Ireland is Twelfth Best Country to be Born in During 2013

A survey released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has revealed the best countries in the world to be born in during 2013.

The results mirror a recent OECD ‘Better Life Index’ which listed Ireland as the fifteenth happiest country in which to live. That survey placed Ireland behind Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Australia, Canada and Sweden while the US placed twelfth and the UK fourteenth.

It is no great surprise that the Scandinavian countries once again dominate the EIU list but it is Switzerland that tops the list on this occasion. Canada and Australia also placed highly in both surveys.

The EIU survey examined peoples attitudes to their lives, crime rates, employment rates and earnings as well as health and quality of family life. It has been noted that the top ten countries were for the most part smaller economies and were not part of any monetary union (such as the Eurozone).

The EIU best countries to be born in during 2013:
1 Switzerland
2 Australia
3 Norway
4 Sweden
5 Denmark
6 Singapore
7 New Zealand
8 Netherlands
9 Canada
10 Hong Kong
11 Finland
12 Ireland
16 USA

Ireland is Tenth Best Educated Country in OECD

One of the many consequences of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ economic boom in Ireland during the late nineties and early part of the new century was that there was a lot of investment in education. A recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) measured the extent to which the population of a country held a college or college equivalent degree.

Between the years 2000 and 2010 the percentage of people with a higher level qualification in Ireland almost doubled, increasing at an annualized average rate of 7.3% – an amazing increase by any standard and this is despite recent cut-backs in the education sector.

By 2010 Over 37% of the population had a higher level qualification, compared to 51% in Canada, 46% in Israel, 42% in the USA and 38% in the UK. Ireland ranked in tenth place in the list of OECD countries, with the USA fourth and the UK in seventh placed.

Unfinished ‘Ghost Estates’ a Huge Problem in Ireland

The property boom that gripped Ireland during the 1990′s and the early part of the new century had a dreadful far-reaching effect when property prices crashed. The leading banks in Ireland had to go cap-in-hand to the Government for a bail-out which in turn bankrupted the economy and resulted in extensive loans being required from the EU/IMF ECB troika.

On a wider perspective the property crash decimated the economy but also caused a lot of problems on a micro level too. Many Irish couples bought starter apartments in the hope that they could move to a bigger house when their family grew. Now stuck in negative equity there are thousands of families who simply cannot afford to move from their unsuitable apartments and are trapped, waiting on the property market to improve before they can sell up and move on.

Worse again is the situation of those families who bought houses and apartments in building schemes and housing estates only for the builder to go bust half way through the build. Now they are surrounded by dozens of unfinished properties and are living in virtual building sites which attract vandalism and anti-social behaviour.

A new report from the Irish Government Department of the Environment has revealed that there are now 1770 unfinished housing developments dotted around the country. Of these 1100 are in a very bad state and are even commercially unviable. While the larger cities have their share of such property developments it is in the midlands and border Counties where the problem is even more obvious. Once quaint towns and villages are now blighted by the remnants of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ era of building mania.

It is clear that several of the 1770 housing schemes will have to be completely demolished and returned to a ‘green field’ state, perhaps providing some employment for the now unemployed construction staff who helped to build them in the first place.

Further Crackdown on Welfare on the Way

It is a sign of the economic times that social welfare is again being targeted by a broke Irish government. Years of austerity, cutbacks and tax hikes have not yet been enough to balance the books in Ireland so the next target is those people who have already lost their jobs.

The ‘Jobseekers Allowance’ is usually paid for 12 months after unemployment begins but it is likely this will be cut to 9 months after which time the allowance will become subject to a ‘means test’. Such an individual examination of a persons income is likely to result in the amount paid being reduced. There are also a percentage of people who would be more encouraged to seek out work rather than endure a means test and a likely welfare cut.

This so called ‘labour activation measure’ could affect as many as 40,000 people in Ireland and is certain to be greeted with hostility by sections of the Labour Party who are currently in coalition with Fine Gael. The measure is likely to be yet another wedge to be driven between the two government parties in what is becoming a regular occurrence. The chances of Labour actually leaving Government though are pretty remote. Their public support has plummeted in recent months if the opinion polls are to be believed and any short-term election would see the party severely punished.

More likely Labour will try to water-down or even prevent the new measures from being implemented. With other big issues such as the abortion legislation and the ‘Croke Park Agreement’ also on the horizon it looks like the differences between Fine Gael and Labour are once again about to be brought into stark relief. Much to the delight of the opposition parties.

Terror 1974 – a story by Michael Collins

There was laughter in the car. The vehicle sped up the main road from Dublin to Belfast. And there was laughter in the car. They were on a mission. Pat and Mick. Yes, Pat and Mick, even though it sounds like the start of a thousand crude music-hall jokes. They had an appointment in Belfast. Pat was the literary dreamer from the far West of Ireland. Mick was third-generation English-born Irish, catapulted back from the land of his birth to the land of his worthless grandfather. Unlike many using the road, Pat and Mick were well educated, the one young and still a university student, the other older and already with two degrees under his belt. Pat was fluent in Irish and English, Mick in English and French, the latter thanks to a long period spent in mainland Europe where he had experienced close at hand the terror tactics of the OAS in Paris in the sixties. Neither was a member of any political party; both were nonetheless deeply engaged in politics – the war in Vietnam, the troubles in Northern Ireland.

