Sunday 26 February 2017

Irish sleaze oozes from Adams to Zappone...

Sometimes it’s great being an outsider. Over a quarter of a century I’ve tried to understand and assimilate into Irish culture in many ways, but where justice and accountability are concerned, my adopted home remains to this Englishman a foreign country.

For a moment last week I couldn't remember what it was that Garda McCabe had originally blown his whistle about. Barely surprising really, when you consider how depraved the affair has become since then.

Penalty points: that’s where this matter started, and while the UK drips with vice and scandal, when the finger of blame is pointed at public figures, they either step down or go inside.

Ex-cabinet minister Chris Huhne and his wife Vicky Pryce were both sentenced to eight months in jail for conspiring to swap penalty points. Job done.

Here in Ireland a conspiracy to help bigwigs avoid penalty points has gone the way of all Irish scandals: she said that he told her that they never spoke about what didn’t happen, never, not a word was uttered, not a paragraph written, no report made or memo sent, until the other fella says well, now that he thinks of it again, he did say that, in person, and actually in great detail to both himself and herself, many weeks before, but when he’d said they’d said that, he really didn’t want to say it, because they were not only misleading the Dáil, but oh now isn’t it terrible, they were misleading the Irish people themselves.

Meanwhile the real the Irish people stare hopelessly at their TVs, wondering when these feckin’ gobshites are ever going to pull their heads out of their backsides and get their priorities right.

Instead of force-feeding the gullets of the legal system, stuffing our tax euros into lawyers’ wallets like food down the throats of Foie Gras geese, they might one day return to other questions, such as why do we have to decide whether we can afford a dialysis machine or a CT Scanner?

Every soul in this nation knows well there is ample money to restore HSE patients’ dignities, but it’s wasted in a status quo spawned in a culture that accepts corruption as a way of life; a culture wherein it’s perfectly acceptable to enhance your political career by exploiting a conspiracy that has discredited a brave man.

This colyoom isn’t going all 9/11 on you. Just look at the plain facts. Does one living person truly believe that the specific use of the words ‘digital penetration’ was a ‘clerical error’?

Casting a shadow over lesser matters such as who is running the country, there hovers a much darker question: why does Irish society tolerate such decisions being made in the highest of places?

Individuals and cartels acting with impunity are capable of doing whatever they like in this country, and none of them will ever spend time in jail for any of it.

There is no law of criminal defamation in Ireland, so even in the extremely unlikely eventuality of somebody actually being found guilty of perpetrating a smear campaign, it does not constitute a crime. That’s the way they’ll get off, just as they always do in this country.

Arriving in Ireland half way through the Beef Tribunal, my jaw dropped when two years later the accused parties were given the gentlest of admonitions.

Since then there’s been so many scandals and tribunals that I started to compile a list, but only made it as far as the ‘B’s (Burke, Buchanan, Barr, Barron, Breen…) because I found myself falling asleep counting corrupt Irish sheep.

Truly, Irish sleaze oozes from Adams to Zappone, protected by endless tribunals that can run longer than the lifespan of the judge. 

Collectively they’ve cost us taxpayers well over a billion euro, after over 60% of the costs are awarded to witness lawyers, banks and other institutions.

A tidy billion euro spent, yet damn all justice served. Our rulers sit far from question and accountability, protected by a balustrade of obfuscation.

We know that it makes no difference which combination of political parties are in charge in the Dáil. We know that it made no difference whether Kenny or Martin was Taoiseach.

Both would offer the same shabby performance, seeking only to protect their career at the expense of a man, now increasingly lost in this process, whose life was devastated by his own State, on a mission to destroy him.

Opposition parties failed to serve the country by delivering justice. Instead Independents stood on their heads, spinning like hip hop dancers, desperately trying to appease and appear separate from government, while simultaneously wholly a part of government, because they want us to believe they have authority, without any guilt by association.

The human ingredients of Irish government are irrelevant. What matters here is a country that has given birth to an accepted culture of smear and character assassination.

An honest policeman’s efforts to seek justice have ripped apart his life, been transformed into a sex abuse scandal, a cover-up and a vote of confidence in the government.

We’ll never know why was there such fear about what a whistleblower had to say, as with all Irish scandals, the guilty parties will never be found.

