ECONOMY STRUGGLING DESPITE RECENT JOB GAINS
The announcement that Internet giant Paypal is to provide 1000 new jobs in Dundalk over the next four years is a huge coup for the country and a sign that foreign multinationals are still very willing to locate in Ireland. The cost of labour is falling while the supply of qualified engineers and technicians continues to make Ireland an attractive location for Internet companies. The low rate of Corporation tax offered in Ireland also does no harm!
Despite this good news the unemployment figures are terrible. Over 14% of the workforce are unemployed with no expectation that this figure will be reduced in 2012. Growth in the economy is forecasted to be in the 0.5% to 0.9% range, below even the Irish government hope that growth would reach 1.3%. Small and medium-size businesses are being decimated with as much as 50% (perhaps more) of retail outlets closing down since the 2008 downturn began. Lets state that again: half of all shops and retail outlets have closed down since 2008.
Emigration continues to provide a depressing pressure-release valve as job-seekers desert the once roaring 'Celtic Tiger' (rapidly becoming a distant memory). The provision of funding by the IMF/EU/ECB continues to keep the country afloat, while critics of the loans point out that most of the cash being lent to the country at a punitive interest rate is being used to pay back the banks of Germany and France who lent Ireland the cash in the first place.
The problems in Greece seem to have been at least 'pushed down the road' somewhat with the prospect of a sovereign debt default there receding. It certainly does not look like Ireland will either default or leave the euro at this stage, but there is no degree of certainly in the eurozone at the moment. Crippling mortgage debt in Ireland combined with ridiculous rates of pay to the public sector could yet scupper the relative stability in the economy. The imposition of a VAT hike (sales tax) along with big personal tax increases is putting further pressure on those businesses that have managed to survive, threatening to further damage the economy.
It is a well known economic principle that the amount of tax collected declines as the tax rates increase. Whether the current government has failed to get the taxation balance correct remains to be seen.
CAMPAIGN AGAINST PROPERTY TAX HOTS UP
One of the conditions imposed by the IMF/EU/ECB in return for its high-interest loans is that Ireland introduces a property tax. Property taxes are not that unusual worldwide and have existed in many countries for decades. The situation in Ireland though is much more volatile with the history behind property ownership making the introduction of any new regime much more difficult.
Ireland was declared a Free State in 1922 and a Republic in 1948. Prior to that there were several 'Land Acts' in the late nineteenth century which essentially bought the land of the country back from landlords (many of whom were absentee landlords located in England). The freehold transfers of farmland continued right up to the final decade of the twentieth century. 'Ground Rents' to landlords were nominal payments that continued to be paid as recently as 2005 and are still payable on certain properties. Amazingly the government is still paying ground rent to English landlords for Dublin Castle, the Botanic Gardens and even Government Buildings.
Against this history of resentment by Irish property owners to both landlords and government it is hardly any surprise that the announcement of a new property tax is being greeted with such fierce opposition. The fact that the new tax is being forced on the country by foreigners (the EU/IMF/ECB) does not help the situation either. Some regard this as a loss of national sovereignty.
This is a very tricky situation for the Fine Gael/Labour government. On the one hand they need to satisfy the conditions of the EU/IMF/ECB loans while on the other hand they do not want to alienate every house-holder in the country. Several independent T.D.'s (members of the Irish Parliament) as well as Sinn Fein have vowed to oppose the tax, with some T.D.'s even suggesting that they will go to prison on a point of principle, rather than pay the tax.
FARMERS INCOME UP BY 70% IN TWO YEARS
Figures from the Irish Central Statistics Office have shown that the changes in the economy of both Ireland and the world have not been bad for everyone. The price increases of basic foodstuffs such as meat, milk and cereals have provided a mini-boom for the Irish farmer. Despite this big increase the income of many farmers still lags well behind the national average wage - at 21,500 euro per year many farmers continue to operate second jobs and businesses whenever they can, just to survive.
CLAMPDOWN ON WELFARE FRAUD STEPPED UP
It is a sign of the economic times that extra resources are being focused on stamping out welfare fraud with over 500 people in the last 10 months having their payments cut from 144 euto to 188 euro per week, for failing to attend a job interview or training. Plans are afoot to interview over 150,000 claimants to establish what skills they possess to enable them to get work, and to assess what can be done to provide them with employment.
