The revolution will be colorized

A 90-minute documentary tells the story of Ireland’s struggle for independence from Home Rule to Civil War through beautifully colorized newsreel and photos.

British Pathé is offering online subscription access to “Revolution in Color” for $8 a month. It is narrated by Allen Leech, who played Branson, the Irish nationalist chauffeur on television’s “Downtown Abbey.”

“When you watch black and white, you are detached from the personalities and the history,” said director Martin Dwan. “There is something about color that triggers empathy with people.”

British Pathé, one of the world’s largest newsreel archives, attempted to make a similar film in 1935. It was blocked by Éamon De Valera’s Irish government at the time, in part because of the violence of the Civil War period, according to The Irish Times.

Watch the trailer:

Irish-Americans who haven’t visited Ireland

The Irish Times has published extended interviews with eight Boston residents of Irish ancestry who have never been to Ireland. Reporter Rosita Boland notes that probably most of the tens of millions of Irish-Americans are not “economically privileged” enough to cross the Atlantic. Or maybe the state of mind is more important than the physical journey.

“I discovered that when Irish-Americans talk about identifying with the Irish they mean the Irish who came to settle in the United States and their descendants, not those of us living in Ireland,” she writes. “Ireland itself, the country, is the abstract, romanticized receptacle of dreams and green fields, and the place that will soothe a lifelong ache.”

I’ve been fortunate enough to make six trips to Ireland and Northern Ireland over the past 16 years. Reading the Times‘ piece sent me back to my first story about Ireland after my initial visit in May 2000. It began:

COBH, Ireland — I traveled here for Nora and William, as much as for myself.

Like millions of Irish, my mother’s parents emigrated from this harborside village near Cork, in southern Ireland, to a new life in America, never returning to the family or country they left behind. Like many Irish-Americans, I arrived here years later with a desire to walk the same waterfront, returning to where I never set out, exploring the first half of my hyphenated heritage.

The North Kerry coast, July 2016.

The North Kerry coast, July 2016.


Guest post: Outrage over inclusion of IRA in new video game

Timothy Plum has been traveling to Ireland for more than 20 years on business, academic and personal reasons. His last guest post for this blog was about Brexit. MH


The latest iteration of the “Mafia” video game series, which references IRA violence, is drawing criticism in Northern Ireland for trivializing the Troubles.

“Mafia III” is set in 1968 in a recreation of New Orleans. The player is on a quest to build a new crime organization to confront the Italian mob over the killings of his friends. Players game through the third-person perspective of fictional orphan and Vietnam War vet Lincoln Clay.

In a segment titled “The IRA Don’t Ask,” Clay’s mission includes stealing cars for an Irish underboss named Thomas Burke. The cars are destined for use as car bombs meant to “keep the Belfast law guessing.” The game also includes a Northern Ireland flag defaced with the word “traitor.”

Screen grab from "Mafia III" by 2K Games.

Screen grab from “Mafia III” by 2K Games.

The game uses stereotypes to glorify the IRA, including drunkenness, rowdiness and extreme violence. Using a time period as fresh and raw as 1960’s Northern Ireland, in my opinion, is a disservice to gamers–most of whom will have no idea of the actual events–and the public at large.

Unionist politicians have condemned the game. DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson told The Irish News that he is “very concerned” about the impact the game could have on “impressionable” minds. “The IRA were a terrorist organisation that murdered very many innocent men, women and children in Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK.”

As of 15 October, news coverage from the North has not included any reaction to the game from Sinn Féin or other nationalists.

So far, “Mafia III” has been poorly received by the gaming community, so perhaps the damage of misunderstanding and myth perpetuation will be tamped down by poor sales. But it is sad to have the past dredged up in such a poor fashion that only perpetuates stereotypes and does not further discussion.

The Irish in America: racists, or not?

Shortly after my last post about the vice presidential debate, Irish Times columnist Brian Boyd complained that Democrat Tim Kaine “invoked the historical discrimination towards the Irish in the U.S. to highlight the Republican Mike Pence’s support for Donald Trump’s inflammatory views on immigrants.”

But “the Irish in America were inglorious bastards,” he wrote, citing examples of Irish hostility toward African-Americans from the Civil War period to the busing crisis in Boston.

