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The Newsletter for people interested in Ireland
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Copyright (C) 2007
IN THIS ISSUE
=== News Snaps from Ireland
=== New free resources at the site
=== The Children of Lir - An Irish Legend
=== Ode to a Celtic Prince by Christine Bode
=== Got a web site? Get free Irish Content!
=== Dermot & Strongbow, and the invasion of Ireland
=== Famous Irish Songs: Danny Boy
=== Gaelic Phrases of the Month
=== Shamrock Site of the Month: celticattic.com
=== Monthly free competition result
The news in Ireland has been dominated in recent
weeks by the General Election which has to some
extent overshadowed the historic events in the
North - see the news snaps below.
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NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND
GENERAL ELECTION RESULTS
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has confounded his critics
as his ruling Fianna Fail party won 78 of the
possible 186 seats in the Irish parliamentary
elections. 83 seats are needed to form a
government and it is now very unlikely that the
opposition parties led by Fine Gael will be able to
muster the numbers.
This has been an amazing election for Fianna Fail.
The party looked certain to be dumped out of office
as its election campaign faltered badly in the
initial weeks. Allegations and questions about Bertie
Ahern's personal finances distracted the electorate
for well over a week at a time when all parties
struggled to get their core message out.
The story subsided however and despite showing big
potential losses in the opinion polls Fianna Fail
finally got their act together and focused on the
economy. The leaders debate between Enda Kenny and
Bertie Ahern was also a high point for Fianna
Fail as the differences between the vastly
experienced Ahern and the idealistic yet untried
Enda Kenny were laid bare.
This was the turning point for Fianna Fail. They
gathered momentum, raced up the opinion polls and
managed to stage one of the most remarkable
comebacks in recent Irish political history.
Pundits are at a loss to explain why. Perhaps it
was the leaders debate, maybe it was the fact that
the economy continues to do well and that the
country has had over a decade of unprecedented
growth. Maybe people just like Bertie Ahern.
Whatever the reason it now seems certain that
Fianna Fail will form a coalition Government
although it is still unclear with whom they
will do it.
FIANNA FAIL: Won 78 seats, down by 3. Gained 41.5%
of the vote but still managed to get 47% of the
seats thanks to their usual fantastic vote
management in the individual constituencies.
Surely there is no way a 'rainbow' coalition of
smaller parties can coalesce to deny Bertie
Ahern a third term in office?
FINE GAEL: With 27.3% of the vote this was a great
resurgence for Fine Gael as they won 51 seats, up
by 20 seats from the last election when the party
was decimated. Their revival however was not at
the expense of Fianna Fail but was more so at the
expense of the PDS, independents and even their
alternative government partners, the Labour party.
LABOUR: Got 10.1% of the vote but this was a poor
showing by the Labour Party which saw them lose 1
seat to finish on 20. Labour had hitched its
election wagon to Fine Gael and seem to have paid
the price. Questions are sure to be asked of party
leader Pat Rabbitte as to why the party did not
plough its own furrow and try to make a deal
after the votes were cast.
GREEN PARTY: The Green Party achieved 6 seats in the
new parliament from 4.7% of the total vote and
thus made no gains. This is surprising considering
the worldwide shift to awareness of the green
agenda that is gathering momentum. The party made
no commitment prior to the election to join an
alternative government and this leaves it well
placed to join up in coalition with Fianna Fail
should Bertie Ahern make them an offer.
SINN FEIN: Several months ago Sinn Fein looked
certain to make big gains in the election but
their breakthrough simply did not materialise.
Despite realising nearly 7% of the vote they
only managed only 4 seats, or 2.5% of the total.
PDs: The Progressive Democrats were the big
losers of this election. As part of the government
they could have expected to at least retain the
majority of their 8 seats but in fact lost all but
2 with party leader Michael McDowell retiring from
political life in spectacular fashion. This is a
disaster for the PDs who are likely to at least
consider abandoning the party and integrating
with Fianna Fail.
INDEPENDENTS Prior to the election there were 13
independents but after the ballot only 5 remain.
These may prove crucial in the formation of a
government as Bertie Ahern may try to govern
with the support of the 2 PDs and various
independents. This would be a risky strategy as
the numbers simply may not stack up on an issue
by issue basis.
The overall turnout in the Irish election was 67%,
up by 5% since 2002.
NORTHERN IRELAND PARLIAMENT IS RECONVENED
There have been amazing developments in the
Northern Ireland peace process. The DUP led by
Ian Paisley have reconvened the Northern Assembly
in what is perhaps the most significant development
since the peace process began a decade ago.
The sight of Ian Paisley sitting around a table
with Sinn Fein is not something that was ever
thought possible by some commentators.
