Category Archives: Business & Environment

Catching up with modern Ireland: January

I’ve spent January producing my Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited blog serial, which explores aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Thanks for the great reader response. Before the next post, I want to catch up with the month’s developments in modern Ireland and Northern Ireland:

Tourism poster of Innisfallen, Killarney, in County Kerry, from the 1920s.

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: The scenery

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

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“I pity the traveler of the future here, if he is never to know the delight of traversing these wild and picturesque wastes in such weather as we have had today, on a [jaunting] car, well-balanced by a single pleasant companion, drinking, as he goes, deep draughts of the Atlantic air.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

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For this post, I want to step away from Hurlbert’s political and socioeconomic views of 19th century Ireland and focus on his references to Irish landscapes and landmarks. Remember, he wrote the book 130 years ago. He traveled by rail, by jaunting car, and by foot. No airplanes overhead. No map app in the palm of his hand. These examples are from the early weeks of his trip, late January and February, 1888.

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“Drogheda stands beautifully in a deep valley through which flows the Boyne Water, spanned by one of the finest viaducts in Europe.”

The Boyne Viaduct, built in 1855.

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” … despite the keen chill wind, the glorious and ever-changing panoramas of mountain and strath through which we drove were a constant delight, until, just as we came within full range of Muckish, the giant of Donegal, the weather finally broke down into driving mists and blinding rain.”

Muckish, from the Irish for “the pig’s back.” Photo by Rita Wilson/Donegal Film Office.

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“[In eastern Donegal, we] entered upon great stone-strewn wastes of land seemingly unreclaimed and irreclaimable. Huge boulders lay tossed and tumbled about as if they had been whirled through the air by the cyclones of some prehistoric age, and dropped at random when the wild winds wearied of the fun. The last landmark we made out through the gathering storm was the pinnacled crest of Errigal. Of Dunlewy, esteemed the loveliest of the Donegal lakes, we could see nothing as we hurried along the highway…”

Mount Errigal is Donegal’s tallest peak. Emma Russell/Donegal Film Office.

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“The wonderful granitic formations we had seen on the way from Gweedore stretch all along the coast to the Roads of Arranmore. At Burtonport they lie on the very water’s edge. At a place called Lickeena, masses of beautiful salmon- and rose-colored granite actually trend into the tide-water, and at Burtonport proper is a promontory of that richly-mottled granite which I had supposed to be the peculiar heritage of Peterhead, and which is now largely exported from Scotland to the United States. Why should not this Irish granite be shipped directly from Donegal to America, there to be built up into cathedrals, and shaped into monuments for the Exiles of Erin?

The jaunting car was a light two-wheeled carriage for a single horse.

NEXT: Lixnaw murder

NOTES: From top, quotes are from 115, 73, 80, 81 and 118 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Sion Mills

This is post 6 of my work-in-progress blog serial about the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited 

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“Everywhere we found order, neatness and thrift.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

In contrast to the Dublin slums, Hurlbert arrived 3 February 1888 at the “model village” at Sion Mills, near Strabane, County Tyrone (now part of Northern Ireland), 125 miles northwest of the capital city.

He described Sion House, the mill owner’s residence, as “a handsome Queen Anne mansion [that] stands on a fine knoll, commanding lovely views on all sides. Below it, and beyond a little stream, rise the extensive flax-mills which are the life of the place.” The village contained a reading room, cricket clubs, and other amenities for the 1,100 employees, which Hurlbert reported were an even mix of Catholics and Protestants.

“I find it wise to give neither religion a preponderance, and to hold my people of both religions to a common standard of fidelity and efficiency,” mill owner Emerson Tennent Herdman told Hurlbert. This quote is used in a 2014 BBC profile of the village, which it says has maintained a reputation as “completely non-sectarian.”

The 2009 video below by the Sion Mills Buildings Preservation Trust provides more history of the mill and village. In September 2017, The Architects’ Journal reported about efforts to “remasterplan” the village.

