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Sean Spicer has resigned - Ambassador of Ireland next?

Sean Spicer, Trump’s White House Press Secretary, has resigned today, according to reports emerging from Washington.

While there has been speculation for some time that Spicer was on his way out, the circumstances behind his departure come as something of a surprise. According to The New York Times and Politico, Spicer resigned in protest over Trump’s new pick for Communications Director, Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci.

According to the Times, Trump asked Spicer to remain in his role, but Spicer insisted upon resigning, calling Scaramucci’s appointment a big mistake. Scaramucci, a major Trump donor and supporter, has allegedly been a point of contention in the White House, with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus also voicing disapproval.

Spicer’s reign behind the podium in the White House briefing room has been beset by controversy since the day after Trump’s inauguration, when he vociferously defended the president’s claims about the size of the crowds in attendance.

He gained particular notoriety through comedian Melissa McCarthy’s impersonations of Spicer on Saturday Night Live, with McCarthy accosting the press verbally and with a moving White House podium in a nod to Spicer's often strained relationship with the media. 

Spicer, 45, is a proud Irish American. He is a native of Barrington, Rhode Island and a graduate of Portsmouth Abbey, the exclusive Benedictine boarding school near Newport.

His great-grandfather William Spicer immigrated to America from Kinsale, County Cork, according to Simon Carswell in The Irish Times, and joined the Navy, serving in the Spanish-American War. Spicer has made his Irish pride known in Washington, DC - once wearing shamrock pants for a CNN appearance on St. Patrick’s Day.

Screencapture / CNN

What will be next for Spicer? While the rift between Spicer and his now former boss may be irreparable, he had previously been mentioned as a potential nominee for US Ambassador to Ireland. The role has been up in the air since Trump’s nominee Brian Burns withdrew his name in June.

H/T New York Times, Politico

11 things that no longer exist in Ireland

From wearing the clothes of the dead to Mass, to British soldiers patrolling the streets, how many of these things do you remember? Tell us in the comments below!

1. Wearing the clothes of the dead to Mass

iStock

Until the mid-20th century, in certain parts of Kerry and West Cork, it was tradition for someone in the family to wear the clothes of the departed to Mass in order to keep away ghosts. Over time people began to just take the clothes to Mass and leave them in a suitcase at the back of the church before abandoning the tradition entirely.

2. British soldiers

A group of Black and Tans and Auxiliaries outside the London and North Western Hotel in Dublin following an attack by the IRA, April 1921. Image: National Library of Ireland.

If you know an Irish person a hundred years old or more, ask them if they remember the War of Independence when the Black and Tans and soldiers from other British regiments roamed the land in an attempt to keep order.

Anyone 30 or over from Northern Ireland will remember Her Majesty’s Armed Forces patrolling the streets and alleys of Northern Ireland during the Troubles. For a long time, crossing the border meant being checked by the British Army, but as peace returned, so Britain’s military presence gradually melted away. Operation Banner formally came to an end in 2007 and, whilst there are still British army barracks in the province (in the same way there are in England, Wales, and Scotland). they’re no longer tasked with keeping an armed insurrection at bay.

3. Monolingual Irish speakers (probably ...)

A few decades ago, it would have been possible to find people in certain Gaeltachtaí (Irish Gaelic-speaking areas) who spoke only Gaeilge (Irish). Certainly there are a number of children too young for school who still don’t speak English currently but they’ll soon pick it up – they all watch American cartoons and movies.

There are also still plenty of people who feel more comfortable speaking Irish than English. They might not know the words for things they’ve only ever spoken about in Irish, but even this group of imperfect bilinguals dwindles year on year. Most young people who hail from the Gaeltacht leave at some point for a city and return perfectly fluent in both of Ireland’s official languages.

Have a look at this video about one of the last ever monolingual Irish speakers.

4. No drinking on St Patrick’s Day

Pints of Guinness used to be hard to come by on Good Friday in Ireland.

Up until the 1970s pubs in Ireland used to close on St Patrick’s Day. Not only was it a question of law but it was a day off for bar staff like anyone else and a day forreligious observance. The only place you could buy a legal pint was the the Royal Dublin Dog Show and many who attended had little interest in canines; one politician remarked that it was a fine event, “except for all the dogs.”

Soon the ban on the sale of alcohol on Good Friday will be lifted which means 2018 will be Ireland’s first Holy Thursday where the shelves of booze in stores aren’t cleared empty by people worried they’ll have nothing to drink the next day.

Read more: All the pubs in Ireland used to be closed on St. Patrick’s Day

5. Ladies not being served pints

iStock

Never mind St Patrick’s Day, there was a time when it was considered unladylike to drink a pint and most pubs would refuse to serve any woman who dared ask for one. In the 1970s, large groups of Dublin feminists took to visiting bars and ordering brandies. The last woman to be served would then ask for a pint, when she was refused her friends would all down their brandies and leave without paying.

6. Do you remember when there was a stag on Ireland’s currency?

WikiCommons

From independence until 2002, Ireland had her own currency featuring a who’s who of past heroes and native animals. Originally it was debated whether saints should be put on the new nation’s coins, but animals were eventually chosen in case the saints got upset at people using money carrying their images for gambling.

The ghost of the punt lives on in euro coins issued in Ireland. Most of the Irish euro coins feature the harp, the date it was issued, and the word “Éire” (Irish for Ireland) – it’s a very similar design to that used on Irish coins prior to the change in currency a decade and a half ago.

Read more: A guide to valuing all your old Irish coins (PHOTOS)

7. Snakes

iStock

St Patrick drove them all into the sea, didn’t he?

8. Green telephone boxes

RollingNews.ie

Like Irish post boxes, they were painted green and bore the word ‘TÉLÉFON.’ (Can you guess what the English for that is?) Now that almost everyone has a phone in their pocket they’ve fallen into decline and many have been removed.

9. A ban on divorce

iStock

Ireland only legalized divorce after a referendum in 1995. A previous attempt in 1986 had been roundly rejected by voters by a nearly two to one margin. The second time, the 15th amendment to the Constitution squeaked by with 50.28% supporting a change in the law.

Most of rural Ireland remained staunchly in favor of the ban but as the votes of liberal Dublin poured in a narrow 'no' became a narrow 'yes' and No Divorce campaigner Úna Bean Mhic Mhathuna was heard to hiss at her opponents at the count, "Go way, ye wife-swappin' sodomites."

10. Nelson’s Pillar

A demolish Nelson's Pillar.

A statute of British hero Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson once towered over O’Connell Street and dominated Dublin City Center. It was erected by Dublin Corporation after Lord Nelson’s famous victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. The Pillar, as it was usually called, became a popular tourist attraction but was hated by Irish republicans.

In 1966, the year the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, Dubliners awoke one morning to find O’Connell Street buried under rubble and the pillar reduced to a forlorn stump.

The Irish Government expressed its outrage, as did the establishment Irish Times. Public opinion was more mixed. Some mourned what many regarded as an icon of Dublin architecture whilst others happily sang along to a new song called “Up Went Nelson” set to the tune of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

President of Ireland Éamon de Valera is rumored to have rung the editor of the Irish Press to suggest the headline "British Admiral Leaves Dublin By Air” – something future Senator David Norris derided as, "the only recorded instance of humor in that lugubrious figure."

11. The National Anthem at the end of the movies or a play

Until the early 1970s, "Amhrán na bhFiann" ("The Soldier’s Song") used to be played at the end of a movie, play, or when the national broadcaster, RTÉ finished up for the night.

Slowly the practice faded away and whilst you’ll still hear it sung at GAA matches and played as the last tune of the night in many nightclubs down the country, "Amhrán na bhFiann" isn’t heard quite as often as it once was.

Here’s RTÉ’s version from 1961.

CNN, Fox, MSNBC chase fake news as O.J. Simpson gets parole

CNN, MSNBC, Fox News made an amazing decision yesterday.

They covered fake news.

Just when you thought the media was redeeming themselves, for their dreadful election coverage and Kardashian-types overkill, along comes evidence that, given a choice, they prefer fake news after all, every time.

So, take a bow CNN, MSNBC and Fox, you almost had us believing you were going to take your public responsibility seriously and not chase every passing moonbeam. You remain, alas, a bunch of Hyperbolloxes.

O.J, a wife beater, likely a double-murderer despite what that Los Angeles jury said in 1995, gained parole for another crime, which included a conviction for armed robbery that he committed ten years ago.

It happened in Nevada in a nowhere town called Lovelock. O.J. is 70-years-old. He is a deeply controversial figure from another era, but he has nothing to say to us anymore. He is fake news, worthy of coverage yes, but hardly of wall-to-wall mania.

Yet the cable media went nuts pursuing the latest O.J. flimflam like hounds from hell. All we need now is the Kardashians as expert witnesses and Paris Hilton as Judge Judy and we have the perfect fake news lollapalooza.

Stories ignored by cable if not by other outlets included:

- Attorney General Jeff Sessions told to resign effectively by the president? Who?

- Trump pulls back from covert aid to Syrian rebels. Where?

- GOP looks likely to face plant on Obama health insurance bill. What?

-  John McCain revealed to have very serious tumor. Huh?

Read more: John McCain will always stand taller than Trump despite his cancer diagnosis

Just when you thought it was safe to switch back on the cable networks they revealed that O.J., not the nation’s real news, was their drug of choice.

Wall-to-wall coverage ensued. They must have been high-fiving themselves in the White House, finally a day when Trump was not under relentless scrutiny.

Even his bizarre New York Times interview in which he practically invited the Attorney General to submit his resignation was essentially ignored.

The fact that this president cannot discern that the AG is bound by law to stand independent from the White House and administer justice impartially was utterly lost on him. Next, he’ll be trying to say, “you’re fired” to Mike Pence.

Way back O.J. was big news. On October 3, 1995, 150 million Americans watched the O.J. verdict (by way of contrast, the first debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton drew 84 million Americans).

It seems the cable networks, despite the fact that 1995 was a long time ago, are mesmerized by those numbers.

They think all they have to do is ride the O.J. white Ford Bronco to ratings heaven all over again, but this is 2017 not 1995, though it can be hard to tell the difference.

In the meantime, take a bow fake news.

Read more: Donald Trump looking like Richard Nixon not Ronald Reagan

Spicer does the right thing and tells Trump to stick his job

In the end Irish American Sean Spicer could take the ridicule and the humiliation no more.

A thoroughly decent human being, Spicer got caught up in the greatest fraudulent presidency in history. He worked for a man who believed loyalty was a one-way street and no matter how outrageous his behavior it was his press secretary’s job to go out and defend it.

In the process Spicer almost ruined his own career, creating comparisons to Baghdad Bob the loony tunes spokesman for Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War.

Spicer was the target of a merciless Melissa McCarthy on “Saturday Night Live” and he never knew where the next missile was coming from.

I met him at the Irish Ambassador's residence on St. Patrick's Day and found him thoroughly decent and straightforward. Clearly, he was out of his depth but then so is everyone in this chaotic White House.

Read more: Sean Spicer has resigned - Ambassador of Ireland next?

Spicer had the hardest job in politics, fronting for a man whose major default position is to deny the nose on his face, if he thinks it will get him out of trouble.

A press secretary is only as good as the information he has access to and Spicer had no access to the inner circle whatsoever.

Typically, Trump has appointed Anthony Scaramucci a businessman utterly unqualified for the job of communications director. Spicer has resigned in protest. He finally did the right thing.

Read more: Donald Trump looking like Richard Nixon not Ronald Reagan

The ghosts and racial tension behind the era of Conor McGregor

We get it.  We get it. This is all about hyping the fight, and whipping up the crowds, and creating buzz. 

So, treating Irish mixed martial arts fighter Conor McGregor with any degree of seriousness is kind of like breaking the rules.  It’s almost like taking a goofy professional wrestler seriously.  It almost feels like it’s against the rules.

So, last week, when McGregor told Floyd “Money” Mayweather -- his opponent in a much-hyped August 26th fight -- to “dance for me, boy,” maybe it’s just all part of the circus act.  Maybe we should neither defend nor criticize either one of these fighters, since they are dummies, but dummies blessed with lots of money, power and influence.  

And so when McGregor calls Mayweather “boy” -- when McGregor defends himself by saying he can’t be “against black people” because he’s “half black from the belly button down" -- perhaps to point out that he is resurrecting offensive, old stereotypes is to take a clown far too seriously.  

Mayweather and McGregor stand off.

The problem, though, is that in his zeal to be such a showman, McGregor is also reminding lots of folks of the centuries of tension between the Irish and African Americans.

And this is not ancient history.  It was just 35 years ago when Irish American Gerry Cooney faced off against heavyweight champ Larry Holmes. 

These were the days when boxing was on par with the NFL and NBA.  And as soon as the Holmes-Cooney fight was announced, all of America’s racial divisions were diverted into the fight. 

The tensions swiftly grew so bad the fighters and their respective entourages could not appear in the same room together.  Both fighters received death threats.

Read more: Racist? Conor McGregor is a hero

Initially, much of the race rage seemed to be coming from fans, trainers, promoter Don King and others on the sidelines.  Eventually, though, as The Washington Times noted last month, “Cooney and Holmes both got caught up in the hatred being sold in a war of words, and Cooney worked up a sense of rage by the time he met Holmes in the ring.”

“It was the first time I went into the ring where I didn’t have any fear,” Cooney said. “I just wanted to hit him.”

It was also at this time that the heavily-Irish fan base of the Boston Celtics basketball team was being whipped into a frenzy by another “great white hope” in another sport that had come to be dominated by African Americans. 

As the recent ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Best of Enemies noted, the 1980s rivalry between Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics and Magic Johnson and the LA Lakers was deeply rooted in the race of each star.  

And so this is the type of dynamite McGregor -- and, of course, the homophobic Mayweather also -- are playing with. 

It’s one thing to say provocative things and be outrageous.  It’s quite another to manipulate America’s tortured racial history in a way that might motivate some angry folks to send death threats.  Just ask Gerry Cooney.

This has always been one of the saddest facts of American history, that the Irish and African Americans, these two groups once huddled together at the bottom of the social ladder, too often beat each other up, rather than form a coalition that might have actually helped them climb up the ladder together.

This was true in South Boston in the 1970s, during the notorious tensions over busing.  And it was, sadly, true over 150 years ago.  That’s when African American activist Frederick Douglass said. “The Irish, who, at home, readily sympathize with the oppressed everywhere, are instantly taught when they step upon (American) soil to hate and despise the Negro. 

“They are taught to believe that he eats the bread that belongs to them.  The cruel lie is told to them, that we deprive them of labor and receive the money which would otherwise make its way into their pockets.  Sir, the Irish American will one day find out his mistake.”

Conor McGregor seems to be suggesting that that day has not yet arrived.

Read more: What do you make of Conor McGregor’s Irish skills?

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is an utterly spectacular star-packed war movie

It will never be a bad time to make a film about fighting Nazis. In director Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, which opens Friday, he revisits the epic battle between the Allies and the advancing German Army during World War II in an utterly spectacular new war film. Cahir O'Doherty reviews the stirring result starring Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh and Barry Keoghan – oh, and some guy called Harry Styles.

For America, World War II officially started with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, but for the British it began two years earlier.

Perhaps that’s why so few here in the U.S. know about Dunkirk, a pivotal battle in the course of World War II in Europe. In Christopher Nolan’s utterly spectacular new film Dunkirk, the British director aims to fix that wrong with a stirring retelling of a pivotal land battle in Europe between the Allies and the advancing German Army during World War II.

If you don’t know the history, Dunkirk brings you right up to speed in the first 10 minutes. It’s the spring of 1940 and the Wehrmacht are sweeping through western Europe using a new form of warfare they call Blitzkrieg (literally lightening war), and neither the French or British armies are capable of stopping their violent onslaught.

As the film opens a young British soldier called Tommy (played by soulful newcomer Fionn Whitehead) is making his way with his platoon through a deserted French town when they come under German attack.

The tension is amped up by Nolan’s handheld camera, giving you Tommy’s point of view as he tries to escape rapid fire from an enemy he can’t even see.

Read more: Cillian Murphy in painful ‘Dunkirk’ interview with Stephen Colbert

His rifle jams as he’s pursued by his enemies, forcing him on toward the massive beach where he can’t believe what he sees: over 400,000 British troops who are all sitting ducks waiting to be picked off by German Air Force bombing parties.

Trapped on the beaches of Normandy the soldiers are easy pickings for the Luftwaffe, and we don’t have to wait long for the rapidly firing Messerschmitts to arrive.

Every terrifying detail of their predicament is vividly presented. There’s no cover, no way to fire back, no waiting British gunships to escape to, and it increasingly becomes clear -- no way out but death.

Playing a British admiral who is as stranded as his own men, Kenneth Branagh’s character understands better than anyone the long odds that his men are facing. An experienced old sea dog, he knows Churchill won’t risk losing half his naval fleet on a rescue mission this early into the war effort, and the same consideration applies to his grounded warplanes.

What this means for the men on the beach is that they’re effectively on their own, with no way out and no way back, and as this reality starts dawning on the stranded men panic begins to set in.

At this point Nolan daringly breaks up the action and the timeline. Some scenes are played as flashbacks, while others seem to be happening in real time.

First, across the sea in England, we meet Mark Rylance playing a character called Mr. Dawson. Dawson owns a small boat and he has responded to the general evacuation call to sail to Dunkirk and risk his life with the help of young George (played by Dubliner Barry Keoghan) in a brave attempt to bring some soldiers home.

George (played by Dubliner Barry Keoghan).

What many Americans may not know is that the tide in Dunkirk was much too shallow for the large British ships to get close enough to aid the evacuation in the first place. So what started as a last hope operation of small crafts ended up being the best hope the lads on the beaches could ever have asked for.

Rylance is the heart and soul of the film, playing exactly the kind of only way out is through stalwart you’d want on your side once the stuff hits the fan.

At Dunkirk, to the horror of the British officers, a plainly marked Red Cross ship carrying the wounded is targeted, bombed and sunk by the Germans within minutes, sinking so close to the pier it almost cuts off any possibility of another ship ever making dock there.

The terror and hopelessness are powerfully moving, and Nolan plunges you right in.  When ships sink the camera goes with them, taking you into darkness and flooding water.  Time and again Nolan puts you right at the heart of the events, and he makes you feel the fear and dread the men do.

Read more: The strange history of the Nazi plans to invade Ireland

Overhead, three brave RAF pilots are in the air on their way to engage the massive German Air Force bombers that are sinking every big British convoy ship that makes it away from the beach.

One of the pilots is named Farrier (played by a perfectly cast Tom Hardy). Farrier and his two fellow airmen have limited fuel and limited time to stave off disaster and they make a valiant effort, risking their lives time and again in lethal air battles without flinching.

Hardy wears an oxygen mask for most of the film and he barely utters a line, or at least one that you actually can make out, instead conveying most of his character’s thoughts with his eyes.  I must admit he does a very fine job of it.

As he makes his way toward the rescue mission in France, Dawson’s boat comes upon a capsized British gunboat with a shell-shocked soldier (played by Cillian Murphy) cowering on top of it. Murphy is damaged possibly beyond repair by what he’s just lived through, as quickly becomes clear when we discover he can’t communicate with his rescuers.

