Irish peacemaker and politician Hume remembered at funeral by Pope Francis and Dalai Lama

Some well-known pubs in the centre of Derry (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — The funeral took place on Wednesday of John Hume, the former Northern Ireland politician who was awarded a Nobel Prize for his efforts to end three decades of deadly conflict in the region. Tributes from Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama and Bono were read out by Donal McKeown, the Catholic bishop of Derry, who presided over the funeral Mass. A Vatican statement said that Pope Francis was “saddened” to learn of Hume’s death and “sends the assurance of his prayers to his family.” Hume died on Monday at the age of 83 after a long illness. Hume’s “message about peace and non-violence in the resolution of conflict … will long survive him,” the Dalai Lama said. Bono, lead singer with Irish rock band U2, described Hume as “a man who made all our lives bigger.”

Push to ban books such as ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ from schools in Ireland – dpa international

Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird on a bookshelf in a west of Ireland home (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — A county council in Ireland is calling on the education ministry to review the school curriculum for books containing allegedly offensive language. The council in Meath, a county adjoining capital Dublin, in Ireland’s east, is petitioning the Department of Education and Skills to consider culling novels such as “Of Mice and Men” and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the latter a Pulitzer Prize-winning anti-racism parable. Citing conversations with mixed-race families, councillor Alan Lawes said on Friday that the books caused students to use “certain racial slurs” against classmates. “I don’t think 12-year-olds have the mental capacity to deal with such books,” Lawes said, discussing the council’s request on Newstalk, a Dublin radio station.  Ex-diplomat Eamon Delaney said on the station that people should be “wary of banning books … it is censorship.”

Scottish Catholic shrine gets tech salvation for holy water drought – dpa international

DUBLIN — With concerns about coronavirus leaving most Catholic churchgoers without their cherished holy water, a prototype contactless dispenser is being trialled at a shrine in Scotland. In use starting this week at Carfin Grotto in the town of Motherwell, the device resembles a water-cooler or liquid soap dispenser and is activated by cupping a hand near a sensor positioned under the water. A video posted on the Carfin Grotto Facebook page shows the dispenser in action, with the narrator thanking a parishioner named Paul Lawlor and a local tech firm known as Lawlor Techologies for the device. “One of the things we’ve been missing the most,” the narrator said, “is blessing ourselves with holy water.”

Late football hero Charlton gets unique Anglo-Irish stamp of approval – dpa international

Mail delivery van in Ireland (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — A first-ever joint postmark will be used on mail sent from England and Ireland in memory of the late football player and manager Jack Charlton, who died on July 10 aged 85. Featuring an image of a football and reading “Jack Charlton, 1935 – 2020,” the postmark will be applied until August 9, the British and Irish postal services announced Monday. Charlton was a central defender on the England team that won the World Cup in 1966 and later managed the Irish national team that reached the quarter-finals at their World Cup debut in 1990. David McRedmond, CEO of Ireland’s An Post, described Charlton as “an English hero who became an Irish legend” during a Monday launch event with former Ireland defender Paul McGrath. 

Irish political party accused of breaching coronavirus restrictions at funeral – dpa international

DUBLIN — Leaders of Irish political party Sinn Féin were among hundreds who gathered in Belfast on Tuesday for the funeral of Bobby Storey, a senior figure in the Irish Republican Army (IRA) who died nine days ago aged 64. After the funeral was criticised on social media for seeming to breaching rules meant to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in Northern Ireland – which cap funeral attendances at 10 people – some of Sinn Féin’s political rivals took aim. Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Robin Swann, a member of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), said at a Tuesday press conference that “no person” is “above the regulations and guidance we have laid down on how we combat Covid-19.” Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) parliamentarian Gregory Campbell called for “police action,” claiming that Sinn Féin leaders “showed no respect” for the restrictions – which it previously said should be applied without exemption. A police spokeswoman later told The Belfast Telegraph newspaper that officers will review footage of the funeral. Though Sinn Féin shares control of Northern Ireland’s devolved administration with the DUP, the two parties are ideological rivals. The DUP – and Swann’s UUP – oppose Sinn Féin’s aim of ending British rule in Northern Ireland.

