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IN THIS ISSUE
=== News Snaps from Ireland
=== Sherkin Island by Brian DeVon
=== It's Western Shore - A Poem by Howard Hughes
=== A Singing Trip around Ireland by Michael F. Ryan
=== Gaelic Phrases of the Month
=== Monthly Free Competition Result
Popular Articles from Recent Newsletters:
Conan and the Great March of O'Sullivan Beare - A Conan Story
'Conan Pays His Debts' - a story
Inventions You Never Knew Were Irish
Hello again from Ireland where this month we have three readers contributions: a story, a poem and a reminisce.
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NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND
GALWAY VOTED WORLD'S FRIENDLIEST CITY
The United States-based 'Travel and Leisure Magazine' has announced its latest ranking of the friendliest world cities and there is good news for Ireland,
Read More at the Irish News Blog
EARLY ELECTION MAY BE ON THE WAY
The role of Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) in April 2016 will be a very coveted one. The centenary celebration of the 1916 Easter Rising will put an international focus on Ireland with Ireland's highest office-holder being the single most prominent representative of the Irish people on what is sure to be a very significant moment for the country.
Emerging as we are from the dark clouds of the 'troika' (the EU/ECB/IMF trio of organizations who effectively dictated Irish economic policy after the 2008 economic collapse) the economic skies look brighter despite the curse of emigration still blighting recent Irish history.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, whose Fine Gael Party are currently in a coalition Government with the Labour Party, has repeatedly said that this Government will run its full term with an election likely to be held at the end of April 2016. Just in time to allow Enda Kenny to stand on the platform on O'Connell Street and have his big moment.
The situation with the Labour Party may scupper that dream however.
That Political Party is in freefall. When they were elected they promised to represent the working class and to 'burn the bond-holder's' (a reference to not paying back bank loans to unsecured bond-holders in the wake of the collapse of the Irish banks. In fact they did pay the bond-holders, and they did impose the property tax, and they did oversee the introduction of a tax on the supply of water.
So it is no surprise that their polling numbers are collapsing while disgruntled voters search out alternative left-wing parties to represent them. The emergence of the 'People before Profit' Party and the 'Austerity Alliance' has certainly siphoned off votes from Labour, although it is Sinn Fein who are the real beneficiaries.
How that Party would love to have a senior representative on the O'Connell Street podium next Easter!
And while it is unlikely that Sinn Fein could take the office of Taoiseach it is not inconceivable that they could be represented as Tanaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) depending on how the electoral mathematics play out.
For Labour the picture looks very grim. One recent opinion poll suggests that their support has plummeted from 9, 10 or 11% to a mere 6%. That would make them a fringe party. Squabbling with the Green Party and the left-wing Socialist Party for every vote.
The possibility that it may be better for the Labour Party if a General Election is held quickly rather than in another ten months shows just how desperate the plight has become for what was once the standard-bearer of the working class in Ireland. Additionally Fine Gael has amassed a war-chest (of taxpayers money) of over 1.5 Billion Euro to provide tax-relief and welfare increases in the upcoming October Budget announcement. That is sure to help their cause, but perhaps not Labour's.
It is estimated that as many as 80,000 protesters lined the streets of Dublin recently before holding a rally outside the GPO to demand that the current Government scrap the hated water tax. It is going to take some work by Enda Kenny and his Fine Gael Party to ensure that they have the top-seat at the same location in nine months time.
IRELAND RANKS 25th FOR WORLD LIFE EXPECTANCY
An amazing indication of just how much the quality of life has improved in Ireland since 1990, (the beginning of the 'Celtic Tiger' era), is that life expectancy has improved by a massive 6 years!
While the residents of Japan, Singapore, Andorra, Iceland, Cyprus and Israel can expect to live longer than Ireland's 80.4 years it is amazing that life expectancy here as soared, despite the never-ending problems with the Irish health-care system.
