IN THIS ISSUE
~~~ Keep us Free!
~~~ News Snaps from Ireland
~~~ New Free Resources at the Site
~~~ The Irish Draw
~~~ Perceptions of Ireland by Frank Horan
~~~ Cara Irish Penpals News
~~~ Missed Connection by James E. McCarthy
~~~ Famous Irish Songs: An Irish Lullaby
~~~ Irish Quotations of the Month
~~~ Monthly free competition result
Hi again from Ireland where it has not stopped
raining for nearly a week. The weather did not
deter too many people from voting in the Irish
General Election however, with over 63% of
registered voters using their franchise, see the
Until next month, stay dry!
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NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND
BERTIE AHEARN RETAINS POWER IN GENERAL ELECTION
In one of the most historic election results in
Irish political history, the Fianna Fail party led
by Taoiseach Bertie Ahearn has secured 81 seats,
just short of the 83 necessary for an overall
majority. The current Taoiseach may now enter into
talks with several of the 14 independent
candidates who were elected, several of whom are
or were affiliated with Fianna Fail.
While Fianna Fail basked in the glory of their
triumph the landscape of Irish politics has been
changed forever with the decimation of the Fine
Gael party who lost over half of their Dail
representation. Sinn Fein, the Green Party and
the Progressive Democrats all polled very well.
Labour gained the same number of seats it held
before the election in what is considered as a
disappointing result for party leader Ruairi
The turnout for the election was 63% which was a
very good figure, given the torrential rain that
swept the country for most of election day. The
failure of Labour and Fine Gael to form an
alliance and present the electorate with a
viable alternative to the Fianna Fail and P.D.
Government has to be considered as a major reason
why those parties fared so poorly. Fine Gael are
now facing into the abyss while the main
opposition will consist of the Labour party and
the various left of centre parties, together with
a plethora of independents, many of whom were
elected on the basis of 'single issue' campaigns.
FIANNA FAIL: Considered to be 'right of centre'
in the Irish political landscape and by far the
dominant political force in the country. Failed to
reach the magic overall majority of 83 seats but
look set to strike a deal with some independents.
The possibility of a new coalition with the
Progressive Democrats should not be ruled out.
Their promise to spend on health, education and
infrastructure struck a chord with voters. The
party increased its share of the vote by over 2%
to 41.5%. Bertie Ahearn remains the most popular
politician of his generation.
ELECTION VERDICT: An impressive triumph just short
of being a complete victory.
FINE GAEL: Politically Fine Gael are now almost
identical to Fianna Fail in their policies and
perhaps their occupation of the 'centre-right'
ground along with Fianna Fail was partly
responsible for their dramatic decline. Their
share of the vote is down over 5% to 22.5%
nationally. Party leader Michael Noonan has
resigned in the face of his party's worst ever
election polling. They have little representation
in the Dublin area and most of the their T.D.'s
now hail from constituencies that lie west of the
ELECTION VERDICT: A disaster, meltdown, catastrophe.
LABOUR: The Labour party are traditionally the
socialist option in Irish politics being left wing
and opposed to many of the policies pursued by
Fianna Fail. They have been perceived in some
quarters as having shifted to the centre somewhat
leaving the more radical leftist philosophies to
Sinn Fein, the Socialist Party and even the Green
Party. Leader Ruairi Quinn is under pressure
following this election performance which saw his
party drop their overall vote by over 2% to just
under 11%. The failure of former Tanaiste Dick
Spring to get re-elected in his native Kerry
constituency is a major blow to the party.
ELECTION VERDICT: Very disappointing.
PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRATS: The P.D.s have surpassed
everyone's expectations including, it is
suspected, their own. They have defied the
pundits and pollsters by increasing their number
of seats to 8 and achieving this despite dropping
their overall vote by nearly 1% to 4%. Their warning
that the country is better served by a Fianna Fail
Government in coalition rather than a Fianna Fail
only Government seems to have been heeded by the
electorate. They undoubtedly have benefitted by
actually being in Government over the last 5 years.
