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Is this it?

Editor’s Letter

ow easy it all once seemed. A youth spent scribbling notes on tea-stained paper and delivering newspapers on a rusty bicycle as dawn broke. From there we would go to a dusty newsroom with crowded desks and men with rumpled shirts scattered on our horizon. One of those men would take us under his wing and show us the way, exposé by exposé. Then we would be fully formed journalists, our own shirts crumpled, our own version of illegible shorthand.

That was then and this, this right here, is now. A leisurely stroll through third level followed by a ‘how to’ course at fourth level. No floors to sweep, no papers to deliver. An expensive ticket to a professional career grasped in our eager hands. Except for the things we didn’t factor into the master plan. We didn’t think about the cutbacks and layoffs. We never factored in the problems of media ownership and the tycoons gently placing their hands over ours as we scribbled away. We never thought, back when our wide eyes imagined Clark Kent and Lois Lane making the perfect newsroom couple, that jobs would not fall in abundance from the journalism tree.

Life 8 11 14 15 16 18 19 20 23 24 Arts 30 31 34 36 38 42 44 46

Contents The Moore Street revamp DIT moves to Grangegorman The year of the potato Late night restaurant guide 30 years of the Dublin Well Woman Centre A former heroin addict remembers slap opinion – the death of radio Schizophrenia in the movies Four ways to save the world The politics of suicide Save the slow dance John D McHugh – war photographer Community arts at Studio 468 Sarah Rees Brennan – the Irish JK Rowling? In awe of Caravaggio Your guide to the best music festivals slap speaks to artist Matt Lamb Brian Turner – soldier and poet

Although not quite the fairytale we may have imagined it being, there is merit in what we do, what we will do and what we have done. The pursuit of a master’s degree in journalism has been criticised as unnecessary and not in keeping with the integral values of what good, real and proper journalism is. There is some degree of truth in the claims that experience would have taught us what we learned in the classroom and hard graft the skills we now possess. In our stumbling economy it may be argued that we have turned universities and courses like ours into parking zones for the twentysomethings we need to prevent entering the workforce too soon. Like patients in an elaborate waiting room, we are being kept from the surgery room door of real life and real jobs.

Politics 50 The Dick Spring interview 53 Star spangled banter – US election coverage 55 slap opinion – Hillary Rodham Clinton 56 Adebari – Ireland’s first black Lord Mayor 57 slap opinion – racism 58 slap opinion – party politics 59 slap opinion – the Mahon Tribunal 60 Clifford Coonan on reporting from China 62 Planes, Trains and Automobiles – slap time tests Irish transport 64 Young people and politics 66 The global financial market crisis and Ireland 69 The Rossport Solidarity camp 71 slap opinion – democracy, anyone?

On page 50 Dick Spring says that for Ireland to become a viable economy it needs more fourth-level graduates. Here we are, come and get us.

Sports 74 American football comes to Ireland 76 Geordan Murphy speaks to slap 78 Oscar Pistorius – blade runner 79 Newstalk’s Off the Ball team speak to slap 82 Irish boxing makes a comeback? 84 A new era for formula one? 85 The Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh interview 87 College GAA 89 Irish snowboarding stars 92 A journal of the Galway cycle 94 A WAG at Bray Wanderers?

The constant reminders that jobs may not be secure and our qualification may be rendered useless is accompanied with talk of the limitless wonder of the internet and the seemingly endless possibilities inherent in the online content sections of newspapers and magazines. The mode and methodology of journalism is changing and we are among the first to stand on this threshold of a new era in journalism, a time when the new values of online journalism will combine or collide with the old school.

Ciara Norton, slap Editor


Days Like These


Credits Editor Deputy Editor Editor (Life) Co-Editor (Arts) Co-Editor (Arts) Editor (Politics) Editor (Sports) Image Editor

Ciara Norton Lauren Crothers Rosemary Mac Cabe Órla Sheils Christina Finn Claire Gillivan Darragh O’Donoghue Gary Fox

Sub-Editor (Life & Politics) Sub-Editor (Arts & Sports)

Sinéad Keogh Niall McGuinness

Chief Layout and Design Layout and Design Layout and Design

Sinéad Bevan Seamus O’Neill Ross Loftus

Business Manager

JP O’Malley


Kevin Byrne Abiba Ndeley Maureen Lowndes Rebecca McAdam Ciarán Masterson Kolawole Ogunbiyi Samuel Monson Rachel Faulkner Deirdre Davys

Image Contributors

Gary Fox Lauren Crothers Stephen Boyle Patrick Clarke Clare Flynn Angela Radulescu Paul Walsh

Front Cover Photography

Lauren Crothers

With thanks to

Harry Browne Charles Foster Michael Foley Angela Long Claire Tighe Dublin Institute of Technology, Aungier Street

All enquiries to


Fragments So there you are, on the couch, replying to your therapist with the first word that enters your head. Man – Car, Woman – Lipstick, Sperm - Tickets? offered European summer festival tickets in return for young, healthy, Irish sperm. Claiming that Irish stocks were dwindling with a demand that was too high to be sustained, the site sought to lure young festivalgoers into making use of ‘special donation packs’ to make a contribution via post. The website, almost certainly a hoax, is no longer active and the domain now simply states: “The results of the pilot scheme are being reviewed.” This didn’t stop a number of magazines, most notably NME, shooting their load a little early and running a story on the ‘new initiative’.

slap loves Pubs. The good ones. The spit ‘n’ sawdust joints with character and characters. We love pubs without TVs, pubs without promotions, pubs without affectation and the stamp of interior designers. We love pubs where people talk and others listen. Frank Ryan’s on Queen Street and The Long Hall on George’s Street are the last in a dying breed. No TV, no faux ‘olde worlde’ charm, just a mixed bag of clientele and a chance to unwind, relax and listen to good music. You’re guaranteed a seat and a welcome in this dimly lit reminder of how things once were.

slap loathes

Take a look at slap’s favourite corners of the web, and a few more besides… – where funky t-shirts live. If you do plan to buy your clobber online, this is the place to go. Our favourites include the message vests ‘Meat is Murder…Tasty, tasty murder’ and ‘In case of emergency, break dance’. – ever wondered what happened to Star Trek: The Next Generation’s cute little Ensign Crusher? Yeah, neither did we. Check out his blog anyway. Updated a little too regularly for comfort if you ask us. It’s sad when fame dies, eh? – Add glow to your skin! Banish red eyes! Give your pasty sister a summer glow! Hurrah for a free-todownload baby Photoshop. If Photoshop is a foreign, and expensive, concept to you then you may appreciate something simple, clean and easy to use like Picasa. It stores your photos and applies basic fixes like cropping, red eye reduction, changes colour to black and white and has more, shall we say ‘cosmetic’ features that allow you to apply ‘glow’ and ‘warmth’ to fluorescent Irish limbs. http://slapthemag.blogspot .com – where slap lives.

The Government’s plan to close down Dublin’s early houses. Though we may not spend our mornings in them we recognise that they offer a social outlet for people who work while the rest of us play and, for the most part, encourage the treatment of pubs by the public as places to socialise without menace. The proprietors do not court the business of late -night revellers who have found themselves stumbling about at dawn. Rather they provide a place where shift workers can engage in an atmosphere that is not a gaudilylit coffee house, thus preventing their marginalisation and imagined alienation from the majority who work days.


Bring Back…..

Leg warmers. Penney’s are selling

’em for €1.50 a pop. Cutesie on your tootsies. Get in there!

Blackboard Jungle. To think there

Feeling cultural?

are generations of teenagers who’ve

never had the chance to win a ghetto blaster or a hi-ace van.

Another ’80s throwback. Who didn’t love the New Kids on the Block revival?

Wispas. We didn’t put in this much

work for a limited edition run!

Ten penny mix-ups. The

best way to spend 10p in this world.

Gimme Gimme Gimme. Kathy Burke

and James Dreyfus – Lindy and Tom forever!

Phonecalls. No, you can’t elucidate

the minutae of your thoughts on the Cowen ascendancy in 160

characters. ‘Tink he is smrter but nt gud lukin’ indeed.

Corner shops. Where do you even buy apple drops nowadays?

That DVD you’ve had out for the past two weeks.


Get thee to an art gallery. Dublin has a wealth of world renowned Art on your doorstep – find your own personal Caravaggio moment (see page 38).

The Hugh Lane Gallery, Parnell Square North, Dublin 1: The Francis Bacon Studio is an amazing feat of archaeology, worth a visit if only to watch the “how did they do it?” videos beside the studio. Works by Monet, Manet, Degas and Renoir also feature in the permanent collection alongside an everchanging and always interesting temporary exhibition. Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), Royal Hospital, Kilmainham: Go on a sunny day and spend time in the beautiful gardens with views across the Liffey. Then step inside and view art by luminaries such as Damien Hirst and Juan Munoz. Also host to many temporary exhibitions.

The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College: A calm, peaceful space amid the hustle and bustle of Nassau Street and Trinity.

Four films about Journalism

Defence of the Realm (1985). Director: David Drury. Stars Gabriel Byrne, Greta Scacchi and Robbie Coltrane. Examines the responsibility of journalistic investigations in an era of nuclear tensions..cold war thriller.

All The President’s Men (1976) Director: Alan J. Pakula. Starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein and Woodward, the two journalists who uncovered the Watergate scandal. The Parallax View (1974) Director: Alan J. Pakula. Starring Warren Beatty as an ambitious reporter who gets in over his head investigating an senator’s assassination. The Paper (1994) Director: Ron Howard. Starring Michael Keaton as the editor of a tabloid newspaper where the long hours and low pay lead to discontent coupled with publishing cutbacks...sound familiar?!


Mainstream TV networks like Fox and CBS have recently bought the rights to televise Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Stateside. Sky Sports have jumped on the bandwagon in the UK and Setanta Sports have secured the licence to broadcast UFC events live from June 2008. What does all this mean? Ultimate Fighting has finally crossed over. Gone are the days of unsanctioned brawls, and what we have instead is a technical, professional and lucrative sport which has been identified by many as a serious threat to boxing’s combat crown. While many are still repulsed by its savagery, many will equally argue that the technical skill and dedication shown by the fighters deserves an appreciative audience and monetary reward. Whatever side of the fence you are on, the futility of the argument is best summed up by the Onion: “Although detractors decry it as a brutal, bloody form of human cockfighting, aficionados know it is a brutal, bloody, totally f**king awesome form of human cockfighting.”

The Ultimate Slow Set Playlist of All Time, Ever! Careless Whisper – Wham! Take My Breath Away – Berlin Eternal Flame – The Bangles Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler True – Spandau Ballet Always – Bon Jovi China in Your Hands – T’Pau In Your Eyes – Peter Gabriel Iris – Goo Goo Dolls I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing – Aerosmith Electrolite – REM And an honourable mention to the one and only Johnny Logan’s Hold Me Now…..

With thanks to Barry Dunne from Club Nassau – “Home of the Slow Set” and 98FM’s Workforce from 10am to 4pm daily.


Ireland has become the no-man’s land of tickets. If someone big is playing – think Springsteen or Leonard Cohen – and you can’t get yourself to your laptop at 8am, fingers poised on the keyboard, eyes glued to the screen, credit card at the ready, body primed to battle it out for two standing tickets then consider yourself missing out. If, after failing to secure a ticket the good ‘old-fashioned’ way, you still fancy your chances at seeing Brucey in the flesh, you might appeal to those who have bought tickets and want to sell them. Why, you ask, would anyone want to sell a ticket to Bruce, two days after buying it? Have they received news that they will be involved in a near-fatal car accident two days before the concert? What could their reasoning be? Then the shock: What? People buy tickets in order to sell them on at a profit? How dishonest! Time to try to find a tout only hoping to make a €100 profit, rather than the €300 that Barry in Swords is hoping to make on his. Music fans in Ireland, and worldwide, are hitting back, though, and with the help of the rather foolproof Glastonbury ticket system (you buy tickets registered in your name and with your ID, and if you can’t go you get a refund and your ticket re-enters the fully legitimate market, at the original price), the future is looking sunnier for music fans. is a forum that allows fans to swap tickets with one another; usually, this amounts to going to see Brucey on a Saturday instead of a Sunday – because Sunday really doesn’t suit. calls itself an “ethical ticket exchange”. No touts, no rip-offs, just good, honest concertgoers. Now! That’s what I call music.



Is this it?

Editor’s Letter

ow easy it all once seemed. A youth spent scribbling notes on tea-stained paper and delivering newspapers on a rusty bicycle as dawn broke. From there we would go to a dusty newsroom with crowded desks and men with rumpled shirts scattered on our horizon. One of those men would take us under his wing and show us the way, exposé by exposé. Then we would be fully formed journalists, our own shirts crumpled, our own version of illegible shorthand.

That was then and this, this right here, is now. A leisurely stroll through third level followed by a ‘how to’ course at fourth level. No floors to sweep, no papers to deliver. An expensive ticket to a professional career grasped in our eager hands. Except for the things we didn’t factor into the master plan. We didn’t think about the cutbacks and layoffs. We never factored in the problems of media ownership and the tycoons gently placing their hands over ours as we scribbled away. We never thought, back when our wide eyes imagined Clark Kent and Lois Lane making the perfect newsroom couple, that jobs would not fall in abundance from the journalism tree.

Contents Life 8 11 14 15 16 18 19 20 23 24 Arts 30 31 34 36 38 42 44 46

The Moore Street revamp DIT moves to Grangegorman The year of the potato Late night restaurant guide 30 years of the Dublin Well Woman Centre A former heroin addict remembers slap opinion – the death of radio Schizophrenia in the movies Four ways to save the world The politics of suicide Save the slow dance John D McHugh – war photographer Community arts at Studio 468 Sarah Rees Brennan – the Irish JK Rowling? In awe of Caravaggio Your guide to the best music festivals slap speaks to artist Matt Lamb Brian Turner – soldier and poet

Although not quite the fairytale we may have imagined it being, there is merit in what we do, what we will do and what we have done. The pursuit of a master’s degree in journalism has been criticised as unnecessary and not in keeping with the integral values of what good, real and proper journalism is. There is some degree of truth in the claims that experience would have taught us what we learned in the classroom and hard graft the skills we now possess. In our stumbling economy it may be argued that we have turned universities and courses like ours into parking zones for the twentysomethings we need to prevent entering the workforce too soon. Like patients in an elaborate waiting room, we are being kept from the surgery room door of real life and real jobs.

Politics 50 The Dick Spring interview 53 Star spangled banter – US election coverage 55 slap opinion – Hillary Rodham Clinton 56 Adebari – Ireland’s first black Lord Mayor 57 slap opinion – racism 58 slap opinion – party politics 59 slap opinion – the Mahon Tribunal 60 Clifford Coonan on reporting from China 62 Planes, Trains and Automobiles – slap time tests Irish transport 64 Young people and politics 66 The global financial market crisis and Ireland 69 The Rossport Solidarity camp 71 slap opinion – democracy, anyone?

On page 50 Dick Spring says that for Ireland to become a viable economy it needs more fourth-level graduates. Here we are, come and get us.

Sports 74 American football comes to Ireland 76 Geordan Murphy speaks to slap 78 Oscar Pistorius – blade runner 79 Newstalk’s Off the Ball team speak to slap 82 Irish boxing makes a comeback? 84 A new era for formula one? 85 The Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh interview 87 College GAA 89 Irish snowboarding stars 92 A journal of the Galway cycle 94 A WAG at Bray Wanderers?

The constant reminders that jobs may not be secure and our qualification may be rendered useless is accompanied with talk of the limitless wonder of the internet and the seemingly endless possibilities inherent in the online content sections of newspapers and magazines. The mode and methodology of journalism is changing and we are among the first to stand on this threshold of a new era in journalism, a time when the new values of online journalism will combine or collide with the old school.

Ciara Norton, slap Editor


Days Like These


life CONTENTS To Market, To Market…. Abiba Ndeley visits Moore 8 Between the Sheets Sinéad Keogh looks at the history of the Dublin Well Woman Centre on its 30th 16 Green Days Rosemary Mac Cabe looks at sustainable living for the average 23


Photos by Gary Fox

A stalled future?



Abiba Ndeley goes to Moore Street to find out what the traders think of Dublin City Council’s redevelopment plan, which will see them muscle in on the cockles and cobbles of old Dublin

ities are often thought of in terms of their architecture, their art, and their streetscapes – but the soul of any city is its people. Dublin’s soul is made up of “a rich bounty of quite extra-ordinary people” as former Lord Mayor Michael Keating once said. At weekends, the streets radiate with human energy creating an invigorating buzz that’s only acquired more flair with the arrival of thousands of foreign nationals who now call Ireland home. Certain streets such as Moore Street are huge platforms for everyday human expression. They boast a marvellous cast of interesting characters: market dealers, busking musicians, evangelists, pavement artists, poets and flower traders. With their famous Dublin wit and accents, they make up one of the city’s great cultural treasures.

Dublin’s quintessential street figure is that of the mythical Molly Malone, who is reputed to have spent her days hawking cockles and mussels through the streets. Physical labour was at one time the natural sight in

“Elvis is not dead yet. Elvis is on Moore Street” the heart of Dublin city. Now, a lot of these sights have faded away. New prosperity and urban redevelopment have seen the widespread physical destruction of the old cityscape. The last three decades played host to the most profound physical and social transformations that have affected Dublin’s heart and soul. Stately Georgian streets and historic

buildings have been demolished. Family homes, pubs, local businesses, entire streets and neighbourhoods, customs and traditions were destroyed. The Daisy and Iveagh markets went out in the 1990s. The fish market in Little Mary Street was recently demolished and moved to the purpose-built Millennium Business Centre at Ballycoolin. However, a good number of the old trades and crafts have survived. Some small grocers, florists, and butchers remain unscathed. The more famous outlets, like Moore Street, are earmarked for redevelopment. Robert Fennelly of the Forward Planning Unit at Dublin City Council (DCC) revealed, however, that there are presently no concrete plans for Moore Street. It is expected that the project known as the Carlton Site Development will change the entire


face of Moore Street up to O’Connell Street. It will include shops, cafes, restaurants and car packs. High-rise canopies will be erected over Moore Street. The DCC will retain control of the street and will make sure any development plans approved would seek to improve it. The DCC are anxious to assure Dubliners that “retaining street traders would be something that is definitely important.” “The proposed development will


become a major landmark site in terms of the development of North Dublin.” The plans won’t be available for viewing until January of next year but there are already plans to demolish all of the buildings that form part of the development site – with the exception of one protected red brick used during the 1916 Rising. So what do the traders think of the impending changes? Margaret Buckley and her sister Imelda are business partners. Fish trading in their family goes back four generations. Some years ago the government took away their fish trading licences. Following numerous talks, and public pressure,

including an appearance on the The Late Late Show, they were able to secure its return. Today, their business faces an uncertain future once more. “They took the heart out of Dublin when the fish market went,” says Margaret. “I have to get there for 4.30 in the morning in order to avoid the traffic jams,” she comments of the new fish market site where she sources her produce. It’s “out in the sticks”.

“Moore Street is for the needy – not the greedy” “You want some fish, love? I sell the freshest fish on the street. I’ll make you a good deal,” comes a call. Margaret identifies the voice as that of a woman called May. “May was born on the streets. She is 80 years old now. All she knows is street trading. Take the street away from May and she’ll die,” she says. Margaret goes on say that there was a time when Dubliners lived from hand to mouth and it was the Moore Street traders that helped them

survive. “We still play that role today, helping those that are not able to shop in supermarkets. Our customers moved from the Irish, to the Jewish, and then it was the Chinese. Now we provide for the United Nations.” A clip clopping sound signals the arrival of a delivery man on a horse drawn cart carrying boxes of fruit and vegetables. “Elvis is not dead yet. Elvis is on Moore Street,” says Margaret. Elvis is the horse – the

only horse left in the market. Stephen Lynch is the delivery man. He is helped by his son, “young Stephen”. It is rumoured that he will soon be retiring and it is unsure whether his son will continue the business, Margaret says. She is unsure whether anyone will take over from her when she retires herself. “Moore Street is for the needy – not the greedy. Besides, our food is better quality,” she says, summing up her feelings on the matter. One wonders whether that will change when the proposed redevelopment plans – some showing glass roofs over the street – become a reality.

Grangegorman: Integration or segregation? T

As Dublin Institute of Technology prepares to move to new grounds in Grangegorman, JP O’Malley discovers that questions are arising over the safety in the new campus

he sound of birds singing and an occasional eerie breeze that cuts through the branches of ancient oak trees are about the only sounds you hear in the grounds of Grangegorman hospital these days. This will soon be history. The 73-acre site in Dublin 7 is set to become home to a new Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) campus, in what will be the biggest redevelopment plan ever seen in the history of the State, costing in the region of ₏1 billion. St Brendan’s campus will host a

range of facilities including the new DIT college, community health services, restaurants, shops and educational resources for both community residents and students. The Grangegorman Development Agency hopes to have much the project in place by 2011, with building expected to begin at the end of 2009 and students arriving in 2012. Although the plan is seen to be a good move for everyone involved there are some concerns about certain problems arising from the proposal.

Since the planned development was unveiled by the Government there seems to be some scepticism from staff inside the psychiatric hospital in relation to the finer details of how the proposed plan will affect patients. Many staff members said that although they very much embrace the positive idea of the new development, they are still cautious. One of the biggest problems, as they see it, is the move by the HSE to integrate the patients with students in a cross community synergy development.


Photos by JP O’Malley


One nurse spoke of a patient who occupational therapist said: “In a the college campus and the health has a history of violence: “Without secure unit you need to be one-oncentre. One nurse said: “I don’t his medication he would have a high one with the patient. Many of the know what kind of security there will level of aggression, you would see females have issues with self-harm be, but we have been told it will be quite a different man.” She more of community integration believes that the HSE have not than segregation.” She added “Staff members in envisioned the implications of that she could not foresee the integrating students with Grangegorman have been told development working unless it patients. “It would be a very was a separate entity. “If by the HSE that there is no bad idea to integrate them into students for instance were just the whole project, we have around here now, I proposed separation between walking very special patients here couldn’t see that working.” many who are in secure units The Grangegorman the college campus and the and who need one-to-one Development Agency was health centre” treatment.” contacted in relation to the A number of the patients at security issues that may Grangegorman have come from and are on suicide watch most of the possibly arise out of the future other institutions such as Dundrum time. Some of the males have project. When asked if the college Mental Hospital and Portlaoise forensic histories and have a limited and hospital would be in separate Prison. After serving their ability to go out on their own, grounds, a source who did not wish sentences, people who have no depending on what condition they to be named, said: “It will be all one family or alternative accommodation are in.” open community.” When questioned are admitted to Grangegorman, with Staff members in Grangegorman on the specifics of security measures some of them needing special have been told by the HSE that there that would be implemented they attention in the securer units. One is no proposed separation between added: “I cannot go into the detail of

all that and do not have specific information.” The agency said that more information relating to this matter was available on their website, but the only information on their website simply stated: “Mental health patients will need suitable physical space for their treatment and recovery in terms of privacy, security and appropriateness.” The agency was asked to elaborate on what this actually meant. They first responded by saying: “You would have to contact the HSE about this. This is still a work in progress and we are still preparing for our strategic plan. Everything you need to know is on the website.” Finally, the CEO of the Grangegorman Development Plan, Gerry Murphy, was asked to comment on this issue and would

respond only in writing. His response was again clouded in a language of ambiguity: “The aim is to create an integrated development on the 73 acre site focused around education and health but with a diverse mix of uses, in a manner that is sensitive to the context of the site, its surrounding neighbourhood and the existing community. We anticipate that the first building development will be replacement mental health facilities for the HSE.

It is our objective to start those in late 2009.” The ages of patients in Grangegorman ranges from 18 to 70. The general consensus among many of the staff in the hospital is that there is little communication between the HSE and Grangegorman, and any that does happen is one-way. When asked about how they felt the HSE was informing them on the project, staff at Grangegorman had mixed responses, with one staff member stating: “It’s the people with the money who are calling the shots, but God knows how they are spending it.” Although there are still some obstacles to overcome, most people are in agreement that it will be an extremely positive change for both DIT and the community of Grangegorman.

Grangegorman: A Brief History

The Richmond Asylu m was ope ned to patients

Today only 80 pe ople are residing there.

the foremost architect of the day.

The hospital became the subject of national

This building, now known as the Lowe r House,

were stabbed to de ath in the ir sleep.

in 1814 and was design ed by Francis Johnston,

was built as a large quadrangle but only its

interest back in 1997 when two female patients

souther n range remains standing today.

In 2006 Justice Minster Michae l Mc Dowe ll

Throughou t the 19th century the site evolved

publ ished that Dean Lyons who had been

and grew to be c ome a large regional m ental hospital occup ying over 30 hectare s. At its

revealed in a report that was subse quently

convicted of the murders was in fact innocent.

pea k the hospital served over 2,000 patients.

Lyons later died in England and Mark Nash who

However as mental health practices changed

confe ssed to the Grangegorman killings but was

throughout the 20th century the numb er of patie nts gradually fell.

was convicted for anothe r violent murder, later never charged.



