Monday 23 February 2015

Do we now exist only to serve the constitution and support the economy?

Don’t get me wrong: I’m very grateful to have the freedom to write this; to have my complaints about the government and the ills of western society published in a newspaper and then go to bed, without fear of police coming to take me away in the night.

No, they’ll come and arrest me first thing in the morning, six of them. That seems to be current protocol in Ireland, or at least it has been recently, for Irish politicians who dare to protest.

I'm not a hot-blooded teenager any more. In my youth I saw the world in black and white. ‘This’ was all wrong and ‘that’ was completely right, and anyone who failed to see the same truths as me bore the brunt of my anger.

One attitude that annoyed me more than anything else back then was the patronising tap on the head, followed by the assertion:

“You’ll grow out of it! Of course you feel like that now, but when you’re a bit older, we’ll see how you feel then, eh?”

Well hello! Here I am! There’s a lot more years behind me than I’ll ever have in front of me, but my ideals are still intact. Of course they’re tempered by a cynicism born out of decades of experience, but you’ll never take away my dreams.

If you give up on your dreams, they cease to exist.

These days I know why things happen when they shouldn't, and why they don't when they should, but that makes neither wrong right, nor me happy.

I’m just back from England where we celebrated my lovely Mum’s 86th birthday. Politics always has a place at our family’s dinner table, and there was much talk of the situation in Greece.

Londoners completely fail to understand how life is for people living in EU bailout countries. They repeatedly told me how Ireland is okay now; that it’s the southern European countries that have the problem.

I suggested that there’s more to life than growth in GDP. Unemployment statistics will never reveal the deep sense of injustice and anger we feel at having to pay off debts incurred by greedy speculators.

“Ah, but if you borrow money, you have to pay it back!” my family reminded me, ignorant of the fact that down on the street, we didn’t see a penny of those bailout billions. While they mocked the naivety of Greek PM Alexis Tsipras and his Syriza government, I wondered what on earth has happened to democracy?

What is the point in voting if the wishes of the vast majority are utterly dismissed, just so that Angela Merkel, Mario Draghi and Christine Lagarde are happy?

It seems to me that we the people are no longer served by the economy, but ruled by it. Europeans are no longer served by governments, but by the Troika and Free Market pirates. While democratically-elected politicians in Greece are being bullied by the ECB and intimidated by the EU, hypocrites like Enda Kenny talk pompously about how the Greeks should follow the Irish model.

Which model is that, Enda? Protect rampantly avaricious gamblers by screwing over the weakest, the ill, the young, the old and the disabled?

The Troika and the German governement have gone to war with the poorest people of Europe, and now the people of Greece and Spain are demanding to be more important than the economy.

Our financial reality is that we the people are now irrelevant.
All that matters is the economy.

Well, no, not quite. There’s also the rule of law to consider, yet once again it was the public  who became trampled in the politicians’ rush to decide that the Irish constitution is more important than the Irish people.

Ignoring both common sense and compassion, Irish politicians refused to vote for Clare Daly’s bill on the issue of fatal foetal abnormality, on the grounds it was ‘unconstitutional.’ Despite being elected to the Dáil to represent us, they resisted the chance to vote with their consciences and represented the constitution instead.

As I said before, I fully understand why they did this. I'm neither stupid nor a blind idealist, but what part of the word ‘fatal‘ don’t they understand? 

Given that they could have made a difference, why did they choose instead to live in a country where some pregnant women who are asked when their babies are due, have no choice but to reply:

“Well actually, it’s going to die.”

Over the last few weeks I’ve heard everyone from an Taoiseach to Pat Kenny moaning about how Clare Daly’s bill opened the door to what they dismissively described as:

“...all those other issues like rape and incest.”

Yes, it did, thank goodness.
Who would condemn a person to live their life as the product of rape or incest?

When I first arrived in this country 23 years ago I wrote arrogantly and ignorantly in this Noble Rag about abortion, and for my trouble was sent in the mail used condoms, a dog turd and crass pictures of monkey foetuses in dustbins.

Now I understand that the subject requires sensitivity, and peoples’ beliefs require respect. Yet still I cannot understand how so many politicians chose to vote without compassion, caring more for the written word of a 30 year-old amendment than the sanity of yet another generation of women, forced to carry death in their wombs and hopelessness in their hearts.

Then I remembered that only last year this same government was guilty of the abomination that insisted on keeping a technically dead woman alive against her family's wishes, because of the foetus, that could never be born, in her womb.

Until our representatives have the the courage to vote for the good of the people instead of arcane laws, reform will remain an abstract notion.

So with the government in Greece reduced to an impotent committee and the choices of the people here ignored, I wonder:
Do we now exist only to serve the constitution and support the economy?

