5 Insults You Will Only Hear In Ireland.....

Ireland Newsletter
  • News from Ireland
  • Nuadha of the Silver Arm
  • 5 Insults You Will Only Hear In Ireland
  • 'Seanchan the Bard and the King of the Cats' by Lady Wilde
  • My First and Only Trip to Ireland by Harry C. Stivener
  • Gaelic Phrases of the Month
  • Monthly Free Competition Result
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Hello again from Ireland where we have some fine stories for you read in this months edition. Thanks also to those who have commented on our recent 'State of the Nation 2017' annual review - your feedback is much appreciated.

One of our stories this month includes Guaire, the King of Connaught who is the ancestor of several Irish families including those of Ó'Cléirigh (Clarke and Clery), O'Shaughnessy, Colton, MacKilkelly, Hynes, O'Dowd and others.

And if you feel like insulting someone in the way only Irish people can then our popular series of articles on this subject will interest you.

If you have a story or article you would like to contribute please do send it in!

Until next time,


P.S. Please Do Forward this Newsletter to a friend or relative. If you have a website or Facebook page or Blog (or whatever!) then you can help us out by putting a link on it to our website: www.ireland-information.com



The combination of in-fighting in Fine Gael and the reappearance of water charges as a major political issue look certain to topple the current patchwork Government in Ireland.

Fine Gael are in coalition with a number of Independent T.D's (members of the Irish Parliament) but have maintained power only by the largesse of Fianna Fail.

Fine Gael are set to dump their current leader Enda Kenny with his likely replacement being either Simon Coveney, Leo Varadkar or Richard Bruton. The impetus to replace the current Taoiseach has waned somewhat recently with the Mayo-man likely to be given a few more months by his Party colleagues before being ousted.

However, it is unclear if Fianna Fail will now seize the opportunity to collapse the Government given the uncertainty within their main political rival. If they do force a General Election that plan may backfire as Fine Gael would be sure to get an election bounce simply because they have a brand new leader. Fianna Fail may be well aware of this and therefore keep the Government alive until the Summer at least.

The thorny issue of water charges may scupper this strategy however. Recent recommendations that the water charges be scrapped for everyone and/or be paid only by those who use excessive water will have to be dealt with sooner rather than later.

Simon Coveney is one of the Fine Gael candidates for Party leader (and therefore Taoiseach) but is also the current Minister with responsibility for the water charges. He maintains that Ireland is bound by EU law to keep the charges in place. He may therefore decide that it is tactically in his own best interest to force Fianna Fail to collapse the Government now over the water charges issue in the hope that he can then become Fine Gael leader and get the 'new leader' bounce for himself at the start of a General Election campaign.

This is quite the tactical game if that is his intention. That plan may even backfire if he is seen to be the Minister who wants to retain water charges although he may yet have a pre-election concession on the issue up his sleeve.


The rate of unemployment in Ireland has fallen to the level not seen since 2008. The depths of the economic crisis saw unemployment reach 15.1% in 2012. The Eurozone average is currently 9.6%. Unsurprisingly migration into Ireland has now begun again with an increase of 3,100 people in the year to April 2016 compared to 11,600 who left Ireland in the previous year.

It would be difficult to understate the degree to which emigration has played such a huge part in these unemployment numbers with entire Irish towns and villages being decimated of their young people over the last decade. Another lost generation.


In a rare example of a Government Minister facing down both Unions and his own State-financed company, Independent T.D. Shane Ross has declared that he is going to stay out of the threatened bus strike issue because both parties to the dispute only want his cheque-book:

'All parties want me to be in the room because they want me to produce the cheque-book. I'm not going to do that. That's the only reason they want me there.'

The Transport Minister has faced down criticism from several directions and is adamant that the dispute between management of Bus Éireann and the workers Unions is an internal matter and not one to be solved by Government.

