Tag Archives: Joe Biden

Catching up with modern Ireland

March was a newsy month for Ireland, including the failed constitutional referendum, a sour St. Patrick’s Day visit to the White House, and the shock resignation of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Here’s some coverage and commentary that has caught my attention:

Varadkar resignation, Harris ascension, Donaldson resignation

Varadkar

The messiah complex: Neither Leo Varadkar, nor anyone else, could be a ‘savior’ of Fine Gael, Fintan O’Toole in The Irish Times (Ireland)

“He was able, articulate and – in the twin crises of Brexit and the Covid pandemic – reassuringly adept. But his great talent was for riding out contradictions, not for resolving them. He managed to walk the line between politician and anti-politician, conservative instincts and an increasingly progressive society. …”

Update 1: The governing Fine Gael has selected Simon Harris as its new leader. There was no opposition to him within the party. At 37, he is set to become Ireland’s youngest taoiseach on April 9; a year younger than Varadkar when he took the job in June 2017. Some are already calling Harris the “TikTok Taoiseach.”

Harris was first elected to the Dáil in 2011 and managed Ireland’s COVID-19 response as minister for education, research and science. He has dismissed calls for a general election before the scheduled contest in March 2025.

Update 2: Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, abruptly resigned March 29 after being charged with sexual offenses. Leaders of the Northern Ireland say the development will not impact the power-sharing government, but it has rocked Irish and British politics.

Reverse reads on referendum result

Ireland’s Snakes of Secularization“, National Catholic Register (USA)

There is a very understandable desire among the faithful in Ireland — and elsewhere — to interpret this month’s rejection by Irish voters of a pair of “woke” constitutional amendments as a decisive Catholic inflection point. According to this narrative, the unexpected and overwhelming rejection of these amendments represents a watershed moment in terms of reversing the tide of secularization that has washed over Irish society in recent decades. Unfortunately, that’s probably untrue. … The hostility of voters toward the progressive inanities expressed by both amendments can’t be taken as a sign that secularism is now generally on the wane in Ireland — or that a concomitant rebirth of Catholic faith is broadly underway.

Ireland and the terrible truth about wokeness“, Spiked (England)

Ireland has become hyper-woke. Its elites are fully converted to the gender cult. They promote the ruthless policing of ‘hate speech’, which really means dissent. They damn as ‘far right’ anyone who raises a peep of criticism about immigration. Their culture war on the past is relentless. Woke is the state religion of Ireland now. And if you thought Catholic Ireland was sexist, irrational and illiberal, just wait until you see what wokeness unleashes. … The irony is too much: in ostentatiously distancing themselves from bad old religious Ireland, the elites have created a system of neo-religious dogmas that makes the Catholic era seem positively progressive in comparison.

Green (and blue) at the White House

Biden

Can the Irish Get Biden to Change His Policies on Gaza?, New York (USA)

Many of the actual Irish — the ones who came over from Éire for this annual celebration of the shamrock diaspora — spent the afternoon trying to talk sense to Biden over his Gaza policies, and his confounding (to them) support of Israel’s relentless military response to Hamas. … The Irish have a long-held kinship with the Palestinians. They see parallels between their struggle against Israel and the Irish struggle against British rule. They see in the famine that is gripping Gaza today a tragic echo of their own. This has been true for decades, but never more so than now. … So just beneath all the stout suds, these were the fault lines on display at Biden’s St. Patrick’s Day party this year: his assumption that the Irish were his friends and that so were the Israelis. But it’s no longer so easy to be both.

Three more stories:

  • Britain is appealing a ruling against its Legacy Act, which gives amnesty to ex-soldiers and militants involved in Northern Ireland’s “Troubles.” Victims’ families have challenged the law, and a Belfast court in February ruled it breached human rights. The Irish government is separately contesting the law before the European Court of Human Rights.
  • Rose Dugdale, who left a life of wealth to become a partisan activist fighting for Irish independence in the 1970s, died in Dublin, aged 82.
  • The Central Statistics Office launched the Women and Men in Ireland Hub, ” which features data from the CSO and other public sources broken down into six main themes: Gender Equality, Work, Education, Health, Safety & Security and Transport.

