The 1950s called…

…and they want their decade back.

Seriously, what is going on in Ireland right now?

In the last few weeks, we (or rather, our government and institutions of state) have:

  • Confirmed that human remains of foetuses and children were indeed interred in an unregistered mass grave, believed to have been a septic tank, at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam; but no coroners inquests have been opened and its somehow acceptable for the Bon Secours order to not even comment;
  • Decided to give ownership of a new €300 million National Maternity Hospital to the Sisters of Charity – an order of nuns who ran Magdalene Laundries, facilitated and profited from illegal adoptions of Irish children to the U.S. and abroad, and who have, so far, failed to pay the recompense due to their victims;
  • Had our Dáil vote to make it compulsory for all TDs in attendance to stand for the duration of a prayer to the Christian god (and specifically the Christian god and not any other, not even the Abrahamic one – the wording includes “through Christ our Lord” – so Alan Shatter and any other non-Christian theists are automatically excluded);
  • Had senior TDs, including a potential leader of Fine Gael (and therefore Taoiseach) tell us that they “are not comfortable” with some of the recommendations from the Citizen’s Assembly – the leader of the opposition reckons the right to an abortion in cases of rape or incest is “not that simple.”  This should, presumably, and if followed to the logical conclusions, result in the establishment of enforced-pregnancy camps, where the unfortunate are kept until the foetus is viable?  Or possibly a voucher system would apply – a Ryanair ticket issued on production of a statement to the Gardaí?

As if to underline the absurdity of this apparent desire to return to the 1950s, we then had the revelation that the Gardaí are investigating an allegation of “blasphemy” against RTÉ and Stephen Fry for the latter’s tirade against the Christian god on Gay Byrne’s “Would you believe” show.

Yes, yes, that blasphemy legislation is an Irish solution to an Irish problem – we draft a law that can (presumably! Who knows these days?!) never result in a conviction.  But it’s still a law that other countries, such as Pakistan, point to when introducing their own blasphemy laws.  And there, the penalty isn’t a fine, it’s death.

Good job, Fianna Fáil.  Good job, Fine Gael. And Sinn Féin, abstaining on the prayer vote? Shame on them all.

Tourists go home!

Tourism Ireland spends millions abroad encouraging people to visit, and this country desparately needs the resulting “invisble exports”. However, other arms of the state seek to prevent visitors.

A colleague’s wife was due to give birth to her second child two weeks ago. Her parents applied for a tourist visa in early March. Their intention was to arrive shortly before the due date, help out with childcare for the first couple of weeks, and take a well deserved holiday while they were here, visiting the tourist attractions they have heard so much about.

My colleague’s father-in-law has been working for over 30 years and is a fulltime university lecturer. He and his wife own their own home outright. They had to supply documentary evidence of this and of their (quite comfortable) financial situation with their visa application.

They learned yesterday (two weeks after their grandson’s birth) that their visa application has been refused for “financial reasons” and because it was feared that they would not leave the state when their visa expired. They’d give up a home, family, job and comfortable lifestyle to do what, exactly, in Ireland? They would be entitled to no income from the state here and could not work.

Instead of benefitting from their tourist spend and word-of-mouth advertising to friends, family and colleagues, they have been left with a bitter experience. Their daughter will instead travel home for a couple of months with her children. We promote tourism in some developing countries and relax visa requirements (e.g., India), but visitors from neighbouring Pakistan seem to be actively discouraged. Is it a religious thing?