Cillian Murphy takes charge of an escape attempt from Dunkirk.

Murphy reminds us that war damages the mind as well as the body, and he’s excellent as a heart shook soldier who has been terrorized past human endurance.

When it becomes clear that Dawson’s boat is heading back toward the battle instead of away from it Murphy gets into a panicked scuffle with Dawson and young George, with the latter taking a hard fall that cracks his skull. It’s a reminder of war’s true cost, because the possibility of death is literally around every corner and often unexpectedly so.

There are some important caveats. Once again Nolan has employed one of his utterly apocalyptic orchestral scores.  The blaring score adds to the dramatic tension, but it seems to want to dictate your response rather than trust you to arrive at it. Full of atonal surges that contrast or compliment the onscreen explosions, they more often distract from than add to the experience.

A surprise is pop star Harry Styles’ acting chops. He inhabits his role with as much conviction as his costars and is, I have to admit, completely believable as a frightened soldier desperate to get home.

It’s not known why Hitler didn’t pound the British Army from the air when he had them cornered at Dunkirk. Some have speculated he didn’t want to enflame resistance in a country he expected to conquer quickly. Others suggested he wanted to conserve his firepower for other military campaigns.

Whatever the reason, his reluctance allowed over 300,000 men to escape back to England, bolstering the British war effort, as they stood alone in Europe against the Nazi menace.

There will never be a bad time to make a film about the heroics of those who stood up to Nazism, and Nolan has genuinely outdone himself with Dunkirk, which is for my money the finest and most flawlessly presented film of his career.

Go and see it and marvel as tens of thousands of ordinary British people work alongside their military to defeat fascism, in a communal effort that quickly became known as the Dunkirk Spirit. When aid arrives from England in the form of small crafts they bring with them the most precious commodity of all: hope.

That hope was strong enough to stand firm in the years ahead until the war and the world was won again. Dunkirk is a worthy tribute to their courage.


Read more: Skellig Michael is the star of new Star Wars behind-the-scenes trailer

Dublin man who makes 50 curries a week for the homeless goes viral

The incredible kindness of a retired Irishman is taking the internet by storm after the volunteer group he prepares meals for shared his story on Facebook. The unsung hero was short of a ride to Dublin city center to deliver 50 dinners to people living on the streets when he found himself shot into the internet limelight for his noble actions.

Brian Birkett volunteers with the organization “A Lending Hand”, gathering on the steps of Central Bank in Dublin every Monday night to distribute urgent food and supplies to the shocking numbers of homeless now living in Ireland’s capital city.

Not yet registered as a charity, the group pays for the food and supplies out of its own pocket, with Birkett preparing 50 4-in-1s (an Irish takeaway meal consisting of rice, fries, chicken balls, and curry sauce) that he transports from Ballyfermot every week.

This Monday, however, he was left without a way into town and so the group posted on Facebook looking for a hand.

“So this gent who is retired, makes our homeless pals over 50 4-1 chicken curry rice and chips every Monday night,” they wrote.

“Tonight he’s stuck for a lift from Ballyfermot to Dame Street and back, would any of you lovely people be able to help him out?”

Read more: Did you know about St. Patrick’s random acts of kindness?

They immediately received a wave of offers and Gala Cabs brought Birkett and his curries to meet the others but the story did not stop there. Many people were very taken with the heartwarming story of a man digging into his own funds to help those lesser off and as well as the post itself receiving hundreds of likes, Birkett’s story has gone viral on Reddit and Imgur, receiving comments from all over the world.

Captioned “Need more people like Brian,” the Imgur post alone has been viewed over 300,000 times.

“We all cook every Monday night from our homes and make sandwiches, collect clothes, toiletries, and sleeping bags. It all comes out of our own pockets as we are not registered. We are not allowed to take cash, only vouchers,” Keira from A Lending Hand told DailyEdge.ie.

“Brian comes into town every Monday and drops his curries off to us and we serve the people of Dublin in need. He’s a good friend – we all are, we’re like a family now.”

You can find out more about A Lending Hand here.

Irish musician Sharon Shannon enchants a field full of cows in adorable video

The much-loved Irish musician Sharon Shannon is well accustomed to playing before tons of adoring fans but her following this week crossed species as she wowed a group of cows in an Irish field.

The County Clare accordion player milked her road stop for all it was worth as she was traveling to Youghal, County Cork, pulling out “the box” to see whether a nearby herd would be as appreciative of her talents as her normal crowds.

The result was incredible as the interested bovines immediately began to move in the 49 year old’s direction and almost seemed to trot forward in time to the music, gradually edging closer and closer to the source and jostling each other out of the way to get a better look.

Read more: Famed Irish musician Sharon Shannon finds love—with her late partner's brother

Shannon, known for her sunny disposition, was shocked herself at just how responsive the cows were to the music as they certainly appearing to share her own love of Irish traditional music.

Best known in the US for collaborating with Mundy on his hit song “Galway Girl”, Shannon is one of Ireland’s most famous traditional musicians, playing the tin whistle, the fiddle, and melodeon but being most prized for her button accordion skills. Her self-titled album became the best-selling Irish traditional music album in the country ever (a title it still holds) in 1991 and she continues to tour and make new music, her 10th studio album being released just this year.

The video of Shannon perched upon a wooden fence while she belts out a tune quickly went viral and has been viewed over 400,000 time since it was posted on Tuesday.

Have you ever seen animals respond to music like this before? Let us know in the comments section. 

Patients waiting nine years for medical appointments in Irish hospital

Sick Irish people are being forced to wait up to nine years before they get an appointment to see a consultant.

The Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association (IHCA) has released a report that that Waterford’s hospital has only two urology consultants for the half a million people it serves.

“Presently there is a nine-year waiting list for an outpatient appointment. At a minimum, the service requires an additional three consultants, three registrars, three senior house officers and two interns in the immediate term,” the authors report.

Under the terms of Ireland’s bailout by the IMF in 2010 the Government slashed public spending and the health budget for the years 2016-2021 was due to be $2.2 billion lower than it was in 2008 at its peak.

Equipment used, the report warns, has become increasingly out of date and the health service lacks the funding to maintain or replace it.

Read more: Northern Irish twins suffer rare condition that turns them to stone

“There are now over 589,000 people on waiting lists in Ireland’s public hospitals and there is no sign that these numbers are going to decrease. Waiting lists are spiraling out of control because there is not enough capacity in the system,” IHCA President Dr. Tom Ryan told the Irish Times.

“Public hospitals urgently need additional acute beds, intensive care beds, theatre operating time, consultants and other front-line staff. This is essential to reduce the unacceptable waiting lists, the overcrowding of emergency departments and the increasing number of patients being treated on trolleys.

“Currently, our healthcare system appears to be more focused on balancing budgets and rationing care than treating patients.”

In additional, Ireland’s population has grown by 12% since 2008 and the percentage of individuals over the age of 65 has mushroomed by a third - placing additional burden on the health service.

“There are more people than ever requiring healthcare and the upcoming budget must reflect this reality. Throughout the past decade the State has severely rationed healthcare, and with an increasing number of patients becoming reliant on private hospitals, in effect acute hospital services are being privatized by stealth,” Ryan continued.

“This situation did not arise overnight. But now the waiting lists are increasing at an alarming rate, as a consequence of decades of healthcare cuts. In addition, lack of acute hospital capacity is impacting adversely on essential surgical appointments, which have declined by over 100,000 (54 per cent) in four years, and on the delivery of timely cancer care to patients. Urgent action is needed to prevent the health system descending into chaos.”

Read more: Irishman hauled washing machine up Kilimanjaro for mental health awareness

Cillian Murphy in painful ‘Dunkirk’ interview with Stephen Colbert

Corkman Cillian Murphy stars in the hit new movie, ‘Dunkirk,’ and was roped into a cringeworthy interview with Stephen Colbert.

“One of the things that I did not know,” Colbert begins, “is that I did not know that you were Irish! Your English, your American accent was so good that you fooled me.”

“Thank you,” Murphy answers.

“Can you be fooled by people doing an Irish accent?” Colbert continues.

“Occasionally, yeah,” Murphy muses.

“But most of the time not?”

“There’s been some successful Irish accents,” he concludes, “...and there’s less successful.”

Colbert then adds, “Do you guys get lucky charms in Ireland?”

“Lucky charms don’t exist in Ireland,” Murphy ruefully informs him.

“The leprechauns hide them from you?”

“Yeah,” he says.

Colbert then tells him that he just visited Dublin with his family, where Murphy now lives.

“Amazing town,” he tells the actor.

“Oh, so you have Irish roots?” Murphy inquires.

I’m all Irish,” Colbert tells his somewhat unmoved interviewee.

Read more: Yvonne McGuinness - Who is Cillian Murphy's wife?

“Did you have a traditional Catholic school education as a boy?”

“Yep, no choice,” Murphy ruefully replies.

“Growing up would you sing traditional Irish tunes or ballads?” Colbert then adds.

“Not really,” Murphy recalls.

“See that’s a stereotype,” Colbert adds, “over here that you’re always down at the pub singing.”

“Well we were down at the pub… but just not necessarily singing… just drinking.”

The pair then discuss the evacuation of Dunkirk – one of the most famous and totemic events in British history, equivalent even to the 1916 Rising – which Colbert seems to have been unaware of previously.

“It’s a brilliant movie,” Colbert ends – something few will likely think about his interview.

But watch for yourself and decide.



Read more: How failing law school led Cillian Murphy to his acting career

Donald Trump looking like Richard Nixon not Ronald Reagan

Richard Nixon had the support of 27 percent of the American people on the day he was forced out of office by the certainty of his impending impeachment.

The 27 percent figure shows that there will always be a die-hard coterie of followers who will defend a failed politician no matter the incompetence or corruption.

Six months into office President Donald Trump is starting to descend to Nixon-like numbers, with the new ABC/Washington Post poll pegging him at 36 percent, the lowest figure six months into a presidency since polling began.

He is even underwater in a state like Iowa, where a recent poll showed him at only 40 percent approval. His standing among independents is what is destroying his popularity as he lurches from one crisis to the next.

Trump's plummeting numbers come at a time when the economy continues to perform and unemployment is at very low levels.  If that were to change then we would clearly be looking at Nixonian levels of popularity.

The poll confirms what we know – what Trump is attempting to do is clearly a recipe for failure.

It is quite simple. The electorate ranks health care as the most important issue at present, hardly surprising given that there has been so much attention given to dismantling Obamacare.

But tearing apart Obamacare is deeply unpopular. The current GOP plan would throw over 20 million Americans off health care, adversely affecting the elderly and the poor and allowing junk insurance plans which cover very little to be offered.

Amazingly, Republicans in the House and Senate have gone along with the hare-brained Trumpcare plan against the wishes of over 60 percent of voters who prefer Obamacare.

It is self-evident what is happening – you can't force junk health care onto people.

Read more: Unraveling of Team Trump is near as Russian connection comes clear

Sure, Obamacare needs fixing, but replacing it with a lemon does not work.

What Americans want is obvious – they’re looking for both parties to sit down and iron out the problems in a health care system that currently covers far more people than what Trumpcare offers.

But the Republicans, supremely arrogant in power and determined to insult Obama at any cost, have utterly lost the run of themselves.

They see no need to conciliate or seek agreement. It is their way or the highway.

Their hero Ronald Reagan knew differently.  On the massive issues of the day he consulted regularly with House Speaker Tip O'Neill, and the two old Irish pols found a way to save Social Security, for example, which was deeply in the hole at the time. Trump has no such intent.

These days foreign leaders have figured out the way to his heart is through huge displays of pomp, power, and excess, such as those displayed in his honor by Saudi Arabia and France. The spoilt little boy demands more and shinier objects. Let the poor eat cake.

Meanwhile, the daily drumbeat of scandal continues and Trump nears the Nixonian popularity zone after just six months in office.

Is it just me or does the next three and a half years seem like the longest and most dangerous stretch in recent history?

Let’s just hope we make it through.

Read more: John McCain will always stand taller than Trump despite his cancer diagnosis

The cheapest and most expensive places to buy a home in Ireland

Looking to purchase a home in Ireland? The Irish real estate market is starting to boom again, with a wide range of properties to suit different budgets.

Currently, the cheapest place to buy property in Ireland is the Roscommon town of Ballaghaderreen. The midlands town made headlines earlier this year when it gave 80 people from Syria a refuge from war and a second chance in life.

At the highest end of the spectrum is Sandycove, located between Dun Laoghaire and Dalkey along the DART line. Ireland’s most expensive neighborhood for buying a home is an affluent enclave in Ireland’s capital, where hundreds flock on sunny days to walk their dogs along seafront and gaze out across the Irish Sea.

Little wonder that a place that is a short commute to Dublin, but also affords spectacular walks and sea views will set you back a bit more than one in Ballaghaderreen: the average property evaluation for Sandycove is $909,000 according to a report by Daft.ie.

In Ballaghaderreen the price of a home is less than 10% of that, only $67,000.

At the moment the most expensive property going in Sandycove is 6 Elton Park. It’s a semi-detached house with 5 bedrooms and three baths and listed at €1,950,000 ($2.25m).

6 Elton Park, Sandycove. Photo: Daft.ie

There’s a garden, chandeliers, a dining room and so many other rooms featured in the pictures that it makes you wonder if it’s only one property.

6 Elton Park, Sandycove. Photo: Daft.ie

Slightly more below the middle of market in Sandycove is 59 Lower Albert Road which comes with an asking price of $915,000.

59 Lower Albert Road, Sandycove. Photo: Daft.ie

It boasts three bedrooms, a garden, is located a short walk from the train station and well within the catchment area of a number of well-respected private schools.

59 Lower Albert Road, Sandycove. Photo: Daft.ie

Right at the bottom of Sandycove’s housing ladder is 3 Albert Court on Sandycove Road. Priced at $345,000 it’s just over a third of what your average pad in the area will cost, but it's an apartment which means it comes with an annual service charge – $2,200 a year.

3 Albert Ct, Sandycove. Photo: Daft.ie

It’s got two bedrooms and compared to the other two properties is much snugger.

Read more: This is how much the average house in Ireland costs

3 Albert Ct, Sandycove. Photo: Daft.ie

Across in Ballaghaderreen, however, the most expensive property, Aughaderry House, is on the market for $150,000.

Aughaderry House. Photo: Daft.ie

It’s a spacious two bedroom, detached house with two baths and a decent amount of land attached to it.

Aughaderry House. Photo: Daft.ie

On Pound Street in the town itself, a four bedroom two story house is on sale for $91,000 (slightly above the average price for property in the town).

Pound Street house. Photo: Daft.ie

It comes with a long garden at the back and two bathrooms.

Pound Street house. Photo: Daft.ie

At the lower end of the market, a two bedroom apartment at 3 Marion Court is on sale for $56,000.

3 Marion Ct. Photo: Daft.ie

It comes fully furnished and with communal parking.

3 Marion Ct. Photo: Daft.ie

Which of these homes would you want to buy? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Read more: Dream of owning an Irish hotel on the Wild Atlantic Way for the price of a house?

Irishman hauled washing machine up Kilimanjaro for mental health awareness

An Irishman who tried to lug an 88 pounds weight washing machine up Africa’s highest peak, 19,340 foot Mount Kilimanjaro, was forced to give up three hours from the summit after an eight-day hike.

Enda O’Doherty fell victim to altitude sickness, but his colleagues made certain his appliance made it to the top.

O’Doherty, a 49-year-old geography teacher from County Waterford, was on the expedition to promote a “share the load” message for those who feel their mental health issues have become a hidden burden.

After training hard to carry the washing machine, he undertook the mission to raise funds for Pieta House, a suicide and self-harm charity.

Read more: Army of Irish Darkness into Light advocates illuminate the USA

After he fell victim to altitude sickness, he told the Irish edition of The Times of London that a porter took the machine the rest of the way to the top. It was accompanied by his wife Maeve and 28 members of the 30-strong expedition crew.

“The share the load message became a reality for me. Sometimes when you are under pressure and in crisis, you need others to lend a helping hand and that is exactly what happened in this situation,” O’Doherty said.

“At various points on this hike I needed help, friendship, baby wipes, and eventually someone to carry my washing machine.”

The final leg of the eight-day hike can take up to 17 hours on Kilimanjaro at temperatures as low as -20C.

O’Doherty said that the altitude sickness was noticeable after the second day. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, dizziness, vomiting and headaches.

“I wasn’t sleeping and I began to get worried that it would get worse,” he said. “Then the ability to eat properly diminished and I knew I was in trouble.

“On the last day, I was taking about four steps a minute and hallucinating before I made the decision to keep myself safe and turn around.”

While he was disappointed not to finish and shocked at how rapidly his health declined, he was proud that more than €170,000 was raised through his project for Pieta House.

“In the two weeks that we were on this expedition, 20 people took their lives in Ireland, and I believe one of the main reasons was because they did not share the load,” he said.

O’Doherty carried a washing machine from Belfast to Waterford in 2015, and while climbing up Slievenamon, in County Tipperary, in 2016.

He said that the hike up Kilimanjaro was the most exhilarating and extreme journey of his life.

Here's a feature on Enda and his journey, filmed in advance on his journey:

The strange history of the Nazi plans to invade Ireland

About seventy years ago, German war chiefs were busy devising Unternehmen Grün or Operation Green: Nazi Germany’s planned invasion of Ireland. The plan has recently come to light.

Dublin was earmarked by the Nazis as one of six regional administrative centers for Britain and Ireland right after Dunkirk when an Allied collapse seemed imminent.

Had the occupation taken place, the Germans thought it crucial that their advancing units reach Ireland as soon as possible after the initial invasion.

The plan would have seen the fourth and seventh infantry divisions of the Germany Army being deployed to Ireland. The German 4th army corps, in particular, had a brutal reputation in battle and inflicted many civilian casualties as they secured the Polish corridor to Warsaw during the invasion of Poland in 1939.

Their advance, had the fourth and seventh been deployed to Ireland, would have been rapid - up to 100km a day - and their brutality would have been beyond doubt.

Fifty thousand troops in total were allocated for the Irish invasion with an initial batch of 4,000 crack engineers, motorized infantry, commando and panzer units to reach the Irish shore after having launched from France.

The operatives were initially to land on Ireland’s South-East coast where they expected to be met with only token resistance, and then to aerially bomb targets throughout the Irish Free State as it was then known.

Read more: Adolf Hitler, the Irish folk music fan

After this initial landing and advancement phase, ground troops of the 4th and 7th army corps would have begun so-called “probing attacks” on the Irish Army based in Cork and Clonmel, followed by a push through Laois-Offaly towards the Army’s Curragh Camp base in Co. Kildare.

Hitler and Pope Pius shake hands in front of Nazi swastika banners.

Some units would have reached the outskirts of Dublin just 48 hours after having landed in the South-East, such would have been the pace of their progress.

The Nazi politburo in Dublin was to have far reaching executive powers and would have had instructions to dismantle, and if necessary, liquidate, any of Ireland’s remaining indigenous political apparatus, intellectual leadership and any non-Aryan social institutions. The GAA would have been closed and Irish Jews would have been murdered en masse.

