Category Archives: Northern Ireland

Guest post: Journalists recall coverage challenges during Northern Ireland Troubles

Daniel Carey is a PhD student at Dublin City University. His thesis examines the working lives of former journalists and editors in Ireland. I’ve had the pleasure of reading his work and hearing Dan present some of his research at Newspaper and Periodical History Forum of Ireland conferences. He is based at University College Dublin, where he works as research project officer for community engagement at CUPHAT. Find him on Twitter @danielmcarey. … Journalists, historians, authors, researchers, and travelers to Ireland are always welcome to offer guest contributionsMH

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On his first night working in Belfast in late 1969, Irish Times reporter Conor Brady met his colleague Henry Kelly, who wrote on the back of Brady’s hand: “S = P; F = C”. That important piece of shorthand stood for “Shankill [Road] equals Protestants, Falls [Road] equals Catholics”. Dublin-based reporters like Brady “hadn’t a clue” about the geographical specifics of Northern Ireland at that time, he acknowledged, and he laughed ruefully when reflecting on the “guidance” he received from Kelly.

Brady, who later became editor of the Irish Times, was one of  30 people I interviewed for my PhD thesis. Many of them covered the Northern Troubles, which proved a formative experience for generations of Irish journalists. Fifty years on from Bloody Sunday in Derry and Bloody Friday in Belfast, the success of Sinn Féin in the May 2022 Assembly elections brought Northern Ireland back into the international headlines. But the days when Belfast hotels such as the Europa were regularly filled with correspondents from The New York Times, Agence-France Presse, and various German newspapers are no more.

Lyra McKee was killed in Derry, this mural is in Belfast, her native city.

The murder in 2019 of Lyra McKee in Derry brought into sharp relief the dangers faced by reporters in Northern Ireland today. Journalists who covered the Troubles faced intimidation and threats to their personal safety. But at least in some cases, journalists may have been safer than ordinary civilians, in an era when many paramilitaries felt harming reporters would be counterproductive.

Michael Foley of the Irish Times remembers travelling in a car during the Troubles when he and a colleague were stopped at a barricade patrolled by individuals armed with Armalite rifles. Foley’s outraged companion yelled: “How dare you stop us! We’re journalists!” and showed his National Union of Journalists membership card. This prompted an apology from one of the armed men, who, Foley remembers, “didn’t want us to tell Danny Morrison, who was the Sinn Féin press officer at the time”.

Emily O’Reilly says she “actually never felt unsafe” while covering Northern Ireland for the Sunday Tribune. She “knew that journalists were generally safe in the North” and felt that women “got an extra layer of protection”. In 1984, a Democratic Unionist Party [DUP] politician named George Seawright told a meeting of the Belfast Education and Library Board that Catholics who objected to the playing of the British national anthem at mixed concerts for school children were “Fenian scum” who should be incinerated, along with their priests.

Showing what she called “the fearlessness of youth”, O’Reilly rang Seawright and asked for an interview. He readily agreed and invited her to his maisonette home on the Forthriver Road in Belfast. She wandered into what she called “a wonderful oasis of domesticity”, where Seawright was “the personification of charm” and “just lovely”. She remembers him seeing her off at the door by joking: “Wouldn’t it be hilarious if you got shot here?”

Emily O’Reilly

She arranged to meet Seawright again the following day, where they were joined by a man named John Bingham, a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force [UVF] who had been sentenced to 20 years in prison on “supergrass” evidence [from an informant in exchange for immunity] before his conviction was overturned. The trio did what she called “a tourist trip” around the Shankill Road area, with Bingham showing what she said was “an incredibly detailed knowledge” of where people had died violently. Both Bingham and Seawright were themselves subsequently shot dead.

Andy Pollak, son of a Czech Jewish father and a Protestant mother from Ballymena, County Antrim, edited Fortnight magazine in Belfast from 1981 to 1985. He “very rarely had any trouble” in Northern Ireland. But one exception came in the mid-1980s, when he was researching a book which he was co-writing with fellow journalist Ed Moloney on DUP leader Ian Paisley.

