Kerry, 12 other counties ignored by IDA

Foreign companies appear to have little investment interest in Ireland outside of Dublin, according to at least one minister review first quarter statistics from IDA Ireland.

Fifty-three of 89 visits were in the capitol, while counties Carlow, Kerry, Kildare, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Mayo, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford all failed to record an IDA-sponsored overseas investor in the first three months of the year. Counties Cavan, Kilkenny, Meath, and Westmeath recorded one visit each, while Clare, Donegal and Wicklow each had two, according to the Irish Independent.

“It is strikingly obvious that more needs to be done to achieve a greater balance in inward investment. The figures don’t represent where investment is going, but the reality is, that if you don’t show investors areas outside Dublin, they are not going to invest there,” said Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath of Cork.

Royals to visit Ireland for 1916 Rising centennial

Of all the memorable words and images to emerge from the four-day state visit to England by Irish officials , the most memorable might be yet to come. Queen Elizabeth confirmed that a member of the royal family will plan to attend the centennial commemoration of the Easter Rising in April 1916. Such an invitation has been discussed publicly for some time.

Stephen Collins wrote in The Irish Times:

Many in the mainstream Irish political parties feared the 1916 Rising commemorations might be hijacked by Sinn Féin, but republicans may now begin to fear the British royal family could steal the show. The presence of a member of a royal family should help ensure nobody steals the show and that the commemorations marking the first World War and the events that led to Irish independence will be truly inclusive of all strands of political opinion on the island of Ireland.

The decision is drawing criticism from historians such as Diarmaid Ferriter, a member of the advisory group working on the centenary.

The GPO after the Rising.

The GPO after the Rising.

“The State can make this invitation, but what are we there for if we are not going to be asked for advice on big decisions like that?” Ferriter told the Times. “The State doesn’t own the legacy of 1916. Nobody does except the people. We are trying to organise public consultations to get people’s views.”

Irish, English continue historic reconciliation

The full day of a state visit to England by Irish President has gone off without a hitch, continuing the work began three years ago when Queen Elizabeth II visited Ireland.

The Irish Times headlines “Ireland and Britain ‘walking to a brighter future,’” while The Times of London declares, “Former IRA chief has dinner with Queen.” The BBC offers numerous videos of the visit.

Along with the social and political symbolism of the visit, this military history story caught my eye. It’s about a ceremony in England retiring the flags of six Irish regiments after the Irish Free State was created in 1922. The regiments were the Royal Irish Regiment, the Connaught Rangers, the Leinster Regiment, the Royal Munster Fusiliers, the Royal Dublin Fusilers and the South Irish Horse.

McGuinness to attend state banquet in Britian

Former IRA commander and Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has accepted an invitation to attend a British state banquet hosted by Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle.

The Irish Times and other media outlets report that McGuinness will attend the 8 April banquet, which honors Irish President Michael D. Higgins. It is the first official visit by an Irish head of state since the modern political separation of the two islands began in 1922.

McGuinness and the Queen shake hands in Belfast, July 2012.

McGuinness and the Queen shake hands in Belfast, July 2012.

The Wall Street Journal said the visit “is designed to underscore Ireland’s evolving acceptance that, before independence in 1922, its people weren’t always unwilling participants in the U.K. and the global empire it led, and the shared history of the two nations is less deeply antagonistic than once claimed by Irish nation builders.”

The Journal‘s story continues:

The exchange of official visits is the latest in a series of steps that have taken place over the last three decades and have marked a gradual but steady mending of fences between the two nations, once bitterly divided over the fate of the six Irish counties that remain a part of the U.K. … The formal process of reconciliation has lagged behind deepening links between British and Irish people. A quarter of British people have some recent Irish forbears, while 50,000 directors of current British companies were born in Ireland.

Of the Northern Ireland republican, the BBC says:

As a youth, Martin McGuinness wore the uniform of an IRA volunteer – secretly, illegally and defiantly. Now, decades later, he will don a white tie and tails and publicly, cheerfully and – perhaps -still defiantly, attend the Queen’s banquet at Windsor Castle. We should not be too surprised. His journey has already seen him shake the hand of the Queen. Not to attend the first state visit of an Irish president would undermine all his promises, made as an Irish presidential candidate, that he would work for peace.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams noted that McGuinness’s attendance might be a bridge too far for some republicans. “I would appeal to them to view this positively in the context of republican and democratic objectives and the interests of unity and peace on this island,” he said.

“On A River in Ireland” makes D.C. premiere

My wife and I attended the Washington, D.C. premiere of “On A River In Ireland,” which was among the showings on the last day of the 22nd annual Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capitol. The film, directed by John Murray and narrated by Colin Stafford-Johnson, was released last year under the title “The Secret Life of the Shannon.”

There’s some really incredible wildlife cinematography in this 60-minute film, including slow-motion footage of water bats, red squirrels and several specials of birds. Irish America posted several short videos from the film, including the mesmerizing murmuration of starlings at twilight.

One of the most poignant scenes of the film, not in the link above, are the lonely call of a male corncrake. The once-common species has suffered drastic population declines and is threatened with global extinction.

Stafford-Johnson makes several references to the impact that rapid development in Ireland is having on the Shannon. Other than himself paddling a canoe, the only glimpse of human touch on the river are silhouettes of ancient ruins along its banks, including Clonmacnoise in County Offaly.