SIXTH ANNUAL TED-FEST PASSES OF WITHOUT INCIDENT
Careful now. Down with that sort of thing!
The annual celebration of the finest-ever Irish Comedy TV show (albeit produced by Channel 4) took place without major incident or injury on Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands, off County Galway. The enduring appeal of the cult television show starring the late Dermot Morgan was again demonstrated as 300+ of the partially insane and totally drunk devotees of the show held a series of events including the 'Lovely Girls' Competition and the 'Craggy Cup' football match.
'There is a Dent in that Car!' - Clip from the actual Series
Ted-Fest Lovely Girls Competition
You can watch the real Father Ted on Channel 4 at:
Voice your opinion on these news issues here:
Ear-Rings from US$85
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New Designs available
on our Coffee Mugs
The Flight of the Earls in 1607, when Hugh
O'Neill, earl of Tyrone and Rory O'Donnell, earl
of Tyrconnell boarded a ship on Lough Swilly
bound for the continent never to return, is often
considered a pivotal moment in Irish history,
witnessing the demise of Gaelic Ireland, the onset
of Protestant ascendancy and penal days for Irish
Catholics. An event shrouded in controversy, the
Flight is typically characterised as mysterious,
and enigmatic to the point of defying explanation.
Even the term 'the Flight of the Earls', conjuring
up notions of a precipitate, tragic, perilous
escapade tinged with romance and despair, has been
the subject of dispute, with some commentators
questioning the historical accuracy of terming the
departure of the northern earls from Ireland as a
'flight' at all. Hostile commentators allege that
far from being driven from their lands the earls
voluntarily departed their native shores, indeed
'abandoned' their people.
The reality is that the departure of the northern
chieftains was indeed known at the time as the
'Flight of the Earls', that the earls fled in fear
of their lives, so much so indeed that the Earl of
Tyrone's young son, Con, aged about seven, could
not be located before the ship departed from
Rathmullan on Lough Swilly. Just as painfully for
the earl of Tyrconnell, his pregnant young wife
had to remain behind as well. Not only did the
exiled earls seek to secure the safe passage of
Con O'Neill and the countess of Tyrconnell, but
the fugitive party on the continent endeavoured to
persuade the Spanish authorities to support an
invasion of Ireland spearheaded by the Irish
regiment in Flanders commanded by the earl of
Tyrone's son, Henry.
As it happened a series of tragedies soon engulfed
the families of O'Neill and O'Donnell. Within a
short period of time, the earl of Tyrone's sons,
Hugh and Henry, passed away, while the O'Donnells
lost Rory, earl of Tyrconnell and Cathbarr, his
brother. As for the earl of Tyrone, he became a
victim of circumstance, his ambition to return to
his homeland being frustrated by the fragile peace
that persisted between England and Spain. Indeed,
the international dimension to the Flight of the
Earls is little appreciated. This resulted in part
from the contemporary reputation of the earl of
Tyrone in particular.
Following his spectacular victory at the battle
of the Yellow Ford in 1598 his fame spread
throughout Europe, earning him the accolade as
'the third soldier of his age'. Thus, when the
earls arrived on the continent they were treated
as international celebrities by allies and
admirers but became targets for assassination by
their enemies. Throughout his years in exile,
1607-16, the earl of Tyrone was reputed to have
slept every night with a sword under his pillow.
Overall, when the Flight of the Earls is
contextualised against a longer view stretching
back to the days of the Nine Years War, 1594-1603,
it is a tale comprising a series of dramatic,
sometimes comic, but more often poignant and
tragic events. An episode in Irish History steeped
in tales of war, passion, betrayal and derring-do,
with heroes and villains of every hue, the Flight
of the Earls constitutes a fascinating story
spiced with references to spies, assassins and
outlaws, kidnapping and hostage-taking, even
references to contemporaneous Robin Hoods as well
as a curious incident involving witchcraft.
