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La, la land

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Wednesday, 30 Aug 2017, 23:26

I really feel, I should send out a warm and hearty congratulations, to our local politicians for a job well done.  I caught the news headlines tonight, floods in Houston, missiles over Japan and WW3 looming large on the horizon but meanwhile over here in the political imaginarium of la,la land, there has been a coming together of parties (all say, awwwh!) to (wait for it!!) press for an Irish language Act (now don’t it just warm the cockles of your ‘eart) and according to Sinn Fein et al, there will be no assembly until they get it.  (Ya boo sucks to you!  So, there!)

I live in a socially (among other things) deprived area where we have always had higher unemployment rates than the rest of the UK, and back in the 70's, I think we even held the No 1 position for unemployment black-spot for the whole of Europe!  Not forgetting, the most bombed town outside of Belfast!!  Ta da!  Beat that Damascus!

Unemployment is only one of the issues needing addressing around here and I was sitting a few months ago counting how many people I knew who had died either by suicide or from alcoholism, and the total came to almost 40.  This was one of the reasons why I deferred my final OU year to get involved with the Waving Not Drowning show.  When the show played in our local theatre, not one, and I will repeat that -




And up in Stormont, they're demanding an Irish Language Act before any political movement on anything because that really is where the priorities are around here.  In the midst of the fire of unemployment, alcoholism, suicide and let’s not forget that other old remnant from the ‘trouble’s’ PTSD; our politicians fiddle around with an Irish Language Act because it so necessary to the well-being of the population and demonstrates just how concerned they are about us. They really do have our best interests at heart and those fingers are right on the pulse of the nation.  Not to mention how necessary it is to show how welcoming, culturally diverse and accepting we all are.

So stand up, all you NI politicians and take a bow!  Take a large bow for being so completely up yourself, not to mention, deluded, with your big overblown ego and totally distorted sense of proportion.  Take a bow for all those languishing on the dole, for all those who are drinking themselves into an early grave or those who have sunk so low into the pit of despair that they feel their only option is to hang, overdose, shoot or drown themselves. 

And take a really big bow for those who are crippled with anxiety and depression!  The nervous wrecks left behind from having to grow up in a war zone and who have to, day and daily, face the murals and monuments to death and destruction.  Those constant reminders of just how totally fecking miserable it was here, throughout that whole rotten period.   

Yes!  Take a great big bow!  For God knows, how hard you must be working to take home that 50 grand a year plus expenses, not forgetting the other 60 grand for Parliament (and this is especially to Sinn Fein who don't even have to bother taking their seats!)  Well done to you all!!  Congratulate yourselves on your blind arrogance and self-righteous grand-standing!

Because, at the end of the day, just think how important it is to be able to demonstrate your patriotic credentials by writing your suicide note in Irish...slan abhaile!


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Riots in Belfast - again!

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Saturday, 15 Dec 2012, 16:50

Well, plays have all been performed, to good reviews I might add, and assignments are up to date, so now that I am all rested and recovered, let’s catch up with what’s been happening in the world –


Riots in Belfast?  Didn’t we do that already?


They’re at it again.


So, what’s it about this time?  Flags, eh!!


You know, when I see people out protesting like that on the street over some perceived attack on their culture, faith or whatever, I often think, ‘You really don’t have enough to bother you’, and it really must have been a slow week for news when this lot made the national headlines.


Now, in the great scheme of things, how ridiculous must this seem to any outsider, the Union flag is taken down and there are protests and riots, for what, a piece of coloured material?


Now, the thing about all this is, you can say it’s about flags, or culture, or identity, or religion, or nationality, or loyalty, and you might think you’re right, but when you strip all that down to the bare bones it comes down to this, and this is what no one else in Northern Ireland will ever just come out and say publicly - identifying with the Union Jack is about clinging to an idea left over from the British Empire (of which NI is it’s last outpost) and that is, to identify yourself as British is to claim that you are superior and not just to the Irish, but to everyone that isn’t white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant, that’s it in a nutshell. 


It’s about nothing more than that, ‘I’m British’ means saying I’m better than you without actually saying, ‘I am superior to you’.  It’s the exact same attitude that prevailed in the days of Empire when Britain went stomping around the globe terrorising the natives and bringing us heathen types civilisation, and which still prevails today among right-wingers, from the Tory party to the National Front.