Professor Theo Vos is the leader of the study conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington:
'The world has made great progress in health, but now the challenge is to invest in finding more effective ways of preventing or treating the major causes of illness and disability'
African countries were among those with the lowest life expectancy, with Lesotho being 42 years, nearly half of that in Ireland.
CONSTRUCTION BOOST IS A DEFINITE SIGN ECONOMY IS IMPROVING
For years the state of the Irish construction sector was regarded as a barometer of the state of the entire economy. The collapse of the building industry in 2008 and the subsequent near-bankruptcy of the country are testament to the old adage that 'If the builders are doing well then the economy is doing well'. Once the building work stopped the economy collapsed.
Of course there were a myriad of other reasons why the 2008 economic meltdown occurred but it is no coincidence that building work in the first half of 2015 is up by a massive 41% compared to the previous year, and this at a time when the economy is on the way back. Anecdotal evidence of more traffic on the roads has crystalized into real jobs with unemployment falling to 9.5% from a peak of over 15% just a few short years ago.
House prices have surged in certain areas, especially Dublin, then fallen back again on foot of the introduction of new Central Bank regulations, and now appear ready to take off again as demand outstrips supply.
Dublin city is dotted with part-finished apartment blocks and housing schemes that have waited seven years or more to be completed. Now the cement-mixers are turning and the angle-grinders are buzzing as the next wave of construction begins.
Good news. And better news would be if some of the tens of thousands of Irish workers who emigrated were able to come home.
POWER-SHARING IN NORTHERN IRELAND IN PERIL
The decision by the UUP (Ulster Unionist Party) to withdraw from the power-sharing Executive (Government) in Northern Ireland has the potential to derail the entire Ulster Peace Process. The UUP holds one Ministry in a Government consisting of thirteen Ministers and two junior Ministers.
Although the UUP that is led by Mike Nesbitt is one of the smaller Parties involved in the multi-Party Government its decision will certainly put pressure on the other Unionist Parties to follow suit, or to at least take a stronger stand against Sinn Fein in respect of recent revelations about the continued existence of the IRA. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) chief constable George Hamilton made the revelations after an investigation into the killing of Kevin McGuigan.
The IRA was considered to have been disbanded after Sinn Fein entered into a power-sharing agreement with the Unionist Parties as part of the historic 'Good Friday' Agreement. Despite repeated insistence by Sinn Fein that the IRA no longer exists, it seems unlikely that this row is going to just fade away.
ALCOHOL-FREE GUINNESS BEING TESTED IN ASIA
Guinness Zero is the name of the alcohol-free version of one of the world's most iconic drinks. The company that owns Guinness, Diageo, has already started trials of the new drink in Indonesia where they are facing a Government backlash against excessive alcohol consumption.
Guinness is now 256 years old and has had a number of variants introduced over the years, including the original canned Guinness that required the consumer to inject air into the black liquid with a syringe supplied with the cans. Guinness-light, Guinness Black Lager, Breo and Golden Guinness are among the other short-lived mutations of the popular stout.
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SHERKIN ISLAND by Brian DeVon
Sherkin Island is one of a group of Islands in Roaringwater Bay off the Southwest coast of Cork. I visited the island a few times some years ago and have fond and amusing memories of this special place.
While staying there for a weeks holiday I remember many a lively night spend in a pub on the Island, which perhaps better remain un-named. Admittedly there is few to chose from so a reasonable guess will land you in the right place. You remember of course this was in the days of draconian pub opening and closing times, which were the curse of the drinking classes.
Sherkin Island is approximately a mile from the mainland town of Baltimore. It was in Baltimore, back then, that the local constabulary were housed and it was from there they would have to launch any surprise attack on the after hours drinkers on Sherkin.
Every effort was extended to protect the honor and good name of the guests in the pub, and to that end a great dark green velvet heavy curtain was pulled over the door as the legal drinking hours came to an end.
