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Hello again from Ireland where the never-ending torture that is Brexit is nearing its end-game (maybe). The October 31st deadline for the UK to leave the European Union is fast approaching but not without some occasional drama - see the news articles below.
This month we remember a pivotal moment in Irish history when the execution of Kevin Barry boosted the rebel cause in the fight for Irish independence. We also have a Pat Watson short story and a famous character from Irish Mythology - the fabulous and beautiful Etain.
If you have an article or story you would like to share then please do send it to us.
Until next time,
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New UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has caused uproar by suspending his own Parliament for five weeks on the pretense of using the time to examine Government policy issues. Of course the real motivation for this suspension of Parliament is to further run down the clock on the October 31st deadline at which point the UK will crash out of the European Union. With or without 'a deal'.
The deal in question is the divorce settlement package that has been negotiated between the EU and the previous UK Prime Minister, Theresa May. The former Prime Minister was unable to get her Parliament to ratify any version of the deal that she put before them and eventually resigned, clearing the path for Johnson to become the new UK leader.
As a staunch 'Brexiteer' Boris Johnson is determined to get the UK out of the EU at any and all costs, and this may include risking his own status as Prime Minister by calling a General Election in the UK, which would certainly use up much more of the available time before the official Brexit deadline. Opposition Parties and Tory Party defectors in the British Parliament have banded together to prevent the calling of a General Election, leaving the bizarre possibility that the new Prime Minister may have to instigate a 'vote of no confidence' in his own Government in order to force a national ballot.
These really are bizarre and unprecedented events in the British Parliament.
Exactly how it will play out over the next few weeks will have a huge impact on Ireland. Economically, no-one is quite sure what the effect of Brexit will be, other than agreeing that it will not be good. But politically Brexit could be a disaster as a UK crash-out without a deal would likely see the imposition of a new border around Ulster, in direct contravention of the Good Friday Agreement and the peace dividend that the agreement has brought.
The delivery of insulin to a remote Irish island using Drone technology is being hailed as a world first. Researchers from the National University of Ireland at Galway delivered diabetes medication to the Aran Islands using a drone and then collected a blood sample from an island patient via the return trip.
It is claimed that the 15 minute journey is the first ever 'beyond visual line of sight drone delivery' of insulin and is expected to mark a new age of deliveries to remote communities in Ireland.
Beyond the islands the new Drone technology is likely to herald in an era of unmanned deliveries throughout Ireland. The Irish company Manna want to use the technology to deliver food take-aways and has raised 10 Million Euro in funding. The company is currently seeking permission from the Irish Aviation Authority to allow it to begin its delivery business.
The Manna CTO is Bobby Healy:
'It does seem like a mad idea but the thing is that drone deliveries are absolutely going to happen across the globe and it will lead to huge behavioural change.'
Despite air quality improving in Ireland since 1990, a Central Statistics Office (CSO) report that the country still lags behind its EU counterparts in respect of tackling climate change issues is a real concern. Ireland had the third highest level of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU per capita.
The recent focus on the beef industry in Ireland will not be helped by the figures revealing that 33% of the total of the Greenhouse Gases in Ireland are agriculture related, mostly from the production of beef. Transport and Energy production at approximately 20% each are the other large contributors.
The removal of native Irish forests to make room for agriculture is also a big problem as a mere 10.7% of the country was under forest in 2016, the second lowest proportion in the EU. By contrast Germany has 32.7% land used as forest, Finland 73.1%, the UK 13.1% and Spain 36.9%.
Irish temperatures since 1961 showed an increase from an average of about 9 degrees Celsius during the 1960s to 10 degrees and above during the new century.
The message about recycling however, appears to have gotten through. The recycling rate for packaging waste (paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, steel, aluminium and wood) from 2001 to 2004 was 41%. By 2015 that number had risen dramatically to 91%.
FIND YOUR NAME IN OUR
GALLERY OF IRISH COATS OF ARMS
by Pat Watson
'Please to help me Herr Mister, my bicycle she is punctured.'
Willie Killion was mesmerised. During the war forty-year-old west of Ireland farmers' sons seldom met film-star types in distress while cycling to town.
