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.

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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. 

Trump, Clinton and their Irish connections

Both U.S. presidential candidates have links to Ireland, golfing and otherwise. But the Irish are baffled that the historical refuge of so many of their sons and daughters has settled on such disagreeable candidates.

Read my freelance piece for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The entrance of Trump's Doonbeg golf course in County Clare during my July visit.

The entrance of Trump’s Doonbeg golf course in County Clare during my July visit.

Guest post: questions about Brexit’s impact on Ireland

Less than two months ago, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent. Northern Ireland voters wanted to “Remain” in the EU by 56 percent to 44 percent. So far, most questions about the impact of the UK’s decision on the island of Ireland are unanswered.

A Question Lingers on the Irish Border: What’s Next?,” The New York Times reported 6 August:

Four decades of European integration have helped Ireland not only escape the shadow of Britain, but also improve relations with London and work with the British for peace in Northern Ireland. Now the question is whether Britain’s departure from the bloc will drive a wedge between them.

The Washington Post headline two days later: “The Brexit Wildcard? Ireland.

What will happen to the Irish isle, north and south, is one of the biggest wild cards of the Brexit vote. … What will happen to trade and travel is unknown — and there are even bigger questions being asked about unification of the island.

The Irish Times is devoting a special section to its ongoing Brexit coverage.

Timothy Plum has been traveling to both sides of the Irish border for more than 20 years on business, academic and personal reasons. Listen to him talk about “Conflict identity and school achievement in secondary education in Northern Ireland” in this 6 June podcast with Drive 105 radio host Eileen Walsh in Derry. Tim just returned to Washington, D.C. after spending a month in Belfast. He filed the guest post below the map. MH

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By TIM PLUM

Britain’s decision to leave the European Union was announced in the airplane cabin as my wife and I landed in Dublin in June. I was beginning a month of graduate work at Queens University, Belfast.

My first thought: How can this happen? My next thought: We’re on the ground in Ireland at a very historic moment for the island.

Reactions to the referendum ranged from outrage and quiet reservation to acceptance and joy. Perhaps nothing should surprise us in a year that has seen Donald Trump win the U.S. Republican Party nomination.

But the people we met were genuinely stunned by the Brexit vote. They soon grew more bewildered as PM David Cameron resigned and left the mess for someone else to clean up.

The outrage was most pronounced among the students, professors and staff at QUB. They could not believe the “stupidity” (their word, not mine) of the conservatives in London who managed to scare people into voting “Leave,” then quickly exited the political stage themselves. Boris Johnson and Neil Farage were among those who abandoned the ship when the country needed their help.

We also heard quiet reservation from wait staff, hotel workers and bar patrons. Some of the later group insisted to my wife that Brexit might work, and that we should support Trump.

I personally know two people in Derry who voted “Leave” and supported the outcome. Their reasoning was simple: economics in the EU are a mess and perhaps standing alone will bring more prosperity.

I raised the possibility of renewed border controls and stiff tariffs that EU nations promise to put on UK goods. But I could not persuade them to change their views, even as Theresa May became PM and appointed Johnson as Foreign Secretary.

So I guess we will have to see what happens once May files the Article 50 to begin the process of untangling the relationship between the UK and the EU.

As they wait for those details to emerge, Queens students are worried about scholarship funding, and people all over Northern Ireland are concerned about the end of EU support that has helped the peace process.

It seems most people on the island, especially in the Republic, do not want Brexit to result in a united Ireland, even as many people in the north begin filing for Irish passports.

Derry’s ‘Bloody Sunday’ Bishop Dies at 82

Former Bishop of Derry Dr. Edward Daly, photographed in January 1972 waving a blood-stained handkerchief as he tied to help injured civil rights protesters pass through British troops, died 8 August 2016. He was 82.

The Irish Times called the Bloody Sunday photo “one of the defining images of the conflict in the North.” Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin said his brother priest “literally spent himself in the service of others.”

Here’s the IT’s full news obit, and U.S. coverage from The New York Times. Also, my 2001 report from Derry about the conflict.

Dr. Edward Daly at Bloody Sunday in January 1972.

Dr. Edward Daly at Bloody Sunday in January 1972.

 

Guest post: From 57th Yeats International Summer School

I’m always happy to publish a guest post from people visiting or just returned from Ireland. I met Michael Whelan at an Irish Network-DC event earlier this year. His writing on Ireland has appeared in Irish Central and éirways magazine. His latest poetry collection is After God, an Irish Catholic American memoir available on Amazon. He sent this correspondence from Sligo. MH.

