The Information about Ireland Site Newsletter
The Newsletter for people interested in Ireland
Now received by over 50,000 people worldwide
Copyright (C) 2009
IN THIS ISSUE
=== News Snaps from Ireland
=== New free resources at the site
=== Great Irish Families: O'Brien
=== Brian Boru - High King of Ireland
=== Irish Halloween Traditions
=== The Bonfire Dance by Michael Ryan
=== The Alternative Ring of Kerry
=== A Dream of Inis Mor by Brian O'Raleigh
=== Gaelic Phrases of the Month
=== Monthly free competition result
October in Ireland traditionally marks the
transition from Summer to Winter (if you can call
what we get here a Summer!) and once the clocks
'go back' you know that the countdown to
Halloween, Christmas and then Spring has really
Despite the never-ending recession there are
signs of optimism in the country. Perhaps the
gloom and doom can only dominate for a set
amount of time before people get tired of the
dullness and begin to lift their spirits. Is
it possible for people to boost an economy
simply because they are tired of the
dreariness of frugality? We are about to find
out as, not just in Ireland but around the world,
governments, employers and businesses hold their
collective breaths to see what the next few
If you have an article, poem or story about
Ireland or the Irish do send it in - we would
love to receive it!
Until next month
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NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND
SECOND LISBON TREATY PASSED
The Lisbon Treaty has been passed by the Irish
electorate in a second referendum. The final
result was 67.1% in favour to 32.9% against,
which represents a 20.5% swing to the 'yes'
The result may have enduring consequences for
Ireland with those in favour of the treaty
arguing that voting 'yes' will assist Ireland
in emerging from her economic woes. Many
neutrals however remain bitterly despondent that
the political elite were able to overturn the
verdict of the original referendum with Irish
democracy being the ultimate victim.
Needless to say the various political parties are
lining up to take the credit for the victory
(only Sinn Fein opposed the treaty). Had the
treaty been rejected again then the government
would surely have collapsed. The fact that Fine
Gael and the Labour Party actually campaigned in
favour of a 'yes' vote, and thus provided support
for the government, is an irony not lost on many
of their supports who so desperately want to see
Fianna Fail removed from office.
Only the Czech Republic now stand in the way of
full EU ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.
FIANNA FAIL GOVERNMENT SURVIVES
Despite now being ranked third in the opinion
polls Fianna Fail continues as the main party in
government thanks to a combination of factors.
Firstly the Lisbon treaty was passed, thanks in
part to the sharp focusing of the collective
mind of the electorate on economic matters,
with the underlying fear that rejecting the
treaty (again) would be bad economically for
Secondly the government has pushed through the
bad bank (NAMA) legislation which will remove
most of the toxic loans on the books of the
major banks to a new government agency who will
hope to recoup the state investment over time
(a decade or even two). By doing this the banks
will be free to start lending to businesses again
and thus stimulate economic activity.
Thirdly the governments coaltion partners, the
Green Party, have decided not to commit political
suicide and have instead renegotiated a deal
with Fianna Fail that they claim will result in
their core polices being implemented. Had they
rejected the revised deal and pulled out of
government they would surely have been pummeled
into oblivion by an electorate in very
Finally, there are signs that the government is
about to tackle the big thorn of public sector
pay. Despite repeated threats of strikes by the
public service staff unions there is little
sympathy for the public sector workers from
those outside of what is seen as a cushy protected
golden circle. The vast majority of recent job
losses and economic pain has been endured by
those in the private business sector and not by
state employees who are rarely fired. Irish public
servants continue to be among the highest paid in
The government must privately acknowledge that
while these pay cuts will be unpopular among
public service staff, that the other half of the
country (in the private sector) will be cheering
them on as it is they who have suffered most. This
divide and conquer strategy will likely get the
government through 2009 and into 2010 at which
time NAMA will be up and running and the banks
may be lending. By 2011 the economy should be
improving, just in time for the next general
election. That seems to be the government plan.