In her little saddlebag she had a full repair kit including two little tyre levers. Willie had always used spoons to remove tyres. The levers were much better, even if he was a bit addled by the strange fragrance. Perfume was rare in the west. She was talkative with the face and gait of a young girl - the body of a woman and a neck just like his mother.
Judging by her hair she was a dab hand with the rack (comb). By the time the bicycle was back on its wheels he was enchanted.
She had just arrived in Ireland to escape the war. She was renting Carter's vacant house just here. She had lost everything, including her family.
'Would he like some tea? The kettle was on the boil'. He stood in the sitting room holding his cap in his hand while she talked from the kitchen. 'You to join me on the chaise longue' she said as she placed the tray on a little table. He had been looking at the sofa with only one end. 'So that's what it's called!' She sat on the reclining end while he gingerly sat on the other end. The tray had two cups and a plate with two little long loaves, split down the middle with sausages in the centre. Frankfurters, she called them. They were like rubber sausages, took a lot of chewing. He was on his way to town to buy the makings of a new suit. She would go with him.
As they cycled he forgot Mary, with her farm and her aging parents. For years she had been his best hope as his older brother was the heir apparent to the home farm. Not that he had got any farther than thinking of Mary but this foreign lady stirred his fancy in a way totally new to him. She had said her name was Brigitte. He supposed that was a mispronounced Bridget. Sure Bridget was his mother's name. The parish church was St Bridget's - they even had a St Bridget's holy well. Was it a sign?
They parked their bicycles in the alley between the drapers and the hardware shop. 'Isn't zat lamp ze most beautiful lamp you ever saw!' she said, looking in the window. 'It would ve just perfect on my sitting room table! No? Ve had one just like it before ve lost everything. It would make life in this strange country just like ze Fatherland, but of course I can never have it, I am too poor now.' She whimpered.
As he looked at her sad face, she flashed her very long eyelashes. He never saw eyelashes that long before. The poor girl was distraught. The lamp was thirty-seven shillings and six pence. He had fifty shillings for the makings of the suit. If he bought her the lamp it would make her happy, she would smile again, it would make her forget her troubles and her loneliness, she would be very pleased and grateful, maybe very, very grateful. To hell with the suit, he would buy her the lamp.
They packed it in a wooden box, filling the inside of the globe with newspaper and packing the whole thing in fine sawdust. They even included a bottle of paraffin oil for fuel. Wasn't he the proud man cycling home with the luxury lamp on the carrier and the beautiful lady beside him. He wouldn't call the Queen his aunt. It didn't bother him that she spoke friendly to an army fellow.
He unpacked the lamp, placed it on the table and when he fitted the globe it was magnificent. 'Vell Herr Villy Villian you are vonderful' she said and throwing out her arms, she caught him by the ears and kissed him lightly on the lips. His heart went mad. He was transfixed with a hideous grin. He had never been kissed before.
'Thank you velly, velly much Herr Villy,' she said as she ushered him out the door. 'You must visit again, but now I have some letters to write.'
He jumped on the bike, emitting little yahoo's - sure he nearly did himself an injury jumping on the saddle.
Night had fallen but with light in his heart he scarcely noticed. He could still feel where her lips met his. He could still smell the perfume. His ears would never be the same again. He pulled up suddenly. A thought had just struck him. Why did she usher him out? Had she expected him to respond to the kiss? Maybe she was disappointed. He should have guzzled her. 'You're a fool,' he told himself. 'You waited a lifetime for this and now you're cycling away when you should be making hay'.
He turned back. He would return and take up where they left off. He was sure that's what she wanted. What excuse would he give for coming back? The box! He would say he wanted the box for a clucking hen, to set a clutch of eggs for hatching, that sounded plausible. Anyhow she would probably fly into his arms and words would be superfluous. After that he could play it by ear. He was very excited. Wasn't this his lucky day? 'It's night you idiot, day or night what matter? Go man go.'
When he got to her house the blind was pulled and there was a man's bicycle outside. He went down on one knee and peeped in under the blind. Bridget was reclining in the chaise longue. The army fellow was reclining with her. He had his head left on her chest looking up at her. She was holding a frankfurter in her mouth and he was trying to bite it. He couldn't because she was holding his ears. He rapped on the door. She opened it. He brushed past her, took the lamp in both hands and walked out, his anger carrying him on.