While late 19th century Sion village and mill life under Herdman’s watch was arguably more progressive than in Belfast or other Irish linen factory locations, it’s worth remembering that workers typically toiled for 12 hours weekdays, plus time on the weekend. “Wages were low and injuries and illness were common among factory workers,” according to this Ancestry overview.

Hurlbert sneered at the “ineradicable objection of some of the peasantry to continuous industry.” He wrote of “a strapping lass of 18 who came to the mills, but very soon gave up and went back to the parental shebeen in the mountains rather than get up early in the morning to earn 14 shillings a week. Three weeks of her work would have paid the year’s rent of the parental holding.”

This chapter of the book also contains an example of 19th century sexism. Herdman steers the American reporter and some other men touring the mill to get “a glimpse of the ‘beauty of Sion,’ a well-grown graceful girl of 15 or 16 summers.” Noticing the gawking visitors, the girl focused intently on her work, proving “how completely she saw through our futile and frivolous devices,” Hurlbert wrote. Next, Herdman tells his visitors about “the ugliest girl ever employed here.” She was engaged to a blacksmith, “who lost heart of grace on the eve of the sacrifice” and “fled Sion forever” on a ship to America.

I leave it to 21st century readers to decide whether such actions and comments are felonies or misdemeanors.

Sion House

NEXT: Glenveagh evictions

NOTES: This post is based on pages 71 to 76 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Best of the Blog, 2017

Welcome to the fifth annual Best of the Blog, which follows my 2012 launch anniversary and 500th post in July. I hope you enjoy this Irish news and history feature year-in-review. I’ve got some great things planned for 2018, including … wait for it … my seventh trip to Ireland!

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In 2017, the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly and fallout from Brexit created some of the biggest headlines, including debate about the border between the North and the Republic, and a surge of Irish passport applications from Ulster and other U.K. residents seeking E.U benefits.

Heading into 2018, it remains uncertain whether the nationalist/unionist power-sharing Assembly can be reconstituted by April’s 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. For now, it appears the island of Ireland will avoid check points and other hassles of a “hard border” once the North and Britain leave the E.U. in March 2019. Meanwhile, expect to hear more talk about a united Ireland, with the North welcomed into the E.U.

Among political personalities in 2017, Sinn Féin‘s Martin McGuinness died … Gerry Adams retired … the DUP’s leader Arlene Foster teamed with Tory PM Theresa May … and Fine Gael‘s Leo Varadkar replaced Enda Kenny as taoiseach. Much was made of the fact that Varadkar, just 38, is openly gay and the son of an Irish mother and Indian father. He leads a precarious governing partnership with Fianna Fáil that could easily erode and spark snap elections. … A national referendum is set for June on whether to repeal the constitutional amendment that bans most abortions. 

U.S. philanthropist and businessman Brian Burns, the grandson of Kerry emigrants, was nominated by the new Trump administration to replace former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley. Burns withdrew due to health concerns, however, and a replacement has not been named. Reece Smyth is the current chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin. … In August, Daniel Mulhall became the new Irish Ambassador to the U.S.

The Past

Here is some of my original research and curated content about Irish and Irish-American history milestones in 2017.

170 years ago:

150 years ago: 

125 years ago:

100 years ago:

The Irish Americans

I produced original research about Irish prisoners in the U.S. during the late 19th and early 20th century:

Other stories about the Irish in America included:

The Irish shrine mural in Baltimore by artist Wayne Nield.

The Census

Ireland’s 2016 Census was released to the public in 2017. Among many details about modern Ireland, it shows:

The Church

I added to my list of St. Patrick’s Churches, with visits to:

  • Rome, Italy, where the church’s 1888 founding coincided with the papal warning about the Irish Land War.
  • Cumberland, Md., Newry, Pa. and Harrisburg, Pa., where Irish immigrant laborers and ascendant professionals carried the Catholic faith of their homeland to America.

Stained glass image of St. Patrick in Harrisburg, Pa. church.

The Media

I explored U.S. press coverage of Northern Ireland; Dublin media protesting descriptions of the Irish capital in an ESPN The Magazine profile of native son Conor McGregor; and Irish media “past, present and future.”

