Ireland News Update – October 2012

IRELAND GIVEN THE RUN-AROUND BY EU OVER DEBT DEAL

The ongoing saga regarding the restructuring of Ireland’s bank debt has taken a number of major turns. In June the Irish government triumphantly announced that a deal had been brokered whereby some Irish bank debts would in fact be paid for by a new European Union mechanism. A ‘game-changer’ and ‘seismic shift’ were some of the terms used at the time.

In the months that followed though the realization of exactly what this involves seems to have dawned on the Germans who recently emphatically stated that the new mechanism would only apply to future bailouts (aimed at Spain and Italy in particular). The same German government then made noises to the effect that the EU would continue to ‘work closely’ with the Irish government on the issue before rolling back even more and conceding that Ireland was a ‘special case’ and that a deal could still be done.

This is very dangerous political ground for Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael government. Ireland is on schedule to be the first EU country to exit the bailout program and be able to borrow on the strength of it own sovereign credibility in the bond markets. The country has successively met every target imposed by the EU/IMF/ECB troika of creditors that the country has used to keep the lights turned on. On the other hand it is this very success (if that is the right word) that is putting Ireland further down the list of European priorities.

With Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy all in trouble there is simply no motivation for the EU to address a very small peripheral Irish economy that is actually on the road to recovery. It is not as if there are Greek-style street protests or threats of a sovereign default emanating from Ireland to focus EU minds.

It remains to be seen whether this ‘gently does it’ approach from Fine Gael works in securing a new deal for Ireland. If it does not, and if the Germans simply reiterate that only future bank problems can be dealt with by the new EU approach then it will be a bitter blow and not just to Fine Gael and its Labour Party partners but also to an Irish public reeling after four years of austerity.

That really would be a ‘game-changer’.

STATISTICS REVEAL CHANGING FACE OF IRISH RELIGION

The Central Statistics Office has released more figures from the 2011 census that has highlighted the changing makeup of religion in Ireland.
* The number of agnostics or atheists has increased dramatically and now represents 5.9% of the population
* Catholics represent 84.2% of the population, the lowest percentage ever recorded
* Muslims account for 1.1%
* Non-Christian religions in Ireland account for 1.9%

Other highlight from the 2011 census include:
* There were 42,854 more females than males in the State in April 2011
* Immigration by Irish nationals was 19,593 in the year to April 2011
* Immigration by foreign nationals in the year to April 2011 was 33,674. The largest groups came from Poland, UK, France, Lithuania, Spain and the USA
* Total housing stock grew to almost 2 million homes, of these almost 290,000 were vacant on census night giving a vacancy rate of 14.5%
* Over half a million (514,068) Irish residents spoke a foreign language. Polish was by far the most common, followed by French, Lithuanian and German

IRISH CREATOR OF DRACULA IS REMEMBERED

The continuing interest in the Irish writer Bram Stoker is again in evidence with the news that a very rare first edition of his most famous book is expected to sell for close to 10,000 Euros at a London auction. Additionally a new exhibition has been opened in Dublin to celebrate the life of one of Ireland’s most neglected writers.

IRISH SOCCER TEAM HAMMERED BY GERMANY

As if the trouble being experienced by the Irish government with the German government was not enough! The German soccer team hammered Ireland 6-1 at Landsdowne Road to underline the problems facing the Irish team in their quest to qualify for the world cup in Brazil in 2014.

In a group containing Austria and Sweden as well as the Germans the best that Ireland could realistically hope for was always going to be qualification through a runners-up place. With Sweden drawing 4-4 in Germany the aftermath of the Irish win in the Faroe Islands by 4-1 was occupied with speculation about whether manager Giovanni Trapattoni would be sacked.

In the end the FAI have kicked the problem down the road. The manager will stay and try to get us through the group. In reality the Irish soccer association could not afford to sack the experienced Italian, having only recently awarded him a new contract. Defeat to either of Sweden or Austria in the next two games could spell the end of the road though.

Bram Stoker – The Creator of Dracula

Until quite recently it was a little know fact that the creator of perhaps the worlds most famous villain was an Irishman from Clontarf in Dublin.

Bram Stoker was born in 1847 to Dubliner Abraham Stoker and Donegal native Charlotte Mathilda Blake Thornley. The third of seven children the young Bram Stoker was bed-ridden for much of his first seven years, a period that gave him much opportunity for reflection and creative thought:

‘I was naturally thoughtful, and the leisure of long illness gave opportunity for many thoughts which were fruitful according to their kind in later years.’

