Saturday, March 31, 2007

Are men more faithful than women to their buddies?

Females are far more likely to discard their buddies than guys are, suggests Sydney Morning Herald blogger Sam de Brito in this entry in his All Men Are Liars blog. Writes Sam: "Men will put up with all sorts of crap from friends and even the most horrendous anti-social behaviour can be rationalised with the statement, 'it's alright, he's me mate.'" Women's magazines, however, regularly feature articles on "how to break up with your friend....."

Friday, March 30, 2007

Contact Me

You are welcome to email me at


Replace the AT with @ and the DOT with .

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About this blog

This blog contains my newspaper articles and random thoughts, observations and bits of information.

I write a weekly column called That's Men for The Irish Times and most of the columns later appear on the blog.

When I began this blog, I worked as a journalist in Dublin but most of my work now is in teaching and writing about mindfulness.

I also write poetry and a collection of my poems, The Blue Guitar, is published by Salmon. I have a poetry blog called The Blue Guitar.

I am originally from a rural parish called Ladytown in County Kildare. I now live in Dublin with my wife and two children.

If you want to email me, try:

You can get in touch through the contact form at my website,

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Days of slavery are not over

Two hundred years after the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, has slavery reached our shores with men as its final customers? asks my That's Men for You column in today's Irish Times. The question is prompted by the announcement that Scotland Yard has set up a unit to combat sex slavery in Britain, just half an hour's flight away. The column is part of the Irish Times' premium content so I can't reproduce it here.

In Britain it is believed that about 4,000 women and girls are working as sex slaves, it says. Most have been trafficked into the UK from Eastern Europe, duped into believing that they have been recruited for normal jobs.

This is a men's issue because these women are forced to work in brothels and massage parlours whose customers are men. If you included these women as part of society then you would have to say that society is morally damaged by this trade. I would have thought this was true regardless of one's beliefs concerning women who choose to go into the sex industry.

There's more on this issue in this article from The Guardian.....

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Er, I suppose a pre-nup is out of the question?

Prenuptial agreements are likely to become a more frequent feature of Irish family law if the government accepts proposals by a special study group, says this story in the Sunday Business Post. The group is chaired by senior counsel Inge Clissmann and includes senior barristers and solicitors and representatives of the Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice. The Sunday Business Post report by Kieron Wood says the study group is expected to recommend that prenuptial agreements should be made legally enforceable, except where that would cause significant injustice. Nearest but not necessarily dearest, eh?.....

Time to let the media into the Family Law Courts

Ireland's Family Court reporter Dr Carol Coulter said yesterday that the input of children is rarely considered by judges in family law cases, and when it is it tends to be only that of teenagers and not smaller children, says this story in the Sunday Independent. Last month, Dr Coulter produced a very useful research report (see this entry) showing that more Irish divorces are settled amicably and without recourse to court battles, than had been thought. Dr Coulter (right) is also The Irish Times Legal Affairs Correspondent.

However, the production of research of this kind is the furthest that the court system has gone towards opening up the Family Law courts to public scrutiny. What research cannot convey is the flavour of court proceedings, whether individual cases are dealt with fairly or unfairly, the attitude of judges towards certain parties and so on. Without this information, we are left in ignorance of perhaps 90 percent of what goes on in the courtroom.

For decades, the media have reported proceedings in the Children's Court. They have done so without publishing details that might tend to identify children appearing before the court. But the media reporting of what goes on in the Children's Court has done much to highlight deficits in the entire juvenile justice system.

It is really past time for the Courts Service to introduce a similar facility into the Family Law courts for media reporting with strict anonymity rules . Otherwise, despite Dr Coulter's excellent work, we are left wondering what really goes on behind those closed doors.....

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Europe's massive sex slave trade

Sex slavery, it seems to me, is one of the great neglected issues of our time. In Europe alone, officials estimate that more than 200,000 women and girls are smuggled out of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics each year, the bulk of whom end up working as enslaved prostitutes, according to this extraordinary investigation by journalist Preston Mendenhall on Young women are tricked into the clutches of traffickers with false promises of jobs, beaten, raped and imprisoned and made to service clients. The centre of the trafficking business is Velesta (right) in Macedonia, a town the story describes as one of the most dangerous places in Europe. But trafficked women end up as far west as Amsterdam and the UK and do they end up in Ireland too? The misery is appalling, the numbers huge and our indifference shocking.....

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Prostate research suggest it's time to heal the mind/body split

Research on worries among men who are told they do not have prostate cancer should alert health professionals to a serious need - namely the need to pay attention to the psychological effects of physical illnesses, says my That's Men for You column in today's Irish Times. This is no small matter. Physical ill-health is among the main contributors to suicide among older people. Again, the lesson is that physical ill-health affects body and mind and not the body alone. The column is part of the Irish Times' premium content so I can't reproduce it here.

But the research (there's more on it here at ScienceDaily) shows that men who are given the all-clear following an investigation for possible prostate cancer go on to worry about the possibilities of getting the disease. A similar effect has been reported in women investigated for breast cancer but found to be healthy. The column argues that the health services need to abandon their current mind/body split in treatment. A few counselling sessions or a health education programme could save a lot of worry in the future.