Ireland would have been ruthlessly subject to German martial law, with curfews also being imposed on the local population, as well as plans to commandeer resources from locals. To this end an annex was added to the plan listing all petrol stations and garages in Munster and the Midlands. Nothing wasn’t planned for.

Livestock, food, fuel, and forced labor would all have been used by the Germans in their advance northwards, which would have pitted them squarely against the civilian population.

Ireland’s army at the time of 7,600 regulars and 11,000 reserves would have been completely unable to handle the onslaught from the invading force.  The army was also incapable of mounting large-scale maneuvers and was poorly armed. Many companies even travelled by bicycle!

When Winston Churchill got wind of the German plans, he drafted detailed plans for a counter-attack to be launched from Northern Ireland. The plan, codenamed Plan W, envisaged the Irish and British armies fighting side by side to repel the intrusive German forces.

Ireland’s neutrality was respected and they emerged largely unscathed from the war, but had the invasion taken place, there could well have been large-scale casualties.

Read more: Dublin woman discovers she was born into Nazi breeding program

* Originally published August 2013. 

John McCain will always stand taller than Trump despite his cancer diagnosis

The news that John McCain is being treated for a serious brain tumor is a blow to those of us who long for the day that a McCain-type Republican Party – run by cool heads, and clear minds and compassionate hearts – takes shape.

You know, the type of party that would not deny 32 million Americans health insurance so they could gift the rich big tax breaks.

You know the kind of party where a prominent Trump supporter,  Diana Orrock, a national committeewoman for the Nevada GOP, shared a story about John McCain headlined “Please Just F‑‑‑ing Die Already.” and wrote “Amen” in her Twitter feed.

Oh those crazy little Trumpkins folks!

Right now we have the fever swamp that is Trump’s Washington with deadlock, gridlock, arm lock and leg lock everywhere.

Just when you thought things could not slither any lower another scandal erupts.

That is not John McCain’s Washington. I still think Trump’s lowest blow was to question John McCain's courage in Vietnam. Trump proclaimed he was not a hero after surviving five and a half years of torture.

“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

Huh?

And where was Trump during the Vietnam War? We certainly know he wasn’t captured.

He was busy getting an exemption for his clubbed foot or a bone spur on his ankle, or maybe he cut his finger knitting or some such evasion.

In other words, he was a draft dodger.

I know John McCain from interviewing him and dealing with him directly on the immigration issue. He is a bona fide hero and a proud Scots Irishman who loves his roots. He was the first Republican to show an interest in Irish issues at presidential campaign level, appearing at an Irish presidential forum in 2008 in Scranton.

Then there is the war hero. The wounds that he suffered during his capture were horrific and the torture he endured in the notorious 'Hanoi Hilton' were beyond savagery and cruelty – it was downright sadistic. He refuses to discuss them.

He came through it like a hero and has been one ever since.

He has been one of the very few to take issue with Trump on immigrants from Mexico and whether they are all rapists and criminals.

He feels the immigrant dilemma deeply, having been in the Arizona desert where he saw the dead bodies of women and children desperately seeking a new life, as he told us when we met him.

The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, which I co-founded in 2005, linked up with McCain on the immigration issue after 2005.

John McCain and the former Executive Director for ILIR Kelly Fincham.

We hosted him several times and he spoke at immigration rallies in The Bronx for us and in Washington DC.

He was a hero then and now. I have watched backstage as an aide had to comb his hair and button his jacket. He cannot do those things for himself due to having his shoulders broken during torture.

Yet he never complained, was always courteous to a fault. He is privately very witty and not at all ego-driven. And a hero.

Tinpan Trump is none of those things. He took $20 million his father gave him and turned it into a fortune. Easy to make a big fortune when you start with a small fortune.

Now he is playing at being president, this preposterous show-boater with the id of an oversize gnat and the ego of a Paris Hilton.

The attacks on John McCain are similar to the outrageous attacks on John Kerry, another Vietnam hero, when he ran for president.

John McCain reflects everything great about America after giving it a lifetime of service. I can only hope and pray he wins this bout against cancer like he has won every other tough battle in his life.

It is a tough fight, it is the same type of cancer that felled Ted Kennedy and Beau Biden. McCain will not lack for courage.

Trump reflects himself in a trick carnival house mirror – big, bloated and out of control. McCain reflects the best of America.

That’s the difference.

Read more: Number of Irish deportations rise sharply under Trump stats show

Irish-American Philanthropist Loretta Brennan Glucksman honored by Queen’s University

Irish-American Philanthropist, Loretta Brennan Glucksman CBE has been honored by Queen’s University.

Loretta Brennan Glucksman CBE, has served as Chair of The Ireland Funds America since 1995, raising millions for projects in Northern Ireland and Ireland supporting peace and reconciliation, arts and culture, education and community development. She will receive an honorary degree for her services to business and commerce.

Earlier in her career Loretta was a producer for news and public affairs with PBS-TV.  She was also a lecturer in English literature at several universities.

She was granted an Honorary Commander of the British Empire by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the highest honor for a non-British citizen, for her work toward peace in Northern Ireland.

Commenting on the honor, Loretta said: “It is a privilege to be recognized by Queen’s University in this manner. I have a great love for the island of Ireland and the people here. I also have great respect for Queen’s and the work that is being done at the University.”

 

Northern Irish twins suffer rare condition that turns them to stone

Twin sisters from Ballymena, County Antrim have spoke about life with a condition that is slowly turning them to stone.

Zoe Buxton and Lucy Fretwell (26) were diagnosed with fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) when they were eight - two of only 800 people in the world and only the third known set of twins.

FOP gradually turns muscle mass to bone and at the moment there is no cure.

“When I was 5, I fell off the sofa and broke my elbow,” Zoe recalled.

“We thought it was a normal injury until the cast came off and I couldn’t straighten my arm — it was agony if I tried. While we didn’t know it then, the bone that had formed over the joint was a result of FOP.”

As Zoe soldiered on with only one good arm doctors ran test after test, eventually diagnosing her and Lucy with FOP.

For some time however their parents hid the diagnosis from them, only insisting that the girls were extra careful whilst playing.

“When we were diagnosed, our parents tried to hide it from us,” Lucy explains.

“They just insisted that we were extra careful. We weren’t allowed to ride bikes, roller skate or take PE lessons in case we got injured.”

But amidst the rough and tumble of childhood the pair injured themselves seriously aged 11.

Read more: World’s oldest family, The Donnellys, share their secrets to a long life

Lucy fell over, leaving her unable to raise her arms above shoulder height and Zoe badly broke her leg when she fell off her scooter.

“After I broke my leg, I had to use a wheelchair,” she said.  

“I hated it and it resulted in a lot of arguments with my parents. But luckily, everyone was always very supportive and we never had any nasty comments at school.”

While she was still at school she met her future husband, Mike, who she described as completely unfazed by her condition.

“Mike’s a selfless person, and he always puts me first,” she said.

“He understands that I get frustrated when it takes me an hour to get dressed in the morning, and he never complains.”

Although she sometimes uses a wheelchair, normally Zoe manages with crutches and she chose to walk down the aisle on her wedding day.

“Just because I have a disability, it didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy the happiest day of my life.”

Lucy too has met the love of her life, also Michael, and the pair are set to wed next summer.

Both would like children someday but having FOP complicates things.

“Mike and I would love to start a family,” Zoe says.

“But there is a 50/50 chance that I’d pass on FOP to my child. He would rather me be alive and healthy than have an ill wife and child.”

Lucy concurs and says she and Michael will, “definitely consider adoption after we get married.”

Read more: Politician reveals he was used in Mother and Baby Home vaccine experiment

The sisters periodically head to London where they are participating in a new drug trial that could help them with bone growth but so far the results aren’t promising.

“It is difficult to stay positive, but it helps to have someone else going through the same thing as you. Sometimes I feel guilty that I have more mobility than Zoe,” Lucy admits.

“We support each other through the bad days and have also joined an awareness group to meet other people with FOP.

“It helps to spend time with other sufferers because everyone knows what you’re going through.

“Zoe and I will always have each other, and we’ll never let our condition hold us back.”

Here is a short documentary about another person suffering from FOPs:

H/T: New York Post

How to deal with an Irish favorite - cutting and peeling a turnip

Preparing a rutabaga for cooking can be a daunting task for the cook who has never handled one of these thick-skinned vegetables before. Known as a suede or a turnip in Ireland, the purplish-yellow rutabaga skin is hard and let’s be honest, it’s ugly looking.

But rest assured, hiding beneath this tough exterior is a delicious, sweet and peppery vegetable that is rich in beta-carotene and low in calories. Once you know what you’re doing, peeling and slicing one of these big tubers is quite simple.

A rutabaga...what the Irish call turnip.

Step 1: Wash the outside of the rutabaga to remove any dirt. Most American rutabagas are covered in a waxy film, so the dirt is usually removed before the application of this coating. In Ireland and other countries the exterior is uncoated and it’s important to remove any dirt before slicing.

Slicing the rutabaga.

Step 2: Place the rutabaga on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, slice the vegetable in half. I like to cut through the central stalk, to create two halves that are easy to lay flat on the cutting board.

This first cut is the most difficult and riskiest of all, since the oval surface of the tuber makes it difficult to stabilize for cutting. Take extra care, to ensure your knife does not slip.

Slicing the rutabaga.

Step 3: Turn each half onto its flat side, then cut it into 1/2-inch-thick semi-circles.  Throw away the first and last piece which are covered in thicker skin.

Peeling the sliced rutabaga.

Step 4:  Use a paring knife to remove the outer skin of each semi-circular piece.  This method is much easier than trying to peel a rutabaga with a potato peeler – really a mission impossible.

Dicing the rutabaga flesh.

Step 5:  Next, lay each piece flat and cut into 1-inch cubes.

Boiling the rutabaga.

Step 6: Cover the diced rutabaga with lightly salted water until ready to cook with it.

What to do with the rutabaga once you've prepped it!

And there you have it, a simple method for peeling and cubing a rutabaga or turnip, a technique I learned from my Irish mother.

Here’s my complete recipe on how to cook a rutabaga Irish style.

Slán agus beannacht,

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom.

* Mairead Geary came to America for one year 20 years ago. She now lives with her husband and children in Kentucky and is proud to be an American citizen. Read more on her blog here.

Amazing video looks inside the most culturally diverse town in Ireland

At first glance, Ballyhaunis in Co. Mayo may look like any other rural Irish town. It's a town with a love for GAA, struggling against the tide of emigration, but while the local hurling club tries to boost its membership, they give the rest of the country and the world some food for thought on the best ways to integrate new arrivals to the town into the community.

In the 2011 census, Ballyhaunis recorded a massive 42 percent foreign national population. Approximately two thirds of the children in local school, Scoil Íosa, speak a language other than English when they’re at home. As is the case in many other rural Irish towns in the west of Ireland, young Irish people are choosing to move to foreign soils, yet steady waves of immigration from the 1970s onward has seen Ballyhaunis became one of the country’s most ethnically diverse towns.

And the efforts of this town to celebrate its immigrants and to keep them all together as one large community have now come to the attention of the world in a heartwarming short documentary that was recently featured in the British newspaper, The Guardian. The film examines the Ballyhaunis GAA club and its multi-cultural line-up.

“Pitching Up” meets with hurling coach and local Garda Darren Conlan, who teaches young immigrant arrivals to the town how to play GAA in order to help them feel like a greater part of the community.

Shot by documentary filmmaker Maurice O’Brien, the concept for the film was based on a 2015 Irish Times article by Eoin Butler. He was struck by the incredible job the Co. Mayo town has done bringing everyone into the fold, from the wave of Pakistani and Syrian Muslims who began moving to the town in the ‘70s, to the current wave of asylum-seekers relocating to the town.

“I think personally, it really captures the flavor of what a GAA club is all about,” Conlon told the Mayo News of the film.

“As I said to people, that is real life Ballyhaunis, none of it was staged just for the documentary purposes. I don’t want to downplay this or anything, but there is no big deal in Ballyhaunis. This is real life and on-going and that is what I really feel he [Maurice O’Brien] captured. It is amazing to see what people have been saying online about it.  

Read more: Is Ireland a racist society? Many immigrants there believe so

“People that have no connection with the GAA or never even heard of Ballyhaunis are saying that it’s amazing. There is huge pride for the town and the club in that.”

A prime example of the level of this integration is 23-year-old student Hassan Iqbal, who moved from Pakistan to Ireland when he was seven and began playing hurling at 11. He hasn’t looked back since. He proudly sports a strong Mayo accent. He has represented Mayo in GAA at the underage levels. He stays true to his Muslim faith by not drinking like others on his team may do but fully engaging in his local community through sport.

Ballyhaunis was, in fact, the location of the first purpose-built mosque in Ireland in the late 70s where the local Muslim community still gather to pray, when they’re not gathered at the sidelines supporting their local teams, that is.

The town also experienced an influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe during the Celtic Tiger years. Today an old convent serves as a Direct Provision base as a center for the much criticized asylum-seeker program. Often heralded as the Magdalene Laundries of our time, those within Direct Provision are not allowed to work or receive social welfare but are instead left for years with full-board in these centers attempting to survive on allowances of €19.10 per adult and €9.60 per child per week.

While gathering at the pub is a social institution for many Irish people, many of the communities moving into Ballyhaunis cannot do the same either because of their faith or because they simply can’t afford it. And so the importance of the local GAA club and its impact in allowing everyone from local kids to asylum-seekers on Direct Provision to take part is demonstrated through flags you wouldn’t even recognize as they are proudly walked across the pitch on “Integration Day.”

“I don’t want people to think that it is Nirvana here and that it is all very fairytale, because it is not. We are a real life working club” Conlan states.

“But what is going to happen now, is that film is going to be shown to the new residents that arrive and hopefully it will show them that this is only up the road here, and the gate is always open.”

You can watch the full documentary here:

When you leave Ireland, does it ever stop being home?

What exactly is “home”?

If, for example, you grow up in the wilds of Connemara, with the backdrop of picturesque but barren mountains, roaring Atlantic waves, stony fields, and the beautiful, living Gaelic language, can you always call it your home?

Even if, as thousands upon thousands have done, you are forced to leave your native place out of economic necessity and spend your entire adult life hundreds or thousands of miles from home?

The thought struck me while watching the wonderful ‘Rocky Ros Muc’ in Galway this week that few people are as connected to their land, their local communities, and the stories the rocks and the stonewalls could tell, as the people of the West of Ireland.

Boxer Sean Mannion returned home from Boston for the emotional Galway screening of the new documentary film about his life and it was striking to see how many people in the capacity audience were moved to tears by his life story.

It wasn't because he lost a world title fight but because Sean achieved a level of fame most of us can only dream of when he fought Mike McCallum in a grueling bout for a world title in 1984. Even if he never made the dollars!

But because Sean’s story was our story, and this extremely modest man – who in many ways has been his own worst enemy – epitomizes the struggles all of us face when the land which produced us fails to sustain us and we are forced into exile, to start new lives in places like Boston, Brooklyn, Birmingham, or Brisbane.

Read More: The Comemara Contender, a Boston Irish Rocky, recalls his career

It was striking to see that a man who has spent most of the past 40 years living and working in the US still felt more comfortable speaking “as Gaelige” (in Irish) when it came to a questions and answers session after the film.

All through his life Sean has been so proud of Ros Muc, the village where he was born and the place he still refers to as “home.”

Yet Ros Muc, through political incompetence or geographical isolation or deliberate neglect, never offered Sean – nor most of his generation – a future and so he found himself bound for South Boston and a new life at a time when he was an Irish junior boxing champion.

In Dorchester, in ‘Southie,’ he found a community that sustained him, a place where he could work on the buildings when his 15-year boxing career came to an end, a place where he could enjoy a laugh and a story in an Irish pub, or a game of cards with friends and family members from “home” who would converse in Irish into the early hours.

And yet, after 40 years away, Sean still looks at Ros Muc, and Galway, and Ireland as “home.”

It’s an experience which is so common to so many of us . . . the spirit of adventure, the need to travel for opportunities, the start of a new life, and yet the loneliness and the longing many of us experience for home.

Sean is a quiet-spoken man and yet it’s remarkable how film-maker Michael Fanning and writer Ronan Mac Con Iomaire manage to get him to open up about his own personal demons, which could resonate so much with many Irish people scattered all across the globe.

We see how he embraced the new life in Boston, how the close-knit Irish community sustained him, and how his attempt to move home to Ros Muc, the place he dreamed of and was so proud of, ended after a few short months.

The reality didn’t match the dream when he compared life in the rugged, wild west, in a quiet empty village, with the new life he had made for himself in vibrant Boston.

The story of the Irish is one of exile, broken dreams, loneliness, but also a stoic determination to succeed and a story of a people who have always tried to make the most of life, even when the odds were stacked against them.

We sometimes rail against the stereotype when we are depicted as the “drunken Irish,” but even our fondness for a night out and a pint is just a reflection of how much we love to engage with and socialize with each other.

Memorably, in the film, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh talks about his own battle with alcoholism and how it was common to so many Irish simply because they were so lonely for their friends and family members back home.

Walsh grew up in an Irish-speaking household and still refers to Mannion’s village, little Ros Muc on the Atlantic seaboard, as his “second home” even though he spent his childhood in the tight-knit community of South Boston.

Some got into drugs, some drank their lives away, others joined the police or fire-fighters, or put their children through college and created opportunities which were never available to them in the little Irish villages they left behind.

At one point in the film we hear that Mannion turned down an offer of $25,000 to wear a sponsor’s logo on his shorts at Madison Square Garden, a figure which would have matched his pay package for the biggest fight of his life.

The prospective sponsor was miffed that someone else had got there first. What he didn’t know is that Sean didn’t want any money, he wanted the words ‘Ros Muc’ to be prominent when his 1984 title fight was beamed live all across Ireland.

The sponsor wanted to know what product his supposed rival had.

“People,” was Sean’s simple and honest reply.

He was fighting for a world title,before a huge global audience, but he wanted to honor the tiny community which produced him and gave him a love of boxing, and of life.

The wonderful film makes it so clear that Sean’s life has been tormented by regrets over how he lost that fight in 1984. So it was amazing to see a capacity crowd give the Southpaw (now 60) a standing ovation for this fantastic film about his full, but troubled, life.

He had an innocence when he left Connemara which ensured he didn’t earn what was rightfully his from boxing and yet he also socialized with some of the toughest criminals in his adopted city.

Sean Mannion would never consider himself a national hero, but in the way in which he has battled with issues such as emigration, loneliness, broken dreams, addiction, and a sense of belonging, he really has encapsulated so much of what is so good about being Irish.

And, of course, the film also has plenty of belly-laughs, because where would the Irish be without humor, even in the toughest times?

Sean has never felt fully settled in the United States and yet, like so many, he’d find it difficult or impossible to return to Ireland after so many years abroad.

Perhaps, though, it’s not so much about the village or the town you are from, but the people you get to know and connect with throughout your life.

His comment about the Ros Muc people reminded me of an Egyptian scuba diving instructor I undertook many trips with a decade ago.

Sabry Awwad taught people from all over the world how to scuba dive in the Red Sea for many years.

Every year, he used to laugh heartily when he’d hear me complain about having to return to the wind and rain of the West of Ireland in December.

