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Boston Irish Commentary

Split between Catholic Church and Irish government worsens

By Joe Leary, special to the BIR, July 31, 2013

The divide between the Irish Government and the Catholic Church in Ireland became more profound last month with the Irish Parliament’s approval of new laws liberalizing abortion restrictions. The aggressive moves by the Fine Gael/ Labor coalition government, which included forced resignations if party members did not vote their leaders’ wishes, embittered many.
But Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s drive to lead the Irish Parliament to approval of relaxed abortion laws was only the latest in a list of serious problems between the Government and the Catholic Church that grew worse when his administration took power in March of 2011. Read more

Of ‘Hoodies’ and Historical Amnesia

By BY PETER F. STEVENS, special to the BIR, July 31, 2013

A great many Irish Americans have forgotten that their ancestors’ brogans and workers’ caps were the ‘hoodies’ of their day

No matter where one comes down of the verdict in the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case, ignoring the issue of profiling is morally and historically myopic. What brought this to my mind, at least, was hearing well-known local attorney and cable network talking-head legal expert Wendy Murphy pontificate that Zimmerman was justified in shooting and killing Trayvon Martin because Zimmerman feared for his own life. That Zimmerman undeniably left his vehicle with his handgun – legally licensed – and “encountered” the teen matters not a whit in the world of Murphy and too many other pundits to list here, many bearing Irish surnames. Read more

An American conundrum: Balancing personal liberty and our social compact

By Anonymous, June 27, 2013

I find it hard to get excited about the revelations of government eavesdropping by Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old National Security Agency analyst who is now seeking asylum for what some view as treason.
I don’t doubt this young libertarian is sincere in his belief that the government is gathering vast amounts of information in what is an overzealous attempt to protect us from terrorist attacks. Perhaps the “national security” net is too broad and impinges on privacy rights. But to err on the side of public safety is understandable, given the world we live in. Someone observed that in order to find the “needle” you must first have a “haystack.” Read more

‘Marching Season’ fears reflect ongoing tensions in the North

By Joe Leary, special to the BIR, June 27, 2013

The “Good Friday Agreement” of 1998 has made little difference in the lives of many in Northern Ireland – especially in the disadvantaged areas of both East and West Belfast. Where are the jobs that were promised? The integration? Why the sputtering violence?
Many in the outside world feel the problems of Northern Ireland have been solved, but those closer to the situation know there is deep unrest as both sides feel the threat of coming violence if people’s lives do not improve. Read more

The value of accommodation

By Ed Forry, June 3, 2013

I refer not to the residential kind of accommodations of which we are all familiar but the adjustments one must make to the inevitable vicissitudes one experiences navigating the rolling swells that sometimes threaten life’s equilibrium.
Adapting to such currents requires patience, self-control, tolerance, understanding, and the capacity to overlook annoyances. By “overlook” I do not mean “ignore” but to look beyond the immediate irritation to something more important than anger or withdrawal. Read more

About blights – the natural, and the man-made

By BY PETER F. STEVENS, special to the BIR, June 3, 2013

Recently, scientists announced the discovery of the actual strain of potato blight that unleashed the Great Famine, An Gorta Mor. The natural villain behind at least a million deaths from starvation or disease and the Irish Diaspora of the mid-1800s was “HERB-1,” the name that an international team of molecular biologists has give to the lethal blight.
The onset of HERB-1, though not its biological identity, came in the summer of 1846. A County Cork farmer noted that same summer: “A mist rose up out of the sea….When the fog lifted, you could begin to see the potato stalks lying over as if the life was gone out of them. And that was the beginning of the great trouble and the famine that destroyed Ireland.” Read more

Delivering hopeful change to both Dublin and Belfast Information technology training for the Irish unemployed and underemployed

By Joe Leary, special to the BIR, June 3, 2013

This is a bit of a personal story for me – testimony to the help that Irish America has provided to the most severely disadvantaged areas of Dublin and the rest of Ireland.
Social planners 50-60 years ago built huge apartment buildings to shelter those who were unable to purchase homes for themselves. As a social experiment they turned out to be disasters. Many of us will remember the “Columbia Point” project here in Boston as a well-intended answer to low income housing. It no longer exists.
In Dublin, Ireland, the city fathers also built many such high rise buildings to house low income families. One such cluster, called “Ballymun,” was located on the way to and from the airport. The Irish American Partnership had just started in 1988 when I traveled to the Ballymun Job Center run by a Jesuit priest, Fr. John Sweeney. Over the next few years Partnership donors provided the Job Center with a number of grants to help the residents obtain employment. Read more

