A favour for Taner Kiliç

If you do nothing else this weekend, do this. Take action to free Taer Kiliç from a Turkish cell. You can do so here. I don’t care if you’re a friend, acquaintance, or just someone whose stumbled by this blog. It doesn’t cost you anything, and you’ll have a feeling of having done something positive afterwards.

Here’s why

Taner is the Chair of Turkish Section of Amnesty International. He was detained in the early hours of 6 June 2017, along with 22 others, on suspicion of involvement with what the authorities are calling a “terrorist organisation”, Fethullah Gülen. Shortly afterwards, he was charged with membership of the organisation and remanded in pre-trial detention.

Fethullah Gülen is a political organisation with very different views than Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Those views maybe contrary, but they are definitely not extreme. There’s no evidence that it has been involved in any terrorist activity.

What’s more the evidence that Taner Kiliç was a member of Fethullah Gülen is flimsy at best. The only claim that supposedly links Taner to the Gülen movement is that Bylock (a secure mobile messaging application that the authorities say was used by members of the group) was discovered on his phone in August 2014. He denies having downloaded it.

Didn’t I hear he’d been released?

Well yes. On 31 January a court in Istanbul ruled that Taner should be released on bail. However in an unprecedented move by the judiciary, the prosecutor appealed the decision. The end result was another court ordered him to be detained once more. So with his wife and family waiting to greet him outside prison, he was taken again to a nearby police station pending the appeal outcome.

Amnesty International’s UK Section Director Kate Allen said:

“The decision to rearrest my colleague Taner is a complete disgrace.”

“The court yesterday released him on bail because there was no evidence produced against him. Yet his rearrest raises more questions for the Turkish authorities to answer.”

“It is not Taner that is on trial, it is the Turkish justice system.”

“We will stand alongside Taner and his family, and we will continue our work until this travesty is brought to an end.”

It’s personal

Taner Kiliç is a lawyer and human rights defender whose brave work threatens Turkey’s oppressive regime. He is being targeted because of his work as Chair of Amnesty International Turkey.

I am a former Board member of the Amnesty International UK Section, and at one time considered standing for the position of Chair. Although I never applied for the role, I am well aware of what it takes to fulfill such a position. I deeply respect the work of human rights organisations like Amnesty International, and completely understand how easy it would be to undermine their work by doing something like the Turkish authorities suggest.

The post of AI UK Chair is a fortunate position. The holder doesn’t live in a country where the fear of ISIS or a Kurdish independent state results in an oppressive judicial system carrying  out the will from on high. They can go about their role without fear of arrest. In all my years of campaigning, the worst I’ve had is being filmed from inside the occasional embassy.

Take action……..now!

So please, do it! We can win this battle and get Taner back where he belongs; back with his family and protecting the rights of those who need them.

 

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions/free-taner-kilic?from=issue

Nazanin Zaghari-Radcliffe: Should we do more to help her?

The case of Nazanin Zaghari-Radcliffe is a distressing one. Nazanin, a dual British-Iranian citizen, was arrested in Tehrain in April 2016 along with her one year old daughter. She was visiting her parents, to allow them to see her daughter for the first time. Accused of spying, something she denies, resulted in a five year jail sentence. The incarceration is bad enough for Nazanin, but its affect must be brutal for her daughter whose not seen her Mother or Father for two years. There are reports that Nazanin’s physical and mental health are severely affected.

Nazanin

Back in the UK, her husband heads a campaign for her release. He’s lobbied the UK Government with only limited success. Even just getting access to Nazanin by telephone has taken a gargantuan effort. Her parents rarely are allowed to visit, and her daughter’s British passport has been confiscated. This means she too is trapped in Iran unable to leave, effectively a hostage. Whatever the charges proven or unproven against her Mother, not allowing a young child to return to the land of her birth is barbarous.

Just this week there are reports of new charges being placed on Nazanin. This isn’t uncommon in Iran, but in Nazanin’s case each step forward seems to result in two steps back. It is a shocking case of human’s being used as a political football in a wider geo-political power game.

The UK Government has raised her case with the Iranian authorities. Our Foreign Secretary has visited Tehran and mentioned her case there, even if his attempts appeared cack handed. Quite what was said is open to conjecture, as Nazanin’s husband was refused a visa to join in. The UK Ambassador backed a recent request for Nazanin to be temporarily released for her daughter’s fourth birthday. Our Government says it is doing “everything possible” to bring Nazanin home.

