Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


Features

Published: Irish Independent, 24 June 2013

Down in Lisdoonvarna…

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“I’m not a whisker off of sixty,” announces Peter Curtin, landlord of the Roadside Tavern, out of the blue and seemingly apropos of nothing. “But once upon a time, in my 20s, I was sitting in Mrs Cullen’s pub in Galway, with a pint of stout in my hand, and me staring into space…”

It’s a warm evening in west Clare. Half an hour ago, I was handed the keys to a Trident holiday home at Lisdoonvarna Village. I dumped my bags, went for a wander around town and, lo and behold, chanced into this little pub/restaurant/JM Synge play-come-to-life.

On a hunch, I pull a dictaphone out of my jacket pocket and set it to record on the bar. Like a Coen brothers movie, the publican’s rambling monologue may well be going somewhere. Or just as well, nowhere at all. Read the rest of this entry »

Published: Irish Independent. 3 August 2013

A goal in sight

benoit and nabia
YAOUNDE, CAMEROON. On a swelteringly humid afternoon, a convoy of vehicles carrying a Premier League footballer and his entourage is tearing through the backstreets of this sprawling west African city. Unexpectedly, the lead vehicle arrives at an impasse: a crowded intersection, teeming with people and gridlocked in both directions.

It could be a traffic jam. It could be an impromptu street party. In this country, it’s difficult to tell. I peer out through the passenger-side window, expecting the driver to slow down and negotiate a route through. Instead, he flicks on his hazard lights, pounds hard on the car horn and swerves headlong into oncoming traffic.

Oh, sweet holy mother of Jesus. Motorists, pedestrians and bystanders all scatter for their lives. In the ensuing chaos, a motorcycle is upended. We’re barrelling around at 120kph in a heavily built-up area. I should be really, really terrified here. Instead, I close my eyes and fall asleep. Read the rest of this entry »

Published: Irish Independent, June 22 2013

Get on the bus

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‘My cousin had a pen pal from Ireland.” “We saw the musical ‘Once’ on Broadway.” “My friends were coming over so I decided to tag along.”

It’s funny. The marketeers at Failte Ireland probably work long and hard devising strategies to lure visitors to this country: Calibrating the pitch. Honing their message. Carefully positioning our brand in a global marketplace.

Yet 22-year-old Tom Curry, from Junee, New South Wales, chose to holiday here because “you get the Shamrock Shakes all year round here, right?” Read the rest of this entry »

Published: Irish Independent, 25 May 2013

The Odd Couple

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ACCORDING TO HOMER SIMPSON, there are only two types of men who can get away with wearing Hawaiian shirts: gay guys and big fat party animals. Well, I definitely fall into one of those categories. And my friends would argue the jury is still out on the other.

So what the hell? When I’m asked to pose as Oscar Madison for an Odd Couple-themed photo-shoot, I don’t require all that much persuading. Besides, I’m only the writer here. I’d do this thing in blackface if they told me to.

Playing Felix to my Oscar today, however, is a man without quite the same latitude to fly by the seat of his immaculately tailored suit pants. Rob Kearney is a three time Heineken Cup winner, two time British and Irish Lion, a Grand Slam winner with Ireland and (for one day only) my new best friend for life. Read the rest of this entry »

Published: Irish Independent, 4 May 2013

Should we trust TripAdvisor?

Lynam's exterior
Susan O’Donoghue did not sleep well at Lynam’s Hotel in Dublin. “I kept waking up in the middle of the night,” she recalls. “And scratching myself. In the morning I was covered in bites. I don’t know if you’ve ever had bed bugs, Eoin, but they’re 10 times worse than mosquitoes. I was itching for weeks.”

A few days later, the hotel’s general manager responded to Susan’s complaints via email, seeming to acknowledge the existence of a problem.

“Unfortunately they [bed bugs] have become a major problem throughout European and US hotels in recent years,” he wrote, “and we look to have fallen victim to them.” Read the rest of this entry »

Published: Irish Independent, 4 May 2013

Why did I wear this blooming thing?

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Of all titles in the Bob Dylan songbook, his Ballad of a Thin Man might seem a rather (ahem) odd choice to have stuck in my head right now.

It’s Friday evening. It’s past 5pm. And the capital’s office drones are spilled out on to the city streets, sipping drinks and soaking up the sun. For reasons unclear, this rotund reporter is walking among them: a bald Adonis, decked out in a floral shirt and shorts (from the Mantaray range at Debenhams). This look, I’m told, is set to be the hottest summer fashion craze for men.

Yet the refrain playing on a loop in my head is not a soothing one.

“Something is happening here,” it says. “And you don’t know what it is. Do you, Mr Butler?” Read the rest of this entry »

Published: The Global Mail, October 2012

‘Once upon a time in the West…’

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One positive legacy of Ireland’s late, ill-fated economic boom is a dramatically expanded motorway network. Spilling out from Dublin, to a half dozen towns and cities on the southern and western seaboard, these pristine highways have slashed journey times to and from the capital, effectively shrinking the island.

Take a detour cross-country, though, and the pace of life remains less than hectic. It’s 10am in the sleepy Co. Galway village of Dunmore and I’ve run into a brick wall. Or to be precise, a horse’s arse. A horse trailer, towed by an elderly farmer, has reduced southbound traffic on the R328 to a leisurely 45kph.

In another setting, one might honk the horn and demand that the driver give way. But this is the west of Ireland, where just about anyone could turn out to be your cousin, long lost uncle or grandmother’s yoga instructor. So it pays not to be too demonstrative. Read the rest of this entry »

Published: Irish Times, 26 September 2012

Back-breaking days on the bog

Aughadeffin
At 8.40am, I hear the cattle grid rattle. Michael Gallagher’s van is outside. He said he’d collect me at a quarter to nine. But I’ve known him long enough to know he’d be early. “Have you wellies?” he shouts, when I appear at the door. I don’t.

It’s been a miserable year in Mayo. Michael’s turf was cut in early May. He footed it – that is, he stacked it in small piles for drying – a month later. Then the rain came. The grassy roadway between Michael’s parent’s farmhouse in Aughadeffin and the bog behind became waterlogged and impassable. Read the rest of this entry »

Published: Irish Times, June 15 2012

I feel like the title character from Bruegel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, confronted by the blank indifference of nature as he hurtles, terrified, through time and space.

gweedore bay
There are anxious faces among the press contingent as the twin-engine plane swoops low over the craggy hills of northwest Donegal. Some on board have expressed doubts about the very existence of a Donegal Airport. So it is a relief when the clouds part and the runway at Carrickfinn looms into view. Read the rest of this entry »

Published: Irish Times, 24 April 2012

One man and a little lady

annes park
His sister is going away for the weekend and he’s volunteered to babysit her sweet little two-year-old Lola – what can go wrong? Well, apart from a toilet incident, the lost buggy, mental exhaustion…, writes EOIN BUTLER

FRIDAY
There is a pigeon flapping in the rafters at Heuston Station. Below him, an endless procession of students tramp through the airy terminus, slinging their dirty laundry west for the weekend. My sister is seated at a tiny stainless steel table at the edge of the bustling concourse.

On her knee, my two-year-old niece, Lola, is slobbering over a bagel. Read the rest of this entry »