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Mr. President do your job, stop the cheap racial shots

With so much going wrong in the world, President Trump decided it was time to go after black athletes for not wanting to come to the White House.

Stephen Curry was merely reiterating a well-known truth when he said he would not go. This White House is a cold house for Blacks, Latinos and other minorities.

Right from his first day on the trail when he referred to Mexican rapists, the Trump agenda was to foster division, build walls literally, and slice off enough of the white vote to win.

He succeeded and instead of backing off, he is going at the race card harder than ever. Whether Stephen Curry wants to go to the White House or not should be irrelevant at a time when North Korea is threatening nuclear war, Obamacare is barely hanging on, massive tax cuts are being proposed and Russia is playing mind games with us that continue to cause great concern.

Read More: Donald Trump is a relic from the past

But no. Trump also doubled down on some red meat for Alabama Republicans he was trying to stoke up on the issue of NFL players deciding not to stand for the national anthem.

Stephen Curry. Credit: Wikipedia/Keith Allison/CC by SA 2.0

Oh those uppity black folk with their dumb demands that their lives matter and better training and oversight of police is needed!

When the leading sports figure in America, Lebron James, calls the president of the United States a bum on twitter you know we are in serious territory, James and Trump influence a lot of minds.

Trump is a divider not a uniter at one of the most dangerous times for race relations in America.

Words can kill and I very much fear that heightened tensions will lead to violence on our streets in the near future.

Back in 1989 Spike Lee filmed a marvelous and prophetic movie called “Do the Right Thing” about how racial tensions simmered then came to a boil in a New York neighborhood. He captures the moment when people from another ethnic group become “them” not people with names, faces,dreams, kids and lives.

Read More: Bono should refuse George W Bush award and apologize to Donald Trump

Like Ian Paisley used to do in Northern Ireland, Trump is providing the rhetoric of “us and Them” that is so dangerous in this fractured society.

Do the right thing Mr.President, stop the cheap shots and curtain calls and attacks on browns and blacks.

You occupy the office held by some of the greatest men in world history, such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Let them be your guide rather than some punk in-your-face attitude you brought from New York to the White House.

This country does not need any more division. We are a nation at war with itself WE need a uniter not a divider.

 

Irish company hit with massive $76 million fine over union rip off in New York

Union workers were awarded $76 million after an Irish-owned  New York Midtown construction company was found guilty of inventing a companion company to avoid paying union wages and benefit payments.

Navilllus Construction (the name is Sullivan spelt backward)  is a major player in supporting Gaelic games in Gaelic Park. It also was  a major contributor of donated labor after Hurricane Sandy devastated the Irish neighborhood of Rockaway.

Donal O'Sullivan, a  native of Ballinskelligs, Co. Kerry, immigrated to the United States in 1984 in search of work in construction. He founded Navillus Contracting, with his sister Helen, and his brothers Kevin and Leonard.  Navillus is one of the largest union contractors in New York City.

Donal O'Sullivan interviewed by Pix News after Hurricane Sandy. Credit: YouTube/Navillus Tile

A coalition of the city’s construction unions launched the lawsuit against Navillus Tile in 2014.  Following a three-year court battle, Manhattan Federal Court Judge Colleen McMahon ruled that Navillus Tile created a bogus company — known as ACS — to try and get around collectively bargained contracts it had with the unions.

The agreements stipulate that Navillus can’t fill their jobs with non-union workers.

Read More: New movie on Irish construction workers debuts in New York City

NY Daily News reports the court also found Navillus had one of its legitimate offshoot businesses — a development company called Times Sq — act as a stand-in on a job it wanted to do non-union.

Real estate developer Related was also found to be involved in the collusion, with the ruling stating it knowingly engaged with one of Navillus’ alter-ego companies on its Upper East Side luxury development on 92nd St.

Construction business men shake hands. Credit: iStock

In McMahon’s 95-page ruling, delivered on Thursday, she said that Navillus' founder, Donal O'Sullivan had "perjured himself" more than once and said another company principal was "obviously lying" in some testimony.

Attorney Tom Kennedy, who represented the coalition of unions that sued Navillus, said the ruling was a strong warning to other companies looking to cheat their way out of union contracts.

"The scale of the verdict is, we think, the largest of its type in the U.S. and it will grow at 9% interest until it's paid off," he said.

Read More: Irish construction worker killed in Brooklyn

"People will now recognize that they are betting their entire company and can lose it if they are caught cheating with one of these double-breasted alter-ego operations."

The $76 million award will be divided between the Metal Lathers Local 46, Cement and Concrete Workers District Council, Cement Masons Local 780, the District Council of Carpenters and Teamsters Local 282.

Wooden gavel. Credit: iStock

To arrive at the $76 million figure, Judge McMahon calculated the wages the union workers would have received if they had been deployed on Navillus’ jobs per their contract and also what the company would have paid in to the unions’ health and benefit funds.

NY Daily News reports that in a twist of logic, Navillus attorneys argued that the judge’s calculations were off and she should reduce the hours. They claimed that if the company had used union labor, the jobs would have been done faster.

Read More: Labor Day is an 'Irish holiday,' as the Irish created the union movement

"They produced expert testimony saying union companies were 17 to 22% more efficient ... and so the hours should be reduced based on that," said Kennedy. "That's a lot of chutzpah."

In a statement, Navillus said: "We are very disappointed by the court's verdict, a decision that is inconsistent with long-standing legal principles applicable to alleged alter ego cases such as this.”

"We are currently reviewing all of our options including appealing to a higher court to reverse this erroneous decision," it concluded.

Glasgow memorial to Irish Great Hunger deemed offensive

The Great Hunger Memorial Committee are unimpressed by a new Glasgow famine memorial that commemorates both Irish and Scottish dead

A memorial in Glasgow to commemorate the Famine dead of both Ireland and Scotland has been deemed “offensive” by the original campaign to erect one.

Glasgow City Council decided that the memorial on Glasgow Green would also reference the Scots who died during the potato blight of the 1840s; the Highland Potato Famine led to mass emigration to Scotland’s cities, but mass starvation like that experienced in Ireland was averted through far greater relief and much more help from local landlords.

But Coiste Cuimhneachaín An Gorta Mór (The Great Hunger Memorial Committee) are not happy and say it would be the only memorial in the world to jointly commemorate the Irish and Scottish dead together.

They think the decision can be linked to the dark specter of sectarianism that has haunted Glasgow ever since the Reformation.

“It seemed to us that Glasgow City Council added on the Highland element because they knew, or believed, that there were forces in Glasgow even today who would not accept a memorial which involved the Irish alone,” spokeswoman Jeanette Findlay told the Scotland-based publication the Irish Voice.

“The scale and extent of what happened to our people—one million dead and one million forced to emigrate out of a population of eight million made the notion of a ‘Highland and Irish famine memorial’ completely unacceptable to us and offensive in its very concept.”

Instead, the group will press on with their own stand-alone memorial and have decided St Mary’s Church - where the legendary soccer club Celtic was founded - will be its permanent home.

Read more: A virtual tour of New York’s Great Hunger memorial

“With today’s announcement, we can leave the frustrations of the last two years behind and move forward with renewed energy and with enormous gratitude to the Parish of St Mary’s, Calton, who have made the grounds of their beautiful and historic Church available to us,” Findlay added.

“Our forefathers and mothers arrived here and were assisted by their own community—including the parishioners and priests of St Mary’s—and other good people of the time; the completion of our memorial will be achieved in the same way.”

Speaking to the Herald a spokeswoman from Glasgow City Council said, “Work on our memorial is progressing and it will be unveiled by the end of this year with details being released over the next few weeks.”

H/T: The Herald

Powerful film on life of John Hume set for Washington DC

"John Hume in America: In the Name of Peace" will be shown in US Capitol Visitor Center on September 26. 

A documentary chronicling the life of Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume and his efforts to garner American support for the Northern Ireland peace process will be shown in Washington DC this week. 

"John Hume in America: In the Name of Peace", narrated by Liam Neeson, includes wide-ranging interviews with US, Irish and UK politicians, illuminating the incredible work of Hume, who created the framework for peace in Northern Ireland working with the White House and US Congress through to his work in Europe by building an international coalition for peace. 

As well as having Irish acting favorite Neeson on board, the film was scored by Bill Whelan,  the renowned composer, producer, and arranger behind Irish dance phenomenon Riverdance.  

Read more: Giving thanks for Irish peace process hero John Hume

Before the screening of the film, representatives from the Congressional Friends of Ireland will take place in a panel discussion. Moderated by RTÉ's Washington correspondent Caitríona Perry,  the discussion will include Congressional Friends of Ireland Co-Chair, Congressman Richard Neal; Chair, Congressman Peter King; Ambassador of Ireland to the USA Dan Mulhall; Director of the Northern Ireland Bureau, Norman Houston and filmmaker, Maurice Fitzpatrick. 

 

 

Smell of an open fire in Ireland is intoxicating but what Is Irish turf?

When most Americans hear the word “turf”, an image of green grass immediately comes to mind, like the lush green turf of a golf course.  For Irish people the word conjures up dreams of lapping flames, and the distinctive smells of a turf fire.

And so today I thought I might introduce my American readers to Irish turf.

Known as peat in other parts of the world, the Irish prefer the term turf, unless referring to hard, compressed fuel blocks known as peat briquettes.

But whatever you call these brown earthen blocks, I think most Irish people appreciate the warmth and comfort of a turf fire.

Turf is dried peat and was a primary fuel source for Irish people for thousands of years.

A peat bog in Scotland.

Upon hearing the word ‘turf’ my husband immediately recalls days of back breaking summer toil, cutting, stacking, drying and bagging winter’s fuel supply.

When he reached his teenage years, his poor father had to peel him off the bed to come help him in their Donegal bog.  Somehow the lure of an ice cream cone at the end of the day had lost its appeal for a cool teenager.

A turf cutting spade.

In the past, Irish people used turf to heat their homes and cook their food.  Turf was harvested from a bog.  Cutting turf by hand is a laborious task.

A two-sided spade called a sleán is used to slice blocks of peat from the bog.

A bog in County Mayo.

So much work was involved entire families, in years gone by, took part in the summer turf cutting expeditions to the bog.  Everyone’s effort was necessary to save enough fuel to sustain the family throughout the cold winter season.

Preparing turf requires drying it out so that it will ignite when lighted.

Sods of newly cut turf are laid out in the sun and turned to allow them to dry.

Stacking up turf to dry.

The turf blocks or sods are then stacked into small ‘stooks’ as shown in the photo above.

These little towers of peat allow the wind to blow through the sods and help with the drying process.

Read more: What visitors to Ireland should know about midges

Standing the sods of turf upright and leaning them against each other is no easy task. This process is called ‘footing’ the turf.

Small stacks on turf drying out.

Stacking turf is back breaking work.

Very few people cut turf these days, but in some western counties turf stacks can still be seen in the summer months, balancing precariously against each other to dry out in the wind and the sun.

The sods of turf in the picture above are almost ready for the fire.  However, they probably wouldn’t see a match until the cold days of winter.

 

Turf piled high in Connemara, County Galway.

 

Once the turf is deemed dry enough it is gathered together into a great mound or rick for storing.

In the summer months of 1846, at the time of the Great Irish Famine (1845 – 1850) many Irish people were too hungry and weak to work in the bog.

Cutting turf and saving it was exhausting work. A day at the bog was a daunting prospect on an empty stomach.

As a result the poorest Irish folk had an inadequate fuel supply stored for the winter months of 1846-1847. And to make matters even worse, that winter was cruel, with bitterly cold temperatures.

I have read that people took to drying cow dung to burn in their fires for heating, since they had no turf saved.

Such sad, sad times.

Turf stacked on a hillside, on the Inishowen Peninsula, in County Donegal.

Today turf cutting is primarily completed by machinery in the vast bogs of Ireland’s inland counties. But you’ll still see turf stacks in unusual places along the coast.

In the photo above a rick of turf has been gathered on top of the high cliffs overlooking the Atlantic ocean on the Inishowen Peninsula, in County Donegal.

Turf cut from peat bogs may be the traditional fuel in the west of Ireland, but unfortunately it is a smoky fuel. It has been  banned in smokeless urban zones.

In my granny’s cottage kitchen in rural Ireland turf was the fuel of choice. I still remember the bright, lapping flames of the turf fire, and the sweet aromatic scent that permeated her kitchen.

Turf brings back lovely childhood memories.

Let us know in the comment section below if you have ever had the pleasure of warming your toes in front of a glowing turf fire, or perhaps you endured days on end of back breaking labor to save the precious turf when you were a child. I’m looking forward to reading all your stories.

Many Irish pubs in the west of Ireland still burn turf in open fires, helping tourists and locals experience a little bit of the olden ways of Ireland.

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

Read more: A Mammy’s recipe for real Irish egg salad sandwiches

* 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.

45 or under? We want to learn more about your thoughts on your Irish heritage

Click here to take the survey

IrishCentral, in association with Amarach Research, Glucksman Ireland House NYU and UCD Clinton Institute, is undertaking a survey of the Irish community in the United States and offering the chance to win a pair of round-trip flights to Ireland to participants.

Our aim is to better understand the views and values of the younger generation of Irish in the United States and we want to hear from you.

This survey focuses on the views of those aged 18-45 as we are seeking to understand the perspective of younger Irish Americans. To be clear - we deeply value our readers who are 46+! This survey stems from an earlier one we conducted in which the greatest number of excellent, thoughtful responses came from an older demographic. We are conducting this under 45 survey so that we can get an even clearer sense of the links and differences between the generations. 

All those who are eligible who complete the survey will be entered in a free draw for round trip flights for two to Ireland. So don't put it off. Your dream trip awaits.

Click here to participate in the survey

We think that there will be real benefit for the Irish American community in having its voice and views heard. The survey will take a short time to complete.

Please rest assured the individual responses are confidential, and we will only be publishing overall findings.

Good luck, and thank you for sharing your thoughts! 

Arts and culture took over Ireland Friday night - Here’s what happened

On Friday, Ireland celebrated its thirteenth Culture Night, an all-island celebration of arts, heritage and culture.

Various venues and organizations opened their doors to the public for free late-night entertainment, which included special talks, tours, and performances.

Culture Night, which is supported by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, began in Dublin in 2006. The initiative began as a way to encourage people of all ages to explore their local cultural venues and organizations and to become more involved in their local cultural community.

Culture Night has since grown into a significant national event, with an estimated 400,000 people participating across the island.

With over 3,000 events taking place in over 1,400 venues, we couldn’t begin to describe every happening that took place during this incredible celebration of Irish art, literature, fashion, food, film, music and more, so here's a look at just some of the highlights from Culture Night 2017.

Culture in every corner - seisiún underway at @marrowbonebooks #CultureNight #OícheChultúir

A post shared by Culture Night (@culturenight) on

Some fun being had at @singalongsocial at The Amphiteatre. Just a little bit... #CultureNight

A post shared by Culture Night (@culturenight) on

Catholic University’s Chelsea Manning problem

Last week, it was big news when Harvard University disinvited infamous secret-spiller Chelsea Manning from a campus fellowship program.  Though some see Manning as a hero for revealing the depths of various government secret programs (not to mention a trailblazer for publicly switching genders), others see Manning as a traitor. 

This has become a familiar story at colleges and universities across the country: Controversial people are sought to give presentations or teach classes, but problems arise when students who disagree with the controversial person rise up in opposition.  More often than not, super-sensitive left-wing students oppose visits by conservatives.  

Earlier this year, riots erupted at U.C. Berkeley when conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak.  The presentation was eventually cancelled, though gluttons for punishment that they are, Berkeley has since invited not just Yiannopoulos but also Ann Coulter and Steve Bannon for an event later this month.

Have fun with that.

This week, a similar controversy erupted in Washington involving one of America’s most prominent and respected Irish Catholic clergymen.

Theological College, the seminary run by The Catholic University of America, had invited Father James Martin to speak to alumni.  Martin is a best-selling author as well as editor-at-large of the Jesuit magazine America.  (Full disclosure, I write regularly for America.)

Martin even gained national exposure as the “official chaplain of Colbert Nation,” frequently appearing on Stephen Colbert’s old cable show, discussing religion with fellow his Irish Catholic.

So what’s the problem?

Plenty, because this week Theological College officials disinvited Martin. And even the president of Catholic University seems puzzled by this turn of events.

The problem seems to stem from Martin’s latest book, entitled Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity.

“Catholics are realizing, in greater numbers, that LGBT people have been excluded like no other group in their church,” Martin wrote in a recent op-ed essay. “This is becoming clearer because more people are hearing their voices, and because Pope Francis has allowed Catholics to speak about these issues more openly.”

Martin also noted that prominent Irish American Catholic leaders such as Newark’s Archbishop Joseph Tobin as well as Cardinal Kevin Farrell, who leads the Vatican’s office on the laity, family and life, have struck similarly friendly tones with the LGBT community.

But not everyone is thrilled that these Catholics are acting so darn Christian with the LGBTers.

In a statement, Theological College cited “increasing negative feedback from various social media sites,” in explaining that a “decision was made to withdraw the invitation extended to Father Martin.”

The decision was made “in the interest of avoiding distraction and controversy” during the school’s centennial celebration.

Even Catholic University’s president John Garvey, noted that this decision was made “independently” of Catholic U., and added, “Universities and their related entities should be places for the free, civil exchange of ideas. Our culture is increasingly hostile to this idea. It is problematic that individuals and groups within our Church demonstrate this same inability to make distinctions and to exercise charity.”

In short, this is just the latest dust-up in the ongoing civil war within the Catholic Church.  The irony is that there was once a day when bigots hated all Catholics because of their devotion to the pope.  

Now it is a faction of ultra-conservative Catholics -- Bannon-style kooks -- who hate the Pope and all of his open-minded mumbo jumbo.

Either way, when the day comes that someone like Father James Martin’s voice cannot be heard, it is a scary day indeed.

Celebrating "The Great Gatsby" author F. Scott Fitzgerald on his birthday

Celebrating the Irish roots of "The Great Gatsby" author F. Scott Fitzgerald

In honor of F. Scott Fitzgerald, born on this day, September 24, 1896, we look back at the life and death of the famed author. 

It is true that F. Scott Fitzgerald wasn’t much of a Catholic. 

Yes, he had strong Irish roots on both his mother and father’s side.  But while his last name is as Hibernian as it can get, his full name – Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald – also reflects his family’s obsession with its Yankee Protestant roots. 

Francis Scott Key, after all, was the famous author of the American national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” not to mention a distant cousin of Fitzgerald's.

Still, as millions flocked to movie theaters this weekend to see the latest film version of Fitzgerald’s most famous work, "The Great Gatsby", there are still lessons to be learned not only from Gatsby’s writing but his life.  And his death.

This is especially true because those who spent a few hours being transported back to the Jazz Age (in 3D no less!) may have missed the spat that broke out between Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny and Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley. 

As happens almost every year, there is a fight at some Catholic college because a graduation speaker (in this case Kenny at Boston College) has some link to abortion rights.  This time around, Kenny is caught up in the ongoing debate over abortion in Ireland, which a new bill in Ireland would allow in some generally tragic circumstances.



Sadly we have become accustomed to these Catholic fights.  They are always seen as a battle between liberals and conservatives, and – worse – there seems no end in sight.

Which is why the final chapter of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life is worth revisiting.  Fitzgerald famously said there are no second acts in American life.  The ultimate irony is that Fitzgerald himself had about 15 or 20-second acts during his tragically brief life.

Fitzgerald died at the age of 44 in 1940 while toiling away as a screenwriter in Hollywood.  He had been a notorious alcoholic and suffered a fatal heart attack. 

A few years earlier, Fitzgerald had written in a letter that whenever he died, he hoped to be buried in a Catholic cemetery in Baltimore where other family members rested.

“I belong here [in Maryland], where everything is civilized and gay and rotted and polite,” he wrote in a letter to Laura Guthrie, his secretary. “I wouldn’t mind a bit if in a few years Zelda and I could snuggle up together under a stone in some old graveyard here.”

