Bruce Arnold

Chief Critic of the Irish Independent, writing about art, theatre, music and politics

Feb 2013

We should all be celebrating Commonwealth Day

Robin Bury is having a hard time persuading Irish people to attend, let alone celebrate Commonwealth Day on Monday, March 11.

No members of the Government – who fell over themselves a year ago in their enthusiasm to touch hands with Queen Elizabeth, who is head of the Commonwealth – want to go.

They should attend, for a special reason this year – the event will be addressed by Mary Kenny. Mary is a wise woman, shrewd yet kind, with a lifetime's experience of dealing with the perennial problems of mixed loyalties. She has written, better than anyone else I know, on the subject at the heart of the Commonwealth problem – Queen Elizabeth.

This was in her book, 'Crown and Shamrock: Love and Hate between Ireland and the British Monarchy'. And what she has to say on March 11 in the Royal Irish Academy will be rich in content and judgment. Read More...

McAleese Report flies in the face of painful evidence of laundry victims

The burden of historical truth, in respect of the Magdalene Laundries, is huge. It also was in respect of the industrial schools. It has not been fully confronted in regard to either of these monstrous blemishes on the State. The grim reality of this faces Enda Kenny as he tackles a history of events made more confused by the report presented to the Government by Martin McAleese. History cannot be confined to the period since 1922. What the State took over from the British and how it then changed it has also to be part of the picture.

If we go back well before the State's foundation, to the census of 1901, the material that bears on the present question of the Magdalene Laundries emerges more clearly in historical terms and, though painful, sets the context of how the system worked then and later under state control. Read More...

Kenny was right to hold fire – report is badly flawed

THE Martin McAleese Report on the Magdalene Laundries is a flawed document. It is not based on the best evidence. Its focus is inappropriately narrow. Its research, despite claims of prodigious hunting through the enormous ocean of state records, missed obvious and important information about the laundries.

Its terms of reference were wrong and have been dishonestly represented to the Irish people. The Government issued what can only be described as 'a mandate both broad and narrow'. The narrow bit was "to establish the facts of state involvement with the Magdalene Laundries". This was primitive and clumsy. Its objective seems to have been to find out where the State was at risk from legal pursuit. Read More...

We run our referendums in the way Al Capone handled his taxes

The courts have prevented the denial of the public's right to fairness and balance

THE most important referendum in the history of the State was in 1937, adopting our present Constitution. It was the start of a one-way journey, reshaping the State in legal, moral, social and political terms and creating rules by which we have lived ever since. The burden that resulted is a huge one further shaped and strengthened by subsequent referendums and by the courts, above all by the Supreme Court, which defines what was started by that first referendum. The Constitution set in place by referendum can only be changed by referendum. Read More...