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IRISH AMERICA June/ July 2008

Canada $4.95 U.S.$3.95

Sikh the Fair Land IRELAND’S MANY NEW CULTURES AND RELIGIONS A report by Columbia School of Journalism

A THOUSAND WELCOMES? IRELAND’S REFUGEES THE QUEENS OF MYSTERY: MARY & CAROL HIGGINS CLARK FINDING HOME: A FATHER & SON TRAVEL STORY DECLARATION OF INTENT: IRISH TROOPS IN KOSOVO DISPLAY UNTIL JULY. 31, 2008

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IRISH AMERICA June / July 2008

Vol. 23 No. 3

PHOTO: DEREK SPEIRS

“Waiting,” Mosney, County Meath.

SUMMER ISSUE 27 IRISH SOLDIERS IN KOSOVO

54 THE HOUSE THAT HOBAN BUILT

Brigadier General Gerry Hegarty, the Irish commander of the international peacekeeping force in the former Serbian province, talks to Frank Shouldice

31 SIKH THE FAIR LAND: FAITHS O’ THE IRISH

This year marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of the Irish architect who designed the White House. Tom Deignan takes a look at James Hoban’s extraordinary life.

58 U2 HAVE GONE 3D

The many different cultures and religions existing in “new” Ireland are explored by graduate students of Columbia School of Journalism.

44 IRELAND OF A THOUSAND WELCOMES? Once a favorite Irish holiday camp, Mosney, County Meath is now home to hundreds of refugees awaiting processing. Story by Sharon Ní Chonchúir.

49 FINDING HOME James Murphy, a professor at Villanova University, writes about a journey he took to Ireland with his immigrant father.

Cover photo by Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland.

Bono talks to Victoria Blake about the band’s new movie which premiered in Dublin and was shot in South America using 3D technology.

60 STRAIGHT FROM THE BOTTLE

DEPARTMENTS 7 10 15 60 65 66 68 70 72 74

Readers Forum News from Ireland Hibernia Music Reviews Poem Books Roots Sláinte Photo Album Crossword

The McCarthy Brothers, and a few friends, tear through reels, jigs and songs with virtuosity and joy, and offer a great insight into the best of IrishAmerican family dynamics. Story by Ian Worpole,

63 KEEPING IT ALL IN THE FAMILY Mother and daughter authors Mary and Carol Higgins Clark talk to Mary Pat Kelly about what makes a good mystery.


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Vol.23 No.3 • June / July 2008

IRISH AMERICA 875 SIXTH AVENUE, SUITE 2100, N.Y., NY 10001 TEL: 212-725-2993 FAX: 212-244-3344 E-MAIL: irishamag @ aol.com WEB: http://www.irishamerica.com

Mortas Cine Pride In Our Heritage

Founding Publisher: Niall O’Dowd Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief: Patricia Harty Vice President of Marketing: Turlough McConnell Art Director: Marian Fairweather

{contributors} Columbia Class The changing face of religion in Ireland, north and south, brought about by the influx of recent immigrants, is reported on by Columbia School of Journalism graduate students who visited the country for ten days in March.

James Murphy, who writes about a trip he took with his Irish-born father to his home in County Leitrim, teaches courses in Modern Irish Literature and Culture at Villanova University. Murphy initiated the university’s Irish Studies program in 1979, and has nurtured and devel-

Assistant Editor: Declan O’Kelly Copy Editor: John Anderson Advertising & Events Coordinator: Kathleen Overbeck Financial Controller: Kevin M. Mangan Editorial Assistants: Bridget English Meagan Drillinger Tara Dougherty Irish America Magazine ISSN 0884-4240) © by Irish America Inc. Published bi-monthly. Mailing address: P.O. Box 1277, Bellmawr, NJ 08099-5277. Editorial office: 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 2100, New York, NY 10001. Telephone: 212-725-2993. Fax: 212-2443344 E-mail: Irishamag@aol.com. Subscription rate is $21.95 for one year. Subscription orders: 1-800-582-6642. Subscription queries: 1800-582-6642, (212) 725-2993, ext. 16. Periodicals postage paid at New York and additional mailing offices. Postmaster please send address changes to Irish America Magazine, P.O. Box 1277, Bellmawr, NJ 08099-5277. IRISH AMERICA IS PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.

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oped the program which is now one of the oldest and largest undergraduate programs of its kind in the United States.

Sharon Ní Chonchúir is a regular contributor to Irish America. In this issue she writes about the status of refugees in Ireland as seen through the makers of Seaview, a documentary on asylum seekers. Sharon lives and works in West Kerry, Ireland, and much of her writing is concerned with the changing face of modern Irish culture. Mary Pat Kelly, a longtime contributor to Irish America magazine, interviews Mary and Carol Higgins Clark in this issue. She wrote and directed the feature film Proud with Ossie Davis and Stephen Rea, which played in theaters last spring and is now available on DVD. Her novel, Galway Bay, an epic story based on the life of her great-great-grandmother Honora Kelly, a fisherman’s daughter born on the shores of Galway Bay, will be published by Grand Central Publishing (Hachette USA) in February 2009.

Frank Shouldice, who interviews the Irish commander of the international peacekeeping force in Kosovo, is our regular News from Ireland contributor. Frank was born in Dublin and has worked in all forms of media, including print journalism, television, radio and theater. He was scriptwriter of the awardwinning short film In Uncle Robert’s Footsteps and has written and directed a number of plays in Dublin, Belfast and Glasgow. His play Journeyman was produced by RTE Radio Drama. He writes regularly for the national press in Ireland.


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{readers forum}

IRISH AMERICA

TOM MORAN IS A GREAT IRISH-AMERICAN Irish America is to be commended for selecting Tom Moran as IrishAmerican of the Year. Tom is a personal friend, a great friend of the New York City Police Department, and a generous supporter of its efforts. Tom is widely known and respected for his philanthropy, his business acumen and leadership. He is also known for his modesty; his ability to see the big picture, recognizing that what happens beyond our borders affects all of us profoundly. Behind the scenes, Tom was a key player in the resumption of the peace process in Northern Ireland. He has been engaged in humanitarian relief in 30 of the poorest countries in the world, traveling personally to Haiti, Ruanda, and Sri Lanka to help.

April / May 2008

Canada $4.95 U.S. $3.95

THE TOP

100 • • • • • •

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT EDUCATION POLITICS PUBLIC SERVICE SPORTS WRITERS

And a Special Salute to THE PEACEMAKERS Those Irish-Americans who helped end The Troubles

Plus

THE GREENING OF SILICON VALLEY

Dodie McGough Alturas, California

How the Irish Technology Leadership Group is sowing the seeds for Ireland’s future

DISPLAY UNTIL MAY. 31, 2008

Raymond W. Kelly Police Commissioner New York City

A Celebration of Irish America’s Finest in:

tures, more favorable comments, and locating Irish ancestry for him while printing a very homely picture of Hillary with her head at a strange angle. Evidently you were not able to find any Irish roots for Hillary and that seems strange since I understand Hugh Rodham was a Celt. (I believe he was Welsh, and the Welsh like the Cornish, are Brythonic Celts.) So, thanks for a very entertaining magazine, but please try to be a little more fair in your support for selected politicians in the United States.

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Tom Moran

Irish American Year of the

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Tom Moran is eminently deserving of the Irish-American of the Year honor. As I think of the time he has spent with concern for the economy of Ireland and advancing the peace process, I can only reflect upon the incredible amount of time and effort he has spent in attempting to move both in a positive manner. In doing so he has utilized an energy and dedication of which I have not seen the equal. He is a man committed to assuring that the lives of others are bettered by his efforts and so far as I can tell he is willing to spend 24 hours a day to see that happens. Ambassador Michael Sullivan (ret.) Casper, Wyoming

THE TROUBLE WITH IRISH Kate O’Connor’s letter on the Irish-only movement in the Corca Dhuibne Gaeltacht illustrates, perhaps unintentionally, the quandary the Gaeltacht faces. Her daughters, who from what she says appear to have spent much or most of their lives in the Gaeltacht, “like Irish but there are some subjects where they believe they would do better if they could take them in their first language,

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which is English.” In other words, despite growing up in the Gaeltacht they’re not really fluent in Irish – and won’t become so, if she has her way about the policy. Todhchai na Gaeltacht is fighting to preserve our shared heritage. I can’t thank them enough, Seosamh O Fearghal (Joe Farrell) Cambridge, Ohio

Editor’s note: Perhaps you missed our 2007 Top 100 issue, which named Hillary Rodham Clinton “Person of the Year.”

WHAT’S THE POINT?

I’ve been a subscriber for a number of years, and each year I ask myself why would the majority of an issue be wasted on the Top 100? What’s the point? I subscribe to find items of interest regarding Ireland and related matters. Telling me about individuals of Irish descent who are successful in America is a waste of my time. Follow the format you use for the other issues throughout the year. Give me the information I subscribe for, not a People magazine knockoff.

PROUD IRISHMAN As a proud Irishman, I would like to thank you very much for the honor of being named to Irish America’s Top 100 list. I enjoyed the copy of the issue of your magazine and really appreciate the commemorative Waterford Crystal harp. Again, many thanks and best wishes, Tom Coughlin Head Coach New York Giants

LOVIN’ OBAMA Although I do love your magazine, I did not care for the way you covered the political candidates. It looked to me like clear bias in favor of Obama with a larger spread for him, more flattering pic-

Don Gehring Received via e-mail

CORRECTION It was most gratifying to be included in the write-up on my spouse, chanteuse KT Sullivan, who was honored among Irish America’s annual Top 100. However, in the piece I’m referred to as former Yeats Society president, which was indeed never the case. That post has been founder Andy McGowan’s for years, a role he has inhabited superbly. I was the president of the W.B. Yeats Drama Foundation, which raised funds to produce the Yeats International Theatre Festival at the Abbey in the early 1990s. Stephen M. Downey New York, New York JUNE / JULY 2008 IRISH AMERICA 7


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{the first word}

Seek the Fair Land W alter Macken’s book Seek the Fair Land came to mind when I chose the cover text to go with the picture of the Sikh man dancing in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin. Macken’s novel centers around Oliver Cromwell’s brutal “ethnic cleansing” of Irish Catholics, who were either killed, or banished “to Hell or to Connaught” (to the barren lands of the West of Ireland or to Barbados as slaves). It was a terrible time in Irish history, and in sharp contrast to the Ireland of today. Ireland for centuries was a place of emigration, but has become something of a Promised Land for other nationalities fleeing those very same horrors of poverty and religious persecution that was our story for so long. Cromwell ultimately failed, thank God, “because the human back is stronger than the oppressor’s whip,” Macken said. The Catholic church triumphed in Ireland, and became a force for education in the United States, moving the Irish immigrants up the first rungs of the ladder of integration and success. But in today’s Ireland the church has gone into decline,

Sikhs dancing at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin.

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its once almighty power done in, some would say, by the thriving economy. There is hope of its resuscitation, however. Ireland’s newest immigrants, the devoutly Catholic Poles and Latvians, have thrown it a lifeline. (“They are like we were in the ’50s,” a visitor from Ireland informed me). While the Poles are the largest source of inward immigration (over 150,000), followed by immigrants from Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Latvia, it is not just the Central Europeans who are changing the religious and cultural landscape of Ireland. Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, and Nigerian Pentecostals are also making their homes now in Ireland. In this issue, we bring you their stories in a special report by Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Naturally, there is much debate as to impact all this inward migration, and problems to be overcome. The “mighty warrior” Sikhs, for instance, are excluded from joining the police force because of a ban on turbans. And, as Sharon Ní Chonchúir writes, asylum seekers living in a former holiday camp in County

Meath, have up to a five-year wait for processing; yet, there are signs of hope. The Supreme Court recently ruled that a Nigerian couple could stay in Ireland with their two Irish-born children (unlike the U.S., being born in Ireland does not guarantee you citizenship.) And there are also some signs of integration. Rotimi Adebaria, a Christian who was forced to leave Nigeria because of religious persecution, became the mayor of the town of Portlaoise in 2007. All this change is hard to grasp. And especially hard for those of us who left – who are delighted to see the country doing so well, yet miss the Irish bartenders and shop assistants. But we can expect that Ireland, as a place that has undergone so many demographic shifts since the Vikings first landed in 795, will absorb all this inward migration in a generation or two. As the great American writer John Steinbeck, who identified with his Irish ancestry, wrote, “I’m half Irish, the rest of my blood being watered down with German and Massachusetts English. But Irish blood doesn’t water down very well; the strain must be very strong.” Meantime, a charming story of Ireland and its immigrants is captured in the Irish movie Once – a love story between two musicians, one Irish, one an immigrant from the Czech Republic. Made for under $150,000, Once went on to win an Oscar for Best Original Song 2008. In her acceptance speech Markéta Irglová, the Czech co-star, speaking in a marked Irish accent, said: “The fact that we are standing here tonight – the fact that we can hold this [Oscar] – is proof that no matter how far out your dreams are it’s possible. . . . This song was written from the perspective of hope and hope at the end of the day connects us all no matter how different we are. And so thank you so much to those who helped us along the way.” IA Mortas Cine.


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{ news from ireland}

By Frank Shouldice

Cowen Replaces Ahern as Prime Minister

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rian Cowen has replaced Bertie Ahern as leader of the Fianna Fáil party. The LaoisOffaly Dáil deputy also assumed the office of Taoiseach when Ahern stood down on May 6 following his address to the joint Houses of Congress in Washington, D.C. Ahern’s decision to vacate his position both as

Ahern’s personal secretary, Gráinne Farrell, was made scapegoat for her failure to adequately explain a number of sterling currency lodgements to the local bank. In a prepared speech that caught the media by surprise, the outgoing Taoiseach made a typically robust defense of his record, blaming “the constant barrage” of public scrutiny arising

win three terms in office for Fianna Fáil. As Ireland’s political leader through a decade of momentous political and economic change, his critics openly acknowledge his key role in copper fastening the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. In recent years, however, he has been plagued by speculation about his personal finances. Although he insisted he did not quit because of tribunal findings, commentators suggested he remained in office until he had little option but to resign. Ta o i s e a c h - d e s i g n a t e Brian Cowen was named as future leader of Fianna Fáil when he was returned unopposed by the party. In his first press conference as leader in waiting, he expressed his appreciation for his new role. “Today is a proud moment for me, for my wife and my two daughters – their support has been immense,” he said. “It is also a proud day for my mother and my wider family. I am excited by the challenge, if somewhat daunted by the responsibility. “I am proud of the Fianna Fáil party. We’ll continue to build the Republic and we’ll strive to build a country strong and free with decent living standards for all.” Brian Cowen, new Taoiseach of Ireland, pictured outside Government Buildings in Dublin. The 48-year-old deputy will vacate his position at the Taoiseach and party leader followed from the Mahon Tribunal before saying Department of Finance to take up his months of unfavorable publicity arising he felt it was time for him to make way. position as Taoiseach. His appointment from the Mahon Tribunal’s investiga“I have never done anything to corrupt came as no surprise. Potential candidates tions into payments-to-politicians. my office,” Ahern told reporters at for the party leadership saw Cowen in an Although Ahern maintained he never Government Buildings. “I know in my unassailable position ever since Bertie took inappropriate payments from anyheart of hearts that I have done no wrong Ahern publicly nominated him as a sucbody, his explanations for a documented and wronged no one.” cessor. The incoming Taoiseach will rely series of cash transactions into various History will judge Bertie Ahern as the on coalition partners in the Progressive accounts to which he had access became Dubliner who was Taoiseach for 11 years Democrats and Green Party to steer the increasingly muddled and unconvincing. and cabinet minister for 19 years, the first government clear of a general election Some commentators perceived that party leader since Eamon de Valera to until 2012.

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{news from ireland} State Funeral for Former President r. Patrick Hillery, former President of Ireland, was given a full state funeral on April 16 following his death on April 12. The 84-year-old statesman from Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare came through the Fianna Fáil ranks and served four separate ministries before he was appointed President of Ireland in 1976 and served two terms until 1990. Son of a doctor, Dr. Hillery was also a chief negotiator when Ireland joined the European Economic Community (now the European Union). Following membership, he became Ireland’s first European Commissioner before taking up the presidential office in Áras an Úachtarainn (the presidential residence in Phoenix Park). Known more familiarly as “Paddy,” he was regarded as a reserved figure and The late Paddy Hillery was warmly remembered by friends and colleagues in political circles. Books of condolence were opened around the country, and following a full-scale military cortege through the capital he was interred in St. Fintan’s Cemetery on Dublin’s northside.

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Gardai to Remain Unarmed

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he Garda Síochána (Irish police force) will remain an unarmed force, insisted Commissioner Fachtna Murphy. Responding to calls from the annual conference of the Garda Representative Association (GRA), Murphy was adamant that uniformed gardai would not carry arms. “I’m committed to maintaining a uniformed, unarmed presence on our streets, in our cities, in our towns,” said the garda boss. “The first commissioner spoke about how the Garda Síochána will get their authority not from force of arms or numbers but from the will of the people. I, as the 18th Commissioner, am committed to the same ideals.” Most delegates at the GRA conference in Tullow, Co. Carlow supported the commisioner’s stance but expressed concern at the proliferation of weapons among criminals, particularly among drug gangs in Dublin and Limerick. Last year an unarmed motorcycle garda, Paul Sherlock, was shot by armed raiders when he intercepted a hold-up on a post office in Dublin’s northside. Sherlock, 34, was shot at close range but survived his injuries. Almost 3,500 gardai carry weapons – making up about one quarter of the force. Many garda operations are backed up by armed members of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU).

NEWS IN BRIEF •

MOVES are afoot to save over 400 jobs in the midlands town of Athlone. The liquidator was called in to examine the Iralco factory when management said they could not keep the factory running. Iralco, which manufactures car components for the motor industry, is one of the biggest employers in Co. Westmeath. Staff at the factory accepted reduced wage increases in recent years, but the company claimed that the relatively high cost of doing business in Ireland left it unable to compete internationally. Westmeath county manager Danny McLoughlin expressed hope that the liquidator would find new owners for the plant as the annual payroll of 8 million euro has a major economic bearing in Westmeath, Cavan, Longford and Meath. “It is critical that the company is sold as a going concern,” he said, echoing the concerns of Iralco staff. Within days of the liquidator’s assessment, however, staff were called back into work to complete existing orders from European car manufacturers in the hope that a new buyer can be found. . . .

CIARAN Cannon was elected new party leader of the Progressive Democrats following an extremely tight run-off with Senator Fiona O’Malley. Cannon will replace acting leader Mary Harney, but the PDs’ disastrous general election campaign has raised speculation that the party may yet restore its links with Fianna Fáil. The PDs broke away from Fianna New PD Fáil 22 years ago but Leader have spent 13 of those Ciaran Cannon years in coalition partnership with the bigger party. The Galway councillor scraped home with 51 percent of the vote but only 40 percent of the party membership bothered to ballot, indicating low morale within the PDs. “The local elections are where it is at,” suggested the new leader, referring to next year’s polls. “That will be the litmus test for us. That will be the watershed in deciding whether there is a future for this party.” . . .

O’CONNELL Street, the main thoroughfare in Dublin’s city center, is set to get a massive facelift. Developers have lodged a 1.2 billion euro proposal to transform the area between O’Connell Street and Moore Street. The project revolves around converting the disused Carlton Cinema into a mixed-use scheme, including apartments, shops, restaurants and an observation deck overlooking the capital’s main street.

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Greens Annoy Chinese

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hinese ambassador to Ireland Liu Biwei walked out of the Green Party annual conference when party leader John Gormley referred to Tibet as an independent country. Gormley further urged the Chinese government in Beijing to enter direct talks with Tibetian spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. The Greens are currently in coalition government with Fianna Fáil, and the ambassador told reporters that such comments were unacceptable and would “do nothing good” for relations between China and Ireland. To many, however, the ambassador’s exit looked like a staged event, as though he expected to be offended and made his leave almost on cue. Party delegates at the conference applauded Gormley’s speech, while cabinet ministers from Fianna Fáil made reassurances that his remarks would not damage international relations between the two countries. However, Minister for Sport Seamus Brennan subsequently added to the controversy by saying the Irish government would consider a boycott of the opening ceremony at the Beijing Olympics. “The

Green Party leader John Gormley’s comments about Tibet resulted in the Chinese ambassador to Ireland Liu Biwei staging a walk-out protest at the Green’s annual conference.

time between now and the opening ceremony will be used to remind the Chinese and the Tibetans that there is still time to show an improvement in their human rights issue and to call on them to show those improvements,” he said. “Assuming

that they show improvements, there is no reason why we can’t attend the opening ceremonies. On the other hand, if those human rights issues were to deteriorate I think we should again consider our attendance.”

Internet Error Embarrasses Aer Lingus

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sumers made bookings after spotting the bargain of a lifetime. On discovering the error, Aer Lingus blamed a technical error and attempted to cancel all reservations made for the giveaway price. However, the National Consumer Agency took the position that the company should honor the cheap bookings. “Blaming a technical error in their booking system is not good enough,” said agency chief executive Anne Fitzgerald. “Aer Lingus formed a contract with the consumer at the stated fare and cannot simply walk away from its obligations.” In the face of widespread criticism, Aer Lingus finally reversed its stand and said it would honor the purchased tickets.The only condition is that the 5-euro passengers will travel economy class instead of business class. “Hands up, we handled it badly,” admitted commercial manager Enda Corneille, who promised an internal investigation into how an error which will cost the airline An Aer Lingus website blooper priced business class flights from Ireland to about 175,000 euros was allowed to occur. the U.S. at just five euros.

er Lingus, Ireland’s national airline, landed in hot water over a consumer rights issue. A misprint on the airline’s Internet ticket sales site offered transatlantic business class seats for a paltry 5 euros each.The normal price for these one-way reservations is 1,775 euros, and some 300 con-

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{news from ireland}

Gas Pipeline Controversy Continues

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esidents expressed mixed reactions to the revised route for a gas pipeline in north Co. Mayo.The controversial Shell E&P Ireland project to bring ashore gas from the Corrib field in the Atlantic Ocean via an onshore pipeline that runs through rural townlands has become bogged down in finding an agreed location for the pipeline. Under proposals by Shell E&P Ireland, gas would be taken ashore near Rossport and piped through Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) to a terminal near Ballinaboy, about eight miles away. Following strong objections from residents and community groups in the area, the company revised the route of the pipeline. For safety reasons it is proposed to withdraw the pipeline further from occupied housing, although the construction will still run through a bogland listed as an SAC. Shell E&P Ireland managing director Andy Pyle said that the terminal at Ballinaboy is now onethird way constructed. “We have made every reasonable effort to address the concerns expressed by local people,” he said. However, the proposal was not endorsed by local residents. “We do not give our consent to this and will resist it through every legal, political and campaigning means open to us even though this could lead to more years of unnecessary conflict,” countered John Monaghan, spokesman for the Shell to Sea group which favors the gas terminal being constructed offshore. The revised pipeline route will be examined and discussed with state planning authorities, although the controversial project involves so many diverse interests that three government ministers – at Energy, Agriculture and Fisheries – must also approve the new route before it can proceed.

