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(C) Copyright - The Information about Ireland Site, 2011
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IN THIS ISSUE
=== News Snaps from Ireland
=== New free resources at the site
=== From Limerick to Cork by KB Ballentine
=== Famous Irish Inventors and Inventions
=== How I Started to Learn Irish by Nancy Bryan
=== Luas or the London Tube Train by Pat Watson
=== Gaelic Phrases of the Month
=== Monthly free competition result
Our little country is still reeling from
the economic meltdown despite high profile
visits of support from the English monarch
and the US President. There are some signs of
growth and improvement in the economy
though so hopefully we can get back on our
feet sooner rather than later.
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NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND
HUGE DEPARTURE OF IMMIGRANTS FROM IRELAND
The exodus from Ireland is continuing with a
Central Statistics Office report indicating
that as many as 600,000 of those foreign
nationals who arrived in the last decade have
now left the country. Over two thirds of those
who registered to work between 2004 and 2009
have now departed. Since 2002 over 1 million
foreign nationals registered to work in Ireland
but only one third remain within the labour
It is suspected that the largest exiting
group were those of Polish nationality,
many of whom arrived to work during the building
boom which has now come to a shuddering halt.
FUEL COSTS HIT RETAIL SECTOR
The huge increase in the cost of car fuel in
Ireland is having a knock-on effect as fewer
drivers travel to shopping malls or city shopping
centres. Irish drivers have for years looked on
with a mixture of bemusement and envy at reports
of complaints from US drivers and the US
automobile industry at the cost of gasoline. A
gallon of petrol at American filing station pumps
currently costs less than 4 US dollars. Compare
this with the approx 6.75 euro (US$9.60 approx)
cost in Ireland and it is easy to see why drivers
are starting to stay at home. The Irish automobile
lobby and truckers industry continue to bitterly
complain about the amount of government tax that
is levied on the coat of fuel here. The Irish
automobile association (AA) which is the principal
car lobby group in Ireland estimates that as
much as two thirds of the cost of fuel in Ireland
is government tax (compared with approx 15% in
the US, varies state to state.) Of course it is
unfair to compare the costs in the worlds largest
economy and who produces some of its own supply
to that of a tiny island state on the edge of
Europe but still, the difference is still
It is estimated that the average monthly fuel
bill for a typical Irish driver has risen from
142 euro to 225 euro! Surely a reduction in the
tax on fuel would pay for itself by promoting
activity across the entire economy? The AA
estimates that demand for automobile fuel is
down 12% since last year. Retail sales dropped
by 3.9% in April alone. The correlation is easy
to see. Car sales have fallen for the thirty-eight
month in a row further demonstrating that the
retail sector in Ireland continues to suffer
badly and will take require drastic measures to
VISITS OF UK QUEEN AND BARACK OBAMA LAUDED
Despite the botched copying of a speech of
Barack Obama by Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny
the two recent high-profile visits to Ireland
have been hailed a great success and even as a
turning point in recent Irish history. By
becoming the first English monarch to visit
Ireland in a century the arrival of Queen
Elizabeth has effectively closed a period
of Irish history in such a way that perhaps
marks a new maturity for this country.
The brief visit of US President Barack Obama
also passed off well with the US leader
visiting the ancestral home of his distant
relatives at Moneygall in County Offaly.
'My name is Barack Obama, of the Moneygall
Obamas and I've come home to find the
apostrophe we lost somewhere along the way',
the delighted inhabitants of this tiny
village were told.
Addressing a crowd of over 40,000 packed
around College Green in Dublin the President
remarked that Ireland's best days are yet to
come. He repeatedly praised the Irish peace
process in his speech and referenced the
previous visits of both John Kennedy and
'And America will stand by you, always.
America will stand by you always in your
pursuit of peace. This little country,
that inspires the biggest things
-- your best days are still ahead.
Our greatest triumphs
-- in America and Ireland alike
-- are still to come.'
DEATH OCCURS OF FORMER TAOISEACH GARRET FITZGERALD
The death has occurred of Garret FitzGerald who
was twice Irish Taoiseach from 1981 to 1987. He
became leader of Fine Gael in 1977. He was well
known for acknowledging the rights of Unionists
in Ulster and for seeking common ground to
explore ways to generate a peaceful inclusive
society. His early attempts at constitutional
reform in the issues of abortion and divorces
were both defeated, largely due to the dominant
position of the Catholic Church in Ireland, even
at that late stage of the last century.
His attempt at consensus in Ulster was the
Anglo-Irish Forum which, although ultimately a
failure, laid the groundwork for power-sharing
between the Catholic and Protestants in
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FROM LIMERICK TO CORK
by KB Ballentine
A soft day. Fogged sky.
Headed south on the N20,
every mile a skein of ruins,
lives brushed by.
At the Ballybeg Friary, thatch
consumes stone, man's creation
crumbling into fists of rubble.
Cows weave through the open
framework, droppings stitched
where monks once laced vellum
with words and knots, threaded
chants around the cloister.
