Challenges faced and overcome

An inspiring story of life fully lived

Highlight of the media week for me was the documentary No Limbs No Limits (RTÉ 1 last Thursday) which told the inspiring story of Joanne O’Riordan from Cork, the feisty girl born with the condition ‘Total Amelia’ that left her with no limbs.

That hasn’t deterred her from leading a life fuller than many of us manage with all limbs intact. The documentary was lovingly made by her brother, Steven, and, if you ever wanted something to promote the dignity of the human person, this was it. 

It was great to look back on her address to a United Nations body on females and technology. What was new to me at least was the home movie footage from when Joanne was a baby and that was really endearing.

But it wasn’t all a bed of roses, and Joanne’s mother still became emotional remembering the day she got the diagnosis.

Doctors didn’t give the unborn baby much hope of survival and didn’t seem to know what supports to offer. The family had even arranged a grave for her. But ‘impossible’ wasn’t part of Joanne’s vocabulary, and her motto gave the film its title.

Other standout scenes included her encounter with singer-songwriter Julie Gold (writer of From a Distance) – Gold had been inspired to write a song by Joanne’s UN address. That and other original music formed a fine backdrop to the film. Another touching moment was her meeting with Tina, a 29-year-old in Birmingham who has the same condition – with lots of good humoured banter they went on a mini road trip in their special wheelchairs.

Last Sunday morning BBC1’s Big Questionswas replaced by Sunday Morning Live, with new presenter, Sian Williams. The format has changed somewhat from last year, with live street interviews (this time from Manchester) and an individual interview slot, where Williams’ guest this time was Eastendersstar June Brown. Both her character and herself were religious, and she recounted how she reshaped scripts that didn’t get the religious aspect right.

The interview was quirky, even prickly, and Brown, who seemed to feel a bit left out earlier joined the panel for a discussion on the leadership styles of Pope Francis and Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury.

The audience participation by Skype was ditched which was a pity, and it seemed lighter than last year’s series, though serious issues like the war in Iraq did spark some spirited debate, with contributors like writers A.N. Wilson, theologian and blogger Vicky Beeching and columnist Christina Odone.

IC columnist David Quinn on The Moncrieff Show (Newstalk) last Monday provided welcome clarity on the mother and baby home controversy.  He didn’t pull any punches in criticising the harsh régimes that stressed punishment and sidelined mercy, but was also critical of world media for running way ahead of the known facts. It was a laid back, largely unchallenging interview from Moncrieff, typical of his style.

I’m frequently amazed by the breathtaking moral blindness of some human rights advocates towards abortion. The latest example I heard was on Drivetime (RTÉ Radio 1) Monday of last week. Betty Purcell is acting chair of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and seems to think we’ll be hauled over UN coals for our failure to widen the grounds for abortion to include mother’s health (as distinct from life), incest, rape and fatal foetal abnormality.

She’d have more credibility if she defended the human rights of mothers and their babies, born or unborn.

She decried the treatment of living and dead babies in the mother and baby homes but showed no awareness of the irony, and there were no hard questions from the interviewer.

I liked the contribution of Fr Gerry O’Connor, a PP in Ballyfermot on the same programme, speaking about the shooting of the six-year-old boy in his parish and showing a striking sense of empathy with his parishioners, especially the affected families and another Dublin priest impressed on Tuesday’s Pat Kenny Show(Newstalk). Fr Joe Mullan PP of Rathgar parish was responding to Mary McAleese’s ‘bonkers/nappy’ comments relating to Pope Francis’ initiative, the upcoming Synod on the Family. Fr Mullan thought Pope Francis had initiated a “sound and robust process”, gave some useful background on the nature of synods and collegiality, while also showing himself in touch with the challenging family issues facing his parishioners.     


Pick of the Week


EWTN Mon (night) June 30, 4am

Diane Bish honours soldiers at the WWII American cemetery in Normandy.



RTÉ 1 Tues July 1, 9.35pm

People who are dying speaking openly about going through what will be the last months of their own lives.



EWTN Fri July 4, 9.30pm

Director of Christ in the City, Yvonne Noggle and one of their young missionaries talks about this ministry for young adults.