The Ban That Bombed

Today, an international agreement reached in Croke Park to ban cluster bombs will take effect.

Over 100 countries agreed not to use these horrific weapons, and destroy stockpiles within eight years.

Notable exceptions include the USA, China, and Russia.

American and British troops used over twelve thousand cluster bombs during the invasion of Iraq.

Five years later, the bombs are still killing civilians.

But campaigners hope the agreement will stigmatise their use so much that countries who have not yet signed up will also agree to abandon their use.

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin said he was proud Ireland was able to play a strong part in its adoption.

This should present a moral dilemma for the Government, which allows US military planes to refuel at Shannon airport on their way to Iraq.

Yeah right.

The agreement contains a clause allowing countries who have banned the bomb to ‘continue to cooperate militarily with non-signatory nations’.

And there’s a get out of jail card allowing the use of new and improved cluster bombs which pick targets more precisely in the future.

How exactly something dropped from a plane can be precise isn’t explained.

So much for the ban.

A Judicial Separation

The Catholic archbishop of Dublin has offered his two cents on the Lisbon treaty debate.

Diarmuid Martin said it was regrettable that while Christian humanist values lay at the heart of the treaty, it was regrettable that it contained no explicit recognition of Europe’s Christian heritage.

I have to disagree.

Europe’s Christan heritage contains such wonders as the Inquisition, the persecution of Galileo, pogroms and witch hunts.

And anyone living in Ireland doesn’t have to look very far to see the long-lasting effects of religious wars.

But Ireland, like the rest of Europe, is changing.

The 2002 census showed the fastest growing religious category in Ireland as ‘atheist‘.

The picture changed again in 2006, as the number of atheists jumped by an additional 40,000.

Okay, I admit that mention of religious wars and persecution is a cheap shot.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the history of religion is not always a happy tale.

Placing religion in a constitution or treaty is never a good idea.

With so many conflicting religious beliefs – and the potential for religious conflict between them – the best and only course of action for the State – or States – is to stay above the debate.

fre spch nt so gr8

Despite yesterday’s 200 words, I have to confess I’m wary of text feedback on current affairs programmes.

Time was, news editors occasionally commissioned a vox pop to get a quick sampling of public opinion on an issue.

For a complex debate like the Lisbon treaty, with implications for economic policy, sovereignty, and neutrality, a vox pop gives a quick sampling of what the public think, which frames a debate between the opposing sides.

The vox pop shows which questions have to be asked. It doesn’t answer them.

Now, with instant email access, radio listeners can give their feedback immediately.

Radio producers are eager to exploit the technology, so that for instance a politician can be presented with a comment from a member of the public that might not have occurred to the interviewer.

And with SMS texting, you don’t even need a computer.

Naturally, at the end of the show, the presenter goes through the audience feedback.

The trouble is, u cnt sy mch w/txt.

In a ten or twenty minute interview, a lot of ground can be covered.

With an SMS, all you get is headline reaction.

My worry is that it just ends up cheapening the debate.

The Wearing Of The Green

Pat Kenny hosted a discussion on school uniforms and the hijab today.

The most interesting part of such discussions is often the feedback from listeners.

There were a few unusual opinions, to say the least.

There’s something odd about a country that lived the through penal laws getting hot under the collar about others who insist on religious expression.

More disturbing though is the ‘let them go back where they came from’ riposte in many of the emails to the programme.

But the most peculiar argument goes something like ‘crucifixes are banned in Saudi Arabia, so it’s fair play’.

Since when did we take lessons in public policy from theocratic dictatorships?

Several contributors noted with approval the French approach, which is to ban the hijab.

The trouble is, of course, the French ban all religious expression in their schools, which are strictly secular.

Not only that, they have done so since Napoleon set up the system two centuries ago.

In a country where the churches control 99% of primary schools, I can’t see that going down too well once the full consequences sink in.

As the old joke has it, if I was going there, I wouldn’t start from here.