The Irish love affair with the spud has been going on for centuries, writes Seamus O’Neill. This year, the International Year of the Potato aims to let the rest of world in on the secret


es, it is true. 2008 is the International Year of the Potato. The much loved spud has been dedicated its own year and why not? The Irish government has even provided funding for it. The idea behind this initative is to create awareness of the potato in addressing issues of global concern, including hunger, poverty and threats to the environment. Following on from the International Year of Rice in 2004, the United Nations officially launched International Year of the Potato at its headquarters in New York during October last year. The vegetable which originated in the Andes in South America plays an important part in providing food security and eradicating poverty. Such is the power of the potato.

“The potato is part of our past and part of who we are”


The decision to choose the potato is mainly due to the fact it can be grown worlwide, it is a nutritious food that can feed the hungry, it is good for you and the demand for potatoes is increasing. We in Ireland have had a long history with the potato. The famine was a period where Irish people lived, died and emigrated because of the spud. If Ryanair and Michael

O’Leary were present at the time they surely would have seen it as a marketing opportunity for their one cent flights! Growing up in Ireland we had the whole story drilled into us in school, how our over-dependence on the potato caused us the suffer for years and greatly reduced our population. The potato is part of our past and part of who we are. Nowadays our love for the potato has expanded to include potato wedges, potato gratin, baked potato, Lyonnaise potato, Bengal potato and clapshot. Everything the WeightWatchers leader would disapprove of. For a country with such a strong connection with the prátai we rank only as the 25th producer of potatoes in Europe, producing an estimated 400,000 tonnes in 2006. As some developing countries struggle for food our weakness for the potato continues – whether it’s a crisp sandwich, bangers with mash or a nice salty bag of chips after a night out on the town. Although it is safe to say the International Year of the Potato was not organised around the thought of people staggering down Grafton Street carrying a bag of chips on a Friday night.


The World Potato Congress: The British Potato

International Year of the

Council: Potato:

s r u o h all Knowing just how important that pre-sleep soakage is, slap trawled Dublin city in search of nocturnal nibbles. If it’s not open past the witching hour, we’re not interested! Get a load of these late night bites... The Montague Restaurant 4B Montague Street, Dublin 2. Phone: 01-478 1600

Located just off Camden Street, the Montague Restaurant runs a late night menu from 10pm – 4.30am on Fridays and Saturdays. Traditional fare is on offer in the form of chips and burgers, and the very friendly waitress who answered our call recommends booking ahead for this tiny ten-table gem. The Good World Restaurant 18 South Great Georges Street, Dublin 2. Phone: 01-677 5373

The Good World Restaurant serves up traditional Chinese fare until 2.30am, seven days a week. Located centrally on South Great Georges Street, the Good World does close at the same time as the clubs – but if you get there in time, the restaurant is spacious and comfortable.

The Sin Theatre Bar Sycamore Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2. Phone: 01-633 4232

Sin Theatre Bar is open until 3.30am, taking both food and drinks orders up until that time. Again, not equalling the impressive opening hours of the Montague, Sin still has two major plusses. Their selection of platters include a vegetarian option, tough enough to come by even during normal business hours, and there’s the added bonus of having your platter and eating it, with no need to stop dancing because you’re peckish – grub in the club. Voodoo Lounge 39/40 Arran Quay, Smithfield, Dublin 7. Phone 01-873 6013

The Voodoo Lounge, owned by Huey from the Fun Lovin’ Criminals, is open past 2am, and while there is a

cover charge to get in, once you’re in there are cheap and tasty pizza slices to be had right up until closing time! Zaytoon 44-55 Lower Camden Street, South Dublin Centre, Dublin 2. 01-400 5006 and 14/15 Parliament Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2. 01-677 3595

Now at two locations and open until 4am, Zaytoon is famous for its kebabs. A main will cost in or around the €10 mark and there’s plenty of comfortable seating. The word is already out about this place, so there will be a queue. We recommend the Barg kebab.


UNACCEPTABLE IN THE Sinéad Keogh traces the 30 year history of Dublin Well Woman Centre



he waiting room of the Well Woman Centre in Eccles Street in Dublin must be a haven to women who come there with queries about their health. Pot plants hang from the ceiling, a batik picture lines one wall but above all there is the filing cabinet in the middle into which the public can dip to pick out leaflets on anything from post-coital contraception to the Rocket cap to cervical smears.” So begins a 1982 Irish Times interview with Ann Connolly, the first Director of the Well Woman Centre. Now located on Liffey Street, Pembroke Road and in the Northside Shopping Centre, little has changed in the layout of the Well Woman Centre since Ann Connolly’s day. Leaflets line the walls and fill the window ledges, tea and coffee facilities are free and the haven ambiance is alive and well – but today’s interviewee is Pat Rees, a counsellor with Well Woman since it first opened on Leeson Street in 1978. “The Well Woman started because in Ireland, you had to have a prescription for condoms – you used to have to go to the doctor and ethically he didn’t have to give it to you if you weren’t married so we thought it was the right of all Irish women, like the whole of Europe, to have accessible contraception,” she explains. With condom machines adorning many a toilet wall from Ranelagh to Rathmolyon, and not a doctor in sight filling in prescriptions, the evidence suggests that the Well Woman won out, but it took time. “SPUC (Society for Protection of the Unborn Child) took us to court and we were shut down. The


government didn’t want to upset the Church and was doing nothing about it and so we went to the European courts and it was ruled that we could give contraception but we had to pay for that ourselves. The legal costs were into the thousands and we had to do charity – Sinéad O’Connor gave money from her film. Neil Jordan was very good as well.” The SPUC stand-off really took flight with legal proceedings issued in 1985 that carried on into the later 1980s, with the courts finally ruling in 1986 that it was illegal to provide abortion information. The 30 years from 1978 to 2008 weren’t all charity concerts and contraband condoms. In 1978, when the Well Woman first opened, they found it difficult to find a landlord who would rent premises to them, and finding medical staff wasn’t always easy. “At the beginning there were only a handful of doctors that would work for us. It wasn’t looked on nicely if you worked here. You were ostracised, you maybe couldn’t get another job.” “People used to go up to Belfast, fill a suitcase full of condoms, come back, and give it out to all their friends. But with that change of female sexuality being accepted, women started to make waves and now women are queuing up to be doctors – there’s lots of women doctors. There wasn’t; we couldn’t find any.” In late 1978, many of the same people who had been involved in setting up the Well Woman Centre were instrumental in the opening of Contraceptives Unlimited on Harcourt Road. The shop assured customers that it was illegal to sell condoms but not to buy them: it sold

condoms at £1.50 per dozen. had to fight for contraception to be “When the police came in we freely available and people forget always thought we were going to get that.” done because it was against the law The reality of the Well Woman to sell condoms. But they’d arrive in today is quite different. The street their uniforms, buy the condoms and outside is practically empty on go back out,” Rees recalls of the approach. Nobody casts a second situation at the clinic. glance to those entering and leaving. A second Well Woman Centre The concerns of the day are trying to opened at Eccles Street in 1981 to meet the demand for appointments keep up with demand. There was so and dealing with the growing much demand for contraception in numbers of non-Irish clients. particular that in 1983 they installed “There are much more Polish condom vending machines. people and people from the Eastern However, the reality of gardaí Bloc in particular and in all fairness coming in to buy condoms changed if you go outside there you will see with the introduction of condom all of the different languages in the dispensers, and the centres received contraception lists – sometimes formal warnings. we’re short of the English ones. Sometimes the Sometimes they centres hit the bring a friend with “The 30 headlines for less them who speaks years from 1978 to better English as gritty reasons. In 1986, they well,” Rees says. 2008 weren’t all offered a She sees 17 clients vasectomy as a in the morning and charity concerts prize in a raffle 17 in the afternoon and contraband and in 1988 they in two three-hour celebrated their clinics, which condoms” 10-year amounts to about anniversary by 10 minutes of selling condoms and offering their counselling per client. medical services at 1978 prices. “It is tight but that’s what we’re “My mother-in-law said: ‘Thank expected to do.” god you didn’t take my name’ “You know we see absolutely because I was in the papers quite a everything, nothing shocks and if lot and then SPUC used to have they’re upset I say: ‘Don’t worry, I’ve placards outside saying ‘Don’t Go In’ seen it all before, it could happen to and you had to go through that to go a bishop.’” to work. From 1978 to now, Ireland The challenges for the Well has totally changed for women. We Woman, 30 years on, are still in

seeking an adequate provision of service. Once it was condoms and abortion counselling and now it’s HPV vaccines. The vaccine, if administered in time, can protect against cervical cancer. It costs about €600 in total, and the uptake at that price is, not surprisingly, low. However, Britain and Northern Ireland are already rolling out a programme of free vaccination to school-going girls. “You see, you won’t get HPV if you don’t have sex. Once they get around the idea that most women will have sex – because the thing is it has to be done before you’re sexually active – you’re talking about a very forward-thinking Health Minister to start it here because it costs quite a lot of money,” says Rees of the Irish situation. “I just think that people do not realise how this clinic changed the whole of not just female sexuality but the whole of society and its way of looking at it. There used to be marches and it was very vibrant at that time – we were fighting for women’s rights. And gradually it changed. But now it’s quite acceptable to come in here and people expect it is their right to have contraception – which it is. We do not just do contraception – we do sexually transmitted diseases, we do smears, breast examinations, premenstrual tension clinics, menopause clinics. If somebody has a problem they can come to us.”


That Constant Craving Cocaine may be the celebrity drug we keep still around, it’s just keeping a low profile. Ciarán addict


unk is not, like alcohol or weed, a means to increased enjoyment of life. Junk is not a kick. It is a way of life. - William S. Burroughs, 1953 “Tinfoil.” That’s how Ryan’s mother found out he was using. “She found scraps of the stuff under the bed. Seventeen I was. She was in bits for days after,” he says. He has been clean for six months now. He considers himself one of the lucky ones; his family stood by him through six years of on-off addiction. “I never injected. I only smoked,” he says. “I used to think that I wasn’t a junkie just because I didn’t use needles to get the stuff into me. You could go for years convincing

“I know people who go through that cycle their whole lives. Heroin is their life”


yourself you weren’t an addict.” Heroin addiction continues to ravage Irish communities and remains a constant scourge that has proven difficult to eradicate. “There is no rock bottom,” he remarks. “I’d get off the stuff. Get a job. Save some cash. Start again. Lose the job and repeat the cycle.” Every time he got off ‘the stuff’ he would convince himself it would be the last time. “It was just too easy. I know people who go through that cycle their whole lives. Heroin is their life. Nothing else matters.” Despite his experience, Ryan

hearing about, but heroin is Masterson speaks to a former

acknowledges that there are many whose stories of addiction are a lot darker than his own. The support of a loving family is what got him through. “I used to always think it could be worse. I could be on the streets, begging or sharing needles.” Ryan’s family have helped pay off a lot of debts that he has got himself into and for this he is extremely grateful, and sorry. “I can’t imagine what it was like for my parents. It’s like watching your son slowly kill himself and there’s nothing you can do about it.” He comes from a big family and it is obvious that they means a lot to him. He recalls an instance when his younger sister once walked in on him using. She asked him what he was doing. “I couldn’t think of anything to tell her. There was nothing I could say.” She left the room after an awkward pause. “I fell to the floor and broke down.” His mother was always the first one to notice if he was back using again. “She could see it in my eyes before anyone else. Every time I got back on the stuff I’d feel like I let my whole family down but always more so my Ma. I don’t know why, it was my Da who would fob off anybody looking for money at the door and he helped me with my debts.” Ryan notes that had his parents not

had the money to help pay his debts his story could have ended very differently. “I had loads of threats but luckily my parents bailed me out.” He doesn’t even attempt to estimate the amount of money they’ve given him to pay off people. After six years of a cycle of getting clean, then going back on heroin again, he feels that this time he might be successful. The first two months, he says, were the most painstaking and arduous of his life. In the initial two weeks after coming off – during which he refused methadone treatment – he would average about two hours’ sleep a night and developed a mild dependency on sleeping tablets, which he has since controlled. He is undoubtedly confident about his progress: “I just feel different about it this time. Whereas before I’d convince myself I was done, I knew deep down I didn’t want to stop but now I know I have to. I think its time to grow up. It’s strange though, I’ve been off it so long, it almost feels like the last few years were just a dream. I’ve completely detached myself from who I used to be.” He acknowledges that there is always a danger of lapsing. “It’s only natural for a little part of me to always crave heroin. Once you start you’ll always have that craving, the most important thing is knowing how to control it.” Every day for the rest of his life when Ryan wakes up, heroin will be the first thing he’ll think about. “You can never forget heroin. You can push it to the side of your mind, but you just have to keep it there.”

Hang the DJ


slap opinion

Ciara Norton laments the fact that radio’s gone Ga-Ga

his one goes out to Mary in Belmullet: your husband Tom just texted in to tell you he loves you. Thanks Tom, here’s Rod Stewart with ‘Maggie May’”. Radio these days is like attending a karaoke bar, a counselling appointment and a hairdresser all at once. Picture the scene: Tom and Mary are sitting in their kitchen, the roaring winds of Belmullet outside their window. They’ve tuned in to Today FM where Tim Kelly is spinning the ‘golden oldies’ of their youth. Tom picks up his phone and stealthily texts Tim – hi tim tom fr belmullet ere can u pls tell my wife mary dat I luv her tanx luv da show – and, grinning, sets the phone down. Moments later Tim reads out Tom’s text message and in doing so proclaims Tom’s love for Mary to the Today FM-listening world. Mary is in turn embarrassed and pleased: Tom really must love her if he’s willing to go to the trouble of texting a radio station about it. She hopes the kids didn’t hear. Every station is culpable. Since they realised the devotion listeners would show if you gave them an occasional mention on air the number of people who hi tim, tom fr regularly text belmullet ere can u radio pls tell my wife stations has mary dat I luv her rocketed. tanx luv da show The general public have never been in more control of their radio stations: they select the music, they keep an eye out for traffic on the N4, and offload their personal problems and complaints all the while believing that without them the station could not and would not function.

Tara had a problem. Her mother decided to tell the listeners of the Rick O’Shea mid-afternoon show on 2FM about Tara’s problem. Tara couldn’t find a job. Perhaps a problem for an employment agency? No, a problem for the radio gods. Rick enlisted the help of a recruitment expert and they talked to Tara live on air. Tara was in a rut. Tara was trying her best. Tara’s CV needed work. Tara needed help. Tara got help. A week later she was back with, you couldn’t make this stuff up, a job. Rick was ever so proud of Tara and Tara was keen to help others in her situation overcome their employment difficulties. The radio world was at peace; researchers everywhere were jumping back into their Batmobiles with smug smiles and swollen hearts of pride. Text messages didn’t always exist, strange but true. There was a time when radio stations did what they wanted. They hired experts to speak on discussion panels. No more. The radio station now has the advantage of instant market feedback: jaysus Ian dat song was brutal wats yer man on ? – and the public gain a sense of control and ownership of their preferred station. Radio shows that mingle chat and music regularly begin with the problems of a concerned listener who has contacted the host to complain about something. “Joanne from Lucan wrote in to us to complain about the lack of people who give up their seats on the train to her even though she’s visibly pregnant.” Cue a flurry of texts and calls from people who’ve been in a similar situation to Joanne, people who couldn’t care less about her plight and people who have advice for her. A single text or email leads to three hours of programming with very little research needed. The

personality hosting the show becomes little more than a detached voice repeating the thoughts – regardless of how biased or reactionary they are – of the Irish people. The time when you could avoid the skewed democracy of a phone-in show has passed. Like clockwork regular radio listeners knew when the nation’s dirty laundry would be aired so they tuned to another station when the misguided, misunderstood and misinformed spoke to Joe. The landscape of radio is now littered with these mines of hazardous material, there is no escape. hi ray just wonderin if u no who sings dat song on the kit kat ad? Its wreckin me head like. Tanx For every Liveline there’s a Fix-It Friday, a time to answer the questions posed to Ray D’Arcy on Today FM’s morning schedule solving mundane and unusual problems. What makes this rather helpful segment somewhat troubling is the amount of queries that could be dealt with by Google. It is baffling that people capable of texting or emailing a query to this show cannot use the simple search function. “And now a big hi to all the Murphys in Mullingar, your Dad texted in to say how much you love the show so hello to Phoebe, Jamie and Laura Murphy, thanks for listening!” In a world where there is not enough time for everyone to be famous for 15 minutes we make do with a shout out on Spin 103.8 instead.


A misunderstood mind

Movies have a reputation for sometimes being irresponsible in depicting fact. Ross Loftus takes a look at how Hollywood deals with schizophrenia



verybody remembers Charlie Baileygates and his schizophrenic alter ego Hank Evans in Me, Myself and Irene, right? Well, not exactly. Charlie, played by Jim Carrey, doesn’t suffer from schizophrenia. He suffers from a multiple personality disorder and the slapstick shenanigans and hilarity in the movie all stem from the conflict between these personalities. When he learns of his mental health issues, Charlie is told: “Doctors have diagnosed you as having a split personality. A schizo.” However, schizophrenia is an

altogether different and much more common illness than dissociative or multiple personality disorder. Schizophrenia is more a split from reality as opposed to split personalities. Sufferers find it hard to distinguish between the real and the imagined and often experience hallucinations. In the movie, Baileygates’ alter ego Hank is quite aggressive and this idea that people with schizophrenia are aggressive or prone to violence is yet another misconception about schizophrenia that gains credibility from movies like Me, Myself and Irene. This half-truth is repeated in

2000’s Donnie Darko, in which Donnie, a troubled teenager with schizophrenia, has a history of violent outbursts. The truth is that people with the illness are more likely to harm themselves rather than others out of fear and desperation and it is felt by many that a person with schizophrenia has more to fear from the general public than vice versa. There is a marginally greater risk of violence among people with schizophrenia than among the rest of the community, but this only manifests itself when the sufferer is experiencing severe, untreated

symptoms. Donnie Darko highlights the fact that people with schizophrenia experience hallucinations as opposed to split personalities and

“Arguably the best movie depiction of the effects of schizophrenia was A Beautiful Mind in 2001”

Donnie is visited on several occasions by Frank, a creepy, mansized, fluffy bunny. In 1999, Fight Club continued the theme of hallucinations but the movie also linked the illness to extreme organised violence. Visual hallucinations however, occur in only 15 per cent of cases of the illness whereas auditory hallucinations are much more common, with 50 per cent of sufferers experiencing them. In Fight Club the symptoms of schizophrenia are also interwoven with those of people with multiple personality disorder, yet again muddying the waters and confusing the issue. Arguably the best movie depiction of the effects of schizophrenia was A

“a person with schizophrenia has more to fear from the general public than vice versa”

Beautiful Mind in 2001. The movie dealt with the true story of mathematician John Nash’s

experiences of the illness. Although suffering from hallucinations, the viewer never sees Nash taking on the persona of the voices or characters he sees or hears. This positive and responsible depiction highlights the symptoms of the illness while compassionately illustrating how sufferers struggle to cope with it. The fact that Nash eventually received a Nobel Prize for his academic work after suffering from schizophrenia for many years is yet another positive aspect of the movie. According to Schizophrenia Ireland, 25 per cent of people with the illness will make a full recovery, with 40 per cent experiencing some recurring episodes; the remaining 35 per cent of sufferers will unfortunately

experience long term difficulties with spells in hospital becoming a regular part of their lives. With the correct medication, symptoms can be suppressed, enabling people with schizophrenia to get on with their lives. One in four people suffer from mental or behavioural difficulties while new schizophrenia cases in this country occur at a rate of 15 per 100,000 of population each year . The illness affects 1 in every 100 people in Ireland in some shape or form during their lives. Public awareness of the illness and its symptoms is increasing and responsible portrayals of schizophrenia in movies can assist

this enormously. The four Oscars that A Beautiful Mind won are a testament to the fact that reasonable and balanced

“Schizophrenia is more a split from reality as opposed to split personalities”

Me Myself and Irene and A Beautiful Mind - two differing Hollywood portrayals of schizophrenia portrayal of schizophrenia can be immensely enlightening, entertaining and commercially viable. But, unfortunately, cheap laughs and distortions of the truth are also extremely profitable in the movie business.


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Can you feel the heat?


n the Chinese calendar, 2008 is the Year of the Rat - but, worldwide, it has to be the year of sustainable living. From fashion to home heating, disposability is out, and we’re finding ourselves searching for ways to exist indefinitely. But, for most of us, the Toyota Prius is just not a viable option, and ecologically-sound washing-up liquids are few and far between. So what to do? Start small to think big. Sustainable living won’t come about, for any of us, in a day, or a week; it’s all about the baby steps that work to get us closer says Rosemary Mac Cabe 1. Recycle

Or, even better, re-use.

Your green bins are there for a reason – but, rather than cause recycling

plants to use up valuable energy, try to re-use where at all possible. Old,

shabby clothes (that can’t be donated to charity) double up as polishing or

floor cloths; plastic food containers as water baths for plants; old make-up

containers as travel pots for shampoos and conditioners.

2. Use less water

This is an old, and obvious, chestnut, but it makes sense, and people

continue to ignore it. Turn the tap off

when you’re brushing your teeth, only fill the kettle as much as you need,

and take shorter showers. Another

very current issue is the lack of free

time in our hectic modern lifestyles – the less time you shower, the more time you’ll have for other, more enjoyable, activities. 3. Buy less

Magazines and newspapers don’t,

generally, print four-page spreads about the advantages of non-

consumption; their advertisers

wouldn’t like it and, frankly, glossies exist as a blueprint of aspirational living – showing us what we can’t

have and making us want it. But

buying less is one very major and

simple way of lessening our carbon

footprints and lengthening the life of Old Mother Earth. Cosmetics,

clothes, magazines, newspapers – we all probably have too many of each.

Use the ones you have and only buy

what you need. And when you’re done with what you have, say, books or

clothing, swap it with someone who wants it. Be warned: if you swap

clothing, you may regret it, and there’s no backsies on swapped jumpers. 4. Take a moment

When you have time off, and you’re thinking of what to do: go to the

cinema, go to Dundrum Town Centre, go into town, go for a drive… Why not take a chance, and do nothing? Sit

down, spend some time alone, with

yourself, your thoughts, and a good

book. For starters, We Need to Talk

About Kevin is a good one for getting you really involved, and if you have more time, Michael Chabon’s The

Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay could fill a whole week. No

carbon emissions, no consumption,

and, probably, some brain expansion. How’s that for sustainability?


The Dáil denial of death by suicide



Christina Finn talks to Geoff Day of the National Office for Suicide Prevention and Maureen Bolger of Teen-Line about the lack of funding for suicide prevention

think that it may be due to the changes that are happening in society, for example the growth of the Celtic Tiger. People feel left behind if they can’t move with the growth of the economy and also the expectations and the pressure to succeed is huge.” So says Geoff Day, Director of the National Office for Suicide Prevention on the subject of why suicide has become one of the highest killers of men in Ireland. Although fewer females die by suicide, both sexes have experienced a rapid increase in suicide deaths since the 1970s. The number of suicide deaths now surpasses those caused by road traffic accidents, year on year. The Action on Suicide Alliance has called on the Government to immediately address the issue of suicide funding. A silent procession led by a lone bagpiper took place in Dublin City Centre recently, in which bereaved relatives made their way to Dáil Eireann to present a mandate demanding the Government allocate a minimum of €10 million for each of the next five years to be used toward suicide prevention. They also want many of the promised recommendations from the National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention 2005-2014 to be finally implemented. John Saunders, Chairman of Action on Suicide Alliance, says: “Since the formation of the Alliance, we have been campaigning for the Government to take immediate action and to address this issue, but to date nothing has been done.” Maureen Bolger, founder of TeenLine, lost her son Darren to suicide in 2003. She said she was horrified to find that there was so little support for young people in

maintaining their mental health. health has to be erased in Ireland if Maureen decided to put her we are to stop death by suicide. experience of Darren’s death into Maureen highlights that for all the something positive, hence the money that is invested in road safety foundation of Teen-Line Ireland, a campaigns only a fraction of that is helpline for teenagers who need to given towards the promotion of talk manned by volunteers. “Teenmental health, even though more Line Ireland is being inundated with people die by suicide than road calls recently especially around exam accidents in Ireland. time. From December 2006 to “People think if you don’t talk December 2007 we received 11,965 about suicide it doesn’t happen. calls.” Unfortunately there is more death by Like many other bereaved parents suicide than road traffic accidents Maureen says that more has to be and there are more road safety ad done and she feels campaigns. They are that schools are where and upsetting but Some principals gory the action should take it makes you more place. “Certainly we argue that talking aware getting into your have to have a car. A simple subtle about suicide will message I think would different type of education in schools an impact.” lead to suicides in make today. Young people Geoff Day says that need to be made the ‘Your Mental the school. aware and have things Health’ campaign is a The research openly discussed. step in the right There is no point in direction. It is “the shows the waiting until they are first campaign of its complete older. Young people kind ever and we will need to be listened keep running it. This is opposite to.” a campaign that is here Maureen argues that to stay and it certainly we need to get over the idea that is making a difference. I think the talking about suicide leads to suicide campaign is needed but not in the – which she says many schools same way that drink driving ad believe. “Some principals we have campaigns are. It would be totally found think that if you invite groups inappropriate in our opinion to have like ourselves to talk to the kids, we a hard-hitting campaign. A softly are putting ideas into their heads.” campaign is needed to encourage Geoff Day agrees: “Some principals people to seek help.” argue that talking about suicide will It seems we never hear the end of lead to suicides in the school. The driving safely and reducing speed on research shows the complete our roads. €1.68 billion was opposite. It shows that if you talk announced for the National Roads about it is likely to stop suicide. Programme for 2008. On Bank Talking about suicide does not holidays the Gardai are out in force provoke suicide, unless you report to protect the public and prevent the detail.” road accidents, but there is not the Both Geoff and Maureen believe same attention or funding towards that the stigma surrounding mental suicide prevention services.

