Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


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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 »

I’d like to thank the (Royal Irish) Academy…

book launch
I was flattered to be included in Penguin’s collection of Great Irish Reportage, published last week. Not that you’d guess so from the above picture.

I had been trying to appear casual at the launch. As though my writing gets included in anthologies alongside Flann O’Brien, Fintan O’Toole and Conor Cruise O’Brien all the time, and I wasn’t particularly phased.

So one of my sisters taking flash photographs kinda risked botching that whole operation.

The piece selected, For God & St. Patrick, originally appeared in Mongrel magazine in September 2007. It’s about religious observance in Co. Mayo. If you have a minute, I’d like to relate a little (EDIT: actually a long bit) about how that article came about. Read the rest of this entry »

Published: Irish Times, 20 September 2013

Father’s Grave Decked Out in Mayo colours

mayo match COLOUR
In the beginning, it was my father who lit the match. My father who planted the seed. My father who signed me up for a lifetime of fanatical devotion to a team synonymous (until this weekend, at least) with agonising failure.

He always told me how, as a boy, he cycled to Charlestown to see the great Seán Flanagan line out for Mayo. Flanagan was the last Mayoman to raise the Sam Maguire, captaining the county to consecutive All- Ireland titles in 1950 and 1951.

He described how Flanagan once, felled by a heavy tackle, had kicked a point from his hands, over his shoulders, while lying on his back. As a child, I would slump back in the grass outside, with a football in my hands, staring up at the sky, wondering how in the hell he’d managed it. Read the rest of this entry »

Published: Irish Independent, 14 September 2013

There’s a baldness scale and I’m a six… Out of 10? Nope, out of 7.

hair-transplant-01
Hair restoration expert Dr Andre Nel has had some interesting patients in his time. There was the Harley Street doctor who’d worn a wig for twenty years, but was convinced his wife had no idea. (“I’ve never met the women,” says Nel. “But she has to have known.”)

There was the college student who persuaded his parents to pay for his procedure on the grounds that hair loss was denting his confidence and impacting on his grades. But perhaps the most bizarre case study he offers is that of a man who caved to peer pressure, somewhat belatedly, aged 65. Read the rest of this entry »

Published: Irish Independent, 24 June 2013

Down in Lisdoonvarna…

sea stack
“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 »

“As much of an enigma, at the end of it all, as he was at the beginning…”

yaounde
I went on the radio Tuesday night talking about my trip to Cameroon with Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Sightsavers. The recording is here…

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

belfast 2
‘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 »