UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

from John Lloyd:

In Britain, a summer of quiet revolution

The British Isles are sentries in a turning world. The monarchy, pageantry, the mediaeval House of Lords, titles, accents, the established Church of England with the Queen at its head -- they all give the adroit illusion of continuity and the primacy of tradition over change.

But this summer there are diverse changes modernizing the Isles. These revolutions, small and large, will not be reversed, and will contribute significantly to a redefinition of what it is to be British (and Irish). The illusions of tradition will remain, as diligently served as ever. The core is hollowing out.

These changes are not unique to these wet and windy islands. But it’s more remarkable because for many centuries Britain and its offshoots punched above their weight, making history and creating (or inventing) traditions. The French are famed for having a beautiful and mostly efficient country and for grumbling furiously about it. The British change everything all the time, and worship the old customs whose essence they have long since destroyed, or are destroying.

Ireland, the smaller and much younger of the two sovereign states on the Isles, found its independence in the 1920s. That independence was fought for so hard in part because its majority religion, Catholicism, had been treated as an inferior, even a treacherous, affiliation for centuries. The Republic came into independent statehood with its religion militantly at the forefront of national, social and cultural life.

from Left field:

Both teams got the Euro 2012 playoff draw they wanted

By Philip O’Connor in Stockholm

It wasn’t just Irish eyes that were smiling when the Euro 2012 playoff draw was made in Polish city of Krakow - some of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) delegation appeared to be laughing out loud when they were drawn to face Estonia, with the winner heading to next year’s finals.

But despite the protestations of coach Tarmo Ruutli, Ireland probably represents the best possible draw for the Estonians, given that the other alternatives were Portugal, Croatia or the Czech Republic.

from FaithWorld:

Ireland attacks confessional secrecy after Catholic sex abuse scandal

(A Roman Catholic Croat confesses to a priest during a pilgrimage in Krasno, some 150km (93 miles) south of Zagreb August 15, 2009/Nikola Solic )

Ireland's prime minister has said Catholic clerics would be prosecuted if they failed to tell the authorities about crimes disclosed during confession, the latest blow to the prestige of the once-dominant Church. A report this week found that the Church concealed from the authorities the sexual abuse of children by priests as recently as 2009, and that clerics appeared to follow Church law rather than Irish guidelines to protect minors.

from FaithWorld:

Irish Catholic Church concealed child abuse even after new prevention rules in 1990s

(Cloyne Cathedral, 7 May 2009/John Armagh)

A government-sponsored report said on Wednesday the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Ireland continued to conceal the sexual abuse of children by priests even after it introduced rules in the mid-1990s to protect minors.

Revelations of rape and beatings by members of religious orders and the priesthood in the past have shattered the dominant role of the Catholic Church in Ireland. But the latest report into the handling of sex abuse claims in the diocese of Cloyne, in County Cork, shows that senior-ranking clergy were still trying to cover up abuse allegations almost until the present day.

from FaithWorld:

FInancial crisis boosts European suicide rates, especially in Greece, Ireland

(Suicide hotline sign at telephone booth near Beachy Head, the chalk cliffs near Eastbourne, a leading UK suicide spot, 29 January 2009/Les Chatfield)

Suicides rates rose sharply in Europe in 2007 to 2009 as the financial crisis drove unemployment up and squeezed incomes, with the worst hit countries like Greece and Ireland seeing the most dramatic increases, researchers said on Friday. Rates of road deaths in the region fell during the same period, possibly because higher numbers of jobless people led to lower car use, according to an initial analysis of data from 10 European Union (EU) countries.

from FaithWorld:

Ireland eyes Catholic religious orders’ properties to meet abuse damages costs

(Irish clerical sexual abuse victims with a copy of a government report into child abuse, in Dublin May 20, 2009/Cathal McNaughton)

The Irish government asked religious orders on Tuesday to consider transferring buildings and land to the state to cover a 200 million euros shortfall in their contribution to a compensation fund for victims of abuse. The congregations agreed in 2009 to provide more compensation to victims of rape, beatings and slave labour in now defunct industrial schools they ran after the publication of a report into the abuse shocked the once devout Catholic country.

from The Great Debate:

Ireland could use a little audacity of hope

By Marian Harkin

The opinions expressed are her own.

Barack Obama's infectious hope will help replenish the spirits of the beleaguered Irish people as we strive to emerge from recession, but more significantly his invoking our small nation's educational and entrepreneurial talents help to show us the way forward.

A once-in-a-generation economic crisis might seem like an odd time for Ireland to issue back-to-back invitations to Queen Elizabeth II and U.S. President Obama, but as the sun shone through the rain cloud, illuminating the President as he visited his ancestral home in Moneygall Co. Offaly, it seemed a masterstroke, for it is precisely an injection of Obama-esque audacious hope and “yes we can” positivity that Ireland needs to kickstart our long road to recovery.

from Left field:

When rugby officials get it wrong

By James Illingworth

RUGBY-NATIONS/WALES-IRELAND"Unforgivable", "embarrassing" and "indefensible" are just some of the descriptions of Jonathan Kaplan’s decision to allow Mike Phillips’ try for Wales in their Six Nations defeat of Ireland on Saturday.

But while the South African referee bears the brunt of the media glare in the aftermath of the match at the Millennium Stadium, assistant Peter Allan of Scotland must also take some responsibility.

A new kind of voter for post-crisis Ireland

Photo

IRELAND-POLITICS/By Padraic Halpin

The Irish financial meltdown has turned Ireland’s politics on its head, prompting nuns to consider Marxism, plumbers to track debt markets and the Irish people to abandon the party that has ruled them for most of the last 80 years.

Ravaged by austerity and embittered by years of feckless government, voters who descended upon polling stations on Friday are unrecognisable from those who seemingly sleepwalked to the polls four years ago to re-elect a Fianna Fail party despite decades of corruption allegations.

from Felix Salmon:

Ireland’s lessons for Spain

It almost goes without saying, but you have to read Michael Lewis's tour de force on Ireland in Vanity Fair. It's long -- over 13,000 words -- and it's beautifully written, giving both a big-picture perspective on the Irish economic boom and bust, and a credible account of the fateful meeting at which the Irish government decided that it should go ahead and guarantee the debts of all Irish banks. That move was the single worst decision among all the policymaker actions over the course of the global financial crisis, and Lewis is right to be astonished at how meekly the Irish population has accepted its devastating consequences.

Ireland was unfortunately yet predictably being run, at the time of the crisis, by the business-friendly Fianna Fáil party, full of lawyers and other pillars of the establishment with a tendency to make decisions on a narrow, legalistic basis. The government paid Merrill Lynch €7 million, at the height of the crisis, for a seven-page report saying that "all of the Irish banks are profitable and well capitalised" and that the government guarantee would therefore cost nothing. The result was an immediate overnight windfall for anybody invested in Irish bank debt:

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