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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: April 11, 2010 @ 10:23 pm

    Polish Tragedy

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    A contributor to Karen Coleman’s programme on Newstalk this morning was lambasting the newspapers for failing to carry the death of the Polish president on their front pages. The Sunday Times was the honourable exception tho’ another paper did have it as the top item in the “Index” and there may have been deadline issues as well.

    However, Sadhbh McCarthy’s basic point is undeniable. We are, as a nation, incredibly parochial and provincial. Even the presence of thousands of Poles in our midst fails to awaken the appropriate level of interest in this terrible tragedy.

    Your humble scribe met the late President Lech Kaczynski when he was here on an official visit some time back. It is sobering to reflect that many of the members of his delegation on that visit were probably killed in the crash as well.

    Happily there are no indications of sabotage. Early reports suggest that the control tower’s advice to land in Minsk instead of Smolensk was not heeded. One wonders why.

    The Katyn massacre of 22,000 Polish officers on Stalin’s orders was one of the great war-crimes. I have not  yet seen the current film on the subject but apparently it is very powerful. It is salutary to be reminded that Hitler was not the only mass-murderer on the world stage at that time and you will still meet people who are prepared to gloss over and excuse Stalin’s “excesses”.

    Despite the difference in size and population, Poland is a country with which we have much in common. Like us, they are predominantly Catholic and have had to deal with the influence of a powerful neighbour – or rather two powerful neighbours in their case, Russia and Germany.

    It’s very unfortunate that an event which was intended to cement reconciliation with the Russian people should end in this way. Hopefully it will not damage relations to any significant extent. It is very important for all of us that these two great nations should be on good terms.

    • Joanna Tuffy says:

      I don’t think the fact that the Sunday Papers did not cover this is a sign of us being parochial or provincial as a nation. How much news is in any of the Irish Sunday papers, one of which was being dropped into my local newsagent at teatime on Saturday?

      I am sure that many Irish people as well as Irish residents that are Polish nationals would have been anxious to read about the detail of this tragedy in our newspapers. It was the one item on the broadcast news I took note of yesterday evening and it is the kind of tragedy that would have got much more coverage in our papers, I believe, in years gone by.

    • kynos says:

      It isn’t nice to raise criticisms at this time but my God what a stupid thing to do. To put such a large number of important people on the one plane. That’s what we call a single point of failure in my biz. Sorry. Just think it should be noted. Anyway I was walking down a street near Stephen’s Green one night (late) near Christmas last and there were a couple Irish lads heckling the Polish doorman outside a hotel and nightclub. They were shouting things like “Givvus a smile Happy” and “Why so miserable looking?” so I said in passing “If somebody wiped out 3 million of your people within living memory you might feel a bit sad too.” The lads were taken aback (they were harmless fellas really) and sloped off. Next thing the Polish guy was inviting me in for a drink and talking about chivalry and the lack of it in this country. Anyway nice fella he was ex-military you’d know by the cut of him just as well he wasn’t taking those two lads’ slagging badly. Guy looked like he could turn you inside out and flush you down the lavvy licketysplit. But very nice fella. Why not? He didn’t have to be anything else.

    • Con O'Neil says:

      Why should this be on the front page? And why the hagiography? This is a tragedy for Poland (but it’s hardly a disaster) and people cannot be but moved at the human dimension of this. But, so what?

      In political terms we should remember that Kaczynski was a vile homophobe, a supporter of the death penalty (illegal under EU terms), a dividing, obstructive force to EU unity and more interested in being a facilitator for America foreign policy (buying F-16 jets, engagement in Iraq, missile shield, fawning praise for Israel) than being a healer, mender and advocate of a progressive, united Europe for everyone.

      His attitudes towards gays in particular are of course reflected in the attitudes of many Polish men in this country towards gays, an attitude rightly condemned by brave Irish politicians like David Norris. Kaczynski was a poor model for the Polish diaspora and integration.

      He was no great stateman. How disappointing to see attempts to accorded him this status.

      Are we all Polish today? Definitely not, any more than you should believe every single person in Poland is “united on grief.”

      Perhaps the only surprising aspect of his demise is that our government did not subject us to another contrived day of national mourning just like they did after “9/11.”

      Invariably purveyors of “Law and Justice” like Kaczynski are, in fact, interested in an equal application of either. He is, frankly, the kind of politician we can all do without.

      He did the Polish state some disservice.

    • Deaglán says:

      Oh dear, whatever happened to de mortuis nil nisi bonum (speak no ill of the dead)? At least until they are in their grave.

    • Paul says:

      At least at this early stage it appears that relations between Russia and Poland have not suffered. If a new bond between independent Slavic nations emerges then perhaps some good can come out this tragedy.


    • kynos says:

      Shouldn’t do it for 40 days after their death either. They might be in the bardo of becoming and well able to hear us.

    • Deaglán says:

      Hadn’t heard of the Bardo of Becoming before. Interesting: http://www.ralphmag.org/CY/bardo-reading.html

    • kynos says:

      Cool. Nice piece.

    • Billy says:

      Ireland is indeed provincial and parochial in its news output. Nobody seems to be aware and care about what happens or develops outside of Ireland. A story about a local court crime, or a pothole fixing politician will regularly trump major international stories. Even the recent Israeli-Mossad murder on Irish passports failed to make the front page and top of news in the agenda here… unlike the UK which at the time had fewer forged passports, but where it was the lead story in the media for a whole week, and dominated output.