That’s diplomatic language. Could they do more? Yes of course. Would that be wise? That depends on your viewpoint.

The real sadness of this case is the lack of communication, at least in public, between the Iranian and UK Governments. The relationship has been fractious for a long time, and doesn’t show signs of improving any time soon. There may well be diplomatic efforts being made behind the scenes, but the wider context of trade and Middle Eastern politics often seem to get in the way. Nazanin’s case just don’t hold the same importance as the Syrian Civil War or Israel and Palestine to the great and the good of both countries. Oh and let’s not forget that Iran is involved in a proxy war in both those places.

Reading about Nazanin’s case, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking it is a hopeless struggle. The Iranians won’t budge, so why waste your time with it. To anyone thinking like that, I’d ask them to think about the last time they were treated unfairly. Did they just accept the injustice? More likely they spoke out and tried to change things. If we all just accepted the status quo, the world would be anarchic with egotistical maniacs reeking havoc on us poor mortals.

Maybe you feel that keeping the Iranians “on side” is more important than one woman’s freedom. I believe it is not an either or option. We can ensure they keep to their international obligations AND free a woman who clearly hasn’t committed any crime.

So if you want to help Nazanin and her family, just do one thing. Go to http://freenazanin.com/, click on the “How You Can Help” link and take action.

Go on, do it now before you forget. Thank you.

England’s World Cup chances? In a word slim!

When a national team reaches a major tournament, there’s always fevered anticipation as to who’ll be in the squad. At least there should be. As a football fan living in England, it’s clear that there isn’t a particularly high expectation of the English team setting the world alight in Russia. The national team has lived far too long on the 1966 victory, and even then only because of a dubious Russian lineman. The teams of the late 80s and early 90s showed promise, but since then it has been all downhill.

Interestingly current manager Gareth Southgate has picked one of the youngest England squads ever to play in a major tournament. Several household names didn’t make it. That’s a brave call, and either sets him up for a major fall when they lose to Tunisia, or gets him a knighthood when they win a penalty shootout against Germany in the semi-finals.

  • Goalkeepers: Jack Butland (Stoke), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Burnley).
  • Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Harry Maguire (Leicester), Danny Rose (Tottenham), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Ashley Young (Manchester United).
  • Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea).
  • Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Jamie Vardy (Leicester), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal).

Read through the names quickly, and you’d be quite optimistic. With the odd exception, they’re all Premier League first team regulars. Around 75% are from top six clubs, but I can’t help feeling slightly underwhelmed. For a start there are players like Dele Alli. Any Wimbledon fan will tell you that as a former Franchise FC player, they wish he’d disappear into oblivion. My issue with him is that he tries too hard to cheat. He’s young, talented, and immensely arrogant. He’ll get found out at this level.

England’s major problem is defense. There are some OK players, but against the world’s best, I just can’t see them doing well. Even if the likes of Cahill and Jones stay fit. The front line is OK, even if the experiments of having both Vardy and Kane on the pitch at the same time never seems to work. Sterling like Alli dives too much, and Rashford doesn’t dominate games. England’s success depends too much on all players bringing their A game to every game.

Most England fans remember The European Championship two years ago. Back then we were knocked out in the group stage by that major footballing force Iceland! Iceland may not have a team of household names, but they showed that night how 11 players well drilled and playing with pride could upset the form guide.

Southgate’s experiment may well prove to be a tactical masterstroke, but then again it could bring back memories of that truly awful penalty miss against Germany in 1996. Now who was it that missed it again?

Adverbs make no sense

Has your partner ever asked you to clarify what you mean when you say, “I’ll do that LATER”? If so, help has arrived in the form of a crack team of language experts. They’re lobbying the UK Parliament to eradicate words that cannot be accurately quantified. They argue that words like SOON, QUICKLY, VERY, MORE, and AWHILE, add little information that isn’t already known, and paint an inaccurate picture that is open to interpretation.

For example, if my wife asks me when I’m going to cut the grass and I say, “I’ll cut it later”, she only knows I will cut it, but not when. In my mind that could mean after meeting Bill and Terry for a beer this afternoon, or maybe even later in the week? If I’d said, “I’ll start immediately after the football ends on the TV”, at least we’d have a sound basis for the start of negotiations!

