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Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Lonely Hearts Club

Lonely heart ads had been around in Britain since 1695, when a pamphleteer concluded that love could be sold just like fish and chips or bread and milk and as easy as giving candy to a baby.

The first ever ad was by a 30-year-old man, with ‘a very good estate’, in search of ‘some good young gentlewoman that has a fortune of £3,000 or thereabouts’. £3,000 (sterling) is equivalent to roughly £300,000 today. Below are a few more lonely heart ads since:

In 1750 one read: ‘Good teeth, soft lips, sweet breath, with eyes no matter what colour so they are but expressive; of a healthy complexion, rather inclin’d to fair than brown; neat in her person, her bosom full, plump, firm and white; a good understanding, without being a wit, but cheerful and lively in conversation, polite and delicate of speech, her temper humane and tender, and to look as if she could feel delight where she wishes to give it.’

In 1768: ‘A lady, whose accomplishments hath acquired the esteem of the beau monde, having lately lost a secret friend, is desirous of putting herself under the protection of any person of rank and fortune.’

One in 1772 read simply: ‘No ­bodily deformity,’ 

Another in 1772, who wrote even more simply ‘shapely ankle preferr’d’

Yet another in 1787: ‘He must never drink above two bottles of claret, or one of port, at a sitting, and that but three times a week. His education must be liberal, and his address captivating. In company he must pay a ­constant attention to his spouse, and not ogle, or intrigue, by squints and looks, with pert misses, who constantly give men encouragement, by made-up leers, and ­manufactured sight. Only he has promised to do so in the sight of heaven. He must never get up after twelve, or rise before nine o’clock; in a word, he must be the very man he ought to be.’

In 1776, an ad appeared from a British member of parliment talking in the third person:  ‘He lives in great splendour, and from whom a considerable estate must pass if he dies without issue. He hath no objection to marry any widow or single lady, provided the party be of genteel birth, polite manners, and five, six, seven, or eight months gone in her pregnancy.’ 

By World War 1 (1914 to 1918, a British soldier had placed this ad: ‘Lonely young officer, up to his neck in Flanders, would like to correspond with young lady (age 18-20), cheery and good looking.’

While a soldiers girlfriend in1915 wrote: ‘Lady, fiancé killed, will gladly marry officer totally blinded or otherwise incapacitated by the War.’

During the American Civil War between 1861-1865, this extract from a soldier to a woman who had responded to his lonely hear ad is my favourite, and so describes the efforts of what a little embellishment can do in the tangled web he weaved when he lied (just a little) to deceive to support his quest for that special partner:-  

Camp of the11th Battery. Feb 9th 1864
‘Before proceeding further, truth and candor compel me to acknowledge that a little deception was used in the advertisement in the “Waverly.”  In other words, my true description differs materially from the one therein set forth, and may not please you as well as the one “fancy painted,” but I thought it was all for fun, therefore funningly gave a fictitious description as well as cognomen. 
Be it known unto you then, this individual is 29 years of age, five feet and eleven inches high, dark blue eyes, brown hair, and light (ruddy) complexion. There you have it. How do you like the description? Me thinks I hear you answer. I don’t like it so well as the advertised description. Well ! I’ll admit it is not quite so fascinating to a young lady as the fictitious one, but it is a fixed fact, “like the laws of the Medes and Persians,” which alter not.”……’

Barry Clifford

‘We’re not as far from Magdalene days as we’d like to believe’

‘Eclipsed’ tackled abuse in laundries in 1992. The original cast are set to read it at Galway

A case that divided a town and shocked a watching nation

December 2009: Friday in Listowel, a week before Christmas, there was frost on the stone bridge over the Feale and a blistering blue bit the sky. It was a Bryan MacMahon story-book sort of day designed for the holly gathered, the fire lit and the candle set in the lace-curtained window, for storytelling and piano music in the graceful houses lining the fine square of the market town.
But the plot was more John B Keane, that other literary great of the Kerry town.
Not exactly Sive. But there were elements. There was rural versus town, middle-class versus poor, older man versus younger woman. But this was a 21st-Century type of Sive -- with Black Russian cocktails and sex, or attempts at sex, on hard tarmac alongside a skip, and grainy cctv footage.

