Is there hope for the Pope?

Is there hope for the Pope?

By Cathy Lee

This piece was originally written for NUI Galway’s Student Independent News/ Image is by Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

When it was announced that Ireland was to receive the Pope in late August, once again we were reminded of the reality of the ongoing process of Ireland’s separating of Church and State. For decades, Irish citizens have felt the affects of a constitution being filled with heavy church teachings, values and beliefs given a platform so high that it infringes on the choices of people, regardless of their religious or non-religious background. We live in a changing Ireland, and how this visit is handled by those in power, will do a great deal in defining this position going forward.

To correctly handle the Pope’s visit, we must first and foremost recognise how Ireland has changed since the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1979. Almost forty years later, we live in more secular times where Ireland should no longer be defined as “a Catholic country” as it has been on numerous occasions in the past. Today, we are open to others, the various minorities regardless of creed or race in the true honour to the land of a hundred thousand welcomes. I don’t take a position to say that the Pope should not be welcomed or allowed to visit, as that would just be another form of exclusion or intolerance and so, this is not progress. The Pope is a world figure, it would not be in Ireland’s best interest to deny him.
We even saw last month, our Taoiseach rubbing shoulders with US leader Donald Trump for St Patrick’s Day which was met with a mixed reaction. Just because Trump does not represent the position of the majority of Irish people, this does not mean that such visits of a political nature should be boycotted or denied. The same is true of the Pope. Sometimes respect has to be given to those we may not agree with in order to receive respect back, just as long as we don’t act like something we are not. Maybe it is just a case of keeping up appearances but in my view if the Pope’s visit is to be correctly handled, honesty is key. We need not play false roles in pretending that every person in Ireland love’s Catholicism and prays under a candle to the Pope each evening, because this simply isn’t true and does not represent Ireland in 2018.

Although this will not be a formal state visit, but as part of a larger World Meeting of Families, there are talks of civil protesting of the summer events, particularly from those who are survivors of institutional church abuse. I think anyone in this position should be entitled to do that. But of course we are a mixed country, from those who will celebrate the Pope’s visit here and those who may not even be aware of it. What we are all aware of, are the wrongs we have seen from the church in this country’s past and we derive our own position on people and their background that has they where they are from this. But there can be nothing worse than keeping a fire burning instead of trying to find a new more tolerant way forward. Of course not forgetting past atrocities, but progressing in a way that this hurt does not define you as a whole person.

We have marriage equality in this country, we may have the 8th amendment repealed in the upcoming months. The political space is becoming a secular one, and so the Pope should be treated as a guest to this country like any other, with no entitlements or elitism. We saw recently that our previous President Mary McAleese was denied entry to a Vatican meeting for her political views. There is no defending this move from Pope Francis and I don’t think any Irish leader should forget this most recent action when the Pope comes to visit us. It’s true that we have moved on from the days of the Eucharist Congress and 1979 but of course only time will tell how this is going to go down in August. I just hope, that we won’t digress and revert back to an unhappy time of unquestioned Catholicism in forgetting all the progress we have made, both politically and socially.


Nothing in particular

By Cathy Lee


I’m not doing

Anything in particular

Just taking in those humble sounds

Of those around me, enjoying their selected company


From young to old, all collected here


It’s dimly lit and homely

Comfortably warm

While for show an unused fire,

Is completely provided for just in decoration


This is simply where I am

It’s recognisable

But not incompletely special


The wax trickles slowly down and it’s something steady

The bright yet translucent colour of the flame won’t give up

Not just yet


It’ll hold on with me, to welcome the next person to sit in its company


We’re in the land of a thousand welcomes

That is becoming something more special, now



Considering what’s going on, the current state of things

Those things that so affect us, going as far down deep as our morale and self-worth


The perspective of us, it’s shifting

The plates are moving further away

Shifting away from what’s known


I think these sails are facing backwards

The wind here is reckless and unusual

It’s no longer comfortable on this deck


I’d rather walk the plank,

Step off the platform and into the unknown


From one state of unknown to another

But consider this:

Coming out the other side,


the Last day

By Cathy Lee

You know it’s coming, it’s last

But what do you do knowing in advance?
Foreshadowing the hurt to come,
The crumbling sense of loss
On something that was barely even stable

I wish I could tell this story better, like a fable that everyone remembers
A warning, for the last day
As it slowly but surely comes

Don’t expect it to crash and burn around you, a bit too Hollywood and far from our reality.

