Category Archives: Ireland

Turn Off The Blue Light – a liberal campaign in a conservative country

Since the 2011 elections in Ireland, law reform on the issue of prostitution became an issue with some support from opposition parties who were likely to become (and later did become) the new Government. Since then, the issue has received as much attention as any social issue would at a time when a country’s economic woes are far more of a concern to the majority of the population.

Last year, a campaign called Turn Off the Red Light was run with a view to ending sex trafficking in Ireland by making it illegal. The campaign is run by over thirty civic organisations and has been supported by a group of well-known Irish men including the singer Christy Moore. It focuses heavily on the need to protect women working in the sex industry from potential abuse.

In rebuttal to this, a counter-attack called Turn Off The Blue Light has been launched by sex workers and supporters in favour of liberalising the laws on prostitution (and general sex work) in Ireland. They accuse the TORL campaign of wanting to impose a moral agenda on the subject.

The advertisement images put forward by both sides are thought-provoking.

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Filed under Ad Campaigns, Culture, Current Affairs, Ireland, Women

Unicorns & Town

British film director Sir Ridley Scott launched a global film making contest for aspiring directors. It’s titled “Tell It Your Way”. There were over 600 entries.

The film could be no longer than three minutes, contain only 6 lines of narrative & be a compelling story. The winner was “Porcelain Unicorn” from American director Keegan Wilcox.

It’s a story of the lifetimes of two people who are totally opposite, yet, very much the same – all told in less than 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, back in Ireland, presumably in an effort to boost the local economy, a website called DublinTown has been launched. An initiative between Dublin City Business Improvement District and local small business owners, the site highlights all that ‘Town’ has to offer both to locals and to tourists. It’s beautifully laid out and the video for the launch has been doing the rounds on social networking sites. It does make me miss the Dublin between the canals.


April 30, 2012 · 11:57 am

Dan Savage’s struggles with the Catholic faith reflect those of the Irish youth

This week, the Catholic Church once again made headlines for its antediluvian rhetoric when it publicly reprimanded America’s largest and most influential group of Catholic nuns for promoting what it called: “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

Putting aside the eyebrow-raising assertion here that the Church sees itself as incompatible with the equality of women, let us take a look at what exactly the group (the Leadership Conference of Women Religious) was promoting. This from Reuters: “the Vatican reprimanded [the LCWR] for spending too much time on poverty and social justice concerns and not enough on abortion and gay marriage.”  Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby founded by sisters, said that she was stunned. “I would imagine that it was our health care letter that made them mad,” Sister Campbell said. “We haven’t violated any teaching, we have just been raising questions and interpreting politics.” To remind any readers who are a little rusty on their Gospel, Jesus spent his life talking about poverty, social justice and our duty to the poor, as exemplified in this passage:

“21Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. 22And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.” – Mark 10:21-22.

Meanwhile, regarding the issues of abortion and gay marriage, so much more fascinating to the Vatican than boring old poor people, Jesus said: nothing.

The Church has announced that it is appointing Archbishop J. Peter Sartain as delegate to ‘oversee reform initiatives’ in the LCWR. In other words, a man is being sent to rein the crazy women in.

This incident, on the greater scheme of things, is unimportant. There have and will continue to be many like it and nobody is too surprised that the Catholic Church appears to be out of touch. However, it is an exemplary portrayal of a Church which most Irish people (especially younger generations) feel no longer represents their beliefs. Indeed, a Church which, they feel, has abandoned them completely.

Concurrently, statistics are telling us that Irish people are moving further and further towards a secular consensus. More than eight in every ten Irish people want the church and state to be totally separate, 65% strongly agree that this should happen, and less than three in ten have quite a lot or a great deal of confidence in religious groups.

Nevertheless, this is not to say that Irish Christians have stopped believing. The results of Ireland’s 2011 census showed that 90.5% percent of people still identify as Christian, the vast majority being Catholic. While observers and pundits in other parts of the Western World proclaim a kind of Great Atheist Arrival, where atheism has become almost completely ordinary in the mainstream, I do not believe this is the case in Ireland. I think many young Irish people want to be Christian, they want to believe in God, in a higher power and in system of life based on faith in a divine creator.

