NYT story calls water protests “a new Irish rebellion”

The New York Times has added to its coverage of the populist backlash against consumer water charges in Ireland. Under the headline “A New Irish Rebellion, This Time Against Water Fees,” the Times reports:

… some experts say that the protests are far from over, reflecting growing fatigue with austerity policies that have taken a toll on most families, even as the economy has recovered to the point that it is the fastest-growing in Europe. Many expect a widespread refusal to pay when the bills are sent out in April.

Some form of the word “protest” is used 11 times in the 1,200-word story. Despite the provocative headline, however, there is no mention of next year’s centennial of the 1916 Rising, or other Irish rebellions.

I was reminded of a Times editorial from April 1916, shortly after the Rising, which I found while researching my book about my immigrant grandfather. Remember, this is the generally anti-Irish, anti-Catholic, anti-Tammany Hall Times of the late 19th and early 20th century. While Tammany is gone, I’d argue the Times’ anti-Catholic bias remains.

Regardless, here’s what the newspaper said 99 years ago:

Ireland in a state of rebellion is Irish. Her history emerges from myths and legends of which the very theme was strife … a logical projection of her special feud with life. … Rebellion has been the chronic, almost to say the natural, condition of Ireland, being now and then only a little more acute than usual.

St. Patrick’s Day, 2015

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Here’s a round up of some of the best coverage and related material.

BONUS: While many drank the night away, Angie Drobnic Holan and I read to each other some of our favorite Irish poems, which can seen from the link on her name.


Long New Yorker story about Adams short on new material


The author followed up his story with a post about how Hillary Clinton joined Adams at the Irish American Hall of Fame event in New York on 16 March. He wonders if the presumed Democratic presidential nominee “felt any distaste at the prospect of sharing a table with Adams” and “whether you can bring enduring peace and security without some reckoning—by all parties in the conflict—with the crimes of the past.”

The post reads like a last ditch attempt to breath life into a piece that was DOA. For all the calculated timing to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day, it doesn’t appear this story will have much impact.


I’ve just finished reading Patrick Radden Keefe’s 15,000-word piece in The New Yorker about Gerry Adams and the Jean McConville murder.

“Where  the Bodies Are Buried” could be a good introductory piece for those who are unfamiliar with Adams and the Troubles. But if you’ve been following the story for decades, as I have, there’s nothing new here. It’s a big rehash of well-known events from 1970s Belfast to contemporary reporting of Adams’ Twitter habits and controversial comments at a Friends of Sinn Féin fundraiser in New York City last fall.

Chris Steele-Perkins photographed Divis Flats, a republican stronghold in Belfast, during the late 1970s. More images at The New Yorker.

Chris Steele-Perkins photographed Divis Flats, a republican stronghold in Belfast, during the late 1970s. More images at The New Yorker.

Keefe’s story is generating a few headlines about Adams’ allegedly ordering McConville’s 1972 disappearance and murder, as well as a 1974 bombing campaign in London. The charges are primarily attributed to Dolours Price, a former IRA member who died in 2013. It’s all been previously reported and denied by Adams, who did not comment for this article.

The New Yorker‘s website also features a photo essay, “Life in Divis Flats,” by Magnum photographer Chris Steele-Perkins. It’s worth clicking through.

A simpler St. Patrick’s Day wish, 1953

I want to get away from all the noise and nonsense that’s come to surround St. Patrick’s Day, the once reverent, if myth-filled, holy day turned raucous global celebration.

So here’s a reminder of a simpler St. Patrick’s Day, a 1953 letter from a sister in Kerry, Ireland to her brother in Pittsburgh, USA. It’s from a collection of letters I inherited from my aunt a few years ago. A few other letters from the 1950s also included sprigs of shamrock from the north Kerry countryside.


Keep in mind that 1953 was seven years before the election of John F. Kennedy as president (a decade before his return to Ireland and assassination later the same year), and nine years before Chicago began to dye its river green. While the first St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin dates to 1931, it was nothing like today’s massive multi-day festivals.

Cardinal Dolan’s comparison of ISIS and IRA draws criticism

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York has sparked outrage among some Irish republicans and their supporters for comparing the violent Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq to the late 20th century IRA in Northern Ireland.

“The IRA claimed to be Catholic,” Dolan said on CNN. “They were baptized. They had a Catholic identity. But what they were doing was a perversion of everything the church stood for.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan in a 2013 "Today" show appearance. (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire)

Cardinal Timothy Dolan in a 2013 “Today” show appearance. (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire)

Dolan insisted that Islamic State extremists “do not represent genuine Islamic thought” but are “a particularly perverted form of Islam.”

IrishCentral published a roundup of harrumphs from republican sympathizers. Father Sean McManus, leader of the Irish National Caucus, which lobbies for the North in Congress, said Dolan’s remarks were “profoundly ignorant, totally irresponsible and lacking all credibility.”

