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“I just kept crying and crying” - Ireland reeling after Manchester terror attack

Campaigning for the Westminster election across Northern Ireland has been placed on hold today as both Unionist and Nationalist politicians and politicians in the Republic of Ireland offer their condolences to the city of Manchester after last night’s tragic bombing.

It is reported at least 22 people, including children, died in the suicide bombing while 59 others were injured. The Department of Foreign Affairs is not aware of any Irish citizen who was injured in the attack on Manchester Arena, which happened as fans left the venue following a concert by 23-year-old US singer Ariana Grande.

Both Tánaiste (Irish Deputy Prime Minister) Frances Fitzgerald and Irish President Michael D. Higgins drew attention in statements today to the close ties between Ireland and Manchester, a northern English city where generations of Irish immigrants have settled.

“This savage and shocking attack was aimed at people simply going about their lives out for a night's entertainment,” said Minister Fitzgerald.

“There have always been close ties between people here and in Manchester and we stand in solidarity with our neighbours in the United Kingdom at this time of great loss.

“I know from speaking with the Garda Commissioner this morning that there is close liaison between An Garda Síochána and their UK counterparts about last night's dreadful events and this is taking place against the background of intensive ongoing cooperation with international security agencies,” she continued, adding that there has been no change to Ireland’s security assessment and no information to lead the government to believe the country is under threat.

Read more: Manchester: The kids who will never come home

President Higgins also issued a statement on behalf of the Irish people in which he expressed the country’s solidarity with Manchester.

"This cowardly attack on innocent citizens will have appalled all those who care for democracy, freedom and the right to live and enjoy the public space,” he said.  

“Manchester has been home to the Irish and so many nationalities for centuries and at this terrible time, I want to send the people of this great and welcoming city not only our sympathy but our solidarity.

“Our thoughts in Ireland are with all of the people of Manchester and our neighbors throughout the United Kingdom at this time.”

Irish acting Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny has referred to the Irish ties with Manchester as “so strong.”

“When you consider last night at least, we know, 22 people went out to enjoy themselves who will never come home,” he told Irish broadcaster RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“In this country where we’re so used to concerts, any parent who has ever brought their young son or daughter to a concert will know that this would have been a dream night out, the weeks and the days counting down to the big event.

“This was an attack on innocence and on happiness and therefore on behalf of the people of our country, I say to all those who were unfortunately and tragically killed, injured and their families, that we as a nation hold them very closely in our hearts.”

Only three of the victims of the attack have been identified as of yet: 8-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos, 26-year-old John Atkinson and 18-year-old Georgina Callander.

The Great Manchester Police has named 22-year-old Salman Ramadan Abedi, a Mancunian of Libyan descent, as the bomber who died during the explosion. The Guardian reports that the police had not yet wished to reveal the name of the man responsible for the suicide attack but were forced to confirm when US officials passed the name to news reporters against their wishes.

A 23-year-old man has also since been arrested in relation to the attack, believed to be the bomber’s brother Ismael Abedi.

Read more: Irish father's "unbearable" wait to hear from his daughter at Manchester concert

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack but the inaccurate statement issued by the group with no evidence of involvement is being treated with caution.

A Book of Condolence will be opened in Dublin and in Belfast for victims of the tragedy.

“I was horrified to hear about the attack at a concert for young children in Manchester last night,” said Brendan Carr, Lord Mayor of Dublin.

“There have always been close ties between the cities of Dublin and Manchester and I am opening this Book of Condolence to let the people of Dublin express their sympathies to the families of those who died or were injured and to express our solidarity with the people of Manchester at this dark hour.”

The three Take That concerts set to start off Thursday evening at the Manchester Arena will not take place while Ariana Grande has suspended the remainder of her European tour and is said the be “broken” by events.

The Social Democratic and Labor Party in Northern Ireland has suspended their manifesto launch while Sinn Féin has postponed the unveiling of a new billboard in north Belfast.

“The people of Ireland understand the tragic pain of loss that those in Manchester are feeling. We stand with the people of Manchester today, unbroken, unbowed and resolutely determined to defeat those responsible,” said SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, while the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party Arlene Foster tweeted “Terrorism must never win.”

The last bombing attack on this scale to take place in the city of Manchester was in 1996 when the Provisional IRA detonated a bomb in the city center. Having sent telephone warnings before the explosion, 75,000 people were successfully evacuated but the bomb squad failed to defuse the bomb in time and 200 people were injured. There were no fatalities. The perpetrators of the bombing were never caught.

Irish father's "unbearable" wait to hear from his daughter at Manchester concert

A father, from Derry, has described the “unbearable” experience he had on Monday evening waiting to hear from his 19-year-old daughter, who had been working at the Manchester Arena during Ariana Grande’s concert, when the Islamic State suicide bomber struck.

By Tuesday ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) had claimed responsibility for the attack which killed 22 and injured at least 59 concert goers, among them children and teens.

Sean Woods, in Derry, spoke about his horrific wait to hear if his daughter, Niamh, was among the victims. Speaking to local BBC Radio Foyle he said, “I was bawling like a child," said Sean Woods.

 "For the first time in my life I couldn't make any sense."

Read more: Manchester - The kids who will never come home

The bomb went off in the foyer of Manchester Arena, which has a capacity of 21,000, just as Ariana Grande left the stage. Dozens of parents are still searching for their children who had left home on Monday for a night of music.

Woods continued "[Staff] were in a locked room because they were doing the takings from the bar.

"This room had two double glass doors and when the explosion went off she said: 'Daddy, I never heard anything as loud in my whole life.'"

Niamh told her father than seconds after the explosion people were “frantically banging” on the door and trying to get away from the explosion.

"People that were running past had blood running down their faces and, she said, their clothes drenched in blood," her father told the BBC.

"Thank god she got in touch with us through her friend's phone on messenger and it was an unbelievable relief to hear her voice.

"I'm getting her a flight today. She's so badly shook up. We were up all night and we haven't slept.

"I just kept crying and crying and crying... I couldn't even speak properly, it was unbearable.”

Those who have been injured are now being treated in the hospitals around Manchester city. OF those injured, the Washington Post reports that a dozen were under 16 years old.

Woods added "My heart really truly goes out to every single person who has lost in that, because the prospect of losing your own daughter in it is quite something.

"I have never had that emotion in my life before and I never, ever, want to have it again.

The Greater Manchester Police have said in a statement that they arrested a 23-year-old man in south Manchester in connection with the attack.

“We believe at this stage the attack last night was conducted by one man,” Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said at a televised news conference. “We believe the attacker was carrying an improvised explosive device, which he detonated, causing this atrocity.”

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, called it an “evil act” but praised the “spirit of Manchester that will prevail and hold us together.”

Manchester is “grieving today, but we are strong,” he said.

It was the worst terrorist strike on British soil since 2005, when Islamist extremists bombed the London subway and a bus, killing 54 people.

The authorities have set up an emergency number for those concerned about friends and relatives on 0044 161 8569400.

Ireland’s temperatures to 75F this week - Nation is in shock

Temperatures in Ireland this week will be higher than those in Spain and the nation is rejoicing!

Metrological experts have confirmed that temperatures could reach up to 75F (24C) in parts of the country. This would be the hottest day of the years, so far, for Ireland.

These higher than normal temperatures are due to a plume of hot subtropical air. Sadly, by the end of the week Ireland’s good luck will have run out and a fresher band of air will move in and temperatures will begin to return to normal.

To put this “mini-heatwave” into perspective the average temperatures during Ireland’s summers (May to July) are between 64 and 68F. The warmest months are generally July and August, when Ireland gets 18 hours of daylight, but 75F is considered a high temperature for the island.

The warmest months, July and August, get about 18 hours of daylight and it gets dark only after 11pm. Hence the well-worn phrase in Ireland; "sure there's a grand stretch in the evenings".

In a statement, Ireland’s meteorological services, Met Eireann, said “It'll be humid today and very mild in light to moderate southwest breezes. However, it will begin rather dull, with patchy mist, drizzle and fog mainly affecting Atlantic coastal counties through the day.

"Despite this, many areas should stay dry throughout, with pockets of sunshine developing - the best of these likely over the east and parts of the south.

"Maximum temperatures will range 16C to 22C or 23C.

"Tomorrow will be another humid day tomorrow and feeling warmer. Afternoon maxima will range 18C to 23C or 24C, warmest inland with local sea breezes.

"It'll be dry and calm practically countrywide, with any early cloud thinning out, and warm spells of sunshine developing."

Looking ahead Met Eireann predicts "The very warm and humid weather is set to last another few days, however some heavy showers may break out across the western half of the country later Friday, moving into other areas after dark.

"There's an uncertain breakdown this weekend with temperatures falling back, however they should still reach the high teens or possibly even low 20s locally."

Five other times John F. Kennedy was nearly killed

JFK danced with death so many times in his whirlwind life that in some ways it truly remarkable and a testament to his strength that he made it to 46 before he was tragically killed.

Here are five other occasions when the 35th President cheated death.

Joseph Kennedy Jr., Kathleen Kennedy, Rosemary Kennedy, and John F. Kennedy in Cohasset. Credit: ohn F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

1. Aged only three, Jack contracted scarlet fever, a then often fatal and highly contagious disease and his sickness came just as his mother went into labor with his sister Kathleen. The Kennedy family’s extensive network of contact meant he was taken in as a patient at the Boston City Hospital but not before his devout parents had summoned a priest to deliver the sickened child the last rites.

Fortunately, he recovered after a six-week spell in the hospital, followed by another six weeks recuperating in scenic Maine.

Lt. (jg) John F. Kennedy aboard the PT-109 in the South Pacific during World War II. Credit: President’s Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

2. JFK initially looked set to sit out the Second World War with a desk job due to his bad back. However his father was having none of that and he was eventually transferred to the Pacific where he was to captain patrol boats.

Whilst out near the Solomon Islands the PT boat was rammed by a much bigger Japanese ship, leaving two of the men under JFK’s command dead. “There's nothing in the book about a situation like this,” he told the survivors. “A lot of you men have families and some of you have children. What do you want to do? I have nothing to lose."

They decided to fight on and eventually swam to a nearby island where they were rescued.

Congressman John F. Kennedy in his Congressional Office, 1946. President’s Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

3. On a trip to London in 1949 JFK was diagnosed with Addison’s disease the result of which is that adrenal glands do not produce certain hormones. The disease can prove fatal and once again JFK was given the last rites before he began a perilously risky trip back across the Atlantic.

Read More: John F. Kennedy very likely had Celiac disease

The public was never informed however and once he arrived alive back in New York his father, ever conscious of how the smallest detail could affect Jack’s political career, told people he was suffering from malaria.

Robert F. Kennedy and Senator John F. Kennedy during the United States Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in Labor and Management (AKA, McClellan Committee) hearings. Credit: Douglas Jones. Look Magazine. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

4. The disease struck again on a trip to Asia with his younger brother, RFK. As Jack’s temperature reached a perilously highly 107 degrees a priest was yet again summoned to give him the last rites but Robert refused to give up on his brother and had him flown to an American military hospital in Japan. It’s thought that RFK’s determination and quick thinking saved his big brother’s life.

Senator John F. Kennedy signs a copy of "Profiles in Courage" for a young fan. Credit: President’s Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

5. Dogged by back pain, in 1954 JFK defied his father and opted for risky surgery to insert a metal plate into his spine. He’d been spooked by doctors’ warnings that he could end up in a wheelchair for the rest of his life if he didn’t go under the knife but after he came out of surgery he caught a urinary tract infection, causing him to slip into a coma. Once again he was given the last rites but defied the odds to make slow but steady surgery - returning to the Senate after only six months.

H/T: Boston.com

CV vs resume: What’s the difference?

If you’re looking for a job in the US, you’ll need a resume. Make an application in the UK or Ireland and you’ll be asked for a CV.

That might sound like CVs and Resumes are essentially the same thing; and in some ways they are, in others they are very different.

The tone in both is formal and both are designed to convince an employer you’re the person for the job – but they aren’t interchangeable. In fact, even the best CVs would be really bad Resumes, and vice versa. Confused? We’ve explained the key CV vs resume differences to give you the best chance of getting the job you want, no matter where you are in the world.

CV

A CV or Curriculum Vitae is an in-depth account of your education, work, skills and achievements.

A CV should contain a short bio, your name and contact details. A CV is generally about 2 pages, should be updated regularly and is usually accompanied by a cover letter.

If you’re writing a CV aimed at Irish businesses be sure to:

- Format your CV so that it is easily scanned for keywords

- Use headings to break up each section – education, work experience, skills etc.

- List achievements, rather than tasks performed

- Highlight soft skills such as teamwork and communication skills

- Include software systems you have experience using, relevant awards or charity work

- Link to an online portfolio if applicable.

To get a more specific insight into why you are right for a role an employer will generally ask for a cover letter along with your CV.

Resume

A resume is a more concise document that lists work experience and education details relevant to the job you’re applying for. The point of a resume is to summarize your previous experience and clearly explain why you’re the best person for the job.

If you are writing a resume remember:

- A resume is generally just one page.

- You should adapt your resume for each role.

- Always contain essentials that apply to the specific job – key skills, relevant education and training.

The personalized aspect of a resume means a cover letter will rarely be requested.

The key differences between a resume and CV is the length and the detail of information included. Your CV will be longer and more detailed, while a resume is more concise and to the point. Basically, a resume is a short and sweet tailored version of a CV.

The CV is the main document requested from job seekers in Ireland and the UK, while resumes are common place in America and Canada. For both you should pay attention to correct formatting, perfect spelling and grammar and include only honest, relevant information.  

The similarities are obvious, but if you want to make a good first impression take the time to convert your information into the required format of the country you are seeking a job in.

Contact Cpl for free CV advice and Irish job opportunities that match your skills.

For more information visit www.cpl.ie.

Manchester: The kids who will never come home

My 17-year-old recently went to an Ariana Grande concert at Madison Square Garden with a friend.

She went and came home without any fuss. It hardly cost her parents a thought.

I can only imagine what the poor parents who are waiting desperately for news of their loved ones in Manchester are going through.

They, too, said goodbye to their children, on their way to hear the former Nickelodeon star, beloved by the young teen set.

Could there have been anything more innocent?

Now their kids will never come home.

Can there be any worse fate?

At least 23 families we know will never see their loved ones again.

Chances are they're mostly young girls as those tend to be Ariana Grande's biggest fans.

Lurking among them was a suicide bomber, right outside the venue police report.

Explosives strapped to his chest, hate in his heart, death on his mind.

What for? The 40 virgins he will find waiting in Valhalla?

What a sick, perverted, bastardly thing to do.

He must have strapped on that bomb knowing he was going to blow young and innocent people apart.

Not combatants, not even adults I presume, but mostly teenagers.

Little girls, trending towards womanhood, a combined joyous moment.

No bravery there, only perversion and a black hole for a heart.

Young girls walk dazed away from Manchester Arena after bomb blast (Via Twitter / @DarylG)

Freedom isn't free, as the old US Army motto goes. People die for it.

We pay for open societies, for refusing to retreat into cocoons of safety.

We pay for enjoying our culture, our arts, our enjoyment.

To the French massacres, at Bataclan theater and in the rest of Paris and Nice, we add Manchester.

All innocents on a night out.

What drives people into the arms of ISIS?

No matter how much hate, how much frustration exists in your life what level of depravity makes you strap on a suicide bomb?

There are 22 innocents dead as you also died for your mad ambitions.

May you rot in hell.

Read more crime news here

Moderate Unionist leader says united Ireland may be on the table over Brexit

Stephen Farry, a former Employment Minister in Northern Ireland and the deputy leader of the pro-union Alliance Party has warned British leader Theresa May that a united Ireland may be the outcome of a hardline on Brexit.

He warned the province must be treated as a “special case” in the upcoming negotiations with the European Union.

In an interview with the BBC, the legislator for the centrist and cross-community party said, “We do have the option, not one I’d particularly advocate, to rejoin the European Union through a united Ireland at some stage if that’s what the people of Northern Ireland choose.  

Read more: A United Ireland now looks certain in the near future

“But we have the Good Friday Agreement and Northern Ireland only works on the basis of sharing and interdependence and Brexit is all about putting up new divisions and new barriers.“So there has to be some sort of special arrangement put in place for Northern Ireland, not least because of the fact that we have a land border with the remainder of the European Union through the Republic of Ireland.”

He admitted, however, that the Government had a mandate for what the EU’s supporters have dubbed a “hard Brexit” - namely the decision to pull Britain out of the single market and customs union that mandates common standards for goods and trade.

This lead to speculation that such an outcome would lead to a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic—something the European Commission and governments in London, Dublin, and Belfast all hope to avoid.

First, the contentious issue of Britain’s bill must be settled; the EU originally had leaked a figure of $56 billion to pay for the pensions of British staff working for the EU and projects Britain had already signed off on.

Read more: Huge boost for united Ireland as Europe agrees to admit it to EU immediately

However, after pressure from members states who feared a large gap in the EU’s budget and a decision by Germany not to grant Britain a share of the EU’s assets, the sum has increased to $112 billion—leading to rumors of a British walk out.

Britons will vote on June 8an election May’s Conservative party is expected to win—afterwhich the negotiations will kick off in earnest. Expect sparks to fly.

H/T: Daily Express/CNBC

Great Hunger museum at Quinnipiac an Irish American treasure

I never formally graduated from Queen’s University, my alma mater.

Back in the day, graduating students had to endure the British National Anthem played by the RUC band.

Which for me, in 1980, seemed like good reason to graduate in absentia.

I was however, very much present at Quinnipiac University in the hills above New Haven, Connecticut, on Saturday morning for my second graduation.

Quinnipiac, named for the Native Americans who once ran free in these parts, is a 10,000-student university which has enjoyed an amazing ascent under the leadership of renowned Irish American John Lahey. During his 30-year tenure as President of Quinnipiac, John Lahey has built Quinnipiac up from a small commuter college to a prestigious national institution with both a law school and a medical school (a boast less than three per cent of American universities can make) as well as formidable sporting teams and state-of-the-art arenas.

As a former Grand Marshall and now Chair of the New York St Patrick’s Day Parade, John Lahey stewarded the positive changes towards greater inclusion which have brought much cheer to all who love Irish America.

But it’s the creation of the Museum of Ireland’s Great Hunger beside the Quinnipiac campus that remains his most striking contribution to both Ireland and Irish America. The greatest collection of art relating to An Gorta Mór is on display at the museum — and what better way to tell a story of that unspeakable cataclysm than through art.

Thrill and all as it was to be presented with an Honorary Doctorate by President Lahey at the graduation ceremony in Quinnipiac University, it was equally a privilege to make my first visit to Músaem an Ghorta Mhóir.

The good news is that this unrivaled collection of masterpieces relating to the Great Hunger — including Michael Farrell’s Black ’47 — will be on display in Ireland next year when the collection comes to Cork and Dublin. A future trip to Belfast would be a fitting monument to the multitudes who perished in that city during An Gorta Mór — Clifton Street Graveyard alone is said to contain 7,500 bodies in its unmarked Famine grave.

