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a spellbinding preacher who helped end apartheid

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Desmond Tutu, the cleric who used his pulpit and spirited oratory to help bring down apartheid in South Africa and then became the leading advocate of peaceful reconciliation under black majority rule, died Sunday in Cape Town. He was 90.

His death was confirmed by the office of South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who called the archbishop “a leader of principle and pragmatism who gave meaning to the biblical insight that faith without works is dead”.

The cause of death was cancer, the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation said, adding Tutu had died in a care facility. He was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997 and was hospitalised several times in the years since, amid recurring fears the disease had spread.

As leader of the South African Council of Churches and later as Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, Tutu led the church to the forefront of black South Africans’ decades-long struggle for freedom. His voice was a powerful force for nonviolence in the anti-apartheid movement, earning him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

When that movement triumphed in the early 1990s, he prodded the country toward a new relationship between its white and black citizens, and, as chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he gathered testimony documenting the viciousness of apartheid.

“You are overwhelmed by the extent of evil,” he said.

But, he added, it was necessary to open the wound to cleanse it. In return for an honest accounting of past crimes, the committee offered amnesty, establishing what Tutu called the principle of restorative — rather than retributive — justice.

But as much as he had inveighed against the apartheid-era leadership, he displayed equal disapproval of leading figures in the dominant African National Congress, which came to power under Nelson Mandela in the first fully democratic elections in 1994.

In 2004, the archbishop accused President Thabo Mbeki, Mandela’s successor, of pursuing policies that enriched a tiny elite while “many, too many, of our people live in gruelling, demeaning, dehumanising poverty”.

Although he and Mbeki later reconciled, the archbishop remained unhappy about the state of affairs in his country under its next president, Jacob Zuma.

Then, in 2011, as critics accused the African National Congress of corruption and mismanagement, Tutu again assailed the government, this time in terms that would have once been unimaginable.

“This government, our government, is worse than the apartheid government,” he said, “because at least you were expecting it with the apartheid government.”

In early 2018, Zuma was ousted after a power struggle with his deputy, Ramaphosa, who took over the presidency in February of that year.

Then-Bishop Desmond Tutu and his wife, Nomalizo Leah Tutu, in New York in 1984. Photograph: Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times
Then-Bishop Desmond Tutu and his wife, Nomalizo Leah Tutu, in New York in 1984. Photograph: Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times

Global celebrity

For much of his life, Tutu was a spellbinding preacher, his voice by turns sonorous and high-pitched. He often descended from the pulpit to embrace his parishioners. Occasionally he would break into a pixie-like dance in the aisles, punctuating his message with the wit and the chuckling that became his hallmark, inviting his audience into a jubilant bond of fellowship. While assuring his parishioners of God’s love, he exhorted them to follow the path of nonviolence in their struggle.

Politics were inherent in his religious teachings.

“We had the land, and they had the Bible,” he said in one of his parables. “Then they said, ‘Let us pray,’ and we closed our eyes. When we opened them again, they had the land, and we had the Bible. Maybe we got the better end of the deal.”

Although Tutu, like other black South Africans of his era, had suffered through the horrors and indignities of apartheid, he did not allow himself to hate his enemies. When he was young, he said, he was fortunate in the white priests that he knew, and throughout the long struggle against apartheid he remained an optimist.

“Justice, goodness, love, compassion must prevail,” he said during a visit to New York in 1990. “Freedom is breaking out. Freedom is coming.”

In 1989, after President F.W. de Klerk had at last started to dismantle apartheid, Tutu stepped aside, handing the leadership of the struggle back to Mandela on his release from prison in 1990.

But Tutu did not stay entirely out of the nation’s business.

“We’ve struggled to get these guys where they are, and we’re not going to let them fail,” he said. “We didn’t swallow all that tear gas, and be chased around and be sent to jail and into exile and killed, for failure.”