Pat, garrulous Pat with an infinite store of literary anecdotes and quotes, an infinite store of tales about real situations – Pat babbled on and punctuated his stories with muffled giggles at his own creativity. Mick, somewhat quieter but also quite capable of shooting his mouth off, preserved silence on this occasion. Pat was in his own country, had an Irish accent and a common name. Mick was in foreign territory, perhaps enemy territory, had a pronounced English accent and a suspect name, a name from the past that haunted many a nervous man in this land. The car was Mick’s, skilfully shuttled at regular intervals between England and Ireland for the last couple of years so that he would not have to pay tax on the vehicle. It was untraceable in Ireland, as he had discovered when, after exceeding the speed limit out in the country one day he had been stopped by a hidden police patrol car. he was allowed to continue on his way unpunished because, as one of the officers had said with a laugh, ‘How will we trace your vehicle by post and impose a fine?’
Mick was not rich. But his car was somewhat unique and eminently identifiable. An accident of fate had caused him to acquire it a couple of years before and he had held on to it, reckoning that it would come in useful one day. It had proved its worth in Ireland, as he criss-crossed the country doing voluntary work for the national student organisation he worked for. But it was easily recognisable, even by someone who knew nothing about cars: a royal blue Volkswagen Variant estate car, which had been unique even in his huge home city of Manchester. Mick laughed quietly at the right moments as Pat gabbled on. But Mick was worried about his car. Had been for a long time while the mission was being planned. He had come to a decision. Entering Belfast in this car would be simply crying out for trouble. So he would drive from Dublin to Dundalk (‘cowboy town’). The car would be dropped as unobtrusively as possible in a pub car park there. Not a public car park. Pub car parks were usually around the back, hidden from the road. If he put it far enough back, maybe under some trees, it wouldn’t be noticed for the brief period they would be in Belfast. One problem: which pub car park? After that it would be easy: bus or train to Belfast station and then sort it out from there.

They passed through Castlebellingham, reminding Mick of adventures of long ago and of recent date. Dundalk loomed up. Where to drop the car? No planning, just instinct: Mick spotted a large pub and guessed it would have a large parking space, or at least an empty area, round the back. He was right, and the sweat slowly dried off his forehead. Behind the pub was an open space covered with cinders, with a curve in it. The pub was closed so the space was empty. Mick guided the car round to the back of the curve, where the vehicle would be hidden from road and pub by intervening bushes. The noise of the tyres on the cinders should have wakened the dead and the VW’s engine was not the quietest on the road, but he hoped that neither publican nor local inhabitants would be alerted. Pat was ready to leap out of the car. Mick shushed him and looked in his side and rear-view mirrors. Nothing moved outside. Mick forced Pat to sit still for five minutes while trying to work out the next move. He knew how to get back to the main road and that they should turn left to make for Dundalk. Otherwise he was stumped.
‘Pat’, he said, in an urgent whisper, ‘we are going to get out of this car as quietly as possible. I’ll open and close the doors. You get your duffel bag and make your way over there to those bushes.’ He pointed.
For once Pat obeyed without question. Mick’s anxiety had got through to him. He opened the passenger door as quietly as possible, left it open, drew aside the rear door that Mick had already opened quietly from inside the car, withdrew his duffel bag from the back seat and made his way as noiselessly as his 160 pound body weight would allow him over a short stretch of cinders to the sheltering bushes. His passage made some rather loud crunching noises. God! thought Mick, why does he have to wear those hulking great hiking boots?
Mick emerged from the car, picked up his small rucksack from the back seat and proceeded to close all the car doors. Not with a slam, but with a quiet push of his hands till he heard a click and then with a swift blow from his backside to ensure that the doors were locked. Weighing 140 pounds and wearing crepe-soled desert boots he made his relatively quiet way to Pat who was not exactly huddled against the protective bushes.
‘OK’, he said in a whisper. ‘Unless you have any better ideas, we make our way as quietly as possible to the main road. We don’t talk. We act nonchalant as if we’d just rambled in from the surrounding countryside. At the main road we turn left, towards Dundalk, and if a car passes we try to hitch a lift. We don’t need the lift but it will identify us as no more than a pair of hitch-hikers.’
Pat nodded and they set out. In fact, very few vehicles passed and they were close to Dundalk town centre. At the railway station they bought one-way tickets for Belfast and were there within the hour.
Neither of them knew Belfast but they had imprinted on their minds the name of the road they had to find and knew that it was to the north of the Falls Road, a Catholic/IRA neighbourhood.
The train dropped them more or less in the city centre and it was left to Mick (Pat was still dreaming about Norman Mailer and Nixon) to find directions. They found the vital heart of Belfast. Unfortunately it seemed as if all the road signs were missing. They had no way of knowing which direction they should take.
They had wandered around for quite some time when a very tall, young, British soldier appeared out of nowhere and confronted them, barring their path. Mick guessed he was part of a security patrol and that the rest of the men were hidden, with guns at the ready. The young man’s machine gun was lowered to pavement level but his head towered above Pat and Mick.
‘Excuse me, gentlemen’, he said, with a strong Somerset burr, ‘would you mind opening your bags so that I can see what you’re carrying?’