Michael Farrell’s Black ‘47

I didn’t speak at the graduation ceremony though if I had have I would have told the young graduates that the most important proverb in the Irish language is, ‘Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine’. (‘We all live in each other’s shelter.’) And come the day at the end of their long lives when the famed Quinnipiac Polling Institute asks how much shelter they gave to others, I am certain their poll numbers will be sound. And of course, I would have said ‘go raibh maith agaibh’ to John Lahey, his Vice-President for Public Affairs Lynn Bushnell and to everyone else at Quinnipiac who made the graduation ceremony such a wonderful experience for myself and fellow honorary grads, Conor Kenny of the famed Kenny Bookstore in Galway who helped gather the museum’s art collection, and Yale economist John Geanakoplos.

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir presented with his honorary degree by Quinnipiac President John Lahey.

Queen’s University today is an inclusive and progressive institution and I am delighted to work constructively with its leadership team.

But I have never felt that unbreakable bond with my alma mater that I see among American graduates in relation to their universities. And that may be linked to the fact that, back in the day, those in power at QUB thought it a good idea to make nationalist students stand to salute the Queen. I can’t say for sure.

However, I can say this: Second time around and 37 years on, I was delighted to stand at Quinnipiac University alongside a thousand other proud graduates to receive my degree from John Lahey.

Read more news from the Irish American community here

Irish flag repeatedly stolen from Northern Ireland road race

The Irish national flag has been stolen on three separate occasions from a spectator grandstand at last week’s Northern Ireland road race North West 200.

The Irish News reports that Mervyn Whyte, the director of the north-west event, confirmed the Irish tricolors had been removed and needed to be replaced three times during this year’s motorcycling race meeting.

The flag was part of a line-up of 22 countries’ national flags flown at the annual event, which attracts tens of thousands of spectators every year.

Whyte said he would put extra security in place next year if necessary.

“They are utter vandals and it really annoyed me,” said the event director, who reported the theft of the flags to the police.

Whyte said his organization was “neutral” and promised the Irish flag will be flown at next year’s event.

“We will not be defeated and if I have to park security there I will to ensure the flag stays up.”

East Derry assembly member John Dallat said it was “highly embarrassing that the national flag of any country was taken down".

“This is not the atmosphere I experienced at the North West 200 when people from all over the world were there and many from the Republic of Ireland spending their money in the local hotels and restaurants.”

Read more: Do you know the story behind the Irish flag?

H/T The Irish News

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

Nestled outside Cong, in County Mayo, home of “The Quiet Man”, is Ashford Castle, a five-star, imposing hotel - one of the most famous in the world.

It is quite simply magnificent. If you want to stay somewhere truly special then Ashford Castle should be among your top choices. The week before I arrived golfer Rory McIlroy had tied the knot in the most glamorous wedding of the year. It is hardly surprising he chose Ashford.

There is something undeniably idyllic about a stay at a castle in Ireland but being a guest on the 26,000 acres of the Ashford estate is just magic. After an overnight stay, over a sunny May weekend, it was clear to see how Ashford Castle won the title of the Best Hotel in the World in 2015. Once a property of the famed Guinness family, the castle dates back to 1228 and has been welcoming distinguished guests through its doors for almost 800 years.

The castle became hallowed ground to fans of the Oscar-winning classic “The Quiet Man”, back in 1951. Many of the outdoor scenes in the beloved movie, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, and directed by John Ford, were filmed on the estate. To this day, the movie is omnipresent in the village of Cong where guests can visit replicas of the movie sets in The Quiet Man Museum and Pat Cohen’s Bar while guests at the castle can watch the classic movie in the 32-seat private cinema.

Ashford Castle.

It is the details such as a private in-house cinema that make a stay at the castle so very special. Upon entering the grand building, you are greeted by the Oak Hall, a stunning original feature from the Guinness period. This room, bedecked with a spectacular crystal chandelier and a huge display of fresh flowers, is where guests are often lucky enough to meet the castle’s Irish wolfhounds, amazing docile gigantic dogs who weigh 80kg a piece.

The Oak Hall, at Ashford Castle.

Above the hall, on the mezzanine is a library of over 800 antique books and even more enticing is the hotel’s guest book surrounded by a rogue’s gallery of the famous and distinguished folks who have visited over the decades. From John Lennon and George Harrison, to Oscar Wilde and Brad Pitt, their photo gallery will leave you reeling. It is such a wonderful place it is little wonder that it has become a favorite for celebrity weddings, including Pierce Brosnan and, most recently, Rory McIlroy.

Everything about this castle is distinct and exciting. From having coffee in the drawing room overlooking Lough Corrib and the stunning gardens, to stepping back in time and entering the Billiard’s Room and Cigar Terrace. There are a multitude of spaces to enjoy the sumptuous menus of drinks and foods.

During our stay, we dined at the George V Restaurant, which was built by Arthur Guinness along with the Prince of Wales Bar, in honor of the monarch’s 1905 visit. The tasting menu we enjoyed for dinner, and our breakfast the next day, were exquisite. Created from locally sourced and even foraged ingredients, from the kitchen of acclaimed Chef Philippe Farineau and much-loved recipes of Beatrice Tollman, the meals, and its service were truly a delight.

George V's dining room at Ashford Castle.

The dining options at the castle are many - from the high-end dinner room of George V, to afternoon tea in the bright and beautiful Connaught Room, to a wine and food experience in the vast cellars, or a more relaxed meal in The Dungeon. Guests are simply spoiled for choice.

As for the bedrooms, well, they are literally fit for a king. Each of the 83 rooms are individually designed and decorated with original art, antiques and the most amazing tapestries and textiles. Highlights of their lodgings include the Regan Presidential Suite and The Kennedy Suite, named for Senator Ted Kennedy, both men visited the castle in the early 1980s.

An example of the amazing bedrooms at Ashford Castle.

The main castle isn’t the only lodging option on the 26,000-acre estate. There is also a two-bedroom, completely private Hideaway Cottage, which would be perfect for a true escape. There’s also the Lodge at Ashford Castle which is a smaller boutique hotel on the castle’s grounds.

Yet another highlight of our visit was taking a cruise on Lough Corrib. Captain John’s commentary, around some of the 365 islands, provided amazing tales and insight into the history of the area, the property and what made it quite so special. From tales of the Guinness family landing their seaplane on the lough to pointing out the small cabin where Arthur Guinness’ wife would paint, his guide really added to our understanding of the estate and the area.

Views of the islands on Lought Corrib (Photo: Kate Hickey)

As well as other lake activities such as kayaking and fishing the castle can also organize activities including archery, clay-pigeon shooting equestrian activities, cycling, tree climbing and zip lining, falconry, golf, and tennis. Or if you’re visiting to really unwind their fairy tale spa, located in a stunning brass conservatory on the lake is exactly the ticket. There is literally something for everyone and even a spot of on-site shopping at Mrs. Tea’s boutique and bakery, which as a beautiful collection of foods, Irish gifts and clothing.

An illstration of the expansive Ashford Castle estate.

As we entered the castle the century at the gate told us “You know once you go in you won’t want to leave.” That was certainly the case. When we finally tore ourselves away we promised we will be back. A stay at Ashford Castle is truly a once in a lifetime experience where you’ll make memories that will last a lifetime.

Read more: Is this the most beautiful walk in Ireland?

Not waving but drowning - Enda Walsh’s pitch-dark new play Arlington

In Arlington, Enda Walsh’s pitch-dark new play about speech and silence, the Irish playwright makes an important later in life discovery: his own voice.  Cahir O'Doherty reviews the work that was the sensation of the Galway Arts Festival.

Ireland's  literary tradition can be as imprisoning in its own way as a jail. In Arlington, now playing at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, playwright Enda Walsh’s incendiary new play about this anxious new era we’re all condemned to live in, it’s clear from the outset he is attempting to elude the nets that Irish history and culture have cast around him.

An old time radio crackles to life on stage at the play’s opening, and rustic Irish voices fill the theater with an instantly familiar tale of small town paranoia and bitter resentment.

But no sooner are they heard but they are passed over by a larger predicament.  It becomes clear that these kinds of classic dramas of small town Irish life belong to the past, because the present and the future offer us all a much more challenging proposition.

Walsh’s characters have always been gifted misfits and outsiders, blunt stand-ins for the artist responding to a suffocating cultural conformity.  They have always trafficked in fantasy self deception as a way of taking flight from all the privation around them.

In Arlington, Walsh introduces us to characters that are dramatically different to any that have preceded them in his earlier plays. Walsh’s earlier works give us outcasts and near lunatics, people driven almost out of their wits because they can’t reconcile what they want from life with the little that is available to them.

There is a pantomime quality in his earlier works. Gestures are writ large, ironies are blunt and unmistakable, but his latest play does something different, takes a different rout.  He doesn’t lampoon this time: he laments.

It’s hard to understate what a departure this is for Walsh’s work and for the elusive dramatic sensibility that saw his rise to prominence. Arlington is at once more focused and more quietly enraged that any previous play he has ever produced, and it marks an important philosophical transition for the Irish writer.

Certainly irony isn’t what it was onstage now.  That’s because we live in an alarming new era where it’s becoming altogether much harder to playact, a time when refusing to put your cards on the table makes you look like a cynical holdout or, worse, a lightweight.

As the play opens we see Isla (played with utterly astonishing concentration and poise by Charlie Murphy) grapple with imprisonment and the despair that accompanies it. Isla is trapped in some dystopic holding center where her every word and move are recorded by an unnamed and mostly unseen junta who plan to remake the world in their own image.

To found this brave new world it is first necessary to erase all the complicating stories that have led to it, because as every one of Walsh’s most recent plays reminds us, whoever controls the narrative controls the world.

It’s an interesting detail of Irish writing that we have so many rigid if unspoken rules about what can happen to Irish people in an Irish play, and worse, what can not. Walsh’s playwriting career to date has been an exploration of and argument against this idea, which is why so many of his characters live in extremis, raveling and unraveling in front of out eyes.

After centuries of oppression where the Irish had our land and then our language taken from us in a prolonged and intentional act of colonial erasure, it’s a curious detail that we immediately turned around and practiced that kind of closing down and policing of both possibility and language ourselves.

Arlington’s set is a marvel. Designer Jamie Vartan has created an ante chamber of hell, a sort of grey bureaucratic holding pen complete with green plastic plant, empty aquarium and ticket dispenser. Think of it as half DMV-half purgatory.

Containment and its rich metaphors are simultaneously Irish and universal themes, and Walsh has always mined both. Consistently his work has lampooned but found it hard to flee the prisons his characters see all around them.

Hugh O’Connor is superb as an unnamed petty functionary of the new fascist bureaucracy.  He’s terrified to make a wrong move and also simultaneously aware of just how far he’s strayed from human decency.

O’Connor magically conveys this split in even the smallest gesture. There is not a weak link in the cast.

Dystopias are all the rage these days too, let’s admit it. From The Hunger Games to The Handmaid’s Tale to Black Mirror to The Road. In fact it would be more edgy, and in my opinion probably more sinister, to watch a depiction of the near future that doesn’t unspool in a landscape that isn’t scarred by global warming and marauded over by alt-right murder bands.

One question I have is why do we even need new dystopic fiction when we recently had Magdalene laundries and brutal mother and baby homes? When gay people were ignored or erased from daily existence and single mothers and other unfortunates were often given a boat ticket to leave home? This isn’t ancient history either; this was as recent as the last decade.

As absorbing as Arlington is thematically, theatrically it makes its points early and often. Midsection the gifted Oona Doherty performs a dance that echoes Brian Friel’s masterful Dancing at Lughnasa in its aim and intention. Here language surrenders to movement because words have lost their power to express or alter the outcome.

Walsh, like any worthwhile artist now working, is keenly aware that something alarming has injected itself into culture.  He has tuned into some previously unknown and unsettling frequency, and it really shows in this work.

The blocks leading to St. Ann’s Warehouse, which is located in the aggressively ostentatious Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn, are the ideal road to this play, it turns out.   An almost hermitically sealed bubble of privilege under the Manhattan Bridge, they are a both symptom and a sign of the out-of-joint future we’re all hurtling toward now.

Even the breathtaking new St. Ann’s itself is a reflection of our rapidly calcifying economic factions.  At the performance I attended I counted three people of color in a sea of otherwise overwhelmingly white faces.

Theater crowds often don’t look like New York. This is not new. But more and more often now they look like some lost country club or a mobile LL Bean subscription list.

The closing down of opportunity and economic access on the city streets is making it way into everything. We should be alarmed by this, but clearly we are not.

It’s what you can’t see that ends up hurting you, Walsh reminds us. Recall how every pub in Ireland has a wall that features hosts of our greatest writers? When they first started going up in the late 1980s very few noticed that there wasn’t a woman among them.

That’s how erasure operates: it’s what you don’t see and can’t say or hear that ends up hurting you the most. Give us another hundred years and hopefully we’ll figure it out.

(Arlington is playing at St. Ann’s Warehouse until May 28. For tickets and showtimes visit www.stannswarehouse.org)

14-year-old Irish singer Leah Barniville the next big thing, says Simon Cowell

“A billion percent, yes” was the high praise delivered to a 14-year-old Meath girl who wowed the usually harsh Britain’s Got Talent judge Simon Cowell. at the weekend.

Leah Barniville, from Ratoath, County Meath, performed a stunning rendition of the Italian opera piece, Caruso by Lucio Dalla. The young gir'ls chilling performance was greeted by a standing ovation by all four judges, including Amanda Holden, Alesha Dixon and David Walliams, and tears from her little brother in the audience.

The 14-year-old was polite, confident and humble but beamed as she received four yes votes from the judges bringing her through to the next round.

Cowell, known for his tough quips, said "I thought that was honestly incredible and you're 14 years old and you don't know how good you are.” He added “A billion percent yes."

Barniville is a classically-trained singer who has been entertaining and singing since she was a toddler. She told Britain’s Got Talent “I can't stop singing. I sing when I study, when I'm brushing my teeth and when I'm trying to sleep.

“It means so much to me that today goes well. I want to make my mum, dad and brother proud.

"It would mean so much to win, I can't even imagine. It'd be everything I've wanted my whole life."

As one of the judges, Holden, described her performance – it was “flawless.”

Read more: Traditional Irish choir Anuna celebrates 30 years

Here’s a video of Barniville performing for an Irish singing competition in 2015:

Did JFK have a love child with an NY socialite?

John F. Kennedy would have celebrated his 100th birthday on Memorial Day, Monday, May 29, 2017. In tribute to JFK, the 35th President of the United States, and his centennial year, IrishCentral is looking back on the life and times of the charismatic and intriguing Irish-American leader; from his early years to his rise to the presidency, to his untimely assassination in November 1963 at just 46 years old. 

Here we look at claims Kennedy fathered a child with a prominent NY socialite, Alicia Corning Clark. For more on JFK and the Kennedy family, you can visit our special topic page.

Lawyers representing the estate of Alicia Corning Clark, a New York socialite who died in February 2016 at the age of 79, are working to figure out if the rumors that she had a love child with President John F. Kennedy are true.

Clark claimed to have been engaged to the former president for a brief time in the early 1950s.

Leonard Boehner, the administrator of Clark’s $17.5 million estate, recently filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI asking for any files about her, DNAinfo reports. When Clark died, she left behind no known family or heirs.

Two versions of her will are currently being contested: A 2001 handwritten version, filed in the Bahamas, in which she left gifts of $1 million to the doormen in her upper east side apartment building, and a 2004 typed version, filed in the US, which named Boehner, her longtime attorney, the sole executor and specified that the estate go to the Humane Society.

Read more: Letter JFK wrote to his lover a month before he died up for auction

As these proceedings take place, Boehner is following through on his fiduciary obligation to make sure that Clark has no living heirs who could potentially contest the will, making the longstanding rumors of her child by JFK more pertinent than ever.

Boehner and his lawyers have already been successful in gaining access to previously sealed court files that concern an affair between Clark and JFK.

The files revealed Clark’s former attorney Simon Metrik, who was suing Clark for $1.2 million in outstanding legal fees, talking about Clark’s plans to go public about her affair with JFK unless his father, Joe Kennedy, paid $250,000 for her silence.

Metrik said that he "dissuaded [Clark] from attempting to blackmail and extort from Joseph P. Kennedy, the father of the President of the United States."

The rumors of a JFK-Clark tryst were investigated by journalist Seymour Hersch in his 1997 book “The Dark Side of Camelot,” in which he claimed that FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had warned Robert Kennedy in 1963 that a court case in which Clark was involved contained information that would be potentially damaging to JFK’s reelection campaign.

The book also notes that political operatives had attempted to feed the story that Clark had been impregnated by Kennedy to Republican leaders before his first presidential campaign.

Clark herself agreed to be interviewed for the book and denied that she had ever had a child by JFK.

Boehner filed an affidavit on June 30 in the Manhattan Surrogates Court.

“As part of his due diligence responsibility as the preliminary and duly nominated executor of the estate of Alicia Corning Clark, Leonard B. Boehner filed the affidavit to apprise the court of the comprehensive steps he was taking, in accordance with his fiduciary duty, to determine if Mrs. Clark had any next of kin," Boehner's attorney, Richard J. Miller Jr. said in a statement to DNAinfo.

Read moreUnseen photos of JFK and Jackie "wedding of the century"

The affidavit also states:

“This is a subject which was dealt with in a book authored by Seymour Hersh, who apparently received a number of documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation relating to an investigation into a relationship between Alicia Corning Clark and then President John F. Kennedy in the 1960s,” Boehner said in his request.

Clark’s life is a whirlwind rags-to-riches story. She fled Poland with her mother after WWII. They settled in Boston under the Displaced Persons Act of 1948. She became an artist and an actress and captured the attention of some of Hollywood’s leading men, becoming a hot topic in gossip columns.

Her first marriage was to British actor Edmund Purdom. The couple moved to Rome and it was during this time, in an interview with the Italian magazine Le Ore, that she first stated she had once been engaged to JFK, but that their romance came to an end because his father disapproved of the fact that she was Jewish.

Read more: How Robert Kennedy changed dramatically after JFK's death 

After returning to the States alone, she began dating Alfred Corning Clark, heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune. They wed in 1961, but Clark died a mere 13 days after the wedding, leaving Alicia a fortune of $10 million.

Her final marriage was to Dr. Norman Gay, a former bodybuilder who later became the Bahamas’ Minister of Health. They divorced in 1985.

In February, in an interview with DNAinfo, William Courtney, one of Clark’s doormen named in the 1991 will, said that she used to tell him stories about JFK. He said that she kept a photograph of the former president on her nightstand and was also in possession of another photo of them dancing together.

Guinness is the best secret pizza ingredient says top chef

So what’s the secret to a delicious pizza dough? Guinness!

At least that’s what award-winning pizza chef Tony Gemignani thinks, and he should know! He is the 12-time winner in the World Pizza Championship and has been in the pizza business for 26 years.

Gemignani is the author of three books about pizza and owns 15 restaurants across Northern California and Las Vegas, including his flagship shop, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco. He's also competed on the Food Network.

His sausage and stout pizza is made with fresh, house-made mozzarella, beer sausage and lots of Guinness beer in the dough.

The man also has some mad pizza dough tossing skills! He has been inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records three times — twice for creating the largest pizza, and once for the most consecutive pizza dough rolls across the shoulders - a unique pizza acrobatics trick.

Check out this video, created by Insider food, of Gemignani making his Guinness-inspired pizza and showing off his impressive pizza throwing skills.

Pizza acrobat

Tony Gemignani is a 12-time world pizza champion.

Posted by INSIDER food on Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A list and that darned Trump Twittering whirligig

I have noted for years now that ye are very fond of lists, especially lists of just 10 segments. With that in mind I hereby offer a list of that length, entirely without any comment.

