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What do Americans REALLY think about Ireland? This Irishman found out

What do people around the world really think about Ireland? It's a tricky question. One Irishman decided to take to the streets of New York - where better? - to find out. 

This summer, Colm Flynn, a presenter and producer for RTÉ One and the BBC, headed to New York's Union Square and Times Square to ask people what they knew about and associated with Ireland. 

The results were interesting, to say the least! 

In this five-part miniseries published to IrishCentral's Facebook page every Wednesday for the next month, we'll hear what people had to say on everything from Irish men and women, to the famine, to their Irish ancestry, to beer (that ubiquitous association), to whether passing through Dublin airport counts as visiting Ireland, to... where exactly Ireland is on the globe

Below you can watch Talkin' bout Ireland, Episode 1: Beer, Red Hair, and... Sheep:

Talkin 'bout Ireland, Episode 1: Beer, red hair and... sheep?

What do people REALLY think about Ireland (country)? Colm Flynn took to the streets of New York, New York to find out, and the results were interesting, to say the least

Posted by IrishCentral.com on Wednesday, October 18, 2017

 

What things do you immediately associate with Ireland? Do any of the replies surprise you? Tell us in the comment section. 

 

 

Hilarious Irish Halloween costume ideas

From Father Ted to Oscar Wilde – some fun and original dress-up ideas that are quintessentially Irish

The Irish take Halloween very seriously. From the pagan festival of Samhain to the Bram Stoker festival in Dublin ever year the Irish know how to scare the "bejaysus" out of the best of them. However, the Irish also known for their great sense of humor.

What’s great about a lot of these costumes is they need not cost you the earth and you can probably just make them up for clothes you already own. From the creator of Dracula, to the beloved sitcom Father Ted and some silly cultural stereotypes we’ve some great ideas for this year’s Halloween costume.

Read more: Halloween in Ireland and its origins in the Celtic festival Samhain

Here are just some ideas of great Irish Halloween costume ideas:

Father Ted

The cast of Father Ted.

There are plenty great characters to rip off from the classic Irish sitcom “Father Ted,” the title character being one of them.

Get yourself a priest’s collar, pepper that hair until it’s gray and you’re set.

If an extreme costume is more your idea of a good Halloween, then transform into Father Jack.

The late great Father Jack.

Blacken your teeth, white out one eye, work on that old man scruff and fluff out your thinning white hair until it looks like you’ve been electrocuted, and you’ll have it!

Be sure to be as violent, drunk and foul-mouthed as possible throughout the night.

The Irish Mammy

Father Ted's Mrs Doyle is the quintessential Irish Mammy.

Another option for a woman (or a man) is dressing up as the classic Irish mammy. What’s this, you might ask? For those of you who are Father Ted fans, just think Mrs. Doyle.

The trick is to don a thick sweater, a long skirt, and an apron, and continuously offer your guests tea and sandwiches.

Remember: the Irish mammy does NOT take “no” for an answer! Just “go on” them to death until they take you up on your offer.

Bono

Easiest outfit ever! Bono!

An obvious go-to Irish costume is Ireland’s biggest rock star – Bono. An original getup? Maybe not. But Irish people love to have a go at the over-the-top U2 front man.

There’s flexibility with this one: your hair can be long or short, and your wraparound transparent space-like glasses can be orange or blue. Plus, you can opt for the cowboy hat or non-cowboy hat look.

Just be sure to sport all black (preferably leather) and tote a mic – and an armful of faux-Grammys or iPhones!

Shane MacGowan

The Pogues' front man Shane MacGowan.

Another big Irish personality you can emulate is Pogues’ front man Shane MacGowan. If you’re already a toothless, heavy-drinking Irishman, this look won’t be too hard to achieve. If not, a few simple steps will get you on your way to transforming into the wild punk legend.

First, skip the showering for a few days. It’s especially important not to wash your hair. It’s also crucial to put down the toothbrush – or just black out about ¾ of your teeth. Don’t forget to grow (or draw on) scruffy facial hair and make sure those dark circles under your eyes stand out. Lastly, grab a drink (or 20) and a cigarette, and you’re good to go!

Oscar Wilde

For all you fancy-schmancy literary types, the Oscar Wilde “aesthetic dress” costume may be the right choice for you.

The iconic writer and Ireland’s most famous dandy loved to strut around in capes, fur-adorned coats and flowing ties. He was also rarely ever seen without his walking stick.

To achieve the Wildean look, get yourself a purple velvet coat (fur trimming is a bonus), a long dark wig (curled under), an elaborate scarf or tie, large rings (necklaces, bracelets, and other jewelry wouldn’t hurt either) and an elegant walking stick.

Don’t forget to stock up on witty puns to dish out to your friends.

Read more: 'Irish dancer' Halloween costumes are inaccurate and intentionally sexualized

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker's Dracula.

To linger in the literary world for a moment, another Irish costume option is Bram Stoker’s Dracula. No – not the slicked-back black hair, red and black cape Dracula we know from the original movie, but Irishman Bram Stoker’s original vision of the vampire.

Take your cue from Gary Oldman in Francis Ford Coppola’s 90s hit “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” The top hat, the dark downward-slanted glasses, the long black jacket – the outfit is rather simple.

As far as your looks, all you’ll need is a long, dark wig, a mustache, bright red contacts and long fingernails, and voila! You’re the Irishman’s vampire!

Irish nun

Catholic nuns...scary stuff wha!?

Now for the ladies out there looking to get in the Irish Halloween spirit, one costume option is the mean, old Irish nun. Looking as old and cranky as humanly possible is key, here. Otherwise, buy yourself a traditional nun costume, a ridiculous pair of reading glasses and a ruler, and you should be set. To really give it that Irish touch, practice your Irish accent – it will have a much scarier effect when you shout at people for being naughty children!

The Commitments

The Committments: Say it once, say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud.

If you’re looking to dress up as a group, why not get together and become The Commitments? Ireland’s most famous fictional band consists of both guys and girls, so invite the whole gang!

The idea here is 90s Dublin soul. Guys, dress in black dapper suits, but feel free to rock that mullet. Girls, dig out that tight, lacey black dress from your 1992 closet and tease up that hair. Grab a few musical instruments and bicker constantly with each other.

To really impress ’em, bust out an incredibly soulful rendition of “Mustang Sally.”

Culchie

The Healy Raes, often refered to as culchies.

For the Halloween partier who wants to show off their advanced knowledge of Ireland, you can become a local Irish personality type. One of which is the culchie, the Irish version of the American country bumpkin.

A culchie is proud of his rural Irish origins, and isn't afraid to show it in the way they look and behave. To be a real culchie, get yourself a tweed Irish cap (patchwork is best, like our friend Jackie Healy Rae opted for), a ruddy red face, a thick indecipherable country accent and you’re are halfway down to the bog.

A D4 Head

Ivor from "Ivor and Damo" on RTE is the perfect caricature of a D4 Head:

For the extremely advanced (or the person with a ton of friends from Dublin), one Halloween costume idea is the D4 Head – a posh Leinster rugby supporter.

D4 stands for Dublin 4 the posh region of southside Dublin, known for their fancy accents, designer clothes, private school affiliation and obsession with Leinster rugby. So, collars up and attitude out, get ready to drop names like there is no tomorrow and pretend 'Mummy and Daddy' own half the country.

If you arrive at your party and meet Irish people who pretend not to know what a D4 head is and wear a look of bemusement, then don't worry, you are probably talking to one!

Whatever you do, don't dress up as this a leprechaun… please!

Fianna Fail says Fine Gael is too right wing

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has accused Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his Fine Gael party of a massive lurch to the right and dividing Irish society.

Martin, once so scathing about former taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, has said the change in leadership has made things worse.

Martin used his keynote leader’s address at the Fianna Fail ard fheis to attack Varadkar and cast his own party as one that would never seek to divide Irish society.

Throughout the weekend conference several speakers claimed Fine Gael was a right-wing counterpoint to Fianna Fail’s message of “fairness.”

On the taoiseach’s stated goal of representing those who get up early in the morning, Martin said, “Only an out-of-touch elite could have come up with the idea of trying to divide society into those who get up early in the morning and everyone else.”

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin.

He claimed recent months had seen a “big move to the right by Fine Gael.”  Martin added, “I’m sorry, but we will never accept labeling the sick, pensioners, children with special needs, people with disabilities or people looking for a home as being less entitled to society’s support.

“The decision by Fine Gael to head off on this new divisive road is more about positioning for an election than trying to govern.”

In the confidence-and-supply deal Fianna Fail agreed with Fine Gael, Martin claimed his party “stopped the worst of the unfair and regressive policies of Fine Gael”.

The agreement allowed Fianna Fail to work for higher pension and social welfare payments, as well as cuts to the Universal Social Charge and investment in public services such as health, housing, and schools. Martin said he was not happy Fianna Fail could achieve anything close to its full program under the current leadership in government.

He argued that the change of leadership in Fine Gael had actually made things worse. As well as the alleged lurch to the right, there was now an emphasis on spin and communications to sell Varadkar’s image, rather than investing in advice on health, or housing, or Brexit “or any other of the most urgent problems.”

On Brexit, Martin said Ireland will not be following British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and his “self-obsessed Brexiteers” on a path of destruction.

He added, “We can only meet and overcome the threat of Brexit if we have clear leadership – and this is something we are not seeing.”

Ireland 2018 was a missed chance to heal

After Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's recent statements about wanting to create a Republic of Opportunity in Ireland, last week's Budget turned out to be a bit of a disappointment.  Rather than marking the start of a discernible shift in economic policy, it was more of the same old tax and spend stuff that has been endemic here for decades. The promised cuts in our penal income taxes turned out to be so minimal they will be barely noticed by the long-suffering taxpayers.  Living up to the promises would have required cuts or at least a standstill in state spending. 

But instead of tighter control of state spending there were increases across the board, with all welfare and benefit payments going up, whether justifiable or not.  Instead of the beginning of a Republic of Opportunity what we got last week was a missed opportunity. The vision for the future that Varadkar had presented in several speeches in the last few months -- his Republic of Opportunity -- is one in which hard work and initiative would be rewarded and the culture of dependency here in which too many people expect the state to provide everything would be discouraged.

The Taoiseach characterized this by saying that he wanted to help "the people who get up early in the morning" to go to work.  He said he is aware that these people -- the middle-income workers who are the vast majority -- feel they are being squeezed mercilessly by the state in taxes but get little or nothing back from the state in services and benefits.   

Meanwhile, they see others milking the system for everything they can get, despite the opportunities now offered by our continuing economic growth and low unemployment rate.

It's a perspective that is shared by a great many middle-income workers here and they were expecting, given the vision that Varadkar had laid out, that the first budget of his government would signal a change.  And the most important indicator of that would have been a significant cut in income tax.

The situation before this budget (and for the last few years) has been that if you are a single person in Ireland you pay around 50 percent tax on anything you earn over €33,800.  That is a very low-income level to be hitting the top tax rate and it's a serious disincentive to working people here. 

Even in a high tax country like France you have to earn around €150,000 before you hit their top rate and it's much the same in other European countries and also in the U.K. and the U.S. (where you have to earn nearly half a million dollars before you hit the top tax rate of 40 percent).

Instead of tackling the penal income tax set-up we have in Ireland in a serious way, however, last week's Budget raised the trigger point for the top tax rate for single people by just €750, from €33,800 to €34,550.  There were also very minor reductions in USC (a component of our complicated income tax system). 

What it means for a single person on around €38,000 a year is that after last week's budget they will be around €4 a week better off, or the price of a coffee or two.

So after all the visionary talk about creating a Republic of Opportunity to reward hard work, this is what we have got in practice.  And it was the same right across the Budget in all areas of tax and state spending.  Instead of signaling a fundamental change in approach, the budget merely tinkered with the rates and the ridiculously complex structure we have here.

To be fair to the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, the reason for this failure is simple -- there just wasn't the money to do much.  In fact, out of a budget of around €70billion, only €350 million was available for tax cuts or extra spending if we were to remain on course to balance the books next year as we are required to do by the EU.

Donohoe managed to get this "play money" up to €1.2 billion by raising some extra revenue (mainly by tripling stamp duty on commercial property transactions).  But a chunk of this is already committed to higher pay for state workers next year.  And another chunk went on increasing all welfare payments by €5 a week, the same increase that was granted in last year's budget.

This was done despite the fact that welfare payments here are already substantially higher than in most other countries (the state pension here will go up from €238 to €243 a week, for example).  And while everyone always wants more, this pension increase was granted even though there was no strong public demand for a rise.

Of course there are always areas of state welfare and benefits where more money is desperately needed (respite for home carers, for example).  But the across the board nature of welfare increases in this budget is hard to justify and comes at an enormous cost.

With so little left to play with after the pay hike for state workers and the welfare increases, Donohoe was hamstrung on income tax.  The reductions in income tax in this budget are so small they are almost an insult.

What little was possible in the budget was spread so wide and so thin that the effects won't even register with most people.  Perhaps sensing the disappointment, Donohoe said a few days after the budget that more would be done to cut income tax each year in the coming years.  He said it was the start of an annual process which would take some time to implement.

We have to take him at his word on this, but as an attempt to kick-start the process of income tax reduction this year's budget was a very timid first step indeed. 

This is partly the result of being a minority government dependent on Fianna Fail.  Under the agreement between them which allows the present government to function, any financial surplus available must be divided two to one between extra state spending and tax cuts.

Immediately after the budget last week Fianna Fail were loudly claiming credit for the welfare increases and saying that they are protecting the most vulnerable in Irish society.  What they are actually doing (just as they did with water charges) is preparing for the next election and cynically building their vote in certain sectors whatever the cost. The next election was probably on Varadkar's mind as well when this Budget was being finalized.   EU rules no longer allow a flagrant election budget to buy votes.  So, this budget spread the little that was available as widely as possible, giving a little to everyone and being careful not to penalize anyone.

Apart from the timidity there were other worrying aspects to the budget, the main one being that the extra spending is being financed mainly by a big hike in stamp duty on commercial property transactions.   Just like in the boom, we are expanding state spending based on revenue that may not last.   

Welfare increases are virtually impossible to reverse, so what happens when the present commercial property mini-boom slows down?  This is the same precarious financial management that got us into such trouble in the crash and it's alarming to see it back again.

Among the positives in the budget was the new accelerating levy on undeveloped sites, aimed at forcing speculators and vulture funds to start building homes on the land they are hoarding instead of waiting for prices to go up even further.  This will help, as will the commitment in the budget to build more social housing.

But the fact remains that most of the homes needed to solve our housing crisis will have to come from the private sector and the new body to provide extra finance to builders will also help to get things moving.  However, the shortage of construction labor limits how fast we can build.   Why should these workers, many of whom emigrated, come back here now if they can't find a place to live and will be paying 50 percent tax on half their income? A general look over how the state spends its money is always included in the budget. One-third of the entire budget in Ireland is eaten up by welfare (and that is increasing as the population ages and the pensions bill rises).   

Not all of this spending is justifiable or necessary but you won't find any political party to tackle the problem because it will cost them votes.  The reality is, however, that cutting income taxes will never be possible unless welfare spending is brought under control. Servicing our big national debt eats up 16 percent of the budget, a huge chunk of tax revenue.  This legacy of the crash and previous over-spending shows how important it is to keep our state spending under control.

The biggest chunk of spending after welfare goes on health, and most of that goes on pay in the sector.  Despite one of the highest spends per capita in the EU, our health service remains poor in comparison with other countries like Holland, for example.  Yet this budget, like all budgets here, continues to throw money at the problem.

Restoration of the pay cuts across the public service after the crash is being implemented in full, even though pay restoration in many parts of the private sector is still patchy at best.  But again, this budget has done nothing about this, largely because all politicians are wary of the unions whose last bastion of power is in the public service. One disgraceful example of budgetary timidity is the failure to begin any restoration of the money taken from private sector pensions by a levy which ran for several years after the crash.  This cost private sector workers, many of them self-employed, over €2 billion which was robbed out of their pension funds by the state.

So public service workers who have generous pensions guaranteed by the state are getting full pay restoration.  But private sector workers, many of whom are still down on pay after the crash, are thanked for trying to fund their own pensions by having a chunk of them stolen by the state.   And this outrageous situation does not even get a mention in the budget?

Varadkar's belief in a Republic of Opportunity in which we stop encouraging our deeply engrained culture of dependency and foster one of self-reliance has been mildly controversial.  His slight shift to the center right has been criticized by politicians on the left -- the members of the Pay for Nothing parties as a colleague of mine calls them -- who want ever higher public spending on welfare and state supports and services. What this budget showed more than anything else is how difficult it will be to make the taoiseach's vision a reality.  As one senior politician said recently, knowing the right thing to do is easy; doing it and then getting elected afterwards is what is hard.

Irish Halloween scary spirits from Dracula to the Banshee

From the Celtic Samhain to classic horror - most terrifying creations that the Irish unleashed upon the world

The scariest of Halloween monsters and ghouls have the Irish to thank for their terrifying origins. We look at some of the best and most terrifying creations that the Irish unleashed upon the unsuspecting world on the Night of the Living Dead.

Dracula

Bram Stoker's terrifying creation.

"Dracula" the novel was written by Bram Stoker from Dublin, a lifetime lover of the darker elements of Irish folklore and mythology that inspired his most famous blood-sucking creation. A spirit you can get your teeth into.

Leprechaun

Not all leprechauns are friendly.

Not the cuddly one, or the pesky ones running off with their pots of gold, but the one from the 1993 movie "Leprechaun" who almost knocked off Jennifer Aniston in one of her first roles. Pity he didn’t succeed ...

Banshee

The terrifying banshee.

A sheet with eyeholes will do for anybody wishing to copy this iconic Irish Halloween terror on October 31. She is heard only when a loved one is dying. The word comes from the Irish "Bean Sí," literally meaning female fairy.

Devil

Never strike a deal with the devil.

The Devil is often referred to as Darby O’Gill, not the sanitized Walt Disney movie but a mythological figure who is a much more wicked character than Walt's tame version.

In Ireland, he usually appears as an attractive man at a dance, but if any lady smitten with him looks down she will see his cloven hoof feet.

Headless Horseman

Dullahan.

A difficult Halloween costume to produce but keep your head up ... Dullahan is his name and he is said to inhabit an Irish wood near Westmeath. 

Read more: Ten interesting Irish facts about Halloween you may not know

Werewolves of Tipperary 

Ancient texts refer to the half-man, half-wolf who inhabited this area. Old Gaelic chieftains used to visit and pray for their support before a battle.

Image: Getty images.

The Undead Priest

This is an old priest from the Dublin Mountains who locals swear appeared to them after his death in the 1920s. Many independent verifications were received, so best be wary of any priest on Halloween night just to be safe.  

Better be safe than sorry!

The Mayo Vampire

Said to have existed during the Famine and more than likely based on people who fled their homes during the hunger and lived in the woods near Westport, but locals swore he came for their children at night.

Image: Getty images.

Jack O’Lantern

Jack O’Lantern is where the modern pumpkin came from. Jack O'Lantern is said to be a ghostly spirit who trapped Satan in a cross-shaped tree hollow. When Jack died, he was barred from Heaven and Hell, suspended in a black abyss with only an ember in a carved-out turnip, the Devil's flashlight, to help him navigate.

Image: Toby Ord/Wikicommons

The Meredith Monster

In the Parish Church of Ardtrea, near Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, there is a marble monument and inscription in memory of Thomas Meredith, D.D., who had been a Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, and for six years rector of the parish. He died, according to the words of the inscription, on May 2, 1819, as a result of "a sudden and awful visitation." A local legend explains this "visitation," stating that a ghost haunted the rectory and it could often be seen afterward cackling over the death of Meredith.

Image: Getty images.

Read more: Top ten Irish traditions for Halloween (PHOTOS)

* Originally published in October 2010.

Irish Halloween ghost stories and Halloween recipes: Brittle meringue bones and carrot fingers

Your guests will enjoy were-wolfing down these Irish Halloween recipes if they can stay around for long enough after the Irish horror stories

One thing I like to do for fun on Halloween, and you can try this too, is before bobbing for apples at your local Halloween carnival or at a friend’s party, fill your mouth brimming full with ketchup. When underwater, discharge the goo, then frantically jerk your head up out of the water screaming, "Razor! Razor!"

In keeping with my tradition of telling scary stories for Halloween, here are a couple of spooky tales. Most of these are complete rubbish but you can put in a few names of people you know and it makes them a little bit more realistic. To those that spook easily, remember, these are not real events that have happened ... Or are they?

*Makes a sound like a crazed person laughing ... Muhhhuaahhah!*

Irish ghost story: Man's Best Friend

The poor pup meets an unfortunate end in this spooky tale.

