Monday, January 21, 2019


Robert MacRae - Jersey's Attorney General
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This is a story, staggering in its simplicity but shrouded in mystery nonetheless.

Candidates for the Jersey parliament (States of Jersey) are supposed to submit their expenses returns by a certain date following the election. In the past, compliance was seriously deficient, so the Attorney General sought tougher legislation with significant fines and possible loss of seat for successful candidates. This legislation was passed by the States a few years ago.

You would imagine that this would have ensured 100% compliance, particularly among successful candidates. Well, following the 2018 election the Attorney General recently decided to prosecute three candidates for non compliance. Two of these were successful in the elections and risked losing their seats.

Meanwhile a former States member, but unsuccessful candidate this time round, decided to do a bit of investigating and found that half the States members, including the Council of Ministers, were non compliant.

As soon as this was revealed the Attorney General abandoned the existing prosecutions.

This has raised a number of questions:
  • Why did the AG decide to prosecute?
  • How did he pick the particular three to prosecute?
  • Was he not aware of the extent of non-compliace?
  • What was the real reason he failed to prosecute other non-compliant candidates?
  • And why, precisely, did he abandon the prosecutions
Now, it could be argued that this is a minor infringement and has been tolerated for years but, if the AG decided to proseute anybody, he must have considered it a serious offence. So why the selectivity?

Despite this being a serious constitutional crisis, Jersey's main stream media have ignored it until their feet were put to the fire, and ITV and BBC (local branches) have now interviewed the researcher, Nick Le Cornu, and the blogger who published his research, Mike Dunn (alias Tom Gruchy).

Meanwhile another blogger, Niall McMurray (alias Voice for Children) has videoed the media interviews and these will ultimately be compared with the transmitted versions to see how the media are handling this. Jersey's main stream media are very, very, slow to criticise the authorities particularly on any matters related to the good, or otherwise, governance of the Island.

Nick Le Cornu

You can hear Mike's interview with Nick here.

Thursday, January 17, 2019


Going Down To Moore St. by Anne Kelly, €140

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It always feels good to go out for a walk, even if it's only around the block and in the freezing cold.

The other day I went down the village and my first port of call, in out of the cold, was my local library. This is a very interesting and pro-active library and I have blogged on it on many previous occasions.

They actually had two exhibitions running. The first from a local Mixed Media Art Group, where the quality was mixed but there were four beautiful Dublin street pictures, one of which is reproduced above. I really love that style. Pictures are for sale, so if you're in Raheny before the end of the month, do drop in.

The second was a beautifully presented eight panel exhibit of archeological artifacts in Norway illustrating aspects of Viking life, and in particular Irish and Christian influences.

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The range of sponsors was impressive - four Irish and two Norwegian.

Commentary was to the point.

And the illustrations were well presented.

Irish artifacts apart, we even had Irish Queen Sunniva, flee Ireland for an island off the coast of Norway, embrace martyrdom there, and become the patron saint of Bergen.

Apart from its fascinating content the exhibition is a masterclass in presentation.

So back out into the cold and my next place of refuge is the local Catholic church, which I'm sure registered some surprise at this infrequent presence. It is one of those big hangars which I'm sure the church must regret building in the hubris of suburban expansion in the 1960s and 1970s. They are costly to heat and as time goes on probably more difficult to fill.

My visit was, however, very positive. Unlike in my day, the church now had a toilet. What heavenly bliss. It also appeared to show some discrimination with not a sign of that rag ALIVE in sight.

And there was a shrine to my favourite saint. The patron saint of extortioners and bankers, St. Anthony. He extracts the maximum contribution from his supplicants, holding back the gift of finding till they have almost bankrupted themselves.

In my youth I ended up owing him more than I could ever pay, so I got the bright idea of taking his name in confirmation to appease him. I have never been visited by any etherial debt collectors since, so it must have worked.

From the look of things he is still in business and thriving. I first saw this idea of putting offerings in a heavy safe bolted to the ground in Berkeley Road church some years ago. Brought me up short then. But on reflection it seemed quite sensible when even relics are being nicked in our local churches.

Wouldn't have happened in my day. People would have been afraid of being smote on the spot.

And this is the safe in case you're wondering.

So we'll leave St. Anthony with this traditional image and pass on to the nuns.