Best of the Blog, 2023

Welcome to my 11th annual Best of the Blog, a roundup of the year’s top work. I appreciate the support of my regular readers, especially email subscribers (Join at right.) and other visitors. This year’s site traffic surpassed 2022 on Dec. 1 and will finish second only to 2020, when COVID quarantine rocketed readership.

BPL reading room.

As aways, I also want to thank the archivists and librarians who assisted my research during the year. 2023 was split between Cambridge, Massachusetts, where my wife finished her Nieman Fellowship, and our return to Washington, D.C. In New England I visited collections at Harvard University, Boston College, Boston Public Library, Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and Colby College in Waterville, Maine. In DC I have made numerous trips to the Library of Congress. The New York Public Library and Kings College London provided remote help with digital scans of requested material. I am always grateful for the easy access to historic newspaper archives provided by Newspapers.com, the Irish Newspaper Archives, and other collections.  Finally, thanks to authors and publishers who have sent me their Irish-related books.

BACK TO IRELAND

In March I made my eleventh trip to Ireland, the first since before COVID. My wife and I were happy to see our relations in Kerry. We enjoyed St. Patrick’s Day in Kilkenny, which we visited for the first time. In November we flew into the Dublin airport enroute to Brussels and on our return to DC. I enjoyed the airborne views of Ireland but missed having a proper second visit. Hope to get back in 2024.

Dingle Peninsula, March 2023.

POPULAR POSTS

This year’s most viewed post explored the history behind an Academy Award-nominated movie:

Two other posts about contemporary events in Ireland also included historical background:

JOURNALISM HISTORY

I added a dozen posts to my American Reporting of Irish Independence series, which now totals more than 150 entries since December 2018. I continue to explore this topic as I work toward a book.

This year’s highlights included:

When a boatload of reporters steamed to the Easter Rising (1916)

Arthur Gleason’s ‘inside’ reporting of post-Rising Ireland (1916-17)

Reporter vs. reporter: Ackerman and Grasty in Ireland (1920/21)

Praying and ‘knocking heads together’ to end Irish Civil War (1923)

Killarney National Park, March 2023.

FREELANCE PIECES … 

… & GUEST POSTS

Journalists, historians, authors, researchers, and travelers to Ireland are welcome to offer submissions. Use the contact form on the Guest Posts landing page to make a suggestion.

Kilkenny Castle, March 2023.

YEARS PAST:

More great content in our “BOB” archive:

Biden’s sentimental Irish American trip to Ireland

U.S President Joe Biden’s four-day trip to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland was an elegy or wake for sentimental Irish American views of Ireland, at least according to preliminary opinion coverage. This view was especially noticeable in The Irish Times, the once conservative but now liberal national daily.

“The 46th president is almost certainly the last great avatar of a specifically Irish-American culture that is now in terminal decline,” wrote columnist Hugh Linehan. The Irish aren’t nostalgic, he insisted, but Irish Americans are. Linehan continued:

From the mid-19th century onward, waves of migration to the big cities of the US northeast created a market for drama, stories and songs lamenting the misery of Irish exile and usually declaring a fervent desire to ‘be back in [insert evocative name of townland here]’. There was also a lot of talk about mothers. As the 19th century became the 20th, these melodramas, comedies and songs migrated from the stage to the screen and the radio Irish-Americanness became a clearly defined strand of US – and therefore global – pop culture. Along the way, it was beamed back to the mother country where it was received with a mixture of bemusement, amusement and a keen awareness that there might be a few bob to be made from it. The naïve returning Yank remains a recurring trope to this day.

Not to be outdone, Fintan O’Toole suggested, “Biden’s sense of Irishness is very real and profoundly felt. But it is rooted in soil that is now increasingly thin on the ground in Ireland itself: a complete fusion of Irish and Catholic identities. … In Irish-America, this parochial Catholic world can be recalled with a simple, uncomplicated fondness that is almost impossible now in Ireland itself. … Biden is here because he identifies passionately with a religious idea of Irishness that has lost much of its grip on the homeland.”

