BAZZI DEPORTED FROM USA

Mahmoud Bazzi deported from US to Lebanon  Photo: US Immigration and Customs Enforcement/RTE News

Mahmoud Bazzi deported from US to Lebanon Photo: US Immigration and Customs Enforcement/RTE News

On RTÉ News last night (Friday), Washington correspondent Caitriona Perry reported on the deportation from the United States to his native Lebanon of 71 year-old Mahmoud Bazzi. He is suspected of murdering two Irish soldiers on UN duty in 1980, Private Derek Smallhorne and Private Thomas Barrett, although he has denied any involvement. Last year a campaign group was set up by family members and former members of the defence forces, some of them veterans of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), who had served alongside the two men from the 46th Infantry Battalion.

Banner at head of Parade to US Embassy in Ballsbridge July 2014

Banner at head of Parade to US Embassy in Ballsbridge July 2014

Private Smallhorne (31) was from Bluebell in Dublin and served with the 5th Inf Bn Collins Barracks in Dublin. Private Barrett (29) was from Cork and served with the 4th Inf Bn Collins Barracks in Cork. The campaign group website has the following background about the incident:

April 6th – 18th 1980
By April 1980 the 46 Inf Bn was coming to the end of its six month tour in South Lebanon. April however would prove to be a testing time for the battalion. From April 6-12th Irish troops withstood an attack at At-Tiri by the Lebanese De Facto Forces (DFF), the so-called South Lebanon Army (SLA). The DFF were a Christian-Shi’a militia under the leadership of Major Saad Haddad. The village controlled the only road leading north onto what was known as Hill 880. From this hill the surrounding villages and the fertile Tibnin Valley could be dominated by direct fire. Due to the strategic location of At-Tiri the DFF attempted to secure the area on several occasions. During the engagement of April 6-12th one Irish peacekeeper, one Fijian peacekeeper and one DFF militiaman were killed. For the loss of their ‘brother’, DFF Major Haddad pronounced that he wanted $10,000 or two Irish bodies. The engagement became known as the Battle of At-Tiri.

Following the Battle of At-Tiri OGL negotiations secured the safe withdrawal and passage of Irish personnel from Observation Post (OP) Ras; located just outside the village of Maroun Al-Ras. On April 18th Pte Derek Smallhorne (31) a father of three, Pte Thomas Barrett (29), also a father of three and Pte John O’Mahony (28) were tasked to drive a three vehicle convoy from Tibnin to OP Ras and withdraw the Irish OP. Accompanying them were two UN Observer Group Lebanon officers, US Major Harry Klein and French Captain Patrick Vincent. Also accompanying the convoy to write about the event was photographer Zaven Vartan and US press reporter Steve Hindy.

On the outskirts of Bint Jbeil village DFF gunmen stopped the convoy and ordered everyone out. The gunmen disarmed the three Irish drivers and confiscated Zaven’s camera bag. The vehicles were commandeered and all were escorted by the gunmen to an abandoned school.

At the school all seven were questioned about their nationalities. After some time Mahmoud Bazzi allegedly entered wearing a black t-shirt indicating he was in mourning for a brother who had been killed during the recent clash with the Irish battalion at At-Tiri. It’s claimed that Bazzi along with two gunmen ordered the three Irish peacekeepers down a corridor disappearing into a room at the end. Shortly afterwards shots were fired. The OGL officers and the journalist Steve Hindy then saw Private John O’Mahony staggering from the room; it quickly became apparent to the OGL officers and the journalists that he had been badly wounded. At the same time Privates Smallhorne and Barrett bolted from the room into the yard where they were recaptured.

As this was going on, a vehicle pulled up outside carrying several of Haddad’s lieutenants known to the OGL officers. They ordered the OGL officers and the journalists to take the wounded Pte John O’Mahony; however they refused to give up Pte Derek Smallhorne and Pte Thomas Barrett. The last that was seen of the two peacekeepers was as they were driven off apparently by Mahmoud Bazzi and two gunmen. The OGL officers and the journalists raced Pte John O’Mahony back to Tibnin were he was then flown to the UNIFIL hospital in Naquora. Not long after it was announced that the bodies of Pte Derek Smallhorne and Thomas Barrett had been found near Bint Jbail. They had been tortured and executed.

April 18th 1980 to today
Mahmoud Bazzi is believed to have boasted of the incident in the Lebanese press. News reports at the time quoted Haddad as saying, “They took the two Irishmen and took their revenge. That is custom in the Middle East, especially in Lebanon.”