Looking at the available literature I came across the Mission Newsletter from the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart. This seems to be a praiseworthy order with missions in some of the world's most troubled hotspots, bringing literacy and healthcare to the poor and oppressed. Reading the newsletter brought the phrase "liberation theology" to mind. This sort of stuff was being actively suppressed by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and it was only in mid-career, and in very distressing circumstances, that Pope Francis came to terms with it.

For all that was good in this newsletter, it was actually the back cover that caught my attention. So the missions were still appealing for used postage stamps. I remember this well from my youth. In fact it was how I first came in contact with Kenneth McCabe SJ when he wrote a piece called "Autobiography of a Stamp" for the Shanganagh Valley News which I was editing at the time (1958). I have more recently blogged on this most exceptional man who is sadly no longer with us.

And last but not least my local supermarket with which I have a love-hate relationship. But that's for another day.

Today I paused before the automatic door. Had I approached too close the doors would have opened and I would not have been able to read the amazing poster for dementia inclusive shopping. That clearly is also a subject for another day.

What particularly caught my attention was the advice to some poor demented shopper who might need a rest to sit in front of and outside the automatic door.

I'd say this offer, if taken up, would produce many more demented shoppers on the spot and there'd be no end to it.

Anyway, with all of the above, I hope I have persuaded you that it's good to go out for a walk.

Saturday, January 12, 2019


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Síle Seoighe recently interviewed John Cleese who commented on the unpronounceability of her name to a stranger.
He has a thing about names, and asks Seoige about her surname. “It’s impossible to pronounce. Why don’t you Irish spell your names properly?” She’s Julie Joyce, she tells him, if it makes it easier.
My mother had shorthand. I'm not sure to what extent it served her in her pre-marital career, working in Monaghan's of Rialto and subsequently in a Department of Social Welfare Employment Exchange. In her day it was a sort of basic qualification for secretarial work and I think she shared this accomplishment with none other than W.T.Cosgrave.

It did serve her well, though, in her role as a mother. We were in awe of her ability to take down the words of songs from the radio. It was nearly like being on the internet which, of course, wasn't invented for another thirty years.

So what's the connection between all that jumble of material above? Bear with me.

The following material is taken from two separate posts I have done in the past. Cleese's question brought them both to mind and they are related.

The first relates to George Bernard Shaw's attempts to simplify the writing of English based on phonetics.

[SPOILER ALERT] The second deals with a language which has already done this.

Phonetic English

GBS took a great interest in the English alphabet and offered a significant prize for anyone who could come up with a phonetic alphabet to replace the existing rather ramshackle arrangements.

As someone who has tried to teach English to foreigners (who else), I have every sympathy with this approach. English pronounciation is appallingly difficult to learn and can be perfected only by rote. Even then it is rampant with distinctions based on location (an enriching element) and on class (a disgrace).

A competition was announced in 1957 and 450 entries were received in the course of 1958. No single entry was deemed winner and the prize was shared by four contestants. Penguin Books published a version of Shaw's "Androcles and the Lion" in parallel text as an aid to learning the new alphabet.

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You covered up the new text, translated the standard English text, and then compared your results with the "official" version. I had a go at it and was quite impressed at its economy and consistency. However, try as I did, I could never quite get it quite right. I found this very discouraging until I realised that the phonetic alphabet reflected the phonetics of the author or standard-maker and his pronounciation of certain words were not the same as mine. Standard English spelling has now been accepted as representing a range of different pronounciations and introducing a new standard would open up a pandora's box.

The new alphabet never caught on and one of the contestants described it as "a slimming down of written English to the point of anorexia". You can go into more detail here or here.
By the time that his vision of a new alphabet for the English language had been realised and printed, George Bernard Shaw was dead. A Nobel-winning playwright, critic and polemicist, he spent half a century exasperated by how English was written and campaigning for its reform. It would be twelve years after his ashes were scattered before people might have found — innocuous amongst the shelves of their local libraries — that strange biscript edition of Androcles and the Lion: its pages now creamed, dried and softened with age; every other page inscrutable and seemingly printed with tinned spaghetti. Shavian.

Shavian was to be an ideal alphabet: easier to read, write and print and accurately reflecting speech. It is a rare example not only of a new writing system, but of one that was adapted for 20th-century printing technology. Along with the alphabet itself, its designer, Kingsley Read, would be responsible for three hot-metal fonts for the printing of Androcles, and another for a small number of typewriters that could be ordered, for a time, from the Imperial Typewriter Company.