Photos by Gary Fox Pictured, L-R: John McWilliams, Ann McGuire and Rita Farrelly

The HSE has reportedly told the National Office for Suicide Prevention that they must make do with €4.5 million this year, the same as they received last year, which support groups argue is simply not good enough. “Since the establishment of the office in 2005, it has carried out a number of initiatives aimed at reducing rates of suicide in Ireland, improving awareness and educating relevant people how best to deal with this important matter. The HSE National Office of Suicide Prevention will continue to roll out initiatives and activities during 2008,”said a HSE spokesperson. This mere €4.5 million is meant to reduce the spiralling numbers of

death by suicide. The Department of Health says that the ‘Reach Out’ programme is what will reduce these numbers however they refuse to fund it properly. “Reach Out was launched in 2005, the first phase of the programme, we said would cost €5.5 million per annum and so far we have €3.5 million per annum, so in the first three years we have been 2 million short. We have made this clear to Department of Health but for some reason they decided not to give any extra funding this year.” The underfunded fight against suicide goes on.

MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES AWARE are an organization dedicated to helping people who suffer from depression and those close to them.They also run weekly meetings and support groups. More info at Call: 1890 303 302 (10 am – 10 pm seven days) THE SAMARITANS are a non judgemental and non directive listening service. More info at Call: 1890 60 90 90 Email: jo@samaritans@org TEEN-LINE More info online at Call: 1800 833 634 (Wednesday 3 p.m. -6 pm; Thursday, Friday, Saturday 9 pm -12 midnight; Sundays 8 pm – 11 pm).


Tied up by Gary Fox


O’MALLEY INTERSEARCH O'Malley InterSearch is a recognised leader in providing Executive Search, Selection and Human Resources consultancy services to business leaders.


Photo by SinĂŠad Bevan


arts CONTENTS Slow Set Rebecca McAdam plumps for the return of the slow 30 Gallery Gazing Ciara Norton relishes Caravaggio’s every brush 38 Further Afield Your guide to music festivals beyond the Emerald 42


Save the last dance

In a music world dominated by hip-hop and R&B, the slow dance passed away without a wake, Rebecca McAdam advocates a revival



ulticolour lights circle the floor. The music is loud enough for there to be no reason for awkward conversation. Eye-contact is a must. Some have honed their body language to an art; others skulk slowly back to lean against perspiring walls. It’s 1960, or maybe 1980. It could even be 1990. The only distinguishing features are the cringe-worthy fashion statements, and the oh so regrettable hairstyles. It’s that time of the night. The end of the latest chart topper is merging into some old classic. The bass begins; a recognisable hum. U2’s ‘With or Without You’ fills the floor in seconds, and by-standers scan the room in search of that stranger from earlier. At one time, the boys lined up on one side, and the girls, the other. The Prince Charmings then made their death march across to their chosen Cinderellas in the hope of one last romantic clinch, before the sobering national anthem triggered on the ugly lights. Romances were made and broken, first loves bloomed, passions flared, and soulmates found each other right there on the old carpeted floor of the community centre, the GAA club, or the village disco. Over time modern culture began to wreak havoc with what was an apparently harmless (although regularly saucy) tradition. Regardless, it was still that one excuse to get upclose and personal with the object of your affection. But then ... it died. There was no funeral, no wake, nothing. It was celebrated and remembered at weddings, and nostalgically talked about between friends, but nobody realised until recently that something is missing, something is lost. And this has lead to a possible resurrection. Potential sock drawer co-owners are found in very different ways nowadays. Shoe polish and hair gel are no longer necessary. Google the word “dating” and thousands of results appear. No dry ice, no smoke, no queuing for the toilets. You don’t even have to see each other. Old fashioned romance may have been buried alongside the slow set, but it has been lying dormant, waiting for its moment. People of all ages are now campaigning for its return. But there are reasons other than nostalgia as to why it’s now a hot topic. Kilkenny city has welcomed back the slow set with open arms as part of a new initiative to encourage people to enjoy Kilkenny responsibly. A 15 minute chilled period is to be introduced before closing-time, alongside CCTV cameras, external lighting, and more taxi ranks. Other nightclubs have also been testing the waters to see how people react. Ruby’s nightclub in Waterford City gave people the chance to vote on the slow set in a six-week text campaign as part of their ten year anniversary. Manager David Fitzpatrick says, “It gives guys the opportunity to ask a girl out for a dance – in the old fashioned way.” It seems technology and the modern way of life have taken away from what were once simple pleasures. Bringing back the slow set could mean happy endings all around.

Photos by John D McHugh

The Glass Warrior


Gary Fox talks to photojournalist John D McHugh about the war in Iraq, embedding and getting shot in Afghanistan

pring heralds a new season in Afghanistan, the bitter snow begins to melt and the harsh conditions of winter subside to reveal the rugged terrain of the country. It also signals the start of fighting season.

John D McHugh times his returns to Afghanistan to coincide exactly with the start of this season. Since he began in 2002, John D has shot thousands of people of all ages, nationalities and races. However, his weapon of choice is unusual, and is made by Canon. In April 2007, John D embedded with US troops in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan. He had just begun what he anticipated would be a period of six months with the troops. A routine day turned into a well executed ambush on US troops and along with them their Irish photojournalist. John D was shot and almost fatally injured.

Spend time talking to him and he will speak for hours about his work, the region, the politics and his experiences – but is hesitant when it comes to speaking about that day in May 2007. “I don’t want to be known as the guy who got shot,” he replies almost awkwardly when asked about the incident. He spent five days in intensive care at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan before being flown to an American military hospital in Germany, spending time there before eventually flying back to the London where, incredibly, he was back on his feet in three months. The doctor treating him said, “It’s not a miracle he’s alive, it’s a series of miracles.” After being shot in May, he returned to Afghanistan for a time in November, just six months after almost being killed. To label John D as a war photographer would be to ignore his

extensive work pre-Afghanistan. Originally from County Laois, he spent time living in New York before moving to London in 2002, where he began working for a small London based photography agency. His rise has been nothing short of meteoric; talent coupled with a tireless work ethic has seen his work appear in publications such as the New York Times, Newsweek, and the Times (UK) where his work was shown in an extensive magazine feature. John D first went to Afghanistan as a staff photographer for Agence France-Presse and his blog was originally conceived to help his family and friends keep in touch and understand what he was doing and experiencing. He never described himself as a writer but in the course of writing his blog he began to shape and mould his style into that of a very


accomplished foreign correspondent. So much so that he will now be combining his photography with print media. John D is now travelling to Afghanistan on very different terms from his last freelance expedition. He has just signed a significant deal with the Guardian to provide not only photography but audio, slideshows, articles and film. He is, undoubtedly, combining tasks in a way that might make some old-style journalists uncomfortable. “The whole idea of this deal is for me to work as a truly multimedia journalist.” The deal is part of a special project by the paper and will be one of the Guardian’s major projects for the impending year. They have shown total confidence in his experience as he has shown himself capable of operating in such fluid and difficult conditions as Afghanistan and also Iraq. John D acknowledges the unique nature of their agreement: “One of the difficulties is I don’t know what I am going to get from day to day.” It is clear John D is one of the most

pioneering photojournalists working today. While having respect and admiration for old publications and traditions, he is continually exploring new avenues for his work. He says: “The likes of Life magazine is not around anymore, it would be great if it was but it’s not. Appreciate it for what it was and move on.”

“I don’t want to be known as the guy who got shot”

Such views are in opposition with traditionalists who believe the clear divide should remain between journalists and photographers but he believes to become successful and even just survive in the modern media environment journalists must now become one-stop media centres providing photography, print, audio and video. One of the new media John D is exploring is audio slideshows. He put together a stunning and moving piece with images and the audio from the memorial service for two soldiers, Captain David A Boris and

Sergeant Adrian E Hike, who were killed by an explosive device in Paktika Province, Afghanistan. Obviously soldiers cannot attend the funerals so they arrange a memorial service to be held in their honour where their colleagues can pay their last respects. Compassion for soldiers is emerging as a theme in John D’s work. Speaking openly, he says, “the more I do it the more flak I get – it is not humanly possible to be objective, yet you must strive to keep your personal opinions in check to operate as a functioning journalist.” His honesty and candour are refreshing when taken in the context of the environment he operates in. He knows that showing a human side to US troops is often difficult for people to accept as it’s not the commonly disseminated line of the media. He is not afraid to say things that may be construed as controversial but he is giving accounts of his experience and events he knows to be true from his time there. A United States public affairs officer sent out a directive to every

officer and soldier in a combat brigade who was being sent to Afghanistan to read and look at the slideshow about the memorial service. They were struck, it seems, by the decisiveness and raw power of his photography and writing. When asked about this he says: “As a photographer you must be an artist but as a photojournalist you must be a journalist.” While speaking at the University of Limerick in April 2008, John D received stinging criticism from the audience, with certain members attacking him for his apparent US bias. However, most poignantly, at the end of the talk, a shy young girl approached him and thanked him. “I am Afghan,” she said. She appreciated the risk and danger he undertook to tell the story of her country but most importantly she agreed with how John D approached his work. To him this was the most positive feedback he could have been given. “I can only talk about what I’ve seen,” he says. John D will talk about

his eyewitness coverage of events; he knows he can guarantee the accuracy of his experiences but does not claim to know every event in the history of Afghanistan nor does he claim to have the solution to the situation there. He is in the unusual situation of having been embedded with US, Canadian and British troops during his five visits to Afghanistan. “It is a media war and they are connected to the modern world,” is how John D explains the media savvy of Al Qaeda fighters. He has also covered the conflict in Iraq where recently the coalition forces recovered documents detailing the media plan of Al Qaeda in Iraq. The level of media awareness and utilisation is shocking. The documents contain specific instructions in relation to attacking troops and follow the theme of there being no reason to carry out an attack, unless it can be recorded or photographed and disseminated online. When John D arrives in Afghanistan he does not just have to

deal with the harsh conditions and the threat of insurgents but also the suspicion of the soldiers with whom he is embedded. Each time he must earn the trust of the men with whom he will eat and sleep and upon whom he will rely in potentially deadly situations. He feels journalists who only go to a country life Afgnaistan once tend to misrepresent the story, or the people there. “A lot of these guys are only going once or twice, it’s to tick a box –‘did some war’– they don’t care whether they tick people off as they are probably never going back,” he says with more than a hint of distaste. It only further serves to alienate troops who already have healthy suspicion of the media. When asked of his plans for the future in a profession where a lot of luminaries have paid the ultimate price with their lives he is aware of the tempting of fate. “I am averse to say I am going to cover Afghanistan until it’s finished as I feel it may be a bit of a jinx.”


Finding Common Ground at Studio 468 I


We’ve often heard of the lonely and tortured world of the artist. Órla Sheils learns it doesn’t have to be that way. Community arts are alive and kicking on the South Circular Road

t is late Friday afternoon, the South Circular Road is busy with cars and the sun is starting to create shadows on the pavement. Inside the entrance hall of St Andrew’s Community Centre in Rialto, the light creeps through the open door and uncovers the cracked paint usually hidden in the darkness of the former church building. Siobhán Geoghegan, artistic director of ‘the Common Ground’, goes down a narrow corridor and within seconds, there is an ambush of sunlight as she enters Studio 468. The room conforms to what you might imagine an artist’s studio to be like. The table is splattered in paint with a sweeping brush poised against it, the windows are large and modern, and there is a door leading out onto a small courtyard. The studio carries remnants of past and current projects: on the wall is a strange array of splattered tea bags, and in the corner is a stack of empty Barry’s Tea boxes. This is an airy retreat in such a confined edifice, perhaps much like the presence of community arts within the Irish

artistic landscape. Studio 468 is the brain child of the Common Ground in association with the Rialto Development Association. This is a creative space where artists can work, but in return they are asked to choose a community group that they would like to engage with during their residency. “We say to them, you can have this space rent free but in exchange you must give something back,” Geoghegan says. Such is the mission behind the Common Ground, an arts development charity which was set up in 1998 to work in the Canal communities of Inchicore, Rialto and Bluebell in south Dublin City. The charity aims to use the arts as a means of enriching the community through the connections established between the artist and the area. Studio 468 is just one example of a variety of projects with which the charity is involved. Geoghegan is passionate about the need for the Common Ground’s work in this area: “I think we have to look at cultural rights and entitlement,” she says.

“We have to look at who really has access to the arts in this age after the tiger boom.” Since it opened in 2003, Studio 468 has offered the opportunity for local people to explore their own identity and that of the community while working with the artists. This year established artists Anne-Maree Barry and Terry Blake are resident in the studio and are working with the Rialto Twirlers, a majorette group, and the Rialto Youth Project. Geoghegan suggests that traditionally in Ireland the type of citizen that would have had access to the arts would have been from the middle or upper classes of society. She feels the Common Ground is changing this: “we look at giving a voice that gets reflected in an arts based experience or through a relationship with an artist. It seems to balance the scales, there is another cultural story going on here.” In the Canal communities, the Common Ground are dealing with art in a very urban environment and in communities that are changing

rapidly. Geoghegan says that this can result in a lot of tensions and conflicts on an individual and collective basis –“but what we try to figure out with a lot of these groups and with these artists is how do you create something together that is quite meaningful and that explores your voice so that you can be part of the cultural canon of Ireland.” Despite this claim, the organisation has yet to deal directly with the growing issue of multiculturalism in the area. Geoghegan says however that it is currently discussing the best way to approach this matter. She says that “putting people into different groups polarises them. It’s more about trying to give people opportunities to come together rather than being separate.” Recent artists have worked with the Rialto Community Drug team, the Rialto Day Care Centre for elderly people, the Fatima Homework Club and the Rialto and Ferrini Youth Clubs. “Some have said that working here influences their art on a political

level or on a creative level or that they approach their work differently, and some of those artists have been very challenged by their experiences.” Geoghegan says the Common Ground look for the type of artists who are open to the conversations “where you get to negotiate or challenge each other”. They will be issuing a new ‘call’ for artists to take up residency in September. Currently, this is a six to eight month contract, although the artists continue working with their chosen groups long after this period. The organisation are considering introducing a year long placement which would give the artist more time to work from the studio. Prospective artists should consider that there are issues which affect the community artist that do not concern those in ‘normal’ artistic circles. In fact, Geoghegan says that one of the biggest concerns is finding the balance between the artistic process and the youth or community work development process.

“An artist often ends up being a mentor, facilitator, teacher, the artist takes on these different roles, and sometimes the art gets put into these roles and sometimes it doesn’t, so it’s a constant process of negotiation.” The studio itself seems to be negotiating its own path in the community. Just a few minutes from the studio lies the Dolphins’ Barn Community Garden, a product of the studio’s former visual artist Seoidin O’Suillivan. The garden, like the studio, is surprising; they are like windows into this unknown arts landscape. It is one which we hear little about. Geoghegan says that for the Common Ground it is about “trying to find that balance between those who think they are the purveyors of cultural wisdom and those who have another cultural wisdom or another piece to add to that cultural wisdom so that they get to get heard as well.”

Anne-Maree is one of the current resident artists of Studio 468. She is currently working with the Rialto Twirlers, a majorette group. The project is an introduction into how the group source their music and also aims to help them to locate new forms of music to work with. She is also documenting their journey on film through the year as they compete in various competitions. On Studio 468 and being a community artist: “Before I was looking at empty spaces and the narratives that come from them, but now I am bringing human figures into those narratives. Studio 468 is my ‘headspace.’”

Terry Blake works alongside AnneMaree in Studio 468. He studied in Limerick before receiving a Higher Diploma in Community Arts Education from NCAD. Terry is working with young men from the Fatima area on the transition the area has made over the last six years. He is making a documentary on the changes from the old high storey flat complex to the new housing, and the social and personal issues which that brings with it. On being a community artist: “it is challenging and interesting.” Pictured above is a car door from St Michael’s ‘Skanger My Irish Banger’ project.

Seoidín was a resident artist in Studio 468 last year. “I found the studio a really good working space, but one of the most challenging things an as artist was that it is in a community centre. This is a very collective space but it’s also the artist’s space.” On working with the Rainbow Neighbourhood Group and setting up the Dolphin’s Barn Community Food Garden, she says: “The Community Gardens are places where people are able to grow food together. They provide a social space where neighbours are able to meet and plant and share in a collective activity.”

Photos courtesy of the Common Ground


Paperback writer


SK: Did you always want to be a writer? SRB: I wanted to be a writer from the time I was five, but I have to admit that my commitment has not been lifelong: before that I passionately longed to be a ballerina. SK: How long did you work on The Demon’s Lexicon? SRB: I came up with the idea for The Demon’s Lexicon in summer 2006, and I finished the book in January 2007. Of course that wasn't the end – in March I signed with my agent, who I found – from her blog on the internet ( and queried in a late-night fit of impulsiveness which I bitterly regretted the next morning but have not regretted since! We revised the book for a few months and then it was submitted one Tuesday in July. I was all prepared to wait for ages (publishing is a slooow business) so of course, life being what it is, I got an offer on the Thursday. That turned into a bidding war between four publishing houses though, so I did end up waiting a month. But for a very nice reason! SK: What kind of research did you do for the book? SRB: I made Wikipedia my slave! Ahem. No, I did find out Sumerian beliefs about demons (that demons

A 23 angded BrennKailliney, Sarfarom h R es n is pa of y of a neew into tohueng writersrtm w novel, Tworld of fic aking inroaave recen tion. ds he D er deb deal wtliy snapped eumon’s LexiH ut hittingth Simon anp in a majocron, was trilogy the shelve d Schuster six–figure througabout two yos in 2009. Thand will be becaus h England ung broth e fantasy charm, e their moth by a magic ers, pursue name h looks set t er has sto ian’s circl d e len a po o be a h as alrea and som d i w t y . e R r m fu e a e EmeraelIrish paperdse The Washs Brennan’sl slap’s d Isle’s an are hailin ington Pos up withSinéad Keswer to JK Rg her as the t Sarah a ogh rece owling. EasterC on Lites she preparntly caught ed fo rary Lon inspirdaon and discCuonventionrinthe tion, pu ssed he b l i c a e tion anr xhilara were made from d tion fire and humans from earth, for instance) from the internet, but I also clawed through lots of dusty books. And I try to take a trip to the places where I set my book. I had to do a pub crawl through Salisbury (for purely literary purposes I assure you) and I was mistaken for a health inspector. SK: Do you write every day? SRB: Some days I must confess that when it's raining, I spend most of my morning writing in bed. It's totally work – albeit comfy work in my pyjamas. I am always dressed with errands done and word counts to show my flatmates when they come home, because otherwise how ashamed I would be. SK: Do you usually base your characters on real people, at least initially? SRB: No, I’d be freaked out people would find out and never speak to me again! No, I make them up so I can get properly fond of them. Plus, I add far more attractive gentlemen than currently exist in my life – and attractive ladies too, just to be fair. I do give characters real people’s names sometimes.

I have a character named after a friend in The Demon’s Lexicon who died in the first draft, and who got a reprieve in the revisions. I think she was a bit relieved about that... SK: The Demon’s Lexicon was sold as a trilogy. Do you prefer to work with recurring characters or are you interested in single narratives? SRB: Well, my characters are like my children – I want them to go away and shut up, but sometimes they don't. No– I’m kidding. Working with recurring characters is great because you can get fond of them and the readers can too, but recurring characters only work if you have other stories to tell about them. We’ve all seen books where the writer goes on because the series is popular but obviously has no more new stories to tell, and in that case definitely best to go for new characters in a new story. I’m certainly interested in single narratives as well.

SK: Fantasy is often overlooked as a genre. How do you feel about that? SRB: I don't know how overlooked JK Rowling feels, for instance... Lots of genre fiction is looked down on, though, it’s true – and it’s an enormous shame, especially since Dickens and Shakespeare were not at all literary and highbrow in their day. (And Shakespeare for one often wrote fantasy.) The most important thing is what the readers enjoy and not what the critics say, but sure, it’d be nice to see genre fiction get the recognition I think it deserves. SK: What would you consider to be the most rewarding part of an author’s life? SRB: That would definitely be the mornings in bed. I am avoiding the sappy answer, which is the true one. I love writing more than anything else in the world, and getting to do it for a living (at least for a little while) is the most fantastic thing I can imagine. Plus, it leaves you flexible enough to travel – you can write anywhere. The most rewarding part of my author life is simply getting to be an author. SK: How much do you think the author should be involved in the road to publication? SRB: The author definitely has a role to play and should get a say, I think – if their cover induces seizures, this should be prevented! Still, the publisher is not only the one paying but the one with the expertise and experience selling books. So while it’s nice for them to listen to the author a bit (and I might get a chance to help choose my cover model for the UK and Irish edition at least) I do think the final decision should rest with them. SK: Do you think there are ever reasons why good books don’t get published? SRB: Well, what’s good is

subjective. In the end it’s just one editor's view of a book, and nobody knows what will hit big next. I do think that if people had realised the potential of fantasy earlier Harry Potter would’ve been snapped up, but it worked out pretty well for JK Rowling this way. SK: How do you feel about movie adaptations? SRB: I love some movie adaptations, and of course things have to be changed when a book is made into a movie – it’s simply a different medium. That said, sometimes movies go too far. Susan Cooper’s excellent series The Dark Is Rising was made into a truly horrible movie last year, which mysteriously featured an evil twin in a snow globe. SK: Are there particular books and authors who have influenced you? SRB: I love Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope, though perhaps their influence may not be immediately apparent in a fantasy novel. The thing they have in common with fantasy authors that I love, like Diana Wynne Jones, is that their characters are very real, that they can make everything believable and that they are funny and seem to have a clear-sighted but ultimately positive view of people. SK: How do you feel about writers becoming celebrities in their own right? SRB: Weren’t writers the first celebrities, really? Byron was a rock star before they were rock stars, and he got all the fame, luxuries and women that actors and rock stars get today. I think that’s wonderful, and if someone decides to ply me with fame, luxuries and women, I will have no objection at all. On second thought, I might let someone else have my share of the women.

Photo by Roy Esmond


The Caravaggio-ists Ciara Norton whiles away the hours in front of the National Gallery of Ireland’s most famous resident



e’s in my seat. Again. I walk slowly around, feigning an interest in other exhibits. Then I come back. This time eye contact is made. There’s a flicker of recognition in his eyes but no movement. A stand-off. I sit beside him on the bench and turn so that our bodies face the same way, inches from each other. I look around his head, resting my elbow on the varnished wood and there it is. The reason for being here, always the reason. Calm washes over me. Now it is manageable. His head obscures part of the view, but that can be borne. Tourists chatter in the corner but don’t break the spell. Minutes, perhaps hours, pass and he leaves. I

created, what humanity has presented to him as real life. To loiter in front of this painting more often than is considered normal is not so much a mystery as it is an inexplicable hobby. My childhood was not spent in hushed silence as my parents

“It is violent and cruel; the

painting looks like it may, at any time, hurtle from the canvas and into another world”

dragged me from gallery to gallery. What little knowledge and love I have for Art was learned on my own terms through occasional encounters with the classics. I stood before Michelangelo’s David with a seminar’s worth of ‘Renaissance Art History’ behind me and could do nothing but stare. My critical faculties fail me when genius crosses my path, there is no relationship between Art and me, rather I let Art do what it must with my emotions while I, sponge-like, absorb everything and anything it throws my way. The love affair with Caravaggio began in Rome. Thirsty, irritable and numbed by fatigue I stood, a wrong turn from the Pantheon, outside the S. Luigi dei Francesi church. I checked my guidebook to see what this small church had to offer and read that it housed three Caravaggios. Three. Inside they hung in the far corner of the church, easily identifiable behind the baseball caps and day-glo colours

of tourism. The crowd, an object lesson in heedless disregard of the sternest edicts, took pictures with flash to their hearts content. I stood, enthralled. “Spiritual” isn’t the best word to use but it’s the only one that comes to mind. Since then, like an occasional junkie – a weekend user – I have days when I need a fix. Recently a friend joined the club. She felt she needed time on the Caravaggio bench. She was alone and happy to be so. She didn’t hear him approaching. “You’re one of them,” a voice whispered. “Huh?” “One of them, you just come down to see this painting, ignore all of the others, you’re just here for him.” “You mean there’s a group of us?” “Oh yeah, you’re all the same, come straight through to here, relax in front of it.” “Oh.” His words were not a great surprise. She had noticed the same faces in that same area before, but she placed faith in coincidence. Knowing she wasn’t alone was eerily comforting and weird at the same time. Looking around, there they are: the student with his iPod earphones dripping from his collar, battered satchel at his side, his pocket vibrating from the phone he seldom turns off and the older woman on a break from her home, her children, and the concerns of everyday life. In the reserved silence of the gallery people can be alone with their thoughts. You can stare at that painting, looking beyond it until the only place your eyes are focusing is inside yourself. Nobody will bother you in a gallery. Nobody will try to sell you coffee, your phone is off and the constant hum of city noises is a different world. For a moment you’re standing against that current, your hands are clasped and everything makes sense. “Club” isn’t the best word to use but it’s the only one that comes to mind.