A young lady is alone in her apartment in Queens. She goes to bed with her dog on the floor beside her.

In the middle of the night, she is woken up by a strange sound. She is alarmed but reaches down to the dog, which licks her hand. She is reassured and goes back to sleep.

In the morning, she finds the dog hung in the shower. Where the dog slept, she picks up a note which reads: "Humans can lick too ...”

Irish ghost story: Blind Man's Buff

Do you know what kind of meat your throwing on the grill?

In Berlin after World War II, money was short, supplies were tight, and it seemed like everyone was hungry.

At that time, people were telling the tale of a young woman who saw a blind man picking his way through a crowd. The two started to talk. The man asked her for a favor: Could she deliver a letter to the address on the envelope?

Well, it was on her way home, so she agreed. She had started out to deliver the message when she turned around to see if there was anything else the blind man needed but she spotted him hurrying through the crowd without his smoked glasses or white cane.

She went to the police, who raided the address on the envelope, where they found heaps of human flesh for sale.

And what was in the envelope?

A note saying, "This is the last one I am sending you today.”

Now that I’ve scared you a little, let's get on with the cooking! These two recipes are easy to make and look great. You can give them out to the kids on the block who are trick or treating.

Irish Halloween recipe: Brittle Meringue Bones

Makes 4 to 5 dozen small, finger-sized bones.

Ingredients
3 large egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Method

Preheat oven to 200F. Line a cookie sheet with brown paper bag or parchment. In a medium-sized bowl at high speed, beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt till fluffy.

Gradually beat in sugar. Add vanilla.

Place in pastry bag fitted with a medium, plain piping tip. Pipe 3" bone shapes onto parchment or brown paper bag.

Bake 1 hour until set. Turn off oven, dry in the oven for one hour.

Be sure to store in airtight containers or they will become soggy.

Irish Halloween recipe: Carrot "Fingers"

I need to do something healthy for the children before they stuff themselves with all that candy!

Ingredients
Your favorite vegetable dip
4 long carrots
1 medium carrot
2 tbsp softened cream cheese
5 sliced-almonds
5 baby carrots

Method

To prepare them, just fill a serving bowl with your favorite vegetable dip.

Wash and peel 4 long carrots for fingers and 1 medium carrot for a thumb.

With a paring knife (a parent's job), cut a flat, shallow notch in the tip of each carrot. Then use a dab of dip or softened cream cheese to glue a sliced-almond fingernail atop each notch.

Stick the fingers in the dip and serve with plenty of peeled baby carrots for dipping.

Scare you later,
Chef Gilligan

Read more spooky stories on our featured Halloween page - everything from Irish Halloween history, recipes, costume ideas and ghoulish tales

* Originally published in 2010.

Rocky Ros Muc's Michael Fanning talks emigration, hardship and dedication

Trailblazing boxer Sean Mannion's epic story of growing up in an Irish-speaking village in Connemara in the 1970s to eventually competing for the World Boxing Association title in Madison Square Gardens sounds like the stuff of Hollywood movies, but it all really happened. Rocky Ros Muc, a brilliant new documentary from director Michael Fanning (produced by Clannad's Moya Brennan) shows us how Mannion's rise fed the sporting fantasies of the Irish American community in which he lived. Cahir O'Doherty speaks to Fanning about emigration, hardship and dedication to a dream.

For over 200 years now every village in Ireland has supplied America with an endless crop of new boxing heroes, national politicians and -- if we're being brutally honest -- the odd career criminal.

The little Irish-speaking village of Ros Muc in Connemara is just one shining example. In director Michael Fanning's remarkable new documentary Rocky Ros Muc, he shows us how the modest hamlet variously produced a world light middleweight boxing contender in Sean Mannion, a city mayor in Boston's Marty Walsh, and a ruthless gangland mobster in Pat Nee.

It's an impressive resume for an Irish-speaking backwater that's still so remote in 2017 that the government often forgets it exists. But the person who really put Ros Muc on the map is perhaps the most retiring lad who ever grew up in it, the gifted boxer Sean Mannion, now 61.

Born in Ros Muc, population 450, in 1956, Mannion grew up in the heart of the Connemara Gaeltacht, where his ancestors have lived since the fourth century. What makes Fanning's new account of his sporting life so compelling is that he understands just how deeply rooted Mannion is in his home place, and in the Irish language, and among the people of his remote but beautiful district.

Understanding this is the key to understanding Mannion's later achievements as a boxer and why he continually put his tribe and his homeland above all other considerations. Because Rocky Ros Muc is not just a portrait of boxer Sean Mannion: it's also a portrait of the contribution the Irish have made and are still making to America.

“I suppose from the moment I first heard Sean Mannion's story, incredible as it was in terms of his achievement in boxing, the more I realized it allows us to tell a much wider story,” Fanning tells the Irish Voice.

“It begins as a story about a boxer but there is so much more to the community and the characters, that allow us to tell a much broader story about immigration and the Irish experience.”

Director Michael Fanning's new film is a profound meditation on the Irish and emigration.

Mannion was in one sense one of the last of the Mohicans. The kind of emigrant’s journey he made to America in the mid-1970s can no longer be made.

First of all, most of his Irish speaking community had already made the voyage to Boston before him, so he was arriving to the warm embrace of the already hermetically sealed Irish bubble town of Southie in Boston.

In the 1970s Mannion could still travel back and forth between the U.S. and Connemara when he needed with a smile and a nod. Nowadays that freedom is no longer an option, because he'd quickly be pulled into the Homeland Security office to have his passport and his visa scrutinized, and most probably be turned back with a 10-year bar.

If there's a quietly elegiac feeling to the last moments of Rocky Ros Muc now it's because that awareness, that the roads that had once been open to the Irish have now closed, haunts the edges of the screen.

Read more: The Connemara Contender, a Boston Irish Rocky, recalls his career

“I'm not a die hard boxing fan myself,” Fanning explains. “What I was keen to do was make sure that other people who aren't boxing fans either would still appreciate the film. It's about Irish identity as much as it is about boxing. The tie with Boston and his community in Connemara was so strong that Sean could go back and forward with ease for years.”

It was like taking the train to and from Dublin, in fact. One of the benefits of that Boston and Galway closeness was that his identity stayed fixed and solid. He spoke as much Irish in Southie as he had in Ros Muc.

Leaving home for America wasn't seen as unusual in the ‘70s.  It was seen as a lifeline.

“It's what you did, you went to America for work and a life. It was part of growing up. And it made them all tighter knit here, because they had all shared the journey. When Sean arrived everyone he knew was already there,” Fanning said.

Life in Southie was far from idyllic, though. New arrivals were often lonely, they had to work hard to keep a roof over their heads, and they often drank to excess to ease the stresses they were facing. It was very far from the American dream.

When Mannion arrived and looked like a contender who could go all the way to a world title, it was no wonder he began to embody the fragile hopes and dreams of the forgotten Irish community he sprang from.

“Ros Muc isn't even a town, it doesn't have a main street.  It's really is as remote a place in Ireland as I have ever been,” says Fanning. “So to come from there and end up in the worlds of politics or crime or international boxing is all part of a remarkable emigration story.”

In his famed boxing matches in the early 1980s Mannion, increasingly a contender for a world title belt, insisted his Irish-speaking brother Paddy was in his corner in the ring. Their language was the connective tissue that linked them both to home, and to their community and loved ones, and Sean wanted it near him more than even his own boxing trainer.

Irish, the film shows us, was a profound reminder of who he was, what he was doing, and who he was doing it for. He kept it close always.

“It's hard for some people to understand,” says Fanning. “But Sean speaks Irish better than he speaks English, it's his first language. It's what kept him grounded. When we filmed the card game they play toward the end of the film they were all suddenly speaking Irish to each other. You could be in Ros Muc until you open the door and see you're in Boston.”

A young Sean Mannion in the gym, holding his son.

In the early 1980s crime lord Whitey Bulger's crew had flooded Boston's streets with drugs. Some of the key players in his outlaw gang trained at the same gym as Mannion, but they left him alone for a simple reason: he embodied their dreams of sporting glory too.

Sean was something pure, something untouchable.  They all felt it.

“No matter where he had ended up in the world he would have taken the Irish language with him,” says Fanning. “His friends and family all happened to be in Boston but he would have carried that heritage with him anywhere in the world. He still does carry it with him.”

Winning fight after fight, against the odds and against all predictions, Mannion showed that the Irish could stand on the world's stage with a new confidence.

“It was all about being Irish, but I don't think he drilled down to say, ‘All these people in my community are benefiting from my progress up the ranks here.’ He just wanted to be world champion from the time he was a kid and this was his chance to do it,” Fanning said.

When the owner of an American company phoned up on the eve of Mannion's world title fight he wanted to place his company's logo on the waistband of his boxing trunks. But Mannion always placed the name of his village there, and he would not hear of changing it at any price.

There are some things that money still can't buy.  For Mannion integrity wasn't for sale. Neither was the name of his hometown or what it meant to him.

By taking his stand he paved the way for other Irish challengers to follow. And in doing so he showed that some heroes stay in the ring until the end.

Rocky Ros Muc is now playing at Cinema Village in Manhattan. For tickets call 212-924-3364.

Read more: Boston’s Seán Mannion, the bravest boxer ever, recalls his title shot

Steve Martin wows at New York Irish Arts Center gala

Irish Arts Center in New York threw one heck of a party last Friday night at Cipriani 42nd Street, a star-studded, jam-packed gala dinner which raised a record $1.5 million for the new IAC which will break ground next spring.

The highlight of the evening – and there were many – was without question Steve Martin, the beloved comedian/musician/actor/writer who was one of three award recipients.  What a coup to get him, and what a treat it was to listen to him speak and play his banjo.

“This celebration has a special meaning for me, because my heritage is Irish and a mix of other, less-important cultures not honoring me tonight.    The excitement of this night reminds me of the birth of my child. The only difference is, I showed up for this,” Martin deadpanned.

It was one joke after another from Martin, who had the audience in stitches.  “It’s so nice to see Liam Neeson, who told me if I didn’t show up tonight he would track me down and kill me.  And my dear friend Gabriel Byrne, who’s not only an amazing actor but also my Tinder photo,” he said.

“By the way, for those of you not in show business, ‘my dear friend’ is a Hollywood term meaning we worked together once over 20 years ago and haven’t spoken since.”

Andy and Caroline Breslin, Liam Neeson.

Steve got serious when talking about his decades-long love of Celtic music and his favorite Irish artists.

“When I was in my teens, I was mysteriously attracted to Irish and Celtic music and all its branches. I didn’t really realize that it was running in my blood. When I was on the road as a comedian in the 1970s, I soothed the lonely hours by listening to mournful Irish songs from the Bothy Band and Planxty,” he said.

“I fell in love with the Irish Rovers, Christy Moore, Mary Black, Sean Keene and many more. I incorporated their music into films I did, and wrote songs in the Celtic vernacular for the five string banjo.”

Then he proceeded to play one of them with accompanist Alex Hargreaves, called “The Dance at the Wedding.” It was masterful.

The IAC has raised $57.5 million of the $62 million needed for its new home.  More nights like last Friday and they’ll easily surpass that goal.

Storm Ophelia risk-takers should face legal charges for endangerment

People in Ireland are calling for Storm Ophelia’s risk-takers to be prosecuted for endangerment.

There have been reports from all around Ireland of people taking to the sea as if it was as calm and balmy as the Mediterranean in June.

The west coast was pummeled by Storm Ophelia, but in Galway a garda (policeman) told RTÉ that people continued to ignore their warnings about staying inside during the storm.

Read more: Ireland mourns three victims of Storm Ophelia as massive cleanup begins

“People are still are still walking on the [Salthill] prom with children and animals,” the frustrated public servant sighed.

“A number of people have gone in swimming, just refusing to take our advice at the moment and, bar pulling them off the prom, there’s not much we can do.”

To the east, in Drogheda, Co Louth two men kitesurfing were pulled out of the water by gardaí who thought they were in trouble. They say they weren’t and one told the Liberal.ie he is planning a formal complaint against those who forced him out of the water.

Along the south Dublin coast two seven-year-old children were stopped from taking a dip with flippers at Seapoint and in Killiney a man was reported as about to enter the sea in conditions the Dún Laoghaire Coast Guard bluntly described as “horrendous.”

Read more: What you should know about Irish Storm Brian, following Ophelia

Niamh FitzPatrick, sister of Dara FitzPatrick, who died on active service as a rescue pilot, told Today FM, “I was just so incensed yesterday…  when I heard reports of people out and about… When you do lose someone who’s in search and rescue or maybe firefighting, gardaí, ambulance, RNLI, mountain rescue, when you lose someone who has lost their life while they go to help somebody else, that’s tough in itself, but to know that that would happen needlessly is just… it’s unbelievable to be honest with you.”

Social media was awash with people calling for individuals who put the lives of service personnel to be arrested.

Do you think people who head out in dangerous weather should face prosecution? Tell us in the comments below.

What you should know about Irish Storm Brian, following Ophelia

As Ireland assesses the damage caused by category three level winds another storm is en route from the Atlantic

As Ireland continues is mammoth clean up following the post-tropical Storm Ophelia, and mourns the lives of three victims, the country heard the shocking news that Storm Brian will hit Ireland and the United Kingdom by the weekend.

Ophelia was the worst storm to hit Ireland in 50 years. The ex-hurricane has left 215,000 without electricity and a growing number of people without water. As Ireland assess the damage wrought by fallen trees and high winds the reconstruction bill is set to reach up to one billion euro. However, now Ireland has another storm to deal with and as soon as this weekend with another smaller patch of bad weather hitting the country on Thursday.

Here's what you need to know about Storm Brian:

Storm Brian will not pack the same punch as Ophelia

Thankfully meteorologist at Met Eireann John Eagleton told the public that Storm Brian will trigger a status yellow weather warning – that’s compared to the national red warning seen during Ophelia. However, rainfall and high winds are on the cards.

Eagleton said “I don't see it at anywhere near the same intensity as Ophelia was anyway.

"For us on Saturday, at its current track, it will throw up a lot of rain across the country; it may give a breezy day, maybe some low-level wind warnings possible or maybe some rain warnings issued.

"It is too early to say at this time."

Read more: In the wake of Storm Ophelia we look at the worst storms in Ireland’s history

Who’ll be affected

Storm Brian will, sadly, once again affect those in the south of the country. However, its path has not been fully developed.

Cork and Kerry took the brunt of damage by Storm Ophelia and are already working hard to assess damage and return to normal.

High winds

Gale-force winds can be expected this weekend reaching up to 68mph. However, Storm Ophelia reached Category 3 hurricane levels with winds of up to 119mph in some areas.

Another Atlantic Ocean storm

Storm Brian is following in the footsteps of Storm Ophelia. The storm is being created by areas of low pressure which are common in the South Atlantic. Disturbances in the atmosphere help create such storms and the jet stream is sending Brian towards Ireland and the UK.

What’s with the names? Brian and Ophelia?

These names are part of an alphabetical naming system generated by Ireland’s meteorological service, Met Eireann. Every year, the gender of the first storm alternates and the first storm of the season was called Aileen this year.

This naming system is a joint initiative by Met Eireann and the UK Met Office.

The next expected storm will be called Caroline.

A graph of the 2017 / 2018 storm names in Ireland and the UK.

President Clinton advises Trump to learn lyrics to “Danny Boy”

Clinton thought the line “what you have left is wondering if anyone will ever say ‘I love you’” might resonate with Donald Trump

President Clinton stated that Donald Trump should know the second verse of 'Danny Boy' “because it reminds you that you can be very big, very famous, very rich, very powerful, very able to push other people around, to hold them down, to lift them up. But what you have left is wondering if anyone will ever say ‘I love you’.”

The lines he refers to are “O Danny Boy, O Danny Boy I love you so.”

The former president was receiving an honorary degree at Dublin City University for his work on Irish peace. He stated that tribalism has hurt international cooperation and conflict resolution.

“Alas, here we are back in the soup all over the world, fighting the same old battles we’ve been fighting ever since people came out of the caves. Pope Francis said we should live in a culture of encounter. Not that we should agree with each other all the time. Not that everybody should be right all the time. That’s really what the Good Friday accord did.”

Clinton stated he used the Good Friday accord example all over the world.

The agreement had been reached because people had chosen democracy, which was not just about majority rule, he said.

“It’s minority rights and individual rights and the rule of law and the absence of violence as a tool of political advancement,” he said. “

Read more: John McCain takes jab at Donald Trump while receiving Liberty Medal

Shared decision-making, shared economic benefit and special ties to the Republic of Ireland as well as to the United Kingdom. There had never been any peace agreement exactly like [it] before. It broke like a thundercloud across the world.”

On Brexit he said Britain got it wrong.

“If we approached family in the way we approached this debate all over the world, people would run fleeing from their homes the moment parents gave an instruction they didn’t like,” he said.

“All partnerships that are community-based are held together not because everybody agrees with everybody else but because co-operation is better than conflict.”

Read more: Bill Clinton explores Hurricane-struck Dublin

Watch President Clinton’s speech in full below:

Conor McGregor and Dee Devlin share photos of new baby’s christening

Pictures from Conor McGregor Jr.’s christening show the sports star’s son enjoying a magical fairground in a wondrous white suit.  

Conor Jack McGregor Jr., son of famed Irish MMA fighter Conor McGregor and Dee Devlin, celebrated his christening this weekend in an absolutely incredible fashion. McGregor Jr. wore a pristine white three-piece suit and he explored “Mac Land” in his parents' arms.

A McGregor family portrait. Image credit: thenotoriousmma/Instagram

UFC fighter McGregor shared some pics of the day showing him alongside Devlin, his partner of nine years, as they celebrated the special day with a petting zoo and a Ferris wheel, among many other wondrous fairground rides and games.

Conor McGregor Jr.'s christening. Image credit: thenotoriousmma/Instagram

The 29-year-old Dubliner sported a brown suit with a pink pocket square and flower as he enjoyed the memorable christening party for his five-month-old son.

Conor McGregor and Dee Devlin celebrating their son Conor's christening. Image credit: thenotoriousmma/Instagram

In the post which McGregor captioned "Conor Jr’s Christening!", McGregor  also tagged fashion brand “August McGregor,” which is believed to be his own line of clothes set for release early in 2018.

Image credit: thenotoriousmma/Instagram

In addition to launching his own menswear collection, the UFC star is eagerly awaiting the premiere of his own documentary “Conor McGregor: Notorious,” set to be released next month.

"Mac Land" for McGregor's son's christening. Image credit: thenotoriousmma/Instagram.

Tracking McGregor's rise from his time living in his mom’s spare room with Devlin to earning millions for a fight, the movie spans more than four years, capturing all of the fighter’s personal and professional highs and lows, right up to his loss in his first professional boxing match against Floyd Mayweather last August.

A great day for my little man! #Blessed @ginger_beard_photos

A post shared by Conor McGregor Official (@thenotoriousmma) on

The documentary was announced by Universal not long after the Crumlin native's defeat by Mayweather and will be released in Ireland and the UK on Nov 1 and in America and Canada on Nov 8. The documentary is also believed to focus on the fighter’s relationship with Dee Devlin, the girlfriend who has been with McGregor from his time on the unemployment line to today.

Baby mama

A post shared by Conor McGregor Official (@thenotoriousmma) on

If the trailer is anything to go by we can also expect a lot of talk about being Irish means to McGregor and how that inspires the man known for walking out to the cage to the sounds of the Irish song “The Foggy Dew.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger and UFC President Dana White are among those who provide insights into the preparation before the fight with Mayweather.

Would you buy from Conor McGregor’s fashion line? Are you looking forward to his movie? Let us know in the comments section, below.

Not one but TWO Irish islands in West Cork could be yours for $650K

If you're looking for a deal on your own personal Irish oasis, a pair of Irish islands are on the market, and the asking price for the pair was recently lowered to $650K. 

That's, what, the price of a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan? 

Whereas in Manhattan you'd be sharing walls with your neighbors, on Carbery and Cold Islands, located on the south side of peaceful Dunmanus Bay in West Cork, your closest neighbors would be a colony of seals and otters. 

Look how far away your closest human neighbors are! Photo: Gary McCormack

Read More: Dream of owning your own private island off Ireland? This is epic

Carbery Island is the main island, and comes with a recently constructed two-storey Dormer House, furnishings included. The house has four bedrooms and comes with its private water supply and septic tank waste disposal system and a separate generator house.

Photo: Gary McCormack

Cold Island, just to the east of Carbery, is little more than a scattered rock outcrop of c. 4 acres with some grass. But it is also home to that seal and otter colony! 

Photo: Gary McCormack

Read more: Own your own Irish island - it's cheaper than you'd think

You'll get your own private beach on Carbery, complete with a floating pontoon dock. On the mainland, Dunmanus and Kilcrohane are the two nearest towns. 