The change is subtle, but something noticeable all the same
Like slowly stepping over something, knowing it won’t have the power to trip you anymore
And make you fall down.

You will know, on the last day
Whether it was all worth this,
Or if leaving it behind was the best thing.
To gently close on the door,
On the last day.


By Cathy Lee

The house of cards is falling
The contents are calling 
Reaching out to be saved

But they are being left to face alone
The fall down of a home.
Ripping the numbers, all small things and signs within to something meaningless.

What’s the power of red without black to contrast it to?

Nothing but a pack of cards
The house is nothing but a gamble
The hearts and diamonds, all flowing into just red.

Dig me with the spade, I might as well be dead
The weight is too much, to hold.

The diamonds aren’t precious anymore
The hearts are broken
Spades with no purpose and clubs abandoned left to wreck.

So we fold,
The house of cards is falling. 

Shortlist, Irish Blog Awards

Delighted to announce that this blog of mine has been selected to be on the Shortlist for the Irish Blog Awards 2016 for the Current Affairs/Political section of the competition.

It’s something incredible to have my blog listed alongside eleven others whom are as dedicated to writing and having an online platform on which to voice their views on such as this. I’m humbled honestly and I really wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who has ever taken an interest in this site over the last year and a half of its existence.

Now, you have until Tuesday to VOTE for the blog which you can do by following this link:

I really appreciate this so much and it’s such a boost for going forward. Thanks to everyone who I know will vote!#LWIBloggies2016


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A Political Poem

Back in March of this year, I competed in the National Slam Poetry final which was held in NCAD, Dublin. It was sponsored and judged by members of Poetry Ireland and altogether, it was an incredible experience to see poetry so alive within the youth of today.

Afterwards, I kind of didn’t know what to do with the poem. It’s a performance poem so I thought maybe a video, a recording or a live set would suit it best. But then I remembered I’m a writer not a stand up, more-so anyway.

I was informed yesterday via email that I had made the Longlist for the Irish Blog Awards 2016 (yipee!) so I thought no better way to celebrate than releasing this poem to my very own place, this blog.

I hope you enjoy it, thanks to everyone who has taken an interest in “Cathy In Conversation”.


A Political Poem”

By Cathy Lee


I don’t write political poetry

But I can

There’s nothing stopping me

Just a bit of research and insight,

Little bit of brain power:

It’s never out of sight,

The power is mine


I don’t swim long-distance,

But I’m sure I could.

A little bit of resilience and resistance.

Give it some time,

Sure didn’t my mother have me swimming since I would walk?

And my legs are still mine


I haven’t painted a masterpiece,

But I could try.

Little bit of focus, my hands and my mind.

Keep the point to the brush and visit the hushed galleries,

We all need a bit of inspiration –

And my hands are mine


I don’t have a PHD

But really, what’s to stop me?

I always did want to reach higher.

I have a brain inside this skull,
and I really should use it to the full

Sure isn’t it mine?


I could use my legs for good,

To flee from this green isle.

Go on a trial, somewhere fresh and new

Not like the Catholic school grounds I knew.

I have a passport, the ability to pack

What’s to stop me never coming back?


I have used my hands for good too


I used my hands to make demands

I put my views down on ballot paper.


I voted for change, I wished and hoped

And saw a slap returned to me.

A national let down,


But as I said, I don’t write political poetry.


I also don’t have abortions

And I can’t

Because the state has rules over my body.

It doesn’t matter what my legs, hands, brain or power can do

This fact remains the same.


say goodbye to a stable government,

say slán to repeal the eight

and hello to a mixed range of politics

of TD’s filled with hate


thanks for letting the progression digress,

cheers for the recession

and the maintenance grant that I didn’t get,

because only one of my parents is in oppression.


Old fiends now friends, those FF’s

I remember the cunning smiles of your devils dressed

The suits and ties, telling the lies

On repeat far and wide


Keep smiling, it’s what you are trained for

Don’t Nama own you all?

Or was it the Treaty of Lisbon,

That fix or “change of mind”


Are we to see the same again,

When the decision makers can’t do just that.


Don’t say you called it,

Don’t go down to Paddy power and try your luck

Can’t make a buck around here anyway,

Have you seen the tax rates?


Inflation fluctuates

While we wait in hope

For the coming of the centenary year,

So we can be “different” from our peers


Those Europeans didn’t invent republican revolution,

No sure it was just Irish

Weren’t we told that in school?


