This is my third annual “Best of the Blog” (BOB, as my wife calls it), a look at some of the most important news stories, historical anniversaries and personal favorite posts of the past year. The items are not numbered, so as to avoid the appearance of rank. Most links are to my own posts, but a few are to outside websites.
Enjoy. Thanks for supporting the blog. And Happy New Year!
- Four years into the “Decade of Centenaries,” 2015 proved that even as Ireland remembers its past, Ireland is not bound by its past. This was most dramatically demonstrated in May as Irish voters enshrined same-sex marriage rights in the Republic’s constitution, becoming the world’s first nation to give such approval through popular referendum. The outcome prompted Catholic Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin to comment: “The Church needs a reality check right across the board, to look at the things we are doing well and look at the areas where we need to say, have we drifted away completely from young people?”
- Other long-standing Irish institutions also changed in 2015. Clerys, a landmark department store on O’Connell Street in Dublin, closed in June after 162 years in business. … In August, Aer Lingus was acquired by British Airways owner IAG for €1.5 billion after nearly 80 years of state ownership.
- The erosion of the Irish language continued at “a faster rate than was predicted” by a 2007 study and “demands urgent intervention,” a government agency reported in an update this year.
- 2015 was the 150th anniversary of the birth of William Butler Yeats. His poem, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” was celebrated during the year. And, of course, “Easter, 1916.”
- The Republic’s official remembrance of the Easter Rising began in August with a commemorative re-enactment of the funeral of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa. The original Dublin funeral of the Fenian leader, who died in New York, set the stage for the Rising eight months later. Pádraic Pearse’s oration at Rossa’ graveside became a call to arms that continues to inspire Irish patriots. One of my Kerry relatives kept a copy of an August 1933 reprint of the speech, cut from the pages of The Gaelic American.
- I also reflected on my copy of a 1953 St. Patrick’s Day greeting from another Kerry relation.
- In Northern Ireland, the International Fund for Ireland launched a new “Community Consolidation-Peace Consolidation” strategy for 2016-2020 focused on removing some of the more than 100 “peace walls” that separate Catholic and Protestant communities. “We have a role to take risks that governments can’t take,” IFI Chairman Dr. Adrian Johnston said during a September briefing at the Embassy of Ireland in Washington, D.C. … But a new poll showed that support for removing the physical barriers has dropped to 49 percent, compared to 58 percent in 2012.
- The British and Irish governments announced a new political accord to overcome various crises in the North. … Seventeen years on from the historic 1998 Good Friday Agreement, former U.S. Senator George Mitchell told a Washington audience the peace talks got off to “a very rocky start” due to the long history of mistrust in Northern Ireland and “no habit of listening to the other side.”
- An RTÉ/BBC poll revealed two-thirds of respondents living in the Republic favor political reunification of the island within their lifetime, while just under one third of those surveyed in the North share the view. … In what was described as a “rogue action,” the Republic’s tricolour flag flew over Stormont for a few hours in June.
- Irish Minister for Diaspora Affairs Jimmy Deenihan, speaking at the Embassy of Ireland in Washington, announced “a new strategy to improve Ireland’s connection with the diaspora.”
- More historical records continued to be made available in 2015 for online inspection, including:
Dublin Metropolitan Police Detective Department’s “Movement of Extremists” reports leading up to the Rising, held at the Irish National Archives;
Long-awaited Catholic parish records, held by the National Library of Ireland; and
Fenian Brotherhood records and O’Donovan Rossa’s personal papers, held by The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
- While doing research this summer at the U.K. National Archives outside London, I discovered some old letters that raised questions about turn of the 20th century safety operations of the Lartigue monorail in Kerry. Read the first post, and the follow up.
- I added two new sections to the blog in 2015. One is about my ongoing research of the 1888 murder of boycotted farmer John Foran in Kerry. The other is devoted to visiting churches named in honor of St. Patrick.
Departed in 2015:
- Six college students, five from Ireland and one holding Irish and U.S. citizenship, were killed 16 June in Berkeley, California, when the fifth floor apartment balcony where they were partying collapsed and plunged them 50 feet to the ground.
- Dublin-born actress Maureen O’Hara, who co-stared with John Wayne in the 1952 screen hit, “The Quiet Man,” died at 95. … More than three dozen other notable Irish and Irish American deaths from the arts, sports and politics are listed here.
From the Archive: