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Hello from Ireland where an 'Indian Summer' is blanketing the country side with unseasonal warmth and sunshine. Great news for any tourists visiting at the moment. September and March can be great months to visit Ireland!
This month we continue our exploration of the very best that Ireland has to offer by taking a stroll around Glendalough and exploring the seldom mentioned Loughcrew Cairns, the site of possibly the oldest known human dwellings in the world!
And did you know that Hot Chocolate was invented by an Irishman? Find out more below.
Until next time,
US GOVERNOR APPEALS TO IRELAND OVER CIGARETTE PACKAGING
It is not often that events in Ireland register among the political fraternity in North Carolina but news that Ireland is planning to force cigarette companies to use plain packaging on their products has prompted Governor Pat McCrory to act.
Writing to the Irish Ambassador to the United States, Anne Anderson, the Governor requested that his concerns be forwarded to the Irish Government for consideration in what is becoming an international assault on the Irish proposals. Ireland it will be remembered was the first country in the world to introduce a blanket ban on smoking in the workplace. The legislation was presented as a health-care issue for workers rather than an attack on cigarettes per se, but of course the effect was the same. No-one can really argue that an individual does have the right to damage the health of another person by smoking in an enclosed work environment and thus the new laws were widely accepted and implemented.
The smoking ban in Ireland badly hit the revenues of pubs and hotels especially, both of which are businesses crucial to Ireland's tourist economy. Despite this the laws remain, with prospects of their reach being extended.
The Irish war on tobacco continues and the latest proposals involve compelling cigarette manufacturers to have brand-free blank labelling on all of their tobacco products. Ireland already forces manufacturers to print extreme and graphic photographs of the effects of cigarettes on its packaging - a policy that neuro-science fMRI research suggests is counter-productive. Now the focus is on removing all branding and slogans such as 'low tar' from the packaging in a bid to stop the use of cigarettes in Ireland, especially among women.
One in three Irish women now smoke regularly with lung cancer now overtaking breast cancer as the main cause of cancer death among women in Ireland. In poorer areas the rate of smoking among women is over 50%. A recent study by an Australian research group revealed the following rates of smoking internationally:
North Carolina is home to the second-largest tobacco firm in the US, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company who manufacture the Camel brand of cigarettes. Three of that States top five employers are tobacco companies. So while it is not surprising that the Governor of North Carolina should take such an interest in anything likely to effect the employment of his constituents, it is perhaps a little surprising that his reach should extend to Ireland.
Governor McCrory suggested that the ban on branding would be a 'direct assault' on intellectual property and trademark rights. He wrote that there was 'little evidence that plain packaging measures are anything more than symbolism'. Perhaps missing the point that all branding is a form of symbolism.
The Republican politician said the Irish plans threatened to 'divert attention and resources from more effective actions that could achieve Ireland's greater goal of being smoke-free during the next decade'. He declined to offer suggestions as to how the country might become smoke-free.
He suggested that retaliatory action in the US could hit Irish businesses:
'Imagine if the United States required Guinness to be stripped of its universally recognised brand and be marketed solely as 'beer' or Jameson to be labelled simply as 'whiskey' and Baileys as 'liqueur'. These outstanding Irish companies would be outraged and would argue that the quality and distinction of their products, as conveyed through their brand packaging, were being stolen – and they would be right.'
Presumably any such alcohol labelling ban would apply to US beer companies and not just Irish companies but nevertheless this is a fair point. The focus in Ireland is currently very much on cigarettes while it can be argued that alcohol advertising is also very damaging.
The letter to the Irish Ambassador concludes by saying that he respects Ireland's 'sovereign prerogative to govern'.
The issue is clearly divisive in the US also with the US Chamber of Commerce joining the North Carolina Governor in his objections to plain packaging while the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association have both written to Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny supporting the proposed new laws.
Pressure against the initiative is building. Within Europe Italy became the ninth EU state to object to the anti-smoking packaging, joining the Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, Bulgaria, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain.
It remains to be seen if the Irish Government has the will to proceed.
You can comment on this news-story at http://www.ireland-information.com/blog/?p=680
PROBE INTO BANKING CRISIS MAY EXAMINE MEDIA COLLUSION
In what is becoming a far-reaching examination of the disastrous events of 2008 to 2010 in Ireland the Irish Government committee set up to examine the issues has suggested that Newspaper editors and other media commentators may be called upon to give evidence.
This is something quite new in Ireland. Rarely has the Irish media been examined for its role in creating and fuelling news stories. And this is the news story about the single biggest economic event in the history of the country.