More rain, drizzling
from gray wool skies. Cars
and lorries shush the road.
Down to the Island Tomb, folded
for centuries into a field, plundered
then sutured by scholars. I step
whiddershins to snap photos
foxglove purpling the entrance
shrouded with midriff grass, imagine
the druids binding their dead.
The sky collapses.
I rush to the Dorgan's barn, hay
and warped wood wrapping
familiar scents around me, listen
to wet needles clatter on the tin.
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FAMOUS IRISH INVENTORS AND INVENTIONS
ADMIRAL SIR FRANCIS BEAUFORT AND WIND SPEED
Francis Beaufort was born in 1774 in Navan,
County Meath in Ireland. Despite his humble
beginning as a cabin boy in the British navy
he eventually became an Admiral while also
inventing a scale to measure wind speed at
sea. That scale still bears his name:
'The Beaufort Scale'.
JAMES DRUMM AND THE RECHARGEABLE BATTERY
Doctor James Drumm was born in Dundrum in County
Down. In 1931 he developed the Drumm traction
battery which was a nickel-zinc rechargeable
battery. In February 1932 a battery-powered train
travelled the 80 miles from Inchicore to
Portarlington and back on a single charge,
which was a great advance in the use of batteries
and it was rechargeable!
JOHN PHILIP HOLLAND AND THE SUBMARINE
Although there had been submersed boats in
existence before 1896, including in the US Civil
War, it was not until John Philip Holland, who
hailed from County Clare, made use of battery
power for submerged conditions that the first
modern submarine came into being. In 1900 the
US Navy purchased the 'Holland VI' renaming it
the 'USS Holland' and the modern submarine age
FRANCIS RYND AND THE HYPODERMIC NEEDLE
In hospitals around the world the hypodermic
needle is taken for granted. Millions (perhaps
billions) of needles have been used since 1844
when Doctor Francis Rynd, a Dublin-based doctor,
invented the hypodermic syringe. The worlds first
subcutaneous injection was administered in
Dublin's Meath hospital.
LOUIS BRENNAN AND THE TORPEDO
Louis Brennan was born in Castlebar in the west
of Ireland in 1852. His family emigrated to
Australia in 1862. Having begun his career as a
watchmaker he developed a keen interest in
engineering. He invented the worlds first
steerable torpedo in 1974. He later worked on
monorails and on developing a helicopter. He was
knocked down by a car in Switzerland and died
HOW I STARTED TO LEARN IRISH
by Nancy Bryan
A Mhichil, a chara,
I, like many other Americans, do have a bit of
Irish blood running through my veins, but the
essence of my ancestors is embedded in my heart
and soul. My quest to learn Gaeilge (Irish
language) began about two years ago when I met
someone born and raised in County Cork, Ireland.
I started surfing the web, going into Irish chat
rooms and looking for ways to learn the language
online. That is when I found your newsletter with
the 'Phrases of the Month' section. It was
marvelous, and so easy to learn phonetically but
I hungered for more.
Each month, I would learn the phrases and practice
them. I even tried them out on one of your native
sons, a local shopkeeper. He said, 'You have a
darn good accent, for a Yank'. That made me smile,
and warmed my heart. But it also served to
reinforce my determination to really learn the
language and be able to speak it with pride and
I happened upon a learning chat room on America
on Line, AOL International Gaelic Language Chat.
The host of that room was most helpful. When I
told him I wanted to learn but felt it would be
easier if I had someone with whom I could practice
speaking, he told me about an Irish Heritage
course at a local college. Well that did it.
I signed up for the spring semester (a ten week
session). I must confess, after the first class
I was a bit overwhelmed and questioned my own
ability to ever master the language. The rules
for grammar and spelling are baffling at first
and until you learn how certain letter
combinations, as well as what comes before and
after them, make certain sounds you really have
a hard time with pronunciation of the written
word. I was pleasantly surprised that by the
seventh class I began to understand what my
instructor was saying to me, though I was not
always able to answer in Irish. However, my Irish
determination (some may call it stubbornness)
kicked in and I have continued with my studies.
I attended the 5-week summer session and, along
with two other students, formed a study group
that meets once a week. I have also joined a
group from the college called Daltai na Gaeilge.
They offer many opportunities to actually use the
language and have a great site online, daltai.com.
If anyone wishes to learn just a few basic phrases
and hear them spoken or find a program in their
local area this site could be of help to them.
At present, after only 15 formal classes, I still
have the vocabulary and knowledge of a young child
but I work on it everyday. Even when I am with
family and friends who don't speak the language, I
will speak to them in Gaeilge and then translate
what I have said. The fun part comes when I have
them try to repeat the proper response. Another
way I practice is when emailing friends from the
class. I use my Focloir (dictionary) and try to
write it entirely in Irish. Then I take the email
to class and have the instructor go over it. If
an error is made and you learn from it, it
becomes a lesson. The real secret in learning
Irish is to have fun with it and cleachtadh,
cleachtadh, cleachtadh (practice, practice,
Some have asked me 'Why study Irish?' My reply is
simply 'Because I can'.