When in Paris . . . with Brendan Behan

By Thomas O'Grady, special to the BIR, April 8, 2013

By Thomas O’Grady
Special to the BIR

Today I walked along rue St. André des Arts in Paris, searching for an Arab tavern. I was following the footsteps of legendary Dublin-born man-of-letters Brendan Behan, or at least following their imprint in a poem he wrote—in Irish—in the Latin Quarter of Paris in 1949. Like many Irish writers before and after him—most famously Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett—Behan was drawn irresistibly to La Ville-Lumière (The City of Light): it was the absolute antithesis of “dear dirty Dublin.” Read more


By BY PETER F. STEVENS, special to the BIR, April 8, 2013

The fight between Markey and Lynch for a US Senate seat is mere child’s play against the ‘good old days’ of Irish politics
By Peter F. Stevens
BIR Staff

It won’t be like the “good old days” of Boston Irish politics. No matter how many stiff jabs that Ed Markey and Steve Lynch launch at each other in their Democratic duel for John Kerry’s former US Senate seat, the contest between the pair of “neighborhood guys” will prove Marquis of Queensbury compared to yesteryear. In no way will the race resurrect the wild roundhouses, uppercuts, and below-the-belt shots that once erupted in virtually any Boston political brawl that featured heavyweights as James Michael Curley and John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, as well as such contenders as James Ambrose Gallivan. Read more

Lots of “What Now? questions as Francis I takes St. Peter’s seat

By Ed Forry, April 8, 2013

By James W. Dolan
Special to the BIR

Pope Francis has his work cut out for him. In a secular world, how does he reconcile Christian orthodoxy – more particularly Catholicism – with democracy, capitalism, gay rights, women’s rights, abortion, and a culture that sometimes seems obsessed with sex and violence? Read more

Mourning a giant among men: The North’s Sir George Quigley

By Joe Leary, special to the BIR, April 8, 2013

By Joe Leary
Special to the BIR

Beneath all the tragic headlines emanating from Northern Ireland over these past 50 years lies a largely untold story of people on both sides that did their best to bring people together.
Though many resisted change, there were those who knew it was necessary and did what they could to make it a fair, just, and inclusive process, frequently at peril to their own lives and careers. Read more

Fox’s Sean Hannity Cons Unsuspecting Viewers

By Bill O'Donnell, special to the BIR, April 8, 2013

After years of casually watching Fox TV News, I have come to distrust much of what is churned out daily by the so-called news channel on its cable network. And after reading the research and monitoring reports by the respected fact-gatherers at the Media Matters organization, I have come to see that nighttime TV talk show host Sean Hannity’s stock in trade is a collection of lies, misrepresentations, misquotes, deceptive examples of Democratic sins, unsupported smears, and a reliance on labeling President Obama as a Muslim and/or a non-citizen long after those specious allegations have been put to rest. Read more

Enshrining Patrick Cavanaugh

By Thomas O'Grady, special to the BIR, March 3, 2013

By Thomas O’Grady
Special to the BIR

Recently, but not for the first time, I paid a visit to a roadside shrine (as it were) that remembers one of the iconic figures of so-called Bohemian Dublin of the 1940s and ’50s. Actually, the “shrine”—commemorating poet Patrick Kavanagh—has two separate but related parts. The earlier part is a bench dedicated by his friends on St. Patrick’s Day of 1968, the year after his death, fulfilling a wish Kavanagh had made a decade earlier in a poem titled “Lines Written on a Seat on the Grand Canal, Dublin.” Read more

West Cork school gets a surprise

By Joe Leary, special to the BIR, March 1, 2013

Every weekday, 24 Irish children, ages 5 to 12, attend a two-room school house in the remote West Cork countryside between the villages of Drinagh and Drimoleague. It is here, under the caring guidance of Principal Teresa Holland, that these children prepare themselves for Irish high school and entrance to the ferociously competitive Irish University system.

The Derryclough National School, however, has barely enough funds to keep operating. Located in the famous West Cork rolling farm country, the school has been seriously limited by constant government budget cutbacks. Read more

After we take our last at-bats, is that really the end of the game?

By Ed Forry, February 7, 2013


A close friend of mine died recently. He had been sick for a while so it did not come as a complete surprise. As we aged, we would often talk of the inevitability of death and the importance of being prepared for it.
We joked we were in life’s on-deck circle, waiting with others to be called to bat. From this at-bat nobody returns. You can only hope your turn in the batter’s box will be delayed. Read more