Ah, Zelda.  Fitzgerald’s infamous flapper wife.  That’s where some of the trouble begins. 

Zelda Sayre, alas, was a Protestant.  And though Gatsby attended Catholic schools as a boy he had lapsed as the years wore on. 

In fact, the Catholic Church thought along the same lines as many readers did when Gatsby first came out.  They were not impressed.  Fitzgerald’s books, with their drinking and debauchery and extramarital affairs, were on a list of works deemed forbidden for good Catholic readers.

Fitzgerald may have wanted to be buried in St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Rockville, Baltimore.  But the request was denied.  And so, reminiscent of his famous fictional hero’s own funeral, Fitzgerald’s burial was a poorly attended affair, and he was laid to rest in Rockville Union Cemetery, a Protestant facility.

After dying in a hospital fire a few years later, Zelda was laid to rest in the same cemetery.

The story doesn’t end there, however.  Scott and Zelda’s only child, Frances, petitioned St. Mary’s parish officials. This was a great American author with deep ties to the area.  It took three decades, but finally, in 1975, Scott and Zelda’s remains were moved to St. Mary’s.

“The church believed it important to consider his God-given talents and literary genius,” a St. Mary’s priest told The Washington Post this week.

And maybe there’s a little hope for all of us in this story.  With all the fighting over abortion and birth control and gay rights, it becomes very easy for everyone to forget that forgiveness in a central tenet of the Catholic faith.  God knows if O’Malley or Kenny or the millions of us who fight about the church will ever forgive anyone for anything.

But St. Mary’s parish in Baltimore -- which granted a doomed, brilliant writer his last wish three decades too late -- shows us that at least they might.

*Originally published in 2013. 

New York's Irish Famine Memorial is closed down AGAIN

New York’s Irish Famine Memorial has once again been shuttered only a month after it was reopened to great public fanfare.

The 15-year-old memorial in Battery Park on the banks of the Hudson River was designed to represent “a rural Irish landscape with an abandoned stone cottage, stone walls, fallow potato fields and the flora on the north Connacht wetlands. It is both a metaphor for the Great Irish Famine and a reminder that hunger today is often the result of lack of access to land.”

The shuttered entrance to New York's Irish Hunger Memorial. Photo: James Wilson

Last year it was shut for a $5 million renovation because of issues with the drainage; the restoration was said to be particularly difficult because of the necessity of recreating the atmosphere of Ireland’s West deep in the heart of Manhattan.

In August Battery Park City Authority President Shari C. Hyman told journalists, “Today it [the memorial] re-opens to stand for coming generations as a place of reflection and remembrance. And just as America has long welcomed immigrants from Ireland and beyond, we’re pleased to once again welcome Battery Park City visitors to experience this poignant tribute to the unbreakable human spirit.”

Now the memorial is cordoned off from the public by grey fencing and a sign at one of the entrances warns of “DANGER” in stark red letters.

Photo: James Wilson

A spokeswoman for Battery Parks City Parks declined to comment on what further renovations were being carried out but said the memorial would be re-reopened for the public in mid-October.

However, the radio presenter Adrian  Flannelly, who served as the memorial's Irish liaison, was able to shed some light on the mystery and said the closure was “very temporary”.

All that is being done, he said, is the replanting of the flowers.

“They have to be replanted exactly as it was,” he told IrishCentral.

“Final touches on the outside area near the front” were also being added, he continued.  “This now is the final stage.”

We appreciate the explanation but why not have made the final -final repairs and flower planting while the memorial was closed down rather than have visitors turned away?

Guess which famous Irish fashion item is suddenly red hot again!

The Fisherman Aran sweater is making a comeback with Barneys of New York stocking the traditional Irish garment.

The traditional Aran sweater is making a comeback this winter as fashionistas flock to pick up the traditional Irish garment designed to keep out the wind and rain for those going out on the Atlantic Ocean to fish.

With a version of the Aran sweater from the 1940s also going on display in the Museum of Modern Art in New York next month, being used in an exhibit showcasing classic, timeless international designs, the city’s luxury retail store Barney's will to stocking the Irish favorite as the days start to get a little colder and darker.

Designed by Inis Meáin, named after the second largest of the Aran Islands, the Aran Fisherman sweater was produced in collaboration with Irish label Sphere One by Lucy Downes, reimagining the traditional sweater into a modern must-have.

Drawing from the long-standing traditions of the female knitters who created the original designs over the decade, the new Fisherman Aran sweater looks like everything we want to be pulling on when the cold nights start to kick in.

“For this collection Inis Meáin challenged Lucy Downes of Sphere One, a modern knit design label, to come up with a new Aran.,” the knit company explained.

“While the intricate cabling of traditional Aran has been often copied, she felt that what made the original Aran so special was caring aspect of making a piece of clothing for a loved one, to provide warmth, protection, and comfort, knowing their needs out fishing.

“The piece, technically challenging to knit and construct, is a truly original new Aran befitting a hard-working fisherman today. The result is a high back neck, not a hoodie, which would restrict critical visibility, lined with cashmere for warmth at an exposed area.

“It features a light underarm gusset with pointelles for aeration in extra soft cashmere fabric, which could be replaced by the knitter more easily than reknitting an entire garment. Its seams and label to the outside for comfort and reduced friction. At the neck area, prone to wetting in inclement weather, is a shoulder yoke in oiled (lanolin) wool as well as an extra padded protection for the forearm when pulling lobster pots.”

We feel cozy and warm already!

Read more: An Aran sweater wedding dress? Just wait until you see it

Jackie Chan kicks ass of IRA and Pierce Brosnan in "The Foreigner" trailer

Jackie Chan is shown kicking ass in the trailer for his new movie, “Foreigner” and this time it’s Pierce Brosnan and the IRA who are the targets.

The film is based on a 1992 thriller by Stephen Leather about a man whose daughter is killed when an IRA bomb goes off in the prosperous area of Knightsbridge in London.

British authorities failed to help him and he decided to seek justice by himself.

“Tell me who killed my child,” a mourning Jackie demands from Pierce Brosnan’s character.

“I work for the government,” Brosnan replies evenhandedly, every inch of him the civil servant.

“I do not work for terrorists.”

The trailer offers glimpses into Jackie’s dangerous journey into the world of those who killed his child but his efforts are not appreciated by Brosnan’s character who fiercely upbraids his over the phone, “You have NO idea who you are dealing with.”

“Yes I do,” Chan responds.

“Do you?”

The thriller is due out on October 13.

The secret, tragic fate of Oscar Wilde’s sisters

Hidden away from their family for the crime of illegitimacy, they died agonizingly slow deaths

Oscar Wilde’s sisters feature little in the folklore that surrounds one of Ireland’s greatest literary figures. Most people can tell you that Wilde was a great wit, an evocative writer and was jailed for sodomy but few know the tragic tale of his two half-sisters who perished in a fire on Halloween.

Wilde’s father, Sir William, had six children in total; three with his wife, Oscar’s mother, Jane, and three before his marriage with two other women.

Nineteenth century Ireland was far from a welcoming place for illegitimate children, even in the slightly more liberal Dublin Anglican society the Wildes inhabited. It’s not clear if Wilde even knew of the existence of his sisters who were raised by relatives.

In 1871 Emily and Mary were at a Halloween party at Drumacon House in County Monaghan. The sisters might have been illegitimate but they were still frequently invited to high society events and it was at one such occasion that they met their demise.

Read more: Mysterious death of Oscar Wilde's wife Constance Lloyd

Towards the end of the evening Mary was asked to dance by the host but as she laughed and cavorted to the music her dress brushed up against the house’s candlesticks.

Screaming, she realized her clothes had caught fire and she dashed towards her sister for help. As the rest of the guests panicked and fled Emily’s own dress was set ablaze; accounts vary as to how the fire was put out but what we do know is that the siblings suffered excruciating agony before Mary’s death on November 8th and Emily’s on November 21st. They were only 22 and 24 years old respectively.

An illustration of crinoline dresses on fire, from 1860.

Their father saw to it that their deaths were hushed up, although given the notoriety of the event in certain Dublin social circles it’s difficult to see how he thought he could succeed.

Burial plot of Mary and Emily Wilde.

The sisters were buried in the sod of Monaghan and an epitaph in a local church commemorates their short lives.

The epitaph on the grave stone reads:

In Memory of

Two loving and beloved Sisters

EMILY WILDE aged 24

and MARY WILDE aged 22

who lost their lives by accident

in this parish in Nov 1871.

They were lovely and pleasant in

their lives and in their death they

were not divided

(II Samuel Chap. I, v 23)

Read more:  Methodist shrine to Oscar Wilde erected in New York

Bruce Springsteen’s Irish roots go back to County Kildare

Genealogists have found that American rock star Bruce Springsteen’s family tree can be traced back to County Kildare

The Boss’s great-great-great-grandfather, Christy Gerrity, from Rathangan, was in fact a bit of a hell-raiser.

The Irish Independent reports that in 1823 Gerrity was arrested and imprisoned under the Insurrection Act, which targeted those protesting the social injustice of excessive tithes, rent payments and related evictions of the time.

However, in 1827 he married Catherine Kelly. They lived in a simple mud cabin in the town land of Mountprospect and had eight children. Gerrity worked as a carrier transporting people, goods, and livestock, researchers at the Irish Family History Centre discovered.

In 1853, due to the Famine, the family left Ireland for New Jersey.

Springsteen discussed his Irish roots, in 2010, during his Ellis Island Medal award. During his speech Springsteen thanked the Irish side of his family the O’Farrells, Garrity and McNicholas clans and stated his wife Patty who is also part irish and he had continued the great Mid-New Jersey tradition of Irish and Italians marrying.

His Irish grandmother settled in the town of Freehold, NJ where Bruce himself was born 65 years ago.

Springsteen went to the Catholic St Rose of Lima School, where he was taught by Irish nuns. It had a lasting impact on him. Some of his later music reflects a Catholic ethos and includes a few rock-influenced, traditional Irish-Catholic hymns.

In a 2012 interview, he explained that it was his Catholic upbringing rather than political ideology that most influenced his music. He noted in the interview that his faith had given him a "very active spiritual life," although he joked that this "made it very difficult sexually." He added: "Once a Catholic, always a Catholic."

Here's the moment on Sunday night, at Croke Park, when U2's Bono arrived on stage with The Boss:

Read more: News on Irish ancestry here

Originally published May 2016.

Kennedy Book and Research Archive launched in Wexford

Celebrating the link between the Kennedy’s and County Wexford with new growing collection

As part of the fifth annual Kennedy Summer School, earlier this month, the Wexford County Council in association with the Kennedy Summer School is launching the ‘New Ross Kennedy Book and Research Archive’ at New Ross Library to mark the 100th Anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s birth.

A collection of books, publications, audiovisual recordings and other research materials on the Kennedy Presidency, Kennedy Family, and the link between the Kennedys' and County Wexford have been gathered and the collection will be added to over the years and maintained for public use.

Kennedy’s family traces their roots back to Dunganstown in County Wexford. Patrick Kennedy, JFK's great-grandfather left Ireland during the Great Hunger in 1848.

The collection was officially launched by leading historian and author Richard Aldous, who also at the event spoke about his forthcoming book, ‘Schlesinger: The Imperial Historian', which tells the story of the architect of JFK's presidential legacy-and the myth of Camelot-Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

Speaking of the new collection at the library, Eileen Morrissey, Wexford County Librarian told Waterford Today "We are delighted to hold the New Ross Kennedy Book and Research Archive. It is a collection of wide variety and contains items of unique interest including a number of books written by John F. Kennedy before taking up political office, LIFE magazine from the 1960s, and other contemporary publications. The New Ross Standard from June of 1963, during President Kennedy's official visit to Ireland will be displayed at the launch along with other pieces of memorabilia."

Director of Services Wexford County Council at Wexford County Council Eamonn Hore said "This is another important occasion in New Ross further strengthening our proud heritage and links with President John F. Kennedy and the Kennedy family. This collection will be available to locals and visitors alike for viewing; it will be exciting to see the collection grow even further as additional publications and memorabilia are gathered over the years."

Read more: Was JFK more British than he was Irish? An Irish ambassador thought so

Check out this old footage of Kennedy visiting Wexford in 1963, the year of his death:

Following the new Kennedy collection launch was the official opening of the Kennedy Summer School by Katherine Zappone, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. Highlights of this year’s event included an audience with the speech writer for Barack Obama Cody Kennan, Ian Paisley Jnr MP on Brexit and its various implications for Ireland, Bob Shrum reflections on his involvement in Edward Kennedy's 1980 presidential election campaign, Caitriona Perry on Translating Trump and a panel of experts on U.S. and Irish policies and politics.

Here’s highlights from the 2017 Kennedy Summer School:

Tullamore D.E.W. Irish whiskey launches stunning campaign inspired by the history of ‘No Irish Need Apply’

Tullamore D.E.W., the world’s second largest Irish whiskey, has launched a stunning new campaign inspired by the journey of Irish emigrants across the globe, the struggles of the days of 'No Irish Need Apply', and the strong, diverse communities that have been forged since then.

The Beauty of Blend campaign celebrates the blended world as a more interesting, eclectic place, in addition to the triple blend of whiskeys that makes Tullamore D.E.W. stand out from the rest. It embraces the power of social migration, inclusion, and diversity.

One of the brilliant new ads, launching globally, harkens back to the days of No Irish Need Apply when Irish immigrants to the US and the UK faced discrimination in housing and employment as they attempted to build new lives.  

As we now know, in spite of these challenges the Irish were able to set down roots and shape the future of their adopted countries, with Irish immigrants and their descendants building skyscrapers and digging subway tunnels; becoming world-famous musicians (hat-tip to three of the four Beatles), Nobel Laureates (cheers to Shaw, Beckett, Yeats and Heaney), and even presidents of the United States.  

The short film centers on an Irish bartender who keeps a No Irish Need Apply sign behind the bar as a reminder of how far the Irish have come.

“No Irish Need Apply,” he says, ruefully shaking his head before launching into a powerful monologue.

“Who built the bridges?” he asks. “Scraped the city skies? And bled with your sons?”

“Blend is the backbone of this place,” he declares, smiling at his wife and heading over to a group of patrons sitting at the bar, with a silent acknowledgment that a group so diverse would likely not have gathered together in a bar less than a century ago.

“We were all them once. Now we’re just us. Just U - S.”

“I am blend. So are you, and you, and that other fella, too. We are all blend, from the beginning to the end.”

Then they raise their glasses and toast to the beauty of blend.

The campaign was created by New York agency Opperman Weiss, with the No Irish Need Apply ad and another film set to the Irish air Danny Boy both directed by award-winning filmmaker Laurence Dunmore. Tullamore D.E.W. previously worked with Opperman Weiss and Dunmore on their award-winning 2013 ad set to the song The Parting Glass, which Creative Online hailed as “The envy of other booze ads."

This time around, Tullamore D.E.W. decided to focus on the Irish emigrant story because of how integral it is to the global success of Irish whiskey and of Tullamore itself. The distillery first opened its doors in 1829 in Tullamore, Co. Offaly, reaching new levels of success when the fortuitously initialed Daniel E. Williams worked his way up from a stable boy to the owner. But it was emigrants who helped it grow to become a global powerhouse - currently the world’s second largest Irish whiskey brand, selling 1.1 million cases annually.

“Irish whiskey in 1800s-1900s couldn't have been dependent on the Irish market because the population was too small," Global Brand Ambassador John Quinn explained. “So instead it followed its emigrants around the world. Irish emigration is part of our DNA.”

So much so, he explained, that when Tullamore D.E.W., - which is now owned by William Grant & Sons - was acquired by John Powers & Son in the 1960s, it was strategically decided that Tullamore D.E.W.’s focus would be the export market.

“As a brand, we wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for Irish emigration,” agreed Caspar MacRae, Tullamore D.E.W.’s Global Brand Director. “Where they moved they took their love of Irish whiskey and we grew as a brand, meeting the demand of emigrants around the world.”

He explained that for this campaign, Tullamore D.E.W. had been interested in exploring “the social history of Ireland and Irishness around the world. Opperman Weiss came up with this proposal, and it drew a parallel with what happened historically, what people go through today, and the benefits emigration can bring. It's a heartfelt reminder.”  

That spirit is also embodied in Tullamore D.E.W.’s signature triple blend, a triple distilled blend of all three types of Irish whiskey – grain, malt, and pot still. The sweet softness of grain whiskey, the light spice from the pot still, and the fruitiness of the malt come together to create a unique of flavor that makes Tullamore D.E.W. stand out among Irish whiskeys.

For MacRae, this also gets at the essence of what sets Irish whiskey - and Tullamore D.E.W. in particular - apart from all other whiskeys and scotches.

“There's a big difference in how whiskey is enjoyed in Scotland and in Ireland,” he said. “Single malt is about exclusivity, solitude, connoisseurship, whereas Irish whiskey has a much more social history and present.

"It’s about the local community, the pub culture, great conversation, and bringing people together.”

This post is proudly produced in partnership with Tullamore D.E.W. Find out more on TullamoreDEW.com. 

Check out Tullamore D.E.W's other short film "Danny Boy".

 

Donald Trump is a relic from the past

Nostalgia is a very potent feeling. The Cambridge dictionary defines it as “a feeling of pleasure and sometimes slight sadness at the same time, as you think about things that happened in the past.”

The films we watch are often filled with it, as are books that become international bestsellers.  Even the TV shows that we enjoy most often openly trade in it.

Things were better then, simpler then, more fulfilling then, less complicated then, we often say. Ah, the good old days. The older you get the more apt you are to be beguiled by the siren song of yesterday.

But the thing about nostalgia is that it's doubled edged. It makes you long for what you feel you have lost – time, youth, opportunity, choices – while reminding you of exactly what you've lost in the present.

It can pointedly tell you that once you were powerful and now you are less so. It can be quietly enraging if not handled properly.

No one has really talked about the power of nostalgia in terms of the election of Donald Trump. They should.

There has never been an American president who so embodied the past still moving though the present. There has never been a president who owed so much to nostalgia.

Read more: Irish farmers don’t want Donald Trump to visit but Paddy’s Day A-Okay

Trump isn't an embodiment of where the world is in 2017.  He's actually 1984, or even further back, still somehow moving through the present.

He doesn't know how to turn on a laptop. He isn't interested in the new technologies. He is only interested in whatever can amplify his own voice or show him an image that reminds him that he matters.

It's why he loves and watches so much TV. TV is a last century technology.

Trump could easily lift his fingers and access the greatest intelligence gathering operations that the world has ever seen, but instead he still gets his daily political briefings on the state of the nation from Fox & Friends, exactly like your elderly grandparents in Florida do.

The people who approve of him the most are also the oldest people in the country. It makes sense.

They see themselves in him. They see echoes of the past embodied in his presence.

That's why the age gap among Republicans has only grown since the election. Post-Charlottesville, Trump has retained an 82 percent approval rating among Republicans older than 50, compared to just 67 percent among those younger than 50. His disapproval rating in late August among younger Republicans (at 28 percent) nearly doubled the level among older Republicans (15 percent).

The young don't want, in Jay Gatsby's phrase, to be borne back ceaselessly into the past. Instead of hearing a familiar echo of the past, they often rebel at political policies that remind them of how things used to be. That's why Trump's disapproval rating among younger Republicans remains roughly double its level among older ones.

Meanwhile all voters, Republican and Democratic alike, have slowly come to the realization that he reason Trump got elected is also the reason he also often fails.

Trump was a concerted effort by one section of American society to put the gains of other sections on hold. Alarmed by the sight of an African American president, a reinvigorated left and a future in which they were one vote, not the vote, elderly voters pressed the panic button and marched lockstep into nostalgia, into the soothing sepia tinted past, where everyone had a voice but only one was listened to.

Decades from now it will become clear that Trump was just a zombie version of the Ronald Reagan era. Regan too owed his rise to nostalgia. From his Mad Men-era Brylcreemed hairdo to his avuncular middle American voice, he represented ah shucks and gosh darnit in an era of unsettling change.

