just an ordinary fella who hated Photoshop. I don't quite agree with him on the last bit but I could see where he was coming from. He's one of the Father Browne brand of photographers for whom the photo itself is the thing and you have to see it before you can take it. Everything else is icing on the cake, and as we know, too much icing can ruin your teeth.

Tension mounted, bingo style, as Ray called out the ten winning numbers, in numerical order for now.

The winning photo

And then the overall winner. This was one of those pictures which captured a moment. The wave comes crashing over the sea wall. The young lad is clearly alarmed while his dog is totally oblivious to what is happening.

It's a photo right up Ray's street. Full of movement and emotion and no show-off technical excellence screaming out at you. It could have been taken with a Kodak box brownie, but only by a photographer who actually saw the picture first. And don't get me wrong. That is meant as a compliment.

Michael, Billy White - the overall winner & Ray

And the winner is - - -, Billy White from Raheny who gets a very nice glass trophy etched with Michael's logo.

Michael, Jane Hughes - prizewinner, Brian Whelan, Ray

And it was a good night for Raheny with Jane Hughes coming away with one of the finalist's trophies. As well as the trophy, winning finalists, at least some of them, also got vouchers for Bermingham Cameras. Paddy Bermingham's shop, on Burgh Quay for nearly half a century, is now owned by Brian Whelan (above) who started there in 1968.

Raheny Camera Club winners Jane & Billy with Dermot & Brian

Well, at least we can say Raheny reached its gender quota. However, the male component edged ahead with Billy's two winning photos. If photos have gender, that is.

Gay & Siobhan

Siobhan worked with Michael for 40 years and is a photographer in her own right. I met her for the first time last night.

Gay is Billy White's wife and I met her for the first time two years ago at her brother's funeral. Daithí Mac Cárthaigh had been a classmate of mine.

One of the nine finalists' trophies

The competition was run in association with the Donaghmede Shopping Centre and was sponsored by Dublin City Council. Specifically: the Shopping Centre provided the premises and subsidised the food; Dublin City Council donated the finalists' trophies; Pride and Joy donated the overall winner's trophy; Kay's Kitchen provided the food; and Dunne's Stores donated some wine.

Related posts:
2015 competition
2014 competition
Photography Course

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Two Top Toons

In recent times I have started doing more cartoons. These are not drawn cartoons, I can't draw. They are photo-montages put together with the aid of Photoshop. Since I discovered how to use the layers feature in my latest, if truncated, version of the package I have been having a ball.

So I just thought to reproduce here two of the cartoons which required an extensive use of layers in their composition and which I am particularly proud of.

Ruairí Quinn drawing his own real life cartoon in Place du Tertre

The cartoon appeared as part of a series on Enda's first cabinet. Ruairí is portrayed as Toulouse Lautrec and is drawing a cartoon of his own, which he actually did draw at a Government meeting in 1986.

Bishop Tim Dakin in the flooded vault of his own Cathedral

This cartoon was one of a number prepared for a set having a go at Bishop Dakin of Winchester. The bishop was ducking dealing with a serious complaint from a lady who had been abused on the island of Jersey which was then in the Winchester diocese. The trickier feature here is the reflections in the water. As it happened I included a slightly different version in the set on the bishop. The full series of Jersey cartoons gives a birds eye view of some of the corruption and general incompetence involved in the running of the island. It has not been updated for a while.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Bob Hill

I hope nobody takes offence, but this is always how I see Bob. A wise old owl.

I never actually met Bob but I have corresponded with him and I have interacted with him online. I have met the owl, though, and photographed him in my local park.

It was only when I heard the news of his sudden illness that my upset made me realise that I actually think of Bob as a personal friend. Such is the personality of the man. So I make no apologies for talking about him in that way. I feel I know him and one of his great virtues is that what you see is what you get: straight, upfront, honest, dedicated and generous to a fault.

I constantly look forward to his blog posts which always bring something new and sensible to the table. He has great human understanding and empathy but, when necessary, he can be like a police dog with a bone, relentless.

Since his formal retirement from public life he has been working away assiduously in the cause of human rights and the rule of law on his beloved island.

He has postponed his real retirement, and the pursuit of his abiding interest in writing a book on farming, in order to advance the causes to which he has become committed.

In more recent times he became a champion and intermediary for HG, the lady who suffered abuse at the hands of both church and state on the island and off. Unfortunately, at some stage he lost her trust and she lost the considerable benefit of his services.

He has rightly been praised to the skies. But it gets worse. I can confirm that he has even been called a saint to his face. His reply, typically modest with a touch of spooky humour, was: "Forget the halo or sainthood, I was born at lunchtime on Halloween so just missed out on All Saints Day."

