Belfast among Rockerfeller’s ‘100 Resilient Cities’

Belfast is among “100 Resilient Cities,” the Rockerfeller Foundation initiative to help urban hubs “plan for more integrated solutions to the challenges posed from globalization, urbanization, and climate change – including important social and economic impacts.”

The Northern Ireland city of 333,000 joined 36 others in a selection announced 25 May, rounding out two earlier groupings named since the program’s inception in 2013. No cities from the Republic of Ireland are among the first 100, though the Foundation says it plans to expand the network. (Washington, D.C. and Pittsburgh among 23 U.S. cities.)

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Belfast City Hall, opened in 1906 during the city’s early 20th century industrial peak.

Belfast “is working to address lingering political instability after 30 years of conflict while also confronting an increased risk of coastal flooding,” according to the city’s profile on the 100 Resilient Cities website.

Belfast City Executive Suzanne Wylie spoke about the selection and promoted her city during an Irish Network-D.C. event earlier in the week at the Washington offices of the Northern Ireland Bureau. She said access to Rockerfeller grant money will help the city “make priority investments to resolve difficult legacy problems.”

Most people know about the historic and lingering sectarian divide in Belfast. Wylie noted that The Troubles began in the late 1960s as the city’s legacy shipbuilding and linen industries were collapsing. The economy, and the society, have improved in fits and starts since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

Today, financial services, health and life sciences, and the film industry (more than just “Game of Thrones“) are leading an economic resurgence. Foreign direct investment is on the rise, with 40 percent coming from the U.S.

“The city is unrecognizable from just 15 years ago,” said Wylie, a lifelong resident (she’s about 50) who was appointed to her post in 2014. The city’s own “Belfast Agenda” plan calls for more than $400 billion in infrastructure investments by 2030, including a new downtown transit hub, plus more hotel rooms and office space. Wylie also emphasized the city is very safe.

“We still have significant problems,” Wylie said, “but now is really Belfast’s time.”

Finding the missing passages of ‘A Deed of Blood’

Land-related violence in late 19th century Ireland was euphemistically known as “agrarian outrage.” Mutilating a rare political pamphlet about those crimes might be called librarian outrage.

For several years now I’ve been exploring Ireland’s Land War period, 1879-1889. In particular, I’ve focused on the 1888 murders of farmers James Fitzmaurice and John Foran, which occurred within six months and just a few miles of each other in the northern section of County Kerry. Both men were condemned as “landgrabbers” for leasing property after other farmers were evicted. In the case of Fitzmaurice, the previous tenant was his brother.

Cover of the 1888 pamphlet.

Cover of the 1888 pamphlet.

In the 1880s, the Irish National League (or Land League) was waging a campaign to break the grip of absentee landlords, who controlled hundreds of thousands of acres. Farmers were told to refuse paying their rents until the League negotiated lower rates and other rights. When landlords evicted tenants for these or other reasons, the League provided financial assistance and housing. It also declared that the acreage should not be leased by other locals and remain fallow.

Because Fitzmaurice and Foran did not abide these strategies, they were condemned by League officials and subjected to social and economic ostracism, or boycotting. Notices of their offenses were posted near the leased property and at local market places. Each man received limited police protection, but both fatally waved off the security. (Read my piece on the Foran murder for The Irish Story.)

The 68-year-old Fitzmaurice was shot point blank by two assailants near Lixnaw, Kerry, on 31 January 1888. His daughter Nora, about 20, witnessed the murder in the “cold grey dawn of morning,” according to a 16-page political pamphlet, “A Deed of Blood,” published a few weeks after the crime.

“A Deed of Blood” was produced by the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union, an alliance of Irish businessmen, landowners and academics who sought to preserve the existing political ties with Great Britain. The group was formed in 1885 to oppose efforts by Charles Stuart Parnell and the Irish Parliamentary Party to win land reform and limited domestic autonomy, called home rule.

The pamphlet featured original reporting and quoted from newspaper coverage of the Fitzmaurice murder. It appeared in mid February 1888, shortly after two men were charged with the murder, but before their trial, conviction and execution by hanging at the end of April. For the ILPU, the crime was “yet another link … added to the strong chain of evidence connecting the National League with the latest murder in Kerry.”

