Ireland Newsletter - Sean T. O'Ceallaigh biography
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(C) Copyright - The Information about Ireland Site, 2010
IN THIS ISSUE
=== News Snaps from Ireland
=== New free resources at the site
=== Play the Irish Lotto
=== Sean T. O'Ceallaigh: Second President of Ireland
=== Peculiarly Irish Words and Phrases #3: Hammered
=== A Different Drum by Pat Watson
=== Irish Festival & Clan Gathering Noticeboard
=== Gaelic Phrases of the Month
=== Monthly free competition result
The drama in Ireland continues unabated with a
general election being called after amazing
developments in the Irish parliament. Finally
we are to have a change of government but not
before what is sure to be an intriguing and
bruising election campaign
Bring it on!
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NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND
POLITICAL UPHEAVAL IN IRELAND
The last few weeks has seen some unprecedented
political upheaval in Ireland. Set against a
background of a worsening economy and a financial
crisis the drama began when the Green Party
announced that they would be leaving the coalition
government. They indicated that they would be
prepared to support the passing of the Finance
Bill, which brings into effect the recent tax and
cut budget that was a condition of the IMF
bailout. The Greens were clearly unimpressed with
the way the ruling Fianna Fail party dealt with
the negotiations with the IMF and surprised many
by their decision to quit.
This was to be no immediate walk-out though. The
Green Party demanded an election early in 2011
with March or April being cited by Fianna Fail as
their preference. It was not to be. Taoiseach and
Fianna Fail leader Brian Cowen was effectively
ousted from his position as leader, forced to
resign, with the strange situation arising of a
ruling Taoiseach not being leader of his own
political party. Cork TD Michael Martin was elected
leader of Fianna Fail but will not be appointed
Taoiseach as the General Election had to be brought
forward at the insistence of the Greens.
The drama was not over though. Several independent
TDs demanded and received concessions in return
for their support of the Finance Bill which will
now become law. The Labour Party strangely
facilitated the passing of the Finance Bill while
constantly decrying its measures. It is unclear if
they are going to reverse any of its detail. Fine
Gael also seem content to let Fianna Fail bring in
the harsh budget measures, certain in the
knowledge that they are very likely to be the
country's ruling party in a few weeks time.
GENERAL ELECTION CAMPAIGNING UNDER WAY
The surprise decision by the Green party to bring
down the government has been seen by many as their
attempt to seize some sort of moral high-ground
prior to the general election campaign proper.
Historically smaller coalition parties have
usually fared poorly after their time in
government and given that the current government
is deeply unpopular it seems likely that the Green
Party will be decimated at the polling booth. They
do have some popular TDs in John Gormley, Trevor
Sargent and Eamon Ryan, but there is a real
possibility that they could lose all of their
seats, sending the party into oblivion.
Fine Gael are delighted with the recent
developments having been on an election footing
for several months. Their party leader Enda Kenny
survived a poorly executed attempt to remove him
as leader with challenger Richard Bruton firmly
put in his place. Reservations about the political
judgement as well as the communication skills of
Enda Kenny continue to veneer the entire Fine
Gael message. In the earliest shot of the election
campaign Enda Kenny scored and own-goal when
challenged to a three-way debate with Labour and
Fianna Fail by Micheal Martin. His assertion that
all five parties (adding the Greens and Sinn Fein)
should be included in any televised debates was
seen as an admission of weakness by media
commentators. Fianna Fail and Labour have
threatened to have their own 2-way debate unless
Fine Gael accedes, a scenario that would be very
damaging for Fine Gael. Either way, this kind of
mishandling of a relatively straight-forward
matter is just a hint of the reason why
there are so many reservations about Enda Kenny.
He is still on course however to be head of the
largest political party after the election, and
thus set to become Taoiseach.
The Labour Party are about to be 'called out'.
For the last year their leader has been the
darling of the media, riding high in the opinion
polls while offering a good presentation as a
debater. The problem for Labour is that their
policies are not fully formed or explained and
while they have made great gains in criticizing
Fianna Fail over their handling of the economy
during the last two years it is relatively easy
to be destructive and much harder to be
constructive. Their policies are now going to
come under the microscope so it remains to be
seen if their popularity survives this acid test.
Their refusal to vote against the recent Finance
Bill while berating its measures seems to be a
case of 'having it both ways'. It is now time to
get off the fence with Fianna Fail in particular
eager to get at Labour. It is the Labour Party
who have benefitted most from Fianna Fails loss
Sinn Fein's support seems volatile. The two
civil-war parties are almost ideologically
identical while the Labour party's socialist
tradition has been watered down into a
supposedly pro-business stance. Sinn Fein are
much more radical and will seek to take votes from
Labour and Fianna Fail, especially in urban and
traditionally republican areas. Their party leader
Gerry Adams is himself seeking election to the
Dail in the coming poll and he is certainly a high
profile candidate. The question is whether they
can convert their relative popularity into
parliament seats. Prior to the last election they
were similarly well placed to make gains but such
gains did not materialise. Their paramilitary
history along with somewhat radical economic
policies are also off-putting to large swathes of
the electorate. If they cannot make the
breakthrough in the coming election with just
about every parameter in their favour then it
is hard to see them ever being anything other than
a fringe minority party in the Republic.
