Tag Archives: Michael D. Higgins

Catching up with modern Ireland: December

The most important story of (December) 2018 will likely be the most important story of (January) 2019: Brexit, and the impact on the Irish border. British Prime Minister Theresa May scratched the scheduled 11 December vote on her Brexit package when it became clear parliament would not accept the deal approved weeks earlier by the European Union. Now the vote is set for the week of 14 January, date to be determined.

  • In mid-December, the Irish government published a “sobering” contingency plan in case of a no-deal exit by Britain from the European Union, a move that officials say would hurt Ireland more than any other country in the bloc, The New York Times reported. A second story in the Times described how Brexit could disrupt trade and reinvigorate the conflict between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
  • “Ireland can lay credible claim to offer a haven from the populist plague that has infected so many other countries.”Chris Johns in The Irish Times.
  • Hopes for a new class of visa for Irish citizens were dashed in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican. Outgoing U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, had pushed the measure through the lower chamber in the waning days of the session, The Irish Times reported.
  • Tourism Ireland declared 2018 “the best year ever for overseas tourism to the island of Ireland,” with some 11.2 million visitors. Dublin Airport reported that it welcomed more than 30 million passengers for the first time in its 78-year history. I was happy to contribute to those numbers with visits in February and November, the first time I’ve traveled to Ireland more than once within one year.
  • Over 3,500 people were refused entry to Ireland at passport control in the last year, TheJournal.ie reported, including nearly 200 Americans. (Happily, as noted above, I wasn’t among them.)
  • The Irish Times‘ U.S. correspondent Suzanne Lynch profiled Scituate, Massachusetts, as “the most Irish town in America,” based on 2010 U.S. Census data. The Daily Mail reported the same story in 2011, as have other media. Lynch quoted Niall O’Dowd, editor of IrishCentral.com, who warned that Ireland is in danger of losing its diaspora in the coming decades. “You have to work at a diaspora. Diasporas can die.”
  • Irish President Michael D. Higgins signed the bill legalizing abortion in Ireland, as approved by referendum earlier in year. The procedures are expected to become available in January.
  • The bestselling books in Ireland for 2018, according to The Irish Times.
  • 2018 deaths of Irish celebrities and other notables, per Legacy.com.

Ring of Kerry. Tourism Ireland image.

George H.W. Bush, disengaged during Troubles, dies at 94

Irish political leaders are offering their condolences on the 30 November death of former U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush.

“He will be remembered for the directness with which he expressed his policy principles and his efforts to achieve bipartisanship,” Irish President Michael D. Higgins said in a statement. “On behalf of the Irish people I offer our deepest sympathies to his family and to the people of the United States.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar tweeted:


Unlike U.S. presidents John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, or Barack Obama, Bush never had much of a relationship with the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland. Bush was Reagan’s vice president from 1980 to 1988, then won the office in 1988, spanning some of the bloodiest years of The Troubles.

Once Clinton defeated Bush in the 1992 U.S. election, he sought to “establish distance” from his predecessor’s approach to Ulster, according to John Dumbrell in “The United States and the Northern Irish Conflict 1969–94: from Indifference to Intervention,” a 1995 piece.

George H. W. Bush

“The Bush administration had followed a cautious, State Department line, strongly opposing the MacBride principles and interpreting the situation in the province as ‘unripe’ for mediation.” … Since the Carter presidency of the late 1970s,  “Washington has asserted the legitimacy of its interest in the province and-with the exception of the Bush years-presented something approaching a coherent, interventionist strategy.”

The Good Friday Agreement was reached during Clinton’s second term of office, 20 years ago this year. In 2010, introducing Clinton for a Atlantic Council Distinguished Leadership Award, Bush recognized his successor’s role in the Northern Ireland peace process.

Christmas and New Year message from Ireland

Irish President Michael D. Higgins highlights the plight of migrants in global trouble spots such as Syria in his annual Christmas and New Year message.

“The circumstances of the birth of Christ, with its forced migration, homelessness and powerlessness, are being re-enacted for us the world over, in the conditions of migrants – including infants and children – as they wait, not knowing what the future will hold for them,” Higgins says.

His message also gives a final node to this year’s 1916 Easter Rising centennial.

“We commemorated how one hundred years ago a small group of women and men set in train a series of events that ultimately led to an independent State. In doing so, we celebrated elements of our past that can provide us with a lasting source of pride and confidence, as well as a compass for the future. We also reflected on aspects of our history that had been forgotten, evaded or even downplayed.”

Reconsidering Ireland’s centennial remembrances

UPDATE:

More on the tone of centennial commemorations from Irish historian Diarmaid Ferriter in the Times: “How do you prefer our long-dead Irish Fenians? Revered or reviled?”

ORIGINAL POST:

The recent 100th anniversary of the Dublin funeral of Fenian O’Donovan Rossa is raising tough questions about how Ireland will recognize other events in the “Decade of Centenaries,” 1912-1922. Some events are more significant, or controversial, than others.

Marie Coleman, a lecturer in Modern Irish History at Queen’s University Belfast, says she was “perplexed and concerned by the nature and extent of the [Irish] State’s official commemoration” at Glasnevin cemetery, which was attended by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and President Michael D. Higgins. She writes in The Irish Times:

It was unclear whether the focus of the event was Rossa himself or the significance of the funeral as signifying the rejuvenation of republicanism as a precursor to the Easter Rising. If the former, the State’s endorsement of an archaic form of irredentist Irish nationalism will sit uncomfortably with many in 21st-century Ireland and with unionist opinion in Northern Ireland. …

I would question if either Rossa or his celebrated obsequies were of sufficient historical significance to warrant a full commemorative ceremony from the State. It would appear that the construct of the “Decade of Centenaries” has created a need to find events to commemorate every year until 2023, even if such events are not of equal significance. …

[Like other anniversaries North and South] [c]ommemorating events that predominantly involved men with guns is highly problematic in a society still going through a fragile process of conflict transformation.

The Slugger O’Toole blog also delves into this issue under the headline, “Can we ever lay 1916 to rest?” The column raises questions about remembering anniversaries associated with the violence of The Troubles in the North.

Higgins gives annual holiday message

Irish President Michael D. Higgins has given his annual Christmas and New Year message. Here is the full text, via The Irish Times. Here are a few passages:

In this year of the Gathering, we extended a warm welcome to the Irish Diaspora. Christmas, however, reminds us that true hospitality endures and reaches beyond kin and one’s own community; it extends to the stranger, the newcomer, the outsider. …

During 2014 I will be encouraging the widest possible discussion of ethics in every aspect of our lives, nationally and globally. This will, I hope, make a contribution towards moving beyond a version of our society and economy that has brought so much hardship, required so much sacrifice.