'But Herr Villy ve vill have no light!' 'Ye won't need light for what you're at!'
Writing letters, my foot! to whom? Wasn't all belonging to her dead? 'Moryagh' She was probably a German spy. She was using her sausage to get information out of the army fellow. He hoped she'd get caught. They might even shoot her. She would roast in hell. It would be the price of her for meddling with the makings of a man's suit.
Half a mile down the road he came to Mary's house. He marched up the path still holding the lighted lamp. Mary looked out the window. 'Daddy! There's an apparition coming up the garden.' The father looked out. 'Come Nancy,' he said to his wife, 'Out the back door, this is a man on a mission, leave him to Mary'.
Mary opened the door. Willie marched in and put the lamp on the table. Mary held out her arms in awe. Before she could catch his ears he bear hugged her. She was agreeably surprised. She had been a little concerned about his masculinity, she need not have worried, he was all man. Even the old couple peeping in the window squeezed hands.
Did they all live happily ever after? Why wouldn't they? Hadn't they the best-lit Parlour in the parish.
'A Paraffin Oil Table Lamp' is one of sixty lyrical yarns from 'Original Irish Stories' by Pat Watson, Creagh, Bealnamulla, Athlone, Ireland.
Visit: https://goo.gl/FDp48v or you can email the author here: firstname.lastname@example.org
find out more
There are few deaths associated with the Irish fight for independence as poignant or as tragic as that of Kevin Barry who was hanged when just 18 years old.
Born in 1902 in Dublin he grew up both in the capital city and in County Carlow. He enrolled in Belvedere College in the very heart of Dublin in 1916 and joined the Irish Volunteers, a nationalist organisation. In 1919 he enrolled in Dublin University to study medicine. The Michael Collins led War of Independence was developing and Barry, as Section Commander, played his part in various raids around Dublin city.
On September 20th 1920 he took part in one such raid that was to have the gravest of personal consequences. The raid developed into a full-blown gun-battle on the streets during which three British soldiers were killed. This was of huge significance as the dead soldiers were the first British military deaths in Ireland since the 1916 Easter Rising that had changed Irish history forever. Barry hid under a truck as the British searched for him but was discovered when a passer-by, concerned for his safety underneath the huge vehicle, inadvertently warned the soldiers of his whereabouts.
Reports of his torture in Mountjoy Jail soon circulated but Barry refused to name his comrades and was given a death sentence that was widely believed would be commuted to a prison term. It was believed that the British authorities would not dare to execute an eighteen year-old.
As the deadline for his execution approached the situation became more and more desperate. A planned rescue by Michael Collins came to nothing when reinforcements from Dublin Castle were ordered to the prison because of the large crowds that had gathered outside. It was reported that Barry had requested to be shot by firing squad rather than be hanged, which he viewed as a death not befitting a soldier.
The hangman, Ellis, had to be brought into the country from England, as no-one in Ireland could be found for the job. The calmness and bravery the young Barry showed in the hours leading up to his execution has become the stuff of legends. Despite protestations from clerics and politicians alike he was hanged in Mountjoy Jail on November 1st, 1920.
Some lessons are never learned. After the 1916 Easter Rising the British authorities had badly misjudged the situation, executing the leaders, Pearse and Connolly among them, creating instant martyrs, turning public opinion in favour of the rebels. Had they simply imprisoned the leaders of 1916 it is possible that the huge upsurge in support for Irish nationalism would not have taken place, and certainly not as quickly as it did.
By executing a man of such tender years, a teenager as Kevin Barry was in 1920, the British again handed the Irish Republican Army a huge propaganda victory, albeit at a terrible cost. Young recruits flocked to join the IRA in the War of Independence, which in turn led to the Treaty, the Partition of Ireland, the Civil War, Independence and all that has occurred since.
It was reported that Michael Collins bitterly regretted not being able to save the young volunteer.
The famous song 'Kevin Barry' was penned shortly after his death and is still revived in ballad sessions in Ireland to this very day:
1. In Mountjoy jail one Monday morning
High upon the gallows tree,
Kevin Barry gave his young life
For the cause of liberty.