From teacher to preacher

Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born Octobrer 7th, 1931, in Klerksdorp, on the Witwatersrand in what is now the North West province of South Africa. His mother, Aletha, was a domestic worker; his father, Zachariah, taught at a Methodist school. The young Tutu was baptised a Methodist, but the entire family later joined the Anglican Church. When he was 12 the family moved to Johannesburg, where his mother found work as a cook in a school for the blind.

While he never forgot his father’s shame when a white policeman called him “boy” in front of his son, he was even more deeply affected when a white man in a priest’s robe tipped his hat to his mother, he said.

The white man was the Rev Trevor Huddleston, a prominent campaigner against apartheid. When Tutu was hospitalised with tuberculosis, Huddleston visited him almost every day.

After his recovery, Tutu wanted to become a doctor, but his family could not afford the school fees. Instead he became a teacher, studying at the Pretoria Bantu Normal College and earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Africa. He taught high school for three years but resigned to protest the Bantu Education Act, which lowered education standards for black students.

By then he was married to Nomalizo Leah Shenxane, a major influence in his life. She survives him, as do their four children: a son, Trevor Thamsanqa Tutu; and three daughters, Theresa Thandeka Tutu, Naomi Nontombi Tutu and Mpho Tutu van Furth; as well as seven grandchildren.

Tutu turned to the ministry, he said, because he thought it could provide “a likely means of service.” He studied at St. Peter’s Theological College in Johannesburg and was ordained an Anglican priest at St. Mary’s Cathedral in December 1961.

After serving in local churches, he studied in England, where he earned a bachelor of divinity degree and a master’s in theology from King’s College in London. When he returned to South Africa he was a lecturer, and from 1972 to 1975 he served as associate director of the Theological Education Fund.

He was named Anglican dean of Johannesburg in 1975 and consecrated bishop of Lesotho the next year. In 1978 he became the first black general secretary of the South African Council of Churches and began to establish the organisation as a major force in the movement against apartheid.

A month after he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, Tutu became the first Anglican bishop of Johannesburg when the national church hierarchy intervened to break a deadlock between black and white electors. He was named archbishop of Cape Town in 1986, becoming spiritual head of the country’s 1.5 million Anglicans, 80 per cent of whom were black.

He preached forbearance, but, as he insisted to the Christian Century magazine in 1980, “I am a man of peace, but not a pacifist.”

“I will never tell someone to pick up a gun,” he said in another interview “But I will pray for the man who picks up the gun, pray that he will be less cruel than he might otherwise have been, because he is a member of the community. We are going to have to decide: If this civil war escalates, what is our ministry going to be?”

Man of forgiveness

On his frequent trips abroad during the apartheid era, Tutu never stopped pressing the case for sanctions against South Africa. The government struck back and twice revoked his passport, forcing him to travel with a document that described his citizenship as “undetermined.”

But as the author of a 1999 book titled No Future Without Forgiveness, he was generous in forgiving his enemies, and when the de Klerk government took steps in 1989 toward ending apartheid, Tutu was among the first to welcome the prospect of change.

“An extraordinary thing has happened in South Africa,” he said in 1990, “and it is undoubtedly due to the courage of President de Klerk. We’ve got someone here who is greater than we expected. At some points we had to pinch ourselves to be sure we were seeing what we were seeing.”

Still, when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued its final findings in 2003, Tutu’s imprint was plain. It warned the government against issuing a blanket amnesty to perpetrators of the crimes of apartheid and urged businesses to join with the government in delivering reparations to the millions of black people victimised by the former white minority government.

The report further said that de Klerk had knowingly withheld information from the commission about state-sponsored violations, and it reiterated charges against the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party, South Africa’s second-largest black party, accusing it of having collaborated with white supremacists in the massacre of hundreds of people in the early 1990s. – This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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Way too early for housing starts to engender feelgood factor

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Analysis: Strong indicators for construction tempered by affordability, supply chain and targets

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College Park to remain in full use for Trinity sports clubs

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The board of Trinity College has agreed to pursue an alternative site for the building of a temporary exhibition pavilion during the renovation period of its Old Library, saving College Park from what several affected sports clubs said would have proven “hugely detrimental” to their training and competition needs.