Tipperary Teenagers Become Millionaires

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wo teenage brothers from Nenagh, Co. Tipperary became millionaires when they sold their computer software company to a Canadian interest. The Collison brothers, Patrick (19) and John (17), made headlines when they sold their company to Live Current Media for $5 million. When the teenagers set up a web-based software company in Limerick last year, they applied to Enterprise Ireland for additional funding. However, they were discouraged by the terms offered by the state entrepreneurial agency and looked instead for investors in California. An incubator company called Y Combinator showed strong interest, invested in the company and merged with a fledgling UK company to launch Auctomatic last summer. The company specializes in Internet systems for customers who are heavy users of E-Bay’s hugely successful auction site. Auctomatic gained immediate attention in the cyber market and was bought out by Live Current Media in the face of strong competition. In the deal finalized between the new partners, Patrick Collison will join the Canadian firm as a director of the engineering department. John Collison, who has yet to finish his secondary schooling, will take up employment with the new owners after his Leaving Certificate exams at the end of the summer. Live Current Media had a turnover of $8.4 million in its 2006 financial year and has a market capitalization of $57.69 million. The Collisons’ achievement was celebrated locally as a remarkable success story. Their parents Denis and Lily once ran the Dromineer Bay Hotel beside Lough Derg before the family moved to Limerick. Both brothers attended Castletroy College, and Patrick caught industry attention by winning the prestigious BT Young Scientist of the Year award in 2005. He went on to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Patrick Collison after Technology. With their latest venture winning the Young already turning a very handsome profit, Scientist of the Year award in 2005. the Collison brothers have made an PHOTO: NENAGH GUARDIAN impression on the international software market. Their success has also embarrassed Enterprise Ireland for allowing such a dynamic and lucrative partnership to slip through its fingers.

Further Cuts At Dell’s Irish Plants

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omputer giant Dell will shed 250 jobs at its plants in Dublin and Limerick, the company announced. Dell currently employs about 4,500 people in Ireland, and its assembly plant in Limerick is one of the biggest manufacturing operations in the country. The announcement of job losses has added to growing concern that Ireland is

falling behind competitors in Eastern Europe, China and India and taking a direct hit for the international economic slowdown. “With ten years of unprecedented economic growth, Ireland should have been in the perfect position to weather the global economic downturn,” said Fine Gael spokesman on Labour Affairs. “Instead, the

country and the economy are now paying the price for Fianna Fáil’s over-dependence on the construction industry, and its determination to fuel the debt-driven housing boom," he added. The measures are part of global costcutting by Dell.The company has targeted almost 10,000 jobs worldwide, aiming to reduce annual costs by $3 billion by 2011. JUNE / JULY 2008 IRISH AMERICA 13


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| HERITAGE | EVENTS | ARTS | ENTERTAINMENT

{ hibernia }

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Samuel Beckett would approve of the thespians charged with bringing three of his works to life this summer.

ublin’s Gate Theatre returns to Lincoln Center Festival with Gate | Beckett, starring three great actors – Barry McGovern, Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes – performing three Beckett pieces not originally conceived for the theater, as well as readings of his poetry and prose. The plays are Eh Joe (with Neeson), written for television in 1965; I’ll Go On (with McGovern), adapted from the 1950s novels Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable; and First Love (with Fiennes), based on a 1965 novella. Productions, which vary in length from 30 to 90 minutes, may be seen individually from July 16 through July 25, or all three in marathons on July 26 and July 27. There will also be a poetry and prose reading preceding each marathon, featuring the cast and special guests. The Gate Theatre has had a long relationship with the works of Right: Barry Beckett. It was the first theatre in the world to present a full retMcGovern in a rospective of all 19 of Beckett’s stage plays, seen at Lincoln scene from I’ll Center Festival 96 and elsewhere. The Gate Theatre’s production Go On. Below: Liam of Waiting for Godot, produced at the request of the author, toured star China in 2004 and the United States in 2006. Meanwhile, I’ll Go On Neesoninwill Eh Joe. has toured the world to extraordinary reviews, most recently at Sydney Festival 2007, where the Sun Herald said: “Barry McGovern’s astounding performance was not only the best of the festival, but also among the best I’ve ever seen…genius, no other word for it.” Tickets for Festival 08 are on sale via Center Charge 212-721-6500, at the Avery Fisher Hall Box Office, 65th Street and Broadway, and online at www.LincolnCenter.org. Priority seating is available to Gate | Beckett with the purchase of all three plays.

PHOTO BY PRUDENCE UPTON

Ralph Fiennes in scenes from First Love. . .

PHOTO BY PRUDENCE UPTON

Beckett Comes to Lincoln Center PHOTOS BY PRUDENCE UPTON

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{ irish eye on hollywood} By Tom Deignan Irish-American hunk George Clooney recently said that he plans to return to his ancestral home for a summer of motorcycling. “I am doing a motorbike ride in Ireland this summer,” he recently told Dublin radio station FM104. “I hear it rains a lot but I’ve got the perfect outfit!” Clooney’s last film Leatherheads was a bit of a dud, but he may soon be back in the Oscar nomination form he flashed in Michael Clayton. This fall, Clooney will again team up with Joel and Ethan Coen (who won best picture and best director Oscars for No Country for Old Men) as well as Brad Pitt in Burn After Reading. The film is about a CIA agent who writes his memoirs and is promptly fired. In a twist befitting the whacky worldview of the Coens, George Clooney the memoirs end up in a women’s will feature locker room, and then become the in the Coen property of shady types who simply Brothers movie Burn want to make as much money as After they can. Clooney previously Reading worked with the Coen brothers on O, this fall. Brother, Where Art Thou. Along with Clooney and Pitt, Burn After Reading also stars Frances McDormand and John Malkovich. The film is slated to open September 12. Irish American veteran of stage and screen Brian Dennehy is busy as ever these days. This summer, Dennehy will tackle one of IrishAmerican writer Eugene O’Neill’s lesser-known works, Hughie. The play, which is set to run June 18 – August 31 at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada, will reunite Dennehy with acclaimed stage director Robert Falls, who directed Dennehy in Death of a Salesman on Broadway a few years back. At the same festival, Dennehy will also appear in another work by an Irish master: Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape. When the summer is over, it is back to the big screen for Dennehy, who will star in a crime drama jam-packed with several Dennehy is keeping generations of A-list talent. The Brian busy with roles on stage movie is called Righteous Kill, and screen. and is set to open September 12. The film also stars Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Donnie Wahlberg (playing a cop named Riley) and rapper 50 Cent (who Irish director Jim Sheridan directed in the biopic Get Rich or Die Trying). On the Irish side of things, Dennehy will be joined by Dennis O’Hare and up-and16 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2008

comer Frank John Hughes, a Bronx native. Righteous Kill follows a pair of New York City detectives on the trail of a serial killer. Speaking of DeNiro, he was among those who created The Tribeca Film Festival, which ran in New York City from April 23 to May 4. In the wake of September 11, DeNiro and others were seeking to rejuvenate downtown Manhattan. So, you could say the city itself is the star of the show. But at this year’s fest, it seemed like the Irish stole the show. From dramas to documentaries, Irish and Irish-American talent dominated Tribeca. Big stars from Matthew Broderick to Colin Farrell shined alongside rising talent, such as

Eileen Walsh and Aidan Kelly in a scene from Eden.

Irish-born director Declan Recks. Recks’ latest film, Eden, competed in Tribeca’s World Narrative category. The film, which explores the disintegrating marriage of an Irish couple, is an adaptation of Eugene O’Brien’s award-winning play of the same name. One of Eden’s stars, actress Eileen Walsh (who won the Best Actress prize at the Festival for her portrayal of Breda), was recently asked to describe Eden and its troubled lead characters, Billy and Breda, who are about to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary. “Both Billy and Breda are characters in search of each other,” said Walsh. “They are people who have forgotten each other – become almost brother and sister because they know each other so well. Eden is about them searching to remember why they came together in the first place.” Also at Tribeca, the aforementioned Frank John Hughes has a supporting role, along with Linus Roche (who starred in the controversial film Priest), in Yonkers Joe, which stars


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{hibernia} Chazz Palminteri. Yonkers Joe is set in a working-class white ethnic enclave and explores the life of a low-level criminal whose life is radically changed when he must care for his son, who has Down’s Syndrome. Yonkers Joe also stars Thomas Guiry (Black Irish, Mystic River). Now, here is where the Irish affiliations with Tribeca get a little, um, idiosyncratic. Kicking It is a documentary about homeless men, and their participation in a nationwide soccer tournament. Who better to narrate this film than . . . Colin Farrell! True, Farrell is the son of an Irish soccer player, but this is still quite a departure from the glitz and glamour of Miami Vice. Farrell’s next movie is the longawaited New York Irish-American crime drama Pride and Glory. Directed by Jimmy Egan and co-starring Edward Norton, Pride and Glory is not scheduled for release until 2009. Meanwhile, another Tribeca documentary, Chevolution, about the public fascination with Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara, features commentary from Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams. Two final Tribeca entries with IrishAmerican links are Lake City and Finding Amanda. Lake City is a drama starring Sissy Spacek and Troy Garrity (son of Jane Fonda and IrishAmerican activist Tom Hayden). It is an examination of a fractured motherson relationship, and how they must confront each other following a family tragedy. Finding Amanda, meanwhile, is a big screen project from one of the creators of Denis Leary’s critically acclaimed Irish-American TV show Rescue Me. In Finding Amanda, writer-director Peter Tolan teams up with Irish-American veteran Matthew Broderick Matthew Broderick in a drama stars in Peter about an alcoholic TV producer who is Tolan’s Finding Amanda. forced to travel to Las Vegas to confront his niece (Brittany Murphy), whose addictions are even worse than his. Release dates for all of the Irish fare at the Tribeca Fest are either not set yet or tentative. Keep reading Eye on Hollywood for more info. The movie rights to Paddy on the Hardwood, the non-fiction book about a longtime basketball coach who chased his dream of becoming a fiddle player to Ireland, only to get caught up in Irish pro basketball, were recently purchased. A script and shooting schedule are reportedly in the works. The summer blockbuster season will soon be upon us, but Irish and Irish-American talent are sticking to work that seems a little more artsy. True, Liam Neeson will be heard (if not seen) doing voice work in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, due out May 16. Neeson’s next big movie

after that is the September thriller Taken, also starring Maggie Grace (of TV’s Lost) and Goran Kostic. Taken is about a former soldier whose daughter is taken hostage by modern day slave traders. It sounds a bit like an update of the old Arnold Schwarzenegger flick Commando, but let’s assume Neeson would have passed on the project if it were not thought-provoking as well as action-packed. Also working hard this spring and summer is Jonathan

Jonathan Rhys Meyers returns in a new season of the hit series The Tudors on Showtime.

Rhys Meyers. The Tudors is back on Showtime, starring Meyers as well as fellow Irish thespian Peter O’Toole. Meyers also has an independent film coming out on May 23. The Children of Huang Shi features Meyers as George Hogg, a British journalist who rescued 60 orphaned children in 1930s China. Intentionally or not, the documentary Constantine’s Sword – based on a massive book by Irish- American Pulitzer Prize winner James Carroll – was released just as the pope was visiting the U.S. In contrast with the pomp of that visit, Constantine’s Sword is a disturbing look at the evolution of Catholic doctrine, particularly as it relates to Christian-Jewish relations. Oscar nominated director Oren Jacob collaborated with Carroll on the project. Carroll is a practicing Catholic who broke with his conservative background in the late 1960s. He chronicled this journey in his 1996 book An American Requiem. Look for Constantine’s Sword in big-city theaters, or at festivals. The DVD will go on sale later this year.

Speaking of DVDs, if you are like me and never caught The Wire on HBO, now is the time to go get the DVDs and start with Season One. The series features Dominic West as Irish-American detective Jimmy McNulty, navigating crime and politics in Baltimore. All five excellent seasons IA of The Wire are now on DVD. JUNE / JULY 2008 IRISH AMERICA 17


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Silicon’s Finest Irish at Stanford Photos: Chris Ryan, ViewsoftheWorld.com

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ILICON Valley has long been the birthplace of great innovation. Companies such as Google, Apple, Hewlett Packard and Intel all began their journeys to greatness here, and the world was changed forever. Now comes a new Irish organization that could change the way the world sees Irish America and Ireland. With Irish America acting as co-host, The Irish Technology Leadership Group (ITLG) held their first event at Stanford University in the dining room of the graduate business school on Thursday, March 26. Over 200 of the Valley’s best and brightest attended on a lovely spring evening, and the combined brainpower could have jump-started the nearby Stanford Linear Accelerator. Principal honorees were the legendary Craig Barrett, chairman of Intel, and Irish Minister for Enterprise Micheál Martin. Sponsors included Invest Northern Ireland, Waterford Crystal and the Irish Times, which together with ITLG presented this year’s “Innovation Award” to David P. Moran, CEO of Changing Worlds, an Irish company that personalizes software for cell phones. ITLG is the brainchild of its chairman John Hartnett, senior vice president of Palm Inc. He has created an extraordinary organization of like-minded professionals who see their success in Silicon Valley as an opportunity to give back to Ireland and drive the post-Celtic Tiger era. Ireland, Hartnett believes, should move up the food chain and pursue knowledge-based engineering, science and technology jobs. “I want the next Google or Facebook to be created by two guys at Trinity College Dublin or some other Irish university. There is no reason why it cannot happen. In Silicon Valley people go for it. They go for the big bet and it doesn’t always win, but when it does win it makes a big difference,” he said. Another key figure in ITLG is Johnny Gilmore COO of Sling Media and a native of County Down. Sling Media invented the Slingbox, which allows you to receive live TV signals on your computer from any country in the world. Echo Star recently bought Sling Media for $380 million, giving Sling access to 13.6 million DISH satellite TV network customers. Gilmore sees Ireland as a natural expansion base for many top Silicon Valley companies. “We know from our own experiences and contacts that there are exciting and attractive companies and investment opportunities all over the island,” he said. The able, and at times hilarious, emcee for the evening was Dubliner Conrad Burke, president and CEO of Innovalight, a company that brings costefficient solar power to residences and businesses. IA 20 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2008

LEFT: Niall O’Dowd, publisher of Irish America, presents John Hartnett, Senior VP Worldwide Sales, Palm Inc., and ITLG Chairman with his award. BELOW LEFT: Niall O’Dowd, ITLG member John Gilmore, COO of Sling Media and Irish America editor Patricia Harty. BELOW RIGHT: Niall O’Dowd and Rory McInerney, Vice President, Intel Inc and ITLG member.

FAR LEFT: Intel Chairman Craig Barrett and Minister for Enterprise and Trade & Employment Micheál Martin. LEFT: David P. Moran,Changing Worlds CEO, receiving the ITLG-Irish Times Innovation Award from John Hartnett.

Above: The North Kerry delegation, led by Jimmy Denihan TD (right), enjoyed the evening while promoting Kerry as a place to do business.

Emcee Conrad Burke, President Innovalight.


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“Meagher of the Sword” Honored in Brooklyn

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gravestone honoring Irish Patriot Thomas Meagher, a Fighting 69th Brigade commander and former acting governor of Montana Territory, was unveiled at the Green-Wood Cemetery, in Brooklyn, New York on April 19. The Green-Wood Historic Fund erected the gravestone to Meagher, whose body was never found after he went missing on the Missouri River in 1867,

around this time, urging his countrymen to take up arms against England, that earned him the nickname “Meagher of the Sword.” In 1848 Meagher and others were arrested after the Young Ireland Rebellion at the Battle of Ballingarry in Tipperary and sentenced to death for sedition. The sentence was later commuted to life in exile in Australia. Meagher escaped Van Diemen’s land and arrived in America in 1852. He

“It is only fitting that we remember General Meagher here at Green-Wood – the final resting place of his beloved wife, as well as thousands of American Civil War veterans,” said president of Green-Wood Cemetery Richard J. Moylan of the unveiling. “We are proud to recognize his lifelong commitment to freedom and his brave military service in defense of our nation. His memory will be honored for generations to come.” Chris Meagher, a great grand nephew of the Civil War hero, was at the unveil-

PHOTOS COURTESY LINDEN ALSCHULER & KAPLAN PUBLIC RELATIONS

FAR LEFT: Meagher grave marker before unveiling. CENTER: Meagher grave being unveiled by (l. to r.) a representative of County Waterford Men’s and Ladies Association, great grand nephew Chris Meagher, and Major Patrick Flaherty from the Montana National Guard. LEFT: Gravestones of Mrs. & General Meagher, with the Fighting 69th in the background. TOP: General Thomas Francis Meagher

and placed it next to the grave of his wife Elizabeth. Meagher, born in Waterford in 1823, received his education from the Jesuits, first at Clongowes Wood in Kildare and later at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire. On his return to Ireland he was greatly influenced by politician Daniel O’Connell, and agreed with him for a need to repeal the Act of Union with Britain. In 1845, with William Smith O’Brien, he was one of the founders of Young Ireland, a group that shared O’Connell’s vision but not his method of non-violent means to attain their common goal. It was a speech that Meagher delivered

became an American citizen and led Company K of the Fighting 69th Brigade in battle during the America Civil War. On fighting for the Union, General Meagher was once quoted, “It is not only our duty to America, but also to Ireland. We could not hope to succeed in our effort to make Ireland a Republic without the moral and material support of the liberty-loving citizens of these United States.” After the war, he was Secretary of the new Montana Territory and later served as acting Governor. In 1867 while traveling on steamboat on the Missouri River, Meagher went overboard and his remains were never recovered.

ing on behalf of the Meagher family. The State of Montana also paid its respect to Meagher by sending a representative, Major Patrick Flaherty of the Montana National Guard, to the ceremony. Major Flaherty read aloud from a letter penned by Governor Brian Schweitzer for the occasion. “As Governor of the State of Montana and a member of the Thomas Francis Meagher Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, we thank you for giving our brother a symbolic resting place. He earned his place in history. He earned his place in our hearts across America and around the world. We are honored to claim him as our IA hero.” JUNE / JULY 2008 IRISH AMERICA 21


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A Taste of Yeats in New York

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PHOTO: EMILY KADER

ew York felt a little more like Ireland on Saturday April 12, as The New York Yeats Society brought a bit of Sligo to NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House for “A Taste of the Yeats Summer School.” The program, hosted by Andrew McGowan, president of the New York Yeats Society, and Maureen Murphy, associate director of the Yeats Summer School, featured lectures, a luncheon and a book release. Professor Michael Steinman was one of several engaging speakers. His lecture explored the relationship between the young writer Frank O’Connor, before he made a name for himself as a short story writer and novelist, and the older, already famous poet. Steinman’s speech was peppered with anecdotes from O’Connor’s autobiography My Father’s Son, in which the writer sketches a caricature portrait of Yeats as a rather childish man, a bit too out of touch with reality but a great poet nonetheless. Anne Margaret Daniel, a professor at the New School, rounded out the program with a lecture on Yeats’ portrayal of the mythical Irish figure Cuchulainn. Beginning her talk by playing a recording of the Pogues’ song “The Sickbed of Cuchulainn,” Daniels amazed the audience not only with her knowledge of Yeats, but of popular culture as well. The day ended with the launch of Ken The statue of W.B. Yeats that stands Monteith’s first book, Yeats and Theosophy, in Sligo town. published by Routledge Press. Monteith’s work explores Yeats’ association with the theosophy movement and how this pop– By Bridget English culture occultism influenced the poet’s literary aesthetic.

Joyce in Dublin

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ome of Broadway’s best talent will take part in a musical reading of Himself and Nora – the story of James Joyce and his wife Nora Barnacle – at the upcoming Bloomsday Festival in Dublin in June. The American cast, brought together by composer Jonathan Brielle (Nightmare Alley and Foxfire) will feature Broadway veteran Matt Bogart (Miss Saigon and Aida) as Joyce; and Kaitlin Hopkins (The Grinch Who Stole Xmas and Noises Off) as Nora, with Jim Price (The Civil War) and Kate Chapman (Les Miserables) as supporting cast. This expanded reading will take place at the Mill Theater, Dundrum

22 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2008

from June 15 – 17, in association with the James Joyce Center, Dublin. It follows last year’s highly acclaimed “composer’s reading” held at the Center, on Bloomsday, June 16, 2007. Himself and Nora premiered at the Old Globe Theatre in California in 2005 to rave reviews.” All e-mail inquires for Himself and Nora should be addressed to: info@rightsidemgt.com For additional information contact Marc Silag at 212 586 1223. For more details in Ireland: The James Joyce Center, Dublin Tel: +353 1 878 8547. Email : info@jamesjoyce.ie

Literary Lights riters Colum McCann and Colm Tobin appeared at the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in March, to discuss Ireland’s position in global literature, Irish immigration and what it means to be an Irish writer in New York. Moderating the discussion was Robert Sullivan, author of the book Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants. Tobin read a section from a yet to be published book depicting a Christmas party in a working class neighborhood of Brooklyn while McCann read from his novel This Side of Brightness which chronicles the lives of the men who dug New York’s subway tunnels in the 20th century. Following a question about Irish America and the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade,Tobin discussed the difference between new Irish who arrived in New York in the 1980s and the older already established Irish-Americans.Tobin was particularly angered by the ban on gays and lesbians marching in the parade. He questioned current representations of Ireland in America and called for a re-examination of this relationship. In response to a question from Sullivan on whether McCann was intending to write “the great IrishAmerican novel,” McCann, whose works have included books based on the lives of Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev and a Roma gypsy poet, pointed out that when he sits down to write, “The question of Irish America doesn’t cross my mind. I’m more interested in people’s stories. Every person has a story to tell that is in human currency.” McCann argued that Irish writing uses fiction as a map to where we are and where we should go. “Facts are what send us to war. Fiction is not,” McCann concluded.

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– Bridget English


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The Druid’s Farce

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Carly Smithson with her husband, Todd, in New York shortly after her elimination from American Idol.