Those who decided to destroy this man will survive, protected by their high towers. The enquiry will run for years, without anybody ever being held to account, let alone in handcuffs.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 19 February 2017


Sometimes looking after your body feels like such hard work. After over two years on a waiting list, I’m eventually awarded an appointment at a local clinic, where the very excellent physiotherapist gives me a programme of 10 exercises to do each morning.

Along with my everyday warm-up, the whole caboodle takes only a half hour, and after a few weeks I start to feel amazing. My body is moving as one unit - apart from the more wobbly bits - and after full-speed walks with Lady Dog I feel no pain in my back.

Fantastic! My spirits are finally lifting. After a long bout of that coughy flu bug everyone had this winter, it's wonderful to feel once again the spiritual and emotional boost of good physical health.

Whispering Blue is out visiting for the weekend, and I’m finishing my stretches in the living room before we take Lady Dog out.for a good long ramble The sky is cloudless and blue, a heavy frost encrusting the land, and I’m very much looking forward to heading outside when -


My legs collapse under me and I fall into my chair, clinging onto its arms as my lounge suddenly spins round and around, up and down, just like a carousel.

Facing the fireplace I watch with pure horror as the windows arrive in front of my eyes and disappear behind me, below me, above me, and then come round again. 

This was not your average dizziness in the head. I felt stationary (as I was) but the world around me was whirling and dipping and rising, as if I was sitting inside a raffle barrel.

Finally it dissipated and I wobbled into the kitchen.

“Whoah mate! Just had the weirdest bloomin’ dizzy spell. Up was down and round about and total madness, but I reckon it was just something to do with my exercises. Look, it’s gorgeous out there. Let’s head off and tramp some hoary bog!”

Not such a good idea. My legs felt as if they’d been at sea for three months, so we came home quickly and I sat down and did not dare move for a very long time.

A few spinning rooms and a fairly unpleasant night later, I see the doctor who tells me I’ve a form of labyrinthitis. If it’s viral it will pass in ten day or so, and if it’s not viral then there’s a tiny piece of calcium lost in a middle-ear tubule and only a certain manoeuvre, performed by a physiotherapist, can get it loose.

As I write now I’m not sure which it is. I’ve been to the physio and she seems to think it’s non-viral, so I’m doing the required manoeuvre. 

The Snapper isn’t convinced, because she knows well how foolhardy and stubborn I usually am in the face of illness, yet for the last few days I’ve been utterly wiped out, sitting in my chair, snoozing and dribbling in particularly sexy fashion.

There are vital things we take utterly for granted and it’s not until they are robbed from us that we understand their importance. The first time I was in an earthquake I felt slightly traumatised, not so much because I felt my life had been in danger, but more the result of feeling the earth move under my feet.

Orgasmic innuendos aside, it was the most troubling experience. 
Throughout my entire life the ground was there: solid; trustworthy; something so fundamental to everyday life that it never crossed my mind it might somehow disappear, until … whoooooaaah!

So it has been. Long periods of relative calm and then I’m clutching the mattress, as the universe’s fairground worker whirls my personal waltzer.

All this will pass, but it made me wonder about perception. Of course I know what my living room windows look like, but how did I see them in front of my eyes when the back of my head was turned to them?

Very similar to vertigo, this particular number I’ve got feels as if an external force is reeling my environment around, up and down.

Compared to some though I’m lucky. Consider those who suffer from Glass Delusion, which first appeared back in the 17th century, when a new clarity of glass was achievable, and considered by some supernatural.

Much rarer, yet still suffered by some today, Glass Disorder victims believe they are actually made of glass, and therefore in imminent danger of shattering.

Then there are syndromes known as ‘parasomnias’, which include Sexsomnia and the splendidly named Exploding Head Syndrome. 

Sexsomnia involves a sleeping person unknowingly instigating and performing sexual acts, whilst far way in the Land of Nod. Although a verifiable condition, Sexsomnia has become controversial, as it’s been cited as a defence against rape.

Exploding Head Syndrome usually shows itself very soon after the victim has fallen asleep. From inside their own heads they then hear either bombs going off, gunshots, screams, wild animal roars or, as suggested by the syndrome’s name, the sound of their own head blowing apart.

Sitting at the kitchen table, the Snapper and I chat about all these horrible illnesses and I try to convince myself that what I have at the moment is in some way preferable to other weird stuff.

