Most of my posts this month will be dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, the April 10, 1998, accord that largely ended 30 years of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. Below are the next-day front pages of five U.S. dailies in cities with large Irish American populations. (Click images to see larger versions.) The agreement was approved the following month in referendums on both sides of the island’s partition. Watch for more posts through the month, including U.S. President Joe Biden’s anticipated trip to NI/Ireland. MH
Catching up with modern Ireland
I was pleased and grateful to return to Ireland this month for the first time since before the COVID pandemic; my 11th visit since 2000. I’ve included two photos from the trip as I conclude Irish Heritage Month with one of my periodic posts of curated content. Enjoy:
- Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, is stepping down after 14 years in the role and a total of 21 years with the promotional organization. The job will be filled through an “open international competition,” said Christopher Brooke, chairman of Tourism Ireland.
- A pilot program in the Republic is giving 2,000 artists $350 a week with no strings attached, allowing them to concentrate on creative pursuits. “Worrying about putting bread on the table really impacts artists’ creative juices,” Catherine Martin, Ireland’s culture minister, told the New York Times. “This is about giving them space to work.”
- Ireland plans to hold a referendum in November to delete references to a woman’s place being in the home from its 86-year-old constitution, the government announced. The country has already removed bans on abortion and permit same-sex marriage. More coverage from the Irish Times.
- As the Irish government lifted an eviction ban, historian Diarmaid Ferriter made the connection to what happened in Ireland during the 19th century.
- Ireland’s rugby team defeated England 29-16 to win the Six Nations Grand Slam championship.
N. Ireland trade tweak passed without DUP support
The U.K. and E.U. March 24 have formally adopted a new plan to ease post-Brexit trade tensions in Northern Ireland — despite ongoing objections from the region’s Democratic Unionist Party, Politico reports.
Northern Ireland’s largest unionist party has further isolated itself by refusing to support a key provision of how Brexit impacts the region. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has abstained from the power-sharing Northern Ireland Assembly for more than a year because of its objections to the trade deal.
Special trade arrangements are necessary because Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland share the only land boarder impacted by Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Six DUP Members of Parliament (London) March 22 voted against the “Stormont brake,” designed to give the Assembly more leverage on how E.U. laws apply to Northern Ireland. The measure passed by 515-29, with a handful of Tory MPs also in opposition, notably former prime ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.
“We want to see the restoration of devolved government (the Assembly, also know as Stormont, after the legislative building in Belfast), but we’ve got to do it right,” said DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.
An early March poll by the nationalist-leaning Irish News and the Institute of Irish Studies-University of Liverpool found 45 percent support for the framework, with about 17 percent opposed. Nearly 39 percent neither accepted or rejected the deal. Opposition within the DUP was nearly 23 percent, compared to 36 percent support and 41 percent neutral.
U.S. President Joe Biden, during St. Patrick’s Day remarks in Washington, D.C., called the framework “a vital step … that’s going to help ensure all the people in Northern Ireland have an opportunity to realize their full potential.”
The White House announced that Biden will visit Northern Ireland in the second half of April to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. It seems doubtful the Assembly will be reconstituted by then. Biden also will visit the Republic during the four-day trip.
(This post will be revised as necessary. Email subscribers should check the website for updates. MH)
Irish Civil War’s toll on Kerry’s ‘Lartigue’ monorail
Anti-government forces in the Irish Civil War attacked the Listowel and Ballybunion Railway several times in early 1923. Damage to the rolling stock and stations of the 9-mile monorail between the two Kerry towns, and the impracticalities of operating such a unique line in the newly consolidated Irish rail system, forced its permanent closure in October 1924.
Passengers and mail on the LBR had been targeted by Irish republican forces during the Irish War of Independence, 1919-1921. In January 1923, during the civil war, armed men forced the Ballybunion stationmaster to open the line’s office, goods store, and waiting room, which they doused with petrol and paraffin oil and set on fire. Within an hour a similar attack occurred at the Lisselton station, about halfway between the two terminuses.”Destruction In Kerry”, Freeman’s Journal, Jan. 25, 1923.
