The Information about Ireland Site Newsletter
The Newsletter for people interested in Ireland
Now received by over 50,000 people worldwide
Copyright (C) 2007
IN THIS ISSUE
=== News Snaps from Ireland
=== New free resources at the site
=== On the Magic and Modernisation of Ireland
=== A surprising Irish trip by Carol Martin
=== Mermaid in a Bowl of Tears by Cindy Brandner
=== Hear her Whisper Answer her Call by NJ Bryan
=== Gaelic Phrases of the Month
=== Shamrock Site of the Month: celticattic.com
=== Monthly free competition result
Hello again from Ireland which has just
experienced one of the wettest Junes in recent
history! The Irish weather has been the subject
of much discussion recently with global warming
taking its share of the blame. Whatever the
cause, the Irish can still laugh about it as
evidenced by the recent contribution from an
unknown author below.
It only rains twice in Ireland: August through
April and May through July
Question: What do you call 2 straight days of
rain in Ireland?
Answer: A weekend.
A tourist arrives in Ireland where it is raining.
The following day it rains and the day after that
it rains again. Finally, in despair, he calls out
to a local kid: 'Hey kid, does it ever stop
raining here? 'How do I know..' the kid replies,
'....I'm only 6.'
Until next time, very best from Ireland
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NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND
QUALITY OF LIFE IN IRELAND HAS IMPROVED
A new report by the Economic and Social Research
Institute (ESRI) has revealed that the Celtic
Tiger years (the name given to Ireland's recent
economic advances) have greatly increased the
quality of life here.
Poverty has declined and people have more cash
to spend on not just the necessities but the
luxuries of life. Recent media focus on the
decline in 'community values' as well as TV
programmes that reflect how much life has changed
in the last 2 decades have led some spectators to
declare that the economic boom is not all that
it is cracked up to be!
Religious and academic commentators have
repeatedly been given print and air-time to
lament the loss of 'old Ireland' in favour of a
new materialistic country.
Certainly the report by the ESRI would lend
support to this assertion in a number of areas.
New apartment blocks have little or no sense of
community compared to the older Council apartment
blocks and estates. People also have to spend
much more time travelling to and from work
compared to their parents.
The report is adamant however, that these problems
are nothing when compared to the desperate poverty,
social exclusion and emigration that was the
pattern of many peoples lives in Ireland right up
to the start of the 1990s. Morale among the Irish
is now among the highest in Europe, according to
the report. It further claims that the fact that
people from the EU and beyond are migrating into
Ireland in huge numbers is evidence of the fact
that Ireland is a good place to be.
IRISH TOURISM THRIVES DESPITE THE RAIN
The wettest Irish Summer in years has failed to
dampen the spirits of those in the Irish tourist
industry. Recently released figures show that
over 7.4 M'illion visitors landed in Ireland in
2006, a 10% jump on the previous year. Native
Irish tourists opted to visit the south-west
(Counties Cork and Kerry) the most, with the
western region (Galway and Mayo) the next most
The historic properties run by the Office of
Public Works continue to be big attractions.
Kilkenny Castle, Dublin Zoo, Newgrange, the
Botanic Gardens and a myriad of other sites
are all big tourist draws. The ongoing
development of these tourist attractions is
also providing a better experience for the
hundreds of thousands of visitors who flock to
The Cliffs of Moher is a case in point. Over
900,000 visited the magnificent scenery at the
cliffs in 2006 but the facilities t the County
Clare landmark had been modest at best (perhaps
ramshackle would have been a better word). But
no more! A new visitors centre that was opened
last February has brought the facility into the
Further proof that investment in tourist sites
can reap huge dividends is evidenced by the
Guinness Hopstore being revealed as the number 1
fee-paying tourist attraction in 2005. Guinness
really is good for you!
CHEWING GUM LEVY TO BE IMPLEMENTED
The green agenda continues to be pursued by the
Irish government who have the chewing-gum hordes
in their sights.
Chewing gum and fast food litter are among the
most widespread and difficult-to-clean sources of
litter in Ireland. The removal of sticky gum from
public areas costs local authorities m'illions
every year. A tax is to be introduced in 2009
which will either force the gum and fast-food
providers to pay for the clean up or alternatively
directly tax the products themselves.
The recent 'plastic bag tax' that was introduced
in Ireland has removed and estimated 1 b'illion
bags from circulation and thus kept them out of
landfill sites. This successful initiate is
being copied by other countries.
FIRST IRISH GOLF MAJOR WINNER FOR 6 DECADES
Padraig Harrington became the first Irish winner
of one of golfs major tournaments in over 6
decades when he claimed the British Copen Golf
Championship after a thrilling play-off victory
over Spain's Sergio Garcia.
