Beyond appearances: Realities of Irish Life

June 5, 2012 in 2007

“A determination not to be deceived by appearances is essential for understanding contemporary Ireland”, according to editor Fergus O’Donoghue SJ writing in the Winter issue of the Irish Jesuit journal Studies, just published. Many of the issues highlighted in this contemporary journal on Irish society point to underlying contradictions and paradoxes in Irish society today.

Fergus O’Donoghue SJ believes that the Green viewpoint is a helpful corrective to some current thinking. It asks us to explain “how we could encourage extensive building of new housing estates in towns where there is an inadequate water supply or how the prospect of a few decades of local employment could facilitate the giving of drilling licences that permit foreign companies to repatriate a very high percentage of their profits.”

In other articles:  

•    Mary Kenny, broadcaster and journalist, gives a surprising insight into the legendary Michael Collins as a ‘man of faith.’ His robust image as ruthless and merciless with opponents is contrasted with his attendance at daily mass in London during the crucial 1921 treaty negotiations. Stranger still is the image of him saying the rosary for his fiancée, Kitty Kiernan, and reporting to her of a visit to the Oliver Plunkett shrine: “It is simply marvellous, and also I lit candles there – the first for you”.

•    In his article ‘Crisis in the Universities’, Professor Padraig Breatnach of the Institute of Advanced Studies claims that the future of third level institutes is in grave jeopardy. He blames this mainly on the uncritical application of modern management models to university education. These models, he warns, are causing excessive bureaucracy and a decline in academic standards.

•    Tony Farmar, author of the just-published book ‘St Luke’s Hospital and the Irish Experience of Cancer,’ concludes that despite our medical sophistication and the apparent availability of solutions, the issue still raises fundamental philosophical issues about life and death. He also addresses the de-stigmatisation of the disease thanks to the huge growth in recent years of survival stories published by cancer patients.

•    Liam Leonard of  University College Galway’s sociology department writes on the ‘Galway Water Crisis’, and contends that the contamination of the Galway water supply was a result of the failure of infrastructural development to keep pace with economic growth and the consequent housing boom. Worse still was the “culture of blame” at political level, which saw many public representatives, even those who were environmental activists, suffer the consequences in the General Election. Extraordinarily, the threat of flood-related water contamination is as alive as ever in the Ireland of today.