The P.D.s are considered to be more right of centre
than Fianna Fail from whom they originally broke
ELECTION VERDICT: A major success and a surprise.
THE GREEN PARTY: The Green Party naturally have a
great interest in environmental issues which no
doubt accounts in part for the increase in their
vote to nearly 4%. While they will have a similar
number of Dail seats to the P.D.'s they are
ideologically opposite to them in terms of their
policies and would be considered to be more left
wing in their outlook.
ELECTION VERDICT: A tremendous success, making
them a force to be reckoned with.
SINN FEIN: A great performance by Gerry Adam's
party has seen them greatly increase their Dail
representation. Their overall vote has nearly
trebled from 2.5% to 6%. The enduring nature of
the Good Friday Agreement as well as the
decommissioning of weapons by the IRA has greatly
helped their showing. Their focus on the major
issue of health care was also recognised by the
electorate. Sinn Fein are considered to be more
left wing than the Labour Party who have
traditionally provided the socialist alternative.
ELECTION VERDICT: A major success
OTHERS: The success of 'single-issue' candidates
is a real surprise and has prevented Bertie Ahearn
from achieving the overall majority that they
threatened to get. At least 5 of the successful
independents campaigned on a platform of improving
the health care system which was the most important
issue for many voters. The outgoing Government
relied on a number of independents to bolster its
Coalition who in return were able to get major
concessions for their local constituencies.
ELECTION VERDICT: A sign of things to come
ELECTRONIC VOTING MAKES ITS DEBUT
The much vaunted introduction of electronic voting
went ahead with only a minimal amount of confusion
in the 3 constituencies that were selected to pilot
the new technology.
Those problems that did occur happened because of
human error and not because of any software or
hardware glitch. A small number of the voting
machines failed to work in the early part of
election day resulting in several frantic
telephone calls to the Help Desk that had been set
up to assist the polling officials. After initial
concern by the Help Desk technicians that some new
problem had occurred that they had not anticipated
the cause of the problem was found. The machines
had not been turned on!
One voter attempting to complete their vote
continually tried to press the actual display
screen instead of the 'cast vote' button.
Electronic voting was not in place in Sligo
however, where the prize for 'voter of the
election' must go to the lady who showed up in her
wedding dress. She cast her vote and was then
whisked off by limousine to take care of the
small matter of her wedding ceremony.
BALLYMUN TOWERS TO BE DEMOLISHED
The penchant for building high-rise council
housing during the 1960s resulted in the
construction of the notorious Ballymun Towers
which are now set to be reduced to rubble. The
2.5 Billion Euro regeneration of the Ballymun area
has been welcomed in all quarters and not least by
the residents themselves who are to be provided
with new housing. The area has long suffered with
unemployment, a major drugs problem, crime and
The Towers have been used as locations in a number
of films in recent years including 'Into the West'
and 'The Commitments'.
DRUGS STRATEGY ON THE RIGHT TRACK - REPORT
A report by the Health Research Board into the
Irish Drugs problem has shown that the number of
addicts availing of methadone treatment has jumped
from 1400 in 1997 to just over 6000 in 2002. These
figures are taken as an indication that the new
services available to addicts are being utilised.
The report further found that there has been a
reduction in the numbers being treated for use
of Cannabis and Ecstasy in the Eastern region.
SUICIDE FIGURES DROP AGAIN
Ireland has one of the highest rates of suicide in
Europe but the latest figures have shown that the
rate has fallen for the third year running. There
were 400 suicides in Ireland in 2001, 413 in 2000
and 439 in 1999. Research has shown that the
increased level of affluence among Irish people
generally has been a factor in the continuing high
rates of suicide. Drug abuse continues to be a
significant factor also.
SMURFITS TO BE SOLD?