“We wanted to find a place … away from the mainstream, where Paisley was talking to his own people, with no media,” Pollak explains. “He was doing a series of … rallies around the place, and he was in Pomeroy [in County Tyrone], and I went down. There was no other journalist there, and … he gave his rabble-rousing speech. And there were bandsmen, and one of them asked me … ‘Who are you?’ and I said ‘I’m from the Irish Times’ … which was a mistake. So anyway, they started to kind of duff me up and beat me up, you know, [they called me a] ‘fuckin’ Fenian’ and all this sort of stuff, and I was rescued by the RUC [Royal Ulster Constabulary] … The RUC man said: ‘You’ve got a bit of blood on your collar, you could claim for that’ So I came … away eventually three hundred pounds richer … from that trip!”

Such episodes of intimidation were not confined to Northern Ireland. Husband and wife Michael O’Toole and Maureen Browne covered a lot of kidnapping stories for the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, and, Browne recalls, “ran into trouble with the IRA” as a result. A petrol bomb thrown at Browne in the Dublin suburb of Portmarnock only narrowly missed its target. Threats against the couple’s children prompted O’Toole to see “the leaders of the organisation” and “the dogs of war were called off”.

The Troubles constitute a small but important slice of the material collected for the project. The thesis researches journalism as a career choice and investigates the relationship between Irish journalism and politics, religion and technology. Recordings of the 30 broad-ranging interviews will become part of the Media History Collection at Dublin City University, where they will be made available for public access and may form part of future exhibitions.

The Europa Belfast, a regular lodging place for correspondents during the Troubles, was considered “the most bombed hotel” in Europe. Despite 33 blasts, nobody was killed, according to the new book, ‘War Hotels’. 2019 photo by MH.

UK’s Johnson resigns; Northern Ireland impacts developing

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resigned after months of political scandal. He will remain on the job until the ruling Tories select a new leader. That decision will have enormous impact in Northern Ireland, where the Assembly government remains in limbo two months after elections and Brexit continues to cause friction between pro-British unionists and Irish nationalists. It also will impact relations with Ireland and the European Union. This post will evolve over several days from July 7. Email subscribers should check the website for updates. MH

Boris Johnson

UPDATES:

Johnson’s resignation has left Northern Ireland in a “precarious situation” and could delay the restoration of the Assembly at Stormont, the grand secretary of the Orange Order has warned at July Twelfth commemorations. The Irish Times quotes Rev. Mervyn Gibson as saying that while the Brexit trade protocol remains in place “there’ll be no Northern Ireland Executive and we want to get government back in Northern Ireland as quickly as possible.”

Unionists oppose the protocol, which avoided a hard border on the island of Ireland by placing an economic border in the Irish Sea.

Annual Orange Order parades to celebrate the Battle of the Boyne, this year marking its 332nd anniversary, are returning to normal footing following two years of COVID disruptions. Police estimate that 250 bonfires were lit the night of July 11, with nearly 600 parades to take place on July 12. The BBC NI ditched its live broadcast coverage after two year of pandemic layoff. 

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Shailesh Vara has replaced Brandon Lewis as Northern Ireland secretary. Lewis was among the once-loyal cabinet members who stepped down to force out Johnson. Vara was a minister in the Northern Ireland Office for five months before quitting in November 2018 to protest former prime minister Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal with the EU.

See Vera’s official statement.

ORIGINAL POST:

“The downfall of Boris Johnson comes as a huge relief to the government in Dublin, which has been locked in a long running conflict with him over the Northern Ireland Protocol,” Stephen Collins writes in The Irish Times. “However, it would be foolish to assume that things will necessarily improve under his successor as Conservative Party leader, or even under a Labour government … The lesson from the entire Brexit saga is that the two big parties in the UK are so focused on narrow party political advantage that they are prepared to ignore the long term interests of the British people, never mind the consequences of their actions for the island of Ireland.”

Sounds like Republicans and Democrats in the USA.

“It has been an utter absurdity that the people here have been subjected to Boris Johnson for any length of time,” Northern Assembly First Minister (Designate) Michell O’Neill of Sinn Féin tweeted. “He is a figure of absolute disrepute. Anyone who tries to sabotage our peace agreements, a quarter century of progress and our shared future is truly no friend of ours.”