Nevertheless that is exactly what has happened as
the new parliament gets on with the business of
running Northern Ireland while leaving violent
A further significant albeit symbolic meeting
occurred at the River Boyne when Ian Paisley met
with Bertie Ahern at the site of the historic
FIRST SIGNS OF SLOW-DOWN IN ECONOMY
The ongoing slow-down in the property market is
beginning to have an effect on the economy. At
this stage it is not clear the extent to
which the uncertainty over stamp duty has had
on the property market. The formation of a new
government in the next few weeks should settle
that particular issue. The rise in interest
rates has certainly had an effect on confidence
in the housing market and these factors are
beginning to filter through to overall economic
Unemployment has risen by 6000 over the last
six months to 156,000. This is still a
relatively modest unemployment rate nationally
but what is significant is that the downward
trend has been reversed.
SALE OF 10-PACKS OF CIGARETTES IS BANNED
The sale of cigarettes in packs of 10 has been
banned. Confectioneries that resemble cigarette
products have also been banned. The new laws are
the latest in the continuing attempts by the
Government to reduce the incidence of teenage
CHOCTAW NATIVE AMERICAN INDIANS VISIT DUBLIN
Members of the Choctaw tribe have visited an
Irish school. The trip is in remembrance of the
1847 donation by the Choctaws of US$710 in aid
of victims of the Irish famine. The sum of money
(which was a significant amount at the time) was
raised by the native Americans in an act of
generosity that has not been forgotten by Ireland
even after a century and a half.
Voice your opinion on these news issues here:
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H: Harper, Horan
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THE CHILDREN OF LIR: AN IRISH LEGEND
There was a time in ancient Ireland when the
people believed in magic and in druids and spells.
These were the days of the Tuatha De Danann tribe,
the Goddess Danu and of Lir, the lord of the sea.
Lir's wife, Eva, had given him four beautiful
children. The two eldest, Fionnuala and Aodh, went
swimming in a small lake. But these were no
ordinary swimmers! They possessed gills for
breathing and webbed feet as they were, after all,
the offspring of 'the ruler of the land beneath
They met a messenger who told them that they were
wanted by their father. They went home immediately
only to find their father disturbed.
'What is wrong father?' they enquired
'Your mother has given birth to twins' he replied
'....and has gone off to rest'
'What do you mean father?' they asked
Lir explained that this was what humans called
'death' but that since they were immortal that
their mother had gone to recover, possibly for a
thousand years or more. The children were to look
after the new brothers, Fiachra and Conn.
The children kissed their mother for the last
time and then left.
As the children grew Lir's spirits declined until
one day he met Aoife, the sister of his wife.
Aoife was possessed of magical powers and soon
enough it was known that she and Lir would marry.
The new family thrived under the influence of
their new mother but not for long as guilt and
jealousy about the children's real mother took
its toll on Aoifes health. She fell into sickness
for a year but recovered only to start to become
old before here time.
Aoife was a changed woman now and one day
suggested that she and the children should visit
their grandfather. On the journey they stopped by
a lake and she encouraged the children to go for
a swim. The four children played happily in the
water, not noticing that their stepmother was now
standing at the waters edge wearing her fathers
'For too long you children have stood between
your father and I, but not for much longer!'
'We cannot be killed by you...' Aodh replied,
'...we are the Children of Lir and if you harm
us our ghosts will haunt you!'
'Iím not going to kill you.....' she shouted
'......but I am going to change you!'
At this she bowed her head and started an
incantation. The children looked at each other in
fear as they saw a red and gold circle envelope
them on the water. They saw Aoife open up her
cloak from which the great light of a fireball
emerged and hurtled towards them, burning all in
The fireball hit the water and caused masses of
steam to rise about the children and they soon
lost all feeling in their legs, arms, shoulders
and head. They soon regained their sight only to
see Aoife laughing at them. Aodh tried to attack
her and flailed his arms about furiously but
nothing happened except the splashing of water.
He turned to look at his brothers and sister only
to see that they had all been turned into the
most beautiful swans ever seen.
Aoife scowled at them again and told them that
they were to spend nine hundred years as swans,
three hundred on Lough Derravaragh, three hundred
on the Straits of Moyle and three hundred on the
Isle of Inish Glora. To end the spell they would
have to hear the bell of the new God.
'I leave you with your voice however, and the
most beautiful singing ever heard' she said.
Lir searched for his children that day, but Aoife
told him that they had been attacked and killed
by wild boars. Fionnuala, now in swan form,
approached her father and told him what Aoife had
done. Lir was furious and banished Aoife into
exile as an evil demon of the air.
Lir faithfully visited his children and the power
of his love ensured that their time on the lake
was one of bliss. He knew though that the 300
years of the first phase had passed and that the
next phase of the spell was about to begin. The
swans left for the Straits of Moyle, never to see
their father again.