Shares in one of Ireland's leading companies
surged by 17% recently as talk of a 4 Billion Euro
takeover by US takeover specialists Madison
Dearborn continued. Smurifts are one of the
world's largest manufacturer of cardboard boxes
and related products.
WORLD CUP FEVER CONTINUES
Ireland were defeated 2-1 by Nigeria in the final
home soccer friendly prior to the World Cup. The
Nigerians have also qualified for the tournament in
South Korea and Japan and gave Irish manager Mick
McCarthy plenty to think about by handing his team
their first defeat at Landsdowne Road in a very
long time. The visitors were cheered on by the
sizeable Nigerian community that live in Dublin.
Late call-up Stephen Reed marked the occasion with
his first international goal.
Several Irish Pubs are seeking an extension to the
licensing laws to allow them to serve alcohol
between 7.30 and 10.30 am in June. Because of the
big time difference between Ireland and Japan the
initial Irish games kick off either early in the
morning or during lunchtime in Ireland.
The threat of Foot and Mouth Disease which plagued
England and Ireland last year is also an issue for
football fans who will travel to South Korea as
that country is in the midst of an outbreak. Irish
Government sources are confident that the Korean
authorities will do everything necessary to
prevent the spread of the disease but nevertheless
the possibility of shoes being disinfected at
airports as well as other preventative measures
remains very real.
Ireland have injury concerns over Kenny Cunningham
who is virtually certain to partner Steve Staunton
in central defence, injuries not withstanding. Mark
Kennedy has already been forced to withdraw from
the squad because of injury. Roy Keane had a
bust-up with Packie Bonner and Alan Kelly and
actually withdrew from the squad altogether.
Manager Mick McCarthy had contacted Colin Healy of
Celtic as replacement before Keane reversed his
decision to fly home. Things are hotting up!
NIGERIAN CYCLING TEAM WERE REALLY ASYLUM SEEKERS
The Lagos Cycling Club that sent 8 members to
participate in a cycling event in Ireland turned
out to be part of a scam to try to get asylum in
Ireland. The club itself does not exist and has no
affiliation with the real Lagos State Sports
Council. The group have been refused entry into
Recent attempts to gain asylum in Ireland have
seen a group of 27 Romanians claim to be members
of a choral festival in Sligo, only to go missing.
150 Visas were obtained by a false Indian film
production company before the fraud was uncovered.
23 Vietnamese students who attended courses in
Ireland disappeared before their studies were
completed. 1 was arrested and deported but the
rest have not been heard from since.
BBC TO MAKE DOCUMENTARY ON MOVING STATUES
The phenomenon that catapulted the tiny Cork
village of Ballyspittle to international
prominence is to be the subject of a BBC
documentary. The programme entitled 'Miracle
Statues' will include testimony from a Garda
Sergeant who, in 1985, was among those who
witnessed the statue of Mary, Mother of Jesus,
levitate for half a minute. The statue was and
is still embedded in concrete. The grotto
continues to receives visitors from around the
world to this very day.
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PERCEPTIONS OF IRELAND by Frank Horan
If you were to say Irish, what does that conjure
up in your mind? Do you think green, in all its
forty shades? Do you see Ireland's grandeur,
with the mist and the sunlight creating
magnificent, scenic and picturesque landscapes?
Perhaps its the lakes, the rivers or the glens,
maybe the meadows sweeping up a mountainside.
How about the poets, legends and superstitions,
or the crafts, sport, wit, pride, the gift of
the gab. Are these part of your thought
processes? In all likelihood, a thatched roof
is what you think of first.
If you had the good fortune to view the island
while flying over it, a spectacular painting
captivates your senses which cannot be reproduced
by palette and brush. That picture will remain
with you forever. Th Emerald Isle is a profusion
of beauty. There is a certain injustice to choose
one area of splendour over all the others. However,
the mountains with their jagged elegance and
craggy grace will not leave you wanting. Feast
your eyes on these majestic and palatial rock
formations and allow yourself to dream.