Apart from restoring marital harmony, having to accurately quantify information has other uses. For example:

  • Saying Montreal is REALLY cold in the winter is not only obvious to most of us, but inaccurate if you’re from Siberia.
  • If I say, “I’ve a LOT of vinyl records”, just how many do I have, and it is “a lot” to you?”
  • If a company announces it is CLOSE to releasing their new product”, you can tell their press release has been written by their Marketing team.
  • If you’re asked if you can complete a task quickly, and you respond “Yes”, what are the expectations of both parties of when the task will be completed?

It’s a minefield. I just wish they’d start eradicating words and phrases like “24/7” and “dude” first.

What can we learn from religious fasts?

Depending on where you are in the world, the Islamic month of Ramadan has either started or is about to start. It’s a serious fast for someone like me, with no food or drink to be taken between sunrise and sunset.

Fasting is only one side of Ramadan. Another is ensuring you get enough sleep. In the UK the sun rises at around 5am at this time of year, and sets around 9pm. Throw in the pre-dawn prayers, and it means having to finish eating at around 3:30am. Assuming you break the fast around 9:30pm, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for eating and sleeping.

As an Irishman, I was brought up in the Catholic faith. Growing up I had little or no exposure to non-Catholics. Even when the family moved to London, I went to a Catholic school and mixed in Catholic circles. In short, I was a perfect example of how not to integrate.

We Catholics love a bit of fasting. When I was very young, it was always no meat on Fridays. That changed to being allowed fish. If you went back a generation or two, it was a complete Friday abstinence. Even now the “fasting rule” on Friday differs depending on where you are in the world.

Then there’s the “no eating an hour before mass” rule, which changed to an hour before communion. I never quite understood this change, as you could eat directly before leaving for mass and in most cases still make that pre-communion deadline, as this was received shortly before you left the church.

Our major fast is Lent covering the 40 days before Easter, although it isn’t really a fast. It’s more an opportunity to give something up. Like most young impressionable scallies, I was encouraged to give something up for the duration when I was young. Predictably most of us gave up sweets, knowing full well we wouldn’t last a week.

As an adult with a much deeper appreciation of various religions, it is clear just how different they are when it comes to fasting. Most fast at some time or other, but for quite different reasons. The one exception I’ve found is Sikhism.

Quite a few have short period fasts, and have different rules. For example Judaism, Buddhism, and Hindu have fasts around feast days or periods of reflection. Buddhism allows milk during fasts, whilst Judaism doesn’t allow any liquids. Hinduism’s rules vary based on local customs.

In the Christian faith even Lent has different durations. The Syrian Orthodox Church has it at 50 days, and the Coptics 56 days. Even then, one look of the wikipedia page on religious fasts, demonstrates how Christians are hopelessly split between the eastern and western traditions. And within those different churches from various geographical regions, that have different rules.

I’m tempted to try a sunrise to sunset fast for a day. I won’t do it for any theological reason, just to see what it feels like. I’ve gone without meals before, but hardly ever out of choice. To do so for 40 days, and to deal with the lack of sleep and logistical nightmare of food preparation, is something I don’t aspire to.

If I do, I’ll report back on my findings. Not today though.

Am I an anti-Semite?

anti_semite

There’s a convenient line of attack, that if you’re anti-Israeli, you’re by definition anti Jewish. I’m neither, but I have a big problem with that line of defence. It is like saying that because you hate crunchy peanut butter, you hate all nuts. What really bothers me though, is how effective that argument is. Such a head on attack dog strategy, deflects the argument onto ground where the accuser has to be defensive. In doing so, the original argument’s credibility is weakened and diluted.

You may wonder what the answer is to the Israel and Palestine issue. It’s become so polarised that anyone speaking out against Israel is immediately pounced on as anti-Jewish or anti-Israel. Side with the Palestinians and you’re accused of undermining international law.

The recent violence in Gaza is a case in point. Any minor event is likely to raise tensions, but the official opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem was anything but minor. The move of the US administration to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and moving their Embassy from Tel Aviv, was bound to inflame deep seated grievances.

The violence followed a well trodden path. Crowds of young Palestinians gather and throw rocks at members of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). The IDF respond initially with tear gas, followed by live ammunition. The IDF say they came under gunfire. Whilst this hasn’t been verified, there may well have been Hamas fighters nearby. I’d expect a country to defend itself from external aggression, but in this case it is less clear who’s country needs defending. A bigger question is, was the IDF’s response disproportionate?

