The Irish Centre For Bio-Ethical Reform was responsible for the excessively graphic images during the Eighth Amendment referendum campaign. Its director talks to Billy O’Riordan.
In a quiet leafy suburb of Clonmel, Co Tipperary, you will find the headquarters of the Irish Centre For Bio-Ethical reform. The ICBR came to the public’s attention in recent weeks thanks to its posters which contain graphic portraits of dead foetuses.
The director of the ICBR is Jean Simonis Engela. He is a softly spoken, courteous individual and is the public face of the organisation. He agreed to meet me in the centre of Clonmel for a rare face-to-face interview.
After some back and forth, he agreed to answer a range of questions by email. I began by asking Dr Engela about his background.
He was raised in South Africa and is married to an Irish woman, whose father is of Indian extraction. After completing his studies at the Royal College of Surgeons, he qualified in general practice in 2017.
He is insistent that the work of the ICBR is educational.
“The Irish Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform is a pro-life advocacy group that promotes prenatal justice and the right to life of preborn children through education and the development of innovative educational programmes,” says Dr Engela.
“We exist to make abortion impossible to ignore or trivialise and endeavour to make abortion unthinkable in the minds of abortion-vulnerable people.”
The ICBR has affiliates all over the world, including in the US, Britain, Canada, Sweden, Poland, Finland, and Netherlands. According to Dr Engela, “abortion is a global injustice and requires a global response”.
During the referendum, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar criticised the controversial posters used by the ICBR as “vile and counterproductive”.
“In the same leaders’ questions, Leo Varadkar also said he hoped the people would revolt against us,” counters Dr Engela.
He says he puts his faith in the Constitution, which offers people the right of free speech and sees this as “a core liberty”. He equates his work with activists who highlighted the injustices of the transatlantic slave trade.
“Social reformers who were liked were rarely effective and those who were effective were rarely liked,” he says.
“Photos of aborted babies are vile and disturbing because the thing the photos portray is vile and disturbing.”
Despite being active and visible during the Eighth Amendment referendum campaign, Dr Engela insists “the ICBR is not involved in political activity”. He says the organisation will continue to protest despite the referendum result.
“We shall continue to do so without any regard to any future decision,” he said.
I ask if this is the beginning of a long campaign.
“We are conducting long-term educational projects generally related to abortion well before any referendum was in view, and we will continue to do so without regard to any future decision,” says Dr Engela.
Despite the backlash, he insists his members conduct themselves in public with respect and courteousness.
But what is his motivation for his work and does he believe it is faith-based?
Dr Engela emphasises that the ICBR is a non-religious organisation.
“Though not required, many of the activists involved with us are people of faith,” he says. “That shouldn’t surprise us. Social reformers were often people of faith and so am I.”
I was curious to know if the graphic images on the ICBR’s posters have the same impact on him.
“We should be upset. It’s a sign of a functioning conscience. I continue to find them upsetting to look at. The photos show the reality. If we find abortion photos so upsetting, why would we support abortion practice?” he asks.
The extent of public upset often ends in anger. Anger aimed at the ICBR.
So how does Dr Engela cope with the hatred and vilification?
“Whether someone quietly comes over to voice their support or someone gives me the middle finger, I find both responses affirming precisely because it demonstrates that both individuals have a functioning conscience,” he says.
Asked how he felt towards women who have procured abortions, Dr Engela feels they have “been lied to about prenatal development by their teachers, the press, and the medical establishment”.
He says: “We strongly believe that post-abortive women are abortions’ second victim, and that abortion already punishes women with tragic severity without ever prosecuting them.
“We understand experientially that every woman who aborts knows that what she is doing is wrong — but few understand how wrong. The humanity of the child is systematically hidden from her by society. The inhumanity of abortion is methodically hidden from her by society.
“Women are lied to about prenatal development and abortion by their teachers, the press, and the medical establishment. The pro-life movement and even the church have unwittingly conspired with the abortion industry to hide the horror of abortion.
“We allow them to be lied to and then punish them for believing the lie? Where is the love in that betrayal?
“Countless pregnant women have told us they have changed their minds about ‘pregnancy termination’ when shown the inexpressible evil of abortion. Countless post-abortive women have told us they would have never aborted had someone shown them that truth before instead of after they aborted.”
“The Centres For Disease Control report that nearly half of all abortions are performed on women who have already had one or more previous abortions. Post-abortive women are, therefore, among those most at risk of aborting, and are, consequently, among those in greatest need of seeing our deeply disturbing abortion photos.”
So what next? Will Dr Engela and his group target GP surgeries?
“So you are aware, the Irish Centre For Bio-Ethical Reform is not involved in political activity related to a constitutional referendum. We are not a political organisation,” he says. “We don’t protest abortion. We don’t have to. We hold up a photo of an aborted baby and abortion protests itself.
“The reluctance to view abortion imagery compounds an already serious problem of physicians in Ireland and the UK [where thousands of abortions are performed annually on Irish women] failing to provide abortion information that is adequate to obtain informed consent.
“If unprofessional medical personnel will not disclose the truth about abortion, they are behaving disgracefully and dishonourably, and that responsibility then falls to lay campaigners — and a person’s resistance to information regarding a clinical procedure does not relieve the healthcare professional (or any person of conscience) of their obligation to provide that information, even over the objection of that person.”
Garda detectives took away their graphic posters from the city hall archway in Kilkenny , but had to return them to Dr. Engele.

The girdle makes a comeback for women – and men too!

