Making Dublin city center a car-free zone

As someone nearly clipped by cars a few times in hectic Dublin city center, I was pleased to read this Fast Company story passed along by my friend Margaret C.:

…the city wants to route cars around the city center, and turn major streets into car-free plazas and passages for buses, bikes, pedestrians, and a new tram line. Along the banks of the River Liffey, polluted roads will become promenades. On Grafton Street, a former car lane will turn into a tree-shaded terrace with cafe tables, while the other lane has tram tracks. New bike lanes and wider sidewalks will be added as well.

Transit, but no cars, leaves more room for pedestrians in Dublin city center.

Transit, but no cars, leaves more room for pedestrians in Dublin city center.

The Irish Times calls it “the most radical redrafting … ever” of transportation plans within the downtown area. This story contains a good map and video report of the proposals, which have an eight-year horizon. Here’s additional reporting from RTE.

Or go directly to the proposal website.

Wonders and threats in Ireland’s natural environment

A few environmental stories:

  • Irish marine scientists have discovered a new cold water coral habitat nearly 200 miles off the Co. Kerry coastline. Story in The Irish Times.
  • The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, were visible in Co. Donegal and parts of Northern Ireland due to a huge solar storm, the Belfast Telegraph reports.
  • Meanwhile, the Times also covered a recent “climate justice” conference, where scientists complained the government isn’t doing enough to address greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists say 2014 was the warmest in Ireland since 1880 (start of the Land War period) and average temperatures had increased by 0.5 degrees since 1981. At current rates, temperatures in Ireland are expected to rise by between one degree and 1.5 degrees over the next 30 years.

Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency offers this scorecard of key environmental indicators, including ratings for climate change, water, air, land and nature.

Irish students killed in California balcony collapse

Six college students, five from Ireland and one holding Irish and U.S. citizenship, were killed 16 June in Berkeley, California, when the fifth floor apartment balcony where they were partying collapsed and plunged them 50 feet to the ground.

Extensive reporting in The Irish Times. Coverage from The New York Times

The NYT quickly came under fire for this second paragraph in its story:

But the work-visa program that allowed for the exchanges has in recent years become not just a source of aspiration, but also a source of embarrassment for Ireland, marked by a series of high-profile episodes involving drunken partying and the wrecking of apartments in places like San Francisco and Santa Barbara.

The paper quickly issued an explanation, if not an apology, but that didn’t satisfy Irish government minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin. He tweeted:

.@nytimes Your attempt at an apology for your offensive article is pathetic. It’s clearly futile appealing to your better nature.

These are “valid complaints,” wrote NYT public editor Margaret Sullivan.

Clerys store closes on O’Connell Street in Dublin

Clerys, a landmark department store in Dublin that dates to 1853, was closed Friday after being sold to real estate and venture capital interests.

One hundred thirty store employees lost their jobs, as did another 330 employed by 50 concession holders who operated in the department store, according to The Irish Times.

Irish Times photo.

Irish Times photo, and 10 “fascinating facts” about Clerys.

The O’Connell Street store is located across from the General Post Office, epicenter of the 1916 Rising, when the wide boulevard was known as Sackville Street. At the time, the store was destroyed.

Clerys was placed in receivership in 1941, and again in 2012.

Through the decades the large clock that hangs over the front entrance of Clerys was a popular rendezvous point for Dubliners and visitors to the city. In that regard, it reminds me of the tradition of meeting under the Kaufman’s clock in my native Pittsburgh.

Obama quotes Irish poet in Biden eulogy

President Obama quoted Irish poet Patrick Kavanaugh in the eulogy he delivered for Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, on 6 June. The president began:

“A man,” wrote an Irish poet, “is original when he speaks the truth that has always been known to all good men.”  Beau Biden was an original.  He was a good man.  A man of character.  A man who loved deeply, and was loved in return.

Towards the end of the eulogy, Obama said:

I got to know Joe’s mom, Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden, before she passed away.  She was on stage with us when we were first elected.  And I know she told Joe once that out of everything bad that happens to you, something good will come if you look hard enough.  And I suppose she was channeling that same Irish poet with whom I began today, Patrick Kavanagh, when he wrote, “And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.”

Kavanagh was born in County Monaghan in 1904, 16 years before the political partition that carved Northern Ireland from Monaghan and five other counties in Ulster.  He wrote poetry, fiction, autobiography and articles for Irish periodicals.

Image from Kavanagh Centre via Choose Ireland.

Image from Kavanagh Centre via Choose Ireland.

“Many critics and Irish literary figures have called him the nation’s best poet since William Butler Yeats, and one of his long poems, ‘The Great Hunger,’ is widely regarded as a work of major importance,” according to this biography from the Poetry Foundation. He died in 1967

Learn more here, including details of the Kavanagh Centre.

FIFA scandal touches Ireland

FIFA, the international soccer federation, paid the Irish soccer association €5 million (about $7.5 million) not to file a legal protest regarding a controversial call in the 2009 World Cup playoffs. Neither party denies the payoff.

Reporting from the Irish Independent. Coverage in The New York Times.

U.S. prosecutors are pursuing corruption charges against FIFA’s top leaders, claiming the federation acted as a criminal syndicate.

Irish tricolour waves over Stormont

In what appears to be a “rogue action,” the flag of the Republic of Ireland has been flown over the government building in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

irish_flagCoverage from the Belfast Telegraph. Reporting in The Irish Times.

The episode remains under investigation.