Freelance Stories:

In 2017, I published three stories outside the blog:

I have a story about the Famine set to publish in the Winter issue of Prologue, the magazine the National Archives and Records Administration. Two other pieces are under consideration with two other publications.

Guest Posts:

I always appreciate the offerings of guest bloggers, this year including:

Lovely Louth countryside. Photo by Cathy Cahill.

The Departed

  • Ronan Fanning, professor emeritus of modern Irish history at University College Dublin and the author of several books, in January at age 75.
  • Thomas Kenneth Whitaker, “the most influential public servant” in the history of the Republic of Ireland, in January, a month and a day after his 100th birthday.
  • Martin McGuinness, former IRA man and Sinn Féin leader, in March at age 66.
  • Dan Rooney, former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland and longtime owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, in April at 84.
  • Liam Cosgrave, former Irish prime minister, in October at age 97.
  • William Hastings, Northern Ireland hotelier, in December at age 89.

Visiting Ireland in 2018

  • Me, to Mayo and Dublin, in February
  • An exhibition from the Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., to Dublin and Cork, from March through October.
  • Pope Francis to Dublin, in August, with a possible historic side trip to Northern Ireland.

BOB Archive

Irish exports booming in the Republic, and the North

Ireland’s economy surged in the third quarter, as gross domestic product rose 10.5 percent from a year earlier, according to figures released 15 December. Exports rose 8.7 percent, while imports dropped 13 percent.

“The figures suggest the nation’s economy is in resilient shape as Brexit looms — Ireland is the most vulnerable economy to the departure of the U.K. from the bloc,” Bloomberg reported. “As well as exports, consumer spending continued to grow, rising 2.7 percent from the year-earlier period.”

Republic of Ireland exports to the U.S. totaled $33.4 billion in 2016, and were heavy in the bio-medical and tech sectors. The figure does not include Northern Ireland, where exports also are surging and the U.S. is the province’s largest market outside Europe. Northern exports include livestock, machinery and manufactured goods.

In 1913, a year before the start of World War I and nearly a decade before the island’s partition, about 90 percent of Irish exports to America were shipped out of Belfast. The data below comes from United States Foreign Policy and Ireland: From Empire to Independence, 1913-1929, by Bernadette Whelan. It is based on U.S. consul records held the National Archive and Records Administration in College Park, Maryland.

CITY                                                  1913 EXPORT TOTAL

Belfast                                     $16,104,287 (linens)

Dublin                                       $ 1,460,357 (spirits, hides, oatmeal)

Limerick                                    $   161,458

Galway                                      $   134,413

Londonderry                            $   121,158

Queenstown (Cork)                 $    117,502

Belfast linen factory in the early 20th century.

Outside views: Brexit, taxes and tourism

Following my last post about Irish media, it’s always interesting to see how media outside of Ireland covers the island. Here are three recent examples:

Irish media: past, present and future

I am reading Newspapers and Nationalism: the Irish provincial press, 1850-1892, by Dr. Marie-Louise Legg.

The book offers a “survey and analysis of the ‘Fourth Estate’and its impact and involvement on nationalist politics in Ireland in the second half of the Victorian age,” as detailed in this review. Legg “gets inside the period and writes to us about the newspapers themselves, their editors, the people who bought them and, those who actually read them and whether or not were influenced by them in their morals, intellects and politics.”

This title belongs to the important niche of books about Irish media, including:

These studies explore how journalism impacted politics and society, and visa versa, before, during and after Ireland’s revolutionary period, 1912-1922, now commemorating its “decade of centenaries.”

There are also important contemporary developments in Irish media.

  • Irish lawmakers are trying to criminalize the use of social media and technology to spread “fake news” to influence political debate, as detailed by Poynter’s Daniel Funke.
  • Irish Times columnist Una Mullally organized a forum to explore sexual harassment, gender discrimination and female under representation in the media industry.
  • The Irish Times’ parent company has agreed to acquire all the publishing and media interests of Landmark Media Group, the Cork-based owner of the Irish Examiner newspaper and other media assets.
  • Dublin-based Maximum Media, the company behind “digital lifestyle brands” JOE.ie, Her.ie, SportsJOE.ie and HerFamily.ie, is investing in a new Galway office and adding 20 new jobs  in copywriting, design, journalism, sales and client services.