Have we lost both our minds and our freedoms?

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 15 February 2015


My poor dear loyal colyoomistas, are you starting to dread opening this newspaper each week, in fear of another depressing piece from Charlie? Are you longing for those colyooms of yesteryear when I wrote about going down the pub, getting a bit tipsy and making a right fool of myself?

Despite the fact that recent colyooms have concerned themselves with ill-health, exhaustion, suicide, homophobia and insomnia, my life is something that I am grateful for, and while I’m giving thanks, I’d like to reassure those colyoomistas who have recently sent me messages of concern for my welfare.

Thanks to all of you. I am okay. I am not plunged into the darkest depths of depression. Thankfully I have not had a bout of depression for many months, for which I am grateful, but even when I am visited by my Black Dog, I have a most essential and wonderful tool that never fails to bring me relief.

I give thanks.

I don’t only give thanks when I’m down, although it proves a fantastic help when I do.  I give thanks all the time. It’s hardly a startling new concept, and yet as we rush around in the frenzied mad craziness of modern life, it’s so easy to become blinded to the good.

Some regular readers out there might be wondering to whom this self-professed atheist-pantheist Jewish mutant offers gratitude.
Indeed, with such a flippant-sounding mish-mash of beliefs and lack thereof, why should I be taken seriously?

Well, why not?

I am Jewish because my blood is Jewish; my family is Jewish and when the next bunch of Jew-murdering bastards come to get us, they won’t be asking if I believe in God or not. There are millions of secular Jews in the world; just not very many in the West of Ireland.

As far as the apparent paradox of my atheist-pantheist paradigm is concerned, well, it makes perfect sense to me. I do not believe in a monotheistic god. I do not require a written rule book that tells me how to live my life in order that I might earn a ticket into an ‘after life’ because I don’t believe in an ‘after life.’

I believe I am merely an ephemeral speck on the face of the universe, and that if I am wrong, and there indeed exists some kind of great being, they will judge me for my thoughts, deeds and the impact I have made on the rest of the universe.

If He, She or It requires me to bow down, I will most certainly refuse, not because I am an arrogant fool, but because I already live with plenty of humility and require my own self-respect.

We ephemeral specks are extraordinary, capable of creating stunning works of art and terrifying weaponry. Most of us possess enough self-knowledge to understand what kind of speck we are. 

Just as fictional Bond villains and the baddies in Batman are very aware of and revel in their own iniquity, I am pretty confident that I am not a bad person. I make mistakes, upset others and harm myself, but all without malice aforethought and lack of intention.

There’s little so tedious as those with religious beliefs who condemn atheists as people with no morals or ethical codes. Whether I was born with it or have acquired it through socialisation, I have a strong and simple understanding of what is good and just and fair and what is not, and now, in my 55th year, I hope that those whom I have hurt can find it in their hearts to forgive me.

So no, I don’t need the forgiveness of a Higher Power, yet neither do I mock or think less of those who seek the comfort of believing in one. I try my best to spread as much love as I can, cause as little harm as an ephemeral speck might need to and admire all you other ephemeral specks as much as I possibly can.

I am no saint, but then, quite possibly, very few saints were saints.

Some confusion enters the equation with my use of the term ‘pantheist’. While I do not believe in a singular God-like power, I have however often experienced a wondrous oneness with nature; a beautiful balance that exists among the random chaos of the universe. To this there is no order, no governing body, neither guide nor path, just the fact that we are all a part of everything and everything a part of everything else.

This I believe to be pantheism, as described by the wonderful poetry of Walt Whitman, for which I give thanks:

“A vast similitude interlocks all, 

All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets, comets, asteroids,
All distances, however wide, all distances of time - all inanimate forms,
All Souls - all living bodies, though they be ever so different, or in different worlds,
All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes - the fishes, the brutes,
All men and women - me also...”


For much I give thanks. Indeed, after stumbling from the Dáil Bar a couple of Fridays back, after having attended a ‘leaving do’ for three great characters who were retiring from this Noble Rag. I gave thanks once more.

Back in 1992 I arrived in Galway as a Blow-In and will die as one here. Yet sometimes, on rare and happy occasions such as that night, I feel a part of the place; a deep sense of belonging to and acceptance from a great Galwegian family.

So on that night, as I stumbled slightly whiskey-sodden down a wet and windy Quay Street, I could not help myself.

I gave thanks to the universe.

There is no conflict about being an atheist and giving thanks. Often it aids my mental health.

Sometimes I just want to thank the universe for the West of Ireland, for my wife, my beloved friends and family, both here and back in England.

Life is good, thanks.

