The Information about Ireland Site Newsletter
The Newsletter for people interested in Ireland
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Copyright (C) 2009
IN THIS ISSUE
=== News Snaps from Ireland
=== New free resources at the site
=== Countess Markievicz - a Biography
=== Famous Irish Inventors and Inventions #1
=== Luas or the London Tube Train by Pat Watson
=== Gaelic Phrases of the Month
=== Monthly free competition result
Greetings from Ireland where the coldest January
in decades has been replaced by an occasionally
balmy February. It was a real surprise to see
snow on the ground recently for the first time in
years and it was even better to see it melt.
Of course the talk in Ireland is all about the
economy but other news is finally beginning to
seep through. The Irish being what they are,
some people have never been happier now that
tough times have returned!
Until next month,
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NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND
ECONOMY CONTINUES TO DOMINATE IRELAND
The deterioration in the Irish economy continues
to dominate the media and political classes in
Ireland alike. According to recent opinion polls
the ruling Fianna Fail and Green Party coalition
would be decimated if an election were to be
held this year. The breakdown in talks between
Unions and Government representatives was followed
by the unilateral imposition of a pension levy
which effectively reduced the wages of tens of
thousands of public servants. The Unions responded
by organising huge street marches although it is
unclear just how much support the public sector
workers actually will receive from their private
The government led by Brian Cowen and Finance
Minister Brian Lenihan have for long periods
seemed to be buckling under the strain of the
massive downturn in economic fortune that has
suddenly engulfed Ireland. In recent weeks however,
they have been showing signs of a fight-back with
the pension levy ranking among the boldest
cutbacks by a government in living memory. Despite
the hammering they have received in the opinion
polls Fianna Fail seem intent on carrying out
their policies despite widescale criticism, in the
hope that their electoral prospects will recover
just as the economy might recover during the 2010
The Irish media have certainly joined in and are
taking great delight at the governments travails.
Reports of new jobs being created it the economy
are quickly being drowned out by reports of big
job losses in certain sectors. Already the famous
Waterford Irish Crystal company has fallen victim
to the global economic downturn and is to close.
The fact that the company has been devastated by
high staff costs and a weak dollar over the last
5 years hardly seems to matter to those unions
and politicians who are clamoring for the
government to bail out the business.
Ireland has been either a little bit unlucky or
very imprudent, depending on your viewpoint. The
international credit crunch has combined with the
decline in the Irish property market, just as the
US and European economies start to decline. The
combination of these factors has been severe on
the Irish economy to say the least and this looks
likely to be the scenario through 2010 and into
2011 at the very least.
IRISH PROPERTY MARKET HITTING THE BOTTOM?
The property market seems to be showing signs of
reaching the bottom with current estimates putting
the overall market at late-2005 prices which
represents a drop of between 15% and 30% depending
on which micro-market a particular property is in.
Reports from estate agents, who are always keen to
'talk up' the market, have suggested that investors
are re-entering the market bargain-hunting while
at the same time banks make mortgages more readily
available. The dramatic fall in interest rates by
the ECB can only help the construction sector
which has been severely hit by the economic
IRISH BANKING SECTOR ON ITS KNEES
Anglo Irish Bank has been nationalised while both
AIB and BOI have received massive funding
injections. The main problem with the banks is
their exposure to the ailing property market.
Investors are uncertain as to the actual level of
bad debt that the main banks are exposed to. Their
share prices have tumbled and seniors bank
officials and directors have resigned. Revelations
of dodgy deposits and elevated salaries for the
banking hierarchy have not gone down well with a
public that is being constantly reminded of the
need for austerity. Rightly or wrongly the
government has taken the hit for its attempts
to rescue the banks and it is by no means certain
that its efforts will succeed. Recent estimates
indicate the likely unemployment tally will top
the half million mark.
UNEMPLOYMENT MAY REACH 500,000
A new plan is being considered by the government
to allow workers to keep their social welfare
payments while working. The novel scheme is
designed to boost the numbers in employment
with the obvious advantage to employers of only
having to subsidise the government payment to
new staff. Up to 51,000 extra training places are
also to be provided by the State in an effort to
get people into employment.