A courtroom, a young woman from a poor background taken by ambulance, enduring a clinical examination in a sexual assault unit, supported by Rape Crisis Centre counsellors but shunned elsewhere and then suicidal.
In the end, a town with a high reputation for fiction, carefully honed over decades, was riven and undone by the extraordinary resolve of that young woman, who was far from literary pretensions -- "to tell the truth, the grainy truth and nothing but the grainy truth" against all intimidation, and her own lack of self-confidence.

By noon on Friday, along the streets draped with festive decorations, the reaction to the case was raw -- though no-one would give their names.
But Maurice O'Sullivan, a respected Listowel solicitor with no connections to either party, had enough of it and went public to register his support for the young woman and his shock at the queue of sympathisers allowed to form in court -- to shake hands with or even embrace the man who sexually assaulted her.
"I am curious as to how (the queue) was allowed to happen. . . It is hard to believe it wasn't pre-arranged. It's a very serious step backwards," he said.

When Danny Foley, 35, of Meen, outside Listowel, was convicted on December 4 at Tralee Circuit Criminal Court -- after a unanimous verdict from a jury of 10 men and two women -- of sexually assaulting a 22-year-old female on the morning of June 16, 2008, in a car park at the back of Mermaids nightclub, in the centre of Listowel, nobody could have foreseen the chain of events that would drag the town into the unwelcome glare of national publicity.
Far from coming to the notice of gardai for any law-breaking, Foley, who had worked as a security man in the Listowel area for the last 10 years, had always been helpful to them.
The burly man, known as "the gentle giant", was a well-known figure. He was a bouncer at Jumbo's late night chip shop, across from Mermaids nightclub -- where he went to celebrate his 34th birthday on the night of June 15, 2008.

Foley was in the thick of late-night events of Listowel's William St -- a short distance from John B Keane's small pub and home. His employer, Listowel business man Dermot O'Mahony, told the sentencing hearing last Wednesday that he had a "calming influence" on the street.
"He's an exceptional security man," said Mr O'Mahony -- a distinguished-looking silver-haired gent who stood out among the mainly rural crowd who packed the benches of Tralee Courthouse in support of Foley at last week's sentencing.
Mr O'Mahony described the defendant as "polite, inoffensive, courteous and calm".
"People like him, and he doesn't attract hostility. He is honest, reliable, trustworthy and I hold him in the highest esteem."

He was one of two character witnesses called by Foley's legal team. The other was Fr Sean Sheehy, until this weekend parish priest of Castlegregory, Co Kerry and a native of Meen.
"He always struck me as having the height of respect for women. There is not an abusive bone in his body. His respectfulness certainly struck me," the priest said.
Listening in the body of the courtroom was the woman Foley had been found guilty of sexually assaulting.
Nobody was more shocked by events at the centre of the case than Garda Paul Murphy, a calm experienced officer, or his partner Garda John White.
It was they who found Foley crouching over the half-naked woman alongside a skip near the wall dividing the garda station from the Revenue Commissioners' car park at the rear of the nightclub.

Garda Murphy ordered detailed notes to be taken.
Foley told them he had "found your wan" and pretended not to know her. His language would come back to haunt him later, with the trial judge describing it as "odious" and revolting.
At the sentencing hearing, Det Sgt John Heaslip publicly acknowledged that, far from having previous convictions, Danny Foley had long been "helpful to gardai" when they needed his assistance.
He was a bit of a ladies' man, according to locals, liked by women, and would have had a number of girlfriends down through the years.
He was not a townie at all -- his family were originally from Lisselton and later settled at an uncle's place, at Meen, over five miles from Listowel. They gravitated more towards Tarbert and Ballylongford, to the north of Listowel, according to one informed local. They were farming stock and well respected locally.
"Her family are pure town. They would be in one of the council houses," said a local yesterday.

"She has never caused any trouble and is a quiet, shy kind of girl," according to the source.
The extraordinary scenes witnessed at the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee, in which up to 50 people -- the bulk of them middle-aged and elderly men -- queued to shake Foley's hands, pat his arm, hug and kiss him and wipe the tears welling in the convicted sex offender's eyes, had never been witnessed in the Tralee courtroom.
The court, under Judge Donagh McDonagh, who does not normally sit in the south-west, got underway at precisely 10.30am.
There were matters to be dealt with on the civil list and, after discussion with barristers on motions, they agreed to begin the criminal list at 11.15am.
Shortly after 11am, what seemed like a huge mob was crowding into the courtroom.
People were puzzled by the influx, but then Foley was brought from his holding cell, having been ferried to Tralee by prison van from Cork earlier that morning. A queue then filed past the darkly clad victim -- skirting the edge of her seat -- and past the press bench to sympathise with Foley, who was flanked by prison officers. He was sporting a goatee beard and looked better after his stint in custody.

