All posts by Damien Edgar

Source Code Review

Source Code

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan

Duncan Jones’s second film, Source Code, explores one of the most fundamental questions human beings face; What would you do differently if you could do it all again?

Colter Stevens, (Jake Gyllenhaal), is a US Army helicopter pilot whose last memory is coming under heavy fire in Afghanistan. When he awakens, he finds himself in another man’s body on a train. Eight minutes later the train explodes, killing Stevens and the other passengers onboard. Short movie.

Or maybe not. Stevens finds himself back in his own body, encased in what looks like a cockpit, with a US army Captain, Captain Goodwin, explaining to him that he must go back and find out who planted and detonated the bomb that caused the train explosion.

The film’s main premise is established from here. Gyllenhaal must repeatedly live the last eight minutes of Sean Fentress’ life, (the passenger he “possessed”), in order to discover the identity of the bomber, who has planted a nuclear device somewhere in Chicago and plans to detonate it. Stevens is told he cannot save the passengers but he can save the residents of Chicago from nuclear disaster. Jeffrey Wright stars as Dr. Rutledge, the brains behind the Source Code simulator.
The romantic interest is provided by fellow passenger Christina Warren, (Michelle Monaghan), whom Stevens falls for little by little as he re-enters the simulator.
His priorities shift from identifying the bomber to stopping the train attack in order to save Christina.
The film is hugely ambitious in its premise, something to be admired even if the ending doesn’t fully realise that ambition. It mixes Gyllenhaal’s journey to remember what happened to him in Afghanistan with the bomb plot, finding room for emotional charge in such an action-packed subject.
Gyllenhaal lends great presence to the role and he goes through the full gamut of emotions here, displaying an acting range perhaps not fully showcased since Donnie Darko and certainly not in his previous offering, Love and Other Drugs.
The other real star of the show is Captain Goodwin, (Vera Farmiga), with the idea of humanity versus science explored throughout the relationship between Gyllenhaal and her own character. Farmiga proves herself every bit as capable as Gyllenhaal with a range of emotions expressed in minimalist style.

The ending feels slightly like a cop-out with a clunky visual metaphor, but the film deserves credit for its ambition and star turns from Gyllenhaal and Farmiga. Superb acting, however, takes the film to another level.

By Damien Edgar

Married to the Church

Married to the Church

The censure of Father Brian D’Arcy for his outspoken beliefs raises serious questions over the Church’s ability to interact with its lay people reports Damien Edgar.


Fr. Brian D’Arcy, censured by the Vatican for his views on priesthood and marriage.

In particular, the requirement for celibacy amongst priests has become a bone of contention.

Speaking to the BBC, Fr. D’Arcy revealed that he had been trying to work “as normal” under a censure from Rome, which has been in place for the last 14 months;

“I have tackled the same subjects that I always did, probably a little more broad – in a broad way – but certainly I have not been censored that I can’t talk about certain issues in the way I’ve always done.”

In September 2011, the former Bishop of Derry, Dr. Edward Daly, caused similar controversy in Ireland when he used his book, A Troubled See, to call for an end to clerical celibacy. Dr. Daly acknowledged, however, that celibacy could still be a choice:

“There will always be a place in the church for a celibate priesthood, but there should also be a place for a married priesthood in the church,” he said.

Keen to find out the opinion of a local clergyman, I sought out Drumquin Parish Priest, Fr. Kevin Mullan. He spoke eloquently of the advantages and pitfalls of allowing priests to enter into married life.

“In theory, I would agree that priests should be allowed to marry. It’s a big sacrifice to live a life without marriage and a family, even if it does leave you free to become involved in many families within the parish.

“However, a priest might struggle with marriage, being privy to confidential information and this might create unique pressures of its own within a family.

“But the main thing young people say is keeping them from the priesthood, is not being able to share that with a close partner.

“I also know some priests who have left and married, but would like to come back to their vocation yet can’t.”

A study recently carried out by the Association of Catholic Priests, revealed that nine out of ten Catholics in Ireland support the idea that a priest’s vocation should not restrict their right to marry. That was 90% of the 1,000 people who answered the All-Ireland survey.

Amidst the debate, it is abundantly clear that the year ahead will be crucial for the Church, with the Catholic people clamouring for a major change.

Unemployment figures down, but view remains bleak for graduates.