It is known that Mahmoud Bazzi entered the United States shortly after April 18th 1980, being given asylum and a Green Card. He settled in Detroit, Michigan working as an ice-cream man. Two decades later RTÉ Prime Time conducted a special report on the abduction and killing of the Irish peacekeepers. Travelling to the United States they tracked down Mahmoud Bazzi. He denied any involvement in the killings. He claimed that he was the fall guy and blamed Haddad for the Irishmen’s deaths.

In 2005 the then Irish Minister for Defence, Willie O’Dea TD, reopened the investigation into the deaths of Pte Derek Smallhorne, Pte Thomas Barrett and the wounding of Pte John O’Mahony. The reopening of the investigation led to a United States Dept of Justice investigation into the status of Mahmoud Bazzi living in Detroit, Michigan. Steve Hindy gave two depositions to officials, one in New York and the second in Washington D.C. John O Mahony was also interviewed by US officials. No action was taken against Bazzi on foot of this investigation.

SmallhorneBarrett7

Parade in Ballsbridge July 2014

As a result of Mahmoud Bazzi applying for United States citizenship last year 2013 a new investigation was launched by the United States Department of Homeland Security (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) which found alleged immigration irregularities and possible illegal entry by Mahmoud Bazzi into the United States. The deportation is the latest step in this story.

To raise awareness about the case, the Justice for Smallhorne & Barrett group held two dignified and well-organised protests last year. In April, a Silent Vigil took place at Government Buildings in Dublin, attended by in excess of 500 Irish Veterans.  Another Silent Vigil  Ceremony in which I participated was held by the group on the 5th of July 2014  outside the US Embassy in Ballsbridge. Irish defence forces veterans from IUNVA and ONE were joined on the day by United States American Legion Veterans, French Foreign Legion Veterans, as well as some Dutch and Nordic Veterans. For a report on the protest, you can find Diarmaid Fleming’s package for the This Week programme on Radio 1 on the RTÉ Player. There are also various video clips on youtube

End of Parade at Lansdowne Road stadium with playing of National Anthem

End of Parade at Lansdowne Road stadium with playing of National Anthem

 

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CARLETON ANNIVERSARY

Grave of William Carleton at Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Grave of William Carleton at Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin Photo: © Michael Fisher

This is the 146th anniversary of the death of the leading 19thC Irish author William Carleton on January 30th 1869. He is buried at Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin. I left a small floral tribute at his grave there recently.

JJ Slattery oil portrait of William Carleton in National Gallery of Ireland

JJ Slattery oil portrait of William Carleton in National Gallery of Ireland

BOSE BLOW STUNS CARRICK

Northern Standard  Thursday 28th January 2015   Story by Michael Fisher  © Northern Standard

Northern Standard Thursday 28th January 2015 Story by Michael Fisher © Northern Standard

Having contributed the lead story in today’s Northern Standard Thursday 29th January about the suddenly announced the closure of the Bose factory, I also filled three pages with Carrickmacross News.

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I also contributed two stories featuring Bishop MacDaid of Clogher.

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I enjoyed dipping into the archives to be shown the copy of the paper in October 1978 in which the official opening of the Bose factory was featured. It was carried out by my former Latin teacher (1967-69) the late John Wilson TD, then Minister for Education. The plant was blessed by Archdeacon Morris of Carrickmacross. Two TDs at the time Dr Rory O’ Hanlon and Jimmy Leonard are now retired.

The Minister for Education, Mr. John Wilson, T.D., cuts the tape to officially open the new Bose factory at Carrickmacross. Pictured along with top management are Monsignor Morris, Archdeacon, Carrickmacross (third from left) and Mr. Stanley. A. Hendryx, Managing Director (extreme right)

The Minister for Education, Mr. John Wilson, T.D., cuts the tape to officially open the new Bose factory at Carrickmacross. Pictured along with top management are Monsignor Morris, Archdeacon, Carrickmacross (third from left) and Mr. Stanley. A. Hendryx, Managing Director (extreme right)  Photo: © Northern Standard

 

The 150 guests were taken on a tour of the factory, “prior to a sumptuous reception and luncheon at Hotel Nuremore, Carrickmacross”.

A section of the crowd who attended the official opening of the new Bose Ireland factory at Carrickmacross last Friday. Included in the picture are Dr. Rory O'Hanlon, T.D.; Deputy J. Leonard, T.D.; Mr. T.J. Finlay, Chairman of Carrickmacross U.D.C., and Mr. P. McEneaney, M.C.C., Carrickmacross  Photo:  © Northern Standard

A section of the crowd who attended the official opening of the new Bose Ireland factory at Carrickmacross last Friday. Included in the picture are Dr. Rory O’Hanlon, T.D.; Deputy J. Leonard, T.D.; Mr. T.J. Finlay, Chairman of Carrickmacross U.D.C., and Mr. P. McEneaney, M.C.C., Carrickmacross   Photo: © Northern Standard