Voice your opinion on these news issues here:
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NEW COATS OF ARMS ADDED TO THE GALLERY:
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history details have been added to the Gallery:
A: McAlinden, Anglin
N: Nash, Nesbitt
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ON THE MAGIC AND MODERNISATION OF IRELAND
by JJ Beazley
There is something magical about Ireland. Coming
from an Englishman, such a statement is
predictable and virtually indisputable. I say
'virtually' because there are those who would
claim that the sentiment is mere whimsy.
I do realise that Ireland, Irishness, Irish
culture call it what you will has certain
flaws (as defined by my sensibilities, at least),
and yet I'm convinced there really is a magic
there. It's quite unique quite different from
any other European culture. You can hear it in
the melodic structures of the music, and the
sound of the bodhran. You can see it in the eyes
of the people, from the Sligo fiddler to the
Dublin waif. You can almost smell it in the folk
tales and the image of the misty glen. And yet it
remains elusive. You can't quite put your finger o
n what it is or, at least, I can't. There's
something hard about it, and something soft about
it. But there's also an ethereal undertone that
lends an air of tantalizing mystery. And I've
noticed that Irish masculinity can be so fierce
and combative, and yet so unashamedly sensitive
to the more rarefied values of life. Irish women
have the same quality, although the emphasis is
And that's why there is something worrying me.
So much of what I read about Ireland these days
seems to focus on the issue of modernisation.
I'm not blind to the fact that modernisation is
inevitable, and even desirable up to a point.
Life changes - it always has. But when a culture
starts relying on it exclusively, that culture
can easily fall into the grip of two potentially
destructive forces: power politics and
self-serving economic interests. We are told that
the Irish are proud to be taking their place as
mainstream Europeans, that the economy is
booming, and economic growth is doing well.
Let's just look at what economic growth really
means. It means encouraging a syndrome of
production and consumption, a system designed to
make people want more and buy more. That creates
the opportunity to produce more, and the same
people can earn more money by so doing. Thus
they become more prosperous and everybody is
happy. It sounds good on the surface but, like
so many surface impressions, it's a thin veneer
that hides a dark interior.
What really happens is this. It encourages an
unquestioning reliance on an increasingly free
market economy, one in which the pre-eminent
factor is the profit motive. Public need and
service always come second best, indeed, they
only counts at all if and when they are deemed
necessary to further the interest of profit. If
ever the two come into conflict, as they
frequently do, profit comes first. It has to,
that fact is endemic in the system. It engenders
in the minds of people the sad notion that worth
is to be measured by material possessions.
Further still, it encourages people to believe
that only by having these possessions can they
belong. And it lives on the competitive principle.
Competition is good, the rich and powerful tell
us. It is in certain places, like the sports
field. But competition inevitably produces
winners and losers. In a wholly free market
economy, there are only a few real winners. The
majority of the population become more and more
stressed by the growing imperative to 'shop till
you drop', and the greatest losers form a
burgeoning underbelly that grows ever more
frustrated, angry and dangerous. We in Britain
have been following that road for nearly thirty
years and the effects are clear enough to those
who care to see them. How many more teenage
suicides, stress-related illnesses, road rage
incidents and examples of crime and anti-social
behaviour will it take before we believe the
opinion polls: that Britons are less happy now
than they were thirty years ago?
I'm only scratching the surface here. Let's look
briefly at another factor that seems to be
regarded, unquestioningly I suspect, as a good
thing for Ireland: the growth of tourism.
Tourists spend money, thus they make the host
more prosperous. Again, only up to a point.
Tourism is an industry. It creates and thrives
on its own agenda until it grows into a monster
that devours the parent that created it. It
takes over, so that the act of bringing people
in to look at the existing attractions grows
into the need to 'develop' the attractions, as
well as creating new and incongruous ones, in
order to encourage more tourism. You only have
to look as far as the Mediterranean coastline to
see how it works. Tourism, if allowed to go too
far, is quite capable of killing the very magic
that makes Ireland unique. Before it does so,
of course, the industry will package a plastic
facsimile of that magic to sell to the visitors
and make more money. But the real thing will be
I could go on and on, but I don't feel this
newsletter is an appropriate forum for an extended
argument. The intention here is simply to
encourage a circumspect attitude to issues like
modernisation, economic growth and tourism.
