Hello again from Ireland where this month we have another great tale from Ireland's mythical past. And in honor of 'going back to school' time we have some Irish quotations about school and education.
We also explore North Tipperary where we encountered a quite incredible find in a field beside Lough Derg!
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NEWS FROM IRELAND
BREXIT PROBLEMS ESCALATE
Negotiations are continuing between the European Union and representatives of the British government in respect of Brexit, the decision by the British to leave the EU.
The result of the Brexit referendum left many commentators in shock and unsure of how to proceed. In the year since the vote not much has changed with little progress being made with negotiations that aim to allow the UK to leave the European trading block cleanly and with as little disruption as possible.
By contrast, the reality is that the current Brexit divorce looks set to be as messy and expensive as possible with even the Irish peace process under threat.
Writing in the 'National Risk Assessment 2017' report the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar listed the main threats currently facing Ireland:
* The changing distribution of global influence
* Terrorist incidents
* Loss of competitiveness
* A possible over-reliance on multinational corporations
* Failure to respond to demographic changes
* Climate change
* Data fraud/theft
The report failed to mention that Brexit could and currently will mean the reimposition of a hard physical border between the six Counties in Ulster and the remaining part of the Irish Republic. Such an act could threaten the Irish peace process with many Unionists only too happy to see a border reimposed.
On the economic front Britain is Ireland's largest trading partner so Leo Varadkar has continued to prompt the British to finalize their position. The aim is to get at least some clarity in advance of the divorce so new trading arrangements can be put in place.
There is currently very little basis for optimism.
HOMELESS CRISIS CONTINUES TO ESCALATE
The surge in house prices caused in part by the severe lack of supply of housing in Ireland continues to dominate the Irish news. One of the consequences of the severe reduction in house and apartment building in the wake of the 2008 economic crash is that Dublin city in particular is now experiencing an accommodation shortage.
Rental prices have thus spiralled forcing many people into temporary accommodation, often provided by the Government, and sometimes in hostels, hotels or bed and breakfast businesses.
For those with drug or alcohol problems or those with mental disabilities, homelessness can rapidly descend into 'sleeping rough' with three recent deaths of homeless people hitting the headlines in the space of a few days.
Reports of landlords taking advantage of the situation are rife. The much criticized decision of the Irish Government to ban 'bedsits' (single room accommodation) has resulted in a surge in shared-room accommodation with often four, six or even more beds packed into bedrooms barely able to hold a single bunk-bed. Reports of ten people living in a small house and being charged 600 Euro (over US$700) per month each are not uncommon.
US PRESIDENT HAS IRELAND IN HIS SIGHTS
US President Donald Trump has taken aim at the Irish corporation tax rate by suggesting that the United States should lower their equivalent rate to 15%. He pointed out that the US has a huge trade deficit with Ireland and is clearly unhappy with this.
Financial diplomatic relations between Ireland and the US have been strained for a number of years with former US Senator Carl Levin labelling Ireland as a 'tax haven'. The Senator was irked by reports that Apple Inc. pay tax at as low a rate as 2% into the Irish exchequer, despite manufacturing next to nothing in the country.
Companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft are attracted to the low 12.5% Irish corporate tax rate that can often be lowered further by creative accounting practices.
The US President has vowed to balance US trade deficits with a host of countries such as Spain, France, Japan, Germany, Mexico, South Korea and Ireland and has encouraged a cut in the US corporate tax rate as a first and necessary step. The current US corporate tax rate is 35% while the rate in Ireland is 12.5%.
Despite holding a majority in both houses of Congress there is as yet no agreement among Republicans about the best way to proceed with any proposed tax reforms so any potential impact for Ireland may be some time off.
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TIPPERARY - WALK IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF BRIAN BORU!
Walking atop a mound of earth with a ditch below in a field adjacent to a lake might not at first glance be considered the height of the Irish tourist experience. But for some it can be an absolute revelation.
A trip to County Tipperary can also be a revelation. Of course the County boasts the famous Rock of Cashel, Cahir Castle and Holycross Abbey. But there are other nooks and crannies that can be discovered that are just a wee bit off the beaten track.
