Tag Archives: dublin

Post-Famine: Ireland is world’s most “food secure” nation

One hundred seventy years after “Black ’47,” the worst year of Ireland’s Great Famine, the 26-county Republic is now considered the world’s most “food secure” nation, according to a new report.

The sixth annual Global Food Security Index is based on food affordability, availability, quality and safety. Other factors include access to financing for farmers and prevalence of undernourishment. The report was designed and constructed by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

See the details for Ireland‘s first place finish score of 85.6. The United Kingdom, including the six counties of Northern Ireland, ranked third at 84.2, behind the United States at 84.6.

While The Irish Times has not yet reported the Economist’s finding, the venerable daily could not resist the appetizing news that eight Irish restaurants have received the Michelin Guide “Bib” award for  “good quality at good value.” Four of the trendy eateries are in Dublin city, while the other four are in counties Kildare, Clare, Galway and Down.

It’s long, long way from the 19th century potato blight.

Synge’s ‘Playboy’ arrived in Ireland long before Hef’s mag

The New York Times proclaims: “Hugh Hefner, the Original Playboy, Is Dead at 91.” Vanity Fair describes the dearly departed (27 September 2017) magazine publisher as “the indefatigable (albeit Viagra-enhanced) Playboy of the western world.”

We can only wonder what the late Irish playwright John Millington Synge would have thought. His play, “The Playboy of the Western World,” debuted in January 1907 at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin,  well before the December 1953 appearance of “Hef’s” Chicago-based skin mag. As The Washington Post reports:

Hefner had planned to call his magazine Stag Party, but when the publishers of another men’s magazine named Stag threatened to sue, a colleague came up with an inspired afterthought: Playboy.

The Online Etymology Dictionary says the term for a “wealthy bon vivant” dates to 1829.

Synge died in 1909, two years after his play offended Irish moral sensibilities and sparked riots. In a 2011 theater review, The Guardian noted:

Synge had clad his maidens in shifts, presumably to mollify strict moralists among his Abbey audience. But perhaps he half-suspected a truth which Hugh Hefner would later turn into a different Playboy business: that a scantily clad woman can be even more inflammatory to the jaded imagination of male puritans than one who is wholly naked.

Playboy magazine was banned in Ireland until 1995. Twenty years later, Ireland became the first nation in the world to legalize same sex marriage by popular referendum.

Synge

Guest post: ‘Conversations with Friends’ is great company

I’m always happy to welcome guest posts, especially from my wife, Angie Drobnic Holan, who has her own excellent, if intermittent, blog. Angie’s last post here was on the Irish connection in “Fantastic Beasts and How to Find Them.” MH

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In the novel Conversation with Friends, County Mayo-born author Sally Rooney portrays a slice of contemporary Dublin life among college students navigating 21st century art and commerce. These students are seekers, trying to find a way in the world that’s honest and authentic, while still covering their bills and financing their own bohemian lifestyles. It’s not such a stretch to think of it as a contemporary version of earlier novels like Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth, but thankfully with a less fatal end. Life is better today, but young people still face fateful questions of identity, love and getting by financially.

The novel is told from the point of view of Frances, a spoken word artist, who performs around Dublin with her best friend and former lover Bobbi. Bobbi is outspoken, outgoing and charming, while Frances is observant, reserved and cool. One night after a performance, the two young women are approached by a freelance photographer, Melissa, who eventually proposes writing a profile of the duo. While spending time with Melissa, they meet her actor husband Nick.

There’s a spark and a connection between Frances and Nick, that starts with emails and theater dates. “It was easy to write to Nick, but also competitive and thrilling, like a game of table tennis. We were always being flippant with each other. When he found out my parents live in Mayo, he wrote: ‘we used to have a holiday home in Achill (like every other wealthy South Dublin family I’m sure.)’ I replied: ‘I’m glad my ancestral homeland could help nourish your class identity. P.S. It should be illegal to have holiday home anywhere.’ ”

The flirtation leads an old-fashioned affair that propels the novel and naturally re-orders all of the relationships of the characters. Meanwhile, the different professional ambitions and financial requirements of each character come into play, illustrating that while these four may be equals in love, they are hardly economic equals. Frances’ challenges here are greater than the others; she tries to keep her working-class background in its own world and while meeting the financial requirements of a artistic lifestyle.