Pat protested immediately that he was in his own country and didn’t need to prove anything and anyway what was a British soldier doing… He tailed off, still blustering, his eyes flashing from behind his thick glasses. Mick nudged him and whispered in a tone he hoped the soldier would neither hear nor recognise as an English accent: ‘Pat, open your duffel bag. It can’t do any harm.’
Pat continued to be obstreperous and the muzzle of the soldier’s weapon slowly rose from pavement level to about the level of Pat’s belly button. Pat opened his duffel bag and the gun muzzle poked around briefly in his weekend change of clothes.
‘And yours, sir’, said the soldier to Mick.
Mick complied immediately, and the muzzle of the weapon disturbed the upper layer of his clean underclothes. Then the soldier gestured in an arc, to his right and behind him, with his gun. ‘Thank you, gentlemen.’ Again the soft Somerset burr. They were dismissed. Let free. And he was gone.
As they walked on, this time in silence, Mick inwardly cursed Pat’s intransigence. He could get them into trouble. But meanwhile Mick had had the opportunity of surveying their surroundings. He was desperately trying to orientate himself, not wishing to stand out too much by consulting a street map. Which was why he hadn’t brought one with him. He’d done his best back in Dublin to memorise the map of Belfast but it was his first visit to the city and the lack of signposts – either vandalised or removed by the security forces in an attempt to foil terrorist getaways – made the task almost impossible. By now they were a short way out of the city centre and Mick thought he recognised, from newspaper photos and TV images, a block of flats that could serve as a landmark. The notorious Divis Flats. Weren’t they at the bottom of the Falls Road? And their destination was at the top of the Falls, near a park known locally as the Black Mountain. ‘Back of there’, he said to Pat, and they made their way behind the flats to find themselves on a broad thoroughfare. The Falls.

They made their way to a bus stop, put their meagre baggage on the ground and waited patiently. There were few passers-by, but those that were looked at them curiously. Nobody greeted them. It was Pat’s habit always to have a book with him to read at times when little was happening. He’d even been known to carry a book in the back pocket of his shorts when he was keeping goal: whenever the ball crossed the centre line in the direction of the opponents’ goal, out would come the book and Pat would be off reading again. Now his nose was stuck into the book he had brought with him (Norman Mailer today) and he noticed nothing. But Mick began to feel uncomfortable. Were they so obviously out of place here? Did they stick out like a sore thumb? They remained the only ones waiting at the stop – which Mick also found curious – for about fifteen minutes. Then a passing woman glanced at them, almost walked on but turned as she passed by.
‘Youse boys had better take a taxi. There’s no buses along here any more.’ Taxi? They couldn’t afford a taxi. ‘Fixed rate’, explained the woman. ‘A shillin’ each and it’ll take you anywhere. It’s not quick but it’s safe.’ She walked on. Some minutes later Mick saw a London-type taxi approaching and flagged it down. ‘Where to, lads?’ asked the driver. Mick gave the address. ‘I can drop you off on the corner’ said the driver. ‘That two shillin’s please.’ There were already three women, two with small children on their lap, sitting in the taxi. It was a bit of a squeeze but they managed. There was little conversation, the only sound being the crackle of the driver’s radio and the occasional incomprehensible message coming through.
The route the taxi was taking was anything but straightforward. Detour after detour, sometimes along narrow one-way streets. Mick was glad the fare was fixed at a shilling.
One by one the women were dropped off at their destinations. The taxi started up to deliver its last passengers, found the Falls Road again and this time drove as straight as an arrow. Suddenly it stopped. The driver turned round and said: ‘Sorry, lads, but I’ll have to take the long way round. The radio’s just reported some shooting ahead. But we’ll get you there, never you worry.’
Detour after detour after detour. Then they were in a relatively respectable looking suburb, with semi-detached houses and neat gardens. The taxi stopped. ‘Here you are, lads’, announced the driver. Almost there, thought Mick. This is the right road. He’d forgotten the house number but knew it was somewhere in the thirties. They could always knock at a door and ask where the McCanns lived. They were opposite number 21 and Mick was thinking they should maybe ask directions when rifle shots started ringing out. Bullets whizzed down the length of the road like demented wasps. The two men bolted, Mick to the left and Pat to the right – anywhere to get out of the way of flying death. Mick landed in someone’s rose bed and lay there paralysed with fear and unmoving despite being scratched all over. Who the hell was targeting them? And why? Was it dangerous just to be an unrecognised stranger here? And, he thought, surely most of the shooting is confined to centre of the city. We’re a good mile-and-a-half away.
He lay there shaking for probably thirty seconds until the shooting stopped and calm returned to his head. He had no idea where Pat was, no idea if he had been hit or not. All was silent in the suburban road. He waited another few minutes. Still nothing stirred. No more bullets sped down the road.
Slowly he extricated himself from the rose bushes, checked to see that he’d not done too much visible damage, brushed himself down and made his way across the neat lawn to the front door of number 21. It was like wakening from a nightmare. A few minutes ago someone had been shooting at him. Now his feet passed over closely cropped turf and the herbaceous borders smiled at him.
The door was opened by a woman of about his own age, wearing an apron and a kerchief round her head, vacuum cleaner in hand. ‘Could you tell me where Eamonn McCann lives?’ he asked in a slightly shaky voice. ‘That’d be number 39′, she replied. He thanked her and turned to go. Just before the door shut she leaned her head out. ‘You shouldn’t be out on the street’, she cried. ‘There’s shooting going on, you know!’ He thanked her again and made his way down the garden path.
Pat, who had obviously heard the conversation, could be seen emerging ashen-faced from a hedgerow on the other side of the road. Thank the Lord for that, thought Mick, and was about to chivvy Pat along to number 39 when he noticed something. ‘Where’s your duffel bag?’ ‘O God!’ exclaimed Pat, and dived back into the bushes to retrieve his things. Mick noted that Pat’s somewhat crumpled book was still firmly wedged into his right-hand trouser pocket. They moved shakily up the quiet road and turned into the garden of number 39. Mick rang the bell and waited. Anxiously. Footsteps approached the front door. The door opened. And there stood Eamonn, whose face immediately lit up in greeting.
‘You made it after all!’ he shouted. ‘Come in. The rest of the guests are out back. Go and introduce yourselves and get a drink. You look shot.’
Mick stumbled inside, closely followed by Pat. He heaved a sigh of relief. They had arrived in time for the wedding reception of Eamonn and Aine. Mission accomplished.

