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Summer has finally broken out in Ireland. Truly this country is utterly transformed by a little sunshine!
This month we continue our exploration of Ireland by visiting Cork Museum at Fitzgerald Park and then underground to visit Ailwee Cave under the Burren in County Clare - a really magical place!
Until next time,
DEATH OF GERRY CONLON, OF THE 'GUILDFORD FOUR'
The death has occurred of Gerry Conlon, one of the four people wrongly convicted and imprisoned for the Guildford pub bombings in 1974, in which five people were killed. The IRA subsequently claimed responsibility for the bombings but despite this the innocent Paul Hill (age 21), Paddy Armstrong (age 25), Carole Richardson (age 17) and Gerry Conlon (age 21) were to languish in prison for over 15 years until being released in 1989, their youth having been stolen.
The last of the 'Maguire Seven' were released in 1991 although Giuseppe Conlon, father to Gerry, had earlier died in prison in 1980. The story of the injustice meted out to these innocent people was the subject of the 1993 Oscar-nominated movie 'In the Name of the Father', starring Daniel-Day Lewis and directed by Jim Sheridan.
The English lawyer who represented Gerry Conlon was Gareth Peirce and she spoke at his Funeral:
'Gerry Conlon was a victorious human being who defeated a mighty foe. When he angrily, angrily stated the truth it had an extraordinary effect and made the world understand that innocent men and women had been buried alive in English prisons year after year and it had been allowed. Indeed it had been organised to happen. It was no accident.'
She remarked that Gerry Conlon was deeply concerned about miscarriages of justice and for people held in Prisons without trial, including Guantanamo prison, and other Prisons around the world.
SURVEY PROCLAIMS IRELAND THE BEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD
The results of the first 'Good Country Index' have revealed Ireland to be the best country in the world. Forget the never-ending Dublin traffic jams, the mediocre health care system, the high unemployment rate or the often abysmal weather. Using 35 indicators from the UN and the World Bank Ireland has topped the league table of 'contribution to humanity' by finishing near the top in four of the seven categories:
Science & Technology: 20th place
Culture: 7th place
International Peace & Security: 33rd place
World Order: 4th place
Planet & Climate: 45th place
Prosperity & Equality: 1st place
Health & Wellbeing: 9th place
One of the creators of the report is Simon Anholt:
(the intention is to...) 'measure what each country on earth contributes to the common good of humanity, and what it takes away. Using a wide range of data from the UN and other international organisations, we've given each country a balance-sheet to show at a glance whether it's a net creditor to mankind, a burden on the planet, or something in between. Do (countries) exist purely to serve the interests of their own politicians, businesses and citizens, or are they actively working for all of humanity and the whole planet?
The message to the Irish people is that they can hold their heads up high. No matter how much they are suffering in the last number of years, they haven't forgotten their international obligations and neither has the Government. They still can feel proud of where they come from.'
The author of the report was not at all surprised to receive a deluge of emails from amazed Irish people unhappy with the findings of his study.
'I have advised 53 countries in my career and I've only come across three that do not suffer from low self-esteem - Sweden, the United States and Kazakhstan.'
The UK was ranked 7th while the USA was ranked 21st. Iraq, Libya and Vietnam propped up the bottom of the league table.
SINN FEIN TO DEMAND SCRAPPING OF PROPERTY TAX
Buoyed by their recent success in the European and Local elections the President of Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams, has confirmed that his party will not enter into a coalition government unless the newly created Property Tax is abolished.
This tactic was a no-brainer for Sinn Fein. What is surprising is that they are the first Political Party to make this commitment. If their recent electoral success is carried over into the 1916 General Election (or possibly sooner) then Sinn Fein will be in a great position to get their way. With the likely destruction of the Labour Party and the ongoing fracturing of Constituencies by Independents and smaller Parties Sinn Fein is set to emerge as the second or third largest Party in the country.
The corollary of this is the previously unthinkable: a Fianna Fail coalition with Fianna Fail. For Sinn Fein their great opportunity awaits, and possibly in the year of the 1916 Centenary.
Gerry Adams: 'Let's get ready to be in government and let's work out the terms.'
IRISH ROADS AMONG THE SAFEST IN EU
The image of pot-holed and cobbled roads in Ireland is certainly one that has been perpetuated in tourist postcards and calendars over the years. Scenes with sheep blocking rows of cars under the headline 'An Irish Traffic Jam' were quaint in the 1970's but not such fun now. Ireland has moved on from those days with perhaps one of the most enduring legacies of the slain Celtic Tiger being the greatly improved infrastructure and road network criss-crossing the country.
The European Transport Safety Council clearly agrees and has revealed that the roads in Ireland are among the safest in Europe, bettered only by Sweden, Norway and the UK. Their 8th Road Safety Performance Index includes all 28 members of the EU as well as Israel, Norway, Serbia and Switzerland. The EU average is 51 road deaths per Million of population with Ireland well below this average with 41 deaths per Million. Sweden have the safest roads with an average of 21 deaths per Million. Romania has the worst road safety with 93 deaths per Million.
By comparison the USA had 114 deaths per million of population in 2010 according to the WHO, Canada had 69 in 2010, Australia had 52 in 2013.
Former TV broadcaster Gay Byrne is the chairman of the Road Safety Authority in Ireland:
Closer examination of pedestrian deaths shows that a significant proportion of them (road accident victims) were aged 50-plus. A high proportion of pedestrian deaths occurred while crossing the road.