This flash point originated because of the US administration’s de facto approval of the whole of Jerusalem being Israel’s capital. Prior to 1967 Jerusalem was divided into East Jerusalem under Palestinian control, and West Jerusalem under Israeli control. It was an uneasy peace, but by invading and annexing the east side of the city in 1967, Israel lit the blue touch paper of the largest firework ever to be seen in the region.

East Jerusalem still isn’t recognised as part of Israel under international law. Throw in the treatment of Palestinians both in East Jerusalem and Gaza, plus the unlawful building of Israeli settlements, and Israel has a lot to answer for. As for Hamas, it is a terrorist organisation in the eyes of many countries. It is also backed by states with good reasons for seeing Israel’s demise.

Perhaps unwisely, I believe that a two state solution is the only way of allowing the Palestinians and Israeli’s to live side by side. In order to achieve this, Israel must accept they’ll have to give back East Jerusalem. As unpalatable as this may be. That isn’t going to happen anytime soon. The settlements built in East Jerusalem for Israelis is a major issue. So is how the border between East and West Jerusalem would be policed. As for whether Hamas and their backers would accept the status quo and cease their claim to all of Palestine, including all of Israel?

I never said solving the Israel versus Palestine issue was easy.

Why I despise Eurovision

I’ve a friend who loves Eurovision. She has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of previous acts, and has been known to throw themed parties on the evening of the contest. Personally I’ve not seen the attraction of a contest since it became more about the contestant, the song’s staging, and making the song as controversial as possible.

Not that I’ve got anything against controversy. it is just that when a song contest requires controversy or an ac being so different that the ability to write and sing a song comes a distant second, it is time to look elsewhere for my entertainment. Whether it is a woman making chicken noises, heavy rock groups dressed in latex, or octogenarian babushkas, it is time to call it for what it is.

It is no longer a talent contest, but a contest to demonstrate just how avant garde you can be without upsetting people’s sensitivity too much.

Those last two words underline the issue, but when the status quo is upset by something other than the song, surely that shouldn’t be part of a song contest.

Do you agree? I’ll let you decide after watching the 2018 winning PERFORMANCE!

 

 

2018: A year of monthly challenges

As the last few chords of Auld Lang Syne disappear into the long and distant past, our minds turn to new year resolutions. Now I’ve never been one for making them, mainly because I don’t see the point. After all, if it was worth doing, why leave it until 1st January each year. Secondly, they’re mostly either unrealistic or not quantifiable.

This year I decided to do something a little different. Instead of doing something (or not doing something) forever, why not do it (or not do it) for a month. Then at the end of each month do something (or not do something) else. Oh and just to add a bit of spice to proceedings, every time I fail, I donate £5 to charity.

Things started predictably with “Dry January”, a relatively recent phenomenon where you detox by giving up alcohol. It’s a natural fit after the excesses of Christmas. I’m not a big drinker, so I started with an easy challenge. Only on one occasion did I slip up, and then because I forgot about the challenge. Unfortunately I’d already invited a work colleague for a drink before realizing, so I couldn’t exactly pull out. And I only had one beer.

February saw me give up using lifts. This was a major step up (sorry about the pun!) as I work on the 6th floor of our office building. Walking up and down those stairs at least three times a day was more of a physical challenge, but it helped my fitness levels. I only slipped up once.

March saw my hardest challenge yet. I gave up all sweets. That’s right. No cake, chocolate, or biscuits. I’ve had to pass on the cakes and sweet goodies folk have brought in to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. Plus seeing folk go to the office candy machine near my desk was a constant reminder of the challenge. Not only that, but those occasional mid afternoon trips to buy an apple turnover or pastry were no more. As we draw near to the end of March, it is fair to say it’s been difficult, but not impossible.

In not sure what April’s challenge will be. I’d quite like it NOT to be health related, but the ones I have in mind are. Maybe it will be to take 15,000 steps a day. I have my Fitbit to help me, and I’m a keen runner so it shouldn’t be a big issue. What else should I try in the coming months. It needs to be challenging, without being impossible. As I’ve stated, I’ve occasionally transgressed. I don’t mind doing so, so long as I’m not bankrupted in the process!

