President Michael D. Higgins on business and human rights

Business & Human Rights in Ireland

Before he was elected President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins was an active Labour politician and served as a member of the Oireachtas Sub-Committee on Human Rights. In 2008, the Sub-Committee devoted some attention to the role of the private sector in relation to human rights. Michael D. Higgins was somewhat pessimistic in his views, remarking during the session on the absence of notable progress in this area:

I am at a loss to identify any great achievements of the ethical globalisation movement, to which reference has been made. It reminds me uncomfortably — perhaps I am wrong — of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, which I encountered for the first time when it was present at the United Nations conference on environment and development in Rio de Janeiro. The council had no difficulty in signing up to the concept of sustainability. The chair was the vice…

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“Its a midnight run for crissake!”… (not)

I remember watching the Robert DeNiro/Charles Grodin movie Midnight Run when it first came out and looking at my watch after about an hour and a half and thinking: “Fantastic! There is another hour to go!”

I had a similar reaction after about 200 pages of this book: “Great! There is another 100 pages to go!”

Screwed is the second in Eoin Colfer’s series about the misadventures of ex-Irish Army sergeant Daniel McEvoy on the fringes of the New Jersey criminal underworld. In this novel Dan is required to deliver a package to a criminal in New York in order to part-pay a debt to another local crime lord. Nobody says “Its a midnight run, for crissake!” but you know, because this is Dan’s world, that the rest of the book is going to chart a couple of days for Dan similarly fraught to the ones Grodin and DeNiro endured all those years ago. Indeed, nothing is ever as straightforward as Dan would like it to be and the novel charts Dan’s subsequent antics hoping from frying pans to fires and back again.

The series seems to be finding its feet with this novel: its funny, exciting, and with a welcome reduction on some of the wise cracking of the previous novel even if Dan does tend rather too often to “with one bound” free himself from some terrifying situations. Still the novel is knowing enough to forgive this and leaves one looking forward to the next installment.

Seamus Heaney

imageI remember sitting in the back of Newry Town Hall in November 1980 when Seamus Heaney came to give a poetry reading. It was a revelation to my teenage self who had not once been out of the island of Ireland at that point.

Heaney represented something that was identifiably Irish in his reflections on life, the countryside and the horrors of the Troubles. But he was also a voice that refused to be provincial showing how we shared the same hopes and tragedies that ordinary people from England to Greece, Italy and America had suffered over the centuries.

The universality of that voice is one of the reasons that his death has so resonated across the world. His poetry spoke to people in their diverse individual lives.

But it was also clearly the voice of one of the world’s great gentlemen, someone whose graciousness was evident in even the most cursory meetings.

imageThe world has been enriched by his life’s work. But that must be little consolation to his wife and family now. I am sure the country’s hearts go out to them in their grieving.

The world is a bit smaller without him, but his poetry, even before he wrote the words himself, helped inspire many, myself included, to try to do a little bit to encourage that “longed-for tidal wave of justice” to “rise up, and [make] hope and history rhyme.”