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.”

Support for united Ireland not boosted by Brexit

Just over half (52 percent) of Northern Ireland voters in a new opinion survey say they do not want a referendum on political reunification of the island.

The poll for BBC Northern Ireland’s “The View” comes just shy of three months since the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. In the referendum, 56 percent of the Northern Ireland electorate voted to remain in the E.U.

british-irish-flags-dublin-390x285.jpg (390×285)In the wake of the Brexit referendum result, Sinn Féin demanded that the secretary of state call a border poll, as provided by the Good Friday Agreement. The government can call a border poll if it “appears likely that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland.”

The BBC poll shows that if such a border poll were held now, 63 percent of northern residents would vote to stay in the U.K., while just 22 percent would support joining the Republic of Ireland.

Shortly after the 23 June Brexit vote, the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin reported a sharp rise in the number of people from the North applying for Irish passports. Some observers quickly interpreted this as indicating support for a united Ireland.

Critics slam new film on Northern Ireland peace process

“The Journey,” a new film about the unlikely partnership between Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness and the late unionist firebrand Rev. Ian Paisley, has debuted to dreadful reviews.

The Hollywood Reporter says “deficiencies in script and direction render the vehicle less than road-worthy.” The movie is “best suited to a mid-evening UK television slot” and “has little hope of big-screen exposure beyond the formerly war-torn province whose history it depicts.”

“The Journey,” according to The Telegraph, is “a graceless Wikipedian plod through the Irish peace process … a tremendously promising idea squandered beyond the limits of human ken.”

Adds The Guardian: “This film feels the need to be fair, to be balanced. That is understandable. But it is tiptoeing on eggshells of its own making.”

The Journey” debuted 7 September at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival. As yet no trailers are posted on YouTube.

Timothy Spall as Ian Paisley, left, and Colm Meaney as Martin McGuinness in "The Journey."

Timothy Spall as Ian Paisley, left, and Colm Meaney as Martin McGuinness in “The Journey.” Below, the real deal.

16/7/2007. Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, and First Minister, the Rev Ian Paisley, at the press conference at Parliament Buildings, Stormont (Belfast), after their meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Pic. Albert Gonzalez/RollingNews.ie

Albert Gonzalez/RollingNews.ie


Irish tourism on record pace, including best ever July

Tourism to Ireland increased nearly 13 percent from January through July, compared to the same seven months in 2015, figures released 2 September show.

“Today’s figures indicate that this was the best ever month of July for Irish tourism, with more than 1 million arrivals recorded,” Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said in a release. The organization said it is preparing to launch an “extensive autumn campaign aimed at boosting late-season travel to Ireland.”

The announcement coincided with the release of travel data from the Republic’s Central Statistics Office, which combines the U.S. and Canada as areas of visitor residence. For May-July this year, 635,600 North Americans traveled to Ireland, compared to 561,200 the same three months of last year, and 488,100 the same period of 2014.

I very much enjoyed being part of this year’s total with my July visit.

A Dublin building bloom in July 2016. The city was very crowded with visitors, including myself.

A Dublin building blooms in July 2016. The city was crowded with visitors, including myself.

Ireland ordered to take big bite of Apple taxes

In a largely expected but still stunning ruling by the European Union’s antitrust commission, Ireland is being ordered to collect €13 billion ($14.5 billion) of back taxes from tech giant Apple. Details of the 30 August decision are still developing.

Unsurprisingly, Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan “disagrees profoundly” with the ruling. In an official statement, he said:

Ireland’s position remains that the full amount of tax was paid in this case and no State aid was provided.  Ireland did not give favorable tax treatment to Apple.  Ireland does not do deals with taxpayers.

Apple distribution center near Cork city.

Apple distribution center near Cork city.

The Irish Times says the penalty “is far in excess of what had been envisioned by Irish authorities,” and that the State will appeal the decision. In an analysis, Cliff Taylor writes:

The scale of the finding means that the whole issue of multinational tax will be front and center again in international business debate, and this is bound to spark off serious tensions between the European Commission and the U.S., which will be furious at what has happened.

Ireland is caught right in the middle. It is a decision which will involve significant collateral damage for Ireland, which has always claimed to have a transparent and legally based tax system.

Ireland’s 12.5 percent corporate tax rate is one of the lowest in the developed world. As The New York Times reports:

Other incentives and breaks allow companies to cut their bill even further. While it is phasing out some of the more contentious loopholes, Ireland just introduced a new break for revenues on intellectual property, a potentially huge benefit to large technology companies with troves of patents.

Irish abortion fight takes modern twists

Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.
— ‘September 1913‘ by W. B. Yeats

As if last year’s referendum to approve same-sex marriage left any doubt about Ireland’s drift from conservative, religious-based values, a couple of stories this week add more evidence.

Two Irish women live-tweeted their trip to England so that one of them could get an abortion, which is banned in their home country. The Eighth Amendment to Ireland’s Constitution gives equal protection to a woman and a fetus, with a few rare exceptions that allow the procedure.

In a story with the usual whiff of pro-abortion, anti-Catholic glee, The New York Times reported:

Ireland has changed significantly in recent years. It became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote in 2015, and the Roman Catholic Church has lost its once-dominant role, in part because of a series of sexual abuse scandals.

Rose of Tralee statue in Town Park. What if she gets pregnant?

Rose of Tralee statue in Town Park. What if she gets pregnant?

A day after the tweet-by-tweet abortion trip, a contestant in the Rose of Tralee International Festival drew cheers from the audience when she called for repeal of the Eighth Amendment. According to The Irish Times, she said:

“I think we can do better here in Ireland. I think it is time to give women a say on their own reproductive rights. I would love to see a referendum on the eighth coming up soon. That would be my dream.”

The live broadcast of the 57th annual beauty and talent pageant also featured a man dressed as a priest who rushed the stage to protest on behalf of divorced fathers having equal visitation and other parenting rights. The Fathers 4 Justice group is known for high-profile demonstrations.

Two years ago, the Kerry-based festival crowned its first openly gay Rose.

Belfast newspapers: Nationalist, centrist and unionist

One of the delights of my recent trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland, was encountering the offices of three daily newspapers within a few blocks of the city center. Some history of each paper is linked below, plus more here on media in Northern Ireland. The papers are:

The Irish News, which supports the nationalist cause …

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…the generally centrist Belfast Telegraph, and …

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… the unionist Belfast News Letter.

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John McLaughlin, former priest and provocateur, dies at 89

John McLaughlin, a former Jesuit priest, speechwriter for President Richard M. Nixon and conservative provocateur whose pugnacious style as a host of a political chat show helped usher in the era of impolite punditry, died 16 August at his home in Washington. He was 89.

220px-Mclaughlin,_John.jpg (220×281)

McLaughlin grew up in a “rootedly Democratic” Irish-American household in Providence, Rhode Island, but made his mark as a conservative Republican. Read his obituary in The Washington Post.

“I’m Irish,” he told People magazine in 1980, two years before launching his signature television show. “All Irish have some bit of the politician in them.”

In 2009, IrishCentral named McLaughlin to a top 10 list of “Irish talking heads” on television, along with former Nixon administration colleague and “McLaughlin Group” regular Pat Buchanan.