Adobe’s Technical Writing Trends 2017 Survey Results

Each year Adobe run a survey for Technical Writers. It asks questions about the tools, methodologies, and strategies used by those in the technical documentation industry, and tries to predict what will change in the future. They have a vested interest in the survey’s results, as they produce a number of applications used by Technical Writers. That said the results aren’t focused on their products, inside aiming to provide an honest picture of the industry. Having listened to the survey results in their recent webinar, here are my key takeaways.

Structured Authoring

It isn’t a surprise to see companies increasingly using structured authoring. It has many benefits, particularly for those with large content silos, multi-faceted output requirements, or translation needs. As such, the mean requirements for moving to a structured authoring environment were the ability to reuse content, apply consistency, and make it easy to update.

What is a surprise is the growth rate. According to this and past surveys, companies that have either adopted or were thinking or adopting structured authoring, has grown from 20% in 2012, to 50% in 2017. Predictably it is the companies with a 1000+ workforce that use structured authoring most, with over 50% of them adopting the methodology.

Benefits of structured authoring

DITA XML remains the stand out standard used to deliver structured content, with nearly 75% of structured authoring respondents either using it or likely to use it. Custom XML solutions come second with 47%. Again no real surprise, apart from the percentage of those focused on DITA XML. It has been around since 2001, but in recent years has been widely developed and adopted since IBM handed over the management to OASIS.

Output Types

PDFs are dead. Long live PDFs! Folk have been predicted the demise of PDFs to deliver content for years, but they’re still widely used. The survey shows a 90% dominance over all other output types. Responsive HTML5 comes a distant second at around 50%, although this is up significantly on recent years. That said, it looks like PDFs will be around for awhile yet. Not surprising really when you consider their advantages, and the lack of anything that even remotely matches their functionality.

Output Types

One interesting side discussion around PDFs was their lack of responsiveness. As we deliver content on a variety of devices, the need to make content usable on each and every device without having to create and maintain separate source files, is of paramount importance. The rise in usage of responsive HTML5 is testimony to this. Adobe more or less dodged the discussion on whether PDFs would be made more responsive. To be fair to Adobe, there wasn’t a great rallying cry from us users to make them responsive.

Personally I think most of us don’t even try to use PDFs where there’s a responsive requirement. We prefer to use a different output type that best fits our requirements. If we want responsive output that works on a tablet or mobile, are PDFs really the best output format? They can take up considerable storage space, and aren’t as user friendly as other delivery methods.

Other Usages

The later part of the webinar focused on a couple of areas that raised an eyebrow:

Chatbots

There are a small number of survey respondents using a chatbot to deliver technical content to users. It is fair to say that such delivery methods are still in their infancy, with many differing styles being used. It is also unclear how the tools we use to deliver content fit in with this delivery methodology. If this delivery model becomes more of a requirement, perhaps our tools will have to change accordingly.

I’m less sure of the need for our tools to provide chatbot functionality. There are already a number of applications that provide this. What is needed is a way to leverage our technical content inside these applications.

Alignment of Marketing and Technical Content

With the rise of structure content usage, I can see why the synergy between marketing and technical content has increased. If you can reuse content for multiple needs from a single set of source files, that’s a big vote winner. However it requires a real sea change in a company. Most companies I’ve worked for have an ongoing battle between the Marketing and Technical Communication departments. We both see the need for content reuse, style, and consistency, but have very different ways of achieving it. Part of the reason for this has been the tools we use to create the content. However if you move to structured content, the tools become less of an issue.

Adobe have a vested interest in getting more folk in an organisation to use their software. The trouble is their user base has historically been the Technical Writer community. With the growth of content marketing, it is natural that they see this as an opportunity to expand their user base. So far, I’d say this has only had limited success, but this is a long term strategy.

Summary

The results of the 2017 survey may not have provided any real surprises, but had enough of interest to make me sit up and take notice. The few thousand respondents provided a representative sample of our community, and covered a large number of job functions and levels of seniority.

My St.Patrick’s Day through the ages

About ten years ago I went to a comedy event at the Royal Albert Hall. One of the acts, Dubliner Andrew Waxwell, came on stage and asked, “Are they’re any Muslims here?” A few lone voices yelled back. Maxwell’s response perfectly summed up my experience of being Irish in the 70s and 80# in London. “Fair play to you. We love Muslims. We Irish LOVE Muslims. Why. Because you’ve taken the heat off us.”