He loved meeting people from all over the world, but he had a special regard for the Irish people he met on holidays in Egypt. For Sabry, the Irish – above all visitors from all across Europe – were special.

“You don’t know how lucky you are,” he used to tell me. “Different countries have different things to be proud of, but you guys are the luckiest of all. In Ireland, you’ve got the people.”

Ciaran Tierney is a journalist, blogger, and digital storyteller, based in Galway, Ireland. You can find his Facebook page here

View from Ireland 48 years ago today when America landed on the moon

I was 16 years old in the summer of 1969, working my first summer job in an electrical plant about ten miles from my hometown of Drogheda, on Ireland’s east coast.

The night and morning of the moon landing is impressioned on my brain forever. Like 9/11 and the Kennedy assassination, I can recall July 20, 1969, it as vividly as yesterday.

My family had gathered around our black and white television set to await the great moment.

RTE, the Irish television channel, was the only station we had and things were still pretty primitive.

A presenter called Kevin O’Kelly was the only host. He sat there literally for hours, trying to fill in the waiting as we awaited word on when Neil Armstrong, who had piloted Eagle the craft that had landed on the moon just after 9:00 pm our time, would open the hatch and step onto earth’s closest neighbor.

There was no panel of experts, no animation, or simulation. All O’Kelly had was a (very) rough replica of the lunar module and he kept telling us we would get live pictures when the Eagle hatch was opened.

Read more: Irish in Space! The top 10 astronauts with roots in Ireland

Several of my siblings fell asleep as I did myself. I can only remember one other occasion staying up as a family, which was the Muhammed Ali/Sonny Liston fight some years before.

We were awoken by a shout from our Dad soon after 3 am.

Kevin O’Kelly had just pronounced that “the hatch was open” and we were about to witness history.

Except that we could see very little. There was a very blurry image of a man descending a few steps onto lunar soil and then the immortal words -- “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” etc.

It was arguably America’s greatest moment.

It was history as we had never known it or never will again, Man had reached past his earthly existence and stepped on another world. I rushed outside to look at the moon and imagined all the billions of people who had looked up at earth’s closest neighbor and how tonight was different. The man in the moon, actually the two men on the moon as Buzz Aldrin joined Armstrong, had become fact not a children’s fairy tale.

I went back to bed but not to sleep. My boyhood mind was fired by the images and voices I had just seen. I knew the world would never be the same again. It was a turning point in history. I hope today’s young people see the day when a man like Armstrong lands on Mars --- that only seems a matter of time too.

So thank you, Neil Armstrong a brave hero if ever there was one. Thank you for what you gave us -- a moment of history that stopped the world as we knew it and made sure it would never be the same again.



* Originally published in 2014.

Irishman fights for life in Oz after seven-floor fall

An Irishman who spent a year in New York before moving to Brisbane, Australia is fighting for his life after a horror seven-story fall from a building site that saw him land on his feet, suffering multiple injuries that left his medical team amazed he’s still alive.

Dave Conway, 37, a native of Dublin, fell from scaffolding while working on the side of a building on Monday, July 10. Conway has been living in Australia for eight years, and is married with a daughter who turned seven years old on the day of the accident. 

The fall and his survival attracted significant media attention in Brisbane, which reported that Conway is no longer in an induced coma, but faces multiple surgeries and procedures that could keep him in hospital for up to a year.  One of those upcoming procedures will result in the loss of at least one of his feet.  On Tuesday, he endured nine hours of surgery on his shattered pelvis.

“It’s just shocking. You couldn’t meet a nicer fella,” his New York-based childhood friend Tadhg Ennis told the Irish Voice.

“He landed from the fall standing up straight.  That’s what saved him from death, but it also nearly destroyed him.”

Dave Conway fights for his life in hospital.

Ennis is one of the organizers of a YouCaring page to help the Conway family cope with the enormous financial obligations they’ll have to ensure David’s medial care going forward.  Virtually every limb and organ in his body was badly damaged, and there is a small bleed on his brain.  So far he’s had surgeries on his legs, his ruptured heart and ruptured lungs. 

The photos on Australian TV of Conway in his bed are tragic, and unfortunately the road to recovery is only beginning.  Doctors are unsure if he will ever walk again.

Conway’s family – his parents and two brothers – immediately traveled to Brisbane after hearing the awful news.  Conway is married and has just the one daughter, and was happy with the life he created on Australia’s Gold Coast.

“You just don’t meet lads like David,” Ennis said.  “He’s lived and worked all over the world and really enjoyed New York when he was here. He’s a skilled tradesman and can do anything with his hands.  Even when he was young he could fix anything.”

Family is the most important thing in Conway’s world, Ennis added.  “He’s always posting photos on Facebook of his daughter Keisha and Viv, his wife. They are so happy.  We can’t believe this happened to him, but we are just grateful he is still alive and taking things one day at a time.”

There is no word on how the accident occurred but an investigation is ongoing.  His family and friends are shocked at the sudden turn of events that changed the course of Conway’s life, but they call him a “fighter” who will never give up.

“We’ll be with him every single step of the way.  No matter what,” Ennis says.

To contribute to the fund for Conway, visit www.youcaring.com/davidconway.

Read more: Irish American hero Marine among 16 killed in Mississippi air crash

Ryanair boss admits families must pay to sit together on flights

Updated July 21st, 7.00am: Ryanair released the following statement:

"Ryanair does not split up families on our flights, and their Chief Executive was talking about groups traveling, rather than families. Please find Ryanair’s statement below for inclusion.