The surprisingly large town of Nenagh in the northern part of the County is a great base to explore from. The delightful twin towns of Ballina-Killaloe are separated by the river Shannon with the majestic Lough Derg nearby. A boat tour departing from Ballina is a great way to view the lake and on arrival back in the town a visit to the Cathedral Church of St. Flannan across the bridge in Killaloe is well worth the effort. Water sports abound in this part of the country and if canoeing or fishing are your thing then you are in the right place.
Holycross Abbey is about forty minutes away by car. Be sure to check out when the guided tours are available as your experience will be greatly enhanced with a knowledgeable guide to show you around. There is a nice picnic seating area across the road from the Abbey so if the weather is fine you can dine among the trees with the river splashing around you.
Further south you will pass the Rock of Cashel before encountering Mitchelstown caves. The caves are among the most spectacular of such accessible features in Ireland. Be warned though that the descent down the limestone steps is quite steep, albeit relatively brief (not suitable for very young children).
The guided tour of the caves hidden under the Irish countryside takes about half an hour and offers some great photo opportunities.
Nearby Cahir Castle offers more great photo opportunities while there is some stunning scenery in the hills around the town of Clonmel.
While it is difficult to match the magnificence of the Rock of Cashel or the tranquil beauty of Holycross or the humbling scale and vintage of the caves at Mitchelstown it is the earth mound at Killaloe that might prove to be the most surprising discovery in North Tipperary.
You see, this is Brian Boru country.
It still surprises many people to learn that Brian Boru was not some mythical creature in the same vein as Cuchulainn or Finn MacCumhaill but was an actual historical figure who ultimately defeated the Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf in the year 1014. He is the original ancestor of the mighty O'Brien clans and septs and gave his name to all of the O'Briens who were to follow and who live today.
He was born and lived in Killaloe and ascended to the position of 'High King of Ireland' in the year 1002. He ruled from Killaloe rather than nearby Cashel. This tiny town was therefore the capital of all Ireland during his twelve year reign as High King!
He was based in a ringfort on the edge of the River Shannon, about one mile north of the modern town and known as Ceann Cora (Kincora). The fort was excavated in 1961 and there have been hundreds of artefacts found in the immediate area including stone axes, hammerstones and stone fishing sinkers. It is speculated that the fort was occupied until the defeat of the O'Briens by the O'Connors in the year 1116.
The ringfort is approximately seventy meters in diameter and consists of a raised circular mound of earth with the removed earth from below creating a kind of moate or ditch at the base, thus further elevating the sides of the structure creating a larger wall to protect against attack. Postholes from a wooden building within the site have been discovered. A palisade (a stakewall or paling), would likely have been constructed at the top of the earthen rampart, with the abundant wood from the surrounding forest harvested to further reinforce the settlement against attack.
Ringforts were also known as 'rath' with so many Irish towns using this old Gaelic word as either a prefix or suffix (Rathdrum, Rathfarnham, Raheny, Rathdown, Rathmore, Ardara, Mountrath, etc.).
The access to the site is quite modest. Cars are occasionally parked on the side of the road opposite the gated entrance. It is easy to drive by and never know what lies within! A short walk along a field reveals the site itself and a few explanatory signs.
At this point is very much up to the visitor to interpret what occurred here.
Some will walk around the circular mound, admire the view and then be on their way. What a shame!
To actually walk within the ancient ruins of an earthen structure that is over a thousand years old. To imagine the marauding Vikings arriving via the nearby river to plunder and destroy. To imagine the mighty Brian Boru, ancestor of all O'Briens, ruling from here, a man who would change Irish history forever by his defeat of the Vikings at Clontarf.
And all from under the canopy of the beautiful green trees in this place with the River Shannon a constant presence in the background.
There are many tourist experiences in Ireland that are straight from the guidebooks. Some, such as the Book of Kells and Newgrange are regarded by many as compulsory viewing for visitors to Ireland.
But it is sites such as the Brian Boru Ringfort and the ancient ruins at Clonmacnoise that may afford visitors a less sanitized and commercialized experience of ancient Ireland. Of their actual heritage, but not repackaged and resold.
There is no interpretive center at Brian Boru's ringfort. No coffee or gift shop. No vendors selling hats or scarves. There is no entrance fee and the chances are that any visitors may be the only ones there when they arrive! There is not a whole lot to see even. Just a circular mound of earth and a ditch among the greenery.