Learn more about what’s happening in the industry today–and what’s on the horizon for tomorrow–at The Institute of Future Media & Journalism (FuJo) at Dublin City University.

Image of press plates, circa 1935, from the Independent Newspapers Collection at the National Library of Ireland.

Ireland and Britain reach border deal

UPDATE 2:

Ireland, Britain and the European Union announced agreement (8 December) to avoid a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the deal “had “achieved all that we set out to achieve” in this phase of the Brexit negotiations.

Read the full text of the agreement.

UPDATE 1:

The border deal has collapsed, at least for today (4 December), due to DUP objections.

Here’s a good explanation and background story from The Washington Post.

ORIGINAL POST:

Ireland and Britain have reached a deal to prevent the return of a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, according to The Irish Times and other media outlets.

Negotiators have agreed on the term “regulatory alignment” to describe customs rules and trade practices between the north and south of Ireland, rather than a formal commitment to “no divergence” originally sought by Ireland.

The reported deal comes weeks ahead of more wide-ranging Brexit negotiations between Britain and the European Union (of which the Republic remains a member) later this month.

Some early press reports portray the agreement as a concession to Ireland by Britain, which has angered the Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP could block the deal “given Theresa May’s dependence on the party for a working majority in the Commons.”

I’ll update this post as more details emerge.

Unholy trinity of bad news for Ireland

UPDATE:

Fintan O’Toole hits on two of the three items mentioned below, and more, in his column “Ireland is nobody’s little darling anymore.”

ORIGINAL POST:

It’s said that death and other bad news come in threes. This trio just arrived:

  • France won the right to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, with Ireland finishing a distant third in voting behind South Africa. The World Rugby Council decision also means the tournament is likely to head to the Southern Hemisphere in 2027.
  • Ireland is the worst performing country in Europe for taking action against climate change, according to the 2018 Climate Change Performance Index. Dropping 28 places from last year, Ireland now ranks 49 out of 59 countries. Ireland is also “back-sliding” on its targets to achieve a 100 percent renewable energy system by 2050.
  • Dublin is now rated one of the worst cities in the world to emigrate to due to the lack of affordable housing and high cost of living, according to Expat Insider 2017.

Expensive Dublin will not be hosting any rugby World Cup games in 2023, and the Irish government located in the capital city isn’t doing enough to combat climate change.

Guest post: Welcome home to Ireland

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 globe-trotting retreat leader and spiritual director, just sent the correspondence below. Last year, she wrote about the 1916 Easter Rising centenary. MH

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It is always a joy to be in Ireland! The greeting that always takes me by surprise and warms my Irish-American heart is, “Welcome home!” It comes from friends and strangers alike.

My current visit comes after two weeks in Thailand and Myanmar. The contrast could not be greater with regard to climate, culture, pace, and scenery. After a few days in Dublin, where my sister’s quiet neighborhood has become a huge construction zone for much-needed apartments, I’ve shifted to the pastoral setting of County Louth for some rest and renewal.

Lovely Louth countryside.

There are none of the cranes dotting the horizon here as there were in Dublin. As I gaze out the window, it is sheep and cattle and verdant countryside that meet the eye.

The papers and radio programs are filled with voices raised against the latest problem on people’s minds, the tracker-mortgage scandal. It seems bankers have systematically overcharged consumers on mortgages. Much cynicism is voiced about whether bankers will be held accountable.

The good news that has grabbed headlines is the release of Ibrahim Halawa, a Dubliner who was held in an Egyptian prison for four years. An Irish citizen, Halawa got caught up in a protest while visiting family in Egypt. The ordeal has been long and harrowing so the joy of his return is great.

The Irish are happy to shout, “Welcome home!”