It is founded upon raw and accurate reportage rather than my usual class of balderdash, and I hope some of you will relish that reportage.

1: I met some very interesting characters a couple of years ago at the great Irish festival in East Durham up in the Catskills.  None were more interesting than the flamboyant Denis Winters from your parish, a gentleman of many arts and abilities who captured any company he joined up in East Durham inside five minutes.  A lovely man who is now a friend.

2: Among Denis's skills is the capacity to fashion splendid wooden whirligigs. Around the period when your last presidential election was heating up Denis posted me two of his creations across the Atlantic to Clare. 

I was delighted to get them. I mounted them atop my back garden fence above the roses and their hidden thorns. They were carved as birds in flight.

3: The smaller petite enough whirligig I christened Hillary at once.  She was flying high and free when placed atop the fence and took advantage of every breeze that blew.

The much larger and very macho-looking bird I named Trump.  He was twice as large as Hillary and, back then, not nearly so active on his perch above the roses.

Regular readers may recall that I mentioned my experiment many months ago with the report that the Trump whirligig was blown totally off the fence by a small gale. It happened, ironically, during the same week as the then candidate was heavily criticized for making lewd comments about how stars could treat women.

I replaced him on his perch when the gales abated and watched the flight paths of both in the months that followed. Hillary was always busier and flying higher until right to the very end of your electoral battle. I continued to observe.

4: These observations, for whatever reason, have become intriguing altogether since your new president was installed in the White House about four months ago now.

5: The Clinton whirligig now rarely takes flight at all, even when the winds are quite strong as they often are when they come sweeping in from Lough Derg. She looks somehow smaller and subdued.

It is also a fact that a red rose bush has grown up around her perch, and sometimes it is hard enough to see her at all. Upon very close examination I have noted that the sharp thorns of the bush are now embedded in her wooden wings and this inhibits their free movement.

6: The whirligig I named after President Trump, on the other hand, has become highly animated altogether since the inauguration.  I do not know the significance of this but have daily documented elements of his behavior and now fully report them to you all for whatever potential significance ye may wish to draw from them.

7: The Trump whirligig, who used to deploy both wooden wings every day during the electoral battle, now, dramatically, only uses his right wing at all times. The left wing, seemingly, has been declared redundant. I have checked it out thoroughly and it is in prime working order but, for whatever reason, is not being used at all.

8: The Trump whirligig, irrespective of the wind direction, always seems to choose to fly against the prevailing air currents. There are frequent changes of direction, sometimes every hour. 

Again, irrespective of the prevailing weather, this Trump whirligig is infinitely more active during the night and the early morning than during daylight hours. Perhaps because it is being overworked, that right wing, despite the craftsmanship of Denis Winter, is feeling the strain even though I oiled it several times.

It makes a kinda twittering sound, quite loud, especially just before dawn, which has woken up both myself and the Dutch Nation from our slumbers more than once.

9: Neighbors, family, friends and visitors to the house have complained several times about the twittering noises from that right wing and have advised me to remove both whirligigs from my fence. Out of respect for my friend and a fascination with what will occur in the future, I have so far resisted these advices.

10: It is past midnight on a calm May night as I finish this piece and, despite that calm, under a full moon, I can still clearly hear the twitteration of that right wing through two doors. I wish it would cease.

I would appreciate any advice from wiser folk than me about how to address this problem without offending Denis Winter.  Help me out please.

The top 10 Fish & Chip Shops in Ireland revealed

You think you know your Fish & Chips right? Well, think again. Ireland is surrounded on all sides by water, its soil is uniquely fertile, and it’s method of making what critics call the best Fish & Chips in Europe are unmatched.

Fish come fresh off the boat, the hometown spuds are floury soft and crisp, and the cooking oils are used enhance the flavors rather than ruin them.

Seriously, after your first visit to Ireland you will think the local tourist offices should probably dream up some new name to describe what a plate of Fish & Chips can actually become in Irish hands.

Here’s our unscientific but heartfelt top 10 Irish Fish & Chip Shops. Visit them all and see if you agree.

And if you're not planning a trip to Ireland any time soon, you can make your own with this delicious Fish & Chips recipe

10 Harry’s Shack

Set on the dramatic Antrim coastline, Harry’s Shack is a multiple award winning restaurant that serves up outstanding Fish & Chips. Accompanied with homemade Marie Rose Sauce and Mushy Peas with a slice of lemon, you’ll be in heaven from the first bite.

9 Superfry

Portstewart’s oldest established take away, they are Zen masters of the perfect fry up. For non-purists you can try their curry chips and local speciality - mushy pea fritters. You heard that right. Everything tastes better when it's fried.

8 Beshoff Brothers, Howth

Featuring a fried fish batter that will win praise from the most hard to please gourmet, and chips that redefine the meaning of the word, it’s worth a trip out to this gorgeous seaside restaurant in a picturesque suburb of Dublin to have a meal in this place.

7 Baskin’s Cafe

Nothing fancy here in this County Donegal mainstay, but what it does it does to perfection. Home cut chips cooked and served right, golden and delicious, and you can sit in as well as take away.

6 Donkey Fords Fish & Chips

If you visit Limerick you have to stop here. The jewel in the city’s chipper crown, the locals won’t keep the secret unless you ask. Irish people know from fish and chips and Limerick people are among the hardest to please in the nation. So go and tell us if you think it’s worth all the fuss.

5 Luigi’s

Another praise-worthy Limerick chipper. Real chips, fried to perfection, served with batter cooked fish. People will drive from miles around for a meal here.

4 McDonagh’s

McDonagh’s is a Galway name and this may be the best chipper on the west coast to hear the locals tell it. A family run restaurant for four generations, they were serving outstanding fish & chips before it was cool. Thought by many to be one of the best in Ireland and indeed the world.

3 Whartons

Kerry makes its play for the Fish & Chips crown with Whartons in Kenmare. Serving massive portions and all fried to perfection, they’ll be the best you have at an affordable price.

2 Super Miss Sue

We admit it, this is a weird name for a chipper, but there’s nothing strange about their perfectly golden chips, giving the older stalwarts in Dublin a run for their money. One side of the venue is a hipster-fancy seafood restaurant and the other is a walk up chipper but whichever one you pick you’ll be in french fried heaven.

1 Leo Burdock’s

This is it. The end of the chipper rainbow. Leo Burdock's has been serving the Dublin public since 1913 and what they can do with a humble potato is nothing less than symphonic. Marcel Proust would love this humble shop, because it tells a delicious story of Dublin that is as timeless as the city itself. Get in line, it will be worth the wait.

An ancient Irish ring fort has been discovered in Newbridge

An ancient Irish ring fort has been discovered just outside of Newbridge, Co. Kildare

Details of the ancient medieval settlement were discussed last week, on May 17, at the Kildare Newbridge Municipal District meeting, the Leinster Leader reports.

“This is a very exciting archaeological find,” said Cllr Mark Lynch (SF).

He asked council heritage officer Brigid Loughlin if further study on the Great Connell site could be conducted by experts at UCD.

Loughlin said the site was set in farmland that was privately owned, so the council would be unable to carry out further studies on the find. He added that it was a massive fort that could only be seen clearly from the air.

“Because of the sheer size of it and cost, it would cost millions to excavate the site. A geophysical survey is available and has been published by the Department,” she said.

She did say that there may be an opportunity for local history groups or specialist journals to write articles about the site. The fort has been added to the record of monuments and places.

This area in Kildare is steeped in history. Close by is the site of the Great Connell Priory, the former house of Augustinian cannons dedicated to Saint Mary and Saint David, now in ruins. It was founded in 1202 as a dependency of Llanthony Priory in Wales by the illegitimate grandson of the Angevin King Henry II, Meiler Fitz Henry. In 1203 the last King of the Ui Faeláin, Faeláin Mac Faeláin, died as a monk there.

Could Irish James Gallagher be MMA’s next Conor McGregor?

Conor McGregor is the most famous MMA star in the world, but James Gallagher from Co. Tyrone is eager to make his own mark. He’ll fight in Madison Square Garden next month and can’t wait to show local Irish what he’s made of.

Who is going to be the next Conor McGregor?

A rising mixed martial arts (MMA) star from Co. Tyrone says he has a much bigger goal in mind: to be the first James Gallagher.

“Conor is amazing and a great friend, but being like him, that’s not my goal at all,” Gallagher, just 20 years old and already with six pro wins to his credit, told the Irish Voice during a recent phone interview.

“I want to be a world champion and the best there ever was, but I want to do it under my terms.”

Gallagher, originally from Strabane – hence his nickname “Strabanimal” -- is signed to Bellator MMA, a Southern California-based rival to the wildly popular UFC that McGregor and Ronda Rousey put on the map.  Bellator is majority owned by Viacom, and its fights are televised on pay-per-view and Spike TV. 

"Notorious" Conor McGregor.

New York-based MMA fans will have the chance to see featherweight Gallagher in action on Saturday, June 24 at Madison Square Garden in only the second MMA card ever presented at the venue.  At Bellator 180 he’ll fight a Brazilian literally twice his age, Chinzo Machida, who owns a 5-2 record that doesn’t quite measure up to Gallagher’s perfect 6-0.  The young Irishman says he’ll have no problem at all securing his seventh straight win.

“A hundred percent,” he said. “I’m going to cave this guy’s face in.”

Gallagher, the youngest of three boys – his proud mother and number one fan, Doreen, reached out to the Irish Voice about her son – has aspired to be a champion athlete since he was a child.  Like many kids he took karate lessons starting at age six, and when a local MMA club opened when he was 12, Gallagher joined.  He hasn’t looked back.

MMA became his obsession, so much so that Gallagher dropped out of school at the age of 15 to pursue his dream of pro glory.  How did his parents react to that bit of news?

“Well, at the start it took them a while to come around, but they could see how passionate I was about the sport and how much I loved it and enjoyed what I was doing,” he recalls.  “They decided to let me follow my dreams.”

Young James had a key advocate in his corner, none other than John Kavanagh, head of the Straight Blast Gym in Dublin and coach of another MMA aspirant – a trainee plumber named Conor McGregor.  Kavanagh was present when Gallagher first fought, and won, as a 13-year-old.  He liked what he saw – the teen made quick work of a 21-year-old opponent -- and soon young James was heading to Dublin for training at Kavanagh’s gym at least two times a week.

The journey was at least four hours from Strabane, but Kavanagh had a solution to that problem: James could move in with him.

“It was a lot of traveling from Strabane so John offered.  I lived with him for nearly three years and trained constantly,” Gallagher says.

Straight Blast Gym has exploded since the rise of McGregor, the most famous MMA fighter in the world.  “It’s massive really and has totally taken off in the past three years,” says Gallagher.  “Straight Blast was smaller when I first joined but now it’s so huge.”

Gallagher knows McGregor well.  They’ve trained together many times, and Gallagher has genuine respect and affection for the 28-year-old who looks as if he’ll break all kinds of box office and purse records with a likely mega-fight against boxer Floyd Mayweather.

“Conor blew up the sport in Ireland. We’re good friends. He’s just an amazing guy to be around,” Gallagher says.

“He’s very positive. He’s helped me in many ways. He always talks about how important it is to believe in yourself.  In the gym he’s always there for me, helping with techniques and ways that I can improve.”

Gallagher used to fight on the same cards as McGregor when he was an amateur.  They shared a dressing room, and that’s how Gallagher first met Kavanagh.

“Conor was once in the position that I’m in now. He’s very good at giving advice. I’m very appreciative of all he’s done for the sport and all that he has done for me,” Gallagher says.

What makes McGregor so formidable and fearless?  His total obsession, Gallagher says.

“Conor’s mindset and work ethic make him very hard to compete against.  That’s what it takes. You have to believe in yourself.  You have to put the work in and have the confidence to stick your two fingers up at everyone who is telling you that you can’t do it.”

A day in the life of a budding superstar is actually fairly routine, Gallagher says.  He’s a late morning riser, and after he wakes it’s right to Straight Blast for a three-hour workout.  Then it’s home for lunch and a rest, followed by a return to the gym for another few hours of work.  The routine is seven days a week, “and I just love it,” he adds.

Bellator took notice of Gallagher when he was fighting and easily winning his initial pro bouts in lesser promotions.  He signed a contract with Bellator last year.

“A lot of people were taking notice of me and I was getting publicity.  They scouted me and said we need this guy. He’s going to be the next big superstar,” Gallagher said.

He’s well on his way to fulfilling those expectations.  Gallagher made winning look easy in his last fight in Belfast, which he notched by submission in round one thanks to his signature move: a rear-naked choke hold.  Heavily tattooed with a lion on his chest and a left arm smothered in various designs, the Strabanimal talked good smack after the February match-- after giving a loving shout-out to his mother Doreen.

“I’ve finished off all my opponents and if you look at the matches you would say they are easy fights, but every fight presents a different task. None of them are easy, but the reason why they look as if they are is all of the hard work that goes into getting there,” Gallagher says.

He’s training hard for his fight at Bellator 180, the organization’s Madison Square Garden debut that will be topped by light heavyweight and former UFC star Chael Sonnen.  The mental toughness required to take center stage in the world’s most famous arena is formidable, but Gallagher says he’s ready.  Coach Kavanagh will also be there on the night in his corner.

“Walking out in front of 20,000 people at Madison Square Garden is a big thing when you are only 20 years old.  You just have to believe in the work that you are putting in, and that it’s going to carry you through.”

Gallagher is well aware that Manhattan turned into Irishtown last November when McGregor made history at the Garden by winning his second UFC belt.  The Irish turned out in force to support their idol, and Gallagher says those fans won’t be disappointed if they return to see him in action on June 24.   

“I want them to know that if they want to enjoy some good entertainment, there’s no better man to come and support,” he says.  “I want to thank the people in New York who already know about me. I’m grateful for their support and everybody’s support.”

Gallagher will take a brief breather after the match, returning to Strabane to connect with family and friends “and walk my dog,” he laughs.   “But I get bored of that after a week. Then I start itching to get back into the gym, so that’s what I go and do.  And I’ll never stop. I want a championship belt and that’s what I’m going to get.”

Read more: Nine amazing quotes from Conor McGregor

(For tickets to Bellator 180, visit www.ticketmaster.com)

How is John F. Kennedy's 100th birthday being celebrated in the US?

If John F. Kennedy’s life had not been tragically cut short on November 22, 1963, there is a chance that the 35th US President may have been celebrating his 100th birthday on May 29, 2017, on which day the US will also be celebrating Memorial Day.

President John F. Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts on May 29, 1917. With rumors abounding that JFK’s daughter Caroline Kennedy may have visions of carrying on the family dynasty and even speculation that her son Jack Schlossberg, JFK’s grandson, may be priming himself to step into the political limelight, the Kennedys are still far from removed from US life and JFK’s legacy will be more than celebrated in the coming week as his birthday approaches.

While many commemorations are being held throughout JFK’s 100th year across the country, the main events will kick off today, Monday, May 22, and run through to the day itself, May 29.

Read more: Caroline Kennedy does not rule out White House bid

Here are some of the top JFK centennial events organized for the coming week:

Monday, May 22

President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy stand on the South Lawn before the performance of the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment), White House, Washington, D.C. Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Washington D.C -  American Youth Philharmonic Orchestra Chamber Ensembles

6 p.m. -  Millennium Stage, The Kennedy Center

Boston - The Road to Camelot: JFK's Five-Year Campaign

6 pm - John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Washington columnist for the Boston Globe, Tom Oliphant, and former Boston Globe reporter and professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi, Curtis Wilkie, discuss their new book The Road to Camelot: Inside JFK's Five-Year Campaign.

Tuesday, May 23

John F. Kennedy during his high school years. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Washington D.C. - Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra

6 pm - Millennium Stage, The Kennedy Center

Wednesday, May 24

President John F. Kennedy visits with guests in the East Room during a dinner in honor of Nobel Prize winners from the Western Hemisphere. Left to right: actor, Frederic March; writer, Mary Welsh Hemingway (widow of Nobel Prize-winning author, Ernest Hemingway); President Kennedy; First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy; and Katherine Tupper Marshall (widow of Nobel Prize winner and former Secretary of State, General George C. Marshall). White House, Washington, D.C. Image: Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Washington D.C. - National Symphony Orchestra Concert honoring John F. Kennedy

8 pm, Concert Hall - Kennedy Center

A world premiere work from Mason Bates unites the iconic American voices of President John F. Kennedy and poet Walt Whitman in this concert celebration of JFK's monumental legacy that also features world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Features a talkback session following the concert

Washington D.C. - “JFK and Hope: Nurturing ‘This Collaboration between Government and the Arts’”

Noon, Library of Congress - Bob Hope Gallery of American Entertainment, ground floor, Jefferson Building

Alan Gevinson, curator of the “Hope for America: Performers, Politics and Pop Culture” exhibition, will discuss Kennedy’s attempt to foster an atmosphere of “collaboration between government and the arts.”  Gevinson will also address Kennedy’s assessment of the revolutionary impact of television on politics and his appreciation of Bob Hope’s dedication to entertaining U.S. military personnel around the world.

Thursday, May 25

Senator George Smathers of Florida and President John F. Kennedy at Cape Canaveral, Florida, Pad B, Complex 37, where they were briefed on the Saturn rocket by Dr. Werner Von Braun (not pictured). Photograph by Cecil Stoughton, White House in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Boston - The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For

6 pm - John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

David McCullough, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, discusses his new collection of speeches, “The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For”, with longtime former ABC reporter and anchor Charlie Gibson.

Watch this forum live at jfklibrary.org/webcast.

Washington D.C. - Hubble Cantata

7:30 pm, Concert Hall - The Kennedy Center

The hour-long, space-inspired cantata pushes the boundaries of art and science as it takes audiences on a journey of wonder and exploration. It features opera star Nathan Gunn, a 20-piece instrumental ensemble, a 100-person choir from The Washington Chorus, and a cutting-edge virtual reality film (Fistful of Stars).

Washington D.C. - The Washington Ballet: Frontier

7.30 pm, Opera House - the Kennedy Center

Frontier takes Kennedy’s goal of traveling to the moon within a decade as its jumping-off point and moves off to follow an astronaut into the final frontier: Space.

Washington D.C - “JFK Centennial Celebration”

Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s birth May 29, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will display nine photographs of the 35th president and his family within the museum’s “The American Presidency” exhibition. The “JFK Centennial Celebration” display will be on view May 25 through August 27.

Friday, May 26

John F. Kennedy, Palm Beach, "Examines coconut…sent with message for rescuing in South Pacific."  President’s Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Washington D.C. - (In)Security: or, Jack and Nikki do the Cold War Tango

6 pm, Millennium Stage. Kennedy Center - Free event

(In)Security is a work of dance, music, film, narrative, and history which simultaneously presents both the American and the Russian viewpoints of the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. 

Boston - Opening of New Special Exhibit, JFK 100: Milestones & Mementos

11.00am – 5.00 pm, JFK Library

The Kennedy Library’s new special exhibit, “JFK 100: Milestones & Mementos”, features a compelling selection of 100 original artifacts, documents, and photographs, revealing the arc of President Kennedy’s life and political career.

Boston - Red Sox Pre-Game Ceremony

6:45 pm, Fenway Park

Leading into the matchup between the Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners, the Red Sox, in partnership with the JFK Library Foundation, will hold a pre-game ceremony celebrating President Kennedy’s life and the ideals he championed.