In County Kerry, in the Dingle Peninsula, you will
find the vastness of Slea Head. Off the coast, on
the Skellig Islands, the monastic settlement
affords a breathtaking experience. These are
panoramic displays of artistic composition. In
County Clare, imposing and steep O'Brien's Tower
at the Cliffs of Moher, seems to tempt the observer
with these words: 'Climb me if you dare'.
In County Down, the spectacular Mountains of
Mourne, and yes, they do sweep down to the sea. In
County Tipperary, survey the Galty Mountains and
the rural architecture of the Glen of Aherlow.
There are more beautifully named mountains, there
is more to Ireland too. Come see for yourself.
Frank G. Horan,
Dedicated to our grand-daughter Kathleen Horan,
whose recent birth has brought great joy to
Clan Horan. When I look at here, I see the map
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MISSED CONNECTION by James E.McCarthy
As Carol and I rose to leave the dining room of
the Bread and Breakfast, Ed asked,
'Have you checked on the train connections, Jim?'
Almost simultaneously, he deftly speared another
sausage and a piece of bacon from the serving
platter. With a single motion he transferred some
of each to his mouth, adding a bite of soda bread
with the other hand.
'Yeah,' I replied, and added, 'I have the tickets
for the four of us, Limerick to Killarney, leaving
Limerick Station on the 10:00 o'clock train.'
'But, it's already 9:00,' he said, as he reached
for another piece of soda bread to sop up the
remnants of the egg on his plate.
'Yes,' Carol chimed in, 'You and Ceil better finish
up and check out of here. We're ready. We'll wait
for you in the front hall.'
Ceil answered, 'I just have to close up one
suitcase. As soon as Ed can finish off the rest of
the stuff on the platter we'll be with you.'
'I'll call for a taxi,' I said over my shoulder as
I turned into the hall, trying to convey a sense of
urgency with tone and timing.
'Yes, we better get a move on,' Carol added, as she
picked up one of our bags and fell in behind me.
Ed yelled, 'I'll pay you for our tickets when we
get on the train, Jim.'
'Say, this Irish Rail's not too bad,' Ed said as
he settled into the plush seat beside Ceil.
'I wonder if they have any food on board?' he added,
probably forgetting that in just a few miles, at
Limerick Junction, we would change trains for
Killarney, or we would end up in Cork.
'Limerick Junction. Limerick Junction. Change for
Killarney,' the Conductor shouted from the sliding
door to the entryway.
'Limerick Junction. Change for Killarney.'
I remembered the station agent's advice when I
picked up the tickets.
'You'll be on track 1 at the Junction. Be ready to
cross the platform to track 2 for immediate
departure to Killarney.'
The Conductor slammed the door, proceeding to the
next car. 'Let's get ready,' I urged. Carol and I
started getting our bags down from the overhead
rack. Ed was following suit, but Ceil was intently
gazing out the car window onto the platform side.
The train came to a stop with a little squeal and
a jerk as the three of us readied to move.
'Oh, Carol,' Ceil gushed. 'Look at those darling
children out there.'
Carol responded with a brief glance, but quickly
said, 'Ceil, I can't look. We have to get over to
that other track right now. Hurry!'
'Charge!' Ed roared. With bags hung over his
shoulders and others in his hands, he pushed down
the aisle, through the entry and down to the
platform. Carol and I were right behind him.
'Ed,' I called,' there must be seats in that car
forward.' I had noticed that most passengers were
headed toward the car directly opposite us.
'Right,' he answered, as he half-ran to the next
car. He climbed up to the entry and moved into the
car. We scurried to grab facing seats with a table
in between, hoisted our baggage overhead and dropped
into the seats with the hope that our heart rates
would soon subside and stabilize.
Then, the thought hit us all.
'Where's Ceil?' Ed shouted, looking frantically
around the car. Just then the train started a
smooth, silent movement out of the station. Our
three pair of eyes darted about in search of Ceil.