After their extraordinary display, the 50 supporters returned to the public area -- crowding the small court room. Fr Sean Sheehy said he shook hands with Foley at the instigation of the convicted man's mother, Margaret.
The victim sat looking at her hands, at times holding her stomach. She was accompanied by a young friend and Bernie McCarthy, a counsellor from the Kerry Rape Crisis Centre, who were at her side throughout the three-day trial earlier in December.
Minutes later, the judge came from his chambers at the rear of the court room. All stood in court.

Later in the week, Tim Foley, brother of Danny, would clam the queue was "spontaneous" and not orchestrated or designed to embarrass the victim. He denied a petition had been circulated -- people were simply volunteering to be character witnesses, he said.
There were gasps of astonishment at the seven-year sentence, but anyone with half an ear could see the direction the judge was taking. It was soon clear that Judge McDonagh was not impressed by Foley.
Beginning his review of the evidence, the judge revealed that he had reviewed his notes three times.

The "young lady" had gone out with her mother and met up with friends. She had a few drinks and had "quite sensibly decided to go home" when the drink began to take a serious toll on her, the judge said -- noting the Black Russian bought by Foley for her.
The accused insisted on accompanying her -- against her will -- out of the nightclub. She had only a vague memory after that.
"Out of the fog of that uncertainty, a number of elements are clear," said Judge McDonagh.
"She did not want to be where she was. Her resolve was to go home. She did not want to engage in sexual activity," he said.
Most tellingly she recalled from the fog of that uncertainty saying "get off me", the judge concluded.
It was quite clear the jury did not accept Foley's stories of mutual sexual activity, Judge McDonagh continued.
Foley had spun "a web of lies" -- and it was not only the lies that were "revolting", it was the "odious" language used, he said.
The judge particularly disliked Foley's crude, graphic and at times coarse descriptions of what he claimed were sexual acts between himself and the girl.
"The revolting lies. . . the odious language" added insult to injury, according to Judge McDonagh.
"It seems as though the accused wishes to add insult to injury, to demean and denigrate her in the eyes of the jury and of the public," he said.
No reasonable man could believe a girl could consent to sexual activity in the state she was in, he added.
The judge noted the injuries to the victim's breast, arms, back and legs.
"She was covered in small bruises and scratches," he said.
"The victim in this case was a thin, waif-like lady -- it was unlikely she would have been able to repulse him.
"The inescapable conclusion is that he divested her against her will."
Her victim impact statement was one of remarkable dignity under the circumstances, according to the judge.
The judge went further -- rapping the knuckles of the supremely confident, neatly bearded parish priest, who minutes earlier strode to the witness box to act as character witness, announcing that he had spent years in the United States and was now parish priest of Castlegregory in west Kerry
Foley's actions on the night clearly gave the lie to Fr Sheehy's statements that the had the highest respect for women, the judge said.
It gave him no pleasure to sentence someone so close to Christmas, he said, and then pronounced "seven years".

At that point, Foley's mother Margaret screamed and roared and put her hand over her eyes and continued roaring.
The judge ordered her to be removed from the courtroom, and she could be heard roaring and shouting for some minutes from the small foyer.
After consulting with prosecutor Tom Price, the judge ordered that Foley be placed on the sexual offenders' list "for life".
He refused leave to appeal on the grounds of severity, saying his was a balanced, "modest" sentence. With good behaviour, Foley would serve less than the five years -- he suspended two years of the seven -- he said.
But it was what happened next that truly shocked many people. The following morning on Newstalk radio, Fr Sheehy, the priest who shook the convicted rapist's hand, talked about "a miscarriage of justice".
"Well, I just wanted to support him, for one thing, and let him know he was not alone. I mean, it's a horrible situation to be in the dock as a prisoner, just sitting with his prison officers. From a purely pastoral standpoint, I would do that with anybody," said the priest.
Later in the week, he stepped down from parish work at the insistence of his bishop, Bill Murphy.
Foley's girlfriend Michelle O'Sullivan talked to Eamon Keane on Newstalk later that day, and she sounded a similar note.