Trump, however, is nobody's uncle. He lives at the top of a tower of gold where he never has to look at someone he doesn't employ, possibly even including his wife.

In our own era of unsettling change we have exchanged Reagan's folksy charm for an authoritarian hammer. It's the dumbest thing white America has ever done. It broadcasts our losing hand to the entire world.

So Trump is just the latest ill-advised and failing attempt to animate the lost past in the faltering present, as if all the political movements that undermine Trump's authoritarian leadership style will simply fold at the sight of his Brooks Brothers blazer and his red baseball hat.

He marched us all into the past, but he like everyone else is being forced to learn now that you can't live there.

Read more: Bono should refuse George W Bush award and apologize to Donald Trump

Bono should refuse George W Bush award and apologize to Donald Trump

George Bush recently announced he was going to honor Bono with the first George W. Bush Medal of Distinguished Leadership for his humanitarian work in Africa.

“Bono’s passion for ending poverty and disease is the real deal. He uses his celebrity not for personal gain, but to improve and save lives,” Bush said in a written statement.

The mutual admiration society was evident. Bono said: “More than 11 million people are alive today thanks to this man’s (George W. Bush) creation of PEPFAR, the U.S. AIDS program that has been saving lives and preventing new HIV infections for over 10 years, with strong support from political leaders right, left, and center.”

At the same time Bono went ballistic in “Rolling Stone” slamming President Donald Trump saying the “moral arc” of the universe had been disturbed by him since he was elected.

Bono said: “For the first time in many years, maybe in our lifetime, the moral arc of the universe, as Dr. King used to call it, was not bending in the direction of fairness, equality and justice for all.

The baseness of political debate, the jingoism, the atavistic fervor of Trump's verbiage reminded us that we were dreaming if we thought evolution applied to consciousness. Democracy is a blip in history and it requires a lot of focus and concentration to keep it intact.”

Sorry, Bono. If anyone bent the moral arc it was Bush and his unwarranted war on Iraq that has left up to 500,000 dead and millions injured and a country and region devastated.

Trump never sent the country to war as Bush did in Iraq under false circumstances. He and sidekick Dick Cheney ginned up a war that cost up to 500,000 lives, created ISIS, cost thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars and made the world an immeasurably more dangerous place.

Donald Trump has done nothing of the sort. His only foreign intervention so far was to lob a missile at the despot Assad in Syria to get him to stop using poison gas bombs on children and civilians.

Yet it is Trump who disturbed the moral arc according to Bono?

Accepting an award from Bush is not Bono's finest hour irrespective of the former president’s work on AIDS. Coupling that with a slashing attack on Trump who has not committed any acts of war whatever is doubly hypocritical.

We may not like what Trump says or his doctrine, but it is a long way from starting a war against a dictator who did not have chemical weapons and had no connection to 9/11 hijackers. (That was Saudi Arabia, remember.)

Sure, Bush might be a good guy to drink a pint with, but his Iraq war record marks him down as an American president with innocent blood on his hands and thousands of needlessly dead Americans as well.

So, get real Bono. We may not like Trump’s rhetoric, but he is not embroiling us in fake wars with dreadful consequences like Bush did.

You should refuse the reward. And place the blame for the arc of moral justice going astray where it belongs – with your best buddy in Texas.

You know you are contributing to the Zeitgeist notion that maybe Bush wasn’t so bad after all. Just visit a Veteran Administration hospital and ask a few Iraqi war vets.

Irish pro-choice abortion group protest wearing chilling Handmaid’s Tale costumes

Irish Pro-choice group channeled Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel "The Handmaid's Tale" while protesting the eighth amendment in Dublin. 

Protestors in Dublin this week donned the infamous red cloak and white bonnet now synonymous with Margaret Atwood's novel "The Handmaid's Tale" while protesting against Irish abortion laws outside government buildings in Ireland. 

Organised by ROSA, the group for Reproductive rights, against Oppression, Sexism, and Austerity, protestor Úna Reynolds told BreakingNews.ie, 

"We want pro-choice, proper legislation that will bring us compliant in human rights law along with all other countries."
After the success of the Hulu adaption of the novel, "The Handmaid's Tale" costumes have become a common feature at pro-choice abortion protests as groups compare the dystopian world in which the few fertile women are imprisoned into families in order to procreate to the control placed over women's bodies when abortion rights are not in place. 

Abortion is illegal in Ireland and only allowed if it is shown that the life of the mother is at risk. A 1983 referendum set the rights of the unborn child as having equal weight as that of the mother but the battle has raged on for the last three decades, coming to a head in the past number of years due to high-profile cases such as Savita Halappanavar who died of complications in 2012 after she was denied an abortion, despite knowing her unborn baby would not survive outside of the womb.

The public outrage following this case, in particular, lead to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act which allowed for a mother’s right to an abortion when her own life was at risk.

Although abortion is illegal in Ireland, that is not to say that Irish women are not acquiring a termination but they are forced to travel to other countries to do so. An estimated average claims that 12 women a day travel to another country from Ireland for an abortion.

Read more: Irish abortion laws violate human rights, claims UN

Protesting the eighth amendment of the Irish constitution which completely outlaws abortion, Irish women wore the red cloaks from the popular TV show The Handmaids Tale as they gathered outside Irish government buildings on Wednesday. Image: Paul Murphy/Twitter.

Earlier this year, Irish Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald announced that a referendum could be called next year after a government-selected Citizen’s Assembly voted on not retaining the Eighth Amendment as is.

The Assembly also voted to give the Oireachtas (Irish houses of parliament consisting of the Dáil and Seanad) a mandate to legislate on the issue of abortion, recommending unrestricted access to abortion in Ireland by 64% in a vote taken on Sunday.

The public forum Citizen’s Assembly was established by the Oireachtas to advise the government on a selection of ethical and moral problems within the constitution being faced by the Irish people. Consisting of 99 members in total and including men and women of different ages, from different parts of the country, and from different backgrounds, the Assembly heard testimonies from a range of women about their experience in traveling abroad for an abortion or of their decision not to have an abortion.

Irish government launches directory of the global Irish diaspora

Following on from commitments at the second Global Irish Civic Forum in May, Minister of State for the Diaspora, Ciarán Cannon TD, has launched the first edition of the Global Irish Diaspora Directory.

“This is a great initiative which has been developed to meet a real desire among our diaspora to connect better with home and with each other around the world.”

“Ultimately the purpose of this Diaspora Directory is to help Irish Diaspora organizations improve their communications and collaboration with each other, and to assist people looking to reach out to Irish organizations abroad.”

The Diaspora Directory includes the details of Irish community welfare, culture and heritage and networking groups in 34 countries. Minister Cannon said:

“For the first time, we are able to showcase the diversity of work that the Irish diaspora is engaged in and I’m pleased to see such excellent representation from groups engaging in frontline welfare services as well as those who are working tirelessly to preserve our heritage and culture overseas.”

Ciaran Cannon, TD

In total there are 360 organizations listed in the Directory, comprising all organizations that have been funded in the last five years by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s annual €11.59 million Emigrant Support Programme. In addition, any organization that was represented at the 2015 or 2017 Global Irish Civic Forum is also included in the Directory.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has a strong commitment to upholding best practice in data protection and for this reason, all the details in the directory have been sourced from publicly available information.

Explore the directory here

 

Welcoming the autumnal equinox at one of Ireland’s most magical ancient sites

Editor’s note: Today, September 22 is the autumnal (or fall) equinox, the day when the Sun crosses the celestial equator and the earth has the same amount of daylight as darkness. For the ancient Irish this day was sacred, celebrated with the symbol of the cornucopia as all the harvest is collected and the stocks for winter –it is hoped – will be plentiful.

Over 5,000 years ago, before the Pyramids in Giza in Eygpt, the ancient Irish had built structures, such as Carnbane West, Carnbane East, and Patrickstown, Loughcrew, all of which have been found to align with the rising sun of the spring and autumn equinoxes. Fascinating.

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Situated over three hilltops, Carnbane West, Carnbane East, and Patrickstown, Loughcrew in County Meath (Loch Craobh in Irish), is a cluster of twenty-five passage tombs dating to approximately 4000BC. Thought to have been built by a community of Neolithic farmers, these structures have been found to align with the rising sun of the spring and autumn equinoxes.

Loughcrew actually falls into the same category of importance, in terms of Irish archaeological sites, as the more famous Brú na Boinne (Newgrange), Carrowkeel, and Carrowmore. The mounds mostly consist of long, narrow passages ending in a set of chambers, forming a cruciform shape. These have then been covered over with stones, thus creating the familiar domed cairn.

During the summer months, the main central cairn (cairn T, also known as the Hag's Cairn) on Carnbane East is open, and there is a guide waiting to show you around, free of charge. In the winter, the cairn is locked, but you can collect the key from the cafe at nearby Loughcrew Gardens (leaving a deposit against its return), and have your own private viewing. Usually there is no one else around in the winter, so you can stay as long as you like, admiring the inner carvings which look as fresh and sharp as if they were only chiseled yesterday.

Cairns S and T at Loughcrew. Photo: Rob Hurson / Creative Commons

Cairn L on Carnbane West, arguably the most spectacular of the cairns, is privately owned and not open to public viewing. Cairn L is spectacular and unique, because it contains a limestone pillar, or standing stone, which is lit up by the rising sun entering the chamber.

There are many carvings in the chambers of Cairn T. In particular, those on the back wall of the rear chamber look like flowers and leaves, or stars. Of course, these carvings look quite random to us, but it's interesting that on the equinox, the beam of light starts in the top left symbol, and traverses across the stone panel over the course of an hour, finishing at the bottom right symbol, which looks extraordinarily like the sun.

Another name for Loughcrew is Sliabh na Caillaigh, which means 'Mountain of the Hag.' Local folklore tells of a hag, or witch, leaping from hill top to hill top carrying stones in her apron. As she did so, some of the stones fell from her apron and landed on the hills below, thus forming the cairns of Loughcrew.

On Sep 23 of last year, I visited Loughcrew to greet the dawn of the autumn equinox. It was still pitch black when I left the house, and I was glad to see the stars shining bright and clear. It meant there would be a good chance of seeing the sun rise.

Photo: Ali Isaac

There was just enough tremulous starlight to guide my way up the hill. I couldn't help feeling that by following in the footsteps of our distant ancestors I was enacting some kind of ancient ritual, winding my way through the still velvety darkness as they would have done, perhaps earning the right to be there by participating in that steep, breathless climb at such an early hour of the day.

Meanwhile, the faint stain of dawn was already caressing the horizon in the east.

Photo: Ali Isaac

Although the tiny car park was full, I wasn't prepared for the number of people waiting in anticipation as I rounded the stony bulk of cairn T. They were queuing all the way around it, and the hum of their chatter and laughter seemed loud after the silence of the climb.

There were people everywhere: photographers with huge cameras on tripods, dogs on leads, children running, men climbing on top of the cairn, even people on horses. Above our heads, a remote-controlled device flew and hovered, buzzing noisily and flashing red and green lights; it probably contained a camera.

As the sky lit up, a pagan group began their ceremony, chanting and singing, and beating on a bodhran. It was very atmospheric, with the stony humpback of the cairn brooding in the darkness behind them, and the sun washing the sky with gold, lilac and pink before them.

The feeling of anticipation was intense. Everyone was waiting for that special moment, when the sun finally broke through and cast its rays like long fingers stealing over the land and into the entrance of the cairn.

Photo: Ali Isaac

The sun rose, but hid her face stubbornly behind a thin veil of cloud that refused to budge. Still, people waited. I suspected that if there was even a hint of a sunbeam, there would be a mad rush to try and get into the cairn chamber, and I did not want to be a part of that. The cairn was open, so I asked the Office of Public Works staff if I could go in.

Inside, it was dark and empty, save for one huge spider. I shone the light from my phone on the familiar symbols, tracing their sharp outlines with my fingers. There was no indication of the crowd and chaos which waited outside. It was silent, and peaceful. This was where the magic happened, in the dark quiet solitude, surrounded only by the stones, the symbols, and the ghosts of our ancestors.

It was clear that there would be no mystic sunbeam entering Loughcrew on this occasion. Others followed me in, so I paid my respects, and began the trek downhill. I could come back another time. If the cairn was closed, I could even get the key. This is Ireland, after all. We don't fence our monuments off and forbid people to touch and experience them.

These stones were put together by mankind for the benefit of mankind. We may not know how, or why, but we know it took great effort and commitment to do so. I wonder if those Neolithic builders ever imagined that thousands of years in the future, their structures would still be standing, and people would still be climbing the hill to view the equinoxes from them.

Have you ever been lucky enough to witness an equinox or a solstice in one of Ireland’s passage tombs? Share your experience in the comment section, below.

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Ali Isaac lives in beautiful rural Co Cavan in Ireland, and is the author of two books based on Irish mythology, “Conor Kelly and The Four Treasures of Eirean,” and “Conor Kelly and The Fenian King.” Ali regularly posts on topics of Irish interest on her blog, www.aliisaacstoryteller.com.

New York Irish supplies delivered safely to Hurricane Harvey battered Texas

The journey to Port Arthur, just outside of Houston, began on September 11 at around 4 p.m. for Rockaway Irish Americans Ed Shevlin and Leslie Mahoney, who drove a Chevy truck and attached U-Haul trailer full of supplies to help people devastated by the impact of Hurricane Harvey last month.

Four days and more than 3,000 miles later they were back in New York and planning their next visit to the stricken location, poorer than most in the Houston vicinity and hugely grateful for the outpouring of support from New York.

“It was an incredible experience,” Shevlin, a Gaelic speaker and Irish scholar born and raised in Rockaway, told the Irish Voice.

Proud Irish American Ed Shevlin.

“It was interesting driving through side streets in Brooklyn and other places with our truck and trailer, but we kept going and we made it.”

Mahoney, a retired schoolteacher, and Shevlin, retired from the New York Sanitation Department, knew the pain the people in Houston were feeling after Harvey; the Rockaways were similarly shattered by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.  They set about collecting donations of items like paper towels, bug spray and diapers for Houstonians and loaded up Shevlin’s truck and donated U-Haul to capacity.

They kept going for two days and landed in Port Arthur, a coastal city about 90 miles from Houston and badly in need of assistance after Harvey cut a destructive path.

“It looked just like Rockaway after Sandy.  The only thing missing was the sand because there was no beach nearby.  Houses flooded, possessions piled up all over the place. It was awful,” said Shevlin.

“It seemed to be an area that wasn’t very affluent to start with. They are suffering so much.”

Volunteers help with clean up after Texas hurricanes.

Shevlin and Mahoney made their stop at St. Catherine of Siena School. Their original plan was to head to Houston proper, but the impact of their supplies would be more profoundly felt in Port Arthur.

“People were so, so grateful.  We saw houses reduced to shacks. Rubble all over the place. Our donations were gratefully accepted.”

Shevlin and Mahoney remained in Port Arthur for a grand total of about 90 minutes, before heading back home to New York via Baton Rouge, where they spent the night.  Their epic drive ended on Friday evening, 96 hours after they started.

Mahoney discovered that the children of St. Catherine of Siena are in need of uniforms.  Shevlin says she’s started another collection drive in the Rockaways to help the children, and that another trip to Port Arthur will likely be on the cards.

“Leslie will likely fill up her living room again with donations, like she just did,” Shevlin said.  “So the likelihood is that we’ll go again, and happily so. It’s important for the people in Port Arthur to know that they are not alone, just like we weren’t alone after Sandy.”

Meeting with J.P. Donleavy, author of "The Gingerman"

JP Donleavy, author of controversial 1955 book "The Gingerman", has died in a hospital near his home in Co. Westmeath, aged 91. 

In the summer of 2000, I was in New York with a friend.

The day before we were due to fly home, we were sitting in a bar in Manhattan when my friend picked up a newspaper from a table and saw that there was a performance of “The Ginger Man” being performed at The Irish Arts Center.

We both loved the works of Donleavy and especially the novel which had been adapted for the stage.

So, we called the theatre and managed to secure the last two tickets.

And this was the closing night of the run.

We watched the riotously funny performance and thanked our lucky stars that we’d had the good fortune to see it - and in New York of all places.

This is where the coincidences started to happen.

The following day we were trying to kill time before we were due to catch our taxi to Newark Airport.

We ambled up Broadway and happened to stumble upon an old bookshop – the type with all the narrow corridors and those sliding ladders.

Not really intending to buy anything, I was just happy to browse – anything to get out of the unforgiving heat of the Big Apple.

Sensing that the proprietor was watching me, I blindly grabbed at the row of books directly at my eye level.

JP Donleavy. Image: RollingNews.ie.

Then I looked at the book in my hand.

It was “The Saddest Summer of Samuel S” by J.P. Donleavy. I smiled to myself and marveled at the chances of that.

A couple of hours later, we were sitting in Newark Airport, bored witless.

The lift beside us suddenly opened and a man stepped out.

He looked, for all the world, like a weekend guest at a bygone shooting party in some grand manor house.

He was resplendent in his flat cap, Harris Tweed jacket, and highly polished brogues.

I did a double take immediately and followed him with my gaze as he moved in front of us.

I checked my playbill from the previous night and compared the image. It was him – it had to be him!

I didn’t have the nerve to approach him but my friend did once I’d pointed him out.

After a couple of minutes in conversation with the dapper gent, he waved me over.

Indeed, it was him.

We spoke for maybe a quarter of an hour. I’m sure I was just blurting endless questions at him, but he was extremely friendly and had such a wonderful voice that immediately put one at ease – a cross between Frasier Crane and John Houseman.

JP Donleavy (far right).

He explained that he was en-route to visit his sculptor daughter, Karen, in Idaho.

I asked him if he had heard The Pogues song, “A Fairy Tale of New York,” named after his 1973 novel.

He said he had and in fact, Shane Macgowan, whom he liked very much, was currently in New York.

I also asked him had he ever seen “Withnail & I?” He hadn’t, so I explained that Withnail was surely a latter-day Sebastian Dangerfield, the eponymous Ginger Man and just as rakishly funny.

He said in that case, he’d definitely watch out for it.

He asked us who we were flying with and when we told him Virgin Atlantic he laughed and shook his head, remarking on their choice of using “Upper Class” as an ego-building alternative to traveling in economy.

We spoke about county Westmeath in Ireland where he lived, a part of the country where my own Irish parents once had a house.

He graciously signed our playbills and shook our hands.

We were to meet him again at one of his paintings exhibitions in Dublin several years later and even go to his birthday party at The United Arts Club in Dublin and out on a raucous night of revelry around the city with his son Phillip.

However, on that day in Newark Airport we sadly watched him disappear into the crowd, and like Terence Mann, the reclusive writer from “Field of Dreams,” into the cornfield he went and a voice inside my head boomed:

“God’s Mercy On the wild Ginger man.”

J.P. Donleavy passed earlier this month at age 91. Terry Corrigan is alive and well and living in Manchester, England.

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Move back to Ireland proved a complete nightmare for this returning emigrant

A returning Irish emigrant tells of the difficulties faced in trying to return home to Ireland

The Irish government often campaigns for Irish emigrants who left during Ireland’s recession to consider returning home. But with issues ranging from driver's licenses to employment to healthcare, many Irish looking to return home say the government doesn’t make it easy. This is the account of one Irish woman and the obstacles she and her husband faced on their journey home.

We just recently moved back from Brisbane Australia in April 2017 after being there for the past ten years. My husband and I are from a small Midlands town in Ireland.  We never realized how hard it was going to be, and after what we’ve been through I wouldn’t encourage anyone to come back.

After making the decision to return home I applied to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) for an overseas registration application which cost €350 (around $418) in December 2016 and started the process.

While in Brisbane I returned to university and completed a Bachelor Degree of Nursing. Once I graduated I secured a 12-month graduate program in the renal and liver transplant unit at the Princess Alexandra Hospital which is the biggest tertiary hospital in Australia. After the graduate program, I continued to work in the transplant unit. Over the years I continued to learn and expand my knowledge and skills.

Issues with NMBI

The woman faced problems in transferring over her nursing degree. Image credit: iStock.

