A DAY OF PILGRIMAGE, A LOOK BACK

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I first posted this article in 2014.  Its a true description of a yearly trip my family would make for 10 years or more this is a memory of my first trip 1954

great victoria street station      images

TO DAY I WENT TO ONE OF IRELAND’S HOLY PLACES OF PILGRIMAGE, THE HOLY SHRINE OF KNOCK WHERE ITS SAID THAT IN 1879 OUR HOLY MOTHER MARY APPEARED TO 15 PEOPLE ON THE GABLE WALL OF THE LOCAL STONE BUILT CHURCH IN THE MIDDLE OF MAYO .

AS A CHILD OF 6 YRS MY MOTHER AND FATHER  DECIDED IT WAS TIME I ALSO CAME ALONG, WHICH CAME AS A SURPRISE TO ME AS I WAS TOLD THE YEAR BEFORE ‘YOU ARE TOO YOUNG’, BUT THIS YEAR 1954 I COULD JOIN THE REST OF THE KELLY FAMILY AND UNDERTAKE THE GREAT ADVENTURE TO KNOCK SHRINE IN MAYO ON THE 3RD SUNDAY OF AUGUST!

THE NIGHT BEFORE, PREPARATION WOULD BEGIN. AT 7PM, AS ON ALL OTHER NIGHTS IN OUR HOUSE, DADDY GOT TO HIS KNEES AND STARTED THE FAMILY ROSARY. NO ONE LEFT THE HOUSE UNTIL AFTER THE ROSARY, BUT ON THIS SATURDAY NO ONE LEFT AT ALL AS WE HAD AN EARLY START ON SUNDAY MORNING. SO IT WAS BATH TIME AND, YES, WE HAD AN INDOOR BATHROOM SO EVERYONE TOOK THEIR TURN. THE YOUNGEST FIRST, SO THAT WAS ME. WASHED, DRIED, CLEAN UNDERWEAR, AND MAM SHOUTING “MAKE SURE YOU CLEAN BEHIND THOSE EARS AND DRY YOUR HAIR!”. ONCE ALL THIS WAS DONE, IT WAS OFF TO BED. IT WAS LIKE WAITING FOR SANTA AT CHRISTMAS WITH ALL THE EXCITEMENT AND NO SLEEP, FOR TOMORROW I WOULD BE GOING ON THE GREAT BIG STEAM TRAIN TO KNOCK! BUT AS IN ALL THESES THINGS, I DID DRIFT OFF TO SLEEP.

KNOCK, KNOCK. “PHILIP, JIMMY, OLIVER, GET UP! ITS TIME TO GO FOR THE TRAIN!” I SIT UP IN MY BED, WIPE MY EYES AND LOOK AROUND THE OTHER TWO STILL LYING STILL AND HALF ASLEEP. KNOCK KNOCK AGAIN. “WILL YOU GET UP? WE ARE GOING TO BE LATE!” SUDDENLY THEY STIR. “WHAT TIME IS IT?” OLIVER ASKS. “ITS 3.30,” SAYS DADDY. “GET READY.” I LOOK AT MY CLEAN CLOTHES ALL LAID OUT BY MAMMY THE NIGHT BEFORE. MY SCHOOL UNIFORM, WHICH I WILL PROUDLY WEAR ON THIS GREAT JOURNEY – MY BLAZER WITH THE CBS ST PATRICK’S PRIMARY SCHOOL  CREST, WHITE SHIRT, SCHOOL TIE, AND MY SHORT TROUSERS. ALL THREE OF US WORE THE SAME OUTFIT, EXCEPT ME. THE OLDER BROTHERS HAD LONG TROUSERS, AND RITA HAD HER DOMINICAN FORTWILLIAM GRAMMAR SCHOOL UNIFORM. AS USUAL, BOTH MAM AND DAD WERE TURNED OUT IN ALL THEIR FINERY. WE HAD A CUP OF TEA AND THE TAXI WAS AT THE DOOR. IT WAS TIME TO GO TO THE GREAT NORTHERN RAILWAY STATION IN GREAT VICTORIA STREET TO MEET UP WITH ALL THE OTHER PILGRIMS ABOUT TO MAKE THIS GREAT JOURNEY TO KNOCK.

