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On this day 70 years ago The Irish Times published its most famous editorial



Seventy years ago today, on April 12th, 1951, The Irish Times published what is probably its most famous editorial. It was a response to the resignation of the minister for health, Dr Noel Browne, who had given the newspaper correspondence between the cabinet and the Catholic Church about the Mother and Child scheme, which Browne had hoped would offer education and healthcare to mothers and children up to the age of 16.

As Mark O’Brien writes on today, the Catholic hierarchy objected to the State becoming involved in sex education and to the possibility of non-Catholic doctors treating Catholic mothers-to-be. He also points out that, in one of the letters that Browne leaked, which was published on the front page of The Irish Times, the church told Taoiseach John A Costello that Browne’s scheme was “a ready-made instrument for future totalitarian aggression”, declared that the “right to provide for the health of children belongs to parents, not to the state” and noted that “education in regard to motherhood includes instruction in regard to sex relations, chastity and marriage. The State has no competence to give instruction in such matters.”

As a Scottish-born Protestant from a historically pro-union newspaper, The Irish Times’s editor, RM Smyllie, understood the Costello government’s folly

Costello’s interparty government dropped the scheme. Such obsequiousness to the hierarchy was at odds with its declaration, three years earlier, of a republic. As a Scottish-born Protestant from a historically pro-union newspaper, The Irish Times’s editor, RM Smyllie, understood the contradictory folly of the Costello government’s campaigning against partition while constructing a State that deferred to the Catholic Church.

The editorial mentions the Abolish the Border campaign and the Mansion House Committee. These refer to the All-Party Anti-Partition Conference, set up in January 1949 at the Mansion House in Dublin, to campaign internationally against partition. The initiative was supported by Fianna Fáil’s leader, Éamon de Valera, who had often maintained that his party was the only one that could end partition. It raised a lot of money, but lobbying in the United States and at the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg, came to nothing.


The Irish Times
Thursday, April 12, 1951

A gallant fight has ended in defeat. Yesterday, after several days of tense struggle behind the scenes, Dr Noel Browne handed his resignation from the post of Minister for Health to the Taoiseach. Although he has been defeated, the honours of the conflict fall to him. We cannot but believe that his stature has been increased even in the eyes of his professional and ecclesiastical opponents. It is certain that the goodwill of the people at large follows him in his fall, and that tens of thousands of families will be sadder for it. His tragedy is that he failed to perceive the extent and power of the forces that were both openly and covertly arrayed against him. It was dangerous enough that his “Mother and Child” scheme aroused the fierce hostility of a considerable part of the medical profession; it was fatal when his views came into collision with the Roman Catholic hierarchy. With a united Cabinet on his side, he might have prevailed against the doctors, as his counterpart in Great Britain prevailed against them; but, as the correspondence which we print to-day too clearly indicates, he was left to fight a single-handed battle when once the Church entered the arena. Thus – not for the first or second time in Irish history – progress is thwarted.

Mother and Child scheme: Noel Browne in 1954. Photograph: Fox/Hulton/Getty
Mother and Child scheme: Noel Browne in 1954. Photograph: Fox/Hulton/Getty

A Mother and Child scheme, embodying a means test, is in accordance with Christian social principles; a Mother and Child scheme without a means test is opposed to them! So much, if we read them correctly, emerges from the documents which the Hierarchy contributes to the discussion. For ourselves, we cannot pretend to follow the reasoning, and we doubt if it will be followed by the puzzled and disappointed people of this country. Dr Browne proposed to abolish a means test because he is well aware of the humiliations that attend the existence of a means test in too many hospitals – the probings about income which cause annoyance even to the comparatively well-to-do, and acute distress to the poor. There are obvious reasons why the doctors – though certainly not all of them – should object to the absence of a means test, but the plain man, unversed in subtleties, will be at a loss to determine why the Church should take sides in the matter at all. This newspaper has not been uncritical of the ex-Minister’s proposals, and hold no brief for his particular scheme. Our sorrow is that he has not been permitted to fight it out on its own merits.