It should be noted that the front door of the pub faced the mainland and opening it after dark was like shining a search light across the bay. If a late night customer, having enjoyed the liquid entertainment, was to open the door without having the curtain pulled across a horrified gasp would rise from the crowd followed by friendly shouts of abuse.
The last evening I spent in this splendid establishment the forces of the law decided to raid the after hours festivities. Of course being a mile or so off shore they had to make their trip in a heavy wooden rowing boat. Luckily one of the patrons had gone to use the outdoor facilities and saw the boat leave Baltimore.
Rushing back in with the shout 'the Garda are on the way' cause everyone to rush back out for a look. The landlord who had done extensive training for such an emergency quickly produced a 'Guest Registration Book' and we were all ask to sign in a guests of his bed and breakfast. Apparently all forty or more of us were staying in his four bedrooms.
The Garda were closely observed rowing across the bay and the landlord estimated there was plenty of time for another pint before their arrival.
They finally arrived and the rowing crew waited at the landing while the Sergeant came to investigate the carry on at the pub.
The landlord knew him well and told him we were all guests and showed him the registration book.
'That's grand' he said, 'I just came over to check.'
The landlord anxious to keep relations on a firm footing offered the good Sergeant a pint, which was gratefully accepted. 'It's a long old row over the bay, you get a thirst on you' he said,
'God bless all here!', he said raising his glass.
Brian DeVon is author of the 'Flavour of Irleand' website at:
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IT'S WESTERN SHORE
A Poem by Howard Hughes
Again you cross It's Western Shore,
You walk the cliffs of stone,
Feel the ocean breezes blow,
In dreams you stroll alone.
You hear the strains of Celtic tunes,
That whisper from afar,
Calling you to Ireland,
No matter who you are.
The precipice, you look beyond,
Hear church bells far away,
Wishing you in God's refrain,
That here you'll always stay.
You find that whether here or not,
There's something in your heart,
That calls you back to Ireland,
Whenever you're apart.
You turn to look, the eastern sky,
You hear the ancient songs,
That linger in your body, soul,
Tis here your heart so longs.
You take a step, you silent wait,
You gaze there all around,
For from each point, so very small,
New visions will be found.
And as you slowly walk your path,
New wonders you will see,
And every wall of stone you pass,
Will bless your memory.
People pass you going north,
Or west or south or naught,
For everywhere their going to,
New lessons they are taught.
Politely bow and touch a brim,
To offer you good cheer,
Showing you in simple ways,
'They're glad that you are here.'
Washing hung on open lines,
That waves of silent winds,
That grace us from so far away,
From where the winds, begins.
And as you hear the songs of yore,
That softly touch your ear,
You'll find your thoughts are borne of peace,
Your worries disappear.
Through tiny towns and villages,
Your heart knows where to go,
Each step you take is purposeful,
When taken very slow.
You pass by crumbled church facades,
And ponder as you pass,
How many souls had been within,
How many lads and lass.
How many weddings filled with joy,
How many soul sent high,
To walk with GOD beyond the stars,
Beneath a golden sky.
And, as you gaze to eastern shore,
How quickly time has flown,
Your standing on this precipice,
Not lost or all alone.
For you are filled with memories,
That simply never leave,
For once you've been your never gone,
And that you can believe.
So walk each step deliberately,
And take each sight within,
And listen to the music play,
From where the winds begin.
A SINGING TRIP AROUND IRELAND
by Michael F. Ryan
As president of Amhrania Na Gaeilge here in Baltimore, Md. USA (no not from down south in Ireland), I was able to get together a group of our singers to sing our way across Ireland.
Let me rephrase that.
We as a group got together and voted on singing our way across Ireland in 2002. It was about 20 singers (we have 50 in the group), and some wives and some persons who wanted to get a good trip across Ireland. We were 43 persons in all, including our director and accompanist.