RECESSION PUTTING MORE BUSINESSES AT RISK
The budget that is to be announced later this
year by the Finance Minister Brian Lenihan is
having an effect even before the details are
made public. In anticipation of further tax
hikes and reduced benefits consumers are
spending less in the shops than at any time
over the last two years. The average spend in
retail outlets is now 46 Euro, down from 67 euro
in 2008. A report by Retail Excellence Ireland
has found that sales of mens-wear is down 24%,
ladies-wear by 16%, footwear down by 18%,
giftware and homeware by 19% and even the sale
of groceries is down by 11%. Further job losses
and business closures are inevitable.
DRINK-DRIVE ALCOHOL LIMIT TO BE FURTHER REDUCED
Despite protests from rural publicans and even
some T.D.s the legal blood-alcohol level for
drivers is to be reduced from 80mg to 50mg.
Several other countries in the EU have opted for
a 0mg limit but this seems unlikely to be
proposed in Ireland.
IRELAND TO FACE FRANCE IN WORLD CUP PLAYOFFS
A 2-2 draw with Italy in Croke Park by the Irish
soccer team has meant that the 'boys in green'
must settle for a play-off berth to try to secure
qualification to the World Cup finals in South
Africa next year. A fine display by the Irish team
against the world champions was followed up by a
drab 0-0 draw against Montenegro in what had
become a meaningless final group match. Ireland
was drawn against France in a two-match playoff to
decide who travels to the worlds biggest sporting
The wheels of political cynicism had been turning
in FIFA prior to the final game. Aware that the
big guns of France, Portugal and Russia could be
drawn against each other in an open draw for the
four play-offs, FIFA decided to seed the draw in
order to give these more favoured teams a better
chance of qualifying. It remains to be seen if
this blatantly partisan decision backfires on
footballs ruling authority. Lets hope so.
Voice your opinion on these news issues here:
NEW FREE RESOURCES AT THE SITE
IRELAND HOUSE-SWAP LISTING
We are working on the online program to allow you
to freely add and view details of other people who
are interested in this service.
You can add your home-swap details to our new free
listing service at:
IRISH HOLIDAY AND TOURIST BOARD
Post a question about holidaying in Ireland
and we guarantee an answer will be posted on
NEW COATS OF ARMS ADDED TO THE GALLERY:
The following 5 coats of arms images and family
history details have been added to the Gallery:
F: Flood, Foy
View the Gallery here:
THE PERFECT WEDDING, ANNIVERSARY OR BIRTHDAY GIFT!
We now have over 100,000 worldwide names available.
Get the Coat of Arms Print, Claddagh Ring,
Screensaver, Watch, T-Shirt Transfer or Clock for
your name at:
YOU CAN HELP TO KEEP THIS FREE NEWSLETTER ALIVE!
where you can get great Irish gifts, prints,
claddagh jewellery, engraved glassware and
Anne MacDonald ordered a family crest plaque:
Received my plaque, carefully wrapped,
in good order. It is splendid! I am
thrilled, and I know that my dad, for whose
81st birthday this was ordered, will love
it. I would like to order another one!
Everyone who has seen the plaque has been
really impressed, even those who, as my
daughter says are 'not into ancestor
Again, my hearty thanks for this
Best wishes for happy holiday season.
Sincerely, Anne MacDonald
THE PERFECT WEDDING OR ANNIVERSARY GIFT!
View family crest plaques here:
GREAT IRISH FAMILIES: O'BRIEN
The history of the families of O'Brien will always
be dominated by their famous ancestor Brian Boru.
It was he who became High King of Ireland and
defeated the Vikings at the battle of Clontarf in
the year 1014.
Prior to the rise of Brian Boru the sept of Ui
Toirdealbhaigh, from which the O'Briens originate,
had been of only minor importance. They were
located in the Limerick area and later divided
into a number of branches in Munster Province,
located in Tipperary, Limerick, Aherlow, and at
the Comeragh mountains.
The use of surnames was only becoming popular at
the time of Brian Boru and after his death his
descendants adopted O'Brien as their name. The
ancient manuscripts 'The Annals of the Four
Masters' are littered with references to the
O'Briens and their exploits. They have a long
history of achievement and prominence.