Probably only a few hundred copies of “A Deed of Blood” were ever printed and distributed, most likely in London and Dublin. Two copies of the pamphlet are listed on WorldCat, the online global library catalog: one at the Hesburgh Library at the University of Notre Dame, the other at the University of Manchester Library in the U.K.

I obtained Notre Dame’s copy of the pamphlet through an interlibrary loan and was disappointed to learn that “some pages [are] cut,” according to the library’s notes. A total of three paragraphs are clipped from two pages, creating a gap-tooth effect that also disrupts the narrative flow on the opposite pages.

So I reached out to the University of Manchester to obtain intact copies of the four mutilated pages. Here are the missing passages:

  • Cut from the bottom of page 10 is a reference to the 12 June 1887 resolution against Fitzmaurice by the Lixnaw branch of the National League, which was “unanimously adopted.” The missing section at the bottom of page 9 describes “threatening notices” against Fitzmaurice posted near the disputed property on 6 April 1887.
  • The cut section at the top of page 11 continues the resolution against Fitzmaurice from the bottom of page 10. It is attributed to the 18 June 1887 issue of the Kerry Weekly Reporter. Missing from the top of page 12 is the headline ‘The Landlord’s Story,’ which quotes from a letter by Mr. S. M. Hussey.
  • Cut from the middle of page 11 is the text of an October 1887 resolution against the future victim, which calls on the public to show their “disapprobation of the conduct of James Fitzmaurice, who has been so base and inhuman as to grab his brother’s land.” From the middle of page 12 is part of Hussey’s letter that Edmond Fitzmaurice’s farm “seemed hopeless” because “he either could not or would not pay his rent.”

The ILPU later republished the pamphlet in a collection of its works from 1888, but without small details such as the drawing shown below. This version is available online through the Hathi Trust Digital Library.

I’ve sent copies of the four intact pages of the University of Manchester pamphlet to the University of Notre Dame with my interlibrary return. I know this isn’t the type of text many readers or researchers seek on a regular basis. When they do, however, they should get the full story of “A Deed of Blood.”

Page detail from 'A Deed of Blood.'

Page detail from ‘A Deed of Blood.’

Kennedy Center “Celebrating a Century of Irish Arts & Culture”

The global celebration commemorating the centennial of the 1916 Easter Rising takes center stage (several stages, actually) at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. 17 May to 5 June. The “Ireland 100” festival includes dozens of performances from some of Ireland’s best contemporary musicians, dancers, and theater companies – along with other events ranging from a literature series, documentary screenings, installations and culinary arts.

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Fiona Shaw is Artist-in-Residence for the three-week festival, performing and conducting workshops with aspiring actors. Among the festival’s theater offerings are works by Irish playwrights Seán O’Casey (The Plough and the Stars) and Samuel Beckett (the radio play All That Fall), an adaptation from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake performed by Olwen Fouéré (Riverrun), and a performance installation by Enda Walsh (A Girl’s Bedroom).

“The United States and Ireland share a special relationship based on common ancestral ties and shared values,” Festival Curator Alicia Adams said. “The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts bears the name of our 35th President, who is especially revered by Ireland as a favorite son.”

See schedule details.

U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden, who often boasts of his Irish-American heritage, and Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny are scheduled to attend the 17 May opening.

Irish election results, north and south

More than two months after an inconclusive election in the Republic of Ireland, a new minority government has been established. Enda Kenny is the first Fine Gael leader to secure successive terms as taoiseach and also is the first European premier to survive the bailout era, The Irish Times reports, adding “the race to succeed him [as party leader] is well under way.”

After suffering heavy losses in the 28 February election, Kenny and Fine Gael party returned to power with the backing of nine independent lawmakers and the cooperation its main rival, Fianna Fail, which agreed to abstain from opposition on key votes until the end of 2018. The deal emerged a week ago, and there is already speculation the arrangement will not survive.

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Enda Kenny

Here’s a look at the ministers in Kenny’s new cabinet, announced 6 May.

Northern Ireland

After two days of counting, all 108 seats have been decided in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) retained 38 seats; Sinn Féin lost one seat, dropping to 28; Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) was flat at 16 seats; Social Democratic and Labor Party (SDLP) fell to 12 seats, down two; and the Alliance Party remained at eight seats. Smaller parties picked up three seats, for a total of six.