LISBON RE-RUN MAY HAVE TO WAIT
Speculation is growing that the proposed re-run of
the Lisbon Treaty referendum may have to wait,
despite opinion polls revealing that the Treaty
would be approved if a new referendum were held
immediately. The downturn in the economy has
proved to be a big boost to those in favour of
Lisbon as greater co-operation with the EU is
cited by them as a means to economic recovery.
The government is clearly wary however, that if it
held a quick referendum then the public would use
the poll as an opportunity to vent its displeasure
with the ruling coalition for its handling of the
economy and reject Lisbon again. No immediate poll
is therefore likely despite the wishes of the EU.
The European elections are being held this June
with anti-Lisbon activists expected to stand for
office. Their success or otherwise will be very
telling of the attitude of the Irish people to the
Treaty that was originally spectacularly rejected.
US EMBASSY IN DUBLIN TO BE MOVED
The famous US Embassy building in Ballsbridge in
Dublin is to be closed and the Embassy moved on
foot of instructions from the US State Department.
A new embassy building is to be constructed with
a site near St. James Gate being mooted as a
possibility. The change is necessary as the
current building does not meet security
requirements for US embassies.
MOBILE PHONES CAN BE USED ON SOME RYANAIR FLIGHTS
Mobile phone calls at a rate of up to 3 euro per
minute are now available on 20 planes operated by
budget-airline Ryanair. Text messages cost 50 cent
each. Vodafone and O2 have signed up for the
service but Meteor and 3 have not, citing the
exorbitant costs to its customers. Plans to expand
the service to all 170 of Ryanair's planes depends
on customer demand. It remains to be seen just how
popular the service becomes with air-travellers.
IRELAND SOCCER TEAM DEFEAT GEORGIA
The Irish international soccer team have beaten
Georgia 2-1 at Croke Park to boost their chances
of qualifying for the World Cup in South Africa
next year. Having trailed from the very first
minute the 'boys in green' were awarded a very
dubious late penalty which changed the game.
Robbie Keane powered home the equaliser and
followed it up with a bungled header a few minutes
later. The Georgians were understandably furious.
The Irish team is currently managed by Giovanni
Trapattoni and the wily Italian has certainly
impressed with his ability to coax results from
what most observers would agree is not the most
talented Irish squad ever assembled. A defeat of
Bulgaria by the Irish in March would put them in
a great position to finish at least second in the
group, ensuring a 2-match play-off place and the
chance to qualify. Could the Irish top the group
ahead of Italy? Perhaps unlikely but if they can
catch the Italians napping and produce an
outstanding display then that dream would be very
much alive. Ireland face Italy in April.
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NEW COATS OF ARMS ADDED TO THE GALLERY:
The following 5 coats of arms images and family
history details have been added to the Gallery:
M: Mackie, Maddox
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Received my plaque, carefully wrapped,
in good order. It is splendid! I am
thrilled, and I know that my dad, for whose
81st birthday this was ordered, will love
it. I would like to order another one!
Everyone who has seen the plaque has been
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daughter says are 'not into ancestor
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COUNTESS MARKIEVICZ - A BIOGRAPHY
The famous Irish revolutionary known as Countess
Markiewicz was born Constance Gore-Booth in 1868.
She was born in London to Sir Henry Gore-Booth,
the famous arctic explorer. As an Anglo-Irish
landlord, her father was not typical of his type
and administered his lands with a degree of
compassion for the peasantry who farmed it.
He is reported to have provided famine relief at
his estate in Sligo during the famine of 1879.
This act of compassion undoubtedly inspired
humanity and concern for the poor in his daughter.
Living in Sligo the family were friends with the
family of W.B. Yeats, the romantic Irish poet.
He later wrote the poem 'In Memory Of Eva
Gore-Booth and Con Markievicz'.