The collapse of the Irish banks was directly tied to the bursting of the property bubble, leaving the banks with huge debts. Unable to pay, the banks went cap-in-hand to the Government who effectively underwrote the debts, transforming private debt into public debt, and forcing years of austerity onto the shoulders of Irish citizens who had to re-pay the loans.
And to whom exactly were the loans repaid? To German, French and European bondholders who the EU/IMF/ECB 'troika' insisted be repaid or else they would declare the country bankrupt. The only option facing the Fianna Fail Government of the time was to agree to the European bullying, or else the lights would be turned off, ATM machines would stop working and within a few days the rioting and looting would begin.
This was the stark situation facing the Irish Government who were severely criticized and turfed out of office at the next election, to be replaced by Fine Gael and Labour (who pledged to 'burn the bondholders'). The new coalition Government did not change the policies of their predecessors and instead reneged on their election promises and continued to cow-tow to Europe.
Recent attempts to have the EU/IMF/ECB include Ireland in new financial arrangements that would reduce the Irish debt burden have so far failed. And why should they allow Ireland a break? The Irish have already committed to repay the debt over the next two decades. The bondholders in Germany have already been repaid!
It is against this backdrop that the banking probe is being operated. The fact that several media outlets invested heavily in property and property-related websites may have caused a conflict of interest for them. The Irish Times famously and disastrously paid 50 Million Euro for the myhome.ie property web site at the height of the property bubble. The website is now worth a fraction of that amount.
The degree to which media editors drove the story, shaped public opinion and actually reported facts is certain to be of great interest to observers once the probe gets going.
Potentially this is political dynamite.
You can comment on this newsstory at http://www.ireland-information.com/blog/?p=685
AUSTRALIAN AND CANADIAN FIRMS CHASE IRISH WORKERS
It is a sign of the economic times in Ireland that 'recruitment exhibitions' and 'jobs fairs' are so well attended. With an unemployment rate of over 11% emigration remains one of the options for people looking for work, especially younger people.
With unemployment rates of 7 and 6.4% both Canada and Australia are experiencing shortfalls in skilled workers in certain categories. The recent 'Working International Expo' in Ballsbridge had 900 jobs for immediate fulfilment and took the names of hundreds of other interested job-seekers who may opt to work abroad for a year or two, or even for good.
Kevin O'Brien is the Newfoundland Minister for Education and Skills:
'We have a real shortage in the service industry, especially for high end cooks. We have a shortage in personal care home sector… and in the construction industry, for experienced workers with certain skillsets such as carpenters, pipefitters, and scaffolders, who are readily available in Ireland.'
The current rate of emigration is the highest in Ireland since the Great Famine in the middle of the nineteenth century with estimates of as many as 1000 people leaving every week.
POTENTIAL DISASTER FOR APPLE IN IRELAND
Rumblings about the arrangements Apple Inc have made with the Irish Government continue apace. Both sides maintain that there is no 'quid pro quo' arrangement for Apple to provide more employment in Ireland in return for favourable tax treatment. Nevertheless the European Union investigation into the matter looks certain to give Apple a caning.
The European Commission is set to accuse Apple of illegally benefitting from State aid, in the form of reduced tax liability. Luca Maestri, Apple’s chief financial officer, is not impressed:
'There's never been any special deal, there's never been anything that would be construed as state aid.'
The European body is also investigating special tax arrangements in the Netherlands and Luxembourg as well as Ireland, in response to the way huge US multi-national companies such as Apple, Google and Starbucks structure their tax affairs.
This issue is clearly one that greatly concerns the US White House who are critical not just of their own companies but of the countries that they consider to be offering these companies advantageous tax arrangements. US Senator Carl Levin called Ireland a 'tax haven' in 2013.
If these arrangements are in fact illegal then they could expose Apple to huge fines and retrospective tax payments, possibly running to billions of Euro.
IRISH SENATOR WANTS TO CURB 'ANORAK BLOGGERS'
An Irish Senator has called for an end to newspaper comments made by anonymous posters. 'User-Generated content' is very much part of the whole social media experience that forms the backbone of the modern worldwide web. The ability for anyone anywhere to join or create a conversation is great news for web site owners who use this free content to fuel their businesses. But some of the comments are clearly annoying to those in the political establishment.
Ned O'Sullivan is a Fianna Fail Senator:
'In my view there should be some form of registration and identification expected from people who want to contribute in this way. In particular it should focus on the manner in which online newspapers provide a facility for nameless, anonymous commentators to be very critical and sometimes quite abusive of politicians in general.'
EURPEAN GOLFERS THRASH USA AT RYDER CUP
Europe has now won 8 of the last 10 Ryder Cups and it looks like that dominance is set to continue for some time. Irish golfers were very much at the heart of the action with Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and captain Paul McGinley plotting the downfall of the best golfers from the States with an emphatic 16.5 to 11.5 victory.