The BBC has more reactions from other Northern Irish and Irish leaders.

Sinn Féin wins historic vote in Northern Ireland

UPDATE 3, May 7:

Sinn Féin has secured an historic election win in Northern Ireland, the first time an Irish republican party has topped the vote since the 1921 partition of the six counties. With 88 of 90 seats decided, the nationalists have held the 27-seat total of the 2017 election, while the unionist DUP has dropped to three seats to 25. The moderate, non-sectarian Alliance Party has finished third with 17 seats, more than double the eight members elected in the last election.

“This was a significantly and symbolically damaging (outcome) for unionism,” The Irish Times says.

While Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said a border referendum on a united Ireland is possible in five years, the first order of business will be establishing the power-sharing Executive, which the DUP collapsed earlier this year in protest against Brexit-related trade restrictions. The party has vowed not to re-enter government until its concerns are met.

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A second story line is emerging in the election: the centrist, non-sectarian Alliance Party has doubled its vote total since the 2017 poll to 16 seats as Sinn Féin remains on pace to win the most seats. As of midday Saturday (U.S. Eastern), 77 of 90 races had been decided.

“The rise of the nonaligned middle ground, signaled clearly in a breakthrough result for the Alliance may prove to be the most significant aspect of the elections,” Irish Times Political Editor Pat Leahy writes as the vote is still counted. “Perhaps the most important long-term implication of the results is the accelerating emergence of the third pillar of Northern Irish politics and society: the ‘neithers’, neither tribally orange nor green, identifying not as unionist nor nationalist, not British nor Irish but Northern Irish.”

UPDATE 2, May 6:

“Sinn Féin has topped the first preference vote with a 29 percent share and is on course to become the largest party at Stormont while the DUP received 21.3 percent share of the first preference vote – a drop of 7 percent since the last Assembly election in 2017,” the Belfast Telegraph reports. The nationalist party added 1.1 percent to its total. The centrist Alliance Party gained 4.5 percent first preference votes, while the hardline Traditional Unionist Voice, which split off from the DUP in 2007, surged 5.1 percent.

The Irish Times says the DUP, which was the largest party in the last Assembly with 28 seats, is in danger of dropping two or more seats. Sinn Féin is likely to at least hold the 27 seats it won in 2017 and therefore in position as the party leader in the North. A pickup of additional seats would make even more headlines.

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Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O’Neill, the nationalist party’s Northern Ireland leader, and DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, have each been re-elected. The pair are key figures in whatever happens in the Northern Ireland Assembly once the full election results become clear.

The early vote tally as of midday in the Eastern United States was Sinn Féin, 10; DUP, 2; Alliance 2; and UUP, 1. That leaves 75 seat to still be decided. The final outcome is not expected until May 7.

UPDATE 1, May 5:

Voting has ended in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections. Counting begins Friday morning, May 6, at centers in Belfast, Jordanstown, and Magherafelt. The first results are expected by late morning U.S. Eastern time.

Officials have given a preliminary turnout estimate of 54 percent. The official final turnout figure in the 2017 Assembly election was 64 percent.

ORIGINAL POST, May 5:

The Belfast Telegraph reported that the major political party leaders voted early in day: Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill in Clonoe; Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) Sir Jeffrey Donaldson in Dromore; Ulster Unionist Party’s (UUP) Doug Beattie in Portadown; Alliance’s Naomi Long in East Belfast; Social Democratic and Labor Party’s (SDLP) Colum Eastwood in Derry, and Traditional Unionist Voice’s (TUV) Jim Allister in Kells.

The Assembly uses the single transferable vote system, which ranks candidates by preference. Five representatives are elected in each of 18 constituencies across the six counties for a total of 90 members of the legislative assembly (MLAs). A total of 239 candidates are running, including a record 87 women.

Sinn Féin is fielding 34 candidates, followed by the DUP with 30. UUP has 27, Alliance, 24; SDLP, 22; TUV, 19; the Green Party, 18; and People Before Profit, 12.