Whether this desire is instinctive or socialised, it is nonetheless there. I know very few Irish people of my generation, or any other generation, who describe themselves as atheist. In some cases, they will call themselves agnostic. The vast majority will describe themselves jokingly as ‘lapsed Catholics’ or as ‘dirty Prods’. That is still an identification with a system of belief. My contemporaries still believe in God.

The long-running weekly hour-long radio program This American Life, produced by WBEZ in Chicago and hosted by Ira Glass, is broadcast across America by Public Radio International.  Primarily a journalistic non-fiction program, it has also featured essays, memoirs, field recordings, short fiction, and found footage. Basically, for an hour every week, it gives America a compressed version of BBC Radio 4.

Last year, it invited the author and columnist Dan Savage (founder of the It Gets Better campaign) to speak about his relationship with Catholicism, one which had lain dormant for years until it was resurrected by the death of his mother from cancer. It is both hilarious and upsetting. It is as close a description of my generation’s feelings towards religion as I could think of. A deep, strong desire to be part of a greater, familiar community of belief. An inability to reconcile that desire with a Church that says condoms spread AIDS and protects rapist priests.

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Filed under America, Current Affairs, Ireland, Laughs, Life, Religion

When Amy Came To Dingle

This week, it was at last confirmed that Amy Winehouse, who died last August, had done so as a result of massive alcohol poisoning. The following short documentary was aired in Ireland about a month ago and features a small gig Winehouse did in a town called Dingle, on the Westernmost tip of Europe.

The presenter is none other than my favourite Irish DJ, Annie Mac and the stripped down style of the music shows Amy at her very best, just before she became one of the most famous, and hunted, women in the world. Between songs, snippets of the interview she did after the gig are both fascinating and tragic, given the downward spiral her life went into almost immediately afterwards.

It is worth nothing that, since her death, her final album Back to Black has become the bestselling British record of the 21st century.

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Filed under Celebrities, Ireland, Music

Norris -> President

The following is probably the best summary of current events in Ireland regarding the upcoming Presidential elections. For those of you unfamiliar with recent goings-on, the main point of interest is an ageing senator named David Norris, who couldn’t be more controversial a figure if he tried. He’s an openly gay, Anglo-Irish Protestant whose campaign has encountering no small amount of difficulty, leading him to bow out of the race at the beginning of August, only to re-enter last Friday:

David Norris made late-night television history Friday, appearing on the RTÉ network’s Late Late Show to address the personal allegations that have derailed his Irish presidential campaign. The Irish presidency is a largely ceremonial position, a national spokesman job really, with no legislative or executive power but a good deal of cultural clout. And for months David Norris — the openly gay, avowedly intellectual writer, Trinity College Dublin literature professor and ceremonial Irish senator — has been challenging and reshaping the Irish cultural zeitgeist like no public figure of his time. But is that a good thing? 

Read the rest…

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Filed under Current Affairs, Ireland, Politics

Hey, I know her!

Since my new flat doesn’t have internet yet, I’ve been woefully behind-the-times when it comes to the latest internet memes and fads. This would not usually bother me until I realised my parents were more clued-in than I was. Unacceptable.

My mother (I know) sent me this earlier in the week. It’s a great clip and of particular interest to me as the blonde girl, Rebecca Winckworth, is an old friend of mine.

For those of you not hugely into rugby, Josef Schmidt is the current coach of Leinster rugby who brought them to victory at this year’s Heineken Cup.

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Filed under Ireland, Music, Rugby

Happy Bloomsday

Every year on this day, celebrations are held in Dublin and across the world to commemorate the life of James Joyce, and re-enact the events in his book Ulysses, which covers one day (the 16th of June) in the life of Leopold Bloom, as he travels through Dublin in 1904. Joyce chose this day for his book because it was the day he and his future wife Nora Barnacle went on their first ‘date’, walking to Ringsend together.

And just in time for the big day, a man in Dublin claims to have solved a riddle in the book: “Good riddle would be crossing Dublin without passing a pub”. More here.