"He can hold his head high because people are here to support him and they believe in him and, in my mind, he has done nothing wrong and has nothing to hide. The Danny they know and love is not the monster that he's being portrayed as," she said.
"I suppose all I can really say about that is the evidence that was presented in the case has obviously swayed the jury. I personally don't believe there was enough evidence to come back with a conviction. I certainly don't believe there was evidence to hand down the type of sentence that was handed down," she added.
"The future right now is very unclear. Obviously, we will be appealing the sentence that Danny has been given, and, as regards living in Listowel, whenever Danny can come home he can hold his head high."

And so Listowel is plunged into the unwelcome glare of the media. This story has shed a light on the town and its hinterland and what that has revealed has shocked many people.

They thought that we had left that country behind, but now they find that the hidden Ireland is still there and sometimes the veil is pulled back and what it reveals is a side of ourselves we never wish to see.
Ann Lucey

Was whistleblower status the real reason for meeting of top brass?

SOMETIMES at the Charleton Tribunal, there is a surreal feel to what is emerging. This was the case yesterday when details of hopeless incompetence in the child and family agency Tusla were heard in relation to a disturbing garda meeting on what to do about Maurice McCabe.

Grda Supt Noel Cunningham at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins

By July 2014, Maurice McCabe’s reputation had been through the mill within the force. In 2006, there had been an allegation of sexual abuse from a colleague’s daughter which was entirely lacking in credibility.
In August 2013, the same woman went for counselling and, arising out of that, a horrendous false allegation was mistakenly generated that inferred McCabe was accused of child rape. In May 2014, the matter was referred to the gardaí. Some days later, the mistake was discovered and efforts were made to rectify it. McCabe was never told his reputation and character had thus been thrashed behind closed doors.
Roll on to July 16, 2014: A meeting to discuss the May referral was called for 2.30pm. Present were Assistant Commissioner Kieran Kenny, Chief Superintendent Jim Sheridan, divisional officer for Cavan-Monaghan, and Superintendent Leo McGinn from Bailieborough, along with a note-taking sergeant.
The meeting was in Mullingar Garda Station where McCabe was based. He may well have been on duty that day, but unaware that senior members were discussing an issue he thought had been dealt with seven years previously, in 2007.

By July 2014, McCabe was well regarded among the general public. After years in the wilderness, trying to have his concerns addressed, he had largely been vindicated.
The one notable absentee from the meeting was the one senior garda who knew all about this case.
He had investigated it, he was Superintendent Noel Cunningham, who was based in the same station as Chief Supt Sheridan. Yet, nobody thought it a good idea to have him share his extensive knowledge on the case and clear up the whole palaver.
He could have told them the 2006 allegation was deemed to have practically no credibility; that the state solicitor had described it as “horseplay and no more than that” if it occurred at all; that the DPP said the details were vague, Ms D had major credibility problems and even if the incident had occurred, it wasn’t of a criminal nature; that McCabe had disciplined Ms D’s father months before the allegation was made, and this was deemed worthy of mention in the report.

In short, he could have told them it was a ball of smoke and there was absolutely nothing to suggest McCabe was a danger to children.
Instead, the meeting proceeded as if the senior officers were discussing a suspected child abuser. What is surprising is that Chief Supt Sheridan should have known that McCabe was nothing of the sort because, as he has told the tribunal in a statement, he had recently read the 2006 investigation file.
At the outset of the meeting, Assistant Commisioner Kenny told the others that the matter needs to be dealt with “given the people involved”, and that they can’t just take the referral as a new one, according to the minutes.

It was the same incident, as Cunningham could have told them, as Sheridan might have remembered from reading the file a few months earlier.
Chief Supt Sheridan said that no contact had been made between the gardaí and the HSE in 2006/2007. This was not the case.

Garda Superintendent Leo McGinn at the Disclosures Tribunal which heard he referred to McCabe as ‘the suspect’ in a meeting to discuss what to do with him in July, 2014. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins

McGinn raised the issue “that the suspect had access to kids with his job”.
The suspect was a reference to McCabe. McGinn also mentioned that “the suspect had not been arrested at the time and this may be an issue”.
He explained to the tribunal yesterday that this referred to the fact “the power of arrest had not been used and may still be available”, although he added that he had not been advocating a new investigation.
He later said he had no recollection of using the term “suspect” about McCabe. Elsewhere in the minutes, McCabe is referred to as the “suspect offender”.
Assistant Commissioner Kenny wondered what if this was a new referral. McGinn replied that a criminal investigation would take place.