Bus Éireann maintains that the company will be bankrupt and have to close in May unless 30M Euro in savings are made. Staff Unions are adamant that their wages should not be cut in any way. The bizarre aspect of this situation is that as Bus Éireann is a State-owned company it cannot in fact be wound up without the approval of the Irish Parliament.

So a situation may arise whereby the Bus Éireann management seek to wind up the company with the sitting Government having to vote to allow them to do so.

But who wants public transport chaos with a General Election in the offing?

This is pretty unlikely stuff. Which is probably why the staff Unions and Bus Éireann management are quietly confident that come what may, the Irish Government (and therefore the Irish taxpayer), will eventually get its cheque-book out. Again.



The fabulous character known as 'Nuadha of the Silver Arm' was the King of the Tuatha Dé Danann before they invaded Ireland.

He was possessed of the mighty sword of Nuadha (also known as Nuadhu and Nuada). No one ever escaped from the sword once it was drawn from its sheath, and no one could resist its power. The sword was one of the four special gifts the Tuatha brought to Ireland with them, the others being the Spear of Lugh, the Stone of Fál and the Cauldron of the Dagda.

His army defeated the Firbolgs at the first Battle of Moytura, but he lost his arm in the battle with the Firbolg Streng and therefore lost his Kingship, as there was a long-standing tradition that the King of the Tuatha Dé Danann must be perfect in every way and to be physically harmed was seen as great detriment.

Nuadha had asked Sreang to tie up his own right arm to continue with the combat in a fair way but Sreng refused. The Tuatha Dé Danann intervened and offered the province of Connaught to Sreng to save their beloved Nuadha and in so doing the Firbolg continued to survive after the battles, although their influence greatly waned.

Nuadha's physician, Dian Céacht, who was the 'God of Healing' to the Tuatha Dé Danann, magically fashioned him a silver arm and from that time he became known as 'Nuadha of the Silver Arm'. Nuadha's injury presented a great dilemma to the Tuath Dé Danann as they could not allow an injured man to lead them and so it was that 'Breas the Beautiful' became their leader.

Breas was a Fomorian and was to be an unjust King. The Fomorians were regarded as ancient enemies of the original peoples of Ireland. Breas married Brigid of the Tuatha Dé Danann in an attempt to unite the two tribes but continued to favour his own kind. He imposed harsh taxes on the Tuatha Dé Dannan and was know for his lack of hospitality, a grave misstep in the Ireland of old.

After visiting his house the Tuatha Dé Dannan complained that 'their knives were never greased and their breaths did not smell of ale'!

But Dian Céacht was not finished yet. After seven years of the reign of Breas Dian Céacht had not stopped trying to heal Nuadha. Eventually it was his son Miach and daughter Airmed who replaced the silver arm with a real arm of flesh and bone, much to the jealous disgust of their father.

Breas was deposed as leader and Nuadha was restored as King and ruled for a further twenty years. Breas was outraged and enlisted the help of 'Balor of the Evil Eye' to impose whatever harshness they could on the Tuatha Dé Danann. By the time the youthful and powerful Lugh had arrived within their ranks Nuadha realized that it was Lugh who could lead them to victory over the Fomorians.

Incredibly he stepped down as King to allow Lugh assume authority and so the second battle of Moytura ensued.

Nuadha was killed by Balor of the Evil Eye but Lugh avenged him and slay Balor, leading the Tuatha Dé Dannan to final victory over the Fomorians.

Nuadha had been a wonderful leader to the Tuatha Dé Danann. His voluntary abdication of his throne in favour of Lugh indicates the degree to which Nuadha regarded his people as being more important than his own Kingship and ambition. A very useful lesson for modern times.

Such was the influence of Nuadha that his presence is still found in Ireland today. The College town of Maynooth in County Kildare is named for him (Maynooth is 'Maigh Nuad' in Gaelic, meaning 'the plain of Nuadha').

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The Irish have a particular way of throwing abuse around. Mostly at each other but occasionally at people beyond their immediate vicinity also. Here are a few beauties.