The Changing Face of Irish Religion Revealed by CSO Statistics

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

Daniel O’Connell – The Life and Times of The Liberator 1775 – 1847

By Anthony Lynott

Daniel O’Connell, affectionately known as The Liberator or The Emancipator was an Irish political activist. His activism and many accomplishments spanned a period of almost 50 years beginning in the latter part of the 18th century. He would be mostly known for his campaign for, and achievement of, Catholic Emancipation, followed by his unsuccessful campaign for the repeal of the Act of Union that formed the Union of Great Britain and Ireland.

O’Connell was born August 6, 1775 at Carhen near Cahirciveen, County Kerry to Morgan and Catherine O’Connell of Derrynane. At one time a wealthy landed family, the O’Connell’s could trace their chieftain roots back to the 14th century. Named after his Uncle Daniel he came into the world of the Protestant Ascendancy where the political, economic, and social domination of Ireland was held by a minority of large landowners, Protestant clergy and professionals that were mostly members of the State Churches of Ireland and England. Growing up, O’Connell as a Catholic would not enjoy the political and social privileges of the Ascendancy, which excluded Roman Catholics as well as other non-conforming religions. Instead he was raised amongst the Irish peasantry, learning the Irish language and seeing first-hand the hardships under which most of the peasantry laboured. His ability to speak Irish, along with his interest in the traditional Kerry culture of Irish song and story, as well as his understanding of how the rural mind worked would shape his personality and core beliefs going forward.

At the time of Daniel’s birth his Uncle Maurice, thirteen years older than his brother Morgan, had authority over his siblings as was custom at the time. This was to have a significant impact on the development of young Daniel, starting off with Maurice’s position, along with Morgan’s, that Daniel should be fostered out in accordance with Gaelic tradition. The notion of fosterage was to ensure that Daniel would gain a solid understanding of the peasantry, both with their language and their way of life. So, young Daniel was fostered out in infancy to the Cahill family, the family of Morgan’s head Cowman, returning to his birth parents and his four siblings (eventually growing to nine) at the age of five. The Cahill’s lived only five miles from the O’Connell’s, and during this period Daniel spoke only Irish and, by all accounts, formed a strong bond with his foster parents while retaining a strong attachment to his birth parents.

While still in his childhood Daniel was adopted, along with his brother, by his childless uncle Maurice, who lived at Derrynane House in nearby Caherdaniel, County Kerry. This arrangement would bode well for Daniel given Maurice’s established wealth that would provide Daniel with considerable opportunities that otherwise would not be available. He would spend much of his early life with Maurice, starting on the road of matriculation at a small boarding school near Cork. He would later attend Saint-Omer (1791–1792) and Douai (1792–1793), reportedly two of the best Catholic schools in France. During this period O’Connell was exposed to the French Revolution and its violent radical social and political upheaval, which left him with a revulsion of violence for political pursuits. In 1794 O’Connell enrolled in Lincoln’s Inn, London to study law (Irishmen who wished to practice as barristers were required to attend the Inns of Court in London).

Initially, his studies were concentrated on the legal and political history of Ireland, expanding to the philosophers of Voltaire and Rousseau, and the works of Godwin, Smith, and Bentham; he became painfully aware of the prevailing repression of the populace by the government and its goal to maintain the Ascendancy of a privileged and, oftentimes, corrupt minority, all shaping O’Connell’s own radical (for the times) philosophy as a Nationalist. Continuing his studies two years later, he transferred to the King’s Inns, Dublin, the institution which controls the entry of barristers-at-law into the justice system of Ireland; he was subsequently called to the bar in 1798.