Photos by Gary Fox

slide to his spot – still warm – and now it’s all mine. Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ has one of the most famous stories in the art world behind it. It hung in the sitting room of a Jesuit residence in Dublin collecting layers of varnish and decades of dust. Everyone, including the National Gallery’s donor, understood it to be a copy. The original painting was considered lost until someone noticed this incredible “copy” and after much speculation and consternation from groups that still consider it an excellent forgery, it was declared the original The Taking of Christ. The painting is on indefinite loan to the National Gallery of Ireland where it hangs today, free of charge for the public to view. Though religious in its subject matter there is something unorthodox about this painting. Caravaggio broke rules when he began his career, and nowhere is this more apparent than in The Taking of Christ. Instead of the models used by other painters of his era, Caravaggio took to the streets and placed ordinary people into extraordinary situations, immortalising them. Little that was ugly or unpleasant about the human condition bothered him. For Caravaggio, rebellious in both art and lifestyle, to pretend an “ideal” beauty existed was contemptible, at odds with his determination to paint what was true about life for the average Italian of his time. The painting itself is a study in human emotion: a wan, almost skeletal Christ faces a current of people pushing and shoving against him. It is violent and cruel; the painting looks like it may, at any time, hurtle from the canvas and into another world. Near the base are two clasped hands, those of Christ. Though the world of the painting pushes him savagely, he has resigned himself to his pain and uses no force against them. His life is what it is; there is little one can do to prevent fate taking control. In the corner what is believed to be a selfportrait of the artist himself holds a lamp and watches what he has


Watch your step by Lauren Crothers


Member of the European University Association

Offering graduate education & professional,career-focused research opportunities



School of Art, Design & Printing MA Professional Design Practice

Subject Areas: • intelligent media content and technologies • geospatial imaging • social software • migration, transculturalism & documentary practice • ethnography, cultural studies & creative practice • gender, sexuality and the law • diversity and equality issues • juvenile crime and youth justice • media, technologies & civil society • early childhood care and education • higher education policy • social care/alternative care • practice-based research in visual, performing & media arts • music performance, composition & public exhibition

Conservatory of Music & Drama MMus/PgDip (Performance) Classical, Traditional, Jazz School of Languages MA sa Ghaeilge Fheidhmeach School of Media MA Digital Media Technologies MA International Journalism MA Journalism MA Media Studies (p/t) MA Public Relations MA Public Affairs and Political Communication School of Social Sciences & Law MA Child, Family and Community Studies MA Criminology Postgraduate Diploma in Law MA Law

Further information: MASTERS PROGRAMMES Office of Graduate Studies Dublin Institute of Technology T: (0)1 402 3481/3465 E: W:

DOCTORAL STUDY Dr Brian O’Neill Head of Research Faculty of Applied Arts T: (0)1 402 3481/3465 E: IT’S A STEP CLOSER TO THE REAL WORLD

It’s that time of year again. Put on your wellies and your over sized sunglasses and embrace the festival season. slap contributors give their taste of a few of the best festivals to check out if you want to follow the music fur ther afield… I got h Tuesday ome from G la afternoo the com n and sw stonbury on forts of a ore to n ind ev From th e vanta oor plumbing e er leave ge poin ver again see that to G . experien lastonbury 200 f time I can no w ce. Arriv 7 was an the heav ing on T amazing h y over th clouds should h ursday afternoo e n a didn’t; t days and nigh ve cast a shado ts ahea w he lineu d b pw Iggy and the Stoo as just too go ut they od. Bjor Lashes, ges, Mo de k, P Who. Th atrick Wolf an st Mouse, Bat fo d, of co r e sun w a u perfect festival s not altogethe rse, The r momen shin-de ep mud t was s absent, a , t an s Detectiv u es found n shining, as T ding in h Leaving an army e Pigeon o o mess, w n Monday morn f new follower ea s. in were los ring a blanket b g I was a broke t in the n e c a u se m m in the c omfort ilieu and when y clothes ensconc of Brist back wit ol ed h have be a rose tinted fo airport I looke en that n d d n e ss. It co bad; it w uldn’t asn’t.

Glastonb ury, Worthy Farm, Somerse t, UK

On entering the Vuuv festival, you get a condom, a packet of extra large Rizla and a large plastic bag. If it’s returned filled with rubbish at the end, you get back €5 of your entrance fee. And with this the tone is set. The fields of the Vuuv, situated between Berlin and Hamburg, are full of festival-goers being nice to one another. Everyone is wonderfully respectful of everybody else’s good time.


The many stall-owners repeat one mantra – they’re not in it for profit. They’re simply trying to get enough to make it to the next festival on the circuit. If trance is not your bag, the Vuuv still offers the disillusioned Irish festival-goer a fresh breath of festival air. There is no perimeter fencing. And before you start thinking, ‘wow I can break in for free’, this is not Oxygen. Also there’s no problem in arriving a couple of days early and setting up camp.

Vuuv Festival Putlitz Germany

While my friends built up their leg muscles pulling their wellies from the mud of Punchestown racecourse, I basked in the 100 degree heat on the banks of Lake Michigan, thanking my lucky stars that my boyfriend had decided to do his J1 in Chicago that summer. Lollapalooza, curated by Jane’s Addiction guitarist Perry Farrell, is that rare festival beast – commercial yet cool. Taking place in downtown Chicago’s Grant Park, this clean friendly, tent-free festival hosts over 200 acts and forty decently priced food stalls. And even though the Chili Peppers were headlining the year I went (yawn), I was safe in the knowledge there would be enough musical gems to keep an indie nerd like myself happy. Highlights included an 11am bounce around to The Go! Team, and an epic Death Cab for Cutie set at sunset, as Chicago’s skyline lit up the night behind.

Every year a mass exodus of approximately 30,000 people – or ‘burners’ – head out into the most unforgiving heart of the Nevada desert. The Burning Man Project is a celebration of art, music and, ultimately, people. Over the course of the week, burners effectively ‘build’ an arc-shaped city comprised of camps ranging in sizes, shade structures, art installations and clubs. Out in the desert, in the centre of the arc, stands a 60 foot structure of metal and neon cables – the Man. The week-long festival comes to a close when the Man is burned. The most important element of Burning Man is that it is a strictly ‘Leave No Trace’ festival. Nothing except ice and coffee can be bought, so bringing a week’s worth of food, water and other necessities is essential. The festival offers people an opportunity to try things they otherwise wouldn’t – I highly recommend stripping off and running after the water truck for a shower.

Lollapalooza Grant Park Chicago Burning Man, Nevada Desert, USA

is azz th of pizz elona. h s a d c ar, Bar with a an Son ar the city estival h f t r a e h r t e Fo no fur each y d hip r, look nights tive an d a n n a r summe e s lt y a e of a , d o s ree her id c techn it , e o s r t y For th c a i with ele narrow lanew minded mus t h ro b s e o r h t spite ats as t ell with elec -up. De hh s a hop be w m s ec mblas annual e rag e t Las Ra oute to their ou r av y seu t o n M r n is the u t n i geeks e unds, Sonar e c ar s pla so atures y take e a f d what it y b d music onar, an itions, b i fest; S ontemporari h x e than hic C sic acts h e tograp u o d'Art m h p e r , re, t tions obscu at. He o installa es and more t i j o m nite in enc stirred -cool u o a confer s e h k o a music, the n sh rnative mble y and e you ca d r lt e a n d , the f art an nk. Stu quirky l love o ival with spu usk to see a u t u d their m kes for a fest eets at for a ack str ma b e time h v g ic a h in h d w l ’l in yu w o y e onar-b h th iti – off to s throug ld-class graff g e in li d a r ga k or e he sal han some w Miguel befor s lo o c an n a quick S ich is held i h irts. w t , t ’s ou sk nigh y it c e h on t venue

, r a n o S a, n o l e Barc Spain 43



Seamus O’Neill’s portrait of the artist

ppearances can be deceiving, or so they say. Matt Lamb by appearance looks like a warm loving father figure. He could also easily pass as Santa Claus if he had a red suit. Talking to him you begin to uncover the artist. A man who is not afraid to speak his mind and say what he believes in, all in the hope of creating a better world – his outspoken side often resembling that of a rebellious teenager. There are certainly many layers to Matt Lamb, rather like his artwork. To understand Lamb you have to understand where he has come from. Born in Chicago in 1932, he grew up in downtown Chicago in a place called Bridgeport. He describes it as a wonderful place to come from despite the evident segregation among the mostly immigrant communities. “You could stand and look around and see six or seven steeples and each one would be a Roman Catholic church. One would be Polish, one would be Irish, one would be Bohemian, Italian, and

Czechoslovakian. Everybody had their own church,” he says.


He acknowledges that it was an exciting and diverse area where

many politicians, church leaders and mafia leaders came from.


School was not for Lamb who much preferred to be out with the

Dozen, a gang of 12 kids from the neighbourhood. Living above his father’s funeral home it was not long before Lamb became involved in the Blake-Lamb funeral home business. Starting out driving for the company, he eventually took over running the business with his brother Dick. Together they built on the work their father had done and expanded the business successfully. Lamb also dipped into other projects and at the height of his business expansion, Lamb owned or coowned 36 different companies, with holdings around the country but

concentrated in the Chicago area. As a funeral director Lamb buried people of all religions, creeds, races and nationalities, but he always noticed the same principles appear when it comes to people and death. According to him there were always “unfulfilled dreams, unfulfilled spoken love and signs of love. It was always the same whether it was a mafia chief or a bishop’s family, a prostitute or a nun. This is not a dress rehearsal, this is all we have. There is no tomorrow. Tomorrow is today”. At the age of 48 he was diagnosed with chronic active hepatitis, acute infectious mononucleosis and sarcoidosis of the liver. Doctors told him to put his affairs in order. Suddenly the undertaker was preparing his own funeral. Matt vowed not to go without a fight and told his wife Rose that if he survived he wanted to become a painter. Five days of tests in December 1983 and a panel of doctors uncovered no traces of hepatitis, mononucleosis or sarcoidosis in his body. Was it a miracle or misdiagnoses in the first place? “I happen to think it was a miracle. I have no idea and I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. I turned my life over to the Holy Spirit and now my doctors are all dead and I’m 76,” he says. Lamb started painting in the spring of 1984. Having never taken an art lesson his art evolved from trial and error. At his first public gallery exhibition, art critic Harry Bouras pronounced the show “horrible” and the work of an undertaker who

Museum, the German Bundestag and the Moscow Museum of Modern Art. In Ireland he has exhibited work in Cork and Dublin, where he also brought his Umbrellas for Peace movement. Charity work has always been close to his heart. In 1968 he co-founded the Chulucanas Fellows, which was a group dedicated to improving the living conditions of people in Peru. In recognition of his humanitarian work Pope John Paul II knighted Lamb twice in the 1980s. His admiration for the late Pope is

One of his biggest regrets in life sprang from his meeting with Mother Teresa. As he approached to shake her hand he felt the spirit tell him to take off the gold bracelet he was wearing and give it to her, he says. Although he failed to fulfil the spirit’s request on that occasion he has gone on to do huge work himself with the Umbrellas for Peace project, which was set up after September 11th terror attacks in America. The project started off helping children who had lost their parents in the attacks and has since gone global. Through the painting and procession of umbrellas Lamb wants to spread the message of peace, tolerance, understanding, hope and love. In March of this year he received the Agrupación Española de Fomento Europeo European Gold Cross award. He received the award on behalf of the work he undertakes with the Umbrellas for Peace project. He believes this life is a prelude to an afterlife where we will be in the presence of God and of course it will be another adventure. As he talks about his eventual death he states: “I came in crying, I am going to go out laughing”. And then with a giggle he says he wants his last words to be, “Hurrah, what’s next?”

Photo courtesyof Matt Lamb

thinks he is an artist. Those in the art circles did not like the fact he was not your usual poor penniless artist but a high-profile business tycoon decades before he ever held a paintbrush. However Lamb has turned heads and critics with his artwork. The man who was once described as JR Ewing with a paintbrush has come to be proclaimed as an heir to Picasso, who Lamb believes is the greatest artist ever. He describes his paintings as “a passionate expression of my own inner feelings and self, to be looked at, to be applauded, to be thrown up, to be kicked, to be revered, to be discussed, to be hated, to be loved.” His paintings are famous for their vibrant colours and layers of paint or “generations”, which often mean the paintings take years to dry. Lamb paints in three styles: figurative, semiabstract and abstract. He says: “Art is about my expression. Not yours, not some professor’s or some book or movie or class. It’s me, unadulterated me”. With a great grandfather who came from Kerry and a great grandmother from Limerick, Lamb has a house and studio in West Cork as well as others in Europe and America. His first exhibition in Europe came about thanks to couturier Pierre Cardin, who was struck by Lamb’s “core of pure emotion”. His artwork has been exhibited all over America as well as in Westminster Cathedral England, Centre Picasso in Spain, the Vatican

evident as he describes him as a “great role model and an incredible hero of Christianity”.

“This is not a dress rehearsal, this is all we have. There is no tomorrow. Tomorrow is today”


War of Words F

After returning from the war in Iraq, American soldier Brian Turner became an award-winning poet. JP O’Malley talks to him about the Middle East, the media and life on the front line

orget the millions spent on weapons. Forget the winning or losing. Forget the moral high ground and weapons of mass destruction. Forget body counts. Forget Democrats, Republicans, the UN, Tony Blair, Hans Blix and Sky News. Forget all that nonsense for just one second and read the following verse from the poem ‘AB Negative’:

Thalia Fields is gone, long gone, about as far from Mississippi as she can get, ten thousand feet above Iraq with a blanket draped over her body and an exhausted surgeon in tears, his bloodied hands on her chest, his head sunk down, the nurse guiding him to a nearby seat and holding him as he cries, though no one hears it, because nothing can be heard where pilots fly in blackout, the plane like a shadow guiding the rain, here in the droning engines of midnight.


In the media’s ongoing moral discourse about the rights and wrongs of the Iraq war, it is becoming increasingly hard to find any truthful accounts of the actual reality of what is happening on the front lines. In Brian Turner’s Here Bullet, you find very few political leanings or opinions, just a man trying to make sense of the madness of warfare. Turner doesn’t fit the normal stereotype of a poet. There is no tweed jacket or Wildean dark hair. He looks more like a college quarterback than the intellectual

storm, he clearly is. At five foot eight he is stocky in build and his eyes have the look of a pragmatist, rather than a dreamy poet. But then again his story also differs from that of most poets. He started off on the conventional route, studying poetry in university, trying to get published and doing a little bit of teaching on the side to put bread on the table. But at 30 he “took the road less travelled by” and joined the army. So what made an aspiring poet become

“He talks of how hard it

is for soldiers to return home from the war, realising that they may have fought and indeed killed for nothing”

a sergeant in the US army? “I came from a long military background. There is a long tradition of service in my family. I was often told stories about the military growing up in Fresno, California. The travel and experience appealed to me and always seemed kind of exotic.” For five and half years Turner rode an easy wave of peace keeping and similar duties and it wasn’t until 2003 when the Bush Administration decided it was going to invade Iraq that he would learn the harsh realities of warfare. This reality is clear cut in the poem ‘Body Bags’, where he talks of two young soldiers no older than 20 kicking a dead Iraqi on the ground. A murder of crows looks on in silence

from the eucalyptus trees above as we stand over the bodies— who look as if they might roll over to wake from a dream and question us and rise, wondering who these strangers are who would kick their hard feet, saying Last call, motherfucker. Last call

So at what point in a war, do soldiers become embedded with this deep hatred of the enemy? “I think a lot of it has to do with the nature of warfare in general. Mark Twain once said that ‘war does not repeat itself but it rhymes’. This is interesting because there might be different situations that soldiers are under. Someone is hunting you constantly. Some one is trying to kill you – to take your soul.” It drains him to hear talk about the specifics of the war and to be a figure of sympathy. When he talks, he sighs, his forehead produces deep wrinkles and his eyes brood to a darker place, one that none of us can even bear to imagine. He becomes uncomfortable when you probe certain issues. He says that it’s almost surreal, you’re fighting people you have never met, in a war waged by people you have never met. Asked if he ever had positive experiences with Iraqi people, he says “it’s hard. You go around in a US uniform holding a machine gun; inevitably you do not make many friends”. He talks of how hard it is for soldiers to return home from the war, realising that they may have fought and indeed killed for nothing. His eyes turn away again as the

Photo by JP O’Malley

memories of returning home haunt him. “It’s a very difficult thing to do. Because if you come home and suddenly think the war was something ultimately wrong, where does your life fall into in the greater scheme of things? It’s a very treacherous sort of tightrope. When you kill someone and take their soul, their last breath, that is something that you cannot take back.” This veteran’s tale is so grounded in sensibility that he convinces you that we all have the animalistic instinct to kill our fellow man. The difference is most of us are usually spared the choice. When Turner speaks he chooses his words carefully with chilling sobriety. His pragmatic characteristics make his words all the more believable. But somewhere in them, you feel lies an innate sense of guilt. He quotes Saadi, the Persian poet, who says, “It is a condition of wisdom in the archer to be patient. Because when the arrow leaves the bow it leaves no more.” Does he see the situation getting any better in Iraq? And how does the American government even begin to control this insurgency and civil war it has created out there? He says he does not know but he thinks the troops have to come home. American soldiers, he believes, are only making things worse. He is slow to ever lean to a political ideology or a religious belief and when you pry he doesn’t answer. It makes sense though. He discusses exactly what causes the hatred and bigotry of war. The message from Turner is that if we can just accept that everyone has a different point of view and not try to stereotype between left and right or Christian and Muslim, than maybe we would be in a better situation. “You go to any religion the tenets are always the same. People who are not tolerant need to question where they are coming from. If you understand where they are coming from then we might be able to learn from each other. I just can’t wait until the word Muslim stops being associated with the word terrorism because they are completely different concepts.” It’s moments like these that you start to become enthralled by the world of Brian Turner. He fixes his eyes on you and stresses points with conviction that flow endlessly in imagery. He ends the interview with poignant words reminding us that apathy as well as action makes us all responsible for the horrors of war. “It seems to me we live in a decent society where we continually bury people in the earth when we know nothing about them. Maybe if we knew more about them, just maybe we would be less apt to do it so often.”


Photo by Gary Fox


politics CONTENTS A Spring Thing

Ă“rla Sheils talks to Dick Spring about life after 50 Hassle in the Castle

SinĂŠad Keogh visits the Mahon 59 Into the West

Ross Loftus reports that the Rossport campaign is still

going 69




Photo by Órla Sheils


Former Labour leader Dick Spring speaks to Órla Sheils about life after the Rainbow Coalition

t’s been a while since the nation have seen him, the man who played such a central part in modern Ireland’s history. Dick Spring has done many interviews with journalists and though he has been six years away from the political world, nothing has really changed. He is still the man who held the position of Tanáiste three times, filled several ministerial positions in government and was leader of the Labour Party for 15 years. This is somebody who knows something about journalists. Through the course of the interview he absentmindedly spells out names, speaks with fluency but doesn’t stray from the subject matter and even smiles charmingly from time to time. Dick Spring knows who he is and has a reputation of being, at times, a gruff individual, but he is also humble and charismatic enough to get away with it. You would almost be forgiven for recording everything he says verbatim; such is the ease

with which he answers each question. It is little wonder that his political career was a success. Spring describes himself as being “born into politics”. His father, Dan Spring, was elected to Kerry County Council in 1942 and to the Dáil the following year where he held the seat for Kerry North until 1981. At a time before politicians had formal clinics, the Spring household was “like a railway station, there were people coming and going all the time, it was a hive of political activity.” The young Spring was also consumed with sport, playing rugby, gaelic football and hurling. Indeed, he even has seven national caps for rugby and played on the Kerry team in both gaelic games. He admits he was “a maniac for sport” and “tended to captain most teams”, something which perhaps was indicative of what was to come. Spring has three children although he admits none of them have any real interest in following in his footsteps. He speaks hopefully of his

nephew Arthur Spring, who he says is working to regain the old family seat in North Kerry: “it will be difficult but we may have the flag flying again.” Spring flew the ‘flag’ after his father, holding the Kerry North seat until 2002 when he lost it to the Sinn Féin candidate Martin Ferris. He has not sought to be reelected since. How has Spring found life after politics? “As you can see I’m very miserable,” he laughs. All jokes aside, he says: “I had 22 years in politics and I felt there was little left to achieve or to do.” Spring is now working in financial services and is the executive vice-chairman of Fexco. He says that the transition from politics to business has been “a serious learning curve”. He is also very preoccupied with the charitable work he does in his role as chairman of the Realta Global Foundation, an organisation which works with people affected directly and indirectly with HIV or AIDS in the poorest countries of Africa.

He is then as busy as ever, and perhaps the perfect candidate to lend a few words of advice on life after the Dáil to former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. “I’m not sure Bertie Ahern would want any advice from Dick Spring,” he comments wryly. “Bertie has served a long time in Dáil Éireann and I’m sure he has built up skills over the years which he will put to good use.” He describes the end of Ahern’s leadership as “most unfortunate, a very sad end to an illustrious political career”. On Ahern’s involvement in the investigations of the Mahon Tribunal, Spring remains relatively cautious: “The monies that had been donated or collected should have been declared from the outset, it wasn’t the proper manner to treat the tribunal. But you feel sorry that someone who had such a great achievement on Irish politics ends his career with that sort of sully mark over it.” Despite Spring’s smiling assurances that he doesn’t miss politics, when he speaks of the Labour Party he leans forward in his chair and gently clasps his hands together on the table. He admits that it is more difficult for the party in contemporary affluent Ireland but adds: “the Celtic Tiger has an injured leg at the moment, it’s running on three legs instead of four and there is probably a need for the Labour Party to become vocal on the issues, they need to become an issues party.” The issues, he says, are

“I’m not sure Bertie Ahern would want any advice from Dick Spring”

health and education. He warns that if Ireland is going to compete in knowledge based society, then she has to have more fourth-level graduates. Spring certainly appears quite sure of where the Labour Party needs to go in the future. He agrees that the party should be open to the prospect of a future coalition with Fianna Fáil, amid growing speculation that the new Taoiseach Brian Cowen might be more amenable to such an arrangement. “I think that from a policy point of view, the Labour Party and Fianna Fáil would probably be quite compatible, now that Fianna Fáil have a record of making coalitions work in the last ten years,” he adds. Despite the fact that his tone remains level and his experienced media face expressionless, you can’t help feeling that that last comment is surely a dig at his former coalition partners. Few Irish people will forget Spring’s unprecedented action in 1994 when he withdrew his support for his government colleagues, Fianna Fáil, who were then under the leadership of Albert Reynolds and instead formed the Rainbow Coalition with Fine Gael and the Democratic Left. This was the first time in Irish history that one coalition replaced another without a general election. Following three years of the rainbow government, the Irish people voted in another general election, the results of which, Spring says, were the lowest point of his political career. While in 1992, the public had increased Labour’s seats to 33, the highest they had ever achieved, the results of 1997 were not quite as flattering and saw the Labour Party return to opposition, winning only 17 of the outgoing 33 seats. Spring says the results were “pretty shocking, because I felt that

the Rainbow Coalition government had done a great job, the Celtic Tiger was beginning to express itself and the country was very optimistic”. He says that in 1992 there were a lot of people who voted for Labour to “get rid of Fianna Fáil”. Following this he says that “when that didn’t happen, I think they decided to desert the Labour Party in droves”. Under his leadership, the party had previously campaigned particularly in the area of social policy; something which he says may be responsible for the view that he had a modernising influence on Ireland. “In relation to divorce, I think that would have been a big factor, we tried to bring it in during the ’80s and failed. I felt that was very much a human rights issue.” He also cites other social issues such as the family planning legislation which the party introduced, alongside the decriminalisation of homosexuality. “There were a lot of social issues which the Labour Party were probably always a bit more open in dealing with than the other parties who were, by nature, more conservative.” One of Spring’s most commended efforts is in the role he played in the Northern Ireland peace process. “I like to think that in our dealings with Northern Ireland we were very open and didn’t have a hidden agenda. I like to feel I understood the problems of the unionist side as well as, of course, the nationalist problems.” He recalls that one of the most frustrating occasions during the peace talks, on a personal level, was hearing news of the 1996 Canary

“I had 22 years in politics and I felt there was little left to achieve or to do”


Wharf bombing in East London after 17 months of IRA ceasefire. Spring was on a return flight from Washington after a meeting with Bill Clinton regarding the progress in Northern Ireland when he heard the news. “We were just shattered by the news that yet again the IRA had set off a bomb, but you just have to recover and regain your composure and fight on in a peaceful way.” After situations such as this one, Spring says that: “it was always extremely difficult to go back to the table, to convince others that we were on a peace mission at a time when people were still committed to using violence.” Ireland in 2008, however, has new issues. Spring talks about our growing multi-ethnic society and the need for proper integration. He also admits that young people today

are faced with new concerns that were not prevalent when he was growing up. He speaks of challenges, rather than problems, his rhetoric still perfectly etched with that of his political persona. To the suggestion that the magical Mary Robinson presidency was borne under his authority and therefore is maybe a job that he himself might consider in the future, he replies: “I think it would be far too ceremonial a job for my interest”. So it would appear that Dick Spring is well and truly finished in politics. He closes on a genial note as he wishes Brian Cowen well in his new role as Taoiseach. Just as he is about to stand up, he says “we’d obviously wish to change him at the next election”. There are some things you just can’t leave unsaid.