The application process for registration has been very stressful and frustrating.

The application comes in 5 sections. Section A was to be filled out by me, which I sent by registered post back in January. Once I knew they received it - I rang to check on it - I was told that once they signed for it, it takes 15 to 20 working days to process it. So, it sits there till then.

Next section was to be filled out by the university in Australia, costing me $315 to send my transcripts and course information to the NMBI. I had copies of everything myself but they wouldn’t accept it from me and it had to come directly from the university.

This took weeks and weeks to process. It was so slow.

Next step was that NMBI needed a copy of nursing registration from Aphra in Australia, which I had a copy of but again, NMBI wouldn’t accept it from me, needing it to be sent directly from Aphra which cost $50. Same process again once this was received, it would take another 15 to 20 working days to process it.

Read more: Top reasons to make the move to Ireland

Next step was for my boss to fill out employment reference form and yet again, I sent it by registered post and yet again, it took ages. Once they processed it, a representative sent me an email requesting that I should get my boss to confirm Part Form B employment reference form. This was in April, and the very same day my boss sent her an email confirming that he did send part form B to them {NMBI}.

Weeks passed, still no update. I rang NMBI to check if they received the email, no one could help me and they knew nothing about it. The girl on the phone from NMBI said because it came from the representative in assessment dept that they knew nothing about it because she had contacted me over email and didn’t update my file.

At this stage, five weeks had passed and I was getting so frustrated, I just kept ringing the NMBI and getting nowhere, until I made a complaint against the first representative. As the girl on the phone from NMBI said: “the email is probably sitting in her inbox and she never passed it on to be updated”.

Finally, after 7 weeks it was updated.

That same representative sent another email in July, requesting more information about the graduate program I had completed. I sent her several emails requesting what exactly she was looking for and received no reply. She wasn’t one bit helpful and never answered my emails. I had to ring the NMBI to find out what they were looking for, which still wasn’t helpful either.  

So yet again, I had to contact my boss and help him to figure out what exactly they were looking for. He sent a breakdown of clinical hours and theory hours, courses, simulations, which I completed in the 12 months of the grad program. NMBI wouldn’t accept the information by email and said it had to be sent by post. This took weeks to process yet again.

Over the whole process, it took nearly 9 months to finally get an answer from the NMBI that they are giving me two options:

  1. To complete an adaptation assessment course for 6 weeks in a hospital accredited by them.
  2. To do aptitude test at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin which costs €2,800 (around $3,340).

When I rang the NMBI to get more information about the decision letter, I was told that most people just pay the money and get it over and done with. NMBI sent a list of hospitals to ring to look for an adaptation course but it's outdated. The list had no contact numbers, just hospital names. My conclusion? It seems like they just want you to do the aptitude test and pay the €2,800. It’s all about money.

That is crazy money, after paying nearly $30,000 in getting a degree and not to have it be recognized in Ireland. Very stressful.

It wouldn’t encourage anyone to return home.

Battles with insurance made the journey home all the worse

Car insurance was another major issue for the couple moving home. Image credit: iStock.

After returning in April it has been an uphill battle dealing with the Irish system. So many issues between car insurance, social welfare office, banks, etc.

My husband got a quote of €6,500 ($7,700) for van insurance and finally got a cheaper quote for €2,500 (around $3,000).

I got a quote for a car insurance that was €3,500 (around $4,180) but luckily, I had a letter from Australia saying I’d had no claims bonus and got insurance for €860 ($1,027).

Dealing with banks was terrible. Before we left my husband was chatting to Bank of Ireland about their returning home package group and trying to organize a mortgage for an investment property. We were told that we need engineer reports and plans, which we obtained, and after getting them and paying €1,500 ($1,790) for the Bank of Ireland turned around and said can’t help you. Even though we paid off our mortgage, bought 20 acres of land and a site with full planning permission with house plans in the local town. Also having savings in the bank still didn’t matter.  

Even trying to set up a bank account was stressful for these returning Irish emigrants. Image credit: iStock.

It took seven weeks to open a joint bank account, and there are still other issues. Too many to list.

Because we are out of the country for so long, I was told we wouldn’t be entitled to anything. I was told by the girl at the counter at the Social Welfare Office, that we were considered foreigners in our own country for the six months, even though we are Irish and born here.

Applying for a PPS number for our little one was painful, and they tried to tell me that  I didn’t need it till he starts school. But you need a PPS number for the GP card for child health benefits.

I finally got one for him and then applied for child benefit, but first had to show I had family connections here and give their names and PPS numbers, show proof that I plan to stay here, and show six months of bank statements from Australia. So much paperwork just to make sure my child can be healthy.

The move home has been expensive and stressful, we never realized how hard it was going to be.  

I wouldn’t encourage anyone to come back. Ireland seems so backward compared to Australia. Everything seems to be against us and it seems like we are being punished for having moved away.

Have you ever moved back to Ireland after an extended period living elsewhere? Did you encounter the same difficulties? Let us know of your experience in the comments section below. 

Irish Mammy’s website lists Irish baby girl names – what do you think?

Irish parenting website published 21 Irish girls' names. What’s your verdict?

From Caoimhe to Aoife, Irish girls' names, no matter how they’re spelled, are popular around the world and no more so than in the United States, where names like Erin, Shannon and Kelly are still popular. However, an Irish parenting website recently published a list of 21 Irish girls' names and we were quite surprised by their selections. In fact, we’re not sure they’re all Irish.

Read more: Irish baby first names that are super popular in the US

Magic Mum, based out of Sandyford in Dublin, posted a list of Irish baby girls' names with the headline, “These 21 Irish girl names are seriously stunning.” And they’re right. They go on to say that “there is something about the Irish language that makes names sound so mysterious… beautiful, elegant names that have an air of history, mystique and beauty.”

Well that’s Irish ladies for ye! We can’t disagree some of these are gorgeous baby names.

Take and look down through this list and let us know what you think in the comments below.

- Ailis (Eye-leash) – meaning of noble kin

- Ailbhe (Al-vah) – meaning white

- Aoibheann (Ee-veen) – meaning fair one

- Aoibh (Eve) – meaning beauty

- Bríana (Bree-in-a) – meaning high noble

- Daighin (Die-gan) – meaning dawn

- Dáire (Dara) – meaning sincere

- Clóda (Chlo-da) – meaning lame

- Iona (I-o-na) – meaning blessed

- Maelíosa (Mae-o-lisa) – meaning servant of Jesus

Read more: These Irish baby names are about to become super trendy

- Neala – meaning little champion

- Iesult (Is-ult) – meaning ruler of the ice

- Lúile (Lu-la) – meaning child with thick hair

- Mairin (Maw-reen) – meaning bitterly wanted child

- Nainsí (Nancy) – meaning graceful

- Naomh (Naave) – meaning saint

- Nóinín (No-neen) – meaning daisy

- Réitlín (Ray-tleen) – meaning little star

- Siui (Shoe-ee) – meaning rose

- Vevina (Ve-vina) – meaning sweet lady

- Zaira (Zeera) – meaning princess

What’s your verdict? Do you love or hate some of these names? Let us know in the comment section below.

Did Tom Brady date Ivanka Trump? Does Gisele Bündchen care?

Were Tom Brady and Ivanka Trump once an item? Anthony Scaramucci certainly seems to think so.

The former ten-day holder of the title of White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci has claimed that there may have been a little something going on between First Daughter Ivanka Trump and New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady, something that caused the sports star to skip the Super Bowl celebration in the White House.

Speaking on TMZ Sport, Scaramucci seemed to insinuate that Trump and Brady once dated and that a previous relationship between the pair may have been the cause of some jealousy for the quarterback’s supermodel wife Gisele Bündchen.

“What I did say is somebody should ask Gisele why Tom Brady didn’t show up at the championship party,” Scaramucci said.

“My guess is, which is typical … there could be a little bit of jealousy there and protection and possession of Tom Brady, and she probably didn’t want him to go….

“Maybe there was a relationship between him and Ivanka at some point. Maybe it was someone else, I don’t know. I just think there was a possession that caused a rub.”

President Trump, who has had a long-time friendship with Brady, previously said in 2004 that it would be cool if Ivanka and Brady got together, but, despite Scaramucci’s claims, it’s generally believed that there isn't anything more interesting to tell on a potential Brady/Trump hookup.

According to People magazine, sources are saying the suggestion of a previous relationship between Ivanka Trump and Tom Brady is “completely false,” while a source close to Brady claimed Scaramucci’s intimation is “bullshit.”

Sources also told TMZ that while Brady and Trump are friends, they have never dated.

Did Tom Brady date Ivanka Trump?

Brady cited “personal family matters” when he declined the president’s invitation to the White House after the Pats’ Super Bowl win, just hours before the ceremony was due to take place.  

The football star said in a statement at the time: “I am so happy and excited that our team is being honored at the White House today. Our team has accomplished something very special that we are all proud of and will be for years to come.

“Thank you to the President for hosting this honorary celebration and for supporting our team for as long as I can remember.”

Read more: Why Donald Trump seems to like the Irish an awful lot

Donald Trump once suggested that it would be cool if his daughter Ivanka Trump dated Tom Brady. Image: WikiCommons.

Brady revealed on Instagram later that the “personal family matter” may have had nothing to do with Ivanka as he posted from the celebration of his parents’ 48th wedding anniversary. The five-time Super Bowl champion’s mother had been battling cancer and only ended chemotherapy and radiation treatments this summer.

The Irish American football star has been married to Brazilian model Bündchen since 2009 and the couple has two children. Ivanka Trump has also been married to her husband, White House advisor Jared Kushner, since 2009. They have three children.

Do you think there was something once between Trump and Brady? Let us know in the comments section.

Hudson Valley Irish Fest turns nine

The annual Hudson Valley Irish Fest, now in its ninth year, returns to Peekskill’s Riverfront Green on Saturday, September 30 from 11a.m. to 7 p.m., rain or shine. 

The community-based, not for profit cultural event celebrates the rich Irish American heritage of the lower Hudson Valley. Dan Dennehy, the organization’s chairman states, “For nine years now, this celebration of the best of Ireland and Irish America has been the official Irish kickoff to fall in the Hudson Valley. Please bring the family and join us on September 30 at this beautiful riverfront location.”

Headliners include Celtic Cross, the McLean Avenue Band and Irish superstar Aoife Scott and her band Roses in the Garden, a variety show by the New York New Jersey Rose of Tralee Center, Tim Murphy and massed pipe bands.

The Jack McAndrew Memorial Traditional Tent features Irish recording artists Mary Courtney, Donie Carroll, talented local Irish step dancers and renowned traditional Irish musicians. The spoken word tent features best-selling authors, historians, poets, storytellers and historical displays.       

The festival also features the work of outstanding artists and craftspeople from both Ireland and the Hudson Valley. There also is an interactive children's area featuring old world toys, games, storytelling, crafts, and other activities. A wide variety of food and refreshments from area restaurants and Irish products will be available.

Dennehy says the day of Irish culture in the Hudson Valley would not be possible without an annual grant from the Consulate General of Ireland in New York through the Emigrant Support Program of Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Department. The all-volunteer committee is composed of students earning community service time, local residents and the members of AOH and LAOH Division 18 Peekskill. The Hibernians will be selling raffles at their tent for a chance to win a trip to Ireland for two and other prizes.

Visitors can take MTA Metro-North’s Hudson Line to Peekskill train station, immediately adjacent to Riverfront Green and an hour ride from Grand Central Terminal.  Ample free parking is also available.

Admission is $10 per person suggested donation, ages 12 and under free. No coolers or non-service animals.

Visit www.hudsonvalleyirishfest.com for information, directions and pictures of past events.

All aboard the Belfast budget Brexit train

Brexit is already affecting the Republic of Ireland and the North before it even starts

Looking around on the train to Belfast last week, two things came to mind --  Brexit and the budget. 

They might not be the first things that most travelers think about as they settle into their comfortable seats on the swish Enterprise train to the North.  But what I could see all around me last week was a visible reminder of both the challenges posed by Brexit and the choices to be made in the upcoming budget which is now just a couple of weeks away. This is a journey we make every month or so to visit relatives who live in the North.  The Enterprise is run jointly by Irish Rail and Northern Ireland Railways and it's a flagship service with at least six trains in both directions every day. 

Unlike a lot of other trains here it's fast and modern, a smooth link that shrinks the distance between Dublin and Belfast.  And since we use it regularly, we know it well. But there was a difference last week -- it was much busier than it has been in recent months.  In fact there was hardly a vacant seat to be found when we arrived late, just before departure time. 

We walked through several carriages as the train left Dublin in search of a couple of seats together facing in the forward direction.  We found two eventually, but there were very few empty seats left. Apart from the usual sprinkling of American tourists and business people on their laptops using the train's wi-fi, almost all the passengers were senior citizens, the grey-haired brigade on a day out courtesy of their free travel passes.  That's not unusual since this is a favorite journey for senior citizens here using what they call "the free travel." We will come back to the free travel in a moment when we talk about the budget.  But the striking thing last week was that so many of the older folk -- and the younger people who were also traveling -- had empty, rolled-up shopping bags with them.  Some even had wheelie bags and suitcases that seemed to be empty. It was clear what was going on.  Many of them were on a shopping mission to the North to take advantage of the sharp fall in the value of sterling which has happened since the Brexit vote over a year ago. We hear a lot about Brexit these days and the threat it poses to the Irish economy.  In fact we hear so much about it that it's hard not to glaze over when yet another economist appears forecasting disaster ahead.  It all seems a bit unreal. 

Yet here on the train we were looking at something very real, hard evidence that Brexit is already affecting us before it even starts. The fact that the euro now buys much more sterling makes a trip North to do some shopping an attractive proposition once again, just like it used to be years ago.  With predictions that parity between the pound and the euro is not too far away, it's a trend that is likely to strengthen in the months ahead.  Sterling has lost more than 15 percent of its value since last year and was bumping along around the 90 pence to the euro level in the last few days. At the moment, looking at the bulging bags on the return journey later that day, it seems to be mainly shopping for alcohol, tobacco, clothes and electrical goods.  But it's likely that people heading north to do their weekly grocery shop are traveling by car rather than on the train, so that is probably happening as well.  And there are already reports that a growing number of motorists on the southern side of the border are now traveling north to fill up their tanks. The fallout for our economy is already making itself felt.  The Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures for the second quarter of this year (April, May and June) show a sharp decline in excise duties of around 300 million euro.  Excise duty applies mainly to alcohol, tobacco and fuel (petrol and diesel)  and is a huge part of annual government revenue. The implications of such a sharp fall in revenue are already worrying, even if it's much too early to be hitting the panic button.  The important thing is that unlike all the predictions and forecasts about what Brexit might do to us.

This €300 million euro drop in revenue is not speculation; it's hard fact evidenced by the official statistics for the period.   Were this trend to continue and intensify it would be a major concern. Of course cross-border shopping is just one result in the fall in sterling due to the Brexit vote. Others that are already visible are the difficulties being faced by small business here which export heavily to the U.K. (like mushroom growers) and now find their sales are worth 15 percent less than they were two years ago.   

Garages are also feeling the squeeze as new car sales here fall and more people opt to buy a secondhand prestige car in the U.K.   Thanks to the fall in sterling, car enthusiasts can now bring in a big BMW or Mercedes from the U.K. for what an ordinary family car costs here new. In the context of overall state revenues of over €50 billion annually, a €300million euro drop in excise might not seem that concerning.  But it's the trend that is most important.  And even a €300 million drop in revenue matters because the budgetary situation here is so tight.   

The amount of extra money that the minister for finance will have to play with in the budget on October 10 will be between €200-500 million, depending on which set of figures are used.  So a €300 million drop in revenue certainly matters. That brings us to our train lesson for the budget.  The majority of passengers on our train to Belfast last week were older folk using their free travel passes.  

Free travel for people who are 66 or more (pension age) was one of the measures introduced by Charlie Haughey during his time as taoiseach.   Like his introduction of state support for artists it seemed like a laudable move, giving a new sense of freedom to retirees. But of course there is no such thing as free travel because someone has to pay for it -- and here it is the taxpayer who pays every time the old folk use the train or the bus. 

The national bill every year for this concession is around €80 million.  It is not means-tested, so everyone here who is over 66 can avail of it even though many could easily pay for their tickets.   It's not possible to know, but looking around the train last week I would guess that the majority of old folk who were traveling could have paid their own way. Politicians know this, of course, but any suggestion that the free travel might be means tested has died a quick death because they also know the power of the grey vote.  So they leave it as it is. The "free travel" might not seem to be a big issue in terms of the overall budget.  But it is the principle that is important.  

It is a failure that affects other parts of state spending here as well, most notably on state support for children which eats up a big chunk of state revenue.  Child benefit which is currently €140 per child per month is paid regardless of income.  So a family with four children gets €560 a month from the state until the children are 18 whether they need it or not -- and many families don't need it. There are also anomalies in other areas of high state spending, in welfare, health, education, and even in housing supports, despite the fact that  we are in the middle of a housing crisis.  In all these areas there is room for much tighter and more targeted state spending. Given that we are still around €200 billion in debt after the crash (one of the most indebted countries in the world), and given that we still have a very heavy tax burden here aimed at getting rid of the deficit, controlling state spending will be a key test for the new government under our new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. He has said several times (and again last week) that he wants to help the people who get up early in the morning to go to work by reducing their taxes.  To be able to do this to any significant degree he will have to get state spending here under much greater control.   But doing that and maintaining his popularity in the run-up to the next election won't be easy. It has been said by his critics on the left that behind his trendy liberal image he is actually an arch conservative on economic matters.  We'll know soon enough.

When the Spanish sailed to free Ireland from the British

Throughout the history of British occupation the Irish dreamed of rescue from either France or Spain, Catholic countries which were sworn enemies of the English. One of the most famous songs of the period was “My Dark Rosaleen” which stood for Ireland. The first verse includes the line “And Spanish ale shall give you hope My Dark Rosaleen.”

The French intervention is well remembered in connection with the 1798 rebellion but the Spanish effort less so. It also came close to a major victory with the Northern leaders Hugh O’Neill and Hugh O’Donnell coming to help. When the Spanish and Irish were defeated the “Flight of the Earls” began. On September 2, 1601 thirty-three ships sailed from Lisbon to Ireland. In total there were 4,432 men under the leadership of the Don Juan del Águila and Francisco de Toledo Tercios. Del Águila held the supreme command of the expedition as its General Field Master. The aim was to take the port of Cork, key southern port of the island and hold for a larger Spanish landing.

A strong gale dispersed the fleet near the island of Ouessant. The admiral, Diego Brochero, managed to reach Kinsale on October 1 with the greater part of the vessels. Thus, most men were able to land on Irish soil, but eight or nine ships under Pedro de Zubiaur, along with 650 soldiers and most of the provisions, returned to Galicia.

As soon as they landed, the fleet returned to Spain in search of reinforcements. Juan del Águila stayed with 3,000 men isolated in Kinsale. Allied troops were far from the town and so they could only get 900 poorly armed rookies. He decided to fortify the camp and wait for reinforcements. At the entrance of the bay he had built two forts: Castle Park and Ringcurran.

An English army of 10,000 infantry, 600 horsemen and several cannons under the command of Charles Blount, VIII Baron of Mountjoy soon came. Additionally, a small fleet blockaded the harbor.

In November, Mountjoy ordered an attack on Kinsale. The British took the Ringcurran fort, but were ultimately rejected. Soon after, Juan del Águila made an offer of surrender, which was rejected.

From the north of the island, Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone and Red Hugh O'Donnell, Lord of Tyrconnell headed toward Kinsale in command of 5,500 men. In Spain, Pedro de Zabiaur, left port on December 7 in command of ten ships with 829 soldiers and abundant provisions and ammunition. But a new storm caused four ships to get lost. The rest managed to reach Castlehaven, about 48 km south of Kinsale on December 11.

Blount, alerted to the presence of a new Spanish force in Ireland, sent a fleet of seven ships to Castlehaven. On December 16, after five hours of fighting, the English were only able to sink the galleon Maria Francisca and, unable to take the port, defended by a battery of five guns, fled the scene.