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Filed under Books, Culture, Ireland

‘O’Bama’ speaks at College Green in Dublin

What with the Queen’s visit last week, Leinster’s amazing victory over Northampton to win the Heineken Rugby Cup on Saturday, and US President Obama’s visit today, Ireland is enjoying a healthy amount of positive publicity at the moment.

Barack Obama kicked off his tour of Europe today with a visit to Ireland during which he met the President and the Taoiseach before travelling to his ancestral home of Moneygall to meet locals and drink Guinness in Hayes’ Pub. He then returned to Dublin and gave a speech at College Green which went down a storm

For those who asked – I got hold of a transcript of the speech in full:

Hello Dublin. Hello Ireland. My name is Barack Obama, of the Moneygall Obamas, and I’ve come home to find the apostrophe that we lost somewhere along the way.

Someone once said broken Irish is better than clever English. So here goes; Ta athas orm le bheith in Eireann – I am happy to be in Ireland!

I want to thank my extraordinary hosts, Taoiseach Kenny and his wife Fionnula, President McAleese and her husband Martin, and I want to thank the Garda for letting me crash this party. And I want to pass on my condolences at the recent passing of the former Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald. Someone who believed in the power of education, in the potential of youth, and in the power of peace, and who lived to see that peace realised.

And I want to thank you, the people of Dublin and Ireland, for the welcome you have given us. It certainly feels like a hundred thousand welcomes. And I feel even more welcome after that pint that I had. I feel even warmer.

And I want to pass on the greetings of tens of millions of Irish Americans. I knew I had roots on this side of the Atlantic, but until recently I did not know I had Irish roots. But now, if you ask the Corrigan brothers, there is no-one more Irish than me. So I want to thank the genealogists. It turns out that if you run for president, people start taking a bit of interest in what you do. I wish I’d known it earlier when I was running for office in Chicago, because Chicago is the Irish capital of the Mid-West, where they say you can hear the brogue of every county in Ireland. And I wanted as a politician to take part in the St Patrick’s Day parade. And they’d only let us go right at the back. Well, I bet those parade organisers feel pretty bad. Because this is a pretty good parade right here.

Now an American doesn’t really need Irish blood to know that ours is an ancient shared history with strong bonds and shared values. So I am here as American president to reaffirm those bonds of affection. Earlier Michelle and I dropped by Moneygall to stop by the local pub and meet my eighth cousin Henry, who we know affectionately as Henry VIII.

And it was incredible to see the town where a young shoemaker called Falmouth Kearney lived his life and set out by ship for New York, and made a new life, and married an American girl from Ohio. He settled in the Midwest. It’s a familiar story – it’s one known by Americans of all backgrounds, because it’s part of who we are, a nation of immigrants from all over the world. But as I was standing in Moneygall I thought how heartbreaking it must have been for all those people, leaving Dingle cliffs and Donegal homes, in the hope that a better life was possible, supported by nothing more than faith – faith in the almighty, faith in the idea of America. And they passed on that faith to their children, and to their children’s children, and to their great-great-great grandchildren like me. They call it the American dream. It’s a dream that we’ve carried forward, sometimes through stormy waters, sometimes at great cost, for more than two centuries. But we’re grateful that they did take those chances, because otherwise someone else would be speaking to you right now.

We’re grateful to you, because no other nation so small has inspired so much. Irish signatures are on our founding documents, Irish blood has been spilled on our battlefields, Irish sweat has built our cities. You can say there’s always been a little green behind the red, white and blue. When the father of our country, George Washington, needed an army, it was the fierce fighting of your sons that caused a British general to lament: “We have lost America through the Irish”.

When we strove to blot out the stain of slavery, we found common cause with your struggle against oppression. Our great abolitionist Frederick Douglas formed an unlikely friendship with your great liberator Daniel O’Connell.

When Abraham Lincoln struggled to preserve our young union, more than 100,000 Irishmen joined our struggle, with green flags waving alongside our star-spangled banner.

