Category Archives: Uncategorized

Political problems mount on both sides of Irish border

Political turmoil is growing on the island of Ireland. Each new development complicates the other. Here’s a quick summary:

  • The minority government coalition in the Republic of Ireland is on the verge of collapse. The opposition Fianna Fail party is threatening to break the three-year deal it made with the Fine Gael party just 18 months ago. A dispute over a police whistleblower case is the surface reason, but don’t be fooled: this arranged marriage was rocky from the start. If  Fianna Fail walks, Irish voters may have to trudge to the polls before Christmas.
  • As Reuters reports, this crisis comes three weeks ahead of a European Union summit in which the Irish government has an effective veto on whether Britain’s talks on leaving the bloc (Brexit) meet the Republic’s concerns about the future of the border with Northern Ireland. A weakened Irish government means less power at the bargaining table.
  • In Northern Ireland, the power-sharing Assembly has been suspended since January, when the nationalist Sinn Fein withdrew from government over concerns about the role of Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster in a renewable energy scheme. The New York Times does a good job of piecing together the ensuing events. “This is a more profound crisis than we’ve had at other times in the last 20 years,” said a member of the Alliance Party, a smaller centrist group that does not identify as either nationalist or unionist.
  • Complicating the border issues, Foster has written to the leaders of all 27 E.U. countries, telling them that Northern Ireland will not tolerate any difference in status between itself and the rest of the United Kingdom, after Brexit. She wants Northern Ireland to remain identified with the U.K. rather than any special arrangement with the Republic, as Sinn Fein wants. This reduces the chance of compromise on restoring the Assembly.
  • Remember, earlier this year Foster also entered into coalition government with British PM Theresa May.  As The Guardian reports, Foster now accuses the Irish government of exploiting Brexit to attempt to unify Ireland.
  • The ongoing Brexit negotiations, and what happens to the government in the Republic, will continue to impact Northern Ireland. Given the current difficulties, there may be calls to renegotiate the governing framework of the Good Friday Agreement, which reaches its 20th anniversary in April. Or political control may simply revert to London, a huge step backward. Next year also marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I and start of the Anglo-Irish War, which resulted in the island’s partition in 1921. Foster is right, in that talk of a referendum to reunify the island is only likely to increase.

Map of Ireland from the 1920s shows the partition of Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State, later the Republic of Ireland.

Thanks for reading the blog

As the holidays close and we begin walking the footpath of the new year, I want to thank the readers and supporters of this blog. In 2016, annual traffic increased by 71 percent compared to 2015, and average daily views were up 53 percent. The numbers behind those percentages are small compared to commercial sites, but I appreciate everyone’s support, especially those of you who have subscribed via email.

In 2017, I expect to publish my 500th post about the time the blog reaches its fifth anniversary in late July. I’ve also created a new Facebook home:

This year, I’ll cover such contemporary issues as the effort to reunify the island of Ireland before the 2021 centennial of partition, attempts to overturn the abortion ban, and most likely a new national election in the Republic. As with my New Year’s Day post about Ellis Island, I’ll continue to delve into historical anniversaries, including the July 1917 election of Éamon de Valera’ to Parliament and becoming president of Sinn Féin, and America’s entry into World War I.

Thanks again for joining me.

Maynooth, County Kildare, July 2016.



Irish American museums, libraries and cultural centers

UPDATE: Readers have helped add several names to the list below. Thanks! I’ll soon create a permanent home for this information on the menu at the top of the blog. Keep those contributions coming. MH

The Irish American Museum of Washington, D.C. has not responded to my email asking for an update on the proposed project, which I raised in a recent post pegged to the opening of the National Museum of African American History & Culture. Someone at the @DCIRISHMUSEUM Twitter account offered links to the virtual museum’s online posts about President Barack Obama and the late boxing great Muhammad Ali, suggesting it “shares profound history” with the NMAAHC.

On Facebook, one of my former Mobile Press-Register colleagues asked: “Do Boston or NYC have such museums? It would seem they would considering how important they were to the formation of both those cities.”

That’s a great question, one that reaches beyond those two cities and the DC Irish American Museum effort. The information below is the beginning of an answer. It is not a complete list. I’m hoping readers will let me know about other U.S. museums, libraries, cultural centers and programs devoted to Irish ancestry and contemporary connections. (List is in alphabetical order by location.)

Irish American Heritage Museum, Albany, N.Y.

Irish Railroad Workers Museum, Baltimore, Md.

