There was a huge reaction last week to a hard-hitting opinion piece carried on the front pages of almost all the Wexford People group of newspapers. When one considers the amount of clerical abuse that went on in the Diocese of Ferns, it was a remarkable article.

The writer points out that the Roman Catholic Church’s current, harsh policy is unfairly ruining the reputations of innocent priests. For decades, Church authorities allowed the lives of countless young people to be destroyed because they ignored the problem of child abusers and, in some instances, the activity of the abusers was covered up. But, says the newspaper, in an absolute reversal of natural justice, a priest is now presumed guilty, removed from his post and left to fight to clear his name with his identity catapulted straight to the centre of public attention.

Even if an allegation proves to be utterly false, the priest still suffers the public humiliation of having to step down from his post and the restoration of his reputation is virtually impossible.

This policy, says The Wexford People, is reckless in the extreme and is as wrong and damaging to ordinary priests as the previous cover-up policy was for the victims of abuse. A dark shadow hangs over every single priest who could wake up any morning to hear that they have to leave their post because of some historical, unsubstantiated allegation. It is time, insists the writer, to consign this crazy and brutal policy to the bin before even more lives are scarred.

I’m told the reaction to the editorial in Wexford and further afield has been very positive and supportive and I’m not surprised because people are basically very fair-minded. The abuse of children is a terrible thing but it is also a dreadful crime to be publicly accused of if you are innocent. It does seem that the current Church policy is very harsh.

Interesting news for wheelchair users

There is news this week that will certainly appeal to, and maybe even excite, wheelchair users and their families all over the country.

For the most part, wheelchair users can only look on as their able-bodied friends enjoy the sea but the Brothers of Charity in West Clare, in association with the Loophead Tourism Group, have acquired the first ever Deming beach wheelchair to be used in this country. It was designed in the United States by Mike Deming for his wife, Karen, who had been a keen surfer until a car accident caused her to be a quadriplegic.

The chair proved to be a huge success in the United States and the Brothers of Charity have now acquired one and it will be available, free of charge, during the peak summer season on the beach at Kilkee. Local residents donated €1,700 towards the cost of the chair and, next year, it is hoped to purchase a special hoist to ensure that people unable to complete a ‘self-transfer’ will also be able to use the chair and enjoy the experience of entering the waves.

I suspect that when news of the Deming beach chair gets around, it won’t be long before we see it appearing on Waterford beaches.

Chinese invaders on the way

There has been a rather strange story going the rounds in the Midlands area for almost two years about a huge Chinese ‘invasion’. Reports said a massive European Trade Hub for Chinese products and services was to be established in Athlone. In other words, China would set up a permanent trade display on the outskirts of the town and potential customers would be flown in from all over Europe to view the products.

The master-plan investment would cost €1.4 billion, create 9,000 jobs and attract 1.5 million visitors to the town each year.

And now, it looks like the story is the Real McCoy and things really will happen.

On Friday last, a planning application in respect of the first phase of the project was lodged by Athlone Business Park Ltd. The directors are named as Aidan Kelly and Michael O’Sullivan and the former Roscommon County Manager, John Tiernan, is fronting the company as chief executive.

Mr Tierney the project was not a fanciful dream, pointing out that no less than 70 professionals had been involved in the costly task of preparing the planning application. He said if planning permission was forthcoming, it was hoped that the first phase would be up and running by 2014 or early 2015 and, if the preliminary phases were successful, the entire project should be operational within seven to ten years of opening the first phase.

A tight squeeze

Mike and Tess hadn’t been getting on for quite some time and part of the ongoing nastiness between them was Mike’s constant smart remarks that were always barbed and personal. One day while Tess was loading up the washing machine, Mike gave her a slap on the bottom. “If you firmed that up, you might be able to get rid of all those terrible tracksuit bottoms you wear,” he said cruelly.

It was the last straw for Tess. She turned around and caught his private parts in a vice-like grip. She waited until the tears poured down Mike’s face before declaring: “If you firmed this up, I could also get rid of the milkman and the postman.” Ouch!