Ireland Newsletter - Robert Emmet biography
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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
=== Play the Irish Lotto
=== Robert Emmet by Kevin Kelly
=== History of the Irish Chipper
=== My Finest Hour by Pat Watson
=== Gaelic Phrases of the Month
=== Monthly free competition result
=== And Finally... Funny Irish quote of the month
Hi again from Ireland where the epic race to
be the next President of Ireland is over.
Michael D. Higgins barely put a foot wrong
throughout the entire campaign that was one
of the most eventful in recent history.
This month we have articles about the Irish
Chipper, Robert Emmet and a short story from
Enjoy your FREE Ireland Newsletter!
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NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND
MICHAEL D. HIGGINS IS NEW IRISH PRESIDENT
What has been describe as the dirtiest most
negative campaign in Irish electoral history has
finally ended with Michael D. Higgins winning the
race to be the next President of Ireland.
In truth the election campaign was a welcome
distraction for both the news media and the Irish
public. Ireland is still grappling with a huge
unemployment rate, massive emigration and yet
another package of austerity measures to come in
the upcoming budget. The prolonged campaign for
the largely ceremonial role of Irish President
was exactly the sort of political theatre that was
needed to enable minds to be focused on something
other than economic woes.
And what a campaign it was. The initial pace-setter
was Senator David Norris who at one stage looked
certain to decimate his opponents and easily win
the Presidency. His popularity among the older
generation was particularly noted but it is fair
to say that he did have widescale appeal. That is,
until his campaign imploded. Past interviews that
he had given exposed his attitudes to paedophilia.
Then his campaign team resigned when it was
discovered that he had made several representations
to Israel on behalf of his former partner, a man
who had been convicted of statutory rape.
He abandoned his campaign only to resurface a few
weeks later, desperately seeking the votes from
T.D.s or County Councils to enter the race.
Convinced that the worst of the revelations were
behind him it then emerged that he had been in
receipt of a disability pension while also working
in the Seanad (the Irish Senate House). He
eventually secured a nomination at the eleventh
hour but with his campaign hopelessly tainted his
chance had gone.
Gay Mitchell of Fine Gael was nominated by the
main government party. Polling nationally at over
30% support this election should have been a
cake-walk for Fine Gael. It was clear from the
start though that the Fine Gael party hierarchy
did not actually want Gay Mitchell as their
candidate. They proposed Pat Cox but were voted
down by their own membership. Fine Gael's
campaign never really got off the ground with
Gay Mitchell being seen as arrogant, tetchy and
unengaging. Despite a fine career of public
service he never really got out of the stalls.
Once Fianna Fail finally decided not to run their
own candidate the stage was set for the next
sensational move. Sinn Fein announced that Martin
McGuinness would be seeking the Presidency. This
move must have sent shivers down the collective
spine of those in Fianna Fail. It is quite clear
that Sinn Fein is trying to position itself as
the only real 'Republican' Party. They see Fianna
Fail voters as ripe for the picking and it was a
political masterstroke to put McGuinness into the
race. Their chances of winning were always going
to be slim however. The Irish electorate is still
quite divided over Sinn Fein, they are either loved
or loathed. The focus of the campaign turned to the
paramilitary past of Martin McGuinness who, once
he had dealt with those inevitable issues, turned
his attention to Sean Gallagher.
TV celebrity turned political candidate Sean
Gallagher earned his notoriety on the 'Dragons
Den' show which pits prospective entrepreneurs
against seasoned business people. He seemed to be
a most unlikely candidate in the race and initially
failed to make any impact whatsoever. Once David
Norris faded and the other independent candidates
failed to inspire the focus shifted to Gallagher
who had continued his 'pro-business' positive
message. His support surged. The week before the
actual vote he was the clear leader in the
opinion polls and looked set to easily win. His
lack of political experience though was eventually
to prove his downfall and it did so in spectacular
It has been described as 'train-wreck TV'. Rarely
in Irish history has a political campaign so
suddenly and dramatically disintegrated as happened
to Sean Gallagher only days before the finish line.
All of the candidates were appearing on the
'Frontline' television debate. It was well known
that Gallagher had been involved with Fianna Fail
in the past but attempts by the other candidates
to stick some Fianna Fail mud onto him had thus
far failed. It was then that Martin McGuinness
revealed that Gallagher had accepted a 5000
euro contribution on behalf of Fianna Fail
at an event in Dundalk some years previously.