A bit different: Ireland’s pubs reopen but under new pandemic rules – dpa international

Pints of Guinness served on June 29 2020 as Ireland allows some pubs to reopen after almost 4 months closure due to coronavirus (Simon Roughneen)

CLAREMORRIS — Some of Ireland’s pubs were pouring pints on Monday for the first time in nearly four months as the country lifts most coronavirus-related restrictions. Speaking over the evening chatter of customers in The Western, a pub and hotel in Claremorris – a town of around 4,000 people in the west of Ireland – manager Patrick Mitchell said “we had no idea what to expect today, we have been quite busy, but it is a bit different.” Patrons are allowed one hour and 45 minutes drinking-time in bars that serve food – as long as they splash out on a “substantial meal” priced at 9 euros (10 dollars) or more and adhere to social distancing requirements. Inside The Dalton Inn, about 100 metres down the street from The Western, owner Andrew Cooper said “we’re sticking strictly to those rules.” The regime means that only bigger pubs equipped with kitchens will reopen for now – with the food tab so far a deterrent to would-be punters.

As pandemic fades in Ireland, uncertainty around reopening of churches – dpa international

DUBLIN — Ireland plans to allow public religious ceremonies again from Monday, despite confusion over how many people can attend and over how new rules will apply to places of worship. Starting next week, a maximum of 50 people can meet indoors as part of the latest roll-back of curbs imposed in March to stem to spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic in Ireland. After Diarmuid Martin, the Catholic archbishop of Dublin, described the proposed blanket 50-person ceiling as “strange” and “disappointing,” outgoing Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Thursday that “a specific protocol” based on the seating capacity of places of worship “is going to be worked out” with religious authorities.

Survey suggests tilt back towards polarisation in Northern Ireland – dpa international

On the bridge between Belcoo in the north of Ireland, part of the U.K., and Blacklion in the Republic of Ireland. The signage denoting the U.K. is in miles per hour while the Republic of Ireland is in kilometers per hour (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — People in Northern Ireland are more likely to identify with either Britain or Ireland since the 2016 British vote to leave the European Union, going by the latest annual Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey. A majority of the region’s 1.8 million people view themselves as either “nationalist” or “unionist”  in the latest survey, which saw 1,200 people canvassed in late 2019 and early 2020 by researchers from Ulster University and Queens University Belfast (QUB). In 2018, half of those surveyed eschewed identifying as either nationalist or unionist. Paula Devine of QUB said “it is striking that 2019 also saw a strengthening of unionist and nationalist identities and growing pressure on the so-called middle ground.”

A month after lockdown ends, Malaysia slowly getting back to normal – dpa international

Not many people around in this central Kuala Lumpur mall, more than three weeks after the end of Malaysia's lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Business and consumer activity in South-East Asia’s third-wealthiest economy is inching back towards pre-pandemic levels, going by data published almost a month after the end of a strictly-enforced lockdown. Monday’s IHS Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), a widely cited survey of businesses, showed manufacturing rising in May after a record low in April, when Malaysia was in lockdown. According to IHS Markit, the May rebound in business activity came “amid reports that some firms had restarted production following a partial lifting of lockdown rules.” However, the PMI survey showed the May bounce-back as “indicative of a further deterioration in manufacturing sector conditions” – as overall performance remained below the 50 mark, which Malaysia last hit in January. If the PMI reads below 50, it suggests businesses are cutting back.

Malaysian Catholics in the dark over reopening of churches – dpa international

Sanitiser and sign-in notebook at the entrance to a Kuala Lumpur Catholic church (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s Catholic bishops said on Friday that they have not been informed by the government about proposals to allow some non-Muslim places of worship to reopen for ceremonies from June 10. Defence minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on Thursday that 174 churches and temples will be permitted from June 10 to allow up to 30 Malaysian worshippers attend services, as part of a relaxation of curbs imposed in March to stop the spread of Covid-19. A Friday statement by the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur said that it had “received no further news apart from what was released to the public” and that it did not know which churches could be reopened on June 10.