The history of the Mother and Child scheme reflects no credit on Mr Costello and his Cabinet. Until six months ago there was not a shred of evidence to suggest that the rest of the Ministers were not foursquare behind Dr Browne. Trouble only started, apparently, when the Hierarchy, having met at Maynooth in October, formulated its objections and communicated them to the Taoiseach. We hope that Mr Costello can deny the flat statement, included in the correspondence, that he first retained the Bishops’ letter for a month before showing it to Dr Browne, and then forbore to transmit Dr Browne’s reply. In the lack of such a denial, he will be hard put to maintain his political reputation. All the evidence implies that, from the time when the Church made its first tentative pronouncements – which were crystallised into a formal statement of policy only this month – the Government has been in a state of trepidation about the scheme, but has lacked courage to say so frankly. It has permitted the people to expect a Mother and Child service that would meet all their wishes, and only the resignation of Dr Browne has brought the true and sorry state of affairs into that light.

This is a sad day for Ireland. It is not so important that the Mother and Child scheme has been withdrawn, to be replaced by an alternative project embodying a means test. What matters more is that an honest, far-sighted and energetic man has been driven out of active politics. The most serious revelation, however, is that the Roman Catholic Church would seem to be the effective Government of this country. In the circumstances, may we appeal to Mr Costello and his colleagues to admit the futility of their pitiful efforts to “abolish the border” – their Mansion House Committees, their anti-partition speeches at international assemblies, their pathetic appeals to the majority in the Six Counties to recognise that its advantage lies in a united Ireland? To that majority, the domination of the State by the Church – any Church – is anathema, and from now onwards it can plead some justification for all its fears. It seems that the merits of a theocratic Twenty-six Counties outweigh those of a normally democratic Thirty-two. Has the Government made its choice?

You can read this editorial in its original form here

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Madrid’s Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado granted World Heritage status | Culture



Madrid’s famous Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado boulevard have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The decision, made on Sunday, brings the total number of World Heritage Sites in Spain to 49 – the third-highest in the world after Italy and China.

Up until Sunday, none of these sites were located in the Spanish capital. The Madrid region, however, was home to three: El Escorial Monastery in Alcalá de Henares, the historical center of Aranjuez and the Montejo beech forest in Montejo de la Sierra.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez celebrated the news on Twitter, saying it was a “deserved recognition of a space in the capital that enriches our historical, artistic and cultural legacy.”

Retiro Park is a green refuge of 118 hectares in the center of the city of Madrid. Paseo del Prado boulevard is another icon of the capital, featuring six museums, major fountains such as the Fuente de Cibeles as well as the famous Plaza de Cibeles square.

For the sites to be granted World Heritage status, Spain needed the support of two-thirds of the UNESCO committee – 15 votes from 21 countries. The proposal was backed by Brazil, Ethiopia, Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, Mali, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Oman and Saudi Arabia, among others.

Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.
Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.Víctor Sainz

Prior to the vote, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the organization that advises UNESCO, had argued against considering the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park as one site, and recommended that the latter be left out on the grounds that there were no “historic justifications” for the two to be paired.

This idea was strongly opposed by Spain’s ambassador to UNESCO, Andrés Perelló, who said: “What they are asking us to do is rip out a lung from Madrid. El Prado and El Retiro are a happy union, whose marriage is certified with a cartography more than three centuries old.” The origins of Paseo del Prado date back to 1565, while Retiro Park was first opened to the public during the Enlightenment.

Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado.
Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado. Víctor Sainz

The ICOMOS report also denounced the air pollution surrounding the site. To address these concerns, Madrid City Hall indicated it plans to reduce car traffic under its Madrid 360 initiative, which among other things is set to turn 10 kilometers of 48 streets into pedestrian areas, but is considered less ambitious than its predecessor Madrid Central.

The 44th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in the Chinese city of Fuzhou and was broadcast live at Madrid’s El Prado Museum. Perelló summed up the reasons to include Retiro Park and El Paseo de Prado in less than three minutes.

“When people say ‘from Madrid to heaven’ [the slogan of the Spanish capital] I ask myself why would you want to go to heaven when heaven is already in Madrid,” he told delegates at the event, which was scheduled to take place in 2020, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Every year, UNESCO evaluates 25 proposals for additions to the World Heritage List. In the case of the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park, the site was judged on whether it evidenced an exchange of considerable architectural influences, was a representative example of a form of construction or complex and if it was associated with traditions that are still alive today. The famous park and boulevard sought to be inscribed on the UNESCO list in 1992, but its candidacy did not reach the final stage of the process.

Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).
Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).Biblioteca Nacional de España

The effort to win recognition for the sites’ outstanding universal value began again in 2014 under former Madrid mayor Ana Botella, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), and was strengthed by her successor Manuela Carmena, of the leftist Ahora Madrid party, which was later renamed Más Madrid. An advisor from UNESCO visited the site in October 2019.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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Ryanair reports €273m loss as passenger traffic rebounds



Ryanair has reported a €273 million loss for its first quarter even as traffic rebounded during the period.

The carrier said it carried 8.1 million passengers in the three month period, which cover April to June. This compares to just 500,000 in the same period a year earlier.

Revenues increased 196 per cent from €125 million in the first quarter of 2020 to €371 million for the same quarter this year. Operation costs also rose however, jumping from €313 million to €675 million.

Net debt reduced by 27 per cent on the back of strong operating of €590 million.

“Covid-19 continued to wreak havoc on our business during the first quarter with most Easter flights cancelled and a slower than expected easing of EU travel restrictions into May and June,” said group chief executive Michael O’Leary.

“Based on current bookings, we expect traffic to rise from over five million in June to almost nine million in July, and over 10 million in August, as long as there are no further Covid setbacks in Europe,” he added.

Ryanair said the rollout of EU digital Covid certificates and the scrapping of quarantine for vaccinated arrivals to Britain from mid-July has led to a surge in bookings in recent week.

First quarter scheduled revenues increased 91 per cent to €192 million on the back of the rise in passenger traffic although this was offset by the cancellation of Easter traffic and a delay in the relaxation of travel restrictions.

Ancillary revenue generated approximately €22 per passenger the company said.

Mr O’Leary foresaw growth opportunities for the airline due to the collapse of many European airlines during the Covid crisis, and widespread capacity cuts at other carriers.

“We are encouraged by the high rate of vaccinations across Europe. If, as is presently predicted, most of Europe’s adult population is fully vaccinated by September., then we believe that we can look forward to a strong recovery in air travel for the second half of the fiscal year and well into 2022 – as is presently the case in domestic US air travel,” he said.

However, the airline warned the future remains challenging due to continued Covid restrictions and a lack of bookings and that this meant it was impossible to provided “meaningful” guidance at the time.

“We believe that full0year 2022 traffic has improved to a range of 90 million to 100 million (previously guided at the lower end of an 80 million to 120 million passenger range) and (cautiously) expect that the likely outcome for the year is somewhere between a small loss and breakeven. This is dependent on the continued rollout of vaccines this summer, and no adverse Covid variant developments,” said Mr O’Leary.

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Switzerland’s Credit Suisse settles with star banker over spying scandal



CEO Tidjane Thiam was forced to resign in February 2020 after admitting the bank had hired investigators to follow Khan, head of international wealth management, because he had opted to move to arch-rival, UBS.

As well as sending shockwaves through banking circles, the case sparked a criminal probe in Switzerland.

“All parties involved have agreed to end the case,” Credit Suisse spokeswoman Simone Meier told NZZ am Sonntag, which revealed the agreement.

Meier declined to comment further when contacted by AFP.

The public prosecutor of the canton of Zurich has also ended his investigation, as the complaints have been withdrawn, NZZ am Sonntag reported.

Thiam’s resignation followed a torrid six-month scandal that began with revelations in the Swiss press that Khan had been shadowed by agents from a private detective company hired after he joined UBS. 

At one point, Khan physically confronted the people following him.

In October, chief operating officer Pierre-Olivier Bouee resigned, acknowledging at the end of an internal investigation that he “alone” had ordered the tailing without informing his superiors.

He had wanted to ensure that Khan was not trying to poach other employees, according to the internal investigation.

The case was reopened in December 2019 when the bank admitted to a second case of espionage, this time involving the former head of human resources, and then in February after media reports that the surveillance had also targeted the environmental organisation Greenpeace.

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