Saturday, May 27

President Kennedy greets Peace Corps Volunteers. Photograph by Rowland Scherman, Peace Corps, in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

Boston - JFK 100 Centennial Commemoration for the Peace Corps Community

2.00 pm – 5.00 pm,  Smith Hall, JFK Library.

The JFK Presidential Library and Museum are proud to partner with the National Peace Corps Association and Boston Area Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to host the Peace Corps community at a centennial commemoration of President Kennedy.

Washington D.C. - Kennedy Center Open House: Celebrating JFK at 100

12pm to 10pm, campus-wide

In celebration of John F. Kennedy's 100th birthday, the Kennedy Center opens its doors wider than ever with a free, transcultural festival showcasing street art culture, Hip Hop, and skateboard culture, as well as classical and contemporary arts.

Sunday, May 28

President John F. Kennedy stands in an open car while a large crowd cheers as the President’s motorcade passes through Cork, Ireland. Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Boston - “JFK 100 – Space Exploration Discovery Day: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”

12.00 pm – 4.00 pm.  Smith Center, Learning Center, Museum Galleries, JFK Library

To commemorate JFK’s challenge to land a man on the Moon, the Kennedy Library is hosting an afternoon of activities and guest speakers for kids, families, and adults focused on Space.

Featured presentations by NASA astronaut Christopher Cassidy and Spacesuit Engineer Su Curley will highlight space exploration and equipment, including what it’s like to live and work on the International Space Station.  

Washington D.C. - National Symphony Orchestra Memorial Day Concert and Live Broadcast

8 pm, US Capitol

As part of the JFK Centennial Week celebration, the National Symphony Orchestra delivers its traditional Memorial Day Concert, an uplifting performance honoring the military service of all men and women in uniform as well as their families at home.

John F. Kennedy’s birthday - Monday, May 29

During a campaign trip Senator John F. Kennedy greets a roadside crowd in Indiana. Sven Walnum. Sven Walnum Photograph Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Washington D.C. - JFK Centennial Celebration

4 pm, Opera House, The Kennedy Center

Be part of a special evening of readings and musical performances featuring some of America's finest artists, as well as glimpses of rare video footage.

The Kennedy Center celebration of Memorial Day will serve a complimentary hot dog, chips, and soft drink served on the River Terrace (weather permitting) before the performance. All intermission bars will be at half price for the day.

Special readings of JFK speeches will include:

  • Journalist and chief political correspondent for CNN Dana Bash,
  • Stage-and-screen actor Finn Wittrock
  • Celebrated actor and Golden Globe® winner Martin Sheen

Performance will also include:

  • New York City Ballet Principal Dancers Joaquín De Luz and Tiler Peck
  • Grammy®-nominated jazz pianist, composer, and Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Jazz Jason Moran performing Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite

Boston - JFK Centennial Celebration

9.00 am – 5.00 pm, JFK Library

A fun-filled day of celebration on President Kennedy’s 100th birthday, featuring performances by the U.S. Navy Band, the Boston City Singers, a ceremonial cake cutting, and a flyover performed by the U.S. Navy.  Admission to the JFK Library and Museum will be free and open to the public all day.

New York - Honoring JFK in the Rochester, New York, Memorial Day Parade

10.30 am - Parade forms at Alexander and East Avenue, proceeds along East Avenue to Main Street, then west on Main Street to North Plymouth Avenue. 

The Irish Studies Program at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York, in cooperation with the Colonel Patrick O’Rorke Memorial Society will be marching in the annual Rochester Memorial Day Parade with a banner honoring JFK for his service to our country.

Tuesday, May 30

Chief Justice Earl Warren administers the Oath of Office to President John F. Kennedy during ceremonies at the Capitol. 20 January 1961."  Cecil Stoughton. US Army Signal Corps. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Washington D.C.  - "Primary"

Noon - 2 pm, Library of Congress

"Primary," a documentary. The film follows Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey as they contend against each other in Wisconsin during the 1960 primary season. The film captures Kennedy's political charm and appeals in a manner that still is riveting when viewed today.

All week

JFK in Navu uniform. Image: Wikicommons.

Washington D.C. - Exhibition — John F. Kennedy

8:30 am - 4:30 pm, Library of Congress

This display includes special biographical materials about JFK and books written by the former president. Also featured are books about Kennedy in foreign languages.

Location: Great Hall South Gallery, First floor, Thomas Jefferson Building

Washington D.C. - American Visionary: John F. Kennedy’s Life and Times

May 3, 2017 – September 17, 2017, 2nd floor South, American Art Museum (8th and F Streets, N.W.). Free.

“American Visionary: John F. Kennedy’s Life and Times” brings together seventy-seven images culled from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Getty Images, private collections, and the Kennedy family archives.

The dramatic scope of Kennedy’s life is evident in these photographs—from his first congressional bid as a decorated war hero in 1946, his fairytale marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier in 1953, his run for the White House in 1960 and role as commander in chief, to the tragedy of his death in Dallas in 1963. These images remain as indelible evidence of John Kennedy’s personal charisma and political accomplishments.

Washington D.C. - National Portrait Gallery

May 19 -July 9 at the National Portrait Gallery, Eighth and F streets NW. Free.

The National Portrait Gallery owns 72 portraits of Kennedy are dipping into their collection to highlight some of the best including a 1961 pastel of the young president by Shirley Seltzer Cooper and a William F. Draper portrait of Kennedy in a rocking chair as well.

Are you holding a JFK centennial event? Let us know more about what’s happening in your area in the comments section.

Liam Neeson like a surrogate father to me says Orlando Bloom

Actor Orlando Bloom has said he considers Liam Neeson “his surrogate Hollywood dad” and credits the older Irish actor with keeping him grounded.

The Pirates of the Caribbean star said that when he played Neeson’s son in the 2005 historical epic film Kingdom of Heaven, the screen legend took him under his wing.

“Just getting to breathe the same air was enough. I’d grown up watching his movies — Schindler’s List, Michael Collins. I thought I was going to be terrified by this towering legend,” said the 40-year-old.

“And it was my first lead in a movie. I’d done Pirates and Lord of the Rings and Troy. But this time, I was number one on the call sheet of this very expensive, very big movie. I’m 25, 26 and that can make your head explode.

“And Liam was amazing, we just clicked. It was like meeting a guy you’ve known your entire life. And you know, he knows how huge this is for me, watches out for me, like a surrogate dad figure and I remember him saying, ‘Just stay you! Always stay you. Don’t buy into any of the bulls***.’ That’s been his motto, seems to have worked.”

The English actor played an Irish convict in the 2003 period drama Ned Kelly, alongside the late Heath Ledger.

Bloom, who has a grandfather from Belfast, adopted an Irish brogue for the role and maintained it for the four-month shoot in Victoria, Australia.

He laughed: “It was my form of method acting, at the time. Once I had it, I didn’t want to give it up so I stayed Irish for the entire shoot. It became part of my identity. And I still break into it from time to time. Good to bring it back.”

Bloom returns to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise with the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. He reprises his role as Will Turner in the new movie.

“I’m at pains to convey my short scenes. Only at the beginning and the end. I fear there’s this misconception that I’m central throughout but that’s not the case. I was only on it for a few days, down on this huge, epic set. It was never going to be a central role.

“They asked, ‘Would you come back to introduce your son,’ who Brenton (newcomer Brenton Thwaites) plays. And I loved that idea of passing the torch to the next generation who goes off on his own adventure. I sort of bookend the action.”

 

H/T The Irish Sun

Boston College knew about 50% baby death rate at Tuam in 2012

Boston College informed an Irish inquiry investigating the Tuam Mother and Baby home about concerns regarding the home’s worryingly high infant mortality rate a full two years before the death rate of the home’s children were ever revealed to the public, the Irish Examiner has reported.

On February 21, 2012, Professor Jim Smith of Boston College and the Justice for Magdalenes Research group sent information to the chairperson of the McAleese inquiry, Senator Martin McAleese, about the death rate in excess of 50 percent within the mother and baby home. This was two years before Tuam would become international headlines as the scandal of the infant mortality rates was revealed.

The McAleese inquiry was an inter-departmental committee established by the Irish government in 2011 to establish the facts of the Irish state's involvement with the Magdalene laundries. It was founded under a recommendation from the United Nations Committee Against Torture to investigate the claims that women sent to work in the Catholic laundries were exploited and tortured.

In 2013, the McAleese committee released its report which found there had been significant state collusion in the admission of some 11,000 Irish women into these institutions and Taoiseach Enda Kenny issued a formal state apology and outlined a compensation package for the victims two weeks after its publication.

The report, however, did not include any of the information provided by Boston College, as it was considered to be out of their remit in the Magdalen Laundries concentrated report.

“According to the returns submitted to the government, 12 of the 22 ‘illegitimate’ children from Co Mayo born at the Baby Home, Tuam, died within the year. Likewise, 25 of the 49 ‘illegitimate’ children from Co. Galway born at the Baby Home, Tuam, for the same period also died,” Prof Smith wrote in a letter to McAleese, highlighting a 1948 Government survey which recorded the number of deaths in these homes for the year ending March 31, 1947.

“This information reveals how dangerous an environment the Baby Home, Tuam could be for illegitimate children in residence,” he continued, emphasizing the infant mortality rates of 55% and 51% for children sent to the home from Mayo and Galway that year.

“Such disturbing statistics certainly begs the question as to whether these children would have been better off remaining in their mother’s care.”

Read more: Entire Tuam Mother and Baby Home may be exhumed to identify baby remains

The Irish Examiner has previously revealed that the Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) had concerns about the infant mortality rates in both Tuam and in another mother and baby home in Bessborough, Co. Cork, in the same year.

In 2012, a damning report by the Irish government’s Health Service Executive (HSE) found that the Irish Catholic mother and child home in Bessborough had a baby mortality rate of 68% in 1943. This report was not released to the public until it was sought under a Freedom of Information Act request by the Irish Examiner in 2015. Following this revelation, women were no longer sent to the home.

The report showed that in the 19 years between 1934 and 1953, Bessborough recorded 472 infant deaths, a figure taken from the Home’s own death register.

The register has now been released under Freedom of Information although the names of the children have been redacted.  

Read more: Neglect and death of 800 kids in Galway happened in plain sight

It has been suggested that the high rate of infant mortality was caused by the falsification of death records to allow for children to be adopted domestically, and to couples abroad, without the knowledge of the Irish public.

These HSE reports were also not included in the 2014 McAleese report nor in the Report of the Inter-Departmental Group on Mother and Baby Homes, published by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in July 2014.

When asked for comment on the claims that the McAleese inquiry knew of such reports before publishing their own finding, the Irish Department of Justice stated that the inquiry “no longer exists and is therefore not in a position to respond to specific queries”.

H/T: Irish Examiner

Irishman makes it to the top of Mount Everest, takes Clare flag with him

Everest mountaineer John Burke returned to a rousing welcome at Shannon Airport today, this after flying in a plane that flew at an altitude that he was standing at just last week.

The Clare climber reached the summit of Mount Everest on Tuesday, May 16 and there unfurled a Banner County flag.

Burke’s triumph came just a few days before tragedy struck the world’s highest peak with the death of three climbers and a fourth reported missing.

 Arriving back at sea level at Shannon, Burke dedicated his climb to his wife Aoibhín and the cause the couple have championed – encouraging young people through personal challenges.

Just six days after he became the first County Clare man to reach the summit, the 38 year-old said that he would never have achieved his goal without his wife Aoibhín’s encouragement and support.

The couple’s motivation for John taking on the challenge was the hope that it would act an example to young people to chase their dreams.

John, the proprietor of one of the Wild Atlantic Way’s best known hotels, the Armada Hotel in Spanish Point, and Aoibhín, have established a charity called “Elevate.”

John Burke arriving at Shannon with his wife, Aoibhín, who had boarded the aircraft to greet him. Photo by Arthur Ellis Photography.

It promotes wellbeing among young people and provides encouragement to them to reach their potential and follow their dreams in life.

Burke said that the mental health of young people, and the challenges posed by blunt end of social media, were amongst the greatest issues facing Ireland today.

“I owe everything to my wife Aoibhín for supporting me on this as it was a huge sacrifice for her to make and suffice to say that her gift of golf clubs is a hint that’s not lost on me,” Burke said.

“I clearly wanted to prove something personally in making it to the top but the big reason for this, and it’s not unrelated, is that I wanted to send a message to young people that they all have the potential to achieve in life.  There will be hills to climb along the way, but they just have to hang in there and their day will come for sure.”

And John continued: “Growing up I didn’t achieve in GAA like others did and GAA was the only real thing back then for us in West Clare. But I have proved in doing this that here’s something for everyone.

“Young people, in particular, really need to believe in that because right now they are probably more challenged than ever. 

“Research has shown that one in five young Irish adults between the ages of 19 and 24 and one in six young people between 11 and 13 have mental health issues.

“There’s a variety of reasons for that but certainly social media is one of them.  Social media is a magnificent platform for getting positive news out but it can destroy young people in an instant, especially those going through a difficult stage.  We really need to tackle that and it’s a big question but something has to be done. 

“As a family we had our own tragedy with a mental health issue and that has spurred Aoibhín and I to establish ‘Elevate.’  We’re not going to change the world with it, but it’s our contribution and climbing Everest has given us a platform to raise awareness in Clare about this issue.”

With the charity, the couple hopes to raise funds for different wellbeing promotional initiatives, including workshops in Clare secondary schools – the first one starting in September - that will target raising self-esteem of young people through different medium, including song and dance.

John was greeted on arrival at Shannon by over two hundred supporters from across Clare.

He flew back to Shannon from Kathmandu in Nepal via Abu Dhabi and London, landing in Shannon on an Aer Lingus flight from Heathrow. 

In addition to family members, Irish government Minister of State at the Department of Jobs Innovation and Enterprise, Pat Breen, family friend Deputy Timmy Dooley, and Shannon Group CEO Matthew Thomas were among the official welcoming party.

Said John in reference to the Everest tragedy: “It took everything I had to get there and it’s bitter sweet also as just this weekend three people lost their lives trying to do the same thing. I know how lucky I am to be here today and my heart goes out to their families, not least now I’m back here on solid ground in Shannon and Clare with mine.”

Looking ahead, he said:  “I was asked what I was really looking forward to eating when I got back home and the bacon and cabbage is in the pot for tonight, along with a lot of rest.

“There’s a party arranged for the Armada on Friday night and the local GAA club in Milltown Malbay, which we sponsor, are putting on a reception before that. But in the meantime it’s spending time with Aoibhín and the family.”

Said Shannon Group CEO Matthew Thomas:  “It’s an incredible achievement and duly acknowledged by the large crowd here today. He put the County Clare flag on top of the world’s tallest mountain, that’s no mean achievement.

“But to do so to help raise awareness of the issues facing young people today is even more inspirational.  It’s such a pressing cause and we are very fortunate here to have someone willing to take it on in a way that John and, indeed, Aoibhín have.”

Said an Aer Lingus spokesperson:  “Aer Lingus would like to congratulate John Burke on being the first Clare man to successfully reach the summit of Mount Everest. We hope his flight at 30,000 feet from London to Shannon was a little easier than scaling the near 30,000 feet of Everest. Welcome home John.”

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This article first appeared in the Irish Echo. For more, visit their website

 

 

Why Ireland shouldn't be spooked by Donald Trump's tax plans

When the Trump administration announced proposals at the end of April to slash its corporation tax rate to 15%, it quickly became a cause for concern in Ireland, the future of its 12.5% rate, foreign direct investment, and the tech sector as a whole.

Frank Barry is a professor of international business and economic development at Trinity College Dublin and has been an observer of corporation tax matters in Ireland and the US for years.

Professor Barry spoke to Dublin Globe about how these changes in the US are unlikely to come to pass for many reasons, how Ireland should continue to respond to criticisms of its corporate tax rates as well as deal with the ongoing challenges of Brexit.

You’ve previously spoken about Trump’s plans on corporation tax. Now that we have some more specifics, how will Ireland be affected?

The timing was interesting. Trump’s treasury secretary announced further details of what they’re talking about with respect to changes in corporation tax policy. That’s of interest to Ireland because clearly most of the foreign firms that we get here are American and to the extent that a lot of Ireland’s foreign direct investment is associated with corporation tax matters, any changes in US corporation tax policy potentially have important implications for us.

What I was talking about a couple of months ago was much more nebulous because it wasn’t clear what the Trump administration was planning. Then they seemed to give some clearer indication but it’s still very hard to pin down because US tax policy is not the sole responsibility of the president. It has to get through Congress and we’ve already seen that he hasn’t been very successful in dealing with Congress on other matters. It’s very unlikely, or most analysts deem it unlikely, that they will actually be able to get these proposals through Congress but still you have to start somewhere.

Why is it unlikely to happen?

Companies would love it but it will blow the budget deficit apart. It would be very costly and the Republican party, like most political parties, is a coalition of interests. Some of them really want to do the bidding of what the big multinationals want. Others, and this has been a tradition in the Republican party, are fiscally conservative and they don’t like budget deficits and so this idea of more than halving the rate of corporation tax down to 15% would be so costly that fiscal conservatives, who essentially dominate in the Republican party, are not going to like that.

When he was on the campaign trail, Trump was talking about combining a rate cut like that with what’s called a border adjustment tax that would essentially tax imports into the US to pay for the budget deficit consequences of slashing the corporation tax rate.

This border adjustment tax didn’t make an appearance in the announcement [last month]. It’s very likely that it didn’t because it would be in breach of the World Trade Organisation rules and would provoke a trade war. That’s not going to be good for anybody so I think the US administration has finally seen sense and realized that a trade war is not in its own interests or anybody else’s interest so it’s not going to proceed with that.

Therefore it now has no way of paying for the budgetary consequences of this slashing of the corporation tax.

With all this talk around corporation tax rates and US companies, how should Ireland respond?

Ireland essentially has no power in this matter. There’s not really anything much we can do. We rely on the big countries to make the running. The important point to make is that I don’t think a cut in the American corporation tax rate would be damaging to us anyway. The way most Irish analysts and journalists seem to have interpreted it is as though we’re competing with the US on corporation tax. I think we’re not.

There’s been a huge change to campaign rhetoric. On the campaign trail, Donald Trump announced that he wants to abolish deferral, which is this really important component of the US tax system. US companies operating abroad can continue to owe taxes to the US exchequer but they can defer payment of those taxes until the profits are repatriated to the US so that incentivizes American companies to hold their offshore profits to avoid triggering this US tax liability.

This whole notion of deferral was dropped and they announced instead to move to a territorial tax system that essentially means US multinationals’ profits that they earn outside the US are not liable for any US tax. That’s hugely significant. In fact for Ireland that’s probably more significant than the announcement about the drop in corporation tax. This gets complicated but this in many ways would be a bigger change to the US tax system.

If the two [proposals] were to go together, it would massively increase the incentive for US multinationals to invest both in America and across the globe. That’s clearly not detrimental to us. It’s taking the two bits together that one really needs to focus on.

One can take them one at a time and say ok, if the US cuts its corporation tax rate, what are the implications for Ireland? Well, Ireland is not really competing against the US on corporation tax except in one respect. It’s called redomiciling where American headquarters could essentially reverse gear into an Irish company and become an Irish company. That was done for tax reasons. That’s actually detrimental to Ireland and Barack Obama prevented that happening by executive order.