Now, the Times has published a counter column by Niall O’Dowd, founder of Irish Voice, Irish America Magazine and

“There are actually no absolute judgements which makes us as a race in Ireland and America both saints and sinners. That is what objective history teaches, not single issue demonization.”


Irish immigrants cited in veep debate

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D) made two Irish references in his 4 October vice presidential debate against Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R). Kaine is Hillary Clinton’s running mate, Pence is paired with Donald Trump.

Kaine’s quotes, from the Vox debate transcript:

…we are a nation of immigrants. Mike Pence and I are both descendants from immigrant families. Some things, you know, maybe said weren’t so great about the Irish when we came in, but we [were] absorbed, and made our nation stronger. When Donald Trump said Mexicans are rapists and criminals, he said the judge was unqualified to hear a case because his parents were Mexican. I cannot imagine how you could defend that.


I grew up with a great Irish Catholic council. I was educated by Jesuits. I worked with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras now nearly 35 years ago and they were the heroes of my life.

Pence also grew up in an Irish Catholic family. As I reported earlier this year in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he has family ties to Doonbeg, County Clare, where Trump owns a golf course. Kaine’s ancestors were from counties Longford and Kilkenny.

Astute readers will remember that Irishness was raised at the vice presidential debate four years ago between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.

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Irish American museums, libraries and cultural centers

UPDATE: Readers have helped add several names to the list below. Thanks! I’ll soon create a permanent home for this information on the menu at the top of the blog. Keep those contributions coming. MH

The Irish American Museum of Washington, D.C. has not responded to my email asking for an update on the proposed project, which I raised in a recent post pegged to the opening of the National Museum of African American History & Culture. Someone at the @DCIRISHMUSEUM Twitter account offered links to the virtual museum’s online posts about President Barack Obama and the late boxing great Muhammad Ali, suggesting it “shares profound history” with the NMAAHC.

On Facebook, one of my former Mobile Press-Register colleagues asked: “Do Boston or NYC have such museums? It would seem they would considering how important they were to the formation of both those cities.”

That’s a great question, one that reaches beyond those two cities and the DC Irish American Museum effort. The information below is the beginning of an answer. It is not a complete list. I’m hoping readers will let me know about other U.S. museums, libraries, cultural centers and programs devoted to Irish ancestry and contemporary connections. (List is in alphabetical order by location.)

Irish American Heritage Museum, Albany, N.Y.

Irish Railroad Workers Museum, Baltimore, Md.

Center for Irish Programs, Boston College, Boston

Irish Cultural Center of New England, Canton, Mass.

Irish American Heritage Center, Chicago

Irish Collections, The Newsberry Independent Research Library, Chicago

Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, Hamden, Conn.

Irish Cultural Museum of New Orleans, New Orleans

Glucksman Ireland House, New York University, New York City

Irish American Historical Society, New York City

Irish Arts Center, New York City

Omaha Irish Cultural Center, Omaha, Neb.

Irish Heritage Theatre, Philadelphia

Philadelphia Irish Center, Philadelphia

Irish Cultural Center & McClelland Library, Phoenix

Irish Centre of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh

Irish Nationality Room, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh

Irish Cultural Center of California, San Francisco

Embassy of Ireland, Washington, D.C., plus Consul General offices in six cities and honorary consulates in 11 cities.

Fenian Brotherhood Records and O’Donovan Rossa Personal Papers, and Connolly Irish Collection, Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.

Washington Ireland Program, Washington, D.C.

The American Ireland Fund has chapters in 12 U.S. cities. The global network of friends of Ireland is “dedicated to supporting programs of peace and reconciliation, arts and culture, education and community development throughout the island of Ireland.”

Irish Network USA has 19 chapters. Its mission is “to bolster business opportunities and economic development between the United States and Ireland; to support and encourage Irish Arts and Culture through film, literature, theater, dance and language; to encourage and promote the mission and expansion of Irish sports, throughout the United States; to support the efforts of local Irish organizations and associations; to serve as a conduit between newly arrived Irish immigrants and their communities in member cities and states.”


Trump attacks Clinton’s ties to Ireland

Donald Trump is making an issue of Hillary Clinton’s relationship with Irish businessman Denis O’Brien.

O’Brien is listed by the Clinton Foundation as having made $10 million to $25 million in donations to the charity as of June 2016, The Irish Independent reports. The Irish government is also listed as fifth among 19 nations that have donated to the Foundation, contributing in the range of $5 million to $10 million.

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Bill Clinton and Denis O’Brien

“This attack may not be deliberate Trump payback for overt political assaults on him by senior politicians in the Dáil this year, but it should be enough to worry Irish voters,” Colum Kenny writes in The Irish Times. “With the E.U. going after tax breaks for U.S. jobs here, we do not need a pissed-off president in the White House.”

Here’s the email the Trump campaign sent to reporters, which quotes extensively from Irish and U.S. media reports.

What’s the status of Irish American Museum in Washington?

The National Museum of African American History & Culture opened this weekend in Washington, D.C. It raises this question: What’s the status of the proposed Irish American Museum of Washington, D.C.?

To be sure, there is a huge difference between the two efforts: the African American Museum is part of the Smithsonian Institution and was supported at the highest levels of the U.S. government. The Irish American Museum is a private effort. It’s backers might take some inspiration from EPIC Ireland, an interactive museum dedicated to the island’s vast diaspora. I visited in July, shortly after it opened in Dublin’s dockland’s district.

Entrance of EPIC Ireland in Dublin's docklands district.

Entrance of EPIC Ireland in Dublin’s docklands district.

Former Coca-Cola CEO Neville Isdell spent some €22 million on the CHQ Centre at the heart of the city’s International Financial Services Centre, converting 1820s-era vaulted storehouses below a modern shopping center into 21 galleries with topics such as politics, arts and sport. The Irish government withdrew its own plans to support the museum, saying that no capital funding was available, according to The Irish Times.

The African American Museum tells a critical part of American history and is an important addition to the National Mall. The contributions of the Irish in America are no less important, their stories no less compelling. More than 33 million U.S. residents claim Irish heritage, the Census Bureau says.

So what’s the status of the Irish American Museum? I’ve reached out to project leaders and will report their reply. Until then, here’s my 2014 Washington Business Journal story about their effort.

Video screens inside EPIC Ireland show images of St. Patrick's Day parades around the world.

Video screens inside EPIC Ireland show images of St. Patrick’s Day parades around the world.

‘Easter, 1916’ quietly reaches its 100th anniversary

Another milestone of the 1916 Easter Rising centennial arrives 25 September. That’s the date W. B. Yeats jotted at the bottom of his draft notes for the poem “Easter, 1916.”

wbyeats.jpg (286×289)In May 1916, as 15 Irish rebels faced British firing squads, Yeats hinted at the poem’s most famous line in a letter to his Abbey Theatre co-founder Lady Gregory: “I am trying to write a poem on the men executed—’terrible beauty has been born’.”

The poem was not published until 23 October, 1920, when it appeared in the New Statesman, launched in 1913 to give voice to the unrest of the period. In 1921, “Easter, 1916” was included in Yeats’ Michael Robartes and the Dancer.

The completion date of “Easter, 1916” is unremarked in the official centennial programs of the Irish government and the National Library of Ireland. It is noted on the 1916 timeline of the Decade of Centenaries website.

Read the full poem.

The speechwriter behind Obama’s Irish references

Barack Obama has given some 3,000 speeches since entering the White House in 2009, and about 1 percent of them have included strong references to Ireland. That might not seem like much at first glance, but there’s hardly another country or subject that gets as many mentions from the presidential podium.

Obama speechwriter Cody Keenan, left, interviewed by Simon Carswell, Washington correspondent for The Irish Times.

Obama speechwriter Cody Keenan, left, interviewed by Simon Carswell, Washington correspondent for The Irish Times.

“The Irish have a stranglehold on one full day,” Obama speechwriter Cody Keenan told the 15 September gathering of Irish Network-DC. “They get three speeches on St. Patrick’s Day.”

That’s 24 speeches over eight years. Other notable Obama talks involving Ireland have included his May 2011 visit to the Republic and June 2013 trip to Northern Ireland, plus his 2009 eulogy of Sen. Ted Kennedy and  2015 remarks at the funeral of Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden.

For Keenan, an Irish-American with ancestral roots to Dublin and Cork, the 2011 College Green speech was a plum assignment. “It’s rare you get to write about something you have such personal passion about,” he said.

Keenan noted that the president “is his own chief speechwriter. … We take all our cues from him.”