Ireland Newsletter: A Walking Tour of Dublin City Centre
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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
=== A Walking Tour of Dublin City Centre
=== With Love To My Ancestors by Leonie Roach
=== The Goose by Pat Watson
=== Gaelic Phrases of the Month
=== Monthly free competition result
Ireland is in a transition mode at the moment and
will likely be so for at least the next couple of
years. The new government is settling into its role
as national saviours while unemployment and
emigration remain stubbornly high. It is going to
take some time to turn this creaking ship around
but at least the worst seems to be behind us....
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NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND
MIXED ECONOMIC NEWS
The recent stress tests of the Irish banking
system have been met with some approval from
commentators. The banking sector in Ireland
is now among the most highly regulated in the
world - a few years too late. The stress tests
were designed to examine the likely effect of
future economic shocks to the financial system.
Irish banks are now required to have huge sums
of cash in reserve to prevent a repeat of the
recent banking meltdown. Once the new government
policy of merging the smaller banks of EBS, INBS
and Permanent TSB is completed then Ireland will
be left with a much leaner retail financial
sector and perhaps a line can then be drawn under
this banking fiasco.
Morgan Stanley, the financial services firm has
actually encouraged its clients to buy Irish
government bonds on foot of the stress tests
which it reported as being 'credible and likely
to increase the focus on Ireland's positive
underlying economic trajectory'. Most economic
commentators expect the economy to show some
growth in 2011 with a further increase in growth
in 2012. It is likely this recovery will be a
largely jobless one though with the spectre of
unemployment and emigration still on the horizon.
Assisting in jobs creation is likely to be the
hardest challenge for the new Fine Gael and
The rate of interest being charged by the EU/IMF
to Ireland for the recent loans continues to
exercise the minds of the government and the
public at large. The government is adamant that a
reduction in the rate must be accommodated but on
the other hand does not want to be too aggressive
while it establishes the new banking setup in this
country. The case for an interest rate reduction
was further strengthened by the release of the
first set of Irish financial figures since the
bailout. Ireland has met its target of taxes and
productivity for the first quarter of 2011. A good
start on the road to recovery.
ISSUE OF UNQUALIFIED TEACHERS TO BE TACKLED
The high rate of unemployment has resulted in many
well educated college graduates being unable to
find work and being forced to emigrate. This issue
has been brought into sharp focus with the
revelation that there as many as 400 unqualified
staff acting as teachers in schools throughout the
country. The practice is to be eradicated, making
it impossible for unqualified staff to even act as
'substitutes'. The news will come as a relief to
the many hundreds of teaching graduates who had
little prospect of a job in education.
CANDIDATES FOR IRISH PRESIDENCY BEGIN CAMPAIGNING
The Irish Presidency has been very much a ceremonial
role with the incumbent having very few real powers.
Unlike in the United States the Irish President is
not the actual Chief Executive of the country, that
role being the Taoiseach, currently Enda Kenny. In
recent years the office of President has been
revitalized somewhat with the election of first
Mary Robinson and then Mary McAleese. Mary Robinson
broke new ground by meeting with the British Queen
and Gerry Adams. She was also outspoken about the
tragedies in Rwanda and Somalia.
Candidates for the position are starting to emerge.
It is usually the case that each of the large
political parties offer a candidate but it is also
possible for independent candidates to put their
The Labour party will likely offer Michael Higgins
or Fergus Finlay. Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have
yet to announce their choices with Maired
McGuinness and Brian Crowley possibilities. Former
MEP Pat Cox and former Taoiseach John Bruton also
fared well in recent polls.
Senator David Norris is an independent candidate
and is also doing well in early opinion polls. He
still needs the support of 20 members of the Irish
parliament to even get his name on the ballot
RECESSION BITES IN UNUSUAL WAYS
Signs that times are hard were confirmed when it
was announced by the Irish Nightclub Industry
Association that as many as 120 nightclubs have
closed down in the last 3 years due to a reduction
in trade and an increase in government fees.
A report by RGDATA which represents over 4000 small
businesses indicated that the number of people
driving from petrol stations without paying for
their petrol has increased significantly over the
last year. Pre-pay systems cost as much as 15000
euro to install but many garages are now making
There has been an big increase in the theft of
public artwork, especially metal sculptures.
Road-side bronze and copper sculptures have been
targeted by criminals who melt down the expensive
works of art for their scrap metal value. A 64000
euro sculpture weighing over a tonne was recently
stolen from the M6 motorway near Moate in County
IRISH LESS LIKELY TO DIVORCE
The latest numbers from the European Commission's
official statistics agency have shown that Ireland
has the highest birth rate in the EU at 2.07
children per woman, compared with the EU average
of 1.6. Latvia and Hungary have the lowest rates.