Comparing the June 1963 visit of President John F. Kennedy to Biden’s trip 60 years later, O’Toole continued, “This is a case of history repeating itself, the first time as a dream of the Irish future, the second as echo of an Irish past. JFK embodied, in all his impossible glamour, an idea of what Ireland then aspired to be: modern, sophisticated, confident. Biden now embodies an idea of what Ireland used to be — a place in which ‘Irish’ and ‘Catholic’ was a match made in heaven (and from which there could be no divorce).”

Finally, the Times‘ Gerard Howlin wrote, “Ireland today bears little relationship to the one imagined by Irish America. … There is something of the end of an era about the Biden visit. He is the last of the generation of Irish-American politicians who can remember the springtime Kennedy spoke of and who subsequently gave generously of their friendship.

President to president: Ireland’s Michael D. Higgins and Joe Biden.                       President of Ireland media library

 and  echoed this view in the American press: “The Ireland Biden visited is a distant cry from the place his ancestors left so long ago. It doesn’t even look much like the country John F. Kennedy – the last Irish Catholic president – toured in 1963.”

These suggestions that Irish Americans cling to outdated and overly romanticized views of Ireland is greatly exaggerated and has become a cliché. More than 900 American companies do business in Ireland, and 700 Irish firms have operations in the United States. Combined, they employ several hundred thousand Irish and American citizens in both countries. These people–and their families and friends–understand modern Ireland, as do most tourists.

Biden correctly noted that Kennedy’s trip “captur(ed) the imaginations of Irish and Irish American families alike.” But, he added, “For too long Ireland has been talked about in the past tense. … Today, Ireland’s story is no one’s to tell but its own.” He emphasized the contemporary partnership between the two nations.

Negative coverage

At the National Review, Michael Brendan Dougherty wrote that Biden seemed “not to know or care that, in Ireland, a public official admitting to some pride in Irish-Catholic identity would be an incident more infamous and unwelcome than a Loyalist bombing of a day-care center,” a grossly irresponsible statement from the conservative writer. Fox News and some Republican lawmakers jumped on Biden’s remark about “not going home” to the U.S., but “staying here” in Ireland. If only he would keep his word, they chortled, predictably.

Biden began the trip with a quick stop in Belfast, Northern Ireland, to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. Some British press opinion pages and a few hardline Brexiteers and unionists criticized the president in much the same way as their right-wing brethren in America. In the most notorious example, former Northern Ireland Assembly First Minister Arlene Foster of the Democratic Unionist Party vomited that Biden “hates the U.K.,” in part because of his announced decision not to attend the coronation of King Charles III. Oh my!

Current DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson was more moderate in his comments. He welcomed Biden’s offer to support investment in Northern Ireland, without interfering in local political matters. Donaldson and the DUP have refused to participate in the power-sharing Assembly for a year due to objections to the way Brexit treats the province.

“In the estimation of British officials, Biden’s brief visit (to the North) accomplished what they had hoped, a quiet message with carefully chosen words that did not aggravate the dynamic and might eventually help lead to another restoration of government,” wrote Washington Post chief political correspondent Dan Balz. “Biden could point but not forcefully persuade. As always in Northern Ireland, it remains in the hands of the leaders and the people there to make the way forward.”

I’m interested to see how Biden’s Ireland trip is viewed in the coming weeks and months; whether the visuals are used in his anticipated re-election campaign; and if he returns to the island during a potential second term or post presidency. It will be just as interesting to see how, or whether, his visit is leveraged by Irish tourism and other commercial interests.

Biden to visit N. Ireland, address legislators in Republic

UPDATE:

Read the full text of Bident’s April 13 address to the joint session of the Irish legislature.

ORIGINAL POST:

Joe Biden is visiting Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The April 11-14 trip is pegged to the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and Biden’s unabashed Irish heritage. He visited the Republic as vice president in 2016. I’ll report any extraordinary developments during the week; otherwise, I’ll wait until after the visit to write a follow up post. MH

On April 13 Biden is scheduled to become the fourth U.S president to address a joint sitting of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann, lower and upper chambers, respectively, of the Republic’s legislature. Below are select excerpts from the speeches of John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton, with some background about their visits and remarks.