We arrived in Shannon and boarded our private motorcoach with our driver/guide Tom. As we were going down the road from the airport, Tom, using the intercom on the bus stated that he would teach us how to say hello in the Irish language to show the people of Ireland that we did a little homework. Several of the guys shouted out that they knew how to say hello in Irish. Really, says Tom. And how do you say hello in Irish? Most of the people on the bus yelled out POGE MA HONE, which of course is the Yanks way of saying POG MO THOIN!
Tom turned off the intercom and a few minutes later, after laughing, he came back on and asked who taught them that and they replied, our president, Mike Ryan. Is he here on the bus? I stood and said yes I am. I then asked him what was he going to teach them and he said pog mo thoin! In the following 12 nights there were only two fights when saying hello!
We went to a nearby working farm with a large B & B and had a fantastic Irish breakfast with all the trimmings and gallons of 'tay' and loaves of delicious brown bread. That was our start of our stay in Ireland for the rainiest 12 days in Irish history. We stayed at very nice hotels throughout or stay and enjoyed being in your fine country. We sang in every town, village and city that we stayed in. Since it has been 13 years, the schedule is not fresh in my 69 year old memory. But when we stayed in Galway, I called my cousins from Tuam and they came to the hotel and the guys put on a special concert for my family (12 persons) that showed up. We kept the bar open until about 0330 hours and then we got multiple drinks per person and sat in the lobby until about 0500 hours. I am sure that the staff was glad to see my family leave. But when we sang for the family it was done in the lobby and all could hear and they showed great appreciation.
I guess at this point I should mention that every song we sing must have been written in Ireland. We have about 85-100 songs that we can do.
We were scheduled to sing Mass at the Chapel of Knock a day or so later and on the way, our bus got a flat tire and another bus had to come to pick us up to get to Knock. Well, we were late and the Mass was over. But the director of music for Knock cleared us to sing Mass in the original church of Knock. I will admit that the elderly priest who came out on the altar was not too happy to have his Mass elongated. We started with Hail Glorious Saint Patrick and then proceeded with the hymns of the Mass and after each song the priest looked a little less agitated. When we sang Our Lady of Knock for the communion mediation your man looked up at the choir loft and actually smiled while we sang.
I was a police officer here in Baltimore at one time and then worked in the Sex Offense Task Force in the prosecutor's office, so I guess the guys think of me as being a tough guy. But about halfway through Our Lady Of Knock I found myself with tears coming down my cheeks. I was thinking that here we are from across the pond in the church of Knock, at 'ground zero' where the apparition took place in 1889. Here we are where Our Lady appeared in the miracle and we are singing her song to her! W O W and the tears just flowed. I then thought that I might be a big woos and I ventured to look around me at the other singers and there was not a dry eye amongst us! It was the most moving experience that I had had, since meeting and being blessed by Padre Pio in 1967. It is a Mass that is talked about to this day by those of us that were fortunate enough to have been there. But because of the flat tire, we named ourselves Les Lucco and the Lug Nuts (Les being our director).
At the end of the Mass the priest made an announcement calling the congregation's attention to the 'lovely singing by the men in the loft'. He stated that they had been listening to Amhrania Na Gaeilge, and wouldn't ye think it was one of ours. But no they are Yanks from across the pond that made the trip to Ireland to sing to Our Lady, her anthem. I think we converted the old priest!
The only time we were not wet was when in the hotel at night. It rained constantly. I kept looking up to the heavens to see if there were angels churning out new rain clouds.
Our schedule took us to Killarney and we stayed at what was then the new hotel at the top of the hill before you go down into the town. While in Killarney we did a concert in an old age home run by the local nuns. And it was so heart-lifting to see the elderly (some in wheelchairs), laughing at the fun songs (like Wild Rover and Mick Magilligan) and shedding tears when we did Danny Boy and singing along with us on some others. And again the nuns stated that it was very special to have us sing for them, and what with them being Yanks! I should mention that we have a uniform of green sport coats, white shirts, gree/blue striped ties and navy blue slacks and even if we don't sound good that day, we sure as heck do look good!