Irish mothers are also the oldest at 31 years,
compared with the EU average of 29.7 years. Ireland
has the lowest rate of divorce in the EU at 0.8 per
1000 people. Births outside of marriage have
increased in Ireland from 1.6% in 1960 to 33.3% in
2009, a number that certainly reflects the dramatic
change in Irish society in the last half century.
The EU average for this statistic is 37.4%.
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A WALKING TOUR OF DUBLIN CITY CENTRE
Dublin City Centre is best explored on foot
and it is possible to take in the highlights
in a single day. The itinerary shown here is
one of many that are possible and could easily
be stretched out to a couple of days or even
a week for those with more time available
GENERAL POST OFFICE (GPO)
Let us begin at the oldest post office in the
world on O'Connell Street. Ireland's busiest
street is dominated by the famous building that
was all but demolished in the 1916 Rising. Home
to the famous Cuchulainn statue and offering
occasional exhibitions the GPO is a Dublin
landmark unlike any other. Original bullet-holes
on the architecture from the 1916 rebellion can
still be viewed.
From here exit onto O'Connell street and head
over the bridge. O'Connell bridge is unique in
being wider than it is long! This part of the
city is 'tourist central' with gift shops and
fast food joints aplenty. A few hundred yards
over the bridge lies Trinity College and a
veritable oasis of calm compared to the bustle
outside its ancient walls.
TRINITY COLLEGE AND THE BOOK OF KELLS
A visit to the Book of Kells is regarded as a
'must-do' by travel guides. This ancient relic
is a Gospel from about the year 800. The book
is in 4 volumes and can be viewed in the
interpretive centre within the grounds of the
College, directly opposite the 'Arts' building.
Viewing the book is akin to crowding around the
Mona Lisa in the Louvre. Always crowded, an
obscured view is hurried and then you move on to
what are likely other greater delights. In this
case a visit to the 'Old Library' may be much
more pleasing. This eighteenth century room is a
marvellous demonstration of the use of plaster
and wood and houses over 200,000 books.
The college grounds are well worth a walk around
and on a pleasant day can be enjoyable. From here
we can exit via the Arts Building or back out
through the main exit that faces Dame Street.
Leaving via the Arts Building would put us onto
Nassau Street, a few years from Grafton Street
with Stephen's Green at its summit. Lets head out
the main exit instead and ramble down Dame Street.
A 10 minute walk along Dame Street with Trinity
College at your back will lead you past Central
bank on your right and Dublin Castle and City
Hall on your left. There are regular tours of the
State Apartments in the Castle that are well worth
viewing. The Temple Bar part of Dublin can be
accessed on the opposite side of the street and
is a hive of tourist shops and facilities,
restaurants and pubs. There are some great spots
here for traditional Irish music of an evening.
CHRISTCHURCH CATHEDRAL AND DUBLINIA
At the very top of Dame Street lies Christchurch
Cathedral and Dublinia. You can buy a discount
ticket for both just inside the Cathedral itself.
Be aware though that this is a fully operational
Church and that there may be religious services
going on while you are there. The cathedral itself
is a delight. The tileworks throughout are an
absolute marvel and the architecture stunning.
Christchurch is home to the tomb of Strongbow,
the Anglo-Norman leader invited into Ireland by
Dermot McMurrough in the twelfth century.
Be sure to get the free leaflet explaining
the various points of interest in the Cathedral.
Downstairs is the crypt which is home to the tombs
of various dignitaries as well as a collection of
ancient Irish treasures. The crypt is also home to
a small cafe - surely one of the world's oddest
locations in which to have a cup of tea. You can
even hire the crypt for your wedding if you wish!
The indoor Dublinia exhibition can be accessed
just beyond the main Cathedral building and is
actually connected to it across the road. This
exhibition of Viking Dublin is great to explore
especially if the weather is not too good outside.
Following the exhibition to the top of the building
leaves you at the visitor shop from where you can
climb the tower for great views across Dublin. By
the time you exit the tour back in Christchurch
Cathedral you will be certainly needing refreshment
with the 'Bull and Castle' pub directly across
the road a great spot for lunch or dinner.