The upper house

Spring in Short

Born: August 29, 1950 Tralee, Co. Kerry First Elected as a Labour Party TD in 1981. Served as Labour Party leader from 1982 – 1997. Posts held: Minster for the Environment, Minister for Energy, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tánaiste. Educated in Trinity College Dublin and King’s Inns. Married to Kristi, three children. Played Gaelic football and hurling for Kerry in the 1970s. Has won Rugby Union caps for Munster and Ireland.

Ciarán Masterson explains the lesser known house of the Oireachtas



he Seanad wouldn’t be are chosen by the Taoiseach, it’s also regarded as the more exciting smaller than the Dáil. 43 senators of the two houses of the are elected by vocational panels, Oireachtas. In fact, a sizeable while three are elected by the proportion of the population are University of Dublin (Trinity probably unaware of its existence let College) and another three are alone what goes on its chamber. elected by the National Admittedly, it is University of Ireland “Calls for substantially weaker than Colleges (University its parliamentary sibling, reform to both College Cork, its main business being to University College the work and Dublin, National reassess the work of the Dáil with little power to University of Ireland, election change it but rather to and National process of the Galway ensure that legislation is University of Ireland, Seanad have Maynooth). Other properly scrutinised. Independent senator been gathering major academic Ivana Bacik comments institutions such as pace over the D.C.U. and D.I.T. have that it has “also served as a significant forum for the last few years” no representation. expression of political Calls for reform to ideas and initiatives”. In both the work and effect however, the Seanad can only election process of the Seanad have delay a bill for ninety days. been gathering pace over the last few With 60 members, of whom eleven years and many of the incumbent

senators believe that change is imminent with many favouring a system more representative of the people. The upper house has always been seen by many as a breeding ground for aspiring TDs or a dumping ground for those who have lost their seat in the Dáil but are still considered worthy of public office. Despite these claims the Seanad is also home to some of Irish politics’ most colourful characters. The presence of senators like the outspoken David Norris and in the past the likes of Mary Robinson has ensured that the chamber can at times be the location of radical proposals and heated debates that are unheard of in the Dáil and still bring them to the fore of the political arena.

Halfway there The race for the Democratic nomination has overtaken the race to the White House this election season. Claire Gillivan wonders where and when it will all end.


lection season in America is always good for column inches, but this time around there has been huge focus on just half the story. Americans and the wider world have been awaiting the result of one contest alone: the race to be the Democratic nominee. Indeed, even if John McCain goes on to win the White House this November, one senses that the

bigger story of the year will be about the Democrat who did not. With two formidable, groundbreaking candidates espousing more policy in common than in contrast, the Democrats’ race has been close and at times more a harsh personality contest than anything else. It’s a contest that it seems clear at the time of writing Barack Obama has won with personal appeal and oratory elegance, despite nagging questions about his credibility. This apparent victory did not stop Hillary Clinton from fighting on, and indeed winning primaries. In fact she increasingly presented herself as a fighter, almost celebrating the idea that she may not be the more likeable of the two choices, but suggesting that she was the wiser. Change will not come if we wait for After some months of questionable advice, with some other person or some other the departure of former key members of her time. We are the ones we've been inner campaign circle, waiting for. We are the change that Clinton hit a stride much like that seen leading up we seek to and after the New Hampshire, Ohio and

Texas contests. She hit her stride too late, however: the results of the May 6th primaries in Indiana and North Carolina affirmed Obama’s narrow edge, and essentially his victory. Still, her strengths in the final small states meant the Democratic primary season would most likely push on until June 3rd, the day of the last contests. The Democratic leadership began to apply steadily increasing pressure on superdelegates to make public their intentions. In the week following the Indiana and North Carolina contests Obama pulled even against Clinton among superdelegates, and began slowly to pull away from her in that count. Nonetheless, in mid-May there were still nearly 300 Democratic superdelegates who had not yet publicly endorsed a candidate. Hillary was getting virtually no endorsements, but Obama’s were coming only in small handfuls. With Clinton winning further primaries, gaining further delegates and coming close to Obama’s popular vote count, the decisive end was delayed. Still, there was a marked shift in the mood of the democratic primary contest. Obama’s strong win in North Carolina was, it would seem in retrospect, the final test, the last chance. Since that win, and despite


Photo by Angela Radulescu

almost incessantly as LINKS a ‘maverick’, less for any substantial policy – position than because the blog of John McCain’s daughter members of his own Meghan party have cast him as ‘too liberal’ for his – slight sympathies in Obama’s official website such areas as immigration and the – environment. Clinton’s official website However the issues that will matter most – Mcthis election cycle will Cain’s official website be the American economy and the war – one of in Iraq. While the best sources of breaking news on What we need is somebody who McCain relies heavily the US election on his military service can deliver change. We don’t need to for perceived raising the false hopes of our legitimacy in tackling guide/2008/index.html - the New country about what can be delivered. a military issue such York Times election guide 2008 as Iraq, it remains The best way to know what change I unclear how well he recession. The Obama campaign will will produce is to look at the changes will gain voters’ succeed if it can transcend the confidence on the discourse of doubt, tie McCain to the that I have already made economy. current administration and subtly While Obama’s enforce the flipside of fear politics: his being trounced in West Virginia, campaign, and even that of Clinton the idea that it is, now or never, time the tendency to call Obama to a different but substantial extent, to change, even save, the country. “unviable” has waned, and appear to have heralded a different preparations for an Obama-McCain era in American presidential politics, match-up in the fall have begun in it remains uncertain if the earnest on both sides. passionate agency that has been McCain’s campaign and the demonstrated by much of Republican Party the Democratic itself have been primary focusing criticism on electorate Obama. While it is marks a change difficult to imagine substantial how the general enough to see a election contest will revolutionary play out with the candidate Democratic ticket elected still technically up in president in the air, sneak 2008. previews have While the emerged. The explicit key Republican National Committee idea in this election, like recently launched a website devoted many an election, has been to questioning Obama’s leadership, change, the implicit key policy and suitability to be president. currency of it will be fear. Entitled ‘Can We Ask?’ the site is an The McCain campaign will “Hope in America is not based in obvious, even clever, dig at Obama’s succeed if it can discreetly delusion but in the faith that familiar refrain ‘Yes We Can’. but effectively put forward everything is possible in America. McCain has, and will continue to, the idea that Senator The time for pandering and false distance himself from the policies Obama is not up to the task promises is over; it’s time for and people linked to the Bush of the American presidency Administration. He is referred to in a time of war and action”



slap opinion

With the race for the Democratic nomination having been run in heels, Ciara Norton puts forward the three reasons why Hillary Rodham Clinton would have got her vote


She refuses to bow down and wear a skirt. Those ‘pantsuits’ are here to stay. And why should she? Recently the ‘empowerment’ of women in public life is only ‘empowerment’ if they also find time for manicures and shopping trips along the road to success. When was the last time a successful woman with unkempt hair and a cluttered desk featured in a magazine? Clinton wears pantsuits because she’s a woman on a mission and women on mission don’t have time to shave their legs and think about hosiery. A recent suggestion that, should she lose the race to the White House, she’d come back in four years time wearing skirts should not chill only the hearts of feminism but the heart of politics. Has it come to this?


She cried. The battle for equality of the sexes often forgets that we are not the same. Men are men and women, well... sometimes being a woman comes with an inner rollercoaster of hormones, emotions, and overactive tear ducts. They’re not there to blame but they are there, accept them. Perhaps it was a cheap ploy; perhaps she used her femininity to her advantage. Perhaps while we remind the men in our lives to get in touch with their inner emotions and lose the mantra that “boys don’t cry” we should remind ourselves that it’s okay to do so too.


She’s a woman. A statement that society would have me apologise for. Yes, if a vote were in my possession Clinton could have counted on it: primarily because she’s female. Female role models are few and far between these days, they exist but they don’t garner the press coverage hot messes like Amy Winehouse and Britney Spears do. Were Clinton in power the world would be treated to the reality of a woman being in charge, in charge of the most powerful nation in our piece of the solar system. Perhaps then feminism wouldn’t be a dirty word and skirts wouldn’t be a required part of a powerful woman’s uniform.


A new Laois of life Maureen Lowndes speaks to Ireland’s first black Lord Mayor


“I set up a group that cleans the town every Friday. I wanted the immigrant population to give something back to their new community. I also set up a support group for the unemployed in the county, to cater for people from all nationalities.” Adebari gained residency in 2001 and started to apply for paid jobs. “I was coming across phrases like ‘we are sorry, you are over qualified, but we will keep your application on file”. In May 2002 he was called for interview for a sales position with a local firm: “They said to me that they would prefer a local, I had no idea what that meant. I thought they meant a local who knew the area.”

Adebari was shocked when an Irish friend told him that local meant Irish. He started to go around to schools and give talks on cultural difference, believing that racism must be addressed when children are young. From this he set up a training consultancy. He works with schools, the local community, and businesses country wide. “I travel the whole country training people. I also work as a guest lecturer with the Dublin City

“I was elected as Mayor of Portlaoise and that is the greatest honour that can be bestowed on a person”

University School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies. “I came from a non-political background but when I was delivering training to local groups, people said I should go in to politics. They said I would make a great public representative.” Adebari thought that if he entered politics he would be seen as a local man and felt it was something worth doing for future generations. “I am independent. I am not affiliated to any political party. The people elect the town council and

Photo by Maureen Lowndes


otimi Adebari presents a slot on his weekly Midlands 103 radio show called ‘A Hero from Zero’. The format, which focuses on stories of people who have overcome controversy, probably wasn’t long in the melting pot of ideas: it reflects Adebari’s own life experience. Adebari was born in Oke-Odan, Nigeria in 1964, the second of three brothers, and most of his family remain there. He came to Ireland in 2000 and made an asylum claim with his wife and two children - and just seven years on, on 28th June 2007, he was elected Mayor of Portlaoise. “I had my own share of racism but only a small minority engage in that, generally the people are wonderful,” he says. He couldn’t work when he first came to Ireland because of his asylum seeker status, but took on volunteer roles.

The value of difference

fellow counsellors elect the mayor. I was elected as Mayor of Portlaoise and that is the greatest honour that can be bestowed on a person. The Lord Mayor is the number one citizen of the town and five years ago I was told by a firm that they would prefer a local and now I am elected as the number one citizen.” Yet Adebari’s year in office has not been without controversy. In late 2007, the Irish Daily Mail published a story in which various named sources claimed that Adebari’s initial asylum seeker claim was bogus. The article stated that Adebari had been living in England, working on the London Underground, before his move to Ireland. It revealed that like those of most asylum-seekers his initial asylum application had been turned down and that he had gained legal residency because he had an Irish-born child. Despite his initial asylum claim he has returned to Nigeria on a number of occasions since settling in Ireland – on one occasion to receive an award from his hometown in respect of his Irish political career. Adebari doesn’t discuss the claim. Local paper the Laois Voice asked at the time the story broke if Adebari had ever worked in London. “No, never” was his final word on the matter. Adebari hopes to stay in politics, at least at local level, aiming to see a country where children grow up without dwelling on their differences. “I am proud to be a Laois man,” he concludes, a great example of what our immigrant population can and do achieve.

slap opinion

slap columnist Maureen Lowndes on maintaining an Ireland of a hundred thousand welcomes in the face of immigration


small farms of Ireland to keep their siblings alive. Today’s immigrants have to leave loved ones behind and they have to suffer the upheaval of moving to a strange country and a strange culture. This takes bravery and commitment. Now we are a prosperous nation and many people from other lands come to us in search of a better life for their families. We have a large and very welcome The Irish are multicultural often depicted as a “They have given population in warm friendly Ireland now. people and Ireland us their talents and They have come is sold to tourists from all parts of their expertise, as the land of the the world, from introduced us to hundred thousand Africa, China, welcomes, but Pakistan, new foods, music, Japan, unfortunately India, Poland and racism often raises literature and art” many other its ugly head in countries. Ireland, and this is to our shame as a It is important to teach our people and as a nation. There may be youngsters the value of other many reasons for racism, it may be nations, cultures and religions and plain badness or it may be defence we must teach by showing a good mechanisms in which people who example ourselves. There is enough are frustrated with their own lives in Ireland for every person living pick on and bully vulnerable people, here but greed, prejudice and an but there is no excuse for racism; it uncaring attitude can make life is an evil in any society. difficult for many. Every decent During the Irish famine and the person must do everything in their lean years after independence Irish power to help stamp out racism. men and women had to leave home and head for England, America and other countries in search of a better life. Many sent home money to the ur multicultural population has given us more than we have given them. Learning about other cultures is an enriching experience. They have given us their talents and their expertise, introduced us to new foods, music, literature and art. Having lived in Dublin for five years and met many people from other nations, I know that my life has been made better.


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The party’s over

he majority of politicians in in this country. Due to the formation for their four seats. Ireland have one thing in of coalition governments and the The Green party in opposition common. Yes they may spend small electorate, parties become so were the eco warriors of the left hours upon hours fighting in the fearful of losing a vote that they shy representing a voice for the Dáil chamber, on the air waves, and away from any defining ideologies. underdog with a set of principles. through the pages of the newspapers The Fianna Fáil brand of politics, When push came to shove they about trivial matters – but the aiming to appeal cross the board to packed their ideas in a suitcase and common ground they all share is one all ages went on honeymoon with Fianna thing: unideology. Fáil. In the general election of Historically you see the same 2007 the three main pattern. Democratic Left, parties: Fianna Fáil, The Workers Party, Joe Fine Gael and Higgins, all fallen by Labour battled it the way side and out and into obscurity. appealed to Any party that the general has stood for a public to cast set of principals a vote in the in this country ballot box. has been The rewarded with a campaign was lack of love from run with the electorate. expensive and Populist, tiresome inoffensive politics advertisements. seems to be the brand The more you of ideas that every party watched the sicker you now plays to win votes. became. Talk of job creation Part of the problem to begin and economic growth was the with is that Ireland has never had common theme. partisan politics. There Numbers, statistics, blah has never been a left and In Irish politics sticking to a particular right. The political blah blah and so it went. The cynics watched on ideal has become a game of smoke and establishment in this from the sideline and state was borne out of a daggers writes JP O’Malley predicted the usual difference of opinion on outcome: a Fianna Fáil the Anglo Irish Treaty, win and all because there is no and demographics, seems to be the 1921. Although they may fight at alternative party. Therein rests the rule book that every party has opposite ends of the chamber, problem with Irish democracy. adopted. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are in fact There is no difference between the Any party that have even tried to cut from the same cloth – and their three main parties. Centre party, give off the faintest whiff of ideology dye is remarkably similarly cast too. safe politics is the name of the game have failed miserably. The All the while, Labour patters about Progressive Democrats, like them or like the ugly duckling hoping loath them, had a definite set of someone will eventually take notice. ideas in the last election: free It might be a useful exercise to close “The Green party packed market, neoliberal economics and your eyes and pick a random their ideas in a suitcase and low taxes. In the last election they number at the ballot box next time won two seats. Sinn Féin, a party around because they’re all leopards, went on honeymoon with that clearly wants to achieve a united so there’s little hope of different Fianna Fail” Ireland and has a clearly formed spots. You’re voting for the same left- wing economic policy, struggled principles with all three.

Another day, another deposition O

We’ve all been subjected, willingly and otherwise, to the ever-present news reports. Sinéad Keogh goes down to Dublin Castle to see what all the fuss is about

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Dublin Castle is an impressive pile of bricks, but the tribunal rooms lie a swift walk across the cobbles from all that – in less than attractive surrounds. One would think that after ten years in residence it would have lost the makeshift courtroom look. It hasn’t. Observers are welcome to sit in the ‘public gallery’ – a formal sounding name for what amounts to a few rows of seating at front, counsel for both sides sit in the back of a room that looks rows, each with a Dell in front of nothing like a courtroom and them. The judges walk in and the everything like a galvanised shed. assembled journalists and barristers The €70 million Mahon has cost so rise, together with a paltry four far certainly wasn’t spent on observers. comfortable chairs. The witness’s evidence is littered Signs around the room order ‘No with the phrases ‘I can’t recall’, ‘I Photography’ and ‘No don’t know’ and ‘It was a “A decade is a long time ago’. Each laughing, heckling...’, the list goes on. One time they refer to a new long time, immediately wonders piece of paperwork, the if the signs were relevant document memory is always there or if they flashes onto a big screen unreliable, and at the front of the room. are a response to an outbreak of laughing the tribunal can The back and forth of and heckling questions about a single sometime in Mahon’s see that matters page can last up to half past. On days like hour. The same are amiss...” an today when the question pops up more witness is no great shakes in the than once in different guises. notoriety department the public Mahon’s list of witnesses is long. gallery is dismally empty, but it isn’t There are many more to go, and difficult to imagine a boisterous every need to question them in the crowd on days when Bertie is in the manner that this witness is box. To the left, reporters are questioned. A decade is a long time, tapping away at their keyboards. In memory is unreliable, and the

Photo by Seamus O’Neill

utside, the sign on the wall reads ‘The Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters and Payments’. Somewhere along the way somebody realised they were in for the long haul and ordered a plaque. It would be more reasonable to expect a printed A4 page on a white board or something like you would find in a hotel for a wedding, ‘Mahon Party, room X’. It’s not like that; this has been a full time job to some people for a decade.

tribunal can see that matters are amiss, even while the exact details elude them. Justice should be seen to be done, says one of the cornerstones of our legal system. The observers in the public gallery number two elderly gentlemen and one lady. More than likely they’re pensioners. People who aren’t getting paid to sit here all day can’t afford to do it for free – and yet there’s no other way of knowing what it’s like. The daily papers report Mahon’s proceedings and findings, but have to stop short of the reporter’s gut feeling about a witness, the atmosphere in the gallery, the sense of timelessness in the tribunal courtroom. €70 million is probably not a high price to pay for justice, but without a public witness to its work, the Mahon tribunal is doomed to condemnation by those who’ve never seen it for themselves.


Photos courtesy of Clifford Coonan

Lauren Crothers speaks to journalist Clifford Coonan about the trials of reporting in the censored state



or almost five years, Clifford Coonan has made news deliveries to thousands of people on an almost daily basis – but he’s not the one driving the van and is normally in bed when the thick wads of paper slap against the pavements outside our newsagents. Reporting on China for the Irish Times as well as the Irish Independent and writing for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, Coonan has harnessed the one area of the world that is piquing people’s interest and brings us a regular taste of the lastest Asian Tiger. So as the Irish conduit for Chinese news, is there such thing as a typical working day? “I haven’t really had a typical day for the past few weeks with the Tibetan issue boiling over and have been flying around a lot, although we foreign reporters are banned from all Tibetan areas in China – we were always banned from the Tibetan Autonomous Region itself, and the journalist stamp in the passport is what gives us away,” he says. “I spent a lot of my time travelling through this vast country and the

China in his hand

story coming from the provinces is very interesting. The mornings are spent going through the papers and seeing what the story from China is going to be on any given day.” It’s easy to forget the undeniable magnetism that has drawn people to China for centuries amid the recent crackdown in Tibet, and the Tiananmen massacre of 1989 is still a wound many feel will never heal. Coonan just hopes that people will realise that there is far more to China than meets the eye. “The best part of it all has been the front-row grandstand seat on what is one of the biggest stories in the world,” he says. Yet, Coonan’s position in China actually came about on account of his wife’s career move. “I had been working for Reuters in Berlin before my wife took on the position of China Features Writer at the South China Morning Post. We decided to move the family to China, a move we’d long dreamed of,” he says. It wasn’t easy at first, particularly with the language barrier. Still, Coonan embraced his new situation. “I had some lessons in Berlin but it

was really here that I focused on learning the language. It’s much better to learn in the environment itself.” With the language aspect taken care of, it came time to get stories. “Initially I was mostly looking after our young son and doing bits and pieces, while learning Chinese, but the demand was such that I quickly became very busy writing and I needed to formalise my situation. I got my accreditation with the Irish Times from the foreign ministry here and began to work on a more regular basis.” What makes Coonan’s perspective so vitally important is that it offers that all-important insight into how the Chinese powerbrokers and decision makers are trying to strike a balance between an economy that is advancing at breakneck speed– while trying to reign in over one billion people and keep them adhering to the policies set down by the Politburo. So why should we care? In terms of business, China’s economy is advancing like a juggernaut and, given the trade agreements between Ireland and China, the impact here is already being felt, he says. “Ireland is benefiting from the rise of China’s economic power, with the focus of economic relations on economic growth and outsourcing production. But cheap production in China must be having an impact in Ireland with companies shifting production here.” Business may be business, but many people feel that even a business relationship with China is perhaps too generous – just look at the trouble the Olympic torch caused. Given that the world is gearing up for the Olympics, it’s no secret that dissenting attitudes toward China’s occupation of Tibet, its human rights record and arms involvement with the Darfur region of Sudan are being crushed. One would imagine that reporting on such matters could bring about some kind of moral conflict. “There is no moral conflict at all, but that’s not to say it’s easy covering these stories,” says Coonan.

“One dissident I interviewed at the Three Gorges Dam was attacked by police shortly afterwards and thrown off a wall, leaving him paralysed. A completely horrific situation, but for him, getting his message out was more important than his own safety. Reporting on events is extremely important, how would the world have found out about what happened in Tibet recently had it not been for media reporting on it?” The Olympics isn’t all about reporting on trouble brewing either. “I will go to the athletics 100 metre final. The main story will be covered by sports journalists coming out from the paper but I imagine I’ll be covering events outside the stadium.” Despite calls for people to turn their backs on the Olympics, Coonan feels this would only force China to make a volte-face, to everyone’s detriment. “I’m against a boycott of the Olympics because I think global

“There is no tradition of a free press here, so getting information is often difficult, particularly as a foreigner”

attention and sustained pressure on China will work better than pulling out the cameras, which will just see China close in on itself. For the ordinary Chinese citizen the Olympics are a considerable source of pride and they are very much looking forward to it.” Reportage in Ireland could be seen as rather parochial in comparison to the work reporters are carrying out behind the Great Firewall of China – Coonan has to battle the sheer vastness of the land in which he is reporting and, more importantly, the iron fist of censorship. So is journalistic integrity or, for that matter, safety, ever compromised because of the strictness of such laws? “My integrity has never been compromised, despite pressure to do otherwise,” he says. “I’ve been arrested on several occasions and forced to sign selfcriticisms and confessions, which I’ve done because I don’t recognise their validity as they are extracted under pressure, usually vague threats about ‘my safety’ or those of my Chinese colleagues. “Censorship of what I write is relatively rare because it is published abroad and in English.” So what has been the most trying aspect of being a foreign correspondent in China? “There is no tradition of a free press here, so getting information is often difficult, particularly as a foreigner,” he says. “The government has made significant improvements in access to information, but it is still a fledgling business. Getting arrested in remote rural areas for talking to people is also a hassle, though easier for foreign correspondents than it is for our staff, who face far greater sanctions than we do. “People are often afraid to talk to you or give their real names, though I’ve developed a fondness for the wit of farmers in rural China – it’s second to none – except when they chase you away with pitch forks.”


OK Commuter? I

f government predictions are to be believed, the face of Irish transport will be changed beyond recognition by 2015, much like a transition from 1970s Michael Jackson to 1980s Michael Jackson.The powers that be are estimating that Transport 21 will cost over €34 billion over nine years, from 2006 to 2015, with plans to improve roads and airports as well as introducing new initiatives in public transport such as a new Metro from St Stephen’s Green to Dublin Airport and a special flying pig service due to open on February 30th next year. With Transport 21 already two years in operation, and secure in the knowledge that all government initiatives tend to be completed under budget and under time, four morning commuters decided to waste no time in logging their journey for the history books. Travelling by bus, bike, car and LUAS from Stillorgan to St Stephen’s Green in rush hour traffic, the travellers time tested the route for posterity. Only time will tell if the commuters of 2015 will curl their lips in scorn at this rudimentary route to town, but today’s rush hour regulars should recognise this journey only too well...