 

PATRICK KAVANAGH CENTRE

Art Agnew, Rosaleen Kearney and Patsy McKenna at the Patrick Kavanagh Centre, Inniskeen  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Art Agnew, Rosaleen Kearney and Patsy McKenna at the Patrick Kavanagh Centre, Inniskeen Photo: © Michael Fisher

BUSY YEAR FOR KAVANAGH CENTRE

Art Agnew has taken on the mantle of Patrick Kavanagh. The former English teacher who was Principal of the St Louis school in Carrickmacross until 2005 is one of a team of volunteers behind the Kavanagh Centre in the former Catholic chapel in Inniskeen. It was officially opened by President Robinson in June 1994. Twenty years later President Higgins visited the building for the Kavanagh weekend in September 2014. He said the poet brought the Ireland of his and our times, with both its beauty and its savagery, into our consciousness. Now Art is hoping some of the initiatives they have taken as a committee will bring tangible results to boost this area of South Monaghan.

Patsy McKenna, Rosaleen Kearney and Art Agnew at Patrick Kavanagh's grave, Inniskeen  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Patsy McKenna, Rosaleen Kearney and Art Agnew at Patrick Kavanagh’s grave, Inniskeen Photo: © Michael Fisher

An annual poetry award for secondary school students in the border area first presented in 1984 is to be expanded and will now be open to secondary school students throughout the island of Ireland. It is being sponsored by Cavan Monaghan Education and Training Board. Noel Monahan will be one of the adjudicators. Art explained that in the past, if a student or school from Dublin or Waterford had submitted an entry, then it would have to be sent back, albeit very reluctantly. Now they are hoping they will receive entries from throughout the Republic and Northern Ireland.

Billy Brennan's Barn: Inniskeen Road, July evening 2013  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Billy Brennan’s Barn: Inniskeen Road, July evening 2013   Photo: © Michael Fisher

Towards the end of last year, the Patrick Kavanagh Centre team were among the first to show an interest when ‘Billy Brennan’s Barn’ at Drumnanaliv near Inniskeen that featured in one of Kavanagh’s poems was put up for sale through a local auctioneer. The barn was used for unofficial dances in the 1930s and 1940s. The poem ‘Inniskeen Road: July evening’ is well-known among generations of Leaving Certificate students as it featured in the Irish curriculum since the early 1970s. Art is very hopeful that some form of state funding can be obtained to preserve this building. But one of his main concerns is the future of the visitor centre.

"The bicycles go by in twos and threes..."  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

“The bicycles go by in twos and threes…” Photo: © Michael Fisher

Talking to him and administrator Rosaleen Kearney in the small office at the centre, it is clear that 2015 will be an important year for their plans. First, they are hoping to reconfigure the layout of the building in order to display its contents in a more exciting way for visitors. But it will be necessary to make this old church dating to 1820 watertight. A conservation expert has just completed a survey of the building. He has found that the existing physical environment is not suitable at present in order to house the material in the exhibition. So capital investment is needed to make the display secure and safe. The accommodation for staff and visitors also needs to be improved, according to the report.

In the past the centre received support from the International Fund for Ireland and is hoping that other sources of support can now be found. The committee would like to see the material they have stored made available in a library for postgraduate students in particular. They are hoping to establish a lecture space and audiovisual area. If their plans succeed, they hope it will give a boost to tourism in South Monaghan.

Billy Brennan's Barn: Inniskeen Road, July evening 2013  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Billy Brennan’s Barn: Inniskeen Road, July evening 2013 Photo: © Michael Fisher

For the past two years with the support of Carol Lambe of Monaghan County Council, an Inniskeen Road, July Evening festival has taken place, with visitors encouraged to tour the sites associated with Kavanagh on High Nellie bicycles. So thanks to Art Agnew, Rosaleen Kearney and an active committee, a lot is being done to keep the memory of Kavanagh alive.

 

AUSCHWITZ

Auschwitz camp entrance  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Auschwitz camp entrance Photo: © Michael Fisher

“Remembering is not only about (the) past itself, but rather about connecting it to the future”. A view that has much relevance in Northern Ireland, where dealing with the past continues to be a very sensitive issue, including the definition of ‘victims’. The quotation is taken from an interview with Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Today an important commemoration was held, marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz=Birkenau concentration camp. It was attended by thirty world leaders and heads of state. Ireland was represented by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan TD.