Ulster was planted hundreds of years ago by the British, actually it happened about a hundred years before Britain even existed, and Ireland has never been part of Britain, it’s always been the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, or as it is now, Northern Ireland.  


So, there are no British here in NI, only a few confused Irish or Northern Irish, for we surely are a breed apart from the rest of the country.  I mean, how many years do you have to live in a country before you consider yourself a citizen of it?  Hundreds of years later, and they still can’t lower themselves to stand up and say they’re Irish, or even Northern Irish.  They treat it as an insult to be considered Irish, and as someone who is Irish by nationality, I find that insulting.  What is so wrong with being Irish?  What does nationality mean at the end of day, I was born in Ireland so I am deemed to be Irish, they were born in Ireland too, but they’re British.  What’s going to happen when/if the Scottish vote for Independence, Britain isn’t going to exist anymore, what will they be then?


When I think about my identity, I think first and foremost, I am a human being, then I am female, and identifying with a country, a flag, or one culture is far down the list of what I am. There are very few singularly, one culture people left in this world, not when you sit down and consider how much of our lives have been influenced by other countries and their habits, especially in these days of globalization.  In reality, each of us is a single multi-cultural unit.


As long as people don’t think for themselves, they will cling to other’s ideas of what their identity is.  It’s easier to adopt the cultural stereotypes we’ve been spoon fed by our respective communities, than to look at the reality of these things and challenge notions that are as archaic, and out-of-date, as the dinosaurs.   


Now, if you really want to go out and protest about something that may be wrong in Belfast then here’s an idea.  In October of this year in East Belfast , in the space of 10 days, 7 people committed suicide.  Also, in West Belfast this week, apparently 5 people committed suicide.  (I haven’t been able to confirm this yet, I heard it at work in relation to the tragedy of another local suicide)  The rate of suicide in the North is off the scale compared to the rest of Europe .  (see previous post: In defence of young men)  With the ongoing stranglehold on the working-class Protestant areas by the paramilitaries, the decades of economic neglect by government and the pressure of culture and tradition, there are communities here in real crisis, and no-one seems to give a damn.  


And it certainly doesn’t help when a Chancellor gets up in Parliament and starts sneeringly classifying the working class of this country into strivers and skivers, especially when he got to be where he is, because he had the double good fortune of being born into a wealthy family and the privileged classes, where their money and social connections bought him all the advantages that life has to offer.


There is a lot of pressure in people at the moment, the rising cost of living and falling value of wages, the added pressure of conforming to the social and financial pressures of the season of 'Goodwill', not to mention the fear of losing your job, or of trying to find a job if you don't have one in the midst of a recession.  These all make for extremely stressful times and it's heart-sickening to watch this government gleefully slash at the poorest and weakest in this society and arrogantly scapegoat them for the present economic ills which they were not responsible for, while giving all the breaks to the rich and fellow members of their class.  All I can say is, roll on the revolution!!!

As always, comments are welcome:



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In Defence of Young Men

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Edited by Aideen Devine, Friday, 2 Sept 2022, 14:30

One of the items on the RTE News this week caught my eye (one of the advantages of living along the border, we get all the British and Irish Channels).

Apparently, there has been an increase in suicides among young men due to the economic situation here.  Figures showed that 38% of these young men were unemployed, while 32% worked in construction, which is the sector suffering most since the downturn. I also read in the New Statesman that suicide rates in Greece have gone up 40% since the austerity crisis.

The high suicide rate relates to men and boys and a few years ago there was a European report which showed that the suicide rate in this part of Ireland was 73% per cent higher than anywhere else in Europe. So, although the present economic situation is partly to blame at the moment, there are also other reasons why young men are suffering so much. 

One of these, I believe, is the level of violence aimed at young men. I never knew how bad it was in this country for young men until I had some of my own. Throughout their lives, from they were children until they were grown up, their primary experience of dealing with older men and boys was one of threat, violence, bullying and intimidation. I remember having a conversation with my youngest son many years ago when he was at secondary school and he said to me, ‘Mum, you have no idea what it is like, every day, all you get is, I’m gonna fight you, I’m gonna get you.’ 

