Statues Beware

Bring back our bird.

Disaster struck at Velvets Cross Roundabout in Cobh a week or so ago. The Heron was stolen. “It wasna’ me” (as the Scots might say). I didn’t do it!  I might like to have done it, but it wasn’t me!  The wire sculpture by Emma Jane Rushworth (specialist in wire garden sculpture) had only been placed at the Roundabout some weeks ago.  It had been commissioned by The Tidy Town Committee in Cobh.
I meet the real herons every morning. They are so still (statuesque indeed) that sometimes I think they are a piece of sculpture.
I had a phone call from Tullow, a short time ago, asking if I was organising a protest.  I realised rather immediately that I was being teased.  What was the issue?   The Luas is being extended and will come through Finglas including my park – Tolka Valley Park….. Should I do something?
I expect that the Augustinian Chiefs will have swept me away to nowhere to become a nothing and a nobody by then!  (idea attributed to Jeremiah …. ) But this is not about me!

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez:

AOC is the youngest member of the House of Representatives in Washington.  Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.  The Republican Ted Yoho insulted her some weeks ago.  He had the good grace to apologise to the House for his behaviour.  He spoke of his background in poverty. He spoke of his wife and his daughters. He spoke of his God.
AOC wasn’t impressed.  She went into the House and delivered a speech calmly and in a controlled manner. It was powerful.  She spoke of how men treat women and mentioned in passing, how even the President of the US had told (as a member of the Squad) her to go home.  She is American and was born in America.

Her statement was direct, incisive, clear and brilliant.

I had a very bad thought.  If we as Church, listened to her words, might we find much of her address too applicable to ourselves? How women are treated? How they are excluded for spurious theological reasons.  How even the language of our Liturgy insults them; disrespects them; belittles them. I have just noticed on Google a heading in National Catholic Reporter:  ‘AOC is the future of the Catholic Church.’  I didn’t read it but it may be saying something similar……. You can look it up yourself.

Open-air funerals:

We had three funerals in the past few days.  Ann died after a few weeks of sickness. Ann and Dave were stalwarts at Church.
We prepared the funeral.  Only fifty could come to the Church.  The family arranged exactly the seating arrangement for those 50.  Nephew Stephen had speakers outside.  All the crowd stood at the window throughout, fully attentive. Dave’s voice could be heard (base baritone) ringing out the responses throughout the Mass. That was Friday. On Sunday, he turned up to Read at Mass. (He even used inclusive language!)  The conviction in his voice, ranged throughout the Church.  It was very moving.
On Monday, Fran came to Church.  It was very sad but the numbers poured in. And people had to be asked to leave. That eventually happened.  It was very difficult.
I had a funeral for Angela at 12.  We had it in the Open Air.  It was the third suicide in the family. She was 33.  She was described by the Principal (Maria) in the school as ‘gorgeous, sensitive and lovely.’  Her daughter was said to be most intelligent.
We had the Funeral in the Open. Why?  The family couldn’t bear to lock people out from the Church.  They said that the end of the street was a natural amphitheatre.  Some of us got together.  There was a leader, and an organiser. Cathrina was marvellous.  Everyone had a job. They knew what they had to do. They had prepared well. We had a fine singer in Charlene. The Reflections were well chosen and those were interspersed with song and music. There was great respect, dignity and reverence throughout.  I felt strongly too that Mass would not have been appropriate.  I felt quite moved and privileged to be part of such a community/family celebration.  Poor Angela. She had such a sad life and she had come out of Cuan Mhuire a few weeks ago.  The affection and love was in everyone present. It came out in quietness and attentiveness. It came out in the tears. Such a Service is another way.

John B Keane:

Des’ Island Discs on Friday was good.  It featured Billy Keane. He was hearty and oozing with bonhomie. He had missed the life of the Pub during the closure. He wasn’t talking of alcohol but rather of the camaraderie; chat and song. The Pub of course was John B Keane’s pub.  Billy spoke magnificently of Listowel; of the customers; of his father.  The pride he had in the locality; in the people; in the community was very special.  I could hear his father come back to life. The laughter and the fun. His acute description of moments and people, brought the portraits alive and his telling of it was rich. The air was filled with characters.  He stirred my old memory to dredge my own characters of life and of the community here.  My mental landscape was full of the people who made/make life good.  I felt graced.   The final song chosen by Billy was ‘Sweet Listowel.’ This song was written by John B.  He took years to write it. He wanted to do it. He wanted to sum up how he felt about his town.  John B was then old and was close to death. He was called down into the Bar. He had a pint or two and answered the call. Would he sing? He sang the song.  It was a delicious moment.
We all have somewhere in our hearts, similar songs (to write) and to sing.  We have to do it.   Our own Church Liturgies should be evocative and call into life our inner stories.  Do they?