Rail tracks at Birkenau camp Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Rail tracks at Birkenau camp Photo: © Michael Fisher

More than one million people, the overwhelming majority of them Jews, were killed at the death camp, which was liberated by the Soviet Army on 27 January 1945. Speaking from Poland, Minister Flanagan said: “Auschwitz stands as a haunting symbol of one of the darkest periods in Europe’s history. The ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the camps will be an occasion when all victims of the Holocaust will be remembered, most especially the few remaining survivors of Auschwitz-Birkenau, many of whom will be present at the event. We must never forget the inhuman cruelty and industrial scale murder that took place here and in other death camps across Europe”.

Mr Flanagan added: “We must continue to be alive to the fact that the Holocaust had its origins in intolerance, prejudice and racism. We must be vigilant in our promotion of equality and tolerance and our defence of fundamental human rights which remain under threat in many parts of the world today”.

Ireland will make a further contribution of €10,000 to the Perpetual Capital Fund of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, in addition to the €5,000 donated in 2013. The Fund was set up in 2009 to ensure the future conservation and preservation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau site, so that future generations can see an authentic space, the scene of one of the biggest crimes in the history of mankind.

Minister Flanagan stated: “It is vital that we ensure the conservation and preservation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau site, so that future generations can see an authentic space, honour the memory of the victims and learn the lessons of the Holocaust. Ireland’s contribution of €10,000 will assist in this.”

Auschwitz memorial  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Auschwitz memorial Photo: © Michael Fisher

Interview with Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński which can be found on the website

The 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz is approaching. What is the significance and the meaning of this day?

The 70th anniversary will not be the same as previous big anniversaries. We have to say it clearly: it is the last big anniversary that we can commemorate with a numerous group of Survivors. Until now, it has been them who taught us how to look at the tragedy of the victims of the Third Reich and the total destruction of the world of European Jews. Their voices became the most important warning against the human capacity for extreme humiliation, contempt and genocide. However, soon it will not be the witnesses of those years, but us, the post-war generations, who will pass this horrible knowledge and the crushing conclusions that result from it.

On this day, we must understand that the Survivors, the former prisoners, did everything they could to make us realise that the road to the most terrible tragedies is surprisingly simple. All you need is social frustration, a bit of demagoguery, an imaginary enemy, a moment of madness… Peace is a very fragile construct and you can never assume that any acquis communautaire is truly obtained for good. It may be clearly observed in at least several regions of the world, which makes it even more alarming. The future of our civilisation is in our own hands and we must take responsibility for the shape of that future. And a wise vision of future must be rooted in memory.

Ten years ago, the day of Auschwitz liberation was designated by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Doesn’t that help?

It is an important political signal, as the General Assembly unites representatives of all member states. When I speak of remembrance, however, what I mean is not its institutionalised form. It is also necessary, but not as much as it is important for a sense of awareness of the meaning behind the extermination of European Jews and the whole tragedy of concentration camps to take root in our whole culture, politics and education system. Without internalising and understanding the reality of this atrocity, we will be unable to recognise today’s challenges for what they really are. We will not be even able to understand the post-war efforts to create emergency mechanisms, to build a common Europe or to teach attitudes of empathy, mutuality and respect.

But don’t you have the feeling that today, in the second decade of the 21st century, while the history of Auschwitz becomes more and more distant, similar horrible images reappear in other places, in different ways and contexts?

They do. And it clearly shows that teaching about Auschwitz and the Shoah is not just telling a story which had its beginning and its end, relating an isolated set of facts drifting away in time. It is also a lesson on human nature, society, the power of the media, on the politics. If today, when we see what is happening in some parts of the world, we are reminded of the Second World War, even of Auschwitz, it is because deep inside we feel that, regardless of various factors, we are facing the same pathological passions: hatred, contempt, anti-Semitism, racism, nationalisms… There are still many important steps to be taken in education before teaching about Auschwitz and the Shoah is soundly established in social and civic education or even in teaching about the most recent history.

I sincerely hope that commemoration of this day will take place all over the world, in every place inhabited by people aware of our obligation. We encourage everyone to express this memory everywhere in the world. I have to admit that what alarms me most is the still-present overwhelming passivity in the face of organised evil.

Main commemoration of the 70th anniversary will take place in a tent in front of the Gate of Death of the former Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp. It means that one of the most recognisable visual symbols of Auschwitz will become a symbol of the ceremony. What is the reason behind this choice?

Man is capable of crossing almost every boundary. For those who crossed – most frequently in cattle wagons – the gate of Birkenau, there was no way back. Nowadays, almost one and a half a million people cross the same gate every year in an attempt to face the meaning of Auschwitz. The visit starts in the former Auschwitz I Stammlager camp, where all the educational and exhibition-related aids are located. They introduce visitors to the history. Then, visitors go to Birkenau, where the immensity of the post-camp space, kilometres of barbed wire, rows of barracks, remains of gas chambers and crematoria make them fully realise the size of that tragedy and its undeniable realness. In some way, just like the gate stands today in the middle, all of us are in the middle of something as well. We know the facts, we know what happened, but the most important part still lies ahead: realising the significance of those facts, of the Shoah and of the whole genocidal policy of the Third Reich. Without this awareness we cannot hope for more responsibility.