The film is not a headwaters-to-mouth journey on the river, but rather a more season- and species-focused exploration. Nevertheless, I was disappointed that the film ignores the Shannon Estuary west of Limerick. This is clearly the more industrialized, seaport portion of the river, but an area that still has a vital role in the natural world as fresh water mingles with salt water.

The area also is personally special to me, since my ancestors are from the north Kerry townlands within view of where the Shannon meets the Atlantic Ocean, one of my favorite parts of Ireland.

River Shannon by Therea M. Quirk.

River Shannon by Theresa M. Quirk.

Early 19th century agrarian violence and the Irish hedge schools

The Irish Story has a great post exploring links between one of the early 19th century agrarian secret societies and the Irish hedge school.

The period of the 1820s was a tumultuous time for the Irish nation as it struggled to search for an identity within the Union and, with difficulty, sought to adapt to change in an age of radical thought and religious fervour. The notion of the overarching power of the hedge schoolmaster on Irish Catholic agrarian society is one example, found in both contemporary works and recent scholarship, of an attempt to understand the complex political, religious and economic effects on the mentality of Irish society which culminated in the Rockite movement of 1821 to 1824.

Here are links to three contemporary works cited in the piece:

Researches in the South of Ireland, Thomas Crofton Croker, 1824.

Memoirs of Captain Rock: The Celebrated Irish Chieftain, with some Accounts of his Ancestors. Thomas Moore, 1824

‘The Hedge School,’ from Traits and Stories of Irish Peasantry, William Carleton, 1830

Irish hedge school. From The Irish Story.

Irish hedge school.                 From The Irish Story.

Honoring senior religious in Ireland and the U.S.

I admit a bias here. Two of my aunts took vows to the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, Pa. Their Irish immigrant parents encouraged them to enter the religious life. Both became teachers. They also contributed to other church-related ministry. One is dead now; the other retired, though she still tries to help around the convent.

In an opinion piece for The Irish Times, Fr. Tony Byrne suggests the positive contributions to society made by senior religious have been overshadowed by the scandalous atrocities of the minority of religious. He continues:

The witness of their commitment to a life of prayer and service is seldom recognized or appreciated in contemporary Irish society. Yet it is important to remember senior religious who have given and those who continue to give tremendous service to the poor and needy.

In other words, there’s more to the story of the Irish religious than the notorious Magdalene laundries and pedophile priests.

Here’s more about helping elderly nuns and priests in the U.S. from the Washington, D.C.-based Support our Aging Religious.

Image from homethoughtsfromabroad626 blog.

Irish nuns gathering turf. Image from homethoughtsfromabroad626 blog.

Last word on gays in St. Patrick’s parades

Irish Central founder Niall O’Dowd gets the last word on this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade season, and whether gays can march under banners proclaiming their sexual orientation.

There are many good and decent people who cherish and honor the act of marching in the parade, O’Dowd writes. “It is extremely disheartening to see them tarred in any way with the fallout from the LGBT issue.”

He continues:

If you stand and watch the parade for even a short time that is what comes across, the sheer joy and exuberance and pride of those taking part. The issue of gays marching is lost on most of them, from a Catholic high school band from Texas, to Catholic university alums, to a business organization like the IBO.

The parade is their definitive statement of their identity, their time to celebrate their history and heritage.

Back in the 19th century when the Know Nothings were shooting and killing Catholics, marching in such parades was a dangerous business for fear of being identified and attacked. Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral came under direct attack by the Know Nothings in 1836 and was saved by AOH defenders.

The times have changed for sure, but some would hang a scarlet letter over all who take part in the parade today even though they have absolutely nothing to do with the machinations of the parade committee. Instead they are merely honoring their forefathers and the battles they won that allowed us to enjoy the status of the Irish in America today.

That’s is why the parade will endure, despite the poor leadership, because it is deep in the bones of our people.

NYT’s Egan blasts Paul Ryan’s “Irish Amnesia”

New York Times columnist Timothy Egan accuses Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, who loves touting his Irish heritage, of missing the historical, political and moral lessons of Ireland’s Great Hunger.

There is no comparison, of course, between the de facto genocide that resulted from British policy, and conservative criticism of modern American poverty programs. But you can’t help noticing the deep historic irony that finds a Tea Party favorite and descendant of famine Irish using the same language that English Tories used to justify indifference to an epic tragedy.

Here’s the link to the full column.

43rd St. Patrick’s Parade in Washington, D.C.

Six weeks after arriving in Washington, D.C., my wife and I were happy to attend the city’s 43rd annual St. Patrick’s Parade. It is not the oldest or the largest such parade in the U.S., but it takes place in the national capital, where political and cultural ties with Dublin and the rest of Ireland are kept strong throughout the year.

Rev. Monsignor Salvatore A. Criscuollo, pastor of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in downtown D.C., was the grand marshal. Cecelia Farley, originally of County Wexford and a member of several Irish American groups, was honored as “Gael of the Year.”

Here are a few photos from my iPhone. Click on image to enlarge.

Man and dog dance a gig. Potomac Valley Irish Wolfhound Club.

Man and dog dance a gig. Potomac Valley Irish Wolfhound Club.

Cead Mille Failte, Irish American Club.

Cead Mille Failte, Irish American Club.

The 32 counties

The 32 counties

The McAuliffe Family of Kerry.

The McAuliffe Family of Kerry.