©Charlie Adley

Monday 9 February 2015

Deprived of sleep I'm starting to lose my very tiny mind!

Sleep sleep glorious sleep. I love sleep and sleep loves me. When sleep leaves me, as it has done recently, I crumble like a man who’s lost his lover.

We all have our Achilles heel, and mine is sleep, or rather, the lack thereof. Given a good night’s kip I can face anything that the universe might throw at me, but after even one night's dodgy slumber I’m lost.

If my recent lack of sleep were the result of a hectic social life I’d be delighted, but I’ve not been drinking. I’ve not been to bed late. I’ve been a good little scribbler, who has for the last six nights woken up somewhere between 2:00 and 4:30 each morning.

If I was writing this in April I might understand my rhythms better. Each year as the sun rises earlier and earlier, I tend to wake up at ridiculously impractical times. To be honest, although it’s a pain when that happens, I don’t mind too much. It feels somewhat primal, as if the bear that lurks inside me is emerging from hibernation, greeting the new season with an eagerness and desire to make the most of all the daylight hours.

Yet as we enter what the Irish rather optimistically call ‘Spring’, my early waking has nothing to do with the fact that the sun is rising a little earlier each morning. To this Londoner, February is still Winter. 

Even though the sap is rising in the willow whips outside; even though there are buds appearing on the soft fruit bushes and a tiny creep of light is appearing in the early evenings, as if somebody has left the dark door of Winter ajar, I cannot pretend that my present sleep deprivation is driven by the Seasons.

As any true insomniac will tell you, lack of sleep feeds upon itself. Aware of the fact that you have not slept well, you go to bed dreading another bad night, which creates in itself a certain disastrous self-fulfilling prophecy.

Years ago I used to work alongside a true insomniac and it was a terrible thing to see the effect the condition had upon him. The moment he walked in the door I was able to tell whether he had failed to sleep the night before. 

His shoulders would be slumped forward, his pallor turned grey and the fire of positivity that usually lurked just behind his eyes was replaced with a resigned sadness; his usual passion for the job transformed into a dreadful acceptance that exhaustion was to be his lot for the foreseeable future.

Thankfully I am not an insomniac, as at least 340 times each year I fall asleep somewhere between 10:30 and 11:30, and (apart from the middle aged male middle of the night peeper) wake around 6:30 or 7:00. For that I give much thanks, as those seven or eight hours of restorative slumber allow me to function as  - well, I was going to say ‘a normal human being’, but I suppose that’s for others to judge!

Were this a particularly stressful time I would better understand, but it’s not. Yet for the last six nights I have had such an active brain that after waking in the middle of the night, there is no more rest to be had.

Back in 2008, my father’s decade-long journey towards death was coming to an end. He died in May of that year, two weeks before the Snapper and I were to be married. Given the combination of the loss of my much-loved parent and the planning of a wedding that was due to take place in two countries over three days, my sleeping patterns went haywire.

Driven by an overactive brain, my sense of hearing acquired new levels of intensity. Each night I was woken up by noises I’d never heard before, and to this day I feel sorry for one particular bread delivery man.

At that time we were living behind a hotel, and unaware that I was slightly mad and temporarily the possessor of the aural capabilities of an owl, I was driven demented each night by the sound of his truck beep-beep-beeping as he reversed it down the ramp towards the hotel kitchen.

One morning the poor unfortunately delivery driver was confronted by a raging nutter in the shape of your colyoomist, clad only in a dressing gown and slippers, shouting yelling crying beseeching him to please please stop reversing each morning. Was there any way he could possibly just park at the top of the ramp and deliver his loaves on a trolley?

The poor bloke looked at me with the contempt I deserved, and explained that he’d been reversing down that ramp five times a week for the past four years.

I insisted that was impossible, as I lived just over there, look, see that window? That’s my bedroom, that is, and I’ve never heard you before the last fortnight. You must’ve just started doing it, and you’re waking me up and it’s driving me doolally.

After returning to my house I sat and pondered the delivery driver’s response. As I often tell the Snapper, it takes me a while, but I get there in the end. Gradually it dawned on me that he had no reason to lie, so clearly I had been in the wrong.

Accepting that for this brief yet incredibly stressful period of my life I would not be able to sleep well, the next day I returned to see the delivery man again (this time dressed in clothes and shoes) and apologised profusely.

However, the reason why I’m unable to sleep well at the moment eludes me, as does energy, enthusiasm and sanity. Hopefully by next week my usual patterns will have returned and you will be spared my whinging. In the meantime, I send a loving hug out to all the insomniacs of the world.

I feel your pain.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 1 February 2015


The late Mark Logan - A man who loved life and saved lives.