Photo: Gary McCormack

Gorgeous!

Photo: Gary McCormack

Would you want your own private island in Ireland? What's your dream Irish property? Tell us in the comment section. 

Downstairs. Photo: Gary McCormack

Upstairs. Photo: Gary McCormack

Meet the world's next Michael Flatley: Owen Luebbers

Winner of the North American Irish Dance Championships for the tenth year in a row, Irish dance superstar Owen Luebbers has a bright future ahead.

Irish dancer Owen Luebbers came to the world’s attention several years ago after he appeared on "America’s Got Talent" and after his incredible Irish dance interpretations of pop songs made him a Vine sensation. Still only 19 the Philadelphia native still has plenty to show us as he continues to bring home trophy after trophy at national competitions.

Owen Luebbers celebrating being World Champion. Image credit: Instagram/owenluebbers

Earlier this year, the Irish dance influencer won his tenth North American Irish Dance Championship in a row, securing his future as one of the all-stars of traditional Irish dance.

For most Irish dancers competition slows down toward the end of the summer, but Luebbers, a student at Temple University in Philadelphia, will return to competition this month at the Great Britain Championships before heading to the Regional Championships again in November.

Read more: Top Irish dance influencers to follow in 2017

“Dancing in college is definitely challenging and requires you to push yourself a lot more, but I love having to do the work on my own,” Luebbers told IrishCentral.

“I would definitely love to dance full-time eventually! I still feel like I have more to accomplish in competition, so I'll probably be competing for a few more years.”

Luebbers' maternal great-grandparents were from Donegal and Wicklow, and, thanks to his Irish dancing talent, he has been able to make more than one trip to Ireland. Killarney is one place Luebbers always recalls.

“It was cross-country season, and I had promised my coach that I would keep training even when I was overseas for an Irish Dance competition,” he explains.

“My mom drove from the INEC [Ireland's National Events Centre in Killarney] to the Killarney National Park for me to go for a run. I ran down one of the trails that said, ‘castle,’ out of curiosity.

“Eventually that trail opened to a secluded beach. In front of me was an incredible sight. There was what looked like a mountain, off in the distance. The cool October breeze drifted in off the lake, giving me a chill I'll never forget.”

While he may feel he needs to remain competing for a few more years to push himself, Luebbers' own choreography has already won him floods of fans as he puts Irish dance steps to songs from popstars such as Ariana Grande and Macklemore.

Owen Luebbers mid-dance. Image credit: Instagram/owenluebbers

“I would love to choreograph my own show one day!” Luebbers says.

Irish dance choreography is something I have been passionate about for a long time and being the choreographer of my own show would give me the platform to express myself through the art form that I love. I would also love to eventually start releasing/producing music!”

mirror maru - @cashmerecat (SO READY FOR GLASGOW!!!!!) 🙌🏼🙌🏼

A post shared by owen luebbers (@owenluebbers) on

You can find more from Owen Luebbers at his Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube account.

Who is your favorite Irish dancer and why? Let us know all about them in the comments section below.

Galway girl serenades her idol Ellen Degeneres on her show

Eimear O’Tuathail is Ireland’s biggest Ellen Degeneres fan and she has a special song to prove it.

After a successful campaign throughout Ireland to win her attention, Ellen Degeneres this week flew 17-year-old superfan Eimear O’Tuathail from Ireland to LA so that the Galway girl could perform on her show. 

Possibly one of the biggest Ellen fans Ireland has ever seen, singer-songwriter O’Tuathail had posted a video online of her tribute song to the TV host, hoping against hope that she would be noticed and given the opportunity to meet her idol.

"Mum got the call about two hours after the first story about me ran on the RTÉ site two weeks ago, so we flew over to LA," O’Tuathail told RTÉ Entertainment after getting the chance to perform her special song “Hey Ellen” on the show of the main woman herself.

"The only time I got to talk to Ellen was during the interview. I ran up to her and gave her a hug and we did the interview and it was about six minutes altogether."

Read more: Adele brings her Irish imitators up on stage in Dublin (VIDEOS)

The episode aired in the US on Tuesday and is not reaching Irish screens until next week but we can say that O’Tuathail definitely held her own, performing the song perfectly even though she was just given one take.

"We had a rehearsal and I thought `Ok, I'll get to meet her before we did the interview and I won't be crying and I'll be fine and also if I do mess up on the real thing they can just use the performance from the rehearsal,' the 17-year-old told RTÉ.

"But they told me that the first time I'd meet Ellen was when I went out into the studio and the only performance they would air would be the live one. So if I messed up, that was it!"   

Irish singer Eimear O'Tuathail recently performed on the Ellen Show. Image: Twitter.

Thankfully, all went well, although the young singer was initially overwhelmed with tears when she first walked out to meet Degenerous. 

"I did cry when I met her but they cut it out! I ran up to her and I kinda get a bit emotional. I kinda forget what happened but I gave her a hug,” she admits.

And not only did the young Irish woman win her dream of meeting Ellen and a six-day trip to LA but she was also awarded an amazing $10,000 check that we’re sure she'll make good use of, whether she decides to follow her music career or to carry on to college. Right now, she describes herself as torn between wanting to be a singer and wishing to study forensic psychology.

You can see O'Tuathail's original song here:

What do you think of "Hey Ellen"? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below and be sure to share with anybody you think will enjoy it!

Is this Ireland's most haunted house?

Isolated on the Hook Peninsula in Co. Wexford,  Loftus Hall is said to have been haunted by the devil and by the ghost of a young woman.

Is Loftus Hall in Co. Wexford Ireland's most haunted house? Well, that's a spooky theory yet to be debunked although we don't have much video evidence to prove it. 

The mansion, with a long history of ghostly occurrences and misery, opened its doors to the public for the first time in 30 years in 2012. Would you be brave enough to take the tour?

Ghostly occurrences at Loftus House

In August 2014, a tourist snapped a shot of a ghostly female figure in the grounds. Thomas Beavis, 21, from Lewisham, snapped this shot while he was on the tour.

A trick of the light or the ghost of a little girll?

Read more: Ireland’s most haunted house filled with spooky tales for Halloween.

It wasn’t until he’d left the Loftus Hall grounds that he noticed the figure – who they believe is the spirit of little Anne Tottenham – and the face of an old lady at the window.

Loftus Hall is a 22-bedroom period mansion on Hook Peninsula in County Wexford. The isolated house is set on 60 acres, overlooking a lonely stretch of the South East coast. Since it was abandoned over three decades ago, the grand building has only had structural repairs.

Owner Aidan Quigley now hosts guided interactive tours which he says are not for the fainthearted.

So spooky is the atmosphere that it comes as no surprise that Loftus Hall was the filming location for this terrifying horror film, "The Lodgers."

The haunted history of Loftus House

Built over the remains of Redmond Hall, the home of the Redmond family since around 1350, in 1666 it became the home of the Loftus family and was renamed Loftus Hall.

Even the movie looks too spooky for us!

The ghostly tours are based on the story of Anne Tottenham and a visitor to the house in the 18th century whose body, during a game of cards, went ‘through the roof,’ leaving a hole in the ceiling which is visible to this day and left young Anne in a state of terror.

She was put into a room known as the Tapestry Room to rest, and it is here that she stayed completely silent until her death in 1775.

Over the years since, servants have claimed to have seen a dark, mysterious figure roaming the halls, causing disturbances.

The Loftus family abandoned the house in the early years of the 20th century when it was bought by the Sisters of Providence and turned into a convent and school for girls. It changed ownership again in 1983 when Michael Deveraux transformed the building into a hotel, but this too was abandoned in the 1990s and the Hall remained empty until a few years ago. 

Loftus Hall is now open for tours for those brave enough to walk its haunted halls 

The tour allows younger children to trick or treat with Grimmelhook the Witch in her cottage made from sweets.

For children aged eight and older, there is a climbing wall and archery instruction as well as a pets corner.

Grown-ups are offered the chance to learn more about Loftus Hall’s history.

And in the run-up to Halloween this year, special arrangements have been made for Halloween tours and for a spooky Lockdown where you can spend the night in the hall on the lookout for ghosts.

If a Lockdown seems like too much for your nerves to handle, a 50-minute Halloween tour is also planned for the evening with the option to take a kids tour, a family tour, or one designed specifically for adults. 

Quigley also plans to let the house out for weddings and private functions. More details are available at www.loftushall.com.

Have you visited Loftus Hall? Had a spooky encounter? Let us know about it in the comments section, below. 

*A version of this article was originally published in October 2014. 

US tourist stranded by Storm Ophelia wins big in Irish lottery

A US tourist stranded by Storm Ophelia won an incredible $295,000 (€250,000) on a scratch card.

Speaking anonymously to the Irish Independent the lucky winner said he’d actually won $235 (€200) the day before and, perhaps sensing a lucky streak, bought another one whilst waiting for his delayed home journey across the Atlantic.

Read More: Ireland mourns three victims of Storm Ophelia as massive cleanup begins

"I couldn’t believe my luck winning €200 and I thought, I’m not going to bring this home with me so I brought my friend Jimmy and his family out to dinner as it was supposed to be my last day in Ireland before I went home,” he said.

"Just before dinner I went into the same Daybreak and got another scratch card, scratched it and just couldn’t believe my eyes."I kept checking and checking it and after dinner I asked Jimmy to take a look and sure enough when I called the National Lottery they confirmed that I had won €250,000. I still cannot believe it!"

No stranger to Ireland, the lucky winner has visited 11 times before and joked that now he had no excuse not to make yet another return.

Read More: New baby, new job, then the lotto - Irishman has best week ever 

On the flip side of it, Irish people in America have often won large sums of money too: in March a Bronx Irish barber, Michael Moriarty, won $7 million after picking up a scratch card on the way to pick up his daughter.

“I dropped off my laundry down the street and decided to stop into the gift shop and buy a Lottery ticket,” Moriarty said.

“I never played this ticket before so I was shocked when I realized I won the jackpot.”

A few years ago an even larger sum was won by a Cavan-born Brendan Riordan whose Win For Life Spectacular scratch-off lottery ticket saw him win an annual payment of $520,000 with a minimum payout of $10 million and potentially as much as $25 million.  

Read More: What you should know about Irish Storm Brian, following Ophelia

H/T: Irish Independent

Irish leader accuses Trump of fake news on corporate tax comments

Donald Trump is "FAKE NEWS", Irish leader Leo Varadkar told legislators today.

An Taoiseach (the Prime Minister) was commenting on Trump’s recent pronouncements that Ireland was to slash its rate of corporation tax from 12% to 8%.

Trump is trying to push through a big cut to corporation tax the in the US himself and sought to justify his plan with the apparent news that Ireland’s tax rate was set to plummet.  

“When China is at 15% and I hear that Ireland is going to be reducing their corporation rates down to 8% from 12%,” he told journalists in the Rose Garden, flanked by Mitch McConnell.

During his campaign last year the President often cited Ireland as an example of a tax regime that was luring American companies away and he made clear he wanted that to change.

“Other countries are outsmarting us by giving them advantages, you know, like in the case of Mexico. In the case of many other countries. Like Ireland is, you’re losing Pfizer to Ireland, a great pharmaceutical company that with many, many jobs and it’s going to move to Ireland,” he told the Washington Post.

Read More: Donald Trump says Ireland is “outsmarting,” stealing jobs from the US

But Ireland’s Department of Finance was quick to deny the story and said it had no plans to cut the tax and that the rate was in fact 12.5%.

Now the news has been confirmed once again by Varadkar.

But perhaps Trump would be honored considering the word “fake” is a term he himself came up with?!

Tell us your scariest Irish ghost stories and spookiest encounters

The Irish are renowned storytellers and Halloween is our time to shine!

The storytelling tradition in Ireland goes back to ancient times, when the Seanchaí – Irish storytellers – were the definition of entertainment, holding the key to all of Irish folklore, myth, and legend. 

The tradition survives strong today, from the lore surrounding the Blarney Stone to storytelling festivals, to everyday conversation. 

This Halloween, we want you to unleash your inner storyteller and tell us your scariest stories and spoooookiest encounters.

Is there a chilling tale that's been passed down in your family? 

Have you ever visited a haunted place or had an encounter that terrified or confounded you with its supernatural explanation? 

Or, maybe you have a photo that accidentally captured some paranormal activity or a video with some ghostly going ons

Tell us! Leave a note here in the comment section, or email submit@irishcentral.com 

On Halloween, we'll pick the scariest of the stories to spotlight and share so we can all have scares a-plenty. 

 

John McCain takes jab at Donald Trump while receiving Liberty Medal

In an impassioned speech Irish American US Senator and Vietnam vet John McCain denounced “half-baked, spurious nationalism” in an attack on Donald Trump. The Arizona gave a speech having been awarded the Liberty Medal, recognizing a lifetime of leadership in the pursuit of freedom.

McCain, who was diagnosed with brain cancer in July, spoke in Philadelphia where former vice president Joe Biden presented him with the medal. Previous recipients of the prestigious medal have included Hillary Clinton, Steven Spielberg, Muhammad Ali, and Tony Blair.

The senator has sparred with Trump on a number of occasions. On Tuesday he warned against the United States surrendering its leadership in the international community.

Read more: Irish American John McCain shows 60 Minutes he’s truly a fighter

His speech was applauded by the crowds, at the National Constitution Center, when he said "To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain the last best hope of earth for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.

He continued "We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil.

"We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did."

He added "We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don't.

"We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn't deserve to." (see the full transcript of his speech below)

Former vice president Joe Biden, Chairman of the Constitution Center, a non-profit institution devoted to the US founding charter, praised McCain’s “courage and loyalty” while introducing him to the crowds.

McCain joined the Navy in 1958 and rose to the rank of captain during his 22 years of service. He was shot down during the Vietnam War and became a prisoner of war for five and a half years. He was brutally tortured. The senator has limited mobility in his arms as a result of his injuries.

During Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the Republican candidate was criticized when he said McCain was not a war hero. Trump said, “I like people who weren't captured."

Most recently McCain returned to the Senate, following brain surgery (treatment for his recently diagnosed brain cancer) to oppose his own Republican party’s attempts to replace and replace Obamacare, health care policy. His thumbs down move was greeted by audible gasps in the Senate.

Read more: Irish American John McCain proves revenge is a dish best eaten cold

Here is a full transcript of John McCain’s speech until being awarded the Liberty Medal:

Thank you, Joe, my old, dear friend, for those mostly undeserved kind words. Vice-President Biden and I have known each other for a lot of years now, more than 40, if you’re counting. We knew each other back when we were young and handsome and smarter than everyone else but were too modest to say so.

Joe was already a senator, and I was the navy’s liaison to the Senate. My duties included escorting Senate delegations on overseas trips, and in that capacity, I supervised the disposition of the delegation’s luggage, which could require – now and again – when no one of lower rank was available for the job – that I carry someone worthy’s bag. Once or twice that worthy turned out to be the young senator from Delaware. I’ve resented it ever since.

Joe has heard me joke about that before. I hope he has heard, too, my profession of gratitude for his friendship these many years. It has meant a lot to me. We served in the Senate together for over 20 years, during some eventful times, as we passed from young men to the fossils who appear before you this evening.

We didn’t always agree on the issues. We often argued – sometimes passionately. But we believed in each other’s patriotism and the sincerity of each other’s convictions. We believed in the institution we were privileged to serve in. We believed in our mutual responsibility to help make the place work and to cooperate in finding solutions to our country’s problems. We believed in our country and in our country’s indispensability to international peace and stability and to the progress of humanity. And through it all, whether we argued or agreed, Joe was good company. Thank you, old friend, for your company and your service to America.

We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil

Thank you, too, to the National Constitution Center, and everyone associated with it for this award. Thank you for that video, and for the all too generous compliments paid to me this evening. I’m aware of the prestigious company the Liberty Medal places me in. I’m humbled by it, and I’ll try my best not to prove too unworthy of it.

Some years ago, I was present at an event where an earlier Liberty Medal recipient spoke about America’s values and the sacrifices made for them. It was 1991, and I was attending the ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The World War Two veteran, estimable patriot and good man, President George H W Bush, gave a moving speech at the USS Arizona memorial. I remember it very well. His voice was thick with emotion as he neared the end of his address. I imagine he was thinking not only of the brave Americans who lost their lives on December 7, 1941, but of the friends he had served with and lost in the Pacific where he had been the navy’s youngest aviator.

“Look at the water here, clear and quiet …” he directed, “One day, in what now seems another lifetime, it wrapped its arms around the finest sons any nation could ever have, and it carried them to a better world.”

He could barely get out the last line, “May God bless them, and may God bless America, the most wondrous land on earth.”

The most wondrous land on earth, indeed. I’ve had the good fortune to spend 60 years in service to this wondrous land. It has not been perfect service, to be sure, and there were probably times when the country might have benefited from a little less of my help. But I’ve tried to deserve the privilege as best I can, and I’ve been repaid a thousand times over with adventures, with good company, and with the satisfaction of serving something more important than myself, of being a bit player in the extraordinary story of America. And I am so very grateful.

What a privilege it is to serve this big, boisterous, brawling, intemperate, striving, daring, beautiful, bountiful, brave, magnificent country. With all our flaws, all our mistakes, with all the frailties of human nature as much on display as our virtues, with all the rancor and anger of our politics, we are blessed.

We are living in the land of the free, the land where anything is possible, the land of the immigrant’s dream, the land with the storied past forgotten in the rush to the imagined future, the land that repairs and reinvents itself, the land where a person can escape the consequences of a self-centered youth and know the satisfaction of sacrificing for an ideal, the land where you can go from aimless rebellion to a noble cause, and from the bottom of your class to your party’s nomination for president.

We are blessed, and we have been a blessing to humanity in turn. The international order we helped build from the ashes of world war, and that we defend to this day, has liberated more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. This wondrous land has shared its treasures and ideals and shed the blood of its finest patriots to help make another, better world. And as we did so, we made our own civilization more just, freer, more accomplished and prosperous than the America that existed when I watched my father go off to war on December 7, 1941.

To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain “the last best hope of earth” for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.

We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil. We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did. We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.

I am the luckiest guy on earth. I have served America’s cause – the cause of our security and the security of our friends, the cause of freedom and equal justice – all my adult life. I haven’t always served it well. I haven’t even always appreciated what I was serving. But among the few compensations of old age is the acuity of hindsight. I see now that I was part of something important that drew me along in its wake even when I was diverted by other interests. I was, knowingly or not, along for the ride as America made the future better than the past.

And I have enjoyed it, every single day of it, the good ones and the not so good ones. I’ve been inspired by the service of better patriots than me. I’ve seen Americans make sacrifices for our country and her causes and for people who were strangers to them but for our common humanity, sacrifices that were much harder than the service asked of me. And I’ve seen the good they have done, the lives they freed from tyranny and injustice, the hope they encouraged, the dreams they made achievable.

May God bless them. May God bless America, and give us the strength and wisdom, the generosity and compassion, to do our duty for this wondrous land, and for the world that counts on us. With all its suffering and dangers, the world still looks to the example and leadership of America to become, another, better place. What greater cause could anyone ever serve.

Thank you again for this honor. I’ll treasure it.

Irish dark humor’s time to shine on “Bank Holiday Ophelia”

Hurricane Ophelia brings out the best in Irish humor

As the Irish government begins to access the damage and schools receive confirmation that they will be closed for another school day, Hurricane Ophelia fever is still high in Ireland as the largest storm in decades barrels its way across the country.

If there’s one thing Irish people love, it’s talking about the weather, from the grand stretch in the evenings to the great drying weather and so this monstrous storm has whipped the country into an unadulterated frenzy of weather jokes.

Read more: More classic Irish humor keeps spirits high in the wake of Hurricane Ophelia 

While the worst of the storm has passed most of the country, thousands are still without power and there have been three confirmed deaths, leaving strong warnings in place for people to remain indoors, avoid driving if at all possible, and to stay away from the strong seas.

In order to pass the time while Ireland waits out Hurricane Ophelia, Irish people are sharing their very best jokes to keep spirits up in the face of the destruction.

Read more: Hurricane Opheila claims a third life as winds continue to slam country

We have, of course, had several jokes about just how much Irish people love talking about the weather:

And some absolutely stellar puns:

As the country prepared itself for Hurricane Ophelia’s onslaught, there were, of course, many jokes about how the Irish stock themselves up with food and drink before the winds hit:

While others decided to cause a little destruction of their own:

As in every emergency in Ireland, Fr. Ted is always on hand with some classics to sum up the weather. How is it that Fr. Ted can fit into absolutely any situation?