In 2017, DUP won 28 seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly, one more than Sinn Féin’s 27 MLAs. The SDLP won 12 seats, UUP picked up 10, Alliance had eight, the Green Party two seats, and People Before Profit and the TUV had one MLA each.

Stormont, the Northern Ireland Assembly building in Belfast.

Northern Ireland readies for Assembly elections

Northern Ireland could turn nationalist for the first time since the island’s 1921 partition as voters May 5 select 90 representatives to the Northern Ireland Assembly. The six-county appendage of Great Britain has historically been governed by its pro-union, predominantly Protestant majority, with Catholics generally favoring the island’s political reunification. Now, a potent mix of economic and social issues and changing demographics rival the “perennial preoccupation with orange versus green,” The Irish Times has said, while also conceding that “unionism versus nationalism retains its drama.”

One potential outcome: the nationalist Sinn Féin party win the most seats, as polling indicates, but a bloc of multiple unionist parties block it from taking the first minister leadership post. That could cause a stalemate that prevents a new Assembly from being seated.

Below are links to some pre-election guides and background sources. I’ll aggregate coverage as the results become clear by the May 7-8 weekend and beyond. MH

Stormont, the Northern Ireland Assembly building in Belfast.

Catching up with modern Ireland

A periodic post of curated content …

Northern Ireland Assembly election are scheduled for May 5. The DUP’s Paul Givan resigned in early February as the power-sharing Executive’s first minister to protest the Northern Ireland Protocol, the Brexit-driven trade rules that separate the region from the rest of Britain. Givan’s move resulted in Sinn Féin‘s Michelle O’Neill losing her role as deputy first minister and cast doubt on whether the Executive, or the Assembly, could return after the election … if it takes place. The New York Times featured Upheaval in Northern Ireland, With Brexit at Its Center.

  • Ireland is repealing nearly all of its COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches its second anniversary. Overall, Ireland did pretty well dealing with the pandemic when compared with how other countries responded, Irish Times Public Affairs Editor Simon Carswell told the Feb. 27 In The News podcast.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden will travel to Ireland this summer, according to media reports that surfaced before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He visited his ancestral County Mayo homeland as vice president in 2016 and 2017.
  • Claire D. Cronin presented her credentials as United States Ambassador to Ireland to President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins on Feb. 10. Cronin is 25th U.S. ambassador to Ireland and third woman in the role, following Margaret Heckler and Jean Kennedy Smith.

Higgins, left, and Cronin.

History notes:

  • Two former nuns created a “Coastal Camino” that is bringing travelers to an otherwise neglected part of Northern Ireland, reports BBC’s Travel section.
  • Seventh century Irish monks who were largely responsible for transforming this sacrament into the version with which we’re familiar, John Rodden writes in Commonweal.
  • My story on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday for History News Network at George Washington University.

See previous “Catching up with modern Ireland” columns and annual “Best of the Blog.”

Presentation thank you & suggested reading

My thanks to the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh for the opportunity to make my Feb. 17 presentation, “The Irish Revolution in Pittsburgh.” If you couldn’t attend, watch the recorded version, which should be posted within the next few days.

As promised to live attendees, here is some suggested Irish reading that will keep you busy up to St. Patrick’s Day … and beyond:

Irish Pittsburgh:

  • His Last Trip: An Irish American Story, by Mark Holan, 2014. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh called my book “a fascinating snapshot of one family’s Irish-American experience and how their lives were shaped by circumstances here and in Ireland.” Available at CLP and the Heinz History Center.
  • Irish Pittsburgh, by Patricia McElligott, 2013. Part of the Arcadia Publishing series about people and places, mostly photos and captions.
  • Pittsburgh Irish: Erin on the Three Rivers, by Gerard F. O’Neil, 2015. A more detailed general history.
  • “Across ‘The Big Wather,’ The Irish Catholic Community of Mid-Nineteenth Century Pittsburgh”, by Victor A. Walsh in The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, Vol. 66, No. 1, January 1983.
  • “A Fanatic Heart: The Cause of Irish-American Nationalism in Pittsburgh During the Gilded Age,” by Victor A. Walsh in Journal of Social History, Vol. 15, No. 2, Winter 1981.