We went to a bar not far down the road, under the archway to the left and it was a sing-along type pub. The owner made the mistake of asking if anyone wanted to sing? After about 45 minutes we were asked to let someone else have a go at it and he brought up his paid singer. There were some people from Dublin (a priest, two nuns and 4 lay persons), who had heard us when we sang in Dublin and they asked if they could sit with us. Of Course, said I. There were also a large crowd from Australia and another group from Canada and they kept chanting for us to sing more. Well we not being strangers to the pint, were ready to do so (since the pints kept appearing from our new fanbase!).
At 11:15 your man stated that was it for the night and to drink up. Having foreseen the impending closing in advance we all had at least 2 pints in front of us. So from our seats we sang some American songs by request of the Aussie and Canuck crowds. Your man was yelling that he would lose his license if we did not cease and desist so we got up and on our way out the door we sang Good Night Sweet Heart It's Time To Go. Can you picture about 120 persons singing on the way out the door? Oh yes we got the entire pub to join in! TWAS A GLORIOUS NIGHT IN KILLARNEY. And I thing if we ever go back to that pub, your man would lock us out.
We sang in St.Patrick's in Dublin. The priest there granted us permission and allowed our accompanist to play the church's organ. We did a medley of songs (Come down the mountain Katty Daley was not one of them) and the tourists in the church at the time showed great respect and applauded at our finish.
We went to the Museum of Emigration in Cobh and went through the exhibits and when we stopped in the general area for a refreshing drink, we decided to sing there also. And we did so with no prior invite or permission. A crowd gathered and applauded enthusiastically when we finished songs about emigration and of course some fun songs.
We were invited to sing Mass in Baltimore, Ireland and did so. It was great. And afterwards the city mayor and city historian invited us to lunch at a lovely restaurant just before you get into the town center. I brought gifts from Mayor O'Malley of Baltimore, Md. and an official CITY RESOLUTION for the mayor of Baltimore, Ireland and we sang for our lunch and it was received by the local citizens of Baltimore.
Of course we went into the city proper and had a few pints because lo and behold, IT HAD STOPPED RAINING (for about 45 minutes). While there I helped a man take his speakers and musical set up out of the rain and inside a pub. Then it stopped raining again and out went the speakers and set ups. He said that he had dancers coming. He said he was a dance instructor. I asked if he knew Joe and Siobhan and he asked me WHO? And I told him that if he had to ask who they were then he didn't know them. He asked if I was talking about O'Donavin and I said yes. He asked if I knew them and I told him I was drinking with Joe until 2 this morning in Cork. So an immediate friendship was made there.
There were other places we sang in Dublin and about the country and a grand time was had by all.
Of course the day we were to leave we were in Ennis, Co. Clare and we found out that Aer Lingus was going on strike, so we left at 0500 hours (some of us not having been to bed from singing at the hotel), and drove over to Dublin where we caught a French jumbo jet out. It was the last flight out of Ireland that day.
Of course we sang on the plane and were given multiple bottles of Champagne by the stewardess. I am not sure if it was in gratitude for our singing and entertaining the other passengers, or if it was to get us to stop singing and annoying the other passengers.
Unfortunately our singing group (established in 1985), is growing smaller each year. I am 69 and one of the youngest. We need to recruit new blood to keep the group alive (literally) and then maybe we can make another trip to again sing our way across Ireland with the young members.
Michael F. Ryan
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
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GAELIC PHRASES OF THE MONTH
||Titim gan eiri ort
||titt/imm gone eye/ree urt
||May you fall without rising
||Imeacht gan teacht ort
||imm/ocked gone chockt urt
||May you leave withour returning|
||Gurab amhlaidh duit
||gur/ibb owl/adh dwit
||The same to you
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