How was that detrimental?

Bizarrely because it raises our GDP without raising what’s a better measure of Irish national income which is gross national product. Our payments to the EU depend on our GDP. Redomiciling of these companies raises our GDP and therefore raises our required contribution to Brussels without really affecting our national income. It doesn’t really create new jobs. It might create some small number of jobs when they move their headquarters but what we’re interested in is jobs with substance.

Beyond that it’s wrong to think that we’re competing with the US on corporation tax rates. Really a better way to think about it is a US company decides to do business offshore outside the US, it might decide to come to Europe and then it says where is a good location in Europe in which to set up our headquarters for tax reasons? In that sense it’s better to think of Ireland as competing against other European countries in terms of taxes rather than competing with America.

You make it seem like any changes to corporation tax in the US just aren’t going to happen.

I’ve been paying attention to this corporation tax stuff for a long time and essentially the American system has been paralyzed for over 50 years on corporation tax, since the era of President Kennedy because they can’t agree on an appropriate model for corporation tax.

Under President Kennedy, a compromise was reached that is essentially the same compromise that is in place today. It’s undoubtedly outdated. It doesn’t make much sense anymore and multinationals have found all sorts of loopholes to avoid the kind of requirements that the Kennedy era compromise entailed but it’s difficult just to get the political agreement in the US to rectify the system.

Despite that, does increased talk about tax in the US, on top of criticism from Europe, put any more pressure on Ireland to make changes?

There’s not any pressure from the Americans to change our rate of corporation tax. Americans love it because American companies are able to use it for their own purposes as of course European companies can as well.

We’re not going to get any flak from the American government about our rate of corporation tax. The US Senate report into Apple back in 2013 criticized Ireland but that was US senators playing political games for their own constituencies. Those exact senators who criticized Ireland – I checked their voting records – are the same people who voted through the loopholes that they criticised companies for exploiting. That’s just political gamesmanship.

The flak we get from some European countries is likely to continue but Ireland’s response and the response of the G7 is that they’ve handed over responsibility for global corporation tax matters to the OECD, which obviously has a wider remit than just the EU.

The OECD’s initiative is called BEPS, base erosion and profit shifting. That’s their initiative for how to deal with corporation tax matters. Ireland responded to the OECD BEPS initiative by changing its legislation to get rid of the main loophole that was being used by multinational companies, which is called the Double Irish. We got rid of that with grandfathering clauses so it will be completely unusable by any company in a number of years’ time.

I think the Irish government probably views that as having done enough to deflect future criticism. But who knows? We’ve seen the European Commission case about Apple and that will be in the courts for a few years so it will be a bit of time before we know what the outcome of that is.

The election of Trump as well as Brexit has obviously marked a big change in global politics. Where does Ireland’s tech sector fit into all of this and how will it be affected in the coming years?

Globalization has been hugely good for Ireland. I think there’s very few people that would disagree about that. A reverse of globalization would clearly be bad.

Brexit is going to be extremely bad for Ireland but not so much for the tech companies. Ireland’s tech companies don’t export so much into the UK, they’re focused more on other markets. It’s mainly the food processing sector exporting into the UK. It’s going to be potentially very severely damaged and because that’s located outside the Dublin region, that’s going to make Irish regional policy more difficult.

I think Dublin is likely to gain from Brexit because we’ll have an inflow of financial services firms into Dublin where the rest of the country suffers. That will be economically very damaging, politically pretty difficult to handle as well because you’ll get Dublin benefiting and the rest of the country suffering.

I think Brexit is certainly less important for [tech firms] than it is for the food processors. Tech companies can export, they don’t face customs barriers, border controls, things like that. Even a hard Brexit is unlikely to affect them the way it would affect manufactured goods.

There’s been plenty of talk about major companies potentially relocating operations, namely in the financial sector, to Ireland in light of Brexit but in your view, how likely is that?

The City of London is gigantic in terms of employment. It probably employs more people than the population of Ireland perhaps. All we need to do is attract a small sliver of financial services activities from the City of London to create a massive boost of employment in Ireland.

I think there will be no difficulty in doing that. We don’t need to capture the high-profile firms, all we need is a thin sliver of that huge pie and it will increase significantly the numbers that work in the financial services sector here.

US tech companies continue to set up shop in Ireland. For example, just last month we saw the cyber-security firm Tenable open its European HQ here. Do you expect Ireland to remain a prime location for US tech companies coming to Ireland?
I mentioned earlier the OECD BEPS initiative. Nobody could really have predicted how that would have turned out for Ireland, whether it would be beneficial or detrimental but the thrust of that initiative is that if a corporation is to be headquartered in a particular location like Ireland, it has to carry out its substantive activities there.

Companies have responded to that OECD BEPS initiative by moving more intellectual property into Ireland because they think they can support that because they do have substantive activity and so our corporation tax receipts have shot way up over the last two years as a consequence of that and this is a self-reinforcing process that companies are now on-shoring in Ireland more of their intellectual property because they have substantive activities here and that will require them to develop more substantive activities here to support that intellectual property.

Rather than Ireland’s FDI strategy unraveling, the way a lot of analysts predicted it would, I can see it going in the opposite direction. I’m not at all pessimistic about the ability of the model to continue to survive and generate prosperity as I think it has undoubtedly done for us so I’m much more optimistic than pessimistic on that score.

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Jonathan is a freelance tech writer living in Dublin covering tech start-ups, innovation, and everything else in between.

This article appears courtesy of The Dublin Globe. For more stories on Dublin's tech industry and startup ecosystem, visit their website here

Lookout Mike Pence! The new Irish leader is set to be a gay man

A gay politician Leo Varadkar, 38, is 1-14 favorite with bookmakers to be next leader of Fine Gael, Ireland’s largest party, on June 2nd and almost certainly Ireland’s next leader.

That means that Simon Coveney, his opponent to replace Enda Kenny has only one chance in fourteen to win.

As The Irish Times headline blared this morning (Saturday May 20th) “Coveney Has a Mountain to Climb.”

As the Times noted:“At 38 Varadkar would be the youngest taoiseach in the history of the State...as the openly gay son of an immigrant, his election would represent a break with the past and probably make headlines around the world.”

This is not your grandfather’s Ireland any more folks.

According to Pink News,a leading LGBT publication, there is only one other openly gay leader currently in office in the world, Luxembourg’s PM Xavier Bettel. Varadkar, a doctor and of half Indian ethnicity through his father, would be the second

His parents, Ashtok Varadkar from Mumbai, also a doctor, and his mother Miriam, a nurse from Waterford, settled in Ireland in 1973 after meeting in London.

Can we skip to next St.Patrick’s Day at the White House and the Vice President’s residence where homophobic Mike Pence will host and greet Varadkar, if past customs are adhered to?

Vice-President Mike Pence. Credit: GAGE SKIDMORE [CC BY-SA 3.0], VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Varadkar's partner is a highly respected physician, Matt Barrett, who will likely accompany him to Washington.

The usual routine is that the Vice President hosts the Irish leader and spouse to breakfast on St Patrick’s morning and spends a large portion of the day with him. The interplay will be intriguing to say the least.

This is the same Pence who has stated "societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family." Pence also called being gay a choice and said keeping gays from marrying was not discrimination, but an enforcement of "God's idea."

Varadkar was outspoken during the gay marriage referendum on the need to recognize LGBT unions. He stated: “This Bill allows allow gay men and women, for the first time, to be equal citizens in their own country.

“No exceptions; no caveats; no conditions; just equal. This is not an act of generosity to a minority, rather it is an act of leadership by the majority.”

What will Pence's response be if the Varakar election becomes a reality?

Varadkar has not minced words about the Trump administration and Pence.

“I’m very concerned at the new administration’s attitude”.

Speaking about Vice President Mike Pence, he said: ““I don’t agree in any way with his comments in the past on conversion therapy or the views he’s expressed on equality issues in general.

Talk about a clash of civilizations!

Then there’s the pope’s visit in August 2018, Varadkar is less likely to be in office because there will be an intervening election by then most likely.

Yet it again sets up a fascinating interplay.

Stay tuned!

Irish inflatable pub company makes Simpsons fans rejoice

Dublin has been chosen as one of three cities that will get to launch an inflatable replica of Moe’s Tavern, the famous pub from the long-running animated television series The Simpson.

Irish company Inflatable Pubs Global will also bring replicas of the fictitious pub — Duff beer included — to London and Los Angeles

Company founder Lisa McMahon Winters said: "Effectively it is like a blow up marquee, and made from the same material as a bouncy castle, but the interior will be an exact replica of the one in the Simpsons, we are even hoping to be able to import and provide Duff beer like Homer drinks.

Read more: Fancy a thatched cottage pop-up Irish pub

"We have done an inflatable Queen Vic for an EastEnders fan, and we can do The Rovers Return from Coronation Street or McCoys from Fair City, or even the ‘local’ from back home for emigrants.

"Next on the list is the Nags Head from only Fools and Horses."

You may soon have the opportunity to set up your own Moe’s Tavern in your backyard as the company has plans to offer a retail version to the public.

H/T DublinLive.ie

Jamie Dornan to star in HBO Fantasy Island’s Tattoo biopic

Who knew the late French actor Herve Villechaize, best known for playing the feisty pint-sized sidekick Tattoo on the late seventies series Fantasy Island, was worthy of an HBO biopic?  Apparently he is, and Jamie Dornan is down to co-star.

HBO has given the thumbs up to My Dinner With Herve, which will also star Peter Dinklage from HBO’s monster hit Game of Thrones in the title role.

Deadline says the film is based on “an unlikely friendship that evolves over one wild night in LA between a struggling journalist, Danny Tate (Dornan), and actor Herve Villechaize (Dinklage), the world’s most famous gun-toting dwarf, resulting in life-changing consequences for both.”

Herve Villechaize (right) star of Fantasy Island.

Villechaize was a troubled soul who committed suicide in 1993. He was only 50.

Many actors were vying for the part of Danny Tate, so it’s a big feather in Dornan’s cap that he nabbed it. He’s currently filming Robin Hood Origins in Paris with Jamie Foxx.

 

Never before seen photos of JFK as a teenager

When we picture JFK, we usually call to mind a handsome, presidential portrait. President Kennedy giving a speech, waving from the steps of an airplane, side by side with Jackie, looking into the distance in a moment of contemplation or laughter. 

But what about Kennedy as a youg man? Five photos of John F. Kennedy in his school days, including two shots never before seen by the public, were up for grabs in an online auction at the end of summer 2015.

Organized by Boston-based RR Auction, the online lot contained candid photos of the future president as he jokes around with his friends during high school, as well as more formal shots of his graduation day from the elite Choate prep school.

Taken during the early to mid-1930s, when Kennedy was between 14 and 18 years old, the exclusive snaps show JFK the joker, the young man whose father did not think he would be a presidential candidate.

A playful image of Kennedy with his roommate Rip Horton as members of Choate’s drama club during a rehearsal. Image credit: RR Auctions.

One unique aspect of these photographs, however, is their origin – they come from the family’s own photo albums. JFK’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy, took the photos from the family’s scrapbook and delivered them to biographer Gene Schoor in 1961 while the writer was working on “Young John Kennedy,” published in June 1963.

The photos were pulled from the Kennedy family scrapbook with traces of the glue still on the backs as well as typed captions of who’s pictured and when they were taken.

Photo caption of JFK and his high school friends. Image credit: RR Auction.

The lot even contained the typed memo on official White House letterhead sent from Joseph Kennedy to Schoor when he forwarded on the photos.

“From: The personal diary of Pres. John F. Kennedy scrapbook & photo material given Gene Schoor by [J.F.K. crossed out] Amb. Joe Kennedy at the White House, January 1961,” the memo reads.

A typed memo on official White House letterhead. Images credit: RR Auction.

Schoor only used three of the photos in his biography, however, meaning that two of the lot have never before been seen in public: a photo of Kennedy with his father and a sister – ‘Kick' on the deck of a ship; and one of Kennedy with many of his friends at the prestigious Choate in Connecticut, including Lem Billings (who would later work on his campaign) and Bud Wynne.

“An absolutely outstanding, one-of-a-kind collection of original material from Kennedy’s formative years,” said Bobby Livingston, Executive VP at RR Auction.

“We’ve seen JFK at Choate – but you don’t really see images like this, The one outside his house with him and all his buddies – that’s what he was known for. Jack as a young person was always thought of as a cut-up.'

One of Kennedy with many of his friends at Choate, including Lem Billings and Bud Wynne. Image credit: RR Auction.

Kennedy was, in fact, seen as quite the jokester while he attended Choate, infamously setting off a firework in a school bathroom during his earlier years there.

When the school headmaster referred to him and his accomplices as “muckers” following the incident, JFK wore the term with pride and nicknamed his group of friends “The Muckers Club.”

“He was mischievous at Choate,” Livingston added. “Joe, his father, didn’t see him as the presidential candidate. That was his older brother, Joe Jr. So he’s relaxed in these pictures.”

A photo of Kennedy with his father and a sister ‘Kick' on the deck of a ship. Image credit: RR Auction.

That doesn’t mean he didn’t show some promise during his teenage years. Despite his brushes with trouble, JFK was still voted “Most Likely to Succeed” by his classmates upon his graduation in 1935.

The remaining photos include an image of him standing proudly in his robe on graduation day. as well as a full-length image of JFK atop the roof of the Kennedy estate in Palm Beach, FL in 1935; and a playful image of Kennedy with his roommate Rip Horton as members of Choate’s drama club during a rehearsal.

The complete lot included a first edition hardback copy of Schoor’s book “Young John Kennedy” where three of the images were first published.

A first edition hardcover of Schoor’s book Young John Kennedy. Image credit: RR Auction.

The online bidding for the memorabilia began on August 19 and continued until September 16, 2015. 

The auctioneers placed a conservative estimate of between $1,500 and $2,000 on the lot of photographs, book and memo but said they would not be surprised if that was greatly surpassed.

The lot wound up selling for $3,660.30. 

Previous Kennedy items auctioned by the company have earned bids up to $39,600.

A full-length image of JFK atop the roof of the Kennedy estate in Palm Beach, Florida, in 1935. Image credit: RR Auction.

H/T: Daily Mail

* Originally published August 2015. 

Case of priest suspected of killing nun and fleeing to Ireland re-opened

The body of a priest implicated in the murder of a Baltimore nun is being exhumed by local police for DNA testing.

Father Joseph Maskell is suspected of murdering Sister Catherine Ann Cesnik in 1970 after she threatened to expose him as a child abuser.

Joseph Maskell fled to Ireland in 1995, after he was defrocked by Church authorities following the revelation that he had abused a number of girls whilst working as a school counselor.

He moved to Wexford where he worked briefly as a psychologist with the local health board before moving to private practice. He is suspected of abusing children in Ireland also.

Occasionally, he offered his services as a local priest and it was then that the local community asked for proof of his status as a priest and learned of his crimes in America.

In 1996, the Ferns Diocese wrote to the Health Service Executive and “aired its anxieties about the appropriateness of both his work as a psychologist, now in private practice, and his unsupervised status,” the local priest, Fr Carroll, recalled.

Maskell returned to the United States in 1998 and died in 2001 – taking his secrets to the grave with him.

Now Netflix has made a documentary about the death of the nun he’s linked to.

Sister Catherine was murdered in 1970 and her death casts a long, dark shadow over some of the women she taught at the local high school.

“Sr Cathy exemplified this [Catholic] spirit of compassion and kindness,” one past pupil told Netflix for a documentary called “The Keepers” due to be released this month.

Read more: Irish priest in New York to be defrocked over 30-year-old sex abuse allegations

“She was murdered our senior year,” another recalled. “And it’s always haunted many people in the community.”

One said she believed the nun was killed because “she was going to talk about what went on at Keough [High School]” where Maskell abused his victims.

“She confronted him and lost [her] life for it,” one victim told the local news station.

Sr Catherine went to cash her $225 paycheck one November day in 1969 and never seen alive again.

Her body was found a few months later in a field and a post mortem revealed she had died after sustaining traumatic blows to her head.

A spokesperson for the local police department said the exhumation had nothing to do with the release of the documentary later this week.

“Our detectives have been working on this case long before the documentary. As a result of the documentary it's gotten a lot of attention but this case has been quite active since before then,” she told the Daily Mail.

“[Detectives felt] we could not solve this case without knowing whether Maskell's DNA matched that evidence. It may not. The results may come back and show that it may not but we felt we needed to test it. We have been hoping to solve this case for some time and we believe we still can.”

The seven-part series is due to be released on Netflix on May 19.

H/T: The Times/Daily Mail/NY Daily News

WOW Air North America to Cork Airport flights take off

Wow Air flights from Cork to North America, via Reykjavik, have officially taken off. Flights from the south-west of Ireland airport, via Iceland, connect with ten destinations in the USA, for as little as $180 one-way.

On Friday, Cork Airport welcomed WOW air, its newest airline partner, as the Icelandic low-cost carrier starts its Cork to Reykjavik service.  The new year-round service also offers transatlantic connectivity to ten destinations across North America, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Montreal, Miami, New York, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Toronto and Washington DC.

Ireland awaits you!

Ireland awaits you! We're loving all the possibilities to explore, from the Wild Atlantic Way to Ireland's Ancient East, with flights into Cork Airport with WOW air. What's #1 on your Irish bucket list? For all the latest travel deals to Ireland, like Cork Airport.

Posted by IrishCentral.com on Wednesday, April 12, 2017

WOW air will operate four weekly flights on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday during the summer season and three weekly flights during the winter months. With fares starting at just $67 (€59.99) each way, the new service provides excellent value for any passengers looking to explore the Land of Fire and Ice. Connecting fares to the US are also very competitive at just ($180) €169.99 each way from Cork to Maimi.

Speaking this morning, Niall MacCarthy, Managing Director at Cork Airport said “We are delighted to welcome WOW air to Cork, it is fantastic to see yet another new route take off ahead of the busy summer season.

“Wow is a dynamic, low cost, modern airline headed and founded by a flamboyant entrepreneur, Skúli Mogensen. The aircraft with their distinctive pink livery will fly four times per week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday to Iceland, and then onto ten North American destinations. Wow uses main city airports, for example, their Boston flight flies into Boston Logan and their New York flight flies into Newark Airport. Prices are very competitive and if you look on the website today, you can fly to Iceland for €60 one way and New York and Boston for €160 one way, and even to San Francisco for €170 one way.

“Iceland is an amazing and unique country to visit and has become increasingly popular destination for Irish travelers. The people share a lot in common with Ireland and they have a fantastic tourism product, with sights such as the Blue Lagoon and the Golden Circle. We encourage people to either take two holidays in one, stopping off for a day or two in Iceland en route to the States, or alternatively, grab a coffee in the modern terminal in Reykjavik and jump on a connecting plane to one of the ten destinations”.

MacCarthy also added: “On today’s inaugural flight today, Svana Fridriksdottir, V.P communications is accompanied by a group of U.S and Canadian media who are coming to see our wonderful region, accompanied by Dana Welsh, Tourism Ireland Canada manager”.