Half-Opened Churches:

The Churches have opened.  The new way of doing things is strange. Masks make for less clarity in the exchanges. We understand better now, how the deaf find it hard to cope and find it ever harder when lip-reading is not possible.  People are delighted to be back.
Some have thoroughly enjoyed being barred from Church.  They even claim never to have been barred from a pub. The story improves in the repeated telling.
But numbers dictate that restrictions are adhered to.  Meetings are a problem.  We have to keep the distance.  Yet everything in us craves contact and proximity.  But we accept the need and the dangers.  We carry out the guidelines willingly. We have to become very creative in how we now do things.   Life indeed has changed and there is no doubt that a terrible beauty is born.  The ‘birth’ coaxes us out of the past.  We are called to be different and imaginative in how we do our ministry.   We needed something to startle us.


Some Ads are ridiculous. I’m not a careful listener to ads. Sometimes I can’t even get the point. But the Ad for the TV Licence is excellent. It is also very funny.  I rather like the Ad for the GAA.  ‘Where We All Belong” is ‘about the things we do, and the things we do together, that bind us to each other and nurture our community. It highlights the simple truth that whoever we are, whatever our role, we all need somewhere that belongs to us all. It is a celebration of young and old, players and coaches, club secretaries and supporters.’  It is “Where We All Belong.”   We could steal that one.  It makes a brilliant Mission Statement for ourselves.   I think it is true for us and has to made more true even in these days or especially these times.

The Wisdom of a 17 week old girl:

My young one Indi has gone on holidays. She was taken off to Wexford and then will move to Waterford. She loves where she has gone, but kept asking me on the phone – why has no one, asked for her opinion.  She likes to be consulted.  She then told me something that she had heard. She felt it explained how stupid adults are. She had read somewhere that adults who had spent one hour or more daily watching TV or even on the Internet; that their brains are affected and can be a contribution towards dementia in later years.   She thinks that this explains everything. I have no idea how she came up with that.  She is only 17 weeks old.

Seamus Ahearne osa.

P.S. The poor Statues have been removed from their plinth at The Shelbourne Hotel despite their 153 years of living on the spot…..These instant decisions worry me.  Is it fear of  a sudden outrage?   That is never a good way to deal with life and history. The iconoclasts are on the rampage.









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One Comment

  1. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    On the matter of the P.S. on “the poor statues”:
    Yes, there appear to have been hasty decisions. It seems clear now that the statues themselves do not represent slaves. There was a fascination with Egypt – ancient Rome brought artefacts and obelisks to bedeck their own city. Egyptomania was rekindled with the French campaign in Egypt 1798-1801 and their reports on Egypt in the Description de l’Égypte. This is all very well if we see the Shelbourne statues as a kind of expression of the exotic to convey an image of the luxury of the hotel. But there is a much darker side. Why would anyone want to have statues of Egyptian/Nubian people in Dublin in 1867? Why not statues of real or symbolic Irish people, particularly women? Why not even statues representing people of the then British establishment?
    Much of the attention of European empire-makers in the preceding centuries was taken up with the “New World” of the Americas. Africa, on their doorstep, was relatively neglected except as a source of for trade, especially the slave trade. But England lost some of its American colonies in 1776, and outlawed the slave trade in 1807, followed by abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1833. Interest in Africa was growing as a source of wealth and sphere of influence, not just a fascination with Egyptian history and culture. It’s sometimes called “The Scramble for Africa.” The Suez canal was under construction when the Shelbourne statues were erected in 1867. The canal opened in 1869, and this facilitated the next step: colonisation of the whole of Africa. This was implemented at the Berlin conference of 1884, where Britain and France and 12 other countries agreed among themselves to carve up Africa between themselves. The peoples of Africa were not represented at the conference. By 1902, 90 percent of the land of Africa had been colonised. It has shaped the history of Africa ever since. It was reflected in the stamps I used to collect.
    The Shelbourne statues are a small piece of the background to the catastrophic injustice and disaster inflicted by European “civilisations” on the peoples of Africa.
    There is an ironic Irish connection. The Shelbourne Hotel is built on the site of the residence of Sir William Petty (1623-87), whose son Henry was created Earl of the barony of Shelburne, an area of Wexford which includes the Hook peninsula. The Irish name is “Síol Bhroin,” from the Irish clan of that name. Sir William Petty was the person commissioned by Cromwell to survey the land of Ireland: the “Down Survey.” He had systematic maps drawn up of Ireland, showing the ownership and usage of land, and indicating which lands were to be confiscated for the purpose of rewarding Cromwell’s armies and investors. Petty himself was granted extensive lands in south Kerry, nearly 100,000 acres. He was also granted large tracts of land in counties Limerick, Cork, Kilkenny, King’s County (county Offaly) and Westmeath.
    This has shaped the history of Ireland ever since.

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