“We require families (with kids under 12) to sit together. One adult is required to purchase a reserved seat for just £4 and we give all of the kids free of charge reserved seats to ensure that families are not and cannot be separated.”"

~~~~~~~~

After denial after denial, the CEO of Irish budget airline Ryanair has admitted that families have to pay to sit together.

When questioned by a journalist from Liveline Michael O’Leary said the system wouldn’t stop groups and families from being split up.

“No – the system won't do that,” he told Joe Duffy.

“But it also isn't told, “do your best to split them up as far as they possibly can”,” he added.

When questioned further he admitted that unless a passenger pays to reserve their seating they are, “highly likely to be dispersed”.

Read More: Ryanair asks wheelchair user to walk up stairs, leaves her crying at the gate 

He denied that people are being split up more frequently than in the past and attributed the grumbling to more people reserving their seats than in the past - leaving those who don’t with less choice. Roughly half of Ryanair passengers now reserve their seats, compared to 10% a decade ago.

Seats next to the window or the aisle are kept open for paying customers for as long as possible as, “that's where we will make money.”

“No question about it,” O’Leary continued. “That is a customer choice, if you don't want to pay the extra, don't pay the extra.”

The radio show fielded a call from a man who was split up from his wife and teenage daughter on a flight from Cork to Bordeaux and labeled the policy “ridiculous”.

Read More: Ryanair boss praises Donald Trump, attacks his media critics 

Customer upset did little to move O’Leary, now reputedly a billionaire, who said it was, “the responsibility of the adult who booked the flight.”

“We haven't changed our policy,” he berated customers. “If you're not happy to pay €2 for a seat, stop complaining and whingeing. If you want to select a seat, pay €2.

“People are whining and whingeing – but you can't sit where you want. Sorry, you can't.”

H/T: Daily Mail

 

John and Cindy McCain's Irish roots: What you need to know

During the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, Senator John McCain's wife, Cindy, was asked a question about race by the Irish Times. Cindy McCain, 63, responded by saying, "Yes, Mr. Obama is an African-American and yes, we're Irish. And isn't that a wonderful thing for America?" 

On July 20, Arizona Senator John McCain, 80, announced that he was suffering from a brain-tumor known as glioblastoma. The prognosis for such an aggressive form of is rarely good. In 2009 and 2015, the same type of tumor claimed the lives of prominent Irish-Americans Senator Edward Kennedy and Joe Biden's son, Beau.

McCain's ancestors came to the U.S. from County Antrim in the 18th Century

In his autobiography, Faith of My Fathers: A Family Memoir, Sen. McCain said that he is a descendant of Hugh Young. Young had come to the U.S. from County Antrim in the 18th century and settled in Virginia. Two generations earlier, Young's family had arrived in Ireland from Scotland. The family was Presbyterians, these days McCain identifies as a Baptist. 


The Ulster Family Heritage magazine wrote in October 2008 that, "The McCains are native to Counties Donegal and Antrim originally, but are now dispersed and are also found in Counties Derry, Tyrone, and Dublin."  

In 1877, Sen. McCain's grandfather, also named John, married Elizabeth Young in Carroll County, Mississippi. Sen. McCain still has family in Mississippi to this day. 

READ MORE: Why John McCain will always stand taller than Donald Trump

Sen. McCain's ancestry is said to be reflected in his political style

An article on McCain in Prospect Magazine from August 2008 saw writer Anatol Lieven attribute many of Sen. McCain's traits to his heritage. Lieven wrote, "his obstinacy; his tendency towards unshakeable friendship and implacable hatred; his hair-trigger temper; his deep patriotism; his obsession with American honor; and his furious response to any criticism of the US."

While on the campaign trail in October 2008, Sen. McCain came under fire for telling a joke about drunk Irish twins during an event in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The senator set up the joke by saying, "There’s only one ethnic joke that can be told in American politics and that’s Irish jokes."

The president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Seamus Boyle, told Politico in response to the joke, "It was really an insult to a whole nationality to be stereotyped as drunks."  

Around the same time, Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal wrote in Irish Abroad that Sen. McCain had been "wrong on Ireland." Rep. Neal wrote that Sen. McCain's assertions that President Clinton shouldn't get involved in the Northern Ireland peace process were "on the wrong side of history every step of the way." Sen. McCain had argued that getting involved with the Troubles could damage America's relationship with the United Kingdom. 

READ MORE: Donald Trump is not fit to tie John McCain's Navy boots

 


Sen. McCain's other ancestry can be traced to the Scottish royal family of the 12th and 13th centuries, according to the New England Historic Genealogical Society. The society adds that Sen. McCain and former First Lady Laura Bush have ancestors in common. 

H/T: Immigrants in American History

H/T: Ulster Family Heritage magazine

H/T: Politico

H/T: New England Historic Genealogical Society

H/T: Irish Abroad

H/T: Prospect Magazine

What do you make of Conor McGregor’s Irish skills?

Love him or loath him, UFC champion Conor McGregor is more than likely the most famous Irish person in the world right now and one of the first names that springs to other people’s mind as soon as they discover you’re Irish.

While there has been much debate in recent weeks about the image of Ireland that Conor represents and whether we’re happy with his actions and words as a representative of the country, there is one part of Irish culture for which the MMA star has more than played his part in promoting, bringing our national language to a global audience.

McGregor’s Irish-language skills may leave a lot to be desired (and he falls back on the age-old excuses speakers of the language are tired of hearing, claiming he can understand but just can’t speak it himself) but he has on several occasions used his cúpla focal (couple of words) and even spoken to Irish-language TV station TG4 as Gaeilge.

In the clip below from 2015, he can be seen explaining how he will “buail Aldo sa cheann le mo chos” (hit Aldo in the head with my foot) as well as discussing his education in a Gaelscoil (Irish-medium school) which gave him his language abilities.  

Read more: UFC head compares Conor McGregor to Muhammad Ali

Read more: Is Conor McGregor a bigot? US columnist slams his pre-fight racist tirades

It’s with a popular Irish phrase that McGregor believes he’s going to make his money, however, referencing how “I’ll be back” transformed Arnold Schwarzenegger into a multi-millionaire.

In homage to the “Terminator” star, the Irish fighter states that “póg mo thóin” (kiss my ass) is his choice phrase!

How would you rate McGregor’s Irish skills to your own? Let us know in the comments section.

These three Irish hotels have been voted among the world’s best

Two of Ireland’s top hotels have been named among the “World’s Best 100 Hotels” as part of Travel and Leisure’s 2017 World’s Best Awards. Another is listed among the best resorts in Ireland, the United Kingdom and Europe.

Ballyfin Hotel, in County Laois, came in at number 39, with Cong, County Mayo’s luxurious Ashford Castle voted the 59th best hotel in the world. The five-star Sheen Falls Lodge, in County Kerry, was voted third in the “Top Resort Hotel in UK & Ireland” and number 11 in the “Top Resort Hotels in Europe.”

Each year Travel and Leisure invite their readers to vote for their favorite hotels, cities, airlines, other transportation, and more, between November of the prior year and March of the current year.

The prestigious site describes the “World’s Best 100 Hotels” list as: “From luxe adventure lodges to intimate inns to grand city hotels, these are the planet's best places to stay.” The results, voted for by their readers, include hotels from all over the world, from Indonesia to Wyoming.

The stunning Ashford Castle, in Cong, County Mayo

Meanwhile, the five-star Sheen Falls Lodge in Kerry has been named the number 3 “Top Resort Hotel in the UK & Ireland” and number 11 in the “Top Resort Hotels in Europe” list.

In 2016 Ashford Castle won several international awards and in 2015 it was awarded the title of the Hotel of the Year by Virtuoso. This year the stunning Lough Corrib resort made the press as it played host to Irish golfing champ Rory McIlroy’s wedding.

Read more: Once in a lifetime stay in the “best hotel in the world” in County Mayo

An aerial shot of the Ashford Castle, Cong, County Mayo.

Ballyfin, similarly, has been recognized in recent years for its success. In 2016, it was named the world's best hotel at the Conde Nast Traveler's Readers' Choice Awards. It was also joined in that list by Waterford Castle, at seventh place and The Lodge, also at Ashford Castle, came ninth.

Ballyfin Hotel, in County Laois.

General Manager of Sheen Falls Lodge, Seamus Crotty had this to say on being voted onto the “Top Resort Hotel in UK & Ireland” and “Top Resort Hotels in Europe”:  “We are very proud to have been named in two categories at this year’s Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards.”

He added, “The caliber of Irish hotels who feature on both the Top Hotels in UK & Ireland and Top Resort Hotels in Europe is testament to the exceptional standard and offering of the Irish hospitality industry, which we are delighted to represent.”

Sheen Falls Lodge, Kenmare, County Kerry.

Nihi Sumba Island (formerly Nihiwatu), in Indonesia, an eco-friendly resort which is home to traditional villages, waterfalls, fishing activities, claimed the top spot on the list.

Here’s a run-down of the top 10 hotels in the world:

  1. Nihi Sumba Island (formerly Nikiwatu), Indonesia
  2. The Brando, Tetiaroa, French Polynesia
  3. Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch, Saratoga, Wyoming
  4. Lodge at Kauri Cliffs, Matauri Bay, New Zealand
  5. Gibbs’s Farm, Karatu, Tanzania
  6. Tswalu Kalahari, Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, South Africa
  7. Triple Creek Ranch, Darby, Montana
  8. Cavas Wine Lodge, Mendoza, Argentina
  9. Inn at Willow Grove, Orange, Virginia
  10. Rosewood CordeValle, San Martin, California tied with Zarafa Camp, Selinda Reserve, Botswana


Do you have a favorite hotel in Ireland? Let us know below.

A new species of fish has been named after Irish singer Enya

Irish singer Enya was honored for her work in a very unconventional way recently after a new species of fish was named after her.

In 2016, Enya was named top earning female artist in the UK and Ireland beating contenders such as Adele. Her music and career has touched millions of people across the globe (even your scientists by the looks of it).

Scientists from Oregon State University discovered new species of fish in the Orinoco River. On their website, the researchers noted they were big fans of Enya and recalled her 1998 hit song 'Orinoco Flow'.

Michael Burns, the project leader said, “Whenever we were in the lab at Oregon State working on the fishes, Ben Frable would always play 'Orinoco Flow”

Marcus Chatfield, the co-author heard the song so often in the lab it got stuck in his head.

"Then I just started listening to it on purpose when I was taking measurements of the specimens. When the time came around for choosing names, it just felt right to name this new beautiful fish from the Orinoco after the artist who wrote that beautiful song."

After the discovery, the fish has been named leporinus enyae, which means 'beautiful little fish'.

Photo: Oregonstate.edu

What do you think of the naming of the fish? Let us know in the comments.  

Racist? Conor McGregor is a hero

Conor McGregor has caught heat for allegedly racist rants aimed at Floyd Mayweather in the run-up to their boxing match in Las Vegas next month.  Debbie McGoldrick argues that hero is a far more accurate label for the Irish UFC superstar.

Is Conor McGregor a racist?  I’ve never met the man, but I really doubt it.

Is the 29-year-old UFC superstar Ireland’s latest national shame?  You would think so given the hysterical coverage back home of his four-city press tour last week with Floyd Mayweather.  How could such an appalling, outlandish, bigoted creep sully Ireland’s pristine reputation on the world stage?

The haters and holier than thou brigade need to settle down.  Or maybe not. After all, their mortification and outrage is helping to hype the fight of the decade – Mayweather vs. McGregor in Vegas on August 26 – and sell pay-per-view buys that will make all involved even more fabulously wealthy.

Read more: Ex-boxers say Conor McGregor is dreadful, knocked out by sparring partners

Facts are a good thing, so let’s just stick to them.  McGregor and Mayweather embarked on an international press tour last week not to play nice with each other, but rather to generate publicity and controversy which will culminate in a boxing ring after many years of yapping back and forth about it.

Floyd Mayweather and McGregor stand off!

Shock and awe tactics to generate fight heat are hardly new.  Muhammad Ali, probably the most revered sportsman of all time, was a master showman and trash talker.  He’s also credited with lines that qualify as far more racist than anything McGregor has ever spouted, calling his great ring rival Joe Frazier an Uncle Tom among other slurs.

Ali knew well how the media worked…and so does McGregor.  More confident plus more outrageous equals more headlines which leads to more moolah.  Mayweather and McGregor are expected to bank nine figures each, which will pay for many more Rolls Royces for Conor and maybe some of what Floyd owes Uncle Sam.

McGregor’s “dance for me boy” line at the first press event last week, made while Mayweather was actually prancing around and shadow boxing on stage?   Iconic rap stars such as Jay-Z who populate their lyrics with niceties about bitches and hos -- all while making liberal use of the n word -- would LOL at that one.

Read more: Why Floyd Mayweather was afraid to come to Dublin for press conference with McGregor

Rappers are also fond of grabbing their crotches and boasting about their manhood, so they’d likely be proud that Conor defended himself against racism claims by saying he was “half black from the belly button down.”

The point is, McGregor and Mayweather have something to sell.  And that’s exactly what they’re gonna do, like it or not.  And if you don’t, well, just go on your merry way.

Tagging the Irishman as the latest poster boy for white privilege, or racist of the week is ludicrous.  There are many more important concerns surrounding race to be worried about – Conor McGregor sure isn’t one of them.

Mayweather and McGregor putting on a show at one of their four-press conferences.

Here is what we can say with certainty about McGregor.  He’s a working-class Dubliner who was a trainee plumber for a while, but he decided that wasn’t the way he wanted to make a living.  So, he re-dedicated himself to becoming a champion of mixed martial arts, working 24-7 to transform his body into a perfectly tuned machine.  No messing, no cutting corners, just 110 percent commitment.

He rose through the ranks of the UFC, biggest MMA outfit in the world, to become a double champion and its most marketable star.  UFC sold last year for an eye-popping $4 billion, largely because of McGregor’s efforts (and Ronda Rousey’s) to insert themselves and their sport into the mainstream.

He’s stayed true to the same people who were with him from day one, led by his coach back home, John Kavanagh.  He’s in a committed relationship with his long-term partner Dee Devlin, with whom he just had a son, and he’s ensured that his family never have to worry about money for the rest of their lives.

In fact, McGregor still lives in Dublin. The full-time lure of Hollywood or New York apparently doesn’t mean much to him when he’s done showboating or dropping wads of cash on Fifth Avenue.

There’s not a hint of personal scandal surrounding McGregor: no messing around with groupies, no using women as punching bags as his upcoming opponent has.  He hasn’t snorted or drank the millions he’s made, though okay, we’ll concede that some of his clothing choices have been garish. (The bold [and ugly] Versace prints are soooo 1990s, Conor.  You’d do way better in Macy’s.)

And last, but by no means least, McGregor has never, ever forgotten where he came from.   This guy is Irish to the core, and he’s been nothing short of inspirational to his legion of fans around the world who set their travel schedules around his fights, and who use those occasions to gather and celebrate their Irish pride.  There’s never a problem with the “ole, ole” singing McGregor army.  They’re a credit to themselves and their country.  One of my friends who was at the press event in Brooklyn last week told me the action was actually better outside the Barclays Center than inside, as a huge number of fans waved the Tricolor through the streets and engaged in friendly banter with the bemused NYPD officers looking on.

McGregor draped in the Irish flag after a fight.

But in many corners of the media in Ireland, this is not to be celebrated.  Looking up to a preposterous, ignorant clown like McGregor is horrifying, these leading lights think.  Who needs an international superstar proudly waving a Tricolor and representing little Ireland?

Take this from The Irish Times last week. “His bigotry is a national embarrassment now and if someone from the mainstream field sports or athletics or boxing spoke like McGregor of an opponent – of anyone – there would be an outcry and sponsors would walk,” columnist Keith Duggan wrote.

Mr. Duggan must not be too familiar with the NFL, where fathers who whip their kids (Adrian Peterson), animal killers (Michael Vick) and wife beaters (too many to name) are welcomed with open arms and multi-million-dollar contracts.  How do those offenses stack up against a “dance with me boy” line from McGregor? Give me McGregor over Peterson any day of the week.

The Irish have a well-earned reputation for whacking their own success stories.  Bono is a prat because he’s sanctimonious and he doesn’t pay taxes; Michael Flatley turned Irish dance into a cheesy Vegas-style act; and now McGregor has sullied his home country because he’s a hard-core racist and cringe-inducing fool.

Well, the good news for the bombastic, supremely confident McGregor is that way more people are listening to him than the easily offended members of the media police.  I’m no fan of the UFC’s brutality, but I am a big fan of McGregor and his rise to the top against all the odds. 

For every Conor McGregor, there are thousands of hopefuls who will never reach his heights or anything close.  He’s aspirational, and given the rise in MMA popularity in Ireland, he’s no doubt inspired many kids to get off the streets and into a gym in the hopes of emulating his success.

“I am boxing!” McGregor boasts in his characteristic style.  I hope he proves that against the convicted abuser he’ll face in Vegas next month.

Read more: Is Conor McGregor a bigot? US columnist slams his pre-fight racist tirades

Remembering the great Irish Antarctic explorer Tom Crean

Marching behind Robert Falcon Scott from Cape Evans on November 1 1911 in an attempt to reach the South Pole for the first time was Tom Crean, the son of a Dingle farmer, born today (July 20) in 1877.

While the tragedy of Scott's failure is central in the history of Polar exploration, the Kerry man’s extraordinary achievements during three expeditions to the Antarctic at the start of the last century lay dormant for almost 80 years until the publication of Michael Smith’s An Unsung Hero: Tom Crean - Antarctic Explorer in 2000.

"I didn't anticipate the reaction – especially in Ireland – to the story," says Smith. "I was gob smacked." Crean's epic survival has been belatedly recognized by the erection of a statue opposite his home and a themed Guinness TV advert but the author is most pleased by one consequence of his work: "I'm particularly gratified that Tom is on the school curriculum in Ireland."

Early in 1912 and about 150 miles from the Pole, Crean was forced to return to base with William Lashly and the critically ill Teddy Evans. On their treacherous 750 mile journey, Crean and Lashly saved the life of their colleague, culminating in the Irishman’s dogged 35-mile solo run through the most harrowing of conditions with just three biscuits and two pieces of chocolate, and were awarded the King’s Medal from King George V in 1913 for their bravery.

Even more dramatically, during the Endurance expedition (1914-16) the crew abandoned ship after it became locked in the ice of the Wendell Sea, sailed in three small boats to the desolate Elephant Island before Crean and five companions, including Shackleton, journeyed 800 miles in the tiny James Caird to South Georgia, marched 40 miles across its uncharted, glaciered interior to reach a whaling station and returned for the castaways on Elephant Island.

The Irishman's incomparable story remained almost unknown due to both his modesty and political necessity: Crean left the British navy and returned to Ireland in March 1920, at the height of the War of Independence, when links to British-sponsored Polar expeditions would have been viewed with hostility.

As the author discovered, Crean rarely spoke about his adventures - even to his family. "It was fascinating to speak to Tom's eldest daughter, Mary," Smith says. "I was asking her questions about Tom when she interrupted me and politely said: 'You know more about my father than I do.' He was a closed book."

Superficially, it's ironic that Crean's outstanding accomplishment was first brought to public attention by an English writer but Smith suggests that this perspective may have been an important element in the telling.

"Here I am, an Englishman, and this story was under the noses of Kerry people for years," he says. "But maybe it needed an outsider to take the story and frame it."

Guinness' Tom Crean ad:

* Originally published in 2011.

World’s oldest family, The Donnellys, share their secrets to a long life

The Irish family officially declared the oldest in the world has finally revealed the secrets to their extended lifespan: apples, Gaelic Football and plenty of hard work.

The 13 siblings in the Donnelly family of Co. Armagh – comprising eight brothers and five sisters – are all aged between 71 and 93 and their combined age is 1,072 years. They were officially named by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest family this year.

In a new BBC documentary, “World’s Oldest Family,” which aired in the UK on Monday night, the Donnellys talked about their daily routines and how they have kept themselves fit and healthy in their later decades.

Much of it boils down to their childhood, they claim, and the nutritious food and good exercise they received on their father’s apple farm in Collegelands, Co. Armagh.

“They talk about these Mediterranean diets and this Japanese sushi, all this and that throughout the world, but we think we’ve got just as good in our back fields,” said Leo, 71, the youngest surviving sibling.

“Apples have been running through our veins since before we were born. My daddy got into apples in the 1930s.”  

“When you’re young, if you get good food it’s built into your bones and that’s what will give you longevity,” added his brother Terry.

There was also plenty of sports to work up an appetite with all of the brothers in the family playing GAA when they were younger. Leo states: “I’m certainly glad we had that healthy lifestyle. It’s absolutely amazing that the simple things of life can have you stay on this planet for longer than any family.”

While there’s plenty of good fruit and vegetables in their diets, not one of the Donnellys could be found propping up the bar, another family trait they believe has led to their long lives.

“There is not a single drinker in this family. It would certainly help,” continued Leo, who still lives in his family’s country farmhouse.

Read moreMeet the Donnellys – oldest family on earth says Guinness World Records

An older photo of the Donnelly family. Image: Tru North.

It was Leo’s twin brother Austin who first came up with the idea of investigating whether or not he and his siblings were, in fact, one of the oldest families in the world. Unfortunately, Austin, the driving force behind the project, died on Christmas Day 2015 before the Donnellys officially claimed their title.

The Donnelly family’s father Peter was an only child, somewhat ironic given he had 16 children in total with his wife Ellen, who was a member of a 14-child household. Their youngest son Michael was tragically lost in a car crash in 1975 when he was 25. Another brother, Oliver, passed away aged 64 after a battle with cancer.

The remaining siblings are Sean, 93, Maureen, 92, Eileen, 90, Peter, 87, Mairead, 86, Rose, 85, Anthony, 83, Terry, 81, Seamus, 80, Brian, 76, Kathleen, 75, Colm, 73 and Leo, 71.

“Thankfully no TVs and no electric,” Leo said of the fact that his mother and father had a baby each year after their marriage in 1923.

Austin's death has reduced the family to 13 children, but given their large-family tradition, the family has grown to almost 200 members when grandchildren and great-grandchildren are included.

While the Donnellys believe that their childhood habits were a strong factor in their good health today, they also like to keep themselves active in retirement.

“I find among my friends that have retired ... they just seem to fade away,” said Seamus, who has 11 children of his own.  

“Where if you do something to keep your brain going and your muscles going and something to give you an appetite every day, it just keeps you going,” he said.

“We are in the land of youth,” added Maureen, the eldest 'girl' at 92.

While there were plenty of insights into how to live a long and healthy life throughout “World’s Oldest Family,” there were plenty of other interesting facts about the Donnelly family that told much about life in Northern Ireland in the past century too.

In particular, the story of Margaret and the Belgian soldier who fell in love with her while he was stationed in the North during World War II was an intriguing tale.

In order to prove their date of birth, all of the Donnelly siblings had to produce their birth certificates. The search resulted in long-forgotten correspondence and trinkets being uncovered and these were strewn throughout the family farmhouse. The found unanswered letters from the soldier named Jean who had asked Margaret to marry him on only their second meeting.

Margaret was sent overseas a few days after these letters were received. Margaret had never seen the love letters and pleas from Jean as they were kept from her by her mother.  