Commenting on the inaugural launch, Vice President of Communications at WOW air, Svana Fridriksdóttir, said: "We are very pleased to add Cork Airport to our expanding route network. Iceland has proved hugely popular with Irish passengers and we’re delighted to be able to expand our services in Ireland by offering passenger direct flights from Cork to Reykjavik. The new service also opens up our transatlantic routes and low-cost fares to Cork passengers, making travel to the US more affordable for Cork-based passengers, via Reykjavik. Equally, Ireland is a very popular destination for the Icelandic and we’re confident that our new route to Cork will be very attractive for weekend getaways to see one of Ireland’s most impressive cities and beautiful coastlines".

Cork celebrates the inaugural Wow Air flight, connecting to North America, via Iceland.

Also in attendance at Cork Airport this morning, Deputy Lord Mayor of Cork City Cllr. Joe Kavanagh said: “This is a great day for not just Cork but for the entire province. More options for outbound passengers as well as a volume of opportunity for tourism with the arrival of Icelandic and American visitors”.

Echoing these sentiments, Cork County Mayor Cllr. Seamus McGrath said: “I warmly welcome the commencement of transatlantic travel to and from Cork.  This will take tourism and travel within Cork and its environs to a new level. It is a very exciting time for all involved”.

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “The new WOW air flight is really good news for tourism to Cork and the South Ireland. Not only will it help grow visitor numbers from Iceland, but this new service will also help boost tourism from North America, with connectivity from ten different cities to Cork. We are delighted to co-operate with WOW air and Cork Airport, to maximize the promotion of this new flight. As an island destination, the importance of convenient flights cannot be overstated – they are absolutely critical to achieving growth in inbound tourism.”

Through the airline’s innovative WOW Stopover package, travelers have the option of enjoying a break in Iceland when flying across the Atlantic to or from any of its European and North American airports.

Fares from Cork, Ireland to Reykjavik, Iceland one way incl. taxes and charges from:

- Reykjavik  €59.99

Fares from Cork, Ireland to the US East Coast one way incl. taxes and charges from:

- Boston €159.99

- Washington D.C. €159.99

- New York €159.99

- Chicago €199.99

Fares from Cork, Ireland to the US West Coast one way incl. taxes and charges from:

- Los Angeles €169.99

- San Francisco €169.99

- Miami €169.99

- Montréal €159.99

- Toronto €159.99

Cork Airport is the international gateway to the South of Ireland and is uniquely positioned at the start of the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East.  It is the country’s second largest and best connected international airport with more choice of routes than any other airport outside of Dublin.

More than 2.3 million passengers will travel through Cork Airport this year, flying to top destinations across the UK, continental Europe and from this summer to destinations across the US directly with Norwegian or via Reykjavik with WOW air.

Cork Airport’s customer service as voted by passengers has won multiple national and international awards. Its economic importance is reflected in the estimated 10,710 jobs supported or facilitated by the airport and the € 727 million contributed to Gross Domestic Product. (Source InterVistas Economic impact study Cork Airport April 2015).

Cork Airport was voted large business of the year by the Cork Business Association in January 2017.

Donald Trump is proof of the saying elect a clown, expect a circus

This week Donald Trump spoke of a concerted witch-hunt against him. He is, he Tweeted, the target of “the single greatest witch hunt” in American political history.

Really? This claim would have come as news to the many victims of Senator Joe McCarthy, who was famously paranoiac about the Russian infiltration of American politics, but Trump was undaunted.

“Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media. No politician - and I say this with great surety - has been treated worse or more unfairly,” he digressed in a commencement address at the US Coast Guard Academy. 

Where McCarthy once saw a Red under every bed, Trump now appears to see a note-taking American journalist. Both men are at root disturbingly paranoiac about “enemies within,” setting them on an inevitable collision course with the institutions of their own governments and the fourth estate.

Recall too that Trump was mentored by Roy Cohn, McCarthy’s right hand man, who some still refer to as the pole star of evil. Cohn saw the hidden hand of sinister agents behind every setback suffered by his boss. Shadowy cabals of faceless bureaucrats with unlimited power stifled every attempt Senator Joe made to make America great again, Cohn believed.

We hear that suspicion again now when Trump supporters talk of a “deep State” out to thwart his policy agenda and bring his administration to its knees.

Read More: Donald Trump, Joseph McCarthy, and the Republican Civil War

The truth is more prosaic, however. The main author of Trump’s political misfortunes is Trump himself.  It’s his hubris and overreach, his authoritarian instincts: they conflict with the American democratic tradition. I think even his most ardent supporters are beginning to understand that now.

The recklessness that characterized Trump’s presidential campaign delighted his supporters, eager to stick it to the Obama era. But that recklessness is not at all suited to the presidency. What once seemed like a breath of fresh air now looks chaotic.

Trump, like McCarthy before him, first endeared himself to the conservative base by appealing to their populist fury, their economic resentment, their anti-intellectualism and their blunt racial hostility.

Most especially, he channeled their anger at the government, Democratic and Republican Party alike, promising us “only he” could bring them excesses to heel.

He ran as an insurgent within his own party, in other words. His blunt force style delivered him the nomination, but it will not do at all as the leader of the free world.

The John F. Kennedy era came to be called Camelot. Trump’s is more Elsinore, but he’s no Hamlet. For a start he lacks the introspection. Where there is a crisis, it is always someone else’s fault.

It should be clear to anyone who has been watching that Trump does not understand how his shocking firing of former FBI Director James Comey could have been viewed with alarm. Because the perspective of other people is unimportant to him if it doesn’t comport with his own.

Asked this week if he had asked Comey to slow or stop the investigation into national security adviser Michael Flynn, Trump didn’t hesitate: “No. No. Next question,” he responded.

This flatly contradicts Comey’s account. Given that he is a meticulous, record keeping lawyer, this is not a bet I would like to take. The obstruction of justice is a profoundly serious legal charge and will be viewed as such by Trump’s Republican allies on Capitol Hill.

The word that best describes our current moment isn’t drama or crisis or chaos, however. It’s ineptitude. It turns out that the business of government is a more challenging proposition than Trump anticipated. But Trump is sitting in a room that once knew Lincoln, Roosevelt, Wilson and Truman. The President of the United States of America is not a learn-on-the-job post.

Perhaps the best that can come of this lamentable political conflagration is the lesson that it is unwise in the extreme to elect pampered celebrities and expect them to become elder statesmen and women, as if attaining the office were sufficient mentorship for it.

There’s a saying, elect a clown and you’ll get a circus. The Russians are clearly being entertained by the turbulent spectacle on Pennsylvania Avenue (which, thanks to Recep Erdoğan’s thugs, now includes pitched battles on our nation’s streets) but the wiser among us should view this chaotic three-ring spectacle with the firm resolve never to make the same mistake again.

An Irish baby name is still the most popular in New York

Liam continues to dominate in the baby names’ world, coming in as the most common name used for a baby boy in the state of New York in 2016. Liam is already known as a highly popular first name in the US coming out strong since 2012 when it made the nation’s most popular names, and it is known to be especially popular in the midwest and northwest.

Liam is already known as a highly popular first name across the US coming on strong since 2012 when it made the nation’s most popular names, and it is known to be especially popular in the midwest and northwest.

Released on Thursday, the Social Security Administration revealed that Liam still reigns as king in New York based on social security card registrations last year.

Irish girls’ names, however, did not have such luck and none appear to have come close to the top spot with Olivia reigning supreme.

The results from New York are slightly different from the national standard where Noah and Emma held the number one spots.

In New York state, the remaining top boys’ names were Jacob, Noah, Ethan and Michael while parents registering a little baby girl seem to opt for names that solely end with an “a” with Emma, Sophia, Isabella and Ava coming in after Olivia.

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

This is the second year in a row that Liam is the most registered baby boy name in the state with 1,413 Liams and 1,215 Olivias coming into the world via the Empire State.

“We generally release the list after Mother’s Day,” said SSA spokesman Everett Lo.

“It’s a fun thing to do and it’s one way we remind everyone that your Social Security Number is with you through life’s journey.”

Read more: Irish baby name Liam top choice among American families

Liam is sometimes thought to be a shortened form of Uilliam, the Irish form of William, a Germanic name made of two words meaning “desire” and “protection.”

If you are on the lookout for an Irish baby name but want to pick something a little different to Liam, you can find plenty of other suggestions on IrishCentral’s guide to the most popular Irish baby names in America.

H/T: NY Daily Life

 

The five life lessons I have learned at age 64

The Beatles song ‘When I’m 64” lingers long in the memory. I never thought I'd be marking off the calendar as having reached that age but Father Time has galloped on relentlessly and has rounded the turn for home.

What are the life lessons of being a boring old fart? I guess I’ll never make it in Hollywood, write the great American novel, climb the highest mountain, plumb the deepest sea or land on Mars.

That’s alright, with age comes realistic expectation. A beautiful summer’s day like May 18 in New York this year makes up for a lot. The anthem in my head has gone from “No Satisfaction” to “I’m Still Standing.” The woman at the movie stall asking if I wanted the over 60 ticket is still lied to even though it costs me more money. Mirrors catch the sorrows of a changing face, not the bright bath of youth. So be it.

So here are five lessons from an imperfect life.

1. Value the kindness in others

Strangers helped me keep my budding newspaper business going in the 1970s.

As a young Irish emigrant and newspaper founder in San Francisco in the late 1970s, the publication I started ran out of money after about six issues. A doctor called Michael McFadden and a bar owner from Limerick called Joe Finucane raised $15,000 for me and my partner and let my dream live. I hardly knew them but they loved what we were trying to do. Don’t ever tell me the Irish don’t help their own.

When we ran into financial trouble again, a former officer in the British Army, Bill Vincent, owner of Muckross House in Killarney, an amazing Anglo-Irish gentleman living in San Francisco reached into his own pocket and gave us $5,000 to continue. His only condition was I cut my shaggy beard and dress up when I visited his home for dinner! The kindness of strangers.  

2. Value integrity above all else

Martin McGuinness

Years later I was involved as the intermediary between Sinn Féin and the White House in the Irish peace process. It was a fraught time where a man’s word meant everything as IRA bombs were still going off and a tough road to peace was being forged. Neither Gerry Adams nor Martin McGuinness ever misled, over-promised or failed to deliver. I am still in awe of them taking an armed revolutionary army and putting it on the path to peace and political success.

3. It is tough and courageous to get to “Yes”

When you have the FBI, State Department, House Speaker, and British government all screaming not to give Gerry Adams a visa, it took rare courage for Bill Clinton to do so. When Irish media swore he had lost the plot and was on a fool's errand, Taoiseach Albert Reynolds insisted on driving forward a path to peace and ending Europe’s longest-running war.

Both men could have easily said no. Almost all politicians do.

4. You have to earn respect

Respect the man not their position.

Just because you have a fancy title, a priest's collar, a judge's robe, a doctor’s white smock or a politician’s badge on you does not automatically mean you have my respect. We have seen too many charlatans don such accoutrements. Prove by your actions, not your title or dress.

5. There is nobility everywhere even in the worst circumstances

A doctor who gave it his all. "A chink of light on my darkest day on earth."

There is an Israeli doctor whose name I don't even know who tried everything imaginable to save my nephew Rory’s life when he died of sepsis at the of age 12 in NYU hospital. This man barely went home all that dreadful weekend and was as distraught as we were when nothing could be done. A chink of light on my darkest day on earth.

Finally, bless the day you were born Irish, or born of Irish roots: the music makers, writers, dreamers, poets, talkers, who never conquered anyone except with their heart and soul and gift of the gab. Erin go bragh!

Ancient Irish road bowling alive and well in West Virginia (VIDEOS)

Irish road bowling is thought to date back to the 1600s when the native Irish rolled the cannon balls of Cromwell’s soldiers down moonlight boreens.

But now you’re far more likely to encounter people playing in the small town of Charleston, W.Va., where it’s thought that Civil War soldiers of Irish descent introduced locals to the game.



Historian Dan Harvey concluded in 2003, “It is highly likely, indeed probable, that Union or Confederate troops of Irish origin played road bowling between battles during the American Civil war - as they did worldwide ... with many foreign armies."

All participants need is a road a mile and a half long, a ball and an arm to throw it. The aim is to get the ball down the road with as few throws as possible.

Stephen Wallington of the Irish Road Bowling Association told WCHS TV that the sport was an inclusive one, requiring no great level of physical fitness.

“It's something for everybody,” he said. “We've had some events where we've had people in wheelchairs come out and play, so it's a sport where you don't have to be physical, you don't have to work out. it just gets you outside and you're out for a nice stroll, that's ultimately what it is."

Throughout the summer months competitions take place in certain areas of natural beauty, such as Pipestem Resort State Park and Coopers Rock State Forest.

And the game is not just played in West Virginia, clubs also exist in Boston and New York City. For more information, visit the club’s website here.

Urgent plea to Irish adoptees and "home children" in US to tell their stories

Were you adopted from Ireland? Or are you a mother whose child was adopted because you were unmarried there?

Were you born in a Mother and Baby Home, a County Home or similar place in Ireland?

Or are you a relative of an adopted person from Ireland? Or did you once work for an institution or agency involved with unmarried mothers and their children there?

The Adoption Rights Alliance and the Justice for Magdalenes Research group launched Clann in 2016 to gather the data and submit a group report to the ongoing Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and Certain Related Matters in Ireland.

Clann is assisting individuals affected by or involved with the treatment of unmarried mothers and their children to provide evidence to the ongoing commission.

For current witnesses already engaged in the process with the organizations, this means that they must respond to any questions from Hogan Lovells law group about the drafts of their statement, or their consent form as soon as possible.

New witnesses should email statements@clannproject.org as soon as they can if they need further assistance drafting their statements, as the process can take at least a number of weeks to complete.

All witnesses who wish to have their experiences included in the group submission will need to have their statement completed by 31st August.

To arrange a free witness statement visit clannproject.org.

 

President of Ireland to meet Pope Francis in Rome

President Michael D. Higgins is to travel to Rome later this month to meet the Pope.

Higgins is due to visit Venice first and will travel afterward to Rome where he will be received in an audience by the Pope on May 22.

He will then meet with the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and attend a function with staff at Rome’s historic Irish College.

The meeting will not be the first between the two heads of state; Higgins and his wife Sabina first met Pope Francis at his inauguration in 2013, wishing him luck in Francis’s native Spanish.

“On behalf of the Irish people who hold a special affection for the people of South America I want to wish you every success in your mission for the Church,” President Higgins said. “My wish for you on behalf of the people of Ireland is for the best of health in your mission on behalf of all of humanity.”

He then added in Irish, “I wish you good health and success in your pontificate and its advocacy on behalf of the poor of our vulnerable planet.”

Read more: Planning for the Pope's 2018 trip to Ireland are already underway

Higgins, who was for many years a legislator for the Irish Labor party, shares a similar left-wing outlook with the pontiff and the two are likely to find a lot to agree on when they meet again.

Both have criticized President Trump since he assumed office in 2016; Higgins pointedly remarked at a reception for diplomats in February, “Above all, we cannot abandon the excluded, the confused, to the predatory abuse of those who seek the exploitation of difference, of race, ethnicity, culture or gender.”

And Pope Francis more bluntly told journalists on a visit to Mexico last year, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”

The pair is also expected to meet again in 2018 when the Pope visits Ireland for the World Family Congress in Dublin. It would be the first time a pontiff has visited Ireland since John Paul’s famous trip in 1979.

However, the time could perhaps be more opportune with speculation that the country will vote next year in a referendum on allowing abortion - something currently forbidden by the constitution.

Whilst Pope Francis can expect a warm welcome from President Higgins, he is unlikely to receive the rock star treatment enjoyed by his predecessor.

Read more: I was one among the million who saw Pope John Paul II in Phoenix Park in 1979

H/T: Irish Independent/Irish Catholic

Canadian hero claims Irish heritage helped him cope with terror attack

Canada's ambassador to Ireland Kevin Vickers, who put an abrupt end to a terror attack in Ottawa by shooting a man dead, has praised his Irish heritage for helping him cope with the traumatic ordeal.

In a podcast with the Irish Independent, Vickers told Paul Williams about that fateful day in 2014 when he had to take down a gunman inside Canada’s House of Commons. Vickers was hailed as a hero for his quick thinking in stopping the terrorist.

He also captured headlines in Ireland again in 2016 when he tackled a protester who had broken through police barriers at a private Easter Rising commemoration event. The memorial in question was to remember British soldiers who died during the rebellion and Vickers held the shouting and disruptive man on the ground until gardaí (Ireland's police) arrested him.

Before he became a diplomat Vickers, whose mother’s family came from Bantry. Co. Cork, worked as a policeman and as a homicide detective in Canada, posts that prepared him in some way to deal with the weight of his actions. He had risen through the ranks before he was chosen to become the national parliament’s head of security. He was serving as Sergeant of Arms in Canada’s House of Commons when the terrorist attack took place in 2014.

Although Vickers claims he acted on impulse both at the House of Commons and at the event in Dublin, his training came into play and he dealt with each incident without thinking of the impact it would have on himself.

Read more: Hero of Canadian Parliament shooting Kevin Vickers named Ambassador to Ireland

“He sequestered himself behind a pillar just before you go into the library in our parliamentary building,” Vickers told Williams of the day terrorist Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed a guard and injured three others at Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

“I could see his rifle behind the pillar. There was a moment when I thought I would just reach out and grab the gun, just pull it. But, while I was thinking that he shot and fired.

“As he shot and fired I dove through the air in front of him, shooting once. I know I hit him because I remember this big painful shriek. I fell heavily to the floor directly beneath him and that is when I shot him another 14 times at point-blank range.”

It was only later that day that the full effect of what he’d just experienced hit him, but thanks to the powerful force of his Irish mother and his Irish background he was able to deal with the ordeal.

“Later that night, at 3am, I woke up alone and I was crying. It was the loneliest moment of my life,” he admitted in the podcast.

“On the Saturday morning, my mother said: ‘Caoimhin Michael, I want you home’.

“I asked what am I going to do when I get home and I thought of these 17 men that I took confessions from for homicides and I thought: ‘I am going to pray for them.’

“I always remember my dad taught me that regardless of how repulsive the crime, you always respect the dignity of the person. I went down to the river after that where I used to fish as a young boy and now fish for salmon as a man and I just said to myself: ‘Mother was right. I needed to come home’.”

Read more: The 1916 commemoration for British soldiers remembered my own relative

Speaking of the incident in Grangegorman in Dublin last year Vickers stated that he doesn't regret his actions despite the fact that they were not welcomed by the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The incident was witnessed by a writer for IrishCentral who was attending the Easter Rising event. "The ceremony was just beginning when one protester, who had somehow managed to get past security, stood up from the crowd attempting to make a scene. Thanks to the quick thinking of the Canadian Ambassador to Ireland Kevin Vickers … the protester was tackled and bundled away, allowing the ceremony to continue, undisrupted.

“I was sitting there with other dignitaries and I caught, out of the corner of my eye, a gentleman getting up,” Vickers told the podcast.

“As he was getting up he was opening his jacket. Right then and there I think that fired a trigger in me and made me rush towards him.”

H/T: The Irish Independent 

Irish woman with devastating rare disease needs funding for lifesaving US operation

A young Dublin woman who suffers from a rare disease is appealing for help to pay for life-changing surgery in the US.

Megan Forkan, 32, known as Mags, suffers from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a rare genetic connective tissue disease that results in faulty collagen throughout the body. Collagen is essentially the glue that holds the body together.