WHEN WE ARRIVE THERE IT’S A HIVE OF ACTIVITY WITH HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE QUEUING UP TO BOARD THEIR TRAINS WHICH WILL CARRY US AWAY. AS I WALK DOWN PAST THE TRAINS, I SEE ALL THE SICK PILGRIMS COMING OUT OF THE KNIGHTS OF MALTA AMBULANCES, SOME ON STRETCHERS AND WHEELCHAIRS. THEY WERE AIDED BY NURSES AND DOCTORS WHO I LATER FOUND OUT WERE ALL FROM THE MATER HOSPITAL ON THE CRUMLIN ROAD. THEY WERE SUPPORTED BY MEMBERS OF THE KNIGHTS IN THEIR WELL PRESENTED GREY UNIFORMS  WHO WOULD ACCOMPANY THEM ON THE JOURNEY. BUT AS A 6’YR OLD, MY MIND WAS ON OTHER THINGS LIKE THIS BIG STEAM ENGINE THAT WILL PULL US ALL THE WAY TO MAYO.

“ALL ABOARD! ALL ABOARD!” THE STATION MASTER SHOUTS. SO ON I GET WITH MY DAD HOLDING MY HAND. WE MOVE DOWN THE CARRIAGE LOOKING FOR OUR SEATS, AND I NOTICE THAT ALL THE TABLES ARE SET WITH CUPS AND SAUCERS AND CUTLERY. WE FIND OUR NAMES AND OUR SEATS AND WE ALL MOVE IN AND SETTLE DOWN FOR THE JOURNEY,

SOON THE TRAIN HOOTER SOUNDS AND WE ARE ON OUR WAY, PUFFING OUT OF THE STATION. I HAVE A WINDOW SEAT SO I CAN GET A LOOK AT THE VARIOUS SMALL STATIONS WE PASS, FROM DUNMURRY TO LURGAN, ALL THE WAY TO PORTADOWN, WHERE THE TRAIN IS STOPPED FOR CUSTOMS INSPECTION. YOU CAN FEEL THE TENSION AND THE HOSTILITY FROM THE CUSTOMS MEN , BUT WE STAYED QUIET AND LET THEM GET ON WITH THEIR JOB. AFTER WE RESTART, WE FEEL A SENSE OF RELIEF AND BREAKFAST IS SERVED. A FULL FRY AND BREAD AND BUTTER WITH TEA, AND WE ALL TUCK IN, BUT NOT BEFORE GRACE AND A DECADE OF THE ROSARY. AS MY DAD SAID “YOU’RE ON PILGRIMAGE!”

SOON WE ARE ACROSS THE BORDER AND HEADING FOR THE BIG VIADUCT ACROSS THE BOYNE RIVER IN DROGHEDA. WHAT A SIGHT FOR A CHILD! ON TO CONNOLLY STATION IN DUBLIN  WHERE WE STOP TO CHANGE ENGINES AND DRIVERS. WE ARE IN THE HANDS OF C.I.E AND A SENSE OF PEACE COMES OVER THE TRAIN AS PEOPLE RELAX AND LAUGH. WE ARE IN THE FREE STATE. WE ARE NOT ALLOWED OFF THE TRAIN AT THIS TIME AS THERE IS A LOT OF SHUNTING  BUT SOON AS WE GET TO HUSTON STATION, WE JUMP OFF TO STRETCH OUR LEGS. THE SMOKERS GET OFF TOO TO GET A FIX,  AS MY DAD DID. THERE HE BOUGHT THE IRISH PAPERS TO READ UP ON THE SPORTS AND THE NEWS, WHICH HE SHARED WITH OLIVER AND JIMMY,  AND THE JOURNEY CONTINUED. MORE PRAYERS, MORE TEA AND BISCUITS, AND MORE PRAYERS, BUT SOON WE ARRIVE IN CLAREMORRIS STATION IN COUNTY MAYO. THE TRAIN JOURNEY IS OVER.

WE ALL EXIT THE SMALL STATION AND MAKE OUR WAY UP THROUGH THE TOWN TO THE SQUARE WHERE WE MEET THE BUSES THAT WILL TAKE US TO KNOCK. THEY WERE SINGLE DECK LEYLAND BUSES WITH THE DRIVERS CAB SEPARATE FROM THE BODY OF PASSENGERS , LIKE THE OLD LONDON BUSES. MY LASTING MEMORY OF THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY WAS SEEING ALL THE WHITEWASHED COTTAGES AS WE MADE OUR WAY ALONG THIS COUNTRY ROAD. THE BEAUTY OF THAT SCENE HAS ALWAYS REMAINED WITH ME.