In the morning of that day, December 16, 1,500 men left Kinsale to try to break the siege. They managed to destroy twenty guns and kill more than seven hundred English, but they had to return to the city, unable to cross enemy lines. Spanish casualties were relatively low, which encouraged the troops.

After the victory against the English in Castlehaven, the nobles of the area swore allegiance to the King of Spain (then Philip III) and provided 550 infantry and a company of cavalry. In addition, the castles of Dunboy (near Castletownbere) and Donneshed (near Baltimore) were given to the Spanish forces.

The rebel army coming from the north, finally managed to link with the Spanish, then decided to help Juan del Águila. But Zabiaur did not want to lose control of a number of places from Castlehaven to Baltimore that could be used for future landings. So he divided his troops, giving the Irish army 200 auxiliary infantry while he and the other men secured positions. So, just under 6,500 men set off for Kinsale.

At that time, the English army had been reduced to 8,000 men due to casualties caused by the Spanish, diseases and desertions.

On January 3 the two armies met at Kinsale. The lack of coordination between the rescue army and the besieged, coupled with the disorganization of the Irish and the superiority of the English cavalry, turned the Battle of Kinsale into a major defeat for the Spanish-Irish coalition.

The Irish began the attack, but were repulsed by the English. Under pressure from the English army, some Irish began to abandon the fight. After that, the English cavalry launched a counterattack, which drove them back and the Irish army fled. The cavalry then began to chase them, causing heavy casualties among the deserters. The intervention of the Spanish infantry prevented greater carnage at the expense of 90 deaths and 52 prisoners. Juan del Águila left the city with his men, but it was already late and they were rejected. In total, 1,200 Irish died at Kinsale.

On January 12, Juan del Águila surrendered. The terms of the surrender forced the Spanish to surrender their palaces and castles in Kinsale, Castlehaven, Dunboy, Donneshed and Donnelong (on the island of Sherkin). In return, the Spanish army (then reduced to 1,800 men) and all the Irish who so wished, would receive supplies and transport to return to Spain. Also, they would keep their weapons, flags and money.

On January 14, just two days later, Martín de Vallecina arrived in Kinsale with reinforcements but returned to Spain as soon as he learned of the surrender.

* Originally published in 2014.

Celebrating the incredible Irish artist Robert Ballagh on his 74th birthday

Irish artist Robert Ballagh, who designed the set to Riverdance, celebrates his 74th birthday today, September 22.

Happy 74th birthday to Robert Ballagh, famed Irish artist, painter, and designer, who designed the set used in the famous Irish dance show Riverdance! Celebrated for his hyperrealistic renderings of well-known Irish figures, today on his birthday, September 22, we look back at the might of the artist with a piece published in 2010 on the release of the Ciaran Carty biography "Citizen Artist."

I’ve often called Robert Ballagh the perfect Dubliner. He married the city, walked it, photographed it, painted it, and Dublin in turn – no mean city – has embraced him.

He recently completed a portrait of James Joyce for U.C.D. If Joyce were around, he would have a lot of respect for another Dublin, Ballagh’s Dublin, for Bobby has populated the city.

What do I mean by that? He has painted everybody – politicians, artists, poets, musicians (Dublin is a great music town), architects, sportsmen, scientists. To be painted by Ballagh is an event. He negotiates the marriages of two minds – sitter and artist – with revelatory tact. He has left a record of Dublin at a certain era that is and will be an extraordinary window into the life of this city. Ballagh’s Dublin.

Irish artist Robert Ballagh with Irish president Michael D. Higgins. Image credit: RollingNews.ie.

Robert Ballagh can be compared to Holbein

Just down the road here is the Frick Collection. You can go in and see the Holbeins. Holbein tells you about every character in the court of Henry the Eighth. Anne Boleyn looks as if she just sat down yesterday. The great Ambassadors in the painting of that name are to me often more alive than the people looking at them. Holbein gives you eyes that see microscopically. Such intensity of perception makes the subject almost unreal. It’s as if a hallucination had been materialized.

Why do I mention Holbein? Because – I’m not fooling – Ballagh’s technical gifts are just as perfect. With that hyper-vision, the unceasing appetite for perfection, every feature, every smooth cheek, every furrow and the light in every eye is posed and re-made. Vision become visionary, his sitter held in an intense, intimate grip.

Robert is one of the few people of major visual arts gifts who didn’t leave. He showed it was possible to make a living as an artist in Dublin. His reputation has gone far beyond city limits. He’s known and respected all over Europe.

I respect Bobby for many things. Not just his art, his theater designs, his posters, book covers, his gifts as a designer. I marked him long ago, in 1970, when I saw his free translation of Delacroix’s "Liberty on the Barricades". Liberty. There’s no greater social conscience in Dublin, in Irish art and letters than Bobby Ballagh.

Robert Ballagh with Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams. Image credit: RollingNews.ie.

Nicknamed Citizen Ballagh because of his intense political stances

I call him Citizen Ballagh. Because he is a full citizen. He is not a political artist, but an artist who is intensely political. He is an active figure in his society, he has a voice, and he uses it.

It is a voice that is respected in the troubled North, now precariously pacified. He has been vocal when government cowardice is on display. Those government officials seeking the ease and comfort of forgetfulness have been called to remembrance by Mr. Ballagh.

He has been a leader for civil rights in the North. And for artists’ rights. He is an ethical man, whose values are often a rebuke to those without them. His art and mine are very different. But we admire each other’s work. We offer each other that deepest of courtesies.

Read more: Meet the Irish artists blazing a trail in Brooklyn

Robert Ballagh at a protest against US troops landing at Shannon airport. Image credit: RollingNews.ie.

Robert Ballagh holds no illusions of grandeur

Is Bobby admired by other artists? It’s always surprised me that this extraordinary artificer does not receive the praise from colleagues that he should. In the powerful Dublin literary community, Bobby is held in the highest regard. Why not in segments of the artistic and critical establishment?

I’ve thought about that. Is there a kind of a genteel holdover from our colonial days in parts of the Irish visual arts establishment? Bobby seeks no favors. His art speaks as frankly as he does. His art is seen as Pop. It’s not. It’s a kind of hyper-realism secreted brushstroke by brushstroke by his temperament and character.

Irish artist Robert Ballagh. Image credit: RollingNews.ie.

Speaking of character. We know that the arts attract their quota of poseurs and esthetes. Bobby – and this was shared by his wonderful late wife, Betty – detests pretentiousness and artistic snobbery.

His realism is a rebuke to all kinds of fakery social and otherwise. That doesn’t make you popular with the pretentious. He has lived a simple life as husband and father. If you want to know how a Dublin life – Ballagh’s life – was/is lived, look at the marvelous paintings of his domestic life.

Robert Ballagh - Citizen Artist.

He is a realist in life and art. And when he turns his own eye on himself, the results – in a great series of, in my view, historical self-portraits – are uncompromising to the point of brutality. He gave himself no quarter. The self-portraits remind me of Messerschmidt’s great sculptures on human expression in Vienna. They are a confessional autobiography in paint.

You can see them in the extraordinary book that is our reason for being here – a story of art and the life of Ballagh – that tells you more about this extraordinary man and artist I am proud to call, friend.

* Originally published in 2010.

Is this the most offensive Irish t-shirt ever created?

If you sat down and thought about the most offensive Irish themed t-shirt you could create, you couldn't do much better than the one now being offered for sale by Amazon and others.

Featuring white type on a green background, it reads: Irish Livers Matter. Some versions are actually printed with shamrocks over the Irish national flag.

"Irish Livers Matter" t-shirt. Amazon

Do you see what they did with this odious offering? This Irish Livers Matter statement bluntly and explicitly sets one historically discriminated against group against another historically discriminated against group in a political gambit that's called divide and conquer.

In the Irish parlance, it's an embarrassing example of "tuppence looking down on ha'penny." It says that whilst we may not have much, we have fewer problems than you lot. All we have to worry about is a bad hangover; having our kids shot dead at another traffic stop is not our concern. Heh heh.

Sometimes racial violence is surprisingly subtle. Sometimes it doesn't need to wear a white sheet over its head or speak in well-known codes. Sometimes just cruelly mocking the pain of others is quite enough to draw racial lines and defend them.

Read more: Man wearing 'Drunk Lives Matter' t-shirt arrested for DUI

I first saw this t-shirt that belittles and mocks the pain of others in my local neighborhood of Queens on Sunday. You read that right, Queens. The most racially diverse plot of land on the planet.

It was being worn by a middle-aged white woman who was accompanied by a middle-aged man. The man looked the worse for wear after what was obviously a drinks session. It was about two o'clock in the afternoon.

Can I take a photo of you two, I asked them brightly? Knowing that I probably asked because of the message on her t-shirt the woman refused.

"Drunk Lives Matter" Amazon

Do you think that your t-shirt could offend people, I asked them? The woman said she didn't care who it offended. But she used rather more colorful language to convey her point.

Showing compassion for the historical sensitivities of her fellow Americans was clearly not her thing, or else why would she be mocking them like that?

“White silence is violence,” a recent poster read at a Black Lives Matter protest. So what do you call loud white mockery?

The truth is that by saying Black Lives Matter no one is saying that other lives don't. It's simply drawing attention to a historically unequal playing field, one where systemic racism keeps some oppressed and others benefiting from their continued oppression.

So Black Lives Matter actually extends the foundational promise of America, where all are equal under the law and liberty and justice is for all. Wearing an Irish Livers Matter t-shirt is un-American, then. It says I don't care what happens to you as long as I’ve got mine. It says stop whining whilst I oppress you. It’s grotesque.

When the Englishman Edmund Spenser wanted to steal land and wealth from the Irish in the sixteenth century he claimed his right to do so based on their supposedly inferior character: “They steal, they are cruel and bloody, full of revenge, and delighting in deadly execution, licentious, swearers and blasphemers, common ravishers of women, and murderers of children.”

Read more: This might be the most offensive St. Patrick's Dat t-shirt yet

Given all that, he wanted people to believe that by taking their land at sword point he was actually doing them all a huge favor. In return they did him the favor of burning him out of his castle in Cork. Irish lives matter too, their gesture informed him.

So the Irish know, or should know, how cultural and racial theft works: you are told you don't matter as your pockets are picked. And just in case you missed how this racial hostility works there is another version of the t-shirt that reads: Drunk Lives Matter. It’s framed with shamrocks or the Irish flag if you already missed the point about how bigotry works both ways.

Any self-aware Irish person should be ashamed to wear this hateful, goading t-shirt, and you shouldn't be afraid to give someone a piece of your mind when you spot one. We're better than this. Remind people.

Short film reveals the terrible history of No Irish Need Apply

A short documentary film chronicling the terrible history of discrimination against the Irish in 1800s Boston is making the rounds at film festivals in Ireland.

It was made by Bill FitzPatrick, an IrishCentral reader from Boston who has delved into researching the history of No Irish Need Apply advertisements his ancestors encountered when the arrived in America.

He was inspired by Rebecca Fried, the amazing teenager from Washington, DC who in 2015 published a scholarly article in the Oxford Journal of Social History disproving the claims of Professor Richard Jensen, who had long been a dominant voice on the topic, arguing that No Irish Need Apply was a myth.

In a wonderfully written and researched rebuttal, Fried challenged Jensen’s claim that “the NINA phenomenon is an ahistorical memory to be explained by ‘delu[sional]’ group psychology and ‘the political need to be bona-fide victims’ rather than by the fact of historic discrimination.”

Instead, she wrote, “the documentary record better supports the earlier view that Irish-Americans have a communal recollection of NINA advertising because NINA advertising did, in fact, exist over a substantial period of United States history, sometimes on a fairly widespread basis.” Using her digital savvy, Fried searched online newspaper archives and databases to find decades worth of No Irish Need Apply ads from across the US, definitively setting the record straight.”

"Growing up in Boston I heard about the signs and knew the history of anti-Irish sentiment from my grandparents and other Irish who settled in Boston," Fitzpatrick told IrishCentral, "so I thought I would try to find some examples.” He was shocked by the great number he found among the classified ads for work, particularly from the 1880s and 90s. Four listed addresses in his old neighborhood.

The ads he found paint a vivid picture of the bigotry faced by the Irish then, in addition to other groups. Some state “No Irish or Catholics wanted” or “positively no Irish or Catholics,” others “No Jews, Irish or drunkards need apply.” Some specify preference for American, English or German girls to work as house maids or nannies, others allowing “colored ok.”  

Fitzpatrick made an initial cut of the film back in January, which we shared with IrishCentral’s audience  then. In the time since, Fitzpatrick has worked on a polished version that is now making the rounds at Irish film festivals.

It’s set to play at the Disappear Here Film Festival in Donegal on September 24, and at the Dublin International Short Film and Music Fest in October.

Meaningfully, he’s also shown it to the Fried family, with Professor Kerby Miller, who assisted Rebecca in her research for her article, and with Professor Richard Jensen, whose theory she worked to disprove.

Despite the shocking testaments to the prevalence of discrimination it contains, the film ends on a positive note.

As Fitzpatrick put it, “We took our lumps, but with hard work, love of our adopted country and perseverance we not only survived but thrived!”

Irish trad band’s viral video could replace Pharrell Williams' Happy

Jiggy’s new video has close to 11.6 million views and rising – an amazing display of Irish music and dance from around the world

The Irish band Jiggy, who blend traditional Irish, Indian folk, electronic and funk music, have created a massive viral hit, with “Silent Place,” their new brilliant music video.

Posted on Thursday, Sep 14, on their Facebook page, the video has racked up close to 11.6 million views. And that figure is climbing.

Silent Place

Never miss a chance to dance! NEW MUSIC by Jiggy https://itunes.apple.com/ie/album/silent-place/id1248100643?i=1248101806

Posted by Jiggy on Thursday, 14 September 2017

Jiggy’s music is like no other. The band has developed a sound incorporating vocal lilting, beat-boxing, Irish traditional music, hip hop dance grooves, world music rhythms and harmonies.

The band features the talents of traditional musicians Daire Bracken (fiddle), Éamonn De Barra (flute & whistle), Robbie Harris (percussion), Niwel Tsumbu (guitar) and Yoshi Izumi (bass) who have teamed up with DJ Jack on the decks.

Robbie Harris, the man behind the percussion used in Jiggy’s music, told IrishCentral they were spurred on to create another video of this ilk after the massive success they had with “King of the Fairies” posted two years ago, which garnered 8.7 million views.

“We picked a fiddle led tune called 'Silent Place' from our debut album ‘Translate’ that we released in July 2017. It’s a Breton Gavotte played by our fiddle player Daire Bracken,” said Harris, who plays the bodhrán and percussion on the track.

“The footage in the video was taken from our favorite dance videos from around the world and was edited by Dave McFarlane, who also edited the King of the Fairies video.”

King of the Fairies

Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance!

Posted by Jiggy on Thursday, 7 January 2016

Jiggy has been busy recently, playing gigs at Whelan’s Trad and Folk Fest and the Blue Fire Street festival in Smithfield, Dublin. They are currently recording a new single.

For more information on Jiggy visit their site. You can buy Jiggy’s album in the Apple store and listen to more of their great music below.

Check out more Irish music news from IrishCentral here

American and returning emigrant drivers discriminated against in Ireland

Those with US drivers licenses are not in the driver’s seat in Ireland.

Welcome, citizens of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the U.K., Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

Welcome to Ireland, here is your driving license, valid in Ireland.  Stay as long as you wish, and swap for an Irish license if you like.

Welcome to citizens of Australia, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Japan, Jersey, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, New Zealand, Taiwan, Ontario Province of Canada, Manitoba Province of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador Province of Canada, British Columbia Province of Canada.

You, too, can drive on your license then swap for our license. No problem.

Obviously, the missing country is (cough, cough) the United States. Why is this so? Here's what Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told IrishCentral recently.  As to the issue of Irish emigrants moving back to Ireland and having to start all over again with driver's licenses, bank accounts, etc., Varadkar said the issue had "come to his attention in various ways."

On driving licenses, he stated that because of the huge disparity in driving tests in America he didn't want somebody driving in Ireland who has passed a driving test “nowhere near the standard of the Irish driving test."

So there you are, New York City drivers, California highway drivers – you, unlike those from all those other countries, are not house trained enough to deserve a driver's license in Ireland if you want to settle there.

It seems like an incredibly arrogant statement for the new taoiseach to make. American drivers are no less capable than drivers anywhere else.

They all but invented the automobile, take inordinate pride in their driving skills, have excellent safety records, yet are considered inferior to at least 40 other countries' drivers.

Indeed, if you are an Irish emigrant who has lived more than 10 years abroad you have to get to the back of the line and apply all over again for your Irish driver's license.

Never mind that you may have driven a decade or more in Ireland before you left. You are inferior to drivers from all those other countries.

Never mind that you held a license before you left Ireland and have been driving accident-free ever since in the U.S. It just does not matter.

And, yes, this is going to cost you gangbusters in terms of insurance as you are considered a new driver irrespective of your past record.

Read More: Want to move to Ireland? Getting a drivers license is a nightmare

Maybe there is some fault on the American side, some failure to act on what is utterly obvious that drivers in Ireland and America should be able to exchange driver’s licenses.

It is time some smart folks in both countries figured this one out. If Ireland wants to welcome emigrants home as it says it does, and some Americans want to legally settle in Ireland, the least that can be done is make it as easy as possible.

Clearly, that is not the case right now but this should be remedied as quickly as possible.

After 37 years a peace wall dividing communities comes down in Belfast

After 37 years a towering peace wall between a loyalist area and a republican area in West Belfast came tumbling down yesterday in a further sign of reconciliation in Northern Irish society.

The 10-foot high wall that separated Springfield Road and Springfield Avenue was built in 1989 in an effort to thwart sectarian attacks. It had been there ever since.

Belfast's peace wall dividing loyalist and republican areas de...

After 37 years a towering peace wall between a loyalist area and a republican area in West Belfast came tumbling down. Read more: http://irsh.us/2jNWJH4

Posted by IrishCentral.com on Thursday, September 21, 2017

There are 108 such “peace walls” across Northern Ireland and their removal remains contentious. They sprang up during the Troubles and, whilst bombs and bullets no longer shower down on Ulster as frequently as rain does, many people are skeptical about whether it’s safe to pack them away just yet.

In 2013 President Barack Obama, on a visit to Belfast, made an impassioned plea for the walls to come down. A tentative target of 2023 for their removal was set but few expected ten years to be long enough.

Photo: PressEye

Yesterday’s demolition job came about after extensive consultation with both communities as to whether they would feel safe if the imposing barrier came down.

Activists pushing for cross-community reconciliation were delighted with the news and Seamus Corr, project coordinator for the Black Mountain Shared Spaces Project, told journalists, “The removal of the Springhill Avenue barrier is a significant step forward for the local community... The removal of a wall is not a starting point nor an end point, but a significant milestone on the journey towards a positive future.”

The International Fund for Ireland’s Peace Walls Programme contributed financially to the project and its chairman, Adrian Johnston said, “There should be no place for physical separation barriers in a truly reconciled society. While we have not yet reached that stage, the community-led decision to remove this division demonstrates a desire for change.”

The peace wall dividing Belfast's city center.  (Via: BBC still)

Following the demolition of a peace wall on the Crumlin Road in Belfast last year approximately 1.8% of Northern Ireland’s peace walls have been pulled down, whether the remaining 108 will come down before the 2023 deadline is in the hands of the people.

Announcing the winner of IrishCentral's Luxury Trip to Ireland sweepstakes!

Drumroll, please...! IrishCentral is delighted to announce the winner of our Luxury Trip to Ireland giveaway. 

In August and September, along with promotional partners Southern Living, Liquor.com, Travel+Leisure, and Need2Know, IrishCentral offered the chance to win a luxury trip for two to Ireland, with round-trip flights, two nights at the five-star Ashford Castle Hotel, two nights at Dublin's five-star Merrion Hotel, and a VIP tour of the Irish Whiskey Museum

We are pleased to announce that the lucky winner is Jack Beckett of Florida! 