Their time on the Northern Straits of Moyle were
not so joyous, with frequent storms separating
them, only for they to join up again. Another 300
years passed but they had survived together.
They departed the cold straits and made their way
towards Lough Derravaragh. They flew over the
land, hoping to find their father's fort, but it
was now nothing more than ruins. They wept
because they knew the time of the Tuatha De Danann
They travelled West to the waters of Inish Glora
and found refuge on a small saltwater lake where
time passed slowly. One day an old man named Mochua
visited the lake and the children enquired of him
if he was a follower of the new God. The startled
man asked if they were the children of Lir and
they told him that they were.
'Are you a holy man?' asked Fiacra.
'I am...' came the reply.
The children knew that to break the spell that
they would have to hear the bell of a new God
toll in their own land.
Mochua told them all about his new God and all
about Saint Patrick who had brought his faith to
The children became excited as they knew that
this was the new God their stepmother had told
them of. They stayed with Mochua for many years
who gave them sanctuary in a small chapel which
he had built. He intended to make a bell and
collected old swords, shields and other metal
to make it. The bell was now completed and was
about to be rung when another disaster occurred.
A Warrior dressed in armour entered the chapel.
He had come for the children who were famed for
their wonderful singing.
'I am Liargren, King of Connaught' he shouted,
'My wife desires those swans and I will have them.
Give them here or I will tear this building down.'
Fionnuala looked at Mochua and then said that
they would agree to go away with this King.
Liargen was amazed to hear her speak but soon
composed himself and ordered his men to take the
children away. They were being loaded onto a
carriage when suddenly, the church bell tolled
Time seemed to stand still, but in another instant
a great white mist had been blown off the nearby
lake and enveloped the children as it had done
900 years before. The mist changed into all of
the colours of the rainbow before a great wind
gusted it away.
The children had at last been transformed back
into human form.
Liagren fled immediately, never to return. Mochua
baptized the beautiful children who had begun to
age rapidly and so it was that the children of Lir,
the last of the Tuatha De Danann died soon
afterwards, their legend to live on forever.
ODE TO A CELTIC PRINCE by Christine Bode
Twas a lass with emerald eyes and hair of
who dreamt time and again of an exotic island
where the wee faeries' magic could hush her
and be still her anxious spirit so she n'er again
Weary lass sank to her knees 'neath a weeping
to take a shady break from her life-long urgent
She closed her eyes, smelled the breeze and
the lowly, plaintive sigh of a lonesome angel's
'Oh dear Conor, you sweet thing, where have you
I have longed for you all of my life.
One touch of my hand and your essence revealed,
put an end to my heartache and strife.'
A more beautiful place she could never have seen,
though she's traveled far and wide for this
And was led to a magic, ancient land of green,
by her search for a fabled Celtic prince.
The music of Ireland 'tis home for a poet's
the country fiddle, it will quiver, whine and
The Gaelic harp can charm the most tortured of
and the bodhran's beat tells its own haunted
'Oh dear Conor, you sweet thing, where have you
I have longed for you all of my life.
And come so very far just to hear your sad song,
serenade me love, into the night.'
In yonder glen stood his Lord's noble castle'
thought she heard his footsteps through the bog.
He'd whisk her off to a proud sailing vessel,
while Gabriel's horn sounded shrill in the fog.
Alas, her prince was a phantom, elusive,
the spectre vanished o'er the cool, placid lake.
Not a limerick nor song could appease her,
her heart broke as she fathomed her fate.
'Oh dear Conor, you sweet thing, where you have
I have longed for you all of my life.
And I will surely cry when ye go away,
why'd you leave me to manage this plight?'
June 20, 1995
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DERMOT AND STRONGBOW, AND THE INVASION OF IRELAND
Dermot MacMurrough was the King of Leinster during
the twelfth century and is most remembered as the
man who invited the English into Ireland.
He was born circa 1100 and succeeded to the throne
of his father, Enna, in 1126. He was a ruthless
leader and demonstrated the ferocity of the times
by killing or blinding 17 rivals in 1141. He became
involved in a dispute with the King of Breffney,
Tiernan O'Ruark, whose wife he kidnapped in 1153.
O'Ruark formed an alliance with Rory O'Connor who
was the recognised High King of Ireland at the
time. In 1166 this long-running and bitter feud
resulted in MacMurrough being driven into exile
by the Gaelic Chieftains. He fled to France.