Such was the degree to which war reduced people
to desperation that there were horrific scenes of
cannibalism during the Nine Years War (1594-1603),
a conflict which witnessed increasingly desperate
crown forces resorting in some areas to mass
murder tantamount to genocide. That Ireland was
once a refuge for pirate fleets as powerful as
any that plied the Barbary coast is little
appreciated. To a considerable extent too, the
Irish 'diaspora' originated in this period. The
early seventeenth century witnessed Irishmen
dispersed as far afield as the Netherlands, Spain,
Italy, Newfoundland and even the Amazon. As a
direct result of the Flight of the Earls, Irish
soldiers, the original 'wild geese', saw service
in Sweden, Denmark, Poland and Russia, many of
them having been transported by the English
So many themes that have resonated throughout
much of modern Irish history had distant echoes
in events culminating from the Flight. Thus the
issue of extradition arose directly from the
Flight when the English government sought to
force continental powers to repatriate the
fugitive earls. The English government attempted
to disarm (decommission) potentially disloyal
elements in Ireland. Catholic absentionism from
political institutions also occurred, and the
collection of a Catholic rent was organised.
Protestant settlers in Ulster, fearing for their
future in the event of the oft touted return of
the earls to reclaim their lands by force, soon
developed a siege mentality, surrounded as they
were by a hostile indigenous population. The
in-built 'apartheid' complexion of the Ulster
colonization project, inspired by biblical
teaching that it was fundamentally important to
separate the weeds from the good corn, instituted
a form of religious segregation in Ulster that
far from dissipating with the passage of time is,
it seems, becoming ever more prevalent.
Overall, the story of the Flight of the Earls is
a tale of epic proportions, an enthralling and
seminal episode in the history of Ireland that has
lost none of its drama and appeal in the passage
of time. Arguably, indeed, it is only now, after
the 400th anniversary of the Flight of the Earls
in 2007, that Ireland has finally come to
terms with the consequences of that momentous day
in 1607 when the earls departed Rathmullan's
shores, never to return.
The book 'The Flight of the Earls' by
Dr John McCavitt is available from here:
There's a hillside back in Erin,
Stretching high above the bay,
Where the sunset turns the heather
Into gold at close of day.
Peace is there when twilight lingers
And the valley down below
Seems a far off faerie playland
With the cottage lamps aglow.
Comes the moon through heaven's curtain
Sailing high and clear and bright,
With a host of stars aglitter,
Bringing beauty to the night.
And the ancient ivied castle
Seems as full of life as yore
With the moon exchanging shadows
For her partners on the floor.
There the cares of life are little
On the hillside o'er the bay,
There the soul of man is grateful,
At the closing of a day.
For the peace that comes too seldom
It is there that I would be,
And if I should fly tomorrow
I would take you all with me!
Jeremiah J. Shea
Walter Osborne was born in 1859. He painted
mainly in the French Brittany region of Quimperle
but moved to England in 1884. His paintings of
rural scenes that dominated his early years
gradually gave way to an 'impressionistic'
interpretation of those subjects that he had great
empathy for, namely women, small children and old
people. His superb images of young girls at play
are still cherished by the National Gallery of
Ireland: The Dolls School, The House Builders.
John Lavery was born in Belfast but was educated
in Glasgow, London and Paris. He originally worked
as an apprentice photographer but harboured
ambitions to be a portrait artist. He became an
official war artist and eventually a chronicler
of his times with paintings such as 'The
Ratification of the Irish Treaty in the English
House of Lords, 1921' and 'Blessing of the Colors:
A Revolutionary Soldier Kneeling to the Blessed'.
His most famous work was perhaps that of his wife,
Lady Lavery, 'The Red Rose' which was a painting
that had a number of incarnations before it
forever bore the face of the woman who was to
adorn the Irish Pound note for half a century.
William John Leech was born in Dublin in 1881 and
studied under Walter Osborne at the Royal
Hibernian Academy Schools. He became increasingly
interested in sunlight and shadow and this perhaps
might explain why the famous painting 'The Goose
Girl' was accredited to him. So proud of this
wonderful interpretation of a girl in a bluebell
field was the National Gallery of Ireland that it
adopted the image as their logo, only to finally
have to accept that the painting was in fact
completed by the Englishman Stanley Royle. He can
be regarded as one of the great Irish 'colorists'
as can be seen by his superb image: 'Les Soeurs
du Saint-Esprit, Concarneau', c. 1910-1912 which
has to be one of the finest of all Irish paintings.