We found her, still on the platform, gazing
placidly at the departing train.
'There she is,' Ed yelled, loud enough and urgently
enough to make us the center of attention in most
of the car.
'Where's the Conductor?' he continued. 'Stop the
train,' he ordered loudly to the world at large as
if sufficient volume would have that affect.
On cue, it seemed, the Conductor banged through the
entry door. His long Irish countenance expressing
concern for the little ruckus being created on his
'My wife missed the train,' Ed explained. 'She's
still on the platform. Stop the train.'
'We can't do that,' the conductor said. 'We're not
alone on this track.' A suspicion of a little grin
quivered at the corners of his mouth as he
continued, 'But not to worry, my good man. We'll
take care of her.'
She doesn't have her ticket, her passport or even
any money with her,' Ed informed the Conductor,
with rising inflection. 'She doesn't have anything
with her!' he emphasized.
'No matter. No matter,' the Conductor soothed.
'I'll telegraph back to the Station Master from
the next stop. He'll see that your wife gets on
the next train, in about 3 hours. She'll be taken
care of, no need to worry. You can get off at the
next station, yourself, and wait for her to come
With a few more comforting murmurs, he moved on to
take care of his train.
'Ed,' I said, but without the conductor's liquid
brogue, 'She'll be OK. You get off at the next
stop. Carol and I will go on to Killarney, locate
a Bed and Breakfast and meet you at the station
when you come in.'
'I wonder if there'll be someplace to eat where I
get off,' Ed wondered. 'Lunch time is coming up.'
I assured him that there is at least one Pub in
every Irish town and hamlet of more than half a
dozen people. With that, Ed appeared comforted and
settled down, prepared to meet the task at hand,
after a Pub lunch in the next town.
Meanwhile, back at Limerick Junction, Ceil had
reported her predicament to the Station Master.
He offered the same solution as the Conductor.
'Sure, I'm sorry for your inconvenience, Ma'am,'
he said,' but please make yourself comfortable
here in the station. I'll see you get on the next
train to Killarney.'
An older Irish woman approached Ceil hesitantly.
With a big open smile she said,
'Madam, I couldn't help but overhear. I'm waiting
myself, so I wonder if you'd care to sit with me
and share my lunch. I have more than enough for
both of us. We could take ourselves outside to one
of those benches in the sun.'
So, there you have it, two different exposures to
the Irish culture; two lunches with pleasant
conversation, one on a railroad station bench in
the warm sun, the other in the cool shadows of a
A missed connection resulted in two new
relationships with the world we were there to meet,
revealing more of the Irish psyche than days of
This day's worry became the highlight of the week.
James E. McCarthy
© Copyright McCarthy 1999
FAMOUS IRISH SONGS: AN IRISH LULLABY
Over in Killarney
Many years ago,
Me Mither sang a song to me
In tones so sweet and low.
Just a simple little ditty,
In her good ould Irish way,
And I'd give the world if she could sing
That song to me this day.
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, hush now, don't you cry!
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, that's an Irish lullaby.
Oft in dreams I wander
To that cot again,
I feel her arms a-huggin' me
As when she held me then.
And I hear her voice a-hummin'
To me as in days of yore,
When she used to rock me fast asleep
Outside the cabin door.
Listen to the tune to this and other famous Irish
IRISH QUOTATIONS OF THE MONTH
Through the midlands of Ireland I journeyed by
diesel, And bright in the sun shone the emerald
John Betjeman, 1906-84
'A Lament for Moira McCavendish'.
I pedalled on towards Athlone through slashing
rain across brown miles of harvested bog -
looking like a child's dream of a world made
Dervla Murphy, A Place Apart, 1978
A man who leaves home to mend himself and others
is a philosopher, but he who goes from country
to country, guided by a blind impulse of
curiosity, is a vagabond.
Oliver Goldsmith, The Citizen of the World, 1762
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