‘Beast from the east’ was well covered

‘Beast from the east’ was well covered Claire Byrne

I could hardly write this column without reference to last week’s weather event.  It dominated media news and current affairs, perhaps to an excessive degree.

I certainly thought it was going over the top when it was prominent on Claire Byrne Live, as far back as last Monday night, and until the snow actually arrived much of the coverage was repetitious. However, at the time of writing there have been few casualties, so one could argue that the alertness and the caution saved lives.

For the most part the event brought out the best in people – “quite humbling and quite impressive” said Conor Faughnan of the AA last Monday morning on the Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk) as he complimented those who went the extra mile (often literally).

Front line services were exemplary, with tales of workers in the emergency services walking hours to get to work, sleeping over so they’d be ready to serve the public or hospital patients, with some doing longer shifts than normal.

There were numerous reports of farmers using their heavy machinery to dig motorists and ambulances out of trouble, doctors attending patients in stranded ambulances, babies successfully delivered in the most unsuitable locations and snowy weddings that went ahead regardless. I hope someone puts together a collage of all these inspiring news stories that would boost one’s faith in humanity.


Media people deserve praise too – reporters out in a variety of hats, and sometimes none, reporting from the deserted and snow-swept streets of our cities – swept by, but not always of, the snow. I don’t remember any Teresa Mannion moment, but we were thoroughly warned not to make unnecessary journeys.

However there were some unfortunate incidents – from the few people incomprehensibly going swimming in the sea and having to be rescued by the services that had more than enough on their plates already, to the vandalism, looting and destruction of that Lidl store in Dublin – an event I first heard about from the reporting of this newspaper’s Chai Brady.

The weather event put a particular strain on the elderly. But it wasn’t the only thing. I was taken aback to hear the extent of elder abuse outlined by Justin Moran of Age Action, speaking with presenter George Hook, on a truncated Saturday Sit-In (Newstalk) last weekend. Reported instances of this had risen considerably in recent times, with financial abuse of the elderly a particular feature. How could people do this to their parents and family?

Sounded like pure greed.

Matters were exacerbated by the fact that so much banking now has to be done online, and coupling that with figures Moran gave which showed that around half of those aged 65-74 have never used the internet, you can see where the elderly are put at another disadvantage. Smart banking my eye.

At the other end of the scale a lot of lip service is paid to children’s welfare, and we’re good at wringing our hands over past abuses of children. I know we’re not living in Utopia, and perfection shouldn’t become the enemy of the possible (is that a cliché yet?) but we’ve heard so many reports of the HSE or Tusla failing children. And currently the Government is hell bent on making it easier to abort children.

As if that wasn’t enough, last Wednesday’s Morning Ireland highlighted another scathing report, this time by the Garda Inspectorate,  showing how inadequate are the protections of children from sexual abuse.

Chief Inspector Mark Toland discussed the problems outlined by the presenter – cases not being investigated to the highest standards, untrained Gardai dealing with such cases, child sex offenders not being adequately supervised when released, Gardai using “archaic systems”, despite having the technology for tracking child abusers in real time online but not using it “because it would generate too much intelligence”(!). The Inspectorate was  ‘really disappointed’ that  less than half the recommendations of a 2012 report had been implemented when they returned to the matter five years later.

The Garda response smacked of PR spin as they welcomed the report as containing ‘valuable and useful proposals , based in part on input from an  Garda Síochana’.

There were some positives, like the creation of a National Protective Services Bureau, with specialised staff, 200 million set aside for improved technology.  The Garda were now committed to specialist local units, though Toland felt the rollout was ‘far too slow’.


Pick of the week
Vox Nostra with Vlad Smishkewych
RTÉ Lyric FM, Sunday, March 11, 7.00 am

Apart from St Patrick, Ireland’s ancient history is full of other saints that had much more music written for them than the beloved patron of Ireland.

Songs of Praise
BBC1, Sunday, March 11, 1.55 pm

Mothers’ Day special, with stories of midwives, miscarriages, and parents caring for special needs children.

Pilgrimage: The Road to Santiago
BBC2, Friday, March 16, 9.00 pm

Seven pilgrims think about themselves and their faith, as well as exploring whether a medieval pilgrimage has any relevance in the modern day.

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