Constance initially studied painting in London in
1893 where she became involved in the issue of
suffrage for women, joining the 'National Union
of Women's Suffrage Societies'. She continued her
artistic studies in Paris in 1898 where she met
Count Markiewicz, who was a Ukrainian aristocrat
of Polish origin. They wed in 1901 after which she
assumed the title Countess Markievicz. The couple
settled in Dublin in 1903 where the Countess
co-founded the 'United Artists Club' which was a
cultural and artistic organisation. It was perhaps
inevitable that while circulating in such society
she would be exposed to the revolutionary ideas
that were being swept along with the Gaelic
revival of the time. In 1908 she joined Sinn Fein
and Inghinidhe na hEireann - 'The Daughters of
Ireland', which was a revolutionary group
established by Maud Gonne, with whom she later
acted at the fledgling Abbey Theatre. She
continued to participate in the Suffragette
movement in England and by standing for election
she helped to defeat Winston Churchill in a 1908
In 1909 she established the radical 'Fianna
Eireann' which was aimed at instructing a youth
army in the use of firearms. She was jailed by the
British authorities in 1913 after speaking at an
IRB rally to protest the visit of George V to
Dublin. She had also joined the Irish Citizen Army
(ICA) established by James Connolly in response to
the 1913 'lockout' of workers. She established soup
kitchens and aid for the Dublin poor, often using
her own funds. Her marriage had by now
disintegrated with her husband returning to Europe
As a Lieutenant in the ICA the Countess
participated in the Easter Rising of 1916 where she
was second-in-command at the fight on St. Stephens
Green. Initially the rebels dug trenches in the
green but soon retreated from this position once
they were became vulnerable to snipers positioned
on the high buildings around the enclosed green.
Under the command of fellow ICA member Michael
Mallin they occupied the Royal College of Surgeons,
rebelling for a total of 6 days. They surrendered
only when they received a copy of Padraig Pearse's
surrender order. The Countess was jailed in
Kilmainham and sentenced to death but her sentence
was commuted on grounds of her gender. 'I do wish
your lot had the decency to shoot me' she retorted.
She was released from prison in 1917 by which time
the tide of support had turned in favour of the
rebels and the path to independence was set.
In 1918 she was again jailed for her
anti-conscription campaigning but upon release was
elected to the English parliament, refusing to
take her seat. She was the first woman to be
elected to the House of Commons. She was a member
of the first 'Dail' (Irish Parliament) in 1919 and
became the first Irish (and indeed European)
Cabinet Minister, serving as Minister for Labour
from 1919 to 1922.
She joined DeValera in opposition to the
Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1922 which partitioned the
country and fought in Dublin in the ensuing civil
war. She was again imprisoned but this time by her
former comrades-in-arms. Upon her release she
became a founder member of Fianna Fail and was
elected to the fifth Dail in 1927. DeValera had by
this time changed tactics and intended to
participate in the parliament. The Countess
however, never got her chance when, at the age of
59, she died of tuberculosis (or possibly
appendicitis) in July of 1927. She likely caught
the disease while working in the Dublin slums.
Her husband and family were by her side.
She was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, the final
resting place of so many Irish patriots with a
farewell crowd of 300,000 in attendance.
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FAMOUS IRISH INVENTORS AND INVENTIONS #1
JOHN PHILIP HOLLAND AND THE SUBMARINE
Although there had been submersed boats in
existence before 1896, including in the US Civil
War, it was not until John Philip Holland, who
hailed from County Clare, made use of battery
power for submerged conditions that the first
modern submarine came into being. In 1900 the
US Navy purchased the 'Holland VI' renaming it
the 'USS Holland' and the modern submarine age
ADMIRAL SIR FRANCIS BEAUFORT AND WIND SPEED
Francis Beaufort was born in 1774 in Navan,
County Meath in Ireland. Despite his humble
beginning as a cabin boy in the British navy
he eventually became an Admiral while also
inventing a scale to measure wind speed at
sea. That scale still bears his name:
'The Beaufort Scale'.
JAMES DRUMM AND THE RECHARGEABLE BATTERY
Doctor James Drumm was born in Dundrum in County
Down. In 1931 he developed the Drumm traction
battery which was a nickel-zinc rechargeable
battery. In February 1932 a battery-powered train
travelled the 80 miles from Inchicore to
Portarlington and back on a single charge,
which was a great advance in the use of batteries
and it was rechargeable!
FRANCIS RYND AND THE HYPODERMIC NEEDLE
In hospitals around the world the hypodermic
needle is taken for granted. Millions (perhaps
billions) of needles have been used since 1844
when Doctor Francis Rynd, a Dublin-based doctor,
invented the hypodermic syringe. The worlds first
subcutaneous injection was administered in
Dublin's Meath hospital.