For constructed writing systems, let alone constructed writing systems of the 20th century, Shavian enjoyed a rare degree of technical implementation, skilled execution and, thanks to its association with Shaw, public attention. But despite all that it was a failure. Shaw’s dream of replacing Latin with a writing system that was scientific, rational, efficient, ergonomic and so much more, may have been made almost real, but all the lead, tin and antimony, all the ink pressed into paper to make it real wasn’t quite enough. Shavian is now largely relegated to the cupboard of typographic curiosities.

Cad is ainm duit?

Once upon a time, I went to an economic summit in Amman, Jordan, organised by the Crown Prince, who was at the time the heir apparent to King Hussein.

At the registration desk, the man filling out my id badge (above) asked me my name.
I told him. "Again please" was the reply.
I told him again. "Again please" was the reply.
I told him again. "Again please" was the reply.
I told him again.

I was just beginning to think this guy wasn't really with it when he appeared to give up, completed my id badge and handed it to me.

On reflection I thought, well, my name is in Irish and that would not have been an everyday experience for him. And then I promptly forgot about the whole thing.

Much later, I was at a reception hosted by the Irish Consul. I was quite surprised when people coming up to me pronounced my name properly without having to be told. That wouldn't happen at home in a fit. In Dublin I have been called all sorts of things, up to and including "Mr. Gruber".

I really didn't know what to make of it all until much later when I mentioned this to the Irish Ambassador. He was not in the least surprised by the whole thing. He explained that Arabic is written phonetically. Then it all made sense. The man filling out my badge was actually zeroing in on the precise pronounciation of my name and my subsequent experience at the reception passed him with flying colours.

Sunday, January 06, 2019


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I'll really have to stop reading incoming emails. There are just too many of them. And then there's the content. I haven't enough room left in my head to evaluate and store it all. I am definitely not up to the level of the Village Master in Goldsmith's Deserted Village:
And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew,
That one small head could carry all he knew.
Anyway the email was from Martin Ryan. You may remember him for his wonderful photo of the waitress in Donaghmede.

Well, he was drawing my attention to a publication on Flann O'Brien, the cover of which you can see above. It is a great read if you have the least interest in Brian O'Nolan.

I'm just setting out below some of the thoughts I had as I read through it.

It reproduces this plaque from Flann's birthplace. The English is fine but a rough back translation of the Irish would be along these lines:
the strange birth of something approaching a writer
And it's not as though they lacked the odd fada, and someone must have proof-read it.

There is some material on the original Bloomsday which brought to mind the above modification I made to a photo of this from another source a while back - the day that Myles was streched. Not a unique day by all accounts.

For me Myles has always been An Béal Bocht - the original MOPE in the Irish language. It was first published in 1941 but it is Colm O'Loughlin's edition from Dolmen Press in 1964 that really gives the work its due - a really beautiful production, which I am proud to possess. The cover carries the same illustration by Seán O'Sullivan as the 1941 original but it has an additional air of quality to it in 1964.

The 1964 frontespiece is a work of art (above) and you can compare it with the original (below).

But what really makes the 1964 edition is the text, well, more precisely the font. The 1942 edition text is shown above and is the standard Cló Gaelach of its day.

But the 1964 font is something else. Essentially the more modern Cló Rómhánach but short of substituting the "h" for the séimhiú and retaining some characters from the earlier font. Mind you, it takes you a few seconds to acclimatise to it, but is it not a thing of beauty.

And Seán O'Sullivan's map - a whole psycho realm. You'd be tempted to do a rework for today's Brexit but you'd be hard put to find the wit.

Before I go, and nothing to do with the publication under discussion here, you might like to peruse this account by O'Brien on some Disturbances in Howth.

I'll finish with this sketch of Myles by Seán O'Sullivan.

Saturday, January 05, 2019


Archbishop Welby's New Year Tweet
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Into my mailbox came a long email from Jayne Harris. For a moment I'd forgotten her real name and wondered what it might be about.

Then I remembered. Jayne formerly went under the handle HG and she was the lady, who, coming from an already troubled family background, had been abused twice over in Jersey (CI) in 2010 and had, since then, been condemned to live a most appalling life on the mainland.