Irish Idol Makes It to the Last Six “AMERICA has voted and Carly ….you’re going home tonight.” American Idol host Ryan Seacrest looked, almost apologetically, into the sea blue eyes of Dublin born Carly Smithson (nee Hennessy) as he informed her that she would be leaving the competition in sixth place. Slightly shocked and a little teary, Smithson, 24, graciously nodded her head accepting her fate. Smithson’s mother and sister, who flew in from Ireland for what turned out to be Carly’s final show, looked on disappointingly, yet very proudly, from the audience. Smithson, who has a tattoo of the word “Eire”(Ireland) in her mouth and an uncompleted tattoo of a Geisha on her right arm, grew up in Dundrum, Dublin, and moved to Los Angeles when she was a teenager with her father, Luke, to start her music career. She won the hearts of Idol judges back in January with her rendition of Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman.” Smithson last visited Dublin in June 2007 and is planning a trip back to see her family in the coming weeks. “I’m looking forward to going home while we have a few weeks off,” Smithson told Irish America recently explaining that

she currently has two weeks down time before the final Idol show where she will once again perform for America. Smithson first tried out for American Idol in season five in 2005. She made it to the Hollywood rounds but had to leave the show due to visa issues. “It wasn’t a talent thing I got let go for. It was a visa issue, but judges were so excited so it really was only a matter of time before I came back,” she said. Although eliminated on April 23 in sixth place, Smithson admitted she gained a lot more confidence in herself from being on the show. As for her future plans she said, “Well, right now I’m still in the whirlwind of Idol and all that good stuff but it would be super cool to make a record, whether it’s independent or with a label but I definitely want to do that.” Smithson was not aware at time of interview of any current offers by any record labels, she was told that there was “very bright information” for her when all the hype dies down. “I’m super excited to find out,” she said.

roduced by Galway’s Druid Theatre and directed by Mikel Murfi, Enda Walsh’s The Walworth Farce won the Scotsman Fringe First award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last August, and received impressive reviews on this side of the Atlantic with a brief but successful run in Brooklyn this past April. Ben Brantley of The New York Times wrote: “[The Walworth Farce] is unmistakably an Irish play. Its cheerful integration of homicidal horror into daily domestic routine brings to mind the bloody hearths in Martin McDonagh’s Leenane trilogy. Its depiction of storytelling as a necessary defensive art is at the heart of works like Brian Friel’s Faith Healer and Conor McPherson’s Weir. As for its mock-heroic exaggerations, well, they’re as old as Ireland itself.” Playwright Walsh, now based in London, was born in County Cork. Among his other writing credits are Disco Pigs and Bedbound (also a Fringe First winner). The Edinburgh judges described the play as a “mind-blowing mix of Marx Brother madness and exploded Irish cliché.” The Walworth Farce will run at London’s National Theatre in September.

Cast members Garrett Lombard and Mercy Ojelade outside St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn.

– April Drew JUNE / JULY 2008 IRISH AMERICA 23


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“I Heard They Went To New York”

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Photos: 1. Group picture from the Society’s Communion Breakfast of 1950. 2. Key members of the society at the 1933 parade. 3. A poster of the exhibition, which will run until July. 4. Formal picture from the Society’s Annual Ball in 1951. All photos courtesy Terri Cook.

www.ph7.ie

y the 1930s, an influx of Irish immigrants from Monaghan to New York had brought with them a great deal of the cultural and social traditions of their homeland. In the Monaghan County Museum, Ireland, a photographic exhibit opened on April 17, 2008, which tells the tales of many of these families and their lives in New York. The exhibit, which runs through July, represents the strong connection these immigrants had to their heritage and their dedication to maintain a sense of Irish culture for their children. The distance from the land that was once home resulted in many lost connections and open-ended stories of relatives who had gone abroad. But thanks to Terri Cook, the story of how the Monaghan Society helped keep Irish culture alive in New York has been revealed through the medium of photographs. The Society, which is still in operation, was founded in 1891as a social and cultural organization, and grew to include a Gaelic football team and fife and drum band. Cook began to research the continuation of the Monaghan Society in America, after contacting the Monaghan Museum Curator, Liam Bradley, about old photographs her cousins had discovered. “In the 1930’s, members of the Monaghan Society created a magical circle and immersed their children in their culture and traditions. They kept all the traditions established in the 1890’s when the society was first established – the annual Communion Breakfast, the November Ball and the grandest celebration of all – St. Patrick’s Day,” Cook told Irish America recently. “The exhibition holds many of these images along with press clippings reflecting their assimilation into New York Society. But the reality was they never really left Monaghan, and I thought the best way to thank them for our cultural inheritance was to bring them home. Their spirit – indomitable and courageous – never ceased to inspire us and it can be felt as visitors stroll among images looking for familiar faces.” IA – By Tara Dougherty

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Quote Unquote

Padraig Harrington

“I have to look back and reflect on a couple of places where shots went adrift. What finishing like this says to me is that I’m doing the right things. I felt my preparation was good. I set my stall out that I was building up for the Masters and now it’s the U.S. Open for the next couple of months.” A philosophical Padraig Harrington on finishing tied fifth at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta, Georgia in April – The Irish Voice

“Bertie was a humble man who never forgot about ordinary people. He represented this country so very well on the international stage and that is something that Ireland Inc. will greatly miss.” Bertie Ahern pictured with President Bush

Michael Flatley on Bertie Ahern’s decision to resign as Taoiseach. – The Irish Voice

“William A. Shea, known as the blarney to his law partner Milton S. Gould’s chutzpah, liked to poke fun at having his name adorn the home of the Mets.” Richard Sandomir of The New York Times on William A. Shea “the man who brought the National League back to New York.” He was honored at the opening game of the Mets’ final season at Shea Stadium. The stadium will be replaced by Citi Field, currently under construction behind Shea’s left field. – The New York Times

“I’m doing a motorbike ride in Ireland this summer. I hear it rains a lot, but I’ve got the perfect outfit!” PHOTO: AP/SHUJI KAJIYAMA

George Clooney, at the London premiere of Leatherheads. – Entertainment Weekly

“. . . the fact that we are standing here tonight – the fact that we can hold this – is proof that no matter how far out your dreams are it’s possible. And fair play to those who dare to dream and don’t give up. This song was written from the perspective of hope and hope at the end of the day connects us all no matter how different we are.And so thank you so much to those who helped us along the way.” Markéta Irglová (left) who immigrated to Ireland from the Czech Republic, accepting the Best Original Song Oscar for “Falling Slowly,” from the Irish movie Once. PHOTO: AP/MARK J. TERRILL

“I’ve been asked so many times when and if I can win my first race. And, finally, no more of those questions.’’ Irish-American race car driver Danica Patrick at the Japan 300 in Motegi on April 20, after becoming the first woman to win an Indy car race. – The New York Times JUNE / JULY 2008 IRISH AMERICA 25


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A Declaration of Intent SIX FLAGS FLY AT KOSOVO’S CAMP VIELE – FINLAND, SWEDEN, CZECH REPUBLIC, SLOVAKIA, LATVIA AND IRELAND – BUT THE CAMP COMMANDER COMES FROM ROSSES POINT, CO. SLIGO. SIGNIFICANTLY, IT’S THE FIRST TIME AN IRISH SENIOR OFFICER LEADS THE MULTINATIONAL PEACEKEEPING FORCE IN KOSOVO. Story and photos by Frank Shouldice Brigadier General Gerry Hegarty who commands the peacekeeping force in Kosovo

unch will be a brief affair. It’s Tuesday so the troops from Finland are in charge of the kitchen at Camp Viele. Word has already gone around the camp that pea soup and pancakes are on the menu. The Finns are enthusiastic. Their colleagues are not so sure. With the clock ticking down to midday it’s already evident there will be no stampede of Irish troops to the canteen. For an outsider it’s like walking into a scene from M*A*S*H. This is army town, clothed in khaki.

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Wrapped in a perimeter fence of razor wire, the base has been erected on the grounds of a disused paper factory in Lipljan, eight miles outside Kosovo’s capital, Prishtina. Operating under a UN/NATO umbrella, Camp Viele is home to 1,510 personnel, including 58 Irish troops. They, as well as 214 Irish troops at nearby Camp Clarke, are part of the multinational Kosovo Force (KFOR) peacekeeping force stationed around the newest political addition to the European map. Under Brigadier General Gerry Hegarty’s command, JUNE / JULY 2008 IRISH AMERICA 27


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the operational status at Camp Viele has switched from moderate risk to extreme high alert. “We have been preparing for this day since I came out here,” says Sligo-born General Hegarty, acutely aware of how delicate a line his peacekeeping troops will walk. “Independence was going to be declared so we have to be prepared for anything that might happen afterwards.” Kosovo’s self-proclaimed autonomy brought a predictably angry response from the region’s Serb minority. Rioting in the divided city of Mitrovica has raised tensions across the region, and the Balkans, regarded as an international tinderbox for centuries, remains as fragile as ever. For over two million people February’s declaration of Kosovar independence arrived like a slow train finally entering the station. For decades ethnic Albanians had awaited it more in hope than confidence, but more recently they could feel independence was finally on track, unseen in the distance but assuredly coming their way. They knew this because the Americans and Europeans told them so. Kosovo’s Serb minority – numbering almost 130,000 – felt that inevitability too, dreading the day they would be traded off like Balkan orphans. Regardless of concessions offered under the UN’s Attashari Plan, Kosovo’s declaration means that without moving an inch their homes effectively have moved country: one day Serbia, next day Kosovo. Stuck in the middle of all this are 17,000 NATO peacekeeping troops. For nine years NATO has refereed a precarious peace in Kosovo. February’s declaration raised the stakes once more. In Belgrade the Serbian government does not recognize Kosovo as an independent state. However, the breakup of Yugoslavia and public fatigue with conflict have taken their toll. It won’t be said officially, but there is a sense that Kosovo’s freedom might be a pawn played by Brussels in return for Serbia’s membership in the EU. It’s a highly complex issue and nobody is quite sure what will happen next. Universal recognition for Kosovo is no done deal. The United States and major EU powers support independence; Serbia and Russia are firmly opposed and they have support from China. Over the coming months the UN Assembly 28 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2008

TOP: Irish troops serving with KFOR watch colleagues leave Camp Viele at the end of a six-month tour. TOP RIGHT: Kosovo’s capital, Prishtina: A huge portrait of Bill Clinton beams down on the city’s choked traffic. RIGHT: Mitrovica: ethnic Albanian homes lie in rubble on the Serbian side of this deeply divided city. FAR RIGHT: A memorial to the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in the center of Prishtina.

will hear from multi-ethnic states wary of granting independence to ethnic minorities. Far from joining jubilant celebrations on the streets of Prishtina, Kosovo’s path ahead is fraught with obstacles. February was momentous but the celebration will be cut short by numerous practical challenges: to get electricity working 24 hours a day, fix the water supply, build proper roads, address a serious problem with organized crime and international drug traffickers, repair relations with their Serb neighbors. erry Hegarty assumed command August 1 last year and leads the camp for a 12-month term. KFOR soldiers serve sixmonth tours of duty. Quarters are basic but comfortable, a temporary self-contained home complete with a canteen, shop, bar, TV room and living quarters. KFOR troops live on base 24/7 and are

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not allowed to socialize in the many bars and clubs of Prishtina. Staying within the confines of the army base makes the tour more demanding, but soldiers who serve here know this is a region where even a single event can trigger an international crisis. At the end of each tour of duty, transport buses come to collect troops and deliver the next complement. Given a hearty send-off by colleagues in the main courtyard, departing troops return home with an international dimension to their careers, any memory of soldierly tedium offset by a unity of purpose and sense of achievement. The buses roll out past their cheering colleagues, past Irish sentries at the entrance barrier. For those who remain, Alert A1 is never far away. ince serving as a UN observer during the siege of Sarajevo, General Hegarty has become a keen student of Balkan intricacies.

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TO TRY TO CREATE A SAFE, SECURE ENVIRONMENT – THAT IS OUR MISSION

In the early 90’s he saw how Bosnian Serb forces were allowed to slowly asphyxiate Sarajevo and openly commit genocide. NATO stood by for three years. For him, the impotence of witnessing such an obscenity left its own mark. “I can’t say seeing dead children didn’t make an impression.” He pauses, as though sorely aware how little his brief could achieve. “I was an observer. I wasn’t in charge to do anything about it.” olitically hamstrung by the UN Security Council – Russia blocked any move against Bosnian Serb forces – NATO was

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further humiliated in July 1995 in the supposedly UN “safe haven” of Srebrenica. A Dutch battalion stationed there was overpowered by Bosnian Serbs and watched mutely as over 7,000 Muslim men and boys were marched off to their deaths. The massacre, the largest single atrocity since World War Two, made ‘standing by’ no longer politically, militarily or morally acceptable. NATO finally intervened and forced the conflict to a military conclusion. As a result Yugoslavia split into six different states – Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Montenegro. Internal tensions within Serbia then erupted in the southern province of Kosovo. Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic mobilized his army in a 1999 crackdown on Kosovar separatists. Tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians fled across the border into Macedonia. This time there was no standing by. Despite Moscow’s objections, NATO bombed Serbian cities, including the capital Belgrade, setting in train a process that nine years later led to Kosovo declaring independence. “A whole lot of lessons were learned at Srebrenica,” acknowledges Hegarty. “And I think that’s the very reason KFOR is here in Kosovo. The mandate in Bosnia wasn’t sufficient to do the job. With KFOR it’s a completely different story. We came here in 1999 to stop another Bosnia. It just couldn’t be allowed to happen again.”

ne million people – half of Kosovo’s population – live in the 22,000-square-kilometer area patrolled by Camp Viele troops. Initially KFOR was called in to protect Kosovar Albanians; now that the break with Serbia has been declared, Hegarty’s multinational force must spread its protective wing to a highly vulnerable minority of 30,000 Kosovar Serbs. It’s a tall order in such a volatile region. There are only a handful of Serbs still living in Prishtina. Most have gone, leaving behind a city culturally inclined towards Albania, not Serbia. Kosovars are hugely mindful of the American role in nationhood. One of Prishtina’s main streets was renamed Bulevar Bill Clinton in recognition of his involvement in what they feel is their emancipation. A huge portrait of the former president beams down on the city’s choked traffic. Not far away, on the roof of the Victory Hotel, a replica Statue of Liberty offers a symbolic reminder of where Kosovar Albanians feel most connected. But the Kosovar Serbs who remain feel detached from all of this. Increasingly it is they who are most at risk. They resented NATO’s multinational force arriving in their homeland, but, ironically, like Catholics initially welcoming British troops onto the streets of Belfast in 1969, Serbs in the region will have to look to that same force for protection. “To try to create a safe, secure environment – that is our mission,” Hegarty says, emphasizing that KFOR’s credibility depends on total impartiality. “We want freedom of movement for all ethnic groups. And we hope political groups can arrive at a political solution. It’s not a perfect world and we have to be realistic.” There is no time frame on the mission. Declaring independence raised tensions in the Serb enclaves around Kosovo, but the Brigadier General feels his peacekeeping soldiers just need to get on with the job. “It’s a forgotten conflict and a forgotten mission really,” he suggests, nine years into NATO’s Kosovo operation. “We’re in the middle of Europe and there’s no ideal solution. Some proposals are better than others, but as the UN Secretary-General says, the status quo can’t continue. From a soldier’s point of view I’m happy that KFOR can deal with whatever crops up. Plan well and deal with it.” IA

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Sixteen graduate students from Columbia University’s School of Journalism traveled to Ireland and found a country of many cultures and religions.

Day One: , 4 1 h rc a M A ROSCRE

AND TR AVEL rah Morgan S By a

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We flew overnight from New York to Dublin to Shannon with a Wisconsin high school marching band off to play in a St. Patrick’s Day parade, we saw pagan protesters on the front page of the Irish Times and some of us brought garish plastic watches in a fit of suddenly-it’s-6-a.m. hysteria. Most of us woke up for real when our bus arrived at Mount St. Joseph Abbey in Roscrea, County Tipperary. Roscrea, the monastery to teach in the private school on the grounds. where we’ll be spending the next two nights. We Father Kinsella himself is 81. were just in time for a bountiful lunch at 1 p.m., The Roscrea monks, not drifting anywhere, after which we piled back on the bus for a trip into take vows of poverty, obedience and stability. This town. means they have no possessions of their own – The Cistercian monastery was founded in 1858 and they will remain at Roscrea their entire lives when the order bought its 500-acre farm from two (apparently St. Benedict felt that, without this elderly women in London. That farm, with its 250 vow, monks would flit around too cows, now provided the much). They meet at 4 a.m. every monastery’s main source of morning for Vigils, a 40-minute income. prayer in which they watch with Only 17 monks now live in the the Lord for the coming morning. cloisters. The oldest is 94-and-aThere are three shorter offices, or half years old, and half of the prayers, during the day, followed community are over 80. by Vespers at 5:15 and finally “We’re a bit lost in a church Complitorium at 7:30 p.m. this size,” Father Nivard After dinner this evening, we’ll Kinsella said, gesturing to the have a chance to see the evening empty pews around him. church service. And then we will “There’s a very big drift away very gratefully get an actual from religion in Ireland.” Zachary Goelman with Father Nivard night’s sleep. Most of the monks are too old Kinsella, a Cistercian priest. PHOTO BY RACHEL KING

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For two students in the journalism school group, the day began with a visit to the farmSha yard at 5 a.m. The By Betwa early-risers trudged with camera, tripod and radio equipment through cow dung and hay to capture the first hours of a newly born calf, and the unexpected sight of a monk dressed in farm clothes tending to the cows. Brother Malachy didn’t seem to notice the overwhelming odor of the farm animals as he guided the American visitors through the pitch dark and gently persisting rain. After the cow adventure, Brother Malachy showed his guests the “enclosure,” which includes a big apple orchard where the monks read and pray, day after day and year after year. There is no sound, except for the chirping of birds. In the pre-dawn light, he pointed to an old cottage swirling in smoke – the bakery. “That’s Brother Oliver burning the peat bog,” he said. The peat is used as fuel in the bakery. It was a sight and smell from long ago. he day for the rest of the group began at 9 a.m. with a breakfast of cereal, jam and bread. An hour later, we filed into a bus and our tour guide, John, drove through Roscrea to Shannon for a visit to a Nigerian Pentecostal church and a meeting with Pastor Osim and his wife, Joy. The Pentecostal movement started in the 1700s. In Nigeria, the Pentecostal church was founded in 1952 and planted its roots in Ireland in 1998. Today, there are 45 Pentecostal parishes all over Ireland. Pastor Osim of the Pastor Osim, a small Nigerian Pentecostal church earnest looking man, in Shannon, Co. Clare. who belongs to the Redeemed Christian Church of God, which has 10 parishes, explained that the Nigerian migration was not about economic emancipation but about safety — to escape religious and political persecution from the Islamic government. They chose Ireland for two reasons: the English language and Christianity. Unlike the Catholic monks from the day before, the pastor said that Pentecostal congregations are increasing membership all over Ireland. They feel welcome with one exception— jobs. Professionals from Nigeria work as waiters and laborers because less qualified natives are given

COWS SACRED T MIGR AN AND IM S IE NIT COMMU rma

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The Indian Christians in Galway By Betwa Sharma and Zachary Goelman

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he ground floor entrance of the Westwood House Hotel entices passers-by with rock music and drink specials. It is a popular haunt in Galway and people mill around the bar on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day. But upstairs a different scene is unfolding. A spiral staircase leads to a dark landing with a heavy door. The rock music from the floor below grows faint, soon getting drowned on the other side of the door by people singing about Jesus Christ. “Hallelujah, hallelujah, praise the lord,” they shout. This is a congregation of Indian Christians from Kerala, a state in South India. They gather at the hotel every Sunday and pray in Malayalam, their regional language. Congregation members estimate that there are some 300 to 400 Indian Christians in Galway, and the number has been rising steadily these past few years. They come to Ireland to study, work and make a better life. Children of these immigrants learn Malayalam at home and Gaelic at school. While a constellation of Irish churches of various Christian denominations exists in Galway, the Malayalam-speaking Indians prefer to pray together. Many of them don’t find the native Irish religious enough. The Indian congregation is a Pentecostal service but welcomes Christians of all denominations. Light bounces off the red carpets and walls giving the room where the faithful gather a robust glow. The prayer leader is a man named Shinil Matthew, 34. He is not a priest or a minister, but a lay leader. A tall man, Matthew wears a checked shirt that stretches across his broad shoulders. His prominent nose and thick eyebrows give him an air of authority. He stands facing the congregation and sets a vigorous pace for the two-hour service, singing aloud and keeping time by clapping and swaying from side to side. His eyes are closed and face wrinkled in concentration. As the momentum builds, every person in the congregation rises up from the chairs singing and tapping their shoes to the lively beat. The “hallelujahs” are the only words spoken in English. “We had to worship in our own language,” Matthew said, over a cup of tea after the service. And even if they do they prefer to pray in Malayalam. Another congregant, John Mathew, 30, an immigrant from Kerala, sits in the front row with one hand raised, palm open. His oiled hair is sharply slicked back and his black moustache bounces up and down as he chants. At a verse which is particularly moving for him, he clenches his palm into a fist and punches the air with an accompanying “Hallelujah.” The congregation started with a few friends gathering at Mathew’s house to pray. But the number of people from Kerala


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preference by employers. But Nigerians are confident that their children will integrate into the Irish milieu. t was pouring by the time the bus reached St. Michael’s Church, which now served the Polish, the largest immigrant population in Ireland. The official figures are 200,000 but Father Szymon Czuwaia, one of 30 Polish priests dispatched to care for the spiritual needs of the immigrants, said that the actual numbers are probably double the official figures. Father Czuwaia dismisses allegations against the Irish of resenting the “Polish plumber.” He said that the Polish immigrants have been treated better in Ireland than in any other country. “We share a common history of persecution,” he said matter-of-factly.

I Galway: The City of the Tribes is adding new members to the fold.

ay 3: March 16, D S

For those of us who favor the metropolitan T H to the monastic, our IG L T BRIGH first view of Galway BIG CIT Y oulet seemed a harbinger of -B y Core By Robbie only good things — an uninterrupted line of bars, bistros and cafes provided a sharp contrast from the vast swaths of farmland characteristic of the drive from Roscrea, in County Tipperary. After we left the bus and took our first steps along Shop Street, bells rang out from the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas, the largest medieval church in Ireland. The gesture – to express solidarity with victims of the recent violence in Lhasa, Tibet – offered evidence of the church’s heightened awareness and respect for other cultures and religions. Though a member of the Anglican Communion, the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas is interdenominational. Canon Maureen Ryan said the church attracts many “transients”– when the students leave for the summer (Galway is home to one of Ireland’s leading universities), the tourists begin arriving en masse. Being both students and tourists, we took our seats in the nave for the 11 a.m. Palm Sunday Eucharist, which featured a dramatic rendering of The Passion of the Christ according to St. St. Nicholas Collegiate Church Matthew. in Galway City.