Why is this immensity of Birkenau so significant?

Because it is authentic. Even if most wooden barracks no longer exist, even if SS officers blew up gas chambers, even if grass has reappeared where it had grown before the war, the presence of the Shoah is still evident. There are almost no museographic installations that would obscure the view. To walk along the unloading ramp, to go inside a brick barracks, to silently look at the undressing room next to the gas chambers – this is much more than any exhibition in the world or the most elaborate memorial. Provided, of course, that one has previous knowledge of history.

Which is why, for the past five years, we have focused on providing this Memorial Site with long-term ways of financing comprehensive preservation works. Thirty countries signed up to contribute to the created Perpetual Fund of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation. We hope that thanks to the support of our exceptional private donators, the “Pillars of Remembrance”, we will complete the Fund by January 2015. At that time, the future of the Memorial Site and the significance of its authenticity will be much more secure. For generations.

The majority of visitors are young people. Why are they so interested in Auschwitz?

Three fourths of the visitors are young people. Their coming here is a part of developed educational programmes. Many of today’s teachers first came to Auschwitz as students themselves, so they know how such an experience can change one’s view of the world and oneself. In many countries decision-makers came to the conclusion that such visits should be planned and financed as a part of special governmental or regional programmes. People who are about to graduate from school or university and begin their adult lives should look deep into the heart of evil which Auschwitz was. It is a rite de passage for a person coming of age nowadays.

The most important guests of the commemoration will be the Survivors, the witnesses. However, the several thousand people attending will include also state delegations: politicians, people who transform the contemporary world. Can Auschwitz be a lesson for them as well?

Auschwitz is a lesson for anyone willing to learn. You might think that the scope of responsibility of a normal, average person is normal and average as well. And that a politician or a decision-maker bears far greater responsibility. That’s not entirely true. A vast majority of the Righteous Among the Nations are normal people, average, you could say, if not for their enormous sacrifice. Nevertheless, in a substantive way they saved the face of humanity. Of course, the influence of a decision a politician makes is disproportionally larger. But it cannot exempt any of us from taking our own responsibility.

Do you see any universal message coming from this place?

The message comes from the Survivors, from their memoirs, books, recordings. The message comes also from the silence of the murdered ones. I would like to recall the voice of a person who did not survive, a prisoner of the Sonderkommando, one of the leaders of the revolt in crematorium IV – the voice of a Polish Jew, Załmen Gradowski. In his notes, which he hid in the ground near the building of the crematorium, he wrote: “We have a dark premonition, because we know”. At that time he meant the fate of his friends taken into an unknown direction. But I would not want to narrow down the meaning of these unsettling words just to that. We today also now, we know perfectly well. Nothing is given forever. We must always be able to sense growing dangers and great challenges of the future. And in place of inactivity and passivity, we must develop a sense of responsibility. Remembering is not only about past itself, but rather about connecting it to the future.

Interview with Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński, the director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

The 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz is approaching. What is the significance and the meaning of this day?

The 70th anniversary will not be the same as previous big anniversaries. We have to say it clearly: it is the last big anniversary that we can commemorate with a numerous group of Survivors. Until now, it has been them who taught us how to look at the tragedy of the victims of the Third Reich and the total destruction of the world of European Jews. Their voices became the most important warning against the human capacity for extreme humiliation, contempt and genocide. However, soon it will not be the witnesses of those years, but us, the post-war generations, who will pass this horrible knowledge and the crushing conclusions that result from it.

On this day, we must understand that the Survivors, the former prisoners, did everything they could to make us realise that the road to the most terrible tragedies is surprisingly simple. All you need is social frustration, a bit of demagoguery, an imaginary enemy, a moment of madness… Peace is a very fragile construct and you can never assume that any acquis communautaire is truly obtained for good. It may be clearly observed in at least several regions of the world, which makes it even more alarming. The future of our civilisation is in our own hands and we must take responsibility for the shape of that future. And a wise vision of future must be rooted in memory.

Ten years ago, the day of Auschwitz liberation was designated by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Doesn’t that help?

It is an important political signal, as the General Assembly unites representatives of all member states. When I speak of remembrance, however, what I mean is not its institutionalised form. It is also necessary, but not as much as it is important for a sense of awareness of the meaning behind the extermination of European Jews and the whole tragedy of concentration camps to take root in our whole culture, politics and education system. Without internalising and understanding the reality of this atrocity, we will be unable to recognise today’s challenges for what they really are. We will not be even able to understand the post-war efforts to create emergency mechanisms, to build a common Europe or to teach attitudes of empathy, mutuality and respect.

