The painful truth of sexual abuse in the Irish Catholic Church
I'm a committed Christian. I also have a great respect for what the Catholic Church did for Irish education over the centuries. The early Irish monks provided a great service for humanity by saving much of the great Classical literature from destruction during the Dark Ages. They also created the first written records in their own native language of the wonderful oral sagas that recounted the legends and history of the Celtic peoples. Throughout the dark days of British occupation, the Church kept the spirit of learning alive through its clandestine 'hedge schools' and by providing university places in France and Spain for Irish refugees. When British rule relaxed somewhat from the late 18th century onwards, it was the religious orders that provided free education to the poorer classes. Without that support, Ireland would have become a nation of illiterates.
Catholicism for many became identified with 'Irish nationalism'.
Peronally, I have nothing but praise and admiration for the members of the Catholic clerics (Patrician Brothers) that taught me in primary and post-primary education.

But the old adage rings so true: 'power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely'. The church became debased by its growing political and religious pre-eminance in society. Bishops became 'princes' and behaved like divine rulers who considered themselves above the law. As God's representatives on Earth, the celibate priests were judged by ordinary people to be above suspicion and to be free of the 'sins of the flesh'. But many joined the priesthood when they were too young to know their own sexuality and experience ordinary healthy sex relationships. For those few members of the clergy that were sexual deviants, they found that they could have a ready supply of victims inadvertently sent to them by their families for religious reasons such as to hear confession, to be provided with religious instruction etc.
The release yesterday of the offical report into clerical sex abuse within the diocise of Ferns has shocked the nation. 22 priests in this lowly populated region in south east Ireland were found to have committed a sickening litany of crimes against children. Over 240 priests nationwide in a 40year period are now confirmed as having being accused of sexual abuse. People are left wondering how extensive was such abuse across the rest of the country

Friendly Foxes & the Hare Who Dined Daily at the Hotel

Originally uploaded by Speedie1.
Renville was blessed with wildlife. The presence of a forest, rolling meadows, a golf-course and miles of unbroken seashore provided a mosaic of natural habitats for rabbit, stout, crabs, mussels, pheasants, heron and badger. Every spring, I use to sit down on the grass and admire fox cubs at play 20 yards away. I was lucky enough to capture their antics on my digital movie camera.
Sadly, a phenomenal rise in housing and institutional development in the locality is threatening the survival of these species. Yet amazingly, some wild creatures do adapt and multiply in these new man-made environments. In summer months, dozens of housemartin birds fly out of the nests that they had built up in the eaves of the holiday houses and perform breathtaking air displays to the delight of our guests. Starlings would set up homes in any large spaces found in the brickwork exterior. Some individual crows became almost personal pets as they regularly sat on the gutters waiting to be feed breadcrumbs. One crow was so friendly that locals bestowed him with a name -‘Jack’ – which he responded to!
In the last six months, one large solitary hare daily visited the grounds of the neighbouring hotel and nonchalantly chewed the long grass taking little notice of passing pedestrians.
Scandal in Renville Holiday Village?
Sadly, I have no juicy bits of sexual shenanigans, stories of international intrigue or cases of attempted murder to reveal from my six years of looking after thousands of guests at Renville Village. Jesus- they were a boring lot!
Actually the clients were mainly genuine sober friendly people on holidays with their families. The location never really attracted the 'lager lout' brigade who tend to want accommodation closer to the city centre nightclubs. I was left with the extended family groups, the 'great outdoor' types and the couples looking for a tranquil setting 'far from the maddening crowd'.
The week of the annual Galway Races was particularly enjoyable. I had more or less the same guests for the last 6 summers. I couldn't praise them enough. Their big Mercs and BMWs nicely complimented the helicopters parked at the hotel that commuted daily them back and forth from Ballybrit Race Course.
But a few hard types did break through our security screen- a handful secretly booked the houses as venues for 21st birthday festivities; at other times, some inebriated wedding guests brought the celebrations back with them. But I was lucky that these incidents were isolated.
I was only once a victim of malicious damage. Last October, after one couple had a flaming row, the girlfriend locked herself in a bedroom. The angry boyfriend put his foot though an internal wall and broke the handle of the door in his attempts to secure entry.

Goodbye Sweet Renville!

Goodbye Sweet Renville!
Originally uploaded by Speedie1.
I still can't believe it. I can now sleep in on Saturday mornings!
For a chapter of my life ended this month when I finished up as on-site manager of the Galway Bay Holiday Homes in Renville, Oranmore. After 6 years, I decided to hand in my notice because my other contract work, particularly with schools and the universiry, was taking up more and more of my time. I also wanted to expand my community activities, spend more time with my family, see the world, write a best-selling novel (Honest! - I have postponed this for nearly 8 yrs)…
For the first time in years, I have weekends off. Hurray!! No more getting up on Saturdays at 7am and working through until 10-11pm. No more Sunday morning 'check outs'. No more travelling the 16miles round journey to Renville on weekend nights to unblock a toilet (ugh!), fix a leak in a shower, repair a broken fridge, re-tune a television, let guests into their house after they lost their keys, deliver an extra set of crockery for a dinner party, singly clean a nine room house at short notice …. When you are supervising a multiple of houses all by yourself, it can be all consuming.
But I don't regret one minute of it. It was a wonderful job that I thrived on. I really enjoyed interacting with the foreign tourists; I got a kick out of pontificating about the delights of our region- the natural heritage, the children facilities, the best music pubs and finest restaurants etc. For specical festive occasions, such as Christmas, St. Valentine's Day and Halloween, I would decorate the houses with appropriate bunting and materials (Christmas trees or pumpkins or romantic pieces). The houses that I was given to manage were real gems- high quality and well equipped. The location of Renville was idyllic in many ways- forest, wildlife, picnic tables, seashore, children's playground, hotel, golf club... Ok, the seashore was too often covered in refuse washed in by the sea currents. But otherwise, it was not an embarrassment. I also built up a great relationship with the staff in the neighbouring hotel that was mutually beneficial. If they needed an extra baby cot at short notice, they gave me a call. If I required an extra mattress or a set of pillows in an emergency, they helped me out. They also gave a restaurant discount to my guests.
Last but not least was the company that I worked for. Trident Holiday Homes has a reputation that is praised by clients and envied by their competitors. They have the best locations for their complexes, their properties are top class; their office staff are as professional and as friendly as one can find anywhere in the world.
We hear so much these days of Ireland being no longer the 'Land of a Thousand Welcomes'. This is true. The warmth and generosity of spirit that once epitomised the Irish character can no longer be taken as a certainty; the famed unspoilt countryside is now being devoured by housing developments; the roads are covered with convoys of speeding vehicles where angry car drivers express hostility towards the slower-moving pedestrians or cyclists; where in a nation famous for its native culture, it is virtually impossible to get a pub that hosts good traditional music 'seisiúns'. The slower pace of life that foreigners innocently expect to find in the Emerald Isle was long ago consumed by the overpowering Rat Race.
Of course, it would be wrong of me to claim that all is ' doom and gloom'. Progressive movement has occurred. Ireland is no longer a priest-dominated inward-looking poverty-stricken rural society where our biggest (and saddest) export was our young sons and daughters. Yet progress and modernity has taken its toil on the image and reality of the genial Irish 'colleen' and 'gasun' .
But a beacon of hope still shines at such places as No. 15 Irishtown Road, Dublin 4. Here at their HQ, Trident has carved itself a strong, confidant unassailable niche in the tourism market because it delivers a top quality product. While it has wonderful holiday homes, it has realised though that the 'human touch' is fundamental in this section of the 'hospitality' sector. Trident HQ's female staff oozes efficiency and helpfulness all packaged in the persona that reminds one of a young Maureen O'Hara.
But these traits actually stem from the personality of the owner Jacinta who has carved the organisation in her own image and likeness. Probably Ireland's most glamorous granny(!), she combines a strong sense of entrepreneurialism with a genuine concern for her customers.
God! I will miss those regular pleasant telephone chats with Michelle and Emer; their witticisms that would gladden the heart of Oscar Wilde or Brendan Behan. The memories of these ladies brings a tear to my eye. Slán agus beannacht, mo chairde.