This level of threat has followed them right through their lives, from their teachers to their peer group, to work colleagues. I remember, as a teenager, witnessing a teacher slapping a twelve year old boy on his hands with a leather strap that was a quarter of an inch thick and feeling physically ill. (I was in another classroom that overlooked his). I have seen numerous acts of violence committed against young men throughout my life and, so, it was no surprise to me to read that young men under the age of twenty five were more likely to be victims of violence than any other group.

Here in the North, there is another more sinister side to this violence that comes from a self-appointed Republican paramilitary group RAAD, who are shooting and beating up young men for minor drug offences (the major drug dealers pay protection to other criminal groups so they don’t get touched). They think if they add Republican to their name, this gives them some sort of legitimacy within the Nationalist community. We have had the extraordinary situation of parents bringing their sons to these people to be shot out, of fear that if they didn’t, there would be worse done to the whole family.  

There is also the cultural aspect to this, the macho culture that continually supports the ridiculous idea that males need to be toughened up. A few weeks ago, I read a letter in the Observer newspaper from a doctor, (unfortunately the paper went to the recycling) who said that males were the weaker sex, that a premature child was more likely to die if it was male. I was also speaking to a school principal who taught at a girls school for many years before becoming principal of a boys school. She told me that there was a huge difference in them and that girls were smarter, quicker and matured earlier and the boys were more naïve and took a lot longer to mature. I have to say that concurs with my own experience of bringing up boys and girls.

The question I would like to pose is this – what if all this violence was being directed towards young girls?  What would we be doing then, society would be in uproar!  A friend of mine asked this question at a recent community meeting, he works with and counsels young men. After the meeting, he was taken aside and told not to ask the question again by members of one of our ‘political parties’.

What kind of society have we created which accepts that young men are legitimate targets for violence and do not deserve to be treated with the same gentleness and kindness as young women? Why do boys have to be toughened up and made to repress their emotions? 

There are also paradoxes to this here in Ireland and that is in the way young males are ‘mammied’. Where their mother, whether through her own narcissism, or through some warped idea of her role as a parent, mollycoddle young men and do everything for them, indulging them all the time. The outcome of this, is to leave a grown up boy who is incapable of caring for himself, who has never learned how to deal with issues in a mature fashion and who finds himself in adulthood completely unprepared for, and unable to cope with, the realities of life.

A boy is a human being and, as such, has the same emotional range as a girl. He needs to be allowed to freely express his feelings as a child in order to learn how to manage and control them so that they don’t overwhelm him then when faced with crises later in adulthood.   

The role of a parent is to prepare your child for life in the real world. To spoil a child is about the worst thing you can do for them and is not a sign of your love for them but a sign of your own emotional immaturity. Most of us love our children and only want the best for them but spoiling a child is the laziest form of parenting because it requires no effort. I watched Rabbi Shmuley Botech on Oprah a few years ago and he drew a great analogy that has always stayed with me. He said that if we thought about it in terms of meat, it would help us to see it more clearly, a piece of meat that is spoiled is rotten and no good to anybody.

This is exactly true of children, the worst people to deal with in life are those who have been spoiled because they expect everything their way, have no empathy for others and have an overbearing sense of their own importance, (the front bench of the Tory party is a fine example of this) and while your child may be important to you, the rest of the world is not so enamoured.

As a society. we need to re-think how we treat our children, boys and girls. Our young men are in crisis and there are not enough grown-up men to help them negotiate their way into adulthood. We all need to take a long hard look at ourselves as parents and human beings because we are failing our children. We try to impose cultural falsehoods on them about how they should act and behave with no regard for the person they are. We allow these levels of violence against them to go unchecked and even believing it is for their own good. Men will not stop being violent until they are brought up without violence, when it is seen as the evil it is and not as something all boys need.

So be kind to your sons and if you want to spoil your child, spoil them with your time and attention. Make an effort and show them their true worth and how to value it. The constant threat of violence only leads to more violence and, inevitably, plays out in the ultimate act of violence against the self, suicide. The job of parenting is probably the hardest job there is, you are responsible for preparing this other human for life, it’s a profound role  and it requires effort but it has it’s own rewards when we see our children grow up into happy respectful people.

 As a final thought I would like you to think about this, the Lakota word for child is Wakanyeja, it translates as ‘sacred being’. Imagine what kind of world we could create if every child born was treated as a sacred being.     


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