Towards a modern Honours system?

Father Des Wilson reckons that an Irish Honours system would be fine, but not if it gets trapped in the archaism of the British model:

There are two movements afoot: one in Britain to get rid of out-of-date honours and invent something honourably new, the other in Ireland where some politicians want to have an honours system of our own. Fine, provided the honours system resulting in either case does not mean people descending from vanity into silliness, with out-of-date medals and knee-britches and empty hands to prove it.

Shades of Ferguson’s commodification of Remembrance?

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  • BonarLaw

    Remarkable restraint from the good Father- he managed to get one third of the way into his rant before he compared the British Empire to Nazi Germany.

    Strangely enough my focus strayed after that.

  • jaffa

    Quite right though that one man’s tradition is another man’s silliness.

    I believe Fr Wilson wears a dress to work.

  • The Dubliner

    Given that the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, sent his aide-de-camp to the funeral of Katy French as a means of the Irish state ‘honouring’ her, I don’t think an honours system is safe in the hands of Irish politicians. Who was Katy French? Well, she was a 24-year-old model for knickers and bras who ‘famous’ to snorting cocaine and dating a succession of wealthy businessmen in Dublin. I say ‘famous’ but no one I know even heard of her until after she died. It is symptomatic of Ireland’s vacuous celebrity culture… [Text removed – keep it civil! – mod]

  • Paul

    The Dubliner,

    Excellent post, furthermore this type of action stimulates young women to ’emulate’ this non entity. Rewarding the ills of society in this manner only encourages the malignancy of celebrity ‘culture’ leading to a more diarrhoeic society devoid of moral fibre.

  • ulsterfan

    Honours List!!!!!

    The Republic must be crumbling in front of our eyes.

  • Twinbrook

    Its a noble idea, on paper, that citizens of a State should be honored for meritorious service but who draws the guidelines and who decides who are worthy of these *awards*…
    Surely if the British system is anything to go by, it`ll be filled on the whole with bastions of the establishment!

  • Twinbrook

    Was thinking along the same lines..

  • “Yet this useless tosser was deemed worthy by Bertie Ahern of the next best thing to a state funeral.”


    Has Ahern given any reason why he felt this woman should be so honored in death?

  • topdeckomnibus

    Mountbatten said of Ghandi “It must cost a fortune to keep you poor”

    There is a cost, paid by others, to protecting the bogus reputations of those of the honours system.

    When it comes to honours, of course, the Vatican does not mess about.

    The British honours system has elevated, for example, Leonard Cheshire and Sue Ryder.

    The catholics now plan to take the work forward. Do they call it beatification ?

    I still wonder what would have happened if Barbara Castle MPs call for a full public inquiry into their care home standards in 1972 had been allowed to happen.

    Homes registered as Care Homes (not as Nursing Homes) under the National Assistance Act. No requirement to deploy qualified nurses. yet taking in serious nursing support and even hospice type cases. Boarding houses in which prospective catholic saints played hospitals like Munchausens by proxy.

    Dr Nini Ettlinger (who wrote an opinion in anticipation of a public inquiry) widow of academy artist Josef Herman, wrote “The homes are not so much a case of loving patients but of loving Sue Ryder loving patients. people are extraordinarily blinded by the smokescreen of charity. Sue Ryder can only function when surrounded by people more in touch with human reality. More residents will be driven to despair in this charitable setting”

    Also in 1972 The Disabled persons Human Rights Movement essentially started with an inmates revolt at LeCourt Cheshire Home Hampshire.

    Also in 1972 the Regional Crime Squad in wales were investigating GP death registrations in Cheshire homes against the suspicion of identity theft.

    The New Zealand Govt were calling on the Home Office to re-open the inquest into the death of their citizen Matron MMary McGill at the home of Leonard Cheshire and Sue Ryder in Jan 1972.

    A retired Squadron Laeder had resigned from the charity and was also calling for the charity to be taken into the NHS and run properly. (Sqn Leader W W Jackson)

    If Barbara Castle’s call for inquiry had resulted in a full public inquiry then I wonder if the charity founders (Airey Neave and Harry Sporborg of MI6) would have been able to go ahead to select and steer Maggie Thatcher to power ?