The Car: Sinéad Keogh


I await the flash of headlights from a good Samaritan who will let me ease out into the bumper-to-bumper traffic. It comes from the elderly driver of a Nissan Sunny – elderly drivers tend to be the most courteous. Easing into a pattern of stop and start as the line of traffic moves forward at a snail’s pace, I immediately know that I’m not going to win this race as 98FM brings me the news that there’s a car accident in the left hand lane under the bridge at UCD – in other words, right up ahead. I drive up over the Belfield flyover and come out the other side of the collision, grateful to the good people at AA Roadwatch, but bottleneck Donnybrook proves another slow, 2nd gear crawl. Comfort comes in the form of air conditioning set to just the right temperature and free reign to sing along with the radio just as

loudly as I please. Morning drivers possess two incredibly undesirable qualities – they couple a crusty-eyed sleepiness with a determination to get from A to B as quickly and aggressively as possible. I find myself braking mere seconds before oblivion as SUVs driven by tiny, tiny women (I’m sorry, but they’re always the culprit) make a play for my lane. Aggressive driving is a sadly prevalent phenomenon now – because nobody believes that another driver would actually let them slink in anymore. If I had anywhere to be, the pace of the drive would be murderous and all the time I’m thinking ahead to the need to find parking in the jammed city centre with its annoying 3 hour max stays. Couple that with the fact that town has become a complicated maze of one-way streets designed to break your spirit. I respect the efforts to which planners will go to make the city centre unviable for cars. It’s a pity the car is being forced out before

other options become any more comfortable. Time: 42 minutes (a paltry one mile every ten minutes) Cost: Huge. Tax, insurance, NCT and petrol break down to about €8 per day. Add parking and you’re scuppered. Mood: Pretty good – comfy, relaxed and dry with reams of personal space Conclusion: Enjoy it while you can. The car is being forced out. The Bike: Niall McGuinness

As a staunch believer in all things bicycle, I would be delighted if cars were banned from our capital. Over the moon. The arguments are overwhelming. Cycling is good for your health, it does not pollute our environment and well, now we have the proof – it’s faster! Three hurrahs! But perhaps the celebrations are a little premature. Cars have not been banned. Far from it. They’re bloody everywhere. There is no question, cycling around Dublin is not for the faint hearted. Aggression is a must. It is however wonderfully rewarding. It’s a great way to arrive feeling refreshed, awake and fit. You’ll even get a few precious extra minutes in bed. Cycling into town this morning I remained stoically undeterred by the

The LUAS : Ciara Norton:

Before I even step onto the Luas I’m annoyed. The ticket machines, all two of them, are used to a more leisurely pace of life and resent my somewhat hurried insistence on depositing coins a little too quickly for their delicate natures. Ticket machines aside, the Luas feels slightly more civilised than any other form of transport in Dublin; you know when the tram is going to come and those doors wait for no man. The relative brevity of the

The Bus: Deirdre Davys

The Stillorgan Dual Carriageway is regarded as having the best bus service in Dublin and it does, but that

doesn’t mean that it is always the quickest way of getting into town. At rush hour the buses come in gaggles like baby ducks waddling after the mother. If you happen to be at the bus stop as the gaggle arrives – great. If they waddle off one minute after you arrive the next lot could take another ten minutes. Upon starters orders I waited impatiently knowing that Niall on his bike was flying ahead. My competitive spirit was up and I wanted to pass him out but there wasn’t a chance. At the first five or six stops we had to pick up droves of UCD

students. Then it was on towards Donnybrook passing the crash which was holding up the cars. Thank God for bus lanes. We were doing well. Then disaster struck. I had got on a 46E or B or some other abstruse number not the good old 46A. It suddenly took a dive down Waterloo Road and meandered along Baggot Street and Pembroke Street before finally re-emerging on to Leeson Street. The competition was over. It had taken about 40 minutes. Without the detour it would have been 30, about the same amount of time that a slow cyclist would have taken. Mind you on a windy rainy winter’s day there is something to be said for it. Time: 40 minutes Cost: €1.70 Mood: frustrated because the bus didn’t come which is not usual at that time, admittedly. Conclusion: Prefer the bike in good weather, no passengers yelling into their mobiles!

Photos by Stephen Boyle, Sinéad Bevan and Lauren Crothers

woman lying unmoving beside her motorcycle on the N11 outside UCD and pedalled on. A large black ominous cloud hung overhead as I rolled down the bumpy cycle path beside the N11. Bumpedy, bumpedy, bumpedy. I shouldn’t complain, at least there was something there for us cyclists. From Donnybrook onwards it was a free-for-all. I spent the rest of the journey fighting with buses and taxis for my little piece of the roadside. Making myself as visible as possible in each rear-view mirror, on the off chance they’d give them a glance. Just 17 minutes after leaving my house I was locking my bike on Stephen’s Green. It didn’t take long to find parking. Time: 17 minutes Cost: Free! Mood: The elation of victory Conclusion: Not for the faint of heart

journey coupled with a lack of surprise generally makes for a pleasant enough trip into or out of town. Unless you decide to take the Luas in rush-hour traffic that is. It’s five past nine and still smarting from having to pay far too much money for the service provided I board the tram. As Stillorgan is one of the earlier stops on the journey I am afforded the comfort of a seat and a discarded copy of the Metro. So far, so good. The situation heats up as we approach hot commuting spots like Dundrum and becomes nightmarish (for the seat-less) as our final destination looms in the distance. Space is a luxury most of those standing gave up long ago, personal space a far away dream. Those unfortunates waiting at hot spots like Beechwood and Ranelagh have little chance of even boarding the tram without forcefully removing another passenger. I glide into Stephens Green within 25 minutes, no traffic, no delays and only slightly exasperated as I fight my way past the people trying to board the tram I would like to alight. Time: 37 minutes (10 minute walk, 2 minute wait, 25 minutes on the Luas) Cost: €2.20 Mood: meh. Conclusion: if you need it, it’s there. Avoid rush hour….


Underage and Overlooked Young people in politics


Christina Finn takes a look at our current Dáil and wonders if it’s out of touch with the youth of today

here was a time when the halls of power in this country were alive with the vitality and bright ideals of young men and women. Now the Ireland of revolution seems but a distant memory. When we read about it in history books we can only imagine what different dreams our first free leaders had for this country. Today, one wonders if there’s any youth or vitality left in Irish politics at all? The Dáil today seems to be filled to the brim with middle-aged men. Our new Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, was the youngest member of the 24th

THE AGE OF THE PARTIES The party with the oldest average age of serving TDs is Labour, at 56. The party with the youngest average age of serving TDs is the Green Party, at 47. The other parties weigh in at: Fianna Fáil –51.4 Fine Gael – 51.3 Sinn Fein – 51. 5 Progressive Democrats–48.5 The oldest TD in the Dáil is Jackie Healy Rae – 77 The youngest TD in the Dáil is Lucinda Creighton –28


Dáil back when he was first elected at age 24. Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, holds the record as the youngest Senator in

Seanad Éireann – she was 24 on weekends so that students can travel appointment. They were once bright home to their voting constituencies, young things – but 30 years have but as yet nothing has been done to passed since Harney’s first day in the change this. Seanad and the 24th Dáil has been There are many organisations replaced a few times over – we’re encouraging young people to take an now at our 30th. interest in politics, such as Dáil na Just who are today’s young nÓg which is a form of youth politicians and is there a place for parliament born out of the them in our aging cabinet? recommendations of the National Fianna Fáil TD Thomas Byrne was Children’s Strategy document elected to Dáil Éireann in 2007 and published in 2000. Each of the at the age of 30 he major political parties is one of the has a youth wing, such “I don’t really as Young Fine Gael and youngest TDs in the Dáil today. He Labour Youth. Despite think age argues that there is these initiatives it seems room for younger matters; I think that whatever the ages politicians in of our TDs, they’re not it’s really about hearing young voices. government. “We definitely Aidan McGrath is what the person involved have a fresher take in Dáil na nÓg has to offer to as well as being Chair of on policy; there is no doubt about Swords Youth Council. society” that. Generally it’s In spite of the fact that funny how similar he’s still in secondary we all can be, however.” school, McGrath is already very Byrne feels that ultimately it is up politically aware and determined to to Ireland’s youth to take an interest be heard. in their government and get He says that the young people of involved, “There is a wealth of Ireland are the future but information, particularly for young unfortunately he feels not all voters who use the internet and are politicians are willing to listen. text savvy, so the information is in He is critical of former Minister for their hands.” Children Brendan Smith for his lack So are the youth of today simply of listening at Dáil na nÓg. not interested or do they feel their “Dáil na nÓg was a complete voices fall on deaf ears with the disaster. The Minister for Children majority of TDs being in their 50s has a key role but he is not playing it and upwards? It is true that there correctly. He came and gave his have been numerous calls on speech and left before we gave ours. Government to hold elections at It was utterly offensive,” he says.

The Young Guns Photo by Gary Fox

TDs under 35...

“If he can’t give us one day of the year what else can he give us? He lost the respect of hundreds of young people because of that. How can we connect with him if he is only there for an hour for photos? It’s not good enough.” McGrath also argues that that young people do care about the important decisions that are made by Government and disputes the idea that young people today simply don’t care. He argues that young people are interested in politics and would vote if they could. “I believe that the voting age should be lowered to 16 in local elections at least,” he says. So do young people want to play a larger role in the formation of modern Irish society and more importantly does the Government want them to? With so many issues which are pertinent to the young being debated in the Dáil chamber, such as drug and alcohol legislation, it would seem like a good idea to talk to the people who will be most effected. Better again, we need youthful politicians whose recollection of being overlooked and underage is not such a distant memory. When asked whether age matters in politics Aidan McGrath replied, “I don’t really think age matters; I think it’s really about what the person has to offer to society.”

Name: Michael McGrath Age: 31 Party: Fianna Fáil Constituency: Cork South Central Election History: McGrath first ran for election for Passage West Town Council in 1999 where he was elected on the first count. His first general Election was in 2007, where he was also elected on the first count.

Name: Darragh O’Brien Age: 33 Party: Fianna Fáil Constituency: Dublin North Election History: O’Brien was a local representative for Malahide from 2004 to 2007 at which time he was elected to the 30th Dáil as TD for Dublin North, on the ninth count.

Name: Dara Calleary Age: 35 Party: Fianna Fáil Constituency: Mayo Election History: First elected to the Dáil for Mayo in 2007, on the eighth count. Name: Thomas Byrne Age: 30 Party: Fianna Fáil Constituency: Meath East Election History: First elected to the Dáil for Meath East in 2007, on the eighth count. Name: Joe Carey Age: 32 Party: Fine Gael Constituency: Clare Election History: First elected

for the Ennis constituency in the Local elections 1999. Elected to the 30th Dáil for Clare in 2007, on the ninth count. Name: Terence Flanagan Age: 33 Party: Fine Gael Constituency: Dublin North East Election History: Co-opted to Dublin City Council for Artane in 2003, replacing Richard Bruton. Elected to the 30th Dáil for Dublin North East in 2007.

Name: Lucinda Creighton Age: 28 Party: Fine Gael Constituency: Dublin South East Election History: Elected to Dublin City Council representing Pembroke in 2004. Elected to the 30th Dáil in 2007 on the fifth count.

Name: Dr Leo Varadkar Age: 29 Party: Fine Gael Constituency: Dublin West Election History: Unsuccessfully contested the local elections in 1999 for Mulhuddart. Co-opted to Fingal County Council in 2003. Elected to the 30th Dáil in 2007 for Dublin West. Name: Olwyn Enright Age: 33 Party: Fine Gael Constituency: Laois Offaly Election History: First elected for Birr in the local elections of 1999. Elected to the 29th Dáil in 2002 and the 30th Dáil in 2007.


Market Mayhem

T Kola Ogunbiyi looks at how the shocks to the US banking system have been felt around the world and in Ireland


he most serious crisis in global financial markets since World War II erupted last year and its consequences continue to reverberate – not least for a new Taoiseach and finance minister. Given Ireland’s close ties to the US, the end may not be in sight as financial pressures have grown, says market analyst Joseph Scallan. “Homebuyers might find it challenging to get mortgages and house prices will fall further as the global credit crisis continues,” he says. As Steve Schifferes, BBC Economics reporter, put it: “Notwithstanding unprecedented intervention by major central banks, financial markets remain under considerable strain.” Unfortunately for us, Ireland has been singled out as one of the most vulnerable economies by top international observers. Irish economic information has been showing some obvious warning signs. Though the healthy position of the

public finances provides some relief, there are well known areas which are causes for concern such as the depreciation of the US dollar against the euro. The Irish economy appears extremely dependent on the housing industry and inflation risks remain an important concern for policymakers, particularly in view of rising oil, commodity and food prices. So just where did this crisis come from? The international backdrop to the situation includes trade barriers falling in many developing countries and the cost of capital also having fallen drastically. While the turmoil originated in a relatively small segment of the US financial market, the notorious sub-prime residential mortgages, it has spread quickly across the Atlantic and other financial markets in unanticipated ways, inflicting damage on markets and institutions that are at the core of the global financial system. The crisis has resulted in reduced liquidity in the inter-bank money

Photo by Gary Fox

market, which is the heart of the more expected to come. US bank Bear financial system. Liquidity is how Stearns, pushed almost to collapse, cash-rich you are; so reduced liquidity was sold to JP Morgan for just $2 a means the banks don't have much share. Citigroup, the world's biggest cash in reserve to lend to each other. bank and the largest foreign bank Government regulators have had employer in Ireland, announced some success in alleviating colossal losses of pressures such as the $5.1bn (€3.2bn) in “Potential forceful interest rate cuts the first three by the Federal Reserve months of the year, losses in and the Bank of England. and, inevitably, job the global Last May there were cuts. Such signs of market confidence banking system announcements returning as bank stocks could be almost have incited rallied on Wall Street but speculation that the situation remains $1.25 trillion” other financial uncertain. institutions around Potential losses in the global the world could be in a mess. banking system could be almost $1.25 Banks in Ireland are enduring tough trillion, according to the International trading conditions. Earnings are Monetary Fund Global Stability under pressure as banks’ own funding Report. costs remain high. This is because of Due to trading in securities that were decline in the creditworthiness of themselves based on home loans to property and construction (P&C) customers ill-equipped to pay them borrowers. The credit crisis and back, the banks have had to write off higher bank costs are continuing to hundreds of billions of dollars, with force Irish banks to increase their

mortgage rates and introduce changes. Banks are resorting increasingly to wholesale markets for funding as share prices fall. As for the future, a severe downturn in the US would have spillover effects on our economy. It would likely lead to a decline in commodity prices, reducing capital flows to many emerging markets and creating risks for the growth prospects of developing countries. John O’Driscoll, a financial expert at the IFSC, says: “A number of countries that have relied on shortterm cross-border borrowing to finance large current account deficits are at greater risk.” The Irish fiscal position is still relatively healthy due to provisions in recent budgets. The euro may remain high against the dollar for some time and this may in turn make adjustments in Ireland harder than other parts of Europe. Until interbank confidence returns, the crisis will continue.



To Shell or to Connacht Ross Loftus speaks to Bob Kavanagh, one of the founder members of the Rossport Solidarity Camp, about life in the eco-trenches


n June 2005, five men from Rossport, County Mayo were imprisoned for contempt of court. For disobeying court orders allowing Shell E&P Ireland (SEPIL) to enter their lands, they were to remain imprisoned indefinitely until they purged their contempt. The ongoing dispute between SEPIL and locals opposed to the company’s onshore gas terminal development had escalated. A large number of people from the locality were opposed to the construction of a high pressure gas pipeline which would pass their homes. Its proposed pressure was four times greater than that of the biggest existing Bord Gais pipelines. These residents sought an alternative route and wished the gas to be refined at sea, reducing its onshore gas pressure. During the previous June bank holiday weekend, a group of people from outside the immediate area organised an event at Rossport Pier. They hoped to raise public awareness of the local residents’ campaign. Local people had been campaigning against the development in their locality for over two years. The campaign was now upping the ante. A site was provided by a local and

a temporary camp was set up at the pier. Visitors enjoyed food and musical entertainment, while local residents spoke about their fears for the area’s future. The event closed on Sunday, with an open discussion where many of the visitors pledged their support. “A few weeks later, five local men that were to become known as the ‘Rossport Five’ were imprisoned, but the news coverage of their imprisonment only seemed interested in their jailing,” says Bob Kavanagh, a 25 year old musician from Co. Sligo, who was involved in the bank holiday event in 2005. Bob feels that the news coverage ignored the nuts and bolts of the campaign. “Even the favourable media coverage of the case served to lionise the five guys who went to prison; it made them look as though they were these lone heroes. In fact, there is a whole community of people who are angry about the project.” The lack of an adequate traffic management plan further angered local people. Subsequently a dispute arose in mid-June 2005 over this issue. A local parked his car on the side of the road, blocking the movement of a truck being used by SEPIL.

A stand-off ensued and the truck driver abandoned his vehicle. A combination of locals and some of the attendees of the weekend event maintained the blockade. This continued for a number of weeks and it was during this period that the ‘Rossport Five’ were sent to prison. “The people of the area were worried at the time and they asked us if we would be interested in organising a similar event to the previous one or something to ensure that a number of people would be here all the time,” says Bob. “We had no practical experience of protest camps as they are known, but we were familiar with that tactic so we made a joint decision between ourselves and the locals to do just that.” A camp was established at Rossport in cooperation with local people. “We didn’t want to come in and appear to be taking over or dictating how their campaign should be run. We were aware that there was a good campaign being run there by the community. That’s why we called it the Rossport Solidarity Camp,” Bob explains. To ensure the smooth running of the camp, the group decided that a set of guidelines would have to be


Photos by Ross Loftus

drawn up. It was to be a working camp, for those who wished to contribute to the campaign. “We didn’t want people to come and lie about all day,” said Bob. “We also decided that a total ban on alcohol and illegal drugs was to be observed at the camp.” The camp aimed to be open to everybody who wished to help the campaign: families, children and the elderly. “We didn’t want it to become an elitist eco-warrior, tree hugging type thing. I think most people you’d talk to that are involved with the campaign are pretty happy with the work that the camp did.” There was a core group of eight or nine people living in the camp throughout its existence. This was supplemented by additional people who attended when work


constraints allowed. It wasn’t unusual to have people arriving with a passing interest in the campaign, intending to stay for a day, but ending up staying for a month. From June 2005 to November 2005 the camp was located on Philip McGrath’s land in Rossport village. Shell had finished work in this area in November and the site was quite boggy. For these reasons, the group decided to vacate this site and spent the winter raising awareness and organising fundraising events for the campaign. “Some of us used that time to visit protest camps in England to pick up tips on how to run a camp properly.” In the spring the camp relocated to Glengad, the proposed landfall site

for the gas pipeline. “We understood that this land was commonage and nobody had any objection to us being there. None of the people we contacted for advice warned us against setting up there,” says Bob. “We spoke to REPS (Rural Environment Protection Scheme) and the County Council and they had no objections as long as we didn’t litter the area.” The site was a candidate special area of conservation (SAC), and the group took measures to ensure the camp was as green as possible. “We strived for low impact living on-site. Anything that could be recycled was recycled, refuse was contained and binned. We used a ‘Grey Water’ system so cooking and washing water went through this system and the water that came out the other end was re-used.” Composting was

strengthened their resolve. “People here identified with those speakers and shared their sense of isolation and inability to have their opinions publicised. When you have someone from South Africa saying they feel the exact same way, it’s not a happy story but you realise it happens all over the world,” Bob says. The camp continued its work up to the summer of 2007. After various court cases, an eviction order was made at the end of 2007 for vacation of the site by January 1st 2008. The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) had reported on the operation of the camp and its environmental impact in 2007. The report complimented the ecologically sensitive living that was practised there. However, a subsequent report by the NPWS was less supportive and was used as the

also used extensively for toilet and food waste. Camp members raised awareness by speaking at environmental and political events and colleges around the country. They also felt it was important to link the experience of the ‘Shell to Sea’ campaign with similar campaigns in Ireland and around the world. “To that end we organised a lot of talks so people could come to Erris and share their experiences of campaigns that they were involved in. We had people from around the world speaking here and that to me was one of the most inspiring parts of it all.” Speakers at these events expressed the same fears and frustrations as the people in Rossport. This

basis of Mayo County Council’s eviction case. Despite the camp’s demise, Bob remains in an upbeat mood. “We didn’t want the camp to detract from the issue of the gas terminal. That’s why we took it down. We’re still in the area and we will still continue to do what we do.” Local people have provided abandoned and run down houses for the former camp dwellers and they are carrying out repairs to make the buildings more inhabitable. They continue to work with the ‘Shell to Sea’ group in the area. They “haven’t gone away you know”.

“We didn’t want it to become an elitist eco-warrior, tree hugging type thing”

Pushing the vote out


slap opinion

Rosemary Mac Cabe laments the lack of real democracy in our nation’s halls of power and suggests that there might just be a few too many ayes in team

hat does the word “democracy” mean to you? Surely it means “for the people” or “of the people” or just, “the people”, or some combination of all three terms; in short, it means something good. They’re looking out for you, those democraticallyelected officials. Oh yes, surely. How do you know that? Because we live in a democracy – not just a democracy, come to think of it, folks, but a liberal democracy, such a warm, fuzzy phrase. Words can be misleading, though, as can labels – this is something that life will teach us. The label on your jeans that says “vintage”, when you know for a fact that they were made in Cambodia in 2006; the name “Irish Independent” when you know for a fact that very few media outlets in Ireland are truly independent; the “homemade” pancake mixture, beautifully packaged, from the shelves of Tesco. Things, to use a cliché that perhaps isn’t used enough, are not always what they seem. And so we come to this, your “liberal democracy”, men and women in Government, working for the people, elected by the people, for the people, and so on. In late 2007, Bertie Ahern, your elected Taoiseach, went to the funeral of Katy French, “Ireland’s answer to Kate Moss” (according to Grazia magazine). He spent your tax money on being driven to the church, he spent his time, for which you pay (through the nose – and, incidentally, who decides Bertie’s pay cheque?) mourning at her graveside. Bertie didn’t know Katy personally, but he went to her funeral because she was “a public figure”. He didn’t, however, go to Robert Holohan’s funeral (also a public figure, if being a public

figure means that your photograph is in the press more than twice). Once you elect your government, who guides it in the right direction? What say do you have, after the day of the election? It’s an old cliché that it’s only a democracy on the day you go to the polls – but a cliché is just a repeated sentence, and in this case it is repeated because of the truth contained therein. Ours is a party political system – and lately, despite the word “party” and all that it may mean, there hasn’t been much reason to celebrate. Our Taoiseach earns more per annum than the President of the United States – which is noted here only for the purposes of shock; let there be no mistake, there is no support here of the current US President, merely a highlighting of the fact that Ireland, with a population of 4 million, has a higher-paid leader than the US, with over 300 million inhabitants. The Taoiseach is the leader of our “liberal democracy” but he is not elected by the people; he is elected (allegedly) for the people, by his party, the ruling party. They all have a say in who gets to be Taoiseach, but there was no contest when Bertie regained his throne in the summer of 2007. When Brian Cowen was this year put forward as party leader and the Chosen One to succeed Bertie, there was no real ambiguity about whose name would come out of the proverbial hata. Once Ireland has elected her Government, the democracy ends, and the party system begins. Any issue that arises in the Dáil is decided by the pack; there is no room for dissenters. Fianna Fáil, together, think one thing; Labour, another. There are no individuals in the Dáil. There is no pretence at a parliamentary democracy. It’s not entirely transparent, how it works –

perhaps they all go into a room and there’s a “hands-up” kind of thing, and they come out and say “Fianna Fáil think . . .”. Or maybe it’s the powerful in the party, the Berties and the Brians, who decide what their line is going to be. A third option, somewhat less believable, is that they go with their “party line” (whatever that is) and proceed comme ça. The only sure truth is that once you vote for your chosen candidate, you surrender him or her, and all of their beliefs, to the machine that is the Irish Government. If you have voted independent, and chances are you haven’t, but if you have, your favourite will enter the Dáil and have to decide immediately whose line to toe, whose call to obey. There is no independence in party politics. A pressing example of this in action is the Lisbon Treaty. Fianna Fáil would urge you to vote “yes”: according to their website, “the Lisbon Treaty is a Treaty for the Future”, “future” with a capital “f”. There will be a referendum on the issue, but if there wasn’t, it would be voted through, because Fianna Fáil is the ruling party. Secret ballot or no, they would, each and every member of Fianna Fáil, toe the party line. If Fianna Fáil says yes, by God you say yes, man. There will be a referendum, but, chances are, Fianna Fáil supporters will, without any extensive consideration, without careful reading of the literature, or reviewing the pros and cons, vote Yes, because their party, their champions, are voting Yes. Really, we’re all toeing the party line. And maybe this lack of democracy is what we wanted all along; and if we want it, does that make it democracy, or just blind faith?