Two courses of action were agreed on. Contact would be made with the HSE, despite the fact that it was the HSE which had notified the gardaí about the issue. And legal advice would be taken.
“I’m trying to work out what the character of the discussion was?” McCabe’s counsel Michael McDowell, SC, asked Supt McGinn. The response was unclear.
McDowell then turned to the fact that McCabe hadn’t a clue that any of this was going on.
“Did any of you think ‘how do we inform Sergeant McCabe of this monumental error and stop this thing gaining legs?’.”
Supt McGinn said it wasn’t for him to tell McCabe, he didn’t know the man.
Hovering over this surreal gathering of senior policemen was a question. Would this meeting, in tone, character and content, have been taking place at all if McCabe was not by then a garda whistleblower, feted among some in the public, reviled among some in the force?
Or were they, as Judge Charleton inquired yesterday, all panicking. Whatever it was, it’s no way to run a police force and was no way to treat McCabe.

The tribunal investigating whether there was a campaign to smear McCabe continues
Michael Clifford

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Indebted Gardai

Many Gardai, yet again, want to be treated like a special force, or in this case, a special case; at least those who thought they were developers or wanted an opulent house way beyond their means. Now, unlike the rest of people who became indebted in this country, they want their anonymity preserved as well and for what?

It is not a crime to be in debt, though sometimes it can feel that way, and nothing to be ashamed of even though this is often the emotion that stalks it. Many people feel like going undercover itself just to collect the dole such is the overwhelming feeling of shame. At least in a more positive light, a policeman, even an undercover one, has a job that pays well, one that is secure, and can formulate a working plan to combat his indebtedness. This is in direct contrast to those genuinely signing on the dole, with no prospects and no hope of rising above their situation unless they lose everything and start from scratch. And scratching it will be. No easy task if you are facing into your 40’s or 50’s or indeed 60’s. 

It is no surprise to many that the biggest category of debtors in this country are Gardai.  They cannot be put in prison because of debt alone but to fraud in regard to it, even though that is also almost unheard of (sound of laughter and mirth at this point) in this country unless of course you do not pay your TV license and are anything but a Gardai. But many Gardai want to be privileged debtors now as well in an already privileged position brimming with benefits.

The core reason given by one 'undercover policeman' to remain anonymous is that he/she/they will not be able to remain undercover. He may be getting fake news for he must be thinking they are going to put his mugshot, replete with serial number, all over the media. Are they no other jobs in the Police force for these guys? But his real reason is more apparent in that he is not supposed to be insolvent or bankrupt in the first place in order to remain on the force. So, by lobbying the Government to be treated as a special case, he or they, are trying to make the State complicit in a cover up, and until the law is changed, this will be for now illegal at least. This is nothing new in Ireland. The drip feed controversy of how the police and government treat whistleblowers in the force leave no room for doubt as to how those who strive to expose corruption within it are and will be treated. There is one law for a single person at the best of times and rarely for everyone as a whole; just depends on circumstance and connections. A stud and status quo yet to be broken.

The former Department Of Justice, Alan Shatter, when running his own personal fiefdom had already heralded where they were heading with this one: “In a very exceptional and individual situation, a debtor should contact the Insolvency Service Of Ireland (ISI) which will consider each case to see if any solution can be found.” This is all very well but the most they can do is lobby to have the law changed for as it stands now it is justice for all but in principle only. This will change one way or the other.

That principle can be easily compromised as it has before had Shatter and his department along with the collusion of the ISI and the Gardai, made up their own laws as they went along, and let the taxpayer bleed in trying to restore law and order once again through the draconian and slow legal system we have here. It is not an accident; it is designed this way to forestall justice by time itself.

For an eternal optimist, I do not hold out much hope for the taxpayer on this one until we are all well and truly bankrupt as a nation itself.

Barry Clifford   

The Irish writers banned in their own land

Clockwise from top left: Frank O'Connor, James Joyce, Brendan Behan, George Berhard Shaw, Edna O'Brien and John McGahern.