Such destruction is generally attributed to the IRA forces opposed to the Irish Free State. These “irregulars” also cut down about 1,700 yards of telegraph wire and six poles between Listowel and Ballybunion, matching attacks along other Irish rail routes.”The Wire Cutters”, The Belfast News-Letter, Jan. 25, 1923.
Nicknamed the Lartigue after inventor Charles Lartigue, the monorail was “suspended indefinitely” in early February 1923 due to the sabotage. Nearly 40 employees lost their jobs, impacting about 100 family members and ancillary businesses.”Kerry Railway Destruction” , The Irish Examiner, Feb. 2, 1923. With the train out of service, a char-a-banc and motor car service began operating between the two towns, but it also came under attack in March.
Once the civil war ended later that spring, the Lartigue was repaired in time for the busy summer season at Ballybunion, a seaside resort. By mid-July, the Freeman’s Journal reported the Lartigue “has already, particularly on Sundays, been taxed to almost its fullest capacity in the conveyance of visitors.””Provincial News In Brief, Ballybunion Season Opened”, Freeman’s Journal, July 17, 1923.
Like the Lartigue, however, the national newspaper also would have its run ended in 1924.
See my earlier work on the Lartigue monorail:
Return Journey: Ireland’s Lartigue Railway, History Magazine, 2009
Old letter raises questions about Kerry’s Lartigue monorail, August 2015
New clue in mystery about Kerry’s Lartigue monorail, October 2015
Irish history movie ideas: the Lartigue monorail, October 2020
Praying and ‘knocking heads together’ to end Irish Civil War
Archbishop George W. Mundelein, speaking at Chicago’s 1923 St. Patrick’s Day banquet, described a secret meeting between Éamon de Valera, leader of the republican faction opposed to the fledgling Irish Free State, and General Richard Mulcahy, chief of government forces during the Irish Civil War. The prelate said the two combatants embraced each other as they met at a Dublin retreat house, then got down on their knees together to pray the “Hail Mary” and this litany:
“St. Patrick; apostle of Ireland, pray for us; St. Bridgit, patroness of Ireland, pray for; All ye holy men and women who died for Ireland, pray for us.”
The archbishop assured the Ancient Order of Hibernians and its Ladies Auxiliary that the two sides were “groping for some way out of their difficulty,” which he suggested could be ended if only some strong man had the courage to “knock their heads together” in common and united effort. His story “moved hundreds to tears,” according to the news account. He was “the only speaker at the celebration who had the courage to make reference to present day conditions in the Emerald Isle.”
The next day’s Chicago Tribune reported the story on page 5 (see below), but without the head knocking quote.Mundelein Tells How Foes In Erin Knelt Together”, Chicago Tribune, March 18, 1923. The Associated Press wired its version of the story, with the quote, to other U.S. secular daily newspapers. The National Catholic Welfare Council news service distributed this version to Catholic weeklies, which published the story through the rest of March.”Declares De Valera Knelt With Mulcahy”, The New York Times, March 19, 1923; “De Valera a And Mulcahy Reported Friends Again”, Evening Star, Washington, D.C., March 19, 1923; … Continue reading A brief version of the story from Central News also appeared in the Irish Examiner,Mulcahy & De Valera, American Archbishop’s Statement”, Irish Examiner, March 20, 1923. but the Free State government denied it the next day.”Praying Story Denied”, Belfast News-Letter, March 21, 1923.
Archbishop Mundelein attributed the story to one of his recent visitors, “the only person who witnessed this meeting,” but did not name his source. His informant must have been Monsignor John Rogers, a County Wexford native and pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in San Francisco active in Irish republican affairs.”Monsignor John Rogers Drops Dead At Funeral”, The Sacramento Bee, May 6, 1935.