Concerns had been raised over the timing and level of consultation with regard to College Park being named the preferred site last November, three of Trinity’s largest and oldest sporting clubs – athletics, football and cricket – already raising considerable objections over the proposal.

A Trinity communications press statement on Wednesday afternoon said that, subject to statutory constraints, “the Board of Trinity has today (Wednesday) approved a proposal to renovate the Printing House building, which would house the Book of Kells during the period of renovation, and also create a temporary exhibition in New Square, at the centre of campus”.

The alternative proposal of the Printing House, coupled with New Square, “follows consultation within the Trinity community”; Trinity students have four representatives on the 27-strong board, three from the Students’ Union (SU), and one from the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU), their president Gisèle Scanlon, and all four had already expressed their dissent at the College Park proposal.

“A process of careful consultation across College has led to today’s agreement on how to proceed with this plan,” said Trinity provost Linda Doyle. “I want to thank those involved for their engagement. We believe this choice of location offers the best possible solution for our staff, students and future visitors to College.”

Trinity’s bursar Eleanor Denny added: “We are extremely grateful to everyone in Trinity who helped us arrive at this crucial decision. This innovative plan allows us to preserve public access to the Book of Kells, one of Ireland’s foremost cultural attractions as well as restoring one of the oldest landmark buildings on campus, the Printing House.”

A Trinity email first sent to affected clubs in October said: “Based on early discussions Trinity has had with Dublin City Council, the location with the best opportunity to secure planning permission is College Park.”

A feasibility study outlining the scale of the project allowed for the continuation of some sport at College Park; however, according to the three clubs, this would have effectively rendered College Park useless as a competition and match facility, while also depriving the wider college community the sort of green space it increasingly craves.

The Old Library renovation is expected to take between three to five years, costing around €120 million, which meant it could have been 2028 before the space was restored. The temporary exhibition project is still subject to planning permission.

“We were very worried about this, for a very long time, and spent a lot of time lobbying against this,” said Scanlon, the GSU president also starting a petition to Save College Park. “All other options weren’t properly considered, and I think there should be lessons learnt on this. And whatever happens with the planning from this point, College Park should not be on the agenda, and should never have been on the agenda.”

Ray O’Malley, president of Dublin University Association Football Club (DUAFC), founded in 1883, also welcomed the outcome of Wednesday’s board meeting: “I think they [the board] misjudged the feelings towards College Park, from the general student base, and the clubs that use it,” he said. “Thankfully they appear to have belatedly realised that, and somewhere down the line the correct decision has been made, perhaps not following in the correct procedure.

“It’s our unique selling point, and the reason why we were fighting so hard for this. Even if it was only on a temporary basis, it’s too important for us. We all recognise the importance and value of the Book of Kells, but sport is a very importance part of college life too, and we’re extremely grateful for the role that people like Gisèle played in this, some of the club members, and that the powers that be accepted somewhere down the line that College Park simply wasn’t the right place for this proposal.”

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Pandemic need for flexibility not reflected in draft laws

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Draft laws on remote working mark an attempt by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar to formalise radical work practice changes that were suddenly introduced when Covid-19 struck two years ago.

Back then, the force of the pandemic was such that procedural and legal niceties were swept aside in the rush to protect public health and keep the economy turning. Many tricky questions were avoided at that time but they can be avoided no longer now that most restrictions have been lifted.

“We’ve worked through for two years basically turning a blind eye to the whole thing but that will stop,” said Richard Grogan, an employment law solicitor in Dublin.

“We’ve been working through an emergency which is slightly different. The emergency is now finishing.”

The new regime is supposed to open more choice for workers if they wish to work from home, giving them a right to seek such arrangements after six months. But in-built flexibilities for employers open scope for them to refuse permission to work remotely on 13 grounds.

Conflict appears inevitable. With key details still to be worked out, legal experts, employers and unions foresee many potential pitfalls and practical challenges when it comes to implementing the new arrangements in real time.

Many say the pandemic changed the world of work forever. A recent Central Statistics Office survey suggests that 80 per cent of workers worked remotely at some point since coronavirus struck, compared with 23 per cent before it. Two years later, with all signs suggesting the most acute phase of the health crisis has passed, these practices have bedded down to an extent that few might have expected at the outset.

Traffic and transport

Of those in employment who can work remotely, CSO data suggests 88 per cent want to continue after restrictions were removed: 28 per cent of them all the time; and 60 per cent some of the time. The proportion expressing that preference was highest at 93 per cent among respondents in counties Kildare, Louth, Meath and Wicklow in the Dublin commuter belt, where workers often encounter long traffic delays and overcrowded public transport.

If all of that points to high demand to avail of new laws, considerable hurdles remain to be overcome. To name but a few, these centre on domestic health and safety legislation, insurance issues, European data-protection law and on the Workplace Relations Commission’s new role in determining appeals to decisions against remote working.

“A lot of the issues that are going to go to the WRC where there isn’t agreement will relate to things like health and safety of a premises or [General Data Protection Regulation] compliance or whether somebody can actually do their work remotely. The [WRC] adjudication officers aren’t trained in any of those areas,” said Grogan.

“They are not there to look at a work station and say: ‘Does it comply with health and safety? Is it possible to put a work station into this bedroom safely?’ So that’s a huge issue.”

Asked whether the WRC had enough resources, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment said it would “work closely” with the institution to ensure it did. “Adjudication officers will receive appropriate information on the content of the legislation and the WRC was consulted on the heads of the Bill,” the department said.

Grogan suggested the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act might have to be “dumbed down” for remote work. “The only change you could bring in is if you’re working from home and you have an accident it’s your problem.”

Employer ‘nervousness’

He added that changes might also be required to the Civil Liability Act, which governs personal injuries. “There’s going to be a bit of nervousness overall about this,” he said, referring to employers.

But while the Government always has the option of amending Irish law, it can’t do anything on its own with European GDPR rules that impose stringent restrictions on how business uses sensitive personal data.

Neil McDonnell, chief executive of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises business representative group, pointed to potential difficulties with remote-working where staff deal with such data. These include companies in the area of external payroll support – dealing with gross and net pay and issues like payments under maintenance agreements – and human resources support.

“There’s a few business that have been able to function remotely but reluctantly and with a lot of concern around what they’re doing,” McDonnell said.

“They basically have the innards of the company sitting on laptops. You could have someone doing HR support on their laptop in the kitchen – a bullying complaint, a harassment complaint or something of a sexual nature – and you have people who are third parties with no involvement in the companies walking past looking at that stuff.”

Employers were also concerned about the potential for claims for personal injury while working at home, McDonnell added. “We’re waiting to see something coming to court, or the Personal Injuries Assessment Board or the Health and Safety Authority.”

The plan has also come in for criticism from Fórsa, the largest public sector union, which said the “business grounds” for refusing remote working were too broad.

The union said the inclusion of grounds such as “potential negative impact on quality”, “potential negative impact on performance” and “planned structural change” would create loopholes that could allow employers turn down requests for no objective or proven reason.

“Employers must not have the option of simply turning down requests on spurious or vague grounds. Instead, they must be required to demonstrate, in a concrete way, that remote or blended arrangements are unworkable before they can turn down a request,” said Kevin Callinan, Fórsa general secretary.

Further questions are certain to arise as the law works its way through the Dáil and Seanad. The pandemic was all about ad hoc moves. Permanent arrangements are another matter entirely.

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