This previous viral video has re-emerged of an Irish man making up his own disastrous weather forecast:

But in general, many of the jokes have centered around the very Irish “sure, it’ll be grand” attitude:

Of course, we are taking advantage of any opportunity to have a go at the English:

And our very own Irish politicians:

Bill Clinton was spotted earlier today walking the Dublin streets, causing some warnings of his own:

Many social media users have also been paying tribute to some of the absolute gallant feats of heroics from the emergency services and even pilots, who are helping everyone stay as safe as possible. Three cheers for this incredible pilot who managed to land in such extreme circumstances:

Stay safe, everyone! Share this with someone who you think could use a laugh right now, and let us know in the comment section how you've been getting on. 

And read part II here - More Irish humor keeps spirits high in the wake of Hurricane Ophelia

Belfast woman was dead in her bed for two years - family “shocked”

The body of a Belfast woman believed to have been dead for two years was found lying in her bed by police.

PSNI said officers are investigating the death of 68-year-old Marie Conlon, who may have died around January 2015. It is believed she may have been murdered.

The Irish Times reports that a 23-year-old man, who has been charged in connection with the discovery of the woman’s body, is due to appear at Belfast Magistrates Court on November 5. He has been charged with offenses related to theft, fraud, burglary and preventing the lawful burial of a body.

PSNI officers found Conlon’s body lying in a bed in her Belfast apartment after concerns were raised about her whereabouts.

Read More:Thirty-two years of heinous crimes in 19th century Ireland go online

Detective Chief Inspector Alan Dickson said: "Authorities were alerted on Friday after concerns were raised about the welfare of 68 year old Marie Conlon.

"Officers forced entry to her Larkspur Rise home and discovered her deceased in bed. It was apparent that she had lain undiscovered for some time.

Google street view of Larkspur Rise, Belfast where the body of Marie Conlon was found. Credit: Google

"A post mortem examination was carried out and the results suggest that the death may have been suspicious. Further testing is due to take place," he said, according to Metro.co.uk.

"Detectives investigating the circumstances of the death have established that the last known sighting of Ms Conlon was in January 2015.

"It is our belief, supported by the medical evidence, that her death may have occurred at around this time."

Forensic examinations to determine the cause of her death are ongoing.

Family issued a statement on Thursday saying Conlon, who lived in the Larkspur Rise area of west Belfast, was an “independent” woman and that she will be “mourned greatly.”

“We are shocked and heartbroken to learn about the loss of our beloved sister, Marie Conlon. The tragic circumstances of her death make it all the more difficult to comprehend and accept.

“Marie was very much loved by her family and will be mourned greatly. She was a very independent person.

Read More:In brutal crime, Irish woman murdered her fiancé police say

“Numerous attempts had been made to contact her in person, and by other means, over the course of the past two years but at no point were suspicions raised that she had been deceased.

“It is only with hindsight that the unimaginable now seems possible.

“We have been working closely with the PSNI to bring this devastating situation to an end.

“We hope and pray that justice will be done and ask for privacy as we grieve the loss of our sister.”

Ireland mourns three victims of Storm Ophelia as massive cleanup begins

Ireland sets about recovering as 245,000 left without electricity and massive national damage is assessed

Ireland is mourning the three people who lost their lives in post-tropical storm Ophelia that hit Ireland on Monday and is beginning to assess the damage that has left hundreds of thousands of homes around the country without power.

Ireland’s meteorological service, Met Eireann, reported on Tuesday that there is another storm, Brian, due to hit Ireland on Friday but told the Irish Independent "at the moment, Storm Brian is nothing to worry about here in Ireland". Storm Brian will have a similarly low-pressure intensity to Ophelia with wind gusts of over 62mph off the Irish coast.

On Monday morning ex-hurricane, a post-tropical storm Ophelia, his counties Kerry and Cork at 5am and cleared the north coast of Northern Ireland and Donegal by midnight. The total time Ophelia took to track the island was 19 hours. The highest gusts recorded were 118mph, tracked at Fastnet Lighthouse, off Cork while the heaviest rainfall was in Belmullet, in County Mayo, where rainfall of just under one inch was recorded.

Read more: As Storm Ophelia strikes a look at the worst storms in Ireland’s history

Remain vigilant

Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar asked the Irish people to remain vigilant due to dangers such as live electrical wires.

He said “This is a national red alert it applies to all cities, all counties and all areas. Bear in mind that even after the storm has passed there will still be dangers.

“There will be trees on the ground, there will be power lines down and certainly we need to take care in that regard.”

Tragic deaths

The storm claimed three lives – Clare O’Neill, Michael Pyke and Fintan Goss. Clare O’Neill, in her 50s, was driving to her mother near the village of Aglish, County Waterford when the branch of a tree plowed through the car’s window. The mother-of-one was killed instantly. She died just one kilometer from her home.

Her mother, who is in her 70s, was rushed to Waterford Regional Hospital where she was treated for non-life threatening injuries.

Clare O'Neill from Waterford.

Michael Pyke, who was in his early 30s, was cutting a tree, which was blocking the road between Ballybrado and Cahir, in County Tipperary, at 12.30pm, when tragedy struck. Pyke was killed by one of the branches of the tree which he was tackling. A member of the public came across him shortly after the accident and notified the emergency services. Sadly, they found it hard to reach him due to the danger caused by other trees in the area and the horrendous conditions.

Pyke lived with his retired father, Tony, less than a mile from where the accident took place.

Michael Pyke, from Tipperary.

At 2.45pm, in Dundalk, County Louth, Storm Ophelia claimed its third victim. Fintan Goss (33) was killed when a falling tree smashed his car, at Ravendale. He was killed during his ten-minute drive home from work, having left early due to the storm.

Goss is survived by his wife and two children. The youngest is just a few weeks old.

Fintan Goss, from Louth.

Assessing the damage of Storm Ophelia

By 4 pm on Monday, 370,000 homes and business were without electricity and damage is being assessed as the country seeks to return to normal. Now just 245,000 are without power but it’s expected that some customers could have to wait up to 10 days for electricity to return.

It’s also suspected that up to 360,000 people could lose their water supply today and many customers could lose broadband, telephone and mobile services on Tuesday as repairs begin.

On Monday, in Cork, strong gusts of winds ripped roofs off of buildings, including Douglas Community School.

The winds also caused a stand at Cork City’s Turner’s Cross Stadium to collapse. However, despite the destruction caused by Ophelia, Cork City’s game against Derry City will go ahead on Tuesday.

Cork’s County Council is continuing to work on clearing a number of trees that were preventing the emergency services from responding to incidents in Cobh.

In Kerry the County Council ran out of sandbags as they battled to try and prevent damage and flooding, caused by storm surges. The Glenbeigh Road to Cahersiveen was left completely impassable.

High water levels and heavy rainfall saw Dock Street, in Galway, flood. Salthill Promenade closed off after a number of people were spotted swimming before the storm hit.

In Dublin, fallen trees blocked off roads including Leeson Street.

Read more: Unable to make NI trip to help break political stalemate, Bill Clinton explores Hurricane-struck Dublin

On Tuesday schools remained closed as the Department of Education decided it would be unsafe to have children traveling to schools while repairs and damage assessments got underway. Some universities, colleges, and creches remained closed but the ultimate decision was left up to individual institutions.

Hospital appointments, which were canceled by the Health Service Executive, are being rescheduled, as are burials which were cancelled across the country as gravediggers were forced to stay at home.

Ireland’s Defence Forces were deployed to assist in areas across the south of the country where felled trees blocked roads and pulled down electricity lines.

Met ­Eireann’s Evelyn Cusack described the storm as “exceptionally severe” but noted that it was over quickly.

The meteorologist said: “Rain isn’t the main story, the wind is, but none the less there is some extreme precipitation with thunderstorms and lightning.”

The cost of Storm Ophelia

It’s believed that the damage caused by Storm Ophelia could be in the range of $588 million to $940 million (€500-800m). Also, the disruption caused by the storm is likely to have cost hundreds of millions to the country.

The Irish Government has said an assessment of damage will have to be completed before a calculation of funds needed for a clean-up can be undertaken.

The National Emergency Co-ordination Group (NECG) will meet again on Tuesday morning to oversee what its chairman, Seán Hogan, called the process of getting “the country back to work”.

Read more: Irish dark humor’s time to shine on “Bank Holiday Ophelia”

Trick or treat! A Halloween witches' finger cookie recipe

Scare the wits out of your friends this Halloween with these delicious cookies

It’s time to get ready for Halloween, and to give you a head-start this year we will make some cookies to freak out your friends.

Because everyone's favorite spooky holiday is coming up soon, you have to start getting your costumes together and all the rest of that nonsense.

Last year, I put a sheet over my head, stuck horns on it, and went to work.

A co-worker asked me what I was dressed as, and I replied, "Bull Sheet."

Witches' finger cookies recipe

Yield: 5 dozen

Creep out everyone at your Halloween party with cookies that look like witches' fingers. You can use any shortbread cookie recipe, but here’s one for you (and of course mine is better!):

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

1 cup butter, softened

1 egg

1 tsp almond extract

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 2/3 cups flour

1 tsp salt

3/4 cup whole almonds, blanched

2 squares of melting chocolate or chocolate bark

Method:

Combine the sugar, egg, butter, almond extract and vanilla in a bowl. Mix in the flour and salt. Cover and refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes, or until firm.

When you’re ready to shape the cookies, only take out a small portion of the dough at a time. Shape the cookies into fingers by rolling and working with your hands.

Score the top of the cookie with a knife or spatula to make it look like the wrinkles in your knuckle. Press an imprint into the tip of the cookie with your finger to make a spot for the almond fingernail. Press an almond into the tip of each finger to look like a fingernail.

Place on a cooking sheet lightly coated with non-stick cooking spray and bake at 325 F for 20-25 minutes or until the cookies are a very light golden brown. Let the cookies cool on a drying rack.

Use melting chocolate to go around the outside of the almond nail, giving a ghoulish appearance. Just melt the chocolate, put it in an icing piping bag, and cut a very small hole in the tip. Then pipe around the nail.

If you use red melting chocolate the look will be even more dramatic. You can also make small drops of chocolate blood, or chocolate cuts on the cookies if you really want to gross out your guests.

The witches’ finger cookies will make great party treats, but you can also bundle them up in a decorative container and use them for your Halloween party favors.

Check out IrishCentral's Halloween stories here

*Originally published in October 2011.

Secret wedding for Michael Fassbender - officially off the market!

Michael Fassbender is a married man, tying the knot with fellow actor Alicia Vikander in a secret ceremony.

Irish actor and worldwide heartthrob Michael Fassbender has reportedly married his fiancé Alicia Vikander in a highly secret wedding ceremony. People Magazine are reporting that the intensely private couple were spotted wearing wedding bands in Ibiza last weekend and that the pair tied the knot at the luxurious La Granja farmstead resort surrounded by their friends and family.

The Daily Mail on Sunday printed pictures of Fassbender, 40, and Vikander, 29, wearing what appeared to be bands on their weddings fingers, leading to much speculation that the pair had exchanged vows.

The couple had previously been spotted hanging out on the island with their friends, including director Steve McQueen, who directed Fassbender in 2011’s “Shame.”

Read more: Michael Fassbender beams with pride for his Kerry roots (VIDEO)

Alicia Vikander with Michael Fassbender as he received Co. Kerry's highest honor. Image: Kerry County Council.

Although People claims to have confirmed the rumors, no representative of either Fassbender or Vikander has yet spoken on the speculated marriage.

The Irish and Swedish actors met on the set of “The Light Between Oceans” playing a married couple. Rumors started almost immediately that the pair were an item.

They have been notoriously tight-lipped about their relationship, only beginning to appear on red carpets together in 2016.

When Fassbender accepted the Order of Inisfallen from his hometown of Killarney, Co. Kerry, he quipped, “Through my work, I get to travel all over the world. It’s one of the many perks – alongside kissing Alicia Vikander.”

Oscar-winner Vikander has previously said of their relationship, “I think we’ve made a clear statement that we keep certain things just between us.

“It was very easy to unite, but that’s quite personal.”

German-born "X-Men" star Fassbender has also stated that it’s easy to keep the spotlight off their relationship.

“But that’s other people. Each to their own. I’m not going to talk about my private life with a total stranger unless I feel like I need to. Why would I? I don’t,” he said.

What do you think? Has the couple married? Leave us your thoughts in the comments section, below. 

First ship to sink in WWII discovered off coast of Ireland

The first ship to sink in World War II has been discovered on the Atlantic seabed off the northwest coast of Ireland.

The SS Athenia, a passenger liner on its way to Canada, was torpedoed by a German submarine 200 miles off the coast on September 2, 1939, just eight hours into the war.

The liner was spotted by a German U-boat under the command of Fritz-Julius Lemp, who tracked the ship for three hours and, believing it was an armed merchant cruiser, fired two torpedoes at it. One of the torpedoes exploded on the port side in the Athenia’s engine room.

Although the ship took several hours to sink and many of the passengers and crew escaped in lifeboats and were rescued, 117 people died.

Read More: Belfast's horrendous losses during the World War II bombing blitz

The sonar image matches the Athenia's dimensions. Credit: GSI

Now, shipwreck hunter David Mearns believes sonar data has identified the remains of the liner 650ft down on Rockall Bank, the Sunday Times reports.

He said the data shows the hull of the ship split in the aft section where one of the two torpedoes hit.

The marine scientist added that the dimensions of the target match what would be expected of a 500ft-long, 12,500 ton passenger liner, and the coordinates are close to those sent out by the ship’s distress call and recorded in the logbooks of the vessels that came to the rescue.

He told the BBC: “Can I go into a court of law and say, ‘100 percent, that’s Athenia?’ No. But barring a photograph I can say in my expert opinion there’s a very, very high probability that that’s Athenia. Everything fits.”

Survivors of the Athenia sinking are show being hoisted from a light boat onto the American cargo steamship City of Flint. Credit: Wikimedia/Imperial War Museums

Mearns, who has found around two dozen wrecks for insurers and television companies, writes about finding the Athenia in his book "The Shipwreck Hunter." He says it was the first wreck in his career “which I’ve identified from my armchair, so to speak.”

Read More: Photos of US army tanks and shipwrecks off the coast of Ireland

According to the BBC , Mearns, who was commissioned to do the search for the BBC, thinks it shouldn't be too complicated to send down a remotely operated vehicle to investigate the sonar contact.

BBC producers had initially intended to stage a live, underwater broadcast from the sunken remains of the ship, but the idea was dropped. Mearns, whose data has since been acquired by the Geological Survey of Ireland, still hopes someone will mount an expedition.

In the wake of Storm Ophelia we look at the worst storms in Ireland’s history

Ophelia was the worst storm to strike Ireland in over 50 years, since Hurricane Debbie, but what were the largest storms in Ireland's history?

In the wake of Storm Ophelia, an ex-hurricane post-tropical storm,  we take a look back at some of the worst storms to have hit the country.

Ophelia is the worst storm to strike Ireland in over 50 years, since Hurricane Debbie in 1961, which claimed 11 people’s lives and caused massive amounts of property damage.

Read more: Live updates on Storm Ophelia

As Storm Ophelia approached Ireland the meteorological service, Met Eireann, warned of “danger to life and property” and told the public to expect weather to be “stormy with violent, damaging gusts of 120 to 150 kilometers [74.5 to 93.2 miles] an hour. "

The storm is expected to produce rainfall of up to 50mm (1.9 inches) in parts of the west of the country, with isolated totals above 50mm  (1.9 inches) in elevated areas of the south and west. The weather service has also warned of the high risk of flooding due to heavy rain or thunderstorms and storm surges along some coasts.

As Ireland waits for the eye of the storm to pass here’s a run down of the worst storms in Ireland’s history:

Hurricane Debbie – September 16, 1961

Hurricane Debbie struck Ireland on Saturday, September 16, 1961 killing 11 people, including a family of four who were crushed by a falling tree.

The storm was so great that before it reached Ireland it had caused a plane to crash off the Cape Verde Islands killing 60 people.

Winds of over 110 mph were recorded as the center of Hurricane Debbie passed the southwest coast and 113 mph off Malin Head in the north. These were the strongest winds ever recorded in Ireland.

Deaths occurred during the hurricane due to walls, trees and debris falling as well as those due to people drowning. Four members of a family were killed when an ash tree fell across their car. The Irish Times reported that the roof of the car was “crushed to seat level.” Another man was killed when he sat on a bench outside a Dublin hospital and a tree’s branch fell on him.

In Dingle, County Kerry, fishing boats were blown ashore and around the country various crafts were sunk.

Storm Darwin – February 12, 2014

Storm Darwin, in 2014, is said to have caused the most damage of any storm in Irish history.

During the storm the Kinsale gas platform, off the Cork coast, was hit by a 80 foot wave – the biggest instrument recorded wave in Irish waters. Shannon Airport recorded 100 mph winds. More than 215,000 homes lost power and there was extreme flooding along the coasts and major damage caused to buildings. As many as 7.5 million trees were blown down – between 5,000 and 7,000 hectares of forestry  which is about one per cent of the national total.

There were at least five fatalities and hundreds of millions of euros worth of damage.

The Night of the Big Wind - 1839

The Night of the Big Wind was a massive hurricane that swept over Ireland on the night of January 6, 1839.

Up to 300 people died, tens of thousands were left homeless, and winds reached well over 115 miles per hour in a category three hurricane. Twenty-five percent of the houses in Dublin were destroyed and 42 ships were sunk.

The storm began after a period of very odd Irish weather. A heavy snowstorm on January 5 was followed by a balmy sunny day, almost unheard of for that time of year.

Some people claimed the temperature reached as high as 75 degrees and the heavy snow of January 5 totally melted.

During daytime on January 6, a deep Atlantic low pressure system began moving across Ireland, where it collided with the warm front. The first news of bad weather was reported in County Mayo. The steeple at the Church of Ireland in Castlebar was blown down.

As the evening wore on, the winds began to howl and soon reached hurricane force. The arrival of the hurricane force winds would never be forgotten by those who lived through it.

The Dublin Evening Post described its arrival with the following: “about half past ten it rose into a high gale, which continued to increase in fury until after midnight, when it blew a most fearful and destructive tempest.”

In Dublin, crowds flocked to the old Parliament House in College Green to hide under the portico, believing it to be one of the few places strong enough to withstand the storm.

Read more about the weather here

The Big Snow of 1947

Digging up the railways in Boyle after the 1947 storm.

Anyone who lived through the blizzard of 1947 will always have it ingrained in their memory. The harsh conditions and the scarcity of fuel and food made life difficult for both man and beast.

The extreme weather began at the end of February 1947 and continued well into the month of March. The snow and wind were quite severe on the last Friday in February.

The snow fell intermittently until the Monday, when a blizzard set in with strong cold winds and harsh daytime snows – this continued for twenty-four hours nonstop. The blizzard was driven by a fierce east wind and swept the country on the Tuesday.

It paralyzed road and rail services and brought all traffic to a standstill. Huge snow-drifts, some up to fifteen feet high, were common in many areas.

The cold weather began around the middle of February and lasted through March. Up to 600 people are said to have died.

Hurricane Katia – September 2011

Hurricane Katia battered Ireland and wreaked havoc across the country. Hurricane-force winds and giant waves led to transport chaos, fallen trees, damaged buildings and flooding.

The government’s weather forecasters, Met Eireann, issued an extreme weather warning amid predictions of storm gusts of up to 80mph battering the west and northwest coasts.

Peak winds of 71mph swept across the rest of the country thanks to the tail end of Hurricane Katia, which was classified a category four hurricane when it had hit the US coastline earlier that month.

Worst Winter on Record - 1963

A fallen helicopter in Northern Ireland from the winter storm.

The winter of 1962/1963 continues to be talked about in Ireland – and with good reason. It remains the coldest winter on record in Ireland and the UK since records began, according to IrishWeatherOnline’s Patrick Gordon.

The consistency of low daily mean temperatures that set in during the Christmas period of 1962, which lasted right up to the middle of March, was truly remarkable.

Snow showers continued to fall in counties Wicklow, Waterford, Wexford, Cork, Tipperary, Limerick, Kildare and Kilkenny, which added to the already significant accumulations in these areas and further isolated rural areas. In Europe, it was reported that at least 500 people died due to the intense cold that set in during late December.

Hurricane Charley - August 25, 1986

Aftermath of the hurricane in Bray.

A hurricane downgraded to an extratropical cyclone, Charley brought heavy rainfall and strong winds to Ireland and the United Kingdom and was responsible for at least 11 deaths.

In Ireland, the rainfall set records for 24 hour totals, including an accumulation of more than 7.8" (200 mm), which set the record for the greatest daily rainfall total in the country.

Across the country, the rainfall caused widespread flooding, including two rivers bursting their banks. In the United Kingdom, the storm downed trees and power lines and caused rivers to flood.