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increased in the past few years. The house wasn’t big enough. “We had all Christians, not just Pentecostals so everyone could not fit,” said Mathew speaking through a translator because he does not speak English. Mathew, a Pentecostal, approached the Assembly of God, a loose order of Pentecostal churches that took the Indian congregation under their wing. The Assembly’s branch in Galway, called the Discovery Church, is led by Pastor Paul Cullen, and also rents space in the Westwood House Hotel. “Many Indians come to our regular Sunday services, but some of the men felt that they couldn’t participate because of the language barrier,” said Cullen, 34. The women generally speak English, something required of those who work as nurses in the Galway University Hospital. Many Indian nurses, mostly women, have been recruited by the university hospital, which provides them with work visas. In many cases, their husbands follow and find simple jobs, or take courses at the university. Many Malayalam-speaking Christians living here say that in Ireland religion doesn’t enjoy the same primacy of place it does in India, and say that the power of faith flows more vibrantly in their small congregation than in the Irish Catholic cathedrals. Alice Ninin, 28, nurse by training, says she “came here for better opportunities.” Ninin, who belongs to the Mar Thorma Church, feels that the Christians in Ireland, particularly among the younger generation, are not religious. “In India, the churches are packed,” she said. “The young people here prefer going to pubs.” Many others at the congregation echo her sentiment. Next door to the prayer room, the children of the congregants are playing. Irin Sajupaula, 9, and Silin Verghese, 8, hunch over sheets of white paper drawing with colored crayons thicker than their fingers. These children have lived in Galway since their parents left India over a year and a half ago. Sajupaula can converse in Malayalam, Hindi, English, and began learning Irish Gaelic this year in school. “Ban is white,” she said, holding up the white crayon, and displaying her acquisition of Gaelic. “And dearg is red. Bandearg is pink.” Sam Verghese, 27, is a Pentecostal who moved here 10 months ago to be with his wife, who is a nurse. He believes that Christians of all denominations can pray together because “Jesus is same for everyone.” Rajesh Verghese, 38, a salesman, is a Roman Catholic. He said that even in a Pentecostal service he maintains his Catholic identity. “There is nothing wrong with singing and praying, Catholics can do that,” he said. IA


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The Cavan Mongolian Connection

After the Eucharist two Nigerian immigrants baptized their son. Assorted relatives and friends — including Catholics and Pentecostal Evangelicals — gathered Canon Maureen Ryan is interviewed by around the stone baptismal Robbie Corey-Boulet. font in the back of the nave to witness the ritual. The parents wore blue-andwhite garments with African prints, while the little boy wore a white christening gown. To conclude the ceremony, the worshippers lit candles and sang “This Little Light of Mine.” The Rev. Patrick Towers, who performed the ceremony, said the open nature of the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas, which was founded in 1320, reflects an acknowledgement that other Christian faiths can be just as valid as Anglicanism. To say that only one approach can lead to salvation, he said, would be presumptuous and potentially misguided. Anglican churches, he said, “are not at the top of any moral or ethical mountain. We’re all on a pilgrimage.”

By Rachel King

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ay 4: March 17, D T

Na Seacht d’Tempaill Cemetery.

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A 20-minute ride on a ferry was all it S took to travel back A P THE A DAY IN Bello in time 100 years. By Liz Although Inis Mor is said to be the most developed of the three Aran islands, its connection to the past in undeniable. We arrived at the Na Seacht d’Teampaill (the Seven Churches), an early pilgrim site. The ruins of two of the original churches remain: 13th-century Temple Brecan and 15th-century Teampall an Phoill. The group then embarked on an uphill climb to the Dún Aonghusa, the Bronze Age stone fort that stands 100 meters above the sea, one of the most important prehistoric sites in Europe. The trip concluded with a conversation with Connla O’Dúláine, a priest who joined the Arainn Catholic Church in 1974. He spoke of how the

ampa Ling, the residential Buddhist retreat center in County Cavan in the heart of Ireland, aims to spread Buddhist tradition and culture through chanting and meditation, but it also has a strong commitment to reestablish Buddhism in Mongolia and help the country’s impoverished citizens. Jampa Ling is fulfilling its charitable mission through scarves, slippers and handbags that it imports from Mongolia and then sells to high-end boutiques in Ireland and now in America through a micro-finance project called Made in Mongolia (MIM). Through the program, impoverished single mothers are being given the opportunity to make a living to support their children’s education. “What we started doing was training women in something that gave them a job and a sense of their own value as well,” said the Venerable Tenin Choeden, a Buddhist and native Irishwoman, also referred to as Ani La, “Ani” meaning “nun” and “La” as a distinction of honor. Additional aid is being given through the partnership to provide assistance with health, food, and heating. Pat McCarthy, an Irish designer and a student of Venerable Panchen Ötrul Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist monk and the spiritual leader at Jampa Ling, volunteered to make the trek to Mongolia and assist the workers. For two weeks, he worked with the women on altering the Panchen Ötrul Rinpoche at designs to make them more col- prayer. orful and desirable to Western customers. When Pat returned to Ireland, Ani La said, he determined there was a basis for a business, but the products would have to be high-quality, and a high return was required from initial orders. McCarthy assembled a team of volunteers to design leaflets and packaging, while he sent associates to Mongolia to manage the production. After the women produced some samples, he made a sales pitch to Avoca, a high-end clothing and home-décor boutique in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. With a fair-trade ethos, the sales pitch was a huge success. Shipping to four stores in Dublin and one store in Belfast in October 2007, the demand was so great that the Mongolian women needed more time to complete the handmade orders. “We had to ask them to reduce the order from 500 to 300,” said Desmond Gough, the grounds manager at Jampa Ling, “and they sold out. It was phenomenal.”


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A group shot with Panchen Ötrul Rinpoche.

This past year, it was determined that the center was too small to accommodate the workers and their growing demand for more products, thus an additional Buddhist-sponsored center is being scouted to expand the business. The Irish Buddhist center’s efforts got off the ground in 1995 when Rinpoche made his first pilgrimage to Mongolia. With permission from the Dalai Lama, he continues to visit and work on bringing Buddhism back to the northern Asian country. Since the breakup of the Communist Soviet Union in 1991, Mongolia, a traditionally Buddhist nation, has been experiencing a difficult transition to democracy. As many families have moved to Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar, there has been a sharp increase in the poverty level, as many are unable to find work. Thanks to the efforts of Rinpoche and his fellow Irish believers, a partnership, Asral Charity, was struck in 2001 between Mongolian and Irish Buddhists to support families and keep them together. A Buddhist center was opened in the capital city along with a number of philanthropic projects sourced there. “When Rinpoche opened the center, he recognized people needed work, because when the Communists moved out of Mongolia, the infrastructure completely broke down,” Gough said while standing in the main house of the three-building Buddhist center next to the center’s gift shop, displaying a variety of goods produced by the Mongolian women. Typical winter temperatures in Mongolia fall below 22 degrees Fahrenheit, threatening the lives of many, especially those in severe poverty. Most households are run by single mothers, who are some of the poorest citizens in their society. Most women work to prevent their children from being sent to orphanages or ending up on the street. “We identified families where the woman was the main breadwinner,” Gough continued, “The children of those women were in danger of being street children, dropping out of school.” All funding for Rinpoche’s projects in Mongolia comes from Ireland, Ani La noted. MIM is opening the sales market to the United States, with the first American order at Moonjar in Seattle, Wash. “We’re delighted,” Ani La said of the American market expansion. “The more orders we can get, the more work we can provide for the women in Mongolia.” IA

island has managed to preserve the traditional Irish culture and language, despite growing tourism and technology. “Our liturgy is all in Irish and that helps the islanders to preserve their Gaelic,” he said. Islanders may leave the church but they return. “They fall at around age 17 when they leave to school,” he said. “But I see them return to church no later than age 30. It’s almost like they’re going off, getting educated, but eager to return home.”

Day 5: March 18, JA

Under a second morning of sunny skies we left U P Galway and traveled D N SA PILGRIM borah Lee north to Donegal. By De Following the footsteps of generations of pilgrims, we explored the grounds of St. Patrick’s Purgatory, located on an island in the middle of an enormous lake. This famous destination draws more than 20,000 believers per year, mostly Catholic and interdenominational Christians. Commonly referred to as “Lough Derg,” where, legend has it, the country’s patron saint fasted and received visions of purgatory, this place has inspired centuries of pilgrims to flock to the island. They seek penance, divine intervention or simply an escape from worldly distractions of everyday life. Most come for the three-day pilgrimage, a rigorous experience conPilgrims walk around Penitent Path in St. Patrick’s sisting of walking barePurgatory. foot, fasting and staying awake for 24 hours. Lough Derg ground manager Deborah Maxwell explained that these physical sacrifices are spiritual disciplines that allow people to reach their spiritual core. The sky alternated between rain and sunshine as students walked the winding prayer paths, wandered through the great stone Basilica and snapped pictures of the penitential prayer beds. The waves of the surrounding lake rippled in circles around the island. “I think even the dramatic weather had a good effect,” said Rachel Rosenthal. “It was very remote. There is nothing you can do except reflect there.” After leaving Lough Derg, we made our way to County Cavan, where our tour made its first step towards Eastern religion. At Jampa Ling, a Buddhist center tucked behind woods with narrow gravel paths, crisp air and Tibetan PHOTO BY RACHEL KING

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Buddhists greeted us. We shared a meal of fresh salad and steaming bowls of curry vegetable soup with monks and other believers, swapping stories of our faith journey through Ireland with their journey to Jampa Ling. One monk, Lobsang Wangchuck — his ordained name — shared with two students how the sex abuse scandal that shook the Catholic Church and his life directed his path toward Buddhism.. Two years ago, on his 60th birthday, Wangchuck became the first Western monk ordained by the center’s lama, the Ven. Panchen Ötrul Rimpoche. After dinner everyone crowded into a small room for Puja, a practice of meditation and training of the mind. The lama, his followers and the Columbia University students sat cross-legged, eyes closed before a large red-painted shrine filled with images of deities, a large framed photograph of the Dali Lama, and Buddhist statues. Ani La, the center’s nun, led the meditation service in both English and Tibetan chants. Though it was new for many students, some earnestly embraced the experience. “I really did enjoy it, even though I had no idea what they were saying,” said Rachel Rosenthal.

Day 6: March 19, TO

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The day started early in Jampa Ling. D Before jumping on A RO ON THE N IO the bus once again, T ILIA RECONC Conci we had breakfast By Pilar with the lama, Ani La and the other Buddhists. Some of them walked with us to the main road to say goodbye. One of the women even got on the bus and sang one of the songs performed the previous night during the puja, before we left for Northern Ireland.

A Buddha welcomes springtime in Ireland. 36 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2008

Belfast’s Hindu Temple By Sharon Udasin

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he aroma of Indian spices fills the old Protestant church on Clifton Street, now transformed into a Hindu temple. Images of Indian gods and goddesses have supplanted those of Jesus Christ, but the house of worship remains intact, a stable fixture on the borderline between Northern Irish tensions. The temple, Laxmi Narayana Mandir, is located at 86 Clifton St. in Belfast, directly on the midline that separates Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods, according to its residents. Indian rugs and portraits of Hindu deities hang side-by-side with Christian stained glass and other remnants of the former church. An anomaly in this predominantly Christian city, the Hindu temple belongs on neither side of the religious feud and seems like a refuge for peace amidst conflict. Above the temple sanctuary and up the winding stairs to the building’s second floor, Gopi Sharma, the temple’s priest, lives with his wife and two teenage children. He speaks minimal English and called for his daughter when I arrived. Wrapped in a cream-colored blanket over pajama sweatpants, the 16-year-old girl introduced herself as Poonam Sharma. Her long shiny black hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and she wore a simply studded ring in her nose. Sharma was home enjoying her Easter break on this Thursday morning, relaxing in the family’s living quarters and relishing her day off. The building was an active Protestant church 25 years ago, as conflicts raged on between the Catholic and Protestant populations of the city, Sharma explained. Amidst the turmoil, a Hindu priest purchased the building approximately 19 years ago, inadvertently neutralizing a place of former conflict. “The people didn’t want this to go to a Catholic or Protestant, so they sold it to a Hindu,” Sharma said. The original priest presided over and lived in the converted temple for 10 years, after which a second priest took over for the next five. Following these two leaders, Sharma’s father arrived as priest four years ago, leaving a Hindu temple in Kenya. “I’ve actually got a mixture of Indian, African and Belfast,” Sharma said, chuckling at her positively unique accent. Initially, she wanted to move back to Africa, but after beginning school in Belfast, Sharma became better acquainted with the city. “It took another year to settle down,” she said. “A quarter of me still feels that I’m different from everyone.” After she finishes high school and college, Sharma hopes to become a psychologist. “More than half are nurses or in the medical businesses,” she said, pointing to the popularity of medicine among Indians. As she walked downstairs to the temple itself, Sharma explained that visitors must leave their shoes outside its glass doors. Inside the sanctuary, plush red carpet lines the floor, and matching velveteen drapes clothe the large-scale dioramas, encasing a series of sparkling deities in emerald green garb. In the center compartment sits the largest pair of statues, the two adopted as the temple’s central deities – Narayana, another name for the god Vishnu, and his consort Lakshmi.


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Adjacent to the sanctuary is a huge hall for Hawan, a monthly prayer service that now brings 50 to 60 worshippers, in a congregation that began quite small. “Not a single person used to come to the temple when it first started,” Sharma said. Gradually, however, Hindu residents began to trickle in for festivals, Sharma explained, and now over 800 people from Northern Ireland come to the temple for Diwali, the Hindu “Festival of Light,” typically celebrated in October. Indians travel from as far as London to celebrate Diwali at Laxmi Naranaya, where they sing and dance in the huge upstairs auditorium, next to the family’s living area. “That’s the only time we come together to celebrate a func-

Gods and goddesses adorn the altar at the Hindu temple in Belfast.

tion,” Sharma said. Despite having a temple of their own, Belfast Hindus do not always take advantage of the building’s unique cultural opportunities. “People have been living here for 30 years and they forget their culture,” Sharma said. Many of Sharma’s Indian friends have been in the country for decades and have assimilated to the culture, including 26-yearold Natasha, who declined to provide her last name. “You could pretty much call us Irish by now,” confirmed Natasha, whose family has been living in the United Kingdom for four generations. “I’m on a British passport, but if you asked me what I am I would classify myself as Northern Irish.” With little diversity in a largely Christian society, assimilation is convenient and comfortable. “I go to a Protestant school,” Sharma said. “All I get here is Protestant, Catholic, Protestant, Catholic.” Interestingly, however, she observed that each contingent of her Christian friends is afraid to enter the opposite group’s territory. Meanwhile, Sharma has both Catholic and Protestant friends, but neither sect will speak to the other. Sharma can recognize the difference between a Catholic and a Protestant by the way they speak. “Catholics would speak in a different way,” she said. “Protestants are more rough and tough.” And though Sharma continues to study Hindu culture and take classical Indian dance classes, she is becoming more and more Northern Irish – so much so that she has decided she wants to stay there, where she is a minority within a sea of white faces. She has no intention of moving to India or even to London, where Hindus live in densely packed neighborhoods. IA “I’m just not used to seeing so many Indians,” she said.

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We traveled through the county of Armagh arriving just after noon at the Darkley House, headquarters of Crossfire Trust, an organization based in Keady, which works towards reconciliation in Northern Ireland. Alan McMullan talks, a forOperating since 1986, mer member of the loyalist the Trust offers assisparamilitary. tance and support to those who still suffer the consequences of the violent conflict between Catholics and Protestants that ended in 1998 with the Good Friday Agreement. “We have glass walls, our society is still sectarian,” said Ian Bothwell, from Crossfire Trust. Over lunch, he explained that a lot of people in that area were revisiting their past. “We have a lot of superficial contact. We need a new dose of sincerity towards peace building.” The scars of the conflict are not remotely healed. Last November, a man was beaten to death in connection with things that happened years ago. Our last visit of the day was Richhill Methodist Church, also in the Armagh area. We met with the Rev. Paul Ritchie, his wife Caroline, and Alan McMullan, a former Loyalist paramilitary who talked about his experience of finding God in jail. Ritchie and his wife, who recently settled in Northern Ireland, talked about the experience of growing up Protestant in the overwhelmingly Catholic Republic of Ireland. “I long for the days this is a mixed community,” the reverend said. Our first day in Northern Ireland was very educational. “It was interesting to see a non-idyllic place,” said Deborah Lee-Hjelle. “The people at Crossfire explained how difficult it’s been in their town. It was interesting to be there and see it, as a complement of what we studied in class.”

, Day 7: 0 2 h rc a M AND

Waking up cozily in Europe’s most bombed E hotel, we each embarked IN PEACE L in different directions IM R PU asin d on this rainy Belfast U n ro a By Sh morning, where we had two hours to report stories independently. After breakfast, Laura Insensee and Deborah Lee-Hjelle explored a section of Belfast called “the village,” where they interviewed some migrant workers, including an Albanian Muslim family. Meanwhile, Robbie Corey-Boulet visited an Anglican church that had initiated talks with a neighboring mosque in the aftermath of post9/11 hate crimes. Debra Katz and Andrew Nusca JUNE / JULY 2008 IRISH AMERICA 37


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Baghdad in Dublin

wandered around the city taking pictures of historical graffiti and murals, while other students reported from their hotel rooms. At 11:30 a.m., the nine students who had returned from reporting boarded the bus for a short drive to the Shankill Methodist Church in West Belfast. As we got off the bus, the Reverend Jim Rea greeted the group and ushered us into the church — a no-frills, high-ceiling sanctuary with a simple gold cross balanced on the altar and the words “This Do In Remembrance of Me” etched in the wood below. Although tensions have quieted and violence has mostly subsided, the Shankill neighborhood

By Betwa Sharma and Zachary Goelman

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A group shot with Gerry Adams in Belfast.

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PHOTO COURTESY AHLUL BEYT ISLAMIC CENTER

still experiences what Rea calls “recreational rioting.” Within Shankill’s dwindling population, Rea sees a dramatic increase in secularization, as people move away from both religion and the neighborhood. Three local Methodist churches have combined their congregations in one. Aboard the bus for a tour of the neighborhood, Rea guided us to the peace line, a 20-mile blockade that separates the Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods of Belfast. “An awful lot of people died in this area,” Rea said. Later the bus rolled to a stop outside of the Sinn Féin headquarters for our meeting with Gerry Adams, the leader of the Sinn Féin party. “The conflict in Ireland is not a religious conflict,” Adams said. “Religion doesn’t matter, shouldn’t matter.” He acknowledges that there has been a longstanding cleavage between Catholicism and Protestantism but feels that the divide was never about theology. As far as his personal beliefs? “I’m sort of an à la carte Catholic-Buddhist,” Adams said. At the end of our private session with Adams, we followed him outside of the Sinn Féin headquarters, where he was conducting a “doorstep” open meeting with members of the Belfast media. After lunch and a second bus tour of the city, the group gathered in the hotel restaurant for a buffet-style dinner. At 7 p.m., we left for the

n Good Friday almost one thousand Dubliners face Mecca and touch their foreheads to the carpeted floor. Released from their jobs for the Easter holiday, hundreds of Muslims flocked to the palatial Islamic Cultural Center in Clonskeagh, County Dublin, for their own weekly Friday prayer. Tareq Sammaree, 58, is a frequent visitor to the Sunni mosque. A former Baghdad University professor who sought asylum in Ireland after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Sammaree is a long-time Ba’ath party member and remembers Saddam Hussein fondly. “He made some mistakes, but he was a good man,” says Sammaree. But other Iraqis in Ireland feel differently. A fifteen-minute walk away from the grand Sunni mosque stands the Ahlul Beyt Islamic Center, the only Shi’ite house of worship in Ireland, where Ahmed Ali, 38, prays. Ahlul ran away from Iraq to escape Saddam Hussein’s persecution of the Shi’ites. “The day he was executed was the happiest day of my life,” he says. The legacy of the former dictator is but one issue that divides Iraqi Sunnis and Shi’ites. Even in Dublin, far removed from the bloody fighting in the streets of Baghdad and Karbala, sectarian identities flare up. The Muslim community in Ireland is fast-growing, with official estimates of roughly 40,000 adherents. Iraqi refugees from the violence in their home country are the latest to join this community. Although they leave behind them the physical violence, they bring with them many of their sectarian prejudices. Discord between Sunnis and Shi’ites in Dublin heightened after the invasion of Iraq. The bloody tales of torture, suicide bombings and execution squads employed by both groups have strained relations in Dublin. Imam Dr. Ali Saleh is the leader of the Shia mosque. Born in the Iraqi city of Najaf, he lived for a while in The Ahlul Beyt Islamic Center in Dublin. Saudi Arabia, close to the border with Iraq. He came to Dublin in 1985, and remembers a time when relations between the two groups were cordial. “The Sunnis used to come down to the Shia mosque all the time,” he says; “they don’t anymore.” The Shi’ite Muslims say that tensions began after the U.S. invasion, when


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Imam Dr. Ali Saleh, leader of the Shia mosque in Dublin.