The occasion of her email was a remark by Church of England's Archbishop Justin Welby in the course of his New Year message and which you see reproduced in his tweet above.

Openness my arse, if you'll pardon the crudity. Jayne's story is testimony to the absolute reverse in her case. While she had been abused before coming to Jersey and after her brutal deportation off the Island, it is her experience in Jersey that I am most familiar with and it is enough to give you a flavour of this poor woman's misfortunes.

Briefly, this is the sequence:
a churchwarden in Jersey abused a vulnerable young lady. When she complained to the Dean he effectively ignored her complaint and when she made a fuss he had her arrested. She was then deported from Jersey and dumped penniless on the mainland where she was mainly homeless for the following three years. The then Bishop (Scott-Joynt) was a waste of space but when the new bishop (Dakin) came in he suspended the Dean. His feelings in the matter are no doubt to his credit. However, as he was badly advised and exceeded his powers, he had to reinstate the Dean who immediately, and falsely, claimed that he had been exonerated of the bad behaviour of which he had been accused. Relations between the Bishop and the Dean deteriorated to the point that the Bishop (Dakin) dumped the Dean on another Bishop (Willmott) who is now supposed to "supervise" him.
The critical pivot in this story is the then Dean of Jersey, Bob Key. He was in charge and he fell down on two counts. The churchwarden was under his jurisdiction and this same churchwarden was not supposed to be unchaperoned in the company of a woman. This stricture was ignored in Jayne's case and when she complained about the churwarden's inappropriate behaviour he was not appropriately dealt with and she was not taken seriously.

A factor in the Jersey church's inadequate treatment of the churchwarden was probably not unrelated to his being the brother of a Jersey VIP, who had, incidentally himself been accused of abuse and whose identity the Jersey Abuse Inquiry had tried to hide (but that's another botched story).

You can read more background on the saga here and here.

Anyway Jayne's current letter is taking Welby up on his offer of openness and spelling out for him the consequence that should follow if he really means it. I have reproduced a few critical passages below and you can keep an eye on the news to see if there is any follow up. I wouldn't be holding my breath.

Jayne's long letter was addressed to the Jersey administration, parliamentarians, Deanery and Press. She also circulated a copy to three bloggers, including myself.
And as the Archbishop spoke about Openness, then it is assumed that he is resigning for his actions in my case and handing himself in to the police, it would be assumed he would expect Bishops Willmott, Dakin, Hancock and Butler to do the same, along with those in the Jersey Deanery who destroyed me. Good. This means it is time for an independent investigation into my case, from Bob Key to the police and the conflicted dignitaries to the subversive and openly criminal safeguarding partnership.
I would like to remind the Bishop of Dover, Diocese of Canterbury and Deaneries of Jersey and Guernsey that, a decade on, there has been no investigation into my case and no apology for the openly conflicted million pound whitewash of my case by John Gladwin, Heather Steel, Jan Korris and Jersey Safeguarding Partnership from their conflicted positions.
There has also been no criminal or disciplinary action against Philip and William Bailhache, Ian LeMarquand, Ian Gorst, Bridget Shaw ...
Making me out to be mad has very very seriously affected my mental health and added to the already unhealable and eventually fatal harm to me, the church are archaic in behaving in such an appalling manner when faced with autism and trauma, so I am glad that the disgraced and soon to be imprisoned archbishop is agreeing to be open, he is stating that it is time for Butler Sloss and Bursell, Steel and Gladwin and the rest to be exposed for their criminal corruption and abuse of power, systemic whitewash of high profile cases, and face sentences, of course that is what he means by being open and honest, he means Shaw and Bailhache, Birt and Steel and the rest, right down to Satan's Priest, Mike Taylor, whose actions in facilitating abuse and vilifying me would have cost him his job a decade ago in a normal organization. Good. I am glad I will die knowing that these wicked people will be punished.
There are quite a few people in those extracts who Jayne implicates in her extended abuse, but in my view it was the Dean's involvement which set off the disgraceful train of events which led to where Jayne is now. She had finally settled in Jersey, was involved in the local community, and had a potentially bright future ahead of her, that is until the Dean panicked in a most un-Christlike manner.

The Dean has left Jersey and has now been made the Church of England's Global Evangeliser promoting a programme called Thy Kingdom Come (or as Stuart might paraphrase it There's a Train Coming Down the Track). In this role he has been happily travelling the world.