Read more about the weather here

More classic Irish humor keeps spirits high in wake of Hurricane Ophelia

Irish humor is helping Ireland to come to terms with the impact of Storm Ophelia

With a further Atlantic Storm, Storm Brian, set to hit Ireland by this weekend, the Irish are still reeling from Storm Ophelia and its devastation across the country. As communities grieve for the three fatalities, thousands remain with electricity, and an increasing number are left without a water supply.

The worst storm to hit Ireland in 50 years, Ophelia wrought damage to Ireland that is expected to reach up to $1 billion in reconstruction while many are concerned that not enough was done to protect the homeless from the intense weather conditions.

If there was ever a time for some Irish humor, this is it, and so we’ve compiled some of the best Ophelia takes to help keep Irish spirits up.

Stay safe, check in on your neighbors, and make sure to share with anybody you think needs cheering up right now.

Read more: What you should know about Irish Storm Brian, following Ophelia

Ireland continues to react to Ophelia with good humor -

We cannot confirm if this is a legitimate text sent by a priest but we’re hoping against all hopes that it is:

With schools and most businesses closed, one cheeky commuter wanted to check with the Irish rail service whether he’d have the day off or not:

We couldn’t let this opportunity pass without having a go at Trump:

While others really enjoyed the thought of being safely inside while the storm raged outside:

Many were lamenting the items lost from their gardens:

And we had yet more hits at the English:

And our Irish politicians:

Read more: Ireland mourns three victims of Storm Ophelia as massive cleanup begins

The was a return of the masked man behind famed RTÉ newscaster Teresa Mannion:

Some were lamenting the loss of electricity in a strange way (these candles are ridiculously pricey):

The Irish housing market could not escape:

While some businesses made sure their customers knew they were closed:

The amateur weather reports were out in force:  

Was it truly great drying weather?

Some Irish people weren’t happy that the schools were still closed today:

There was plenty of tea and Tayto:

And when the time came, we were happy to pass the baton along to our friends in Scotland:

Again, massive thanks to the amazing Irish emergency services who worked so hard to keep the country safe:

How were you affected by Ophelia? Tell us how and where you weathered out the storm in the comments section, below. 

Opioid epidemic takes hold in Massachusetts - Irish pol has a plan

An Irish American city councilor in Worcester, MA, the second largest city in the state, wants her city to put boxes containing anti-overdose medication in public places.

According to the state's data 59 people passed away as a result of overdosing on opioids in the city, and it’s widely agreed there's a crisis.

Councilor Kate Toomey thinks the best way to tackle that crisis is for Worcester to place Narcan boxes, which contain anti-overdose medication, in the most common public places where people have died.

Councilor Kate Toomey.

Speaking to 25 News Boston Toomey said, “I think it’s imperative and incumbent on us to look at every possibility.”

When not working as a public representative, Toomey has worked in the addictions field and believes the idea “would be a smart thing to try it.

Read more: Injecting rooms for Irish drug users to be set up by government

“There are a number of people who have lost their children, who would give anything … to have that life-saving Narcan to help save their child.”

But not everyone’s a fan. In nearby Cambridge, MA a similar plan is being considered and some locals aren’t happy.

“The police should do their job and police the street... I don’t want the box. It’s an encouragement for people,” Sharon Walsh, a local store owner told the New York Times in May.

As for viewers of 25 News Boston, of those who voted in the station’s online poll it was an overwhelming 'No' to the proposal with 18% for and 82% against.

Read more: Young people in Ireland take the most psychoactive drugs in the EU

Here's a Fox news report on the drug issue in the USA from earlier this week:

Spend this spooky season in Ireland, the birthplace of Halloween

The taxi was barreling across the Brooklyn Bridge and the driver was in full flow.

So I hoisted the white flag.

He was dying to tell me where he was from.

So I asked.

“Transylvania,” he roared.

“Oh, Romania,” I responded.

“No, Transylvania,” he retorted with extra emphasis.

“Home of Dracula.”

Really,” said I. “Slow down a bit and I’ll tell you a story.”

The cab driver nearly drove into the East River when I told him that Dracula was an Irishman’s invention.

He had never heard of Abraham “Bram” Stoker, but by the time I reached my destination I had half convinced him that the ever-thirsty count had been dreamed up under an Irish sky, perhaps a foggy one in late autumn, around Halloween.       

Another Irish invention of course.

Well not so much an invention, but rather a day in the year when thought is given to transience, from one season to the next, one form of existence to the next.

And, more lately, a lot of fun.

All Hallows Eve, as every Irish kid is reminded on October 31, is derived from the pre-Christian Celtic era and was adapt in relatively recent times - that being somewhere between a thousand and fifteen hundred years ago – to fit into contemporary religious belief.

Trim Castle - another spooky spot in Ireland's Ancient East. Photo: Tony Pleavin

So it came to pass that everyone’s favorite fright-filled holiday began in Ireland. Trace Halloween right back to its origins and you’ll find yourself in the mists of pagan Ireland over 2,000 years ago – a time when the ancient festival of Samhain (today the Irish language word for November) was celebrated in the heart of Ireland's Ancient East to mark the beginning of winter.

The contemporary Halloween is the eve of the day, All Saints, when the holy are venerated and comes two days before the dead are revisited by the living on All Soul’s Day.

Somewhere along the way the day itself, and more importantly the night, became an occasion for the unholy and devilish to be unleashed on the world.

So what a perfect time to consider a devilish character such as Dracula.

And what better place than Ireland, the home of Halloween, saints, scholars and little divils more lately adapting the language of a place that is farther still from the hallowed isle than even Transylvania.

That would be America of course. Trick or treat anyone?

Jack-O-Lanterns. Photo: Tourism Ireland

Just as Ireland gave America its Jack-O-Lantern, America has given back to Ireland the idea of raising the profile of the Halloween holiday to new heights, vamping it up if you will.

And Ireland has taken its cue.

Not least with regard to the aforementioned Transylvanian nobleman who will be celebrated mightily at this year’s Bram Stoker Festival, a ghoulish gathering that includes a parade that looks like Mardi Gras meets Day of the Dead meets, well, a grand time out.

This year’s festival - being billed as a playful celebration of the gothic, the mysterious, the thrill of after-dark, and late October as Ireland approaches Halloween and the Samhain - runs through what is a bank holiday weekend, so October 27 to 30.

The Bram Stoker Festival in Dublin. Photo: Tourism Ireland

It will feature a world premier stage show, the screening of a classic horror movie, and a musical celebration of all things silver screen horror.

The idea of Dublin as Dracula central might be a novel idea to some but it is firmly based on Stoker’s novel “Dracula” which first saw the light of day (likely to the night loving count’s dismay) in 1897, thus making this the 120th anniversary of the naissance of an immortal character.

Dublin’s Dracula festival is an absorbing celebration of an iconic literary creation and leads up to the big night itself, that being Halloween, October 31.

Suffice it to say, this is not a holiday that would work well on, say, July 31.

The early descent of darkness is a critical component as All Hallows Eve embraces the visitor in a mystical body hug.

The time of year is celebrated in other cultures too. Hindus have a festival of lights as October rolls into November.

And light, as well as darkness, is a critical ingredient in Halloween.

The aforementioned Jack-O-Lantern is said to be a human recreation of the will-o-the-wisp phenomenon sometimes observed in peat bogs.

The lantern would serve to keep away evil spirits on a night when, tradition had it, the spirits of the dead would rise and wander about the place.

In Ireland, and up until comparatively recent times, a lantern would be carved from a turnip.

The original Irish Jack-O-Lanterns - terrifying! Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The carving took an age and the New World most definitely came to the rescue with the pumpkin version.

Anyone in Ireland carving a turnip these times is taking hallowed tradition to a hollowed-out extreme. The pumpkin is yer only man Jack.

Now after the revelries in Bram Stoker’s Dublin an Irish Halloween can be no better spent than in the city of Derry/Londonderry – the birthplace of Halloween and host to a glittering All Hallows Eve festival these past thirty years.

This gathering is as much gastric as gothic as the city on the Foyle is lately a destination for discriminating foodies who travel from hither and yon.

And if there’s an autumnal nip in the air, so much better for the appetite.

The festival’s centerpiece is a carnival parade that, with each passing year has placed the city at the center of the global celebration of Halloween, the last day of the year in the ancient Celtic calendar.

The Foyleside festivities include a tradition, “The Release of the Moon,” an act that banishes evil and the Prince of Darkness.

Just in case the dark prince doesn’t get the message the festival follows up with a spectacular fireworks display, and the kind of live music that warms only the better spirits.

Fireworks at the banks of the Foyle Halloween Carnival. Photo: Chris Hill

The festival is, at another level, a tribute to an old and resilient city enjoying a revived present while looking forward to a bold future. And it’s worthy of that grandest of contemporary tributes - a bucket list placing.

Now all these festivities and gatherings surrounding an Irish Halloween are in built-up places with lots of people about.

What about not so built up places where the main thing about is only your imagination.

And the ghosts.

Ireland is known worldwide for the haunting beauty of its scenery. But best not forget its haunted places, such as Loftus Hall on the Hook Peninsula in County Wexford.

Loftus Hall. Photo: Aidan Quigley

The hall has been featured on the Travel Channel and no surprise given that it is reputedly haunted by the ghost of a young woman and has been visited by the devil himself.

Grace O’Neill’s Pub in Donaghadee County Down has had four hundred years to assemble its coterie of ghostly patrons and is reputed to be the most haunted hostelry in all of Ireland.

There are more spirits on the premises than you will find in bottles behind the bar.

Charles Fort in County Cork is a ways from County Down, but no less a place where restless spirits prowl the night, or in this case one very restless spirit known as The White Lady.

The fort, which dates back to the 17th century, is in a spot called Summer Cove near Kinsale.

The White Lady, as the story goes, was a bride whose soldier husband was executed for falling asleep on guard duty.

His bride, broken-hearted, threw herself to her doom from the battlements. Her spirit, it is said, returns to those battlements as she searches, eternally, for her lost love.

Charles Fort in Kinsale. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Ghosts, ghouls, vampires, Ireland has the lot.

But also other entities that inhabit a landscape that has a history of being peopled going back over 9,000 years.

The people of those thousands of Halloweens are gone and, yet, not entirely so.

So how do you meet them?

Well, first of all, find yourself on Irish soil on the eve of the Samhain.

Perhaps you are staying in a cottage in the countryside, a Jack-O-Lantern in the window (sure, a turnip) and little prospect of kids pounding on the door roaring trick or treat, their hands out for all things sweet.

Step outside the door and beyond the meager light cast by the lantern.

It is a still night with a new moon, which of course means no moon.

So it’s dark, stygian almost.

A slight breeze catches a few fallen leaves and they begin to turn in a circle at your feet.

The breeze is not so strong that it disperses the bank of fog that is rolling in from fields that fall away to the invisible horizon.

A fox barks, an owl hoots, and you have the sense that you are not alone.

And of course you are not alone.

The spirits of millennia past are gliding over the landscape, and one of them moves in your direction.

You don’t see it; rather you sense it.

And then you hear it.

Happy Halloween. Welcome to Ireland.

This post is proudly produced in partnership with Tourism Ireland. Find out more on Ireland.com

Ireland’s Finance Department denies Donald Trump’s claims over corporate tax

Ireland’s Department of Finance has denied a claim by Donald Trump that it intends to slash the rate of corporation tax by over a third.

Yesterday the President told journalists in a speech, “You look at other countries and what they’ve done, and we’re competing with other countries.

“When China is at 15% and I hear that Ireland is going to be reducing their corporation rates down to 8% from 12%.”

Read More: Donald Trump says Ireland is “outsmarting,” stealing jobs from the US

In last week’s Budget, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said the Government had no plans to reduce the rate of corporation tax from its current level which, contrary to Trump’s belief, is 12.5%.  

“Our position is clear. The 12.5% tax rate is, and will remain, a core part of our offering,” he told Dáil Éireann (Parliament).

A low rate of corporation tax has long been a hallmark of Ireland’s economy and is frequently touted to large multinational companies, such as Google and Apple, as an incentive to relocate.

Minister Paschal Donohoe

During his Presidential campaign last year Trump hit out at Ireland, insisting the Republic’s tax regime was costing American jobs.

“Other countries are outsmarting us by giving them advantages, you know, like in the case of Mexico. In the case of many other countries. Like Ireland is, you’re losing Pfizer to Ireland, a great pharmaceutical company that with many, many jobs and it’s going to move to Ireland,” he told the Washington Post in an interview.

He pledged to slash the US corporation tax rate to 15%, down from 35%, although insiders think it’ll be a struggle to push such a big cut through Congress.

Any reduction would likely disincentive US companies from relocating and the Irish Government is keenly aware of this.

"What is underway in the US is something that we need to acknowledge is a development that could have material consequences for Ireland," Donohoe told RTÉ last month. "As they debate what their tax code will look like for decades to come, there are real benefits that we offer something that is understood, certain and credible.”

Read More: Fears for Irish economy as Trump lures US corporations back home

But it’s not just Trump throwing shade at Ireland’s tax regime: leaders of other EU member states have long hoped to strong-arm the Republic into hiking the tax.

 

French President Emmanuel Macron is a strong proponent of further EU integration and was elected on a manifesto promise to support a common rate of tax across the bloc.

"If we share a currency and economic integration then we have to share rules about social and systems including harmonization,” his advisor Clément Beaune told the Irish Independent.

Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar hit back after one meeting where the issue was raised, insisting that, “The point that I made to European leaders was that if we want to foster innovation... the solution is not more taxes and more regulation, it’s actually the opposite.”

The Irish media, usually trenchant critics of Britain’s decision to call time on its EU membership, even reported that the proposals were a “bigger threat to Ireland than Brexit”.

Bill Clinton talks The Troubles and Brexit receiving honorary degree in Dublin City University

Bill Clinton has spoken about The Troubles and Brexit in a speech at Dublin City University where he was awarded an honorary degree.

As President, Clinton took an active role in engaging both sides in the run up to the Good Friday Agreement and was fulsome in his praise for the accord.

“The Good Friday Accord basically recognised that, in an interdependent world, the great trick is to own your own identity, embrace your own tribe, but form a community in which what you have in common with those you can’t get away from is more important than your differences. That is all it was,” he said. “There had never been a peace agreement like it in the world. I used you [as an example] shamelessly everywhere I could.”

Read More: Unable to make NI trip to help break political stalemate, Bill Clinton explores Hurricane-struck Dublin

But he was less happy with the decision of British voters last year to leave the European Union.

Although busy with his wife’s rollercoaster Presidential campaign, Clinton followed the referendum closely and he blamed the pro-EU side’s defeat on ignorance and global inequality.

"Now given the economic inequalities and the rapid pace of social change and all the upheaval that's going on... people are reassessing whether what we have in common is more important than our differences.

"A lot of people begged to differ.

"That's really what the Brexit vote is all about," he insisted to his audience at DCU.

Paraphrasing what he thought a British leave voter would say he continued, "I'm sorry we can't stay together, we had a disagreement. Oh my God, I didn't know I was going to lose that customs thing and all these econ benefits. Why didn't anyone tell me that?

"All partnerships,” he added, “that are community-based are held together not because everybody agrees with everybody else, not because we don't still have our particular identities, but because cooperation is better than conflict or isolation in any environment in which you must be in touch with others.

"It's a simple proposition. But we are re-litigating it now."

Bill and Hillary Clinton arrive in Northern Ireland

 

The ex-President then headed to Belfast where he met with both the Democratic Unionist Party’s Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Féin.

Northern Ireland’s Assembly remains suspended so Foster is no longer the province’s First Minister but Clinton told her he didn’t like to call her the “former” First Minister because he so hoped that power sharing would soon return soon.

"We are going to get this going again I think," he confidently predicted.

For good measure there was also an announcement that the Clinton Center in Foster’s home town of Enniskillen would be remodelled and expanded. The building is dedicated to the promotion of peace between the north’s two communities and also function as a conference center.

For her part, Foster seemed delighted to see the President.

“I am delighted to welcome President Bill Clinton to Northern Ireland,” she told journalists.

 

“He is no stranger to us and we deeply appreciate the part he has played over many years in helping to ensure Northern Ireland has a peaceful and prosperous future.”

It’s unlikely the two found much to agree on if they discussed Brexit; Foster strongly backed the leave side in the 2016 referendum and wants out of the Customs Union to boot too, “so we can [agree] trade deal[s] effectively”.

But his views on Europe were likely to strike a chord with Sinn Féin leaders, Gerry Adams and Michelle O’Neill.

He met the pair afterwards for a chat and O’Neill said afterwards, “We had a wide ranging discussion on a number of issues including the current difficulties facing the political process, efforts to restore the political institutions on the basis of rights and equality and the implications of Brexit."

Read More: Bill Clinton regards Good Friday agreement as his greatest foreign policy achievement says aide

Flight chaos post Ophelia in Ireland as no compensation given

Irish passengers are warned to check with their airlines despite most airports running back on schedule after Storm Ophelia.

Irish airports are getting back on track today after the mayhem caused by flight cancellations because of Hurricane Ophelia. Around 160 flights were canceled in Dublin alone yesterday as planes were grounded due to the adverse weather conditions, with no compensation due to passengers because the flights were canceled as a result of poor weather conditions.

In general, between $294 and $706 (€250 and €600) is payable in compensation in Ireland when a flight is canceled or delayed. However, airlines are exempt from making these payments when the cancellation or delay is as a result of weather incompatible with the safe operation of a flight.

A felled tree on Westmoreland St after Ophelia. Image: Rolling News.

Airlines have refunded the cost of flights or rebooked passengers onto another service, however, according to passengers preferences.

Workers in Shannon Airport are said to have worked through the night to help airlines in clearing the backlog of delayed flights after Ophelia. Three transatlantic flights due to depart yesterday morning had left Shannon by 6 pm Monday night, while all other flights, including several diversions from Dublin, had left the airport by 3 am.

“Shannon Airport remained open throughout the day and experienced a number of flight cancellations and delays, but we are beginning to see a slow improvement in the weather conditions and are cautiously optimistic that the backlog of delayed flights will now begin to resume throughout the evening and tomorrow,” a spokesperson for the airport said Monday afternoon.

An empty College Green in Dublin as the city waited for Ophelia to hit. Image: Rolling News.

“The Aer Lingus London Heathrow flight EI385 landed at Shannon at 4.13pm and a number of transatlantic services with Aer Lingus and Norwegian Air, delayed from earlier today, have been rescheduled for tonight.”

Cork, Shannon, Dublin, and Belfast airports are continuing to advise passengers to check with airlines about the status of their flight before arriving at the airport, although a minimal amount of delays are being experienced today.

Eight flights were canceled from Dublin this morning to destinations in the UK and Europe where Ophelia is still causing dangerous flying conditions, while Cork airport was forced to cancel three flights to London and Malaga, Spain, and experienced some minor delays to other destinations.

Yesterday Aer Lingus, Ryanair, British Airways, Air France, CityJet, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Luxair, and KLM all canceled flights between Dublin and both Europe and the Middle East. Within the airport, much of duty-free remained close to allow staff members to remain at home and car parking costs were waived for those whose flights had been canceled.

Belfast City Airport, Belfast International, and City of Derry airport were also all hit, with Monday evening flights being canceled. Business is expected to run as normal today and throughout the remainder of the week.

H/T: BreakingNews.ie

The Irish woman who was the last witch hanged in Boston

An Irish Catholic laundress named Goody Glover was the last woman to be hanged in Boston in 1688, over claims she was a witch.

It is reported that Goodwife “Goody” Ann Glover was deported to Barbados with her husband during Oliver Cromwell’s occupation of Ireland in the 1650s. Her husband died there as a result of his loyalty to the Catholic faith.

A widow, Glover then moved to Boston with her daughter, where they settled in the North End in 1680s. There the Irish immigrant got a job as a housekeeper in the home of John Goodwin, where she helped to look after his five children.

Read more: On trial for witchcraft – Irish women of sorcery or power?

During the summer of 1688, some of the children fell ill. Their doctor concluded that "nothing but a hellish Witchcraft could be the origin of these maladies." Martha, the eldest daughter of Goodwin, confirmed the diagnosis, claiming she became ill right after an argument with Glover.

Cotton Mather, a Harvard graduate and influential New England Puritan minister was convinced that the Irish woman was a witch. He later became known for his role in the Salem witch trials.

As a result, Glover was arrested and tried as a witch. During the trial there was confusion over her testimony as she only spoke in Gaelic, even though she knew English.

Read more: Bridget Cleary “the last witch burned in Ireland” (VIDEO).

According to Mather, "the court could have no answers from her, but in the Irish, which was her native language." The court convicted Glover of witchcraft and sentenced her to be hanged.