This means the symptoms of EDS can be very far reaching, affecting most parts of the body - dislocation of her joints due to laxity of connective tissue, gastrointestinal issues resulting in constant nausea and weight loss, autonomic nervous system issues which results in Mags having rapid increases in heart rate. She gets palpitations just from standing and her blood pressure drops from postural change. This results in fainting and chronic fatigue. Mags’ joints have deteriorated throughout her body and her muscle tone has declined, causing severe pain.

Ireland’s health system has no specialists dealing in EDS, resulting in Mags having to travel for treatment to London, all at her own expense.  Her most devastating diagnosis came last year as a result of an MRI of her neck and brain, when she found that her brain is descending into her spinal canal and that her neck is dangerously unstable and could result in dislocations, loss of blood supply or spinal fluid to the brain, or even internal decapitation.

Mags, who got married last year to her husband, Jimmy, is now fundraising for life-saving neurological surgery, which is not available at home or in the UK.

“Our first year of marriage has been the marriage from hell. It’s not like most people’s experience of marriage when you’re supposed to be starting your life together, but we’ve had to fight to get me the treatment that’s needed to stop me from deteriorating any further.”

Her family and friends have raised a large amount of money and succeeded in getting Mags to the world expert in Maryland for surgery, and she has had 2 surgeries to date, which have stabilized her neck to some extent. 

However, the situation is graver than originally thought and Mags needs more radical surgery which is scheduled to take place on June 1, but the unexpected costs mean that more funds are needed.

Mags is so grateful for the donations that have brought her this far and looks forward to a return to a normal life as a result of the final surgery, “It’s a very specialized surgery. But it has a 95% chance of improving my quality of life. I will still have to manage my condition, but this will let me live my life.”

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To donate, click here to visit Mags' GoFundMe page or you can transfer to a bank account: Ulster Bank Dublin Ac 15088739 Sort code 985040 Iban IE56ULSB98504015088739

Pop the question with these beautiful Irish engagement rings

The summer sunshine has arrived and that can only mean one thing; it’s time for wedding season.

Wedding season traditionally runs through the summer and fall months, beginning in June as it is one of the most popular times for couples to wed, with September and October seen as the last opportunity to avail of the good weather. Engagement rings come in all shapes and sizes while trying to choose the perfect one can seem like an unending quest.

Each person is different when it comes to the type of desired engagement ring, some people prefer elegance while others prefer extravagance. The IrishCentral Shop has some fabulous options available with some of the finest selections described below, all courtesy of the Irish jewelry designer Shanore.

14K Yellow and White Gold Claddagh Ring for Round Cut Diamond [Mount Only] $1,215

14K Yellow and White Gold Claddagh Ring for Round Cut Diamond

This 14K yellow and white gold band is brought to you courtesy of Shanore, who are known for their handcrafted jewelry of Irish design and traditional feel. The centerpiece of this ring can be mounted with a sparkling round cut diamond of your choice. It is available in a number of different sizes with the unique Shanore engraving on the gallery of the ring.

14K White Gold Claddagh Ring Encrusted with Diamonds $1,125

14K White Gold Claddagh Ring Encrusted with Diamonds

This classic band is brought to you by Irish jewelers Shanore and incorporates the timeless Claddagh design symbolizing love, loyalty and friendship. The main feature of the ring is the 0.15ct diamond which fills the heart and crown being protected by the white gold hands. This stylish band is sure to catch the eye of the beholder.

Claddagh Ring with Sapphire and Diamond $829.25

Claddagh Ring with Sapphire and Diamond

This Irish designed Shanore engagement ring has all the features a person would expect from a classic Claddagh pattern. The centerpiece of this timeless design is the sapphire gemstone which immediately garnishes attention. Surrounding the sapphire is a beautiful 0.14ct diamond for additional beauty without overshadowing the gemstone.

14K White Gold Three Stone Celtic Ring with Sapphire and Diamond $2,020

14K White Gold Three Stone Celtic Ring with Sapphire and Diamond

This three stone engagement ring from Shanore is the perfect addition to any couple's wedding plans. The band is made of 14K white gold for a graceful look and incorporates the classic Celtic Knot Design. A sapphire gemstone sits on top of the band bordered by two 0.15ct diamonds. The Shanore engraving on the gallery of the band ensures quality.

14K Three Stone Yellow and White Gold Celtic Ring .25ct $2,420

14K Three Stone Yellow and White Gold Celtic Ring

This 14K white gold engagement ring from Shanore is an ideal companion for any wedding celebrations. The three diamond ring encapsulates both elegance and simplicity. The prong setting allow the 0.25ct diamonds to sit effortlessly on top of the wedding band, allowing for all angles of the diamonds to shine through. The Celtic Knot Design adds to the elegance of the piece and offers a timeless look.

14K White Gold Celtic Trinity Ring for Round Cut Diamond [Mount Only] $1,215

14K White Gold Celtic Trinity Ring for Round Cut Diamond

This Celtic Trinity Knot design is a superb addition to the Shanore collection. The 14k white gold band features a mount for the couples choice of any sparkling round cut diamond. This ring has been handcrafted with emphasis on allowing a diamond to sit effortlessly on top of the band, while the addition of the Celtic Trinity design either side of the diamond allows for a Irish traditional feel.

14K White Gold Celtic Diamond Solitaire for Round Cut Ring $1,220

14K White Gold Celtic Diamond Solitaire for Round Cut Ring

This handcrafted 14K white gold engagement ring features a stunning Celtic Diamond Solitaire design from Shanore. The band incorporates the classic Celtic Trinity Knot which symbolizes a couple’s eternal love. The design allows for a couple to choose between a variety of round cut diamonds or gemstones to mount this beautiful ring.

Are you ready to pop the question in 2017? Love is in the air.

Meet the Irish designer who dressed Jackie Kennedy

Sybil Connolly, who designed the dress worn by First Lady Jackie Kennedy in her White House portrait, took the comforts of Irish country fashions and showed them to the world, becoming a highly influential figure in the fashion industry for over five decades with thanks to her creative adaptations of Irish traditional clothing styles.

Connolly, who was born in Wales in 1921 to an Irish father and a half-Welsh, half-English mother, moved to Ireland as a teenager before her fashion career kicked off with a move to London in 1938 while still in her teens.

The granddaughter of a country squire and scholar, she worked as an apprentice at prestigious dressmaking establishment Bradley’s, even holding pins for the Dowager Queen Mary's dress fittings in Buckingham Palace.

Returning to Dublin in 1940, Connelly worked as a buyer in a specialty shop, quickly replacing the original designer when they emigrated to the US and it was here that she was discovered by a group of matrons from the Philadelphia Fashion Group in 1952 while they spent some time Dublin.  

From here her star began to rise as the Dublin-based designer became more recognized for creating haute couture from Irish textiles such as Carrickmacross lace and handwoven Irish Donegal tweeds.

With her use of tweed, crochet, vibrantly colored lace and interesting silhouettes, the Irish designer attracted the attention of Harper's Bazaar editor Carmel Snow, who would prove instrumental in her career, flying over press and buyers to view Connolly’s collection.

Bringing her collection to New York first in 1953, one of Connolly’s dress designs appeared on the cover of Life magazine captioned “Irish Invade Fashion World” and it was clear she had made it.

Connelly championed soft and casual clothes at a time when the Parisian designers were strictly producing rigid, constructed designs. For the Irish designer, however, the Irish traditions allowed her to create clothes that had life and suited the movement of the body.

“I must see movement in a dress,” she once said. “A woman’s body is inside. It breathes. It moves.”

Read more: The first Irish woman to have the fashion world at her feet: Sybil Connolly

Sybil Connelly.

Connolly became known as the first woman to have the fashion world at her feet, successfully targeting the American market and changing the way that sophisticated women dressed with her innovative designs.

Her own couture fashion line launched in 1957 when she was still just 36 years old and she moved into a new building at 71 Merrion Square. Describing her headquarters in Dublin as “a shop window for Ireland”, she employed 100 women who wove tweed and crocheted lace from their home.

Connelly was an integral part of reviving the old Irish crafts, a revival that is still feeling her influence today. She took inspiration from the way that Irish country women dressed and the comfort they had in their clothes while they carried out their daily routine on farms and in cottages, reworking them to suit urban and international tastes.

Such inspiration included the reworking of a hooded cloth worn in Kinsale, Co. Cork, as a velvet cape, and the unbleached wool yarn used in Aran sweaters being reimagined in unusual sports outfits.

Ireland was not always happy with their traditional designs being interpreted in this way, however, and although Connelly always sought to keep her prices lower than other European labels, some people were not taken with what they felt was the exploitation of the nation’s peasantry.

Read more: Top Irish fashion influencers for 2017

Connelly even dressed style icon First Lady Jackie Kennedy. Image: WikiCommons.

An active designer until her death, Connelly included Jackie Kennedy, Julie Andrews, Elizabeth Taylor, and the Rockefellers among those who wore her designs, even designing modern habits for three orders of Catholic nuns in Ireland. The designer was, in fact, highly religious and a priest had to bless each collection before its presentation.

It was her pleated linen for which she was most famous, however, and it was in one of these dresses that one of the world’s greatest style icons, Jackie Kennedy, appeared in her White House portrait. The incredible technique involved closely pleating up to nine yards of linen handkerchiefs to produce one yard of delicate fabric.

Following the decades-long success, Connelly faltered slightly in her later years refusing to accept that good fashion had to change and denying the growing trend of the miniskirt. She stayed true to the advice she had received from Christian Dior that a “ woman should show her curves, not her joints” and also refused to embrace the changes in fashion that saw women now wearing trousers!  

Sybil Connolly died at her home on Dublin’s prestigious Merrion Square on May 6, 1998.

H/T: The New York Times

Brave young girl saves boy from drowning in Cork

A young teenager is being hailed a heroine after she rescued a boy from drowning in the River Lee in County Cork this past Monday evening, May 8th.

Clodagh Hayes, a 13 year old girl from Cork, was able to rescue the young boy who had been diving off a pier on the River Lee with friends when he came into difficulty after being dragged out by the river's current.

Clodagh, who swims for two hours every weekday morning, is member of both the Dolphin Swimming Club and Shannon Rowing club’s,. She was finishing up her rowing practice when she noticed the boy struggling in the water. Aware of the danger, Clodagh quickly and calmly assessed the situation and consulted with her father before making the attempt to rescue the boy.

Speaking to ‘The Neil Prendeville Show’ on the Cork radio station Red FM, Clodagh’s swim coach at Dolphin Swimming Club, Mick McCormack, told the presenter of the teens courageous exploits. “She finished rowing practice on Monday night down by the marina.

“There was a group of young teenagers and they were diving off the pier into the river. It was one of the teenagers younger brothers that had got into a bit of difficulty and then he started going under.”

Clodagh swam out to within a few feet of the boy and threw him a life buoy which he was able to grab hold of. Luckily both Clodagh and the young boy were both able to get back to dry land safely and no casualties occurred. McCormack added, “It was a tough call from Clodagh. There were other guys there who were involved in rowing, they’d be as aware that you don’t just jump in because they know the dangers as well.”

McCormack was quick to note that one of the most crucial mistakes people make is failing to assess the situation and instead choosing to dive straight into the water. McCormack said, “We encourage our students to go and learn life saving because with something like this we have strong swimmers but if you go out and somebody is drowning the adrenaline inside their body will tend to drag you down with them.

“That’s what we see across the country, swimmers that go in to save them and instead of one causality it ends up being two. Clodagh is such a strong swimmer she was able to pass the buoy to him as he was going under and he was able to hold onto it.”

McCormack was incredibly proud of how his top swimmer acted without panicking and how modest she was about the whole ordeal, and he didn’t find out about the incident until the following evening after Clodagh failed to divulge the details at their morning practice.

“It wasn’t until yesterday evening (Tuesday May 9th) that everyone realised what had happened and she hadn’t told anyone. She’s just so modest, she’d just get up, dry herself off and get on with it. She came out of the water and everyone was patting her on the back and she said I don’t know what all the fuss is about.”

In 2015, there was 122 drownings in Ireland, with 66 of those deaths deemed accidental. In the last 10 years over 30 children have died due to drowning. Irish Water Safety offers courses year round in trying to educate people in the best practices for water safety to prevent drownings and water related accidents.

Is this young teen an inspiration to encourage young people about water safety? Let us know what you think.

Love Irish literature? Frank McCourt Summer School is the experience of a lifetime

If you are enamored of Irish literature - and maybe even have your own writerly aspirations - the Frank McCourt Summer School, which takes place this June at NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House in New York, looks to be the experience of a lifetime.

The course, which runs from June 22 - 25, is in its second year after launching in summer 2016 to great interest. Run by the University of Limerick (in the city where McCourt was raised) and hosted in New York (the city where he was born and made his career as an educator and Pulitzer Prize winning author), it offers attendees the chance to develop their skills in a series of workshops, master classes, and performances.

Highlights will include readings by Joseph O’Connor, broadcaster, playwright and author of eight novels including the million-selling Star of the Sea. Booker Prize-longlisted Donal Ryan, author of The Spinning Heart (recently voted Irish Novel of the Decade) will reveal the secrets of writing captivating short stories. Acclaimed Young-Adult author and University of Limerick professor Sarah Moore Fitzgerald will outline the essential motivational and time-management tools that all writers need.  

Prof Giles Foden, Prof Joseph O'Connor and Prof Eoin Devereux at the 2016 UL Frank McCourt Summer School

Irish stars from other genres of art will also share their wisdom. Acclaimed actress Lisa Dwan will be sharing her unique perspective on reading and acting Beckett and will give a reading from his work.

Iarla Ó Lionáird of trad supergroup The Gloaming will perform with O’Connor when he reads from his internationally bestselling novel of the Irish Famine, Star of the Sea, in an interplay of words and music that is absolutely not to be missed!

Celebrated Irish poet Mary O’Malley will offer exciting sessions on Poetry and the City, focusing on the streetscape of the Lower Manhattan/Greenwich Village where the Summer School has its base, and the counterculture of downtown NYC provides a vivid context for Professor Eoin Devereux’s talk on long-time New York resident David Bowie.

Donal Ryan at the 2016 Frank McCourt Summer School

Kerry Neville joins the summer school as this year’s special guest. Teacher, Huffington Post contributor and award-winning short-story writer (Necessary Lies), Kerry is a dazzlingly talented wordsmith whose take on the creative process in our contemporary era is fascinating. Writer in Residence for the Summer School, Darrach McKeon, author of acclaimed debut novel All that is Solid Melts into Air, will be on hand to offer advice, answer questions, give his insights over coffee, share perspectives and respond to students.

The Guest of Honor, Ellen Frey McCourt, Frank’s wife, remarked: ‘Three cheers to Shannon Airport Authority for continuing their enlightened support for the ambitious UL/Frank McCourt Summer School in New York.  In one divine stroke they have enabled the two things Frank loved most—teaching and writing.  Thank you also to Joseph O’Connor and his UL colleagues for putting it all together with NYU (Frank’s Alma Mater) Glucksman Ireland House and the Irish Arts Center. Frank would feel triply blessed."

Joseph O'Connor and Consul Barbara Jones at the 2016 UL Frank McCourt Summer School

The Summer School is open to application from everyone, whether resident in New York or willing to travel from Ireland. No previous writing experience is required, but willingness to prepare for the programme is a must. Price $300/$200student/unwaged. Visit the website for more info.

The amazing 89-year-old man who won't let Irish Americans forget the Famine

In this, the 150th anniversary of the worst year of the Irish Great Hunger, Black ‘47, commemorations are taking place across the US in memory of both those who died in Ireland of famine and disease and those who made the tortuous journey across the Atlantic, only to have their American Dream cut short on US shores.

The memorial events hasv been inspired by the grit and determination of 89-year-old New Yorker Bill Fahey. who has worked with the Ireland-based group the Committee for Commemoration of Irish Famine Victims (C.C.I.F.V.) to create the

Fahey has worked with the Ireland-based group the Committee for Commemoration of Irish Famine Victims (C.C.I.F.V.) to create the International Hunger markers project, which has planted memorials in US states and throughout Ireland to identify the often unmarked graves of thousands of Irish famine victims.

The project aims to mark all unmarked famine graves wherever they are found - on the Island of Ireland, its islands, and any locations overseas - as an affordable and easy way to respectfully remember all unmarked famine grave sites.

“These people were dehumanized and to leave them in the ground with nothing over them was terrible, especially as they were innocent,” Fahey, whose mother and father hail from Laois and Mayo respectively, told IrishCentral

“They weren't doing anything and it seemed like nobody cared about them.”

Read more: Irish government to name an official day for annual Irish famine commemoration

Bill Fahey shares the vision of his historical Great Hunger Remembrance Stone Marker project that he has developed. Image: Irish Railroad Workers Museum.

Referring to what he believes as the “conspiracy of silence” surrounding much of the history of the famine in Ireland, Fahey tells of his determination to research as much as possible about the country and the time, traveling to Ireland to spend days in National University of Ireland, Maynooth, and the National Library looking at exports of food from the country in the 1840s.

“They [the Irish government] don't want anybody to know about these things,” he claims, “and we should remember these people because they were great people.

“They could have had food and aid and everything else if they gave up their faith but they didn’t,” Fahey continues, referring to the practice of soup kitchens run by non-Catholics during the famine years to encourage starving people to renege on Catholicism in exchange for food.  

 “These are our family ancestors and we should ever forget what was done to them.”

“What’s the matter with the Irish people?” he asks, questioning what Irish politicians were doing when groups such as C.C.I.F.V. were campaigning for a national day of commemoration for the Great Hunger over the past number of decades.

Irish American historians and activists - Denny Lynch and Bill Fahey. Image: Irish Railroad Workers Museum.

The national set day of remembrance is now to begin in 2018, after years of campaigning by those who expressed their dismay and frustration at this culture-changing event in Irish history being left to the wayside, as they saw it.

Unfortunately, the date chosen by the Irish government may disrupt the plans of some of the commemoration’s most loyal organizers across the US, as the disparity between Mother’s Day in Ireland and the US comes into play.

Now officially assigned as the second Sunday in May, the national day of commemoration will be in conflict with the US Mother’s Day, making programming more difficult for the likes of the Baltimore Irish Railroad Workers Museum, who, in collaboration with local divisions of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, hold an annual remembrance event.

Last weekend, Fahey drove from New York to Baltimore where the museum was erecting another one of his marker stones in St. Peter’s Cemetery.

“He's just so dedicated and so committed,” Michael Mellett, President of the Board of Directors for the Museum, enthuses of Fahey. Having held a commemoration in the museum backyard since at least 2009, the museum now plans to incorporate the marker into events in the future, while they still have a further two markers from Fahey to place in other local cemeteries with large Irish populations.

Read more: Ireland should have a national day of commemoration for the Great Hunger

Great Hunger marker in St. Peter's Cemetary, Baltimore. Image: Irish Railroad Workers Museum.

Celebrating the lives of James Feeley and his wife Sarah Feeley (neé Liberty), both born in Tipperary, the Baltimore Irish Railroad Workers Museum exhibits in two houses of the “Lemmon Street Five”, a row of houses in the Hollins Market area of Baltimore occupied by Irish immigrants working on the Baltimore Ohio railroad.

Billing themselves as “the biggest little museum in Baltimore,” with thanks to their extensive and impressive programming for such little funding, the museum plan to launch a capital campaign this June to buy back the remaining houses along the row which they were forced to give up in order to keep the project rolling. Now set to celebrate their 20th anniversary this June 17 with an event in their backyard alongside the Famine Irish tribute wall, they will launch a bid to raise $1 million to make themselves less of a little museum.

