Letters to the Editor

Mr Duffin's perspective on Knock shrine apparition lacking in credibility

I read Jack Duffin’s letter (September 12) and his fanciful theories on the Knock  apparition, which I summarily dismissed at the time. However, when I heard a friend repeating his spurious allegations I felt compelled to write a reply.

Mr Duffin wants us to believe that the Catholic Church perpetrated a fake apparition at Knock, Co Mayo in 1879 by using what can only be described as some sort of 19th century secret technology to dupe the simple folk of Knock.  He alleges that there were image projectors secretly placed nearby, which according to him, were most likely identified as ‘lights in the sky’.

It reads like something out of the Scooby-Doo cartoon. Fifteen people witnessed the apparition which over the course of two hours transitioned from daylight into darkness while all the time, in pouring rain, there were angels hovering around the altar as they adored the Lamb of God. Some of the figures were described as being life-size and they were located a small distance out from the gable wall. One of the witnesses stood so close to Our Lady’s figure that he was able to look into her face and see the irises of her eyes. His testimony states: “The figures were full and round as if they had a body and life; they said nothing; but as we approached they seemed to go back a little towards the gable.”

A few people went home early and others came to it later so it defies logic that none of the witnesses, over the course of the two hours, noticed a powerful beam of light that would have been required for Mr Duffin’s theory to have any credibility. Such an intense light would have been unmissable in the heavy driving rain, especially when darkness fell. 

I have read the small book entitled Venerable Archdeacon Cavanagh, Pastor of Knock which is about the part played by the holy priest in the apparition of Knock. It was on the evening of that same day when he had completed his 100th Mass for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, that the apparition took place. The book goes on to describe how the secret societies, in that locality, were being actively set up by French agents to stir-up revolution against both Church and state. At one such secret meeting it was agreed to cut-off the ears of the Archdeacon Cavanagh; and he would most certainly have been mutilated if one of his parishioners had not warned the people of their cruel plan. So I found it interesting that Mr Duffin’s letter provided a different perspective on that part of the story as it is clear after reading his letter how much they hated this lowly parish priest who was frustrating their plans of winning the people to their side.

Mr Duffin’s unsubstantiated allegations are an affront to the faith of our forefathers and their native intelligence. 

Omagh, Co Tyrone


Pupils shouldn’t be put through transfer test trauma

When I heard recently that some primary schools had been offering counselling services for primary 6 and 7 pupils to deal with the stress caused by the transfer test I was saddened but not surprised. Childhood should be a  carefree and happy time of growing and learning. No child in school should deliberately be put under such pressure that they need counselling.

As the numbers of young people taking these unregulated tests continue to rise, it’s not an indication of parental support for a discredited system but more a case of parental desperation. No parent that I know freely chooses to put their child through this ordeal. There are no alternative choices on offer, it’s a case of take it or leave it. Many parents feel and rightly so, that if their child doesn’t sit the test that he or she may well spend their last two years in the primary school doing busy work or keeping the store tidy. The teachers are under intense pressure to get results and the concentration is on the transfer test group to the exclusion of the other.

As one mother told me, you can tell your child that the result is not important and that they just have to do their best but the child knows that’s not true. Practice papers being continually marked, scores compared and children competing against each other, generates an intense and unhealthy competition. And what about the children who are not sitting the test? How do they feel about themselves ? It’s not only the group that’s taking the test that needs the counselling, there’s a huge amount of damage done to the other group as well.

Out of all of this pain and suffering that we put our children through we end up with an education system that fails and continues to fail more than 20 per cent. According to Sir David Varney’s Review Of the Competitiveness of Northern Ireland, the percentage of working age adults who have no formal qualifications is the highest in the UK by some margin at 24 per cent, with a large proportion of the inactive population having only basic skills.

Downpatrick, Co Down


A matter of trust

A recent headline about DUP not trusting PM May is ironic. What reason does any reasonable person have for trusting the DUP? A quick scan of their history tells you something. There was Paisley’s famous
U-turn on Sinn Féin; the two occasions when Paisley jnr had to be  punished by resignation and suspension; the repeated financial shenanigans; the frequent pleas for upholding the union and yet they don’t support the social and legal modernisations of the Westminster Parliament; the begging bowl mentality asking Whitehall for more while they can’t run a provincial government in NI; suggesting a bridge to Scotland when they can’t fix the York Street interchange and so on.

Their claim that their policies  represent the bulk of  the people in NI, is defied by the DUP’s frequent use of the blocking mechanism on the Petitions of Concern.

DUP (like Sinn Féin) survives on the fear of the others. I fear for the future stability and liveability of NI if these two do not lift their ambitions  out of the historical gutter, and this requires the courage of the ordinary voter to make improvements happen.

Belfast BT1


The right to succeed

The recent debate surrounding ‘rights’ and ‘inequalities’ in Northern Ireland over the past 22 months has been so narrow it has underplayed the huge gaps that continue to exist in our post-conflict six counties. For me, in nothing more so than educational underachievement among the working-class is this masked inequality ironically most evident.

Every young person has the right to receive the fullest education unencumbered by their social surroundings or post code. No more does the latter effect the former than in north Belfast; an area which has a long history of educational underachievement and underinvestment.

That is why the ‘Right to Succeed’ pilot which was recently launched in the Duncairn Arts Centre is so important. The programme is set to allocate funding to various schools within the constituency to keep young people who are labelled ‘at risk’ in education, as well as improving outcomes of schools located in the lowest quartile of disadvantage.

Young people only have one chance at education and that chance determines almost everything to come. This priority, amidst all the political and divisive clatter, is something that should never be forgotten.

Credit must go to all who worked hard to get this pilot to north Belfast. Having gone to school in north Belfast, I am confident this pilot will make a difference to the lives of many young people in
the area.

Belfast BT14



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