Burns still waiting on Senate vote for Irish ambassadorship

“To think of it: my grandfather was a very poor immigrant in County Kerry in 1892 and a little over 120 years later I am being selected as a representative of 35 million or 40 million Americans of Irish heritage and this president to go to Ireland. It is astonishing; I have to pinch myself.”

U.S. Ambassador to Ireland nominee Brian Burns in The Irish Times.

“The extraordinary support provided by Brian Burns, members of the Burns family, and their associates and friends has helped make Boston College one of the world’s leading centers for the study and appreciation of Ireland and the Irish diaspora.”

Christian Dupont, head librarian at the John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections at Boston College (Brian Burns is a son of John J. Burns. This is a great collection, which I visited in 2013.)

“I read the Irish papers from time to time, and I see nothing but criticism for President Trump. That’s a huge error.”

Burns quoted in the Palm Beach (Fla.) Daily News

As of 20 February, a Senate vote to confirm Burns has not been scheduled.

Brian Burns at BC in 2012.

St. Valentine rests at Carmelite church in Dublin

Saint Valentine rests at the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Whitefriar Street, Dublin, near the National Archives of Ireland.

The third century saint’s mortal remains were gifted by Pope Gregory XVI to Irish Carmelite Fr. John Spratt in November 1836. Spratt built the Whitefriar Street church in 1825 and also enjoyed a good reputation in Rome for his stirring homilies.

Read more at the Whitefriar Street Church website; or watch this video from The Irish Independent:

Protestant memories enhance Irish folklore collection

Last summer, the National Folklore Collection at University College Dublin made this public admission: “Irish Protestant cultural history is not as well represented in the archives … as that of the Catholic community.”

To address the imbalance, the special library launched the “Irish Protestant Folk Memory Project.” The effort was partially linked to the decade of centennial remembrances of the turbulent years leading to the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922, with the majority Protestant province of Ulster partitioned as Northern Ireland.

In the 26 counties of southern Ireland, “the social and political upheavals of this period profoundly affected the lives of many [minority Protestant] families, presenting challenges with respect to their sense of national identity and historic allegiance,” the NFC said.

So far, the NFC has interviewed over 50 people and been inundated with correspondence from Protestants who are keen to tell their stories and to record their history, The Irish Times reports under the headline, The Secret Lives of Ireland’s Protestants.

A lead researcher says there is compelling evidence that while most Protestants in the Republic saw themselves as completely separate from those in Northern Ireland, this was not always the case for those in Border areas. Also, although the Protestant community is comprised mainly of Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterians, it was never homogenous.

For more political background, read the concluding chapter of the 1983 book “Protestants in a Catholic State: Ireland’s Privileged Minority,” by Kurt Bowen.

Kenny urged to skip St. Paddy’s Day visit to Trump

You know global politics have entered uncharted territory when the Irish leader is urged to boycott the annual St. Patrick’s Day visit to the White House. But that’s how toxic U.S. President Donald Trump has become in the wake of slapping travel restrictions on immigrants and other visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries. A federal judge has temporarily blocked the order.

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny “will need the luck of the Irish if he is to pull off this year’s visit without significant criticism,” the Washington Post said in a wave of coverage on both side of the Atlantic about the scheduled visit. So far, Kenny insists he will fly to Washington in mid-March.

An online poll in the Dublin-based TheJournal.ie measured 34 percent of respondents saying Kenny should make the trip, compared to 33 percent believing he should dump Trump. Another 28 percent said Kenny should make the trip but voice displeasure with the policy. At New York-based Irish Central, online polling showed 47 percent support for Kenny meeting with Trump, with 27 percent opposed and 23 percent in favor of the Irish leader visiting the U.S. but not the White House. (Both poll results as of 4 February.)

Kenny was one of the first world leaders to congratulate Trump shortly after the American’s victory in November. “He is looking forward to doing business with Ireland and I asked him specifically about Patrick’s Day, he is looking forward to continuing that tradition over many years,” Kenny said.