"I was super shocked to win the trip as I have always wanted to visit Ireland," Jack told IrishCentral, adding that he has some family ties there. 

In addition to the experiences included with his prize, Jack said he's most looking forward to seeing the Irish countryside and checking out the Guinness Storehouse. 

Sounds like a great plan to us! 

Get more Ireland travel tips here, and if you're still dreaming about a trip to Ireland, keep an eye out for more giveaways. 

Double killer Malcolm MacArthur attends book launch of former justice minister

Released from prison five years ago, double killer Malcolm MacArthur rejoined the Irish public in 2017, attending the book launch of former Irish Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. 

It was one of those stories you never forget.

One of those stories that had you thinking that if I had become a teacher, or had worked in a bank, I would not be going around thinking that the world was off its rocker.

Or that the world was “GUBU.”

For the uninitiated, the acronym stands for “grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented.”

The linking of these four words was first performed by Charles Haughey in the Irish summer of 1982.

He wasn’t referring to the weather.

Haughey, rather, was describing the circumstances surrounding one of the most astonishing and horrifying murder cases in the history of the Irish state.

A double murder as it would turn out, and an arrest in the most unlikely of places.

Ireland is being reminded of that far off summer this week in the context of a newly published memoir by former Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

It’s not Shatter’s book, “Life is a Funny Business” that has people startled, and some former members of the Garda Siochana fuming.

But rather the attendance at a signing of Shatter’s tome by Malcolm MacArthur, one of the most notorious criminals ever to trod on Irish soil.

Read more: 17 years on police believe missing Trevor Deely was murdered by gangsters

Double killer Malcolm MacArthur.

MacArthur being in the bookstore was not a funny business to others in attendance. Anything but.

MacArthur has been a free man for five years.

Many think he should still be locked up.

Notorious murderer Malcolm MacArthur killed young nurse Bridie Gargan and Co. Offaly farmer Dónal Dunne

I wouldn’t shed a tear if he was because I had cause to interview the parents of one of his victims, a young nurse named Bridie Gargan.  

I was a reporter for the Irish Press Group of newspapers that long ago summer.

It might have been officially the “silly season” in the news business, but it was about to take a very serious turn.

The serious turn had already been set in motion because two people had been brutally murdered.

That was the grotesque part of the tale.

The unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented part of it was to present itself on an evening that might have been quiet but, as the gods of news decided, wouldn’t be.

I was in the Press newsroom in Burgh Quay overlooking the River Liffey.

Another evening shift, the usual stuff. Nothing I would be able to recall years later.

Then the phones began jumping and the chatter on the various newsroom desks began to reach the kind of levels that signaled a big breaking story.

The story concerned the arrest of a man in connection with the murder.

Malcolm MacArthur's place of arrest was almost as controversial as his crimes to the Irish public

The arrest did not take place in the man’s home, after a car chase, or on a street, but rather in the apartment of the Irish Attorney General, the chief law officer of the state.

The attorney general was Patrick Connolly. He wasn’t at home. He was on holiday in New York.

MacArthur was a friend and had access to Connolly’s apartment.

It was here that Ireland’s most wanted man was cornered.

Haughey summoned Connolly back from New York and the attorney general would duly resign.

The GUBU (the actual acronym is credited to Conor Cruise O’Brien) aspect of the case was taking firm hold in the popular imagination.

On the night of the arrest, I remained in the newsroom picking up extra bits and pieces of a story that was happening in a time long before the likes of Twitter.

That means you had a little time.

I can’t precisely remember if John Banville was at his desk that evening.

The man who would become one of Ireland’s foremost literary figures was Chief Sub (copy editor) at the Irish Press in those days and would typically be working at night.

A few years later, John would pen “The Book of Evidence” a novel based on the MacArthur case.

Suffice it to say it’s a riveting read.

And there would be a lot of riveting reading, listening and viewing in the days after the drama at the attorney general’s place.

And also a tough and very sad assignment.

The horrific crimes of Malcolm MacArthur

MacArthur, from County Meath, would be charged with murdering Nurse Bridie Gargan, also from Meath, while she was sunbathing in the Phoenix Park.

MacArthur bludgeoned Bridie with a lump hammer.

A man who was nearby, a gardener at the American ambassador’s residence named Paddy Byrne, tried to intervene but MacArthur pointed a gun at him and then jumped into Nurse Gargan’s car and drove away.

The gun was fake.

MacArthur must have felt the need for a real one because he drove to County Offaly, ostensibly to answer a newspaper classified ad from a farmer named Donal Dunne who wanted to sell a shotgun.

MacArthur murdered Donal Dunne with that shotgun.

The somnolence of high summer had been shattered.

The papers couldn’t print themselves fast enough after MacArthur was nabbed.

And of course, there would be all sorts of off lead stories.

I was assigned one of them.

And I was assigned because, as Deputy Chief News Editor, the late Michael Keane, put it: “You won’t just kick in the door brandishing your notebook and demanding the facts.”

Would I not?

Apparently, I was viewed by the newsdesk as being a reporter with a degree of sensitivity in a delicate matter.

Michael was nodding at one of my colleagues as he outlined my assignment.

I laughed.

The reporter he was nodding at was barking into a phone demanding the facts and no BS. He was one of the newsroom’s finest.

But, it seemed, this story required the good cop approach.

That would be me.

And it was also the case with the photographer, Frank Miller, who would accompany me to County Meath to interview Bridie Gargan’s mother and father, Bridget and Vincent Gargan.

Frank and I took Michael Keane’s cue and took the easy-does-it approach as we sat down with the grieving parents in their farm cottage near Ashbourne.

They were very quiet, very dignified, clearly still in shock.

I didn’t even produce my notebook until after ten minutes had passed and the tea had been made.

Bridget and Vincent mostly spoke about their lost daughter.

But Vincent also outlined, in slowly delivered words, how he would mete out justice to the man who had murdered his child.

I would find it necessary to paraphrase him in the resulting story.

A story that lingers in my mind to this day.

One that I will never forget.

Because “GUBU” is something you don’t.

To subscribe to the Irish Echo e-paper, click here

Maine Irish fundraise to bring Ancestry DNA tests to Galway

The Maine Irish are funding DNA testing for locals in Carna, Co. Galway, in attempts to link  900-plus members of the Maine Gaeltacht Project with their Irish heritage and ancestry.

Founded in 2011, the Maine Gaeltacht Project, linked with the Emigration and Diaspora Centre Project in Carna, Co. Galway, is funding DNA testing for Galway locals in an attempt to link members with their Irish families.

Now with 989 members who have completed their own DNA testing, the project, which is based at the Maine Irish Heritage Center in Portland, has collected DNA from a group of Maine residents with Irish heritage in an attempt to find out more about their roots in the Co. Galway Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking district).

The Maine Irish found that groups of Irish immigrants from the same townland or county would cluster together when they arrived in the US. That is true of Maine too. That means many of those with Irish roots living in the Portland area can trace their family history back to the Connemara Gaeltacht.

Maine Irish are rediscovering their Irish roots in Connemara, Co. Galway. Pictured Renvyle Beach. Image credit: Tourism Ireland.

After establishing themselves in Portland many of these Irish immigrants ventured forth to various locations within the Pine Tree State, meaning that the project can not only link you with Irish family members in Galway but also with those living in Maine with whom you share Irish DNA.

Those in charge are hoping that anyone in Maine with roots in Co. Galway will contribute their DNA or cash or both to the project. By taking your DNA test with Ancestry.com, you can transfer the data into the project and discover if you have any Galway connections. 

With $510 currently in the kitty, the fundraising efforts have been used over the past six years to carry out DNA testing on Galway locals so as to add more DNA samples and family connections to the massive network already established.

“We have made fantastic strides in a short time,” Feeney LaCombe told the Irish Echo back in 2013 when the project had just 200 members.

Read more: I took the Ancestry.com DNA test and was shocked at what I discovered

Pine Island, Connemara, could be the ancestral home of many Maine Irish. Image credit: Tourism Ireland.

“We strongly feel that this project is of significant importance to the Irish community both in the United States and in our native Ireland. Researching Irish roots can prove to be very frustrating due to so many records having been destroyed.

“The genealogy team at the Maine Irish Heritage Centre began the DNA project with the simple goal of helping us to connect with living relatives that we were unable to locate using the old-fashioned paper trail. We are overwhelmed with the progress we have made.”

“To further the study we travel to Ireland each year to gather targeted DNA within the confines of County Galway,” she continued.  

“In this way, we are able to connect the Maine Irish with the Irish who remain in Galway.”

You can find out more about the Maine Gaeltacht Project or donate to the cause here.

Irish dancers Fusion Fighters world tour to Create Not Hate

Spectacular Irish dance videos advocate positive change, raise awareness of worthy causes and tell inspiring stories

The most recent stop for popular Irish dance troupe Fusion Fighters' campaign “Create Not Hate” has brought them to Richmond, Virginia, where they created yet another beautiful dance clip with Miracles in Motion, a non-profit dance group designed specifically for people with special needs, and a local Irish dance school, Heart of Ireland.

With 70,000 members worldwide, Fusion Fighters is now one of the largest and most influential dance communities in the world. In early 2017, Fusion Fighters started their new campaign ‘Create Not Hate,’ a campaign to work with local dance schools around the world and to give back to their local communities in a number of ways, including community outreach activities, a cultural exchange, video campaigns or a public performance to raise money for local causes.

Chris Naish, Jamie Hodges and Joe Duffey visited Miracles in Motion, in Richmond. This inspirational group was started in 2007 by Kim Moncrief with the aim of teaching individuals with disabilities a range of dance styles.  Miracles in Motion allows these amazing people the same opportunities as any other dance organizations and the dancers regularly perform in recitals and community performances.

Moncrief Founder, CEO and Artistic Director said, “We would like for the campaign #CreateNotHate to show everyone in the world just how important dance is to everyone and inspire other companies and studios to be more open to creating opportunities like Miracles in Motion for people with special needs.”

Miracles In Motion - Special Needs Dance Company #CreateNotHate

We were honored and incredibly moved to have been able to spend this time working with Miracles In Motion. As part of our campaign 'Create Not Hate' this was one of the most rewarding experiences we have ever had! Featuring Miracles in Motion dance group, Music by: Brian McGrane Music Ciara Murphy Special thanks to: Chris Naish, Jamie Hodges, Joe Duffy & Heart of Ireland, Crossroad & Rose & Sword schools of Irish Dance! #CreateNotHate #IrishDance #FusionFighters #MiraclesInMotion #JoinJamie www.fusionfightersdance.com

Posted by Fusion Fighters on Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Speaking about the Create Not Hate project’s involvement with Miracles in Motion, Chris Naish, Irish dancer, choreographer and founding member of Fusion Fighters told IrishCentral, “This has to be my favorite by far of all the campaigns we have done! Our 'Create Not Hate' series has already brought us to some amazing places and brought the ability to tell some brilliant stories.”

 He added, “This special needs dance group in Richmond, VA though has to be one of the most rewarding things I've been a part of and was truly the best group of people I've ever met and hope to see it build awareness for more studios like this to accessible for people with special needs worldwide.”

Fusion Fighters have already created numerous videos as part of the Create Not Hate campaign.

 Naish introduced IrishCentral to some of their other projects. This “display of diversity and inclusivity in Irish dance… the project was in Mexico City and working with passionate Irish dancers there to create a surprise pop up performance. We got a Mariachi band involved and I was really pleased with the result."

Irish Dancers take over Mexico City #CreateNotHate

Our campaign 'Create Not Hate' has hit Mexico City with this incredible pop up performance in the beautiful central plaza in Coyoacan. Big thanks to Chris, Jamie, our special guest Ash Miller and of course the wonderful dancers from Irish Dancing De Mexico! Also massive thanks to the amazing Mariachi Xochimanca 🎺 To take part in our #CreateNotHate performance workshops please contact our team on ffcreatenothate@gmail.com or for more information visit www.fusionfightersdance.com #IrishDance #MexicoCity #FusionFighters #FFVideoFeature #joinjamie

Posted by Fusion Fighters on Wednesday, 30 August 2017

The next, which has already featured on IrishCentral, was filmed with the “Broesler School of Irish Dance B+… to raise awareness of the The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, that funds childhood cancer research and financially assists families of kids with cancer nationwide.”

Fusion Fighters Presents: Broesler School of Irish Dance​ B+ #...

Fusion Fighters Presents: Broesler School of Irish Dance B+ #CreateNotHate filmed to raise awareness of the The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation that funds #childhoodcancer research and financially assists families of kids with cancer nationwide. This was the perfect project to tie in with the Fusion Fighters #CreateNotHate USA Tour. A massive thanks to Joe McDonough for visiting us on set and telling us all about how he set up the foundation in memory of his son and all the amazing work they have done so far. We would like to say a huge thanks to Eileen, Kevin and the talented Broesler dancers for allowing us to come in and work with you on this fantastic cause. Music arrangment by: Brian McGrane Music http://bepositive.org/ #bepositive #fusionfighters #irishdance #livelikeandrew #joinjamie

Posted by Fusion Fighters on Monday, 5 June 2017

The next, a little closer to home, was created in association with Scoil-Rince Mona Ni Rodaigh, an Irish dance school which hosts dance classes in Louth, Meath and Armagh. This video was made to “raise awareness of the Irish Kidney Association and their 'Gift of Life' Organ Donor Cards.

Irish Kidney Association - Create Not Hate - Scoil-Rince Mona ...

It was an honour to be involved in this amazing #CreateNotHate project with the incredible Scoil-Rince Mona Ni Rodaigh to raise awareness of the Irish Kidney Association and their 'Gift Of Life' Organ Donor Cards! Inspiration behind the campaign came in support of the McAlevey Family ❤ Massive thanks to Mona, Dearbhla and Ciara for inviting us to work on this campaign For more information on the Irish Kidney Association and Donor Cards go to: www.ika.ie Music by Full Set - Tree Reels To take part in our #CreateNotHate performance workshops please contact our team on ffcreatenothate@gmail.com or for more information visit www.fusionfightersdance.com #FusionFighters #IrishDance #IKA #IrishKidneyAssociation

Posted by Fusion Fighters on Saturday, September 2, 2017

And then there is this amazing video celebrating something exceedingly special. Created in association with the Rochester Academy of Irish Dance, in Rochester, New York, the dancers in this video “are wearing orange for leukemia awareness and to celebrate Ciara Griffin (front & Centre) who beat Leukemia when she was just 8-years-old and who is now 4 years cancer free”.  Congratulations you little warrior!

Irish Dancer Ciara Griffin - 4 yrs cancer free - #CreateNotHate

A very special video by Rochester Academy of Irish Dance who are wearing orange for Leukemia awareness and to celebrate Ciara Griffin (Front & Centre) who beat Leukemia at just 8 years old and now 4 years cancer free! #FFVideoFeature #CreateNotHate #FusionFighers #IrishDance #Leukemia #CancerAwareness

Posted by Fusion Fighters on Friday, 19 May 2017

The ‘Create Not Hate’ campaign is to complete a world tour of community projects and video episodes in 2017. Fusion Fighters will join with dance schools in major cities, underprivileged areas and some of the most unusual places you can find Irish dance.  By using Irish dance, they will do all they can to advocate positive change, raise awareness of worthy causes and tell inspirational stories of others who are going above and beyond to help make a difference in the world.

What a worthy cause!

Check out some of Fusion Fighter’s amazing dancer performing at the Fusion Dance Fest, in Limerick, this summer:

Fusion Fighters Showcase 2017 - Ft. The cast of Fusion Dance Fest

We are excited to announce, for one night only the Irish Dance Crew ‘Fusion Fighters’ will be performing at the Millennium Theatre in Limerick. As seen on St Patrick's Day on the Late Late show 'Fusion Fighters' have performed all over the world with online success due to their viral videos receiving over 50 million views. Joined by the cast of Fusion Dance Fest & world renowned musicians we are proud to present dancers from all over the globe in a showcase of extraordinary talent, performing new and exciting routines made especially for this breathtaking one off performance here in Limerick. Tickets: https://litmt.ticketsolve.com/shows/873578022 Filmed by Gary Collins Photography Music in video by FullSet Sponsored by Hullachan Pro Camelia Rose wigs DanceCity Dancewear Ginger Revolution by Sunshine Stitches LLC The Embroidery Girl Ceili Magazine #FusionFighters #FusionDanceFest #IrishDance

Posted by Fusion Fighters on Sunday, 13 August 2017

For more visit www.fusionfightersdance.com.

Rory Staunton Foundation’s sepsis story seen by over 1 million on People.com

Rory Staunton’s story has been seen by over one million people on the People.com’s webiste. The article and video featured on the internationally popular magazine’s site are part of an Irish family, living in New York’s efforts to raise awareness about the killer syndrome sepsis, which took this strong 12-year-old, six-foot, boy from their family five years ago.

Ciaran and Orlaith Staunton, parents of Rory, established the Rory Staunton Foundation after his death. On Tuesday March 27th, 2012, Rory cut his elbow playing basketball at school in Queens. Four days late he had died due to sepsis.

Sepsis, a severe and life-threatening reaction to infection, which kills more than 250,000 Americans each year, more than breast cancer, prostate cancer, and AIDS combined. Globally, it is the leading killer of infants and children. Despite this, 60 percent of Americans have never heard the word sepsis.

Orlaith Staunton told People “It’s just astounding.

“When Rory died, I thought, ‘This has to be something really rare.’ Our son was 160 lbs. He was nearly 6 ft. tall. I did not think there was anything that could kill him within four days that I wouldn’t know about. And there was. And it’s the biggest killer of children in the world.”

The Stauntons couldn’t stay quiet about sepsis and the Irish couple took their lead from their civil minded son. Orlaith said “Rory wouldn’t sit around — he we wasn’t a passive kid, he was very involved in causes and very involved with a lot of social issues…  He would have wanted us to do something about this.”

And so, they have. Already the Stauntons have helped introduce Rory’s Law into New York State, which dictates that children must not be released from hospital before their test results are reviewed. They have raised awareness through their sepsis symposiums in Washington DC, discussed the matter in Senate and more.

Rory’s father, Ciaran said “You talk about statistics. We are a part of those statistics and we always will be. We lost 25 percent of our family. But between 1 and 2 million people died since Rory died. Our point was we had never heard about sepsis before he died. And yes, many people would have curled up — and we there have been mornings we felt like curling up. But we were angry.

“Sepsis was killing nearly 3.5 million people when Rory died, and the government agencies weren’t doing anything about it,” he continued.

“We organized the first series on the United States Senate on sepsis and when we met the members of the Senate, they didn’t have a clue what we were talking about. Can you imagine them saying, ‘Well, we never heard of that?’ It was almost like, ‘Are you sure?’ ”

“We’re not looking for a cure for it,” Orlaith added. “The cure is antibiotics and fluid. But the cure is also identification. And we need to give that knowledge and that power to parents, to children, and we need them to be able to be their own advocates. We’re not waiting for this amazing cure — we know the cure.”

The Stauntons told People that this year they’re publishing a children’s book to reach out to a younger audience. “Ouch! I Got a Cut” has been added to the New York State educational curriculum and its 1.9 million teachers.

“We’re very excited about it,” Orlaith said of the book.

“We really felt there was a real need to return to the basics of first aid. And we thought of an idea of having a campaign that would be the three C’s: Cut, Clean and Cover. If you get a cut, you clean it and then cover it. It’s a simple message but a really crucial one of children being aware of their bodies and what can happen to them.”

“The book will make a difference and it’s really great that little kids are going to learn in a non-scary way how to treat their wounds,” she continued. “We all know that our children didn’t need to die and we don’t want other parents to go through what we went through. It’s a life sentence and we want to make sure other families don’t have to go through it.”

To read more visit rorystauntonfoundationforsepsis.org.

Irish Minister Simon Coveney to address United Nations General Assembly

Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and the Minister of State for the Diaspora Ciaran Cannon began an intensive program of engagements in New York on Monday.

Coveney, making his first visit to New York is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly and meet with UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres.