GRAFTON STREET AND STEPHEN'S GREEN
Ok, all set? Ready to go? Lets head back down
Dame Street. After being indoors at Dublinia
and Christchurch Cathedral a good stretch of the
legs is in order. If you wish we can meander
through Temple Bar (this will be on your left as
you head back towards Trinity College), and
emerge back out onto Dame Street at the Central
If you have shopping to do then Grafton Street
is probably the best known shopping street in
Ireland. All of the brand-name shops jostle
with trendy boutiques and tourist stores on
this pedestrianized walkway. Top to bottom is
only a couple of hundred yards but it may take
you a while to make that progress. At the top of
the street lies the entrance to St. Stephens
Green with the large Stephen's Green Shopping
Centre beside it (also well worth a visit). If
you were to walk left at the top of Grafton
street and pass by the Shelbourne Hotel
you could take the first left to walk by Dail
Eireann (the Irish parliament). If you took the
second left turn then you would walk by the
rear of the parliament building with the National
Gallery beside it and Merrion Square opposite it.
But first lets go through the park itself.
A meandering lap around St. Stephens Green will
not take too long but can be a real tonic
especially in good weather (if you do see the sun
while on holiday in Ireland then make the most of
it - get outdoors!). The 22 acre park has some
lovely flower-beds, sculptures, a great kids
playground (always busy), a lake, a fountain and
a bandstand. Most of all it is a place of calm
hiding you from the traffic humming its four sides.
NATIONAL MUSEUM, DAIL EIREANN
Having done a full circuit of the green we can
exit again near Grafton street. The Shelbourne
Hotel is a good marker and if you take Kildare
street on its left (as you look at the hotel),
then you can access Dail Eireann (you will need
an appointment) or view the wonderful Ardagh
Chalice in the National Museum.
NATIONAL GALLERY AND MERRION SQUARE
If you exit Stephen's Green and walk past the
Shelbourne away from Grafton Street, then you
will meet a busy junction where you can turn
left onto Merrion Street and walk towards
Merrion Square. Walk beyond the rear of the
parliament building and you will quickly find
the National Gallery of Ireland which is a
great place to view works of art and which
also offers guided tours and exhibitions. The
restaurant within the Gallery is a super place
to get a bite to eat.
Leave the Gallery via the main entrance and you
will be facing Merrion Square, surely one of
Dublin's hidden gems. This park is much smaller
than nearby Stephen's Green but is great to stroll
around or have a coffee in especially after
visiting the Gallery. There is a small kids
playground and splendid gardens. On certain
weekends the outside railings of the park are
covered with amateur artworks that make a
And there you have it! This itinerary could be
raced around in a day or take a week. If you allow
two or three days for it then you should be able
to take it all in without too much of a rush but
it really depends on your own pace and whether
you are on a whirlwind tour or want a relaxing
meander. Of course there is much more to see in
Dublin than is listed here but if you chose to
stay within the O'Connell Street, Dame Street,
Stephen's Green and Merrion Square area then you
cannot go too far wrong. Okay, lets find a pub
with some Irish music - whose round is it?
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WITH LOVE TO MY ANCESTORS
by Leonie Roach
A verse I learnt at school 50 years ago:
Have you ever heard the story
of how Ireland got it's name?
If you haven't well I'll tell
from whence old Ireland came.
No wonder that we're proud
of that dear land across the sea.
For here's the way me dear old mother
told the tale to me.
Sure a little bit of heaven
fell from out the sky one day.
And nestled in the ocean
in a spot so far away.
And when the Angels found it,
sure it looked so sweet and fair,
They said 'suppose we leave it for
it looks so peaceful there.'
So they sprinkled it with stardust
just to make the shamrocks grow,
'tis the only place you'll find them,
no matter where you go.
Then they dotted it with silver
to make it's lakes so grand.
And when they had it finished
sure they called it 'Ireland'
I love this verse so very much and often repeat
it and think of my courageous ancestors who
made that perilous journey to Australia
156 years ago.
Leonie Roach, Grafton, NSW, Australia.
by Pat Watson
Jim was dreaming that somebody was whinging about
freezing feet and the hour of the night and
somebody was drilling a hole in his head.
Suddenly, he heard the screams. Jumping out of
bed he ran down the stairs.
He met Victoria, his wife.
'There's a dead bird in my new kitchen.'
Then he remembered he had won a live goose at the
party last night. His newfound friend John had
strangled it and left them both lying in the
kitchen. He recovered and staggered up to bed.
The goose didn't. John had also drunkenly told
him how to pluck it, clean it and prepare it for
'Don't worry darling I will pluck it and prepare
it for cooking.'
'Good' she said frostily.
'I am off to Dublin to collect my parents, the
twins are still asleep, I will get breakfast on
the road. I couldn't eat here now, I feel
nauseous.' Picking up the keys, she left.
As he was finishing the Alka-Seltzer, the twins
appeared on the stairs.
'Where is Mama? We want our breakfast, we want
fried bread sausages and Seven Up.'