***

“Come away oh human child
To the waters and the wild … “

So wrote W. B. Yeats in Stolen Child in the voice of the fairies luring a little one to swap him with their farie changeling. So came we under mythic Benbulbin mountain, close to Yeats’ grave, to the very waterfall of Glencar made iconic by his beloved poem. It is first stop of the first day at the Yeats International  Summer School, 2016.

I am among the 50 here from some dozen countries to delve deep into the world of Yeats. We range from newly graduated English majors to doctoral students and university-level teachers of literature to just plain souls who read Yeats for the fun or the challenge of it. Mostly everyone here is a poet, to some degree, as am I.

Mornings at the Hawks Well theater are spent listening to world experts lecture on Yeats from every conceivable angle. This year, much attention is focused on his Easter, 1916, given the 100th anniversary of the Dublin uprising and Yeats’ conflicts with the poem. Much is fascinating, too, in the talks and illustrations on Yeats’ surreal dimension in approach to theater.

Four charcoal renderings of Yeats. Photos of women below him are the wives of leaders executed after the 1916 Rising.

Four charcoal renderings of Yeats. Photos of women below him are the wives of leaders executed after the 1916 Rising.

Afternoons are for seminars, held at the Victorian-style Yeats Society building in the center of Sligo City. You choose a topic for a week. Mine is Yeats & Heaney, a compelling class led by Dr. Rand Brandes, of Lenoir-Rhyne University. He is rich with remarkable anecdotes from his 30 years working closely with Seamus Heaney. We uncover revealing parallels and telling differences between the two poets. I come away with a sharpened eye such that I won’t read Yeats or Heaney again without drawing from the class.

Another amazing experience in awaking the creative imagination comes in an intensive two-day poetry workshop by Vona Groarke, editor of the Poetry Ireland Review.

It’s not just what happens in class that makes the summer school experience.  It’s the everywhere-around spell of Yeats that still hypnotizes all of Sligo. Here everything is just around the corner from everything else — creating the feel you are walking the buzzing streets as in a stage set for the likes of Yeats theater, the wild river rushing under the bridge next to the Yeats Society building and the sky flipping theatrically, constantly–Irishly–between showers and sunny spots.

Casement execution anniversary ends 1916 centennial

Roger Casement, a Dublin-born British diplomat turned Irish republican rebel, was executed 100 years ago. He was hanged as a traitor on 3 August 1916 at Pentonville Prison in London, the last of 16 government executions related to the Easter Rising of four months earlier.

This anniversary ends the official 1916 centennial commemoration.

Casement was part of a failed effort to land arms from Germany for the Rising at the Kerry coast, where he was captured by the British. During my recent visit to Ireland, I viewed the excellent “Casement in Kerry, a revolutionary journey” exhibit at the County Kerry Museum. Additional stories about Casement can be found in An Phoblacht, the Irish republican party Sinn Féin newspaper, and The Irish Times.

In 1965, Casement’s remains were exhumed from the English prison yard and returned to Dublin for a state funeral. He was buried along with other Irish heroes at Glasnevin Cemetery.

Casement's grave at Glasnevin.

Casement’s grave at Glasnevin.

 

County Kerry Museum exhibit.

County Kerry Museum exhibit.

Troubles at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth

St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, with chapel to the right.

St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, with chapel to the right.

Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has decided to remove three seminarians from his dioceses at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, due to “an atmosphere of strange goings-on” at the national seminary. Martin is transferring the trainee priests to the Irish Pontifical College in Rome, according to The Irish Times.

In May, The Irish Catholic reported on “allegations of a gay culture in the seminary were made in an anonymous letter to the Irish bishops.” Martin would not comment for the 1 August Times‘ story on whether those allegations weighed on his decision.

In this June analysis, former Irish Catholic editor David Quinn said the seminary is in need of significant reform:

“…[I]f Maynooth was a place of dynamic orthodoxy (absolutely not to be confused with rigidity and fundamentalism), it would be attracting considerably more vocations. If the seminary sounded a certain trumpet, not an uncertain one, it would be attracting more vocations, and if these constant worrying stories about Maynooth dried up, not because they were suppressed, but because the seeming problems were dealt with, then it would attract more vocations.

I spent some time walking around the County Kildare campus during my recent visit to Ireland. Students were gone for the summer, and most of the buildings were locked, including the beautiful late 19th century chapel that I had intended to visit.

