Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


Features

Published: Irish Times, 6 June 2015

‘The GAA is just like a family’

ballyhaunis integration
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

Ireland’s coming out party

Rainbow flag
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 Independent, 9th August 2014

The Long Shot

christy
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 »

Published: Irish Times, 23 May 2014

70 minutes of God-knows-what

tundra
Its creators sometimes worry that modern dance will be lost on many people. So what does a first-timer make of Emma Martin’s ‘Tundra’, the opening show at Dublin Dance Festival?

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

From the sidelines…

Hull City v Stoke City - Barclays Premier League
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 »

Published: Irish Independent, 19 April 2014

Waterford Calling

northkoreasun
In January of this year, a little known Irish gossip website landed a major scoop that every other news outlet in the world had somehow contrived to miss. In Pyongyang, North Korea’s official news agency just announced the hermit kingdom had landed an astronaut on the sun.

Now even by the standards of that crackpot regime, this was an unusually farfetched claim. And the wording of the story should have offered further grounds for scepticism. (The North Korean spacecraft, apparently, had “travelled at night to avoid being engulfed by the sun’s rays.”) Read the rest of this entry »

Published: Irish Independent, 22 February 2014

String theory


Almost six decades after fleeing her homeland as a refugee, in the wake of the 1956 anti-Soviet uprising, Maria Kelemen still speaks with a strong Hungarian accent. Diminutive yet formidable, the director of Dublin’s Young European School of Music has the air of a stern, if slightly eccentric, headmistress from a Disney fairytale. Read the rest of this entry »

Published: Irish Times, 26 November 2013

‘This wasn’t a meal. This was a bloodbath…’

randy santel
Like Clark Kent, Randy Santel has a superhero alter-ego. But rather than ducking through revolving doors, the 27-year-old’s secret powers are activated via a rotating baseball cap. “Right before I do any food challenge,” he explains in a video posted to his website. “I flip my hat around.”

“I go from Randy Santel to Atlas, which is a food-eating machine. Once that happens, God have mercy on anything put in front of me.”

Santel, a former college footballer turned “professional eater”, is in Newbridge, Co Kildare to take part in the 64oz steak challenge at Judge Roy Beans Bar & Restaurant. His opponent, Dermot McDermott, is a 48-year-old former Irish international boxer and local man.

Each contestant tonight has one hour in which to consume a portion of chips, coleslaw, onion rings and side salad, as well as six enormous steaks weighing at 64oz in total. (The largest steaks most restaurants serve, by way of comparison, rarely exceed 20oz.) Read the rest of this entry »

NNI Feature Writer of the Year 2013

NNI citation
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Published: Irish Times, 28 October 2013

New to the aria: my first opera

wexford opera
At the mouth of the river Slaney, about a third of a tonne of fireworks has just exploded in the night sky, marking the official opening of the 62nd Wexford Festival Opera. As the spectacle fades, tired children begin to slope homeward, clinging to their parents’ arms, while grey-haired couples in their finery wander merrily through the streets.

Meanwhile, in the bowels of White’s Hotel, the driver of Lyric FM’s van and I are locked in a frenzied death match to see who can secure the final free space in a packed basement car park. Read the rest of this entry »