Despite the economic downturn and the swingeing cuts brought with it, unemployment figures remain below the UK national average in Northern Ireland. Damien Edgar asks why youth unemployment figures are at the bottom of the UK youth employment statistics.

The most recent Labour Force Survey’s statistics reveal that almost a fifth of Northern Ireland’s eligible youth are unemployed. Where there are jobs, they are not going to young people either coming out of university or seeking employment for the first time.

Speaking to a small gathering of journalists at the European Union headquarters in Brussels, Northern Irish MEPs Diane Dodds and Jim Nicholson both acknowledged that more must be done to turn the tide on youth unemployment. Both MEPs were keen to highlight the failings of the education sector as one of the core factors for youth unemployment. Diane Dodds declared that “there are systemic issues with education in Northern Ireland” that need to be tackled and both MEPs were in agreement that, in the words of Jim Nicholson, “we do it well at the top level, but it must be like that across the board.”

However, as much as education may be partly to blame, the fact remains that in an economy with very little security, and where employers are more likely to take the safer option and take on an older applicant with more experience, young people are disadvantaged when applying for a job.

Adam McGibbon, Vice President of Welfare at Queen’s University Belfast, contradicted the views of Diane Dodds and Jim Nicholson when he claimed that a lack of jobs was to blame for the unemployment crisis amongst young people.

“The problem isn’t the quality of graduates- it’s the fact that there aren’t enough jobs to go around. The government need to learn from the example of history- it’s cheaper to have people in work than it is to have them unemployed.”

In the most recent Labour Force Survey it is revealed that the number of people who are unemployed has remained at the same level, but the number of people claiming benefits for unemployment has gone up by 200 people to a figure of around 61,500. So although the economy seems to be recovering or at the very least remaining on an even keel with where it has been, there are still large numbers of people who feel that they cannot gain employment or have committed themselves to trying to find employment while accepting jobseekers’ allowance.

The UK national average for unemployment was 8.3%, withNorthern Ireland’s standing at 6.8%, down by 0.5% over the course of the year. NI’s unemployment rate, 67.9%, however, was the fourth lowest amongst the 12 UKregions.

I spoke with Conor Murray, 22, a recent university graduate, to find out what his experience of the job market was. Having graduated with a degree in Film Studies, Conor found himself losing motivation as the search for a job went on, and he felt that it was in part due to a poorly constructed system for job seekers.

“After a few months on jobseekers’ allowance, I found it became just a matter of applying for enough jobs to meet the requirements each week.”

Conor went on to say that he found the system for job advertising too general to be of any real use to a graduate;

“Most of the stuff I was applying for was completely irrelevant to my skills, so I think that’s the area where government needs to change most. I believe there should be more of a focus on getting in touch with companies to see if they would be willing to take people on, rather than just reproducing job adverts as they come up.”

In order to try and get to the bottom of the discrepancy between unemployment figures and rates and the figures for people claiming jobseekers’ allowances, I spoke to Barry Mc Elduff, MLA, who sits on the DEL Committee at Stormont. He acknowledged that there were some deviances between the two sets of figures, but claimed it was more of an administrative problem than anything else;

“There appears to be an anomaly with the numbers claiming JSA going up more considerably than the decrease in unemployment levels. This is perhaps best explained by changes that are already underway within the benefits system as a result of welfare reform. The figures might mask the fact that many people are shifting from one benefit to another.”

When I contacted Jonathan Lawless, also of the DEL Committee, his response was to say that “it would be not appropriate for me to provide any information” which may go some way to explaining why there could be some confusion over the figures.

Statistics can be interpreted to suit the needs of those that need them, but it is clear that graduates face an uphill struggle to gain employment within the current economic climate. Youth unemployment has increased by 155% since the beginnings of the global recession in 2008, which gives some indication of the difficulties facing young people today.

Sports NI come under fire over allocation of sports funding

 By Damien Edgar

A prominent MLA has claimed that he was “appalled” to find that GAA clubs across Northern Ireland have received more than double the exchequer funding allocated than their footballing counterparts over the past five years.

According to the answer TUV leader Jim Allister received from a question to the Assembly , GAA clubs have received £18 million over the past five years, while soccer clubs associated with the IFA have received £8.5 million in the same period. The starkest contrast is struck with the funding that rugby clubs have received in that period, a mere £708,187 leaving them far behind their Gaelic and soccer counterparts. Allister went on to point out that even with Lottery funding taken into account, the gap was still remarkable.