Center for Irish Programs, Boston College, Boston

Irish Cultural Center of New England, Canton, Mass.

Irish American Heritage Center, Chicago

Irish Collections, The Newsberry Independent Research Library, Chicago

Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, Hamden, Conn.

Irish Cultural Museum of New Orleans, New Orleans

Glucksman Ireland House, New York University, New York City

Irish American Historical Society, New York City

Irish Arts Center, New York City

Omaha Irish Cultural Center, Omaha, Neb.

Irish Heritage Theatre, Philadelphia

Philadelphia Irish Center, Philadelphia

Irish Cultural Center & McClelland Library, Phoenix

Irish Centre of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh

Irish Nationality Room, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh

Irish Cultural Center of California, San Francisco

Embassy of Ireland, Washington, D.C., plus Consul General offices in six cities and honorary consulates in 11 cities.

Fenian Brotherhood Records and O’Donovan Rossa Personal Papers, and Connolly Irish Collection, Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.

Washington Ireland Program, Washington, D.C.

The American Ireland Fund has chapters in 12 U.S. cities. The global network of friends of Ireland is “dedicated to supporting programs of peace and reconciliation, arts and culture, education and community development throughout the island of Ireland.”

Irish Network USA has 19 chapters. Its mission is “to bolster business opportunities and economic development between the United States and Ireland; to support and encourage Irish Arts and Culture through film, literature, theater, dance and language; to encourage and promote the mission and expansion of Irish sports, throughout the United States; to support the efforts of local Irish organizations and associations; to serve as a conduit between newly arrived Irish immigrants and their communities in member cities and states.”


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: 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.

Enda Kenny, Irish delegation visit U.S.

I’m taking a break here from my historical series about U.S.-Irish relations at St. Patrick’s Day since the Rising to post updates about “Acting Taoiseach” Enda Kenny’s 15 March visit to the White House, as Irish ministers fan out to other locations. I’ll update through the next few days, with newer posts at the top of the column. And look for my re-tweets of media reports in the column at right.

  • More than a bowl of shamrocks: the Irish Farmers Journal reports all the Irish products in a food and drink hamper that Kenny brought to the White House.
  • “It is Mr. Obama’s last St. Patrick’s Day as U.S. president, and, depending on government formation talks, it could also be Mr. Kenny’s last as taoiseach.” From Donegal Now.
  • Kenny says Ireland will be able to put together a “stable government” during the next “short period ahead,” RTE reports.
  • Here’s the official advance statement from the White House.
  • In a preview piece, The Irish Times said Kenny “would cut short the original two-day program as he was said to be eager to return home for potential discussions on forming a new government.”
Enda Kenny, Barack Obama and a bowl of shamrock in 2013. RTE photo

Enda Kenny, Barack Obama and a bowl of shamrocks in 2013. RTE photo

“One of the most shocking murders … in Ireland”

LONDON — During my trip here I was able to spend time at the British Library researching the 29 July 1888 murder of Kerry farmer John Forhan. The document below (which mistakenly uses the date 30 July and gives the wrong first name, James, plus a common surname variation without the letter “h”) is from an 1891 government report about agrarian crime in Ireland.

In the weeks ahead I’ll be updating my timeline of the story and adding other research details in the Forhan/Scanlon Project section of this blog.


A new home for the Irish-American Blog

Welcome to the new home of Mark Holan’s Irish-American Blog, a website dedicated to Irish and Irish-American history and contemporary issues.

I’ve transferred the searchable archive from the old Tumblr site and will categorize the material in the weeks to come. I am also adding new links (or copies) of my published reporting about Ireland since 2000. Plus other features and surprises.

As always, I appreciate your support.


Mark at the Castle

At Carrigafoyle Castle, near Ballylongford, in August 2007.

Thanks for supporting “Willie’s emigration centennial’

Before returning to regular blog posts, I want to thank all those who have supported “Willie’s emigration centennial.” The 12-day serial got good traffic from the U.S., Ireland and eight other countries. Visits averaged more than three minutes, so I guess people were actually reading.

The series remains archived on the site and additional referrals are certainly appreciated. Contact me if interested in seeing the full manuscript, “His Last Trip: An Irish-American Story.” It runs about 45,000 words, plus extensive source notes.

Below, from Day 7, the Pittsburgh skyline about the time of Willie’s May 1913 arrival in the city, and from Day 3, a contemporary view from Knocanore Hill in Kerry, Ireland. 

Thanks again…MH