KENNEDY, June 28, 1963: Famously the first Catholic U.S. president, though not the first with Irish heritage, Kennedy visited Ireland three times before he won the presidency in 1960: in 1939 with his father, then U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain Joseph P. Kennedy; in 1945 after his service in World War II, when he interviewed Taoiseach Éamon de Valera for the New York Journal-American; and in 1955, as a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, when he met with T.D. Liam Cosgrave. Kennedy was assassinated five months after the historic 1960 trip, five years before the start of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

I am deeply honored to be your guest in a free parliament in a free Ireland. If this nation had achieved its present political and economic stature a century or so ago, my great grandfather might never have left New Ross (County Wexford), and I might, if fortunate, be sitting down there with you. Of course if your own president had never left Brooklyn, he might be standing up here instead of me. (Éamon de Valera was born in 1882 to an Irish mother and sent to Ireland two years later after his father died.) … I am proud to be the first American president to visit Ireland during his term of office, proud to be addressing this distinguished assembly, and proud of the welcome you have given me. … John Barry, whose statue we honored yesterday and whose sword is in my office, was only one who fought for liberty in America to set an example for liberty in Ireland. Yesterday was the 117th anniversary of the birth of Charles Stewart Parnell–whose grandfather fought under Barry and whose mother was born in America–and who, at the age of 34, was invited to address the American Congress on the cause of Irish freedom. “I have seen since I have been in this country,” he said, “so many tokens of the good wishes of the American people toward Ireland . . .” And today, 83 years later, I can say to you that I have seen in this country so many tokens of good wishes of the Irish people towards America. KENNEDY’S FULL SPEECH

JFK, standing at center right, at the Dáil in Dublin, June 1963.

REAGAN, June 4, 1984: Reagan’s visit to Ireland stirred wide protests against his hawkish foreign policies, including several Dáil members who walked out of his speech. His visit came about halfway through the 30-year Troubles. Reagan won a second term five months later.

I am the great-grandson of a Tipperary man; I’m the president of a country with the closest possible ties to Ireland; and I was a friend of Barry Fitzgerald. (William Joseph Shields, 1888-1961, known professionally as Barry Fitzgerald, was an Irish stage, film and television actor, like Reagan.) One Irishman told me he thought I would fit in. “”Mr. President,” he said, “”you love a good story, you love horses, you love politics — the accent we can work on.” …  The trouble in the north affects more than just these two great isles. When he was in America in March, your Prime Minister (Garret FitzGerald) courageously denounced the support that a tiny number of misguided Americans give to these terrorist groups. I joined him in that denunciation, as did the vast majority of Irish Americans. I repeat today, there is no place for the crude, cowardly violence of terrorism — not in Britain, not in Ireland, not in Northern Ireland. All sides should have one goal before them, and let us state it simply and directly: to end the violence, to end it completely, and to end it now. … The position of the United States in all of this is clear: We must not and will not interfere in Irish matters nor prescribe to you solutions or formulas. But I want you to know that we pledge to you our good will and support, and we’re with you as you work toward peace. (Reagan made two references to Kennedy.) REAGAN’s FULL SPEECH

CLINTON, Dec. 1, 1995: Clinton was the first U.S. president to visit Northern Ireland. His visit came just over a year after the IRA and loyalist paramilitaries declared ceasefires, which were subsequently broken and then renewed before the Good Friday Agreement was reached in April 1998. Clinton returned to Northern Ireland and the Republic in September 1998.