The brothers and sister greatly enjoyed getting together for the celebrations last year without wives, husbands, and children in tow, but they fear it may be the last time the remaining 13 siblings are ever in the same place together.

"I'm not sure we'll all ever be able to get together again. We're all getting old – Sean is 93 now! All 13 of us are pensioners,” Leo said.

H/T: The Times

Conor McGregor’s cringeworthy appearance in Brooklyn

The third leg of the Floyd Mayweather/Conor McGregor world press tour at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn last Thursday night to promote their boxing match on August 26 in T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas will go down in the books as one of the more cringe-worthy events that the venue will host this year.  Declan O'Kelly was there.

CONOR McGregor and Floyd Mayweather, who made appearances in Los Angeles and Toronto before the New York stop last Thursday as part of a four-day four-city, three-country tour that culminated in London on Friday, both had evenings to forget. The live event was slated to start at 7 p.m.; McGregor, always the first of the fighters to make the stage walk, did so at 8:28 p.m.

The 13,165 fans, who waited patiently, were let down by the fare offered. During the Toronto leg, McGregor made the ill-advised move to ask Mayweather to “dance for me boy.” There was some press coverage on the negative racial connotations of that remark, and the Irish fighter, who wore only a white mink coat with a purple dragon on the back and a pair of trousers straight out of the John Daly wacky-pants collection, chose to talk about the issue in Brooklyn.\

“Let me address the race. A lot of media seem to be saying I'm against black people. That's absolutely f***ing ridiculous,” said “The Notorious.”

“Do they not know I’m half-black? I’m half-black from the belly button down.”

McGregor decided to dig himself deeper into the hole by telling his “beautiful black female fans” that he had a message for them before dancing/gyrating suggestively. The comments fell very flat with the crowd. Very flat.

After the live event, McGregor was asked to clarify the comments at the media scrum, given that they could be interpreted in a negative light.

“That doesn’t sit well with me. I’m very multicultural, a multicultural individual, and I don’t have any ill feelings toward anyone. I don’t even see color, you know what I mean? I just wanted to say something and have a bit of fun with it,” said the 29-year-old.

“Of course we’re in Brooklyn, in New York. Being a Notorious B.I.G. fan, I just wanted to play with it, and address it in my own little way. It’s stupid and it’s ridiculous, which is basically what I was getting at.”

Mayweather, who spent three months in prison in 2011 for domestic violence, took the moral high ground on the issue when he addressed the press after the event.

“I think that disrespecting my daughter, disrespecting the mother of my daughter, disrespecting black women, calling black people monkeys (referring to another remark McGregor made to Guillermo Rodriguez on a segment of the Jimmy Kimmel Live! that aired Wednesday night) is totally disrespectful,” said Mayweather.

“I have a diverse team, a diverse staff. And when I was young, I may have said some things that I shouldn’t have said when I was young. But we live, we learn, and you don’t say those things when you get to a certain age because it’s all about growth and maturity,” said the 40-year-old. “I guess when he gets older he’ll look back and say, ‘You know, I probably shouldn’t have said that.’”

Less than 24 hours later, Mayweather seemed to forget his own advice when he called McGregor a “faggot” at the final press stop in London. It was that kind of a press tour. Some moments were entertaining, but others were rife with elements of racism, misogyny and homophobia.

Before it all went south on Thursday night, there was a pulsating atmosphere in the Barclays Center. There were Tricolors everywhere, and McGregor fans were in full voice, so much so that both Swiss Beatz and Doug E. Fresh could barely be heard above the din when they made appearances (Showtime EVP and GM Stephen Espinoza was later booed off the dais when he tried to say a few words).

That said, even with the jeers and the loud crowd, it was very hard to make out what anyone said on the night as the audio and feedback in the arena were terrible. While everyone waited for the fighters to arrive, the Irish Voice caught up with a few Irish fans who came to support their man.

Kevin Collins, originally from Blarney in Co. Cork, came all the way from Boston for the press conference. “I am a massive McGregor fan. This is my fifth event of his. He is the pride of Ireland and a massive inspiration for us all.  It's amazing, the pageantry of it all. It is just fantastic,” he said.

“I am planning to go to the fight, but the way the tickets are going, who knows. I plan to be out on Vegas and out there to support him on the ground. I might end up watching it in a bar there, but I plan to go and show support and loyalty.”

Also there and clad in the blue jersey of the Dubs was Bronx-based Johnny Gartlan, who was out to support one of his own.

"I've been to all McGregor's fights here in the states. I am going. I have it booked," said Gartlan, went added that it costs him about $5,000 a fight but that he was eagerly looking forward to heading back to Sin City in August.

Other moments of note during the live event was the near brawl between the fighters’ entourages. In between calling McGregor his bitch and hoe and showering the Irishman and his group with dollar bills, the 49-0 Mayweather, who made his stage walk draped in an Irish flag which he discarded before sitting down, told his entourage to “form Voltron.”

Team Mayweather, which included a few bodybuilders, made its way towards McGregor. Owen Roddy, (striking coach to McGregor), Artem Lobov (UFC fighter and training partner to McGregor) and Dillon Danis (BJJ training partner to McGregor) led the Irish team who swarmed between McGregor and the advancing opposition. Some finger pointing and jostling ensued (McGregor described it afterwards as “handbags” instigated by “a bunch of juicehead fools”) before order was restored. More insults were exchanged before the evening petered to an anti-climactic halt.

UFC President Dana White took a pop at Showtime when he posted a shot of the schmozzle on Instagram later, saying: “Thank u so much Brooklyn, NY!!!! So sorry about the #s***show It's not my show or it would be run WAAAAAY different. Thanks for always supportin (sic).”

A s*** show could easily describe the tenor of the evening’s entertainment. While the press tour was designed to promote the fight and everyone knew there might be fireworks, the Brooklyn leg of the tour did none of the any of parties involved much good.

Who were the Black Irish, and what is their story?

The term "Black Irish" has been in circulation among Irish emigrants and their descendants for centuries. Yet, as a subject of historical discussion, it is almost never referred to in Ireland. There are a number of different claims as to the origin of the term, none of which are possible to entirely prove or disprove.

The term is commonly used to describe people of Irish origin who have dark features, black hair, a dark complexion and dark eyes.

A quick review of Irish history reveals that the island was subject to a number of influxes of foreign cultures. The Celts arrived on the island about the year 500 B.C.

Whether or not this was an actual invasion or rather a more gradual migration and assimilation of their culture by the native Irish is open to conjecture, but there is sufficient evidence to suggest that this latter explanation is more likely.

The next great influx came from Northern Europe, with Viking raids occurring as early as 795 A.D. The defeat of the Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf in the year 1014 by Brian Boru marked the end of the struggle with the invaders and saw the subsequent integration of the Vikings into Irish society. The migrants became 'Gaelicized' and formed septs (a kind of clan) along Gaelic lines.

The Norman invasions of 1170 and 1172 led by Strongbow saw yet another wave of immigrants settle in the country, many of whom fiercely resisted English dominance of the island in the centuries that followed. The Plantation of Ulster in the seventeenth century saw the arrival of English and Scottish colonists in Ulster after the Flight of the Earls.

Each of these immigrant groups had their own physical characteristics and all, with the exception of the Ulster Planters, assimilated to some degree into Irish society, many claiming to be "more Irish than the Irish themselves"

The Vikings were often referred to as the "dark invaders" or "black foreigners." The Gaelic word for foreigner is "gall" and for black (or dark) is "dubh."

Many of the invaders' families took Gaelic names that utilized these two descriptive words. The name Doyle is in Irish "O'Dubhghaill" which literally means "dark foreigner" which reveals their heritage as an invading force with dark intentions.

Read more: Top ten truths and myths about the Black Irish

The name Gallagher is "O Gallchobhair" which translates as "foreign help." The traditional image of Vikings is of pale-skinned blond-haired invaders but their description as "dark foreigners" may lead us to conclude that their memory in folklore does not necessarily reflect their physical description.

The Normans were invited into Ireland by Dermot McMurrough and were led by the famous Strongbow. The Normans originated in France, where black-haired people are not uncommon. As with the Vikings, these were viewed as a people of "dark intentions" who ultimately colonized much of the Eastern part of the country and several larger towns.

Many families, however, integrated into Gaelic society and changed their Norman name to Gaelic and then Anglo equivalents: the Powers, the Fitzpatricks, Fitzgeralds, Devereuxs, Redmonds.

It is possible that the term "Black Irish" may have referred to some of these immigrant groups as a way of distinguishing them from the "Gaels," the people of ultimately Celtic origin.

Another theory of the origin of the term "Black Irish" is that these people were descendants of Spanish traders who settled in Ireland and even descendants of the few Spanish sailors who were washed up on the west coast of Ireland after the disaster of the Spanish Armada of 1588.

It is claimed that the Spanish married into Irish society and created a new class of Irish who were immediately recognizable by their dark hair and complexion. There is little evidence to support this theory and it is unlikely that any significant number of Spanish soldiers would have survived long in the war-torn place that was 16th century Ireland.

It is striking, though, how this tale is very similar to the ancient Irish legend of the Milesians who settled in Ireland having traveled from Spain.

The theory that the "Black Irish" are descendants of any small foreign group that integrated with the Irish and survived is unlikely. It seems more likely that "Black Irish" is a descriptive term rather than an inherited characteristic that has been applied to various categories of Irish people over the centuries.

One such example is that of the hundreds of thousands of Irish peasants who emigrated to America after the Great Famine of 1845 to 1849. 1847 was known as "black 47." The potato blight which destroyed the main source of sustenance turned the vital food black. It is possible that the arrival of large numbers of Irish after the famine into America, Canada, Australia and beyond resulted in their being labeled as "black" in that they escaped from this new kind of black death.

Immigrant groups throughout history have generally been treated poorly by the indigenous population (or by those who simply settled first).

Derogatory names for immigrant groups are legion and in the case of those who left Ireland include "Shanty Irish" and almost certainly "Black Irish." It is also possible that within the various Irish cultures that became established in America that there was a pecking order, a class system that saw some of their countrymen labeled as "black."

The term "Black Irish" has also been applied to the descendants of Irish emigrants who settled in the West Indies. It was also used in Ireland by Catholics in Ulster Province as a derogatory term to describe the Protestant Planters.

While it at various stages was almost certainly used as an insult, the term "Black Irish" has emerged in recent times as a virtual badge of honor among some descendants of immigrants. It is unlikely that the exact origin of the term will ever be known and it is also likely that it has had a number of different iterations, depending on the historical context. It remains, therefore, a descriptive term used for many purposes, rather than a reference to an actual class of people who may have survived the centuries.

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* Originally published 2013.

Exile remembers an Irish mother's love at her graveside

There aren’t enough chairs in the room. But it’s the middle of the night, and the solitary nurse on duty looks preoccupied and we don’t want to be any bother. So, we take turns at sitting and standing, and waiting for any word.

No-one knows how long she’ll last. Because of the snow and ice, it took the ambulance over an hour to cover the eighteen miles. Anyway, it turns out her brain bleed is so catastrophic, it was probably never even an emergency.

I was at the beach in Melbourne when I saw the telling text, and I knew it was bad. And I suddenly felt too far away, almost too far gone. But my wife, simply said “you have to go”.

I wasn’t bothered by the lack of chairs. When we were young, she’d serve our meals in shifts; doling out the food from big saucepans on the stove. The younger ones were fed first, then the older ones’ turn. Often two or three of us would sit at intervals on the stairs. We didn’t mind. The old man preferred to eat afterwards, when he was less likely to be disturbed.

Read more: How my orphaned Irish father rediscovered his family

We are all here except for one sister in Melbourne who won’t come. Seven sons and two daughters. Two younger brothers have come from New York. It’s hitting them hard and they can’t stop crying. One sister has flown in from London. And there’s me and another brother who followed me to Melbourne. And there’s the four who still live in Ireland. Nothing has prepared me for this. How am I supposed to grieve for someone who I no longer know at all?

She was always busy. And worrying about what could go wrong. It wasn’t as if she was pessimistic. It was more as if she wasn’t expecting much. The house was where she felt most comfortable, where she could be herself. She didn’t like to be seen outside. She always had geraniums that thrived in pots outside the front door but that was about the extent of it. If someone came to the door, a salesman or someone reading the meter, she’d slip into her front door voice. We used to rib her about it but it was her way.

“How am I supposed to grieve for someone who I no longer know at all?”

When we were small she had a driving lesson one Sunday afternoon. We watched the reversing swerving Morris Minor narrowly missing a stone wall in the back field. We could hear the old man in the front seat yelling. We weren’t sure if we should’ve been laughing at all. She hurried inside and she wasn’t ever game to try again. So, she’d always have to wait patiently for him to take her to do the shopping in town on Saturday evenings. A resourceful woman, she almost befriended a traveler in a red van who’d come calling with cheap sheets, towels and blankets, usually just after children’s allowance day. Business was conducted at the gable of the house. He never got past the front door.

Read more: At age 12, I left behind everything I knew in Northern Ireland and emigrated to New York

It’s well below zero. Mounds of dirty frozen snow have turned sections of the hospital car park into no-go zones; though the parking meters were still swallowing our euros. The worst winter in fifty years and still no end in sight. It’s a wonder some of us were even able to make it here at all. The biting cold takes me back to my childhood winters; when the turf fire made little difference, chilblains were a curse, and old overcoats doubled as duvets; long before I decided to take my chances under the scorching Australian sun.                         

She used to joke that one day we’d “be sending home the money.” She was convinced emigrants always made good. She’d speculate about “legacies from America” that our more fortunate neighbors must’ve acquired. These neighbors who’d added extra acres to their tiny holdings had obviously benefited from the largesse of US relatives. But her light-hearted prophesies never eventuated. I don’t think she was too bothered. It was probably her attempt to cast a positive spin on us going.

“She used to joke that one day we’d “be sending home the money… her attempt to cast a positive spin on us going.”

She had a life-long knack for squirreling away modest sums of money; and always buying her non-perishables in bulk at the cash-and-carry in Mullingar. With half a lamb or bullock in the freezer and home-grown vegetables at hand, she was well placed to limit her grocery bills. A sack of flour for her soda bread had pride of place in the porch next to the creamery can of buttermilk. Seldom was anything ever discarded.

Our would-be economic prosperity aside, she always hoped that at least one of us would make the pilgrimage home every summer. We had an informal roster and an unspoken understanding that our visits home wouldn’t clash – and cramp each other’s style.

One year, hoping to take her by surprise, one of my sisters turned up, unannounced - all the way from Melbourne. Needless to say, she was wholly unprepared and put out by the absence of any forewarning. After all, her anticipation of a visit was probably as important as the arrival of a son or daughter. The lesson was learnt - from then on, word of our travel intentions was telegraphed well in advance.

Emigrating was always part of the equation in our family. Someone always seemed to be going. Several of my father’s siblings went to America and England; though curiously, no-one on Ma’s side. Going abroad was regarded as a better alternative; almost a coming of age ritual.

It mattered little who had the numbers in Leinster House. I suspect many Irish people, and Irish politicians have always accepted that emigration is part and parcel of Irish society. Our working-class family of ten children was always going to struggle to find work “at home.” So, the eventual departure of six of her brood was hardly surprising.

Ma settled for those summer visits and long-distance correspondence. She was only able to get to one wedding – one of my brothers, over in London. It was her first time on a plane. Subsequent Melbourne and New York nuptials were simply beyond her comfort zone. She was happiest at home, drinking tea and listening to Gay Byrne in the mornings, while she kept tabs on the turf fire and an eye on passers-by outside heading to Finea or Castlepollard.

“She was happiest at home, drinking tea and listening to Gay Byrne in the mornings.”

Nothing escaped her scrutiny. She’d slip into a darkened room and count the numbers of cars in a funeral cortege. Always being impressed by the large numbers some deceased person drew. She could tell how long neighbors had spent in the town shopping.

Although she kept our contact details in a well-thumbed exercise book by the telephone, she only ever resorted to long distance calls if it was something serious.  After I fractured my spine while cycling in Melbourne, I was astonished to hear her on the phone one night, anxiously enquiring about my health.

A prodigious letter writer, her birthday cards seldom arrived late, even if the content was scant and, apart from a running commentary on the weather, she was loath to disclose anything about herself. I think she was merely content to know we were okay, and beyond that, she wasn’t too fussed.

In her final few years my summer trips “home” had already become more infrequent. Modern day mortgages and raising children don’t go hand in hand with regular trips half-way around the world. Maybe Ma was disappointed with this slippage.  I know she’d liked to have seen more of her granddaughter. But of course, she was tactful enough not to say as much.

I missed out on seeing her for what would’ve been the last time by a scant three months. I’d booked a March flight but she died in the preceding January. It’s a funny thing, your Ma - always there in the background. You just expect her to be always around. Of course, I know I’m being irrational. But suddenly, in an instant, she’s gone, and that’s that.

At her burial in Finea, it was so cold with all that frozen snow and I couldn’t stop staring at the two wiry grave diggers in short sleeves, standing at a discreet distance, patiently biding their time. Maybe in the village someone had counted cars. She’d have liked that.

Finea, County Westmeath.

Read more: Irish American sister’s fight to highlight opioid prescription abuse

This traditional Irish singing will leave you mesmerized

This incredible performance by Noeleen Ní Cholla of the old Irish song "Bean an Fhir Rua" (The Red Haired Man's Wife) is a wonderful example of traditional Irish singing known as sean nós.

Ní Cholla, originally from the Gaeltacht area of Gaoth Dobhair, Donegal, was performing at Oireachtas na Gaeilge (National Irish Language Music Festival) and the piece was recorded by the Irish language TV station, TG4.

Sean nós (meaning "old style" in Irish) is a highly ornamented style of unaccompanied traditional Irish singing. It is a style of singing dating back hundreds of years which was handed down from generation to generation. It is an excellent example of "pure" traditional Irish music.

This traditional Irish singing will leave you mesmerized

Goosebumps! Donegal singer’s Sean-nós performance of an ancient Irish air will make your day.

Posted by IrishCentral.com on Wednesday, July 19, 2017


Ní Cholla began singing sean nós at a very young age. She has traveled extensively, performing nationally and internationally since she was 16. She has won many accolades for her singing including the International Celtic Traditional Song Contest and awards at the International Eisteddfod, Wales.

She recently released an album called "An Mhaighdean Mhara," with traditional Irish Gaelic songs, Scottish Gaelic songs, English ballads and a newly composed song. She has also recently completed a singing tour of America and Canada.

Read more: Choir’s mesmerizing rendition of ancient Irish song

This fall Ní Cholla will lead a week-long course immersing those taking part in the authentic singing tradition from North West Donegal, and taking you to the islands and landscapes from which these songs originate. The week of sean nós will take place at Teach na nAmhrán (The Song House) in  Falcarragh, County Donegal,  from Sept 30 to Oct 7.

For more information call Candy Verney on +353 85 889 3154, visit candyverney.co.uk or visit their Facebook page. Or you can reach out to Noeleen Ní Cholla on her Facebook page or via www.noeleennicholla.com.

Read more: Remarkable Irish dancer incorporates hula hoop into her act

Here are the lyrics to Bean an Fhir Rua:

Is a bhruinneall gan smál a bhfuil an dealramh deas in do ghrua,

Sé an buachaillín bán ab fhearr liom seal leat dá lua,

’S ní cheilfidh mé ar chách fios m’ábhair ’s go bhfuil mé faoi ghruaim

Ach d’ainneoin feara Fáil sí mo ghrá geal bean an fhir rua.

 

’S nuair a théimse thart síos, bím i bpríosún ceangailte crua,

Boltaí ar mo chaola is na mílte glas as sin suas,

Mar thabharfainnse an síobh mar a thabharfadh an eala thar cuan,

Nó go sínfinn mo thaobh seal síos le bean an fhir rua.

 

’S tabhair litir uaim scríofa síos go baile cois cuain,

Ag an gcailín beag caoin an bhfuil an chaor uirthi ag lasadh ina grua,

Mar scriosann sí an Traoi is tá na mílte fear léithi dhá lua,

Ach glac misneach, a Bhríd, ’s ní baol duit feasta an fear rua.

 

Is nár thé mé den saol seo choíche is nár chaillfidh mé an greann,

Nó go mbeidh mé is mo mhian seal sínte faoi bharra na gcrann,

Gan aon neach beo bheith inár ngaobhar ach an choill fraoigh ’gus duilliúr na gcraobh,

Agus an fear rua a bheith sínte i gCill Bhríde agus leac ar a cheann.

 

And here's the English translation via songsinirish.com:

Bhruinneall spotless as is the nice appearance of your cheeks,

He preferred the white boy I turn you both mention,

and I have all indicated conceals m'ábhair and I'm miserable

But despite her my grasses Available beloved wife of the red men.

 

And when I go around down, I'm in prison attached hard,

bolts on my slender thousands of green then up,

as thabharfainnse the síobh would give the swan over basin,

Or sínfinn my side turn down a woman the man's red.

 

And give my letters written down town harbor,

at the little girl cry of the berries she lit his cheeks,

as devastating the Trojan is thousands man of formally two mention,

But take courage, Bridget, and risk you no longer the red man.

 

It is not tea I of this world forever is not I shed the humor,

Or I have my desire spell stretched bar the trees,

No living thing being in the vicinity but the wood grouse and leaves of the branches,

and the man red stretched Kilbride and slab on his head.

 

H/T: TG4

UFC head compares Conor McGregor to Muhammad Ali

Mixed Martial Artist and boxer Conor McGregor has been hailed as an equal of Muhammad Ali

Anticipation is building before his fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. next month and the pair has engaged in some controversial trash talking with McGregor telling his opponent to, “Dance for me, boy!” - a phrase criticized as racist by many.

UFC President Dana White, however, seemed unperturbed by the Dublin man’s language and told the media, “I haven’t seen a mental warfare game like this since Ali. This guy is like the Irish Ali. You don’t ever want to start comparing somebody to Ali. You just don’t do it. But, when you look at this kid, there is nothing like him, since Ali.”

What White apparently didn't realize is that Ali had Irish roots and was very proud of them, with his ancestor Abe Grady immigrating to the US from Ennis Co. Clare. 

Muhammad Ali in Ennis

As for Mayweather himself, he seemed to be relaxed about McGregor’s quips. "Racist? I don't know what that got to do with race. This is a boxing match. I don't know what that got to do with no racists."

Trash talk is nothing new in the UFC world and Ali himself was no stranger to racially charged rhetoric - once called his opponent, Joe Frazier an “Uncle Tom” and more.

‘It’s going to be a thrilla in Manila when I kill that gorilla,’ ” he once told journalists whilst punching a toy gorilla.

H/T: MMA Imports

Irish American hero Marine among 16 killed in Mississippi air crash

