One should never condone the beating of a child and I couldn’t help but think of darker days in this country when I read last week about a little boy in Tramore who had been beaten about the legs with a wooden spoon by his Muslim father who was annoyed that the child was not paying enough attention to a lesson about the Koran.

Initially charged before the District Court with assault causing harm, the offence was reduced to common assault and the remorseful and shamed father was bound to the peace and given a suspended sentence of one month in jail. The defendant was also ordered by Judge David Kennedy to make a donation of €100 to the Irish Society for the Protection of Children.

If only such laws had been applied in Irish schools up to not too many years ago, thousands of children, mainly boys, would have been spared some mighty beatings. Canes and leather straps were the usual weapons but the back of the hand was also commonly used on children who weren’t paying attention to lessons in religion or any other subject you care to mention. Beatings were also dished out for such dreadful crimes as being late for class, not having your homework done and not wearing proper school attire.

I’m relieved and glad that such days are gone and I haven’t much sympathy for the Muslim father but, if the truth be known, his violence was only in the halfpenny place compared to hundreds of teachers who ruled the roost in this country for generations and were considered by their peers to be upstanding pillars of society.

I suppose they were only doing what school managements and society expected of them because it was the norm and socially acceptable. But I suspect many of them, now long retired, shiver when they read such court cases and think, ‘There but for the Grace of God go I.’

Rebellion at Mount Sion

Speaking of schools, it’s had to believe that it is 30 years ago last month that there was a strike by students at Mount Sion in Waterford city. According to the report in The Munster Express at the time, there was considerable excitement when the news spread that the pupils had staged a sit-down protest over the non recognition of their soccer team by the school authorities. This was, of course, in the days of the ban on GAA players playing ‘foreign’ games.

Using the name ‘Manor Hill Celtic’, the boys had entered a team in the Munster Colleges Soccer Competition and eventually qualified to play in the final in Limerick against Mungret College. Of course, they had no money and were not supported by the school so well wishers had a whip-around and came up with the money to pay for a bus to take them to the match which they won 5-0. The incident made history because it had never previously been known in Ireland that pupils staged a protest by way of a sit-down on a sports matter.

Congratulations to Tipperary Institute

As Waterford Institute of Technology continues its dogged and lonely battle to be granted university status, it’s nice to note that the hard times don’t really count when push comes to shove. Remember, last week, when I said ‘expediency’ was the most dangerous word in the English language?

Well, because it is expedient for the government to have it so, the future of The Tipperary Institute, which had been under threat of closure, now looks secure. And lest anybody misinterpret what I say, let me stress that I’m delighted for the Tipperary Institute and the best of good luck to its staff and students.

The third level facility, with its campuses in Thurles and Clonmel, had been in jeopardy since the economist Colm McCarthy recommended in his Bord Snip Report that the colleges be closed down and the premises sold off. However the Tipperary Institute has now been saved thanks to a new alliance between it and the University of Limerick.

Former Fine Gael Minister, and now Independent TD, Michael Lowry, who votes with the government, claims he spoke to Tanaiste Mary Coughlan about the matter and she informed him she was happy to proceed with the new alliance as worked out by a special committee formed to create a working relationship between the two colleges.

Mr Lowry said he had used his influence with the government to ensure that the McCarthy recommendation was rescinded. He added that he also had discussions with Finance Minister Brian Lenihan who agreed to maintain the necessary funding to keep the Tipperary Institute in business for the next five years, at least.

Mr Lowry concluded by saying the only matter outstanding at present was a new name for the merged college and he had suggested to the Minister that it be known as LIT Tipperary.

Incidentally, the TI Campus in Clonmel will be moving to a new location in the town. The transfer is being facilitated by an interest free, five-year loan of €7m from South Tipperary County Council. At present, Clonmel has 120 students compared to 379 at the Thurles campus. The Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Tipperary Institute, Michael O’Connell, said the merger with Limerick IT was a massive step forward for third level education in Tipperary.

Again, good luck to our friends in Tipperary but wouldn’t it be very interesting if the next government, whoever or whichever it might be, was dependent on a couple of Waterford Independent TDs to stay in power? Enter the era of The Waterford University of the South East?

The eyes have it!

The old man lay on his deathbed, surrounded by wife, Mary, and his four sons. Three of the lads were fine, strapping young men who were all promising rugby players. The fourth boy was timid and shy with a slightly built frame and couldn’t kick a ball if his life depended on it.

“Mary”, croaked her husband, who, if the truth be known, was a right miserable old bollocks, “tell me, before I die, is that skinny excuse for a man really my son.” Mary patted his hand and replied: “He is, John-Joe, don’t fret, he is your son, sure hasn’t he got your beautiful blue eyes and the same regal nose as yourself.”

John-Joe grunted and a small smile played about his lips before he closed his eyes for the last time and died.

“Phew”, thought Mary, as she stroked his forehead, “thank God he didn’t ask me about the other three.”