Dermot MacMurrough was a deeply ambitious man who
refused to accept his exile. He made his way to
the Court of Henry II of England and offered to
become a vassal to the King in return for military
aid in retaking his kingdom. The king did not
directly provide assistance but allowed MacMurrough
to petition the Anglo-Norman lords. It was at this
time that the Earl of Pembroke, Richard de Clare,
later known as 'Strongbow', agreed to lead an army
to Ireland. MacMurrough brought an advance party
of adventurers back to Ireland in 1167,
recaptured Wexford, and waited for Strongbow to
From his base in Wales Strongbow launched an
offensive in 1170, capturing Waterford and Dublin,
taking control of the East coast, much to the
dismay of the Gaelic Chieftains and O'Connor. To
cement the alliance, MacMurrough married his
daughter Aoife to Strongbow, in Christchurch
Cathedral in Dublin 1170.
The Irish Chieftains did not allow the invaders
to settle however and they were continually
attacked and harassed. At one stage it seemed
likely that they would be driven from the country
if it were not for the support given by Henry II,
who had become concerned with the amount of power
and influence that Strongbow was amassing across
the Irish sea. It is speculated that Henry II
feared that Ireland might be used as a base by
the Saxons to launch an offensive back into England
in the wake of their defeat at Hastings in 1066.
The subsequent domination of South Wales by the
Normans was a result of the need to keep supply
lines into Eastern Ireland open.
Dermot MacMurrough died in 1170 leaving Strongbow
to declare himself King of Leinster. His later
support for Henry II in France led to his being
named Governor of Ireland. He died in 1176
suffering an infection during a raid by Irish
Much of Ireland was still under local influence
and it only was the East coast, known as 'the Pale',
that remained in Norman control. Henry granted
these lands to his son 'Jean Sans-terre' (or John
Lackland) in 1185 creating the 'Lordship of
Ireland'. It seemed likely that Ireland would
remain a minor Kingdom except that fate intervened.
The death of his elder brothers allowed Jean
Sans-terre to succeed to the English throne,
becoming King John of England and the Pale
becoming part of English dominated territories.
Demot MacMurrough has for centuries been blamed
as the man who caused, or at least facilitated
the invasion and subsequent subjugation of Ireland
by outsiders. Recent revision of this history
however, have been less critical of his actions.
It is likely that the island would have eventually
been dominated by its larger neighbour even
without Dermot MacMurroughs prompting. The
unwillingness of the Gaelic Chiefs to form a
Kingship with defined rights of succession
certainly made invasion and domination easier. It
was also not uncommon of the times for Gaelic
Chiefs to seek help from foreigners in combatting
their local enemies.
Despite this more generous interpretation of his
actions, it will always be Dermot MacMurroughs
lust for power, bringing the English into Ireland,
for which he will be most remembered.
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FAMOUS IRISH SONGS: DANNY BOY
Dannny Boy is one of over 100 songs composed to
the same tune. The author was the English lawyer,
songwriter and entertainer, Frederic Edward
Weatherly (1848-1929). He wrote the lyrics to
Danny Boy in 1910 but only used the traditional
tune when he was sent the 'Londonderry Air' by his
sister-in-law in 1912. The song was republished in
1913. Alfred Perceval Graves was a friend of
Weatherly but the two fell out when Graves claimed
that his friend had stolen some of the lyrics that
Graves himself had written for the song. The tune
was also known as the 'Air from County Derry'.
The earliest appearance of the tune in print was
in 1855 in 'Ancient Music of Ireland' by George
Petrie (1789-1866) when it was given to Petrie by
Jane Ross of Limavady in County Derry, who claimed
to have copied the tune from an itinerant piper.
The song became very popular in America where it
was recorded by Bing Crosby. It has been used by
many Irish traditional and even rock musicians
ever since. The famous Irish rock band, Thin Lizzy,
used the music on their 1979 album, 'Black Rose'.
It remains one of the most popular and well known
Irish love songs of all time.
Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side
The summer's gone, and all the flowers are dying
'Tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bide.
But come ye back when summer's in the meadow
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow
'Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so.
And if you come, when all the flowers are dying
And I am dead, as dead I well may be
You'll come and find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an 'Ave' there for me.
And I shall hear, tho' soft you tread above me
And all my dreams will warm and sweeter be
If you'll not fail to tell me that you love me
I'll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.
I'll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.
Listen to the tune to this and other famous Irish
GAELIC PHRASES OF THE MONTH
PHRASE: Ta an aimsir go halainn inniu
PRONOUNCED: taw an eyeim-shur guh haul-inn inn-you
MEANING: The weather is beautiful today
PHRASE: Bhi an aimsir fliuch agus gaofar ar maidin
PRONOUNCED: vee onn eyeim-shur fluck ogg-uss gwefarr air mod-djin
MEANING: The weather was wet and windy this morning
PHRASE: Ta se rothe i rith an lae
PRONOUNCED: Thaw shay ro-cheh ih rih on lay/eehah
MEANING: It is too hot during the day/night
View the archive of phrases here:
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