As an Englishman, it isn't for me to tell the
Irish how to run their country. But I can see the
dangers of the road they seem to be taking, and I
would urge them to look beyond the surface
impressions - and the posturings of politicians
and big businessmen - before it's too late. I
would hate to see the magic of Ireland become a
thing of the past. And I suspect the Irish would
KEEP THIS NEWSLETTER ALIVE!
A SURPRISING IRISH TRIP by Carol Martin
As always I enjoy reading my Irish newsletter and
I thought I would share a recent experience with
I had the opportunity to return to Ireland for a
week in April this year and my sister came along
with me. Our tour group consisted of 42 people,
but I only knew 13 of them from last year's trip.
The rest of the group I had never met. My sister
and I were so excited about this trip because
this was the first time that she and I had ever
gone away together without parents, husbands or
children along with us — this was going to be a
great opportunity for 'sister' time.
When we arrived at the airport, we met a couple
who were going on our tour. I had met the girl
last year and she introduced her husband to us.
We were happy to talk with them since I liked
her very much from last year. Slowly some of the
rest of our group arrived and we introduced
ourselves and finally got on our way to Ireland.
When we all arrived at Dublin Airport and
gathered together with our driver, my sister and
I had the opportunity to study our fellow
travelers. It was nice to say hello again to the
people I had met last year. I didn't say anything
to my sister, but I noticed two of the women in
our group seemed a little 'out of it' and my
impression was that we probably wouldn't have
anything in common with these two. My sister felt
the same way, but did not communicate that to
me — we each kept our thoughts to ourselves.
That first day we had some free time in Dublin
and then drove to our hotel in Killiney, south
of the city. The Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel is a
lovely place and the staff treated us like
royalty. We took a walk up Killiney Hill to see
the breathtaking views of the Dublin Mountains
and the coast which reminded me of photos of the
Bay of Naples in Italy. We walked into the
little village of Dalkey and then returned to
our hotel for a wonderful dinner and a very
welcome night's sleep. Being part of a group of
mostly strangers is very interesting because
you get to sit with different people at your
meals and get to know them and find out about
their lives. We were having a great time.
We traveled from Killiney to Leitrim and took a
cruise on Lower Lough Erne and visited Belleek
Pottery and then arrived at our hotel on Donegal
Bay. After dinner we gathered in our hotel lounge
and members of our group got up and sang and we
had a wonderful time. It was after most of our
group had gone to bed, we got to actually have a
conversation with the two women my sister and I
had observed the day before and had thought we
would never have any common interests. How wrong
we were! We had such a great time with them and
laughed ourselves silly. One of the women can
talk for hours and she starts a story and then
digresses and you have to reel her back in to the
original story. Her sister-in-law just sits there
and shakes her head with that look of 'here we go
again' on her face. It made me laugh just to look
at her face. Every night was a repeat after that.
The rest of the group would head up to bed and six
of us would stay up talking and laughing until
the wee hours of the morning. Some of the others
in the group began calling us 'the dirty six' and
we thought that was great.
We visited many interesting places including the
Foynes Flying Boat Museum which was not something
I was looking forward to when I read it on our
itinerary. I was wrong about that also. It turned
out to be fascinating and very enjoyable. We
visited many great places during the rest of the
trip and stayed at wonderful hotels, but in the
end the best part of the trip for my sister and I
was meeting these two women who we now consider
friends. They live in the same state as we do and
they have come to my house for the day and as we
talked, we found so many similarities in our
lives. In fact while we looked at photos of our
grandchildren, we couldn't believe how much two
of my sister's grandsons looked like two of the
other woman's grandsons. We are e-mailing
constantly and planning to get together very
soon. We are also hoping to visit Dublin together
in February for a trip to visit the places
important to Irish history, particularly the
I guess the old saying 'don't judge a book by its
cover' is very true.
KEEP THIS NEWSLETTER ALIVE!
MERMAID IN A BOWL OF TEARS by Cindy Brandner
An excerpt from the novel
'Mermaid in a Bowl of Tears'
...Another flash and he saw that her eyes were
closed and knew she was fathoms deep, gone into
that far kingdom where valleys ran a hundred
miles wide and mountains would seemingly reach
the moon if they were not rooted to the ocean
floor. Born to the sea, she was, a mermaid in a
bowl of tears. And he with his feet planted
firmly in the earth.
The Atlantic that his wife loved so well had
been called 'the bowl of tears' by the Irish
poet John Boyle O'Reilly, and for good reason.