But don’t you have the feeling that today, in the second decade of the 21st century, while the history of Auschwitz becomes more and more distant, similar horrible images reappear in other places, in different ways and contexts?

They do. And it clearly shows that teaching about Auschwitz and the Shoah is not just telling a story which had its beginning and its end, relating an isolated set of facts drifting away in time. It is also a lesson on human nature, society, the power of the media, on the politics. If today, when we see what is happening in some parts of the world, we are reminded of the Second World War, even of Auschwitz, it is because deep inside we feel that, regardless of various factors, we are facing the same pathological passions: hatred, contempt, anti-Semitism, racism, nationalisms… There are still many important steps to be taken in education before teaching about Auschwitz and the Shoah is soundly established in social and civic education or even in teaching about the most recent history.

I sincerely hope that commemoration of this day will take place all over the world, in every place inhabited by people aware of our obligation. We encourage everyone to express this memory everywhere in the world. I have to admit that what alarms me most is the still-present overwhelming passivity in the face of organised evil.

Main commemoration of the 70th anniversary will take place in a tent in front of the Gate of Death of the former Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp. It means that one of the most recognisable visual symbols of Auschwitz will become a symbol of the ceremony. What is the reason behind this choice?

Man is capable of crossing almost every boundary. For those who crossed – most frequently in cattle wagons – the gate of Birkenau, there was no way back. Nowadays, almost one and a half a million people cross the same gate every year in an attempt to face the meaning of Auschwitz. The visit starts in the former Auschwitz I Stammlager camp, where all the educational and exhibition-related aids are located. They introduce visitors to the history. Then, visitors go to Birkenau, where the immensity of the post-camp space, kilometres of barbed wire, rows of barracks, remains of gas chambers and crematoria make them fully realise the size of that tragedy and its undeniable realness. In some way, just like the gate stands today in the middle, all of us are in the middle of something as well. We know the facts, we know what happened, but the most important part still lies ahead: realising the significance of those facts, of the Shoah and of the whole genocidal policy of the Third Reich. Without this awareness we cannot hope for more responsibility.

Why is this immensity of Birkenau so significant?

Because it is authentic. Even if most wooden barracks no longer exist, even if SS officers blew up gas chambers, even if grass has reappeared where it had grown before the war, the presence of the Shoah is still evident. There are almost no museographic installations that would obscure the view. To walk along the unloading ramp, to go inside a brick barracks, to silently look at the undressing room next to the gas chambers – this is much more than any exhibition in the world or the most elaborate memorial. Provided, of course, that one has previous knowledge of history.

Which is why, for the past five years, we have focused on providing this Memorial Site with long-term ways of financing comprehensive preservation works. Thirty countries signed up to contribute to the created Perpetual Fund of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation. We hope that thanks to the support of our exceptional private donators, the “Pillars of Remembrance”, we will complete the Fund by January 2015. At that time, the future of the Memorial Site and the significance of its authenticity will be much more secure. For generations.

The majority of visitors are young people. Why are they so interested in Auschwitz?

Three fourths of the visitors are young people. Their coming here is a part of developed educational programmes. Many of today’s teachers first came to Auschwitz as students themselves, so they know how such an experience can change one’s view of the world and oneself. In many countries decision-makers came to the conclusion that such visits should be planned and financed as a part of special governmental or regional programmes. People who are about to graduate from school or university and begin their adult lives should look deep into the heart of evil which Auschwitz was. It is a rite de passage for a person coming of age nowadays.

The most important guests of the commemoration will be the Survivors, the witnesses. However, the several thousand people attending will include also state delegations: politicians, people who transform the contemporary world. Can Auschwitz be a lesson for them as well?

Auschwitz is a lesson for anyone willing to learn. You might think that the scope of responsibility of a normal, average person is normal and average as well. And that a politician or a decision-maker bears far greater responsibility. That’s not entirely true. A vast majority of the Righteous Among the Nations are normal people, average, you could say, if not for their enormous sacrifice. Nevertheless, in a substantive way they saved the face of humanity. Of course, the influence of a decision a politician makes is disproportionally larger. But it cannot exempt any of us from taking our own responsibility.

Do you see any universal message coming from this place?

The message comes from the Survivors, from their memoirs, books, recordings. The message comes also from the silence of the murdered ones…Nothing is given forever. We must always be able to sense growing dangers and great challenges of the future. And in place of inactivity and passivity, we must develop a sense of responsibility. Remembering is not only about past itself, but rather about connecting it to the future.