He gave them bread and jam and milk. This kept
them quiet for a little while. He would work
quickly and get the goose plucked before they
Just three weeks ago, they had moved from Dublin
4 to this beautiful five-bedroom dormer on it's
own grounds in Cavan. Victoria had designed the
kitchen, with the electric cooker in the middle
of the floor under a giant extractor fan. The
cooker hob had a large flat surface area. He
would do the plucking here. He placed the goose
on the cooker, grabbed a bunch of feathers and
pulled. Apart from hurting his hand, nothing
happened. He would have to pull the feathers one
at a time. By the time the twins had finished
their breakfast he had extracted twenty-five
feathers in an area of two square inches. He was
surprised to find that the bloody bird had
underwear, lovely and soft but impossible to
remove. Then he remembered his old
great-grandmother who had spent her last few
months in their house when he and his brothers
were children. Daft Granny they called her. She
spoke a weird language and said silly things like,
'If you get up on an ass, you'll get down on a
Now the penny dropped, even without getting up
on the ass he had got the 'down' on the goose.
How the hell was he going to get the down off
'We will help,' said the twins. Wasn't he lucky!
Their third birthday was last week. All three
were still in their pyjamas.
'Here pull the soft bits, a tiny bit at a time,
Jack! Don't throw it at Denis, just put it down.'
The Alka-Seltzer wasn't working. He would have
to get a hair of the dog, just a short to steady
his hands. That helped and after a while the
undressing was going well, more flesh was
appearing and he and the twins were growing white
beards and hair, 'a bit like Santa,' Denis said.
The teddy bears on their slippers were also
growing beards. The floor too, was turning white,
the feathers and down was supposed to stay on the
cooker top and not move around. Not to worry, he
could easily tidy up afterwards. He hadn't noticed
that the twins had gone upstairs to the toilet, to
the guest room with grandpa's present, to their
own room for the present, back again with grandma's
present and to Mammy's room to roll in the lovely
soft duvet and of course to see the Christmas tree
in the sitting room. They had also got dressed, in
a manner of speaking. He was still in his pyjamas
and some goose clothing.
Now to move the naked bird to the sink for
cleaning, oops! He had hit the switch on the
extractor fan. Whoosh! It sucked up all the
feathers, scrape! The fuses blew, with a sort of
sneeze, it threw out all the feathers and down
again over a wider area, over everything in the
kitchen, the hall, the stairs and everywhere.
Three year-olds do not close doors.
Leave that for now - get on with the cleaning
the bird. How?
'Just put a cut at both ends and pull out the
insides' that's what John said. That was easy
but Oh! The smell. Was that the goose? No it
was burning feathers, in the panic with the fan
he had turned on one plate on the cooker. The
feathers just crinkled up and turned black, some
exploding on to the floor and walls, others
caking on to the cooker. He rushed to switch it
off, must be bloody voodoo. He didn't see the
cat that had come with the house, coming in.
Growling, the cat grabbed the entrails and made
good his escape into the hall and upstairs
leaving a feathery fence around his bloody
trail. Fidelma arrived with her parents,
Alexandria and Ronald, the retired Judge. All
four generations of Ronald's family had been
members of the judiciary since his great
grandfather came over as legal adviser to the
Viceroy. Since then, they had never mingled with
anybody from outside the Pale until Victoria had
become infatuated with this Cork man. Glancing
round the room he observed the devastation, the
whiskey bottle and the glass with the feathers
stuck to it. Alexandria's worst fears were
realised but he always knew the Irish man would
revert to class and culture at the first
opportunity. 'Cavan was such an opportunity' and
he had wasted no time, now he hoped his daughter
would see sense and divorce him immediately.
Instead, having viewed the scene and seeing the
little-boy-lost look on her Jimmy's face she
laughed heartily before melting into his feathery
arms. The Judge and Alexandria threw arms and
eyes heavenward before they too broke into
laughter as he picked up the whiskey bottle and
reached for fresh glasses from the cabinet. At
last they had become Irish.
is one of sixty lyrical yarns from
'Original Irish Stories' by Pat Watson,
Creagh, Bealnamulla, Athlone, Ireland.
First published in April 2006.
To get your copy email the author here:
GAELIC PHRASES OF THE MONTH
PHRASE: Eist moran agus can beagan
PRONOUNCED: aisht more-on ogus kon byug-on
MEANING: Hear much and say little
PHRASE: Is minic a gheibhean beal oscailt diog dunta!
PRONOUNCED: iss minik ah gevh-yun bail uskult dee-ug doon-tah
MEANING: An open mouth often catches a closed fist
PHRASE: De reir a cheile a thogtar na caisleain
PRONOUNCED: day rare ah kayla a hug-tur nah cosh-lawn
MEANING: It takes time to build castles
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I hope that you have enjoyed this issue.
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