SOON WE ARRIVE AT THE CHURCH. THE BUS IS MARKED ‘ST PATRICKS BELFAST, NO’2’ AND WE MAKE OUR WAY TO THE CHURCH. THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE WALKING AROUND THE CHURCH SAYING THE ROSARY AND OTHER PRAYERS. WE SOON JOIN IN WALKING, MY FATHER HOLDING MY HAND IN CASE I WANDER OFF AND GET LOST IN THE HUGE CROWD OF PEOPLE. AFTER WE GO AROUND THE CHURCH THREE TIMES, WE GO OFF TO BUY SOME HOLY PICTURES, STATUES AND MEDALS, AS WELL AS HOLY WATER, AND ROSARY BEADS ALL TO BE BLESSED AT THE MASS FOR THE SICK LATER IN THE DAY. IT WAS ALSO A CHANCE TO GET SOME REFRESHMENTS OF TEA AND LEMONADE AND SANDWICHES BEFORE THE PARADE

AFTER WE HAVE DONE ALL THIS, WE LINE UP BEHIND OUR BANNER OF THE DIOCESES OF DOWN AND CONOR, WHERE WE MEET OTHER PILGRIMS FROM THE OTHER DIOCESES AROUND THE COUNTRY .

THE PARADE STARTS AROUND THE CHURCH AND WE DO THE STATIONS OF THE CROSS BEFORE HEADING BACK TO OUR AREA WHERE WE AWAIT THE MASS OF THE SICK. THE SICK ARRIVE WITH THEIR HELPERS AND ARE PLACED AT THE FRONT OF THE CHURCH WALL WHERE THEY ARE ANOINTED WITH HOLY OILS. I HEAR SOME OF THEM CRY AND AND OTHERS PRAY FOR THE GRACE TO CARRY THEIR CROSS, WHICH WAS EXPLAINED TO ME BY MY MOTHER. THIS WAS MY FIRST ENCOUNTER  WITH THE REAL SUFFERING OF THE SICK .

SOON IT WAS ALL OVER AND BY 5,PM WE WERE ALL BACK ON THE BUS, HEADING FOR THE TRAIN AND OUR LONG JOURNEY BACK TO BELFAST

The knock shrine off the past  knock church in my young daysour lady of knock

The knock shrine off today

Image result for knock shrineImage result for knock shrine

 

To Be Or Not To Be That Is The Question On The British Brexit

It takes time to get your head around why a country wants to walk away from a market of 500 million people across 27 nations to pursue an unidentifiable future, unless of course you happen to be a little Britten who still thinks that Britannia will once again rule the waves, or Boris Johnson and his crew who think they are the Donald Duck Trump of Britain and think they can make Britain great again brigade. 

So I have to ask myself where in the name of sanity did these people get their education, only to discover that they are all from families of the British elite,  mostly educated at Oxford or Cambridge and in many cases are straight out of the officer class of the British Army, Navy, or Air Force – you know the type,  stick their heads in the air and hold their noses as they walk past the poor, the people that they have condemned to a state of poverty as they move their assets overseas and to Europe. 

Now it is none of my business if the British wish to be satisfied with the crumbs from their tables, that is their choice. But this is not the choice of the people of Northern Ireland or Scotland who voted to remain within the European family nations where justice and equality and freedom for all 27 members is the corner stone of their policy. 

So why does it concern me? that question is easy answered, its a thing called the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) which has brought peace to the island of Ireland where a 40 year war was fought by the Nationalist / Republican people of Northern Ireland  to remove the cancer of the British from our land. In that war over 3,000 people died and 1000’s more suffered mental health problems, serious injuries,  marriages destroyed and families broken. But the GFA  brought all that to an end as the border between the northern statelet of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland was removed which meant that we had / have an all Ireland economy and no physical border on the Island which made the possibility of an all Ireland unitary state by peaceful means and a border poll where the vote will be held every 7 years  which is controlled by the British (who to date have denied the northern people that choice), possible because of the British and Irish membership of the European Union.