During the trial Cotton Mather called Glover "a scandalous old Irishwoman, very poor, a Roman Catholic and obstinate in idolatry."

Robert Calef, a Boston merchant who knew her, said, "Goody Glover was a despised, crazy, poor, old woman, an Irish Catholic who was tried for afflicting the Goodwin children. Her behavior at her trial was like that of one distracted. They did her cruel. The proof against her was wholly deficient. The jury brought her guilty. She was hung. She died a Catholic."

In 1689, Mather later published "Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possession," which was based on Glover's trial.

Over three centuries later, the Boston City Council decided the conviction had been unjust and declared November 16th “Goody Glover Day” in honor of the Irish emigrant.

Read more: Memorial for Irish witch trials objected to as “anti-God” and “devil worship”

 

* Originally published May 2012.

Mental health resources in Ireland and the US

Last week was Ireland’s Mental Health Awareness week, a time for open, informative, and supportive conversations about mental health.

We were proud to bring you a range of stories highlighting some of those groups having the greatest impact, spreading mental health awareness in Ireland, such as Lust for Life and the deeply personal stories from brave contributors – such as this one by Kathleen Maloney.

Though the week is over, we hope the conversation will continue. To that end, we want to highlight some additional mental health resources throughout the island of Ireland and some in America too. Is there one you’d like to add? Tell us in the comment section.

Ireland

Pieta House

A game-changer in Ireland’s conversation about suicide awareness and prevention, Pieta House provides a range of counseling services for people who are suicidal, engage in self-harm or who are bereaved by suicide. Pieta House also operates a national Freephone Helpline (1800 247 247). With 13 centers throughout Ireland, they’ve helped over 30,000 people in the past decade.  

Aware.ie

A leading resource for those experiencing (or supporting someone dealing with) Depression and Bipolar Disorder. Aware.ie offers a talkline available Monday through Sunday, 10am – 10pm, at 1800 80 48 48, an email service that offers replies within 24 hours, as well as support groups around Ireland and informational resources.

Samaritans

Samaritans was established in Ireland in 1962. There are now 20 Samaritans branches across Ireland with 2,400 active volunteers. They offer a free and confidential hotline for anyone having suicidal thoughts or needing to talk in Ireland and the UK at 116 123. What’s more, text message and online support will be available soon.

Childline.ie

Childline provides a 24-hour listening service for all children up to the age of 18. They seek to empower and support children facing any number of issues or questions, whether abuse, bullying, sexuality issues, depression or anxiety. To talk via phone, call 1800 66 66 66, or text “HELP,” “BULLY,” or “TALK” to 50101, or login via their website at childline.ie

Bodywhys.ie

Founded in 1995, Bodywhys is Ireland’s national voluntary organization supporting people affected by eating disorders. Their website offers information on recovery, support groups, and understanding eating disorders. Their helpline number is 1890 200 444, and online support is available by emailing alex@bodywhys.ie

Rape Crisis Help

Offers information about the professional support and the choices available to survivors of sexual violence, or those concerned about a friend, loved one, or themselves. They also have a 24-hour helpline at 1800 778888.

A Lust for Life

A Lust for Life was founded in 2015 with the aim of transforming and opening up Ireland’s conversation on mental health. The website contains a wealth of resources, from mental health and therapeutic exercises, to first-hand accounts.

Mental Health Ireland

Mental Health Ireland is a national voluntary organization that was established in 1966 as the Mental Health Association of Ireland. MHI’s aim is to promote positive mental health and wellbeing to all individuals and communities in Ireland. They have 92 treatment centers across the country, and the website is host to a range of information and resources.

Northern Ireland

Lifeline

Lifeline is the Northern Ireland crisis response helpline service for people in distress or despair. Phone: 0808 808 8000, or visit the website. 

Aware NI

The national depression charity for Northern Ireland, Aware is a Derry-born charity, now with two offices – one in Derry and a second office in Belfast. AWARE has an established network of 24 support groups in rural and urban areas across Northern Ireland, which are run by trained volunteers. Support groups welcome people with depression and bipolar disorder as well as carers for people with the illness. Online support groups are also available.

Samaritans

In addition to in-person sessions and help, they offer a free and confidential phone hotline for anyone having suicidal thoughts or needing to talk in Ireland and the UK at 116 123.

Minding Your Head

Minding Your Head is a Northern Ireland-focused mental health resource for anyone struggling with their mental health or supporting someone who is. Find information, advice, further resources, and local help.

USA

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

A 24-hour toll-free, confidential suicide prevention and crisis hotline. Call 1-800-273-8255.

Crisis Text Line

Crisis Text Line is free, 24/7 support for those in crisis. Text “START” to 741741 from anywhere in the USA to text with a trained Crisis Counselor.

Your Life Your Voice

A resource aimed at teens and young adults to help them deal a wide range of issues. Call 1-800-448-3000, Text “VOICE” to 20121, or chat via their website.

National Parent Helpline

Advocates offering emotional support and empowerment on the struggles of raising children and how to become an even better parent. Call 1-855- 4A PARENT or visit the website.  

Half of Us

Information and support for those struggling or helping someone struggling with a mental illness. Also, connections to further resources.

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

National association working for the prevention, treatment, and cure of anxiety and mood disorders, OCD, and PTSD through support groups, education, practice, and research.

RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network)

Information, resources and support for sexual assault survivors and actions to take after assault. Talk 24/7 by calling the hotline or using the online chat at https://hotline.rainn.org/online/terms-of-service.jsp

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

For over 70 years, The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) has been a valuable resource for millions of people struggling with alcoholism and addiction. Connects you to immediate help, support, and local resources.

Halloween deviled eyeballs recipe

Having a Samhain party for some ghosts and ghouls? Looking for something wholesome but Halloween themed...that isn't candy corn?

Having a Halloween party and in search of some scary and delicious finger food? We got you covered!

Deviled eyeballs recipe

Makes 12

Ingredients:

6 large hard-boiled Eggs

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon honey mustard

½ teaspoon vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon paprika

Sliced black olives (optional)

Chef Gilligan's Halloween deviled eyeballs!

Method:

Put eggs in a pan and add water enough to cover eggs completely.

Add a teaspoon of salt to the water. This will prevent the whites from running if a shell breaks during cooking.

Bring water to a boil, and cook eggs at a medium boil for about 12 minutes.

Chill eggs in ice water.

Remove shells from eggs.

Cut each egg in half lengthwise.

Carefully remove the yolks, and place them in a medium bowl.

Mash yolks with a fork.

Add remaining ingredients, blending until rather smooth.

Very carefully spoon mixture back into the egg whites.

How to make these deviled eyeballs

 Now to make these into deviled eyeballs follow these steps:

Step 1: Follow the recipe for deviled eggs

Step 2: If desired, add a drop of blue food coloring (or a dollop of guacamole), to give the eyeballs a greenish appearance.

Step 3: Slice some green or black olives crosswise.

Step 4: Place an olive slice in the middle of each egg.

Step 5: Give the eyeballs a bloodshot look by dripping beet juice onto the white of each egg, starting from the center and moving outward toward the edge.

Check out IrishCentral's Halloween stories here 

* Originally published 2009. 

Dublin locals complain about mosque’s call to prayer “noise pollution”

Locals in west Dublin have filed an appeal against plans for a large-scale mosque in the area, citing concerns the call to prayer would cause “noise pollution.”

The Fingal County Council granted planning permission for a mosque to the Shuhada Foundation of Ireland last month. The mosque, including a 95ft tall minaret, a community center, and a primary school is to be built on the site of Warrenstown House, in Blanchardstown.

Dr Taufiq al-Sattar, a neurosurgeon in Dublin, pledged to build the mosque in memory of his late wife and three children who died in an arson attack in Leicester, England, in September 2013.

The Irish Times reports that plans for the development were first lodged with the council just over a year ago. The plans were revised earlier this year after the council raised concerns about the scale of the development, which would be one of the largest mosques in Ireland.

Read more: Galway mosque attacked as Muslim worshipers pray

Patrick Regan, a formal local resident now living in Ashbourne, County Meath, has appealed to An Bord Pleanála about the council’s decision. He said there has been “no interaction” with local residents about the project.

He says Dublin 15 was “one of the largest and most welcoming multi-cultural communities in the county. However, the large scale and size of this project represents a major regional religious and cultural center which will serve a huge area.” The center would generate “huge potential traffic congestion” and parking issues, as well as noise pollution, he said.

“The call to pray can often start as early as 5.30am and the last call to pray at 9pm causing noise pollution with up to 150 worshipers attending at any one time during normal day prayers without the celebration of Ramadan and other social events.”

Read more: British extremists may try to radicalize Irish Muslims

When granting permission for the development, the council had ordered that the call to prayer “shall not be audible from outside of the site boundaries” and that no other music or “amplified sound” could be broadcast.

Dr. al-Sattar said the development would “comply with all of the conditions” set down by the council. “We are not going to have any music, and we told the council that in the first place.”

He added that the foundation would also be funding road widening as part of the development to address traffic issues.

The mosque is being financed from Dr al-Sattar’s family fund and life savings, as well as donations from the Muslim community in Leicester. He will also fund-raise among the medical community in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan for the development.

Bram Stoker Halloween summons the supernatural to Dublin

From the Macnas Samhain parades, to classic horror radio, Victorian fun parks and horrible stuff in between

Traveling to Dublin this Halloween or just looking for something different to do in Ireland's capital city? This is it!

Dublin gets set to summon the supernatural this October Bank Holiday weekend as Bram Stoker Festival returns with four days of living stories and four nights of deadly adventures from October 27 to 30.

Bram Stoker Festival’s full program with highlights including Al Porter’s Camp Dracula comedy show; the Macnas parade Memory Song through the northside of the city; and Gravediggers & Resurrectionists at one Ireland's most historic and storied cemeteries.

Speaking about the launch of this year’s festival, Lord Mayor Dublin Mícheál Mac Donncha said “Bram Stoker and his novel Dracula are part of Dublin city’s unique literary heritage. I would encourage everyone to delve into the wonderful cultural offerings the Bram Stoker Festival program of events provides and enjoy doing something a little different.”

Speaking about the festival program, Tom Lawlor Festival Co-Director, said “Bram Stoker Festival gives Dubliners and visitors the chance to experience the capital city in a whole new way, to enjoy a little of Dublin’s darker side. Whether you’re a fan of gothic literature, camp comedy or spooktacular spectacle, Bram Stoker Festival will fill your October Bank Holiday weekend with a host of darker events you won’t experience at any other time of year.”

Camp Dracula

Al Porter star of Camp Dracula at Dublin's Bram Stoker Festival.

Spirits are sure to be raised as Ireland’s king of camp and risqué comedian, Al Porter, takes to the Bram Stoker Festival stage with Camp Dracula, his new comedy show based on Bram Stoker’s legendary gothic son.

Macnas Halloween parade - Memory Song

A snap shot of Macnas' 2016 Halloween parade.

Master-storytellers and creators of unforgettable interactive experiences, Macnas, return to the streets of Dublin with Memory Song, a hauntingly beautiful, wild and tempestuous parade. From Moore Street to the old fruit market near Smithfield, the capital’s streets are sure to be transfixed as the transcendental, the macabre, the profane and the magical is unleashed.

Glasnevin Cemetery - Gravediggers & Resurrectionists


Thrill seekers are invited to Glasnevin Cemetery for Gravediggers & Resurrectionists to get under the skin of the inspiration behind some of Bram Stoker’s more ghoulish stories. Take part in a spellbinding walking tour of Glasnevin Cemetery, taking in the famous graves and the stories of the living, the dead and the undead, followed by fireside stories in one of Ireland’s best-preserved traditional pubs, the Gravediggers, where you can enjoy optional extras of pints and traditional coddle.

Dead Air – golden age of radio horror

Other ghoulish adventures taking place over the weekend include Dead Air, a live, theatrical, horrifying homage to the golden age of classic radio horror.

In the grand Irish tradition of Bram Stoker, Sheridan le Fanu and Podge and Rodge, enjoy six ten-minute tales of terror, plucked from the minds of six of Dublin's most fiendishly twisted writers, and shocked into life by six of our delightfully demented directors, in a night of ghoulish live entertainment.

Bram Audio Ghost Experience

Bram Audio Ghost Experience is a haunted, haunting, audio horror experience inspired by the classically creepy works of the legendary author. Beginning in Dublin’s dark city center streets and ending god knows where, this weird walking tour is not for the faint hearted.

We Are The Monsters

We Are The Monsters is an immersive experience about the monster within us all: as ally, other and dreaded creeping darkness. Created by Pygmankenstein Theatre Company and The Gremlin, in collaboration with Algorithm, We Are The Monsters features a despotic horror host, fake blood, an interview with Dr. Caroline Picart, a story about a child finding a finger in the back garden, and moths.

Stokerland for the little ones


Families and younger fans of the gruesome have the chance to come along to Stokerland, a pop-up Victorian fun park for families and the eternally young. With one of the city's stunning cathedrals as a gothic backdrop, this ghoulish gathering will present comedy shows from Punch Lion Kids Comedy Club, street theatre from Victorian undertakers Morbid & Sons and a Kids v Adults themed Sing Along Social, alongside rides and attractions to ensure a fangtastic time for all.

The Ark in Temple Bar

The Ark in Temple Bar also hosts some spooktacular events for kids over the weekend. Make Your Own Deadly Dance Track or join the Supernatural Choir with families and friends invited to come along, as Bram Stoker Festival creates the biggest, other-worldly sounding choir of deadly singers in just a few hours. Learn to sing a number of well-known fun popular songs and turn them into new spooky versions with haunting vocal sounds and gothic harmonies, before invading Meeting House Square for a supernatural sing along.

For tickets to Bram Stoker Festival events, sink your teeth into www.bramstokerfestival.com. Dubliners and visitors to the city are invited to follow the fun using #bitemedublin #fiaclafola at www.facebook.com/BramStokerDublin and @bramstokerdub on Twitter and Instagram.

Three victims named as Hurricane Ophelia passes over Ireland

Our coverage of Hurricane Ophelia has concluded for the night. We will have more tomorrow, Tuesday. If you have any questions please leave them in the comments. And please keep safe. 

Updated 7:45

Ophelia has all but passed over Ireland now, leaving 3 dead and approximately 330,000 without power.  

The three victims of the storm have been named.  

Clare O'Neill, 58, an oncology nurse, who died when a tree fell on her car just a little over a mile from her home in Aglish, Co, Waterford. 

Michael Pyke, a 31-year-old electrician from Ballybrado, Co. Tipperary. When he took his chainsaw and went to tend to a tree that had been hit nearby his home, he was fatally struck by one of the falling branches. 

Fintan Goss of Dundalk, Co. Louth, whose car was also struck by a tree as he drove home from work. Goss is believed to have been in his 30s and married with two children. 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said " We have had three tragic deaths but the most important thing is that no-one else losses their life. There are still dangers even if the storm is gone."

He vowed that "The full resources of the state will be deployed for the clean up operation. Crews from UK and Northern Ireland will be in to help," the Irish Independent reports

Updated 5:30pm

Many in the UK have been reporting harsh allergen conditions in the air and the unusual sight of a red sky. According to the Met Office, this is because Ophelia's powerful winds "have also drawn dust from the Sahara to our latitudes and the dust scatters the blue light from the sun letting more red light through much as at sunrise or sunset."

Irish singer Imelda May captured this phenomenon flying in to London

It also emerged as a meme on Twitter, with Irish people suggesting they would have much preferred see a red sky than bits of nearby roofs blown off

Updated 3:55pm

Ireland's weather service is reporting that Dublin has seen the worst of Ophelia now, as the storm system continues north. By midnight it should have passed over the island of Ireland, but all are advised to remain cautious of residual flooding and falling debris.

Met Eireann has released its highest winds recorded today: 

In some places, the measurements stopped when power went out: 

Updated 3:15pm

In the midst of a very serious weather alert, Irish humor is pulling through for a bit of sunshine. 

Check out these prime examples: 

The Irish can truly find a glimmer of humor in even the worst of times!

Posted by IrishCentral.com on Monday, October 16, 2017

Updated 2:00pm 

Ireland remains on status red alert as Ophelia moves north-east, with high winds hitting Galway and Dublin between 5pm and 7pm local time. 

Public transportation remains closed, and most schools will remain closed tomorrow, but Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has stated that Tuesday will otherwise be a 'normal day.' 

Updated 1:20pm 

Believe it or not, the Irish Coast Guard has had to issue continues warnings urging people to stay out of the water as Ophelia passes. 

Earlier in the day, they had to step in to rescue a group of kite surfers in Louth, after which many concerned citizens took to Twitter to give them a good scolding. 

The mighty Pat Quinn continues his fight to find a cure to ALS

Pat Quinn, ALS patient and advocate for a cure, continues to do his all to help in the fight against the fatal disease, though his body is feeling its severe effects. Debbie McGoldrick visited with Quinn to talk about his life and his work.

The view outside Pat Quinn’s living room window is serene and peaceful.   The co-founder of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and the living embodiment of a true hero has a two-bedroom apartment on the waterfront in his native Yonkers overlooking the Hudson River and the trees and cliffs of the Palisades.

Quinn, 34, just moved into the space last week.  His father and primary caretaker Patrick, a native of Newry, Co. Down who came to the U.S. with his family when he was nine years old, explains that they’re still decorating and making it homey.  Having a bright and airy view, he said, was essential.  Looking at the glistening water and all the boats going by is a good way to lift the spirits.

Pat Quinn was only 30 years old when he was diagnosed with ALS in March of 2013.  There’s no cure and not even many drugs to combat its devastating effects, but that didn’t stop Quinn from becoming a forceful advocate for himself and other patients desperately in need of more research and treatment options.

Pat Quinn at home in Yonkers with his father Patrick. (Photo by Debbie McGoldrick)

In the summer of 2014, together with Pete Frates in Boston, a standout Boston College athlete who was diagnosed with ALS in 2012 at the age of 27, Quinn gathered a network of friends and supporters to dunk themselves with icy water and challenge others to do the same.  The fundraising initiative became known as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and quickly went viral around the world, raising more than $220 million for research.

Being at the forefront of such an impactful movement is the pride of Quinn’s life.  But ALS has taken its toll on his body since 2014.

Quinn can no longer walk or use his hands, and gets around with a wheelchair.  He is fed through a tube, and his voice is weak which makes speaking difficult. 

Read more: One Irish American football player's incredible fight against ALS

His mind is as sharp as it ever was, and he’s able to express his thoughts thanks to a computer screen that’s positioned in front of him.  He maneuvers it by focusing his eye on each letter he wishes to type, and predictive text makes the process go faster.  

The computer allows him to keep using his mind and lets him connect to social media and his favorite internet sites.  Not surprisingly, ALS organizations are at the top of that list.

“The computer makes it a lot easier,” Quinn told the Irish Voice on Monday morning.  He was seated in a large, comfortable recliner, the Hudson River view and a large flat screen TV in the distance.  He was able to quickly eye-type many of his responses.

The quest for an ALS cure remains at the forefront of Quinn’s mind, though he knows that he won’t live to see it.  He’s currently involved with a campaign called GoBoldly with a leading neurobiology researcher, Dr. Pablo Sardi.

“I’m helping them to promote their work,” Quinn said. “They asked me to get involved, and I’m still doing everything I can. It was a great opportunity.”

Quinn says the best thing he can offer researchers is hope and encouragement.  He is that rare, incredibly special soul who sees light where the rest of us would crumble.

“I think it’s more of an inspiration,” he says of his involvement with GoBoldly.  “When researchers sees patients doing everything they can to fight their work becomes more important.  And anyone who takes the time to do research is amazing.”

Quinn is surrounded by a support system of family and friends who do all that they can to make his life somewhat easier.   He gets out when possible, but not nearly as much as he used to.  The Ice Bucket Challenge is still an annual summer event, though it’s not the fundraising craze that it was in 2014.

Empire Casino in Yonkers once again hosted an event in August with a great turnout.  Quinn didn’t get dunked this time, but his supporters – starting with all the Irish in Woodlawn and Yonkers – were happy to.

Speaking of the summer of 2014, Quinn remains awed.  He shakes his head and says he “never” could have imagined that the challenge would have taken off the way it did. 

He and Frates were feted by many organizations for their advocacy, and Quinn became not only a hometown but a national hero.  His apartment is full of memorabilia gifted to him by pro athletes, and photos with the likes of New York Yankees great Derek Jeter, not to mention all the citations and honors from politicians.

“When I was diagnosed with ALS I was young.  Not many young people are diagnosed with it. So I knew right away that I wanted to do something to help find a cure,” he says.

“And the money from the challenge accelerated the research.”