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Shi’ites gained power in Iraq. Dr. Hameed Albdri, 28, an Iraqi Sunni by birth, said he used to visit the Shia mosque. “I used to visit with my friend, but my friend was asked not to bring me back again,” Albdri says. He’s lived in Ireland for six years, and saw the change after the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent explosion of sectarian violence. Ahmed Ali, who came to Dublin from Mosul in 1999, remembers a time when it was easy to crack a Shia-Sunni joke. But no longer. “They cannot handle it anymore,” he says. Tareq Sammaree sees little humor in the current situation. The former Baghdad University professor lost everything when Saddam Hussein fell and the Ba’ath party lost power. Shi’ite paramilitaries kidnapped him and his son and tortured him for more than a year. He was released, but his son is still missing. He fled the country, seeking asylum in Dublin. Fatima Mussam, 16, a Sunni who came from Mosul, Iraq, to Dublin in 2002, blames the sectarian violence in Iraq on the Shi’ites. Fatima says that she had Shi’ite ‘acquaintances’ in school, but they were not her friends. “I won’t deliberately be rude to them but I don’t like them,” she says. Mussam, whose family left Mosul because her family anticipated the war, blames the sectarian violence in Iraq on the Shi’ites. “They started it,” she says. She is also contemptuous of the Shi’ite faith. “It is going against Islam,” she says. The small Shi’ite community in Dublin fears that the sectarian divisions are exacerbated by Fatima’s conviction, shared by some Sunnis, that the Shi’ite are not true Muslims. Zahra Rahim, 47, is a Shi’ite from Hilla, near the city of Babylon in Iraq. Her son, Jafar, 15, attended Muslim National School, a primary school under Sunni management. Rahim says her son has been called ‘kafir,’ which means unbeliever, by Sunni students and occasionally been taunted when the Shi’ites suffer in the ongoing sectarian violence in Iraq. “Who teaches them this?” Rahim asks. “It is not the teachers. The children get this understanding from their parents.” “Sectarian feelings are inherent,” says Imam Saleh. “Whether it is Catholics and Protestants or Shi’ites and Sunnis. We are living between people who have suffered from sectarian violence. We should learn from them.” IA

Orthodox Hebrew Congregation, to celebrate the Jewish festival of Purim. Capped in a golden speckled party hat, Rabbi Menachem Brackman, 26, led Purim services, a joyful holiday for Jews not unlike St. Patrick’s Day where people dress up and have fun. Wrapped in a long black coat and sporting a characteristically Hasidic beard, Brackman and his wife Ruth, 22, moved with their six-month-old son to Belfast only five and a half weeks ago, to take over the vacated rabbinical position. Part of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, the young couple are beginning a six-month trial period in Belfast, before deciding whether or not they would like to be official Chabad shluchim (emissaries). Although the Jewish community has been a fixture in Belfast for the past 150 years, the congregation has fallen to 108 members, with sparse access to kosher foods and Jewish life. Yet both Menachem and Ruth Brackman were pleased with the evening’s turnout, a gathering of nearly 50 congregants. Among the participants this evening were longtime residents and recent migrants from Israel. Rabbi Brackman whizzed through the Megillah reading at turbo speed, pausing occasionally to catch his breath. Jews and non-Jews alike clanked their noisemakers and banged on the glossy wooden pews every time he voiced Haman’s name. After the service, congregants and visitors gathered together in the lobby and hall attached to the sanctuary, where they shared hamantashen, coffee and conversation. Brackman made his rounds dispensing shots of Scotch whiskey and quietly disappeared to reemerge as a fullfeathered yellow chicken, to conduct a children’s costume contest. The few children attending the service flocked around the rabbi in their elaborate costumes, which most notably featured Spiderman and a giant Professor Goldman with Rabbi Menachen Brackman banana. Despite these in costume for Purim. scattered young faces, the average age was over 75 years old. Northern Irish Jews find sanctuary in a community where for once they aren’t a minority and can enjoy common traditions of generations past. Although they find very few Jewish people walking the street of Belfast, they rarely face anti-Semitism and find that the majority population is very accepting of their culture. PHOTO BY RACHEL KING

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Sikh the Fair Land

Day 8: March 21, AND

Two members of the Garda Síochána were the first peocGee ple we met as we By Jamie M traveled back into the Republic of Ireland this morning. They were not there to welcome us, but pulled us over to check our passports, another indication of how the political climate and demographics have changed in Ireland. During the Troubles police conducted searches at the borders for weaponry. Today they are looking for illegal immigrants. We spent the first part of our afternoon at the Islamic Cultural Center of Ireland, one of the two mosques in Dublin. The males in our group joined the more than 700 men on the first floor while the females in our group, each wearing headscarves, sat upstairs with about 200 women. The faces in the mosque reflected the growing immigrant population in Ireland from countries around the world, but also included those born in Ireland. “I met two women who had converted from Catholicism,” Sarah Morgan said. The mosque, built in 1979, felt open and expansive, with tall ceilings and a large dome space in the ceiling’s center. “The building got my attention,” said Pilar Conci. “It was big and new. None of the mosques I went to in New York were like this.” During these services, Imam Hussein Halawa spoke Arabic and then the mosque secretary translated the sermon into English. Halawa, who came to Ireland from Egypt in 1996, spoke emphatically, even yelling at times. The congregation prayed together standing in perfect rows and bowing their heads to the ground. Betwa Sharma said she enjoyed listening to the prayers in such a large crowd. “I liked when they all said ‘amen’–the echoing,” she said. “I liked that we got to hear that.” After the mosque, some students explored and reported in Dublin, while others went to the Hill

: PAST DUBLIN T PRESEN

By Jamie McGee

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Muslims at the Islamic Cultural Center of Ireland, one of the two mosques in Dublin. 40 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2008

arpreet Singh moved to Ireland from India three weeks after 9-11 and looked for work in Dublin without success for two months. About 30 applications later, he still had no prospects. He knew the turban on his head and his long beard, both identifications of his Sikh faith, were not helping his chances. Meanwhile, people on the streets often shouted “bin Laden” and sometimes threw bottles at him. He went to the barber and cut the hair that he had grown 17 years since birth, and shaved his beard, abandoning one of the core duties of Sikhism. “It was very hard,” he said. “I cry on that day.” Shortly after, Singh was hired at a merchandising cash-and carry shop, but he felt empty inside, he said. A year later, after growing more connected to the Sikh community in Dublin and to his Sikh beliefs, he decided to once again wear the turban and grow out his hair. No sooner than he returned to the faith, the abuses on the street began again. A day after the 2005 London bombings a group of men attacked him as he was leaving a grocery store and he was stabbed in the hand. Singh, now 25, is not alone in handling frequent discrimination in a country that has only recently been introduced to Sikhism through an increasing number of Sikh immigrants. The National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism in Dublin reports about 1,200 Sikhs in Ireland, although Sikhs there estimate the number is closer to 3,000, a population that has grown extensively in the last five or six years because of economic and academic opportunity. Most of the Sikhs in Ireland live in Dublin and a majority of them are students of business or technology who hope to take their skills back to Punjab one day or find jobs in Ireland. While acceptance is growing and more people are learning about Sikhism, the faith is still often wrongly associated with terrorism and Islam. Negative stereotypes still thrive, and some Sikhs choose to stop wearing the turban “They throw bottles, it happens many times,” said Gurmeet Singh, 26. “Now it is better than before. If people do know about Sikhs, they are respectful.” Sikhism developed in northern India in the 15th century and has more than 25 million followers worldwide. The faith denounces blind ritual and emphasizes equality among all mankind and devotion to one god. Sikhs follow the teaching of 10 gurus and are taught to be both saints and soldiers, using the sword only when others cannot defend themselves. On a recent morning at Dublin’s only Gurdwara, or Sikh temple, a group of men explained they have all learned to ignore such comments and incidents, knowing that it stems from ignorance more than anything else and that anger does not solve their problems. To find work they learn which sectors are accepting of the turban and which ones to avoid. The restaurant sector, which depends on tourism, is especially difficult to penetrate, they said. “We ignore abuses,” said Jasbir Singh Puri, a surgeon who immigrated to Dublin 20 years ago. “You end up in a brawl. We

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of Tara, where St. Patrick achieved victory over Pagan Druids in the fifth century. With strong winds roaring around us, we walked up a hill to see monuments dating from 3500 B.C. to the seventh century A.D. Two rings of man-made ridges mark the hill’s crown. In the middle of one ring, a circle of stones surround a phallic monument called Lia Fáil, or stone of destiny, where the High Kings of Ireland were crowned.

, Day 9: March 22 BLIN’S

are peace-loving people.” Puri, who has a grey beard, said children often ask him if he is Aladdin, or where is his magic carpet, and he will happily explain his turban and his faith to them. “They ask me are you a genie?” If they ask if he is a Taliban member, however, he takes offense, he said. “I’ll resent that. But I will not blame the child. I blame the parents.” While the Sikhs interviewed could laugh and joke about some of the abuses they endured from other citizens, they were less tolerant of the government’s rejection of the turban in the Army and in the police force, known as the An Garda Síochána. To be excluded from military and police because of their turban is counter to their religion, the men said. Last August, a Sikh training to serve in the Garda was told to give up his turban if he wanted to begin work, a turban ban that drew criticism from Sikh organizations worldwide. A spokesman for the An Garda Síochána said that the turban was a breach of the Garda’s uniform and that the Garda was not advocating one religious belief over another, nor being racist. Puri, however, said that the Sikhs should be able to integrate without giving up the turban. “The turban is like a crown. We cannot take it off. If the Garda is not allowing a person to do community service, it’s a violation of a fundamental right of equal employment.” But there are several Sikhs who have decided that they must remove the turban to survive in their new country. Such choices are not unique to Ireland, as Sikhs in the United States and even India have also abandoned the turban for employment, athletics or comfort. While some Sikhs do not look down on those who abandon the turban and understand the struggle, they say that abandoning the turban means that you are no longer a full Sikh. Harpreet Singh said he did not tell his parents, who are farmers in Punjab, that he had stopped wearing a turban. Seven years later, he is still apologetic about his decision to cut his hair. “This is new country, this is new people,” he said, explaining the loneliness and uncertainty he felt when he moved to Ireland to pursue a degree in information technology. “I come after 9-11. People look at you in a different way. They say things very rudely.” Singh lived with his cousins at the time and said he felt shame when he returned from the barber. “I go home, have a shower. I was upset for a few days,” he said. “They were thinkContinued on page 42

Taking advantage of a free day, many of us U D branched off to shop, IN Y A FREE D Y IT visit museums or C IR A F n a ig rr o explore other attracC By Conn tions in Dublin. Some of us opted to take in some more religion and went along to a Sikh temple called Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar, in Sandymount Dublin, about a 10-minute drive from the city center. Shortly after 10 a.m., we arrived at the temple, which was founded in 1987. It is the only Sikh temple for the 3,000-plus Sikhs in Ireland, and 200 to 400 people worship there each Sunday. After entering, we took off our shoes in the lobby and took note of a sign that stated, “Please do not bring alcohol or tobacco onto the premises.” Because it’s a requirement that hair be covered, Melanie, Mary Catherine and Jamie each brought scarves, while John and I donned orange bandanas that were on offer. Jasvir Singh, a priest at the temple who came to Ireland Worshippers at the Gurdwara, the in 1996 from only Sikh temple in Dublin. Punjab, in India, lives at the temple, which is open 24 hours a day. Many of the Sikhs who come to worship are students, Jasvir said. Others work in the field of medicine. Although there was no service or event scheduled, 10 worshippers showed up to meet us. During most of our meetings throughout the trip, reporters vastly outnumbered sources. Today, however, was a different story, and the five of us who visited the temple and were able to interview those present felt rather spoiled. The men launched into a detailed account of their experiences in Ireland. Before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, they said, many Irish were simply curious about Sikhs’ beards and turbans. But the treatment of Sikhs in Ireland worsened considerably following the attacks. PHOTO BY CONN CORRIGAN

Dublin’s only Gurdwara, a Sikh Temple.

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ing he left his faith. I disappointed myself as well. That’s why I came back.” Cutting his hair made him reflect more on his faith and he began visiting the Dublin temple, formally known as the Guru Nanak Gurdwara. He learned more about Sikhism and realized that the discrimination he faced with a turban was a small struggle in comparison to the Sikhs who lived before him. “If you see our history, our past Sikhs gave their life for our faith.” The Gurdwara welcomed him back as a full Sikh when he chose to grow his hair out again and wrap it in a turban each morning. “I feel good,” he said. “Everybody says it is very good to come back.” When a group of men came after him with a knife after the London bombings, Singh was shaken. He had raised his hand to protect himself, otherwise the man who attacked him would have stabbed his face, he said. He contemplated moving home, but felt at ease again after a few days. This time, however, he was not questioning his choice to wear a turban. “I am more strong,” he said. Now Singh works at a home equipment store and is in school for his second degree, this time in business. “If I go back I have good knowledge in international market,” he said. The Sikh men discussing their experiences in Ireland said despite the discrimination they feel, there are signs that acceptance is growing. Singh and about 40 other men from the Gurdwara recently danced and marched in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin, an invitation Puri described as a great honor. The men at the Gurdwara also formed a soccer team that played in a recent Against Racism tournament, in which teams from different religious and ethnic groups play one another. Events such as these have made them feel more connected and increase awareness and understanding of their faith, but they are skeptical that the climate of discrimination will change any time soon. Puri said it is a piece of the Sikh history that will carry far into the future. “We will always be fighting against injustice,” he said. IA

The men also recalled the case of a Sikh in Ireland who wanted to join the police force but was told he would have to remove his turban. This case proved especially offensive. “A turban is like a crown – you cannot take it off,” said Dr. Jasbir Singh Puri, a trustee at the temple. “We have to keep our identity at all costs. We want to be integrated, not assimilated.” Despite these incidents of discrimination, the men had generally favorable impressions of Irish people. Even when discussing troubling events, they spoke without anger or hatred. In the afternoon, about 12 of us met at Trinity College for a tour of the campus and a viewing of the Book of Kells. Laura Insensee said she found the Coptic influence on the design of the book fascinating, as she has been studying the Christian Orthodox faith. “To learn about that connection was really interesting,” she said. Later, Pilar Conci went to a Polish Catholic church on High Street, where she saw groups of Polish people waiting for a priest to bless the food they will eat on Easter Sunday. “This isn’t something that Irish Catholics would do,” Pilar said. “It’s a uniquely Polish Catholic experience.” In the evening, Laura and I attended a service at the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, the first Russian Orthodox Church established in Ireland, located in the inner suburb Harold’s Cross. Because it is a former Church of Ireland chapel, it features stained glass windows and balconies, two features atypical of Russian Orthodox churches. Around 20 people arrived for the prayer service, and all of the women wore headscarves, a requirement of this church. The wonderful singing of the priest along with the five-person PHOTO BY RACHEL KING

Inside Trinity College Chapel on the campus of Trinity College.

choir, which mixed beautiful melodies with pitchperfect harmonies, was particularly striking. The experience of Russian Orthodox Christians in Ireland has been less turbulent than that of the Sikhs, at least according to the Rev. Michael Gogoless, who said the church has a “very good” relationship with the Catholic Church. “We do work hand in hand,” he said, referring to issues such as their stance against abortion, 42 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2008

and other social policy positions. He said that one-third of his congregation is made up of Irish worshippers, some of whom married a Russian Orthodox Christian and then converted. n the morning, students peeled themselves out of bed to eat a final Irish breakfast at the Camden Court Hotel. Robbie Corey-Boulet managed to attend an 8 a.m. Easter mass. Some stayed in the hotel to pack. An ambitious crew continued to the Irish Jewish Museum at 3 Walworth Road in the Portobello section of Dublin. Raphael Siev, the museum’s curator, greeted Columbia students at 10 a.m. with some Irish-Jewish history and a tour of the museum. From Torah covers to Jewish business cards, the converted synagogue bursts at the seams with seemingly arbitrary relics of Dublin’s Jewish memory. “My first thought was New York apartment,” said Melanie Huff. “You got the feeling that it was Jewish, it belonged.” Soon after we were winging our way back home to New York, our ten-day trip to a fascinating land over. IA

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For most, Ireland is a country of rich tradition and friendly people. However, for the asylum seekers in Mosney, a one-time holiday camp for Irish families, the country offers a welcome of a very different kind.

PHOTO: DEREK SPEIRS

IRELAND OF A THOUSAND WELCOMES? Story by Sharon Ní Chonchúir “I lost three of my four children. My son is the only thing I have left,” says a mother, her voice choking with emotion. “In Nigeria, it was all gangs, armed robbers, hired assassins. You were either in or out,” remembers a young man who escaped the violence. “There was no peace in the Congo. You never knew what would happen. You’d hear bullets – grr, grr – during the night,” says a journalist who fled the conflict. “The traffickers realized the boy had chicken pox. They didn’t want the rest of us catching it so they threw the boy overboard. Nobody opened their mouths about it,” says a man who is still too frightened to reveal his identity.

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hese are the real-life stories of some of the most marginalized people in modern-day Irish society – people who have come to

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seek asylum. Nigerians, Somalis, Romanians, Afghans and Sudanese for the most part, these people have been arriving in

Ireland in their thousands every year. In 2006 – the latest year for which figures are available – 4,314 people sought asylum in Ireland, down from a high of 11,634 in 2002. Of the many that arrive, only approximately one in ten are granted the legal right to remain. Who are these people? And what are their lives like? Seaview, a new documentary by two filmmakers from Dublin, aims to answer these questions. “Asylum seekers are rarely given an opportunity to speak,” says Nicky Gogan, who collaborated with Paul Rowley in making the film. “This film is a chance for their voices to be heard.”


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PHOTOS:COURTESY Seaview

Seaview is the story of one particular group of asylum seekers, those who currently reside or have resided in Mosney; a one-time holiday camp for Irish families located about 25 miles north of Dublin. Founded in the 1940s as part of the Butlin’s chain of holiday camps, Mosney was once a place of refuge for Irish families. At its height, it catered for up to 6,000 holidaymakers every day. The Mosney of today is still a place of sanctuary but in an entirely different way. Its residents are asylum seekers, 800 of whom are housed here at any one time. These asylum seekers live surrounded

Seaview Documentary Makers Nicky Gogan and Paul Rowley.

by reminders of Mosney’s past. Curtains in bright 1970s patterns, a neon sign advertising “traditional fish and chips,” the ballroom with its parquet floor—all played host to generations of Irish holidaymakers. Paul Rowley, Nicky’s partner in making Seaview, was struck by these visual contradictions. “It’s an isolated holiday village which is completely kitted out for entertainment,” he explains. “And now it’s being used as a place where people wait in hope and fear for years on end.” The film highlights these contradictions. Images traditionally associated with recreation and enjoyment, such as the gaily decorated swimming pool, are represented while the residents tell their often traumatizing stories. These are stories that might never have been told were it not for Paul and Nicky’s decision to deviate from their original plan for a fictional feature film. Both visual artists and friends from when they met in San Francisco in 1994, the pair had long wanted to work together. Distance (Nicky moved back to Dublin in 1995 and Paul moved to New York) prevented them from doing so. It wasn’t until the advent of modern

communications and cheap flights that they were able to undertake their joint project. In 2004, they started work on a feature film focusing on newcomers to Ireland. “At the time, the government was talking about housing asylum seekers on ‘floatels,’” recalls Nicky. “These were to be virtual prisons out at sea. We were shocked they could think of treating people like that. After all, we’re a nation of migrants. The Irish have been refugees all over the world.” Indeed, she and Paul have both been migrant workers themselves, having worked in London, Germany and the U.S.

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aving decided on a theme that interested them, they started their research by visiting Mosney, one of the biggest residential units for asylum seekers in Ireland. “Almost as soon as we got there, we realized the real story was far better than fiction,” says Nicky. “Telling it would be more interesting and more valuable to the asylum seekers themselves.” One of the reasons for this is that the JUNE / JULY 2008 IRISH AMERICA 45


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Photos: These photos reveal glimpses of how asylum seekers live in Mosney Holiday Centre.

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Only one in ten asylum seekers can expect to start a

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Ireland has given him. “It’s a lucky thing I’m here today,” he says earnestly. “It’s a blessing.” The young mother from Nigeria, who is still waiting for a decision on her case, has not had such a positive experience. “In Nigeria, the only Irish people you met were missionaries,” she says. “We thought of the Irish as gods. So, when we arrived here and the Irish called us names – liars and thieves . . .” She breaks off crying. The journalist from the Congo knew a lot about Ireland before he arrived. “The fight for independence, Michael Collins, your long history; it made Ireland feel like a natural destination for me,” he says. Unfortunately, this did not mean it was a welcoming one. He is still awaiting an answer to his application for asylum and is disillusioned with the system. “The process is a shame,” he says. “What do the interviewers know about us? What do they know about our countries?” This is a recurring theme in the film. The asylum process is notoriously slow, sometimes taking up to six years. During this time, people are not allowed to work. They are not allowed to cook. Their basic needs are looked after by the state and they themselves begin to stagnate. “The system is inefficient and inhuman,” says Paul. “I’m not talking about Mosney. The staff and facilities at Mosney are very good and the residents are well taken care of. However, staying for such a long time – three, four, PHOTOS:COURTESY SEAVIEW

‘real story’ differs quite substantially from the common public perception of asylum seekers in Ireland. Because they are not allowed to work while their asylum application is being processed, asylum seekers are provided with food, accommodation and a weekly 19 euros allowance from the state. Some Irish people resent this because they see it as living at the taxpayer’s expense. Seaview challenges this misconception. “If people knew what these people are going through, there wouldn’t be the same sense of animosity towards them,” says Nicky. “Instead of seeing them as statistics, people would see them as humans who need help.” It’s this human element that is captured in Seaview. One woman says at the very beginning of the film: “Imagine leaving everything you know as a human being – your home, your memories, your family, your childhood – to come to a country as a total stranger and to start all over again.” Viewers don’t have to imagine as the asylum seekers interviewed for this film tell us exactly what this feels like. The young man who fled the violent streets of Nigeria couldn’t believe his eyes when he traveled by train to Mosney. “Seeing cows, the countryside, small houses, I thought,‘Oh man! What’s this?’” he now recounts in a strong Dublin accent. He’s one of the lucky ones. His application was accepted and he now lives in Dublin City where he makes his living as a musician. He is grateful for the opportunities

five or six years – in a camp for asylum seekers has a huge impact. No matter how luxurious your surroundings, being held in a state of limbo and constant fear for your future has detrimental effects.” Paul and Nicky met writers, doctors, engineers, lawyers, farmers and artists in Mosney, none of whom were allowed to work. “They lose their skills and their confidence and they remain isolated from Irish society,” says Paul. “It’s a very difficult life to have to live.” The asylum seekers themselves testify to this. There’s the teenager who, over the course of eight years, saw all of his friends move out of the camp. Some were deported; others were granted leave to remain. “I smile on the outside but on the inside it’s hard,” he says. “I’m still a refugee in Mosney. Even when I see some of them at school, I can’t talk to them. They’ve moved on and I don’t know what they’re talking about.” A Kurdish man can’t understand the rule which prevents him from working. “We don’t want anything from the government,” he insists. “We don’t need a


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PHOTO: DEREK SPEIRS

PHOTO: DEREK SPEIRS

new life in Ireland. The others are sent back home. house. We don’t need 19 euros. We don’t need a health service. If we work, we can pay everything from our own pockets.” Having spent four years getting to know these people, Paul and Nicky understand this feeling. “It’s unnatural for them not to work,” says Nicky. “In their countries, if they don’t work, they don’t eat. They work to live.” She is scathing of the public’s perception of asylum seekers living in luxury at the expense of the state. “They get 19 euros a week,” she says. “They can buy some credit for their phones and make a call home. That’s about it.” Many of the adults in the film are depressed. Their lives are on permanent pause, indefinitely suspended. “It’s tough for them,” says Nicky. “They are alienated on so many different levels.” Their children, however, are a source of hope. They attend school and are much more accepting of their situation. “I like reading and spelling,” says one. “I like Ireland because you can do whatever you want,” says another. However, some of the parents fear for

the future. “Children see their parents here, sitting down for years on end,” says a worried mother. “They go for years without eating a meal their mother has cooked for them. What kind of mothering will that mother do when she leaves?” It’s a question one of the former residents has had to ask herself. After three years in Mosney, Vida, who is from Ghana, had her application accepted. She still laughs at the memory of receiving the news. However, venturing out into the wider world wasn’t as easy as expected. Having lived in Mosney for so long, she had become virtually institutionalized. “It’s a big difference,” she says. “You are not spoon fed anymore. My son and I almost ended up homeless and we often had no food to eat.” Now that she has a job, that struggle is behind her. She feels settled. “I feel part of Ireland now,” she says. “I’m glad I’ve been able to make it.” However, she acknowledges the impact the process had on her. “Everybody who goes through it, their mental condition deteriorates,” she says. And what for? Only one in ten asylum seekers can expect to start a new life in Ireland. The others are sent back home. In light of such discouraging statistics, it’s no wonder so many asylum seekers suffer psychologically. As Nicky says, “This film is really about waiting, people going through a long, arduous process of waiting and in the meantime, they are in no man’s land, in limbo.” Life for them is literally

on hold. Both Paul and Nicky hope that their film will have an impact on people and perhaps change some attitudes – both in official circles and among the public at large. “The asylum seekers themselves told us that,” says Nicky. “They knew that participating wasn’t going to help their cases but it might help people coming after them.” In order to maximize its chances of doing so, Paul and Nicky are keen to get Seaview widely distributed. It’s been shown at film festivals in Ireland and Berlin. It was in competition at Toronto’s Hot Docs. It’s currently on theatrical release in Germany. Paul and Nicky are both hopeful that it will be shown on Irish national television. “It’s important that people see it,” says Paul. “We want as many people as possible to see it.” For Paul and Nicky, life is moving on. They are planning a new film – a fictional story based on what Nicky describes as “colonialism and post colonialism and how Ireland is impacting on the world following its economic success.” But she is finding it hard to leave Seaview behind. Especially as she knows that so many people are still stranded in Mosney and in other camps all over Ireland. As the film ends, the scene fades on a long corridor with a locked door in the distance. Such is life for asylum seekers in Ireland today – a long and uncertain wait that may well meet with refusal at IA the end. JUNE / JULY 2008 IRISH AMERICA 47


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Finding

County Leitrim, 1969: An immigrant

Home

PHOTOS COURTESY OF JIM MURPHY.

returns with his American son.

