BLOGPublished: Dublin Review, Summer 2015
Published: Irish Times, 7 November 2015
In One Million Dubliners, Aoife Kelleher’s acclaimed documentary from last year, Glasnevin Cemetery’s resident historian, Shane Mac Thomáis, lays out his formula for conducting a successful tour of the place. Tell visitors something they already know, the late tour guide recommended. Tell them something they don’t know. Say something that will make them laugh and something that will make them cry.
If you ever fancied taking him up on that advice, now is the moment. With the centenaries of the 1916 Rising, the 1918 general election, the War of Independence and the Anglo-Irish Treaty all looming, the number of visitors to the cemetery is surging, and management are hiring four new full-time guides. Read the rest of this entry »
Here is some work I’ve been doing recently. In the summer issue of the Dublin Review, I wrote a long piece about visiting Charles Haughey’s old home of Abbeville in north Dublin. I was interviewed about the piece on the Sean O’Rourke show on RTE. You can listen to that interview here, if you wish, and that will save me the botheration of explaining it all over again. Read the rest of this entry »
Published: 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, 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 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 »