Independent candidates look certain to make big
gains in the upcoming election. A general dismay
with party politics in general combined with a
keen observance of just how much influence
independents had over the current government
will likely result in the largest ever number of
independent and small-party candidates being
elected. They could even form an uneasy alliance
with Fine Gael should that party get anywhere
close to an overall majority.
And what of Fianna Fail? Opinion polls put the
party at its worst level ever. Surely they will
be invigorated by the election of Michael Martin
as party leader. He has made a good start
by apologising for the poor decisions made by
Fianna Fail in government. This is something that
Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan were never willing
to do, choosing instead to blame external factors
in the world economy for the economic crisis in
Ireland. While it is true that the worldwide
property crash and subsequent banking crisis were
out of Ireland's control the willingness to base
the economy on the construction industry while
allowing appallingly lax regulation of the
banking sector are certainly faults that lie
squarely at Fianna Fail's door.
The Fianna Fail party though, is very good at one
thing in particular: elections. They have
consistently and professionally managed their votes
in constituencies in order to gain the maximum
number of seats. They will surely focus on their
local representation rather than their tarnished
record in government when they go knocking house
to house and perhaps the devastation wont be as
bad as feared. One thing is certain though and
that is that the party is going to lose a large
number of seats, likely trailing in behind Fine
Gael and Labour as the third most popular party
in the country. Right now they would probably
settle for that.
IMF BAILOUT DEAL LIKELY TO BE REVISITED
Despite assertions from the EU and the IMF that
the terms of the recent bailout for Ireland cannot
be changed the rate of interest being charged is
a particular irritation to the majority of Irish
people. The 6% rate being charged to Ireland is
nearly double that available on the open market.
The national debt is expected to reach the 200 BN
Euro mark by 2013 with almost a third of all
taxes raised being paid in loan interest to service
this debt. This is clearly a disastrous situation
for any country and is one that the majority of
citizens want reviewed.
RETAIL INDUSTRY ON ITS KNEES
The three year decline in domestic retail sales in
Ireland seems to be accelerating and will certainly
cause huge job losses in the industry. The advent
of the new Universal Social Charge (a tax) appears
to be hitting people hard in their wage-packets and
the result is that they are not spending. The first
few weeks of 2011 have been a disaster for Irish
retailers and this following on from the snow and
ice that kept shoppers away over the Christmas
HOUSE BUILDING AT 35-YEAR LOW
2010 saw the smallest number of new houses built
in Ireland in 35 years with just over 14,600 new
dwellings being constructed. By contrast there
were over 93,000 dwellings constructed in 2006.
Employee numbers fell from 272,000 in 2007 to
121,000 in 2010, a devastating reduction for a
country with a population of less than 4.5
million people. House prices continue to fall in
some sectors although they have stabilized in
some other sectors of the market.
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Received my plaque, carefully wrapped,
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SEAN T. O'CEALLAIGH: SECOND PRESIDENT OF IRELAND
Sean Thomas Kelly (O'Ceallaigh in Irish) was the
second president of Ireland from 1945 to 1959.
Born in 1882 in Dublin city centre he was educated
in the city and became active in the Gaelic League
which at the time was infiltrated by republican
groups. He was a founder member of Sinn Fein
becoming its honorary secretary until 1925. He was
heavily involved in the planning for the Easter
Rising and travelled to America to inform Clan
Na Gael of the plans. He was arrested after the
Rising but was later released.
The tide of public support for independence that
swept Ireland after 1916 brought electoral success
to Sinn Fein in 1918 with O'Ceallaigh wining the
Dublin College Green seat in the general election.
Sinn Fein refused to attend the English parliament
and instead established Dail Eireann, the Irish
parliament. O'Ceallaigh was the first Ceann
Comhairle or speaker of the Dail.
He attempted to gain recognition for the new
parliament by seeking attendance at the Versaille
Treaty negotiations. He opposed the Anglo-Irish
Treaty which was ratified by the Irish parliament
in 1922. When DeValera resigned as president of
the Republic O'Ceallaigh followed him into the
Civil War. He was jailed by the Michael Collins
government until the end of 1923. He was then
despatched by Sinn Fein as an envoy to the US.