A week before St. Patrick’s Day 1923, Monsignor Rogers cabled the Irish Independent to claim credit for the Sept. 8, 1922, meeting between De Valera and Mulcahy. In February 1923, Free State President William T. Cosgrave told the Independent that “a high church dignitary from another country” helped arrange the meeting, which did not yield a peace settlement.”Monsignor Rogers’ Part”, Irish Independent, March 13, 1923.
De Valera’s personal papers at University College Dublin contain “correspondence between Monsignor John Rogers, Ernie O’Malley (Acting Assistant Chief of Staff), de Valera and Eamon Donnelly (‘Mr D’) on the organization of a meeting, through the auspices of Monsignor Rogers, between de Valera and General Richard Mulcahy and the issuing of a form of safe conduct for Mulcahy. Also includes a list of six propositions (8 September 1922, 1p) submitted by Monsignor Rogers to de Valera, as a ‘basis of action or agreement’ (3–8 September 1922 & February 1923, 14 items).” I have not reviewed this material, which is not available online.Eamon de Valera Papers P150, UCD Archives finding guide page 535.
Monsignor Rogers, in an Oct. 8, 1922, letter to Joseph McGarrity of Philadelphia, wrote that he had dinned the previous evening in Chicago with Archbishop Edward Joseph Hanna of San Francisco and Archbishop Mundelein, whom he describe as “a true friend of De Valera.” McGarrity, who published the Irish Press from March 1918 until May 1922, was a key de Valera supporter before and after the Anglo-Irish Treaty split. The priest reported the Chicago archbishop had just read “the Chief’s last communication” with interest.
At the time, the American press was reporting the Free State army had intercepted multiple correspondence from de Valera. One letter said he had no influence over armed republicans. It also suggested that even if republicans could somehow “overthrow” the provisional government “they would themselves be ousted by the people at the next election.””De Valera Is Discouraged Over Affairs”, The Fresno (California) Morning Republican, Oct. 15, 1922.
Archbishop Mundelein, 50 in 1923, was the American-born son of an Irish mother and a German father. He became archbishop in 1915. In 1921, he was listed on the national council of the American Committee for Relief in Ireland, and he also served on the executive committee of the committee’s Illinois delegation. The prelate’s 1923 St. Patrick’s Day “story”, by then six months old, clearly was intended to give hope to Irish American Catholics, who had become disgusted and disillusioned with the civil war. His description of the two combatants seeking the intercessions of familiar Irish saints probably was overly greened malarkey, but certainly suited the occasion and the church.
The civil war ended two months later. Archbishop Mundelein was elevated to cardinal the following year. The finding guide of his archive lists a 1927 Christmas letter from de Valera to the prelate and an undated photo of the two of them. The archbishop died in 1939, four years after Monsignor Rogers. A newspaper obituary described the San Francisco priest as “a personal friend” of de Valera.”Rogers Drops Dead”, Sacramento Bee, May 6, 1935.
You could say he once was in the room where it didn’t happen.
(See all the posts in my American Reporting of Irish Independence series.)
|↑1||Mundelein Tells How Foes In Erin Knelt Together”, Chicago Tribune, March 18, 1923.|
|↑2||”Declares De Valera Knelt With Mulcahy”, The New York Times, March 19, 1923; “De Valera a And Mulcahy Reported Friends Again”, Evening Star, Washington, D.C., March 19, 1923; “De Valera And Mulchy Meet And Pray Together For Peace And Protection In Ireland”, The Pittsburgh Catholic, March 29, 1923; “De Valera Meets And Prays With General Mulcahy”, The Catholic Advocate, Wichita, Kansas, March 31, 1923.|
|↑3||Mulcahy & De Valera, American Archbishop’s Statement”, Irish Examiner, March 20, 1923.|
|↑4||”Praying Story Denied”, Belfast News-Letter, March 21, 1923.|
|↑5||”Monsignor John Rogers Drops Dead At Funeral”, The Sacramento Bee, May 6, 1935.|
|↑6||”Monsignor Rogers’ Part”, Irish Independent, March 13, 1923.|
|↑7||Eamon de Valera Papers P150, UCD Archives finding guide page 535.|
|↑8||”De Valera Is Discouraged Over Affairs”, The Fresno (California) Morning Republican, Oct. 15, 1922.|
|↑9||”Rogers Drops Dead”, Sacramento Bee, May 6, 1935.|
U.S connections to Ireland remain strong
Irish Americans continue to embrace their heritage due to lasting interests in Irish history and culture, and positive perceptions of Irish identity in the United States, according to a new poll. The results are heartening considering that most Irish Americans are now several generations removed from their immigrant ancestors.