It may serve no purpose to say this, but I share Stuart Syvret's anger: "He should have been able to enjoy a peaceful, relaxed and unstressed retirement. Instead he has had to carry on the fight for truth, decency and justice on behalf of the powerless and the wronged, against a polity of such naked decadence and depravity it's a godless off-spring of ancient Rome. "

Bob's recent statement to the "Independent Jersey Care Inquiry" is a primer on the structure and operation of the administration on the island.

As some of my readers will know, Bob suffered a severe brain hemorrhage last week and is still in a critical condition as I write this. I wish him a full recovery with all my heart and send best wishes to his family at this awful time.

Bob Hill

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Illustration by Alejandro R, Professor, Beaux Arts, Paris

La Terreur is nothing new to the French. They experienced almost a full year of it just over two hundred years ago. La Terreur went on and on, complete with the guillotine and the knitting ladies. It was an unholy faction fight, but at least everyone knew who everyone else was.

There were more recent manifestations of it in the 1960s as France tried to disentangle itself from its Algerian occupation and encountered fierce opposition from entrenched colonials and their military sympathisers. Bombs were set off in the streets of Paris in a long campaign which attempted to thwart de Gaulle's retreat from North Africa.

Now we have terrorists letting loose on the streets of Paris purportedly in revenge for French military participation in attacks on various groups or states in the middle east and in an attempt to spread some version of the Caliphate world wide.

Ireland is well familiar with this phenomenon in a slightly different context. The IRA's "mainland bombing campaign" was in full swing in my younger days. Lenin has pointed out that the purpose of the terrorist is to terrorise. It is not to defeat the opposing military in battle. It is to terrorise civilian populations and totally demoralise the enemy through the backdoor as it were. The aim of the IRA terror campaign of my day was to undermine political support on the British mainland for British occupation of the six counties of Northern Ireland.

In this the IRA were drawing their inspiration from Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, the nineteenth century Fenian recently honoured (separately) by the Irish State and Sinn Féin.

As recently as 1974, some of us thought ourselves lucky not to have been victims of the UVF Dublin and Monaghan bombings in May of that year.

So we can empathise with the people of Paris over the carnage of Friday the Thirteenth last.

While clearly not on the same scale of events, the attacks brought back to mind my first experience of death and disgust on the streets of Paris in 1966.

After graduating from college, Tom Ferris and I went on a trip to France and Germany.

In Paris, of course we went to see the Arc de Triomphe.

As we came up from the underground passage onto the traffic island at the Arc, we saw the body of a young girl lying on the ground. Clearly a suicide, but at the Arc rather than the more popular Eiffel Tower.

We barely had time to absorb the impact of what we were seeing when the police arrived in force and took over the scene.

Then the rubbernecks started congregating and we decided to leave. I can still vividly recall our emotions then. We were appalled at the event, saddened by the loss of a young life and angry that this should have happened.

On emerging from the underground tunnel at the other end, we were approached by a sleazy looking gent flogging dirty pictures.

The contrast was surreal and sick-making and I have never forgotten this incident.

It is trivial by the standards of what just happened in Paris yesterday, but at the end of the day, we can only absorb these events and empathise with victims and their families on the scale of the individual.

It was the incident I have described above, and the needless loss of one individual life, which came to mind yesterday evening and gave a sense place and of scale to the enormous tragedy then playing out on the streets of Paris.

On a related, but different tack, yesterdays events are a stark reminder that invading other countries and destabilising whole regions in ill thought out and unjustifiable imperial excursions carry a heavy price tag. And the price is paid, not by the decision makers, but by their people, whose interests and safety should be their first priority and take precedence over personal and corporate ambition and folly.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Law's an Ass

John Holohan, Chairperson, RDS Speaker Series

This is the man, who introduced the man, who introduced the man, who introduced the speaker, Felix M Larkin.

The occasion was a talk in the RDS last evening (11/11/2015) in the Hugh M Fitzpatrick series of lectures on legal bibliography.

Felix was giving a talk entitled The Asinine Law: Irish Legal Cartoons, c.1800 - 2015.

Hugh M Fitzpatrick initiator of the legal bibliography talks series

Hugh M Fitzpatrick explained how he had hoped to introduce the subject of legal cartoons into the series and finally settled on Felix as speaker as he knew Felix had the knowledge, interest and wit to carry it off.

He in turn introduced the MC for the evening, Peter Feeney, currently the Press Ombudsman.

Peter Feeney, Press Ombudsman

Peter explained that he had to think twice before accepting the invitation in case the subject conflicted with his current job, but he took consolation in the fact that most of the cartoons would be a hundred years old. He may have got a shock when Felix coasted into Martyn Turner territory at the end of the talk, but that's life.

Felix M Larkin, speaker

Felix gave us a great romp through two hundred years or so of legal cartoons. He passed seamlessly from theme to theme with a dazzling selection of cross-fades and segues. The point came across clearly that while they may contain some humour, cartoons are not exclusively funnies. Some can be by way of subtle commentary and others plain downright vicious.

