It seems quite amazing that, as Deputy John Deasy has complained, there appears to be little or no interest from government sources in the Intelligence Conference that will take place in Dungarvan in July. I don’t want to appear paranoid but I would bet ‘a pound to a penny’ that every major intelligence organisation in the world will have unofficial observers at the gathering.

In other words, for a short time, Dungarvan will be full of spies and spooks taking a peep at undergraduate students who might well turn out to be major players on the world stage in a few years time. There will be more discreet cameras and camcorders in play that would fill Hennebry’s on The Quay a few times over!

The keynote speaker has already been confirmed as Tom Ridge, a former Governor of Pennsylvania and a former US Secretary of State for Homeland Security. Many intelligence experts from around the world will attend and a number of other big name speakers will be announced in the coming weeks.

The conference and the ‘twinning’ with Dungarvan is the brainchild of John Deasy who is a graduate of Mercyhurst College in the US city of Eerie in Pennsylvania. The university is considered to be one of the top educational nurseries for intelligence agencies with many graduates going on to join the CIA, the FBI and other top security bodies. And before anybody even thinks about suggesting it, John Deasy is a politics and business graduate, he is not a spook!

John has been trying for some time to create commercial and educational ties between his hometown and the college and hopes to establish a stay in Dungarvan as part of the university’s ongoing curriculum. The first major step was taken last week when 26 undergraduate students and six faculty members from the Intelligence Studies Department at Mercyhurst arrived in Dungarvan for a visit. The Fine Gael man hopes to establish an ongoing connection with the college with about 55 students and up to ten lecturers in Dungarvan at any one time.

‘Archaic’ law that discriminates

I came across a case last week concerning a mother who wants a law changed that prevents her daughter, who is challenged with Down Syndrome, from purchasing a home of her own. The woman and her partner wanted to purchase a house for their 17-year-old daughter but, apparently, the young woman is prohibited by law from participating in such a transaction.

The couple was anxious to buy a home in their daughter’s name so that she could continue to live independently should anything happen to them. Insisting that the law was ‘archaic’ and inconsistent with modern equality ideals, the upset mother pointed out that she was nearly 62 years of age and had twice been diagnosed with cancer. “It’s very important that I see how our daughter fares out and whatever she needs, we can put in place for her”, she said.

The woman said the problem stemmed from a legal assumption that a person with Down Syndrome was not mentally competent to enter into a legally binding contract. She had been informed by her solicitors that a similar case involving a man with autism, who was stopped from buying a home because he was deemed to be mentally incompetent, was currently being examined. She points out that their daughter passed her Junior Certificate exams and is currently on work placement during Transition Year.

The concerned parents are now calling on equality groups and Down Syndrome organisations to help bring about change. “Nobody seems to know that such a situation exists”, they said.

Is a computer a Him or a Her?

One afternoon at WIT last week, a lecturer was explaining to his students the concept of gender association in the English language. He pointed out how hurricanes were usually given feminine names and how ships and planes were usually referred to as ‘she’.

One of the students raised her hand and asked politely what gender should a computer be given, male or female. The lecturer wasn’t certain which it was so he divided the class into two groups, male and female, and asked the students to decide if a computer should be masculine or feminine. Both groups were asked to give four reasons for their recommendation.

When the papers were completed, the group of women concluded that computers should be referred to in the masculine gender because: 1 In order to get their attention, you have to turn them on. 2 They have a lot of data but are still clueless. 3 They’re supposed to help solve your problems but half the time they ARE the problem. 4 As soon as you commit to one you realise that, if you had only waited a little longer, you could have had a better model.

The men, on the other hand, decided that computers should definitely be referred to in the feminine gender because: 1 No one but their creator understands their internal logic. 2 The native language they use to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to everyone else. 3 Even your smallest mistakes are stored in long-term memory for later retrieval. 4 As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your wages on accessories for it.

Baby blue

Then there was the young garda who marched into the Sergeant’s office in Ballybricken last week and asked if he could have the rest of the day off. “What for”, said the Sergeant, “you know we’re up to our eyes in work.” “It’s my wife”, said the garda, “she’s going to have a baby.” The sergeant immediately told the young officer to fetch his coat and get himself off home as quickly as possible.

The next morning the senior officer bumped into the garda in the corridor. “Well, how did things go. Is it a boy or a girl”, he asked. “God, Sergeant”, said the garda, “it’s much too early to tell at this stage, we’ll have to wait until the first scan to know that.”