Not the inner part of an egg but an all-purpose word that can be applied to just about anyone or anything.
'Give me that yoke there and I'll finish this job'.
'Not that yoke, the other yoke!'

But frequently 'yoke' is employed as a mild term of insult.
'Will you look at that yoke over there, the state of him!'
'She was a strange looking yoke.'
'Look at him! An absolute yoke.'

Irish people can employ some beautifully evocative imagery in order to insult a dim-witted person. A fine example is:
'If he had a brain cell it would die of loneliness.'

Which is often followed by:
'If he had two brain cells he'd be twice as dangerous'.

Another barb to hurl at someone who is intellectually challenged is the word 'thick'.

'He's a thick'
'Are you thick or what?'
'As thick as two planks.'

All acceptable forms.

Another insult that is almost exclusively applied to males is the term 'headaball'. It means a clown, an eejit, a dope, an idiot, a spanner, a gobdaw, an amadan, a thick.

'Will you look at the state of that yoke. What a headaball.'

A uniquely Irish insult is to describe a thick or a yoke as an 'eejit'.
Now this can be adorned or softened depending on the context. For example:
'Bloody feckin eejit' can be said with a degree of venom indicating particular ill-will towards the intended target. Or not. It depends on the delivery. And the target.

While 'Ah sure, isn't he a bit of an eejit' is a much gentler form perhaps describing an unfortunate person rather than an utter idiot.

A very useful insult that can be applied across a wide number of situations is 'dirtbird'. Careful now! This can be a very serious insult, describing a lower member of the criminal classes but can also be applied in more light-hearted situations such as when insulting a person who cheats at cards or who is a fierce tackler in a game of football.

'Very very dirty that guy, a real dirtbird.'

Not to be used too lightly though. Dirtbird has a bit of an edge to it. It can also mean a female of ill-repute and a person who has dubious standards of personal hygiene.

Describing someone as 'a wagon' can be very effective. It is mostly applied to women but not always.

It is often is used to describe a very difficult person, a very particular type who wants things done their own way. Someone who insists that they know everything and know best how to proceed. And that is the way things are going to be done!

You know. A wagon.

Read More: 5 Words You Will Only Hear in Ireland


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When Seanchan, the renowned Bard, was made Ard-File or Chief Poet of Ireland, Guaire, the king of Connaught, to do him honour, made a great feast for him and the whole Bardic Association.

And all the professors and learned men went to the king's house, the great ollaves of poetry and history and music, and of the arts and sciences; and the learned, aged females, Grug and Grag and Grangait; and all the chief poets and poetesses of Ireland, an amazing number.

Celtic Feast

But Guaire the king entertained them all splendidly, so that the ancient pathway to his palace is still called 'The Road of the Dishes.'

And each day he asked, 'How fares it with my noble guests?' But they were all discontented, and wanted things he could not get for them. So he was very sorrowful, and prayed to God to be delivered from 'the learned men and women, a vexatious class.'

Still the feast went on for three days and three nights. And they drank and made merry. And the whole Bardic Association entertained the nobles with the choicest music and professional accomplishments.

But Seanchan sulked and would neither eat nor drink, for he was jealous of the nobles of Connaught. And when he saw how much they consumed of the best meats and wine, he declared he would taste no food till they and their servants were all sent away out of the house.

And when Guaire asked him again, 'How fares my noble guest, and this great and excellent people?' Seanchan answered, 'I have never had worse days, nor worse nights, nor worse dinners in my life.' And he ate nothing for three whole days.

Then the king was sorely grieved that the whole Bardic Association should be feasting and drinking while Seanchan, the chief poet of Erin, was fasting and weak. So he sent his favourite serving-man, a person of mild manners and cleanliness, to offer special dishes to the bard.

'Take them away,' said Seanchan; 'I'll have none of them.'

'And why, O Royal Bard?' asked the servitor.

'Because thou art an uncomely youth,' answered Seanchan. 'Thy grandfather was chip-nailed--I have seen him; I shall eat no food from thy hands.'

