IN THIS ISSUE
~~~ Keep us Free!
~~~ News Snaps from Ireland
~~~ New free resources at the site
~~~ Another Irish Penpals Success Story
~~~ John O'Callaghan's Joke Selection
~~~ The Irish Language by Deirdre Davitt
~~~ Gaelic phrases of the month
~~~ Monthly free competition result
Best wishes to all of our readers this Spring time.
If, like me, you wonder at the pace of change then
the news snaps below should give an insight into
just how quickly Ireland has altered in recent
Many thanks to those who responded with emails to
our last edition on Saint Patrick's day. Your
encouragement and articles are most welcome.
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NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND
NORTHERN IRELAND PEACE PROCESS IN JEOPARDY
New elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly
are planned for May 29th next but it is unlikely
that the new Parliament will be formed unless
there is a major announcement from the IRA.
Unionist leaders are angered at the unwillingness
of the IRA to announce that the 'war is over' and
that they have ended their fund-raising, training
The IRA has already agreed to decommission its
weapons and this decision has already caused
problems within the Republican movement.
Nevertheless the Unionist parties in Ulster want
a definitive statement bringing the war to an end.
In the absence of a further deal being reached
the upcoming election is likely to be a
IRISH ADOPTION RATES PLUMMET
A major change in cultural attitude to adoption
and childbirth out of marriage has occurred in
Ireland in recent years.
The Irish adoption rate has plummeted to an all
time low despite one in very three Irish children
being born outside of marriage. Contrary to
popular belief teenagers accounted for only 17%
of the total number of births outside of wedlock.
In 1967 all but 3% of children born to unwed
mothers were offered up for adoption, a total of
1493 children. In 2001 only 81 children were
given up for adoption, despite an increase in
the child birth rate.
This huge change in cultural attitude is in part
another by-product of the economic development
that has occurred in Ireland since the early
1990's. A vastly improved standard of living as
well as a generous welfare system have combined
to make it much more feasible for an unmarried
mother to raise a child by herself, or within
her family. A poor attitude to contraception
among young Irish people as well as an increase
in alcohol intake are being cited as among the
bigger factors in the overall increase in birth
During the early years of the Irish State
unmarried mothers were regarded as criminals.
Accounts of the forced interment of very young
women in 'Magdalene Laundries' and the
ill-treatment they received there are only now
coming to light. Adoption was very often the
answer for these women, but in modern times
adoption has become nearly taboo.
SUICIDE RATES INCREASE LINKED TO ALCOHOL ABUSE
The huge increase in the rate of suicide in
Ireland has been linked to an overall increase
in alcohol consumption.
The economic surge that occurred in Ireland
during the 1990's has not come about without a
social cost. During the 1990's alcohol consumption
has increased by over 40%. The greater amount of
disposable income available to young people in
particular has seen the rates of alcohol abuse
among teenagers soar.
Researchers have pointed out that it is no
coincidence therefore that suicide is now the
most common cause of death in Irish men aged
between 15 and 24. Two out of every 100 Irish
men who die this year will have committed
suicide. There were 448 suicides in Ireland
in 2001, nearly 80% of which were men.
CRACKDOWN ON ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS CONTINUES
The Irish Government plans to fine airlines and
ferry companies who arrive into Ireland with
illegal immigrants on board. Maximum fines of
up to EURO 3000 are planned.
SINGER SINEAD O'CONNOR TO RETIRE FROM MUSIC
Irish singer Sinead O'Connor, 36, has announced that
she will retire from the music business this summer.
Famous for her international hit 'nothing compares
to you', the Dubliner has often been a controversial
figure, at one time claiming to be Ireland's first
ordained female priest.
NATIONAL STADIUM TO GO AHEAD
A rebuilt Landsdowne Road is likely to be chosen as
the site for the new 65,000 seat national sports
stadium with both Rugby and Soccer being the chief
tenants. The initial proposal for a completely new
stadium at Abbotstown now look likely to be shelved.
The Irish Government is pressing ahead with its plan
to make certain sporting events 'free to air' on
terrestrial television. The move is a responde to the
recent deal struck between SKY TV and the FAI for
the exclusive rights to air Ireland's international
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ANOTHER CARA IRISH PENPALS SUCCESS STORY
Thank you for the great newsletter. I wanted to
tell you that thanks to Cara pen pals, I've met
the man of dreams and we're to be married
early next year.
As an American with a rich Irish heritage, I
longed to be there in Ireland with someone that I
love. I met Eamon and the rest is history! I've
traveled to Ireland many times and love being
there. Now that I've met Eamon and we're going to
be married, I can look forward to living in
Kilkenny by the end of this year. I'd appreciate
any tips with regards to moving and living in
Ireland. I'm taking my daughters with me to live
in Ireland. They are ages 18 and 11. Any advice
you can give me would be great!