General histories:

  • How The Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall
    of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe, by Thomas Cahill, 1995. A bestseller and good
    foundation for subsequent events.
  • Ireland before the Famine, 1798-1848, by Gearoid O Tuathaigh
  • The Depictions of Eviction in Ireland: 1845-1910, by Lewis Perry Curtis, 2011. The late American historian gives an overview of how land-related hardships in rural Ireland during the second half of the 19th century set the stage for the nationalist revolution in the early 20th century.
  • The Modernisation of Irish Society, 1848-1918, by John Joseph Lee
  • The Transformation of Ireland: 1900-2000, by Diarmaid Ferriter, 2004. At 884 pages,
    this book may be more than you want, but it’s surprisingly readable, in part because it is carved up into bite-size subsections. Ferriter is probably Ireland’s most recognized
    contemporary historian. He writes a regular column in The Irish Times.
  • Peace After the Final Battle, 1912-1924, by John Dorney, 2014. The heart of the Irish
    revolutionary period.
  • Irish Rebel: John Devoy and America’s Fight For Ireland’s Freedom, by Terry Golway,
    1999. Devoy’s life and this book stretch from the Famine to the revolutionary period, including the role of the Irish in America. This “popular history” is a fast read.
  • Living With History: Occasional Writings, by Felix M. Larkin. The Dublin historian offers nearly 100 pieces, ranging from 500 to 5,000 words; sectioned under nine themes, including one on American people and events. Written for general audiences.

The Troubles:

It’s said that more books have been written about The Troubles than any other conflict. Maybe.
This go-to database contains more than 22,000 entries.

  • Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, by
    Patrick Radden Keefe, 2018. A vivid, street-level view of the viciousness and brutality of the
    Catholic v. Protestant and Irish v. British conflict as told through the particulars of one notorious case. The title is from a 1975 Seamus Heaney poem about the conflict: “Whatever You Say, Say Nothing.”
  • Making Sense of the Troubles: The Story of the Conflict in Northern Ireland, by David McKittrick and David McVea, 2002.

Journalism & travel:

  • Christendom in Dublin, by G. K. Chesterton, 1932. The English writer and Catholic
    convert attended the June 1932 Eucharist Congress in Dublin, which drew an international crowd of about 1 million to the Irish capital a decade after the revolution. Arguably the peak of “Catholic Ireland.” One-sitting essay.
  • Irish Journalism Before Independence: More a Disease Than a Profession, Kevin
    Rafter, editor, 2011. (The subtitle comes from the Dublin Evening Mail, 1908.) Academic
    essays about 19th and early 20th century Irish reporters and reporting.
  • Politics, Culture, and The Irish American Press 1784-1963, Debra Reddin van Tuyll, Mark O’Brien, and Marcel Broersma, editors, 2021. Collection of 15 pieces “tell a number of important stories and provides invaluable insights about journalism, about Ireland, about America, and about the ethnicity of the Irish in America,” Irish Ambassador to the United States Dan Mulhall wrote in the Forward.
  • On Celtic Tides: One Man’s Journey Around Ireland by Sea Kayak, by Chis Duff, 1999;
    and The Rule of the Land: Walking Ireland’s Border, by Garrett Carr, 2017. Social,
    political, and environmental journalism.
  • See Travellers’ Accounts as Source-Material for Irish Historians, by Christopher J. Woods, 2009, and The Tourist’s Gaze, Travellers to Ireland, 1800 to 2000, edited by Glen Hooper, 2001, for further reading ideas.