So for us Irish who live on this small island this is a disaster of huge proportions, and is a threat to our peace and prosperity like nothing ever did in the past. Even though the GFA is an International Agreement and is lodged as such in the United Nations in New York, the British now seem to be intent on ripping it up. What I saw on television today they now intend to reinstate a physical border once again on the island of Ireland to satisfy the so called Democratic Unionist Party,  even though they only represent 32% of the Northern Irish  people and that 54% of all who voted in the British referendum voted to remain in the European Union. This is /was a democratic vote under the supervision of the British which they now ignore, mind you it is not the first time the British ignored the democratic wishes of the Irish people (1918 Ireland voted in a British general election for independence from Britain which they ignored).  It was 4 years after that and a war for independence in which 1000’s of people died that once again the British partitioned Ireland by giving  the six north eastern counties to an orange order Protestant  state for a Protestant people and Catholics need not apply.  That state is now called  Northern Ireland where the Irish community who live there are now British subjects, a title they reject as they are Irish in their own land, all be it a part which is under illegal British rule. All of this led to a continuous spate of unrest against this state, so this is one of my questions, are we now on the way back to the future, at the wimp of a government who treat the Irish people and nation as some kind of slaves who have to jump to their wishes? !!!

As there are  many other reasons why we Irish want to remain in the European Union and one of them is food standards across the Union, I would like to explain where I am coming from.  A couple of years ago I went into my local Tesco, it was the middle of Summer and I wanted to buy some salad/veg so I picked up an iceberg lettuce, it was from Holland, but the scallions were from Kenya. Now remember it was the middle of Summer when our own greens would be plentiful and available, so I put them back and left in the knowledge that our farmers produce would be in some other supermarket, so I went to my local Lidl and to my surprise what did I find, 90% of all veg on the shelves was Irish and presented to the highest standards and most important it was fresh. Then I found that 100% of all meats, chicken and ham/pork,  potatoes etc were all Irish north and south, and no border to delay its delivery to the supermarket with less travel and none of whatever it is that is sprayed on goods from overseas to maintain its so called freshness.

I also found the same standards in ALDI, Supervalu and Dunnes Stores.  Freshness and quality produce produced to European standards for food by Irish farming families without breaking the rules. As I continued to do my weekly shop the one thing that pleased me was the knowledge that all the goods I bought that was produced within the European Union had to meet certain standards  as per the EU rules which gave me a sense of security and quality.       

Above are a few products which I buy from Aldi, Lidl, Dunnes Stores and Supervalu. All are produced within the EU and all to the same standards and at fair prices which the working family can afford. There are other reasons that need to be considered here, these companies all buy other products and fresh foods for their shops across Europe which sustains more jobs for rural Ireland and this business is continuing to build  across Ireland.  All of this progress has been made in the last 20 years since the Good Friday Agreement was signed and put into action, an action which has greatly benefited all the people on this island, all of which is now at risk because of a few people in the British parliament who wish to, in my mind to disrupt the full potential of this Island called Ireland  

Ireland united Gaelic and Free
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A NEW PARTY THAT WILL BRING NEW PROBLEMS FOR NATIONALIST AND REPUBLICANS IN NORTHERN IRELAND

And so here we go again, another split within the republican movement  A split that is unnecessary and ill advised but created by people who have their own political ambitions, and a party it seems who have no moral compass on the rights for the unborn which must be a matter of  conscience for any person or politician, especially in a country where a large minority voted against abortion, (33.6% ) a vote that also should be respected.

But it now seems that Sinn Fein, under both Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald, no longer represent the voice of that minority and so they force the withdrawal of a republican who did and does voice their concern about this law, who spent all of the abortion debate speaking against it  and should have been allowed to continue to do so, and it is my belief that that decision taken by the leaders of Sinn Fein was one of personal preservation rather than the good of the party and the people of Ireland and their right to choose  on what side of the argument they wish to promote. 

Sinn Fein’s  argument is that it was a decision taken by the majority at the party conference, but as we all know these conferences are party owned and anything the party puts forward will also be passed.  Gerry and Mary Lou say its right so it must be right as they will not undermine the leadership whether its what they believe or not. 