It could also save lives. Physical pain and ill health are among the important reasons for older people to commit suicide. In 2002, the suicide rate among people aged 65 to 74 in Ireland was 11 per 100,000 compared to 16.1 for those aged 15-24. The rate was nearly seven times higher for men than for women (19.7 compared to 3.1).....

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sweet sound of, er, snoring?

Readers' reactions to two recent Irish Times articles which mentioned the perils of sleeping together - including people stealing each other's bedclothes and snoring - brought a new perspective to snoring, a behaviour which is usually characterised as male. The article, in the That's Men for You series (Tuesday, 13th and 20th February, 2007) is part of The Irish Times' premium content so I can't reproduce it here. But two readers remembered men's snoring with affection.

Wrote one reader of her father's snoring: "We children loved the snoring. It was the most comforting sound if you woke up from a nightmare....first the nightmare, then the sudden waking...the silence and the dark and then the blissful sound reverberating through the house. You were safe and sound and put yourself back to sleep to the rhythm of the snores.

"The snoring was must useful during the length of my mis-spent youth in which my father was alive. Sneak in the front door..listen..then when the snoring started take a few steps of the stairs, pause in the snoring, pause on the stairs and so on until you were safely in bed. Mother could never hear anything while father was snoring.

"To this day to me it is one of the most comforting sounds in the world...a lullaby in fact."

Another reader, whose husband was "a terrific snorer" who died in his 40s, recalls how the rhythm of his snoring helped their children to sleep through the night. Now, "the nights are particularly lonely for me & it took me a long time before I could even lie on our bed.The girls find the nights so quiet & still find it hard to settle. How much we miss that warm, safe, comforting noise."

As I said, a new perspective.....

Friday, March 16, 2007

Dig this, kids!

Fathers in the UK are being encouraged to work on allotments (plots of land, such as those on the right near Wimbledon, owned by local authorities and rented to citizens at little or no cost) with their children to improve father/child relationships under a British government policy on parenting. The allotment idea is just one of a number of measures designed to appeal to men as the government promotes paternal engagement with kids, according to this story in The Guardian. "Fathers' involvement is associated with children's better educational outcomes, school attendance, behaviour, higher educational expectations and better social and emotional outcomes," education secretary, Alan Johnson said when launching the policy. See earlier post on this policy here....

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Postnuptials are the latest fashion

Want to be at the cutting edge in your marriage? If so, you need a postnuptial agreement, says my That's Men for You column in today's Irish Times. Forget the prenup - the postnuptial agreement is already coming down the tracks at us from California as an indispensable accessory, especially if you are in your second marriage. The article is part of The Irish Times' premium content so I can't reproduce it here. The postnuptial contract is made after you marry and when all is still rosy in the garden. In the contract, the couple work out issues concerning assets and child custody should they break up. May sound daft but may also have some merits in the case of second marriages where the couple wants to protect the rights of the children of the first marriage. Disadvantage? You might get kicked out of bed for suggesting a postnup as happened to the husband of Eva Longoria's (above right) character in Desperate Housewives. Read more in this article on the California Family Law Blog.....

Monday, March 12, 2007

Dads not mums treat girls differently

At least some of the explanations for differences in behaviour between boys and girls lie in the fact that they are treated differently by their parents. And according to this report in the British Psychology Society Research Digest it's the dads and not the mums who treat girls differently to boys.....

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Lying low

Just Like A Man is lying low until next Monday 12th March (things to do) but there's a good discussion going on about this entry if you want to get involved in the meantime.....

Sunday, March 4, 2007

In Spain, green woman joins green man on pedestrian lights

The wimmin continue their inexorable advance. Green female figures now alternate with male figures on pedestrian lights in the Spanish municipality of Fuenlabrada, south of Madrid, according to this story on Mind you, some German pedestrian lights have had female figures (right) since 2004, according to this Wikipedia entry....

Things a man should never do

Checking your BlackBerry in bed is top of this list of 19 things a man should never do, in Men's Health (USA). Next come asking for a kiss and wearing low-rise jeans.....

'False positives' in prostate tests bring subsequent worries

Men who get a "false-positive" prostate cancer result -- an abnormal screening result followed by a biopsy showing no evidence of cancer -- appear more likely to worry about their subsequent risk of cancer and report more problems with sexual function compared to men with normal screening results, according to a University of Iowa study reported in this article on ScienceDaily.....

Friday, March 2, 2007

From Gold Digger to Toxic Wife

The Toxic Wife is "the woman who gives up work as soon as she marries, ostensibly to create a stable home environment for any children that might come along, but who then employs large numbers of staff to do all the domestic work she promised to undertake, leaving her with little to do all day except shop, lunch, luxuriate," explains Tara Winter Wilson in this article in the Daily Telegraph. They used to be called Gold Diggers but I guess Toxic Wife is more in line with the spirit of the age.....