Review of ‘Beauty through Broken Windows’ on the World Day of the Poor

Today is the ‘World Day of the Poor’, observed in the Catholic Church since 2017 when it was established by Pope Francis. It’s a day to remind Christians of their obligations to follow Christ’s example to pursue justice for the poor. A new book, Beauty through Broken Windows: Empowering Edmund Rice’s Vision Today, edited by Aidan Donaldson and Denis Gleeson, is an excellent resource for learning more about how Christians around the world are living out such a vision. The …

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Review of Triangle: Three Novellas of Ireland by Pól Ó Muirí

What happens in a society when previously dominant traditions of religion, spirituality, and morality crumble and then proceed to disintegrate at break-neck speed? The island of Ireland could be considered something of a sociological case study in this regard. The ‘holy Catholic Ireland’ of the Republic has been discredited and denigrated. The often oppositional Christian traditions of Northern Ireland also seem destined for inexorable decline. Analysis of the rise of those who claim they have ‘no religion’ can only be …

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And No Religion, Too: Who are the ‘Nones’?

Who are the people who choose the ‘no religion’ or ‘none of the above’ categories on a Census or other survey? As discussed in my post last week, for Northern Ireland’s 2021 Census we cannot say that with confidence, because all the data has not yet been released. But we can probably assume that they are more likely to be from Protestant backgrounds, to live in a Protestant majority area, and to be young (under 35). If Northern Ireland’s trends …

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Book Review: ‘Unholy Catholic Ireland’ by Hugh Turpin

Unholy Catholic Ireland: Religious Hypocrisy, Secular Morality, and Irish Irreligion by Hugh Turpin (published this week by Stanford University Press) is a must-read book for anyone interested in the changing role of religion in Ireland. Unholy Catholic Ireland responds to longstanding gaps in our knowledge about the ‘irreligious’ in Ireland, to echo the term from the book’s subtitle. In scholarly literature, this rather disparate group is often referred to as those with ‘no religion’ or the ‘nones’. (In the text, …

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‘Just drawing support’ — Bill Rolston’s latest catch of mural hunting

Bill Rolston published the first volume of Drawing Support in 1992, which contained images of 100 murals from the previous decade. Thirty years later, the fifth volume has just been published, and at a Feile an Phobail event Rolston spoke about his never-ending “mural hunting”, accompanied by recollections of muralist Danny Devenny. Claire Hackett welcomed and informed the audience that in addition to the latest and previous volumes of Drawing Support available for sale here, Rolson, with Robbie McVeigh, are …

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Parliamentarians behaving badly? Hannah White at #ImagineBelfast on Tuesday 22 March

Lockdown parties, payments for lobbying, overseas jaunts. Hannah White reckons that MPs undermine their own credibility by acting as if the rules they set for others should not apply to them. The reputation of the House Commons is in decline. And to top if all, the Government frequently sidelines the legislature. Held in Contempt: What’s wrong with the House of Commons? is title of Hannah White’s new book. It’s also the title of her talk at this year’s Imagine! festival …

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On the steps, or ‘my’ Belfast: the city as I knew it growing up in the 1950s and 1960s…

A short address in the Linen Hall Library last Friday, published with Poems included from my collections Sunday School (1991) and Lake Geneva (2003) with the permission of The Gallery Press. There are three ‘sets’ of steps that concern me here today – two which belong to libraries, including in particular the Linen Hall. The third set belongs to no illustrious library, or indeed, so far as I know, to any ‘place’ whatsoever other than a doorway. They all mattered, in their …

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Pope Francis’ Message for Belfast: “We have to pull down walls and build bridges.” 