LOUIS BRENNAN AND THE TORPEDO
Louis Brennan was born in Castlebar in the west
of Ireland in 1852. His family emigrated to
Australia in 1862. Having begun his career as a
watchmaker he developed a keen interest in
engineering. He invented the worlds first
steerable torpedo in 1974. He later worked on
monorails and on developing a helicopter. He was
knocked down by a car in Switzerland and died
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LUAS OR THE LONDON TUBE TRAIN
by Pat Watson
Fifty years later we have the Luas, Ireland's
answer to the London Tube Train. I don't
understand a word that the four Polish lads in
front of me are saying, but they look just like
the four west of Ireland lads on the London tube
train in nineteen fifty-five. They were talking
about their ability to dig spuds with a spade,
to drive pigs to the fair and one of them claimed
to be the best 'slanesman' at digging turf in the
west. I suppose the Poles were talking of
something similar. They have the bogs, the pigs
and the spuds and they looked like rural dwellers
so why not? There were no bogs in London then,
just as there are no bogs in Dublin now. Like the
Irish of old they work in construction. It may
not be for McAlpine or Wimpey, but it's sure to
be someone similar.
The driver calls out the next stop. The Four
Courts, 'Na Ceithre Cuirteanna'. I thought for a
minute he might say Camden Town or Tottenham
Court Road. The young Chinese girl sitting
opposite in the sunlight is talking on her
mobile. Her over done lipstick is showing on
her teeth as she laughs. Perhaps she comes from
teeming Beijing but I prefer to think she is
talking about the paddy-fields or the little
terraced hillsides above the Yangtze River.
Then again she may be ordering a take-away.
The two Nigerian women with the children on their
backs speak perfect English. As they are wearing
crucifixes round their necks, I suspect Irish
Missionaries educated them or their parents or
built their schools. They are talking about their
jobs in an accountancy office. It's great to see
them here. I hope they integrate happily into
Irish society as good or better than the last
generation did in London. The driver calls,
Smithfield, Margadh Na Feirme. It used to be The
Dublin Cattle Market. The young Irish couple
getting off here told me they just bought an
apartment for three hundred thousand euro. They
have one room let to Lithuanians who pay half
the mortgage. We Irish paid the Londoner's
mortgages in the fifties.
The two Philippino nurses are probably on their
way to Tallaght hospital or Saint James's. They
remind me of Mary-Ann and Peggy who nursed in
Guys in London. I wonder where are they now.
Isn't it great the way nurses seem forever young?
The Irish nurses used to be just 'it'. Now they
are just 'IT' people, hence the Philippine help
who are now just 'it'. I hope the 'IT' people
appreciate the 'it' people. The driver calls
'The Museum, Ard Mhusaem.' The Londoners never
said Baile An Camden or Bohar Na Tottenham
Cuirteanna. They're all the poorer for that.
Isn't it grand the way you can see the sun, the
rain and the scudding clouds through the windows
of the Luas. One never saw anything only the
dark dirty walls of the tube. You could dream of
the bogs, the green hills or the wild mountains
but there you were like a rat in a hole singing
about when there's brighter days in Ireland.
Well! The brighter days are here, as are all the
immigrants including second and third generation
Irish who emigrated in the last century. May they
find the old Ireland that their ancestors dreamed
The next stop is Heuston, connecting with all
mainline rail lines to the country. Having crossed
two countries we arrived at Euston main line
station in London all those years ago.
It's great to be back!
'Luas or the London Tube Train'
is one of sixty lyrical yarns from
'Original Irish Stories' by Pat Watson,
Creagh, Bealnamulla, Athlone, Ireland.
First published in March 2006.
To get your copy email the author here:
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GAELIC PHRASES OF THE MONTH
PHRASE: Thalla a chluiche le do deideagan
PRONOUNCED: hallah ah clih-heh leh duh daid-aginn
MEANING: Go play with your toys
PHRASE: De tha thu ah deanamh?
PRONOUNCED: day taw two ah dyane-iff
MEANING: What are you making/doing ?
PHRASE: Ta me a dheanamh dealbh
PRONOUNCED: Taw may ah yea/niff dyalb
MEANING: I am making a picture
View the archive of phrases here:
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I hope that you have enjoyed this issue.
Until next month!
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