One day, God willing, I shall set foot on your
beautiful Ireland and I wish to honor her, her
people and my ancestors by being able to speak
the native tongue.
Tir gan teanga, tir gan anam (a land without a
language, is a land without a soul).
Keep up the great work with the newsletter.
Go raibh maith agat, a Mhichil,
(Thank you, Michael)
Mise le meas, (with respect)
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Received my plaque, carefully wrapped,
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thrilled, and I know that my dad, for whose
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Everyone who has seen the plaque has been
really impressed, even those who, as my
daughter says are 'not into ancestor
worship!'Again, my hearty thanks for this
Sincerely, Anne MacDonald
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LUAS OR THE LONDON TUBE TRAIN
by Pat Watson
Fifty years later we have the Luas, Ireland's
answer to the London Tube Train. I don't
understand a word that the four Polish lads in
front of me are saying, but they look just like
the four west of Ireland lads on the London tube
train in nineteen fifty-five. They were talking
about their ability to dig spuds with a spade,
to drive pigs to the fair and one of them claimed
to be the best 'slanesman' at digging turf in the
west. I suppose the Poles were talking of
something similar. They have the bogs, the pigs
and the spuds and they looked like rural dwellers
so why not? There were no bogs in London then,
just as there are no bogs in Dublin now. Like the
Irish of old they work in construction. It may
not be for McAlpine or Wimpey, but it's sure to
be someone similar.
The driver calls out the next stop. The Four
Courts, 'Na Ceithre Cuirteanna'. I thought for a
minute he might say Camden Town or Tottenham
Court Road. The young Chinese girl sitting
opposite in the sunlight is talking on her
mobile. Her over done lipstick is showing on
her teeth as she laughs. Perhaps she comes from
teeming Beijing but I prefer to think she is
talking about the paddy-fields or the little
terraced hillsides above the Yangtze River.
Then again she may be ordering a take-away.
The two Nigerian women with the children on their
backs speak perfect English. As they are wearing
crucifixes round their necks, I suspect Irish
Missionaries educated them or their parents or
built their schools. They are talking about their
jobs in an accountancy office. It's great to see
them here. I hope they integrate happily into
Irish society as good or better than the last
generation did in London. The driver calls,
Smithfield, Margadh Na Feirme. It used to be The
Dublin Cattle Market. The young Irish couple
getting off here told me they just bought an
apartment for three hundred thousand euro. They
have one room let to Lithuanians who pay half
the mortgage. We Irish paid the Londoner's
mortgages in the fifties.
The two Philippino nurses are probably on their
way to Tallaght hospital or Saint James's. They
remind me of Mary-Ann and Peggy who nursed in
Guys in London. I wonder where are they now.
Isn't it great the way nurses seem forever young?
The Irish nurses used to be just 'it'. Now they
are just 'IT' people, hence the Philippine help
who are now just 'it'. I hope the 'IT' people
appreciate the 'it' people. The driver calls
'The Museum, Ard Mhusaem.' The Londoners never
said Baile An Camden or Bohar Na Tottenham
Cuirteanna. They're all the poorer for that.
Isn't it grand the way you can see the sun, the
rain and the scudding clouds through the windows
of the Luas. One never saw anything only the
dark dirty walls of the tube. You could dream of
the bogs, the green hills or the wild mountains
but there you were like a rat in a hole singing
about when there's brighter days in Ireland.
Well! The brighter days are here, as are all the
immigrants including second and third generation
Irish who emigrated in the last century. May they
find the old Ireland that their ancestors dreamed
The next stop is Heuston, connecting with all
mainline rail lines to the country. Having crossed
two countries we arrived at Euston main line
station in London all those years ago.
It's great to be back!
'Luas or the London Tube Train'
is one of sixty lyrical yarns from
'Original Irish Stories' by Pat Watson,
Creagh, Bealnamulla, Athlone, Ireland.
First published in March 2006.
To get your copy email the author here:
GAELIC PHRASES OF THE MONTH
PHRASE: Mo seanathair agus seanmathair
PRONOUNCED: muh sean-ah-hirr ogg-us shan-wah-hirr
MEANING: My Grandfather and Grandmother
PHRASE: Dearthair, deirfiur, aintín, uncail
PRONOUNCED: dre-harr, dre-furrh, on-teen, un-kol
MEANING: Brother, sister, auntie, uncle
PHRASE: Mathair, athair, mac, inin
PRONOUNCED: wah-hirr, ah-hirr, mack, ineen
MEANING: Mother, father, son, daughter
View the archive of phrases here:
The winner was: firstname.lastname@example.org
who will receive the following:
A Single Family Crest Print (decorative)
Send us an email to claim your print, and well done!
Remember that all subscribers to this
newsletter are automatically entered into the
competition every time.
I hope that you have enjoyed this issue.
Until next month,
The Information about Ireland Site.
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