“The power of the largest parties has been maintained, while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising,” the London-based New Statesman said.

For example, Gerry Carroll of the anti-austerity People Before Profit topped polls in the republican heartland of West Belfast, winning the Sinn Féin constituency once held by party leader Gerry Adams. Adams moved to the Republic and was elected TD for Louth in 2011, then re-elected in February.

The Times offers full constituency results for Northern Ireland, where turnout was just below 55 percent.

It’s Election Day in Northern Ireland

Voting will soon be underway in the Northern Ireland Assembly election. I’ll be posting updates throughout 5 May. (Northern Ireland is five hours ahead of Eastern time in the U.S.) Email subscribers only get one notice, so be sure to check back. Most recent items appear at the top. MH

Image from Belfast Telegraph.

Image from the Belfast Telegraph.

  • Polls closed. Counting begins Friday morning. First results by Friday afternoon. Cute BBC video explains the Single Transferable Vote system.
  • The Belfast Telegraph reports that in the 2011 Assembly election more than 12,000 ballot papers were rejected as “spoiled” – many because of a more complex system than is being used today.
  • “The sun was shining in most parts of the region as polls opened … with the weather set to remain fair for the rest of the day,” The Irish Times reported in a story about NI leaders casting their ballots early in the morning.
  • Two hundred and seventy-six candidates are competing for 108 seats across Northern Ireland’s 18 constituencies. Coverage from the BBC.

Rebel executions, property losses and lots of letters

Early May brings the centennial of the pivotal second act of the 1916 Easter Rising drama: the executions of 15 rebel leaders between 3 May and 12 May in Dublin. Sir Roger Casement was hanged 3 August 1916 in London.

Captain E. Gerard, a member of the British army in Ireland in 1916, described the Dublin executions two decades later, quoting an attending medical officer who “got so sick of the slaughter that [he] asked to be changed. … [Among the rebels,] three refused to have their eyes bandaged … they all died like lions. The rifles of the firing party were waving like a field of corn. All the men were cut to ribbons at a range of about 10 yards.”

The executions turned public opinion against the British and set the stage for the third act of the independence narrative, the Anglo-Irish War that began in 1919. Before that violence erupted, however, Irish men and woman, and British government officials, set about dealing with the immediate aftermath of the Rising. Many wrote letters about their experiences of Easter Week, some filed claims for property damage.

Among many Easter 1916 websites to appear online for the centennial, two are particularly compelling for their searchable access of original material.

Property Losses (Ireland) Committee, provided by the National Archives of Ireland, offers 6,567 digitized files consisting of “applications for compensation on a standard application form from individuals and businesses for damage to buildings and property, including loss of personal property sustained as a direct result of the fighting, or subsequently as a result of fire and looting. A number of applications have further correspondence and police reports attached.” The files are searchable by surname, location, business or words in the text. While most of the damage occurred in Dublin, the files trace back to property owners and other interested parties in other parts of Ireland.

Letters of 1916: A Year in the Life, is a project of Maynooth University and other supporters. It contains images and transcriptions of hundreds of searchable letters from 1 November 1915 to 31 October 1916.  As such, the letters connect “thousands of lives commenting a myriad of topics including the Easter Rising, literature and art, the Great War, politics, business, and ordinary life. Letters of 1916 adds a new perspective to the events of the period, a confidential and intimate glimpse into early 20th Century life in Ireland, as well as how Ireland was viewed abroad.” The database is searchable by word, subject category and month written.

One of my favorite examples is this 3 September 1916 letter to the sister of Michael Joseph O’Rahilly, known as ‘The’ O’Rahilly,’ who died in the fighting of Easter Week. The letter writer describes a recent aviation demonstration:

The first day of the flying was a complete success. The papers represented pretty accurately what took place.  … [It] was an unexpected treat I would not have missed it for the world. I changed my mind on the subject at once. The flying machine has come to stay. The number of people, motors, carriages, was unique — never such a sight in holy Ireland before.

Many more glimpses of life in Ireland 100 years ago can be found on these two great websites. Search away!