By 1926 DeValera had realised that the only way
to defeat the Treaty was to create a new political
party. Fianna Fail was formed with O'Ceallaigh as
one of the founding members. When Fianna Fail swept
to power in 1932 DeValera made O'Ceallaigh his
deputy in charge as well as Minister for Local
Government. His association with the right-wing
Knights of Columbanus Catholic organisation may
have damaged his reputation at this time. DeValera
suspected O'Ceallaigh of being a source of
information within the government for the Church
in Ireland. He was considered for the office of
first President of Ireland in 1938 but a consensus
candidate emerged in the person of Douglas Hyde,
an original founder of the Gaelic League.
O'Ceallaigh was appointed as Minister for Finance
in 1939 serving in that capacity until 1945 when he
was elected President of Ireland in a national poll.
He was re-elected unopposed in 1952. He travelled
extensively as part of his duties and addressed the
US Congress in 1959. He was often regarded as
tactless, prone to errors of judgment, overly
talkative, but nonetheless remained a quite popular
His legacy is that of one of the founders of the
modern Irish state. His path through the Gaelic
League, the Easter Rising, Sinn Fein, Civil War
Rebellion and then Fianna Fail Minister was the
same path taken by several famous Irish politicians
of the twentieth century. His contribution to Irish
life culminated in his role as President, an office
he served with distinction.
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PECULIARLY IRISH WORDS AND PHRASES #3: HAMMERED
Like many countries the Irish have several ways
of describing a person who is intoxicated. These
include hammered, scuttered, flutered, plastered,
mouldy, ossified, stocious, manky-drunk, wasted,
locked and mashed. Or, if in conversation with an
official of the law: drunk!
A DIFFERENT DRUM
by Pat Watson
Around the end of the war we were in third class.
The class consisted of about thirty, nine-to-ten
year olds and about ten dunces of various ages
and sizes who sat down the back. These had been
kept back, denied promotion to higher classes,
because it was felt that another year in the
same grade would bring them up to speed. Very
slow learners might spend two years in every
class from infants up and as a result might
finish school in third class.
Fitz was the biggest dunce in every respect. He
was six feet tall and weighed ten stone. He sat
on a stool at the end, as he would not fit in
the desk seat. He never knew anything, in fact
nobody ever heard him say anything in class.
Occasionally the master would ask him a spelling
or a sum but Fitz would never reply. The master
would hit him a few belts and move on to the next
pupil. Fitz never complained or seemed annoyed
about being beaten or called a dunce. In the
playground he just stood around, ate his lunch
quietly and didn't say very much. Any boy being
chased by a bully could find sanctuary in his
Then one day Fitz hit out at Slasher, the next
biggest dunce. The master was on the scene in
'Fitz, this is not like you, why did you hit
'He spilled me'tae' ration into me sugar ration.'
'And why have you your tea and sugar in school?'
'Sure the stepmother would eat them and feed them
to her young ones if I left them at home.'
'In future leave his rations alone. How old are
'I'll be fourteen tomorrow Sir.'
'When are you leaving school?'
'Today Sir.' This was the first time we ever heard
Fitz speak in class - even the master was
Then the master did a funny thing.
'I will never give out to you or punish you again
but I want you to do just one thing for me on this
your last day at school.' He brought him up to the
board and wrote 2 with another 2 under it and a
line under that again.
'Can you do that sum for me?' he said.
As far as we were concerned the plus sign had not
been invented. Fitz said nothing.
'Just tell me if you don't know the answer,
I won't say anything to you.'
'I don't know,' said Fitz.
'O dear! O dear!' said the master'we have failed
you, what are you going to do in life?'
'I start work tomorrow with Tom Smith,
'But he will fool you. If he promises you
two shillings an hour for an eight-hour day you wont
know how much to expect.'
'Sixteen bob' said Fitz.
The master just smiled and said,
'Good luck to you in life Fitz
- we have been marching to a different drum.'
'A Different Drum' is one of
sixty lyrical yarns from
'Original Irish Stories' by Pat Watson,
Creagh, Bealnamulla, Athlone, Ireland.
First published in May 2006.
or you can email the author here:
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IRISH FESTIVAL & CLAN GATHERING NOTICEBOARD
Australian O'Mahony Clan:
The Australian O'Mahony Clan are having a
get-together in Adelaide, South Australia on
Saturday 16th April 2011. Information available
from Greg Mahony at Unit 74 /139 Pring Street,
Hendra, 4011 Queensland Australia
GAELIC PHRASES OF THE MONTH
PHRASE: a ghra mo chroi
PRONOUNCED: ah graw muh kree
MEANING: Love of my heart
PHRASE: Saol fada chugat
PRONOUNCED: sail faddah coogit
MEANING: Long life to you
PHRASE: Codladh samh
PRONOUNCED: cullah sovh
MEANING: Sleep well
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