Women’s Journal by Mary Murphy.
For men you now have “the Mirdle”, though we couldn’t find it available in any of the Kilkenny stores. So you have to measure yourself up and order it over the Internet, Ebay and Etsy being good places to search. There’s “Secrets in Lace” website with gorgeous models in girdles, suspenders and nylons too.
Women mostly wear them today to fit into their wedding or bridesmaid’s dresses as they are still essential for a smooth slim figure on the big day.
There’s for and against girdles on the health issue of wearing them constantly. Proponents say that they take the stress off the heart of holding up bellies and bottoms and that they hold vital organs back in their natural places.
There’s also the successor to the girdle known as Spanx today, though they’re flimsy and not any good to flatten a good country Irish belly or a transom of a bottom. The much maligned girdle is a blessing on the wedding day, especially for an over-endowed bride.
Once they were worn all day every day. We asked a couple of elderly ladies and they said that after several months of daily wear that if you started young you’d never really feel them bothering you again when you got used to them. One woman laughed as she remarked, “Fellows got a surprise as they tried to pinch my bottom, I was known as The Dead End Kid. ”

Another lady told us that she actually missed her girdle when it was off. “I actually feel all loose, even a bit naked, without a girdle”, she said.

Another said she wouldn’t go outside the door without  a girdle. She swore it took a couple of inches off her waist and that the restriction in moving, especially bending, was worth it.

Just the thing for the men for a beer belly!


Kilkenny Gardaí are investigating reports of an incident on the Hebron Road.
A post on social media claimed that three children had been stopped in the Ossory Park area by the occupants of a grey transit van who tried to force them into the vehicle.
Luckily this horrific attempt failed and the children got away and are safe in the bosom of their families.
Gardaí were alerted and say there is an investigation underway. Please be careful and extra vigilant.


May 30, 2018


Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile Museum is one of 32 shortlisted projects in the running to be named Ireland’s favourite building.

The former St Mary’s Church, in the heart of Kilkenny City in St Mary’s Lane, opened  last year after a five-year excavation and renovation programme. Kilkenny Civic Trust are the licensed operators of the museum, which has proven a popular tourist attraction.

The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) has launched the ‘public choice’ vote for Ireland’s favourite building, place or public space, ahead of  its Irish Architecture Awards on June 8. The museum — by architects McCullough Mulvin — is shortlisted.

Now in its 29th year, the awards are one of the most prestigious of their kind. They celebrate the quality of current work by RIAI Members at home and abroad, and create awareness of the contribution that architects make to society for everyone’s benefit. 

This year’s public choice shortlist is made up of 32 projects across Ireland including residential homes, commercial spaces, schools, healthcare facilities, heritage locations and public spaces. All of the projects on the shortlist have been designed by RIAI-registered architects and were practically completed in 2017.

Since its opening, the Medieval Mile Museum has been making headlines for the right reason. In April of this year, the museum was awarded a Judges Silver Award at the Irish Construction Excellence Awards. The project also received an ‘honourable mention’ in the 2018 DOMUS International Prize for Restoration and Preservation.

Online voting for the RIAI Irish Architecture Awards is now open. All of the shortlisted projects are available to view on the RIAI website at Voting closes at midnight on Friday, June 1.

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May 31, 2018


May 31, 2018



Kilkenny could become home to a new national cultural hub for Ireland.
Local Junior Minister John Paul Phelan has told KCLR today that he’s in the process of pitching the city to those tasked with finding a location for this new multi-million euro project.
€60 million is being made available under the Ireland 2040 Project – which was launched today – for a cultural development.
And he says Kilkenny is where it should be:
“I think people in Government realise that too. And I think that the statement here with Evan’s Home, coupled on top with everything else – whether it’s the Medieval Mile in recent years, the transformation of Butler House itself, the fact that we have the Craft and Design Council and the Heritage Council. I mean, Minister Madigan when she was here three months ago, she saw immediately the potential Kilkenny would have to be that hub.”10001310_625718824150001_220871484_n



The former Kilkenny Journal offices, Patrick Street, Kilkenny, Ireland. The historic paper folded after 200 years in 1965, now we’re online in 2018!

The late Tim Donovan of St. Teresa’s Terrace, Kilkenny, originally from Clara where he is buried, was the last editor of The Kilkenny Journal.  Tim was the better editor in the Kilkenny of his time. A gentleman and a good decent fellow I trained as a journalist on the paper under Tim. He would do a favour in an instant, but  he could make life difficult as he was always and ever obsessed with the danger of libel.  When the paper folded Tim took over the as correspondent for the Dublin papers in Kilkenny.

The other reporter on the paper was a witty lover of gardening and the opera from Thomastown, a dedicated bachelor called Jim Dockery.

The Kenealy family owned the paper. Billy Kenealy  ran the print works in rolled up sleeves on the shop floor while he kept an eye on the paper that he didn’t know much about. In fact the 200 -year-old printing machinery had to be replaced and Billy took the decision to close the paper rather than invest in replacement plant. His only interest was in job printing that he carried on after the paper was gone. He was assisted by his son Brian Kenealy who was office manager.

Today the front office of the paper is a delightful antique shop , run by Maura Kenealy, as you see pictured.  The big “shed” that housed the print shop itself is through that black door in the picture. The reporters room was up a rickety wooden stairs where three of us sat around an enormous table surrounded by tons of musty files.

I was  the paper’s Madame Katrina making up the horoscopes. Ladies throughout Kilkenny even got married basing their decision on the ramblings of my fertile 17-year-old brain. I remember rummaging through the papers 1911 editions to copy over and update the horoscopes published therein to 1964.