Then the king called a beautiful maiden to him, his foster-daughter, and said, 'Lady, bring thou this wheaten cake and this dish of salmon to the illustrious poet, and serve him thyself.' So the maiden went.

But when Seanchan saw her he asked: 'Who sent thee hither, and why hast thou brought me food?'

'My lord the king sent me, O Royal Bard,' she answered, 'because I am comely to look upon, and he bade me serve thee with food myself.'

'Take it away,' said Seanchan, 'thou art an unseemly girl, I know of none more ugly. I have seen thy grandmother; she sat on a wall one day and pointed out the way with her hand to some travelling lepers. How could I touch thy food?' So the maiden went away in sorrow.

And then Guaire the king was indeed angry, and he exclaimed, 'My malediction on the mouth that uttered that! May the kiss of a leper be on Seanchan's lips before he dies!'

Now there was a young serving-girl there, and she said to Seanchan, 'There is a hen's egg in the place, my lord, may I bring it to thee, O Chief Bard?'

'It will suffice,' said Seanchan; 'bring it that I may eat.'

But when she went to look for it, behold the egg was gone.

'Thou hast eaten it,' said the bard, in wrath.

'Not so, my lord,' she answered; 'but the mice, the nimble race, have carried it away.'

'Then I will satirise them in a poem,' said Seanchan; and forthwith he chanted so bitter a satire against them that ten mice fell dead at once in his presence.

''Tis well,' said Seanchan; 'but the cat is the one most to blame, for it was her duty to suppress the mice. Therefore I shall satirise the tribe of the cats, and their chief lord, Irusan, son of Arusan; for I know where he lives with his wife Spit-fire, and his daughter Sharp-tooth, with her brothers the Purrer and the Growler. But I shall begin with Irusan himself, for he is king, and answerable for all the cats.'

And he said: 'Irusan, monster of claws, who strikes at the mouse but lets it go; weakest of cats. The otter did well who bit off the tips of thy progenitor's ears, so that every cat since is jagged-eared. Let thy tail hang down; it is right, for the mouse jeers at thee.'

Now Irusan heard these words in his cave, and he said to his daughter Sharp-tooth: 'Seanchan has satirised me, but I will be avenged.'

'Nay, father,' she said, 'bring him here alive that we may all take our revenge.'

'I shall go then and bring him,' said Irusan; 'so send thy brothers after me.

Now when it was told to Seanchan that the King of the Cats was on his way to come and kill him, he was timorous, and besought Guaire and all the nobles to stand by and protect him. And before long a vibrating, impressive, impetuous sound was heard, like a raging tempest of fire in full blaze. And when the cat appeared he seemed to them of the size of a bullock; and this was his appearance:
rapacious, panting, jagged-eared, snub-nosed, sharp-toothed, nimble, angry, vindictive, glare-eyed, terrible, sharp-clawed. Such was his similitude. But he passed on amongst them, not minding till he came to Seanchan; and him he seized by the arm and jerked him up on his back, and made off the way he came before any one could touch him; for he had no other object in view but to get hold of the poet.

Now Seanchan, being in evil plight, had recourse to flattery. 'O Irusan,' he exclaimed, 'how truly splendid thou art: such running, such leaps, such strength, and such agility! But what evil have I done, O Irusan, son of Arusan? spare me, I entreat. I invoke the saints between thee and me, O great King of the Cats.'

But not a bit did the cat let go his hold for all this fine talk, but went straight on to Clonmacnoise, where there was a forge; and St. Kieran happened to be there standing at the door.

'What!' exclaimed the saint; 'is that the Chief Bard of Erin on the back of a cat? Has Guaire's hospitality ended in this?' And he ran for a red-hot bar of iron that was in the furnace, and struck the cat on the side with it, so that the iron passed through him, and he fell down lifeless.

'Now my curse on the hand that gave that blow!' said the bard, when he got upon his feet.

'And wherefore?' asked St. Kieran.