O’Connell accomplished much in his relatively short lifetime. However, the first ten years or so of his career were fairly uneventful where he focused on his private law practice; it was also during this period that he secretly married his cousin Mary, by all accounts a good marriage that produced twelve children. His career started to expand into politics with his public opposition to the Act of Union in 1800. Nevertheless, his primary activities were focused on Catholic Emancipation, advancing the movement to repeal the legislation disenfranchising most Catholics. He would regularly attend the meetings of the Catholic Board that he established, applying and infusing his famous energy into its proceedings, and by 1810 he would become the most trusted and powerful of the Catholic leaders. And it was during his time on the Board that one noted event happened that endeared him further with the people of Ireland: The Dublin Corporation (city council), supporter of the Protestant ascendancy, was memorably described by O’Connell in a public speech in 1815 as a “beggarly corporation”. The aldermen and councillors were enraged and, finding that O’Connell would not apologize, a member of the Corporation, John D’Esterre, challenged O’Connell to a duel. D’Esterre was an accomplished duellist, and the hope was that if O’Connell attempted to fight there would be an end to his career. To the surprise of all O’Connell won the duel, but to his final days he never missed an opportunity of assisting the D’Esterre family.

Dublin Castle, the seat of British power in Ireland, afraid of the growing profile of the Catholic Board, and under the auspices of the Convention act of 1793, arrested and brought to trial some of the Catholic Board’s leaders. O’Connell successfully defended the accused and obtained an acquittal. In time the Board was dissolved, replaced by the Catholic Association co-founded by O’Connell in 1823. The mission of the Association was to achieve Catholic Emancipation, and by 1825 it had organized itself throughout most of the island as a formidable political movement. In most districts there was a branch of the Catholic Association, where local grievances were addressed, and subscriptions (aka rents) collected and sent to the Dublin headquarters. The subscriptions facilitated the growth of a significant treasury that would finance the Association’s many activities. Growing alarmed at the increasing power of the Association, in 1825 the Government passed a bill suppressing it. But O’Connell simply reconstituted the Association and the work continued. In 1826 the Association successfully fielded a Westminster candidate (a Protestant Emancipationist) for Waterford who defeated a powerful member of the Ascendancy (a significant electoral test). The Association would go on to achieve similar victories in Counties Monaghan, Westmeath, Cavan and Louth.

Similarly, in 1828 a by-election was called in Co. Clare…….O’Connell contested the seat himself (the first Catholic to seek office in Westminster) and achieved a decisive victory for the Catholic cause. However, going on to Westminster to take his seat, and obliged as a Catholic to refuse to take the required Oath of Supremacy, he was refused entry. Fearing a serious backlash though, the British Government passed the Roman Catholic Relief Act (1829) which granted Catholic Emancipation. Catholics were now to be admitted to parliament and to public offices, but the Ascendancy still controlled Dublin castle, and Catholics were still kept out of most public positions. The Act, in fact, meant very little to the ordinary peasantry but it was still a major step forward in Irish history as Catholic candidates could be elected to represent their own constituents. This enabled O’Connell to take his seat as representative for Kerry in 1830.

O’Connell quickly established himself as Ireland’s unequalled political leader in the House of Commons, becoming leader of the Irish Members of Parliament. Noting that historian Roy Foster has termed his energy as protean, O’Connell pursued his goals with a ferocious tenacity. He was active in the campaigns for parliamentary, legal, and prison reform, electoral reform and the secret ballot, free trade, the abolition of slavery and Jewish emancipation. But his prime objective was now the Repeal of the Act of Union. This was to be facilitated through The National Association of Ireland, known as the Repeal Association. The Association included many Young Irelanders, a parallel political movement who, unlike O’Connell, believed that independence could be won only by use of force. O’Connell now began to organise “monster meetings” throughout the country. The first was at Trim, Co. Meath which attracted a crowd of over 100,000, later increasing to crowds of more than 750,000 when people gathered on the hill of Tara to hear his eloquent oratory. The government became alarmed at the strength of the Repeal Movement and a monster meeting which O’Connell had planned for 8 October 1843 in Clontarf, Dublin was banned. Huge crowds were already on their way when O’Connell called off the meeting to avoid the risk of violence and bloodshed. Nevertheless, he was charged with conspiracy, arrested and sentenced to a year in jail and a fine of £2,000.

O’Connell was released after serving three months in prison, much weakened physically by his ordeal. While he continued with his campaign for repeal it was clear that the tactics that had won emancipation had failed with his Repeal movement. O’Connell, now seventy and in ill health, no longer had a viable plan for future action. Moreover, morale was waning in the Repeal Association and the Young Irelanders withdrew. Concluding that he had failed with his goal, O’Connell gave up his fight for repeal. In 1847 he made his last speech in Parliament, pleading in his most passionate manner for aid so that his people would not perish from the great famine that was now in its second year. i

It is the case that O’Connell established the template of agitation and the pursuit of political goals through constitutional means as opposed to violent means, keeping strictly within the law. This is an accomplishment in itself given his singular ability to mobilize monster meetings of huge crowds that would undoubtedly have followed O’Connell on a violent path if asked to do so. Future major world political leaders would follow his example.