And when an Iron Curtain fell across this continent and our way of life was challenged, it was our first Irish president, our first Catholic president, who made us believe that man could do something as big and bold as walk on the moon, who made us dream again. That is the tale of America and Ireland, our brawn and blood side by side, making and remaking a nation. I think we all realise that both of our nations have faced great trials in recent years, including recession so severe that many people are still trying to fight their way out, and many in this enormous audience worry about their own futures. Parents worry what it means for their children. Will they inherit futures as big and as bright as the ones that you inherited? Will your dreams remain alive in our time? Well, this nation has faced these questions before. When the land could no longer feed those who tilled it. Yours is a nation marked by the hardest of trials and deepest of sorrows, but it is also a nation that overcame repression and famine and beat all the odds. I know that our future is still as big and as bright as our children expect it to be. I know that because I know it is precisely at times like these, at times of great challenge and times of great change, when we remember who we truly are. We Irish and we Americans, who never stop trying to find a better future, even in hard times, by investing in things that matter most, like family, and community. We remember in the words made famous by one of your greatest poets, in dreams begin responsibility. this is a nation that has kept alive that responsibility by trying to keep alive the flame of education, and I see the young people now, among the best-educated in the world, and I know Ireland will succeed.

Today, people who once knew the pain of an empty stomach now feed those who hunger abroad. Ireland is working hand in hand with the United States to feed those who are hungry around the world, because we know what crippling poverty is like, and we want to help others.

This is a nation that met its responsibilities and inspired the world when they saw past they years of pain and mistrust to form a lasting peace on this Ireland. You, the Irish people, persevered, and you made your votes count, and you showed that for all the intractibility of our humans, the irrepressible human nature to love kept nagging and nudging us towards reconciliation. You will have to sustain that irrepressible impulse, and America will stand by you always in your pursuit of peace. You must understand, Ireland, that you have already so surpassed the world’s highest hopes. what was remarkable about the Northern Ireland elections was that they didn’t attract that much attention – not because the world has lost interest, but because that once unlikely thing has become real.

In dreams, begin responsibility. Embracing that responsiblity and working towards it, that’s what makes dreams real. That’s what Falmouth Kearney did, and that’s what so many generations of Irish men and women have done in this spectacular country. That is something we can teach them, Irish and Americans alike. Your best days are still ahead. Our greatest triumphs, in America and Ireland alike, are still to come. If anybody ever says otherwise, that your problems are too big, think about all we’ve done together, remember that spring time is just around the country, and respond with a simple creed: Is Feidir Linn! Yes We Can! Thank you very much Dublin. Thank you very much Ireland. Thank you very much everybody.

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Filed under America, Current Affairs, Ireland, Politics

Dr. Doom strikes again

For those of you unfamiliar with the Irish media, a significant amount of economic and financial policy is promulgated via the national broadcasting radio, RTE Radio. Counter to this outlet of information, is Professor Morgan Kelly of the University College Dublin School of Economics, who forswears television and grants very few interviews, holding his council for months at a time before releasing a few thousand words in a weekend paper.

Kelly’s predicitions of the 2007 end of Ireland’s property boom have made him something of an anti-celebrity on the island. Nicknamed ‘Dr. Doom’ after the publication of his bitterly scathing indictment of the Irish banking bailout last November, Kelly nonetheless is held in such regard that after his latest barrage against the handling of the banking crisis, which was published on Saturday, its main target – Patrick Honohan, the governor of the Central Bank of Ireland – rushed to the airwaves on Sunday morning to defend himself.

The article is a master class in beating the bejesus out of a person using nought but words. Kelly writes that Honohan’s “miscalculation of the bank losses has turned out to be the costliest mistake ever made by an Irish person”.

Kelly’s proposition of walking away from the bailout, he admits holds no political potential. However, Ireland is already projecting a government deficit of €14.8 billion, or €10,000 per household in the country. Clearly this position is not maintainable.

What is becoming increasingly and uncomfortably obvious is the fact that those European governments which run a budget deficit are under the thumb of its lenders, and when there are no lenders left (which, for Ireland, there aren’t) and only the EU is left, then those governments are under the thumb of the EU.

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Filed under Current Affairs, Europe, Ireland, Money

Summertime and the living is easy…

Post-dissertation Aberdeen is warm and sunny and chilled out. Back home in Ireland, our dog Bailey is relaxing. After I hand in my essay, I’m doing the same.

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Filed under Aberdeen, Ireland, Summer