As its title suggests, Conversation with Friends is a wordy novel, driven by references to art, philosophy and academia. If that sounds pretentious, then this probably won’t be your cup of tea. But the novel is also driven by timeless human emotion, and some of the most touching passages are Frances’ desires to know and be known by Nick as she ponders the age-old question of whether she’s a worthwhile human being, “someone worthy of praise, worthy of love.” And it also has pointed things to say about the world economy and the arbitrary way it deals out wealth.

First-time author Sally Rooney, 27, has a great touch for both the human heart, social commentary and fast-paced dialogue. A former debating champion at Trinity College, Rooney has gotten buzzy write-ups for the novel from both The Guardian and The New Yorker. That’s not surprising to me; I found the novel enormously appealing and finished it in essentially one sitting. While informed by its Dublin setting, Conversations with Friends feels like a novel that perfectly captures international youthfulness in 2017 whether it’s Dublin or Dallas, Portland or Paris. I’ll certainly be on the lookout for whatever Sally Rooney writes next.

Dubs dispute ESPN’s description of their fair city

Dublin media are howling over descriptions of the Irish capital in an ESPN The Magazine profile of native son Conor McGregor, who is scheduled to box Floyd Mayweather Jr. on 26 August, near Las Vegas.

“In the piece, McGregor’s childhood upbringing in the ‘projects’ of Crumlin and Drimnagh suggests he was brought up in the Gaza Strip or 1920s Chicago, not a neighbourhood in which this writer lived for six happy and peaceful years, oblivious to the grenades whizzing by, or the fact that I should have been taking an armed escort whenever I had to cross the Liffey,” Jennifer O’Connell complained in The Irish Times.

RTE radio presenter Rick O’Shea took to Twitter: “I grew up in both the ‘projects’ *ahem* of Crumlin and Drimnagh. This is lazy stereotyping bullshit of the highest order.”

I sure don’t claim to know every corner of Dublin from my half dozen visits over 17 years, but the story by Wright Thompson sure does seem over the top:

Dublin is best understood by exploring its many divisions, its unending physical and mental boundaries. The city, and its current champion, McGregor, are defined by those limits. It’s a clannish, parochial place. Crossing the wrong street has traditionally been reason enough for an ass-whipping.

Other divisions in the city revolve around class, and while Conor’s success allows him safe passage across gangland boundaries, it can’t overcome his Dublin 12 roots. The Irish national daily papers have long served as the mouthpiece of the upwardly mobile and educated. McGregor rarely makes their pages. On the first morning of the prefight media tour, The Irish Times and the Independent ran a combined 128 words about it: one small story about Mayweather’s tax problems.

Ah, ha! Could that be the problem: Thompson’s jab at the Dublin media?

As The Guardian noted: “This is not the first time that U.S. media’s depiction of the supposed dangers of life in Europe have attracted ridicule.”

“Whatever the neighborhood, Conor McGregor’s charisma transcends Dublin’s tribalism,” is the published cutline below this Finbarr O’Reilly photo in the ESPN story.

An Gorta Mor exhibit going to Ireland in 2018

A large portion of the art and artifacts from the Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., will travel to Ireland in 2018. The “Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger,” exhibition will be on view at Dublin Castle from March to June, and at the West Cork Arts Centre in Skibbereen from July to October.

In addition to displaying paintings, sculpture and other items from this one-of-a-kind collection, the touring exhibition also will include a program of poetry and literature readings, concerts, theater and lectures.

The Ragpickers,, 1900, by Henry Allan, is part of the Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum collection.

The estimated cost of the exhibition is $800,000, according to the official website. Of this amount, Quinnipiac has committed $200,000, with the balance to come from corporate, foundation and individual donations, including one $250,000 “presenting sponsor” and three $100,000 “lead sponsors.”

It will be interesting to see who or what organizations pony up.

In March 2013, I spent a day at the museum and related collection of printed materials at the Lender Family Special Collection Room at the University’s Arnold Bernhard Library. The combination of narrative and visual materials made for a moving and engrossing experience.

I am sure these images and materials will have an even more profound impact back “home” in Ireland.