Still in his seventieth year O’Connell was advised to move to a warmer climate to repair his ailing health. Planning on a pilgrimage to Rome he stopped off in Paris where he was greeted by a large crowd of radicals who regarded him as the “most successful champion of liberty and democracy in Europe”. He did not complete his journey to Rome though; he died in Genoa on 15 May 1847. As he had requested, O’Connell’s heart was buried in the Irish College in Rome and his body was interred in Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin on 5 August 1847.

6 August 1775: Born in Cahirciveen, County Kerry
19 May 1798: Called to the Irish Bar
13 January 1800: Speech delivered opposing Act of Union
1811: Catholic Board established
1814: Catholic Board dissolved
1 February 1815: Duel with D’Esterre
1821: Makes emancipation presentation to George IV
13 May 1823: Establishes the Catholic Association
February 1823: Inherits Derrynane House
5 July 1828: Wins Clare seat for MP
13 April 1829: Catholic Emancipation Act passes
1 November 1841: Becomes first Catholic Lord Mayor of Dublin
15 August 1843: Tara ‘Monster’ meeting
7 October 1843: Clontarf ‘Monster’ meeting banned
30 May 1844: Imprisoned
5 September 1844: Released from prison
8 February 1847: Last speech in the House of Commons
15 May 1847: Dies in Genoa, Italy

Christine Kineady. UCC: Multitext Project in Irish History / Emancipation, Famine & Religion: Ireland under the Union
Clare County Library. ‘Clare People: Daniel O’Connell (1775- 1847).’ Clare County Library (n.d.): 1 – 3.
Foster, R. F. Modern Ireland 1600 – 1972. London: Penguin, 1988.
Jackson, Alvin. Ireland 1798 – 1998. West Sussex – UK: John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 1999.
Robert Dunlap, M.A. Daniel O’Connell. New York: Fred DeFau & Company, 1899. Electronic Book.
The Warrington Project / The Institute of Irish Studies, The University of Liverpool. ‘Catholic Emancipation & the role of Daniel O’Connell.’ Understanding Anglo-Irish relations (n.d.): 18.

‘The Outsider’ – An Irish Story by Michael Collins

The morning air had a quality only found on an island: cool yet warmed by the rising sun and the rocks still giving off yesterday’s heat. The three men tramped up the gravel track, the slope steeper as they neared the western end of the island.

The sun was diagonally behind them, low enough to pick out in detail every feature of this rough and ready place. To the left the light was reflected in a sparkle from the surrounding seas. Ahead the cliffs rose to breast the Atlantic. To the right the bulk of the island swelled steeply upwards like a whale’s back, the sparse grass, rushes and heather pushing up between the rocky outcrops through the thin living layer, reminding all who passed that wresting an existence from this soil meant unceasing toil. The patient sheep grazed and bleated, wanting rid of their thick winter coats.

“And wasn’t that a grand wake now, last evening?” asked Mick Mickey. More a statement than a question, in honour of the dead man and his family and to mark the fact that they had given old John a good send-off. Michael Gerry nodded assent.

The Outsider recalled the previous evening. He had arrived on the island unannounced and had been offered lodgings at Mick Mickey’s. At dusk they had tramped up this same path to where Old John had been laid out in his home. The cottage crouched under its thatch, pressing itself down, away from the gales crashing in from the Atlantic. A single-storey cottage, whitewashed on the outside and with a bright red door, surrounded by exotic fuchsias that seemed out of place in this land of greens, greys, blues.

Old John had been laid out in his coffin, dressed in his Sunday suit, surrounded by candles. The eldest daughter, her mother long dead, had the responsibility for the wake – helped by the neighbours. They had seen to a plentiful supply of cake, tea, tobacco, whiskey… plus some arcane potions distilled locally without the intervention of the excise men.

The women had been gathered round the bier. Theirs it was to wail and keen, joined at intervals by newly arrived men who would recite a decade of the rosary for the dead man’s soul. The Outsider went in with Mick Mickey and did his best to participate. His contribution went no further than kneeling down, joining his hands and half-closing his eyes, while the Paters, Aves and Glorias buzzed around him like a swarm of bees, the high women’s voices alternating with the men’s grumbling throats as they prayed their relays with the skill born of many years’ practice. A non-believer, he felt nothing for the ritual, but he could imagine that the repetitive drone of half-understood formulae could bring about a certain peace of mind, convince the participants that they were doing something meaningful, as the marathon runner must feel after passing the finishing line having taken fifty-thousand identical steps to get there.

Once they had done their duty the men retired, leaving eternity’s business to their womenfolk. They gathered in the kitchen, the air thick with tobacco smoke and the fumes of alcohol. This was the socially important part of the ceremony, where Old John would be set into the minds of the surviving islanders. The Outsider observed quietly, marvelling at this rich collection of individuals. Not that these people were rich in terms of money: they simply had a richness about them. They smelt rich, felt rich, sounded rich, moved richly. His own people at home smelt… well, they smelt too, but the smell usually came out of a bottle. These people smelt warm, like contented cows. The people at home felt and looked rich on the outside: soft clothing, soft skins, warm handshakes. Here they looked solid, little regard for clothing except as protection against the elements, skin like the bark of an oak, grooved and greyish-brown. And they were sparse in their rich touching – perhaps no more than a handshake from a calloused hand. Here an arm around your shoulders was like being included in the honours list. The people back home moved like the White Rabbit continually glancing at his watch. Here they moved richly, slowly and ponderously, counting each step, measuring effort required and advantage gained. Watches and clocks were scarce. Their speech was rich and colourful.