But for those longing for a genuine connection to Ireland. Unmissable.
Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. William Butler Yeats (1865–1939) Irish poet, dramatist.
Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught. Oscar Wilde, Writer (1856-1900), 'The Critic as Artist'
I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square. Oscar Wilde, Writer (1856-1900), 'The Importance of Being Earnest'
I have never let my schooling interfere with my education Mark Twain (1835-1910), American writer.
Books are but waste paper unless we spend in action the wisdom we get from thought – asleep. When we are weary of the living, we may repair to the dead, who have nothing of peevishness, pride, or design in their conversation. William Butler Yeats (1865–1939) Irish poet, dramatist.
There's no use saying anything in the schoolyard because there's always someone with an answer and there's nothing you can do but punch them in the nose and if you were to punch everyone who has an answer you'd be punching morning noon and night Frank McCourt, Writer, (1930-2009), 'Angela's Ashes'
He says, you have to study and learn so that you can make up your own mind about history and everything else but you can't make up an empty mind. Stock your mind, stock your mind. You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace. Frank McCourt, Writer, (1930-2009), 'Angela's Ashes'
An Irish prayer-book is a thing which the poor [Catholic] Irish peasant has never seen. Not only has he not been taught the language which he speaks, but his clergy have never encouraged, and have sometimes forbidden him to learn it. This objection arose chiefly, I believe, from the impudent intermeddling of Bible Societies with the religion of the people. By their patronage of the Irish language, they had desecrated it in the eyes of the Irish themselves Conor McSweeny, 'Songs of the Irish', 1843
'it would be the veriest mockery to say to those people – 'Don't speak English,
or emigrate: speak Irish, stay at home and starve, cry out yearly for doles, and
send your children picking winkles instead of being at school, and earn the
contemptuous pity of the world Patrick Conroy, (Coimisiún na Gaeltachta, 1926)
A child miseducated is a child lost US President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)
Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education US President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)
What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child George Bernard Shaw, Writer (1856-1950)
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn Alvin Toffler, American Writer and Futurist (b. 1928)
While a significant part of learning certain comes from teaching – but good teaching and by good teachers – a major measure comes from exploration, from reinventing the wheel and finding out for oneself Nicholas Negroponte, Founder and Director of the MIT Media Lab, (b. 1943)
Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young Henry Ford, Car Pioneer, (1863-1947)
I cherish the creation of public space and services, especially health, housing and the comprehensive education system which dared to give so many of us ideas 'above our station' Frances O'Grady, British Trade Unionist (b. 1959)
You know there is a problem with the education system when you realize that out of the 3 R's only one begins with an R Dennis Miller, US Comedian (b. 1953)
added note: The Ribbon Society was an agrarian secret society, whose members consisted of impoverished rural Irish Catholics who were opposed to landord evictions in Ireland.
From the Ballina Chronicle, Wednesday, March 6, 1850
THE RIBBONMEN AGAIN.
Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim - On Monday night, the 25th February, while a number of those secret conspirators were busily engaged at their unlawful work in a public-house in this town, kept by a man named Peter Heran, they were disagreeably surprised by the entre of S.J. Lodge, of the constabulary, ( a most active and efficient officer), and a party of his men, who after a hard struggle succeeded in arresting every one of the Ribbon party, to the number of twelve.
One of them, in particular, made a desperate resistance, and rather than give up some of their treasonable papers which he had about his person he swallowed them besides almost biting off three of the policeman's fingers who grappled with him.
The police, however, succeeded in gaining possession of a number of the papers and passwords connected with this atrocious system, which will, I hope, furnish the government with sufficient evidence to convict the whole party. It would be unjust to pass over in silence the praiseworthy conduct of the police on the occasion; their whole party consisted of three men, viz. Head constable Devine, and Constable Brennan and Wilson and yet with such fearful odds against them they succeeded in making prisoners of the whole clique of Ribbonmen.
Too much cannot be said on behalf of the exertions of that valuable officer, Head Constable Devins [as spelled differently from above in newspaper]; if it was solely owing to him that this conspiracy was discovered and the conspirators seized.
He has for a long time been known as one of the most active and intelligent men in the police force, and one who has done valuable service in this country by crushing illegal associations.
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by Michael Green,
The Information about Ireland Site.
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