CLOGHER WALKS WITH POPE FRANCIS

St Macartan's Cathedral. Monaghan  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

St Macartan’s Cathedral. Monaghan Photo: © Michael Fisher

Letter from Bishop Liam MacDaid to the priests and people of Clogher diocese invites discussions in advance of Vatican Synod on the Family

The Catholic Bishop of Clogher Dr Liam MacDaid has invited priests and parishioners of the diocese to take part in a diocesan-wide discussion in advance of the Synod on the Family in the Vatican in October on the theme ‘The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World”.

In a letter to the priests and people of the diocese Bishop MacDaid invites the faithful to walk with Pope Francis saying: “Pope Francis has encouraged us to be honest and frank as we walk with him and he has stated his wish to hear and listen carefully to all voices, even those who might consider themselves to be on or beyond the threshold of faith.  He has stated his wish to hear the voices of young married couples sharing their experiences of joys and sorrows and helping us to learn from both.  Pope Francis is inviting us, in a fuller way than many previous generations, to help him and all Church leaders in “the task of formulating the pastoral responses to the real situation of family life around the world” as it was expressed at last year’s Extraordinary Synod.” Bishop MacDaid asks, “How could we turn our backs to such a respectful and gracious invitation?”

In his letter Bishop MacDaid outlines the timeline for the discussions in the Diocese of Clogher, and introduces a new eight-person steering committee as well as a revision of Pastoral Areas from fourteen to seven to facilitate a speedier pace of work.

Bishop of Clogher, Dr Liam MacDaid Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Bishop of Clogher, Dr Liam MacDaid Photo: © Michael Fisher

The letter:

My dear friends,

Many of you may have taken an interest in the Extraordinary Synod on the Family which was held in Rome last autumn.  The questions which Pope Francis raised for discussion by our Church leaders were refreshingly honest and pertinent.  What he had to say found its way into our hearts and minds because family is common to us all.  The quality of our lives and the health of our relationships are very closely related to the kind of family life we succeed in making for ourselves.  Whatever damages the family hurts us all and whatever enriches family life is a blessing for us all.

We have a year now to reflect on all that was spoken at the Synod, and to assess the merit of arguments put forward.  The Irish Episcopal Conference has asked that work be done and done quickly to sift and assess the material from the Synod and pass forward our reflections in time for further consideration.  A summary of the content of all that was said last autumn has been put together in what are called Lineamenta.  Each diocese in our country is now asked to devise a means whereby the people of the diocese can have their say and make their contribution to the national and international debate.  Every diocese can make its contribution to the final outcome.  It is envisaged that this conversation will take place over the next two months and come to a conclusion at Easter time.

To assist us, the Secretariat of the Irish Episcopal Conference in Maynooth has put everything in order for us under different headings and has formulated questions for us to answer.  Pope Francis has encouraged us to be honest and frank as we walk with him and he has stated his wish to hear and listen carefully to all voices, even those who might consider themselves to be on or beyond the threshold of faith.  He has stated his wish to hear the voices of young married couples sharing their experiences of joys and sorrows and helping us to learn from both.

Pope Francis is inviting us, in a fuller way than many previous generations, to help him and all Church leaders in “the task of formulating the pastoral responses to the real situation of family life around the world” as it was expressed at last year’s Extraordinary Synod.  How could we turn our backs to such a respectful and gracious invitation?

In tackling the questions put before us, we are asked to share our experience of married and family life and to ask ourselves how well or how badly our local Church supports and provides pastoral care for married couples and families.  Such an examination should help us to strengthen and renew this pastoral care in such a way that the smiles that come from the pram and light up adult faces will always be there, moving everyone to say that life is good.

To assist with the task put before us I have asked eight people to act as a Steering Committee.  To facilitate a speedier pace of work, we have condensed our Pastoral Areas from fourteen into seven.  The first level of consultation will be to converse with the priests within these groupings.  The questions will be formulated by the Steering Committee who will facilitate the consultation process.  It will not be compulsory for each participant to read all the Lineamenta but it is to be hoped that most will read and reflect on the twenty or so pages which can be downloaded from: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/synod/index.htm

When the initial phase of consultation has been completed, the Steering Committee will move into a deeper and more comprehensive phase involving a small number of priests and religious and a much bigger number of lay people from all walks and corners of life.  To ensure that the process remains manageable the total number of participants involved in each cluster of pastoral areas will be approximately fifty.  This will include representatives of organisations and bodies which work closely with married couples and children.  The purpose of this restriction is certainly not to exclude.  It will be open to all groups and individuals to make a separate contribution of their own with the guarantee that it will be treated with the same care and respect as all other contributions that are submitted within the time limit which is Friday, 6 March next at 5.00pm.