An Irish American member of the United States Marines was among the 16 killed last week, when an aircraft they were traveling in crashed in Mississippi.

Owen Lennon (26), of Pomona, New York, whose parents are both originally from Dublin, was among the 15 Marines and a Navy sailor who died on July 10 when their plane went down about 100 miles north of Jackson, MS. An investigation is currently being conducted into what was the worst aviation disaster to befall the Marine Corps in the last ten years. It is believed that the July 10 crash was caused by a mechanical failure mid-flight.

Lennon was one of the youngest flight engineers in the US Marine Corps. He was honored as the Marine of the Year in 2013 and had a KC-130T aircraft named after him. He studied criminal justice at the University of New Haven before joining the ranks of the United States’ elite military organization. He was then stationed at Stewart Air National Guard Base near Newburgh, NY after boot camp at Parris Island in South Carolina. He saw action in Afghanistan and in various other locations around the world.

Born and bred in New York, Lennon has close tied to Ireland as both of his parents – Owen Snr and Rosemarie – are from Dublin. He is survived by his parents, his two older sisters, Kelly and Rachel, and his partner, Jenn.

His father, Owen Sr, released a statement from the family to The Journal News over the weekend. They described Lennon as a “fine young man with an unmistakable presence.” They added how much pride he took in being a Marine. Lennon had just purchased a new home in Orange County with his partner, Jenn, “the love of his life.”

The 26-year-old’s funeral is set to take place in the coming days. Members of the Lennon’s extended family are expected to travel from Ireland.

The statement continued, "In a few short years, he worked his way from private to sergeant, qualifying as one of the youngest flight engineers in the Corps along the way. He was deployed to Afghanistan and over the years his work took him to far corners of the world."

It continued, “When not in the air, Owen could be found running in his neighborhood with their two small dogs, Maverick and Gretel, hiking with his friends in the surrounding mountains, or having family dinners with his parents, Owen and Rosemarie, and sisters, Kelly and Rachel."

Rockland County Executive Ed Day extended his condolences to Lennon’s friends and family, stating, according to the paper, “The loss of Marine Owen Lennon of Pomona reminds us again that freedom is never free … this Marine from Rockland County represented the very best that our young people have to offer.”

The 15 Marines and sailor killed came from all over the country, but six of the Marines and the sailor were from an elite Marine Raider battalion based at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

“It is a tight-knit community, made up of some of the most highly trained, dedicated Marines I have ever known,” Marines Special Operations Command Deputy Commander Col. Stephen Grass told reporters in North Carolina Friday. “As a team, as a family, we’re going to pull together to see this through.”

Nine of them were based out of Stewart Air National Guard Base, home to a Marine Aerial Refueling and Transport Squadron.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said the final set of remains was recovered Thursday from a farm where the KC-130 crashed on Monday. On Thursday remains were flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where military officials say they will be processed by Air Force Mortuary personnel and then released to their grieving families.

Read more: Navy Secretary candidate could name ship after Irish Vietnam war hero

Irish leader Leo Varadkar is very like Donald Trump, says Irish politician

A former Tánaiste (Irish Deputy Prime Minister) has drawn parallels between new Irish leader Leo Varadkar and US President Donald Trump, claiming too much emphasis is being placed on trivial matters instead of the big issues Ireland needs to address.

After the visit of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mary Coughlan, former deputy leader of Fianna Fáil (largest opposition party in the current parliament) had some harsh words for the Taoiseach (prime minister) regarding the increased emphasis being placed on social media at the expense of rural communities. Coughlan went so far as to compare the increased emphasis on social media in Irish politics to President Trump’s Twitter addiction.  

"On a personal level he [Varadkar] is a gentleman ... but there are very important things happening at the moment, and socks and the like, well they're not important at all,” Coughlan told RTÉ’s Raidió na Gaeltachta.

"It's easy to be on Twitter and not to do interviews, like President Trump in the US at the moment, but it's not right at all.

“There is very important work to be done, with Europe and policies. People are under huge pressure, and it’s too easy to be on Twitter.”

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach questioned Coughlan’s comments stating that an in-depth interview with Varadkar had just been released and that new strategies were being launched.

Read more: Twitter explodes over President Trump’s “sexist” comments to female Irish journalist

Former Tánaiste Mary Coughlan. Image: RollingNews.ie.

Varadkar has done three interviews since he was elected in early June, according to The Times, including one with Time Magazine which saw him gracing the cover in the European edition.

"It's a curious comment to make on the day that the Taoiseach launched a major new strategy on the very big question of drug and alcohol misuse, and the day after the 'Sunday Independent' published an in-depth interview with him,” the spokesperson said.

The former Donegal TD, who was nicknamed “Calamity Coughlan” throughout her time as Tánaiste to then-Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen between 2008 and 2011, had previously clashed with Varadkar in 2008 when the shoe was on the other foot and she was the one being compared to controversial US politician, Sarah Palin.

"Actually she [Sarah Palin] reminds me of Mary Coughlan, which is why I'm terrified Brian Cowen may become incapable for some reason," the then-newly elected Fine Gael backbencher Varadkar said on an Irish TV show.

The program's host replied saying that the then-Tanaiste was "well able to speak for herself," to which Varadkar replied “just about.”

Read more: Irish leader Leo Varadkar hopes to be friends with businessman President Trump

Mary Coughlan and former Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen. Image: RollingNews.ie

Having kept a low-profile since losing her Dáil (parliament) seat in 2011, Coughlan is set to appear at the MacGill Summer School this week as a moderator for a panel on living in the border counties post-Brexit.

Speaking with RTÉ’s Aodh Máirtín Ó Fearraigh before her appearance, Coughlan also had harsh words for the Independent TDs in the current government who she believes are having little or no effect. She claimed that the government is completely neglecting rural communities.

“They have forgotten those outside of Dublin and that’s what’s upsetting people so much,” Coughlan commented.

“It’s great that Dublin’s prospering and doing well with employment, but that’s not to be seen outside of the Pale.

“Did they make any difference to the country, although they were elected to the Dáil?” she asked of Independent TDs.

“What did they do? What power have they to support the communities that elected them? In my opinion, they have done nothing.”

Coughlan also confirmed she will not be running in the next general election.

What do you make of the increased social media use among world leaders? Is it distracting or all part of a new way to govern? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

H/T: Donegal News

Hero dog rushes to the rescue of drowning deer (VIDEO)

The dog of a Long Island-based Irish American is the hero we all needed this week, as footage emerges of English golden retriever Storm coming to the rescue of a drowning deer.

Mark Freeley was walking his two dogs Storm and Sara by PJ Harbor last Sunday when his golden retriever noticed a fawn in difficulty further out in the water. Plunging into the water to help, Storm secures the baby deer by the neck and begins to bring it in to shore while Freely shouts his encouragement.

“Good boy, Storm. Bring him in,” Freeley can be heard saying in the video.

Once safely back on the dry land, the distressed dog continues to paw at the deer anxious to make sure that it’s ok.

Read more: The Irish Coast Guard doesn’t just rescue humans, they rescue dogs too (VIDEO)

“Storm just plunged into the water and started swimming out to the fawn, grabbed it by the neck, and started swimming to shore,” his owner told CBS News.

“And then he started nudging it, and started pulling it to make sure she was gonna be OK I guess.”

The terrified fawn was not completely safe from harm yet, however, as apprehensive of the two dogs, it rushes straight back into the water swimming further out than before as Freeley calls he experts to check on it and make a second rescue.

Frank Floridia of Strong Island Rescue joined Freely in wading out into the water, spending eight minutes trying to rescue the deer before they were able to bring it back to shore.

“It was a do-or-die situation,” Floridia told The New York Daily News. "I really didn’t have much of a choice. If I didn’t go in the water, the deer would’ve died.”

From there his animal rescue partner Erica Kutzing took the reins after running a mile down the beach to meet Floridia emerging from the water.

“I don’t think I could’ve done it without the help of my partner,” he said. “I was exhausted at the point my knee blew out, and I collapsed on the beach.”

Carrying the deer to the rescue van, Kutzing noticed it had a cut to its eye and wa covered in ticks. The deer is said to be recovering well, however, and will be released again into the wild in the coming months once it has fully recuperated.

The video clip of Storm’s rescue has since gone viral and everyone applauds the hero dog and his quick thinking.  

Leading US Congressman condemns burning of Martin McGuinness effigy

A leading Irish American member of Congress has condemned as “bigotry” the burning of a Martin McGuinness effigy in a loyalist bonfire.

Congressman Peter King decried the “bigotry against Martin McGuinness” describing it as “disgraceful.”

“After all these years it is unfortunate that the hate mongers are still around,” said the Long Island Republican member of the House of Representatives.

King’s has been a prominent voice in Congress on matters related to Northern Ireland over the past three decades.

He has penned a trilogy of novels set during the Troubles.

Fr. Sean McManus of the Washington, D.C.-based Irish National caucus also condemned what he described as the “insult” to Mr. McGuinness and his memory.

And the late Deputy First Minister’s son, Emmet, has stated that he has forgiven loyalists who burned the effigy – a coffin with a cut out of his father’s face – in an East Belfast “11th Night” pyre.

Nevertheless, McGuinness said it was time for the "annual display of hate to end."

The McGuinness effigy brought especially critical attention to the annual 11th night bonfires which this year also saw a racist banner aimed at a soccer player with Glasgow Celtic, and the burning of election posters from Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Alliance.

A number of bonfires in Belfast were built so close to apartments that windows cracked and lives were put at risk.

However, because of the sensitivities that surround the bonfires, firefighters are prevented from putting the dangerous fires out so have to instead spray the apartment blocks to prevent the catching fire.

In a bid to keep the size of these blazes at a reduced size, Belfast City Council sought legal injunctions to prevent any more wood being piled on the pyres.

However, these measures were largely ignored due to the PSNI’s failure to enforce the law.

Sinn Féin councilman Jim McVeigh said the bonfire issue had to be tackled.

“The removal of illegal bonfire material which was being stored on council land actually took place in the early hours of Thursday 22nd June,” he said.

"This information was withheld from Sinn Féin during discussions with council officials on the afternoon of Thursday 22nd June.

"This came on top of repeated instances of information relating to the council’s conduct on bonfires being withheld from Sinn Féin.

"Sinn Féin called for a number of actions to be taken on this issue. A decision was then taken at the Strategic Policy and Resources committee meeting this morning that the council’s Chief Executive will head an investigation into this entire scandal with an independent element included.

"A decision was also taken that any remaining bonfire material being held by Belfast City Council will not be returned and, importantly, that the storing of material for bonfires will never happen again.

"This is a disgraceful episode, which will need thoroughly investigated.

"The ratepayers and citizens of Belfast deserve no less than the highest standards from their council and on this occasion clearly those standards have not been met.

"Sinn Féin will be monitoring the investigation closely."

On a brighter note, a North Belfast parading agreement that saw a loyalist protest camp dismantled last year passed its first major test. The success of that agreement has seen the parading issue largely resolved in the area.

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This article originally featured in the Irish Echo. You can read more from them here.

Arizona’s leading Irish citizen, philanthropist, and millionaire passes away

Arizona’s leading Irish citizen Norman P. McClelland, 90, of Phoenix passed away on July 11, 2017. He was born in Tucson on June 21, 1927, the son of Irish immigrants W.T. and Winifred McClelland. He spent his life in Arizona, moving to Phoenix in 1967 where he raised his family and grew the Shamrock business. He also enjoyed his residence in Coronado, California, and spent many summers there with family and friends.

Shamrock Foods Company – parent company of Shamrock Farms and Shamrock Foods – was founded by his father in Tucson in 1922. W.T. had a Model T truck and 20 cows when he started the business. After 95 years, it is now one of the top privately-held companies in America, and one of the top 100 employers in Arizona. After serving as CEO for Shamrock Foods Company for 45 years, Norman McClelland continued as a guiding force for the company by serving as Chairman of the Board until his death.

McClelland was an iconic leader and leaves behind a tremendous legacy of leadership and devotion to public service. He was loved by all who knew him from Shamrock associates to customers to suppliers and to the greater community full of friends and family.  He personified Shamrock’s long-standing commitment “to treat associates like family and customers and suppliers like friends.”

The impact of Shamrock Foods Company extends far beyond the quality products it manufactures and distributes because McClelland believed that it’s just as much the company’s duty to give back to the community as it is to provide superior products.  Thanks to his leadership, Shamrock Foods Company is a significant contributor to community organizations in Arizona as well as communities across the country through its support for more than 80 nonprofit groups – many of which are education-focused. Shamrock Foods donates more than 450,000 pounds of food annually to local food banks.  

Read more: After giving $2 billion to Ireland, Chuck Feeney ends his philanthropy there

Not only was giving back to the community a philosophy McClelland instilled in his company, but he himself served as a role model by actively supporting many charitable, business and community organizations including the St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance, Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Phoenix Mountain Preserve, the Boy Scouts of America, Boys & Girls Club, and Interfaith Ministries, among others.

McClelland’s Irish heritage was a source of tremendous pride and he dedicated much of his time to ensuring that Irish culture thrives in Arizona.  He kept in close contact with his relatives in Ireland and frequently traveled there to visit family and friends. He was actively involved in the Phoenix Irish Cultural Center and led the charge to create the center’s 11,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art library. In 2016, he received the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad from Ireland's President in recognition for his commitment to promoting Irish culture and history.  

McClelland’s always remained humble. His true passion was people. At every event, he would personally walk around and shake everyone’s hand. He had a keen sense of humor and was known for always having an Irish joke.

McClelland’s life was a true reflection of his commitment to God and his active participation in the Christian community.  He was a dedicated Presbyterian and a member of the Valley Presbyterian Church, where he served on numerous committees, often with his close “Band of Brothers” who met every week. His constant emphasis was serving others – something he carried with him through all facets of his life.

He is survived by his wife Barbara A. McClelland, son Kent McClelland (Celia), daughter Kathe McClelland and stepdaughter Heather Helser.  

Memorial services will take place in both Phoenix and Tucson.

Ex-boxers say Conor McGregor is dreadful, knocked out by sparring partners

Irish UFC champion Conor McGregor may have shown plenty of confidence in his battle of the disgusting insults during last week’s press tour for his August 26 boxing bout with retired champion Floyd Mayweather, Jr., but according to those who know best, that might be the best of the action we’ll see from the Irish superstar.

Former world boxing champions Jessie Vargas and Brandon Rios have revealed that they heard that McGregor has been knocked out in sparring matches and that his boxing skills still leave much to be desired. He may stand no chance of defeating Mayweather in the ring, no matter how much he rattles him outside of it.

Vargas and Rios comment (around the 2.03 mark in the video below) that the boxing world is small and that they had heard McGregor was struggling during his sparring sessions before the high-profile bout.

Read more: 9 surprising stories behind Conor McGregor’s incredible success

While the Dublin-born UFC Lightweight Champion looks set to make a massive $100 million profit from the fight, it may be that the best of the contest is the spectacle in theatrics and bravado in the lead-up to the match-up rather than anything that might happen in the ring.

It's a tough (impossible?) feat for anybody to change sports in this manner and the Irishman may have bitten off more than he can chew in taking on the undefeated Mayweather.

As Forbes.com explains it, a standard sparring glove in boxing is 14 ounces while Mayweather is likely to be wearing a ten-ounce glove during the fight. If McGregor can’t stay afloat during the lighter practice sessions, it may be an indicator that Mayweather’s harder shots with the lighter glove could be too much for the Irish champion.

Read more: IRA song that Conor McGregor loves to play before his fights

This is not the first time those in professional boxing have questioned McGregor’s abilities. Last year South African welterweight Chris van Heerden complained that footage of him sparring with McGregor had been edited to paint the Irish fighter in a more positive light. As one of the few people to bare witness to his training sessions, van Heerden released his own unedited version of the session so he could clear up any doubts about what happened.

Van Heerden made his comments during an interview with Forbes.com during which he criticized McGregor's team for releasing footage of him without his permission in addition to editing the footage to make it look as if McGregor was beating him.

What do you reckon of McGregor’s chances on August 26? Will you be watching or will it be a one-sided affair? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

H/T: Forbes.com

The top 13 Irish comfort foods that always satisfy

When you think of the Irish diet you probably think of meat and potatoes, right? Well, I’m here to tell you yes, of course, but there’s much more. Our diet also consists of a lot of dairy as well! And the Irish diet is evolving daily – new cuisines are making their mark in Ireland with restaurants popping up right and left. Yet, despite these changes, there are some traditional comfort foods that will always be found among our favorites.  

1) Full Irish

If you want a meal that will fill you up for the whole day an Irish fry is the way to go. Crispy bacon, juicy sausages, baked beans, black and white pudding, and potatoes are just a few of the items you can expect on your plate. This is the ultimate comfort dish when you need to be filled up and completely satisfied.

2) (Irish) Chinese Food

Irish cuisine #chickenballs #currychips

A post shared by Seán Gleeson (@seangleeson__) on

Like many places across the world, Ireland’s Chinese food is nowhere near authentic. But that doesn’t mean it is any less delicious. Actually Chinese food in Ireland is 100% better than it is in the U.S. With dishes like “The Spice bag,” “Curry chips,” “Chicken curry with rice and chips” and of course the trusty bag of “Prawn crackers,” how could you not be satisfied?

3) Fish and Chips

There’s nothing better than fish and chips after a day out with the family. Going out to a near-by chipper and ordering fish and chips, maybe a battered sausage, is sure to provide great comfort. See a fish and chips recipe here

4) Shepherd's/Cottage Pie

Meat, potatoes, and veggies all in one dish? Yes, and it’s deliciously buttery, crispy and filling. It’s the perfect meal and a comfort food that never disappoints after a long day at work. How to make the perfect Irish comfort food: Shepherd's Pie

5) A good old stew

#pubfare #justright #irishstew #mashedpotatoes #beer @lecheilenyc @realhudsonheights

A post shared by Bianca Borges (@bibifood) on

Whose mum makes the best stew? I’ll let you all argue that out while I eat my portion. Stew is perfect on a cold winter night and is sure to comfort you.

6) Sausage and Mash (Bangers and mash)

If have sausage and mash you will be satisfied. It’s always nice to add some baked beans to the dish to make it even more comforting.

7) Sausage Rolls

A flaky pastry stuffed with sausage? Ketchup and brown sauce?  It’s an on the go meal that never disappoints. Sausage roll with Ballymaloe sauce recipe

8) Baked ham

Baked ham is good for anything at anytime of the day. At a roast dinner, in a buttered sandwich, cold out of the fridge – it doesn't matter. Baked ham will always comfort you.

9) Mashed Carrot and Parsnip

You could also have carrot and turnip, but I say parsnips are the way to go. Whatever your preference this side dish is perfect with your roast dinner, with a slab of butter of course.

10) Cabbage

Cabbage for many people is plain and boring, but for a lot of Irish people it’s a staple. If you’ve boiled up too much cabbage for a dinner bring it to the next level and fry it up in the pan to crisp it up to give you that comfort you need. See: The perfect recipe for Irish style cabbage

11) Colcannon/Champ

Mashed potatoes are an obvious contender for comfort food. Buttery, creamy potatoes seasoned to perfection provide comfort in minutes. Colcannon is mashed potatoes with kale or cabbage mixed in, while champ has spring onions mixed in. You’ve got an abundance of choices for your mash. Which one’s your favorite?

12) Soda Bread with the goods (butter, jam etc)

Soda bread is another obvious choice, but it’s here for a reason. Slice a couple of slabs of homemade soda bread and cover it with butter or jam and you’re set.

13) Tayto Crisp Sandwich

Two buttered slices of bread with a bag of Tayto crisps (potato chips) is all you need for a satisfying snack after a long day. Tayto sandwiches comfort Irish people around the world. Of course, it doesn’t help that they're so addictive.

Did we leave anything out from your favorite Irish comfort food? Let us know in the comments.

Trial begins for murder of Limerick man in North Carolina, wife and father in law accused

The small North Carolina town of Lexington is this week being taken over by the trial of Molly Martens and her father Thomas Martens, who stand accused of the murder of Molly's husband, Irishman Jason Corbett.

The 39-year-old father of two was found unconscious in his home in an exclusive estate on the outskirts of Lexington on August 2, 2015, by police investigating an emergency call about a domestic disturbance in the early hours of the morning.

He had received fatal head injuries, believed to have been caused by a baseball bat found at the scene. Both his wife Molly Martens, 35, and her ex-FBI agent father, Thomas Martens, 67, will stand trial for second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter of the Irishman.

The trial follows a bitter custody battle two years ago which ended when Corbett's children returned to live with his family in their father's native County Limerick. The prosecution withdrew the charge of voluntary manslaughter on the first day of the trial, however, and the pair now stand accused of second degree murder only. 

It has been reported that Thomas Martens was the person to make the 911 call, telling local police that he hit his son-in-law with a baseball bat in the act of defending his daughter after he found her in a violent argument with her husband.

Molly Martens and her father filed a late motion before the trail started to prevent the prosecution from describing Corbett as a peaceful person before the judge and jury.

The motion asked the court to prohibit the prosecution from making "claims that Jason Corbett was a non-violent, peaceful person and/or that Jason Corbett had a reputation for peacefulness."

The Corbett family has told the Limerick Leader, however, that they believe there is some kind of cover-up involved. The family has said that they were first told about the incident by Molly’s mother, Sharon Martens, who allegedly said that Molly had pushed Jason and he died as a result of injuries sustained by banging his head during the fall.

Jason’s older brother John told the Limerick Leader that he believed Thomas Martens was involved in a “massive cover-up.”

“You don’t have to be a forensic detective to see this,” he added.

Jason Corbett met Molly Martens in 2008 when she traveled to Ireland from Tennessee to work as an au pair for his two young children from a previous marriage. Corbett’s first wife died in 2006 following a severe asthma attack.

A relationship developed between Corbett and Martens and they married and moved to America in 2011.

Molly Martens and her father Thomas.

There is speculation that Corbett wished to return to Ireland with his two children and that Martens had sought a divorce for some time before her husband's death.

