Bruce Arnold

Critic of Public Affairs, writing about art, theatre, music and politics

This referendum is a waste of time and will do nothing at all for children's rights

THE Children's Referendum is a grave mistake, confused in its language, absurd in its presumptions, and back to front in that it sets the problems in theory when historically constitutional referendums have generally been the product of court judgments on wrongly-drafted laws.

Rewriting the Constitution for the vast and amorphous "common good" with views about "some children possibly at risk" is part of a new absurdity.

The chairperson of the Referendum Commission, Mary Finlay Geoghegan, is apparently explaining how this will help children. Her father, Mr Justice Tom Finlay, Chief Justice and president of the Supreme Court, had different views. In a judgment in a family law case in the 1980s, he wisely said: "The presumption should be that a child is best cared for within the family." Read More...

Kenny and Merkel muddy the waters rather than clear them

[This article is an extended version of the column from the Irish Independent, 22nd October 2012: for print edition, click here]

Last night’s Communique, jointly issued by the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, provides little to help Mr Kenny and even less to justify Angela Merkel’s remarks at the end of last week’s summit. The unique character of Ireland's banking and sovereign debt crisis lies in the over-reaction of our politicians and public servants to the crisis as it developed between 2008 and 2010. Over-statement of our prospects and gross overstatement of the economic achievements of the new government continued what is becoming a national characteristic.

The two leaders discussed Ireland's plans for a full return to the markets. That is a finely-balanced set of objectives needing much more than what the communiqué says about reaffirming the June 29 commitment. And the task talked about is no more than an examination of the situation. It sounds like Fagin’s song from Fiddler on the Roof. Read More...

Norris attempts to rewrite history in this less than frank book about his life

A good newspaper stands over what it publishes. It does so in the belief that its purpose, in bringing new matter to the attention of readers serves the public interest. This surely should have been the view of the editor of the 'Irish Times' and his staff in presenting to its readers large extracts from the autobiography of the recent but unsuccessful presidential candidate, David Norris. If ever a book needed some editorial comment, this one did.

Mr Norris is, after all, deservedly famous -- or infamous, depending on your point of view, though both apply -- and his recent run for president was full of the ambiguities one associates with his chequered life. Read More...