When I was a child, we’d were able to buy shamrock from the local greengrocer in the week before St.Patrick’s Day. Shamrock was notorious for dying quickly, so we’d buy it and keep it moist until the day itself. On the day we’d all pin it to out coats and jumpers and wear it with pride. As time went on it became more difficult to buy shamrock. We’d source it through the Church or even from relatives back home, but eventually we couldn’t get it at all.

Being an Irish adult living in London in the 1970s and 1980s, wasn’t entirely easy. Racism still existed. The “No Blacks. No Dogs. No Irish” signs may not have been as common as before, but that didn’t mean discrimination didn’t exist. Just because we have laws, doesn’t mean folk aren’t going to ignore it. I remember one conversation at work with a colleague after an IRA bomb had killed a passer by in Belfast. “I see your lot were at it again” was the flippant ill-judged remark. Pushing back diplomatically did little but entrench his position, so I did what most folk would do in this position. I walked away.

Many years later I’m married to an Iraqi Christian. We joke that because of our backgrounds, we’re both terrorists but that I’m an amateur and still on probation! Joking aside, what infuriates me about such ill thought out bigotry, is the association that because I’m Irish, I’m a terrorist willing to kill and maim. In the same way that not every Frenchman wears a striped t-shirt and cycles a bike with onions over the handlebars, I don’t condone activities that harm innocent individuals.

The 90s saw a sudden thawing in relations. Suddenly it was cool to be Irish. Nearly every High street had an Irish pub. The “Celtic Tiger” saw a resurgence in the Irish economy as tech company’s were attracted by an educated workforce. Riverdance cemented the Irish identity to the world in its own unique way. Seeing that performance at the Eurovision Song Contest still brings a lump to my throat. It perfectly captured the optimism of the day in a way that celebrated one of our customs in a modern, inclusive manner.

These days being Irish is just for the Irish. Every St.Patrick’s Day you’ll find folk in just about every bar wearing silly Guinness hats or wearing ginger leprechaun wigs. Yes anyone willing to look utterly foolish can be Irish for an evening, just so long as they get bladdered in the process.

17th March 2018 was a good St.Patrick’s Day. At 8:30am I joined around 400 folk for a run around our local park. Organised by the Park Run organisation, its a very friendly and inclusive event. A shoot out to any Irish in the event briefing, and I cheered back. One of the course marshall’s was dressed in a ridiculous leprechaun outfit, and cheered us on with an equally awful Irish accent.

Roll on a couple of hours and it was time for the big Six Nations game against England at Twickenham. Ireland had already won the Six Nations Championship, but had the chance of beating England and winning the illusive Grand Slam. Something they’d only done twice before. Talking to a friend of mine before the game, we both feared a fairly stale strategic game with lots of kicking. Whoever committed the least penalties would will. How wrong could we be. With Ireland 14-0 up inside 25 minutes and repulsing everything the England offensive line could throw at it, it was looking like an easy victory. And so it was, well relatively.

It’s been a good day to be Irish, but not every year has been the same. I remember the days when you had to keep your nationality under wraps. That’s a soul destroying experience. It’s a bit like being an gold medal Olympic athlete, but told you can’t tell anyone you won. I’m Irish and proud of it. I may not shout it from the rooftops, but I’ll never deny it.

So to Irish everywhere, or those that wish they were Irish, may I wish you a safe and very Lá Naomh Phádraig Shona.

Men. Just listen to us!

"You'll often hear people say: 'You are helping people find their
voices'. I fundamentally disagree with that, because women don't
need to find a voice. They have a voice. They need to feel empowered
to use it, and people need to be encouraged to listen."

Actress Megan Markle perfectly summarised the issues women face with this quote at a press conference earlier today.  Whilst the event wasn’t solely about women’s empowerment, it did give her an opportunity to speak out on a topic she obviously feels strongly about.

I’m glad she did. As a man, I consider it important that women should be able to speak out on matters that affect them in the same way as men. It hasn’t always been possible in the past, and isn’t entirely possible yet.

So how can men help women feel comfortable in society? For a start, we need to educate men (and women) on what is acceptable behaviour in the 21st century, but also be open to listening to their concerns. Rachel Parris on the BBC’s Mash Report gives us all a very useful lesson on how to do this.

“Welcome to womenhood!” What a killer throwaway one liner! Go Rachel!