The Murphy family pictured outside their house in Brooklyn in 1962. Pictured left to right: Patrick, Kathleen with children Eileen, Joan and James.

STORY BY JIM MURPHY

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eptember, 1930. Age 16, my mother, Kathleen Sloyan, the second of eight children, leaves her home in Ballyhaunis, County Mayo. She will marry, raise three children, and die in Brooklyn, New York, at age 53, without ever returning home. We have no photos of her as a child. With my first wage as a paper boy, I bought her a 78rpm record that had “Mayo” in the title. Her hug was a full world. Her eyes filled, and for years I bought her anything that had Mayo in the title. I still love the sound of the word Mayo.

March, 1924. Age 20, my father, Patrick Joseph Murphy, the fifth of thirteen children, leaves his home in Cloone, County Leitrim. He will return forty-five years later, a year after the death of my mother, many years after the deaths of his own mother and father. We have no photos of him as a child. This is the story of his journey home. I went with him and met myself. n the Brooklyn world of my childhood, Ireland was always there on my mental horizon – in the rhythms of speech and turns of phrase of Irish people about the

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house; in the ballads about the old country and a moonlight in Mayo that could bring my mother to tears; in the Friday night card games in which a priest visiting from Ireland might occasionally loosen his collar and mutter a sort of curse when the Lord failed to fill his inside straight. Ours was a world of aunts, uncles, cousins; the calendar had its comforting rhythm of gatherings for holidays, baptisms, communions, graduations. And, the funerals. Always uncles, John, Michael, Frank, each death strange in its own way, each one driving my father deeper into himself. I was eight when Uncle John fell over the banister on his way up to his apartment, dropped three stories, and broke his neck. I didn’t really know him, but I can still see him falling. Then, I was nine when Uncle Michael fell under the wheels of the IRT subway, the family said it was the heart that gave way, dead before he hit the tracks, others whispered that he had jumped. y Dad said his brothers had bad luck. Mikey must have had the old heart attack. John, another story, let him be, no point in going on about it, let it be, drop it. Then, my godfather, Uncle Frank the bachelor, a large man with gruff manners whose hand swallowed mine when he shook it, his breath spoke of cigarettes, whiskey, and anger. I felt bonded to him as my godfather and a bit afraid of him at the same time. He drank himself to death. I was thirteen when he died, my father was fifty and was burying his third brother in America. Years later, I would begin to understand his loss and the pain that he kept inside as the funerals kept coming. But then, I was young and my father’s losses were distant. I went to my uncles’ wakes and funerals and then came home, tired after a day of play with all the cousins. I remember a deeper sense of loss about Uncle Frank’s death than about John or Michael. Perhaps because I was older, the idea of death had begun to have meaning, but I also think that, despite my youth, I sensed Uncle Frank was a lonely and unhappy man, moving in a world too far removed from our Christmas dinners for me to understand. He remains very much with me since he is in my parents’ wedding picture, the best man. The picture is on a table in our

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The wedding photo of Patrick Joseph Murphy and Kathleen Sloyan. Pictured from left to right: Mark and Eileen Cummings, Frank Murphy, Kathleen, Patrick, and John Foley.

bedroom, so I see it at some level of my consciousness every day. lovely picture, taken in New York in a studio, light years way from Leitrim and Mayo. The whole picture speaks of Ireland, of emigration, and of change, especially the poses of the four men – my Dad, Uncle Frank, Mark Cummings, and John Foley, my Dad’s best friend and himself off the boat like the rest of them. There they are in their rented tuxedos, probably for the first time in their lives, looking stiff, awkward, proud of themselves. Immigrants to a new world, just starting out, so far from their homes. Why this formal studio photo session? I now realize that it was to send their word home that all was well, that they were prospering in the new world. The photo sent home says, “Not to worry, all’s well.” In Aughakiltubred, parish of Cloone, County Leitrim, what could my grandparents, John Murphy and Bridget Maguire, possibly have thought when this picture arrived in the mail? There they are – two of their sons, Patrick and Francis, long gone from home and not likely to return; dressed in tuxedos for a marriage, one of their sons marrying a woman they would never meet, a formal

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occasion at which parents should be honored and basking in the glow of the moment, but there are no parents in these wedding photos. These parents are an ocean away from this wedding and will not be seen again by their children, and will know many of their grandchildren only in the stream of photographs that will try to shrink the distance. I now know that such photos were regularly sent home to Ireland from the States – a steady chronicle of marriages and births. How many of these photos came in the mail over the years? And then, the stream of photos of grandchildren, an expanding family in America and Canada known to them only in these photos. Hard to imagine their sense of separation. he distance between these two worlds of our family came to me one day when I came home from school and my Dad was there, home earlier from work than was normal. My intuition said that something wasn’t quite right. News from Ireland – my grandmother had died. Naive, I don’t think I had ever thought of my parents having parents. I really couldn’t grasp the whole idea of it – my father had a mother but she lived far away in this mysterious place we talked and sang about. I had a

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My Dad was a warm, loving man, full of sharp humor, always humming tunes he composed as he went along, but at the same time he was a man of few words, grandmother, she had died, my Dad would never see her again. He sits there, silence fills the room, and I try to understand this mystery. My Dad went home for the first and only time in 1969. My Mom had died the year before, and my sisters and I were especially aware that she had never managed a trip back home, so we gave the trip home as a Christmas present. Since he wouldn’t risk such a journey on his own, I was more than willing to be his partner. A very exciting prospect for me, a chance to close the distance between the Ireland of my imagination and the reality. ut, while I was excited, I can’t say that Daddy, as we called him, was at first thrilled at the prospect. I think, in fact, that he may have been a bit intimidated by the whole idea. Since he hadn’t been a letter writer, the links to Ireland had been maintained more by and between our aunts who passed the news on to us. After the deaths of his brothers, all his links to Ireland had closed down. Aunt Catherine called it a hopeless place. Aunt Rose had gone home once, come back, and said it was beyond hopeless. My Dad was a warm, loving man, full of sharp humor, always humming tunes he composed as he went along, but at the same time he was a man of few words, at least in terms of his personal feelings and experiences. I suspect that is, at least in part, an Irish trait, especially on the male side of the fence, but planning this trip energized him in a special way. He began to speak more about Ireland as the trip approached, he had lots of questions. He wanted to look good, so off we went to Sears and Roebuck on Bedford Avenue, our idea of high fashion. He was clearly nervous

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about the whole thing. I don’t think I fully understood his emotions at the time. Ours was to be a five-week trip, visiting Ireland and England. In each place, he had both his own and my mother’s family to visit. Only as we talked on the plane did I realize that much of his nervousness came from worry that he might not like all these people. There he would be, for five long weeks, “at home,” but in a world of strangers. So again, the distance that was so much a part of the lives of all the Murphys in America came to the fore, now a very real emotional reality. What would he have to say to his brother Eddie and to his sister Ellen? After all, they

settled immediately into its rhythm, his brogue increasing ever so slightly.

fter a few days visiting with my mother’s brothers and sisters in Mayo, it was off to Leitrim, the real goal of the whole trip. As we neared his home turf, he began to recognize landmarks, houses, churches. Now we didn’t need the maps I had been studying so carefully since Shannon Airport. He became the guide. We were closing distances. “Turn here,” “Make the next right,” “If you turn here, you’ll see Reynolds’ place,” “The next house should be John Lee’s,” etc. Much had surely changed in forty years, but he knew this place; its houses and turns of the road had histories that he was remembering; this world of rough, marginal farmland, clearly not prosperous, was the place of their beginnings – all the Murphy boys and girls who wound up in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Canada, Rhode Island, California, England, in jobs and worlds far removed from their parents who worked this stubborn Leitrim land to feed them. When we came to the turn for Aughkiltubred, Daddy said we should keep going a bit further, make a few turns. He said there would be a place a bit up the road where we could buy some beer and stout to take up with us. Partly, he was testing his memory; partly, he was stalling. His memory was good. There was indeed a place that was not Map of county Leitrim. Murphy’s townland of really a pub in today’s terms; Cloone is lower right. rather, it was a sort of general store that also served as the post office and pub. Brady’s, rough cement wouldn’t be interested in baseball, one of floor, and a few make-shift seats. his passions that was a sure indicator he Only a few people in the place, and had become a Yank. Would he like the they watch us like hawks as soon as we world of in-laws he was about to meet come in. Daddy doesn’t introduce himfor the first time? self, there is a deep quiet, we order two As it turned out, there was no need to pints, tourists passing through. worry. Ireland fit him like a glove. He

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I still feel his tension. He has gotten the place right in his memory; he has found it after all those years, but will this place know him? Then, some small talk about the weather — “grand day,” “lovely,” “oh, it was bad this day a week.” e order twelve bottles to go, itself an insurance policy against disappointment. And then a moment that closes all distances. One of the men looks up and says, “Is it Packy Murphy?” There he is, Patrick Joseph Murphy, looking all too American in his Sears and Roebuck best, but he is surely close to home. “Packy?” No hesitation, “John Francis?” Obviously, Daddy had recognized John Francis Mulvey or at least suspected that he did. No dramatic hugs — a quiet handshake, and Mulvey, “We knew you were coming home. Eddie’s expecting you above.” A remembered conversation, hopefully close. Perhaps this moment is more in my own memory than in reality. Nonetheless, I remember it as a great release for Daddy. If he was okay with John Francis, surely he would be okay with his brother and sister. A few pints and some memorylifted laughter helped to loosen his mood. Then, off up the hill to home. When Uncle Eddie came out to greet us, I realized that this was surely an uncle. He and Daddy were so clearly brothers, their features so similar that they were as one, much more so than I remember any similarities between Uncle Frank and Daddy. Even before any words were said, their facial resemblance alone shocked me into memories of long dead uncles in America. Great distances were closed in that meeting of two brothers who hadn’t seen each other in forty years. Their greeting itself was not dramatic in any gesture or outward emotional demonstration. Brothers in more than looks, they deflected emotions, keeping their inner worlds to themselves. For all anyone could tell, they might have seen each other last week.

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Eddie and Patrick Murphy pictured outside the family home in 1969.

A handshake, no hugs. “You’re welcome home . . . a fine day . . . Here, sit by the fire . . .” Whiskey all around — the only public acknowledgment of a special occasion. I count myself lucky to have been with my Dad when he finally went home. Little did I know on that special day, but in two years he would be dead. Eddie is now gone as well. I like to remember the two of them, slowly and a bit awkwardly coming to know each other again. Aunt Maggie giving us a bit of tea, Daddy gradually settling into a rhythm of memory and laughter as old friends came by and nostalgia filled this small, warm, secure place. He was home, a circle had been closed. He had lived his life far removed from this starting place, and now he was back — forty years after his starting out on the road to America. He had married and buried a wife, seen his three children grow up and do well in a world of baseball and rock 'n' roll; he had coaxed whatever he could out of a backyard Brooklyn garden, and he saw himself as

quite the barbecue chef; he had labored on a bread van, tried his hand as a union organizer and, once, he had received a safe driver award that we all knew must have been a mistake. That was his world as I thought I knew it. But, as the days passed in Ireland, listening to him talk and remember with his friends, hearing the laughter about some forgotten wildness when they were all young bucks, watching him walk the fields with his brother, seeing the easy way he had with cattle, I realized that I had always known instinctively about this other world. Without my realizing it, Ireland had been one of my parents’ gifts to me; perhaps without their even intending it as a gift, but here it was. A white-washed cottage in Leitrim, no running water, three rooms, a central fire — in this place, my Dad and the aunts and uncles of my growing up were all born. All along on that trip, I had thought I was taking my Dad home. Now, I know he was showing me my own starting IA place. He took me home.

Without my realizing it, Ireland had been one of my parents’ gifts to me; perhaps without their even intending it as a gift, but here it was. 52 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2008


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The House That

Hoban Built

ABOVE: White House south view 1831 FAR RIGHT: A portrait of James Hoban

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n 1785, a newspaper in Philadelphia carried this advertisement: “ANY GENTLEMAN WHO WISHES TO BUILD IN AN ELEGANT STYLE, MAY HEAR OF A PERSON PROPERLY CALCULAT-

ED FOR THAT PURPOSE WHO CAN EXECUTE

CARPENTER’S BUSINESS HOBAN.” Hoban was an Irishman, born in Kilkenny. George Washington never did see Hoban’s ad. But he did choose the

THE

JOINING

AND

IN THE MODERN TASTE. JAMES

54 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2008

Irishman in 1792 when it came time to build the White House.

250 YEARS This year marks the 250th anniversary of James Hoban’s birth. To honor the man who built what is arguably the most famous building in the world, the White House Visitors Center recently unveiled a new exhibit entitled “James Hoban: Architect of the White House.” The exhibit runs through November 2, 2008 and reminds the public about


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This year marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of the Irish architect who designed the original White House. Tom Deignan takes a look at his extraordinary life. COURTESY JAMES HOBAN SOCIETY

KILKENNY NATIVE

WHITE HOUSE HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION (WHITE HOUSE COLLECTION)

Hoban’s many accomplishments. This was no easy task. Many of Hoban’s personal belongings – including his personal papers – were destroyed in a fire 50 years after Hoban died in 1831. The White House Historical Association had to use creative methods to assemble his life story, and explain how Hoban came to design the White House and earn the title of “First Federal Architect.” As a recent reviewer of the Hoban exhibit noted, “The show conveys enough facts and images to form an

intriguing portrait of this designer, builder and developer, who wasn’t the most creative talent of his day but nevertheless devised a lasting symbol of the presidency.” All in all, it is easy to see Hoban as the ultimate Irish immigrant success story in young America. So, who was James Hoban? How did he come to design the most important building for a young America? And what famous building in Dublin is the White House based upon?

Hoban was born near Callan, Kilkenny in 1758, to a tenant farming family. A locally prominent family, the Cuffes, offered tutoring services on their estate in skills such as carpentry. Hoban took advantage of these services, and later attended the Dublin Society’s Drawing School, where his work caught the eye of Thomas Ivory, the school’s principal. Ivory also had a private design practice. It is believed that Hoban, working with Ivory, worked on the construction of notable Irish buildings such as Dublin’s City Hall and the Custom House. Though Hoban was making a name for himself in Ireland, he decided to relocate to America in 1785. Hoban first went to Philadelphia, where he took out newspaper ads offering his services, but he ended up settling in Charleston, South Carolina. Though a seemingly odd choice, moving to Charleston proved to be a fateful decision for Hoban. Hoban teamed up with fellow Irish designer Pierce Purcell and went on to design some private residences and worked on two of Charleston’s most prominent public buildings – a 1200-seat theater and the refurbishing of the old colonial state house as a courthouse. Still in use, a portrait of Hoban hangs there to this day. While most of Hoban’s and Purcell’s architectural accomplishments in Charleston have been lost, it was while he was working in Charleston that Hoban was introduced to General George Washington. This certainly gave Hoban an advantage in 1792, when he entered the competition to design the new home for America’s president. JUNE / JULY 2008 IRISH AMERICA 55


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A HOUSE FOR THE PRESIDENT It’s important to remember that while Hoban was building a name for himself in the U.S., the young nation was in turmoil. True, the Revolutionary War against England was over by the early 1780s. Still, America experienced serious growing pains. It is often forgotten that under the Articles of Confederation describing “America’s first system of government” there was no provision for a president of the United States. That’s because, in the wake of the war against the British crown, it was feared that a single presidential leader would inevitably become a tyrant. It was not until the U.S. Constitution was adopted in the late 1780s that the U.S. presidency was created. One reason people were willing to accept a president was because they knew George Washington would fill the role. The question now was: Where would President Washington – and all future presidents – reside?

INSPIRATION FROM DUBLIN Interestingly, the American fear of a royal president is evident even in Hoban’s design of the White House. It is believed that Hoban’s design appealed to American government officials because it was simple and conservative, rather than ornate, which would have led many to view the White House as some sort of palace. When it came to inspiration, meanwhile, Hoban looked to his native country. Hoban based his White House design on Leinster House, the stone residence in Dublin constructed around 1750 for the 56 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2008

Irish architect

Duke of Leinster (now used as James Hoban’s ed. And so, when America and prize-winning the seat of Dáil Éireann). Hoban Britain took up arms again during design for the is said to have admired the structhe War of 1812, Hoban was White House, ture designed by Richard called upon again when his most 1792. Cassels, while he was attending famous work was burned to the the Dublin Society Drawing ground. School. WHITE HOUSE BURNED Hoban played a key role in not only In August of 1814, British troops first the design but also the actual construcmarched upon the U.S. capital. Since it tion of the White House, which took did not appear that they would be able to about eight years. Hoban was widely take control of the city, British officials respected for his efficiency and problemtold soldiers to simply destroy as much solving skills. So, when construction of property as possible. Soon enough, the U.S Capitol got underway, Hoban British soldiers entered the White House, was called in to oversee that project as which President James Madison and his well. He was also involved in the concabinet had already evacuated. With struction of the U.S. Treasury building as them they took as many records and well as offices for the State Department, valuables as possible. Most famously, War Department and U.S. Navy. Gilbert Stuart’s painting of George PROMINENT CATHOLIC Washington – the man who made Hoban While he was rubbing shoulders with famous – was shuttled off to a safe place. Washington, D.C.’s most powerful peoBritish soldiers are said to have eaten all ple, Hoban was also establishing himself the food in the White House before setas one of America’s first prominent Irish ting it ablaze. Only the strong sandstone Catholic citizens. This at a time when walls were left standing. For another anti-Catholicism was a very strong force decade, Hoban oversaw the rebuilding of in the U.S. It was not even legal in most the White House, and numerous adjacent states to practice Catholicism before the government buildings. Revolution. Hoban, however, was a lifeThe White House today, of course, long parishioner at St. Patrick’s Catholic does not resemble even the one Hoban Church in Washington, D.C., and estabhelped reconstruct following the fire of lished various aid funds, including one 1814. The famous East and West Wings for Irish immigrant laborers. were added decades later. Still, Hoban’s Along with George Washington’s close influence and legacy are clear. aide Stephen Moylan (born in Cork) and When they say the Irish built Commodore John Barry (from Wexford), America, there’s no need to think only Hoban completed a trailblazing triumviof anonymous, poorly paid laborers toilrate of Irish Catholic power brokers in the ing on the Erie Canal and frontier railnation’s capital. roads. The President, visiting digniStill, for all his other accomplishtaries, and thousands of tourists marvel ments, it was the White House with at an Irishman’s work each and every IA which Hoban was most closely associatday.


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U23D, the new movie of the world’s favorite Irish band shot using the latest 3D technology, wouldn’t have happened without the American connection. STORY BY VERONICA BLAKE.

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he crowd gathering outside Cineworld on a freezing cold night in February is eagerly awaiting the arrival of U2 who chose their home town of Dublin to premiere their new film U23D. As they stroll up the red carpet, sporting 3D specs, the one time Bono’s glasses are not out of place, they remain as unaffected and amiable as they were as punk rockers back in 1975 when they would drink in a little dockside pub called the Clarence – the only pub that would serve Bono’s pal Gavin Friday whose kilts, Doc Martin’s and studded dog collars managed to get them barred from just about every other pub in Dublin. “The elderly barmaid Agnes was stern but she took pity on us and would serve us a pint so long as we sat in the snug out of sight of the other drinkers,” says Bono, who liked the Clarence so much that years later, he bought it and refurbished it into one of Dublin’s most stylish hotels. Friday, who gets a “creative consultant” credit on the film, is one of several friends from that era that Bono and the band have stayed close to, and worked with over the years. “There is an overriding aspect which is [U2’s] creative generosity,” says Bono’s friend, long-time collaborator, video artist, and director of the film, Catherine Owens. It was Owens who introduced the band to the concept of 3D and to John Modell, whose father Art Modell owned the Baltimore Ravens. (“This film would never have happened were it not for a great American football team, the Baltimore Ravens, Art Modell, and one of our oldest friends, Catherine Owens,” Bono tells me.)

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The 3

Dimensions of U2

U2’s Adam Clayton, The Edge, Bono and Larry Mullen at the Dublin premiere.

Bono and Owens go back almost 30 years to when she fronted the all-girl punk band the Boy Scoutz. “I recall a night many years ago lying in O’Connell Street being questioned by the Garda Síochána,” Bono says, smiling. In fact, Owens said he and she were introduced by The Edge when she was waiting for a cab on O’Connell Street. “We always kept in touch. They would visit me in Belfast where I was studying art. When they were doing Unforgettable Fire they asked me to do a set of wall murals.”

Owens, who traded in punk rock for a career as an artist, went on to create visuals for U2’s Popmart and Elevation tours. She was the band’s visual content director on the “ZooTV,” “Pop Mart,” “Elevation” and “Vertigo” tours, and directed the band’s video Original of the Species. “I’ve always loved experimental video work and with Edge and Larry there’s a great support network. The film [U23D] is about a group of people who are saying it’s actually okay to be together,” she says. So where did the inspiration come from


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to shoot the biggest band in the world using a revolutionary cinematic medium? “Pete Shapiro came to me with the idea to incorporate 3D into a live show,” said Owens, who immediately saw the potential and lobbied the band to take a chance on the new technology. The Shapiro/Modell team also had access to the world’s best 3D cameramen and cinematographers, and Modell was in a position to finance the adventure since his dad’s sale of the Baltimore Ravens had netted a cool $600 million. After shooting a single-camera test during an early “Vertigo” tour concert at Anaheim Pond, 3ality ultimately received the thumbs up from U2 to travel and shoot on the road with the band in South America, with Owens as director. “I felt that if we were going to do this right we had to do it in South America,

On a more serious note, he adds, “I wanted to go somewhere magical with the creation of U23D, to intensify the feelings evoked at our live concerts, and the South American audiences are just great.” And “magical” it is. Seamlessly edited, and enhanced with multichannel surround sound, the film also features footage of the band’s tour in Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Santiago as well as Buenos Aries, to create a unique audiovisual experience. The film so vividly captures the experience of being at a live concert with 80,000 fans, that the result, to quote a U2 song not featured in the movie, is “even better than the real thing.” As Bono leads U2 through their greatest hits, swooping cameras shoot the band from a range of angles, following the singer as he struts across the vast set with its long, winding catwalk, and potently using overhead shots to show Larry Mullen at his drum kit from a perspective never seen before. “It has taken me 20 years to get photographers to make me look this tall. You thought our heads were big – wait till we get to the Imax,” Bono jokes. Although he admits, “Seeing the band in all their glory on the big screen can be painful. You see everything in the raw – you can’t cover the cracks.” While Adam Clayton tells me, “It’s actually much nicer to be in the audience knowing that you don’t have to jump around for an hourand-a-half – you just have to sit there.” There are moments in the U23D director and film when Bono reaches his producer Catherine hand out so close that you Owens, and Bono. imagine you could shake it, or when he looks likely to prod since the band’s presence after an eight you in the eye with a mic stand. At times year hiatus from the continent was certain the neck of Adam Clayton’s guitar seems to draw vibrant and enthusiastic crowds,” to jut out of the screen. When on-screen Bono said. audience members climb onto each Why Buenos Aries? I ask. other’s shoulders, you instinctively move “Ireland and Argentina have so much in your head for a better view. And there’s a common, not just in terms of personalities remarkable sense of intimacy, particularly but our passion and our shared history. on the slower tracks (“One,” “Pride,” Argentina has had its difficult political “Miss Sarajevo,” and “With or Without past, as has Ireland. But our differences You”), and a strong temptation to go based on our past should not prevent us dancing in the aisles when the band turns from living a better future. We share much up the heat on “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” in common. The only difference is they “Beautiful Day,” “New Year’s Day” and can dance,” he jokes. “Vertigo.”