The Irish Times editorialized that the annual visit “is not just a hooley.”

The celebrations express publicly on the part of both the Irish and the U.S. sides a commonality of interests, values, and heritage, of interconnectedness. And, importantly, a shared commitment to the North’s peace process and political reconciliation, to which this annual jamboree has made a significant contribution. …

There are other ways [than boycotting the visit] to convey to Donald Trump the conviction of our people that he has broken with some of the noblest traditions and values of his country and ours , and our determination that we will not be party internationally to his narrow “America First” unilateralist project.”

Can Ireland’s latest planning strategy ease Dublin sprawl?

The Irish government has launched a strategic planning effort to determine what social, economic and environmental conditions might look like when the country’s youngest generation reaches adulthood.

The “Ireland 2040” plan will be “formed by the people’s views on the future shape of our country, its urban and rural places” Taoiseach Enda Kenny said in a 2 February release. He added the process will seek to “avoid the planning mistakes of the past.”

The latest effort succeeds the National Spatial Strategy, which had a 2002-2020 timeline. I reported on the plan in March 2002:

Irish government officials from Dublin traveled to Healy Memorial Park in Charlestown last fall (2001) to talk about Ireland’s ambitious sustainable development plan, called the National Spatial Strategy. The plan aims to better distribute Ireland’s growing population by making key infrastructure investments in second- and third-tier towns like Charlestown that now have little to attract and retain residents. In turn, the strategy hopes to ease overcrowding in Dublin.

At the time, Ireland was enjoying its “Celtic Tiger” phase, and nobody predicted the economic collapse of five years latter. None of the 20 towns designated to become Ireland fastest growing achieved such results, Housing Minister Simon Coveney told TheJournal.ie. The result of such predictive failure is probably best captured in this Irish Independent headline about the new plan: How Dublin is eating Ireland.

An Executive Summary and other documents can be found at the Ireland 2040 website.

This Irish Independent graphic explains the headline about Dublin eating Ireland and illustrates why the Republic needs better planning.

 

 

Saturday in the stacks: ‘set-piece eviction’ timeline

Irish history stacks at Catholic University of America.

I spent a few hours in the main Mullen Library at Catholic University of America, browsing the Irish history collection in the open stacks. I selected from one of the shelves “A New History of Ireland, Volume VI: Ireland Under the Union: 1870-1921,” edited by W. E. Vaughan. I settled into a chair to read the chapter, The Parnell Era, 1883-91, by R. V. Comerford.

The Irish “Land War” period of tenant-landlord agitation is typically framed as 1879-1882. But agrarian unrest on the island began during the Great Famine of the mid-19th century and lasted throughout the 1880s. In reading about British administration of Ireland during the year 1887, Comerford makes this statement that caught my eye:

“This was the great era of the transportable battering-ram and of the set-piece eviction scene, producing images that have been frequently superimposed on earlier times.” (My emphasis.)

Eviction scene with battering-ram in County Clare, July 1888.

Sinn Féin names new leader in Northern Ireland

A 40-year-old mother of two children has replaced an aging and ill former IRA commander as the new face of republican politics in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland Assembly health minister Michelle O’Neill has been selected by Sinn Féin to lead the party in the province. The Mid Ulster representative takes over for Martin McGuinness, 66, who resigned earlier this month due to health problems and lingering questions about his unionist counterpart’s role in a troubled energy program.

O’Neill

“I have no doubt that I am following in the footsteps of a political giant,” O’Neill said in a statement.

The McGuinness resignation resulted in the assembly being dissolved and triggers fresh elections 2 March.

“In the aftermath of the election, there can and will be no return to the status quo,” O’Neill said. “Sinn Féin are only interested in participating in the power sharing institutions if they deliver for all of our citizens and operate on the basis of equality and respect.”