The direct descendants of Brian Boru have held
three main titles. They were the Earls and
Marquises of Thomond, Barons and Earls of
Inchquin and Viscounts of Clare. Irish history
of the time witnessed many Gaelic chiefs and
septs alternate loyalty to the crown and then
back to their native kinsmen. It was the Viscounts
Clare who remained loyal to the cause of Irish
freedom with Daniel O'Brien (1577-1663) being a
member of the Supreme Council of the Irish Catholic
Confederates. The O'Briens of Thomond and Inchquin
sided with the English, most notably Murrough
O'Brien (1614-1674) who was known as 'Murrough of
the burnings'. Another Viscount Clare, also Daniel
O'Brien (1690), raised the Irish army known as
'Clares Dragoon's' and who became distinguished in
continental conflicts. William Smith O'Brien
(1803-1864) was one of the original 'Young
Irelanders'. William O'Brien (1852-1928) founded
the 'United Irish League'. Fitzjames O'Brien
(1828-1862) was an author who was killed in the
American Civil War. Jeremiah O'Brien (1740-1818)
was well regarded for his naval exploits against
the English during the American War of
In modern times the name O'Brien remains the sixth
most populous surname in Ireland with over 30,000
individuals bearing the surname, mostly found in
Counties Clare, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford.
View the O'Brien family crest here:
Get the O'Brien plaque, print, signet ring and
BRIAN BORU - HIGH KING OF IRELAND
The line between Irish Legend and Irish Myth
have often been blurred, especially as the
retelling of heroic deeds has been passed on
Brian Boru was no legend although his life deeds
were legendary. He was very much a real man and
was in fact the last great High King of Ireland
and perhaps the greatest military leader the
country has ever known.
Brian Boru was born Brian Mac Cennetig. He mother
was sister to the mother of Conor, the King of
His brother, Mahon, had become King of Munster in
951, upon the death of their father, Cennetig.
Together they fought against the invading Norsemen,
who had imposed taxes in Munster. This struggle
eventually led to the murder of Mahon in 975 Mahon
by the Ostermen (Norse). Brian avenged his
brother's death by killing the King of the
Ostermen of Limerick, King Imar.
From this point onwards Brian held Munster as his
own, including the pivotal trade-centre of
Limerick. He marched into Connaught and Leinster
and joined forces with Mael Sechnaill II in 997.
Together they divided Ireland between them.
The Norse settlers in Dublin especially ranged
against Brian but were defeated at Glen Mama
where the King of Leinster was captured. The
King of Dublin, Sitric Silkenbeard, was soon
In 1002 Brian demanded of his comrade Mael
Sechnaill that he recognize him as King of
Ireland. Mael agreed, partially because many of
his own people viewed Brian as a hero who had
restored Ireland to greatness after the Viking
invasions. The rule of the UiNeill's was thus
at an end as a non-O'Neill was proclaimed as
King. The O'Neill's had been rulers for over
He earned his name as 'Brian of the Tributes'
(Brian Boru) by collecting tributes from the
minor rulers of Ireland and used the monies
raised to restore monasteries and libraries
that had been destroyed during the invasions.
The Norsemen were not done yet however, and
once more waged war on Brian Boru and his
followers at Clontarf in Dublin in 1014. The
King of Connaught, Tadhg O'Conor refused to
ally with Brian against the Ostermen although
Ui Fiachrach Aidne and Ui Maine did join with
Despite the lack of backing from the men of
Connaught, the Munstermen won the day but
lost Brian Boru in the battle. This battle was
a major turning point as it finally subjugated
the Norse presence in Ireland who were
henceforth considered subordinate to the
Kingships of Ireland. Their military threat
had been ended and they retreated to the urban
centres of Dublin, Waterford, Limerick, Wexford,
and Cork. They eventually became completely
hibernicized and integrated into Gaelic culture.
After his death and the death of one of his sons,
his remaining sons, Tadg and Donnchad, were
unable to assume the kingship which was assumed
by Mael Sechnaill. He died in 1022 after which
the role of High King of Ireland became more of
a position in name only, rather than that of a
Perhaps the best that should be said of Brian
Boru therefore, is that he was the last great
High King of Ireland.