Gallagher should have just brushed it off but
instead engaged with the subject, used ill-advised
language such as 'no recollection' and 'envelope'
(in the context of receiving the contribution),
stuttered and blustered. The following day he
tried to put the record straight but only made
matters worse. The damage had been done - he was
now regarded as the Fianna Fail candidate with
bad memory and a cheque in an envelope. Disaster.
While the other two independents, Mary Davis and
Rosemary Scallon (Dana) failed to make any real
impact on the election campaign Michael D. Higgins
seemed to effortlessly float above the mire. He
is a very popular politician, well known for his
work in the Labour Party and regarded as a
human-rights activist. The focus of the media pack
was never really sharply on him and with the other
candidates flailing his support in the opinion
polls remained high. Only Sean Gallagher ever
really threatened his eventual victory. That is
until the 'Frontline' debate put paid to the
The final result was:
Michael D. Higgins 39.6%
Sean Gallagher 28.5%
Martin McGuinness 13.7%
Gay Mitchell 6.4
David Norris 6.2%
Rosemary Scallon 2.9%
Mary Davis 2.7%.
A resounding victory for the popular man from
Galway. A disaster for Fine Gael, a very
worthwhile exercise for Sinn Fein and a bitter
pill for the independents to swallow.
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by Kevin Kelly
Robert Emmet's short, dramatic life came to a
tragic end on September 20, 1803. However,
although his life was short and his struggle in
vain, his efforts, vision and idealism left a
mythic mark on Irish and on the world history.
Born in Dublin in 1778 into a fairly well-to-do
Protestant family, Emmet was educated at Trinity
College, Dublin. With high ideals of fraternity
and equality, Robert, like his elder brother
Thomas, became involved with the United Irishmen,
an organization formed in 1791 by Wolfe Tone,
James Tandy, and Thomas Russell to achieve Roman
Catholic emancipation and, with Protestant
co-operation, parliamentary reform.
Between 1800 and 1802, Emmet resided on the continent
with leaders of the United Irishmen who had been
exiled from Ireland following the rebellion of
1798. On the continent, Emmet attempted to enlist
French support for an insurrection against
British rule. With the promise of French military
aid secured, Emmet returned to Ireland in 1802
and began to organize and arm the country in
preparation for the French landing. However,
Emmet's hand was forced in July 1803 when an
explosion at one of his arms depots compelled an
early call for insurrection on July 23. His plan
now awry, the ill-timed insurrection ended in
confusion as various factions failed to receive
or failed to heed the call to arms, and the
promised French invasion failed to materialize.
Determined and undaunted Emmet, wearing a green
and white uniform, marched a small band against
Dublin Castle. On their way, the group happened
upon Lord Kilwarden, the Lord Chief Justice and
his nephew. Emmet's followers seized the Lord
Chief Justice and his nephew from their coach,
piked them to death and then began to riot in the
streets. Disillusioned by his followers' behavior
and realizing the cause was lost, Emmet escaped
and hid in Irish countryside.
Leaving the Wicklow Mountains, Emmet moved to
Harold's Cross to be near Sarah Curran, his
fiancee. Thomas Moore's songs 'She is far from the
land where her young hero sleeps' and 'Oh breathe
not the name' were inspired by Emmet's love for
Emmet had hoped to escape to America with Miss
Curran. However, he was captured on August 25th,
1803 and imprisoned at Kilmainham. He was tried
for high treason in Green Street Courthouse where
he was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.
When asked if he had any thing to say in response
to this sentence, Emmet gave what is considered
to be one of the most famous speeches of the
period. Emmet's speech to the court, 'The Speech
from the Dock', could be regarded as the last
protest of the United Irishmen:
'I have but one request to ask at my departure
from this world – it is the charity of its silence.
Let no man write my epitaph. No man can write my
epitaph, for as no man who knows my motives and
character dares now to vindicate them, let not
prejudice or ignorance asperse them. Let them
rest in obscurity and peace until other times and
other men can do justice to them. When my country
takes her place among the nations of the earth,
then shall my character be vindicated, then may
my epitaph be written'.
Although he held out hope for a rescue, on
September 20th, 1803, he was executed. Out of
deference to his aristocratic background, Emmet
was hanged and beheaded but was not subsequently
disembowelled as such a sentence usually involved.