The Unforeseen Consequence Of This Decision :t

There comes a time when a political party has to give people/ members the right to follow their conscience on matters of faith  and this is one of those times 

This decision by Sinn Fein to suspend and censor Peadar Toibin was wrong very wrong  and I hope not to late to revisit,  as the main losers in this conflict, will not be Sinn Fein or Peadar Toibin  but the nationalist community in the north, who will now have their vote split  four (4 ) ways  SDLP, PBP, S/F and now this new party being formed by Peader Toibin 4 parties all seeking for the nationalist vote, none of this to my mind makes sense as it once again may leave the door open for a return to Unionist rule  in the north  and do not think that proportional representation will protect the Sinn Fein vote it will not 

  
As older people in my generation used to say,Splits and Money was always the downfall of the Republican Movement. So I appeal to Peadar and Sinn Fein not to split that vote any further at this time of crucial importance for the nationalist people in the north 
For the people in the north while we respect Peadar’s stand on abortion and his right to life conviction , there are 100,000’s of people who want an end to partition and British rule above and beyond all else

  Its Unity That We In The Northern Republican /Nationalist family need and not division Or People Who Will Put Personal Ambition Ahead Of the people who supported them



A Little Place Full of Nationalist / Republican History In Belfast

A brilliant place, they taught Irish there, which under the Northern Ireland special Power’s Act was illegal  and if caught you risked getting  six months in Crumlin Road Jail.

It was also a home for Irish culture, i.e. dancing and music, but as the troubles / war was erupting in Northern Ireland  in the early 1970s it became the meeting place for the Association for Legal Justice who championed republican / nationalist  prisoners rights.

 The Association  also investigated shootings carried out by the British Army / RUC and hit squads,

My sister Rita Kelly was a founding member of the Association of Legal Justice. She would later help to establish the Irish National Caucus in Washington DC, which was to introduce the Sean McBride Principles to the U.S senate and Congress which were to be followed by any American Company who were investing in  Northern Ireland and  that included work equality and justice.  This is now law in the US, and is the basis for the Equality Commission in Northern Ireland.

Other founding members were, Fr Brian Brady, who was Dean in Trench House College for teachers in West Belfast,  Pascal O’Hare and P.J. McGrory solicitors. Gerry Kelly’s (MLA) father was also involved. Other founding members followed which included my brother Oliver Kelly, Solicitor.

Oliver was in Longh Kesh at the time and he sent out several statements to the Association of Legal Justice from other internees who had been abused and tortured by the British/RUC.  All of this information was sent to the Irish government who did nothing to help or support the prisoners. As a matter of fact my brother Oliver was arrested on the morning of internment and completed his law society exams in Long Kesh  October 1971 and became a qualified solicitor. He was released from internment in December 1971 but was re-arrested in March 1972 and was one of the last internees to be released.  Once again the free state stood idly by

If walls could talk the Ard Scoil could tell many stories from the beginning of a romance at one of the many Ceili dances , to sustaining our Irish culture and language, many happy nights.

But also many sad days as we read the statements from Long Kesh and the witnesses to the many murders committed by the British Army  the RUC and their murder gangs of the UVF and other loyalist  gangs

The Irish Then And Now

Over the years and for as long as I can remember the people of Ireland went all over the world in an effort to improve the living standards of the most oppressed and poor people in which ever countries they went to 

In the past 100 years and more they have brought religion faith and hope to people weather that be in England, Africa ,The Philippines, Japan, South America, India and Europe, but no matter where they went they brought health care , education, self esteem self help,  water production,animal welfare and hope for a better future, This was carried out much to the distaste of the elites of these countries who for their own reasons did not want to see change.

  In the early days this work was carried out by the various Irish religious orders who educated , each brother priest or nun  in a skill which they  brought with them to these far off lands, but the most of them were farmers sons and daughters, teachers, nurses, and doctors who would have also given their lives to their god and were dedicated to working for the poor and improving their lives, even tho the numbers of the religious orders have dropped  this work goes on as they now manage the schools and hospitals as the people they trained and educated  are now taking over and running the day to day activities, and indeed many of these people are now working in our own health system and schools in Ireland so all that good work carried out by the early Irish missioners in these countries is now showing a benefit to the Irish nation. I don’t really   belive in Karma but I do belive that good will always overcome evil  and we will be rewarded as we are here in Ireland with the arrival into our mist the most beautiful and caring of people as I personally know from my own experience having met nurses from India and Africa all trained by the same Irish nuns and brothers who went to their homelands to help them and their families for a better future. 