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IRISH HALLOWEEN TRADITIONS
The Celts celebrated Halloween as Samhain, 'All
Hallowtide' - the 'Feast of the Dead', when the
dead revisited the mortal world. The celebration
marked the end of Summer and the start of the
During the eighth century the Catholic Church
designated the first day of November as 'All
Saints Day' ('All Hallows') - a day of
commemoration for those Saints that did not have
a specific day of remembrance. The night before
was known as 'All Hallows Eve' which, over time,
became known as Halloween.
Here are the most notable Irish Halloween
Colcannon for Dinner: Boiled Potato, Curly Kale
(a cabbage) and raw Onions are provided as the
traditional Irish Halloween dinner. Clean coins
are wrapped in baking paper and placed in the
potato for children to find and keep.
The Barnbrack Cake: The traditional Halloween
cake in Ireland is the barnbrack which is a
fruit bread. Each member of the family gets a
slice. Great interest is taken in the outcome as
there is a piece of rag, a coin and a ring in
each cake. If you get the rag then your financial
future is doubtful. If you get the coin then you
can look forward to a prosperous year. Getting
the ring is a sure sign of impending romance
or continued happiness.
The Ivy Leaf: Each member of the family places a
perfect ivy leaf into a cup of water and it is
then left undisturbed overnight. If, in the
morning, a leaf is still perfect and has not
developed any spots then the person who placed the
leaf in the cup can be sure of 12 months health
until the following Halloween. If not.....
The Pumpkin: Carving Pumpkins dates back to the
eighteenth century and to an Irish blacksmith
named Jack who colluded with the Devil and was
denied entry to Heaven. He was condemned to
wander the earth but asked the Devil for some
light. He was given a burning coal ember which he
placed inside a turnip that he had gouged out.
Thus, the tradition of Jack O'Lanterns was born
- the bearer being the wandering blacksmith - a
damned soul. Villagers in Ireland hoped that the
lantern in their window would keep the wanderer
away. When the Irish emigrated in their millions
to America there was not a great supply of turnips
so pumpkins were used instead.
Halloween Costumes: On Halloween night children
would dress up in scary costumes and go house to
house. 'Help the Halloween Party' and 'Trick or
Treat' were the cries to be heard at each door.
This tradition of wearing costumes also dates back
to Celtic times. On the special night when the
living and the dead were at their closest the
Celtic Druids would dress up in elaborate costumes
to disguise themselves as spirits and devils in
case they encountered other devils and spirits
during the night. By disguising they hoped that
they would be able to avoid being carried away at
the end of the night. This explains why witches,
goblins and ghosts remain the most popular
choices for the costumes.
Snap Apple: After the visits to the neighbours the
Halloween games begin, the most popular of which
is Snap Apple. An apple is suspended from a string
and children are blindfolded. The first child to
get a decent bite of the apple gets to keep their
prize. The same game can be played by placing
apples in a basin of water and trying to get a
grip on the apple without too much mess!
The Bonfire: The Halloween bonfire is a tradition
to encourage dreams of who your future husband or
wife is going to be. The idea was to drop a
cutting of your hair into the burning embers and
then dream of you future loved one. Halloween was
one of the Celt 'fire' celebrations.
Blind Date: Blindfolded local girls would go out
into the fields and pull up the first cabbage they
could find. If their cabbage had a substantial
amount of earth attached to the roots then their
future loved one would have money. Eating the
cabbage would reveal the nature of their future
husband - bitter or sweet!
Another way of finding your future spouse is to
peel an apple in one go. If done successfully the
single apple peel could be dropped on the floor
to reveal the initials of the future-intended.
Anti-Fairy Measures: Fairies and goblins try to
collect as many souls as they can at Halloween but
if they met a person who threw the dust from under
their feet at the Fairy then they would be obliged
to release any souls that they held captive.
Holy water was sometimes anointed on farm animals
to keep them safe during the night. If the animals
were showing signs of ill health on All Hallows
Eve then they would be spat on to try to ward off
any evil spirits.