I caught up with him giving a pompous interview to the New Zealand church and it's here if you can stomach it without throwing up.

The (former) Dean uses a very interesting phrase in the course of the interview when referring to his time in Jersey. He says
"... after I stopped being her majesty's Dean of Jersey a year ago ..."
Not the bishop but the Queen herself. Apart from the name-dropping involved, this carefully modulated reference cleverly conceals the fact that his bishop suspended him for his mistreatment of Jayne but it was Her Majesty herself that got him reinstated.

This resulted from a constitutional quirk. Jersey is a Crown Dependency directly answerable to the Monarchy and the Monarch herself, who is also head of the Church of England, had also effectively appointed the Dean. He actually had a (non-voting) seat in the Jersey parliament.

So, short of the Queen sacking him he could hang in there and he shamelessly did. The bishop then had to re-instate him and that was trumpeted by the local mafia as him being "exonerated" and the half-apology he had previously offered was wiped clean off the slate.

So it is quite sickening to see him pull the Holy Joe on a poor unsuspecting New Zealand church and interviewer.

Anyway, back to the letter. I have not been following Jayne's plight for some time, principally since we fell out a few years back. But her awful situation, to judge from the letter, has just been getting worse and the fact that she is still in the land of the living, she herself puts down to her being a tough cookie at the end of the day. We should not forget that many survivors do eventually throw in the towel and become simply victims passing seamlessly into the land of the willfully forgotten.

Lest I get attacked for naïvely taking her side, I have to say that she can be awkward, including for her champions, but this is not an excuse for mistreating a human being, particularly one whose awkwardness is born out of trauma. And I think I can claim some objectivity from having been in both her good and bad books over the years.

For her, I wish justice and nothing less. As for the Dean ...

I'm sure the evangelysing/proselytising former Dean does not lose any sleep from a fear of meeting the same fate as John The Baptist, so I'll leave you with a final meditation on this weak and venal man. With due apologies to Charlie Hebdo which so often gets so much right.

Friday, December 28, 2018


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I haven't posted on Jersey for a while. This is mainly because not much has been happening. Yes, I know there has been an election and a new Chief Minister, and the "leader of the opposition" has become Children's and Housing Minister and so on. But it is too early to assess the significance of these changes, if any.

What has provoked me into print is a development relating to the Abuse Inquiry. I know I will be accused of being obsessed with this feature of Island life and that does not worry me one whit.

How the authorities react in this area is a litmus test of their sincerity across the board and it is a simple one that is easily accessible.

People will remember that, earlier this year, the Inquiry's web site was taken down pending further redaction to protect the innocent (and maybe a few of the guilty as well). Not everyone believed the reasons given for the take down as it conveniently (for some) deprived researchers of the raw material necessary for an in depth evaluation of the Inquiry and of the authorities' response to it.

Fortunately, some of us had already lost trust in the Inquiry and in the authorities so this may not prove to be as serious an obstacle as it first appeared.

We were promised that the site would be gradually restored as appropriate redactions were made to the content, and, lo and behold, the first phase of the restoration is now finally upon us.

Before I go any further, a technical comment. I would have imagined that the first redaction would have been to upgrade the site's security in line with what is happening generally, including in the case of my own web site and my blogs (at Blogger). However when I try to access the partially restored site under the security protocol (https) my browser tells me:
The owner of has configured their website improperly. To protect your information from being stolen, Firefox has not connected to this website.
This is a serious omission for an Inquiry which has already had its security lapses when in session.

I have had neither the time, nor the inclination at this stage, to examine what has been put back up in any great detail, but there is one glaring omission which screamed out at me.

In the section on Key Documents, there is an index to the "rulings" of the Inquiry on various matters such as media accreditation (of which more another time) and provision of, or funding for, legal advice/representation.

The Inquiry unjustifiably rejected Stuart Syvret's application for such funding despite the fact that he was a key witness and had been put in a very tricky legal situation by the Royal Court.

That ruling was always absent from the index though the ruling itself could be found on the site if one knew how to look for it. The partially restored site not only continues to omit the ruling from the index, but the ruling itself has now been taken down.

In the face of this unjustifiable and provocative piece of vandalism, I have posted the ruling on my own web site so that people can judge this matter for themselves.