“The findings highlight an across-the-board belief that the best way to sustain this connection is to provide more opportunities for young Irish-Americans to study, volunteer and work in Ireland,” The Irish Times reports. That includes more support for Irish studies programs in U.S. colleges and universities, and immigration reform for Irish immigrants in America.
Other highlights include:
- Given a list of what most attracts them to their Irish heritage, 33 percent selected Irish history, followed by 24 percent who picked Irish music. Travel in Ireland was 11 percent.
- Nearly one third (31 percent) said peaceful reunification of Ireland is the most important issue for American politicians to address in relation to Ireland, followed by two-way trade investment at 29 percent. Only 6 percent picked support for the Good Friday Agreement.
- Religious identity continues to decline: 47 percent said they were either Catholic or Raised Catholic, but only 12 are regularly attend Mass, while 15 percent said they were raised Catholic but no longer identify with the faith. Another 19 percent identified as Protestant, while 16 percent identify as non-religious, and 15 percent said other religions.
A sample of 736 Irish-Americans were interviewed in January by Change Research, and the results have a 3.8 percent margin of error. Glucksman Ireland House at New York University, and the Council for American Irish Relations commissioned the poll. See the full survey analysis, which coincides with the start of Irish-American Heritage Month and St. Patrick’s Day.
“Ireland and the United States are forever bound together by our people and our passion. Everything between us runs deep,” President Joe Biden said in the annual heritage month proclamation, which dates to 1991. “In the years ahead, I look forward to strengthening the partnership between our countries and the friendship between our people even further.” Biden is expected to travel to Ireland later this year.
See these Irish-American heritage resources:
- U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (includes my 2017 story for Prologue magazine, “Ireland’s Famine Children ‘Born at Sea’ “)
- Library of Congress
- U.S. Census Bureau
This post was revised March 7, 2023, to provide a link to the full survey. MH
Police shooting adds to Northern Ireland tensions
UPDATE 3: (Feb. 27)
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has arrived in England for talks with British Prime Minister Ursula von der Leyen and King Charles III. An agreement on resolving the Northern Ireland protocol is expected. Whether the deal is accepted by the Northern Ireland’s DUP and Tory Euroskeptics is another matter. I will report the outcome in a fresh post. MH
UPDATE 2: (Feb. 26)
Three more men (a total of six) have been arrested in connection with the shooting of DCI Caldwell, who remains in critical condition. People across County Tyrone demonstrated over the weekend to show their support for the officer and opposition to any any return “to the bad old days” of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. … A deal on the Northern Ireland protocol is said to be tantalizingly close. As is typical with provincial politics and with Brexit, however, it just as easily could be scuttled at any moment.
UPDATE 1: (Feb. 23)
Three men have been arrested in connection with the attempted murder of Police Service of Northern Ireland Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell. In an online statement, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan said: “Our main line of enquiry is that violent dissident republicans carried out this vile attack and within that a primary focus is on the New IRA.”
Republican dissidents “have long tried – and consistently failed – to escalate a violent campaign” in the north, The Guardian reported. “It is not about Brexit, the Northern Ireland protocol or the upcoming 25th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement. It is not about sparking a Troubles 2.0. It is about showing they exist.”
But Brexit, the protocol, and the GFA anniversary are part of the mix. Here’s an analysis of the trade talks from The New York Times.