Happy Halloween from Ireland!
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THE BONFIRE DANCE
by Michael Ryan
On one of our trips back to Ireland my wife
Kathleen and I found ourselves at the farm just
outside Tuam, County Galway. We had a lovely
dinner with my cousins and then the clan decided
it was time to go out to have a pint. We wound
up in a small pub in, I hope I spell it right,
Corfin. The front part of the pub had a bar and
stools for the men. Then there was a doorway that
lead to the back room. The rule is that you are
not allowed to go 'trolling' in the back room. If
you are male you must be accompanied by a female
to go into the back. So there we were with 4 of
my cousins and their spouses having a pint. There
was a man named Kenny Ryan (no relation that we
knew of) who was playing a guitar and singing for
the entertainment of all gathered. There was a
window cut into the wall dividing the bar from
the back room where one ordered drinks for the
back room. There was no waitress - you got your
own drinks, thank you very much. As I was
waiting for my order of ten drinks to be
completed, I heard Kenny Ryan announce that for
the listening enjoyment of those in the pub there
would be a guest singer all the way from Maryland
in Amerikay. So he called for Mickey Ryan to come
up and sing.
I froze and prayed that there was more than one
of us in the pub that night with that name. There
wasn't! I took the tray of drinks to the table
and my cousin Peter Ryan told me 'go on man. Ye
said that ye can sing. Go sing' It was then that
I promised myself to never try to lie to my family
in Ireland, for sure they would call you on every
statement made. So I walked to the small stage
and introduced myself to Kenny (who assured me
that we were not related). He asked me if I wanted
to sing country western songs or jive songs and I
asked if he knew The Fields of Athenry and his
eyes got big and he said that he did. I asked if
he would play that and that when we got to the
chorus if he would sing the melody. So it was
done. After the first verse when we got to the
chorus he sang the melody and I sang harmony,
and so it went for the 3 verses. It was a good
thing that I had a few pints before singing, or
I would have never been able to do it! Amazingly
there was a fair amount of applause from the
crowd. In fact your man with the guitar asked if
I would do another song (he just wanted to get
paid for me singing!) and I asked that everyone
sing along with me and we did Danny Boy with
himself singing the harmony on that one also (it
was a shock to find that a lot of the gathered
did not know the words to the second verse). I
did well enough that I didn't pay for another
pint or short one the rest of the night, and
there were too many consumed.
There was a silence of all there at about one in
the morning and people were getting up and
walking out the back door and saying nothing,
but taking a drink with them. I looked up and
saw the tallest policeman in the world, sporting
a full head of thick gray-white hair standing in
the doorway between the bar and the back room.
He just stood there as the masses exited the pub.
Not one word was said nor was it needed as
everyone knew the routine that I was quick to
learn. Outside there was a huge bonfire in the
field next to the pub (I found out later that it
was St. John's feast day that was coincidentally
also the beginning of Summer). Since your man had
consumed enough of the drink for two of me, I
decided this would be a good time to do the
bonfire dance that I had learned just a few months
before this, our second trip to Ireland. Kathleen
(the sober and sensible one of the two of us)
convinced me that it was not a good idea to try to
organize a dance around this 10 foot flaming fire,
what with the world's largest policeman not far
behind us. Well, I allowed my wife to prevail and
we all got back to the farm where I tried to teach
the rest of my cousins the dance. But for some
reason it just wasn't the same without the bonfire.
But I must have been doing a good job, since they
were all laughing and having such a grand time!
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THE ALTERNATIVE RING OF KERRY
by Nathan Kingerlee
The Ring of Kerry with its classic stops and view
points is of world renown, but here are some
alternative hidden gems along the way.
Visit Kerry Bog Village on the main road between
Killorglin and Glenbeigh. Here you can explore a
traditional 1800s replica thatched bog village,
complete with Irish wolf hounds and rare Kerry
bog ponies - a great family trip.
Entering into Caherciveen take a right turn down
past the old army Barracks, across the river to
Cahergal Fort, an impressive Bronze Age stone fort
with great views over Valencia Harbour. There is a
second even more interesting fort nearby and also
the ivy-clad crumbling ruins of fifteenth century
Ballycarbery Castle, once the home of the
McCarthy Mor's, now home only to jackdaws...