2016 Census results detail modern Ireland

Ireland’s population increased to 4,761,865 in 2016, up 3.8 percent from 2011, according to data collected last year on the 100th anniversary of the start of the 1916 Easter Rising. The state had experienced 8 percent growth in the 2011, 2006 and 2002 census counts.

The proportion of the population who were non-Irish nationals fell to 11.6 percent in 2016 from 12.2 percent in 2011, the first decline since the census question was introduced in 2002. This is partially explained by a near doubling of people holding dual nationality, a separate category.

The 6 April data release is the first of 13 reports on Census 2016 that are due to be published this year. The Central Statistics Office will publish 11 thematic profiles, which will each explore topics such as housing, the homeless, religion, disability and carers in greater detail.

Highlights of the initial report include:

  • Self-identified Roman Catholics fell 3.4 percent, from 84.2 percent of the population in 2011 to 78.3 percent in 2016. Nearly 10 percent of census respondents said they have no religion.
  • The country is slightly older, with average age of 37.4 in April 2016 compared with 36.1 five years earlier. County Fingal, north of Dublin, had the youngest average age at 34.3, while Kerry and Mayo in the west were each at 40.2
  • The largest number of Irish speakers who use the language daily outside the education system remain concentrated in the Gaeltacht areas of counties Donegal, Galway and Kerry.
  • Private residences with no internet connection fell to 18.4 percent of dwellings, down from 25.8 percent in 2011.

The long road from Chesterton’s 1932 Catholic Dublin

“The Ireland celebrated by G.K. Chesterton in his ‘Christendom in Dublin’ is no more.”

That’s the opening sentence of John P. McCarthy’s analysis of the Catholic Church in Ireland, which appears in the 16 March issue of The Catholic World Report. It’s a sober, thoughtful, well-reasoned piece.

Those who know Chesterton’s book, and perhaps–like myself–have even romanticized the 1932 Eucharistic Congress celebrated within its 99 pages, will immediately see the power of McCarthy’s lede. The professor emeritus of History and former director of the Institute of Irish Studies at Fordham University methodically assesses more than 80 years of change in the Irish Church, sans the anti-Catholic undercurrents of most contemporary journalistic accounts.

The 1932 Eucharistic Congress in Dublin celebrated by C. K. Chesterton.

Here are three extended passages, including McCarthy’s conclusion:

What had happened to weaken the religious enthusiasm of so many Irish? Obviously a very major factor in distracting young minds from religious concerns was the substantial economic modernization and prosperity that had come to Ireland beginning in the 1960s. … A less-acknowledged explanation of the current sparsity of religious vocations in contrast to the abundance in the mid-20th century might be the mixed motives of many of the earlier ones. Economic considerations could have been as much a factor as religious devotion, especially on the part of aspirants’ families.

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Many rushed to attribute the decline in religious faith among many Irish as a reaction to the notorious clerical scandals that came to light in the 1990s, many of which had in fact occurred in earlier decades. … [T]here seems to have been a disproportionately large number in the second half of the past century—especially in Ireland. A possible explanation might be in the number of faulty vocations mentioned earlier. Admittedly only a small percentage of the total clergy were involved, although that scarcely excuses it.

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Hopefully, a Church exercising a dedicated minority position might prove to be more vital than a Church that had rested on unchallenged—but probably insincere—laurels from public officials or the media. A cynic might also suggest that the intensity of Irish Catholicism in the past century might have been prompted less by religious devotion than by nationalism. Fear and repression of Catholicism had been central to the British control of Ireland, and Irish separatism was reinforced by Catholicism. One hopes and prays, even if it is a minority position and one subject to harassment, that “the faith of our fathers” will live again in Ireland.

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.

 

 

Going to Ireland? Some tips and links

I just returned from two wonderful weeks in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Several family members, friends and other social media contacts have expressed an interest in traveling there, or already have plans to visit. I know that not everyone shares my interest in Irish history, but here are some notes and links from my trip to incorporate into your own itinerary, as you see fit. Enjoy!