In May, the first ALS drug approved by the FDA in 22 years came on the market. Radicava can slow the progression of the disease in those who are newly diagnosed.  In Quinn’s case Radicava wouldn’t be of help, and the annual cost runs into six figures.

One drug that has proven vital to Quinn’s comfort is medical marijuana. He takes it in oil form on his tongue every night before bed.  Ambien and the baseline ALS prescription Riluzole are also on his daily menu, and that’s about it unfortunately.  The drug options for ALS management are few and far between.

“My body is always fighting, and medical marijuana helps it to relax,” Quinn says.  “It calms the twitching and muscle spasticity.”

Quinn has assistance to stretch his limbs daily, “range of motion exercises to keep my body from getting too tight,” he says.  He watches TV, uses social media and focuses on things like his Medicaid arrangements and “all the little stuff that keeps me going,” he adds. Yonkers City Council President Liam McLaughlin has been an especially good friend.

Quinn beams when talking about his vast Irish network. The love and support he’s received from the Irish community, he says, has been “the best!! The best!!”  He types the exclamations for emphasis. 

“Nobody has been more supportive than the Irish, especially here in Yonkers.” 

Quinn’s friends in bands like the Narrowbacks and Shilelagh Law remain steadfast in their support.  They’ll be at the next event hosted by Quinn’s advocacy and fundraising group, Quinn for the Win, on Sunday, October 15 at Maggie Spillane’s in Mount Vernon.  The event is Quinntoberfest, now in its fourth year, and guests can partake in a silent auction and raffles.

When Quinn was a younger man – he played rugby for his alma mater, Iona College in New Rochelle – being diagnosed with a fatal disease was obviously the farthest thing from his mind.  But after the dreaded news came, lying down and waiting for the inevitable simply wasn’t an option.  A new Pat Quinn came to life after that fateful day in March of 2013.

“I never really had the drive to do anything great. I was just living, paying my bills and having fun,” he says. 

“But after the diagnosis, I felt different inside and I went for it. It gave me a passion, unlike anything I’ve ever felt before.  I never worked so hard at something.”

Quinn smiles.  He never stops smiling.  Having the honor of spending time in his company brings another gentle champion of humanity to mind, the late NYPD Detective Steven McDonald, who passed in January of this year. McDonald was only 29 when he was left paralyzed in 1986 from a gunman’s bullet.  He dedicated the rest of his life to peace, justice and forgiveness, and kept the faith no matter how dark life seemed.

Quinn met McDonald and his wife Patti Ann, not long before his death.  “We had a strong connection.  And Patti checks in on me,” he says.

What’s the real luck of the Irish?  Getting to claim icons like Pat Quinn and Steven McDonald as our own.  McDonald never stopped making the world a better place, and Quinn won’t either.

“I know I have more to achieve and more to accomplish for sure,” he says with his ever present smile that ALS will never extinguish.

Here's a local news report from August 2017 on  the Ice Bucket Challenge and Pat Quinn:

Unable to make NI trip to help break political stalemate, Bill Clinton explores Hurricane-struck Dublin

Ignoring Irish Government advice, Bill Clinton has been out and about in Dublin town today, taking in the sights during Hurricane Ophelia. 

The former US President turned heads when seen going about his business on a nearly empty O’Connell Street as if the worst storm to hit Ireland in 50 years wasn’t happening.

Clinton canceled a planned trip to Belfast today in an attempt to break Northern Ireland’s political stalemate as the weather warning meant most politicians wanted to stay home.

Read More: Hurricane Ophelia claims a third life as winds continue to slam country

A source told Thomson Reuters that, “He’s keen to help,” and could potentially travel tomorrow afternoon when the worst has passed. He’s also due to receive an honorary doctorate from Dublin City University “in recognition of his leadership in building and consolidating peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland”.

Read More: How Martin McGuinness and Bill Clinton made peace in Ireland

Some speculated that the Dublin Fire Brigade were giving the former US president a gentle warning with this tweet: 

Meanwhile, all schools, colleges and many businesses in Ireland remain shut; three fatalities have been confirmed so far, 360,000 homes in the Republic have lost power as have 18,000 in the north.

Winds of up to 90mph have been recorded and it’s likely to be several days before the cost of the damage is fully estimated.

A bitterly divided Ireland weighs the abortion question

Pitched battle between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice gears up ahead of summer 2018 to repeal Ireland's Eight Amendment

Activists on both sides of Ireland’s bitterly divisive abortion debate are gearing up for a protracted campaign ahead of a referendum which will take place in May or June of next year.

With repeated surveys showing that voters would back limited liberalization in cases of rape or fatal fetal abnormality, both sides have already organized mass street demonstrations in Dublin and begun campaigning door-to-door across the country.

The Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution – which gives an equal right to life to the mother and unborn child – is seen as one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe.

1992 “X-case” and criminalization

The notorious 1992 ‘X-case’, when a 14-year old rape victim was prevented from traveling to the United Kingdom for an abortion, led to the drafting of the current ban after a bitterly divisive referendum.

A woman who has an abortion could, in theory, face 14 years in prison even though 3,260 Irish women traveled to the UK to do so last year. It is also illegal even to give out information about terminations.

Pro-choice campaigners say that there is a mood for change across Ireland, but pro-life activists believe that the Eighth Amendment has saved thousands of lives.

They say that many ordinary people have genuine concerns about liberalization which are not always reflected in the national media.

Earlier this year, a Citizens’ Assembly made recommendations for a change in the law which are currently being examined by a parliamentary committee. A final report is due in December, before the referendum takes place next year.

There is hardly a day when the issue of abortion does not make headlines in Ireland.

Unfairness to anti-abortion side

Just this week, two anti-abortion members of the Oireachtas Committee threatened to withdraw amid claims that they were being treated unfairly.

Pro-Life campaigners protest outside Ireland's government buildings that their views are under-represented.

The committee hearing has heard evidence from medical experts that women in Ireland were using coat hangers and drinking bleach with the aim of forcing miscarriages.

Also, this week, there were calls for the impeachment of a students’ union leader in Dublin after she banned information about abortion from a student handbook.

How Savita changed things

For veteran pro-choice campaigner Dette McLoughlin, there has been a clear and significant change in attitudes since the current legislation was enacted in 1983.

She said that the death of Savita Halappanvar, a 31-year old Indian dentist, completely changed attitudes in Galway five years ago.

After having been denied an abortion at University Hospital Galway, Savita died because of complications relating to a septic miscarriage at 17 weeks’ gestation.  The October 2012 case made headlines across the world.

“I don’t think it is ‘50-50’ anymore,” said Ms McLoughlin on Friday. “From our campaigning, we can tell that the tide has turned. There is a completely different reaction when we canvass people now, even compared to five years ago.

“Attitudes have changed so much since the Savita case. We used to get abuse when we campaigned for abortion in Galway, but that has all faded away. We get great support at our street stalls in the city center and that would not have happened a few years ago.”

Ireland has moved on

Ms McLoughlin pointed out that Ireland was now a completely different country.  She said that homosexuality and gay marriage had been legalized, Magdalene Laundries and Mother and Baby homes had closed, and divorce had also been introduced since the 1983 legislation banned abortion in Ireland.

Massive crowds at Merrion Square, Dublin, after September's Pro-Choice march.

“This is something that belongs in a by-gone era,” she said. “Women used to come up to us and cry at our street stall in Galway city center. Things have changed, but people might still be unwilling to wear ‘Repeal the Eighth’ jumpers in more conservative small towns or villages.”

Anti-liberalization of abortion laws underrepresented

However, Tommy Roddy – who ran as anti-abortion candidate in the 2016 General Election – said that many people had genuine concerns over the liberalization of the abortion laws which were not being reflected in the media.

He said that it was too easy to stereotype those who were against liberalization. For example, he had campaigned in favor of Marriage Equality in the 2015 referendum and helped to organize the Gay Pride festival in his city.

“I have even had arguments with friends of mine over this issue,” he said. “There seems to be this assumption that if you were in favor of gay marriage, for example, that you must be pro-choice. I was criticized for my pro-life views in the General Election, but my view is that there is a pro-life culture here in Ireland.

“Next year’s referendum is basically a referendum on human rights. The right to life is the most fundamental right the vast majority of us take for granted. Without this right, all other rights are naturally meaningless.

Pro-Life march in Dublin city center in summer 2017.

Roddy said his view was that an unborn baby had a right to life, even in a rape case, and claimed that a lot of women viewed abortion as a second violation after rape. “I don’t believe in abortion in any circumstances,” he told IrishCentral.

Human rights issue

Eilis Mulroy, of Galway Pro Life, said there was a strong grassroots organization in favor of retaining the Eighth Amendment in her area.

“It is important to get the message out that people who are involved in pro-life activism cannot be stereotyped,” she said. “The Eighth Amendment is something we should be concerned to protect and build upon.

“Too often, we are presented with the case for repeal without giving the public the chance to consider the positive impact of the Eighth Amendment. This is a human rights issue. Who are we to decide that some lives are less valuable than others? I believe that thousands of people are alive today because of the Eighth Amendment.”

She pointed out that one in five pregnancies in Britain result in abortions and that the “abortion culture” in the UK was not envisaged when the 1967 legislation was introduced there.

“Laws tend to shape behaviors and attitudes and over time abortion became normalized in the UK,” she said. “There, 90% of babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome in the womb are aborted and abortion is available up to birth if a baby is diagnosed with any disability.”

Have attitudes changed?

A recent Irish Times poll found that more than half of voters (57%) favored limited access to abortion, such as in cases of rape, fatal fetal abnormality, or a threat to the life of the woman.

But less than a quarter were in favor of holding a referendum to allow abortion in all circumstances, up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.

Two weeks ago, up to 30,000 people from all across Ireland descended upon Dublin city center to call for an early referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Live from the 6th annual "March for Choice". 82 percent of Irish people polled want abortion laws in Ireland to change. Read more here: http://irsh.us/2hDGNqx

Posted by IrishCentral.com on Saturday, 30 September 2017

Desire for change is evident

Among them was Siobhan Cawley of the Social Democrats party, who travelled from Galway to take part in the march. She has been prominent in the Repeal the Eighth campaign in her city.

Siobhan said a desire for change was evident on the streets and that the Citizens’ Assembly, in which ordinary men and women called on the Government to repeal the Eight Amendment, reflected that change.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a change,” she told Irish Central. “I think the Eighth Amendment was barbarous in 1983 and it’s still barbarous in 2017, with the threat of 14 years’ imprisonment for a woman who seeks out an abortion. I was too young to do anything about the Eighth Amendment at the time it was introduced.

“People are breaking the law even just by giving out information to those who seek abortion. There are so many brave women coming forward to tell their stories, just as there were during the Marriage Equality referendum two years ago.

“This is not just something that should be confined to back alleys. It’s a health care issue and I know so many women who have had to travel abroad for abortions. There used to be so much stigma and shame about this issue. There’s a risk in sharing stories, but there are now so many brave women who are prepared to come forward and share their stories. The campaign has already begun.”

Thirty scary Halloween words in Irish

Now you can chat about skeletons, werewolves, ghosts and banshees in the Irish native tongue.

There's no better way to impress a crowd than with your Irish language skills, and as we get ever closer to the spookiest day of days, you can start showing off. Halloween is, after all, a Celtic holiday.

With great help from those at Irish Culture and Customs, we put together a list of 30 Halloween words in Irish, along with their pronunciations.

So now you can finally call your friend a Hobgoblin in Irish, you can tell your Irish gran to watch out for that ghostly, sinister, supernatural werewolf, or teach your trick or treaters the Gaelic spin on their favorite door-to-door greeting.

Trick or Treat: Cleas nó cóir (class noh koh-ir)

Witch/Witch's Broomstick: Cailleach/scuab chaillí (kyle-yeukh/scoob khyle-ee)

Bat: Sciathán leathair (shkee-hawn lah-hear)

Sinister: Drochtuarach (druk-tour-ukh)

Scare/Scared: Scanradh/scanraithe (skahn-rah/skahn-rah-heh)

Ghost: Púca or taibhse (pookah or tie-v-sheh)

Hobgoblin: Bobodha (bub-owe-ah)

Costume: Culaith (kul-ah)

Turnip: Tornapa (tur-nah-pah)

Pumpkin: Puimcín (pim-keen)

Ghostly/spooky: Taibhsiúil (tyev-shool)

Banshee: Bean sí (ban-shee)

Scream/shriek: scréach (shkraykh)

Moon: Gealach (gi-ahl-ukh)

Shadow: scáth or scáil (skaw or skaw-il)

Tomb: Tuama (toa-mah)

Graveyard: Reilg (rell-ig)

Coffin: Cónra (kohn-rah)

Skeleton: Creatlach (krat-lukh)

Spirit: Anam (ah-nahm)

Monster: Ollphéist (ull-faysht)

Nightmare: Tromluí (trum-lee)

Vampire: Deamhan fola (jow-an fulah)

Blood: Fuil (fwill)

Werewolf: Coinríocht (kon-ree-ukt)

Devil/Demon: Diabhal (jowl)

Death: bás (baws)

Terror/Terrifying: Uafás/uafásach (oo-faws/oo-faws-ukh)

Spider/spiderweb: Damhán/damhán alla (dow-awn/dow-an ah-lah)

Supernatural: Osnádúrtha (uss-naw-duur-hah)

Read more: Frightening Irish demons and monsters from Celtic myth

*Originally published in 2014

An Irish blessing for those in the path of Hurricane Ophelia

As Ireland emerges from Hurricane Ophelia, its worst storm in decades, we're hoping that all those in its path are safe. 

As the famous saying goes, after every storm there's a rainbow, and this blessing acknowledges that even in the worst of times, there is hope for some good. 

Blessing for better days in times of trouble.

Thinking of everyone in the path of Hurricane Ophelia and hope you are safe. Hurricane Ophelia updates here: http://bit.ly/2gJwKwO

Posted by IrishCentral.com on Monday, October 16, 2017

It reads: 

May God give you...

For every storm, a rainbow,

For every tear, a smile, 

For every care, a promise, 

And a blessing in each trial. 

For every problem life sends, 

A faithful friend to share, 

For every sigh, a sweet song, 

And an answer for each prayer. 

Share it with someone to let them know you're thinking of them. 

 

Irish director hopes Harvey Weinstein scandal will reveal “powerful abusers” in Ireland

Irish film director Lenny Abrahamson has said that he hopes the Harvey Weinstein scandal will uncover “powerful abusers” in Ireland.

"Right now, here in Ireland, there will be powerful abusers relying on the silence of colleagues. Let’s hope their time is up," wrote Abrahamson in a string of Tweets posted on Thursday, reports Campus.ie.

More than 30 women, including many high-profile actresses, have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein following a New York Times investigation into the Oscar-winning producer.

Read More: Guinness heiress spoke out about predator Harvey Weinstein 7 years ago

His long list of accusers includes Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, and Kate Beckinsale. Allegations against Weinstein have ranged from inappropriate massages to rape, which Weinstein has strongly denied. The alleged abuses have reportedly been going on for three decades.

Irish filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson in 2013. Credit: Laura Hutton/Rollingnews.ie

Abrahamson, who directed "The Room" starring Brie Larson, has said on social media that everyone has a “duty to expose harassers.”

"Weinstein and monsters like him are only possible if people in a position to challenge abuse choose to look the other way.

"All of us have a duty to expose the harassers and resist the culture of accommodation that grows around powerful men.

Actress Rose McGowan. Credit: Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 2.0

 "The closer we are to power ourselves, like the senior executives in Weinstein’s company, the greater our responsibility," he said.

"What’s for sure is that Weinstein will be the first of many who will now be exposed. I hope they are quaking in their boots.

"Right now, here in Ireland, there will be powerful abusers relying on the silence of colleagues. Let’s hope their time is up."

Irish actor Colin Farrell also spoke out with regards to the allegations against Weinstein.

Arriving at the premiere for his film ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’ at the BFI London Film Festival, he told the Press Association: “It’s horrific, it’s just mad.”

Irish actor Colin Farrell. Credit: RTE

“I’m just watching it unfold and then tearing myself away from it and realizing the horribleness of it all and the wrongdoing, fundamentally, around the whole thing and just wish healing for everyone and that changes are made,” said Farrell, according to the Daily Mail.

“I hope anyone who was hurt that they have healing, it's just atrocious really.”

Read more: Daniel Day-Lewis despised Harvey Weinstein despite 1990 Oscar win

 Weinstein, who has been fired from his company and has reportedly entered rehab for treatment for sex addiction, issued an apology after the story broke. He said he understands that the way he behaved “has caused a lot of pain” and that he “needed to be a better person.” However, he has “unequivocally denied” the allegations of rape made by three women, including Rose McGowan. Police investigations are underway.

Three Irish geniuses one birthday - Oscar Wilde, Eugene O’Neill and Michael Collins

What do Oscar Wilde, Eugene O’Neill and Michael Collins have in common? Besides being Irish and having led extraordinary lives as true revolutionaries in the arts, sexual liberation, and politics, they share the same Libra birthday, October 16th.

It’s not surprising that the symbol for the Libra is the scale of justice. These are men who, in their own way, through the sheer force of their personalities, tried to change the world.

According to gotohoroscope.com: “Individuals with an October the sixteenth birthday are incredibly curious and will ordinarily take an avid interest in anything mysterious. A dreamy intellectual [they] tend to be emotionally rather well balanced but also sensitive despite [their] seemingly fairly confident exterior. Witty, compassionate and understanding to those around [them, their] creative mind has an abundance of great ideas and the ability to easily find workable solutions.”

Oscar Wilde, October 16, 1854

“I have nothing to declare except my genius.”

Oscar Wilde.

To state that Oscar Wilde was the product of outrageous and brilliant parents is a gross understatement. He may have gotten his genius from them, but he also inherited from them a sense of entitlement that led to his own downfall. To understand Oscar one has to understand his parents, Sir William Wilde and Lady Jane Wilde, also known as the poet Speranza. Both were super-personalities of the Victorian era and dominated Dublin society.

“Biography,” Oscar once said, “lends to death a new terror.” Perhaps he had a reckoning that a book like "The Fall of the House of Wilde" by Emer O’Sullivan (Bloomsbury Press) would someday be written about him and his family. In this book, which almost reads like a novel, we get a look at the world Oscar grew up in.

His mother, Jane, was one of the leading lights of the Young Ireland movement. Along with the likes of Thomas Davis, William O’Brien Smith, John Mitchel and Thomas Francis Meagher she stirred the pot of revolution with her incendiary poetry in the years leading up to 1848. And according to Timothy Egan’s recent biography of Meagher, "The Immortal Irishman," Jane Wilde and Meagher may have even been lovers. She even came close to going to jail in the aftermath of the mini-rising of 1848.

Oscar's father, Sir William Wilde, was one of the most prominent eye surgeons of his time. But O’Sullivan points out in "The Fall of the House of Wilde" the tawdry story of his affair with a young woman by the name of Mary Travers. Sir William, who had several illegitimate children, became embroiled with Travers and when he spurred her she brought him to court. She won the suit but was only awarded a farthing. But what sticks out is how Sir William flaunted this relationship, foreshadowing Oscar’s future homosexual affair with Lord Alfred Douglas. So Oscar grew up watching how his parents lived their lives in public—and when he moved to London he followed their example with devastating consequences.

Today we tend to view Oscar more as a gay icon than as an immensely talented writer. We almost forget that he was the most prominent playwright of his day with hits that included "Salomé," "Lady Windermere’s Fan," "A Woman of No Importance" and "The Importance of Being Earnest." His novel, "The Picture of Dorian Gray" still haunts as perhaps a premonition he had about his future decay. And, at the end, his poem "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" almost acts like an obituary to his career.

In this age of gay rights, Oscar, rightfully, is viewed as the first martyr of the modern movement. Oscar once said, “A man can’t be too careful in the choice of his enemies” and he picked a beaut as his enemy—Sir Edward Carson. To most Irish nationalists—and remember Oscar’s mother was a fervent nationalist—the name Edward Carson is an epithet. Carson and Wilde were born on opposite sides of St. Stephen’s Green and went to Trinity College at the same time. They competed at college and they would compete again in the courtroom.

Oscar, at the height of his fame, had an affair with Lord Alfred Douglas which caused Douglas’ father, Lord Queensberry, to accuse Wilde of “posing as somdomite [sic].” Oscar, encouraged by the spoiled Douglas, sued for libel which put him face-to-face with Carson in court. Carson skillfully demonstrated Wilde’s appetite for young men and when Oscar withdrew his court claim, charges were brought against him and a warrant was signed by H.H. Asquith, the Home Secretary. [It is interesting to note that both Carson and Asquith would play such an important role against the rebels of 1916: Asquith was the prime minister who wanted executions and Carson would get to go after another famous Irish homosexual—successfully prosecuting Sir Roger Casement and sending him to the gallows.]