Coveney’s schedule will see him undertake a wide range of meetings with foreign ministers, as well as participate in an IDA (Ireland's inward investment promotion agency) event and engage with the local Irish community here. 


Coveney began his visit to New York on Monday by attending a meeting on reform of the United Nations which is being hosted by President Trump. Later over lunch he met with supporters of the Ireland Funds. 


Speaking ahead of his departure for the UN, Coveney said, “The UN lies at the heart of Ireland’s foreign policy and it has done so for more than six decades. We see very clearly the advantages of a rules-based order in international affairs which the UN provides for. It is in our interests to pursue an active foreign policy because Ireland is a small, outward looking country which is heavily dependent on external trade for our well-being.”


“We have kept faith with the UN since we joined in 1955 and I believe that the case for multilateralism remains compelling, especially at this time of international uncertainty. Global problems are often becoming local problems, and the interconnections between climate change, migration, conflict and poverty are clear to see and affect us all – wherever we are situated in the world.”

“We are a committed member of the UN and we continue to make our mark on human rights, disarmament, sustainable development and peacekeeping. Our contribution to peacekeeping has been long and sustained. Irish troops have given unbroken service to the UN since 1958 and today we are the EU’s largest per capita contributor to UN peacekeeping operations.”


On Wednesday Coveney signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) which was adopted in July.  Ireland, as one of the Core Group which put forward the UN Resolution which led to the adoption of the treaty, and was among the first states to sign it.

Coveney’s program will also include intensive meetings with senior U.S. officials and will also include a number of Irish American community events, including meetings with Irish community and business leaders. It is understood he will brief them on recent political developments in Northern Ireland and the implications for Ireland of Brexit, the UK decision to leave the EU. 


Easter Rising leader Éamonn Ceannt born on this day in 1881

On this day in 1881, Easter Rising leader Éamonn Ceannt was born in Co. Galway. We look back at the life of the man executed for his role in the 1916 Rising. 

Co. Galway-born Éamonn Ceannt was among the 16 men to be executed as leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising. On the 100th anniversary of the start of the Rising on April 24, 2016, writer and historian Dermot McEvoy profiled each of the rebel leaders, telling the individual stories of the men who would become known as Irish heroes. 

Below is McEvoy's profile of Ceannt, republished today as we celebrate the day of his birth.

Éamonn Ceannt

Éamonn Ceannt was born Edward Thomas Kent (not to be confused with Thomas Kent, another rebel who was shot in Cork) in County Galway in 1881, but raised in Dublin. He is probably the least well-known of the seven signatories of the Proclamation.

He was educated at the Christian Brothers’ School in North Richmond Street which must have been a hotbed of Fenianism because both Seán Heuston and Con Colbert also went there. 

He has been described as hard to get along with, but admitted his “cold exterior was but a mask.” His letters to his wife show a different, gentler, side of Ceannt. When he was romancing his wife, Áine, he wrote: “No news to tell at all little girl but to remind you that in a few months’ time, with the help of God, you will have become my prisoner forevermore . . . a new little wife you’ll be that first day, owned by a man, bossed by a man, loved by a man.”

Éamonn Ceannt Memorial Park in Dublin. Image credit: WikiCommons.

Ceannt immersed himself in Irish culture joining the Gaelic League and had a special love of music, mastering the Irish uilleann pipes, which he played for Pope Saint Pius X at the Vatican in 1911. He was sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood by Seán MacDiarmada that same year and was a member of the Irish Volunteers from its inception. Soon he was the Commandant of A Company, Fourth Battalion.

On the way out on Easter Monday Áine recalled the final conversation between father and son: “Turning to Ronan, who was watching us, he kissed him and said to him in Irish: ‘Goodbye Ronan.’ ‘Goodbye Dad.’ ‘And won’t you take care of your mother?’ ‘I will, Daddy.’ ”

Éamonn Ceannt was stationed at the South Dublin Union when the Easter Rising began

His objective on Easter Monday was the South Dublin Union. Perhaps the best description of this sprawling complex is by Mick O’Farrell in his terrific book, 'A Walk through Rebel Dublin 1916': “…[T]he South Dublin Union [was] strategically important because of its position near not only the Royal Hospital, but also two barracks, and the main Dublin railway station. The Union, now the site of St. James’s Hospital, was a huge area of buildings and open fields. With halls, wards, sheds, dormitories, streets, courtyards and two churches, it was a complex bigger than a lot of Irish towns at the time. Its walls also enclosed about 52 acres of fields and lawns. And housed within the sprawl were 3,282 inmates.”

Ceannt’s second-in-command was the fearless Cathal Brugha, who ended up being badly wounded but who would survive to become a member of the First Dáil and the nation’s first Minister of Defence. From the outset there were problems. 

Easter Rising leader Éamonn Ceannt. Image credit: WikiCommons.

Rebel leader Éamonn Ceannt had problems from the outset

First, Ceannt didn’t have enough men and those men were being consistently harassed by snipers. The battle for the South Dublin Union was one of the bloodiest battle scenes of Easter Week.

After his surrender, Ceannt told a British officer, “It would surprise him to see the small number who held the place.” And he later wrote proudly of the “magnificent gallantry and fearless, calm determination of the men.”

Ceannt marched his men to St. Patrick’s Garden and surrendered. At Richmond Barracks he was quickly picked out by detectives of the G-Division of the Dublin Metropolitan Police (who would soon be terrorized by Michael Collins’ famous Squad).

Éamonn Ceannt's trial post-surrender was full of inaccuracies

A close-up of the inscription on the Éamonn Ceannt memorial in Dublin. Image credit: WikiCommons.

His trial was a travesty with witnesses saying Ceannt was over at Jacob’s Biscuit Factory. He called John MacBride in his defense and wanted to call Thomas MacDonagh, Jacob’s commandant, but was told MacDonagh was “not available” – he had been executed that morning.

He wrote down advice for future battles: “I leave for the guidance of other Irish Revolutionaries who may tread the path which I have trod this advice: Never to treat with the enemy, never to surrender at his mercy, but to fight to a finish. I see nothing gained but grave disaster caused by the surrender, which has marked the end of the Irish insurrection of 1916…the enemy has not cherished one generous thought for those who withstood his forces for one glorious week.”

“My dearest wife Áine,” he began his last letter, “not wife but widow before these lines reach you. I am here without hope of this world, without fear, calmly awaiting the end . . . What can I say? I die a noble death for Ireland’s freedom. Men and women will vie with one another to shake your dear hand. Be proud of me as I am and ever was of you.”

Just before he was marched out to the Breaker’s Yard Father Augustine said to him: “When you fall, I will run out and anoint you”

“Oh,” replied Ceannt, “that will be a grand consolation, Father.”

Éamonn Ceannt was shot between 3:45 and 4:05 a.m.