Thanks again for the wonderful newsletter and for
the opportunity to meet the man of my dreams.
You can join Cara Irish Penpals for free here:
JOHN O'CALLAGHAN'S JOKE SELECTION
When Irish Eyes Are Smiling
To Celebrate Saint Patrick's Day
~~~ The Mood Ring
I gave my last girlfriend a Mood Ring with a green
stone in it for her birthday. When she was in a
good mood the color of the stone changed from
green to red. When she was in a bad mood, it left
a Black mark on my forehead.
~~~ The Bar Pick-Up
One night while I was single I was having a drink
in the select lounge bar of the The Ballyfriggin
Arms Hotel, Ireland, when this dazzling colleen
came over and sat down beside me. She had a peaches
and cream complexion, dazzling white teeth,
voluptuous hips, pouty lips and red, shoulder
'The reason I came over,' she said seductively,
'is that you that you look remarkably like my
'Oh' I exclaimed in surprise. 'Just how many husbands
have you actually had?'
She gave me a come-on smile and said,'Two!'
~~~ Desperate in Key West
I was on holiday in Key West, Florida, and having
a quite drink at the bar in Hemmingway's on Duval
Street when I spotted two attractive middle aged
ladies smiling at me and giving me the glad eye.
So naturally, I smiled back.
Then one came over and said,
'Hi. I am Sophie. My friend Shirley and I were
just saying we haven't seen you in here before?'
'I haven't been in here for 20 years. I just got
out of prison.'
'Did you--did you-rob a bank or something?
'No. I murdered my third wife.
'I choked her.'
'What happened to your second wife?'
'I poisoned her.'
'And what happened to your first wife?'
'I killed her by pushing her off the balcony.'
'Oh my gosh,' Sophie said. Then turning to her
friend on the other side of the bar, she screamed
'Yoo-hoo, Shirley. Come on over here. He's single.'
~~~ Religious Stamps
Mrs. Murphy from Ballyfriggin goes up to Belfast
for a holiday. She is in the Post Office to buy
stamps for her post cards.
'I want to buy 6 stamps please,' she says.
'What denomination, Missus?'
'Oh, good heavens' she replied. 'Has it really
come to this? Oh well. Better give me 3 Protestant
and 3 Catholic ones.'
~~~ The 10 Commandments
Young Sean was asked to list the 10 Commandments
in any order.
So he said, '3, 6, 1, 8, 4, 5, 9, 2, 10, 7'.
~~~ The Poor Preacher
Father Felim Feelgood, the parish priest in
Ballyfriggin was standing outside the church after
the eleven o'clock Mass and greeting the people
when young Sean O'Shea went up to him and said,
'When I grow up, father, I'm going to give you
'Well, thank you,' the priest said, 'and tell me
now, what was it I said in my sermon that touched
your heart, son?'
'Oh it wasn't anything you said,' the boy
answered, 'it's something I heard me dad say. He
said to me mom:
'Father Feelgood is one of the poorest preachers
I have ever heard.'
When I was young my parents invited the new
neighbours to dinner. At the table, my mom turned
to me and said,
'John-Jo. You say the blessing'
'But mom I dunno what to say,' I replied.
'Just say what you heard Daddy say at dinner
So I bowed my head, put my hands together and
'Dear God, why did we invite those awful people
PS. John's Irish Joke book. 'A BIT OF THE BLARNEY'
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THE IRISH LANGUAGE BY DEIRDRE DAVITT
Visitors to Ireland soon realise that we are a
country with two languages. English is the
predominant one and virtually everyone can speak
it, but street plates, road direction signs, bus
tickets, notices on public buildings and so forth
soon remind visitors that they are in a foreign
country. For some it is a surprise to find that
Irish is a distinct and separate language, and not
just our Hibernian version of English! Others,
more historically aware, can still experience a
certain culture shock that the Irish language is
actually a living reality, and not just the
subject of academic study. The Irish language is
one of the Republic's two official languages and
is designated 'the national language' by the
Constitution. The other official language is
P and Q
Irish is a Celtic language. This group includes
Welsh, Breton and Cornish - known collectively to
scholars as P Celtic - and Irish. The Gaelic of
Scotland and Manx are known as Q Celtic. Although
far less widespread than the other major language
groups of Europe, Celtic languages in 300 BC
stretched from Ireland to Asia Minor, from Poland
to Spain and Northern Italy.
The areas in Ireland in which Irish is the common
language today are known as The Gaeltacht and
these are to be found mainly on the Western coast,
in the Dingle Peninsula, Conamara, and North West
Donegal. There are also small Gaeltachtaí in
Counties Cork, Mayo, Meath and Waterford as well
as a strong Irish speaking community in Belfast.