  

There is now a real threat to this work being able to continue as it did in the early days . but I do see hope that it will emerge from this down turn as I see the number of Irish lay people now doing this work, as I think of Gina Heraty  from Westport  Ireland doing amazing work in Haiti among the poor and victims of the recent storms and earthquake or Mrs Nobel  in Vietnam where she runs an orphanage for street kids and there are many many more like her around the world all of them are Irish who are  working  quietly  in different parts of the world bringing hope for a better life as they do the work that the capitalist system will not  do     

HO CHI MINH

This was brought home to me  early this year as my son Diarmuid sent me photos from Hanoi in Vietnam as he made up battery boxes to supply electricity  for a village which two of his Irish friends who like himself are teachers, have adopted,  because the people in this village can’t afford to send their children to school they teach them at the weekends in the hope that will get some kind of a start in life, once again  we witness the kindness, caring and selflessness of the Irish abroad.

We are still missionaries at heart !!!

    

 My son Diarmuid  making ready battery boxes 

My daughter celebrates Halloween  with her pupils in Hanoi Vietnam 

DOGS, SHEEP, BABIES, AND THE RIGHT TO LIFE

I was born and raised in Belfast 70 years ago  and the most part of my life was spent in cities like Dublin  and Belfast  so I never really understood  the life of living in the countryside and nature. 

During the past 18 years  since  we moved to Mayo it was there  that I started  to appreciate  the seasons , the spring  the summer the autumn and the winter  and how life continue’s  in the circle of life.  But this became more important to me in the past 18 months .

 I  started A journey of recovery following A nervous breakdown in 2017 and a bad bout of (PTSD), as part of that recovery I had a long time to look back and re-assess my life and the desisions I made  over those years. 

During those early years  (1964) I saw the disrespect for human  life committed by the forces of the Northern Ireland state as they raced up and down Davis Street and the Lower Falls Road firing at will from armoured cars not worrying who they shot as we were only Irish Catholics ( or fenians as they described us). Little did I know that this was to be the beginning of the nationalist /catholic fight back against a corrupt state which was being governed by  a bible thumping fundamentalist protestant government whose only aim in life was to destroy any Catholic community living in the six north eastern counties of this Island. A form of ethnic cleansing!! at least that was how this was/is perceived within the nationalist community , this was to be reinforced a few years later  (1969) , when the catholic community asked for basic human rights just as the African American and Dr Martin Luther King was doing in the united states of america  at that time  

As a result of this campaign the government launched an un-merciful attack on the catholic community across the six counties which was to lead to a 30 year war with them and the British and their army as they once again tried to  impose their rule / misrule on the nationalist/catholic people  of the six counties .

It was at this period of my life where I saw the unqualified misery of war.  The loss of innocence , the murder of young children  and not so young men and women as their blood ran through the streets of Belfast and across the north and at that time it did not matter whether you were catholic, protestant,  Irish or British or loyalist because all blood is red and all bones are the same and all had mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters and extended families who will mourn for the rest of their lives at that loss.  

Added to this this is the mental scars which last for life plus alcoholism, drug addiction and suicide, these are all side products of war and trauma where the taking of human life is justified because it’s a war, stupid  or is it ?

So let me return to my heading,  Farming families  in this and most countries have a right to protect their livestock especially sheep and that right allows them to shoot your dog if he is caught worrying or attacking the farmers sheep which can and does lead to the sheep aborting their lambs or babies as this goes on, but I have never seen or met a farmer who wants to end the life of that dog. As a matter of fact I have seen grown men and women cry because they had no option but to shoot that dog because once again some  child or parent loved that dog and that shooting will bring sadness and loss to that family and once again the circle of life continues, hurt, pain, and loss , its not someones dog it was my dog   This brings me to the 8th amendment here in Ireland and the yes vote  I have to admit I voted yes for choice even though abortion would not be my choice  I can not deny others that choice, that is a decision they will have to live with and I can’t and will not  judge them                                                             

This is a complex situation with many questions and very few answers. Some people may abuse the law, some people may have other difficulties like drugs or may be homeless or for financial reasons or the baby may be disadvantaged with a birth defect like Downs syndrome, and may not be able to cope with that scenario, these are questions I have never had to face.                                                                                   

Yet I do know families who took on that challenge and have never regretted it as that child has brought great joy  as did my great nephew’s mother.           So its not easy to make those decisions, but abortion should always be the dooms day option as that baby will always be remembered.   just as our mothers do when a tragedy of death and loss enters their life.                 