I have referred to the restoration as partial. By this I mean that only part of the site has been restored. The word also has another meaning which may also be relevant, we'll see.

Anyway, what has not been restored is the transcripts of the oral hearings and the vast volumes of evidence submitted by participants to the Inquiry. These would be the meat of any assessment of the Inquiry and of the authorities' response to it.

Had these not been posted in the first place, and subsequently clumsily redacted, I would not necessarily have known the identity of the person referred to as 737 and that they were still in a prominent position in the financial sector despite being scheduled for police interview under caution as a suspect in the rape of an adult female.

So the taking down and continued absence of this material is no small matter.

While I'm in full flight, I'd like to refer to a document which has been brought to my attention. It is a discussion by some legal bods on The Jersey Way in the context of moving on from the Inquiry.

While it is by no means comprehensive, understandably so in a document emaninating from within the Jersey legal fraternity, and while it retains a sloppy reference to the infamous "coconut", it does have some sensible things to say on the subject.

It is something of an academic work, containing as it does many references to other sources, but this may be a useful feature as it brings together some of the current thinking in this area.

A central theme is trust and transparency - how to regain popular trust by operating in a fully transparent manner. While Jersey is still a long way from this, it is worth mentioning here some of the observations in the document.

It has an extensive comment on the Inquiry's dealings with Stuart Syvret:
An obvious hole in the Jersey Care Inquiry Report is the absence of former Senator Stuart Syvret’s evidence. Syvret had been an outspoken critic of the way the Jersey establishment had dealt with allegations of child abuse dating back to the 1970’s. In 2007 he was dismissed from his post as the Minister for Health and Social Services after claiming that child abuse cases were being covered up. When Syvret called for an independent inquiry he was accused by the then Chief Minister, Frank Walker, of damaging Jersey’s reputation. Syvret was arrested in April 2008 and charged under the Data Protection Act in relation to articles written on his blog allegedly containing confidential information. The Care Inquiry report noted his refusal to assist the inquiry as regrettable. But Syvret himself told the Jersey Evening Post that he wanted to give evidence, but did not because he was not granted legal representation, something he felt he needed to prevent the breach of any of the court orders that were in place against him.

If the States of Jersey truly wanted to draw a line and turn a new leaf, which is what this inquiry sought to do, then legal representation should have been granted to Stuart Syvret. That would have served one of the strongest possible indications yet that the government wants to move forward into an era of transparency and honesty whilst at the same time demonstrating an element of humility, which has been so lacking in the eyes of the victims.
So I am clearly entitled to attach significance to this ruling by the Inquiry and am not surprised they have gone to some lengths to hide it as it is a perverse ruling and, in my view, undermines the independence of the Inquiry itself.

Furthermore, the document quotes
Specifically, McAlinden and Naylor argue, the inherent limitations of public inquiries, like narrow terms of reference, which are primarily focused on recommendations for law reform, ‘may impede the deeper systemic exploration of the context, causes and consequences of abuse that may be necessary in seeking a just process and outcomes for victims’.
A. McAlinden and B. Naylor, (2016) Reframing Public Inquiries as ‘Procedural Justice’ for Victims of Institutional Child Abuse: Towards a Hybrid Model of Justice, Sydney Law review, Vol.38, p.294.

This particular Inquiry narrowed its own terms of reference and then only went beyond them when it suited it. It ignored the term of reference which obliged it to go back to the States (parliament) before it set its rules and procedures in stone. It went outside its terms of reference in commenting on the Victoria College scandal but refused to comment on the significance of the illegal suspension of the Police Chief although this was a critical event in the attempted cover up of abuse and the effective shutting down of Operation Rectangle. There is no question but that this suspension was slap bang in the middle of its terms of reference. It also refused to follow up on the apparent abandonment of the scheduled police interview with person 737 in the immediate aftermath of the Police Chief's suspension.

Clearly the Inquiry itself baulked at any effort to pursue the trail into the financial sector, the reputation of which it put above its own purpose. And there is no point in saying to me that this was an alleged adult victim and so not relevant to the Inquiry. It was a classic demonstration of the psychology behind the whole cover up, and the Inquiry knew this.

So how could one trust this Inquiry to have due regard to the "deeper systematic exploration" referred to in the quote above.