In 2015 the Irish Independent reported that Martens had been investigating the possibility of winning legal guardianship of her step-children during the two years prior to Corbett's killing.  

“She’s never instituted any actions,” said David Friedman, her attorney, said in response to line of thought.

“She did talk to a lawyer at one point about problems in the relationship, but she never actually instituted any actions in the courts.”

Jason Corbett and Molly Martens.

Immediately after Corbett’s death, a bitter custody battle raged between Martens and Corbett’s sister Tracey Lynch over the upbringing of Jack, 12, and Sarah, 10.

Tom Corbett stated that his brother had previously expressed his desire for their sister Tracey, and her husband David Lynch, to assume the role of the children’s legal guardians should anything ever happen to him. However, after Jason Corbett's death the children were left in the custody of the Martens family even though they were suspects in their father's death. The children have since been returned to the custody of the Corbett’s in Ireland.

Read more: Children of murdered Limerick man taken from suspected US killers

As the trial began in Davidson County yesterday, a pool of 143 possible jurors was asked to fill out a questionnaire to discover how much of the media's coverage of the case they may have been exposed to and whether they are in any way linked to any of the people who could be called to give evidence.

Martens and her father had tried unsuccessfully to have the trial moved to a different county believing they would not receive a fair and impartial hearing in the small Lexington community.

Both are pleading not guilty to the charges, claiming self-defense and defense of another.

The process of picking the 14 jurors, 12 to sit on the jury and two to act as alternates, could take as much as five days. Judge Lee of Davidson County warned the jury pool that the trial itself could last two weeks once it begins.

Politician reveals he was used in Mother and Baby Home vaccine experiment

A councilor from Clondalkin in south Dublin has revealed that he was used as a baby in a vaccine experiment whilst living at a Mother and Baby Home.

Francis Timmons spent the early years of his life at the Madonna Baby Home in Blackrock, Dublin and only learned as an adult that he had been used in medical trials during his time there.

The company GlaxoSmithKline Ireland wrote to Timmons informing him that he received two injections of diphtheria tetanus pertussis (DTP) vaccine alongside 18 other children living at the Madonna Baby Home.

Read More: What you should know about the mother and baby homes in Ireland

The experiments hoped to solve a number of illnesses prevalent in children, such as diphtheria, tetanus, polio and whooping cough.

Questions were first raised about the use of orphaned children for such trials in the 1990’s and a report published in 2000 for Ireland’s Health Service Executive found that 52 infants from four mother and baby homes had been used in a trial that began in 1960.

However, the report’s findings were sparse after a legal challenge from a doctor who had participated in the trials restricted the scope of the inquiry.

At the time Patrick Meehan successfully argued that he should not be made to give testimony on the grounds of his ill-health.

As for Timmons, he told the Journal.ie “I’d had no idea that I could have been given these injections.”

Inside one of Ireland's mother and baby homes. Photo: National Library of Ireland

“I’m a local councilor so people come to me for help on all kinds of things that I have to then do some research on,” he added.

In his later years he connected with his mother but has no notion as to whether she gave her consent for the trial - she never mentioned it either way.

He urges other people who spent time in mother and baby homes to contact GlaxoSmithKline and find out if they too were used in the trial.

“I have been on a long journey, and I’m happy and honored to be where I am now,” he concluded. “Me, and others like me, deserve the truth on what happened to us in these homes.”

H/T: The Journal.ie

 

How Guinness became one of the most popular drinks in Africa

Guinness is one of the most famous brands in the world. When it comes to mind we mostly think of Dublin, St. James’s Gate and the Irish, but, in fact, the United Kingdom and Nigeria are the world’s largest consumers of the black stuff.

Then comes Ireland, at number three, closely followed by Cameroon. Guinness is also brewed in Kenya, Uganda and Namibia. So how did Arthur Guinness’ porter win over Africa? It’s all down to a very secret recipe, dated December 1801, according to Guinness archivist.

CNN’s “In 24 Hours” traveled to Dublin this month to reveal the secrets inside Guinness’ recipe books.

According to Archive Manager Eibhlin Colgan at St. James’ Gate, Dublin, the fact that Nigeria overtook Ireland as the world’s second biggest Guinness market a decade ago stems from a recipe kept under lock and key. The recipe – dated December 14, 1801 – is a mix of roasted, malted barley, hops, yeast, and water which makes up Guinness West Indies Porter, “a beer born to travel.”

Colgan admits, “It really is one of the most precious documents that we hold.”

When asked if Guinness would ever reveal the recipe she said, “As we've kept this recipe secret for over 200 years, we're going to keep it that way."

The new bottle for Guinness' West Indies Porter.

Read more: History and genealogy treasures online at Guinness Storehouse

While they say that the best pint of Guinness in the world is found in Ireland and many say the black stuff doesn’t travel well, this really is just lore. As CNN put it, “Guinness didn't get to be the global powerhouse it is today by only catering to taste buds lucky enough to be on Eire's soil.”

In 1803, Arthur Guinness II, took over his father’s company and Guinness began to expand, initially along the routes of the British Empire.

What they were exporting was brewed specially to survive long sea journeys. West Indies Porter was more hoppy than Draught and stronger too.

In 1817 eight barrels of porter were exported to South Carolina. Ten years later, in 1827, Guinness was being consumed in Africa and by 1858 it had made its way to New Zealand. Guinness went global very early on.

Although the British Empire fell, Guinness carried on. In 1962, just two years after Nigeria gained its independence from the United Kingdom, the first successful brewery outside of Ireland or the UK was opened in Lagos. Others soon followed.

In his book “Guinness: The 250 Year Quest for the Perfect Pint,” historian Bill Yenne discussed the popularity of Guinness abroad with brew master Fergal Murray, who worked at the Guinness brewery in Nigeria in the 1980s.  Murray said, “I’ve talked to Nigerians who think of Guinness as their national beer.

“They wonder why Guinness is sold in Ireland. You can talk to Nigerians in Lagos who will tell you as many stories about their perfect pint as an Irishman will. They’ll tell about how they’ve had the perfect bottle of foreign extra stout at a particular bar on their way home from work.”

Read more: What you need to know about Guinness

Today, Guinness Foreign Extra Stout is the modern descendant of the original West Indies Porter. Similarly, it is stronger, heavier and punchier than the Guinness available in Ireland. It measures 7.5% ABV. This is the Guinness you’ll find in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean most often.

Guinness also recently introduced a new 6% ABV version of Guinness West Indies Porter, in 2014. This was modeled on the original 1801 recipe.

In 2004, Guinness sales in Africa beat those in the United Kingdom and Ireland, making up about 35% of the global take. In 2007, Africa surpassed Ireland as the second largest market for Guinness worldwide, behind the United Kingdom, and sales have only climbed since then (by about 13 percent each year).

How amazing to think that from Dublin’s St. James’s Gate and the perfect pint of stout a global empire has grown. Today Guinness is available in over 100 countries worldwide and it is brewed in almost 50.

It’s little wonder that the folks at Dublin HQ have one of two secrets.

In case you missed it, here’s one of Guinness’ world famous adverts from 2014. The brilliant ad depicts the elegant Sapeurs of the Congo, everyday heroes from Brazzaville, in the Republic of Congo. Enjoy:

H/T: Smithsonian Mag.

What it’s like to work in Ireland: Irish Employment trends 2017

Ireland’s Census 2016 Summary Results by the CSO states an increase in men and women working in Ireland, an increase in non-nationals working in Ireland and a surge in employment across Healthcare and Computer Related activities. Compared to April 2016 there are now 199,281 more people at work in Ireland, with the number of women at work increasing by 9.0% and the number of men at work growing by 12.8%

Increase in Workplace Diversity

Over the past 15 years there has been a steady increase in the diversity of Ireland’s workers and the number of people employed in Ireland, with a period of rapid growth of 2.1 % per year from 1996 – 2016.

As discussed by Peter Cosgrove in the Cpl Future of Work whitepapers the Irish workplace is diversifying. Diversity in the workplace covers everything from age, sex, ethnicity and race. Since 2011 there has been a notable increase of diversity across these groups, including:

  • The number of women working in both the 35 – 44 the 55 – 64 age groups
  • The number of men and women working within the 55 – 74 age group
  • An increase of 7,165 non-Irish nationals working in Ireland

Another positive to take from the 2016 Census is the narrowing gap between male and female participation in the Irish workplace. In 2016, the difference in rates between males and females was at its lowest ever at 12.7%. Overall Ireland’s workers are more diverse in terms of age, gender and ethnicity than ever before.

Healthcare and IT sectors thriving

CPL graph of the growth of employment across various sectors.

Compared to April 2011 there has been an overall increase of workers, with 199,281 more people now at work in Ireland. The greatest increase has been seen in the healthcare, computer and computer related activities sectors. Ireland is now a hub for large pharmaceutical companies and a leading provider of pharmaceutical and healthcare products. This is directly reflected in the census figures with Health and Social Work workers showing the largest increase in Ireland, rising by 25,647 people between 2011 and 2016. Ireland is also an attractive location for IT workers and employers, with 9 out of 10 global technology firms basing strategic operations in Ireland. Again, this is reflected in the 2016 census with 63,855 workers now working in the Computer and Related Activities sector – an increase of over 50% since 2011. **  https://www.irishcentral.com/jobs/ireland-s-most-in-demand-job-sectors

Other sectors in Ireland that have displayed growth include:

  • Construction which increased by 15,092 workers between 2011 and 2016.
  • Hotel and Restaurants sector which saw an increase of 13,372 workers
  • Education which grew by 9,234 workers

Of the overall 2,006,641 people at work in April 2016, 84.1% were employees, 15.6% were self-employed and the remainder were working helping relatives.

The CSO Census 2016 Summary Results indicates positive growth in jobs and employment in Ireland. The gender balance is improving, diversity in the workplace is on the rise and we are matching the demand for talent across key sectors such as Computers and IT and Healthcare.

Interested in working in Ireland? To start your Irish job search visit www.irishcentral.com/jobs

For more information visit www.cpl.ie.

Here's some advice from the experts in IrishCentral's recent Facebook Live with CPL:

 

How to find a job in Ireland

Expert advice on finding jobs in Ireland from Lydia, a recruiter at Cpl Jobs Ireland – Ireland’s largest recruitment agency. Read more here: http://irsh.us/2umKK7X

Posted by IrishCentral.com on Thursday, July 13, 2017
Navy Secretary candidate could name ship after Irish Vietnam war hero

The campaign to have the name of Vietnam War hero and Mayo native Patrick “Bob” Gallagher affixed to the hull of a U.S. Navy destroyer is about to enter a new phase

And this new phase is not directly linked to the petition supporting the idea of the USS Patrick Gallagher.

Rather, it is focused on the likely new Secretary of the Navy, Richard V. Spencer.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has given Spencer the green light to take the top post in the Navy Department.

Spencer, an investment banker, was approved in a voice vote and now his nomination goes before the full Senate for a vote.

Senate approval is expected as Spencer has bipartisan support. He will replace former Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus.

Should he become Navy Secretary, Spencer will have it within his power to name an Arleigh Burke class destroyer (designation “DDG”) after Gallagher.

The petition backing such an outcome was aiming to secure 10,000 signatures by the end of this year.

Patrick Gallagher

Read more: Increased effort to name Navy ship after Irish Vietnam hero Patrick Gallagher

Then the deadline was pulled back to September as signatures were being accumulated quickly and the 10,000 mark was being fast approached.

That mark was passed in recent days and signatures are still being gathered.

Gallagher, a native of Ballyhaunis, County Mayo, was about to depart Vietnam and the war when his life ended on what would have been his last patrol.

But March 30, 1967, would be his last day of life.

His hometown held Patrick Gallagher Memorial Day on March 30 of this year in memory of the Navy Cross and Purple Heart recipient.

Representatives of the U.S. Marine Corps and the Irish Defence Forces took part in that day’s commemorative events.

The Gallagher petition requests that the Secretary of the Navy consider naming a destroyer in Gallagher’s honor.

Gallagher, from Derintogher, Ballyhaunis, won the Navy Cross for heroism in Vietnam, but was shot dead while on Patrol in Da Nang on what would have been his final day “in country.”

He was 23 years of age.

The petition effort has been led by Martin Durkan, a Mayo native now living in California, and Dallas, Texas-based Dublin native, Marius Donnelly.

Patrick Gallagher's Navy Cross.

The aim is to have Gallagher’s name assigned to an Arleigh Burke ship.

The current list of such ships reaches the 126 mark (the first have been DDG-51, the USS Arleigh Burke, which entered service in 1989).

Ships DDG-124 to 126 have yet to be built, but have all been named.

The Gallagher petition supporters and sponsors are hoping that the Mayo man’s name be given to DDG-127.

DDG-125 has been named for U.S. Marine Jacklyn Harold “Jack” Lucas.

Lucas won the Congressional Medal of Honor at age seventeen for heroism above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Private First Class in the Marine Corps during the Battle for Iwo Jima in World War II.

The story of Lucas’s heroism is astonishingly similar to Gallagher’s.

During a close firefight in two trenches between Lucas and three fellow Marines with eleven Japanese soldiers, Lucas saved the lives of the three Marines from two enemy hand grenades that were thrown into their trench by placing himself atop one grenade, while in the next instant pulling the other grenade under him.

The grenade he covered with his body exploded but only wounded him; the other grenade did not explode. Lucas was the youngest Marine and the youngest serviceman in World War II to be awarded the nation’s highest military decoration for valor.

Lucas survived the war and died in June 2008.

Gallagher’s act of supreme heroism also involved grenades.

In July, 1966, while other members of his patrol slept, Gallagher’s unit was attacked at Cam Lo, not far from the border with North Vietnam.

The attackers threw grenades.

Gallagher kicked a grenade away before it exploded and, as the citation for the Navy Cross he was later awarded read, “another enemy grenade followed and landed in the position between two of his comrades. Without hesitation, in a valiant act of self-sacrifice, Corporal Gallagher threw himself upon the deadly grenade in order to absorb the explosion and save the lives of his comrades.”

As the three other marines ran to safety, two further grenades landed in the position and exploded, “miraculously injuring nobody.”

Also miraculously, the grenade under Gallagher had not exploded.

His squad leader ordered him to throw the grenade into a nearby river.

It blew up on hitting the water.

Two very similar stories but only one of them has, to date, resulted in the naming of a ship.

The future and more advanced Arleigh Burke destroyers will be a variant on the original design and are designated as “Flight III” ships.

Plans are – though they are always subject to change – that at least 22 Flight III ships will be constructed between now and 2031, thus opening up multiple opportunities for a USS Gallagher.

One hopeful outcome in the confirming of Spencer as Navy Secretary is that he, like Patrick Gallagher, served in the United States Marine Corps.

Spencer was a Marine pilot.

More on the petition at www.patrickgallagherusmc.info

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This article originally featured in the Irish Echo. You can read more from them here

U2 and Music Generation announce major expansion in Ireland

Music Generation has announced that it will expand into nine new areas of Ireland within five years, thanks to the ongoing support of U2 and The Ireland Funds who together will have raised a total of €6.3 million for the program’s second phase.

This combined investment in ‘Phase 2’ of Music Generation will include donations from the proceeds of U2’s The Joshua Tree Tour 2017, as well as donations previously raised for Music Generation through the band’s iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour in 2015, alongside further philanthropic investment by The Ireland Funds. A grant from Bank of America, through the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, forms part of The Ireland Funds’ investment in this second phase of Music Generation.

Moreover, this next phase of Music Generation has been assured of long-term sustainability following a commitment by the Irish Government, through the Department of Education and Skills, to co-fund the new areas into the future, together with Local Music Education Partnerships.

Currently Music Generation creates access to high-quality, subsidised music tuition for more than 41,000 children and young people annually in 12 areas of Ireland (Carlow, Clare, Cork City, Laois, Limerick City, Louth, Mayo, Offaly/Westmeath, Sligo, South Dublin and Wicklow). This ‘first phase’ of the programme was seed-funded through a €7m philanthropic donation by U2 and The Ireland Funds in 2009.

In January 2017, just over a year after confirming plans for further expansion, Music Generation launched an open national call for applications from new Music Education Partnerships to participate in ‘Phase 2’. As a result of U2 and The Ireland Funds’ combined donations, a total of 9 new areas will soon be selected for participation and rolled out on a phased basis between 2017 and 2021.

Speaking of this milestone achievement for music education in Ireland, U2’s The Edge said ‘This is a really important moment for Music Generation. Our ambition is for every child and young person in Ireland to have access to tuition and this next phase of expansion brings us ever closer. Huge thanks to both the Government and The Ireland Funds for their ongoing commitment to a programme of which we, as a band, are immensely proud.’

Chairman of The Ireland Funds America, John Fitzpatrick, commented that: ‘We are delighted that Music Generation has reached this latest milestone. It has been our privilege to support this outstanding project for the last 7 years and to see it unlock the talent of 41,000 young people across Ireland. Its success is a tribute to the creativity of our young people and the generosity of our donors.’

Kieran McLoughlin, Worldwide President and CEO, The Ireland Funds, said ‘Music Generation is a wonderful Public Philanthropic Partnership making a huge difference to hundreds of communities. We are most grateful to Bank of America for joining U2, ourselves and Government in bringing this great project to thousands more children across Ireland. We look forward to working with Government to build upon the remarkable success of the programme to date.’

Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, TD, commented ‘My Department whole-heartedly supports access to performance music education for Ireland’s children and young people and currently invests €2.5m annually in Music Generation. We are delighted to work in partnership with U2, The Ireland Funds and Local Music Education Partnerships to extend this access into new areas of the country. By co-funding the new phase into the future, Government is demonstrating its commitment to ensuring the future of non-mainstream music education in Ireland. Developing musical education is a great way to help children and young people to learn a new skill, gain confidence in themselves, and have a lot of fun while doing it.’

Brian Moynihan, Chief Executive Officer of Bank of America said: ‘We are pleased to once again work with U2 and The Ireland Funds to support Music Generation, which helps enrich education and contribute to the culture of Ireland. Our purpose is to help the communities where we live and work succeed, through the power of connections we can help them make.’

Responding to the announcement, Rosaleen Molloy, National Director of Music Generation, remarked: ‘We are immensely grateful for the extraordinary generosity of U2, The Ireland Funds and Bank of America whose commitment to invest a further €6.3m in the programme’s next phase will enable us to work towards our shared vision for universal access to music tuition for all children and young people in Ireland. It is through their ongoing, visionary leadership that we have already achieved such incredibly powerful outcomes for the children, young people, families, communities and many other partners with whom we work. We would also like to sincerely thank the Department of Education and Skills and Local Music Education Partnerships, without whose commitment to partnership-working and sustainable future co-funding none of this would be possible.’

Read more: The Ireland Funds raise $2.65m – announce $1m for Irish Arts Center

For more information visit www.musicgeneration.ie.

How Harland and Wolff’s Belfast office is being converted into $36m Titanic Hotel

A stunning new hotel inspired by Belfast’s rich maritime history will open its doors to the public this September after a $36m (€31.5m) investment.

This new hotel will take inspiration from the city’s most famous ocean liner, RMS Titanic, which was constructed in Belfast before its ill fated maiden voyage from Southampton in England to New York City.

Employees at the old Harland and Wolff offices work on their latest project

Titanic Hotel Belfast, which is currently under construction, will be located at the old offices of the famed shipbuilders Harland and Wolff, which began building the Titanic in 1909. This latest attraction in Belfast will offer 119 stylish rooms starting at $180 (€158) per night, as well as a 140 seater restaurant equipped with a 1920’s themed cocktail bar.

General Manager for Titanic Hotel Belfast, Adrian McNally, said: "There's a huge amount of design we have tried to carry through from the ship. You'll see the rivets on the back wall and the lamps are stuff that you would have seen on an old ship. The designer – Maria Rice – has done everything she can to get the Titanic nautical theme into this.

"Most rooms will have an amazing view; one side will have the cranes, Samson and Goliath – there's going to be huge demand for them, because everyone loves the cranes – while the other side will have the Titanic visitor attraction and the architecture of it is stunning as well. So there's no bad view anywhere."

A look inside at the stunning new penthouse of the Titanic Hotel Belfast

This new venture is expected to attract over 50,000 visitors before the end of the year and the hotel has already taken multiple room and function bookings. Several event spaces will be available within the hotel for functions in the old offices of Thomas Andrews, Lord Pirrie and Mr Charles Payne, notable figures with Harland and Wolff.

Much of the old flooring and tiles have been salvaged and restored during construction, with developers eager to keep as much of the original aesthetics as possible while also incorporating the Titanic theme.

The main drawing room will be among the spaces to host events

John Doherty, Group Creative Director at property management and construction firm Harcourt Developments said, “History and heritage helped build this hotel, and it can be seen in every aspect of the finish, from the carpet to the cornices. We are working with the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Titanic Foundation to ensure Belfast’s illustrious shipbuilding legacy is told in true style.”

Titanic Belfast Hotel will open its doors to the public this September and will be holding a free six week exhibition offering tours on the history of the building.

Could you be tempted to join the experience at this new luxury hotel?

Security expert says Ireland's counter-terrorism preparation is "grossly negligent"

Security expert and Former Lieutenant Colonel Michael Murphy has said that Ireland is lacking sufficient intelligence structures and that the security systems in place are not enough either.

In his recent talk at the MacGill Summer School, Murphy went on to say that counter-terrorism preparations in Ireland are “grossly negligent.”

One of Murphy’s recommendations is to remove the responsibility for state security from the Garda Commissioner. He also believes that it’s important to establish a separate civilian intelligence agency.

Read More: Irish man who fought ISIS says Ireland is "a stepping stone" for terrorists

"It will not take them very long to come to the conclusion that this State's counter-terrorism preparation was grossly negligent," he said during a MacGill Summer School discussion about the security threat against Europe.

Murphy discussed how Ireland thus far has been protected due to NATO and the UK. However, he is insistent that Ireland’s neutrality isn’t enough to ward off potential terrorist attacks in the future.

"Not alone does this put the lives of our people at risk, but also those of our close neighbor in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe."

Read More: Irish links to London terror attacks should be a wakeup call

Murphy stated that it would be unwise to wait for a terrorist attack to occur before figuring out possible failures.

Do you think Ireland needs to strengthen its counter-terrorism? Let us know in the comments.

H/T BreakingNews.ie

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