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Tonight.

Scenes by Random Irish Photos from the re-opening of St Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, Co Longford this evening. The cathedral was gutted by fire during Christmas 2009 (top).

Random writes:

Tonight saw  the first mass being held in St Mel’s Cathedral in Longford. Gutted by fire in 2009, more than €30 million has been  been spent restoring the iconic neo-classical-style building named after the 5th century saint and uncle of St Patrick..

Just under 1,000 people turned up for the mass, which was celebrated by Fr Tom Healy – the last priest to say mass in the cathedral before it caught fire in the early hours of December 25, 2009.

Although it was originally thought to have been started by vandals, it was an accident.
It started in a section of a chimney flue in the old heating system of the building – that dates back to 1840 – sometime between midnight mass and 5am. It spread to the sacristy and then to the wood floor before catching wooden beams and roof.The heat was so intense that marble fittings melted. Indeed, 26 limestone columns would have to be completely replaced as they had shattered under the intense heat, which reached as high as 1,100c.

The roof was destroyed, the floor collapsed into the crypt and countless priceless religious artifacts and other treasures were destroyed. As well as paintings, tapestries and statues, they included St Mel’s 1,000-year-old wooden crozier.

Fr Healy recalled: “We had had a wonderful celebration of midnight Mass.It was just an almighty shock to be woken in the middle of the night and told the cathedral was on fire.
We just stood in the streets literally crying – helpless as we watched the flames break through the roof as it succumbed. So it was a time of enormous shock for everybody in Longford.”

Not all the art work was destroyed. An Italian oil painting (pictured) of the holy family survived the blaze unscathed, despite being located in centre of the blaze. It hangs over a side alter near the prayer offertory and has become something of an attraction among church goers.

Ronan Moore, the senior project manager who has helped guide St Mel’s restoration, said it should have been one of the first canvasses to be set alight.

‘We will never know how it survived,’ Ronan recalls in a new RTÉ documentary on the restoration of St Mel’s to be aired on RTÉ One this Christmas. ‘You can see it here just a few yards from some of the huge stone pillars and columns of the old church that were completely de-stabilised by the searing heat of the fire – turning to dust and had to be replaced. ‘Yet the painting stayed intact above it all – while all around it was destroyed by those huge temperatures.’

The cathedral this Christmas will also showcase restored Harry Clarke stained glass windows. The original windows were scorched and shattered in the fire. Over 675 tonnes of native blue limestone from Leighlin, Co Carlow, have been installed – for the columns, the hand-carved window surrounds, pilasters, and for replacement corbels for the bell tower, which also sustained some damage. To get this amount of limestone in the section sizes required, a staggering 10,400 tonnes had to be quarried.

‘The Longford Phoenix’ – a Would You Believe special documentary – goes to air on RTÉ One on 30 December at 6.30pm.

Helping Fr Healey celebrate mass was Bishop emeritus Colm O’Reilly and Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois, Francis Duffy.

Random Irish Photos 

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Emer O’Toole, in The Guardian, writes:

“This year, a suicidal teenage victim of rape and torture (Miss Y) was forced to carry her pregnancy to viability and deliver by C-section. And now we have a clinically dead woman being ventilated and fed for the sake of an insentient foetus, while her heartbroken family takes legal action in order to mourn her.”

“But we mustn’t get emotional. There’s no political appetite for another abortion debate. Kenny has already dealt with this issue. The passing of the protection of life during pregnancy bill last year was very difficult for him and his party. He deserves a pat on the back for legislating at all.”

“If you must discuss this case, do so cooly: in terms, perhaps, of its potential effects on the career prospects of male politicians? Is the ambitious Leo Varadkar, the health minister, using this case opportunistically? What might it mean for the future leadership of Fine Gael? That’s what matters here. Women’s bodies, women’s lives, women’s rights: those are messy, incendiary topics, best avoided.”

“However, you can’t just say “no comment” if you’re the taoiseach. It might look cold. “And so, Kenny, while carefully strapping his knees to the legs of a chair lest they betray some kind of humanity, recommends a careful measure of empathy: “Let anybody put themselves in the position of this family,” he says. And I can’t help but wonder if he can countenance this kind of empathy because it allows him a male subject position.”

“Let anybody put themselves in the position of this family. Then let anybody put themselves in the position of Savita Halappanavar, in pain, miscarrying, at increased risk of septicaemia, denied an abortion. Or of Miss Y, raped, seeking asylum in a country that bureaucratically continues her torture. Or of a woman told her foetus has a fatal abnormality but that she must continue to carry it. Or of a terrified teenage girl waiting for the abortifacient pills she ordered from some dodgy website. Or of a mother-of-two, going through a marriage breakup, who finds she is pregnant. Or of any of the women who contact Mara Clarke’s Abortion Support Network, asking for help to cross the Irish channel, each with their stories, each with their reasons.”

“Women’s experiences are routinely erased from Irish discourse on abortion. Our government and media won’t engage with the reality of living in a body that gets pregnant. When others do, they are dismissed as irrational, emotive: feminine.”

“Objectivity, historian Helen Graham once said, is not an equidistant position between any two points. It is right to be angry and upset in the face of injustice. 2014 has shown us the truth about the contempt for women underlying Kenny’s new legislation.”

“Be angry that a dead woman’s body is being used as an incubator. Be upset that Miss Y was forced to carry her rapist’s child to 24 weeks. These are women’s bodies. These are women’s lives. And that is what matters here.”

A brain-dead Irish woman’s body is being used as an incubator. Be angry (Emer O’Toole, The Guardian)

Previously: How Soon Is Now

‘The Role Of The State Is To Ease The Burden Of People, Not To Add To It’

Pic: Amplifyyourvoice.org

neil

Heard the one about the ambitious, bloodthirsty Seoiges?

OK.

Heard the one about the ambitious, bloodthirsty Seoiges from the 16th Century?

Pirate Queen of Connaught, Gráinne Mhaol is the subject of the concluding episode of Holding Out For A Hero, comic Neil Delamere’s journey through Ireland’s heroically flawed past.

Holding Out For A Hero on Monday, 22nd December on RTÉ2 9pm.

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Former assistant Dublin City and County manager George Redmond

As honest as the day is long.

Former Assistant Dublin city and county manager George Redmond has corruptions findings against him withdrawn (Independent.ie)

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“The people that I want to see around the bed are the doctors, not the lawyers. In my view the eighth amendment does not actually serve women well when issues of their life, their safety, their health, are in question.”

“The thing that I find extraordinarily difficult about this kind of a case is that as a consequence of the eighth amendment, and I’m somebody who was opposed to the eighth amendment, the Labour Party was opposed to the eighth amendment, we said it was wrong to put it into the constitution, but the people of Ireland in their wisdom decided differently – and that’s their prerogative in any referendum to make a decision as they see fit.

“But what we have now, and will have, without a doubt, is over a period of time cases which will throw up the most agonising and difficult dilemmas and at the centre of that will inevitably be young women and the babies that they’re carrying.

Tánaiste Joan Burton speaking to political correspondents earlier today.

Joan Burton says abortion laws do not serve women well (Irish Times)

Previously: How Soon Is Now

Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland