By Bill O’Donnell
Irish “Gathering” To Be Highlight of 2013 -- The Irish government and its tourist agency are planning a mammoth party next year and are inviting some 70 million people of Irish heritage around the world to join in. It is hoped that the Gathering, modeled on the widely acclaimed Scottish event in 2009 called the “Homecoming, will bring over a quarter of a million visitors to Ireland.
At the launch last month in Dublin, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Taniste Eamon Gilmore took turns describing the events and reaching out to the diaspora in an effort to promote the 2013 Gathering as the biggest tourist event in Irish history. Said Kenny: “This initiative needs the widespread participation of communities and local organizations across Ireland. The Gathering gives each of us an opportunity to do something positive for our country in our own unique way.” Added Gilmore: “Ireland aims to engage with our global diaspora, to invite them to come home in 2013 ... it is not just for anyone with Irish heritage; it is also addressed to those who love or have an interest in Ireland”
A number of high profile Irish celebrities, including Liam Neeson, Maeve Binchey, and Pierce Brosnan are among the active supporters of the Gathering. For more details or to track information as it becomes available visit thegatheringireland.com
Sinn Fein Seeks To Upend Fiscal Treaty—Sinn Fein has moved from its original proposal that Ireland simply refuse to put the May 31 treaty referendum to a national vote to a new approach calling for the treaty to be voted down or ignored entirely and replaced by an alternative of a $16.5
billion investment boost to jobs and infrastructure. The party of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness claims that the proposal would create 130,000 jobs over the next three years and cut public welfare costs over a trillion dollars. This proposal was countered by the government campaign appealing to the public to vote ‘yes’ in the referendum. In a related matter the Referendum Commission ruled that the fiscal treaty
vote can only be deferred in the case of a general election. This effectively prevents a postponement of the May 31 vote, which Sinn Fein and some others have consistently proposed.
A political sidelight of the debate over the referendum has been the opposition of Eamon O Cuiv, Fianna Fail deputy, to the treaty and his
criticism of his party for “gagging him.” While O Cuiv, grandson of Eamonn deValera, has remained in Fianna Fail, he is seriously looking at challenging his party in June and seeking the leader’s post now held by
Irish Grads Fall Behind IT Job Needs—For years Ireland’s graduates from universities and some technical schools have enjoyed a reputation as the cream of Europe’s workforce, the best trained, most talented and eagerly sought after by multinationals. Sadly that was the profile some six or eight
years ago but things are changing in Ireland and not for the better.
A shocking story recently in the Irish Independent reported that recent graduates are “failing the country’s thriving tech sector by turning out unemployable graduates.” The charge is that almost none of Ireland’s dozen plus colleges that offer marketing degrees carries a relevant digital
Critics suggest that the Irish students are being taught by people who have not worked in the digital industry. Ian Dodson, who operates the Digital
Marketing Institute, says that after four years in college, new hires in the digital sector are having to take courses like Microsoft Power Point and Office. “We are being sent babies who need to be taught how to walk,” says Dodson. He also looked at Paypal, which has been trying to fill 1,000 job openings. “They will be lucky if they get 500
Irish people who are qualified enough in language skills.”
That’s a deeply troubling assessment if it is true. In the late 1990s, I ran job training programs for young people from Ireland and they were first rate and eagerly scooped up by solid companies and agencies here. It would be a
shame if Irish skills in some of the more prolific tech and digital fields were to drag down Ireland’s reputation for having an excellent work force.
Did You Know That … despite widespread belief that Aran knit sweaters or jumpers had distinctive cable stitching chiefly to identify fisherman lost
in curraghs off the Aran Isles, there is a much more prosaic explanation for their origin? Aran sweaters were originally knitted in the 1920s to be worn by boys for their First Holy Communion. They were hand-knitted almost always by family members who as a matter of family pride adorned the garments with intricate, decorative stitches.
The earlier misconception, romantic as it is, that the stitching served as amethod of identification for fisherman recovered from the water off the AranIsles was fueled by J.M. Synge’s play “Riders to the Sea,” which associated the decorative stitching with dead fisherman. What Synge was actuallywriting about was a plain stocking worn by most fisherman, not the hand
knits that appeared later.
