The centennial of the 1916 Easter Rising and my sixth trip to Ireland made this a great year for the blog. Major elections in Ireland, the U.S. and the U.K. also produced outcomes that will have significant impacts for years to come. And there were other historical anniversaries and interesting contemporary developments. So let’s get right to the annual wrap-up:
Elections of 2016
- In February, the national election in the Republic of Ireland ended in what Irish Times columnist Una Mullally described as a “weird, fractured, all-over-the-place result.” … In my ancestral home of County Kerry, brothers Michael and Danny Healy-Rae, both independents, took the top two of five seats in polling that ousted Fine Gael Minister of Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan and others. … It took until late April for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to reach a deal on forming a new minority government coalition.
- A May vote on all 108 seats of the Northern Ireland Assembly resulted in the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and [nationalist] Sinn Féin remaining the two largest blocks, “while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising,” the London-based New Statesman said. … Children born just before or after the April 1998 Good Friday Agreement began to turn 18 in 2016 and enter the electorate.
- In June, United Kingdom voters decided to leave the European Union by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent, while the Northern Ireland electorate favored remaining in the E.U. by 56 percent to 44 percent. The so-called “Brexit” raises a number of tough questions about border controls with the Republic and the northern peace process. It has stirred talk of reuniting the island of Ireland, allowing the six northern counties to remain in the E.U. by joining the Republic.
- For the second consecutive U.S. presidential election cycle, two Irish-American candidates vied for the number two job. … Donald Trump’s victory drew harsh criticism from many Irish and Northern Irish political pundits as “America’s Brexit.” … Trump invited Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny to the White House for St Patrick’s Day in 2017, continuing a tradition that dates to 1952. Aside from the photo op, however, there are serious issues to discuss, such as the tax conditions of U.S. businesses operating in Ireland and Irish immigration.
- Sunday, 24 April was the calendar centennial of the start of the 1916 Easter Rising. It also was Census Day in Ireland, which revealed a changing, modernizing country. … The 100th anniversary generated plenty of opinions and interpretations in Ireland, the U.K., the U.S. and throughout the world.
- I produced more than a dozen stories about 1916, including a five-part series on U.S.-Irish relations; Q & A style interviews with an Irish film producer and a U.S. archivist; and other original features. This work is gathered into the new 1916-2016 section of the blog.
Other news and features
- Irish tourism continued to grow in 2016, fueled in part by 1916 centennial. Fáilte Ireland suggested the market needs to continue “offering more compelling and authentic branded visitor experiences rather than relying on a hazy green image and warm welcome.” … In July, I visited the new, interactive Epic Ireland emigration museum in Dublin, then later contrasted it with the stalled effort to open an Irish American Museum in Washington, D.C. … I also visited Titanic Belfast, which was named the world’s leading tourist attraction for 2016. … For those considering a trip to Ireland, I published travel suggestions based on my visit. … I also introduced a new section of the blog featuring U.S. museums, libraries, cultural centers and programs devoted to Irish ancestry and contemporary connections.
- 2016 was the 75th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz. … It also was a Leap Year, which marked the 128th (or only the 32nd) anniversary of the opening of the Listowel & Ballybunion Railway, a personal interest of mine, on 29 February 1888.
- New York drug maker Pfizer and Dublin-based Allergan called off their proposed $160 billion merger after the U.S. Treasury Department announced new steps to curb tax-avoiding maneuvers called “inversions.” … The European Union’s antitrust commission ordered Ireland to collect €13 billion ($14.5 billion) of back taxes from tech giant Apple.
- “Revolution in Color,” a 90-minute documentary told Ireland’s struggle for independence from Home Rule to Civil War through beautifully colorized archive newsreel and photos. … “The Journey,” a new film about the unlikely Northern Ireland peace partnership between Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness and the late unionist firebrand Rev. Ian Paisley, debuted to dreadful reviews. … Sonder Visuals produced a montage of drone-captured images of Ireland–rural and urban, natural and built–that fly past as quickly as the many voices (and dialects) that describe living there.
In 2016, I published three Irish stories outside of the blog:
- Mrs. Brophy’s Late Husband and
- Nora’s Sorrow: The Murder of John Foran, 1888, both in The Irish Story.
- Trump, Clinton and their Irish Connections in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
I was pleased to welcome several guest bloggers this year, including:
- Angie Drobnic Holan on Harry Potter’s connections to Kerry;
- Timothy Plum on video game representations of the IRA and Brexit’s impact on Ireland;
- Michael Whelan on the 57th Yeats Summer School; and
- Sister Cathy Cahill on attending Rising centennial ceremonies in Dublin.
I appreciate their contributions and encourage other readers to contact me for future guest posts.
Departed in 2016
- Alan Rickman, British actor who portrayed Éamon de Valera, at 69.
- Sir Terry Wogan, Limerick-born star of the BBC, at 77.
- John McLaughlin, former Jesuit priest, speechwriter for President Richard M. Nixon and conservative provocateur, at 89.
- Dr. Edward Daly, former Bishop of Derry, at 82. In an iconic photograph from “Bloody Sunday” in January 1972, he waved a blood-stained handkerchief ahead of a group of injured civil rights protesters as they tried to pass through British troops.
- William Trevor, novelist and short story writer, at 88.