'Because,' answered Seanchan, 'I would rather Irusan had killed me, and eaten me every bit, that so I might bring disgrace on Guaire for the bad food he gave me; for it was all owing to his wretched dinners that I got into this plight.'

And when all the other kings heard of Seanchan's misfortunes, they sent to beg he would visit their courts. But he would have neither kiss nor welcome from them, and went on his way to the bardic mansion, where the best of good living was always to be had. And ever after the kings were afraid to offend Seanchan.

So as long as he lived he had the chief place at the feast, and all the nobles there were made to sit below him, and Seanchan was content. And in time he and Guaire were reconciled; and Seanchan and all the ollaves, and the whole Bardic Association, were feasted by the king for thirty days in noble style, and had the choicest of viands and the best of French wines to drink, served in goblets of silver.

And in return for his splendid hospitality the Bardic Association decreed unanimously a vote of thanks to the king. And they praised him in poems as 'Guaire the Generous,' by which name he was ever after known in history, for the words of the poet are immortal.


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by Harry C. Stivener

In August 2016 two of my adult children, a daughter and son made the trip of my lifetime.

I am three-fourth Irish and dreamed of going to Ireland for many years. We flew from the U.S. to Dublin. After two nights, we drove through a large part of Ireland going South, then west, and ways to the north.

Experiencing the beauty of the landscape and interacting with the wonderful Irish people was one of the highlights of my seventy-five years. Everywhere we went I felt at home and welcomed like family. The Gaelic phrase 'a hundred thousand welcomes' was certainly and accurate description.

Spending time in the pubs and listening to Irish music, having great craic (good conversation), with a Guinness or Irish whiskey was fun. I did not know much about Irish history, but learned so much from the famous and historic places we visited. There was so much to see in Dublin, it was a bustling city - exciting, colorful, and multi-cultural. I felt energized and alive walking the streets.

We went to a Moroccan restaurant to celebrate my son's birthday. We rented a car and started our driving trip. I love the round-abouts. The first night we stayed in a bed and breakfast near the Rock of Cashel. I loved the Rock and the beautiful view of the countryside. The next day we arrived in Cobh and stayed on the waterfront near the Titanic museum. I could still feel the spirit and commotion of the Irish boarding the ships for distant lands. We spent a few moments in meditation and prayer in the magnificent Saint Colmans Cathedral.

Next, we headed to the Ring of Kerry and stayed in Waterville at a bed and breakfast. We enjoyed the food and talking with the kind owners. The next destination was driving across Valencia Island, then a ferry to the mainland, ending in the town of Dingle. We stayed at a sheep farm and fed a bottle to the baby lambs. We visited great pubs in Dingle and heard Irish music and saw a few teenagers performing an Irish dance. The next day, we walked the Cliffs of Moher and stayed in Doolin. The following day, we drove through the mystical Burren on the way to Westport.

Our pilgrimage up Croagh Patrick was inspiring even though we had to turn around half way due to the weather. Finally, on our last drive we drove across central Ireland back to Dublin. Our host couple at the apartment we rented was fabulous. One of the owners played soccer in Mississippi. When our plane lifted off the runway and as I looked out the window at all the greenery a tear flowed down my check as I thought about all the immigrants who left their loved ones and beautiful homeland not knowing if they would ever return or see them again.

I am proud of my Irish heritage. Erin go bragh!
Harry C. Stivener

PHRASE: Tá se gaofar/fuar/ag cur baisti
PRONOUNCED: taw shay gayfur/foor/egg curr bah-stee
MEANING: It is windy/cold/raining
PHRASE: Tá se go brea/scamaillach
PRONOUNCED: taw shay goh braw/scomm-ill-ock
MEANING: It is sunny/cloudy
PHRASE: Tá an t-adhar gorm
PRONOUNCED: taw an tat/hir gur/imm
MEANING: The sky is blue

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I hope that you have enjoyed this issue!

by Michael Green,
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