“We’re very happy to be exposed in this film. We’ve always tried to do something new with our live shows. We were the first to build our stages out into the crowd. We’re always pushing innovation,” Bono says. His beautiful wife Ali is waiting quietly in a corner of the cinema prior to the screening. I ask her if she’s seen the film yet. “No, I haven’t, but I don’t think it’s as good as hanging out with the real thing,” replies the busy mum of four. “There’s no place like home,” Bono says of Dublin, where he is not treated like a rock star. “I’m just Dad who does the school run.” He’s proud of Ireland’s role when it comes to humanitarian issues. “In regards to Africa, Ireland is in a leadership role. Our NGOs are the best in the world. Irish people, and especially Irish women, have a huge level of understanding and a huge say in what sort of help is given out. “In my case that’s even more evident as not only does my dear wife wear the trousers in that regard, now she also makes them,” he said referring to Ali’s socially conscious line of clothing. He told me that he’s too busy being a singer, songwriter and political activist when I ask if he’d ever quit the day job to contemplate being an actor. “I know Mick Jagger played the outlaw Ned Kelly. I’m in a band. I’m doing enough extracurricular activity to keep me going,” he says. He and the band have come to the premiere straight from the studio where they were recording their new album. “We have to do something really extraordinary to get out of bed these days. Nobody wants to be in a band just for the sake of being in a band. The new album is very uncompromising, very radical, you young people better watch out now. Who needs another U2 album unless it is a really great piece of rock 'n' roll?” Meanwhile, Art Modell, who not only loves U2 but believed they were the right band to pioneer the use of 3D, summed up U23D: “In years to come Bono’s grandchildren will be able to experience his wonderful music through this technology, as if they were at the concert. What greater gift could he give IA them?” The writer Veronica Blake grew up in Waterford and moved to London when she was 16. She has written for the Independent on Sunday and House and Garden, and is currently organizing an exhibition of previously unseen Beatles’ photography at two galleries in London. JUNE / JULY 2008 IRISH AMERICA 59

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Straight from the Bottle

Trad-Irish music is a family affair, Ian Worpole discovers. John Walsh, Brian McCarthy, and Denny McCarthy at a seisiún in The Rambling House, Woodlawn, the Bronx.

PHOTO BY NUALA PURCELL.

couple of years ago I went along to my regular Sunday session in Rhinecliff, New York to hear The McCarthy Brothers, and I have never been quite the same since. The three brothers and a few friends tore through reels, jigs and songs with a virtuosity and joy I’ve yet to hear again, except when I have the luck to catch them playing in New York City. I got to know the ringleader, Denny, and persuaded him to write a bit about the boys. The brothers, in chronological order: Kevin, 37, NYC police officer (accordion). Denis, 35, NYC firefighter (fiddle, tin whistle). Brian, 23, NYC Board of Education (bodhrán). I’ll let Denny take it up from there:

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The Brothers McCarthy “All three of us were born and bred in the 60 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2008

Fordham Road section of the Bronx from Irish immigrants. Our father Denis (from Castleisland, County Kerry) and mother Mary (Tuam, County Galway) started Kevin and myself into Trad-Irish music from an early age. While neither parent played an instrument they were both very influential in helping us learn the music. We both went to The Martin Mulvihill School of Irish Music where Martin taught us the notion that music was so much more than just the notes on a piece of paper. If we weren’t going to play the tunes with feeling then we shouldn’t even bother playing at all. His style of teaching was a bit unconventional but it must have worked because he turned out many All-Ireland champion players including most notably Eileen Ivers and Joannie Madden. During the mid-80s, Kevin and myself

went back and forth to Ireland to compete in the Fleadh and were fortunate enough to win a few times in solo, duet and band competitions. Somehow I have four ‘All-Ireland’s’ on the fiddle. I’m not exactly sure what that can get me at the diner at three in the morning but I guess it’s a cool thing to say when there’s an awkward pause in a conversation. For example, “Sorry for your loss, ma’am. It’s terrible how your husband passed away while sitting on the toilet . . . um, er . . . did I ever mention that I won the AllIreland on the fiddle four times?” See, it works like a charm every time. Anyway, as me and Kevin started getting older we began the whole natural process of losing interest in playing Irish music. I think some of it was due to the fact that we weren’t getting the joy out of playing from the competition end. We were still too young to play out in a


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New Releases STRAIGHT FROM THE BOTTLE social setting (i.e. the bars) and girls were much more appealing. My girlfriend (now wife) never knew I played the fiddle for the first four years we went out. So as time went on Kevin became a cop, my dad passed away suddenly and a short time later I became a correction officer on Rikers Island. With that, no one was around to teach my younger brother Brian how to play the music, but anyway, at the time he was more interested in basketball and gangsta rap. However, we ALL never stopped listening to Trad music. So about eight years ago, me and Kevin were out after marching in the parade on St. Patrick’s Day and heard a band called Shilelagh Law (www.halfthebottle.com) playing at a bar. A few months later it turned out they were in need of a fiddler so after a few beers and possibly a few shots, I showed up one night to their gig and sat in with them. A little while after that Kevin joined in as well. That was the spark that was needed to get us off our asses and start playing again. Three albums (currently working on number four) and hundreds of shows later we’re still at it – doing irreversible damage to our collective livers. Which brings us back to Brian. After his failed rap career he came out and saw us playing one night with Shilelagh Law. It was there he fell for the bodhrán and picked it up instantly. He’s always had the music in him; he just never had the opportunity to play it. It was through this scene that he hooked up with some players of his own age and they formed a band called Sullivan’s Jack (www.sullivansjack.com). These days, we are trying to recapture the years we lost not playing by going to as many seisiúns around the area and playing with as many different people as possible. Jameson’s Revenge is not so much a band as it is just a roving group of like-minded musicians who play for the sheer joy of it. We never rehearse, and the lineup of players is always different. It keeps it fresh. We also run a seisiún every Sunday up at the Rambling House in Woodlawn, the Bronx. Like I said, there’s not much to tell.” Thanks, Denny, for that great insight into the best of Irish-American family dynamics. If I win a Pulitzer Prize for this, IA I’ll be sure to buy you a pint.

Anyone who wants to hear what a great seisiún sounds like in full throttle, with a glorious mix of live tunes and songs from virtuoso performers all: pick up the latest Jameson’s Revenge CD, Straight from the Bottle, at: www.cdbaby/cd/jamesonsrevenge.com.

KEEP IT SIMPLE Van Morrison has a new CD of all original songs, Keep It Simple — what is left to say about The Man? I’ve certainly written plenty, as a thirty-plus-years hero of mine, and this new one of course both delights and infuriates.The latter-day mix of angst, anger and love he has made his own are all here, set against more than usually spare but sonic arrangements, hence the title, all sung with a casual phrasing and timing most singers spend their lives trying to achieve. It’s a mixed bag, even for die-hard fans, but you can’t help but love it!

SHIPS IN THE FOREST Karan Casey has just released her first CD on the Compass Records label, Ships in the Forest, and as always, her rich, honeyed voice is set against the finest of traditional Irish instrumentation, including husband Niall Vallely on concertina and Kris Drever on guitar. Much like her English counterpart June Tabor, Karan is drawn to the dark side of traditional music — songs of futile wars, lost loves, and okay, found loves too. A deeply melancholic, haunting set, it includes the great Joni Mitchell’s “Fiddle and the Drum” and Karan’s original settings to classics such as “I Once Loved a Lass.” Karan, as she herself notes, has balanced the joy of raising her two small children with her ongoing musical career, and with this CD remains Ireland’s leading chanteuse.

THE STORY SO FAR Also on the Compass label, Lúnasa has released a ten-year retrospective, The Story So Far. If you don’t have all their CDs, here is an essential compilation put together by founding member Trevor Hutchinson. Famous for being a tour-deforce all-instrumental group, the only thing more I could wish for is that each set be introduced by the irrepressible Kevin Crawford. I caught the band in New York City a few months ago on a double bill with Dervish, and more recently Kevin on tour with Donal Clancy and Cillian Vallely, and his craic between sets is a joy to hear (the only other that comes close is in fact Cathie Jordan of Dervish, so it was a rare night at Connolly’s). So how’s about a live one, boys? You’re the greatest. And last but not least, a good friend and fellow band member Jude Roberts has a CD, Stained Glass Afterglow, a set of original Irish and American songs. All are wonderful glowing tales of love and legend sung in a pure lilting voice with mostly acoustic backing. One song in particular, “Amanda McRae,” should be covered by any number of Irish singers, and is worth the price of the CD alone. For more info: www.myspace.com/heyjuderoberts. So that’s it for now — keep buying the good stuff — these artists need you! – I.W.

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Mary Higgins Clark and her daughter Carol both have books on the bestseller list.

They Did It! Story by Mary Pat Kelly

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They did it! On Sunday, April 27, 2008, Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark became the first mother and daughter authors to place two separate books on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list at the same time. Mary Higgins Clark retains her “Queen of Suspense” crown as her novel Where Are You Now?, the story of a sister’s search for her Columbia University student brother who disappeared ten years before yet telephones his mother each Mother’s Day, debuted at number one. Zapped, the eleventh mystery in Carol Higgins Clark’s fast-paced and very funny series featuring Regan Reilly, the Manhattan private investigator, captured number twelve. Exciting! As Mary and Carol began the joint book tour that would take them across the country (see CarolHigginsClark.com for the schedule) the pleasure they derive from their work, from their success and from each other was obvious as they began the first of many events signing books at the Mysterious Book Shop and Barnes and Noble in Manhattan’s Tribeca. “Blossoms of spring and heaps of good wishes to you, my cherished readers. I hope you enjoy reading this tale as much as I enjoyed writing it,” Mary Higgins Clark tells her fans on the acknowledgment page that opens Where Are You Now? That intimacy between the writer and her fans is expressed in the

more than 150 million copies of her 27 suspense novels, three collections of short stories, her historical novel and the four Christmas suspense novels written with Carol that have sold worldwide. Though Mary Higgins Clark’s novels center on murder and dark family secrets and put her heroines into heart-pounding jeopardy, they have something of the open-hearted optimism of their creator. She meets life’s sorrows head on and refuses to be defeated by them. She attributes this resilience to her IrishAmerican roots. “I am a descendant of Kellys, Kennedys, Durkins and Higgins, all from the Sligo/Mayo area,” Mary says. Her father, Luke Higgins, came to New York in 1905 and, as Mary reports, “kept company” with Nora Durkin for seven years. They married when her father was 45 and her mother almost 40. They had three children. Mary was the middle one and the only girl. In her memoir, Kitchen Privileges, Mary describes a happy childhood surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins. Her father’s Bronx pub flourished and the family moved into their own house on rural Pelham Parkway. But the Depression and her father’s too early death ended their financial security. Her mother supported the children by renting out rooms, with kitchen privileges, in the house. But Mary says that her mother’s

determination to be upbeat cushioned the children and made their house a center for the talk and stories that fed her writer’s imagination. Her mother gave her a journal when Mary was seven years old and encouraged her to read the poems she wrote to guests. “My mother’s belief in me kept alive my dreams to be a writer,” she says. And it was writing radio shows that enabled Mary to take care of her five young children when her own husband died and Mary needed to put in practice the lesson she’d learned from her mother – no self-pity. She devoted the time from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. to writing her first novel on the typewriter she set up on her kitchen table. She had sold short stories -– the first to Extension magazine after receiving 40 rejection slips from other publications, but the book, a biographical novel about George Washington, was published by a company that went out of business and did not sell. She kept writing and found that by telling stories of suspense she could impart insights from her own life. And people responded. ary and Carol talked about this as these two beautiful women, elegantly dressed, with the down-to-earth glamour that’s fun to be around, sat down with Irish America magazine.

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MARY HIGGINS CLARK: I’ve always understood the fragility of life. You’re lucky if you can count heads at the end of the day and everybody you care about is okay and there. Because nobody knows. How many people get the phone call – somebody was killed in an accident. In my books a sense of justice prevails and the world seems a little calmer. The bad are punished, the good – after a series of trials – at least have the promise of a bright future. They have the hope of living happily. That’s what I try to give my readers. I just received a little gold heart locket from a woman waiting for a heart transplant. She said she was so tired she could hardly read anymore, but she wanted me to have it because, she said, “You’ve given me so much pleasure.”

You write your Christmas books together, but are you in touch when you write separately? MARY HIGGINS CLARK: All the time. It’s wonderful to have somebody else who exactly understands what you’re doing -– first the creative process and then the times when you think something doesn’t work. I’ll ship Carol a chapter and we talk out something I’m thinking of doing, wondering if it plays. You don’t know because you’ve rewritten it forty-two times. We consult on each other’s covers, and on the titles. I take the credit for naming Decked, but it was Carol’s

CAROL HIGGINS CLARK:

Hearing from readers is the most fulfilling part for me too. I get e-mails that talk about Regan Reilly and Jack as if they were real people. I created Regan when a producer, who knew I was an actress, said to me, “write a series character you could possibly play. You have the acting background and you’ve worked with your mother.” So I came up with Regan Reilly, who of course hasn’t aged a day in 16 years since I started writing her, so I couldn’t play her anymore. The publisher who liked my idea said, “Make her mother a mystery writer.” I did and named her Nora after my grandmother. They’re Irish from Summit, New Jersey, and her father, Luke (for my grandfather), owns three funeral homes. In the first four books Regan was single. Then my mother and I were asked to write a Christmas book together, and we came up with a love interest for her – the head of the major case squad when her father is kidnapped along with his driver. My mother and I thought Jack would be a good name for him, but what should his last name be? At the same moment we looked at each other and said, “Reilly.” So he’s Jack Reilly and now she’s Regan Reilly Reilly. They honeymooned in Ireland for Laced. For Zapped, they’re back in Tribeca. I went to Ashford Castle and to Galway to do the research and had a wonderful time. 64 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2008

question, “Who are they?” I may give the character Aunt Louise’s attitude and somebody else’s looks but they’re invented individuals. I always have a strong woman protagonist. She’s always at least twenty-six because by then she has accomplished something – she’s a lawyer, she’s a journalist, she’s whatever she is. She has accomplished something, and she’s always of Irish descent because my DNA has shamrocks on it. I know how she thinks. I know what she was told growing up, what her grandmother told her. So I’m more comfortable. It amuses me that I’m No. 1 in France and have been for thirty-four years, yet there’s never a French person in the book. Storytelling is universal. That’s what I learned sitting at the kitchen table. My heroines are like the Irish women I knew. They’re not victims tied to the railroad tracks waiting for the Lone Ranger and Tonto to come by. My protagonist has to save herself. She does it through her intelligence. She unravels the problem. Your own success is quite a tale. MARY HIGGINS CLARK: I know I

idea to have each one end in –ed. When you have a continuing character, to have a title that is identifiable is brilliant. I’ll let Carol tell it. CAROL HIGGINS CLARK: The second book was about a murder at a pantyhose convention. As a joke I said, “It should be Snagged.” Iced, Twanged and the rest followed. MARY HIGGINS CLARK: Carol has the

gift of humor. It’s not easy to be funny, as any comedian will tell you, and harder still to be consistently humorous. Carol writes comic mysteries and I do the psychological. Her voice is utterly different. Suspense is a building of tension, so I can’t break the mood with laughter. I notice that the characters in both of your books visit Jimmy Neary’s and sometimes order the steak sandwich and that the real proprietor of the 57th Street fixture appears. MARY HIGGINS CLARK: Both Carol and I love to go to Jimmy Neary’s but I really create people out of nothing by asking the

have been very blessed. I’m very grateful. I mean, the celebrity is somewhere over there in the corner and has nothing to do with my everyday life or how I think about myself. But I still remember how bowled over I was when my agent called me in 1977 to tell me the paperback rights for my second book, A Stranger Is Waiting, had sold for one million dollars. I was on my way to class at Fordham where I was studying for my college degree. All I did for the hour was write $1,000,000 in all different ways, including roman numerals. My car had nearly 200,000 miles on it. The tail pipe and muffler fell off on the way home. Driving on the West Side Highway, I stopped and tried to tie the belt of my dress around them. It was late, everything closed, so I kerplunked for twenty-one miles. The next day I bought a Cadillac. Recently, I found a letter and a poem I’d sent in 1941 to a nun in Jersey City who had a small religious magazine. She’d returned my lovely poem, saying they had enough poetry, however, if I said a Hail Mary every night I’d grow up to be a famous writer. It’s so important to encourage someone as my mother did me. CAROL HIGGINS CLARK: And mine

encouraged me.

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{mother’s day}

A TOURIN’ SON Bill Duncan

A 1952 photo of Catherine Duncan and her first grandson.

Ah you’d a loved it, ma An’ you wit’ your insistencies Nev’r a meal on a cold plate Nor a cup ’out th’ saucer Wit’ its little spoon yet But ya missed th’ eatin’. Ah you’d a seen a grand thing, ma An’ you wit’ your certainties Peat fire below ma’gony board An’ ev’ry floor a creak in it Lampshades wit’ tassels yet But ya missed th’ sittin’. Ah you’d be’ proud, ma An’ you wit’ all your boastin’s Shops writ large in baptismal names A ruddy face at Ryan’s Cakes Wit’ a butterknife for the spreadin’ yet But ya’ missed th’ welcome. Ah did y’say you was there, ma? An’ you with all your presences In the inbreathed “Sooo” By the unplumbed stone ’mong th’ tidy ruins ’neat’ a knoll near Dingle Bay.

Bill Duncan, a retired high school teacher has published several short stories and his first play is currently being produced by SUNY Community College. Born in the Bronx and raised in Queens, Bill says, “growing up, we were Catholic first, Irish then, and American finally.” He says of his mother: “She died at 93 ten years ago, somewhat peaceably. Ma was never altogether satisfied, but such gave her terrific drive and her children periodic dyspepsia. We all miss her terribly. Pop predeceased Ma by ten years.”

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{ review of books}

Tom Deignan reviews a selection of recently published books of Irish and Irish-American interest.

Mystery

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eclan Hughes offers another look at modern Dublin’s dark side in his latest suspense novel The Price of Blood. Private eye Ed Loy is down on his luck and broke, so he has no choice but to take what seems to be an unsolvable missing persons case. All he’s got to go on is “Father Vincent Tyrell,” a priest who’s been reported missing by his brother F.X., a prominent racehorse trainer. A bit of luck not only puts Loy on Father Vincent’s trail, but also might very well implicate other members of the Tyrell family. As

Declan Hughes suggests that Dublin has a dark side today, Benjamin Black suggests the very same was true 50 years ago. Black’s protagonist Garret Quirke, a pathologist, is asked by an old friend not to perform an autopsy on the body of his wife, Deirdre, the victim of an apparent suicide. Of course, this would not be much of a mystery if Quirke actually listened to his old pal, so Black goes back in time, bringing Deirdre to life, and revealing an underground system of blackmail and deception so vast it threatens Quirke’s own family. For better or worse, there is not much of

premise – the creation of a truth commission to bring closure to the people of Northern Ireland – and has chosen to focus less on the closure and more on the people. This is the right choice, as he proves in The Truth Commissioner, an engrossing read which tells us more about the personal, rather than political, cost of The Troubles. At the center of Park’s novel is a teenaged Catholic boy who disappeared from the North over a decade ago. This development links two ex-IRA men and the Englishman (with some Irish roots) who is presiding over the North’s Truth Commission. Of particular interest is the former IRA soldier who is drawn back into the Troubles after he has relocated to Florida, where all he wants to do is marry his pregnant girlfriend. Park pulls off a very difficult achievement with this novel. He offers something fresh, new and interesting about the Troubles. ($25.95 / 372 pages / Bloomsbury)

with Hughes’ first Ed Loy book The Wrong Kind of Blood, The Price of Blood is a fine page-turner, which provides a revealing look at the underside of Celtic Tiger Ireland.

Banville the intellectual novelist in the Benjamin Black books. But they offer memorable characters, as well as (in the case of The Silver Swan) a fascinating exploration of Ireland in the 1950s.

($24.95 / 320 pages / William Morrow)

($25 / 304 pages / Henry Holt)

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t is easily one of the most curious developments in the Irish literary scene that John Banville – arguably the most interesting contemporary novelist with a literary/intellectual flavor – has donned the pseudonym Benjamin Black and churned out three suspense novels. Following Christine Falls and The Lemur, Banville/ Black now offers up The Silver Swan. If

Fiction

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avid Park’s novel The Truth Commissioner could have been a bland Orwellian satire, in which matters of justice and retribution are taken out of the hands of soldiers and victims and become the work of robotic bureaucrats. Instead, Park has taken a fascinating

Biography

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ose Murphy has found an Irish life story not yet told sufficiently in her new book Ella Young: Irish Mystic and Rebel. Young rubbed elbows with Yeats and Maud Gonne, while also participating in the Civil War, which ravaged Ireland in the 1920s. Later in life, she emigrated to California and dazzled crowds with her recollections, while also falling in with a group of pre-hippy, pre-Beat West Coast free thinkers. ( $26.95 / 165 pages / Dufour)

66 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2008

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he premise of Cláir Ní Aonghusa’s new novel Civil and Strange is a little shaky. Ellen, a married woman pushing 40, finally escapes from a loveless marriage in Dublin and retreats to the picturesque village where she spent lovely days in her youth. Go figure – Ellen just might find love again. You might want to call this “How Ellen Got Her Groove Back.” But overall Aonghusa makes this work, thanks in large part to the book’s second most important character, Ellen’s Uncle Matt, who himself knows a thing or two about unhappy marriage, but also dispenses undeniably sage advice about life and love. Aonghusa has written poems and short stories – Civil and Strange is her first novel. ($24 / 320 pages / Houghton Mifflin)

Poetry

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ormerly the editor of the Galway literary magazine The Burning Bush, Michael S. Begnal is an accomplished poet, whose new collection Ancestor Worship has just been published. Though American-born, Begnal mingles the Irish and English lan-


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guages in his work, which reflects on ancient history as well as pop culture. Take, for example, this sample from the title poem, which recalls Frank O’Hara: “It’s like when Lennon laid / his New York album on you, / and appeared in pictures / in his new image– / Revolutionary, / sudden Irishman, / Manhattanite.” Begnal’s poems are filled with similar humor and the joys and anxieties of living in the shadow of those who came before us. (12.00 euros, 80 pages www.salmonpoetry.com)

Non-Fiction

W.B. Yeats. In this latest book, Foster attempts to explain how the foundation for the Celtic Tiger Ireland of the 1990s was laid. He argues that politics, economics, religion and, yes, a dash of luck turned one of the most sluggish economies in Europe into one of the most miraculous. As we all try to make sense of the massive changes which have taken place in Ireland over the past two decades – from the fall of the church and the end of the Troubles, to the new immigration and the downside of all of that available money – R.F. Foster is probably the place to start.

