Why I don't care for Trocaire
In terms of our shared, collective experience as citizens of this state, few items remain as culturally iconographic as the Trocaire Lenten campaign box.
A fragile receptacle for all those spare pennies you might have as a kid, the Trocaire box - featuring a young Tracey Chapman on the cover - was a perfect introduction to the notion of charity for small school children, who tend to be a pretty self-interested lot.
Of course, in our household, I invariably lost or broke the box. And, on the last day before we broke up for Easter, I would trundle into school with a pound note instead, only to be berated by the teacher for not having made enough of a sacrifice. Even if I had collected less money but used more coins, I was told, it would have proved that I was committed to the cause.
It was an interesting insight into the complex and frequently unpleasant relationship this country enjoys with charity. In this case, the message was clear even to a snotty 10-year-old - we want to help the black babies, but it's also important that we get that delicious thrill of self-satisfaction while doing it.
Of course, the Trocaire of my childhood and the childhood of hundreds of thousands of us, is no more. Instead it has been replaced by a new organisation, one which carries the same name but which involves itself in cheap publicity stunts and dodgy campaigns.
They disgraced themselves on July 31 last year by organising a protest outside the American embassy in Dublin during the unpleasantness in Israel, while ignoring the true aggressors in that war, Iran, whose embassy is in Blackrock.
Now they have launched a rather bizarre ad campaign featuring numerous imperilled babies.
And what is the grave threat facing these charming cherubs? Well, according to the stentorian voiceover, it's because the children are female. End gender inequality now, is the rather pointless punchline.
Why female babies are more deserving of concern than male babies is never explained and the idea that, as a society, we should feel more concerned about one gender of infant than another is rather repugnant.
But despite that minor quibble, we can all agree that women are treated disgustingly around the world and the plight of our female brethren in many Third World countries is the most pressing human rights question of our age.
So why, then, is Trocaire giving money to groups like Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign?
The IPSC recently received funds from the Catholic charity to bring a Palestinian group to this country.
And Trocaire themselves have also consistently criticised Israel while seldom offering any real condemnation of her neighbours.
In fairness to Trocaire, when contacted they were quick to point out that they also offer assistance to Israeli human rights groups.
But this is simply not good enough.
Removing all politics from the region for a moment - and forget about which side of the political divide you stand - if you were to give birth to a baby girl in that region, where would you prefer she was born?
A country where honour killings are still common? Where mutilation, torture, acid baths and beatings for the smallest infraction are the order of the day? Or would you prefer her to be born into a democracy, where she will enjoy exactly the same rights and responsibilities as her brother?
It's exactly the kind of moral disconnect which shames so many left-wing organisations - their attitude towards Israel allows them to completely ignore the disgusting cultural and religious misogyny of her neighbours.
Trocaire have also been shamed by John O'Shea's GOAL on the issue of Darfur, where they have consistently refused to call for military intervention, while O'Shea has loudly and frequently demanded that the world do something to stop us having another Rwanda on our hands.
If there is any lesson to be learned from Trocaire, it's a simple one - give your money to GOAL instead.Make it your business
Irish film maker Phelim McAleer's excellent documentary 'Mine Your Own Business' gleefully exposes the stupidity of many of today's professional environmentalists. Their casual disregard for the needs of the people they purport to help really sticks in the craw.
The most unintentionally amusing moment of the film comes when, explaining his opposition to a mining project in Madagascar which would enormously improve the shattered local economy, environmentalist Mark Fenn of the Worldwide Fund for Nature says that giving locals jobs would ruin their culture.
"In three or four days it's (local culture) gone. They'll buy cases of beer and invite their friends. They'll just buy a stereo. In Madagascar the indicators of quality of life are not housing, not nutrition, and specifically not health in a lot of cases. It's not education. A lot of children in Fort Dauphin do not go to school because the parents do not consider that to be important."
Needless to say the unemployed locals held a rather different attitude.
To find out more about this revelatory documentary - think Michael Moore, but with actual research and journalistic skill - check out mineyourownbusiness.org.