Memories of ‘My Left Foot’s’ Christy Brown—I first met Christy Brown, the author of the searing novel Down All The Days and several others and three volumes of poetry, in 1970 in Cork at the since shuttered Oyster Bar. His first novel, taken largely from his own life story, was an international bestseller, translated into 14 languages and wildly praised with encomiums ranging from “unforgettable” to the Irish Times reviewer’s “Will surely stand beside Joyce and in front of all the others as Dublin
writ large and writ for all time.” His first writing effort in his
twenties was an autobiography, “My Left Foot,” wrenched from his young life as a creative genius in a body wrecked at birth by cerebral palsy that left him with just his soon-to-be famous workable left foot, an IQ in the 150s, and a hunger to create. His autobiography, Christy gleefully boasted to one
and all, was written by the world’s youngest author [himself], “next to Helen Keller, of course.” From that initial week together in the spring of 1970 we became fast friends, pals, with letters back and forth, signed books, visits, and even the occasional phone call from first Dublin, then Ballyheigue, Co. Kerry and later Parbrook, in Sussex, England. My wife Jean and I were in
Christy’s specially-fitted home in County Dublin when he and his lady, the Kerry girl Mary Carr, announced their engagement. Later we visited Chris and Mary in Kerry along with our daughter, Erin. Happy Days indeed and for the two of us, Chris and Willie (which he always called me), far too much free-flowing Hennessy.
He asked about straws, the flexible hospital type that he loved. I sent some and then sent more and more. Finally an urgent SOS from Christy: no more straws! Chris, hostage to a body that made him dependent on those around him and with daily demons that helped make him, awry in his wheelchair, a heavy drinker (which would help kill him before his 50th
birthday) was often notorious for his whimsy, bad puns and ribald, raucous exchanges with the males amongst his dozen siblings. Christy loved semantic duels, horse racing on the telly, singing badly with
friends in the pub, writing when it was going good and the IBM Selectric was humming, his wife Mary, American Jazz, lolling in his chair with a pint
glass and floating straw of anything alcoholic except beer.
The phone call from Britain came on a Sunday night in September 1981. I had just received in the Saturday mail a long letter from Christy, three foolscap pages filled with tales of writer’s block, a horrific internment to dry out at a local clinic, and tales “to hell and back.” as Chris described
his recent weeks. On the phone, Mary, sobbing uncontrollably, hysterically, was telling me that Christy was dead and asking had I received his letter. It was the last letter he had written to anyone, she said. Please don’t lose it, Mary pleaded. I flew to Ireland, to a cheerless, Christy-less Sussex country home, and later escorted Mary to Glasnevin where Christy resides today
among Ireland’s dubs and dukes.
Eight years later, at Dublin’s Savoy movie house I was sitting between Mary Brown and the actress Anna Manahan, holding hands. The three of us later chatted with U2’s Bono and the Edge, and watched the premiere for family and close friends of the 104 memorable minutes of Christy’s life in My Left Foot. Later that night, after a party for family and cast at the Gresham, we all landed at Powerscourt in the city centre where I somehow ended up taking Mary Brown by the elbow, walking her across the noisy jam-packed floor to introduce her to Daniel Day-Lewis while I swiftly disappeared. Mary was a friend and late night phone caller until she died in Brighton,
England in 2006. Christy would have celebrated his 80th birthday this month on June 5.
“Shooting is a popular sport in the countryside...unlike many other countries, the outstanding characteristic of the sport has been that it is not confined to any one class.”
Quoted by the New Statesman
from a Northern Ireland Tourist Board brochure,1969
Aer Lingus In Play—It is almost six years since Aer Lingus ceased to be a state-owned airline and the Irish carrier is likely to change hands, or, at the least, sell off a sizeable portion of the shares it still retains. That much is evident since Etihad, the national airline of Abu Dhabi, took a nearly 3 percent stake in Aer Lingus and Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary has not lost his interest in Aer Lingus despite a ruling in 2007 by the European Commission that Ryanair could not wholly own its rival airline. This ruling was later upheld by the EU Court of Justice.
There is a continuing deadlock over who will ultimately be able to purchase enough stock to own a controlling interest. Today the ownership of Aer Lingus is largely split by three entities. One is Ryanair, which has
been allowed to keep the 29.8 percent it owned prior to the EU ruling. The Irish government has retained 25.2 percent, and Aer Lingus employees have a scattered 14.9 percent stake. These shares together represent almost a 70 percent ownership of Aer Lingus.
Earlier this year as part of a planned state asset sale, the government announced that is was looking to sell its 25.2 percent share. Ryanair was specifically excluded from buying the state shares, but Abu Dhabi (Etihad) took an initial small stake in the Irish airline and could be looking for
Two possible scenarios regarding Aer Lingus in the coming months:
(A) The state would like to get out of the airline business and Aer Lingus, cleanly in the black, is an attractive target for other regional air carriers.