Irish is the means of communication of
approximately 75,000 people, about half of whom
live in the Gaeltacht. According to Census figures,
almost one million people or 30% of the adult
population in the Republic, claim to be able to
speak the language. From a recent survey it
appears that about 40% of these or 400,000
people, speak it on a fairly regular or daily
Since the foundation of the State, the Irish
language has formed part of our education system.
It is taught in all schools, both primary and
secondary, and all teachers are required to
have knowledge of Irish. There are over 380
Irish medium primary and secondary schools in
the country, over half in the Gaeltacht.
Like most European languages in the 20th century,
Irish has developed a rich and varied modern
literature. Over 130 new titles are published
every year. All the major genres of literary
endeavour are represented - poetry, drama, novel,
short story and essay. There are also many works
of biography, history, philosophy, religion,
current affairs and politics in print. Many
books of folklore have been published, reflecting
the rich tradition in story, music and song in
Irish. Translation has been made from and into
all major world languages.
Although literature has been written continuously
in Irish since the 6th century - making Irish
literature the oldest in Northern Europe - modern
literature in the sense of a body of work which
follows on from the sensibilities represented by
Baudelaire, Byron, Balzac or Goethe, is usually
dated from 1882 when the magazine Irisleabhar na
Gaedhilge (The Gaelic Journal) was founded. Another
important date in modern literature was 1897 when
the cultural festival, An tOireachtas (The
Convocation) was started by Conradh na Gaeilge
(The Gaelic League) with various competitions
for original writing in Irish.
Many of today's leading writers are also available
on audio - cassette, thanks to the Galway
publishers Cló Iar - Chonnachta. (See Inside
Ireland's Discount Voucher). A wider audience is
opening to Irish writers through the services of
the recently established agency, Ireland Literature
Exchange, (ILE) which supports in a practical way
the translation of Ireland's dual language
The extraordinarily rich Irish literary tradition
despite all the ebbs and flows occasioned by a
turbulent history, still continues to the present
day and has both consciously and unconsciously
coloured the writing of Irish people in English,
the so-called Anglo Irish Stream, which includes
so many names of world renown, among them, Yeats,
Shaw, Synge, O'Casey, Joyce, Friel, Hartnett and
A matter of identity
But, what do Irish people feel about their own
language? In a world where English is the dominant
language of trade and commerce, of the
entertainment industry and of the international
pop culture, Ireland starts off with the immense
advantage that virtually all its citizens speak
English. If we didn't, we would have to learn,
and quickly! Given our geographical location
between the major English-speaking cultures,
there hardly seems much point in hanging on to a
language which is not spoken outside Ireland,
which no one needs in order to do business, and
which can hardly be shown to be an economic or
practical necessity for Irish people.
But the matter isn't as simple as that. No subject
has been surveyed as exhaustively as the attitude
of the Irish towards their own language, and a
common finding of all recent studies is that Irish
people want their traditional languages to be
preserved and sustained; they want it passed on
to their children, and they agree with special
supports for the Irish-speaking areas. In many
ways our attitudes are ambivalent: We may see
little practical use for the language, yet we
don't want it to die; we feel little need to use
it on our daily lives, yet want our children to
learn it. When these attitudes are probed more
deeply, it seems that our language has become for
us one of the few badges which we have left of a
distinctive identity as a People. Even those who
know little Irish and are themselves cut off from
the literary and other traditions of the language,
feel in some way that it is an enriching influence
in our lives - in its own way a key to our
self-awareness and self-understanding.
This is the context in which Bord na Gaeilge, the
state board with responsibility for promoting the
Irish language as a living language, has been
operating since its inception in 1975. Already it
has contributed to significant growth in such areas
as the use of Irish throughout the public service,
the Irish - medium nursery school movement and
Irish-speaking primary and secondary schools; the
distribution of bilingual and Irish-language books,
nationally and internationally; the promotion of
the arts, particularly literature and drama, and
the sponsoring of myriad different schemes and
projects which nurture the language at local level
in various communities throughout the country. Add
to this list an Irish-language radio station,
Raidio na Life, an Irish-language professional
Drama Company, Amharclann de hÍde, and an Irish
language weekly newspaper, Foinse, and you get some
idea of just how pro-active Bord na Gaeilge has
been over the past 25 years. There has been a
quiet cultural revolution in Ireland, transforming
a dying language into a vibrant, creative one, a
process that is destined to continue into the new
Deirdre Davitt is Deputy Chief Executive of
Bord na Gaeilge.
This article has been adapted from an article
for the 'Inside Ireland' publication.
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GAELIC PHRASES OF THE MONTH
PHRASE: Dia duit ar maidin
PRONOUNCED: dee/ah dwit air mod/ging
MEANING: Good morning
PHRASE: Ca bhfuil do sheomra leaba?
PRONOUNCED: kaw will do shoim/rah labb/ah
MEANING: Where is your bedroom?
PHRASE: Ta se thuas an staighre
PRONOUNCED: taw shay who/iss on sty/rih
MEANING: It is upstairs
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