Fifty years ago this month a major legal change heralded the beginning of the end of a shameful chapter in Irish cultural history when Ireland’s notorious publications censorship law was reformed.
The worst excesses of a vicious and stupid regime that had blighted Ireland’s reputation since independence were undone, and the subsequent trajectory was one of increasing liberalisation and progress.
Today, thankfully, Irish writers are celebrated and supported rather than ostracised and denigrated.
Film censorship had been introduced in 1923 and was exercised until 1940 by a censor who admitted that while he knew nothing about films, he knew the Ten Commandments!
His successors until the 1980s were little better, banning and cutting films according to zealous Catholic standards.

Catholic campaigners in the 1920s wanted a similar shutdown on the ‘evil literature’ that was seen to be contaminating holy Ireland.
In relation to censorship, as well as a range of other issues, independent Ireland’s early governments were keen to satisfy the extremely conservative demands of a highly organised ‘Catholic Action’ movement, supported by the hierarchy.

The 1929 Censorship of Publications Act empowered a board of five, appointed by the justice minister, to permanently ban a book or periodical if they considered it to be in its ‘general tendency indecent or obscene’, if it advocated or advertised contraception or abortion, or if it devoted excessive attention to crime.


All boards until at least the 1960s were dominated by Catholic activists, mainly members of the Catholic Truth Society of Ireland and the Knights of Columbanus.
The British popular press was a key target. Publications with low circulations in Ireland simply withdrew from the market, while large-selling titles like the News of the World were forced to produce special Irish editions, shorn of birth-control advertisements as well as the salacious court reports that underpinned their popularity.

The requirement to take the general tendency and overall merit of a book into account was ignored from the outset as the censors waged war on modern literature, prohibiting books that alluded to sex or sexuality in even the most innocuous or non-explicit way.
The mere suggestion of homosexuality, promiscuity, or prostitution was enough to ban a book. Most of the leading writers of modern fiction fell victim, leading cynics to dub the Irish Register of Prohibited Publications ‘The Everyman’s Guide to the Modern Classics’.
The register included ten Nobel laureates in literature: Anatole France, Sinclair Lewis, George Bernard Shaw, Thomas Mann, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Mikhail Sholokhov, Henrich Böll, and Samuel Beckett.

Shaw and Beckett were part of a long list of Irish writers who were especially targeted; it included James Joyce, Sean O’Casey, Liam O’Flaherty, Sean Ó Faoláin, Frank O’Connor, Francis Stuart, Austin Clarke, George Moore, Kate O’Brien, Maura Laverty, Walter Macken, Edna O’Brien, Brendan Behan, Benedict Kiely, Brian Moore, and John McGahern.
They were ‘the best banned in the land’, as Brendan Behan joked after he joined the list in 1958 following the prohibition on Borstal Boy. But behind the jokes and ridicule, writers felt persecution, were denied a place in their country’s cultural life, and were in many cases denied a living here also.

While no Irish-language book was banned, this had less to do with the intrinsic purity of writing in the native language, and more to do with the pre-publication censorship exercised on such books by their main publisher, the semi-state An Gúm. Ronnie Drew of The Dubliners suggested in the 1960s that all banned books should be published as Gaeilge — a perfect incentive for the Irish people to learn their own language!
Eventually, Irish writers began to see a ban as an inverted badge of honour. Brian Moore remembered thinking ‘it meant I was OK’ when he joined the list with Wreath for a Redhead in 1952. According to Ben Kiely, a prohibition was ‘the only laurel wreath that Ireland was offering to writers in that particular period’.

By the 1960s, as Ireland was opening itself up to the wider world, culturally as well as economically, the censorship net became more porous — banned books began to be sold openly and reviewed and serialised in the press — while the system was increasingly subjected to ridicule and scorn.

The banning of Edna O’Brien’s first five novels and John McGahern’s The Dark, followed by his sacking from his teaching job, increased the pressure.
In 1967 justice minister Brian Lenihan brought forward a new Censorship of Publications Act. The permanent prohibition on books banned for indecency and obscenity was replaced by a 12-year ban, applied retrospectively.

This immediately released over 5,000 titles, and about 400 a year up to 1979. In the latter year also, coincidentally, the partial legalisation of contraception led to the lifting on the ban on birth-control information, followed by that on abortion information in 1992.

Dr Donal Ó Drisceoil is a senior lecturer in history at UCC. He is joint editor of the Atlas of the Irish Revolution, which is published on September 1.