I was very impressed by the quality of some of the cartoons both in their conception and presentation and I was introduced to a load of cartoonists I had never heard of.

I was glad to see the space given to Ernest Forbes (Shemus) on whom Felix is the expert, and also to Ernest Kavanagh, who is only recently getting credit for his hard hitting political cartoons in Jim Larkin's Irish Worker, and finally to Gordon Brewster, a skilled cartoonist in whom I have a particular interest myself. All of these had risked being lost sight of before the current wave of interest in their cartoons.

Felix also drew on the Dublin Opinion, on which he has done some heavy lifting himself in recent times. Besides his recent talk to the Irish Historical Society at Boston College, Dublin, he has contributed a chapter on the Dublin Opinion to the excellent volume on Periodicals and Journalism in Twentieth-century Ireland which he has also edited with Mark O'Brien.

So I'll round off with one of the two Brewster cartoons from the talk. Chief Justice Kennedy is lampooned in the Evening Herald of 27 March 1926 for rejecting the Court Officers Bill which would put court employees under the jursidiction of the Civil Service rather than the courts. The irony being that the bill arose from a recommendation of a committee of which Judge Kennedy had himself been a member.

The talk was delivered with great aplomb to a packed, distinguished and appreciative audience.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Richmond Barracks

Click on any image for a larger version

The date is 7 November 2015 and the Dublin City Library Learning Van is parked outside St. Michael's Community Centre in Inchicore.

All very mundane, or so it seems. But the centre is the location for today's phase of the restoration of Richmond Barracks, or what's left of it.

The barracks played a major role in the aftermath of the 1916 rising, which may explain the sudden burst of interest in this decade of centenaries, but the location has seen many changes since then.

In 1926 the site was used for social housing (Keogh Square) and this trend continued with the construction (1970) and subsequent demolition (2013) of St. Michael's estate.

There is very little of the original barracks left today, but the idea is to restore what there is and it is expected that this will be completed by early next year.

People were drifting in to St. Michael's hall, bringing stories and artifacts, to be recorded today or in subsequent follow up.

The project was explained in great detail and people were able to explore their connections with this historic site.

This was my first visit to the barracks site despite fairly strong family connections with it in its heyday.

My grandfather, Patrick Mortimer, worked there as a canteen assistant at the end of his working life (1916-18) and my great grandfather, Patrick's father in law, Christopher Burgess, had a bootmaking contract with the military there at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century.

I was bringing along my grandfather's death certificate which showed that he was still employed at the barracks when he was fished out of the Liffey at Eden Quay in June 1918. He had been missing for the previous week. It is not known if his death was connected to his working for the British military in the barracks.

Dublin City Library staff were there to help record the stories and memorabilia, or just the contact details for the subsquent follow up.

Joe Lee is an independent film maker and he was on hand to scope out his contribution to the project. Joe has worked closely with Dublin City Council in the past and I have seen two of his amazing films on the O'Devaney Gardens and on St. Michael's estate. He made these some years ago during his stint as resident film maker with the Council. They are very moving films which could only have been made by someone who had got the full trust of the residents at the time.

I will be very interested to see his film on Richmond Barracks.

A brief confab on how the day is going between Joe and Éadaoin Ní Chléirigh, CEO of the project.

St. Michael's school rolls are inspected while the young lady with the microphone gathers material for her forthcoming Newstalk radio documentary.

There she is again. No opportunity lost.

There is a model of the old barracks on display, and would you believe it, all that is now left of all those buildings is the orange coloured gym and the two buildings on either side. There is also St Michael's church which used to be the barracks church (Protestant) but is now the local Roman Catholic church.

You can see it more clearly on this 1900 map, the three red highlighted barracks buildings in the centre and the church on the extreme right. The large barracks square, the white area at the top of the picture, is where St. Michael's estate was, up to a few years ago.

This is a current view of the barracks square, now totally greened, with the three remaining barracks buildings in the background.

This is a closer view of the right hand of the three remaining buildings. Liam O'Meara in his book From Richmond Barracks to Keogh Square records this, the South Recreation room, as housing a Canteen. It appears this was the Officers' canteen and the canteen for the private soldiers was at the western side of the barracks, just behind where this photo was taken from, at St. Vincent St. W. So whether we are looking at the canteen where my grandfather worked, or whether that was in one of the now demolished buildings is anyone's guess.

This is a closer up shot of the orange building in the middle, originally the gymnasium. It was the scene of the trial of Tom Kehoe after the 1916 rising. He died later in the Civil War and I have already drawn attention to his amazing tombstone in the graveyard in Knockananna. It was also the scene of the trial of Eoin McNeill to whom I am distantly related (maternal grandfather of husband of 2nd cousin of mine).

And, finally, an exclusive look inside the Learning Van, the technical hub of today's proceedings, where all the scanning is done.

And viewed on the big screen.