Bust of St. Patrick inside one of the college's academic buildings.

Bust of St. Patrick inside one of the college’s academic buildings.

The 2016 class of seminarians.

The 2016 class of seminarians (and this blogger reflected in the image.)

 

Going to Ireland? Some tips and links

I just returned from two wonderful weeks in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Several family members, friends and other social media contacts have expressed an interest in traveling there, or already have plans to visit. I know that not everyone shares my interest in Irish history, but here are some notes and links from my trip to incorporate into your own itinerary, as you see fit. Enjoy!

DUBLIN

  • The National Archives of Ireland and National Library of Ireland have excellent resources, online and onsite. You’ll have to get an easy-to-obtain readers ticket in each place to view material in person. You’ll want to visit the library’s impressive main reading room, whether you are doing research or not.
  • This year is the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. The effort to break from Britain failed at the time, but inspired the successful war of independence (which also created partition) a few years later. No visit to Dublin is complete without stopping at the General Post Office, or GPO, the epicenter of the 1916 revolt. The 1818 building, where you still buy stamps and conduct other business, now also offers an “immersive exhibition and visitor attraction.”
  • Some of the most important people in Irish history are buried at Glasnevin Cemetery, which offers walking tours and also has a fine permanent exhibit. Highly recommended. Photos from my earlier post.
  • EPIC Ireland, which opened in May, bills itself as “Dublin’s dramatic new interactive visitor experience that showcases the unique global journey of the Irish people.” It’s located in old shipping storehouses next to the River Liffey. A modern mall filled with restaurants and shops shares space in the chq Building.
  • See the famous Book of Kells and tour Trinity College Dublin.
  • Ireland has a strong theater tradition. I saw “The Wake” at the Abbey Theatre. IrishTheatre.ie lists venues and shows on both sides of the border.
The GPO in Dublin.

The GPO in Dublin.

BELFAST

  • Titanic Belfast. Would you visit Washington without going to the Smithsonian? Paris without a stop at the Louvre? Titanic Belfast is a modern museum experience (it inspired EPIC Ireland) about the ill-fated liner and the city that built it in the early 20th century.
  • Several companies offer “black taxi tours” of West Belfast, a once dangerous “no go” zone during the worst violence of the Troubles. The area remains divided into Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods, but is safe for these daytime guided tours, which help the local economy. Just don’t shout “God Bless the Pope” in the loyalist Shankill Road, or “God Bless King Billy” in the nationalist Falls Road. Photos from my earlier post.
  • Take a free tour of the stunning Belfast City Hall, at the city center.
  • Visit the campus of Queens University and enjoy shops and restaurants of the surrounding neighborhood.
View of the former Harland & Wolff dry docks where the "Titanic' was built and launched in 1912 from inside the Titanic Belfast museum.

View of the former Harland & Wolff dry docks where the “Titanic’ was built and launched in 1912 from inside the Titanic Belfast museum.

THE “KINGDOM OF KERRY” & WEST OF IRELAND

  • There are many things to see and do on the rugged west side of the island, “the back of beyond.” Consider driving some (or all) of the Wild Atlantic Way, a 1,600-mile coastal route stretching between Cork in the south and Derry in Northern Ireland.
  • Shameless promotion here for County Kerry, home of my maternal grandmother and grandfather.
View of the coast at County Kerry from along the "Wild Atlantic Way."

View of the coast at County Kerry from along the “Wild Atlantic Way.”

Here are a few other tips and suggestions:

  • Major U.S. voice and data providers offer service for the island of Ireland. My iPhone switched to an Irish carrier before I reached my baggage at the Dublin airport; clicked to a U.K. telecom while on the train to Belfast; then back to the Republic provider on my return to the 26 counties.
  • Data service in the West of Ireland is spotty, so be prepared to use a paper map and ask for directions rather then relying on Google Maps. Besides, you’re in Ireland! Do you really want to be looking at your screen all the time?
  • That said, don’t forget to bring a power adapter/converter to recharge your phone and other electronics. Outlets are different than in the U.S.
  • Be prepared to drive from the right side of the vehicle on the left side of the road. Just remember that as the driver you should be toward the center of the road, passenger on the outside, same as in the U.S. You will pay a premium to drive a car rented in the Republic in Northern Ireland.
  • Transit and taxi service is excellent in Dublin and Belfast. You don’t need a car in either city. You will if you want to explore the rest of the country.
  • Let your bank and credit card company know that you’re traveling overseas. Grab hard currency from an ATM as needed. Easy!