But a lad of eighteen summers,
Still there's no one can deny,
As he walked to death that morning,
He proudly held his head on high.
2. Just before he faced the hangman,
In his dreary prison cell,
The Black and Tans tortured Barry,
Just because he wouldn't tell.
The names of his brave comrades,
And other things they wished to know.
'Turn informer and we'll free you'
Kevin Barry answered, 'No'.
3. 'Shoot me like a soldier.
Do not hang me like a dog,
For I fought to free old Ireland
On that still September morn.
'All around the little bakery
Where we fought them hand to hand,
Shoot me like a brave soldier,
For I fought for Ireland.'
4. 'Kevin Barry, do not leave us,
On the scaffold you must die!'
Cried his broken-hearted mother
As she bade her son good-bye.
Kevin turned to her in silence
Saying, 'Mother, do not weep,
For it's all for dear old Ireland
And it's all for freedom's sake.'
5. Calmly standing to attention
While he bade his last farewell
To his broken hearted mother
Whose grief no one can tell.
For the cause he proudly cherished
This sad parting had to be
Then to death walked softly smiling
That old Ireland might be free.
6. Another martyr for old Ireland,
Another murder for the crown,
Whose brutal laws to crush the Irish,
Could not keep their spirit down.
Lads like Barry are no cowards.
From the foe they will not fly.
Lads like Barry will free Ireland,
For her sake they'll live and die.
Etain was a maiden of the Tuatha de Dannan, renowned for her incredible beauty, who fell in love with Midir of the seven-pointed spear. Unfortunately for Etain, Midir's wife took exception to this, and Etain had to endure terrible hardship as a consequence.
Etain had met Midir while he was staying with his foster-son, Aengus Óg, the God of love. Midir had been wounded, losing an eye while under Aengus' protection, and this was such a blow to his status that even after his eye was restored, he demanded that Aengus make restoration to him. Now, being the God of love, Aengus was able to placate Midir by introducing him to the beautiful Etain.
The two began a passionate love affair, and all was well until the time came for Midir to return to his home. Midir was already married, to Fuamnach, a powerful woman and his equal in every way. She had raised children and foster-children with him and, unsurprisingly, was deeply insulted when he brought this strange woman home with him.
She vented her rage on Etain, turning her into a shower of rain, which fell in a pool before condensing into a jewelled fly. However, to Fuamnach's surprise Etain, now as a fly, did not leave Midir, and his love for her did not diminish. The sound of her wings was sweet music to him, and the magical fly perched on his shoulder wherever he went.
Fuamnach was furious and sent a storm to blow Etain away forever. Aengus managed to rescue her for a short time, but the storm found her again, and Etain was blown and battered about for a long time. At last, she was blown in through the window of a mortal King's hall and fell into the goblet of the king's wife, who swallowed the fly Etain whole, becoming pregnant at that instant.
Born again as a mortal woman, Etain grew up with no memory of her past life, though her beautiful appearance was the same. When the High King of Ireland, Eochaid Airem, asked for her hand in marriage, she agreed, and was a loyal and good wife to him.
But Midir had never finished searching for her and to his joy finally found her again. He had been searching for her for thousands of years and begged her to run away with him.
Etain refused. She honored the bond she had with her mortal husband, demanding that Midir get Eochaid's permission before she so much as kissed him. Midir managed to trick King Eochaid into giving him permission to kiss and embrace his wife but, realizing his error, Eochaid then spent a whole month training and equipping his army to prevent Midir from claiming his prize.
This was no obstacle to a man of the Tuatha de Dannan! Midir simply appeared in the King's hall next to Etain on the appointed day and kissed her. When he had done so Etain's memories of him returned, and the two lovers vanished from the King's hall to live their immortal life together.
Although Etain was faced with terrible hardship she held onto her essential self, and for her love for Midir through her transformation into a fly and then into mortal form. Her integrity and strong sense of values come through in this story when she refuses the beguilement of her faery lover, and insists on keeping faith with her mortal husband.
Love won out in the end though, when the beguiling and beautiful Etain followed her heart and returned again to the immortal realm.
Explore the Incredible Characters of Irish Mythology
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I hope that you have enjoyed this issue!
by Michael Green,
The Information about Ireland Site.
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