Deal reached for new government in Ireland

Two months after the inconclusive general election in Ireland, the Republic’s two main political parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, reached a deal 29 April that will lead to a new coalition.

Fianna Fáil has agreed to facilitate a Fine Gael minority government in a ‘political ceasefire’ between the two dominant (and historically antagonistic) political forces in the state,” The Guardian reported. “But Fianna Fáil will remain on the opposition benches in the Dáil, the Irish parliament.”

Fianna Fáil will allow Fine Gael to govern until a review of the coalition’s performance in September 2018. …

In the February election, Fine Gael, led by taoiseach Enda Kenny, lost 26 seats but it remains the largest party in the Dáil with 50 seats. Fianna Fáil made a stunning recovery from a historic low of 21 seats in the 2011 general election to 44 seats this year.

Formal ratification of the deal could come at the weekend or early next week. The agreement is likely to return Kenny to his post, making him the first Fine Gael leader returned to power.

The Irish Times offers an analysis of “the realities facing Ireland’s next government.”

The two center-right parties emerged from the divide over the Anglo-Irish treaty in 1921, which partitioned Ireland into two states and caused a bitter civil war. Fianna Fáil has historically been the dominant of the two parties, but was severely punished by voters in 2011 for the country’s economic collapse. The rise of smaller parties and independent candidates also has skimmed votes from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. 

Guest post: Witnessing Irish history over 30 years

I’m always happy to publish a guest post from people visiting or just returned from Ireland. My good friend Sister Cathy Cahill, OSF, a veteran retreat leader and spiritual director, sent this correspondence from Dublin. MH

***

When I visited Ireland the first time in the spring of 1986, the talk on the radio and on the streets was all about the divorce referendum. It didn’t pass that year, but narrowly prevailed 10 years later by 50.3 percent to 49.7 percent.

When I was here last year, all the buzz was around the marriage equality referendum. I was part of the rejoicing when the “YES” vote succeeded 62.1 percent to 37.9 percent, making Ireland the first nation to do so by referendum rather than legislation.

This year, the big concern is that Ireland is without a government because of an inconclusive election (the incumbent party got only 25.5 percent of the vote) and the inability of politicians, so far, to form a coalition. Sound familiar: elected officials having trouble finding agreeable solutions to problems?

Parading in Dublin with images of Easter Rising patriots. Photo courtesy of Sr. Cathy Cahill.

Parading in Dublin with images of Easter Rising patriots. Photo courtesy of Sr. Cathy Cahill.

Of course, this year is also the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, when brave Irishmen and Irishwomen said “No More!” to English rule. I arrived a few weeks after the official commemoration on Easter Sunday. Imagine my delight when I happened upon the “Citizens’ Centenary Celebration” in front of the GPO on Sunday, 24 April, the actual 100th anniversary of the event that change Ireland forever.

I was surprised at the tears that welled up as I listened to the speeches, the songs, and reading of the great proclamation. I wondered about my grandfather, who left County Roscommon in 1895 and settled in Providence, Rhode Island. What were his reactions when the news of the insurrection made its way across the Atlantic? I’m sure he was a nationalist sympathizer.

When the names of the proclamation signers were read and I heard “Joseph Mary Plunkett,” I immediately thought of his poem,  “I See His Blood Upon the Rose.” It’s been 60 years since Irish nuns in America had us memorize it!

There also were songs about the women who took part in the Rising and then written out of history. There were songs bemoaning the divisions that still exist and songs celebrating the strides toward unity that have been made. The variety of groups taking part in a parade reflected the needs of today’s Ireland. Labor unions, refugees, Travellers, homeless, and many others.

As an Irish American, I am grateful to be here at this time. I pray for the day when striving for liberty and independence does not involve violence.

One hundred years…and counting

Sunday, 24 April marked the “calendar centenary” of the start of the 1916 Easter Rising, though commemorations of the historical event have been on for more than a month. Sunday also was Census Day in Ireland.

Marking the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising on 24 April 2016...Census Day in Ireland. Photo courtesy of Sr. Cathy Cahill.

Crowds outside the General Post Office in Dublin commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. 24 April 2016 also was Census Day in Ireland. Photo courtesy of Sr. Cathy Cahill.

