Friday, November 23, 2012


A placard at the recent protest march following the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar read “How About This For A Gathering, Enda!”.  Without wishing in any way to trivialise the outpouring of anger and sadness following this death in Galway, that placard highlighted perfectly what a gathering should be and what ‘THE Gathering” is not.

When the idea of this national push to attract visitors and particularly those with Irish heritage back to Ireland was first mooted I thought “brilliant... finally we have someone thinking creatively about solutions to our economic crisis.”  I looked forward to seeing how the campaign would develop and what innovative elements Failte Ireland would put in place to make a trip ‘home’ worth doing in 2013.  To coin that modern phrase which I hate... I was curious to see how they would ‘add value’ to a trip to the auld sod.

As marketing momentum built I took a look at The Gathering website  as I was having difficulty in working out exactly what was going to be happening during 2013

A tour of the site made it clear that this was a kind of DIY deal.  We, the people of Ireland, most of whom are at the pin of our collar making ends meet, are expected to invite long lost relatives to visit and lay on an event or entertainment as required.

Suddenly Fionnuala Flanagan’s guttural uttering of ‘The Gathering’ morphs into a young boy wonder marketing executive selling his brilliant idea to the board of Failte Ireland....
“You see, he says, “the beauty of this idea is that other than the marketing, developing a website etc., there is nothing to do.  We just need to put the idea in people’s heads and hype it up a bit.  Irish people love a good excuse for a party and so they’ll go ahead and organise whatever event they want – school reunions, family clan gatherings etc. We can then invite them to let us know what they are organising and we will list it on the website. It’s pure genius.”

Oh yes, Marketing Boy Wonder is right.  The Gathering is genius alright.  But, although I agree that we Irish love a party and a get together, I think that in our Post Celtic Tiger landscape Irish people also like to feel they are getting good value for money, don't like to be patronised and have a very keen radar when we are being taken for a bit of a ride!  And that holds true for the Irish Diaspora too, as articulated recently by the gorgeous poetic Gabriel Byrne (and yes, I am a woman of a certain age).

But to me there is something missing from The Gathering.  Surely there should be a real hook, an offer of something more tangible than just “we are issuing an invitation, so come on over”.  Why have we not offered perhaps a discount on hotel rates or into some of our national attractions or extra air miles if you are flying into Ireland and staying for more than a week?  Maybe I am wrong but on closer inspection The Gathering seems, to me, like a half baked idea.

Last week I got my glossy ‘The Gathering’ (remember hear it a la Ms Flanagan) postcards so that I could invite all and sundry kind of long lost relative home for a visit next year.  You know what... if I wanted to entertain guests in 2013 I would probably opt for taking a foreign student or two, who would require little entertaining and for whom I would get paid.

Now, please don't get me wrong.  I love my country and think it really one of the best places in the world to visit.  I think we have lots and lots to offer the tourist be they with or without Irish roots.  And I think Failte Ireland has done a great job in promoting Ireland as a destination.  But I am with whoever held up that banner at the Savita protest.  A proper Gathering has to have a reason, has to have soul and meaning.  For me, the only Gathering I am having does not require a postcard invitation.  Like hopefully many, many other families in Ireland my only ‘Gathering’  will be when I welcome home my eldest daughter from Perth to spend Christmas with her family!  If she spends money while she is here, great... but wouldn’t it be better if she, like thousands others, were here paying tax.. every week and not just for Christmas!

The Gathering, much like that bloody book 50 Shades of Grey is yet another example of the triumph of hype over substance!

What do you think?

Saturday, November 3, 2012


One week to go and I am still struggling with how to vote in this bloody Children’s Rights Referendum.  We have too many bloody referenda in this country anyway.  Do other so called civilised countries entertain their citizens with this stuff as regularly as we do?  It seems to rank right up there with our obsession with how others view us.

Anyway in order to make one final attempt to come to a definite decision I am going to try to articulate my feelings and ask questions, in the hope that I might get some answers to my concerns.

My first concern is about the wisdom of actually putting children’s rights into the constitution.  Surely children have the same rights as everyone else on the basis of their humanity.  My question is this.  If we are enshrining their rights on the basis of their vulnerability well then are we going to carry on and have further referenda to protect other vulnerable citizens?  I am thinking particularly of the elderly and especially those with dementia.  Elder abuse is possibly going to be the next big scandal to rock our society.  I am also thinking of those with learning disabilities etc.  Surely if children’s rights need to be specified, so should theirs?  Or does their humanity not automatically give them exactly the same human rights as the rest of the community?

Secondly I am annoyed by the Governments campaign on this issue.  Posters telling us to ‘Vote Yes for Children’ are the stupidest of all.  The vast majority of people in this country are ‘for children’.  This Government telling us to Vote Yes for children merely makes me see red.  I voted Yes for this Government in February 2011 and in so doing managed to reduce the circumstances of many vulnerable children in this country through this on-going austerity programme.  My question is this.  Will this amendment change the circumstances for poor children, for children who need SNAs in schools?  If not, then we are not voting Yes for Children... we are voting Yes for some children.

I understand that the main reason put forward for supporting this referendum is to sort out the legal limbo that many children currently in foster care find themselves in by virtue of the fact that they cannot be adopted by their foster parents.  But, if I understand things correctly, this situation will have to be rectified by legislation following the passing of this amendment.  So my question is this.  If the Government is so keen on sorting out these children why was this legislation not passed years ago?  Along with other legislation to sort out other anomalies (polite word) in our out of date, not fit for purpose adoption laws.