Obedience to authority: most of us would follow orders to do terrible things

Alarming findings by Prof Stanley Milgram of Yale University have since been confirmed in many studies

Stanley Milgram’s results indicate that most of us would follow orders to do terrible things, just as the Nazis did; surely a poignant result for Milgram, a son of Jewish immigrants

In 1961, Stanley Milgram (1933-1984), professor of social psychology at Yale University, carried out a landmark study to measure ordinary peoples’ willingness to obey an authority who instructs them to take actions that conflict with their conscience. The results indicate that most of us would follow orders to do terrible things, just as the Nazis did; surely a poignant result for Milgram, a son of Jewish immigrants, to ponder.

Milgram recruited male participants for his study (20 to 50 years old) telling them the experiment would test the effects of punishment on learning behaviour and they would be paid $4.50 (€4) for one hour’s work. Unknown to these participants the experimenter had hired an accomplice who was an actor. When a participant arrived he would find the experimenter with another “participant” (the actor). The two participants were “randomly” allocated the roles of learner and teacher when the experimenter handed each a slip of paper. Unknown to the genuine participant, each slip said “teacher”. The actor accomplice always mentioned he had a weak heart.

The learner was strapped into a chair and an electrode taped to his wrist. He was told he was to learn a list of word pairs and that whenever he gave a wrong answer when quizzed, the teacher would give him an electric shock of increasing intensity with each wrong answer. The teacher watched this and then was taken to a separate room, from where he could hear but not see the learner, and seated before a shock generator, which had a line of shock switches ranging from 15 to 450 volts in 15-volt steps. Verbal signs describe the severity of each shock from “Slight” to “Danger – Severe Shock”.
The teacher read the list of word pairs to the learner and then read the first of each word pair and four possible answers. The learner made his choice by pressing a button. If the response was wrong, the teacher administered a shock, increasing the shock by 15 volts with each wrong answer. If the response was correct, the teacher went on to the next word pair.

The teacher believed he was delivering painful shocks, but no shocks were actually being delivered. A tape of pre-recorded responses to each shock level was connected to the shock-generator and started by the accomplice. After a few shock increases the actor started to bang on the wall and shout. He complained about his weak heart and beseeched the teacher to stop the experiment. As the voltage continued to increase, the shouting turned to screams until, finally, the highest voltage elicited no sound from the learner – just ominous silence.
At a shock level of 135 volts, many teachers asked the experimenter to stop and check on the learner. However, most teachers continued after the experimenter told them they would not be held responsible. Each time the teacher said he would like to stop, the experimenter gave successive verbal instructions – “please continue”, “the experiment requires you to continue”, “it is essential that you continue”, “continue, you have no choice”. The experiment was stopped if the teacher still wished to stop after receiving these four verbal instructions. Otherwise the experiment ended only after the top voltage of 450 volts was administered three times in succession. Sixty five per cent of teachers administered the 450-volt shock.

These results are very disturbing. Commenting on the experiment, Milgram said: “Stark authority was pitted against the subjects’ strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects’ ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.”

All attempts to replicate Milgram’s experiment have endorsed his results. The most recent experiment was carried out in Poland by Darious Dolinski and others from the faculty of psychology, SWPS University, Wraclaw. The motivation was to see how people who had lived under a Communist regime from the late 1940s until 1989, where strict obedience to authority was stressed, would perform in Milgram’s experiment. Basically, the Polish results confirmed Milligram’s results.
William Reville

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

19 positive thoughts for today

A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life. 
Muhammad Ali

Old age is fifteen years older than I am. 
Oliver Wendell Holmes

Normal is nothing more than a cycle on a washing machine. Whoopi Goldberg

The kindest thing you can do for the people you care about is to become a happy, joyous person 
Brian Tracy

Those who dance are considered insane by those who can't hear the music. 
George Carlin

I'd rather regret the things I've done than the things I haven't done 
Lucille Ball

Do something wonderful, people may imitate it 
Albert Schweitzer

You can only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough 
Mae West 

I could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on. Live was meant to be lived.
Eleanor Roosevelt

It is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them. 
Agatha Christie

I want my children to have all the things I couldn't afford. Then I want to move in with them -Phyllis Diller

To carry a grudge is like being stung to death by one bee. 
William H Walton

Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do, but doesn't get you anywhere 
Erma Bombeck

Those who boast about being "brutally honest" are usually more brutal than honest. 
Lori Palatnik 

No one can make you feel inferior without you consent 
Eleanor Roosevelt

As a child my family's menu consisted of two choices: take it or leave it -Buddy Hackett

Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body 
George Carlin

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. Mark Twain

Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Interaction between journalist and press officer under the spotlight

Detective Superintendent John O'Reilly after giving evidence on day 10 of the Disclosures Tribunal. Pic: Leah Farrell/

The treatment of Maurice McCabe by some elements of the media came under the spotlight yesterday, and it did not make for a pretty picture.
One of the country’s most successful journalists, Paul Williams, was in the witness box, explaining how he came to write unflattering articles about Sgt McCabe.
The garda sergeant was not identified in the pieces. The articles were based on interviews with Ms D in 2014, at the height of the garda whistleblower scandal in which Sgt McCabe had highlighted malpractice within the force.
Ms D had made an allegation against Sgt McCabe in 2006 that, eight years previously, when she was six years old, he had rubbed up against her inappropriately. The lawyer for the tribunal has described the nature of the incident as “horseplay” but Sgt McCabe denies it ever happened.
Ms D’s father was a colleague of his who had been demoted after Sgt McCabe reported him on a disciplinary matter.

In 2014, Ms D was angry that Sgt McCabe was in the headlines. She wanted her story out there, to show the world who he really was. Via a friend, she was put in touch with Mr Williams.
He interviewed her at her home and wrote an article. In a second article, he quoted her as saying that the incident occurred when “he shut the door and sexually assaulted me for what seemed like a long time”.
This is in complete variance with her original allegation, transforming “horseplay” into serious and sustained abuse of a sexual nature behind a closed door.
The article also quoted her as saying that the incident “sent her into a downward spiral” once she became aware of it some years later.

The DPP ruled that, even if the incident had occurred as she had alleged, it wouldn’t have constituted a criminal act. Yet now Ms D was claiming it had — as Mr Williams said in the witness box — “ruined her life”.
This is a narrative that would suit anybody ill disposed towards an individual who was highlighting malpractice in An Garda Siochána. Who, after all, would trust somebody portrayed as a child abuser?
During a forensic cross-examination by Sgt McCabe’s counsel, Michael McDowell, Mr Williams accepted that he never checked out the story.
“Did it ever strike you that you should make some effort to validate the truth of those charges,” asked the lawyer.

Journalist Paul Williams at the The Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle today. Pic: Collins

Mr Williams replied that he didn’t feel it necessary as Sgt McCabe had not been identified in the story.
“Many, many people must have known whom you were referring to, not least Maurice and Lorraine McCabe; the D family; gardaí in the area would have known; the members of government who were aware of this would have known; the station party in Bailieborough would have known,” said Mr McDowell.
“Did you care for one minute about getting the other side of the story?”
Mr Williams repeated that he wasn’t identifying Sgt McCabe in the piece.
He also helped out Ms D in her quest to get somebody to listen to her. She had claimed the investigation into her allegation was flawed. Mr Williams put her in touch with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, picked her up from the train, dropped her to Leinster House, and brought her back afterwards.
Then he wrote about the meeting in a speculative piece suggesting that Enda Kenny, the then taoiseach, was going to open an investigation into Ms D’s case.

“It was deceiving the reader into believing that you were reporting events when in fact you were orchestrating events,” said Mr McDowell.
Mr Williams denied this.
He also organised for Ms D to meet Alan Shatter after he resigned as minister for justice that year. Mr Williams told the tribunal he had performed services like this for other people about whom he has written stories.

His contacts with the garda press office on the matter were unorthodox. He says he contacted the head of the office, Superintendent Dave Taylor, some days after the initial interview. He says Supt Taylor filled him in on the background to the case, including that the DPP had ruled that it did not warrant prosecution.
Nobody filled him in on the exact detail of the case.
In any event, the tribunal was told that Supt Taylor disputes Mr Williams’ version of their contact. He claims that Mr Williams rang him from the home of Ms D on the day he conducted the interview.
Supt Taylor says Mr Williams told him that Sgt McCabe had destroyed this woman’s life and he, Mr Williams, was going to write a piece that would be very damaging to Sgt McCabe.
Mr Williams denies this.

Whichever version represents the actual facts, the interaction between the journalist and garda press office about the confidential details of a member of the force raises a major question.
Were things done this way in order to further an agenda to blacken Sgt McCabe’s character? Mr Williams says he wasn’t part of any campaign. He also denies he was “a puppet for the guards”.

The articles written did not identify Sgt McCabe to the general public, but for those in the know it was obvious who was the subject.

Michael Clifford