As I witter away I see herself idly looking at a piece of junk mail that’s just been delivered.

Leaning over I take a look myself, only to see big bold wording announcing: Over 50s Funeral Plan.

“Steady love!” I offer. “I may be all over the place but I’m not going anywhere yet!”

We both laugh out loud. Always the best medicine.
©Charlie Adley

Sunday 12 February 2017


Friendships are formed around fault lines. Relationships emerge from ravines of failure and vulnerability. When someone first shares their worries or fears with you, they are throwing a line over the chasm. 

You catch it, and then by revealing your personal frailty or feeling of guilt, you throw another back. Together you may then build a bridge, a friendship, and the canyon below will fill with mutual trust and empathy.

It’s all a bit of an eggshell dance, this trading of confidences. We could be more open and direct with each other, but this is the way life works. Given that we know exchanging our mistakes makes us appear less threatening and more likeable, why then do we fear being wrong?

If such an important part of our lives is governed by the understanding that we all make mistakes, why are we so eager to prove, to ourselves and the universe, that we don’t screw up?

We do experience joy: random and often fleeting moments when the soul lights up and everything makes sense, but for most of our lives we’re trying not to make mistakes, as we struggle with problems financial, physical or mental.

Human life is a messy plate of spag bol, so why would we waste a moment hoping that everything will go perfectly? I’ve made so many mistakes in my life I’ve learned to appreciate them. 

Equally important as social tools for forming friendships, mistakes are the way we learn, if we want to. When everything is going zippetty dippetty, you’re thinking in a two dimensional linear way about being blissed out. You learn only what that feels like.

Yippee! I am happy! This is fantastic! Long may it last!
Oh pooper, life’s a bitch.

Up against it, we are forced to employ our imaginations and physical beings to get out of whatever mire we’ve dumped ourselves in.

After climbing out, you’re silly not to then stand back, catch your breath and work out what the hell just happened. How did you let yourself get into that mess?

Mistakes are benefits, but sadly many choose to feel regret, which serves no purpose.

Why would I cast a shadow over my present life with my past? I was eager, chomping at the bit to do it at the time. I remember now how passionately I felt back then, so why be down on myself about it now?

Things may not have gone well, but I will have learned from it. To dwell on what life might’ve been like had I not done it is as pointless as regretting doing it.

Whatever you’ve done wrong, understand it and move on. Regret and evasion are not the way to enjoy our brief strut on this stage.

In the last 12 months I’ve had to admit (to myself as well as you) that many of my political pontifications have been wrong. I was wrong about not bombing Assad’s forces in Syria. I was wrong about Jeremy Corbyn and I was wrong about Trump.

My mistakes were utterly harmless, in that I’m sure my opinions in no way affected you, but by having seen things so erroneously, I now understand a bigger picture.

Just as with friendships, so it is in the workplace, where respect relies on the same rules.

Anyone who has worked for somebody who refused to admit they were ever wrong will wholly understand. Frustrating beyond belief, these weak leaders and managers just don’t bloomin’ comprehend that strength comes from the confidence to show weakness.

By apologising to your staff and admitting that it’s your fault, you are impressing and motivating your workers. At the same time you’re earning their respect, by showing yourself strong enough to lead whilst being fully human.

Trouble is, most of life exists in the grey area between right and wrong. 

Reading the paper the other day I saw that Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California - how does he fit that on a business card? - is taking stem cells from adult humans and introducing them to early stage pig embryos, with the aim of growing an animal that is wholly pig, save for human organs inside it, ready for transplant patients.

Even though I’m a massive fan of stem cell surgery, there’s something about this that doesn’t feel right. It sounds dangerously like a sci-fi horror film, in which somewhere in the future there’s a colony of wild chimera beasts roaming free, with too much human in them to become bacon, but too much pig to share human rights.

No thank you. Enough with the wrong and the mistakes. I’m human and base and need some right stuff right now.

Quickly turning the pages of the newspaper, I find to my delight something fabulous and lovely.

Both residents of the same nursing home, Joan Neininger is to marry Ken Selway. Steven Morris of The Guardian explains that the couple, now in their 80s, met soon after the Second World War, when Joan noticed Ken rifling through bins near her shop.

Homeless Ken refused her money, so she started to leave sandwiches out for him. A life-long friendship ensued.