Anyway, this post has gone on long enough. You can read the legal bods document yourself if you are sufficiently interested. It is worth the read and seems to me to represent some small awakening in the legal profession to the need to raise these issues in public if there is ever to be closure in this horrific area.

Just a parting footnote: I would not like to be taken as ignoring the efforts of Philip Sinel, single-handedly among the Jersey legal fraternity, to do precisely this at no small cost to himself.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


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History might as well be water, chastising this shore;
for we learn nothing from your endless sacrifice.
Your faces drowning in the pages of the sea.
The quote above is from a poem by Carol Ann Duffy, written especially for Pages of the Sea, which was read by individuals, families and communities on the day.

As Danny Boyle, who conceived this idea, said, it's hard to be original with commemorations year after year. But he has come up with this brilliant idea.

At low tide, on armistice day, portraits of a number of WWI casualties are drawn in the sand at a number of carefully selected beaches. People come and pay their respects and, as the tide comes in, the sea claims the images.

At a more personal level, there are stencils which people can use to draw generic outlines in the sand and dedicate them to family members killed in the war or whom so ever. These are then also claimed by the sea.

I'd like to comment on three of the former type and one of the latter.

Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen was a war poet and he embarked for France at Folkestone. He was killed in the last week of the war in 1918. His poetry dwelt on the horror and savagery of war, much of it expressed in jarring para-rhyme.

I was introduced to Owen's poetry in school, in the late 1950s/early 1960s by an inspirational English teacher, Michael Judge.

Hedd Wyn (Ellis Evans)

I have long had an interest in Welsh poet Hedd Wyn (Ellis Evans) from Trawsfynydd. His story is embedded in Welsh Wales martyrology. He was posthumously awarded the Bardic Chair at the Birkenhead Eisteddfod having lost his life in Flanders between the submission of his winning poem and the proclamation of the winner at the Eisteddfod. On that occasion the Chair was draped in black.

Robert Taylor

My connection here is with a distant cousin-by-marriage, Patrick Joseph Daly, who went down with the HMS Tipperary in the Battle of Jutland in 1916. The fleet set out from its Scapa Flow base in Orkney. Robert Taylor was born in Orkney. There is another non-family connection with Robert who fought at Paschendale and was killed at Poelcapelle near Ypres, not far from where Hedd Wyn had fallen earlier that year (1917). However the connection I have in mind arises from him being buried in nearby Poperinge which has strong connections with Dún Laoghaire, as I have myself.

Theophilius Jones

This one is a little trickier.

Who the hell is Theophilius Jones and what is the Redcar connection?

Well, Theo is believed to have been the first military casualty on British soil from enemy fire during the First World War. But that is entirely irrelevant to my story.

Redcar is a beach in North Yorkshire and the nearest I've been to it is Durham, in the mid 1970s, when a policeman in a Panda car caught me shinning down the Castle drainpipe in the middle of the night. That too is irrelevant to my story.

Leigh Brewster lives in the Redcar area and he is a grand-nephew of Richard Gardiner Brewster whom he was commemorating on the beach. That is very relevant to my story.

Richard died in France on 21 March 1918.He was the brother of Gordon Brewster, the artist and cartoonist, who died in my mothers shop on 16 June 1946. Leigh is Gordon's grandson.

So now that's all sorted and clear as a bell.

This photo and those below are from Leigh Brewster

This is Leigh roughing up the exposed sand within the stencil, creating a generic image which will be part of Richard's memorial.

The finished memorial to Richard Gardiner Brewster is now ready to be claimed by the sea. Note the poppy.

This is Leigh's 4 year old granddaughter, Lizzie Rose Brewster, also doing one of the stencils for other family members lost during the war. Her figure was the last one stencilled on the beach.

Lizzie is Gordon's great-great-grand-daughter. Isn't that something.

There are many layers to this project, one of which is well illustrated above.

The stencil here is clearly of a female. It is a generic female/nurse and it is designed to honour the many women who were involved in WWI and their civilian sisters. A fitting stencil for Lizzie's memorial though, on the specifics, this one in the sand is for two of Lizzie's male ancestors.

The inscription on the left reads "Ernest Williams 1915" and is to Leigh's wife Angela's great uncle, killed in 1915. The inscription on the right reads "Stanley Wheeler 1918" a great uncle of Leigh's, killed in 1918. So the net, even within this one family, is spread wide and the engagement has come down through many generations.