ORIGINAL POST: (Feb. 21)
The shooting of an off-duty police officer in Omagh, Northern Ireland, could disrupt efforts by the United Kingdom and European Union to reach a revised trade agreement for the province. Such a deal is being tied to reopening of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government, which has been shuttered for a year.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the Feb. 22 gun attack, “but politicians from all sides agreed that one of the small IRA splinter groups still active in the U.K. region must be to blame,” Politico reporter Shawn Pogatchnik wrote in a early dispatch from Dublin. Such an assignment of blame seems premature, perhaps irresponsible. (Pogatchnik, a U.S. native, has covered the island of Ireland for more than 30 years.)
The officer remained alive at the time of this post. The last murder of a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officer was in 2011; the last shooting of one was in 2017, according to the BBC.
The Democratic Unionist Party withdrew from the Northern Ireland Assembly last February in protest of how Brexit treats the flow of goods in and out of the province. Unionist say the arrangement, or “protocol,” treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the U.K. by imposing E.U. rules on goods crossing the border with the Republic of Ireland. This is the only land interface between the U.K. and the E.U. The compromise was conceived and signed off by former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as part of his pledge to “get Brexit done” three years ago and has caused problems ever since. Many residents and observers (including U.S. officials) worry that a “hard border” between the North and Republic will spark a return to the sectarian violence of the Troubles.
U.K. and E.U. negotiators this week said they were within sight of a new protocol, but unionist remained skeptical.
The shooting and the trade talks are both developing stories. This post will be updated over the next few days. Email subscribers should check the website for the latest details. MH
Ruth Russell’s ‘Ireland’ at Harvard library
I’ve written several pieces about Ruth Russell, the Chicago Daily News correspondent who in 1919 covered the early months of the Irish War of Independence. Notably, she lived in the Dublin slums to report about poor women and children. On her return to America, Russell expanded her newspaper dispatches into the 1920 book What’s the matter with Ireland? As an advocate for Irish independence, she protested with other women outside the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., and testified before the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland.See Beginnings; Correspondent; Activist; Witness; Afterward; and Ruth Russell remembered in stone … 57 years later
Russell’s 103-year-old book is available online. Until recently, the only hard copy I’d seen was requested from storage at the Library of Congress in Washington. But I found What’s the matter with Ireland? while exploring the stacks at Harvard’s flagship Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library.
Harvard acquired the book on Oct. 7, 1920, according to the date stamp on the copyright page. Borrowers checked out the book 10 times during its first year in the library, as recorded by the due dates stamped on a schedule pasted to the inside back cover. These dates are shown below with select Irish-related news and other content from that day’s Boston Globe. The mix of local and international events offers a thumbnail sketch of events during the last year of the war as Harvard students or faculty read Russell’s book.
- Nov. 20, 1920: John Derham, town commissioner of Balbriggan, and Francis Hackett, associate editor of The New Republic, testified at the American Committee on Conditions in Ireland hearings in Washington, D.C. Russell testified to the commission on Dec. 15, 1920. (See image of the Globe’s story below.)
- Jan. 8, 1921: The censorship trial of Capuchin chaplain Fr. Dominic O’Connor, charged with making statements “likely to cause disaffection to His Majesty,” opened in Dublin. Convicted and sentenced to prison later that month, he was released on general amnesty upon ratification of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in January 1922.
- Jan. 21, 1921: Lord Mayor of Cork Donal O’Callaghan, a stowaway to America after the December 1920 British rampage in the city, said he would surrender to U.S. immigration authorities.
- Feb. 9, 1921: British Prime Minister David Lloyd George said he offered Ireland a greater measure of home rule than Gladstone or Asquith. “But they won’t take it. … They must have an Irish Republic, an Irish Army, an Irish Navy. They won’t get it.”
- Feb. 19, 1921: The Moore & McCormack cargo line advertised a Feb. 23 sailing from Boston to Belfast, Cork, and Dublin. The service, which began in September 1919 from Philadelphia, was citied by Sinn Féin as an example of Ireland’s commercial independence. The route was discontinued in 1925.See An American reporters in 1920 Ireland: Industry.