The Irish Independent reports:

[F]amilies and individuals all over the country will fill out their census forms. Many will ponder whether they still consider themselves Catholic, and whether they should claim to be able to speak Irish – even if they can only say “slán” and “go raibh maith agat“. …

Despite the recession exodus, the population is still expected to show a five-year increase … to more than 4.6 million. … With a continuing high birth rate also making up for emigration losses, the population increase is now running at 25,000 per year. …

[The] census is likely to show a more cosmopolitan population with a diverse mix of nationalities and creeds. Ireland’s Islamic population has grown tenfold in two decades to more than 50,000 and this trend is likely to be confirmed. At the last census, 3.8 million people still classified themselves as Catholic, but some commentators believe the census should ask how often they attend Mass. …

Even 10 years ago, the possibility of same-sex marriage in Ireland seemed unthinkable, but it has been legalized by a popular vote, against the wishes of the Catholic hierarchy.

A census has been conducted in Ireland since 1821, though original documentation from many of those early surveys has been destroyed by accident or on purpose. The most popular and intact surviving censuses are the household returns and ancillary records for 1901 and 1911. The State has taken a count every five years since 1951.

The Central Statistics Office says it will release the first results of the 2016 Census to the public in July.

The Irish people commemorated the 1916 Rising on 24 April, then went home and completed their census forms. Photo courtesy of Sr. Cathy Cahill.

The Irish people commemorated the 1916 Rising on 24 April, then went home and completed their census forms. Photo courtesy of Sr. Cathy Cahill.

Joining 90th birthday wishes for Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II, who last September became the longest-reigning monarch in British history–64 years and counting–turns 90 on 21 April.

“Through seven decades, she has remained gloriously and relentlessly enigmatic in one of her signature pastel outfits and colorful hats,” writes The New York Times. “The queen could be forgiven for showing emotion when she blows out her candles. But it is unlikely.”

I’m a republican more than any fan of the monarchy, British or otherwise. But I’ve admired this queen since her historic 2011 visit to Ireland. So does Father Matt Malone, S.J., editor in chief of America: The National Catholic Review. In his 18 April “Of Many Things” column, he writes:

[S]he was determined to make the trip, motivated in large part by her sense of Christian duty to reconcile the estranged, to be a healer of the breach. “God sent into the world a unique person—neither a philosopher nor a general (important though they are)—but a Saviour, with the power to forgive,” she said in her Christmas broadcast that year. “Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.”

…the queen’s visit to the republic was not just a moment of reconciliation between two long-estranged peoples, but her personal act of forgiveness. When Lord Louis Mountbatten was killed by agents of the Irish Republican Army in the summer of 1979, the queen suffered the loss of one of the most beloved members of her family … It was a truly extraordinary moment, therefore, when she laid a wreath at a memorial garden in Dublin dedicated to the memory of “all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish Freedom.” She had somehow found the courage within her to forgive, to rebuild, to begin anew. …

In the course of a century, the editors of this magazine have unashamedly championed the cause of Irish freedom. In doing so, we have had a few unkind words to say about the British and the queen’s predecessors. As we mark the centenary of the Easter Uprising, we celebrate the fulfillment of our forebears’ dreams, but we also repent of what we too have done and failed to do. Yet in repentance there is hope, the very hope we saw during those mid-May days in 2011.

In June 2012, in Belfast, the queen and former IRA commander Martin McGuinness had one of the world’s most celebrated handshakes. Two years later, McGuinness accepted the queen’s invitation to attend a British state banquet at Windsor Castle. By then, many of us had grown used to seeing soaring sounders of swine.

Earlier this year, a 12-year-old schoolboy from Dublin wrote a letter to the queen asking for “the return of the six counties” of Northern Ireland, which were partitioned from the rest of the island in 1921 and today remain part of the United Kingdom. Buckingham Palace politely replied to the boy that Her Majesty does not intervene in such matters. “As a constitutional Sovereign, the Queen acts on the advice of her Ministers and remains strictly non-political at all times.”

And so a birthday bonfire will burn atop Slieve Donard in County Down, as well as the highest peaks of Scotland, Wales and England, in addition to all the other pomp to mark Elizabeth’s 90th. I’ll just add: Sláinte!