This is all written down as the CIRCLE OF LIFE a beginning and an end but abortion does not give that un-born the chance to even join the circle               

Just ask any woman who had a miscarriage or a still birth , as that prospective mother will carry that tragedy for the rest of her life and that I know from personal experience                                                                    Remember the sheep  who lost its lambs,as it wanders the field looking for her lamb or the cow who cries for days when her calf is taken from her

  AND THE CIRCLE OF LIFE BEGINS ONCE AGAIN

November Comes Again A Month Of Remembrance

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My Father John And My Sister Rita On Her Wedding Day

This month of November my memory returns to my father John and my sister Rita who both at great cost to themselves worked hard all off their lives, worked for a Republican united Ireland of justice ,equality and freedom from British rule :

My father when he married my mother was a printer with the Irish news paper in Belfast that was in the early 1930s , they had 9 children 4 girls and 5 boys.

My father was a very quite man but a very brave man as I was to learn later in his life as his whole life was about his children and my mother , yes they struggled being a catholic family in the north of Ireland but the big thing that drove them, was that all their children would be educated for the world off their time, never would the bigoted state-let of the unionist /British/ anti catholic ruled North of Ireland hold them back as it did in his time, where they suffered discrimination because of where they went on a Sunday morning or in his case every morning and the fact that they are Irish in body and mind, who believed in the principles of 1916 and the proclamation of freedom, in fact he and my mother lived it  until they both died

As I was born in 1948 and  the youngest in the family my first memory of my father was in 1954 as he took me by the hand to St Patrick’s CBS school  in Donegall street Belfast . He was to take my hand to safety many times after that

Like the night of 26th December 1960 when my oldest Brother John who was a republican prisoner  in Crumlin Road Jail Belfast  where he was serving a 8 year sentence tried to escape along with a fellow prisoner Danny Donnelly while Danny made it John fell back down into the yard.

Danny arrived at our home in Adela street off the Antrim Road  which was close to the jail, As I answered the door to Danny and as it was my 12th birthday , the only other people in our home that night was my sister Rita and my mother and father.

As my mother and Rita got Danny to a safe house  my father and I went up around the Jail and the Mater Hospital grounds looking for John we were not sure if John fell back into the jail or outside off it but to no avail he fell back .

As he held my hand that night I saw a father who cared for his son and  republican ideals, he made  sure we were all safe before the the RUC /B’Specials arrived at our house were he  with my mother were put under house arrest for almost a week.

All through the late fifties and  sixties he was the quite strength to all of us , but as the trouble off 1969 started even tho he was suffering from serious heart disease for a number of years he was still there making sure we looked after our neighbours and friends as he sent us to man the barricades

As all this trouble raged and his two oldest sons Billy and John where at the forefront in organising the defence of the nationalist  areas from the loyalist, the RUC, and the B’Specials he was always there when we would come home the teapot was on he never went to bed until Oliver and myself came in from the barricades

In April 1970 my brother John was arrested in Dublin by the fianna fail party and Jack Lynch as he was organising arms from Europe a episode that was sanctioned by the Irish government and became known as the arms trial.

This was a very testing time for him as we as a family were now  pointed out  as leading republicans  John went on trial in May of that year and he was found innocent , but we lost our wholesale green grocery business and all of us were in danger of being murdered at any time by loyalist gun men or the RUC/B’Specials

On the night of the 3rd of November 1970 Oliver was home before me he found daddy dead in the coal yard as he was filling the coal bucket.