Two m'illion Irish, in a desperate bid to outrace
death, had taken to the sea upon vessels so
decrepit and un-seaworthy that they were known
as 'Coffin Ships'. Ships with rotten rigging,
un-caulked timbers, leaking hulls. Ships without
provision, nor berths, nor adequate water. Ships
that would become fetid prisons of starvation,
thirst and black fever. Still, the Irish, often
unaware of the perils of ocean travel, preferred
to take their chances upon the cold, unforgiving
waters of the North Atlantic rather than face
certain death in the land they'd been born to.
Casey saw them clear in his mind at times - the
poor, the destitute, those abandoned by God and
Man, forced to flee the only security they'd
known in a life that had been desperate at best.
And he saw those too weak in spirit or flesh, too
poor or enfeebled by their labors to take flight
from a doomed land.
The scent of them lay thick along the shore. So
many had come and so many had not survived, but
they'd left their legacy in strong backs and
stubborn minds. He could smell them everywhere,
the smell of dispossession and displacement, of
longing and fear. He knew the smell well, it was
on his own skin, the fragrance of a man without
a country. His own ancestors had come here once,
and then returned to Ireland. The father-in-law
he'd never known had come and stayed.
He wondered what Pamela's father had thought of
this, this raw country that could break a man
if he wasn't born knowing how to bend. She'd
told him the basics - how her father had landed
at Ellis Island, a thirteen year old orphan from
the rough end of Limerick, without a dime to his
name and only the clothes he carried on his back.
Forty years later he'd been one of the wealthiest
Irish Americans in the United States. She might
have been telling the story about anyone, though,
and that told him far more than her words ever
could. He'd never pushed her about her past, had
always backed off when she shied away from his
questions, knowing too well there were some things
that could not be said, things for which there
weren't words in any language. But it bothered
him to realize that somewhere inside her was a
core of loneliness that he could not penetrate,
a loss that was shrouded but not healed. Bothered
him that the sea somehow gave her a relief that
he could not. His wife, and yet there was always
some element of her that eluded him.
It wasn't that he didn't understand what it was
to have such a core. He'd his own, after all, like
a lead-lined box harnessing the pain of his years
in prison, a wee box to be certain but locked
tight against the interference of outside eyes.
Another flash of light and movement caught his
eye, snapping him abruptly from his reverie.
Beyond Pamela, something had moved in the dark.
Casey blinked, moving forward instinctively,
panic lighting his nerve endings and burning
quickly in toward his core. Who the hell would
be out on a night such as this one? He cursed the
sand as it slogged his steps, seeming to enlarge
the distance between he and Pamela. The rain was
coming harder now, blurring his vision, making
him doubt the amorphous shape that he could have
sworn had emerged from the dark only seconds
(C) Cindy Brandner
author 'Exit Unicorns' and
'Mermaid in a Bowl of Tears'.
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HEAR HER WHISPER ANSWER HER CALL
by NJ Bryan
She is called Ireland. What is it that she does
to your heart, your soul?
If there be but one drop of Irish blood left
running through your veins, you will feel it the
moment your feet touch her soil. Though the
bloodlines may have thinned over generations, the
root runs deep.
Until it has been experienced no words in any
language can adequately explain.
Like one hundred thousand watts of electricity,
emotions flow to the depths of your very being.
In a flash you feel her joys and her sorrows.
As the journey begins, you feel like a child
whose mother has taken its hand to lead the way.
To welcome you home though time and circumstances
have kept you away in another place.
The songs you have heard and the stories you have
read, will shine in a new light as you now realize
what they truly mean.
Hillsides greener than any you will ever see and
lakes that are crystal clear and blue. Castles
still standing guard in what is only part of their
past grandeur. See the memorials to those who lost
their lives in The Great Hunger and those who gave
their lives willingly in the name of equality and
freedom for generations. You will find them not
only in the cities but along the roadsides.
The welcome continues as you meet her children.
Their smile is from the heart, they look you in
the eye and shake you by the hand when first you
meet. Be it Cork, Kerry, Clare, Dublin, it
matters not which county - you are greeted like
an old friend.
So if, like me you have heard her softly calling
you through the years and over the miles? Answer
the call, run to her embrace. It is one you won't
want to leave and if you must you will be planning
your return before the plane's wheels lift off
September 2006 (C)
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GAELIC PHRASES OF THE MONTH
PHRASE: Ta me i gcruachais.
PRONOUNCED: tah may ih grew-kuss
MEANING: I need your help
PHRASE: Ta me ar strae/gortaithe/tinneas
PRONOUNCED: tah may air stray / gore-teh-hah / tinn-iss
MEANING: I am lost/injured/sick
PHRASE: Ba mhaith liom an dochtuir
PRONOUNCED: buh wot lum on dock-thure
MEANING: I need a doctor
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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