The flames of a rally by the US players at the start of the final day were firmly extinguished by the ruthless Europeans who were fulsome in the praise of their captain Paul McGinly. Graeme McDowell led the tributes:
'Paul has been the best captain I've ever played under, by far, because of his organisation levels and the way he's related to every player in the team room and making clear the role we had. It's been great.'
By contrast the disarray among the Americans was laid bare by criticism of their captain, Tom Watson, by veteran Ryder Cup player Phil Mickelson who said that the US teams had failed to properly prepare for any Ryder Cup since 2008 when they last won the competition.
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LOUGHCREW CAIRNS, COUNTY MEATH
The keepers of Loughcrew Cairns in County Meath suggest that their site is one of the best kept secrets in Ireland and it is easy to see why. The largest complex of passage graves in Ireland were built over 5000 years ago as burial chambers. With elaborate engravings these ancient structures are older than the Egyptian pyramids! The Cairns are situated in two groups, the furthest being a brisk 2km walk from the car park.
If you happen to be in Ireland at the time of the equinox then you may be able to book a place on the Loughcrew Equinox Festival (March 19-21 and September 19-21) where the astronomical and 'new-age' communities rub shoulders to witness the sunrise at this very special time of the year. The back of one of the Loughcrew chambers is illuminated at the sunrise of the Spring and Autumnal Equinoxes. Magical.
Loughcrew is located at Oldcastle in Meath, near Kells on the main N3 national road and not far from Mullingar to the south. A drive from Dublin would take about than an hour and a half. If your destination from Dublin is Cavan, Carrick-on-Shannon, Sligo or Donegal then Loughcrew is on the way, an adventurous detour! Loughcrew Gardens and Adventure Course provide a modern backdrop to this most ancient site. A visit to the Cairns, refreshment at the Coffee Shop followed by a walk around the gardens to visit St. Oliver Plunkett's family Church and Tower House could easily occupy an enjoyable afternoon or morning. There is a small playground at the coffee shop to entertain the kids. Access to the gardens is for a small fee but a visit to the Cairns is free of charge.
The ancient burial site at Newgrange is famous the world over and is indeed a magnificent testament to the achievements of our ancestors. But there are other lesser know sites such as Loughcrew that are shamefully overlooked. Just to put this location into context, it is possible that the Cairns at Loughcrew are the oldest known existing human dwellings in the entire world.
Find out more here: http://www.loughcrew.com
GLENDALOUGH, COUNTY WICKLOW
Glendalough has for decades been a popular destination for Dubliners seeking an escape from city life. The drive through the Wicklow mountains to get there can be both beautiful and tricky with winding roads and unhelpful signage posing a problem for any driver unfamiliar with the area. Nevertheless it is well worth the effort to spend at least half a day here, exploring the outdoor ruins and wonderful landscape.
This is primarily an outdoors tourist attraction. Be prepared to do plenty of walking. There is a small interpretive centre that can be accessed for a small fee but really this is a self-guided experience! Guided tours are available for a fee.
Glendalough is one of Ireland's most important ancient Monastic sites that was founded by Saint Kevin in the sixth century. The 30 Metre Round Tower is perhaps the most impressive architectural feature at the site with St. Mary’s Church, a large granite cross and the ruins of Saint Kevin's Church dating form the twelfth century. Trinity Church and St. Saviour’s Priory nearby create what was in fact a form of medieval city that is dotted with other ruins and tombs.
Nearby tourist attractions include the magnificent Powerscourt Gardens (great for older adults), Clara Lara Adventure Park (great for kids), Mount Usher Gardens at Ashford (great for a bit of shopping and a very fine cafe), Wicklow Jail (boasting night tours in 'Ireland's most haunted Jail'), while the nearby N11 motorway that runs down the south-east coast of Ireland lays open access to Wexford, Waterford and beyond. So there is plenty to see and do!
Glendalough takes a bit of effort to reach. Whether by tour bus or self-drive it is recommended to leave early and arrive early. This is not a place to run-around and check off your list of places to see. A visit to Glendalough in the morning and then on to Mount Usher for lunch and another stroll would make a fantastic day out.
Find out more here: http://www.glendalough.ie
INVENTIONS YOU NEVER KNEW WERE IRISH
The sweet elixir known as hot chocolate that is the love of children and adults the world over was actually invented by Hans Sloane (1660-1753), who was born at Killyleagh in County Down in Ulster. As a young man he studied Botany and Pharmacy in London. He travelled to Jamaica as a physician to the Governor of Jamaica, expanding his botanical knowledge greatly, recording over 800 new species of plantlife.