Poetry & literature:

  • Any collection of poems by William Butler Yeats or Seamus Heaney.
  • Dubliners (1914 short stories) and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916 novel) by James Joyce. The Irish capital at the turn of the 20th century.
  • Trinity, by Leon Uris, 1976. A hugely-popular best seller and an early influence on my interests in Irish history. Covers the period from the 1880s up to the 1916 Rising.
  • Transatlantic, by Colum McCann, 2013. Based on three historical events: Frederick
    Douglass’s 1845-46 lecture tour in Ireland; Jack Alcock and Arthur Brown’s 1919 flight
    across the ocean from Newfoundland to Ireland; and U.S. Sen. George Mitchell’s role in
    brokering the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
  • Short Stories of John B. Keane or The Teapots Are Out and Other Eccentric Tales
    From Ireland, or similar collections by the late essayist and playwright affectionately
    known as “John B”. A distant relation from the same corner of County Kerry as both of
    my maternal grandparents and other Irish relations. The dialogue in his short stories and plays perfectly captures their cadence and wit, which I still hear when visiting my living relations in this part of Ireland. More 20th century folklore and folkways, than history.

The North Kerry coast, July 2016.

A Pittsburgh boy remembers ‘Bloody Sunday’, 1972

Above the fold: Pittsburgh’s morning daily after Bloody Sunday …

As a 12-year-old boy in Pittsburgh, I was beguiled by the brogues of my Kerry immigrant relations as they talked at the kitchen table. Ireland seemed a misty, green isle of shamrocks and St. Patrick, 3,400 miles away across the Atlantic. The bloodshed and deaths in Derry on Jan. 30, 1972, changed that childish view as I read the newspaper coverage seen on this page.

Read my piece on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday for History News Network at George Washington University.

… and the city’s evening paper later the same day.

Catching up with modern Ireland

A periodic post of curated content …

  • As of Jan. 21 the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are easing most COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic enters its third year. “As we face into our second century as a free democracy, and as we navigate this new phase of COVID, it is time to be ourselves again,” Taoiseach Micheál Martin said.
  • Negotiations to revise the so-called Northern Ireland protocol have warmed under new British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, with the UK and EU trying to reach a deal by the end of February. This will help keep Brexit from jeopardizing Northern Ireland Assembly elections, which are expected in May. The potential ouster of PM Boris Johnson could be a wild card.
  • The Republic imposed a minimum unit price on alcoholic beverages as a public health measure intended to curb binge drinking and reduce alcohol-related health issues, the New York Times reported. The measure is part of 2018 legislation that included limitations on the labeling and marketing of alcoholic beverages — an important step toward combating alcohol abuse in Ireland.
  • The Irish government also has introduced a basic income program for up to 2,000 artists and other culture workers, with €25 million ($28.3 million) allocated to people and venues over three years.
  • Ireland is second only to Germany in the value of assets moved from the UK to EU banks after Brexit. “While Ireland’s international financial services sector has steadily grown over the decades, the UK’s exit from the EU has accelerated this trend, with Ireland now one of the key EU hubs for international banking and capital markets activity,” Fiona Gallagher, chair of the Federation of International Banks in Ireland (FIBI) and CEO of Wells Fargo Bank International, said in the report release.

Notable deaths:

  • Aoife Beary, 27, a survivor of the Berkeley, Calif., apartment balcony collapse, died Jan. 1, 2022, after suffering a stoke a few days earlier, the Irish Times reported. Five Irish J-1 visa students and one Irish-American died in the June 16, 2015, event, with Beary among seven injured. She suffered a brain injury and subsequently underwent open heart surgery. … See my 2016 post, ‘When Bloomsday feels like doomsday’.
  • No sooner had Beary’s funeral passed than Ireland was shocked by the murder of 23-year-old teacher Ashling Murphy while jogging a canal path near Tullamore. “The murder has shocked the country and around 100 vigils were organised the length and breadth of Ireland and Northern Ireland, including outside Dublin’s parliament,” Reuters reported. The killer was still at large as of this post.