A personal message from Pope Francis for the people of Belfast was broadcast last night at the opening event of the 4 Corners Festival, an inter-church festival that seeks to bring together people from all parts of Belfast. The message was played in St Anne’s Church of Ireland Cathedral ahead of a talk and Q&A with Austen Ivereigh, who collaborated with Pope Francis on his recent book, Let us Dream (BBC Report here). (Disclaimer: I am on the organising committee of …

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Book Review: The Rise and Fall of Christian Ireland by Crawford Gribben

Crawford Gribben’s new book, The Rise and Fall of Christian Ireland (Oxford, 2021) is a remarkable read. With a narrative spanning almost two millennia captured in a main text of just 220 pages, Gribben covers a vast amount of ground in a relatively concise text. His achievement is to provide much needed perspective on where Irish Christianity came from and where it may be headed. The book is published by an academic press and Gribben is a historian at Queen’s …

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Brendan Kennelly 1936-2021

It’s been a sad few days for Irish literature as we note the passing of two notable Irish literary figures. Máire Mhac an tSaoi was not only a poet, but also an Irish language scholar, author and at one point a career diplomat. It is Brendan Kennelly’s passing that I feel the most, however. Coming from a scientific background I am no literary critic, but to me his work seems accessible, powerful, impactful and unpretentious all at the same time. …

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#Bloomsday: Water…

What in water did Bloom, waterlover, drawer of water, watercarrier, returning to the range, admire?

James Joyce, Ulysses

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Slugger TV-Brian Rowan talking about Political Purgatory

In this months Slugger TV I chat with the author of the new book Political Purgatory, Brian Rowan. – – – Added by Alan Meban … Throughout his reporting on the peace process, ceasefires and agreements, Rowan kept fastidious notes, filing away original copies of statements and creating a rich archive that he can dip back into. The passing of time – and often the death of actors from all sides of the Troubles – means that the publication of …

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The State of Us … Previewing the seventh annual Imagine! Festival of Ideas and Politics (22-28 March)

A quick rummage through the Imagine! Belfast programme coming up between 22–28 March. Under the strapline of The State of Us, there’ll be exhibitions, workshops, lectures, film, comedy, music, spoken word, lectures, theatre and quizzes. Voices from at home and abroad. The festival isn’t afraid to challenge. It doesn’t expect participants to agree with everything that is said. It’s about making people think. Widening their horizons. Broadening their understanding. Developing their empathy. Helping them figure out why – and if – they truly believe the hunches and biases they may have been living with for a lifetime.

Everything is Spiritual by Rob Bell: Part Memoir, Part Hymn for Humanity

My eyes had already welled up with tears after the first three pages of Rob Bell’s latest book, Everything is Spiritual: Who we are and What we’re doing Here. Those early pages took me to his grandmother’s front porch on a windswept farm in central Michigan, introducing me to the grief and love that shaped him and set his life on its course. My emotional response testifies to Bell’s skill as a storyteller, which makes Everything is Spiritual a quick, …

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Love’s Betrayal: The Decline of Catholicism and the Rise of New Religions in Ireland by Peter Mulholland: New Insights on Recent Religious History

In Love’s Betrayal: The Decline of Catholicism and the Rise of New Religions in Ireland (Peter Lang Publishers, 2019) Peter Mulholland offers a frank and often bruising account of the decline of the authority of the Catholic Church in Ireland since the middle of the twentieth century. Mulholland follows in the footsteps of ground-breaking studies, such as those by Tom Inglis (Moral Monopoly, 1987, 1998) and Louise Fuller (Irish Catholicism Since 1950, 2002). What sets Mulholland’s work apart is how …

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John Hewitt Digital Festival of Literature and Ideas 2020

The John Hewitt Society have moved their Armagh summer school online with a series of free online talks and discussions. While we normally take Slugger TV out of the NvTv studio to record in front of the Armagh audience, we’re delighted to be opening this year’s festival with a discussion about “After lockdown, can the arts return to health without a vaccine?”. Read more about this and the rest of the programme …

As the pace of modern life gets quicker all the time, poetry provides a much needed pause…

“My favourite poem is the one that starts ‘Thirty days hath September’ because it actually tells you something.” (Groucho Marx 1895 -1977) I know I’m treading on precarious territory here with that one word – poetry. There. Many of you will have zoned out already but I hope you’ll stay with me for a little longer as I try to untangle my thoughts on a subject that seems to divide so many folks, in so many different ways. But before …

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