The British did not have the courtesy to tell Ceannt’s wife that he had been executed. She traveled to the Church Street Priory to find out what had happened to her husband. “He is gone to heaven,” she was told.

~~~~~~~~~~

Dermot McEvoy is the author of the "The 13th Apostle: A Novel of a Dublin Family, Michael Collins, and the Irish Uprising and Irish Miscellany" (Skyhorse Publishing). He may be reached at dermotmcevoy50@gmail.com. Follow him at www.dermotmcevoy.com. Follow The 13th Apostle on Facebook here.

* Originally published in 2016.

Ryanair bungle infuriates passenger with cancelled flights

A contrite Michael O’Leary has apologized to 300,000 passengers directly affected by a series of flight cancellations, and to another 18 million who have seen a cloud of uncertainty hover over their travel plans.

O’Leary, who described the situation as “a mess,” admitted he faces a €25 million loss in profits and compensation for cancellations to his Ryanair flights schedule which will run to the end of October and started unannounced last Friday.

Ryanair has offered to pay bonuses of up to €12,000 to pilots who agree to give up annual leave entitlements to plug gaps in the schedule. However, the pilots would not receive the bonuses until October of next year.  

Up to 50 flights a day are being cancelled out of a total 2,500 flights a day to accommodate a backlog of flight crew leave that must be taken before the end of the year.

O’Leary said this was only two percent of Ryanair flights, but over the weekend passengers didn’t know until just hours beforehand what flights were being cancelled, and thousands were stranded abroad on the continent without returns to Dublin and Britain.

Ryanair passengers could face further disruptions.

The Irish Airline Pilots Association (IALPA) claimed 700 pilots had left Ryanair in its latest financial year, but O’Leary, while admitting that other airlines are taking some of his pilots, denied a staff shortage.

He said the problems were not the result of pilots quitting but was “because we’re giving pilots lots of holidays over the next four months.”

IALPA says that for years Ireland and the Irish Aviation Authority interpreted the European Union rules governing maximum flying hours in a way that was different from other EU regulators.  That means many Ryanair pilots used up most of their flying hours during the busy summer.

However, Irish airlines now have to adopt the rules in the same way as their EU counterparts. This is affecting the airline’s pilot rostering operation, but it has been known that the change is coming for some time.

IALPA said, “It seems clear that Ryanair has failed to plan properly for the implementation of the regulations.”

The Commission for Aviation Regulation, which oversees air passenger rights, said it was expecting a high volume of claims for compensation from travelers affected by the cancellations.

It was Monday night before Ryanair was able to announce in detail what flights would be cancelled over six weeks.

O’Leary said 75 percent of all impacted passengers would be accommodated on flights leaving on the same day as their cancelled flights.  He said that reputational damage had been done to the company and committed to “trying to do better.”

He estimated that it would cost the company around €25 million, about €5 million in profits over the next six weeks and up to €20 million in compensation. He agreed that the cancellations and the way in which the sudden scheme was announced was “clearly a mess.”

“I don’t think my head should roll, I need to stay here and fix this,” O’Leary added.

Ryanair has lost as much as €2.1 billion of its market value as the carrier’s move to cancel flights added to the impact of news last week of a potentially costly European court ruling.

Methodist shrine to Oscar Wilde erected in New York

“Oscar Wilde Temple” opened in the Church of the Village this month, depicting the “gross indecency” trial of the Irish writer as stations of the cross.

The style, writings, talent, and ultimately struggles against oppression of famed Irish writer Oscar Wilde are the subject of a new piece of art installed in a Methodist Church in New York this month.

The Church of the Village, something of a safe haven for the LGBTQ community as churches go from its location in the heart of Greenwich Village, will play host to the “Oscar Wilde Temple” in the Russell Chapel until December 2. The shrine, which almost makes a saint out of the gay icon, is an unlikely worship place that appropriates Catholic iconography to pay homage to the man regarded as one of Ireland’s greatest exports, a man who was brought to trial and imprisoned because of his sexuality.

Created by artistic duo McDermott & McGough, who rose to art-world fame as a couple in the 1980s, their latest creation is something of an artistic revival that Wilde himself was never afforded after his torturous spell in jail. The pair split in the 1990s losing their home, with David McDermott renouncing his US citizenship and seeking refuge in Ireland (he still lives in Dublin with visa issues leaving him outside the US for the opening of the temple), while Peter McGough almost died of complications caused by AIDS.

Read more: How Oscar Wilde become the first celebrity “famous for being famous”

The "Oscar Wilde Temple" also features paintings of other LGBT martyrs

Now back to full health, it is McGough, from his studio in Brooklyn, who has overseen the creation of the “Oscar Wilde Temple”, collaborating with McDermott from afar. The shrine is available for ceremonies such as wedding or poetry readings and is decorated with the “Reading Gaol” paintings – so named after the prison in England where Wilde served his sentence of hard labor after he was convicted of sodomy and “gross indecency.” The paintings depict the writer’s trial as stations of the cross in a Christian church portray Jesus's journey to the Hill of Calvary.

Also on display will be a further six paintings showcasing other martyrs of the LGBT rights movement, including Harvey Milk and Alan Turing, while a side chapel will be dedicated to AIDS victims.

“We thought it was a terrific idea to honor Oscar Wilde and other martyrs of the liberation movement,” Rev. Jeff Wells, lead pastor at the Church of the Village, told the New York Times.

All proceeds made for the “Oscar Wilde Temple” will go to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center across the street from the church who worked with the artists on the project.

What do you make of the “Oscar Wilde Temple”? Is it a well-deserved tribute to the LGBT hero or an inappropriate art exhibit to have in a church? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section, below.

The Mayo GAA All-Ireland curse will never end

They came by their thousands from all parts of Mayo to Dublin on Sunday, hoping against hope, praying, wishing, bargaining with the gods that they would break the 66-year hoodoo since they last won the All-Ireland football final.

Eleven times since that 1951 final, Mayo has emptied on All-Ireland football final day as the faithful decamped from Castlebar, Ballina, Crossmolina, Geysala, Louisburgh and Westport to seek that elusive crown, the most storied title in Irish sport.

Prayers, novenas, pilgrimages to Knock, climbing Croagh Patrick, you name it. Thousands of Mayo fans had carried out such trips going against type to appease the gods. They even had a priest remove a supposed curse on the team.

In all of sports, has there ever been such dismal record? Imagine a team losing 10 Super Bowl finals, or 10 World Series in a row.

Mayo makes the Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs look like lotto winners, not loveable losers all the way.  Only for bad luck Mayo would have no luck at all.

Would it change on Sunday?

Ten times before they had failed, often so heart-breakingly close that there seemed to be some sinister force preventing them crossing the line.

Last year they went out after a replay; this year they had done it the hard way, winning 10 championship matches before facing the mighty Dublin team in the final.

Dublin was going for three in a row, a feat not accomplished by the side since the 1920s. They had breezed to the final, brushing aside all opposition, but they knew Mayo would be a different opponent than the patsies they had beaten.

The stage was set for a mighty confrontation, the clash of the two best teams by far in the country.

Safe to say that there were 31 counties out of 32 cheering on Mayo, hoping that the dreadful siege would finally be lifted and the Sam Maguire Cup borne across the Shannon to Mayo.

The early moments looked like a disaster however, with Dublin notching an early goal that raised memories of past blowouts where the game ended almost before it began.

But this is a different Mayo side, full of character and vigor. By halftime they were ahead by one point.

It was all to play for and as in the recent hurling final, it became clear a bounce of the ball either way could decide the issue.

And so it was. A Mayo goal set the western followers aflame as they eked out a two point lead.

But Dublin reflects the unflappable attitude of their manager Jim Gavin, a former airline pilot who never betrays the slightest sense of pressure.

The game came down to two free kicks, one by Mayo which struck the goalpost and was cleared, and another by Dublin with time running out which the aptly named Dean Rock, steady as a rock, kicked over the bar to give Dublin the final score and a one point victory.

The final whistle blew soon afterwards and Mayo was vanquished by a single point once again.

Winter is coming in Mayo, and it will be a very long one. The county cannot catch a break in a truly mystifying series of events that defies all description.

Some day Mayo will win Sam Maguire. Someday Ireland will be united.

I’m no longer sure which will happen first.

Irishman describes horror of Mexico earthquake aftermath

The Mexico City earthquake, the second to hit Mexico so far in September 2017, struck on the 32nd anniversary of a 1985 quake that killed over 10,000.

An Irishman caught in the catastrophic earthquake which hit Mexico City yesterday has described how family members are texting those trapped under the rubble, hoping to establish their whereabouts in a race against time before their phones die. Speaking to RTÉ radio, Adrian Feeney stated that buildings are still falling within the country’s capital, home to 20 million people, as the search continues for those trapped under collapsed buildings.

"My wife’s Facebook media posts are just full of people looking for their missing relatives...a lot of people are under rubble, sending messages about exactly where they are," he said.

"There are people whose batteries are running low which means they won’t be able to contact anyone and they are trapped,” Feeney continued.

“After the initial quake took place a lot of people ended up going to the park as there was a smell of gas. Sirens have been going off for the last twelve hours.”

Over 200 people are reported dead after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit Mexico City on Tuesday afternoon, just hours after sirens rang through the city as authorities conducted an earthquake drill. The quake hit exactly on the 32-year anniversary of Mexico’s deadliest ever earthquake, a 1985 quake that devastated Mexico City, with locals hoping for the memory of the tragedy to pass quietly.

“I’m so worried. I can’t stop crying. It’s the same nightmare as in 1985,” Georgina Sanchez, 52, told AFP, recalling the previous quake that killed 10,000.

With the death roll in September 2017 rising to 224, 117 people killed in the capital alone, more names are expected to be added to the list as emergency services rush to rescue those trapped under the rubble.

Read more: The Irish rebels who fought against the U.S. in the Mexican-American War

Among the dead are 21 young children and four adults crushed beneath a primary school, with a further 30 children and eight adults still missing as rescue operations search through the remains of the building. One child has been found alive among the ruins, with soldiers administering oxygen but so far unable to remove him.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto rushed to the site of the school yesterday and has issued a video message to the city’s population and the surrounding affected areas asking for calm.

The head of Mexico's civil defense agency, Luis Felipe Puente, revealed that 55 people died in Morelos state, just south of the capital, while over 100 died in Mexico City and 32 died in Puebla state, the location of the earthquake's epicenter.

President Pena Nieto also revealed that 40 percent of Mexico City and 60 percent of Morelos state have no electricity as damaged hospitals have been asked to evacuate their patients to safety.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) announced the magnitude 7.1 quake was centered near the Puebla state town of Raboso, about 76 miles southeast of Mexico City.

Less than two weeks ago, a major earthquake killed at least 90 people in Mexico’s south.

H/T: Independent.ie

Congressional Friends of Ireland demand US envoy to North restored

Irish Members of Congress push the White House to retain the special envoy position that played a key role in the success of the Irish peace process

Thirty-two members of the US Congress have written to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asking that he continue the position of special envoy to Northern Ireland which is set to be discontinued as part of the State Department budget cuts.

Tillerson proposed the elimination of the role in late August in a letter to Senator Bob Corker, the chair of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

There already is no nominee for US Ambassador to Dublin meaning that there is no US diplomatic presence in Ireland now.

Tillerson wishes to abolish half of the special envoy positions around the globe, but Democrats have vowed to oppose him.

The last special envoy to Northern Ireland was former Senator Gary Hart, who served as former Secretary of State John Kerry’s personal emissary.

Senator George Mitchell was the first US special envoy to Northern Ireland. Image: RollingNews.ie.

Senator George Mitchell used the role to chair the talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement. Subsequently, high-powered envoys such as Richard Haass, a major figure in US foreign policy, made a huge difference in helping sort out issues such as policing, decommissioning and the shape of the political institutions.

The move comes at a time when the Stormont government is suspended and talks on finding a way to resume have stalled. In the past, US input has been critical to overcoming such issues and Irish Congressmen have expressed their desire for this to continue.

Read more: How the US special envoy to Northern Ireland functioned before Trump

The complete letter from the Friends of Ireland and signed by congressional leaders such as Richie Neal, Joe Crowley, and Peter King states:

“Dear Secretary Tillerson,

“As Members of Congress who have been involved in the effort to bring peace and reconciliation to the island of Ireland for more than two decades, we believe it would be a serious mistake to eliminate the position of Special Envoy to Northern Ireland at this time and we respectfully urge your genuine reconsideration.

“As you know, the role the United States played in the North of Ireland during the peace process was indispensable in helping to end the longest standing political dispute in the history of the western world. And that success was achieved in no small part because of the bipartisan work of Congress and the skilled diplomacy of successive special envoys appointed by Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama. By any standard, the signing of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) in 1998 represents one of America’s most successful foreign policy accomplishments in recent memory.

“It is also true that the GFA, which marks its 20th anniversary next year, established a blueprint and process for change that has not been fully implemented. The peace process is not over – it continues to require nurturing and support from the United States, especially since the devolved government in Belfast has been suspended since January, and the prospects of a return to direct rule from London cannot be ruled out. As well as recurrent political instability, furthering reconciliation and overcoming deep-rooted divisions remain as fundamental challenges for the peace process. Critical issues like the Irish language and the past remain unsolved. Given the current impasse, it is imperative that the United States continues to have a designated representative that remains engaged in the North with the five main political parties, and the Irish and British governments, to encourage fresh talks and help break the deadlock.

“Of equal concern is Brexit and the implications it could have on the stability of the peace process. Any attempt to re-established a hard border would be a mistake, endangering one of the most transformative gains of the peace process, which has facilitated normalization, reconciliation, and economic opportunity on the island of Ireland. A return to the days of checkpoints, visas or custom patrols along the 320-mile border would be a great step backward. The political institutions, citizenship, rights and other provisions of the Good Friday Agreement also need to be protected from the upheaval of Brexit. The nearly 40 million Americans of Irish descent have begun to speak out on this issue, and they also believe it would be wrong to abolish the special envoy position at a time when Brexit negotiations are just beginning. The consequences are just too significant.

“These are the types of issues that previous envoys were able to effectively address – talking to both traditions, communicating with the Dublin and London governments, helping overcome complex impasses, and sending a strong message around the globe that the United States remains invested in the future of the North. Previous administrations have recognized the need for someone dedicated to the peace process, appointing not just envoys but some of America’s most seasoned leaders on both sides of the aisle including Senator George Mitchell and those that followed.

“This proposal deserves genuine reconsideration on its merits. Securing a special envoy for the North – instead of just Ambassadors to Britain and Dublin – has been a longstanding priority for the Irish American community and those interested in peace worldwide for good reason.

“We urge you to reexamine this proposal, reverse the decision, and appoint someone of the highest caliber and ability to be the Special Envoy.

Sincerely,

Members of Congress:

Richard E. Neal Joe Crowley

Peter KingTom O’Halleran

Patrick Meehan Michael Capuano

Gerald E. Connolly James P. McGovern

Peter Welch William Keating

Joseph P. Kennedy, III Brian Higgins

Sean Patrick Maloney Frank Pallone, Jr.

Brendan F. Boyle Stephen F. Lynch

John Conyers, Jr. Tom Suozzi

Seth Moulton Bill Pascrell, Jr.

Tim Murphy Eliot Engel

Katherine Clark Mike Doyle

John B. Larson Albio Sires

Paul D. Tonko Kathleen M. Rice

Joe Courtney Daniel T. Kildee

John Lewis Josh Gottheimer

Irish farmers don’t want Donald Trump to visit but Paddy’s Day A-Okay

75% of Irish farmers polled believe “Trump’s presidency will damage America’s reputation abroad”

A new poll has revealed that Irish farmers are opposed to President Donald Trump visiting Ireland, despite the Irish leader Leo Varadkar’s plans to invite him on St. Patrick’s Day 2018.

The poll, carried out by the Irish Examiner and the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, showed that 53% of respondents would not welcome the United States leader in Ireland. When questioned over Donald Trump taking part in an official state visit to Ireland 28% strongly disagreed with the idea while just 30% agreed with the idea. Just 30% of the Irish farming community agreed with the idea of a state visit.

Similar results were seen from a poll carried out by TheJournal.ie in March 2017, which showed that 55% would not agree with Trump visiting Ireland.

This might be tricky in the future as Donald Trump owns property in Ireland. In February 2014 Trump bought a golf resort in County Clare, now named the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel. Upon assuming his office as President of the United States Trump and his daughter, Ivanka, resigned as directors of the resort. Trump’s sons Eric and Donald remain on the board.

Varadkar in Washington D.C.

On March 17, Ireland’s new Taoiseach (Prime Minister) will travel to Washington D.C. as is tradition and present President Donald Trump with a Waterford Crystal bowl of shamrock for St. Patrick’s Day. A large proportion, 63% of farmers agreed that Varadkar should make the trip to the White House for Paddy’s Day.

Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny (right) and President Donald Trump on St. Patrick's Day.

While visiting the US last month, Varadkar told the New York Times he would invite Trump to Ireland. However, prior to Varadkar’s election he had admitted he “wouldn’t be keen” on a state visit from Trump.

The Irish Examiner and the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) poll was carried out at some of Ireland’s largest agricultural shows.

Donald Trump damaging

Only 5% disagreed with the statement that “Trump’s presidency will damage America’s reputation abroad” and 75% agreed.

According to the President of the ICMSA , John Comer, the results show that farmers value stability, continuity, and a conciliatory approach to leadership.

Comer said “Perhaps farmers see President Trump’s perceived attitudes to minorities and the way he seems to divide societies and a politics that seems to pit one group against another.”

Of the annual St. Patrick’s Day visit to the White House Comer said farmers “differentiate between the individual and the state and they want our traditionally close ties of family and friendship with the United States to be absolutely maintained.

“I’m glad to see that this practical distinction is borne out.”

Irish farmers think Leo Varadkar should visit Donald Trump on St. Patrick's Day.

He added “Many families in Ireland, my own included, have relations in the United States and we should be meticulous in making sure that whatever disagreements we have with the approach of a particular incumbent that that can never be interpreted as a disagreement with the United States itself or its people.”

Getting Creative in County Sligo!

This year, government initiative Creative Ireland is highlighting some of the best projects, events, and initiatives that are bringing culture and the arts to the forefront in every Irish county and Co. Sligo is no different.

The European Capital of Volunteering 2017 and the county in which famous medieval manuscripts the Book of Ballymote, the Great Book of Lecan, and the Yellow Book of Lecan were written, Sligo enjoys its much-deserved status as the cultural capital of the northwest of Ireland. In fact, so central to the identity of the county is its literary legacy that the county crest even features an open book with Celtic cross and red rose.

Check out these events and initiatives in County Sligo, the mystical and literary land of W.B. Yeats and Queen Mebh. From music and literature to archaeology, there’s so much happening in conjunction with the Creative Ireland county initiatives and beyond.

 

Music Literacy

Image: iStock.

Music Generation in conjunction with Sligo County Council Libraries will commence a weekly class for children and young people age 9+ and an accompanying adult. The aim of the program is to develop participants’ understanding of Music Literacy. Classes will introduce participants to reading and writing musical notation, listening to a variety of music, composition, music technology and more. September to November 2017. 

Creative Landscape A Video/Film

Sligo Local Enterprise Office is set to produce a short film piece celebrating and promoting Sligo’s unique place in the Irish creative landscape, highlighting the breadth and quality of the creative enterprises spread throughout the county and how that has been developed. Launch Autumn 2017. 

Celtic Fringe Festival and Spanish Armada Heritage Guide Launch

 Lieutenant Commander Miguel Romero Contreras, of the Spanish navy vessel OPV Centinela, acknowledges the Parade of Sail at Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo, during the recent Spanish Armada remembrance ceremony

The Celtic Fringe Festival celebrates artists from the Celtic/Atlantic regions of Spain, England, Holland, & Scotland whose traditions were linked with Ireland through the voyage of the Spanish Armada in 1588. September 22 - 24. This year’s celebration is extra special, as it marks the launch of Archaeology Ireland’s Heritage Guide to the Spanish Armada wreck site at Streedagh, Co. Sligo.

Armada Conference

Streedagh Beach.

Concurrent with the Celtic Fringe Festival will be the "Armada International Conference 2017 - A Gathering Storm – Bringing the Spanish Armada into the 21st Century and Beyond", held by the Grange and Armada Development Association, September 22 - 24 at the Clayton Hotel in Sligo. Creative Ireland will sponsor one of the speakers and specialists, who will discuss  Armada studies with a view to taking historical research and archaeological investigation forward in a collaborative and co-operative approach across the globe.

Sligo Field Club’s 9th Annual Conference

Inishmurray Island, Co. Sligo. Photo: Land Society Facebook Page

“Rise and Fall of the Landed Estates in the North West” will commemorate the place of ‘the land’ in Irish society in the Northwest of Ireland over five centuries. October 7.

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Sligo National Heritage Week

Sligo Town.

What a week to be in Sligo! From August 19 - 27, the county celebrated its culture and history with a wide-ranging series of events and activities. There were chances to learn about the painter Jack B. Yeats, brother of William, at The Model Arts Center in Sligo Town; explore the history of Sligo Gaol with the “If Walls Could Talk” exhibition; be dazzled by the discoveries of Sligo archaeologist and historian Col. W.G. Wood-Martin in an exhibition about his life and findings at St. Ann’s Church in Strandhill; embark on a tour of the historic Lissadell House and its grounds; retrace the steps of a Spanish Armada captain after his fleet wrecked off the Sligo coast, and much more. A number of the events and exhibitions will extend beyond Heritage Week, so be sure to inquire locally.

Yeats International Summer School

Each year, the Yeats Summer School and the Tred Softly Festival give Yeats fans the chance to immerse themselves in the literature of Nobel laureate W.B. Yeats and the Sligo landscape that inspired him. This year is ran from July 20 - 29. Stay tuned for information on 2018. 

Fiche Bliain ag Fás

Bridge over the River Moy in Banada. Photo: Geograph.ie

The small community of Banada, Co. Sligo is celebrated 20 years of community development with a day of music and poetry on July 23.

Check out County Sligo’s full culture and creativity plan here.

Is there a cultural event happening in Sligo you think people should know about? Let us know in the comment section.

What are the best places to visit in Ireland?

These famous Irish landmarks and beautiful historical sites and villages make up the best places to visit in Ireland.

Everyone has their own variation on the 'top sites in Ireland' and 'the best places to visit if you’re making your first trip.' With plenty of internationally famous places and landmarks, it’s easy to see why Ireland just keeps attracting more and more people as the world flocks to see our beautiful isle.  

If you’re not sure where to start on your first trip or you’re looking to make a whirlwind adventure through all the top sites, we’d highly recommend including these Best Places to Visit in Ireland on your itinerary.

Top landmarks in Ireland:

Cliffs of Moher

 Best places to visit in Ireland: Cliffs of Moher. Image: Chris Hill/Tourism Ireland.

Come rain or shine, the Cliffs of Moher are truly magnificent and always one of the best places to visit in Ireland! As one of the country’s most visited natural attractions, these Co. Clare cliffs rise 700 ft above the Atlantic Ocean and run from near the village of Doolin to Hags Head five miles further north along the coastline.

These magnificent cliffs are believed to have been carved out by a river delta some 320 million years ago and offer up spectacular views, including glimpses of Galway Bay, the distant Twelve Pins mountain range, and the northern Maum Turk Mountains.  

More info: www.cliffsofmoher.ie

Giant’s Causeway

Best places to visit in Ireland: Giant's Causeway. Image credit: iStock.

As legend has it, the Giant’s Causeway is the ruined remains of a pathway to Scotland built by Irish mythological hero Fionn Mac Cumhaill (sounds like Finn MacCool) so he could fight Scottish giant Benandonner. The other side of the pathway was said to finish at Fingal's Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa, where the same natural phenomenon appears.

In reality, this UNESCO World Heritage site is a unique landscape of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns and cliffs, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. The columns are believed to have been created around 50 to 60 million years ago.

More info: www.giantscausewayofficialguide.com

The Burren

Best places to visit in Ireland: The Burren. Image credit: Chris Hill/Tourism Ireland.

Another Co. Clare favorite, the karst landscape of the Burren is the closest you’ll get to feeling as if you’re walking on the surface of another planet while you’re in Ireland. With over 700 different species of plants and insects making a home for themselves on this stark, rocky terrain, the Burren is a place of great natural beauty, with various marked trails guiding you through the park and helping you explore many fascinating and beautiful habitats, such as calcareous grasslands, woodlands and limestone pavement.

The jigsaw-like land surface of limestone has been slowly developed through thousands of years of acid erosion, providing an inspiring landscape that is sure to win your heart.

More info: www.burrennationalpark.ie

Top historical sites in Ireland:

Newgrange and the Boyne Valley

Best places to visit in Ireland: Newgrange. Image credit: Tourism Ireland.

No trip to Ireland is complete without a visit to Newgrange and the surrounding Boyne Valley. The majestic burial chamber is older than the pyramids and holds the key to the country’s ancient history.

Newgrange is a 5,200-year-old passage tomb built by Stone Age farmers, making it older than England's Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza. The monument is an incredible feat of architecture and engineering. It is perfectly aligned with the rising of the sun on the morning of the Winter Solstice (around Dec 21), allowing sunlight to flood the passageway and light up the chamber at its end. The large circular mound is 250' in diameter and 40' high and is ringed by 97 large kerbstones, some of which are engraved with symbols called megalithic art.

Newgrange is in Meath, one of the original five provinces of Ireland. Meath fared well in ancient Ireland with thanks to the rich and easily-farmed lands of the Boyne Valley. Newgrange and its sister mounds at Knowth and Dowth are proof of the rich lifestyle of the ancient Co. Meath farmers. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the three mounds are magical to behold, given the depth of the history behind them and how long they have survived in a land greatly changed since their construction.

Access to Newgrange is only available via a guided tour but a full tour of the whole Boyne Valley region is highly recommended.

More information: www.newgrange.com

Book of Kells at Trinity College Dublin

Best places to visit in Ireland: Book of Kells. Image credit: James Fennell/Tourism Ireland.

The Book of Kells with its elaborate decorations illuminating the texts of the four gospels is Ireland’s most renowned historic manuscript. Depicted within the 340 folios of calf vellum, now bound in four separate volumes, are full-page illustrations dedicated to Christ, the Virgin Mary and the Evangelists as well as many other smaller decorative illustrations spread throughout the gospels.

The book is believed to have been created in 800 AD somewhere in Britain or Ireland in a Columban monastery, but its exact origins are the topic of much debate. The book takes its name from the Abbey of Kells which had been its home for centuries before moving to the Dublin library.

A major tourist attraction, the manuscript has been housed in the Old Library in Trinity since 1953.

More info: www.tcd.ie/visitors/book-of-kells

Glendalough

Best places to visit in Ireland: Glendalough. Image credit: Chris Hill/Tourism Ireland.

The beautiful Glendalough was the site of the renowned early medieval monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin. It is located in a stunning valley in the Wicklow mountains. St. Kevin’s Trail follows in the saint’s steps through the peaceful countryside, taking in the Wicklow Gap and the Glendasan River, and explores the monastery where Kevin spent most of his life in prayer.

Glendalough, meaning “Valley of Two Lakes,” is nestled in the heart of the Wicklow Mountains National Park making it a perfect day trip from Dublin after you’ve visited the Book of Kells. Co. Wicklow, the “Garden of Ireland,” offers up a stunning backdrop to this momentous historical site with its peaceful meadows, vast lakes, and hills boasting blankets of beautiful purple heather.

More info: www.glendalough.ie

Most beautiful places to visit in Ireland:

Ring of Kerry

Best places to visit in Ireland: Ring of Kerry. Image credit: Tourism Ireland.

For the outstanding views of Ireland that you’d only previously imagined in your dreams, the kingdom of Kerry is the best places to visit in Ireland. From the rugged Beara Peninsula to the Kerry Way – Ireland’s longest and oldest walking route – every bend in the road will take your breath away with its beauty as you travel the 120 miles of Ireland’s most jaw-dropping landscape.

Whether you’re renting a car or traveling as part of a bus tour, make sure to stop off at Killarney National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage biosphere reserve that is home not just to Ross Castle but to a herd of wild red deer.

An area of astounding natural beauty, the whole route around the Ring of Kerry is estimated to take around three hours in a car, but we'd hazard a guess that nobody has managed to complete the round in that time, what with all the incredible views demanding you stop and take pictures.

The area is also a great choice if you're an outdoors kind of person, offering golf, watersports, cycling, walking, horse-riding, and terrific freshwater fishing and deep-sea angling, as well as plenty of forts and monasteries for those of you who prefer brushing up on your history.  

More info: www.theringofkerry.com

Aran Islands

Best places to visit in Ireland: Aran Islands. Image credit: Tourism Ireland.

The three Aran islands – Inishmore, Inishmaan, and the smallest, Inisheer – are a wild, windy, and utterly unique landscape, accessible by ferry from the mainland. With just a few thousand inhabitants, the islands are part of the Irish-speaking areas of the country and will offer you an experience like no other.

Famous, of course, for their traditional knitted Aran sweaters, you’ll also find the world famous site Dún Aonghasa, a great stone fort perched high on a cliff above the crashing waves of the Atlantic and the most famous of the prehistoric hill forts that lie on the Aran Islands.

It is not known exactly when the structure was built, but it is thought to have been at some point in the Bronze Age or Iron Age. Not only is the popular tourist spot an archaeological site of great significance, but it also offers some of the most spectacular views to be seen in the whole of Ireland (and that’s really saying something).

More info: www.aranislands.ie

Glenveagh National Park

Best places to visit in Ireland: Glenveagh National Park.

We travel north from here to Co. Donegal, the county voted the coolest destination in the world by National Geographic Traveller for 2017. Its largest tourist attraction, Glenveagh National Park, is the second largest national park in the country, providing 14,000 acres to hikers and fishermen alike.

With Ireland’s largest herd of red deer, the park is also home to Glenveagh Castle where you can enjoy a nice cup of tea after a day well spent on the trails.

TripAdvisor described this place as “heaven on Earth” and is there really any higher praise than that?

Located among the native oak woodlands that wash over the Derryveagh Mountains in the northwest of the county, the park's center is Lough Veagh, carefully watched over by the castle towers at the water's edge. Originally built as a hunting lodge, the castellated mansion also boasts magnificent gardens where art and nature meet.  

More info: www.glenveaghnationalpark.ie

Most famous places in Ireland:

Westport, Co. Mayo

Best places to visit in Ireland: Westport, Co. Mayo. Image credit: Tourism Ireland.

This charismatic little town has stolen the heart of many a traveler with its brightly colored shop-fronts and energetic feel. A regular winner of awards for its upkeep, Westport is a vibrant little town, the third largest in Mayo, that offers up a foodie’s paradise as well as a haven for those who are looking to enjoy some Irish traditional music.

If you can drag yourself away from the town ... Westport positions you perfectly for day-long excursions to the Clew Bay Trail and Ballycroy National Park to explore the walking and cycling paths.

More info: www.destinationwestport.com

Skellig Michael

Best places to visit in Ireland: Skellig Michael.

Although always a widely popular attraction, Skellig Michael was catapulted into global fame over the past few years thanks to its appearance in the latest edition of the "Star Wars" movie franchise, showing people what a remarkable place it is and why it should be considered one of the best places to visit in Ireland.

The mystic Skellig Michael, an uninhabited pinnacle of rock jutting out of the Atlantic Ocean, rises over 75 feet above water level. The island is 11 miles out from the small Kerry fishing town of Portmagee. With the ruins of an ancient monastery standing eerily at the island’s peak, Skellig Michael was named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

The larger of the two Skellig Islands and located to the southwest of Valentia Island, Skellig Michael is not a tourist destination for the faint of heart or those with a fear of heights as small steps cut into the rock by Irish monks centuries ago lead upwards towards the world-famous and incredible well-preserved early Christian monastic site.

It is more than worth the effort to reach the tip of the island but if the thought of bout of seasickness is just too much for you, viewing spots of the islands from various points along the Ring of Kerry also offer sights of the island in unforgettable settings.

More info: skelligislands.com

Blarney Castle

Best places to visit in Ireland: Blarney Castle. Image credit: iStock.

Always topping the lists of best things to do in Ireland, Blarney Castle is home to the famous Blarney Stone, said to give the gift of the gab to anybody who kisses it. The stone was built into a tower of the Blarney Castle in 1446 but its exact origins are unknown. Some link it to the goddess Cliodhna and Cormac Laidir MacCarthy, while others believe a witch saved from drowning revealed its powers to the McCarthys, the lords of Blarney.

Apart from the stone, kissed by hundreds/thousands every year, Blarney is always worth a visit for the history of the castle itself, as well as the immaculate gardens. A medieval castle built over 600 years ago outside of Blarney town by one of Ireland’s greatest chieftains, Cormac McCarthy, Blarney Castle is extremely well-preserved.

Visitors can also explore the beautiful, history-laden grounds – the magical gardens, the mystical Rock Close, the Badger’s Cave, a dungeon, the spell-binding Witches Stone and kitchen, and the Wishing Steps, as well as small streams, brooks, and a lake.

More info: www.blarneycastle.ie

What do you think are the best places to visit in Ireland? Let us know about your favorites in the comments section below.

Copyright © 2017 Robbinsville Irish Heritage Association