Renville - Still Ireland's Most Litter-strewn Seashore!

Can't believe that in spite of personal lobbying and my article in a local newspaper, Renville Bay is still covered in debris. (see my September blog).
In fact, it has got worse- there is more refuse than ever before!
Doing my concerned citizen bit, I have complained to Galway County Council quite a number of times but to no avail alas.
Hard to believe that they don't care about a jewel in the crown of Ireland's natural heritage and one of our top tourist attractions i.e. Galway Bay
So I have decided to start a weekly 'Renville Watch' in my blog giving viewers up-to-date photos of the seashore and park .
Will approach the local media next week to publicise this new type of 'direct citizen's action'
Rip-Off Ireland is Alive and Well in Oranmore!

At last the country is waking up to the fact that we are being screwed by the prices and services provided by many garages, restaurants, pubs, banks and government departments.
Unlike the Spanish for instance, most of us wouldn’t dream of telling a restaurant manager to his or her face that the meat was too tough or that the wine tasted like vineger. We are a nation that likes to complain ‘after the event’ or just to a group of close friends over a few pints.
But one man has destroyed that national servile demeanour almost overnight. The new television phonemena that is Eddie Hobbs has exposed the chancers and carpetbaggers that are ‘Rip Off Ireland’ Inc.
Fair play Eddie!
What really gets me upset is the long list of consultants that receive massive sums of monies from the government and state agencies for their consultancy work on road and other large scale infrastructural projects. These expensive developments constantly go 'over budget'. Yet the consultants still get the same percentage cut on the new larger price. So rather than be fined for allowing this increase to occur, they are rewarded and the ordinary tax-payer has to cough up. No minister, civil servant or consultant loses their job when things go so wrong. Crazy & Stupid!!

But the rip-off mentality is endemic right down to the smallest supplier.
So prompted by my friend Ina, starting right here I intend to implement the ‘Hobbs’ philsophy and ‘Name and Shame!” A bit of public exposure and financial levies is all these rip-off merchants understand.

Recently a letter appeared in the Galwy Advertiser regarding Race Week price increases by an Oranmore restaurant.
I was amused that in the following week’s edition, there was a note from the editior stating that the ‘Pi’ restaurant wished it to be known that they were not the guilty party.
This really irked me as I was treated abysmally the previous Race Week by this same establishment. So I instantly sat down and wrote a letter myself to the Advertiser on my personal experience in the Pi premises (but without mentioning its name). I am glad to say that it was published ‘in toto’.
But now I have decidcd to publish it with the Pi name inserted!

“Last year I brought my family to Oranmore after enjoying a wonderful day at Sunday’s Race event. We entered the ‘Pi’ restaurant at approximately 7.10pm. My wife, my two sons and myself comprised our group. As we sat down at a vacant table a waitress came over to us and told us that we couldn’t be served as the premises didn’t serve children after 7pm. Puzzled, I asked to speak to the manager. When he arrived, I pointed out to him that there were no laws governing children in premises until 9pm and that this legislation related to licensed premises. He pointed out that he was upholding the law of the land and that, by not serving children after 7pm, it meant that he could then ensure that there were no under-age people on the premises when 9pm arrived!
We had no choice but to humiliating walk out of the building. Still we had a fine meal supported by a friendly service in another hostelry nearby. I also telephoned two other local eating establishments and was informed by both that they welcomed children of every age to come and eat.
It is obvious that this anti-child establishment only wanted customers that could be charged full adult price.
As the manager of a local holiday homes complex and a former member of the Galway City and County Tourism group, I am aware of the hard work being done to promote the region as a quality friendly holiday destination for families.
The selfish attitude of this restaurant manager is undermining the excellent work of those innovative people that have invested heavily in providing excellent family facilities such as the Dartfield Horse Museum, Atlantaquaria, the Turoe Pet Farm, ‘Busy Bees’, City Limits etc.
Subsequently, I have ensured that my Information Pack to my own guests excludes any recommendation to this particular venue. “