- March 16, 1921: Fr. John W. Meehan of Castlebar, County Mayo, continued to address local groups interested in Irish independence and conditions in the country. He arrived in Boston two months earlier.
- April 4, 1921: A front-page Associated Press report said that “competent observers” believed prospects for peace in Ireland had brightened since St. Patrick’s Day.
- May 11, 1921: More than 300 delegates representing 146 councils of the Massachusetts State Council of the Knights of Columbus adopted a resolution favoring immediate recognition of the Republic of Ireland. … “Pure linen” handkerchiefs imported from Belfast were on sale at 29 cents each at Chandler & Co. on Tremont Street.
- Oct. 4, 1921: The Associated Press reported that “numerous newspapers writers and photographers” were permitted to observe an Irish Republican Army battalion in the Wicklow Mountains south of Dublin. “Throughout Ireland drilling and inspections of this kind have been proceeding since the truce was signed (in July),” the story said.
- Oct. 25, 1921: Éamon de Valera’s message to Pope Benedict XV regarding “formally proclaimed” independence of Ireland stirred “the first real crisis” in negotiations toward a peace agreement with Great Britain, the AP reported. The Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed Dec. 6, 1921.
It’s unclear if any of the Harvard borrowers paid the 5 cents per day fine for returning the book after the stamped due date. Interest in Russell’s book waned after the treaty. The next three due dates were May 19, 1931; Sept. 18, 1946; and May 28, 1955. The book remained shelved for 41 years, then was checked out three more times in April and May 1996.
Subsequent activity–if any–was recorded on electronic library systems and cannot be retrieved, according to the librarian who checked out the book for me. I was curious whether there was activity at the centenary of the Irish revolution and 100th anniversary of the book’s publication.
The online Quercus Rare Books offers an original hardcover inscribed by Russell for $250. It says: “To the President of the Irish Republic Eamon de Valera, with best wishes from a citizen of the United States.” Below the inscription is the stamp from de Valera’s library. De Valera provided a Jan. 29, 1920, letter praising Russell’s work, which appears as front matter in the book. Quercus also offers an unsigned first edition in “very good plus” condition (below “Near Fine” and “Fine”) for $100.
The back pages of Russell’s book contained advertisements for three other contemporary Irish titles from publisher Devin-Adair: The Invincible Irish, by J.C. Walsh; Why God Loves The Irish, by Humphry J. Desmond; and The Irish Rebellion of 1916 And Its Martyrs–Erin’s Tragic Easter, a collection of essays by eight writers. While it’s great these titles are available online, nothing beats the feel and smell of on old book pulled from the library shelf.
|↑1||See Beginnings; Correspondent; Activist; Witness; Afterward; and Ruth Russell remembered in stone … 57 years later|
|↑2||See An American reporters in 1920 Ireland: Industry.|
‘Always Ireland’ is a lovely, modern guide to Erin
My wife wants to bring Always Ireland: An Insider’s Tour of the Emerald Isle, on our March trip to you-know-where, our first return since the COVID pandemic. “No way,” I say. “That book is too beautiful, and too heavy, to carry in our luggage.”
So we let author and County Wicklow native Justin “Jack” Kavanagh have the last word. He describes the new 336-page hardcover from National Geographic as an “inspirational travel book,” a next-generation guide for an age when nearly all of us carry smartphones that put all the practical details at our fingertips.
“This is more of a dreamer’s guide to Ireland,” Kavanagh told me during a Feb. 1 zoom from Philadelphia, where he divides his time with his native country. “This is the kind of book that sits on your coffee table for maybe six months before you want to go. You can just dip in and out of it.”
The book offers more than 200 half- to two-page vignettes of Ireland’s natural, cultural, and historical attractions. And the island’s dearest treasure—its people—are highlighted in a feature called “Irish Voices,” which introduces readers to historian Diarmaid Ferriter; harp maker Kevin Harrington; singer-songwriter Christy Moore; wild animal conservationist David O’Connor; and nomadic Irish Traveler Helen Riley, among many others.