Truly this is a rather special moment in history when the successor of Saint Peter humbly invites all the baptised to assist in finding solutions to pastoral problems.  Let us be grateful and grasp the opportunity, while we ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in wisdom and love on our pilgrim way.

+Liam S. MacDaid

Dr MacDaid is Bishop of Clogher and Chair of the Bishops’ Council for Marriage and the Family. The diocese has a Catholic population of 84,384 living in 37 parishes and 85 churches. It includes County Monaghan, most of County Fermanagh and portions of Counties Tyrone, Donegal, Louth and Cavan.

Steering Committee:

Chairperson:  Gary Carville, Castleblayney

Vice Chairperson: Noel Murphy, Monaghan

  Anne Balfe, Tydavnet

   Fr. John Chester, Monaghan

Fr. David Donnelly, Enniskillen

Sinead Cullen, Enniskillen

Deborah Lynch, Enniskillen

Claudine Marron, Monaghan

Pastoral Area Groupings for Consultation

1. Monaghan & Rackwalace, Kilmore & Drumsnat, Tyholland/Truagh, Donagh,Tydavnet.

2. Muckno, Clontibret /Tullycorbet, Lough Egish, Latton, Rockcorry.

3. Carrickmacross, Donaghmoyne /Inniskeen, Killanny, Magheracloone.

4. Clones, Killeevan, Roslea /Galloon, Aghalurcher.

5. Enniskillen, Tempo /Arney, Derrygonnelly.

6. Irvinestown, Ederney, Pettigo / Belleek-Garrison, Magh Ene.

7. Clogher, Eskra, Fivemiletown & Brookboro /Trillick, Dromore, Fintona

BOUDICCA CRUISE SHIP FIRE

MV Boudicca in Norway  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

MV Boudicca in Norway Photo: © Michael Fisher

Having cruised to the Norwegian fjords and the Shetland Islands for eight nights on board the Fred Olsen ship Boudicca at the end of August and start of September, I am pleased to see that the crew dealt swiftly with what could potentially have been a very serious incident on board early this morning. One of the first concerns on boarding the liner at Belfast port on August 29th 2014 was for passenger safety. There was a demonstration of the evacuation procedure and use of life jackets before the ship sailed. I felt assured that the crew were all trained in safety measures in the event of an emergency.

Dinner time on board Boudicca Photo:  © E. Fisher

Dinner time on board Boudicca Photo: © E. Fisher

During the cruise there were several opportunities to meet the master and other officers and members of the engine room staff took part in one of the in-house shows that were a feature of the trip. Some passengers on that cruise were so satisfied with the way Olsen staff looked after them that they booked on other cruises, perhaps even this particular one (Cape Verde and Canaries) as they enjoyed the on-board atmosphere and cuisine so much.

It was therefore good to see that it was business as usual for the rest of today for Boudicca, albeit at a slower rate of knots. The vessel was built in Helsinki in 1973 and was acquired by Fred Olsen in 2005. The company will, I hope, be making satisfactory arrangements for the rest of the journey for the nearly 800 passengers on board. Boudicca, incidentally, was in Dublin port overnight on December 20th, on a cruise from Liverpool.

MV Boudicca  Photo: Fred Olsen Cruise Lines

MV Boudicca Photo: Fred Olsen Cruise Lines

The statement from the company was as follows:-

“Following a fire in the Engine Room on board Boudicca at around 4am on Sunday 25th January 2015, sailing off the coast of Casablanca, Morocco, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines can confirm that the ship is now proceeding towards the Canary Islands, at a slower speed than planned. Guests are being kept informed of the situation at all times. There have been no injuries to any of Boudicca’s 784 guests and 356 crew members, and there is reported to be a good atmosphere on board. The ship’s Master has confirmed that at no point were guests asked to don their lifejackets and gather at the muster stations, as the situation was contained within the Engine Room by our crew members. Services are operating normally, and guests are enjoying the usual activities on board, both inside and out on deck (as is evident from the photographs on the ‘Home’ page of the Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ website at http://www.fredolsencruises.com). We are reviewing the itinerary and assessing the extent of the damage to the two main engines and electrical cables, and will make any repairs necessary at the next port of call. A revised itinerary will be advised in due course. The safety and well-being of all guests and crew on board Boudicca is Fred. Olsen Cruise Line’s utmost priority, and we continue to liaise with the relevant maritime authorities. Boudicca is on an 18-night D1502 ‘Cape Verde & the Canaries’ cruise, which departed from Southampton on 20th January 2015. The ship sailed from Cadiz, Spain on Saturday 24thJanuary 2015, and was scheduled to arrive in Arrecife, Lanzarote tomorrow morning, Monday 26th January.”