Photo by Gary Fox

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The Irish 50-yard line



Sam Monson dons the pads as the American Game touches down in Ireland

n a crisp Sunday afternoon, a lone figure breaks the stillness on the open grass. Pushing his charge, leaving a white chalk line in his wake, it’s hard to imagine that this signals the coming of the storm – America’s Game is about to be set loose on the Emerald Isle. From one end of the field come the first few players, the scout party signalling the approach of the battalions following behind. They walk slowly, carrying their helmets and pads by their sides, each in his own quiet state, preparing for the cacophony of impending violence. Dark clouds remain unmoved in the afternoon sky, a hanging sword of Damocles forever threatening to break its tether and release the rain, adding yet more water to an already muddy field. The next three hours of crunching impact and fevered strategising

signals the beginning of the Irish American Football League (IAFL) season, in which nine teams will strive to outwit, out-muscle, and dominate their opposition in the chase for the Shamrock Bowl. This is American Football, Irish-style. The game of American football has been taking hold around the world for some time now. Over the last 50 years it has become America’s favourite sport, and now the NFL is trying to push it overseas. Just last season the NFL held its first regular season game outside North America, when the New York Giants met the Miami Dolphins in Wembley Stadium. The NFL is becoming a global brand, and Irish fans are jumping on board. American football always had a small following in Ireland and the UK, dating back to the days when Channel 4 would show late night

games and highlight packages of the NFL in the 1980s. This strong core of fans never went away, even through the television dark ages, and was ultimately rewarded when BSkyB gained the rights to NFL TV coverage and began to broadcast live games on Sunday nights. Now they can watch three live games each Sunday, another on Monday nights, and even more, late in the season when Thursday games begin. The NFL fan has never had so much direct access to the game, and it is only going to improve as the NFL strives to promote the game abroad. The Wembley game has already become a fixture on the NFL calendar, with a commitment from the league for a further three years. Now Irish fans can see a game live without planning a transatlantic voyage, needing only to place their lives in the hands of Ryanair for the

“Every man is involved, covered in mud, and sporting the beginnings of tomorrow’s bruises”

even if given the chance. Now anybody with the time and inclination can sign up, suit up and start dishing out some pain. The game itself is one of inclusion. Between hulking offensive or defensive linemen and slight but speedy wide receivers or cornerbacks, the game caters for all shapes and sizes. If you have the desire, you’ll find a place on a team. Every man is involved, covered in mud, and sporting the beginnings of tomorrow’s bruises. Every man spends his Sunday as part of a team, united in a

common cause, and will be back to do it all over again next week. And so the two teams of mudstained warriors, one wearing smiles that only victory can create, the other bearing the heavy burden of defeat on their shoulders, meet in the middle of what was once a field of grass to shake hands, and congratulate each other on a battle well fought. The pitch, hours after being marked off with chalk lines, is now a stretch of mud-soaked wasteland, the aftermath of the battle waged on its surface. That battle has been won, and now the players exit in the same direction from which they came, half with a spring in their step, already regaling each other with their personal glories from the game, the other half, with slow, laboured steps. They’ll be back next week. Another chance at victory in the IAFL. Another chance to be the side wearing smiles as well as mud. This is football, Irish-style.

Photos by Gary Fox

short flight to London. While the game is an institution in America, it is only just beginning to take hold in Ireland. The IAFL was founded in 1984, as the first wave of American Football hit Europe, and has experienced both ups and downs in its 24-year history. But it has found itself experiencing something of a resurgence recently, with more and more young people wanting to try to play the game they’ve become addicted via television coverage. What these new players will find when they join one of the sides in the IAFL is a team brought together by a passion for a game that gives you a set of pads and tells you to go out and hit people. The cost to players is pain, money, and a weekly commitment to training and games, but the payoff is a share of the team spirit, and getting to go out on a weekly basis to play a game that most people never have the opportunity to play. In the past, American Football was a game played in a distant land by athletes distilled in a system geared to producing bigger, faster and stronger professional players. It was a game played by people nobody could ever expect to compete with,


Flash Geordan Darragh O’Donoghue talks to Geordan Murphy and learns that, should new Ireland manager Declan Kidney find no space in his line-up for him, Murphy has a lucrative career in PR ahead of him


capable of changing a game with a flash of sublime skill, and an undroppable asset to the Irish team. To others, he’s a lightweight luxury who’s flattered to deceive far too often to be trusted. Unfortunately for him, former coach Eddie O’Sullivan subscribed to the latter theory, which has resulted in an infuriatingly stop-start career. Being dropped more often than acid at Woodstock must have had its effect on a player renowned for his fragility, so how does he feel about being this generation’s Mick Galwey? “Well, I’m just shocked to be compared to Mick Galwey,” he chuckles. “That’s never happened before! It was a very tough situation to be in though. I’ll openly admit that I wasn’t happy when I was out of the team, but you can’t hold it against anyone. That’s not being a team player.” This last utterance is a clear indication of Murphy’s

Photos by Paul Walsh


eordan Murphy is a player who divides opinion like few others. To some, he is one of the most dangerous attacking full-backs in the world,

professionalism. Whatever people’s views of his skill on the field, off the field he has conducted himself with admirable dignity. As it transpired, throughout the recent World Cup and Six Nations campaign Murphy became a bit of a cause celebre for those looking to attack Eddie O’Sullivan. As the ill-fated Irish coach’s stock dropped rapidly, his well-publicised mistrust of his mercurial bench-warmer was viewed as a microcosm of his failings. So with the conservative O’Sullivan now a victim of the team’s poor form, could the advent of a new coach signal a new beginning for the laid-back enigma? “No, I don’t think I can look at it like that,” he grimaces. “It’s just as possible that I’ll be in a similar position where I have to prove

someone wrong, there’s no certainty that it’s going to be some utopian ‘new beginning’. “You don’t know what the new coach is going to be looking for, and I’m not gonna play forever, probably only for another two or three years, truth be told. “I certainly think I have something to offer, but we’ll just have to wait and see.” Cautious self-deprecation aside, it’s easy to imagine he permitted himself a smile when the news broke of O’Sullivan’s demise. He strenuously denies this, however. “Nah, I would never take pleasure in someone else’s misfortune like that. I wasn’t sitting at home with my pipe and slippers laughing, if that’s what you mean! Any coach is gonna have it difficult, and it was a very tough situation to be in. He’s trying to do the best job he can for the team and for the country, and if you don’t agree with his call then you’ve just got to take it on the chin.” This stoic determination has served him well, and his single-minded approach is evident in his attitude to the protracted search for a new head man, which recently culminated in the appointment of Declan Kidney. “I didn’t pay a huge amount of attention to it to be honest. It’s not really up to the players, we don’t get a say in who comes in. I just hoped that the new coach would have room for me in their plans! As a player, that’s your primary focus.” The laid-back air is genuine, but he couldn’t possibly have been that blasé about the appointment. With a bit of encouragement, he opens up on the subject a little more. “Ideally, you want the new boss to be a good guy who will have good ideas, to be someone you can learn from. I’d heard Declan Kidney mentioned and I think he’s a fantastic coach. I’ve worked with him and we’ve got on well. As I said, it’s not really up to me, I’ve just got to keep playing and hope for the best, but I’m happy with how things have worked out.” With the IRFU in charge of the appointment, the rugby public’s main concern was not so much whether the blazers could appoint the right man, but whether they’d

“Nah, I would never take pleasure in someone else’s misfortune like that. I wasn’t sitting at home in my pipe and slippers laughing, if that’s what you’re thinking!” avoid burning down their offices while sending the email proposing him. With the protests over the Eddie O’Sullivan debacle still ringing in their ears (the Irish coach was awarded a fresh four year contract mere months before the sacking), they considered adopting a more cautious approach with the new man. Rumours were circulated that the men in charge could appoint the new coach on a caretaker basis, which many thought would be a disastrous move. Not so Murphy, however, who trusts the Union to do a good job. “Well, if they’d set their sights on someone who wasn’t immediately available then I think it would have made sense to appoint a caretaker,” Murphy argues. Contrary to the prevailing opinion, Murphy is happy that the IRFU are

handling things well. “It’s not all doom and gloom like some people would have you believe,” he reassures us. “The provinces are doing very well at the moment. They have a lot of talented players, and there are a lot of good youngsters coming through.” With Munster and Leinster in particular looking overseas for their new recruits though, fault lines are emerging. Many of the new generation of stars are struggling to establish themselves, but entirely home grown teams are not viable, especially taking into account the financial imperatives of performing in Europe. As an Irish squad member playing abroad, Murphy is as rare as a Leinster fan in Limerick. This also gives him a unique perspective on the situation, so does he feel the new man needs to cast this local bias aside? “Well, I don’t know what kind of footing overseas players are being considered on at the moment,” he says, diplomatically. “Obviously the new coach coming in will need to decide that. But definitely I think that if young talented players aren’t getting enough game time for the provinces, then the most important thing for them is to be playing first team rugby. “I think they should be allowed go and play wherever that is possible, whether that be keeping it Irish based by sending them over to London Irish and seeing if they can get a game there, or opening it up and letting them play in the Premiership or with other Magners League sides. I think that would definitely strengthen Irish rugby.” The interview ends with a wink and a handshake, as the jovial Murphy fields some light-hearted questions about his upcoming marriage to fiancée Lucy Silva. Any fears? “Nah, none!” So when’s the date? “Some time next summer.” During the Lions Tour? “Ah, a bit early for that kind of talk I think!” At least if Declan Kidney doesn’t like what he sees, a lucrative career in PR beckons.


Bla O


Ciarán Masterson looks on as the world debates the morality of denying Oscar Pistorius a shot at gold

scar Pistorius is nothing short the 400m. of a phenomenon. ‘The fastest His first international able-bodied man on no legs’– as he has race was in Rome in July 2007. The been termed by the media – has IAAF had invited him to take part in been causing a bit of a stir on the order to assess whether he should be athletics track over the past year. eligible for their competitions. He But events off the track which have came second in a 400m race which overshadowed his efforts as a shortled to him partaking in another distance runner. On January 14th event in Sheffield. In wet conditions 2008, the International Association he finished last in the 400m and of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the afterwards was disqualified for international running out of his lane. After “You're not finishing however, he was governing body of athletics, ruled that to thunderous applause disabled by treated Pistorius was by the spectators. ineligible for the disabilities Pistorius’ prosthetic legs, competition – known as Cheetahs, were you have, you developed by Icelandic denying him an appearance at the are able by the company Össur. They consist of Olympic Games. The a j-shaped blade made from abilities you carbon fibre. The dispute arose International Olympic Committee over whether his artificial limbs have” did not intervene. give him a technical advantage Pistorius doesn’t fit over other competitors in ablethe picture of your average sprinter. bodied contests. The IAAF allowed His legs were amputated when he him to run in a few initial was just 11 months old, as he was international events so they could born without the fibula in his lower gauge this scientifically. legs. This wasn’t enough to stop the The body maintains that a scientific South African, and he played investigation proves that Pistorius numerous sports throughout his life has an unfair advantage. The study, before turning to athletics in 2004. conducted by a Professor Gert-Peter He runs on artificial prosthetic limbs Brueggemann in cooperation with carefully crafted for his sport. Pistorius, found that the double At just 21 he holds Paralympic amputee could run on 25 per cent records in 100m, 200m and 400m less energy while running at the events in the T44 class. In his first same speed as other runners. year as a track runner he took gold Össur claim that more tests need to in the 200m and also won bronze in be done, yet no one has disproved

Brueggemann’s findings. The IAAF also stated that Pistorius would be more susceptible to falling over during a race and if this were to happen he would impede other runners on the track. In devising the new rule they stated that if they allowed Pistorius to run then what is to stop all athletes using carbon fibre technology in their shoes, adding a greater spring to their step. The IAAF has been accused of discrimination on the basis that Pistorius doesn’t have all the physical attributes normally associated with a sprinter. The accusers claim that the IAAF doesn’t want to be perceived as having a ‘freak’ in some of their most popular events. The IAAF, on the other hand, states that it is a question of ethics. If they allow someone with prosthetic limbs to compete, would all athletes would look to technical aids to enhance their speed? Pistorius is not likely to give up on the Olympic dream. The man who refuses to park in disabled spaces lives by the motto: ‘You’re not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are able by the abilities you have.’ In any case, the conundrum of trying to establish fair competition without excluding people looks set to be an issue for years to come.


on the


Photos by Gary Fox



Darragh O’Donoghue talks to the lads from Off the Ball about the growth of the Newstalk sports programme, fear of talking on the radio and whether Jack Charlton was truly a master tactician Go to the Newstalk website, and the first thing that confronts you is a banner advertising Off the Ball. Lower your gaze slightly, and there’s an image of Maradona in full flight, beside a link which takes you to a whole section dedicated to the show. It may seem strange that a national radio station would see fit to elevate a sports programme to a position of such priority, but once you’ve heard the show itself in full swing it becomes clear. There’s simply nothing else


like it on Irish radio, and in a sports-mad country, that’s worth its weight in gold. While nearly every station has its own sports shows, none have had the courage to devote three hours a night, every weeknight, to something that many would see as a trivial pursuit. Newstalk’s gamble has paid off handsomely however, with Off the Ball scooping the gong for best sports programme at last year’s Radio Awards, helping propel Newstalk itself to the National Station of the Year bauble. Since its inception in 2002 the show has gone from strength to strength, and much of this success can be attributed to the quality of its presenters. With Ger Gilroy having left in 2006, Eoin McDevitt took the


reins, and it’s been a seamless transition. The chemistry between McDevitt and the rest of the team is evident on the airwaves, and equally obvious in person. “I came here originally on a placement from DCU, where I did my Masters, so it’s actually my first proper full-time job,” he says. “It’s not really even a proper job,” pipes up Ciaran Murphy, Newstalk’s ‘in-house anti-depressant’. McDevitt, Murphy and Ken Early, the laconic football presenter, form the nucleus of the show. “Ken’s a bit more ‘worldly’ than us,” jokes Murphy. “He’s been here since ground zero.” Early used to work for Intrade before joining Newstalk in 2002. “Have you heard of Betfair?” he asks. “Well that’s what Intrade was meant to be. I was working at the desk across from Ger Gilroy, so when Intrade folded, I took an intense interest in the job he was about to take!” Newstalk took Gilroy on to do a two-hour sports programme, and the rest is history. “It was very different to what it is now though,” Early recalls. “Its current format dates from about 2005/6.” The show became so popular it was expanded from two to three hours. Obviously, filling 15 hours a week is quite a challenge. “Yeah, it’s difficult,” admits Murphy. “But we enjoy it.” “Some weeks are easier than others,” adds McDevitt. “It’s got its positives, in that you can give items the coverage you feel they deserve, but it does feel a bit ludicrous at times. In July, for instance, we have the Championship, but there’s nothing else going on and we can’t do three hours on the Championship! So let’s just say some of the items appearing on the football show at that time might not be of the required standard!” Despite the relaxed nature of the show, it is very tightly planned. “Mark Horgan, the producer, has got the

task of structuring the show. We’ll always have the first hour sorted, but there are times when a story might have dropped late, and the lads could be scrounging to put something together for between 8pm and 9pm,” says McDevitt. “Eoin’s the top of the swan, and me, Simon [Hick, their reporter] and Ken are the legs kicking furiously,” adds Murphy. “The job satisfaction can be fleeting too. We might have a great show where we nail a load of brilliant features and it’s like ‘nice one lads, well done’, then you get up in the morning and have to do it all again.” Things have gotten easier over the years though, as word of the show has spread. Regular guests like John Giles, Graham Hunter and Gerry Thornley have helped raise the show’s profile to the point where people outside the country will be familiar with it, despite not having access to Newstalk. “We often get a good reaction when we get in touch with people,” says Murphy. “We might ring up a GAA player and they’ll be like ‘Ah jaysus, I love the show, you lads are great craic!’. But then they could come on the show and be no craic at all.” “People can freeze up quite easily,” notes Early. “It’s difficult to do if you’re not used to it.” “It’s a weird situation all right, being brought into a studio full of people you don’t know and being asked questions,” Murphy agrees. “It’s a lot easier to ask questions than answer them. Any time I’ve been on a program other than Off the Ball I’ve felt completely out of my depth!” They are confident though, despite the self-deprecation. Early’s view that “it’s all opinion, nobody knows for sure” could be the key to the show.

Charlton. But not knowing anything about football didn’t stop him from being a pretty good football manager.” Perhaps Charlton

intentionally cultivates this persona though? Surely this ignorance is a smokescreen. “Hmmm, I’m not sure,” says McDevitt. “I’ve interviewed him, and I think that ignorance is pretty genuine! He was telling me how he came up with his long ball tactics, and he was describing how he saw the Spanish ‘hoofing it up to the big lad up top’. I was thinking to myself, ‘he must mean Salinas’. I gave him a minute. ‘The big lad up front...’ Cue a long pause. ‘The big Spanish lad...’ Another pause. ‘Salinas! The lad Salinas!’ He went on quite a few rambling rants after that, so I don’t think Jack is feigning anything!” The show’s popularity would clearly indicate that they are attracting listeners who wouldn’t normally listen to sports radio. Fans of talk shows can find something to relate to and enjoy in the banter that flows between the presenters and guests. “I think Ken’s style on the football show has fed into the

first two hours,” Murphy muses. “I’d go so far as to call it ‘irreverent’ ,” laughs Early. “Listen, it’s just sport. There’s no point getting too pompous about it.” McDevitt is keen to stress that they do occasionally use the format to tackle some important issues, however. “We try not to limit ourselves, an interesting story is an interesting story. It doesn’t have to be ‘who’s playing right back for whoever’, we cover a range, whether it’s drugs in sport or race relations. A couple of years ago for example, we covered a story from Duke University in North Carolina, where the college lacrosse team, who were mostly white, were accused of raping some black strippers at a party. They were totally cleared in the end, and it was a lot heavier than what we normally cover, but we thought it was very

interesting, highlighting racial tensions in a combustible area. That wasn’t about sport, but we thought it was worthwhile. On the other hand, we also do features like the all-time bow-legged footballing XI, or the three players with the tightest shorts in the GAA!” “Obviously we’re all incredibly well-read young men, this is just our oeuvre,” says Murphy. So, what does the future hold for Off the Ball? “Well, we’re Newstalk employees,” they deadpan. “We’ve signed a contract and we’re perfectly happy for now. Of course RTÉ is a great organisation…” “What we’re doing now offers us great levels of freedom to do what we want to do,” says Murphy. “You’d be doing well to find a better gig.”

Pictures by Gary Fox

“There’s no right or wrong in sport,” says McDevitt. “If you’re a fan with an opinion, then let’s hear it. When I’m talking to John Giles I don’t mind challenging him on something if I don’t agree with what he’s saying. If you genuinely feel differently, then you’ve gotta push it a bit.” “At the same time, you don’t wanna be Jeremy Paxman: ‘Well, interesting you should say that John, because we have a tape from 2005...’,” jokes Murphy. “Ken’s hand is stamped though, he’s had a week’s trial at Marseille. He’s gained entry to the gilded temple!” Ken’s amused protestations are immediately shouted down by the others. “Now come on Ken, it mightn’t have been a formal trial, but you were down there, and they liked the look of you. You were in the Stade Velodrome with Chrissy Waddle, you nutmegged Basile Boli…” – “not a man you want to mess with,” chuckles Early. Despite the light-hearted attitude, their respect for their guests is clear. Any questioning of John Giles, “our all-time hero” as McDevitt puts it, is met with fierce resistance. “His job is to speak articulately about the game,” argues Early, “and he does it better than most. He’s not supposed to know each and every thing about every player. It’s just Championship Manager-playing teenagers who care about that. I mean what did Jack Charlton say about Trapattoni: ‘I’ve never heard of Giovanni Trapattoni.’ He was a brilliant player when Jack Charlton was playing, he won 10 league titles with Juventus when Liam Brady was playing under


And in the green The fall and rise and fall. Kevin Byrne asks if Irish boxing is on the rise again, or punching above its weight



ive sport on Irish television has generally tended to revolve around ball games. RTÉ and their competitors can usually be relied on to provide plenty of GAA, soccer and rugby action for the sports fan. Recently, however, boxing seems to be grabbing its chance as a headliner in its own right. The trend can be traced back to Bernard Dunne. Sure, he’s much maligned after his horrendous first round knock out at the hands of Spaniard Kiko Martinez last year, but in getting that far, Dunne had been at the forefront of what has been labeled ‘the Irish revival’. Ireland had two world champions in the 1990s in Wayne McCullough and Steve Collins. But after they lost their belts, the domestic professional scene went into serious meltdown. There were no shows. Most fighters emigrated. The public was uninterested. But boxing has come back in a big way. Dunne made his Dublin debut in 2005 after a spell in America and his reputation quickly grew. His fight nights became genuine events. But he fell victim to the hype machine. His opponent on August 26th 2007 was viewed as just a stepping stone on the way to a world title fight, someone for Dunne to be cautious of but nonetheless expected to dispatch. He said in advance of the bout: “I try not to think too much about a world title because I have to concentrate on Martinez but I know

I’m not too far away from it and I’m ready to fight any of the world champions.” What happened next serves as a cautionary tale for all Irish fighters. Just 86 seconds into the fight, Dunne was reeling and his European title was resting on another man’s hip – his own dreams shattered as he was left to contemplate what might have been. On the same night, Limerick’s Andy Lee easily accounted for Ciaran

Healy. Lee was Ireland’s sole Olympian in 2004, a product of the much-vaunted High Performance Unit which has yielded decent success for Irish amateur punchers at European level. Here was a fighter to restore confidence, and a little romance. Ireland is, after all, noted for the brawlers and fighters we have produced. But it is a while since a true Irish-born champion emerged who could capture the world’s attention. Lee looked like (and could yet be) the man to take up that mantle. He has it all: ability, size, style. Indeed his career path thus far has been encouraging. He turned pro after the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 and one day got a call most fighters could only dream of – it was Emanuel Stewart on the other end of the line inviting him to move to Detroit to become a member of the famous Kronk gym. Stewart’s fame in the boxing world is widespread. He has trained Lennox Lewis, Larry Holmes and Thomas Hearns to name but a few, and his seal of approval says a lot for Lee. His progress under Stewart was acknowledged throughout the boxing world, but it was another Irishman who was lined up for a shot at the title. Derry’s John Duddy was the man presented with the golden opportunity – a shot at the middleweight champion of the world, the rampant Kelly Pavlik. Duddy came to prominence in


Boxing clever: Dunne, Lee and Duddy

America. There, he was the darling if I prepare 100 per cent of Irish-America and a regular physically and mentally, arena-filler. There is a perception he the chances of getting hurt gets hit too often, but his supporters are low. But yes; it could point to his warrior-like qualities. In happen. And if it does, I'll America, he utilised whatever he just have to say, ‘Well, it could to get ahead. happened.’ If I was “One of the things we do is hit a thinking about getting hurt, lorry tyre with a sledgehammer for I wouldn’t be a boxer.” 20 minutes at the end of each The fight turned out to be training session. Boxers like Jack anything but routine. Dempsey and Muhammad Ali used Duddy essentially blew his to chop wood in their training chance, despite winning the camps. But if you start cutting down fight. He suffered cuts to his eyes trees in New York City, they’re going which were so bad that he would to put you in jail.” require months to heal -- taking him Duddy followed in Dunne’s out of May’s planned showdown. footsteps and came back, and was Suddenly the focus shifted to Lee. soon topping bills in Ireland to Pavlik still needed an opponent and enthusiastic, sell-out crowds. His Lee’s manager Stewart was confident toughest bout came against his fighter was up to it. The hype was British/Caribbean war-horse Harold spreading again. Pavlik’s last two Eastman, but Duddy was judged to fights were against another Stewart have shaded the contest and was protege, Jermain Taylor. Pavlik took ready to move on to bigger things. his title in an epic, brutal encounter, Then came the news and proceeded to “Boxers like Irish fans had been beat him again in a waiting to hear. Duddy Dempsey and Ali non-title rematch in was being lined up for a the early spring. used to chop wood For Stewart to be title fight. Getting the honour of facing a Lee so freely, in their training touting champion competitively before he had come implies two things. camps. But if you up against Firstly, that you have meaningful box office appeal in the start cutting down opposition, looked United States. Secondly, trees in New York silly at best – that you have ability. irresponsible at City, they’re going worst. John Duddy had both. Andy Lee still had work Besides, Lee had to to put you in jail” first to do to catch up. get past another Word was that Pavlik’s routine fight with an representatives were going to attend American named Brian Vera, who Duddy’s seemingly routine clash had been introduced to the world of with Walid Smichet in Madison pro boxing by the reality TV show Square Garden, as the Derry man The Contender. returned to his adopted home of Again, the seemingly routine went New York. horribly wrong for one of Ireland’s Duddy said in 2006: “I tell myself, best prospects. Lee was up on points

in the seventh round in Connecticut, but then disaster struck. The referee moved in and halted the bout just after Lee had landed a big left hand. Lee was bleeding badly from a cut on the side of his right eye, and had been seriously hurt in the round by a series of right hands from Vera. Just as Lee looked to have recovered, his fight was over. His unbeaten, unblemished record was gone. Such a record for a fighter is invaluable as a marketing ploy and can be used to gain attention where it matters most. Encouragingly, there are signs that the trio of fighters are bloodied but unbowed. Dunne has since beaten ex-World Champion Felix Machado on a judges’ decision in Castlebar, and looked to have made a good recovery from his earlier trampling. Duddy is thought to be looking at a return in the late summer, although his status as a contender is diminished. Lee is said to be desperate for a rematch with his conqueror Vera, who seems poised to grant him one. The reality check is complete, but still hopes are alive: boxing fans can dream again.