By amending our constitution next weekend we will be giving the state increased power over families and their children; a state who have failed children spectacularly in the past.  If my understanding is correct, the State already had the power to intervene in cases of abuse and neglect and repeatedly didn’t.  Children were left to suffer on.  My question is this.  Surely before we are asked to amend our constitution in this way we should have knowledge of exactly how the state is going to exercise this new power?  Who will decide if parents have failed in their duty to their children?  What safeguards are going to be put in place in order to ensure that children are not removed from families inappropriately?

If this referendum is passed will it really make children’s voices heard?  I have a number of questions relating to this.  Firstly, if passed will this open the way for adult children to access their adoption records?  Will it enable adult children in the future to get information on their biological parents – children who have been conceived through donations of sperm or egg?  Will it enable a family take a legal challenge over their special needs child’s right to an education?  Will this amendment force Government to really give all children all their human rights?  

My fear about this referendum is that we are being sold a pup.  The government will congratulate us all for making this a great country to be a child in.  And then they will sit back on their laurels and other than children in foster care, no other vulnerable lives will really change?

Maybe I am just an old cynic.  But I don’t trust our politicians or our system of politics.  I have a feeling in my gut that this referendum is just window dressing that actually won’t make a hill of beans to the vast majority of children.  I have a letter from 1996 from the then Minister of State at Dept of Health, Austin Curry which stated that he was aware with issues relating to step adoptions and was “having investigations made into.... an alternative mechanism.. in such cases.”  1996 – and nothing has changed.  I am very far from convinced that this Government like others before them, are serious about children?

Please tell me I am wrong?  And I am serious about these questions.... if you can provide an answer to one of more of them, please leave me an enlightening comment.  Thank you

Friday, November 2, 2012


I am delighted to be a regular contributor to the Tubridy Show on 2FM.  Ryan is a nice guy and very easy and generous presenter to work with.

This week I spoke to him about Spousal Sacrifice – which is not about sacrificing your spouse but rather the sacrifices we make to keep our relationships on track.. and spouses in line!!

Of course being an old married woman of some 16 years I have learned all about ‘spousal sacrifice’ or the art of compromise.  I have previously detailed the big lesson I learned in a previous blog post called My Husbands Love Affair.  

But in advance of the programme and for journalistic balance I did undertake exhaustive research on this topic – both with my real life friends and my virtual friends via Twitter.  Here – in no particular order – are the main things that I found caused friction in the best of relationships!  I have not included families – because we all know about that one!

Sleep – yep... mismatched sleep patterns and/or one snorer in the bed. This is not something that me & him struggle with – we both sleep like logs and both snor (apparently... I know I doubt I do)... so happy days..  But a quick survey around a neighbour’s dinner table revealed that sleep – especially when one partner is a light sleeper is cause for major compromise or compassion and consideration on a large scale.  Mammies of teenagers seem to be particularly at risk of ‘not being able to sleep’ till all chickens are back in the roost.  Daddies don’t seem to have this problem as much – sweeping generalisation – but this is what my research found!!

Housework According to my research there seem to be a lot of women who compromise on the even division of labour in the home... in my experience most women (even those who work outside the home) end up doing the bulk of the domestic and kids stuff.  Most women I spoke to have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of men employ the “let’s make a hames of it and she will insist on doing it herself”  But the real issue with housework is.... laundry

Laundry – this specifically seems to be something that men cannot seem to get a handle on...  According to my research most of them seem to employ the “as sure chuck it all together’ method to washing.  My own dearly beloved once ‘did all the washing’ one Saturday when I was working.  “Every laundry basket is empty” he told me proudly.  At the time we lived in a town house with no garden and no spin dryer.  The only way to dry clothes was on rads and a clothes horse.  He hadn’t thought his washing through.  Most of the clothes rotted before I could get them dry!!!!  Apparently he is not alone!

Bathroom – the open door policy, sharing of bodily functions... might initially be kind of romantic.. but isn’t.  Men seem to think that witnessing them pee is a sign of real intimacy.  IT IS NOT.  This is the reason why I never want an ensuite... across the landing is bad enough.  Not quite 8 out of 10 cats but a lot of the women I spoke to quoted the example of being in the shower and he HAS to come in for a wee!!!  AGGGH... and it’s worse if you are in the bath.. NOT ON AT ALL!  No compromise here... it’s just not on.

Religion – This is a biggie in some relationships.  In the past a religious ‘conflict’ in a relationship would generally have meant a ‘mixed marriage’, ie Catholic and Church of Ireland.  But nowadays more and more there are couples where one partner is staunchly a heathen married to someone who is a a la Carte Catholic but would not be comfortable with NOT having the kids baptised.  Of course this situation is ripe for family interference.  You know the scenario “what do you mean  you are  not having the baby baptised?” says Granny trying to contain her shock. – making compromise very tricky.  A difficult one to compromise on.

Parenting – many of us don’t discuss our views on children and how they should be reared till we have them.  We generally know before getting married how our partner feels about having children.  But we rarely discuss our views on parenting itself – discipline, education even childcare until we have kids.  So – you crazy kids – sort this out before ‘putting a ring on it.’

Illness – on a serious note, if one partner develops a serious illness/disability, the level of compromise and compassion and consideration makes all the above so unimportant!!

There are of course some things YOU SHOULD NEVER COMPROMISE ON.  Again in no particular order, they are...

  • Your identity..... never forget who you are.  KEEP YOUR NAME MS!!!

  • Family/Friends – no partner should make you give up on family and/or good friends.  Your partner may be your best friend but you also need your friends and especially your independent friends as opposed to your shared friends.

  • Morals – having a pain room in your house is NOT NORMAL. That bloody 50 Shades book is NOT NORMAL.

  • Self Esteem

All men should learn quickly that THEIR WIFE IS NEVER WRONG.

So – there you are – the secrets to a happy relationship.  You are very welcome!!!

You can listen back to my piece on Tubridy on 2FM this morning here.