Monday, April 23, 2007

An ordination, a wedding, and breakfast with the Police Ombudsman!

Not quite three weddings and a funeral - more like three women and a busy weekend. The more unusual activities included attending an ordination, a wedding, finished off with breakfast with Nuala O'Loan (and about thirty other men).

The ordination was encouraging, seeing the calling of a woman with a passionate faith and a compelling personality recognised as she finishes her training and starts out working in a new parish. A reminder too that it takes more than just a minister/pastor/priest to create a congregation that is vibrant and makes a difference in its community.

The wedding was good too. Relaxed, fun, with a beautiful bride and a natty groom. Good food (a BBQ), interesting guests and short speeches. And enough of a breeze to blow the biodegradable confetti around the happy couple's faces for the photos.

Finally, Saturday morning started earlier than felt natural. A "mens breakfast". I'm not entirely sure why single sex organisations like this continue to exist.

Maybe its a throw-back to professional working environments in years gone by, which had mostly male groups working together, and then continuing to socialise together outside of work. And in response to the plethora of women's organisations, men fought back to have their own clubs?

But in today's world, I'm not as convinced it's necessary to divide genders. I'm sure we'd have learnt as much, maybe more, if there had women in the room asking questions too.

Nuala O'Loan is the Police Ombudsman, heading up the organisation for the last six and a half years, with her appointment coming to a close on 5 November this year. Having given up the early part of hew Saturday morning, and after a hearty breakfast of scrambled egg, bacon and sausages, she spoke very personally on the subject of her "faith journey", filling out some of the story of the woman behind the public persona.

She came across as someone very serious about her job, working incredibly hard in difficult circumstances. Someone who had made significant sacrifices (along with her family) to keep serving Northern Ireland in the way she's been called to do.

Someone whose faith was real, and whose faith positively impacted her work and her relationships. Someone too very proud of her staff, and the work they do, and very mindful of the citizens who come through the door of the Police Ombudsman's offices just across the road from St Anne's Cathedral looking for explanation, closure and justice.

Much of the media attention around her work is bound up in a series of major reports - the Omagh Investigation and more recently the McCord Report. Lots of mud slinging, political recriminations, personal attacks and sometimes less analysis of the report contents than of the messenger.

It certainly altered my perception of the Police Ombudsman's office, what they're about, and their way of working. After her opening remarks, Nuala answered questions for about half an hour, talking about everything from Ballymena ("it's got the best shopping centre") to the Chinese Walls that operate within families where details about work can't be discussed.

She also talked about how she dealt with the near-fatal attack on her son last year (and there have been other attacks on her family in the past more directly related to her job) and about her sadness (rather than relief) that her role as Ombudsman is coming to an end.

Having heard and seen Nuala O'Loan, I'd stick my neck out and say she's the right woman for the job. That's my Blink! reaction. And despite being kicked around like a football in the middle of a particularly rough match, if she wasn't unpopular with so many stakeholders, she wouldn't be doing her job thoroughly enough. (Though the stats on their website show a healthy regard by the public, but less so within the PSNI itself.)

A varied weekend with three very different women. Wonder how it'll compare to a coconut orchestra?


John Self said...

I was at a wedding too this weekend (as was a colleague in work: clearly a popular weekend). Service in Derry Cathedral and reception in Donegal. 257 guests, which apparently is not unusual for 'down South'. It certainly dwarfed my own (I mean OUR own!) nuptials two weeks ago, with 97 people all-in!

Alan in Belfast said...

Congratulations! Didn't realise it was so soon. Hope you got lots of bookcases and booktokens as wedding presents.

257! That's an entire plane-full. (Not that I measure everything in terms of transport.)

Friday's had about 140 guests. My own (OUR own) was a little more compact and bijou with 24.

Miffy said...

I very much agree with your comments regarding the more or less pointlessness of single sex get togethers like a 'men's breakfast'. I'm getting married in June - but given your thoughts on the lack of point on dividing genders I note you still felt it necessary to point out that the bride at the ceremony you attended was 'beautiful' - as if this were a necessary requirement for a bride still in this day and age.

Alan in Belfast said...

My goodness. Weddings are de jour at the moment! First John Self, now Miffy.

I do take your point about describing the bride as beautiful. But she was. And beauty isn't just external, it's also about personality and character.

Hermie and Wormie might put it:
"A beautiful butterfly, with a beautiful heart."