History notes:

  • The Journal.ie published a 50th anniversary timeline of 1972 events in Northern Ireland, the bloodiest year of The Troubles. A staggering 480 people, mostly civilians, were killed that year, compared to 297 in 1976 and 294 in 1974, the second and third highest yearly totals. … The International Fund for Ireland (IFI) reported that more than 100 barriers still separate Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods in the North more than two decades after the Good Friday Agreement. The so-called “peace walls” include high concrete walls, gates, fences, and even private and government-owned buildings. Nearly 70 percent of all conflict-related killings in Belfast between 1966 and 2001 took place within one third of a mile of a peace-wall, IFI said in a Jan. 5 tweet.
  • A shroud of uncertainty hangs over the American Irish Historical Society as the New York City institution marks its 125 anniversary this year. The New York State Attorney General’s Office investigation into financial improprieties announced nearly a year ago remains open. “What is certain is that the questions originally posed still require answers, that the status quo cannot be maintained, and that the Society requires immediate reform and restructuring,” former AIHS Chairman Brian McCabe wrote in the Irish Echo.
  • Tentative steps are being taken to digitize the Irish Land Commission’s vast files to public. This will not happen quickly, but it is a great step forward.

Colebrooke Park in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.               Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland content pool.

Catching up with modern Ireland: October

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) in October published the 21st issue of its Statistical Yearbook of Ireland, which uses data to present a comprehensive look at life in modern Ireland. The 2021 edition published in three parts, linked below with CSO’s accompanying graphics. Part 3 includes data on the COVID-19 pandemic and an appendix on about Northern Ireland. My regular monthly roundup will return next month. MH

Part 1: People & Society

Part 2: Business & Economy

Part 3: Travel, Agriculture, Environment & COVID-19, including a special appendix of data supplied by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

Catching up with modern Ireland: September

As fall begins, tourism is returning to Ireland; housing prices are up, with the corporate tax rate perhaps soon to follow; and Brexit and the border continue to cause uncertainty in the North. Our monthly roundup:

  • Lough Graney, Co Clare                                                        Tourism Ireland photo

    As of Sept. 28, Ireland was the new No.1 in Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking. Almost 90 percent of the population is vaccinated. More restrictions are due to be eased in mid-October.

  • Unsurprisingly, Tourism Ireland has launched a “Green Button” campaign “to re-start tourism and encourage Americans to book Ireland as their next holiday destination. The €4.1 million campaign will target six key gateways and 11 priority cities, to reach and engage audiences who have the highest potential to travel to the island of Ireland. It is scheduled to run through early January 2022.”
  • See my September piece on “Welcoming American tourists to Ireland, 1913-2021.”

The North

  • Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Convey warned that the lingering dispute between the United Kingdom and the European Union over post-Brexit border arrangements could lead to the “collapse” of institutions around a two-decade-old Northern Irish peace agreement if the two sides cannot break the impasse, Foreign Policy reported.  Coveney visited Washington, D.C., after meetings in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.
  • “I would not at all like to see, nor, I might add, would many of my Republican colleagues like to see, a change in the Irish accords, the end result having a closed border in Ireland,” President Joe Biden said after meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, AP reported. The administration and members of Congress are concerned the British government wants to change the terms of its post-Brexit border deal.
  • But … the leaders of the four largest unionist parties in the North have released a joint declaration that reaffirmed their opposition to the Northern Ireland protocol. They’ve suggested the issue could collapse the always precarious Northern Ireland Assembly.
  • Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is still expected to attend an Oct. 21 prayer service marking the centennial of the partition of Ireland. Irish President Michael D. Higgins withdrew from the event, claiming that it had been “politicized.”

And more …

  • The Irish government may commit to raising its 12.5 percent corporate tax rate, but only if the global Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development agrees to amend proposed text from “at least 15 percent” to just “15 percent”, as it fears that the first formulation could lead to future rises in the rate.
  • House prices in Ireland have climbed 9 percent over the last year as the supply of rooftops remains restricted. The average price nationwide in the third quarter of 2021 was €287,704, a total of €24,000 higher than last year. This figure is 22 percent below the Celtic Tiger peak but three quarters above its lowest point in 2012, TheJournal.ie says, citing data from the Daft.ie and Myhome.ie websites.
  • Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner is failing to apply European Union privacy laws to U.S. tech giants such as Google, FacebookAppleMicrosoft, and Twitter, which all have their European headquarters in Dublin. See Irish Council for Civil Liberties report
  • Pamela Uba, 26, who moved to Ireland from South Africa with her family at age 8, became the first Black woman crowned Miss Ireland. The contest dates to 1947.