    And if the Suffolk Police case (Mary McGill Decd) and the Welsh Regional Crime Squad case had come together would there have been escalation of inquiry into matters like Nazi War Criminals smuggled to UK ?

    Those old Vatican ratlines ? (Bear in mind that Richard rapier Stokes MP, Vatican ratlines and champion of the Galician SS to settle en masses in Britain postwar, was an associate of Sue Ryder Support Group Head Eric Berthoud with whom he worked on overthrowing Mossadeq)

    Surely not an MI6 front after all the homes were run by those altruistic potential saints, orders of merit etc etc Lennie and Sue.

    If they do make em saints I wonder who their MI6 handlers will be ?

    Better to have no honours system at all.

  • Rory

    The trouble with an honours system is those that are genuinely worthy would never seek an honour while the unworthy scrabble, conspire, bully and bribe in order to achieve them.

    Dr Ninni Ettinger’s assertion quoted above that “The homes are not so much a case of loving patients but of loving Sue Ryder loving patients” rings very true for me. After labouring for twenty years on small salaries in the charity field I came to the inevitable conclusion that the prime purpose of most charities was not to bring succour and assistance to the needy but rather to shine the reflected glory of that worthy aim on the principals, trustees and corporate donors.

    I well remember the withering looks I received from the Chief Executive of a very high profile national children’s charity when, at a brain-storming session to discuss our new “mission statement”, I suggested that surely our primary purpose ought to be “to work towards creating the conditions where we were no longer necessary”. From that moment on I realised that my career prospects were bleak.

  • Cathal

    There is no inherent contradiction in a republic having an honours system. Both the American and The French Republics honour citizens (Congressional Medal of Honour, Legion d’Honneur), and indeed France has honoured several Irish Citizens, and at least one American (Lara Marlow) for her contribution to French-Irish understanding.

  • heck

    we don’t need no stinkin’ honours!!

    what a waste of time

  • Rory

    I have no problem with my country recognising the contribution made by citizens of another country to the understanding, culture, whatever, of mine. I just happen to believe that whatever I might do that benefits my country is no more or no less than that which I have been fortunate enough to be capable of doing. The accomplishment of good work is surely it’s own reward?

    If I cook a good meal for friends and family the reward comes from sharing their enjoyment as they gather to eat it. What the hell more else is there that is not but pompous dross?

  • The Dubliner

    The UK honours system is inextricably linked to the aristocracy and the class system, hence the titles, Sir, Lord, Dame, Lady, etc. While it is a feudal system of monarchy, it is passed off as a meritocracy, but the charade requires all who accept the honour to accept the award from the monarch, accepting their position in the rotten system, mutually exchanging grandeur with it. Essentially, they are titles of nobility rather than titles of honour.

    The French system, under the administration of the Presidency, is more tolerable but equally useless: where is the evidence that these awards have encouraged achievement? Totally missing, of course. All they encourage is patronage as those who seek status cosy up (and donate, bribe, ect) those who can award it.

    Article 40: 2.1 of Bunreacht na hÉireann states: “Titles of nobility shall not be conferred by the State.” So, as an honour is not a title of nobility, it doesn’t specifically rule an honours system out but I suspect that there are grounds there for a constitutional challenge.

    Mick Hall, probably because one of his daughters cried about how awful it was that a minor celebrity died of a cocaine overdose, and Bertie, being aware that his daughters are also minor celebrities (one is married to a boy band member and the other writes drivel) felt that minor celebrities should be elevated in public importance. But that guess is just between me and Bertie’s shrink.

  • perci

    Dubs I reckon you’re odds/on for the next red card.

  • Dubliner

    You are spot on in your first paragraph, the British honors system is the pinnacle of the UK class system, which in itself is one of the most debilitating in the world. Anyone who accepts an honor from it is perpetuating gross inequality.

    Could it be that an introduction of an honors system in the RoI is the first step towards the Commonwealth, just say no folks.

    I asked the question about Bertie as I heard some wag down the pub claim that Bertie and the dead girl allegedly used the same dealer. The things some people come out with when they have a drink, disgraceful, what ever next, tales of the Taoiseach keeping thousand of Euros in his office safe, outrageous the man should be horse whipped. [the man in the pub that is]

  • sportsman

    A Doctorate from Trinity should suffice.