The “Great Irish Drives” and “In the Know” sidebars offer more conventional suggestions on route planning and where to sleep and eat. “Irish Gardens” and “Taste of Ireland” highlight flora and food (and drink!), respectively.
The book is sectioned into the five “newly reimagined regions” of contemporary Irish tourism: the Ancient East; Munster & the South; the Wild Atlantic Way; Ulster & Northern Ireland; and Offshore Ireland. While it’s still grand to know your grandparents’ or great grandparents’ county and townland of origin, that’s not how modern visitors want to see Ireland, Kavanagh says.
And because Always Ireland is produced by National Geographic, the 300 photos are gorgeous and perfectly illustrate his smooth and informative prose. Kavanagh is an authoritative voice from an iconic source. He has worked as a writer and editor for National Geographic International Editions, overseeing earlier guide books about Ireland, Cuba, Japan, New York City, and other destinations. He says there is a growing recognition these conventional publications are being “fast-tracked to obsoletion” by technology.
Always Italy, the first book of this new approach, was released in March 2020, just as the world shuttered and shuddered from COVID. These books lean slightly toward the first-time visitor, says Kavanagh, who also leads Nat Geo’s “Ireland: Tales and Traditions” tours.
Because he has split his life between America and Ireland, Kavanagh says he aims to provide readers and travelers with both insider and outsider perspectives, with “what is expected and what is unexpected.” He learned a few things himself in researching the book.
I couldn’t resist asking Jack two obvious questions: his favorite spot in Ireland, and what attraction does he most regret the island has lost over its many centuries of history?
“Glendalough,” came his first answer. And why not? He grew up just a bicycle ride away from the sixth century monastery founded by St. Kevin. “To me it’s the center of the world,” he says. “It’s a spiritual home, a place of rest. There’s some ancient energy there.”
To the second question, the music devotee answered the centuries of Irish compositions that were lost or never came to be, because the patronage system of the Gaelic chieftains ended with Anglo-Irish rule. The penal laws meant Irish music went underground, so while we are left with various tunes by itinerant musicians such as the legendary blind harpist Turlough O’Carolan, we’ll never know what might have been if Ireland’s earls had not been put to flight. But while much of that pre-eighteenth century music is silenced forever, there’s still plenty of traditional Irish music to hear played in pubs and other venues, as celebrated in the book.
Whether you pack Always Ireland or not, (it’s also available as an e-book) the real key to visiting Kavanagh’s homeland is the willingness to leave behind hurried, regimented schedules and open your soul to the possibilities of interacting with the people and places on its lovely pages … and those that are not.
“Ireland is not an A to B to C to D kind of place,” he says. “The magic is when you go around the corner and find something unexpected; not where you are going to stay tonight and what you are going to eat. That’s what you get in Ireland that you don’t get in a lot of places in the world.”
That was true when visitors carried pocket guidebooks and folding maps; it remains so for those who carry smartphones.
A guest post by Kavanagh will publish here a little later. MH
When Doris interviewed Sinéad
American suffragette, feminist, and author Doris Stevens wrote a profile of Sinéad de Valera in summer 1921 that was sympathetic to Irish independence and published in U.S., Irish, British, and French newspapers. Stevens’ encounters with other Irish political and military figures provided additional glimpses of the country during the interregnum between the Truce of July 1921 and the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed in December of that year.
Before traveling to Dublin, Stevens attended a London performance of “The Whiteheaded Boy,” by Cork-born dramatist Lennox Robinson. She jotted in her journal:
“Made me realize all over again what a marvelous and also terrible race the Irish are. Also in the realism of this play it seemed to me that Ireland was a nation that had lived on its nerves for centuries. Each human being was like a powder magazine ready to break out at the least spark. This could only happen to a race whose normal and original sensitiveness had been transformed into a super sensitiveness, a disease of national magnitude, through centuries of doubt, misapprehension, and fear.
See my full piece on The Irish Story website.