As Religion News Service noted, “Some Catholic leaders [in Ireland, north and south] strongly denounced the IRA and sought to downplay the religious aspects of the violence, but the IRA also found support among many clergy and the faithful.”

So far no prominent Irish, Irish-American or Catholic leaders have come to Dolan’s defense. It will be interesting to see if this tempest in a teapot cools off before he leads the annual St. Patrick’s Day in New York later this month.

Not to harp on it, but instrument key to Irish identity

A new book explores the key role of Ireland’s national instrument, the harp.


Ireland’s Harp: The Shaping of Irish Identity c.1770 to 1880 by Mary Louise O’Donnell, herself a harpist, has been published by University College Dublin Press.

“The image of the harp – symbolic of the political and cultural landscape of Ireland for centuries – evokes strong sentiments in the collective Irish imagination,” the publisher says.

Here’s a review in The Irish Times. And here’s the author’s website.

Bill O’ in the no-go zone. Oh no!

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly said he saw “Irish terrorists kill and maim their fellow citizens in Belfast with bombs.”


But it turns out he only saw photographs shown by police while on a freelance reporting trip to Northern Ireland in 1984, for a book he never finished, according to reporting by the Washington Post.

Liberal watchdog group Media Matters For America further reports that a similar claim about witnessing IRA killings, made in a 2013 book that O’Reilly did get to print, will not be corrected by the publisher.

O’Reilly’s paternal ancestors lived in County Cavan since the early eighteenth century, and his mother’s side were from the north, according to Wikipedia.

Ireland defeats England … in rugby

Ireland has defeated England to remain unbeaten in the Six Nations rugby tournament. The New York Times reported:

Ireland took control of this year’s tournament Sunday, going 3-0 by beating England, also previously unbeaten, 19-9, in Dublin. In equaling their all-time record of 10 consecutive victories, the Irish were superbly controlled for the first two-thirds of the match.

How big is this win? A few days before the match The Irish Times opined:

Ireland against England has a resonance, a sense of history and occasion which surpasses all other Irish fixtures. Be it rugby or tiddlywinks, it’s the one which is the best to win and the worst to lose, although admittedly that is not a feeling unique to Irish supporters.

Next up for Ireland is Wales, in Cardiff, on 14 March. More information about the tournament at the Six Nations website.

Diverted to Charlotte, a visit to Cathedral of St. Patrick

My wife and I were diverted to Charlotte, North Carolina on our flight from Tampa, Florida to Washington, D.C., where snow and ice closed the airport. As we settled into a hotel room near the Charlotte airport Saturday night, I began looking for a place to attend Mass on the First Sunday of Lent. The Cathedral of St. Patrick, mother church of the dioceses of Charlotte, was less than five miles away.

Construction of the church began on St. Patrick’s Day, 1938, according to the church’s website, and it was consecrated in September 1939. Charlotte native John Henry Phelan, who made his fortune as a grocery wholesaler and oil producer in Beaumont, Texas, donated money to build the church in memory of his parents, Patrick and Margaret Adele Phelan. I didn’t find any family connections to Ireland in any of the online biographies, or why the church was named for Ireland’s patron saint.

Below are a few images from the church, including the stained glass image of St. Patrick behind the altar. It was a lovely High Mass, succor for not getting home as planned. In a few weeks the city will host its annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Charlotte Goes Green Festival.

Finally, here are previous post about St. Patrick’s churches in Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.

Celebrating the 150th anniversary of Yeats’ birth

“This year sees a worldwide series of creative and cultural events celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of William Butler Yeats,” Adrian Paterson begins an opinion piece in The Irish Times that serves as a good introduction to the sesquicentennial. He writes:

…Yeats was more than a poet. He was a cultural revolutionary who became a cultural entrepreneur. He began things, co-founding the Abbey Theatre, the Irish Literary Society and, with his talented family, the Cuala Press, producing designs and books from a single hand-press in Dublin. He was anything but a solitary dreamer: his collaborations with musicians, actors, dramatists, stage designers, folklorists, journalists, artists, dancers, printers, occultists, broadcasters and lovers are reflected in the vibrant range of celebratory events on offer.

There’s plenty to explore at Yeats 2015, official website for the celebration. And much more at the Yeats Society & Yeats International Summer School.

Here, from February 1915 (when he was 50) is Yeats’ “On being asked for a War Poem,” which was written less than a year into the conflict remembered today as World War I.

I think it better that in times like these 
A poet’s mouth be silent, for in truth 
We have no gift to set a statesman right; 
He has had enough of meddling who can please 
A young girl in the indolence of her youth, 
Or an old man upon a winter’s night.