O’Neill has held elected office since 2005 and was first woman mayor of the Dungannon council area, according to a detailed bio on the party website. She lives in Clonoe, County Tyrone, about an hour west of Belfast.

The political landscape continues to evolve in Northern Ireland. As The Guardian reported a few days before O’Neill’s selection, demographics are driving a lot of the change. The ratio of Protestants to Catholics is close to even, and more immigrants are living in the province.

“Brexit may also mean an independent Scotland, the Unionists’ most natural ally in the U.K., which would leave Ulster as an even more isolated appendage than ever. And hemmed in to the south [by the Republic.] In such circumstances, the case against a united Ireland might seem absurd.”

 

McGuinness, citing health, is ending his political career

Ten days after announcing his resignation from the Northern Ireland Executive, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness on 19 January said that he will not run for reelection in the 2 March elections. The former IRA commander has vowed to remain active in the republican cause. Here’s a roundup of headlines from Ulster’s three leading news organizations, with links to their top story and sidebars:

Sinn Féin‘s Martin McGuinness stands down from electoral politics

Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness is to stand down from electoral politics, signalling the closure of one of the most remarkable chapters in recent Irish history. Party president Gerry Adams has called on party members and republicans to “give him the space to get better” so that he can come back to an improved situation. McGuinness’s successor as leader of Sinn Féin in the north will be announced next week after Mr McGuinness told the Irish News that health problems prevented him from defending his Foyle seat in the forthcoming poll.

From The Irish News, nationalist

McGuinness quits and says: I’m not fit enough for election

Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness has announced he is quitting frontline politics to concentrate on recovering from “a very serious illness”. McGuinness resigned as Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister last week in protest against the handling of a botched energy scheme, forcing a snap election. He has now revealed that after “a lot of thinking” he will not be contesting those elections due to ill health.

From Belfast Newsletter, unionist

Martin McGuinness will not seek reelection to Stormont Assembly

Sinn Fein‘s Martin McGuinness has announced he is quitting frontline politics for health reasons and will not seek reelection to the Stormont Assembly. McGuinness said it was initially his intention to stand down in May, on the 10th anniversary of the power-sharing Executive, but that his health and the current political crisis had “overtaken the timeframe”. He added that he was not “physically able” to continue in his current role.

From Belfast Telegraph, centrist

Irish history professor Ronan Fanning dies

Ronan Fanning, professor emeritus of modern Irish history at University College Dublin and the author of several books, died 18 January at age 75.

In 2015, Fanning published A Will to Power, a biography of Éamon de Valera, one of the most complicated and controversial figures of Irish revolutionary history. His Introduction included this anecdote:

By a strange coincidence my father died on the same day as Éamon de Valera, 29 August 1975, some hours before him. He was buried in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery, again on the same day, less than one hundred yards away from where de Valera was buried an hour later in the republican plot. I was reminded on that morning that de Valera would remain as divisive a figure in death as in life. A family friend, who knew that my father was never an admirer of de Valera … said to me at his graveside as the undertaker was hurrying us out to make way for the state funeral, ‘What’s the first thing your father will say to St. Peter when he sees him? “There’s another Irishman, a long fellow, coming up after me and he’ll cause havoc if you let him in!”

Ronan Fanning is to be cremated at Glasnevin. Below, he speaks about British policy in Ireland after the 1916 Easter Rising.

Northern Ireland snap elections set for 2 March

Northern Ireland Assembly elections have been set for 2 March, and the current the governing body at Stormont, elected just eight months ago, will be dissolved 26 January.

The Assembly will be reduced to 90 seats, or five member for each of the 18 constituencies, from the current allotment of 108 seats, or six representatives per district. The reduction was previously planned.

“Stamina will be required for a campaign in which many issues will be raised, including (the renewable energy scandal known as) “cash for ash”, Brexit, health, education and jobs, but, as usual, Orange versus Green will dominate,” Gerry Moriarty writes in The Irish Times.

Stormont, the Northern Ireland Assembly building.