We live in a time of immense hope and immense possibility — a time captured, I believe, in the wonderful lines of your poet, Séamus Heaney, when he talked of, “the longed-for tidal wave of justice can rise up and hope and history rhyme.” (Biden often quotes this line from Heaney’s poem, ‘The Cure at Troy.’) … Today, I have travelled from the North where I have seen the difference Ireland’s leadership has made for peace there. At the lighting of Belfast’s Christmas tree before tens of thousands of people, in the faces of two communities divided by bitter history we saw the radiance of optimism born especially among the young of both communities. In the voices of the (Protestant) Shankill and the (Catholic) Falls there was a harmony of new hope and I saw that the people want peace, and they will have it. George Bernard Shaw with his wonderful Irish love of irony said: “peace is not only better than war but infinitely more arduous. … In the prosperity and freedom of our nation we are grateful for what (Irish immigrants) did and for the deep ties to Ireland they gave us in their sons and daughters. Now we seek to repay that in some small way by being a partner with you for peace. We seek somehow to communicate to every person who lives here that we want for all of your children the right to grow up in an Ireland where this entire island gives every man and woman the right to live up to the fullest of their God-given abilities and gives people the right to live in equality, freedom and dignity. That is the tide of history. We must make sure that the tide runs strong here for no people deserve the brightest future more than the Irish. (Clinton made one reference to Kennedy.) CLINTON’S FULL SPEECH

Four other U.S. presidents have visited Ireland but did not address the Dáil: Richard Nixon, October 1970; George W. Bush, June 2004 and February 2006; Barack Obama, May 2011; and Donald Trump, June 2019. See 23 presidents with Irish heritage.

Headline: Good Friday Agreement reaches 25th anniversary

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

N. Ireland trade tweak passed without DUP support

UPDATE:

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.

ORIGINAL POST:

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.

Stormont, home of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and now a new trade “brake.”

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)

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:

This post was revised March 7, 2023, to provide a link to the full survey. MH

Ten Irish stories to watch in 2023

Happy New Year. Here are 10 stories to watch in 2023 in Ireland and Irish America:

  1. The 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement is in April. Queens University Belfast plans to recognize the milestone, which certainly will draw American participation.
  2. Ongoing negotiations over the Brexit trade “protocol” between Northern Ireland, other parts of Great Britain, and the Republic of Ireland, remains a contentious issue that threatens peace in the province. Yea, it’s confusing. Here’s an explainer from the BBC.
  3. Resolving the protocol also is key to restoring the Northern Ireland Assembly, which the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has blocked from operating since losing the majority to Sinn Féin in the May 2022 election. A new election is expected this spring.
  4. In addition to fixing the protocol and holding the election, the May coronation of King Charles III could have some impact on relations between unionists and nationalists in the North, if only symbolically. For perspective, Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation occurred 15 years before the start of the Troubles. Charles has already signaled his impatience with the DUP’s tactics.
  5. May also marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the Irish Civil War in what was then called the Irish Free State. This will be the conclusion of the 12-year-long “Decade of Centenaries,” which began in 2012 with remembrances of the introduction of the third home rule bill and signing of the Ulster Covenant. It has included the centenary of World War I, the 1916 Easter Rising, and the Irish War of Independence.
  6. U.S. President Joe Biden appears likely to travel to Ireland this year. His last visit was 2016 as vice president. In December, Biden named former U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, grandson of the late U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy, as special envoy to Northern Ireland to focus on economic development and investment opportunities.
  7. Irish tourism reached 73 percent of pre-pandemic levels in 2022, but industry officials are bracing for only single-digit growth or a potential decline in 2023. Full recovery to 2019 levels is not expected until 2026, the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation said.
  8. Met Éireann, the Irish weather service, says 2022 was the warmest year in Ireland’s history and the 12th consecutive year of above-normal temperatures. Climate change will continue to impact daily life, the economy, and politics on both sides of the border.
  9. Interim measures were announced last fall to sort out financial troubles at the American Irish Historical Society and Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, in New York City and Connecticut, respectively. It’s worth keeping an eye on these important organizations to be sure both are fully restored.
  10. Finally, here’s something that will not happen on the island of Ireland in 2023: a reunification referendum. See the “North and South” package of polling and stories from The Irish Times.

Ballinskelligs, Co. Kerry.                                                                                                          Kevin Griffin via Fáilte Ireland.

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.”

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.