BLOGPublished: Irish Times, 6 June 2015
Bus driver Cathal Carroll asks if I’ve heard the news this morning. I haven’t. Four thousand souls have been rescued from the waters of the Mediterranean. All of them African refugees. All fleeing hunger and persecution in their native lands. What do I think of that?
A Roscommon man himself, Carroll recalls the 1,500 inhabitants of Strokestown, Co Roscommon, who were marched en masse to board coffin ships at the height of the Great Famine. Many of them perished on the high seas. “It should be in our nature to want to help these people,” he says.
He pulls to a stop outside the Old Convent in Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo. Perched on a hill, surrounded by high walls and a remote-controlled gate, this cold, imposing building has always stood aloof from the life of the town below. Read the rest of this entry »
Published: Foreign Policy, 21 May 2015
COUNTY MAYO, Ireland — On doorsteps where I live in the west of Ireland this week, voter response to the question of whether or not our country should legalize gay marriage is generally easy to predict. If the person answering the door is under age 40, an immediate “yes” is virtually guaranteed.
If the couple inside are over 60, cups of tea are offered. There is a willingness to engage in friendly debate. But “No” is ultimately the more likely response.
And if there is a statue of the Virgin Mary mounted on the garden wall outside, as one fellow Yes campaigner and I encountered just outside the town of Ballyhaunis on Tuesday night, well — the best you can hope for is that the householder doesn’t set his dog on you. (He didn’t.) Read the rest of this entry »
Published: Irish Times, 14 May 2015
One foggy night back in November 2004, I was asked to review a gig by a band called The Polyphonic Spree. The Texans, you may recall, were a 24-piece, pretend-religious cult who, in hindsight, rather resembled the Indiana mole women from the Netflix comedy series The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
They were a novelty act, to be sure. But they had slayed at music festivals a year earlier and expectations were high for their return. At Dublin’s Ambassador Theatre that evening, however, the band’s happy-clappy shtick for once came unstuck. George W Bush, the nuclear- armed, evangelical simpleton who once claimed God had instructed him to invade Iraq, had just been re-elected president of the United States. Read the rest of this entry »
Published: Irish Times, 9 July 2011
IN THE MUDDY SLUMS OF JUBA, the people are preparing for a party. By 11pm, tens of thousands of them have poured out onto the streets: cheering, honking car horns and waving the flag of their new country, as well as those of the US, Norway and Israel.
At the stroke of midnight, South Sudan becomes the world’s 192nd independent nation. In the new capital, joy is unconfined. In the mud huts that stretch for miles in every direction, residents can be heard singing and ululating well into the night.
By 7am, the BBC World Service reports a crowd of a hundred thousand already gathered at the Dr. John Garang Mausoleum. The speeches here will last late into the afternoon. But despite a complete lack of respite from the sun, the people never once cease to sing, sway and chant… Read the rest of this article here.
Published: Irish Times, 19 March 2015
Tá Seachtain na Gaeilge orainn. Or rather, bhi sé. Our two-week national celebration of the Irish language actually ended on Tuesday. But if you happen not to be either a biddable school kid, or an adult whose public-sector job requires paying occasional lip service to the language, odds are the event bypassed you entirely.
As a Gaeilgeoir, I derive no particular pleasure from admitting this. But as minority pursuits go, our first language now languishes somewhere between salsa dancing and Ultimate Frisbee, in terms of its popularity amongst the general populace. Read the rest of this entry »
Published: Irish Times, 9 March 2013
It’s 7.15am at the Dry Arch filling station in Letterkenny and a hard frost is down outside. A lorry driver bounds in from the darkness, rubs his hands together and orders a bowl of porridge at the hot food counter. In the corner, Sky News is reporting live from Los Angeles, where post-Oscar festivities are still in full swing.
But customers here don’t pay the TV much attention. It’s Monday morning, it’s -5°C and we’re a long way from Tinseltown. Read the rest of this entry »
Published: Irish Independent, 9th August 2014
His teammates call him Monkey, because he is a scaffolder by trade. And in the heyday of Ireland’s construction boom, there was never any shortage of bars for him to swing from. Chimneys, church spires, gable walls: Christopher McCrudden scaled and scaffolded them all.
“Housing estates were the best,” the Ballyhaunis man recalls. “A single estate in Galway might be six or eight months work: putting up, taking down, adapting.”
They were carefree times. “Lads were out buying cars, backing horses, drinking pints. We didn’t worry about the future because we were making good money every week. It didn’t occur to us the work might ever run out.” Read the rest of this entry »
There is more after the jump.
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Published: Irish Times, 23 May 2014
I’ve picked up the tickets at the kiosk. The match programme is tucked under my arm. And if there were a merchandise stall hereabouts, I’m sure I’d have bought the T-shirt. With show time at the Samuel Beckett Theatre rapidly approaching, only one minor detail remains unclear.
What is this spectacle that we are about to enjoy? What is Tundra, apart from the opening show of Dublin Dance Festival? Details are vague. Emma Martin, its choreographer, told The Irish Times last weekend that “Tundra is an in-between place, a metaphorical purgatory where you have to work through your difficulties to move on.” Read the rest of this entry »
Published: Irish Independent, 26 April 2014
The international code is for the United Arab Emirates. I dial the thirteen-digit number I’ve been handed and wait for a response. In a hotel lobby, some 4,000 miles away, an English-speaking receptionist connects me to Roy Keane’s room.
What is it, I ask him, about footballers and Dubai? Can’t you guys take your holidays anyplace else? The former Manchester United captain sounds relaxed and in good humour. “I’m working here,” he jokes. “Trying to find some new Irish lads, you know yourself.” Read the rest of this entry »