Flags, parades and the past remain thorny, unresolved issues in Northern Ireland. While some dismiss unionist outrage about the Irish tricolour flying over Stormont House, it isn’t hard to image the republican reaction if the Union Jack were found flapping in the breeze over Leinster House, or the General Post Office.

I wonder how long until somebody tries that stunt?

“Movement of Extremists” reports added to Irish National Archive

The Dublin Metropolitan Police Detective Department began keeping reports about the movements and associations of pro-independence suspects in June 1915, nearly a year before the Easter Rising.

Now the Irish National Archives has digitized those reports, which are being uploaded to its website on a weekly basis through April 2016. INA says:

The reports detail intelligence gathered at a number of key city centre locations, including the shop of Thomas J Clarke at 75 Parnell Street, the Irish Volunteers Office at 2 Dawson Street, the Irish National Forester’s Hall at 41 Parnell Square, and the headquarters of the Gaelic League at 25 Parnell Square. … Major events which took place in 1915 and 1916 are recorded in the reports, including the funeral of the Fenian leader Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa (1 August 1915) and the Annual Convention of Irish Volunteers (31 October 1915).

The Irish Times noted, “Despite all the surveillance by the Dublin Metropolitan Police, the Rising, when it happened, was regarded as a massive failure of intelligence. As a result the long-serving chief secretary to Ireland Augustine Burrell resigned in the weeks after the Rising having been blamed for not foreseeing the rebellion.”

Access the records here. Warning, using the search function captures some words but not others. It’s best to read the files if you don’t want to miss anything. You might find the name of someone in your family’s past.

Page from 1915 Dublin detective's report on "extremists." From Irish National Archives.

Page from 1915 Dublin detective’s report on “extremists.” From Irish National Archives.

Irish language disappearing from Ireland

Erosion of the Irish language “is now taking place at a faster rate than was predicted” by a 2007 study and “demands urgent intervention,” a government agency says in a follow up report.

The new report details how the Irish language has contracted within the Gaeltacht areas, primarily on Ireland’s western seaboard, where it remains the predominant means of written and spoken communication.

“The situation is so bad, the crisis is so pressing that a new strategy is needed and has to be implemented by those at the highest levels in the State,” report co-author Conchúr Ó Giollagáin told The Irish Times. “The 20-year strategy for the Irish language is not strong enough to address the situation in the Gaeltacht.”

Classic Modern Irish dates to the period 1200 to 1600, according to this history of the language. But Irish was diminished by the long English domination in administrative and legal affairs. “The status of Irish as a major language was lost.”

There have been language revivals, of course, including the founding of the Gaelic League in 1893. The League played a key role the nationalist movement leading to the creation of the Irish Free State. This story discusses the rocky relationship between the League and the state’s early governments in the 1920s and 1930s.

“However the biggest obstacle to the restoration of the language was arguably people’s apathy,” the story concludes. “Even in the Gaeltacht areas there was indifference to the language from native speakers who saw learning English as a route to prosperity. In some instances parents even requested that their children be taught in English.”

These and other factors, such as urbanization and immigration, set the stage for where the language finds itself nearly 100 years later.

Post-referendum reflections on Irish Catholicism

There’s a lot of analysis about Ireland’s successful same-sex marriage referendum and the legacy of the Catholic Church: Here’s a sampling, starting with perhaps the most widely quoted post-election remark.

“The Church needs a reality check right across the board, to look at the things we are doing well and look at the areas where we need to say, have we drifted away completely from young people?” — Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin told RTE.

“The Joyful Death of Catholic Ireland,” by James Matthew Wilson in Crisis Magazine, The Voice for the Faithful Catholic Laity.

The reason the Irish—as Irish—are celebrating is that they have with this referendum delivered a decisive and final blow to their venerable image as a Catholic nation. They have taken their vengeance on the Church. They must relish the unshackling; they must love the taste of blood. But, finally, they take joy in becoming what, it seems, they were always meant to become. An unexceptional country floating somewhere in the waters off a continent that has long since entered into cultural decline, demographic winter, and the petty and perpetual discontents that come free of charge to every people that lives for nothing much in particular.

“Gay vote shows it’s not your grandfather’s Ireland any more,” By Niall O’Down in Irish Central.

Much of the mainstream media in the US missed … the death of monochrome, one holy and Catholic Ireland that passed away at least a decade or so ago and the new multi-ethnic ethos that prevails.

“Ireland has said ‘yes’ to gay marriage and ‘no’ to Catholicism,” by The Telegraph.

The Irish referendum on gay marriage was about more than just gay marriage. It was a politically trendy, media backed, well financed howl of rage against Catholicism.

“Gay Marriage in Ireland Isn’t a ‘No’ to Catholicism,” by Time.

Ireland’s historic decision to pass gay marriage by popular vote Saturday has led many to question the strength of the Catholic Church in the land of St. Patrick. For example, The Telegraph’s Tim Stanley wrote that Ireland’s “yes” to gay marriage was a “no” to Catholicism. But such simplistic reductions miss the complex and evolving Catholic worldview on civil gay marriage. … In fact, many who voted “yes” on gay marriage did so because of their faith, not in spite of it.

“Same-sex marriage vote an ‘unmitigated disaster’ for Church,” opinion column in The Irish Times that quotes several members of the liberal, pro-“Yes” Association of Catholic Priests.

“Catholic Church Ponders Future After Same-Sex Marriage Vote in Ireland,” by The New York Times.