He recovered from his ill-health and went on to excel as an athlete at Trinity College from where he graduated with honours in the field of Mathematics in the year 1870. As president of the University Philosophical Society his first paper was on ‘Sensationalism in Fiction and Society’. He became the Theatre critic for the Dublin newspaper ‘The Evening Mail’, which was co-owned by the author of many Gothic tales, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, and who was the leading ghost-story writer of the nineteenth century.

In 1878 he married Dubliner Florence Balcombe who had previously been courted by Oscar Wilde. Stoker knew Oscar Wilde from his College days and even visited Wilde on the continent after his exile. The family moved to London where Stoker became manager of the Lyceum Theatre, a position he held for 27 years. The Theatre was most associated with Henry Irving who was a famed actor of the classical variety. Stoker was very active in the literary and artistic community in London at the time, meeting with the likes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, to whom he was distantly related. But it was to Irving that Stoker was devoted and it is thought that it is upon this man that he based his most famous literary creation – that of Count Dracula.

Stoker travelled the world with the now internationally famous acting company and even attended the White House with Irving, meeting Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, such was his employers fame.

His experience as a newspaper writer stood him in good stead when he began his work on Dracula. Stoker was already a published writer when he began researching ancient stories about vampires. The style of the book is very much in keeping with his previous experience as a news reporter with diary entries, newspaper clippings and telegrams all adding to a sense of realism. The fact that there were so many contributors within the story added to the sense of reality. Stoker is also said to have been inspired in part by a visit to St. Michan’s Church in Dublin, the vaults of which contain many mummified remains.

It was thought that the original 541 page Dracula manuscript from 1897 was lost forever but like the subject of the novel it too had to make an epic journey. From Transylvania to Pennsylvania, the US State that is home to many a desperado in hideaways like Allenport, Seneca and Doylestown, the manuscript remained hidden for decades before being amazingly uncovered in a barn there in the early 1980’s. The original title of the novel ‘The Un-Dead’ was clearly marked on it. It was later bought by the co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen.

Bram Stoker died in London in 1912. While well regarded as a ghost-writer in the Victorian age it was not until the first cinematic production of a vampire in 1922 that his legacy was set forever. Stoker’s widow actually sued the German film-makers who produced Nosferatu, the first vampire movie with ‘Count Orlock’ being substituted for ‘Count Dracula’ in an attempt to breach the copyright. She won the case in 1925. The first authorized version of the story was released in 1931 with Bella Lugois as Count Dracula. Newspapers reported that members of the audiences fainted in shock at the horror on screen! The film became a box office sensation and is regarded as the first full length horror movie. It is estimated that there have been at least 200 movies featuring Dracula while a vampire subculture has blossomed among young people in particular, fuelled by countless television and silver screen productions.

It is only in recent years that a fuller appreciation of the work and impact of Bram Stoker has occurred in Ireland and beyond.

Dracula Audio-Book:
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/6534

Dracula Full Text:
http://www.ireland-information.com/irishliterature.htm

Mercury Theatre 1938 Radio Recording of Dracula with Orson Welles:
http://sounds.mercurytheatre.info/mercury/380711.mp3

Blame an Irishman for all of the Vampires on TV and in Cinema

I have always blamed Buffy.

It was just one vampire TV series after another and then endless vampire movies and clearly ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ was to blame. Maybe it is when you reach a certain age that you begin to incorrectly assign all occurrences of a cultural event to one particularly irritating occurrence of it?

Never-ending Kristen Stewart and Robert Patterson? Buffy caused that!
A seemingly good movie takes a detour down a vampire path – Blame Buffy!!
A muppet starts counting in Dracula-speak on Sesame Street – BLAME BUFFY!!!

Wait a minute – that cant be right. And of course it isn’t. I had always known that Bram Stoker was Irish but I had never realized that he grew up less than a mile away from our house on the northside of Dublin, near to Fairview Park. I doubt very much if the Irish creator of one of literature’s most famous characters could ever have guessed at the impact his creation would have on so many other art forms. Hundreds of movies and thousands of TV programs later we have arrived at a point where vampires are so ‘in’ that it is next to impossible to avoid them. For a species that thrives on secrecy they are certainly putting it about lately.

I thought the zenith had been reached when Dianne Weist and Jason Patric battled Kiefer Sutherland in ‘The Lost Boys’ but no. This was only a precursor to the next generation of vampire-annihilators. And no end in sight. Blaming Buffy the Vampire Slayer for it all is just so much easier (for a person of a certain age) but of course the truth will always out in the end.

So now you know who to blame for it all – not Buffy, not Sesame Street’s ‘the Count’, not even Rpatz or KStew, but a Victorian-age chap from Dublin named Bram Stoker, the creator of Dracula.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
Michael