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artime heroism is often a deserved celebration of those who have displayed bravery in the face of danger. There is another kid of war hero however who is usually a symbol more or less created by the public and the media so that the trauma of war becomes slightly more tolerable. This is not a new phenomenon, as an excellent new history book notes. Drummer Boy Willie McGee, Civil War Hero and Fraud, by Thomas Fox, tells the story of the boy who gives this book its title, and is credited, at the tender ago of 15, with capturing several hundred rebel prisoners during a key battle in Tennessee. At just 15, Willie McGee, an Irish kid from Newark, New Jersey, became a public sensation. He was awarded the Medal of Honor, then joined the army three years later, only to, more or less, disappear from history. Fox fills in the blanks, which include an intricate web of lies, murder, bigamy and a New York bartender who may or not be the famous drummer boy. This is an Irish-American story that has gone unexplored for far too long. ($35 / 267 pages / McFarland)

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cclaimed historian R.F. Foster’s latest book, Luck and the Irish: A Brief History of Change from 1970, is now available in the U.S. Considered one of the foremost interpreters of Ireland’s recent past, Foster has also written a celebrated biography of

($29.95 / 228 pages / Oxford University Press)

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or a less weighty, more colorful look at Irish life, pick up Ireland Memories by Patricia Tunison Preston (with art work by Nora Keane). In this sort of catch-all gift book, watercolors of famous Irish scenes stand alongside recipes, travel recommendations, poetic descriptions and more. ($14.99 / 90 pages / Destinations Press)

Memoir

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hen Bill Watkins’ first memoir A Celtic Childhood was released almost a decade ago, the world was awash in Frank McCourt-mania, so Watkins’ book might have slipped under the radar, dismissed as “just another Irish memoir.” But Watkins’ book, about growing up in England and Ireland with a Welsh father and Irish mother, was infused with humor and poignancy. He has now written another memoir, entitled The Once and Future Celt, which recounts time Bill spent in his early 20s with Romany Gypsies (including his efforts to woo a forbidden girl), as well as his efforts to find employment in Birmingham, England, and his father’s decision to offer up some juicy family secrets. Watkins is among the best of many people these days who are exploring the nature of Celtic – as opposed to strictly Irish – identity.

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or decades now,Andrew Greeley has entertained, provoked and even angered many Catholic readers with his murder mystery novels (featuring Nuala Anne McGrail and Bishop Jackie Ryan) as well as his often controversial writings on race, gender, class and the Catholic Church. Greeley’s latest book (just out in paperback), Jesus: A Meditation on His Stories and His Relationships with Women, is sure to please some readers more than others.Though not nearly as controversial as some of his writings on, say, sex abuse in the church or matters related to church doctrine, Greeley is nevertheless reinterpreting the Jesus we read about in the Bible. For some people, Greeley is playing with sacred dynamite. Don’t forget, not too long ago, the Martin Scorsese movie Last Temptation of Christ revisited Jesus’ relationship with Mary Magdalene. Anger and protests followed. Many may disagree with Greeley, but few have ever doubted his sincerity or reverence for Jesus. That certainly comes through in this book, which focuses on Jesus’ relationship with various biblical women, while reminding readers that the church is often criticized for its male dominance. Interestingly (from an Irish standpoint), Greeley places great emphasis on Jesus and the power of storytelling. Meanwhile, Greeley will never be accused of dabbling merely in biblical research from 2,000 years ago. He uses Jesus and the Bible as a lens through which to discuss controversial religious films such as The Da Vinci Code and The Passion of the Christ, as well as current events such as the Iraq War, and violence in Dufar. All in all, Greeley does yet another fine job of showing us the relevance of Jesus, not because He is some static figure offering one single truth, but because His stories and messages can be read by so many diverse people in so many illuminating ways. ($10.95 / 176 pages / Tor-Forge)

($16.95 / 344 pages / Scarletta Press) JUNE / JULY 2008 IRISH AMERICA 67


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{roots}

Finding Your Roots Maeve Molloy looks at the many ways to research your family history.

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ot everyone has the benefit of a knowledgeable grandparent or oral tradition surrounding our family surnames: but fear not, researching the origins of your family name is easier than ever, and the connection it provides to your Irish ancestry is immeasurably rewarding. With the growth of the Internet, genealogical and historical information has become increasingly accessible, and there are a myriad of Internet sites devoted to Irish surnames, origins, and lore. In order to initially sort through these sites, decide whether you are looking for information on your family name and where it came from, in the style of our Roots column, or if you are looking for your genealogical information (e.g. family trees, lost cousins, where your grandparents came from). If the information you seek is the latter, you will do best to search genealogical sites. Some useful ones are www.genealogy.com, rootsweb.com, and ancestry.com. If you already have some information, such as a grandparent’s occupation or hometown, The National Archives are a great resource. These archives, however, are so vast that it is best to approach them with as much information as you have at hand. If you cannot visit the National Archives in Washington, D.C., the information is available in the “digital vault” online, and can be accessed at http://www. archives.gov/genealogy/. Available here are some of the most useful tools of genealogical research: historic censuses. Generally, a census will tell you the names of family members, their ages at a certain point in time, their state or country of birth, their parents’ birthplaces, year of immigration (if applicable) and much more about their lives at the time. Immigration documents and passenger lists are also available here. Beware, however, that requesting hard copies of any documents will cost about $25 each. Again, the process is made simpler with access to the Internet, but if you do not have Internet access or prefer manual research, there are resources available 68 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2008

in print as well. Michael O’Laughlin, a prominent Irish researcher, commentator, and publisher, has authored numerous books on Irish names and history. For information on your family’s name origin, varied spellings, and history O’Laughlin’s The Book of Irish Families, Great and Small is both a useful and accessible resource. Put this on your bookshelf as an anthology of Irish names that you will surely return to for reference on your family name and others. A similar book, at about the same price of $40, is Irish Names and Surnames, by Patrick Woulfe. Both are published by

Kathy Chater’s book How to Trace Your Family Tree (Hermes House Publishers) offers many useful tips on how to trace your family history.

the Irish Genealogical Foundation. If you do have Internet access, the possibilities for ancestral and historical information on your family name are vast. Some useful online resources include www.ireland.com/ancestors/surname as well as www.goireland.com. Michael O’Loughlin, mentioned above, also runs a fantastic website www.irishroots.com. Some of the content on this site is membership-limited, though well worth the price. Beware, however, of scams on many pay-for-info sites. Often these sites are very expensive and give little information that cannot be accessed elsewhere. Positive reviews and samples

of roots information are important in determining if a site is legitimate. If you decide to visit the old country then there are useful resources available North and South. For family history in Northern Ireland, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) holds expansive and varied records available both online and in print. Check here for church records, the 1901 Irish Census, National School records, and more. These records can be searched online in their digitized form at www.proni.gov.uk. Similar resources are available in the Republic through the General Register Office. Here you can find birth and death registrations and help with your genealogical search. However, this information is not digitized and thus is not available online. It is fully searchable, however, at the Register Office in Dublin. If you are planning a trip to Ireland, and would like to research your genealogy, call +353 1-635-4423 for more information. Other resources within Ireland are the plethora of documents available through various preservation groups’ and societies’ archive libraries. The Royal Irish Academy Library (www.ria.ie) is a great example of one such archive, though little information is available remotely: again, a visit to the library is necessary. A fully accessible online resource is the Irish Family History Foundation, available at www.irish-roots.ie. Here you will find links to more genealogical searchpoints, public records for each county in Ireland, and much more, including a guide to searching public records for your family’s history. Given the long history of Ireland, very little information is guaranteed to be accurate as it is known today mostly through folklore and oral tradition. Thus, you may find conflicting accounts of the origins of the same name. These may both be true, or even versions of the same root name. Not finding the information you’re looking for? Don’t have the time to research? Send in a suggested surname IA for our next Roots column!


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{sláinte} By Edythe Preet

Holy Wells The sacred nature of water was revered by our ancestors for its healing powers.

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t always amuses me when a phone call with someone on the East Coast includes the question: “How’s the weather in LA today?” Answer: “We don’t have weather. We have sun.” Precipitation is so rare in bone-dry Southern California that rainfall measured in quarter-inches is cause for rapture among romantics, non-stop ‘breaking news’ reports of probable mudslides, and more than usual snarled traffic. If we’re fortunate

PAINTING: CYRIL O’FLAHERTY

Well of the Saints, by Cyril O’Flaherty, is the artist’s impression of the same well that inspired J.M. Synge to write his comedy. This piece was part of O’Flaherty’s At the Well of the Saints exhibit, which, in his own words, “was a collection of paintings inspired by people's faith and beliefs and the way in which these can be tested in everyday life.”

enough to get a real storm, the brown hills turn timid chartreuse overnight. Such is not the case on the Emerald Isle, where rain is plentiful and the shades of green are numbered at forty. In these days when ever-increasing signs of Global Warming threaten a possible apocalyptic future and nations around the 70 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2008

world are stricken with unprecedented drought, Ireland remains blessed by abundant watery weather. Along the coasts, heavy morning fogs roll in from the sea, and inland evenings are frequently shrouded in a soft mist. Rain can come as a languid, lazy, day-long drizzle, a divine code of sun and showers, or a torrent pouring from the heavens. All that rain makes Ireland one of the greenest places on the planet. The water seeps into the earth, through purifying strata of sand, shale and limestone, then percolates back up again in streams and rivers that crisscross the island. And in almost every county, natural underground cisterns feed thousands of crystalclear pools that for eons the Irish have revered as Holy Wells. In prehistoric times, pools of water appearing without a seeming source were thought to spring from the Otherworld, the land of eternal youth, a place of power and wisdom. A well in the palace courtyard of Manannan Mac Lir, the faerie king, was encircled by nine magic hazel trees and inhabited by a large salmon, which ate the hazelnuts and acquired the wisdom of the ages. From the well flowed five streams representing the five senses through which knowledge is obtained. In Echtra Cormaic Maic Airt i Tir Tairngiri (Cormac Mac Art’s Adventure in The Land of Promise), third-century A.D. King Cormac Mac Art meets Manannan MacLir who explains that only someone who drinks from the streams can attain true knowledge. In the Fianna Cycle which recounts the adventures of Finn Mac Cumhaill, Mac Art’s son-in-law, Finn catches and eats the salmon and becomes the wisest of men. Despite the myriad technological wonders that fill our modern lives, we persist in calling the natural world Mother Nature, a holdover from prehistory when all things natural and unexplainable were thought of as feminine, a belief no doubt inspired by a woman’s ability to give birth and suckle the newborn. As sources of precious life-sustaining fresh water, sacred wells were presumed to be the abodes of powerful goddesses. In Echtra Mac nEchach Muigmedoin (The Adventure of the Sons of Eochaid Muigmedoin), Niall and his four brothers are tested to determine which of them is best suited to become king. One by one they go in search of water and find a well guarded by a hideous hag who offers to exchange a drink of water for a kiss. Only Niall accepts the challenge and kisses the hag, whereupon she transforms into a beautiful goddess who names him sovereign of the land. In addition to power and knowledge, the sacred wells were believed to be places of healing, with different wells having unique healing properties and specific methods of employing the water, often as teas steeped with herbs. Drinking from one well would restore sight to the blind or lucidness to the insane; bathing in another would cure gout or arthritis or bestow fertility on a woman who had long been barren. In almost all cases, rituals were required in order for the healing to occur. Making the Rounds, which consists of walking around the well three times deosil – left to right, the same path taken by the sun – has its roots in Druid ceremonies.


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RECIPES

L

To Soothe Nerves

Wash and shred one head of lettuce. Place in a pot, cover with 1 1⁄2 pints boiling water and steep for 30 minutes. Strain and either sweeten with honey or add a pinch of salt.

L

For Gastric and Chest Troubles Place several rosemary leaves and flowers in a heated teapot. Add 1⁄2 pint of boiling water and steep for 10 minutes.

To Relieve Headache

L

Crush 1⁄4 ounce anise seeds and place in a heated teapot. Add 1 pint boiling water and steep for 10 minutes.

To Treat a Cold

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Boil 1⁄2 ounce of dried elderflowers in 1 quart milk. Strain and sweeten with honey.

To Combat Insomnia

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Place 7 camomile flowers in a heated teapot, add 1⁄2 pint boiling water and infuse for 10 minutes. Sweeten with honey and drink hot just before bedtime.

To Aid Digestion

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For every cup of tea use 4 mint leaves. Infuse in a heated teapot for 10 minutes. Drink hot after meals.

Spring Tonic

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Rag Trees are another indication of the Druidic origin of Ireland’s sacred wells. Frequently a tree with magical properties – oak, holly, rowan or hazel – was planted beside the well to serve as its guardian. Hundreds of years later, the trees now tower over the water and supplicants still tie bits of cloth to the branches, trusting that as the fabric disintegrates so will their ailments diminish. With the coming of Christianity, the sacred wells of antiquity were consecrated and saints’ names replaced the Druidic place names. As the wells had long been ceremonial gathering spots, churches were built at the revered sites. The Druids’ wells then became the Christian baptismal fonts, and the cures brought about with the wells’ water were called miracles. Christianity did not alter the people’s belief that the wells had healing powers. The great 19th-century Irish playwright J.M. Synge, while living in the Aran Islands, wrote Well of the Saints, a comedy based on accounts of miracles that occurred at Tobar an Ceathrar Alainn (Well of the Beautiful Saints), which is found on Innishmor just a few meters from a church dedicated to Saints Fursey, Brendan, Conal and Bearchan. In the play, Martin and Mary Doul, a blind beggar couple, believe themselves to be beautiful until a friar restores their sight with water from a holy well. No longer disabled, they discover they are not only common looking but now have to work for a living. When they become blind again and the friar attempts to restore their sight a second time, Martin knocks the holy well water to the ground, choosing blindness and a beggar’s life, having ‘seen’ enough human cruelty. Many of the ancient sacred wells are still the sites of annual pilgrimages, especially at the Midsummer Vernal Equinox (June 21), a chief ceremonial day of the ancient Celtic solar calendar, and on Pattern Days, the feast days of local patron saints. Many more Holy Wells have slipped into obscurity, been plowed over, clogged with rubble, overgrown, or fallen victim to natural erosion. With civic, historic and spiritual mindfulness as its mission statement, a formally registered Irish Charity (CHY 14794) entitled Slaine (healthfulness) is endeavoring to rediscover, document and regenerate Ireland’s Holy Wells. For more information see: http://www.slaine.ie A folktale tells of a vile ruler who once defiled the guardian damsel of a sacred well, and as a result the well dried up and the country suffered a severe drought, causing it to become a wasteland. Fresh pure water is vital to the survival of all life – plant,

Herbal teas, known as ‘tisanes,’ have been used as healing agents since prehistoric times. The following combinations are from The Cookin’ Woman: Irish Country Recipes by Florence Irwin. In all cases, it is best to use pure water without chemical additives.

Put 1 ounce fresh young dandelion leaves in a pot, add 1 pint boiling water and steep for 10 minutes. Strain and serve with an equal part of hot milk. Sweeten to taste with honey.

animal and human alike. With urban sprawl encroaching on all the wild lands and toxic pollution an ever increasing threat to water tables the world over, it behooves us to reconnect with the sacred nature of water that was so fervently revered by our ancestors and do all things possible to protect its purity for future generations. Sláinte! IA

HOLY WELLS : A LIST OF THE WELLS SURVIVING TODAY: CLARE: St. Brigid’s Well: Liscanor. Magh Adhair: Quin. Eye Well, and Tooth Well: Burren. Margaret’s Well: Ennis. St. Augustine’s Well: Kilshanny. CORK: St. Olan’s Well: Aghbullogue. Tobrid Well: Millstreet. Sunday’s Well &

Mary’s Well: Walshestow. St. Finbar’s Well: Gougane Barra.

KILDARE: Earl’s Well, St. Brigid’s Well, and Father Moore’s Well: Kildare.

KERRY: Well of the Wethers: Ardfert. St. Dahlin’s, and West Lady Well. Ballyheige. St. John’s Well: Dingle. St. Erc’s Well & St. Eoin’s Well: Listowel. St. Michael’s Well: Ballymore.

MEATH: Tobar Patraic: Ardmulchan. St. John’s Well: Warrenstown. Tara (Neamnach, Toberfin and Leacht): Castlebye ROSCOMMON: Tober

Oglalla: Tulsk. St. Lassair’s Well:Lough Meelagh. St. Attracta’s Well: Monasteraden SLIGO: Tobernault: Sligo. St. Brigid’s Well: Cliffony. Tullaghan Well: Tullaghan. St. Patrick’s Wells: Dromard and Aughris. The Bog: The Culleens. JUNE / JULY 2008 IRISH AMERICA 71


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{photo album} Family Pictures

Memories

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n the 1860s, Mary Lombard and James Curtayne of Killarney, County Kerry were married. Their marriage was blessed by seven children, the last of whom was my grandfather Daniel. When Daniel was but two years old, in 1883, both parents died, leaving John, 18, and Kate, 17, to care for their siblings. Realizing that if they didn’t act quickly, most of them would end up, probably separated, in an orphanage. They decided that their only hope was America. With no money for the boat fare, they each prepared a little bundle and all seven were off to the next ship leaving for America – as stowaways. It was no simple affair with young children and most specially, little Daniel. At high sea, they were caught! After a severe scolding, the captain, a right and good man, employed the older boys to shovel coal and Kate cared for the others. Arriving in New York City they managed to find a room, and the following day, in spite of their fatigue, they found jobs – selling papers, sweeping sidewalks, shining shoes, etc. After the first week’s salary and the rent paid, they were able to rent a second room. Kate was there to care for the children and clean and cook some meager meals, but the Irish community often came to the aid of these dear orphans – a pot of soup, some fresh bread, some hot stew, a few pennies here and a few pennies there. Things got better; soon John, Kate, and Nellie married; James and Ned (twins) and Will remained bachelors; little Daniel was enrolled in the public school and as it happened, he was the only one who did go to school. Will, second to the youngest, wanted to go “west” to find gold as so many did. However, he landed in Arizona, and digging, he found, instead of gold, a hot water geyser on which he built a laundry. With an unending supply of hot water he made his fortune. My grandfather, Daniel, finished school, entered the New York City police force and was sent to the Bronx. In 1904, he married Sadie Harnett and moved to a little house at 1816 Waterloo Place in “Irishtown” in the Bronx. On April 11, 1906 my father, Edmund Vincent (called Vince) was born and soon after, another boy, Walter Stanley. Grandpa spent his whole active life in the police force and Walter followed him. My father went to Fordham High and worked his way through Fordham College selling hot dogs on a street corner and tutoring students in German. It was said that he spoke German with an Irish brogue. His big ambition was to become a lawyer and he continued at Fordham Law School to arrive at this end. In 1939 he married Helen Grace Smith of Brooklyn and left his beloved Bronx. Their marriage was blessed by three girls. One of them tells a story which I think describes Vince’s character and temperament. Almost every month we went to visit our grandparents in their little house on Waterloo place. We loved to go because we loved them and also we always had a treat. We arrived home in the late

1

evening and always, Mary, the youngest, fell asleep on the way. Dad would take her in his arms and carefully carry her into the house and up to her room. Lovingly, he undressed her and put her in her bed. This went on for a couple of years. Many years later, not long before Dad’s death, Mary was speaking to him and said, “Dad, I have a confession to make.” “Do you!” said Dad. She went on to say, “Do you remember our visits to Grandpa and Grandma in the Bronx?” “Sure!” he said. “Remember when you carried me up to bed when we got home?” “I do!” said Dad. “Well, Dad, I wasn’t asleep, I only pretended to be.” And Dad replied very simply, “I know!” Submitted by: Sister Mary Alphonsus Little Sisters of the Poor, San Francisco, California

Please send photographs along with your name, address, phone number, and a brief description, to Declan O’Kelly at Irish America, 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 2100, New York, NY 10001. If photos are irreplaceable, then please send a good quality reproduction or e-mail the picture at 300 dpi resolution to Irishamag@aol.com. No photocopies, please. We will pay $65 for each submission that we select. 72 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2008


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4

2

3

5

1 The Curtayne family in 1911: Daniel, Sadie, Vincent and Walter. 2 This 1946 photo shows 4-year-old Carol with Daniel (left) and Will Curtayne. 3 Aunt Kate and Sadie with three of her children. 4 Vincent Curtayne in 1906. 5 A 1905 photo of Sadie and Vincent. All photos courtesy of Sister Mary Alphonsus.

JUNE / JULY 2008 IRISH AMERICA 73


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{crossword} By Darina Molloy

ACROSS 3 5 8 10 11 13 14 15 18 20 21 24 25 28 29 31 32 33 36 38 39 40 41

See 32 across (5) The V in DVD (9) (& 2 down) High-tech CA sector (7) Frank McCourt memoir, Part II (3) School break (6) __ and Away: Tom Cruise ‘Irish’ film (3) This pie is made with beef and mash potato (7) Prehistoric Meath viewpoint for winter solstice (9) This turkey represented Ireland in Eurovision Song Contest (6) Irish army in this West African state (4) See 7 down (6) Known as post in Ireland (4) (& 28 down) Dublin’s cultural center (6) There Will Be ___: film that won an Oscar for Daniel Day-Lewis (5) Short for company (2) See 34 down (5) (& 3 across) Ireland’s new Taoiseach (5) Irish for ‘house’ (5) Your mom’s mom (6) The Good __: new Jimmy Breslin collection (3) Indigenous polar people (6) Wicklow village and business (5) Legal tribunal investigating Bertie Ahern’s finances (5)

DOWN 1 2 4 6 7 8

New Irish release for Cecelia Ahern: Thanks for the ___ (8) See 8 across (6) Night bird (3) Donegal peninsula and Joseph O’Connor book (9) (& 21 across) OC star with Irish mom (6) See 26 down (7)

9 12 16 17 19 22 23

26

27 28 29 30

Home county of 32 across (6) Handel’s famous oratorio, first performed in Dublin (7) Meal instructions (6) (& 29 down) Actress wife of Jeremy Irons (6) Fionn McCool tasted this knowledgeable fish (6) Mischievous sprite (3) Galway town with large Brazilian population (4) (& 8 down) Recently resigned NY governor (5) Irish for ‘light’ (5) See 25 across (3) See 17 down (6) Small budget Irish

Win a subscription to Irish America magazine Please send your complete crossword puzzle to Irish America, 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 2100, New York, NY 10001, to arrive no later than June 20, 2008. A winner will be drawn from among all correct entries. If there are no correct solutions, prizes will be awarded for the completed puzzle which comes closet in the opinion of our staff. Winner’s name will be published along with the solution in our next issue. Xerox copies are acceptable. Winner of the April / May Crossword: Patsy Giacometti, Springfield, IL. 74 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2008

31 32 34 35 37

film took Best Song at Oscars (4) This Dan is chairman of Ireland’s Green Party (5) Traditional potato pancake (5) (& 31 across) The new Madame Sarkozy (5) Cootehill is in this county (5) Finding ___: Disney fishy

April / May Solution



Irish America June / July 2008