The school that has religion compulsory

And demands you’ve had that dash of water tossed over your head before entry,

Are you saying I wasn’t born holy?


Ah let’s then talk about the unborn.

Probably has more rights than me now

The state have a say don’t they?


In Ireland we talk about the weather over tea

Pity the same isn’t done by the rulers of the country.

Choosing to be concerned about a concept

When the time suits.


Climate changes isn’t waiting for us to finish up our economic plan.

Neither are the women traveling to England each day.


But sure time doesn’t exist,

There’ll be another election yet.


What waste?

A look to historical revisionism, commemorations and 1916 Ireland.

As the Irish centenary of the 1916 rising has been happening here over the past few months, I decided to review a paper I wrote for my Leaving Certificate history class in 2014. A lot of work went into it and it makes you think about the correct approach to marking or commemorating a national historical event.

I have compiled my findings on the topic of historical revisionism and the revisionist article by Father Francis Shaw which focuses on revising the 1916 Rising and the beliefs of Patrick Pearse. Written at a time of the late 1960s when the 50th anniversary of the rising was being commemorated, this essay sparked the revisionist movement in Ireland. I will discover who the revisionist writer was, in my own study of his writing in extraction. Thereafter I will explain how this sparked other revisionists to analyse the events of 1916 coming to my final conclusion. Now must begin where the whole process of revisionism started.

April 1966 saw the 50th anniversary of the 1916 rising. Sean Lemass was Taoiseach and Eamonn de Valera was President of Ireland. Both political figures had been involved in the rising and plans were made to correctly commemorate the anniversary in ‘contemporary Ireland’, focus set on looking backwards as much as forwards.

In February 1965, a committee formed to oversee the organisation of the commemorations. The centrepiece of the week-long commemoration was a military parade display with gunshots fired from the roof of the G.P.O with 200,000 people viewers. Having seen footage on the Seven Ages of Ireland DVD, I was shocked and intrigued as veterans took pride in this commemorative display. De Valera was said to be metaphorically blind, not recognising the changes that had occurred in Ireland saying ‘we cannot adequately honour the men of 1916 if we do not work and strive to bring about an Ireland of their desire’.

At this time a Jesuit reverend and academic, Father Francis Shaw was asked to write a commemorative article. From my research I found that this article, a forty-page essay, was not published until 1972, two years after Shaw’s death and the commemorations were over. My interest grabbed, I asked why it wasn’t published at the time it was written. The essay itself was deemed to be controversial, untimely and inappropriate. To understand the nature of the essay, I reviewed it in detail and decided to analyse its content.

I found that within the essay Shaw critically analyses the rising and the beliefs held by Patrick Pearse. The writings were particularly interesting although gritty I found. Pearse’s ‘blood sacrifice’ belief featured as Shaw claims Pearse was linking his own death for the cause of Ireland to Christ dying for a cause. ‘Blood sacrifice’ is derived from a mixture of Pagan mythology, Christianity and militaristic notions popular in World War 1. Pearses’ belief stood that Ireland would only win her freedom by the death and bloodshed in battle of her patriots, creating martyrdom.

From my research I found that this process by Shaw is known as ‘revisionism’ (the theory/practise of revising ones attitude to a previously accepted situation/point of view. When revising history, one critiques or analyses ‘neglected or under-rated issues’ to offer modern conclusions.  Claiming to be value-free and objective, the process varies in degrees of time, intensity, agenda and values.

Shaw was a revisionist. Born in 1907, he dedicated his life to study the teachings of Jesus as a Jesuit reverend also being an academic being professor of Early and Medieval Irish at University College Dublin. He engaged in some lively controversial writing in his field but none were as significant as his long essay in influencing other revisionist writers to begin critically analyse and challenge/question the legacy, which was the foundation of revisionism in Ireland. For Ireland, revisionism meant revising, dismantling and destroying traditional nationalist views of history. Shaw points out that no mature, comprehensive, objective study of the political philosophy of 1916 had been done and maybe it was too near to the historic event for this type of study. He also stated it may surprise readers but hopefully offend none.

In the essay he describes 1916 as ‘the beginning and the end of Irelands struggle for freedom’ explaining Ireland suffered from 1916 with partition, civil war and an end to any possibility of National unity. He tells that the legacy honours a group of men who decided what the nation should want in taking part in a minority rising. Shaw says the people of Ireland were approaching independence at their own pace/way but this forceful military act (which ultimately failed) changed this path. The Irish Republican Brotherhood and The Volunteers pledged to avoid any action that might result in disunity, Parnell having said ‘no man had the right to fix the boundary of the march of a nation’. It appeared to Shaw that the legacy holds only these rebels and the Fenians had patriotism in mind, which he deems as false.