What comes across in "The Fall of the House of Wilde" was Oscar’s naiveté. Carson seemed to prosecute him for stepping out with boys who were not of his class. Oscar comes across as someone who didn’t care about class and who treated these young men, be they lovers or not, with generosity and kindness.

In a way it is unfortunate that Oscar now is remembered mostly for being a gay icon. He was a world class writer who should be thought in the same light as Shaw, O’Casey, Beckett and Joyce. For his belief, his lifestyle, he lost his wife and two sons. He may have been foolish, throwing everything away, but he is a martyr for the cause, a cause that would take another seventy-five years before true rebellion broke out at the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in New York City with its consequences spreading across the globe. There always has to be the first to die for a cause and poor, quixotic Oscar Wilde was the first victim of the modern gay liberation movement.

 Eugene O’Neill, October 16, 1888

“One thing that explains more than anything about me is the fact that I’m Irish.”

Eugene O'Neill.

It is only fitting that one of America’s foremost playwrights was born in a hotel smack in the middle of what is today Times Square. His future almost seemed destined since his Irish-born father was one of the leading actors of his day. The theatre, it seemed, ran in his blood from the moment of his conception.

But his birth left a mark on his mother, who became a drug addict, and young Eugene with the middle name of Gladstone, after the English prime minister who wanted home rule for Ireland, began life with a saturnine disposition which only seemed to worsen with age. O’Neill’s portrait of his mother in "Long Day’s Journey into Night" is devastating and chronicles the dark side of the Irish soul.

After spending some time at Princeton University, O’Neill took to the sea for several years and it inspired several of his plays, including "The Long Voyage Home" and "Bound East for Cardiff." A bout with tuberculosis landed him in a sanatorium for a time and when he recovered he headed for Greenwich Village. There he hung around with the likes of John Reed, Louise Bryant, and a young woman by the name of Dorothy Day.

If there ever was a Catholic odd couple it would be O’Neill and Day. Today, Day is hailed as a “Servant of God” as she begins the journey to sainthood. She has been hailed in the last few years by both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. She is universally praised for her work with the poor and under-privileged from her base in the Catholic Worker movement.

However, back in the days when she used to drink with O’Neill at the Golden Swan bar on the corner of West 4th Street and Sixth Avenue she was no angel. Before becoming a Catholic icon, she was a drinker and even had an abortion. “She sat in the saloons for hours,” wrote Louis Sheaffer in 'O’Neill: Son and Playwright,' “matching the men drink for drink, and knew ribald choruses of ‘Frankie and Johnny’ her companions had never heard of.” But strangely, they took to each other, though apparently not as lovers.

“He couldn’t bear to be alone,” said Day. “Only an hour after I’d left him to go to work—I was on the Liberator magazine then—he’d be calling me from the Hell Hole or some other bar to come back.” O’Neill had an affinity for people which showed in the characters he wrote about.

“One of the fine things about Gene,” said Day, “is that he took people seriously…He took Hippolyte seriously, and almost no one else did. After Hippolyte’d had a few drinks he would get up in the center of the room and whirl around, while the rest of us laughed. But not Gene. ‘This man’s been in every prison in Europe,’ he used to say. ‘He’s suffered for what he believes in.’ Gene was very responsive to people who had suffered.” Day went on to say that O’Neill “couldn’t really love anybody. I felt that he would devour you because he was devoured by his talent, his all-consuming urge to write.”

And write he did. He wrote over 50 full-length and one-act plays. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize four times for "Beyond the Horizon," "Anna Christie," "Strange Interlude," and "Long Day’s Journey into Night," posthumously in 1957. The pinnacle of his career was when he won the Nobel Prize for Literature, 1936.

Because of neurological disease O’Neill had to stop writing after 1943, but just before that he penned the one play that really gets into his Irishness. "Long Day’s Journey into Night" is a play about a dysfunctional Irish-Catholic family wrought with addiction, alcoholism and bitterness. There is the searing pain of family relationships known especially to the Irish. The play was not supposed to be performed until twenty-five years after O’Neill’s death, but his wife, Carlotta, ignored his will and with the help of Panamanian director Jose Quintero and actor Jason Robards Jr. brought the play to the Circle in the Square Theatre in Greenwich Village in 1956 where it became an instant hit and revitalized O’Neill’s career. There would be other O’Neill revivals such as "The Iceman Cometh" and "A Moon for the Misbegotten," but "Journey" would be the play that would show his Irishness in naked frankness.

As O’Neill lay dying in a Boston hotel room in 1953, his last words were supposed to be: “I knew it. I knew it. Born in a hotel room and died in a hotel room.” But he had a hell of a journey between the first and the last hotel rooms.

 Michael Collins, October 16, 1890

“The man who won the war.”—Arthur Griffith

Michael Collins.

In 1920, at the height of the Irish War of Independence, Michael Collins wore many hats: TD, Minister for Finance, Commandant-General of the IRA, head of the IRB, IRA Director of Organization, and IRA Director of Intelligence. To say that Collins was a departmental genius is an understatement.

As the British frantically searched for him and with a £5,000 bounty on his head, Collins, attaché case in hand, casually walked around Dublin dutifully fulfilling commitments to his various portfolios. Intelligence was handled at #3 Crow Street, just a block from Dublin Castle, the seat of British power in Ireland. Up in Harcourt Street, at #6 and #76, he did his finance work in between raids by the British. When the situations got too hot he moved his financial work to #22 Mary Street.

He kept other offices at #10 Exchequer Street and #32 Bachelor’s Walk. A lot of his work was also done at Vaughan’s Hotel at #29 Parnell Square (his “Joint Number One”) and the Wicklow Hotel at #4 Wicklow Street, just off busy Grafton Street. For a culchie from County Cork, he knew the streets of Dublin just as well as any native Jackeen.

Of all his portfolios the two most important in Ireland's bid for freedom were probably Minister for Finance and as Director of Intelligence of the IRA. In order to run a country, you have to have money to finance it.

Collins' interest in finance went back to his work in the British postal system in London. The British post offices not only conducted the mail, they also were responsible in other areas, such as communications and banking.

One of Collins' unknown mentors in London may have been Vladimir Lenin. Although none of Collins' biographers mentions it, Collins did go to an economic conference in London in 1915 where Lenin was the featured speaker. We know thanks to Joe Good, an Irish Londoner who fought in the Easter Ring and knew Collins very well on both sides of the Irish Sea. In his wonderful memoir of that period, "Enchanted by Dreams: The Journal of a Revolutionary," Good recalls gently baiting the belligerent Big Fellow about his economics knowledge and telling him of his own personal encounter with Comrade Lenin: “I joked that some famous economist had spoken to me. I did not say it was a lecture Lenin had given in London. At least I knew that Lenin could be described as an economist, but that was all I knew on the topic at that time. To my surprise Mick had also been to the same lecture. The Clonakilty lad had certainly got around.”

Collins raised money for the infant nation by soliciting a National Loan both at home and in America, where de Valera had escaped to. It was, however, a thankless task and Collins soon realized that the collision between money and human greed was not a pretty thing to behold. In a letter to Harry Boland he said: “The enterprise will certainly break my heart if anything ever will. I never imagined there would be so much cowardice, dishonesty, hedging, insincerity, and meanness in the world, as my experience of this work has revealed.” Nevertheless, the National Loan was a huge success, raising £370,000 in Ireland and over $5,000,000 in the United States.

And Collins was quite the marketer also, even producing and directing a film about soliciting money from the Fenian hierarchy. You can see the young Collins—cowlick prominent—comfortably sitting behind a desk at Patrick Pearse’s school, St. Enda’s in Rathfarnham, greeting prominent members of the movement, including Arthur Griffith, Grace Gifford Plunkett and Mrs. Margaret Pearse, mother of the Pearse brothers. It’s interesting to note that the paranoid Collins was supremely camera-shy—the British apparently had no photos of him—and this film was probably meant more for American consumption than anything else, but it highlights the importance Collins gave to the Loan in that he would compromise his security in order for the Loan to succeed. The film is a fascinating look at the young Collins in action:

The Loan and Collins’ intelligence network have a connection. By the spring of 1920 the British had sent a magistrate named Alan Bell to examine the books of several Dublin banks where they thought Collins had deposited the Loan money in phony accounts. In one Dame Street bank in the shadow of Dublin Castle, Bell confiscated over £18,000 pounds.

Bell had been harassing Fenians since the time of the Land League and Collins decided he had to go. Members of the Squad pulled Bell off a tram on his way to work at Dublin Castle and shot him dead. Suddenly, there were no more bank examiners volunteering to go to Dublin to examine the books. This and the earlier murder of a spy named Jameson caused Winston Churchill, Secretary of State for War, to put a £5,000 bounty on the head of the man responsible for these deaths. That man, of course, was Michael Collins.

But the portfolio Collins is most famous for is that of Director of Intelligence of the IRA. From 1798 the Irish had been having uprisings that always ended in failure. Collins wondered why? He came to the conclusion that the British always won because of their superior intelligence network, which had skillfully woven spies and informers into every Irish revolutionary movement since the time of Wolfe Tone. Now the big question was, how do you combat this?

He decided the best way was to have an intelligence system of his own, that would be superior to anything the British could do. Under his deputy DOI Liam Tobin, he set up an office at #3 Crow Street, a stone’s throw away from Dublin Castle. There he monitored the British and their movements. He knew whenever a British officer or intelligence officer moved in or out of Dublin. He had his own spies in transportation and at the hotels. Crow Street combed the society pages to see who were the British men about town.

With the intelligence operation going full blast Collins decided in September 1919 to set up his own Active Service Unit (ASU) which came to be known as the Squad or more colorfully as “The Twelve Apostles”—with Collins eagerly replacing Jesus Christ himself! Their job was brutal—they would shoot British spies, touts and informers. Only Collins—and in his absence Richard Mulcahy, chief of staff of the IRA, and Dick McKee, head of the Dublin brigades—could order hits.

It all came to fruition on November 21, 1920 when the Squad executed 14 British Secret Service agents in their beds on what now is called “Bloody Sunday.” Twelve months and 16 days later—with the scales of justice finally favoring the Irish—Collins signed the treaty that made Ireland a nation once again. His Libra dream had come through.

* 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 at www.facebook.com/13thApostleMcEvoy.

* Originally published in 2016.

Dream of owning your own private island off Ireland? This is epic

West Skeam Island is once more for sale and ready to become your family’s dream home for $2.3 million dollars.

Dream of getting away from the constant fake news, tweeting, and the outside world in general? Well, your answer could lie just 1.5 miles off the southwest coast of Ireland where an idyllic private island has just gone up for sale.

West Skeam Island is a small 33-acre island with a monumental history from the Vikings to the Great Hunger and for a cool $2.3 million, you could own it all.

The beautiful Skeam Island. Image: Daft.ie.

The island is home to three quaint, old Irish cottages, revamped on the interior to give you most of your mod cons, but from where you can distance yourself from the mainland and enjoy West Skeam’s four private, attractive beaches or explore the ruins of its 4th-century Gnostic Christian Church.

Read more: Mysteries of deserted pre-Famine village on Achill Island revealed

The pathway around Skeam Island. Image: Daft.ie.

With a rumored Viking burial ground and an out-of-use, overgrown WWII-era landing strip, this Special Area of Conservation was first inhabited in 350 AD by early Gnostic Christian settlers escaping persecution under Pope Constantine, while the next recorded inhabitants were two families by the name of O’Regan who lived on West Skeam from the time of the Famine in the mid-19th century to the 1950s.

The cottages on Skeam Island. Image: Daft.ie.

West Skeam is accessible by a ferry service from Cunnamore Pier that runs all year (and that also services adjacent inhabited Heir and Horse Island). We can’t promise absolute isolation from bad news, Facebook or your work emails as the cottages are equipped with WiFi and there is strong cell signal across the island.

Skeam Island from the harbor. Image: Daft.ie.

Nonetheless, you can leave your phone back in the four-bedroom, three-bathroom main cottage as you journey out to the beach  to take advantage of the perfect waters for water sports or swimming safe in the knowledge that you’re just a 70-minute drive from Cork airport and a 75-minute drive to Cork City if you need to get back to reality for a while.

The courtyard on Skeam Island. Image: Daft.ie.

The closest town is beautiful Skibbereen and once you're on the ferry you'll know that you will be back on the mainland within a matter of minutes. The island's harbor provides sufficient shelter to allow the boat to dock even in harsher weather conditions.

Read more: Mysterious history of Skellig Michael, ancient Irish island in 'Star Wars' (PHOTOS)

The kitchen on Skeam Island. Image: Daft.ie.

Clustered adjacent to the pier, the three stone-built cottages are mapped out as a traditional farm holding would be and date to the 1840s.

The living room on Skeam Island. Image: Daft.ie.

With a private courtyard and wooden-shuttered windows, it only gets more homey on the inside where the panoramic sea views give you something amazing to look at while you cook over a traditional Irish stove.

The view on Skeam Island. Image: Daft.ie.

Would this be your dream Irish home? Let us know about your perfect place in the comments section, below.

Halloween: Irish invention, American export

Halloween may have been invented by the Irish but it was the Americans who turned it into the spookfest it is today. 

Halloween was invented by the Irish, but when I first moved here it wasn't that big a deal. Not when compared with the Halloween I remembered as a kid in Queens and upstate New York. 

Back in 1995, I took my daughter out trick-or-treating for the first time and it was something of an eye-opener for me. We went to five or six houses and two houses handed the traditional Irish Halloween treats, an apple, and some nuts. The other houses had nothing.

Apples or nuts, that was the tradition here. Kids who rang the bell didn't say, "Trick or treat" they asked, "Any apples or nuts?" (The nuts are called 'monkey nuts' and are peanuts in their shells and are strangely unpleasant compared with the peanuts you get in America.)

There wasn't much of a tradition of dressing up either. Some kids might have thrown on something that their mother or father owned, but that was about it. Mostly what you had was youngsters with fireworks. And bonfires.

Read more: This Irish city is the capital of Halloween

Halloween in Ireland used to mean plenty of bonfires

Image: iStock

Everywhere you went in the weeks before Halloween you'd see piles of garbage - empty boxes, mattresses, couches, loads of empty pallets, even car tires (Uggh) – waiting for the big night when the bonfire was lit.

There are still bonfires, but nowhere near as many as there used to be and they seem to be better controlled as to what can be added to it (no tires). Too disgusting, too many injuries and too much clean-up afterward for much of modern Ireland, which has mostly turned its back this tradition and I don't miss it at all.

The bonfires are gone (or going, anyway), but not the fireworks. The fireworks seem to be more extensive nowadays with a lot of fathers involved in putting on their amateur displays (bottle rockets & roman candles mostly). I could live without it.

Halloween in Ireland has become more like the American celebration in recent years

Image: iStock

The biggest change in Halloween is not the demise of the bonfire or the growth of the macho father fireworks shows, but the Americanization of the day. As Frank McNally put it in a column for the Irish Times, Ireland may have invented Halloween, but then "we exported the cheap raw materials for the festival, lacking the inclination or wherewithal to process them ourselves. Then the Yanks developed the ingredients into a more sophisticated product, with slick packaging, and exported it back to us at a large markup."

Which is true. Ireland now has a version of the Halloween I remember as a kid. Decorations on the windows, pumpkins carved out as jack-o-lanterns and kids in costumes – generally store-bought – going door-to-door collecting chocolate bars and other candy. Apples and other fruits are frowned upon as are the dreaded monkey nuts.

The whole adult Halloween thing has even caught on here too, although that's always struck me as kind of creepy. Halloween was and should be, for kids.

So, we have an American Halloween, although so far we don't have the religious, political, excessively child-protective objections to the day that seems to have ruined the day for kids in towns across America. Not yet, but I expect to start hearing that stuff any day now.

Happy Halloween.

You can read more about Halloween and its Irish connections here

*Originally published in 2009. 

Dublin-based scientists make breakthrough schizophrenia discovery

Trinity and RCSI researches discover abnormalities in blood-brain barrier could play major role in development of debilitating condition

Scientists from Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) have discovered that abnormalities of blood vessels in the brain may play a major role in the development of schizophrenia, a debilitating condition that affects around one percent of people in Ireland.

The network of blood vessels in the brain regulates the transport of energy and materials in and out of the brain - forming what is known as the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Scientists working in the Smurfit Institute of Genetics at Trinity College Dublin and the Department of Psychiatry, RCSI, have discovered that abnormalities in the integrity of the BBB may be a critical component in the development of schizophrenia and other brain disorders.

People living with a chromosomal abnormality termed ‘22q11 deletion syndrome’ (22q11DS) are 20 times more likely to develop schizophrenia. These people lack approximately 40-60 genes within a small region in one of the pairs of chromosome 22. A gene termed "Claudin-5" is located within this region, and it is changes in the levels of this component of the BBB that are associated with the presence of schizophrenia.

Assistant Professor in Neurovascular Genetics at Trinity, Dr Matthew Campbell, said: “Our recent findings have, for the first time, suggested that schizophrenia is a brain disorder associated with abnormalities of brain blood vessels. The concept of tailoring drugs to regulate and treat abnormal brain blood vessels is a novel treatment strategy and offers great potential to complement existing treatments of this debilitating disease.”

“While it is very well accepted that improving cardiovascular health can reduce the risk of stroke and heart attacks, we now believe that drugs aimed at improving cerebrovascular health may be an additional strategy to treating brain diseases in the future.”

Working with an international group of scientists from Cardiff University, Stanford University and Duke University in addition to screening post-mortem brain samples from the Stanley Medical Research Institute, the scientists are the first to identify a molecular genetic component of the blood brain barrier with the development of schizophrenia.

Mouse pre-frontal cortex expressing green fluorescent protein

Professor Kieran Murphy, Head of Department of Psychiatry, RCSI and Consultant Psychiatrist at Beaumont Hospital, said: “We have shown for the first time that dysfunction of the blood-brain barrier may be an important factor in the development of schizophrenia. These findings greatly add to our understanding of this debilitating and socially isolating condition.”

The research, published in the leading international journal Molecular Psychiatry, was supported by the Health Research Board (HRB), Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the US-based charity, Brightfocus Foundation.

Scientists in the laboratories of Dr Matthew Campbell and Professor Kieran Murphy collaborated on this study.

H/T: Trinity

Irish-dancing NFL player stands up for boy being bullied about his love of dance

Baltimore Ravens running back Alex Collins encourages a young boy to never stop Irish dancing.

A great Irish dancer and an incredible advocate for Irish dancing in the US, Baltimore Ravens running back Alex Collins became an even bigger champion of the art-form this week, coming to the rescue of a young Irish dancer who was being bullied for his interest in traditional Irish steps.

Collins has shown an interest in Irish dancing since 2011 when he was introduced to the dance by his high school coach’s 15-year-old daughter. After an ongoing debate as to whether Irish dancing was physical enough to be classed as a sport, Collins was challenged to take on a class, quickly becoming utterly enamored with his "one, two, threes," and deciding to keep practicing to build up his strength and conditioning.

At 5-foot-10, 217 pounds, and an NFL star, 23-year-old Collins may have taken a fair bit of ribbing from teammates and from the public about the time he spends Irish dancing but he has shone through as a great representative of men in Irish dancing, not allowing the skill and physicality involved to be belittled.

Read more: NFL top prospect uses Irish dance to help his moves

Alex Collins encourages young boys and men to keep up their interest in Irish dance

Baltimore Ravens running back Alex Collins. Image: WikiCommons.

As an inspiring figure to younger boys with an interest in the NFL, Collins also had a heartwarming message this week for a young male Irish dancer, Carl, who was facing some bullying for attending classes.

When approached by the young dancer’s mom Joanne Tubbs on Twitter telling him the story, Collins replied, “Never stop doing the things you love because someone else doesn't agree. Chase your dreams Carl and don’t let them stop you from being great!”

“Big smile tonight from Carl. Thanks for the encouragement and support - I think you also have a new no. 1 fan :-),” his Mom responded.

Read more: Young Conor McGregor Irish dancing in a suit at his First Communion

Still dancing himself under the name “Mitch Finn”, a play on Lord of the Dance star Michael Flatley, Collins continues to be passionate about how Irish dance can improve his game.

“It is all about rhythm and timing in Irish dance, and so it is for the running back as well,” he said.

“Here I am always on my toes, and I really love it because it builds my lower body muscles and my calf muscles.

“I am more explosive on the field. As a running back, you want to have that lower body strength and that footwork—and this is the perfect place to get it.”

What do you make of Collins' Irish dance skills? Do we need more people of his stature to speak for its benefits? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section. 

H/T: Baltimore Ravens

Copyright © 2017 Robbinsville Irish Heritage Association