Back on the main road detour to the sleepy village
of Portmagee. A must-see is the Skellig
Interpretive Centre, dedicated to the history
and stories of the sixth century monastic
settlement of Skellig Michael. It's told by some
that this was one of the last pagan sites in
Ireland and one of the reasons it was inhabited
for 600 years by monks was to drive out the last
of the pagans.
Portmagee is named after an infamous pirate,
Magee, who was shipwrecked on the coastline, met
a local girl and settled down in the village to a
life of married contentment and dangerous
smuggling. The Bridge Bar serves delicious food
and is a great lunch spot. On a fine day you can
sit outside at the water's edge, watching the
coming and goings of the brightly coloured fishing
From Portmagee follow the narrow road over the top
of Coonanaspig Pass and down to Saint Finan's Bay.
Here you can swim in the fresh crashing surf at
the sandy beach and call into Skellig Chocolate
Factory where you'll be rewarded with sensational
smells and free samples of delicious chocolates.
Continue to Derrynane Beach. Here long golden
beaches, Daniel O Connell's family home, wetsuit
and snorkeling hire from Derrynane Sea Sports and
the ruined Abbey on Abbey Island are all calling
to be explored. If you're into hiking, best of
all, is a hidden mass path and secretive smugglers
trail beginning at the pier and twisting along the
side of Derrynane Harbour, through thick
Finish your day with a homemade ice-cream from
'The Green House' in Sneem!
This article was written by Nathan Kingerlee who
organises Singles Adventure Weekends and much
A DREAM OF INIS MOR
by Brian O'Raleigh
I have known the longing, known that I was lost
I knew it as a child before the open door
I knew it as a stranger upon the foreign shore
That feeling left me only when the name came...
It brought with it a yearning, a calling from my soul,
A place I'd ever feared, I'd been so long alone
It carried with it sorrow, the opening of some door
When I heard the name I knew an angel stood on Inis Mor
I lost my way long years ago, I faltered and I strayed
I turned away from those I loved,
these choices I have made
But now at night I wonder, could I return once more
Could I return to what I was by the cliffs at Inis Mor
Sometimes there is no logic as to meaning or to cause
Sometimes the heart must rule the head,
unless we die as slaves
Sometimes at night I lie there,
called by spirit to that shore
And know an angels waiting by the cliffs at Inis Mor
I swore an oath long years ago that I would follow soul
I've stumbled and betrayed myself more than I have told
Now I stand on foreign beaches and know I am no more
Yet hear the voices calling from the cliffs at Inis Mor...
Night waves turning seeking, a half open dark door
Whispered lost memories from that hard broken shore
Black waves rolling over me, dark down from the deep
Where lies my purpose, where will I sleep
The poem above is taken from my new book,
'Passage to Inis Mor' subtitled 'A Tale From The
Aran Isles'. It's a fictional story of a man born
in Ireland, raised in Australia who returns to
Ireland aged 38 to meet a seanachie on Inis Mor
who helps him rebuild an old Galway Hooker and
also to find the meaning and purpose of his life.
Find out more here:
KEEP THIS NEWSLETTER ALIVE!
THE IRISH COINS PROOF SET
The recent limited edition proof set of Irish
coins produced by the Irish government is now
available. We have a very small supply of these
fantastic items which you can get from here:
GAELIC PHRASES OF THE MONTH
PHRASE: Oiche Shamhna
PRONOUNCED: ee-ha how-nah
MEANING: Halloween (the night before Samhain)
PHRASE: Tabhair feirin dom no buailfidh me bob ort!
PRONOUNCED: tour ferr-een dum no booligg may bob urt
MEANING: Trick or Treat
(give me a treat or I will play a trick on you!)
PHRASE: Tine cramha/Cailleach/Taibhse
PRONOUNCED: tinneh cravh-sheh/coll-yuk/tavh-sheh
View the archive of phrases here:
OCTOBER COMPETITION RESULT
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.