His burial site remains a mystery to this date.
THE HISTORY OF THE IRISH CHIPPER
It is a well know fact in Ireland that the
majority of chippers are run not by the Irish but
by Italians! The first of his countrymen to set up
in Ireland was Giuseppe Cervi who arrived in
Dublin late in the 1880s. He worked as a labourer
until he had saved enough to buy a hand-cart and
cooker on which he could prepare and sell chips
to the many locals leaving pubs at night. With his
wife he established the first ever Dublin
chipper on Pearse Street and is even credited with
being the originator of the famous Dublin saying:
'a one and one' (meaning 1 fish and 1 chips portion).
By the year 1909 there were 20 fish and chip shops
in Dublin alone.
This new industry was certainly not confined to
Ireland with the north of England having many more
chippers than Dublin. Scotland became the undisputed
centre of the trade with thousands of Italian
chippers operating there by the time of the first
war. Immigration from Scotland into Ireland and
especially in to Ulster had continued during the
eighteenth century and of course the Italian
chippers arrived with them.
It should be noted that the most famous chipper in
Ireland, Beshoffs, was set up by the Ukranaian
Ivan Beshov who arrived in Ireland in the 1940s,
and who was originally arrested upon suspicion of
being a German spy! He proved his innocence of that
charge and in a salt and vinegar covered irony his
first chipper was destroyed by the German Luftwaffe
who accidentally bombed the North Strand area of
Fairview in Dublin in 1941. He relocated to the
city centre and became a Dublin institution!
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MY FINEST HOUR
by Pat Watson
In the nineteen-forties cutting the turf was one
of the most important tasks of the year for most
families. Without turf there would be no cooking
or heating in the homes of Ireland. Considerable
planning went into the week on the bog as this
usually involved all hands, that is the entire
family, from the baby in the horses collar to the
daddy on the 'slane'. In between were the little
girls for looking after the fire, the cooking and
the baby, the middle boy for catching the sods
and filling the barrows, the older boy and the
mother for wheeling the barrow loads out the bog.
The bogs were divided in stripes about fifty
yards wide so there were several families within
sight of each other. Whatever anybody did,
In the Shannon valley, Roscommon, Westmeath,
Offaly, when the 'slanesman' threw up the sods
a boy caught them and placed them on the barrow
in well ordered symmetric double rows. Each row
had twelve sods and weighed nearly a hundred
weight. Barrow-men usually complained if more
than two rows were loaded on the barrow, as the
terrain was rough with clumps of caoibh and
heather. In other parts of the country, the
'slanesman' just threw the sods up on the bank
and somebody loaded the barrow with a pitchfork
in a somewhat higgledy-piggledy fashion. This
was how we found things east of the Sliabh Bloom
Mountains near Mountrath at the end of the
My uncle had bought a farm there and come April
he employed a barrow-man and brought me as the
turf catcher. When I started catching the sods,
work ceased on every bank and a crowd gathered.
'Could I try that?' said a much older boy but
the sods slipped from his grasp. You could not
be up to the Connaught men, was the general
This was my finest hour. Imagine a ten-year-old
boy being the envy of the whole bog.
Could things ever get better?
'My Finest Hour '
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:
GAELIC PHRASES OF THE MONTH
PHRASE: Ta suil agam go bhfuil tu i mbarr na slainte
PRONOUNCED: taw su-ill ah-gum guh will tu ih marr nah slawn-che
MEANING: I hope you are in the best of health
PHRASE: Ni raibh am agam scriobh go dti seo
PRONOUNCED: knee rouh omm ah-gum skreevh guh dee shuh
MEANING: I hadn't time to write until now
PHRASE: Scriobh chugam go luath
PRONOUNCED: skreevh coo-gum guh lu-ah
MEANING: write to me soon
View the archive of phrases here:
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AND FINALLY... FUNNY IRISH QUOTE OF THE MONTH
' The Irish don't know what they want and are
prepared to fight to the death to get it. '
Sir Sidney Littlewood
' Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of
tragedy, which sustained him through
temporary periods of joy. '
William Butler Yeats
' If this humor be the safety of our race,
then it is due largely to the infusion into
the American people of the Irish brain. '
William Howard Taft (27th US President).
I hope that you have enjoyed this issue.
Until next month,
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