The female stencil is also being used by some to remember civilians who died during the conflict.

Even "the unknown soldier" is not forgotten. As Leigh describes it:
One of the aspects that was particularly evocative was this. As you approached the beach, the organisers handed out a random photo of someone killed during the war. There was a poem on the back. A number of people then did a stencil and placed the photo with that stencil.

In effect, remembering the sacrifice of someone they had no connection with.
Leigh also referred me to this account of the raid in which Theophilius lost his life. It also helps an understanding of why this particular location was chosen for participation in the project.

All those personal memorials. I had known about Pages of the Sea and the big facial images but had not copped the personal dimension. When Leigh told me about Richard's memorial, that and the rest of those you see above had already been claimed by the sea.

Full marks to Danny Boyle for a brilliantly thought-through project.

Monday, December 10, 2018


Click on any image for a larger version

It's more a question of Irish archives in City Hall alongside the Gate.

Archives: the launch of the 2018 Journal of the Irish Society for Archives.

Gate: an exhibition from the archives of the Gate Theatre.

In fact these blend harmoniously as the current journal is dedicated to The Gate Theatre at 90.

Raymond Refaussé

Raymond is Chair of the Irish Sociey for Archives (ISA) and he welcomed us to this event which was the launch of the Society's journal for 2018.

This year's journal has a graphic upgrade and appears in full colour thanks to sponsorship by Dublin City Council's Centenary of Commemorations.

Nial Ring

Dublin's current Lord Mayor, Nial Ring, launched the publication, though, as he commented, there is no specific protocol for the actual act of launching. Not like with a ship.

Anyway when he got to that point at the end of his speech he just declared it launched. I've done this myself and it's a funny feeling. Nothing happens, no trumpets, no thunder and lightening. The launched publication looks no different from the unlaunched one. A bit like transubstantiation and thank God we all understand that even if we don't fully subscribe to it.

Anyway Nial stressed the importance of archives and of respecting the past. He got a round of applause and "hear hears" when he underlined the necessity of ensuring the teaching of history in the schools. It's part of what we are.

I'm sure he won't mind me saying this - you might as well be listening to Bertie, the voice that is. However, where Bertie tended to talk in rambling riddles, Nial was a model of clarity.

Elizabeth McEvoy

Elizabeth is one of the two co-editors of the journal and in a substantial speech she went into the history of the Gate Theatre includingg the tremendous contribution of Micheál Mac Liammóir and Hilton Edwards to Dublin theatre in general.

I'm not going to labour this one but who did I find myself sitting beside but Sabina Higgins, who, thankfully, is still Ireland's First Lady. This sort of completed a mystical circle as the last time the Gate and the Presidency came into my life together was when a quartet of us pupils from Coláiste Mhuire played the presidential salute to welcome Dev and Sinéad to the opening of Féile Drámaíochta na Scol in the Gate around 1960.

That's Pamela McDermott (on the right) who took my photo with Sabina (centre) at the Photo-Detectives exhibition in Temple Bar last year. What goes around comes around.

And that's the pair of them with what I'll bet is the youngest version of Micheál you've ever seen.

Elizabeth with my favourite archivist, Ellen Murphy. Ellen has just moved from Dublin City Archive to the Registry of Deeds. While it's a step up for her she'll be missed at the archive where she has been doing trojan work for yonks. Anyway, congratulations Ellen.

Susan Hood who is the other co-editor of the journal. Susan took over as Librarian and Archivist at the Representative Church Body (RCB) Library from Raymond Refaussé when he retired in 2016. Belated congratulations to Susan.

Mary Clarke, Dublin City Archivist, has just spotted me taking a sneaky photo.

Brian Donnelly, from the National Archives, is Vice-Chair of the ISA. I must remember to approach him sometime to see if I can get full access to my grand aunt's records from Grangegorman and Portrane.

Raymond shares a joke with Nial.

But Nial still can't find his name in the journal.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch copies of the journal, that big pile in the middle, are being snapped up.

City Hall, at the moment, is also entertaining passer by with its winter lights.

Snippets from the Exhibition

Clytemnestra from Agamemnon - Micheál's design

Micheál & Lady Friend

Our Lady of Connemara

Do drop in to City Hall and check out the exhibition and get yourself a copy of the journal which describes the many locations and content of the theatre's archive.