As recently as March of this year, GAA, soccer and rugby clubs were given a huge financial boost when then Stormont Sports Minister, Nelson McCausland, announced they would receive a post-budget injection of cash. Again, the GAA and the IFA was the main benefactor, with the GAA receiving more than £60 million to redevelop Casement Park in West Belfast as the provincial headquarters of Gaelic Games in Northern Ireland.

The IFA were also granted about £61 million, with £25 million earmarked for the redevelopment of Windsor Park and the other £36 million going towards developing other stadia. IFA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson, claimed that the money set aside for the development of local football was a great day for football. “We have been working with the minister and the sports department to look at making Windsor Park fit for purpose. Football is the most popular sport and this money will make the difference at club level as well”.

Rugby clubs received a fraction of the money allocated to the latter, just £15 million for building new and upgrading existing stands at the Ravenhill ground.

The current wealth of funding afforded to the “big three” sports in Northern Ireland raises valid questions over whether smaller sports can survive or come into creation in an environment where funding seems to be primarily channelled into sports that are established and already make more money than the smaller sports around them.

Under the current system, sporting organisations apply to Sports NI for grants and funding, with their applications being considered on the current level of facilities available within their area. GAA clubs can also apply to the Ulster GAA Council for funding.

Jim Wells, MLA, made headlines recently when he proposed that GAA clubs should be pushed out of bag-packing activities at local supermarkets, claiming they deprived “genuine charities” of the chance to raise money and that the GAA was an “organisation rolling in money”.

The criticism voiced by both Jim Allister and Jim Wells demonstrates that the more hard line Unionist parties in Northern Ireland still harbour some resentment towards the GAA, having previously cited the organisation’s willingness to name grounds after IRA members as non-inclusive.

However, when asked about the current level of funding for the GAA, Sinn Fein MLA Barry McElduff defended it and said Sport NI should be allocating more.

“The GAA is truly the “Big Society” in action. I believe that Government does not give sufficient funding to the GAA, an organisation which is the most community rooted sporting and cultural body of its kind in Europe.

“I believe that the GAA has recently lost out because of the withdrawal ofthe ‘Places for Sport’ programme. This capital funding programme fitted really well with the GAA because in nearly all circumstances the GAA owns its own property or has a long term lease on it and is ready to go in terms of community fundraising, planning permission etc. The pulling of this programme has left things very difficult for GAA Clubs and County Boards in the north which have plans for flood lighting, second training pitches etc.

“These facilities are necessary because of the expansion of the GAA and the large numbers of participants.

“Rural Ireland, in particular, would be a social wasteland if it wasn’t for the existence of the local GAA club. Any funding which the GAA receives from Government is more than well earned. The GAA is a godsend for government and communities are far more cohesive as a consequence of the GAA.”

Adrian O’Kane, chairman of Drumragh Sarsfields G.A.C. agreed with Barry McElduff’s assessment.

“The GAA is a wonderful example of a community organisation. It gives young people the opportunity to meet peers with the same interests and it teaches them valuable lessons about teamwork and the value of working together”.

Drumragh Sarsfields was the beneficiary of a £1 million development loan from Sports NI, that allowed the club to create a state of the art facility as well as two new pitches at Clanabogan, just otuside Omagh. However, O’Kane was quick to point out that this was all subject to certain conditions.

“The loan was granted on the basis that we meet certain targets every year. We have to make sure that we increase membership every year by a certain percentage and that we are completely inclusive for the community as just two examples and to those ends we have made great progress”.

On the other side of town, the manager of Omagh Hospitals F.C., Brendan Morrisson, has experienced different fortunes.

“For whatever reason, we haven’t been able to get the same sort of funding that the GAA enjoys. However, it must be said that the local GAA clubs have done a great job of engaging the community, along with fundraising activities”.

The soccer side do not own their own pitches, nor do they have facilities in which their own players or visiting teams can change.

“Currently we use the council pitches, but if we were ever to push into the top division, we would be required to meet certain standards, to have our own pitch and stands etc. It’s just frustrating that there is such a disparity between the funding figures at the minute”.

With an opening allocation of £14.5 million and a proposed allocation of £13.2 million for Sport within the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, the focus will now be very much on how the Department chooses to allocate the allotments for the three main sports in Northern Ireland.

 Both the IFA and the IRFU will be watching with interest to see whether the trend set by the past five years continues or whether a change in focus is revealed.