Though excited by the prospect of being in a
different part of Ireland that evening,
Lisdoonvarna seemed a bit sleepy when we
arrived. 'Sunday nights are supposed to be
good for music and dancing, right?' my
husband Eric asked as we drove through town to
find the Marchmont B&B. 'Looks a bit quiet
tonight,' he added as we parked and liberated
our luggage from the car.
We'd left the wild beauty of Connemara that
morning and the current landscape (the same type
that thrilled us upon our arrival in Ireland)
seemed uninspiring and conventional, adding to
our growing concern that this night might be a
bit of a let-down. Eileen Barrett met us with the
usual Irish grace and friendliness that we'd grown
so fond of and then showed us to our room. We
inquired if she knew of any live music being
played in town that night. She said she wasn't
aware of anything but to try the sport pub. We
walked the short distance to the pub. No music.
We stayed for a pint ('See? The evening isn't
going to be complete flop,' Eric pointed out) and
to watch a bit of television. The barman suggested
we try Lynch's Hotel and see if anything might be
So we sauntered off, already feeling better having
one under our belts. To our great surprise and
happiness, the pub at Lynch's was hopping with all
sorts of folk kids, young adults, older adults,
maybe even a dog. Above the door was a birthday
banner for Brigid and just inside a couple of
fellows were setting up their band equipment. 'A
birthday party fun!' quipped Eric. 'But we
haven't been invited,' I protested. The barman
quickly assured us that we were as welcome as if
we'd lived there all our lives and proceeded to
inquire after our drinking needs.
Eric wondered if there might be a whiskey he'd
previously overlooked and asked the barman what
his favorite was. Without a word he went to the
storage room and brought out a bottle of Jameson
Crested 10 for Eric to try. 'Brilliant' was the
We settled in with our drinks and watched the
locals visit with each other while we waited for
the music to start. Once it did, Brigid
(apparently she worked for the hotel) and several
friends commenced dancing. Watching a birthday
celebrant having a complete blast at their own
party has always made me happy and I felt
privileged to witness this same joy while in a
Eventually I needed to visit the restroom. While
washing my hands, a girl of about 10 years was
filling up a squirt gun in the other basin. 'Is
that to get your brother with?' I asked her. 'How
do you know I have a brother?' she demanded with
an astonished look. I replied that when I was her
age, I had filled up a squirt gun or two with my
brother being the intended target. She grinned and
confessed that she had already gotten him in the
pants so it looked like he had wet them. We both
had a good giggle over that.
I returned to our seat to find that Eric had
abandoned it for the dance floor. A woman in a
lavender jacket (we never got her name) either
took pity on him for being alone or felt brave
enough to ask the Yank to dance. Either way, they
looked like they were having fun. When the song
was over, the women rushed over to assure me that
her intentions were good and not to worry. I
wasn't, but it was a nice gesture on her part.
At one point the band launched into a song that
sounded a lot like a Gordon Lightfoot song we
like. So at the next break we asked them about it
and got a bit of a history lesson about Bobby
Sands (the song was 'I Wish I Was Back in Derry')
and the hunger strikes. When they played
'Fisherman's Blues” by the Waterboys, we raced for
the dance area, anxious to move along with one of
our favorite songs. Practically everyone danced
and smiles were plentiful. We felt like we
belonged and were sad when the song ended.
As we were making our way through the crowd to
leave when the party ended, Eric felt a tug on his
sleeve. He looked over and there was Eileen! With a
playful grin on her face, she asked us to leave the
light on for her. 'No problem' we told her as we
headed out into the chilly night. As we walked (or
was it wobbled?) back to our B&B, we noted with
great satisfaction that the evening had not been as
quiet, nor indeed disappointing as we'd originally
feared. In fact, it was one of the most enjoyable
evenings we spent while in Ireland. And though we'd
probably never be able to recreate the series of
events that transpired that Sunday night in May of
2003, I'd like to think we could pop back into the
pub at Lynch's someday and still feel the magical
warmth of that evening.
Newark, Ohio, USA