Sure, he was a grand man, was Old John.
Sure, he was indeed. You would have thought that Bridie’s death would have finished him off.
You would, too.
Not John. He knew what was what. He was made of stern stuff.
Well, you may be right, but surely to God he knew little about sheep.
That’s no surprise. He had the cows.
He had but three cows, to be sure.
Aye, but he knew them. And he had the best grassland.
And he knew about vegetables, sure he did.
Now what use is vegetables? A man needs good red meat to keep him on his feet.
And the Guinness!
To knock him off his feet, more likely.
Aye, but John knew all about that too. Sure, didn’t he need five pints before that recitation of his?
You can talk, Mick Mickey. We don’t get a peep out of you till you’ve chalked up ten pints.
Ach, but Old John could hold his drink a treat. And he knew when to hold off, so he did.
So you didn’t see him when young John came back from Australia?
Sure, I did. He was still in O’Brien’s at six the next morning!
Ach, a father needs to celebrate at a time like that, sure he does.
Aye, that’s true enough. And Old John was never one to throw good money away on drink.
Sure he wasn’t! Never known to pay for the last round!

The to-and-fro remarks were punctuated, sometimes by laughter but mostly by deep silences and quiet guffaws, back of the hand against the mouth. The men were re-telling John’s life story. As they remembered him. The Outsider had nothing to contribute except his respectful presence. Despite his fairly frequent visits to the island he had not known Old John except by name. Now his contribution consisted, once again and for the umpteenth time, in a sense of wonder at how this tiny isolated society had managed to continue to exist with its unspoken and unwritten customs intact, its uniqueness untouched.

He listened as the remarks and quips flew across the room. This was neither eulogy nor condemnation. It was the beginning of an oral tradition that would immortalise Old John for as long as people lived here.

It had been late when they left the wake. Michael Gerry had accompanied Mick Mickey and the Outsider home, weaving a familiar path down to the sea-level northeast end of the island. They had passed Michael Joe’s cottage, and the Outsider had thought he recognised a few places where Michael Joe had extracted lethal bottles of home-brewed liquor from the bog the previous summer, all the while conducting a discussion on the rival merits of Plato, Aristotle and Sartre, and any philosophers in between. By now, thought the Outsider, this island has no more surprises for me. He was wrong.

The three of them had covered the last mile in silence. As they neared Old John’s cottage the coffin was being carried out on broad shoulders, over the spine of the island to the church and graveyard. Nobody hurried. There was no traffic. A few people working in the fields uncovered their heads, stood still until the procession had passed and then resumed work. Or laid down their implements and joined the procession.

The church was full, most of the congregation unknown to the Outsider. The Requiem Mass was standard, the kind of ceremony you would get anywhere in the world. The Outsider found it incomprehensible, even more so than the rosary of the previous evening and far less significant than the exchanges between the men in Old John’s cottage. He disliked it. He looked around for the face he hoped he knew best. The face was absent.

The Outsider was on the back row of the benches in the tiny church. When the service ended he was first out. He found the face he had been looking for: Michael Joe, sitting on the ground with his back against a dry stone wall, puffing at his pipe, disreputable hat on his head, eager panting dog with lolling tongue at his feet, bicycle propped next to him against the wall.

“Were you not inside, Michael Joe?” asked the Outsider.

“I was not. Sure it’s better out here. You can hear it all drone on and know where they’re up to – gives you a chance to light the old pipe at strategic times – but you don’t have to listen because you’ve heard it all before. And it gets no better. Anyway, out here I have the dog and the pipe and the rest of the universe around me. That gives me more cause to contemplate life and death than the words of our beloved parish priest, no matter how well-intentioned he may be.”

The men gathered round in a loose circle and lit up cigarettes and pipes. The women stayed behind at the church door in a clump, quietly whispering among themselves. Michael Gerry and another of the young men, Michael Bob, took centre stage as if on a signal, doffed their jackets, spat on their hands and started to dig.

It dawned on the Outsider that for the purposes of burial the two men were the gravediggers. And how the devil will they do that here? he asked himself. The island is a lump of solid rock. You’d need dynamite to dig a grave.

But he had still more to learn. Though the church was built on rocky foundations its tiny graveyard easily yielded to the combined spades. When the two lads were about three feet down they slowed their pace and began to dig carefully. The reason soon became apparent: they were unearthing human bones. These were laid with a fair degree of reverence and care – and in comparative silence – on top of Old John’s coffin, until a skull came to light.

- Would you look at that now?
- Sure an’ all, it must be old Padraig.
- D’you think so?
- Och, it must be. He’s been gone now all of…
- Must be eighty years.
- Well, he’ll be having another burial today. Not everybody can do it twice…

And the discussions continued quietly until the hole was deep and wide and long enough for Old John. Then – a signal the Outsider missed – the women filed out of the church and ranged themselves with the men around the grave. The coffin was lowered, Old John’s remains on their first step towards slowly becoming one with the foundations of the ancient island. The unearthed bones were carefully returned and the soil and rocks shovelled over them.

