Tag Archives: Solas Nua

Catching up with modern Ireland: May

Irish voters overturned a 35-year-old constitutional abortion ban by a decisive two thirds margin. More about that at the bottom of this post. First, a quick look at some other Irish news in May, from both sides of the Atlantic:

Let me make it plain: the departure from the EU of our nearest neighbour is not a good thing for Ireland. This development generates unwelcome challenges and uncertainties for us. It deprives Ireland of an influential, like-minded country around the EU negotiating table. It complicates our bilateral relations with Britain at a time when we continue to need to work closely together as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement so as to promote peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. 

  • Researchers in universities across Ireland are embarking on an effort to help Irish bees survive and thrive. Their work grows from the 2015 All-Ireland Pollinator Plan.
  • Solas Nua, the Washington, D.C.-based Irish arts group, staged “The Frederick Douglass Project” over several weeks. The “project” is  actually two short plays about Douglass’ 1845 lecture tour of Britain and Ireland – D.C.-based Psalmayene 24’s An Eloquent Fugitive Slave Flees to Ireland, which deals with Douglass’s life before his eastward journey across the Atlantic, and Dublin-based Deirdre Kinahan’s Wild Notes, which explores his arrival. As The Irish Times reported:

The aim of the production is to highlight this critically-important time in Douglass’s life to an American audience. “This is about exploring the parallels of the Irish and African-American experience – Douglass arrived in Ireland during the Famine – but it is also about what happens when two worlds meet and the perceptions and misperceptions that both sides hold,” said Rex Daugherty, the show’s artistic director.

My wife and I enjoyed the production. I think it would do well in Ireland, where there is probably more awareness of Douglass’ 1845 visit than in America. The themes of human subjugation are universal, as made more clear in Kinahan’s play.

Is Catholic Ireland dead and gone? Probably not

The most predictable commentary about the 25 May abortion referendum has focused on the diminished role of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Some examples:

The New York Times headlined the referendum result as a “Rebuke to Catholic Conservatism.” A follow up story described Ireland as “a country that is clearly part of Europe’s secular sprint out of the Roman Catholic fold” and noted Pope Francis’ focus on the Southern Hemisphere. But an opinion piece by Eamon Maher, co-editor of the 2017 title Tracing the Cultural Legacy of Irish Catholicism: From Galway to Cloyne and Beyond, offered more nuisance:

The importance of Friday’s vote as a blow to the institutional Catholic Church should not be understated.  … But if it’s clear that the institution of the church no longer commands the moral authority or the loyalty in Ireland that it once did, the end of Catholic Ireland, too, is an overstatement. Ireland remains defined by its relationship with Catholicism, because it has yet to develop another way to be.

Patsy McGarry, the religious affairs correspondent at The Irish Times since 1997, added some historical perspective in his column, which described as “out of kilter” those observations that the referendum outcome represents the end of Catholic Ireland:

More accurately, what it illustrated was an end to a particular model of clerically dominated Catholic Church in Ireland. … What we are witnessing is the disappearance of what might be described as “the church that Paul built,” a reference to Cardinal Paul Cullen. Archbishop of Dublin from 1852, he “Romanised” the church, centralized its structures, and introduced processions and devotions from Europe. He laid the foundations for an Irish Catholic Church which became a powerful alternative institution in the late 19th century so that by independence in 1922 it was more powerful than the new state itself, particularly in education and healthcare. It dominated Ireland through most of the 20th century. [That institution may be gone, but with] 78.3 per cent of Irish people still identified as Catholic … reports of the death of Catholicism in Ireland are, to borrow from Mark Twain, “greatly exaggerated.”

Finally, some voices from the Irish Catholic Church itself, as reported in Crux:

Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh said the referendum result “confirms that we are living in a new time and a changed culture for Ireland. For the Church it is indeed a missionary time, a time for new evangelization.”

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin added, “The Irish Church after the Referendum must renew its commitment to support life. … Reshaping the Church of tomorrow must be marked by a radical rediscovery of its roots.”

There will more about this issue in the run up to Pope Francis’ scheduled August visit to Dublin for the World Meeting of Families.

 

“Coolatully,” a play about rural Ireland, makes U.S. debut

“Coolatully,” a fictional village in rural Ireland and the title of a 2014 one-act play by Fiona Doyle, is making its U.S. debut in Washington, D.C. Solas Nua (new light), a contemporary Irish arts organization, is presenting the play at Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint through 26 March.

The play is set in post-Celtic Tiger rural Ireland, where jobs are tough to find and the fictional town can no longer field a hurling team because too many players have left for Canada, New Zealand and Australia. (If there’s any mention of America, I missed it, reminding U.S. audiences that we aren’t the only option for emigrants.) Kilian, the hero of a long-past teen league championship match, is torn between staying or leaving.

More in this short Solas Nua video featuring members of the D.C. cast:

In a review of an earlier London production, The Guardian said the play “paints a plausible picture of the modern Celtic twilight … [and] tells us, very touchingly, what it is like to be young in rural Ireland today and pins down vividly the tendency to romanticize the past and future to make up for the disquieting present.”

Doyle has written nearly a dozen plays, according to her literary agency bio. She studied in Berlin and London, and lives in County Kerry.

 

 

Solas Nua prepares for Irish Book Day in D.C.

Forget the parades and over emphasis on tipping pints, a Washington, D.C. organization called Solas Nua (new light, in Irish) brings something more meaningful to St. Patrick’s Day: contemporary Irish arts.

Since 2005 group volunteers have dedicated most of their March 17 to handing out free copies of Irish literature and poetry. The “Irish Book Day” event is a “celebration of the richness of Irish culture.”

WTS Front

This year, Solas Nua is introducing a new collection of short stories and poetry by Ireland’s best contemporary writers. What’s the Story? includes work by Mary Costello, Kevin Barry, Elaine Feeney and others in the 139-page book.

Solas Nua volunteers will give away thousands of copies of the book at Metro stops including Dupont Circle, Gallery Place/Chinatown, Judiciary Square and Columbia Heights during morning and evening rush hours. Other locations will be tweeted throughout the day by @SolasNuachtReaders are invited to share their responses using #whatsthestory on Twitter and Facebook.

The organization also has two film screenings coming up in its Irish Popcorn! series: Anam An Amhráin (Soul of the Song) on March 15 and The Irish Pub on March 31.

Visit the Solas Nua website for more details about these and other film, theater, literature and music events during the year. Consider volunteering your time or making a donation. You’ll enjoy the parades and pints even more if you help.