Shaw captures Pearses’ ‘complex character’ saying he was a clear/incisive thinker, writer and spokesman but writings often coloured with his unusual cast of thought. He entertained a slight rather than profound visionary image of early Ireland with romantic ideas often exaggerated from reality. His two heroes were Cú Chulainn, the patriot solider martyr and Colum Cille, the Christian patriot who’s stories Pearse held like a sacred book says Shaw. Shaw describes Pearses obsession with physical force and bloodshed taking precedence as he fell to a state of single-mindedness from 1913 onwards. Pearse made the transition from moderate nationalist to extremist republican separatist quickly. ‘God spoke to Ireland through Wolftone’ said Pearse who held a separatist hatred of England calling it ‘the never ending source of all political evils’.

Pearses speeches began linking patriotism to holiness, his mythology Shaw describes as ‘solemn and alarming’ saying the notion of expressing political-national ideas in terms of the Christian Faith became an obsession. Pearses professes blood sacrifice in terms of the gospel ‘I will stand before the Gall as Christ hung naked before men on a tree’. Pearse holds the messianic view of nationalism connected to the unqualified glorification of bloodshed. Shaw claims Pearse was very bloody-minded as he said ‘bloodshed is a cleansing and sanctifying this’ and would not have been satisfied to attain independence by peaceful means as bloodshed was necessary.

In the aftermath Pearse said the rising had ‘saved Irelands honour’ and Pearse romantically talked about the ‘exhilaration of war’.  But Shaw claims never has Ireland seen such rapid transformation in human thought as this idealistic view is lost and change since shows how superficial Irelands flirtation with extremism was as it didn’t have the peoples’ support from the start. Shaw states 1916 was the rise of extreme nationalism in time when war and triumph were in favour. The world is disregarding extreme nationalism as a negative force. His final message is one of reflection as he says 1916 and onwards closed a chapter of a long history of strife but as a people we should forget the past and he states finally ‘There can be no more criminal disservice to Ireland than to keep the fire of hatred burning’.

This writing sparked other revisionists to begin examination. I found it interesting how each dealt with re-occurring themes/issues. Shaw explored Pearses’ character as did revisionist Ruth Dudley-Edwards. I found her points similar to Shaw although she assessed his background, life works and St.Enda’s further.  The works of revisionists D.George Boyce and Alan O’Day dealt with how the Rising affected Irish politics, partition and unity with a focus also on the proclamation. They all referred back to Shaw but also to W.B Yeats, the point made by Charles Townshend that Yeats was a revisionist writer, particularly the poem ‘Easter 1916’.

In a letter to Lady Gregory, Yeats said he wanted to focus the poem on the key message of the rising as a ‘terrible beauty’. Here he captures his own representation of the rising from his key position of esteem in society, months after it had happened. This reflection was revisionism and he later asked ‘did that play of mine send out certain men the English shot’? The fact he wrote/thought this provokes new thinking, such is the aim of revisionism.

From my study I have learned to define revisionism and how it came to life in the late 1960s. I have studied the essay by Shaw and have come to the new knowledge of the patriotic martyr Patrick Pearse and the Rising itself, with Shaw setting a revisionist tone. From reading the commemorative articles and watching the Seven Ages DVD I now realise the general feeling of society in 1966. Also I understand what it means to be a revisionist and how these revisionist writers raise similar issues. The entire process was interesting and eye-opening and I have discovered much from my reading.

To arrive at the title I decided to focus on two main aims of interest in the area of study. I researched and developed my thoughts to arrive at the title I felt captured this. My first source I found by cross-reference and I was lucky to locate the complete essay. From my library I found the books which dealt with issues raised within my topic. On the official website of the historical journal I discovered the commemorations article. I used these sources as foundations for my study with Shaw’s essay being my main source. The sources allowed me to reference my main point and gain further understanding. To put the data in order I planned a structured agenda to use the information found and this centred my focus. I achieved the aims of my outline plan by following it in citing sources and remaining focused always looking for more information. In hindsight I would have looked at the anti-revisionist side further, and I found difficulty in referencing other revisionists as they were all wrote at different times.