DUBLIN

  • The National Archives of Ireland and National Library of Ireland have excellent resources, online and onsite. You’ll have to get an easy-to-obtain readers ticket in each place to view material in person. You’ll want to visit the library’s impressive main reading room, whether you are doing research or not.
  • This year is the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. The effort to break from Britain failed at the time, but inspired the successful war of independence (which also created partition) a few years later. No visit to Dublin is complete without stopping at the General Post Office, or GPO, the epicenter of the 1916 revolt. The 1818 building, where you still buy stamps and conduct other business, now also offers an “immersive exhibition and visitor attraction.”
  • Some of the most important people in Irish history are buried at Glasnevin Cemetery, which offers walking tours and also has a fine permanent exhibit. Highly recommended. Photos from my earlier post.
  • EPIC Ireland, which opened in May, bills itself as “Dublin’s dramatic new interactive visitor experience that showcases the unique global journey of the Irish people.” It’s located in old shipping storehouses next to the River Liffey. A modern mall filled with restaurants and shops shares space in the chq Building.
  • See the famous Book of Kells and tour Trinity College Dublin.
  • Ireland has a strong theater tradition. I saw “The Wake” at the Abbey Theatre. IrishTheatre.ie lists venues and shows on both sides of the border.
The GPO in Dublin.

The GPO in Dublin.

BELFAST

  • Titanic Belfast. Would you visit Washington without going to the Smithsonian? Paris without a stop at the Louvre? Titanic Belfast is a modern museum experience (it inspired EPIC Ireland) about the ill-fated liner and the city that built it in the early 20th century.
  • Several companies offer “black taxi tours” of West Belfast, a once dangerous “no go” zone during the worst violence of the Troubles. The area remains divided into Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods, but is safe for these daytime guided tours, which help the local economy. Just don’t shout “God Bless the Pope” in the loyalist Shankill Road, or “God Bless King Billy” in the nationalist Falls Road. Photos from my earlier post.
  • Take a free tour of the stunning Belfast City Hall, at the city center.
  • Visit the campus of Queens University and enjoy shops and restaurants of the surrounding neighborhood.
View of the former Harland & Wolff dry docks where the "Titanic' was built and launched in 1912 from inside the Titanic Belfast museum.

View of the former Harland & Wolff dry docks where the “Titanic’ was built and launched in 1912 from inside the Titanic Belfast museum.

THE “KINGDOM OF KERRY” & WEST OF IRELAND

  • There are many things to see and do on the rugged west side of the island, “the back of beyond.” Consider driving some (or all) of the Wild Atlantic Way, a 1,600-mile coastal route stretching between Cork in the south and Derry in Northern Ireland.
  • Shameless promotion here for County Kerry, home of my maternal grandmother and grandfather.
View of the coast at County Kerry from along the "Wild Atlantic Way."

View of the coast at County Kerry from along the “Wild Atlantic Way.”

Here are a few other tips and suggestions:

  • Major U.S. voice and data providers offer service for the island of Ireland. My iPhone switched to an Irish carrier before I reached my baggage at the Dublin airport; clicked to a U.K. telecom while on the train to Belfast; then back to the Republic provider on my return to the 26 counties.
  • Data service in the West of Ireland is spotty, so be prepared to use a paper map and ask for directions rather then relying on Google Maps. Besides, you’re in Ireland! Do you really want to be looking at your screen all the time?
  • That said, don’t forget to bring a power adapter/converter to recharge your phone and other electronics. Outlets are different than in the U.S.
  • Be prepared to drive from the right side of the vehicle on the left side of the road. Just remember that as the driver you should be toward the center of the road, passenger on the outside, same as in the U.S. You will pay a premium to drive a car rented in the Republic in Northern Ireland.
  • Transit and taxi service is excellent in Dublin and Belfast. You don’t need a car in either city. You will if you want to explore the rest of the country.
  • Let your bank and credit card company know that you’re traveling overseas. Grab hard currency from an ATM as needed. Easy!

It looks like 1,916 book titles about 1916 (but it’s not)

DUBLIN~In December, I filed this post about the number of new books and reissued titles being published for the 1916 Easter Rising centennial.

Below is a look at the shelves in Eason & Son on O’Connell Street next to the General Post Office, epicenter of the rebellion. The Dublin bookseller since 1819 closed during the week-long outbreak of violence, but employees still got paid, according to an exhibit inside the store.

Nearby, what seems like 1,916 books about 1916 line the shelves. There are only 252 titles in the inventory, according to the store’s online catalog.

File_000 (15)