“Most of the parish was Irish,” said Mellett of St Peter’s, where the museum is located and in which cemetery the famine marker is placed.

“It was a real working-class Irish immigrant neighborhood, mostly working at the railroad and associated industries.

“Just walking through that graveyard is spectacular because there are 6ft-, 8ft-, 10 ft-high obelisks that are just beautifully chiseled, with angels chiseled out of the marble and beautiful scenes. There's even one of a boat, a ship, it's just a gorgeous place.” 

Read more: Exploring the life of an Irish railroad family at the Baltimore Shrine to the Immigrant Irish

Museum docent and Irish American activist Kathy Kelly and the indefatigable Bill Fahey pose with the Grave Marker of the Reverend Edward McColgan who led St Peters Church for over 56 years after its birth in 1843 to serve the Irish and others in 19th century west Baltimore. Image: Irish Railroad Workers Museum.

The museum was fortunately given carte blanche with the site they chose for the marker by Jonah House, a community activist group who now oversee St. Peter’s Cemetery. Placed in a beautiful spot between two trees and in a great green space, Mellett hopes that the museum will be able to continue to bring tours to the remembrance spot, sharing the cemetery with those visiting the famous peace activist and former Roman Catholic priest Philip Berrigan, who is also buried here.

This Sunday, the markers’ creator Fahey will also travel to Staten Island where they will hold their own Great Hunger commemoration with music from Redbrick Duo before the official ceremony kicks off at 2 pm. Organized by Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries and held annually on the grounds of the NYC Marine Hospital Quarantine Station, one of Fahey’s famine markers was erected on the site in 2015. The marker in Staten Island was, in fact, the first to be erected in a US city.

During the years of the Great Irish Famine (1845-1858) tens of thousands of Irish Immigrants came to New York Harbor, many of whom were found with disease and perished. The Marine Hospital and Quarantine Station operated on Staten Island from 1799 until 1858, checking all those who came into New York harbor for signs of disease before being let ashore.

The marker in Staten Island.

The hospital saw many casualties among the Irish who braved the perilous voyage across the Atlantic in search of safer shores and the medical center came to operate two cemeteries to cope with the mass of deaths among starving and weak Irish immigrants.

Those who died were buried on Staten Island, no death certificates were issued, no cemetery log kept, and gradually the burial sites disappeared from all further records.

If you’re interested in seeing more from the Great Hunger marker on Staten Island, IrishCentral will be streaming a Facebook Live from the commemoration events this weekend. Like our page at www.facebook.com/IrishCentral/ to stay up to date with the event and let us know where you’re watching from.

What does a mathematician have to do with Guinness Draught?

 This is the story of how mathematician-turned-brewer, Michael Ash, pioneered the world's first nitro beer. Launched in 1959, it's the same beer known today as Guinness Draught.

Why did Guinness think to infuse beer with nitrogen?

.

Happy Birthday, Mr President! How much did Marilyn Monroe’s JFK dress sell for?

The iconic dress that the legendary Marilyn Monroe wore when she sang “Happy Birthday” to John F. Kennedy on his 45th birthday celebration in 1962 is the most expensive item of clothing ever sold at auction.

The stunning, form-fitting dress, which was so tight the movie star had to be sewn into it, was purchased for $4.8 million on November 17, 2016 at Julien’s Auction’s in Los Angeles. The dress had previously been sold at an auction in New York in 1999 for over $1.26 million.

Marilyn Monroe in the stunning gown.

“This is the most iconic piece of clothing that anybody ever wore,” says Martin Nolan of Julien’s Auctions. “It’s historical. It’s political. It’s Marilyn Monroe. It’s the Kennedy’s. It’s a fashion statement.”

The skin-colored gown shimmers with 2,500 crystals, all of which had to be “strategically” hand-stitched on the dress because Marilyn did not wear undergarments.

It was her sultry, seductive performance at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962 for the celebration of the president’s 45th birthday that sparked rumors between an affair between Marilyn and JFK.

The dress has been preserved on a mannequin custom-made with the exact measurements of the legendary starlet.

According to CNBC, the highest bidder of the Jean Louis-designed dress was a representative from the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum.

Read more: What JFK meant for Ireland on that historic visit

John F. Kennedy’s first political battle with the Churchills

John F. Kennedy would have celebrated his 100th birthday on Memorial Day, Monday, May 29, 2017. In tribute to JFK, the 35th President of the United States, and his centennial year, IrishCentral is looking back on the life and times of the charismatic and intriguing Irish-American leader; from his early years to his rise to the presidency, to his untimely assassination in November 1963 at just 46 years old. 

Here we look at the relationship between John Fitzgerald Kennedy and the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. For more on JFK and the Kennedy family, you can visit our special topic page.

In 2014, The Irish Times reported that in 1946, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill voiced his hopes that Ireland would one day be a united nation.

This revelation was discovered in a note Churchill wrote to Ireland’s Ambassador to Britain, John W. Dulanty.

“I said a few words in Parliament the other day about your country because I still hope for a united Ireland,” said Churchill. “You must get those fellows in the North in, though; you can’t do it by force.”

Churchill later added, “There is not, and never was, any bitterness in my heart towards your country.”

It was an interesting time for this Churchill item to hit the news. Author Thomas Maier had just published a fascinating new book entitled "When Lions Roar: The Churchills and the Kennedys."

Maier, whose 2004 book "The Kennedys: America’s Emerald Kings" is the authoritative look at the Kennedys and their Irishness, puts these two prominent families under the microscope in this big book and shows that unlikely as it may seem, Joe Kennedy, his sons, and Churchill were deeply intertwined.

How much so? The same year Churchill wrote to John Dulanty about the possibility of a united Ireland, Churchill’s ties to the Kennedy family became a problem for a skinny young World War II veteran named John F. Kennedy, who was running for a congressional seat in Boston.

The Churchill-Kennedy connection stretches back to the 1930s, as Maier notes.

“As the oft-repeated story goes, Winston Churchill and Joseph P. Kennedy, the family patriarchs, began a visceral dislike for each other almost immediately, one that would devolve into rancor and several fateful differences leading up to World War II,” writes Maier, whose "Masters of Sex" serves as the basis for the Showtime cable drama of the same name.

For all of the tension between the Churchills and the Kennedys, there were also business dealings as well as moments of admiration.

Things really heated up in 1938 when President Franklin Roosevelt appointed Joe Kennedy, one of the most prominent Irish Catholics in the U.S., as the American ambassador to the Court of St. James, basically serving as America’s top official in London.

It was a plum position, but Kennedy’s political views about the world situation proved too troublesome. Kennedy famously felt that the U.S. should stay out of the European war, and in 1940 added that “democracy is finished in England.”

Franklin Roosevelt ultimately canned Kennedy.

But that does not mean the Kennedy family’s association with the Churchills – and Britain – was over.

That’s where JFK’s trouble comes in.

Congressman John F. Kennedy in his Congressional Office. President’s Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

In 1946, after fighting in the war that took his brother’s life and nearly took his own, JFK decided to run for political office. During the nasty campaign, Kennedy’s sister Kathleen’s ties to the British aristocracy became an issue.

After all, Kennedy was trying to win an election in the heavily Irish wards of Boston, where the British aristocracy was not quite as charming as it might have been to certain members of the Kennedys.

“A primary opponent’s camp even claimed that Jack’s sister Kick … had married a descendant of Oliver Cromwell, the scourge of Ireland during its centuries-long oppression by England,” Maier writes.

Between Kathleen and the Churchills, Jack was compelled to write a note to family members asking them, as Maier puts it, “to be more mindful of their British connections.”

Read more: The scandalous, rebellious, and tragic life of JFK’s sister Kick

Recent news items featured the Kennedy women hobnobbing with British high society, and even Joseph Kennedy supporting favorable postwar loan policies towards Britain.

JFK wrote: “Let’s not forget: They read papers here (in Boston) … I’m running for Congress, not Parliament.”

Of course, it turned out that the Kennedys' ties to the Churchills and Britain were not fatal. But as retold by Maier in his important book, this episode is a fascinating moment in American/British/Irish history.

It’s a “special relationship” indeed.

* Originally published in 2014. 

Favorite songs from national treasure Mary Black on her birthday (VIDEOS)

With over 36 years in the music business, Mary Black is widely regarded as Ireland’s premier female vocalist and today’s her birthday! What better way to celebrate that by looking at her fans favorite performances?

From “A Song for Ireland” to “No Frontiers”, Black’s stunning vocals and beautiful songs have made her the first lady of the Irish music industry. The five featured songs here are the most streamed Mary Black songs of all time.

Recently the songstress completed a ten-city tour of the US, including Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco, and now she’s back touring in Ireland for the summer.

It's been said of Mary Black that she rarely gets a bad review and listening to these tracks you can see why. Her latest album, “Stories from the Steeples,” was no exception. Ireland's Hot Press said of the album "Mary Black instinctively makes a song her own, and her voice here is more expressively fragile than before. The musicianship is impeccable.”

Allmusic.com called it a “welcome return for one of contemporary folk music's finest voices and most original stylists.”

In her long and successful career, Black has recorded dozens of albums.  Her breakthrough “No Frontiers” in 1989, featuring the haunting track "Columbus," brought her rich, clear voice and gift for storytelling to the attention of US audiences for the first time.

Black's musical roots run deep and it’s evident in her own children. Her own father was a fiddle player from the small island of Rathlin, off the coast of Antrim. By the age of eight Black was singing folk songs her brother, Shay, had taught her.

As she grew up she started performing with her siblings in small clubs around Dublin for the fun of it. Soon her hobby turned into a career.

Music is at the center of Black’s life and her family’s. Her husband, Joe O’Reilly, worked for Dara Records. She has three children, Conor, Danny, and Roisin. Danny O’Reilly is the frontman of the popular rock band The Coronas and Roisin O is a talented and highly acclaimed singer-songwriter herself.

Black and her family live in Dublin but spends a great deal of time in County Kerry. The 60-year-old star recently admitted that while she still loves to tour she also wants to be a hand on grandmother to her family’s two newest arrivals.

In 2014 Black published an autobiography, Down the Crooked Road, to announce that she was retiring from touring but something tells us that she’s ain’t done with music quite yet.

Suspected Irish cop killer to be deported from New York

An Armagh man suspected of being involved in the murder of Garda (policeman) Adrian Donohoe is to be deported from the United States.

The man was reportedly arrested yesterday due to a visa irregularity and thought to be in his mid-20s, from the south of Co. Armagh, and not likely to be charged as soon as he returns to Ireland as gardaí are still building a case. Instead, he will be charged with a number of minor offenses.

The suspect was known locally to be living in the US for some time, working in construction and even took a skiing holiday on the anniversary of Garda Donohoe’s death.

His brother, another suspect, has also been living on the US east coast and for most of his time in America, his fiancee has been living there with him. She fled Ireland to be with him not long after the murder but was detained after a road accident and deported in January.

In January 2013, Garda Donohoe and a colleague were asked to work as escorts for bank staff transferring cash from one branch to another in Bellurgan, Co Louth. With the small country town enveloped in darkness, the father of two approached a car of two men and was shot at short range into the back of the head.

The pair, along with three other men, fled with $4,500 - far less than the $45,000 in cash the bank officials were transferring.

It was the first time a member of the gardaí had been shot on duty since 1996 and he was afforded a full state funeral.

The suspected gang’s links to criminals in the Irish republican movement were revealed in the Sunday Independent. One suspect, who is thought to have been in the car when Donohoe was shot, is said to be involved in fuel smuggling across the Irish border - the sale of which is a huge source of income for dissident republicans.

The suspect is not a member of the IRA himself but one of his relatives was described by local gardaí to the Sunday Independent as “number two Provo” in the south Armagh area and an important figure in the organization’s fuel smuggling.

One of the reasons the men remain at large to this day is thought to be their connections to the republican movement; witnesses are simply too scared to come forward out fear of IRA reprisals.

The stolen car used during the robbery was burned out and there were no traces of DNA left at the crime scene that could be used to link anyone to the murder.

Read more: The murder of police officer Adrian Donohoe and Sinn Fein hypocrites

Within the gardaí, the sense of frustration at their inability to bring the killers of their colleague to justice is palpable and has been described as something of a “personal mission” for many officers.

But the prospects of convictions remain as yet unlikely  - a suspect is even said to have laughed in gardaí’s faces, knowing full well he will probably be free for years to come.

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan appealed for anyone with information to come forward on the fourth anniversary of his death this year.

“The investigation team in Dundalk has done incredible work and An Garda Síochána will continue its efforts in this vein until justice is done,” she said. “We cannot do this alone, we still need the public’s help. Even the smallest piece of information could be vital. At this time, I would appeal to anyone with information on Adrian’s murder to come forward and help us with our inquiries. “There are still people out there who know who the killers are. It is never too late to do the right thing. Any information provided will be treated sensitively.”

H/T: The Irish Independent/The Irish Mirror/BBC News

Fundraising for "The Quiet Man" train station gets underway

It’s hard to imagine what Mary Kate and Sean in “The Quiet Man” would have made of crowdfunding.

They might have interpreted it as buying a round for the entire house.

Either way, the lovebirds from the monumental Irish American movie would for sure have approved of the fundraising effort that steamed into action yesterday.

That would be an international crowd funding campaign to raise the money necessary to save Ballyglunin Train Station in County Galway.

Ballyglunin is the real life train station that was the setting for the opening scene of the 1952 screen classic and the arrival of Sean Thornton, played by John Wayne, in a CIE steam train.

And in real life, the station – which is no longer active - is showing its age.

So much so that it is in danger of collapse.

In a statement, the Ballyglunin Community Development Charity - which to date has successfully restored the signal cabin and goods store at the station - said that in a bid to save the train station, an international crowd funding campaign was being launched yesterday, May 18.

“The aim is simple to raise enough funds to restore the roof on the station so as protect the building. This will allow the charity to progress to the next stage of the plan for the station,” said the statement.

Star of the popular Irish music group Saw Doctors, Leo Moran, who is an official ambassador for the crowd funding campaign, said: “We need everyone’s help to save this iconic building so that future generations can enjoy and understand our past.

“I am supporting this project because I believe that this iconic building has so much to offer. The Ballyglunin Community Development Charity has huge plans to develop this amazing location, however; the roof is now at serious risk of collapse. If nothing is done, we’ll be saying goodbye to an important slice of Irish history.”

The target amount to be raised is $33,600 (€30,000).

Read more: Why do people love "The Quiet Man" so much?

While the station is no longer active it could be again someday if plans for bringing back mothballed rails lines in the West of Ireland eventually come to fruition.

But for now, Ballyglunin is a quiet place.

Though not a deserted one.

It draws visitors from near and far and in the case of Paschal Cassidy, who is one of the organizers of the crowdfunding effort, it was the setting for his wedding last year.

“I fell in love with the station when myself and my wife Grace got married there last September,” said Paschal.

It was the first wedding ever to take place in the station, but likely not the last.

Assuming the unfolding effort to preserve it proves to be a success.

“We both have a huge fondness for the place and became involved with the local committee to help them restore it and keep it standing,” said Paschal.

“The station has been under the care of the committee for over ten years and they have done huge work to keep the station in good condition.

“We have been fundraising for the last few years to keep the place standing and in use for the local community.

“This year, we have to replace the roof on the station as it is in a really bad state of disrepair and is in danger of collapsing.”

“The station gets many visitors every year from far and wide and ‘The Quiet Man’ has a huge resonance with both Irish and foreign audiences. It would be a shame to let this piece of history fall to ruins,” he said.

The station is on the Limerick to Claremorris line and was originally opened in 1860 by the Waterford, Limerick and Western Railway.

It later became part of the Great Southern and Western Railway.

Ballyglunin was still in business when “The Quiet Man” was filmed, but fell victim to rail “rationalization” in the 1960s and 70s.

In more recent times, plans have been drawn up to reopen the Limerick-Claremorris line under the rather less than romantic title of the “Western Railway Corridor.”

The crash put paid to that idea, though the plan still exists and could begin rolling at a future point when finances become available.

In 2012, the local community established a charity with the vision of developing the old train station as an international center for heritage and culture.

Before her passing, Maureen O’Hara officially endorsed the work of the charity saying that “the Ballyglunin Train Station truly is part of Ireland’s great cinematic history.”

The crowdfunding campaign is being hosted on fundit.ie and was being officially launched by Leo Moran at 7 pm yesterday.

The fundraising effort will run until June 27.

More at www.ballyglunin.com.

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

Man arrested for not helping drowning Irish woman

A man has been arrested in Spain after allegedly refusing to help an Irish woman who drowned off the Lanzarote coast.

According to the Irish Post, witnesses saw Elaine O’Donovan wade into the sea around 3am local time. Later she was seen drifting face down towards the beach. It was at this point the man she had been with allegedly walked away without raising the alarm.

Emergency services were called, but O’Donovan passed away. Originally from Waterford, she had been based in London for many years and would have turned 42 on Thursday. As it was she died on May 14, just three short days away from her birthday.

After studying engineering at Cork Institute of Technology she worked in water and sanitation for a number of years and until her untimely death worked for Butyl Products Ltd helping with aid infrastructure.

It’s understood that the arrested man is 29-years-old and not a Spanish national, but he is known to the local police force.

His case will now be passed to a court in Arrecife.

In a statement O'Donovan's family said, “Elaine was deeply loved by her family and many friends all over the world.

“She loved her work as an environmental engineer, which took her to the most dangerous parts of the world where she worked to improve the lives of those who so badly needed her help.

“Elaine touched the lives of everyone who knew her. She will be very sadly missed.”

Hundreds of metres of tunnels discovered under a historic prison island

A network of tunnels, hundreds of feet long, has been found on an island in Cork Harbour. The discovery has also provided a treasure trove of items not seen in decades – such as military equipment and prisoners’ identity badges – which are now in the hands of local historians.

John Crotty, who looks after the island as part of his job with Cork County Council, said they were also aware of another tunnel on the island used by smugglers since the 16th century. Regrettably however they had decided to seal it off because it was most likely structurally unsound.

“We knew of the existence of the tunnels under Bastion No 3, but they are a lot bigger than we expected. They go on for hundreds of metres in a U shape. There’s a warren of areas within them for storage,” Crotty told the Irish Examiner.

“We’re finding a lot of military equipment down there including parts for guns and badges for prisoners, which are more than 100 years old. There’s also a bellows, which formed part of a workshop and we are hoping to restore that and put it and other artifacts on display.”

Once a military fortress built out of a fear that France or Spain would invade Ireland, the island was turned out to into a prison in the 19th century; at one point nearly two and a half thousand souls were incarcerated there – making it the biggest prison in world – at a time when thousands of Irish people were driven to petty crime by the hardship of the Great Famine. There at least they would be fed.

Today again the island will make history: the Irish Prison Service will donate the Spike Island Convict Church chalice and paten to the island’s visitor center.

The items date from 1848 and were used when the prison was at its peak; religion forming a key part of the penal system’s attempts to rehabilitate criminals.

The island has also been shortlisted for a travel award alongside other European icons such as Buckingham Palace and the Colosseum. Other Irish winners have included the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin and Belfast’s Titanic Quarter.

Here's a short clip from RTE on the island:

Copyright © 2017 Robbinsville Irish Heritage Association