He noted that the local population would drink cocoa powder in water, a taste he found very displeasing but found a new way of enjoying the drink by mixing it with milk and sugar. He returned to England and it was not long before the famous Cadbury Brothers were selling 'Sloane's Drinking Chocolate', later known as 'hot chocolate' or 'cocoa'.
To say that an Irish man invented the Electron and therefore one of the fundamental atomic particles that make up the entire Universe is perhaps pushing it a little bit! But the term 'electron' was actually coined by the Irish Physicist George Johnstone Stoney (1826-1911), who as early as 1874 had determined that there was a fundamental unit quantity of electricity. In 1891 he combined the words 'electric' and 'ion' to create the word 'electron'.
Stoney was born near Birr in County Offaly, home to the world's largest telescope, the 72-inch Leviathan of Parsonstown, built by the 3rd Earl of Rosse. He worked there as an assistant to William Parsons in what was proving to be a hotbed of scientific discovery in Ireland. He published 75 scientific papers during his lifetime, contributing much to the knowledge of cosmic physics and to the theory of gases. He is honored by craters on both Mars and the Moon being named for him.
The racing of horses over fences is known as 'National Hunt Racing' and originated in Ireland in the early eighteenth century. The original 'pounding races' involved cross-country treks where the animals were required to jump over ditches and hedgerows and whatever other obstacles they met along the way.
A very early record of such a race is from the year 1752 and records a race between Buttevant and Doneraile in County Cork, some 4.5 miles, about the same distance as the modern 'Grand National' race at Aintree. Together with the 'Gold Cup' at Cheltenham these two races form the pinnacle of the National Hunt Racing calendar.
The race in Cork was marked at the start and finish by a Church and it is thus that the term 'steeplechase' was born.
The Irish physicist John Joly (1857-1933), is renowned for his invention of Radiotherapy and in particular for its use as a treatment of Cancer. Born in Holywood House in County Offaly he was educated in Trinity College and contributed over 270 books and papers during his lifetime. His 1899 paper 'An Estimate of the Geological Age of the Earth' was revolutionary at the time and although later superseded by more accurate estimates it was noted for breaking new ground.
In 1914 he developed the use of Radium in the treatment of Cancer. He helped establish the 'Irish Radium Institute' that promoted the 'Dublin method' of using a hollow needle for deep Radium treatment, and it was from here that the modern treatment know as 'Radiotherapy' was developed. This prolific man also invented the 'Joly Colour Process', allowing for the production of colour photographs. A crater on Mars was named for him to honor his many scientific achievements.
Anyone who has ever experienced an earthquake or tremors will have become instantly aware of the power of the planet we all live on. The study of these forces is called Seismology and it was the Irish scientist and inventor Robert Mallet (1810-1881), who was the pioneer of this field of study.
Born in Dublin and educated at Trinity College the young Mallet joined his father's iron foundry and provided engineering iron to projects such as the Fastnet Lighthouse and a swing-bridge over the River Shannon. His 1846 paper to the Royal Irish Academy titled 'On the Dynamics of Earthquakes' is considered to be one of the fundamental studies giving rise to the new science of Seismology. He is credited with coining not just the word 'Seismology' but also 'epicentre'. His 'Report on the Great Neapolitan Earthquake of 1857' when over 11,000 people had lost their lives in the Italian city of Padua was very highly regarded.
The distillation of alcoholic liquid from fermented grain mash has been documented as far back as the Babylonians four thousand years ago. But the moment the word Whiskey came into being is actually pinpointed as being the year 1405 in the 'Annals of Clonmacnoise' of Count Offaly, in the very heart of Ireland. The word 'Whiskey' is an expanded anglicized form of the Irish word 'uisce' meaning 'water'. The Gaelic words for Whiskey are 'uisce beatha' meaning 'water of life'. Uisce is pronounced 'ish-keh' so it is easy to see how this could transform into the modern pronunciation of Whiskey that we know today.
When enjoyed in moderation Whiskey is savoured and highly regarded but easy does it! Perhaps some caution should be taken from the earliest reference of the drink from Clonmacnoise. The mention in the Annals of that famous Monastery record how the death of a Chieftain had occurred at Christmas due to 'taking a surfeit of aqua vitae'. He drank too much, and succumbed.
|PHRASE:||Níl ach braon beag fola ort|
|PRONOUNCED:||kneel ock brain byug fulla urt|
|MEANING:||There is only a little blood|
|PHRASE:||Curifidh mé plástar ort anois|
|PRONOUNCED:||quirr-igg may ploss-chur urt ah-nish|
|MEANING:||I will put on a plaster now|
|PHRASE:||Tá tú an-chróga|
|PRONOUNCED:||taw two on crow-geh|
|MEANING:||You are very brave|