Last night I dreamed I was walking along Raven Terrace towards the Claddagh, when I felt a finger tap me on my shoulder. Turning around I was equally delighted and confused to see my friend Mark Logan, who died ridiculously young last Spring.

Sporting a rugged full-set beard that accentuated his magnificent chin, Mark appeared as full of life as ever.

“Great to see you mate, but how ... what are you doing here?”
“I’m heading into town, Charlie!” he replied nonchalantly, with a jaunty bounce in his step.  Putting his arm around my back in a comforting embrace he asked:

“So what about the Chelsea, eh? Never mind that FA Cup disaster, I think we’re going to win both the Premiership and the Champions League this season!”

It was such a pleasure to spend some time with him, even if it was in another realm. People say that death takes the good ones early, but irony was spread all over this particular tragedy, as Mark spent his life working to save the lives of others.

In a beautifully eloquent and deeply moving eulogy, his young widow spoke at his funeral of the calls she had received from people whose lives had been saved by Mark, through his work in suicide prevention and mental health.

Mark used to encourage us all to say ‘hello’ to strangers on the street.

“You never know,” he’d smile, “something as simple as that might save a life.”

Suicide prevention is a subject very close to my heart and many years ago I served for a while on a committee that sought to reduce the number of young male suicides in a particular area of Galway.

Sadly, I found the experience incredibly frustrating, because there seemed to me to be a glaring and evident truth that everyone was ignoring: the terrifyingly large number of young men who kill themselves in Ireland is mirrored by the incredibly small number of openly gay men in this country. 

Having lived and worked in three continents, I’ve never met so few Out Loud and Proud men as I have here in Ireland.

I’m not ignoring the female population, but according to the National Suicide Research Foundation, out of 507 Irish suicides in 2012, a staggering 413 were male.

That is quite simply an unacceptable state of affairs.

Many of the members of that committee refused to acknowledge the link I was making, yet I stuck to my guns. Sadly I did my argument no favours by trying to shock them into acceptance. Looking around the table at 20 middle-aged people, I pointed out that there were in the room at least two lesbians, two gay men and a minimum of four bisexuals.

These tactics achieved nothing but a chorus of tutting and mumbles along the lines of:

“Well, there’s no need for that kind of thing!”

Doubtless some of you are reacting now just as those committee members did. After all,  didn’t you once meet a gay man yourself?

Since then the Irish have made huge progress in this area, thanks in no small way to the likes of High Court Judge Aileen Donnelly, health minister Leo Varadkar, sporting heroes like Donal Og Cusack and more recently his brother Conor, important public figures who came out to the nation.

Yet still people here misunderstand the nature of sexuality. There are no border gates, no passport controls. It’s not a matter of being ‘this’ or ‘that’. We are all blends in a gently varying spectrum that runs from completely heterosexual to completely homosexual, so it’s a rare person who cannot empathise is some small way with the confusion felt by so many others.

As Conor Cusack explained on his blog: "Life for me is never black or white but more about different shades of grey."

Despite the selfless bravery of these famous people, it would be a mistake to believe that Ireland has become an accepting nation, which welcomes gay men and women with open arms. Indeed, children here still use the word ‘gay’ everyday in Irish school playgrounds as a term of abuse.

We’ve a long way to go until everyone knows that LGBT isn’t some kind of a sandwich; until every Irish parent explains to their children that being gay or lesbian is nothing to be ashamed of; until Irish adults stop assuming that only people who display camp characteristics are likely to be bisexual or homosexual.

As my eyes scan Ireland’s terrifying suicide statistics, my heart breaks when I think of those lonely terrified depressed young teenagers who feel they have nowhere to turn; nobody to confide in.

There’s a vast difference between a confident government minister revealing his sexuality on national radio, and a young man in a small rural community facing the prospect of coming out to his team-mates in the changing rooms of his local parish GAA.

So what can we do to help? Well thankfully, there’s a lot of positive and direct action we can take to help remove this fatal blight from the nation.

Of all the various training courses I’ve done over the years, none has affected me so profoundly, positively and practically as the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) course, which, as it happens, was also one of the courses conducted by my late friend Mark Logan.

Over two days you will be taught how to identify potential suicides, recognise requests for help that come in many disguises, as well as being shown how to intervene both before and even during an attempted suicide.

Doing the ASIST course was a fantastic experience, replacing the frustration I was feeling with realistic and powerful new skills. Indeed, a few days after the course, a colleague of mine used his new skills to save a life.

So act now. Enroll in an ASIST course today and help release those imprisoned by the bigotry and ignorance of others. Call the National Office for Suicide Prevention on 01-6352139 or E-mail:

©Charlie Adley