      Even on Easter, I noticed that BBC World News and BBC News 24 ran the Irish catholic church scandal as its top story while RTE deemed it less important than some guy being shot in west Dublin.

    • Billy says:

      Whats the point of making the effort of writing something when it does not get posted up – or give you feedback that your comment was recorded? I’m sick of this… will not bother again.

    • Deaglán says:

      What are you talking about Billy? Do tell!

    • Con O'Neil says:

      Kaczynski held views that NOBODY in this country – Polish or Irish – should be holding.

      This letter in today’s IT says it all:


      “He was a hard-nosed extreme right wing conservative, with a questionable human rights record and was an outspoken homophobe. While being hosted as a guest of this nation in 2007, he said giving homosexuals equal rights would threaten the existence of the human race. He also banned gay rights protests in Poland. Give him whatever respect his office deserves, but don’t make him out to be something he wasn’t.”

      Again, this was no statesman.

      And, as if you need evidence of how twisted some of these apologists are for the guy:


      ““It’s hard to understand how we are involved in costly missions in Afghanistan and Iraq but are unable for years to equip our [leaders] with proper planes,” said Prof Roman Kuzniar, an international affairs analyst at Warsaw University.”

      How about asking why Polish troops are in Iraq and Afghanistan in the first place?

    • Billy says:

      Sorry about that, but there needs to be reform of these web-boards… there should be a message to tell users their message posts have been recorded, and that it will be uploaded in due coarse. I wasn’t sure if I wasted my time in making the effort of writing one before as it did not show up, and didn’t explain the process.
      Also, no real debate with users can occur on any of these IT blogs if the downtime for message posting is as high as 12 hours. =(

    • Jim says:

      The death of any political figure should be respected as a leader of their country, I employ one Polish man in my business and he wasn’t too worried about this tragedy. I am confused why it should be on the front page of newspapers, I sadly didn’t even know his name. Anway may he rest in peace.

    • Frank Jameson says:

      Not only did such a large group of prominent people travel on the one aircraft but it beggars belief that the Polish Presidential plane was a clapped out old Tupolev 154, an aircraft that even Aeroflot has replaced.
      I have no time for Kaczynski but I still sympathise with Poles in Ireland and elsewhere. They have had a very traumatic experience.
      I will also refrain from suggestingt that the Irish government replace its jet with a Tupolev. I have to admit, however, that the thought crossed my mind.

    • Ewelina says:

      I’m a Polish teacher who teaches English. I was looking for an interesting article about the tragedy in my country which I’ll be able to discuss about tomorrow during my lessons. I wanted to prove that people all over the world, especially in English-speaking countries, are with us. Unfortunately, your comments made me shocked. I used to think that your nation supports us. Now I’ve changed my opinion of Ireland. I’m proud of my president – not flexible, not corruptible, but decisive and PATRIOTIC! He is a real role-model of a Catholic! Read more about his attitude towards death penalty – then comment. The matter of gays is not important here. The tragedy is that WE LOST almost 100 people who were the basics of our state system: except the president and his wife, the Polish lost generals, ministers, bishops, MPs etc. Coincidentally, it happened 70 years after the tragedy in Katyn (thanks to many of the Polish victims, you can learn about this issue now!).
      If such a tragedy happened to your country, I would be proud that our Polish newspapers publish this fact on the front pages… It’s sad that you’re different :(
      Greetings from a heartbroken Poland …

    • Deaglán says:

      Dear Ewelina, Most of the comments are sympathetic and respectful. You must only have read the negative ones. We share your sadness at this time.

    • Deaglán says:

      Billy, I understand your frustration. We write these posts and moderate the comments in our spare time, when the Day Job permits.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      I get that there are implications because so many high profile people died – although I think there were only 2 or 3 people who actually ran government things and the rest were spouses or officials – who are (no offence) easily replaced in terms of their job – not so for their family and friends of course. Some jobs will need to have new people in them and there are possible consequences for that but I don’t get the need for the mass hysteria on a national level or for the need for the likes of Obama to attend the funeral.

      If, God forbid, the same happened in an Irish context I can’t say I’d feel remotely overwrought. Sad for the families of course but not sure there’d be a need for national hysteria.

      He was a homophobic bigot who occupied are far right position on most issues. Gandhi he was not.

      Can people get a grip on themselves as it’s unlikely many Polish people in Ireland ever voted for him or against him. It’s a tragedy for the families of those involved but it’s not a tragedy for Poland or mankind.

    • Deaglán says:

      Desmond: You are very hardhearted. A little humanity would not be out of place, given what Poland has suffered throughout the decades.

    • DesJay says:

      Ireland Incredbly parochial and provincial? Maybe, but try visiting Middle America or any part of Palinistan.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      @ 20 – I have humanity for their families. For them politically I can’t say I care a jot. Just like there are lots of Irish politicians I can’t say I’d care much about if they met an untimely passing.

      400 people died in an earthquake in China today – will be have an outpouring of grief for them or for the hundreds who died in Africa? No of course we don’t.

      I just expect a bit of perspective given far worse things happened on the same day and I find it hypocritical of people to make out a person in death is completely different to how they were in life.

    • kynos says:

      I said Pusan Bless you China but the bar at the news poll had closed by then.

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