Author chases Yeats’ wandering soul to Innisfree

The 150th anniversary of the birth of William Butler Yeats is being celebrated all year long, as I blogged about in February.


Now comes a Travel section piece in The New York Times about Yeats’ poem, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.” Published in 1888, the poem is about an island in the middle of Lough Gill, County Sligo. It was partially inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden’s writings, according to the article author Russell Shorto. He continues:

The whole landscape echoes the poem. You realize, sitting there, identifying the sound of the lake water with the deep heart’s core, that the Yeats who wrote the poem does not actually intend to retreat from the world and move to this spot. He is reaching for something. He is aware, at 23, of death and the inexorability of change. He is searching, trying to find his balance, his center. He knows he left it somewhere in his past, as we all have done.

Here’s the full story, and here’s the poem:

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

Irish Network USA adds Dublin chapter

Irish Network USA is opening its first chapter … in Ireland.

At chapters in 19 American cities, more than 3,500 IN members connect with their peers to develop business, cultural, sports and social relationships. I belong to Irish Network – DC.

The new Dublin chapter “will provide access for all of its members in Ireland to the larger IN network across the U.S.,” according to a release. “Through mentoring programs, networking, cultural and social events, we will provide a means by which the Irish diaspora are supported while they are living and working in the U.S. and as they return home to Ireland.”

Irish Minister for Diaspora Affairs Jimmy Deenihan, and Deputy Chief of Mission from the U.S. Embassy in Dublin Stuart Dwyer, were to open the new chapter 14 April, according to Irish Central. Deenihan spoke at an IN-DC event earlier this year.

Countdown begins to 1916 Rising centennial

The passing of Easter brings more than a year of events to remember the 1916 Rising. The Republic’s official program begins 1 August with a commemorative re-enactment of the funeral of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa. It concludes 3 August 2016 with a commemoration of the execution of Roger Casement.

Here in Washington, D.C., a three-week festival of Irish arts will be staged 16 May to 5 June, 2016, at the John F Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts. I expect other events will appear in the year ahead.

Stories and specialized websites about the centennial are blossoming all over the Web. Here’s a small sampling, which I’ll update in future posts.

Adams: “I was not a member of the IRA”

The CBS News program 60 Minutes has landed a rare interview with Gerry Adams. It airs Easter Sunday, 5 April.


Snippets of the interview are being released early to drive interest in the broadcast and have already generated news headlines, such as this story in the Irish Independent. Here’s the 60 Minutes website and video clip.

“I don’t disassociate myself from the IRA,” Adams says. “I think the IRA was a legitimate response to what was happening here. I never will [disassociate himself from the IRA]. But I was not a member of the IRA.”

NYT story calls water protests “a new Irish rebellion”

The New York Times has added to its coverage of the populist backlash against consumer water charges in Ireland. Under the headline “A New Irish Rebellion, This Time Against Water Fees,” the Times reports:

… some experts say that the protests are far from over, reflecting growing fatigue with austerity policies that have taken a toll on most families, even as the economy has recovered to the point that it is the fastest-growing in Europe. Many expect a widespread refusal to pay when the bills are sent out in April.

Some form of the word “protest” is used 11 times in the 1,200-word story. Despite the provocative headline, however, there is no mention of next year’s centennial of the 1916 Rising, or other Irish rebellions.

I was reminded of a Times editorial from April 1916, shortly after the Rising, which I found while researching my book about my immigrant grandfather. Remember, this is the generally anti-Irish, anti-Catholic, anti-Tammany Hall Times of the late 19th and early 20th century. While Tammany is gone, I’d argue the Times’ anti-Catholic bias remains.

Regardless, here’s what the newspaper said 99 years ago:

Ireland in a state of rebellion is Irish. Her history emerges from myths and legends of which the very theme was strife … a logical projection of her special feud with life. … Rebellion has been the chronic, almost to say the natural, condition of Ireland, being now and then only a little more acute than usual.

St. Patrick’s Day, 2015

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Here’s a round up of some of the best coverage and related material.

BONUS: While many drank the night away, Angie Drobnic Holan and I read to each other some of our favorite Irish poems, which can seen from the link on her name.