GREAT NEW TRAVEL DEAL FOR DUBLIN TOURISTS
A subsidized scheme for use by tourists to Ireland has been announced. The new 'Leap' card will allow 72 hours of unlimited travel on the Luas tram system, the DART rail network, on Dublin Buses and on the Railway 'short-hop' zone (stretching from Balbriggan to Greystones and out as far as Maynooth). The ticket also includes the price of transport to and from Dublin Airport on the Airlink Bus.
At 19.50 Euro (about US$27) it is an absolute bargain for people visiting the capital city of Ireland where a taxi jaunt from the Airport to the city centre might cost more than the price of this 3-day ticket!
HOUSE BUILDING RECOVERY CONTINUES IN IRELAND
The reemergence of builders skips (bins) on the streets and hi-rise cranes towering above them are a sure sign that the construction industry is on the mend in Ireland. Construction of new housing units is up by a massive 132% during the first quarter of 2014, compared with the same quarter in 2013.
LATEST ATTEMPT TO CURB IRISH ALCOHOL PROBLEM MAY BE AN OWN-GOAL
Opinion: It has long been acknowledged that Ireland has an alcohol problem. And not just in terms of individual consumption but the knock-on effects in terms of healthcare, lost productivity and increase in crime. Average consumption of alcohol in the year 2010 was a massive 145% higher than the average amount consumed in the year 1960. The Irish Government has reacted by introducing new laws curbing the advertising of alcohol and forcing minimum pricing in some categories.
But the most recent report by the Health Research Board may actually be counter-productive in the war against alcohol abuse. A brand new definition of a 'binge drinker' now states that the consumption of three pints of beer constitutes a 'binge'. The same study reports that the Irish are drinking 25% less than in 2012 and some 7% less than in 2013 - a downward trend that is to be welcomed. There is little doubt that the revived national focus on having a healthy lifestyle and the ongoing war on obesity has helped this trend.
Long may it continue. But demonising people who have three pints of beer as 'bingers' is not just ridiculous - it is reckless. The report breathlessly reveals that nearly two-thirds of young people (18 to 24 years old) engaged in a 'drinking binge' in the last year.
Two-thirds. Thats a lot!
But wait a moment. There is something not quite right with these numbers. If a binge is three pints of Guinness and many 18 to 24 year-olds are in University or perhaps socializing with their friends is it fair to label them as binge drinkers? And what is the timescale of this statistic - at least once in the last year!!
The purpose of studies like this is to inform and ultimately to help. The moving of the goalposts by academics in a research lab will ultimately have the effect of a very worthwhile message being ignored and diminished. The genius who plucked 'three pints is a binge' from the ether needs to urgently go to the pub and have three pints.
Counter-productive. An own-goal.
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FREE ATTRACTION #19: FITZGERALD PARK & CORK MUSEUM
A twenty minute walk from Cork City Centre will bring visitors to Fitzgerald Park on the banks of the River Lee. This is a fine park for a walk and there is a very good playground for the kids who will also enjoy the 'shaky bridge' in the park. Artwork and sculptures punctuate the stroll leading visitors to Cork Museum which is located in an old Georgian building and which places particular emphasis on local trades, skills and crafts.
The oldest Pick and Shovel in Ireland from the Bronze Age, exquisite Youghal Lace, the Cobh Famine Relief Book, Huguenot exhibits as well as artifacts from around the world are all housed in this small but perfectly formed Museum. The Michael Collins exhibition is always popular celebrating as it does the lifetime of one of Cork's most famous sons and one of the fathers of the Irish nation.
The small cafe on site offers fine views over the nearby river. So if you are staying in Cork City or even just visiting for the day, the Park and Museum offers a great and free diversion!
Find out more here: http://www.corkcity.ie/services/corporateandexternalaffairs/museum/
FEE-PAYING ATTRACTION #19: AILLWEE CAVE, CLARE
Aillwee Cave is the most famous of the thousands of Caves underneath the limestone rocks that make up the Burren in County Clare. A guided tour of the Caves reveals an underground river, waterfalls, and amazing stalactites and stalagmites. Bear bones have also been found leading to the claim that Aillwee Cave is the last known bear den in Ireland! The tour allows visitors to explore over 300 metres of the Cave, looping around to arrive back at the visitor centre.
The discovery of the Caves is both amazing and unsurprising, given the Irish manner. In 1944 a farmer named Jack McGann followed his dog into the cave, the dog in pursuit of a rabbit. He quickly gazed at the amazing site and then went about his business for another 29 years, not telling anyone of his discovery until 1973, when he told some Cavers of his find. Since then the Cave has been developed and opened for public exploration.
Aillwee is located near Ballyvaughan about 40 minutes drive from Galway to the north and Ennis to the South. The Surfers of Lahinch and the Matchhmakers of Lisdoonvarna are all in this neck of the woods while the Cliffs of Moher are only a short drive away. There is plenty to see an do in this part of the country!
The guided tour of the Cave takes about 35 minutes while the Educational Centre is also home to a 'birds of prey' exhibit and offers a 'hawk walk' - an hour long walk with an experienced Falconer to explore the Hawks in action. A Craft Village demonstrates the ancient skills of Wood carving, Bow making, Forging and Willow Craft. The visitor experience has thus been greatly expanded to include more than just the Caves, as marvellous as they are. You could easily spend an entire day here but do allow at least half a day, perhaps a morning at the Caves and then an afternoon at the Cliffs of Moher. What a day-trip that would be!
This is a fascinating place to visit and is sure to entertain adults and kids alike, but is perhaps not a great location to bring very young kids except.... if you happen to be in Ireland in late November through December when you can visit Santa at the Caves. That is an experience unlikely to be forgotten in a hurry!
The Tea Rooms and Gift shop make this modern facility a pleasure to visit.
Find out more here: http://www.aillweecave.ie
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by Michael Green,
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