“Although he was living on the streets, I knew straight away that Ken was a lovely man with a beautiful soul.” Joan said of her fiancé.

Thanks so much Joan.

Being wrong, knowing it and admitting it are important, yet it’s vital to acknowledge that sometimes we are simply and wholly good.

©Charlie Adley

Monday 6 February 2017


I rarely become involved on Twitter, but when a fellow Galwegian ridiculed Galway’s protesting women and what he called their “...silly little march...” I dived in.

Maybe I acted out of character because I’d been wrong about Trump, erroneously believing he’d become more realistic once ensconced in the White House. Instead, his first outburst in office chilled me to the bone.

Even more than his pussy grabbing and vile travel ban, I was deeply disturbed by the nonsensical claims of crowd size at his inauguration. Seeing him and his team adjust reality on day one in the job, brazenly denying the plain facts paraded in front of our eyes, l felt truly fearful for the first time.

History shows such behaviours to be an hors d’oeuvres to dictatorship.

Do I think that America will become a fascist state?
No, I don’t, not for a second.

America fought a war of rebellion to exist, a civil war to become one nation. From Martin Luther King to Black Lives Matter, protest pulses around America’s veins, and they, the people will not allow for totalitarianism.

With personal freedoms and human rights now seriously under threat in America, protest and resistance will prove more vital than ever. While we must respect the democratic process, we first have to respect each other.

Electoral systems are inherently flawed, and sometimes they spit out a dangerous answer. That’s when you have to stand up and be counted; to get up off your arse and stand by people of colour; women; the disabled; anybody who justifiably feels threatened, because if you wait, there’ll be none left to stand up for you.

More, you do it because you’re a compassionate human being, driven by what you know is right and good.

What you don’t do is sit back, comfy and safe in your West of Ireland home and mock those fighting for their own freedom, or others displaying solidarity with them.

Yes, there’s something gratingly irritating about Generation Snowflake, the young people whose worst nightmare has been an ill-fitting pair of jeans, out on the streets going boohoo, my candidate lost, but now this is about much more than them.

On the day after Trump’s inauguration, 3.5 million Americans marched in their streets. They will not go quietly into this president’s dark night, while in 20 countries around the world others marched alongside them in defiance.

When yer man on Twitter said that these people should “get over themselves”, a picture of my father flashed across my brain. We had this the same argument, over and over again, for years.
Each time I returned from a protest march in central London he’d rustle up something he considered ver’ ver’ witty, along the lines of:

“Humph. Well at least you managed not to get arrested. So, do you feel you’ve changed the world?”

Both my father and this bloke on Twitter seemed to feel that democracy starts and ends with a cross on a ballot paper. To me the vote is a key to a host of freedoms, each precious. You either use them or lose them.

It’s not hard to understand why people choose to mock some protesters, yet had they ever been part of a protest movement, they might respect the importance of such events. People don’t solely march in protest to change things. When times become scary, we gather on the streets to feel the safety of numbers.

As a youth I faced the horror of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), whereby the Soviet Union and USA threatened to annihilate us as a species. To me that end felt terrifyingly close.
What comfort then to join hundred of thousands and march together from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square, to listen to Tony Benn and Monsignor Bruce Kent speak sense.

For some reason I never truly fathomed, I think my father felt I was abusing my democratic rights by marching in the streets, while I felt I was exercising them.

We marched and sang and joked together and laughed and cried and wailed together. If you had felt lonely you now felt comforted. If you had felt angry you now felt empowered. If you were feeling down and blue you now felt energised and hopeful.

There’s so much more to protesting together than trying to change the world. The good stuff starts with ourselves, igniting our souls, spirits and minds.

“One two three four, we don’t want your nuclear war!”

It’s all very well having a plethora of protest marches as Trump takes office, but the resistance must continue. It’s not good enough to sit back and think it’ll all be over in four years, because the damage done by then might be irreparable.

The death and destruction of fascism lurks only two generations away from this Jewish scribbler. Resistance and protest must be supported, not smugly mocked.

Without the comfort and catharsis of protest marches, people either hide away, crumbling in desperate isolation, or collect together in small groups and plan violent retribution.

I’d rather have collective camaraderie than Al-Qaeda any day.

The argument progressed no further on Twitter than it did with my Dad.

Sit back, say nothing and your right to argue with me might be gone.

©Charlie Adley