The congregation remained awhile, heads bowed. Men took off their hats and caps. Praying? The Outsider was not. He was quietly and – he hoped – unobtrusively observing. So was Michael Joe, still wearing his disreputable hat, smoking his pipe but making no effort to be unobtrusive. The observer, the recorder of otherwise unrecorded history.

At a second imperceptible signal, like a cloud of starlings wheeling with perfect precision, the congregation turned and began, in ones and twos, to exit from the graveyard.
“Coming?” asked Mick Mickey.
“Where to?” asked the Outsider.
“The pub.”
There was the long trek downhill to the harbourside pub and the comfort of the foaming pints.

There had been two observers there that day. Michael Joe and the Outsider. Michael Joe stored it for the island’s history. The Outsider was not sure what to make of it. But he stored it too.

Remarkable Reversal in Fortune is Possible for Fianna Fail

The Fianna Fail party that governed while the Irish economy collapsed is showing signs of life. The party was pummeled in the last general election, winning only 20 seats in the Irish parliament (Dail Eireann), having previously held 71 seats. The big winners were Fine Gael and the Labour Party who won an extra 25 and 17 seats respectively, sweeping the two parties into a coalition government on the back of an unprecedented popular mandate. It looked like the end of the road for the once all-powerful Fianna Fail.

Since that February 2011 election Fianna Fail has struggled to establish the party as even the genuine force of opposition in the parliament, with Sinn Fein repeatedly grabbing the headlines while Fianna Fail licked its wounds. Both government parties rarely missed an opportunity to berate Fianna Fail for the economic mess the country was left in, constantly reminding the media and voters that the problems in the country were all caused by the previous government.

It is beginning to look as if that mantra may be wearing a bit thin.

Fine Gael and Labour were voted into office in the belief that they would change the way politics in Ireland is conducted. They promised sweeping economic and political reforms with ‘burn the bond-holders’ the motto of choice for the more militant of Labour supporters (a reference to the fact that Fianna Fail had pledged to repay mostly German and French bondholders in exchange for IMF/EU/ECB funding to keep the country running).

To a large extent the new government has not delivered. Some commentators are pondering just how much longer Fine Gael and Labour can continue to blame Fianna Fail for the rescue plan they implemented in the dying days of their tenure, while at the same time continuing to implement that same plan. Perhaps the government parties felt that there was such public discontent with Fianna Fail that it did not really matter that they were just carrying on the same policies. All that mattered was that they were not Fianna Fail.

A recent opinion poll should help to focus the mind of those currently in power. Fianna Fail are at 22%, Fine Gael at 30%, Labour at 12%, Sinn Fein at 14% and Independents at 19%. Fianna Fail have risen from 16% in recent months and continue to make ground against the Labour Party who look certain to be severely punished at the next general election. In recent years Sinn Fein have polled well prior to the actual ballot but never quite made the major breakthrough when the votes were counted. If that trend were to continue then the possibility of Fianna Fail being back in government within the next two general elections would be a real possibility – an amazing turnaround by any standard.

It is up to the current government and Fine Gael in particular to deliver on their election promises. Blaming Fianna Fail does not seem to be enough for an impatient and suffering Irish public.

Internet usage in Ireland to boost Irish economy by up to 6 Billion Euro

A report commissioned by media group UPC has revealed that as much as 6 Billion Euro could be contributed to the Irish economy by 2016, thanks to an increase in ecommerce activity. 2012 is expected to see spending of 3.7 Billion Euro, rising to 5.7 Billion Euro by 2016. This figure would constitute 7% of all consumer spending in Ireland. The report found that Irish adults who shop online spend an average of 116 Euro monthly. 80% of Irish adults now use the internet regularly, up from 50% in 2007. 45% of Irish consumers have made on online purchase in the last year, up from 36% in 2010 and matching the EU average.

This number compares poorly though with the UK where 71% of consumers made purchases in the previous year. A significant difference between the two markets is that as many as 1 in 5 UK consumers buy their groceries online while in Ireland the figure is 1 in 20. The UK is now the worlds second biggest internet market in terms of sales value and is surely a market that Irish export businesses should be focusing on.

The ‘State of the Net’ publication by the Irish Internet Association has mirrored these findings detailing that there has been an increase of 20% in business marketing budgets being spent on promoting online businesses in Ireland. This compares with an overall 4% decline across other marketing media with newspapers suffering badly. 70% of Irish businesses now have a Facebook presence, 61% are on Twitter while 44% have their own Youtube channel.

It has not all been good news for Irish internet businesses though. The Irish Times newspaper recently sold its domain name to Tourism Ireland for 495,000 Euro – quite a return on the 3000 Irish punts they reportedly paid for it in the 1990′s. Sounds great except that the same Irish Times paid 50 Million euro for at the very height of the property hysteria in Ireland, only to see its value plummet when the property market crashed. The Irish Times was one of the first sites in Ireland to offer paid content with subscribers paying an annual fee to access content not available to unregistered users.

As a result of the deal the 15,000 customers and email account holders have been unceremoniously ditched. Lets hope they backed up their email.