Because of the Arms Trial in Dublin John who was a wanted man in the north  and was to be  charged with conspiring to over throw the state ( northern Ireland) he arrived to our home under cover of darkness escorted by his comrades

My father was one of the unknown victims of the troubles

May you rest in peace Father and thank you for looking after me for all these years always in my thoughts and prayers as I ask you for guidance and protection

Your son

Philip

Even thou his father who was a member if the Irish volunteers, he joined the Munster’s and followed Redmond on to the green fields off France where he died in 1916 he would never allow any poppies into our home as his father did not die for the British but a promise that by going to war  he was promised home rule for the island off Ireland,

A PROMISE BROKEN BY THE BRITISH

 

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED TODAY ON MY VISIT TO THE MARIAN SHRINE IN KNOCK COUNTY MAYO (6th August 20018)

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I started my day in the normal way, breakfast , chat at the table, and feed the dogs and cats  before we left for Knock Shrine 

During the drive my mind wandered to my many visits to Knock in the 1950’s and 1960’s A time when for the people from the north of Ireland our faith and belief in the Catholic Church was unquestioned,where because off our faith we constantly faced persecution, suppression,and discrimination,where the church and its religious orders nursed our sick,delivered our babies, educated us to prepare us for the world, where we where taught that education was the door to personal freedom  As christian brother Hanley often told us , ” they may take your clothes , your home and in some cases your life but they can never take your brain, your mind or your freedom of thought your education is your gate to freedom”.

As my journey continued my mind then turned to the more recent past and the reasons why I ended up disillusioned with the catholic church and its priests and nuns , the abuse of little children , the abuse of single mothers as they took their babies from them and sold them into other families like cattle at a mart as they forced many of them to leave their homeland in search of happiness as the trauma of their loss was unbearable many where lost to alcohol, drugs, and an early death, the slavery of the Magdalene laundries , the abuse of young people and children at the Artane boys home and the abuses carried  on young men in Letterfrack  and of course the abuse of girls in Golden Bridge.

HOW COULD ANYONE CALL THEMSELVES CATHOLIC OR CHRISTIAN ? HOW CAN I ONCE AGAIN ENTER A CATHOLIC CHURCH LOOK AT A PRIEST AND NOT WONDER ABOUT HIS ACTIONS WAS/IS HE ALSO GUILTY OF WRONG DOING? IS HE ALSO ONE OF THEM ?

So I lost trust, I lost faith in the church ,in its Priests its  Nuns its Bishops and its Cardinals as they covered up the rot/ cancer that is /was within the Irish Catholic Church,so I became a total sceptic of the church , but I still held on to my own spiritually as I continued my own relationship with my god through daily prayer so my excursion to Knock was more to satisfy others than myself , so what was to happen was totally unexpected and remains totally unexplained by me.

We arrived at knock and I let my wife and my sister-in-law out of the car at the main gates to the old church as I went to park the car,to join them later.

When I  returned I found the girls in the mass card shop buying mass cards after which we made our way to the Church for the mass , but I made a detour to the book shop for a look around , during which I found a number of books that I hope will be of benefit to me as I work through my illnesses mental and physical.

After this I proceeded to the main church and joined up with my wife and sister-in-law as we waited for the 3pm mass but this for me was not going to be your ordinary mass this was different there was a sanctity about it as up to 30 priests made their way around the alter to say a celebration  mass for priests and to pray for more people to come forward to serve in the priest hood.

It was during the sermon given by a Fr Finnegan  at this mass that  my thoughts and attitude  seems to have changed.

For the first time I heard a priest ask for forgiveness and to acknowledge the wrongs committed by the church on the innocent children entrusted to their care, for the wrongs committed by his fellow priests on the young people they betrayed and destroyed their innocents and lives,who betrayed the church and their fellow priests and nuns , this priest stood in front of the whole congregation of about a thousand  people and asked us in all humility to forgive the church,he then went on to outline what are the real purpose of a priest, to serve their community to be that trusted hand of comfort to those in distress and sadness, to bring and work the gospel in word, deed, and example to his flock for which he is their Shepard.

This is the kind of priest that I had known the Fr Bradley’s the Fr O’Neill’s the Fr McAllister’s, these were as a young person and a boy I looked up to, who I served mass for , who where regular visitors to our home in times of great stress to offer comfort and prayers to our family when we needed them most

So now the question is ,” do I return to my faith do I give it another go”?  do I do as Fr Finnegan ask’s and forgive and acknowledge  the weaknesses of the church do I remove that pedestal ? BUT I HAVE A FEELING AFTER THE SERMON TODAY I MAY NOT HAVE TO , AS THE CHURCH IS NOW ON THE WAY TO DOING THAT THEMSELVES

THANK YOU Fr Finnegan for your  passion and your truthfulness and yes I will give it another go.

 

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