Long New Yorker story about Adams short on new material


The author followed up his story with a post about how Hillary Clinton joined Adams at the Irish American Hall of Fame event in New York on 16 March. He wonders if the presumed Democratic presidential nominee “felt any distaste at the prospect of sharing a table with Adams” and “whether you can bring enduring peace and security without some reckoning—by all parties in the conflict—with the crimes of the past.”

The post reads like a last ditch attempt to breath life into a piece that was DOA. For all the calculated timing to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day, it doesn’t appear this story will have much impact.


I’ve just finished reading Patrick Radden Keefe’s 15,000-word piece in The New Yorker about Gerry Adams and the Jean McConville murder.

“Where  the Bodies Are Buried” could be a good introductory piece for those who are unfamiliar with Adams and the Troubles. But if you’ve been following the story for decades, as I have, there’s nothing new here. It’s a big rehash of well-known events from 1970s Belfast to contemporary reporting of Adams’ Twitter habits and controversial comments at a Friends of Sinn Féin fundraiser in New York City last fall.

Chris Steele-Perkins photographed Divis Flats, a republican stronghold in Belfast, during the late 1970s. More images at The New Yorker.

Chris Steele-Perkins photographed Divis Flats, a republican stronghold in Belfast, during the late 1970s. More images at The New Yorker.

Keefe’s story is generating a few headlines about Adams’ allegedly ordering McConville’s 1972 disappearance and murder, as well as a 1974 bombing campaign in London. The charges are primarily attributed to Dolours Price, a former IRA member who died in 2013. It’s all been previously reported and denied by Adams, who did not comment for this article.

The New Yorker‘s website also features a photo essay, “Life in Divis Flats,” by Magnum photographer Chris Steele-Perkins. It’s worth clicking through.

A simpler St. Patrick’s Day wish, 1953

I want to get away from all the noise and nonsense that’s come to surround St. Patrick’s Day, the once reverent, if myth-filled, holy day turned raucous global celebration.

So here’s a reminder of a simpler St. Patrick’s Day, a 1953 letter from a sister in Kerry, Ireland to her brother in Pittsburgh, USA. It’s from a collection of letters I inherited from my aunt a few years ago. A few other letters from the 1950s also included sprigs of shamrock from the north Kerry countryside.


Keep in mind that 1953 was seven years before the election of John F. Kennedy as president (a decade before his return to Ireland and assassination later the same year), and nine years before Chicago began to dye its river green. While the first St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin dates to 1931, it was nothing like today’s massive multi-day festivals.

Cardinal Dolan’s comparison of ISIS and IRA draws criticism

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York has sparked outrage among some Irish republicans and their supporters for comparing the violent Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq to the late 20th century IRA in Northern Ireland.

“The IRA claimed to be Catholic,” Dolan said on CNN. “They were baptized. They had a Catholic identity. But what they were doing was a perversion of everything the church stood for.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan in a 2013 "Today" show appearance. (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire)

Cardinal Timothy Dolan in a 2013 “Today” show appearance. (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire)

Dolan insisted that Islamic State extremists “do not represent genuine Islamic thought” but are “a particularly perverted form of Islam.”

IrishCentral published a roundup of harrumphs from republican sympathizers. Father Sean McManus, leader of the Irish National Caucus, which lobbies for the North in Congress, said Dolan’s remarks were “profoundly ignorant, totally irresponsible and lacking all credibility.”

As Religion News Service noted, “Some Catholic leaders [in Ireland, north and south] strongly denounced the IRA and sought to downplay the religious aspects of the violence, but the IRA also found support among many clergy and the faithful.”

So far no prominent Irish, Irish-American or Catholic leaders have come to Dolan’s defense. It will be interesting to see if this tempest in a teapot cools off before he leads the annual St. Patrick’s Day in New York later this month.

Not to harp on it, but instrument key to Irish identity

A new book explores the key role of Ireland’s national instrument, the harp.


Ireland’s Harp: The Shaping of Irish Identity c.1770 to 1880 by Mary Louise O’Donnell, herself a harpist, has been published by University College Dublin Press.

“The image of the harp – symbolic of the political and cultural landscape of Ireland for centuries – evokes strong sentiments in the collective Irish imagination,” the publisher says.

Here’s a review in The Irish Times. And here’s the author’s website.