Deep thoughts silence the clash of the ash

Deep thoughts silence the clash of the ash Joe Canning of Galway Photo:

I’m not a great fan of attaching celebrities to programmes, but I can understand that they  will boost ratings, and high ratings help ensure that a show can thrive.

Former President Mary McAleese has been attached to many RTÉ programmes, the latest being All Walks of Life (RTÉ1) which started last Friday. It’s a simple concept – she walks and talks with other celebrities along traditional pilgrim paths.  The walking provided a fluid movement that gave the show an edge over static studio interviews and facilitated reflection.

Mrs McAleese was more low key than usual and the show was all the better for it.

Her guest was Galway hurler Joe Canning and he came across as a pleasant, reflective guy, with a modest approach to his successes. I particularly enjoyed hearing of his work for UNICEF in Syria – pictures showing him teaching hurling to children in war torn regions were quite striking.

There was plenty of footage of his hurling successes, his thoughts on the ups and downs involved and a conviction on his part that we can all learn from our failures. He felt honoured to be able to play for his county in front of 80,000 people in Croke Park, so he wasn’t about to start complaining about times he had lost.

With regards to Faith, he had grown up in a strongly Catholic household, didn’t get to Mass some weekends, though he felt “bothered” about missing it sometimes due to match activities (a common story I’d suspect among young people). He wasn’t ‘overly religious’ but still used holy water leaving the house though he wondered if this was superstition.

The location of this walk was the Mám Éan pilgrimage route in Connemara, a path that was significant also in pre-Christian times. They met some interesting characters along the way, including local priest Fr Francis Mitchell who said a prayer with them and it was good to see Fr Micheál Mac Gréil, who had revived interest in the pilgrimage 40 years ago. Perhaps somewhat lacking in depth, it was a leisurely, enjoyable programme.


Not so enjoyable, but hugely important for our times, was Fatal Flaws: Legalising Assisted Death on EWTN, on Wednesday of last week. Film maker Kevin Dunn was clearly against euthanasia, but the film was measured and he presented it in an amiable and non-confrontational way, with several euthanasia advocates getting their say and being courteously challenged.

The focus was on Canada, Belgium and the Netherlands where euthanasia has gained a strong foothold and is quite extreme and repressive, with conscience rights of doctors under threat, especially when euthanasia becomes a right rather than just a freedom.

Some of the many significant moments in the programme were interviews with euthanasia advocates who themselves felt that it was going too far, that grounds for euthanasia were being broadened far too widely. In fact, it was one of those who referenced the “slippery slope” – the pattern was that euthanasia was first introduced for the terminally ill who were in severe pain, but was gradually being extended to include those who feared future pain, those with psychiatric problems, children, newborns and those who were merely tired of life (talk about permanent solution to a temporary problem!)

There was a significant discussion of how pro-euthanasia advocates try to manipulate language in order to hide the ugliness of what’s going on – euthanasia euphemisms. One doctor was spot on: “All social engineering is preceded by verbal engineering.”

There were upsetting personal stories of euthanasia being pushed on the vulnerable by doctors, elderly people being made to feel like burdens, near misses where people were nearly killed but were protected by strong willed and alert relatives. Most troubling of all was Dunn’s interview with a cheerful articulate young woman in the Netherlands who was seeking death. They hit it off and maintained contact afterwards through Skype, so it all the more shocking when she finally got herself euthanised.

Dunn was interviewed on EWTN Live later that night and he told of how it broke his heart when he heard that tragic news – obviously it still haunted him. The interview was the perfect companion piece to the film as we got to know Dunn a lot more. The original film wasn’t coming from a particularly religious perspective but we got glimpses of a man of faith who was an advocate of hope.

You can see the film at and at

Pick of the Week:
Life and Soul
RTÉ1, Saturday, January 25, 2.20 pm

Repeat of episode 3. Personal stories, prayers and contemporary Christian music.

EWTN, Saturday, January 25, 7.30 pm

Live coverage of San Francisco’s largest pro-life event, including speeches and interviews with pro-life leaders and walk participants.

EWTN, Saturday (night), January 25, 2 am

Mark Riedemann interviews Sr Bridget Tighe, General Director of Caritas Jerusalem, about the conditions within the Gaza strip.