(B) Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airlines is considered a serious bidder in the short term and could buy a fairly substantial share of the state-owned stock, and Aer Lingus appears amenable to a cash infusion from Abu Dhabi.
Irish Social Club Makes A Comeback—In April 2011, the Irish Social Club closed its doors in West Roxbury. Founded in 1945 by Mary Concannon, it had at one time an astonishing 13,000
members. A year ago membership had dwindled to 239 with no plan in place for survival. Now in the spring of 2012, less than a year later, the Irish Social Club is completing the repairs and upgrades necessary to keep the club site solid and functioning; a membership drive has been a huge success with over 500 renewals already in and more coming every week, and the club has reopened and welcomes all to join in the revival.
From Kathleen Adams, who led the effort to reverse the decision to close and helped to form the steering committee to save the club:
“Thanks to the new officers: President Mary Maloney and fellow officers K. Adams, T. Maloney, Irene Daly, Ken Daly, Kay Hayes, Richie Gormley, Mary Tannian, Mike Walsh, S. Mannion, M. O’Donnell, Doc Walsh, K. Murphy, John Davenport, and Joan Kelliher. The club would have been lost without the kindness of Marty Walsh and the Boston Building Trades, Mike Monahan and Local 103 IBEW and our union friends. Thanks all!
Also due thanks for their protean help are Richard Archer, Jim Calvey,
Patrick Casey, Mary Mulvey Jacobson, Rep. Ed Coppinger, City Councillors Matt O’Malley and John Connolly, Sen. Mike Rush and our West Roxbury neighbors who deserve a hug or a handshake for rising to the occasion. To all the new and old members may your tribe increase and may the ISC thrive for years to come.
Peacemaker George Mitchell recently made a quiet trip back to Northern Ireland with son Andrew to keep a promise he made to himself during the GFA talks. … What is the Irish Embassy in Brussels doing promoting tax avoidance plans so Irish expats can escape taxes at home? … Don’t miss
the June 10 Tony Awards on TV where the Irish love story “Once” is likely to do very well. …Want an island all your own? Inisliroo Island on Lough Erne is for sale at just under a million. … Irish lawyers and judges are seeking help for depression and stress, higher than in the UK. … Congratulations to St. Clement Parish on the Somerville-Medford line, my old school, on its Centennial. … The forecast for Irish growth for 2012 is a low 0.5 percent, hoping for almost 2 percent in 2013. … NI’s Darren Clarke, who won last year’s British Open, reportedly takes the
winner’s Claret Jug with him everywhere. … June 15 and 16 are days to mark Bloomsday 2012 at 100 Franklin St., Boston, at Arch and Devonshire. … Hard to believe, but Galway University Hospitals report that they had 35,000 no-shows for appointments last year. … Ireland still doing its part; its just sent six unarmed observers to monitor the situation in Syria. … True story: A member of Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (FAIR) saw an Italian flag atop a Tyrone school and reported it as a Tricolor and the school as an IRA training facility. … The actress Fionnula Flanagan joined the protest against building a mall in Dublin at the Moore Street site where
the Rising leaders sought refuge after leaving the GPO. … Newt Gingrich owes his vendors and PR people $4.8 million and Pastor Santorum owes $2.3 million. An expensive ego trip for Nasty Newt. … Even long gone from this earthly scene, Charlie Haughey makes news. His Abbeville estate in Co. Dublin, is going for $9.5 million. …Friends were worried about 91-year-old Maureen O’Hara, who some said was a victim of elderly abuse. That proved groundless and she’s fine and working away on her foundation.
Old friend Bertie Ahern may have found a way to
spend his retirement riches, He is facing a possible $1.3 million penalty about his finances and could have to pay his legal bills, which are substantial following the Mahon Tribunal negative findings. … What a couple of stand-up guys? Rupert Murdoch blames his employees for his papers’ phone tapping woes. And Mitt Romney looked the other way and had a virtual “no comment” when his top foreign affairs advisor, who is gay, left under
pressure. … Some news outlets are asking if the US Conference of Catholic Bishops is becoming the new religious right? Were they around during George W’s love affair with the Catholic Church and its voters? This is old, old news. … And is it true that Cardinal Law, who was at the helm during the worst of the clerical abuse in Boston, is actually leading the hunt
to “expose” the good nuns who have labored with dignity and something akin to sacred servitude.
BC’s Tom O’Connor was the real thing, a Southie guy who loved his city and its history. How fortunate we were to have him with us all these years sharing his wisdom. A good man at rest. RIP.