  • German-American

    Cathal: “Both the American and The French Republics honour citizens (Congressional Medal of Honour, Legion d’Honneur), …”

    With regard to the US I believe you’re thinking of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Congressional Model of Honor is a military award (the highest one for the US armed forces).

  • The Dubliner

    “Dubs I reckon you’re odds/on for the next red card.” – Perci

    I could be, old sport. But I only have to survive until mid-Feb when destiny will carry me away like a little lost butterfly in a wintery gale. Besides, I think NI is now so deeply integrated into the UK that there isn’t anymore for a republican to say on the subject. Game over. We lost.

    “Could it be that an introduction of an honors system in the RoI is the first step towards the Commonwealth, just say no folks.” – Mick Hall

    I wouldn’t put anything past Bertie. He wouldn’t be the first Irish minister who was in the pay of a foreign power, either. But FF won’t support an honours system – Dev’s egalitarian ethos – that all citizens are equal under the constitution – still matters to enough of them. Still, they will support the Reform Treaty which de facto surrenders sovereignty, independence and national self-determination to Europe, so who really knows? I guess you can sell anything to people who aren’t rooted in a solid value system. Ireland has changed a lot and bar the economy, none of it for the better.

  • Danny O’Connor

    I don’t see a problem in giving a cup of tea and a bun at the Aras to some voluntary workers or charity fundraisers or whatever.I do not see a problem with those people getting appropriate recognition for a genuine contribution to society,a commemmorative medal or plaque or whatever,there ought not to be any titles or add ons that would create a hierarchy of citizens.

  • Reader

    Danny O’Connor: there ought not to be any titles or add ons that would create a hierarchy of citizens.
    How about titles like ‘Doctor’, or ‘Professor’ or ‘Archbishop’ or ‘Taoiseach’?
    Whereas new titles that don’t confer any actual authority are surely harmless – *especially* in a Republic. Where is the hierarchy without authority?
    Instead, you are sleepwalking into a hierarchy of wealth and celebrity, to go alongside the existing political patronage.

  • Danny O’Connor

    these titles are earned and not bestowed for the sake of political patronage or croneyism.These titles do not create a hierarchy.My argument is not about titles it is about rewarding those citizens who perform valuable service to their community or to their country.It is simply about acknowledging those people who are by and large forgotten.

  • Rory

    “How about titles like ‘Doctor’, “or ‘Professor’ or ‘Archbishop’ or ‘Taoiseach’?

    Those titles, dear Reader, are descriptive of function.

    What function, pray, does an Order of Merit (OM) for example have?

    We can only say that the conferring of this award serves the function of recognising and honouring the recipient’s merit in some field or other and through that I suppose we can say that the Order itself then serves the function of marking that recognition.

    But who needs it, I ask? It is hardly necessary for a man to walk around all day with his willie hanging out just to show the world that he is a man. The beard and the balding head are usually a sufficient giveaway to that sexual classification.

    Say, for example, that a man devotes great time and care and energy to caring for the education of poor children without thought for recompense. What possible reward can he have greater than seeing the fruits of his effort realised in the future development of those children?

    Good men and women may well deserve awards but they don’t need them. And those that need them generally don’t deserve them.

  • Rory

    My apologies if I bore you, but I am on a bit of a roll here:

    Take the case of the greatest film director ever, bar none, in American screen history. Despite being showered with awards and accolades during his long career his own assessment of himself was related in the simple declaration, “My name is John Ford and I make Westerns”.

    Now anyone who has been priveleged enough to have enjoyed The Searchers will readily appreciate that the self-knowledge of one’s achievement of that accomplishment would be sufficient to stoke a man’s self esteem for a lifetime.

    But, not only to have done that but also to have created Rio Grande, Fort Apache and She wore a Yellow Ribbon not to mention The Informer, The Quiet Man, The Grapes of Wrath, Cheyenne Autumn and The Man who shot Liberty Valance we can well understand the satisfactory quietude of his modest statement on the deployment of his talent.

    I do like John Ford and I am so grateful that he made Westerns.

  • joeCanuck

    Aah; the memories. I was about 10 years old when I first saw The Searchers. Wonderful memory.

  • Rory


    Nice to see that up and coming youngsters like yourself have an appreciation for the finer things in life.