The Perfect Formula W

Seamus O’Neill heralds a new, more exciting era for the greatest motorsport championship

ith the 2008 Formula 1 season well under way the championship is going to be one of the toughest to win. Up until 2004 the sport was dominated by one man, Michael Schumacher. While Schumacher’s success in the sport helped popularise it in Germany, worldwide this wasn’t the case. His dominance in Formula 1 racing from 2000 to 2004 made the sport appear dull as no one could compete against him and global viewing figures suffered as a result. The number of Irish Formula 1 fans has also decreased, in the most part due to the lack of any direct Irish interest in the sport. Since both Eddie Jordan and Eddie Irvine left the sport there is no Irish connection and no home talent to cheer on – something vital in any sport. With RTE’s coverage of grand prix a thing of the past, Irish viewers have had to turn to Setanta Sports and ITV for their Formula 1 fix. Fortunately for the sport, global figures are starting to in–crease again as the championship has


taken on new teams and rules, all in a bid to make it more challenging, open and transparent. Huge sponsorship deals are a necessity for a team to survive. In May the Super Aguri team had to bow out of the champioship after running into financial problems. The team first entered Formula 1 back in 2006. However according to team boss and founder Aguri Suzuki: “The breach of contract by the promised partner SS United Oil & Gas Company resulted in the loss of financial backing and immediately put the team into financial difficulties.” Technically it is a sport where precision and timing is everything. From the choice of tyres, to the amount of fuel onboard, to the design of the car. Everything is carefully considered to shave fractions of seconds off laptimes. Converting this technical knowledge into understandable terms for the ordinary viewer is a hard task. Yet it is a sport that is loved because it takes the passive viewer away from the mundane and transports them into the front seat of a sport that is full of thrills and spills. There are claims that the sport has turned its back

on its traditional home in Europe as president and CEO of Formula 1 Management, Bernie Ecclestone, continues to set up grand prix races in such locations as Bahrain, Malaysia and Singapore, all in an effort to appeal to a wider audience. Despite all this the sport is finding its feet again. Among all the problems and criticism it has faced since the turn of the century it has managed to produce a varied championship so far this year, with young talented drivers such as last season’s winner Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Felippe Massa all winning races in the early part of the season. Hot on their heels and keeping them under immense pressure are 2006 champion Fernando Alonso, Nick Heidfield, Robert Kubica and Heikki Kovalainen. Unlike the past ten years, the 2008 championship is anyone’s for the taking. This is what is attracting viewers back to the sport and exciting them once more. Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines and let the love affair consume you all over again.

The League’s Extraordinary Gentleman

Órla Sheils uncovers the legend behind the voice


icheál Ó Muircheartaigh doesn’t like to be rushed. Everything he does, he does with precision, whether it is moving back his chair to sit down or pouring the milk into his coffee. It is difficult to imagine that this is the man we hear hardly drawing a breath as he excitedly commentates the gaelic football and hurling matches for the nation on RTÉ radio.

Photo by Órla Sheils

He sits comfortably in his chair, crosses his legs and assumes the position of somebody about to tell a long story. “It was more about luck than anything else,” he says slowly as he remembers the start of his broadcasting career. He was studying to be a teacher in St Patrick’s teaching college in Drumcondra when he saw a notice advertising auditions for an Irish commentator for Radio Eireann in Croke Park. As part of the trials, he was expected to commentate on a hurling match; the only problem was Ó Muircheartaigh had never seen a hurling match. As chance would have it, he knew one of the goalkeepers, Tadhg Hurley, and told the judges all about Tadgh and his family. This is perhaps the essence behind his success, and something which he acknowledges himself. To be a sports broadcaster, an interest in people is an essential component:


“You have to have an interest in the characters of the players and get to know them. I think if you do, you tend to be fairer to them and you understand them.”

Of course, an interest in sport is also crucial. Ó’Muircheartaigh says “if you are interested you will always be researching, you will always be seeking information, even for yourself, and this becomes part of your work. That is why I always say what I do is not work.”

A commentator since 1949, he has seen many memorable games but his best gaelic football moment was when Donegal won the All Ireland in 1992: “Nobody gave them a chance and they won it, I can still feel the joy they felt.” He also remembers Clare’s hurling victory in 1995: “that was the first time they had won since 1914; there was nobody alive who had seen them win before.”

As a Kerry man he is proud of his county’s record of 35 All-Ireland titles. This year, he thinks the competition will be between Kerry and Dublin. “Dublin have been very good, they have won many Leinster titles but they haven’t made anything of it,” he says. “They need a few players that when the game is there to be won, stand up and even surprise themselves by what they do.” As of yet he doesn’t think they have got any players of that category. “In a way, what I would love to see is a team that hasn’t won in ages. I think it helps the whole game.” He admits however that it will be hard to beat Kerry this year. “There is something in the makeup of the Kerry players,” he says. “It might be the tradition but they have the ability when January comes to write off the previous year. They’re starting afresh with the attitude that nobody has won the next one yet and we have as good a chance as any.”


He agrees grudgingly that the Kerry supporters might be too complacent about winning. “There is a saying in Kerry when we are in the All-Ireland semi-final ‘ah sure we’ll wait for the final.’” But he says this is simply

because the Kerry people have the longest to travel to Croke Park: “It’s a costly adventure.”

For hurling, he says this year it could be Kilkenny, Tipperary, Galway or Waterford. But if he was “put to it” he would say it will be Kilkenny. Although he says he would like to see Waterford win: “They have been very good over the last five years and they’re decent people and fine hurlers.” With Ó Muircheartaigh, it would seem, the sport is inseparable from the people. To him, the GAA is all about the community: “It was always very much a community thing, and any time you provide for the community, it is an investment.” He commends the fact that the GAA is an amateur

admits “you must always be open to change, and if there was enough demand for it and if you can get over the problems it brings on then maybe it might happen.” He describes the GAA as having a “development mentality” and being “progressive”, and as result “Croke Park is the finest stadium in the world.” This is one of the reasons why he supports rugby and soccer being played there. “I agreed with it from the beginning, it’s a fine stadium and it’s worth seeing, with rugby and soccer being played there it can be seen all over the world on television.” On a more practical level, he adds: “Business people will always say utilise your assets.”

After 59 years in broadcasting, a job he describes as a “privilege”, it is “Always be interested difficult for him to choose his best in the players, don’t player of all time. Eventually, he decides on DJ Carey for hurling and forget them the minute he is torn between Kerry’s Mick and Galway’s Seán the match is over, you O’Connell Purcell for football. On the players should look on them as he has commentated on over the he says that as a broadcaster someone you are likely years, you should “always be interested in the players. Don’t forget them the to meet again” minute the match is over, you association as any profit made is put should look on them as someone you back into it. This is one of the are likely to meet again.” Finally he reasons he is against the sport says that in sports commentating, as turning professional as he questions in everything else, “there are two where the necessary money would sides to every story and you have a come from. More importantly duty to know as much as you can however he says that “the GAA about the two sides. The more teams are members of the information you have, the greater community and the community hold the chance the listener has of being them as their own. The loyalty to satisfied.” your own community is a big factor. But I think professional players Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh would become detached and loyalty isn’t talk for a long time if given the the same.” chance, another characteristic which is probably necessary for a career in Ó Muircheartaigh would also worry his chosen field. His soft Kerry about players after their sporting accent and his tendency to careers are finished. “Its no problem sporadically break into an Irish for the likes of rugby’s Brian phrase lend a musical quality to his O’Driscoll with his profile,” he says. tone. “The country is full of sports But for the GAA player, he feels, commentators these days, thank things might not be quite so god,” he says amiably. But at the age favourable. At present, he says, “the of 78, one can’t help feeling that Ó GAA player still has his career and Muircheartaigh is still in a league of his profile helps his career his own. enormously.” He feels that community life would lose a lot, but

College Games

Hurler Wille O’Dwyer of Kilkenny and footballer Aidan Kilcoyne speak to Kevin Byrne about their experiences playing GAA for college, and the benefits of the scholarship scheme they’re enrolled in


Photo by Gary Fox

IT had an eventful – but bad goals in the first half and they possible of their skills. ultimately disappointing – were six points up at the interval. We O'Dwyer said: “At this age, you just year in Gaelic games. The crowded them for the second half but love playing the game, any college teams in hurling and football there was just very little opportunity opportunity you can. But I can see in broke records, however, in their to get a goal. It just wasn’t to be ways alright that managers in some respective marches towards the latter unfortunately.” clubs and counties, that they don’t stages of the Sigerson Cup (football) He added: “We had a very good team respect the players enough, you know. and the Fitzgibbon Cup (hurling). this year, but were sort of unlucky That they want them training and The footballers made it to the semi- with injuries. We lost Paul Brogan part of their set-up. But to get the finals of the Sigerson Cup, and this with injury and Cian Ward was most out of the player, you have to looks to be the perfect springboard for struggling too. We beat DCU, we beat respect him a little bit more and that a decent run of success. This season's UCC after a battle, and we were doesn't happen in a lot of cases.” team contained several inter-county confident going into the game. They Kilcoyne added: “There is a need for players – most notably Dublin's Mark would have been hot favourites but it communication between the Vaughan, Meath's Cian Ward managers, but if you’re and Mayo forward Aidan training on a Monday Kilcoyne. with a minor team and a The hurling team enjoyed a Tuesday with Under-21 degree of success as well – and Wednesday with competing in the Fitzgibbon your club, that’s a bit too Cup where they reached the much but that is up to quarter-final. They came up the managers talking.” against a rampant Waterford IT Both men are lucky team, however, who put three enough to attend college goals and 15 points past them. on scholarships – this O'Dwyer was philosophical helps them continue to about the DIT hurling team’s play at a high level. Both fortunes this year. He said: “We men agree that between hadn't a great year I suppose. college and training, they Last year we got to the do not have time for a Fitzgibbon semi-final and the job. Their nights off league semi too, but this year we usually involve extra had a young team. We lost about work in the gym, or a six or seven so that’s a big lump. much needed rest. The guys are good, there’s a lot of “The scholarship I was lucky enough to get and Kilcoyne said: “The Dublin Under-21s and minors, it helps out. Other than that, you try and make scholarship I was lucky but it just takes a while to blend the money you earn in the summer go as far as enough to get and it helps possible” them in and get used to it. At 24 I out. Other than that, you am seen as an older member of try and make the money the team. We'll have a good team next just didn’t work out.” you earn in the summer go as far as year.” As players at third level, both men possible.” And Kilcoyne was honest in his could be playing for several teams. Mature electrical engineering verdict of the football team. They DIT is just one, and they turn out for student O’Dwyer added: “I got a were knocked out in the semi-final by their counties and clubs as well. But mature student grant as well. Even at Ulster University Jordanstown – who the issue of player burnout is quickly that it's very hard to find the time to went on to lose in the final to Garda dismissed – the lads reckon it is do odd jobs, so I’m grateful for it.” College. He said: “Probably on the day mainly a lie. They do admit that they were better than us, but the young players are the most scoreline was misleading. It wasn’t an vulnerable, because managers think eight point game. We gave them two they can take as much advantage as


Bundoran Surfer by Patrick Clarke



f the delicious, powdery crunch of snow underfoot is something the average Irish person is not accustomed to, then the roar of a crowd as you plough through a finish line on your snowboard is even less familiar. But for 26-year-olds Jen Grace and Tim Russell, all of this is becoming about as common as a delayed DART is to the average Dublin commuter.

Jen is actually American – but she rides her snowboard under the Irish flag. She has honed her love for snowboarding by focusing on racing, a discipline that saw her going for, but narrowly missing out on, a Winter Olympic qualification in 2006. Tim is a freestyle snowboarder who hails from Derry and is now based in Scotland. While the words ‘Derry’ and ‘freestyle’ aren’t exactly the most

Photo courtesy of Tim Russell

Joy Ride

common of bedfellows, he is determined to show the Irish that with a bit of nurturing, we could be breeding some serious contenders for what is a highly competitive sport. Jen and Tim talked to Lauren Crothers about the highs and lows of competitive riding, dislocated elbows, reconstructed knees – and how Ireland is the butt of people’s jokes...



lessons at the Belfast Knockbracken/Mount Ober dry slope. On some winter holidays I saw people snowboarding but there was an anti-boarding smear campaign going on and parents were scared to let their kids try it. I was also only six or seven and you couldn’t easily find kit to use. When I was eight I finally got the chance to have a lesson and try it with my mum and sister in Val Thorens. It was always kind of hard picking up a sport you only got to do a handful of times a year, but I was young and determined. I called up any snowboard shop and skateboard shop I could to get brochures and stickers and read any magazine I could get my hands on. It made me feel like I was part of a thing that was happening so far away from me but I was wishing I was growing up and doing it like the kids living in the Alps or Scottish mountains. Getting

Photos by Lauren Crothers

How did you begin snowboarding – and why choose to race for Ireland? Jen: I learned to ski in Ruidoso, New Mexico, when I was 13 and got hooked on downhill sports. When I was 18 I took up snowboarding because I thought it was much cooler. I felt unique because I was one of only a handful of riders on my home mountain and the only girl. After college, I lived in Crested Butte, Colorado, and Lake Tahoe in California so that I could get better at riding. I took up the race board and did some amateur competitions in 2001 before getting my first Federation International Skiing (FIS) licence so I could do bigger competitions. Because I have dual citizenship, I had my choice between two countries. I chose to ride for Ireland because nobody had done it before. Tim: In the early 1980s my parents wanted to give skiing a go so we got

into skateboarding early on in snowboarding helped me so much. What obstacles are faced by the current crop of Irish snowboarders? Jen: You can’t get to the competitive level unless you live where you have snow and a trainer. Kirstin McGarry [Ireland’s Olympic skier] grew up part-time in Switzerland with parents who teach skiing. The Netherlands right now has two women who are dominating in snowboarding. Why? Because they grew up practising in indoor ski areas and spending their winters in Austria. Plus their father coaches snowboarding. It’s really important to have family support behind you. Tim: Facilities definitely. There is a great need for a snowdome and snowflex slopes with built in permanent kickers like those in Halifax and Glasgow. But flights are pretty cheap these days, and where there’s a will there’s a way. You can cheaply jump over to France or

Austria and ride summer glacier snowparks. It can be cheaper to live out there than back home and you can get summer resort jobs shaping parks or being a bartender. Get out there and do it any way you can, especially while you have a young body to bash and throw around. Do you feel representing Ireland piques people’s interest because you aren’t representing a country with any snow-covered terrain? Jen: It was a help as far as getting recognition. Event organisers were always excited to have me at races because they never had Ireland represented at the World Championships or World Cup before. Plus Ireland is loved all over the world, it’s not like it would have been representing the US because of the mixed reception those athletes get around the world! Tim: I reckon at the moment we are still a joke nation like the Jamaican bobsled team. Minds would only be changed through having a number of good solid riders. It’s the style and skill in your riding that shines through. Seasoned snowboarders can see right away if you can ride or not, from your stance to the way you hold your board. It’s a bit of a cliché – but it’s true. Describe how you felt when you competed for the first time. Jen: I used to get terribly nervous. So much so that I think my legs gave out from under me. I definitely had trouble keeping my head out of the way of my body! Tim: Very nervous and wobbly-legged, but I now realise I’m just as good as the other folk in the comp and not just the token joke – a goofy, tall, Irish rider. Can you see yourself doing this as a way of life from now on? Jen: Racing, no. Riding, yes! I’ve been away from competition for two

years and although I want to try again for the next Olympics, the expense is prohibitive. Tim: For the past year and a half I have been snowboarding all year round. I think there have only been one or two weeks when I haven’t stepped on a board. For the next few years I want to travel to compete and film. Japan, China, Middle East and South America are all places I would like to visit and shoot in. Ultimately, I want to set up a backcountry camp in Canada – a big log cabin set up that you can do one- to three-day hikes from and stay in

Jen: Too many. I’ve broken both wrists, had my right knee reconstructed, broken tailbone, a few concussions, impinged rotator cuffs on both shoulders, torn labrum (lining of my hip socket), and innumerable low back aches and pains. Tim: Dislocating my elbow and putting it back together myself. But a painful and funny one was snapping my whole ass muscle (the glutis, I think) after catching my heel edge on the landing of a lip and being thrown instantly against the ground sideways on my bum. The black and bloody swelling went all the way down to my foot. Standing in a snowboard shop wasn’t easy for a few weeks after it but I could still snowboard, so all was well. What’s the best riding experience you have ever had? Jen: I’ve been riding for 15 years and there are so many days, great days that come to mind. What an honour and pleasure it’s been to snowboard in countries like Chile, Argentina, Switzerland, Finland, Austria, Italy, Russian, Korea and Japan. My best days have involved powder, friends, laughter and beautiful mountains that make me feel lucky to be alive. Tim: Too many powder days to mention. There was an excellent powder kicker day in late March this season that I felt on it and able to throw down some big, big backflips and spins. I felt pretty on it and most things I tried worked out. If things are working well you tend to ride better. After we finished shooting the kicker we went and filmed us airing into and bombing down a big waterfall cliff hidden in the trees. The snow was pluming up over my head in big clouds as I blasted down the face.

snowholes or just hike back to the lodge. Do you prefer freeriding or jibbing around the park? Jen: I love powder. But I like the park too. Halfpipe is really fun but my skills really lie in big mountain riding and trees. Tim: I prefer freeriding, but you don’t always have the conditions so usually you would find me riding around the resort building kickers. I just like to think of the whole mountain as one giant skatepark and it’s your job to find all the lines and jumps. If you’re having fun it doesn’t matter what type of snowboarding you are doing. What’s the worst injury you’ve had so far?


6.15 a.m. 0.0km A rousing speech or two and an adapted prayer later: “may the sun shine on our faces and the wind be at our back…” we hit the road. Slowly. The group of 136 cyclists begins to inch its way to Galway. It seems like it going to take several days at this pace. The whole “I’m a mad bastard for cycling to Galway and back” effect soon wears off, surrounded as I am by another 135 mad bastards.

8.15 a.m. 39.8km The pace picks up and I begin to miss the good ol’ inching along. I talk Italian politics with Meister and the first 40km gets left by the roadside. Shouts of “hole!” and “slow!” merge together as we warn one other not to cycle into the all-consuming potholes of Ireland or, for that matter, the cyclist in front. We arrive in

westerly, ashamed of my inability to muster enough leg power to make my bloody bicycle move a bit quicker, I sit huffing and puffing in the back of the van. I’m driven to the top of the next hill in front of the group and I’m quickly eaten up. 10.12 a.m. 85.3km Lunch at this hour of the morning is not something I’m used to but I’m extremely grateful for it this time. I fill up on soup and sambos. I take up smoking. I stuff in another banana, a Snickers bar, a cereal bar and a glucose drink. This time there are a few dubious-looking but rather delicious-tasting Lucozade tablets.

11.46 a.m. 91.5km Just as I start to get proud of my ability to be very near to crashes but to



Kinnegad. 15 minute break time. The food van supplies us with Snickers bars, cereal bars, bananas and glucose drinks galore.

8.30 a.m. 39.8km Upon departure I make the ill-advised decision to adjust my saddle height. It breaks! The group leave without me while the mechanic searches frantically for a new nut to hold my saddle in place. Three minutes later I refuse to get put in the back of the van and insist on my ability to catch up with the group. I grit my teeth, fully confident in my legs. “I can make up the short distance to reel them in.” Then my chain falls off and I reject the back of the van once again. The back of the van however, unlike Jesus, would not be denied for a third time and, a few minutes later, I’m taken in. Forsaken by a stiff

avoid actu evitably, f ally falling over, I, those thingall over. It was one inpening for s you realise is ha of terly power a long time but ar pHansard’s less to stop. Glen e utinto my boring song com the grounhdead as my face neaes time I have – that’s how muchrs . 12.15 a.m No major h. 100.3km the road I r arm done. Back o turned to laealise my thighs h n ave ctic acid. 13.42 a.m Arriving in. 126.4km Ballinaslo in severa e I sh bananas,l cmore Snickers barosvel drinks an ereal bars and glu , while and d tablets. I sit for a cose tablets are ponder the effect th they just p actually having. Aese ally helpinlacebos or are they re r g me turn the pedalse-

It Wheel

slap’s Niall McGuinness cycles the 400 kilometres from Dublin to Galway and back in the name of charity. Here’s his journal of life on the road

around a few more times? I’m doubtful. I reach for a cigarette.

14.52 a.m. 132.4km Conversations about politics and otherwise get shoved to the side as I concentrate solely on not getting left behind by the group. Shouts of ‘slow’ are to me what a syringe of heroin is to a junkie: an enormous wave of relief. I get to freewheel for a moment or two: My God, the wonderment!

16.04 a.m. 165.2km Sick to me bloody teeth of Snickers bars, bananas and cereal bars I fail to stock up on the final break in Loughrea.

17.52 190.1km I pay for my error of judgement a little further down the road to Galway. I suddenly realise I’m hungry. Hunger for the cyclist is a very different animal than for the average Joe. Joe gets a couple of stages: ‘I don’t need to eat but I’m not full so I could’; ‘you know I’m a bit peckish I wouldn’t mind a nibble’; and ‘I’m fucking starving I need a load of chips and breaded chicken pieces to make me human again’. None of this happens on the bike. It’s more of a sudden insistency from your legs that they are not going to make the pedals turn anymore. This poses a slight problem when you are trying to break the 200km threshold. THE HISTORY OF THE GALWAY CYCLE

18.21 a.m. 202.4km Arrival in Eyre Square! Yeah! I whip out the little bottles of Jagermeister that lay waiting in my sweaty back pocket and pass them round. Never before has the brown syrupy stuff ever tasted quite so nice. I wonder how I’ll ever make it back!

The Galway cycle celebrated its 21st birthday this year. Organised by 10 hardy students, the cycle from Maynooth to Galway and back again takes place on the last weekend of March each year. Originally set up to raise funds for the ISPCC, the Galway Cycle now chooses a different children’s charity each year. This year was the turn of Headstrong, a charity that promotes mental health among the young. The cyclists begin the gruelling 400km challenge early on Friday morning with collectors supporting them all the way, arriving in Eyre Square on Friday evening. Early Saturday morning the streets of Galway are bombarded with enthusiastic faces collecting for their chosen charity. At the crack of dawn on Sunday, weary bodies rise to get back on their bikes for the journey home.


“The referee’s a w**ker!” After a lifetime of frenzied football supporting, Sinéad Bevan is suddenly a WAG. slap’s roving reporter turns to the Eircom League to prove a point



orld Cup 2006, and I am in the pub. Dave, a fellow Brit abroad, is drinking his pint and looking murderous: “Those sodding footballer’s wives. They should stay at home. Back in the kitchen where they belong.” I give him a warning look but he doesn’t notice. He’s getting rather into his rant now. “Football’s a man’s game. Girls should only be allowed to watch it if they can coherently explain the offside rule.” Ciaran, nodding fiercely, chips in “Yeah. YEAH!” He turns to me. “Bet you only support Chelsea because you’re looking for an eligible husband. Get thee to Bray Wanderers, you’ll find a real man there.” Right. That’s it. I’ve had enough. As I reel off the finer points of the offside rule and Dave and Ciaran’s jaws slacken in shock, I get an unfamiliar feeling in my chest. Getting one over on the boys has always given me a kick. But this time there’s something else – a sense that my fellow females are letting the side down. During the World Cup of 2006, the papers were full of footballrelated news. The tabloids in particular couldn’t get enough of it. But bizarrely, this news was not concerned with ankle injuries, or Eriksson’s team tactics. The column inches were dominated by fake tan, false

nails and designer labels. By expensive restaurants and all night drinking binges. A new species had evolved, and the world stood by in shock and awe. The WAGs were born. The public were enthralled, but sensible minded folk rolled their eyes, and much stink was raised by those male supporters who felt that their beautiful game was being hijacked. It smacked somewhat of an anti-feminist rant – those women should (as my friend so eloquently put it) have been left at home in the kitchen where they belonged. And I, as a 21st century, independent woman, found myself in full agreement. Because in reality, this was a pro-feminist rant. Where had all the sensible women gone? Here I was being doubly offended. Not only was the focus taken away from the job at hand (football, anyone?) but as a woman on the terraces, my own sex was letting me down. Football has been part of the social fabric of my family for many years. My dad was born and brought up in London, supporting Chelsea, whose ground was just around the corner. Having three daughters mustn’t have given him much hope of ever seeing a match again. But they say your first love stays with you forever – and I can remember my first Chelsea match vividly. 1994, a grey May day, the last game of the season. We arrived late, and I can picture my dad hurrying me up the concrete steps, higher and higher to take our seats in the gods of the East stand. We beat Sheffield United 3-2 that day,

But maybe I have become complacent, pampered even by my time watching Chelsea. The glamour of the Premiership is not enough to prove your loyalty to the beautiful game these days. If you really mean business, you’ve got to get down to grass roots. So to prove a point, and to give Dave something else to put in his pipe and smoke, I find myself on the DART out to Bray on a chilly Friday evening to watch the Wanderers take on Finn Harps. It’s certainly a far cry from the mountainous sweep of most Premier League stadia. There’s a covered stand away to the left, and elsewhere people mingle about on little hillocks behind the goal. It may not have the sweeping grandeur of St James’ Park, but one thing can’t be knocked –

Pictures by Gary Fox

and Jakob Kjeldberg scored in the final minutes. A week later, I would be bawling my eyes out as we were trounced 4-0 by Manchester United in the FA Cup Final It still remains a predominantly male past-time, but a love of football has always stood me in good stead as a woman. Certainly I have silently thanked my knowledge of the off-side rule when trying to impress a lad. And when this has succeeded and I’m onto the next step, I’m grateful again for my fondness for Match of the Day when meeting boyfriends’ fathers. It’s always going to be a minefield of awkward silences, meeting your son’s new girlfriend, but being able to talk to her about the referee’s conduct in last Saturday’s match might break the ice a little. But suddenly, after years of sitting on rain-swept terraces across the UK, dodging fist fights in Tottenham, and getting crushed in the swell at Bolton, of suffering through the nil-nils, and screaming myself hoarse in the fouralls, now I’m a WAG. I support Chelsea. It doesn’t matter if I was supporting them when Glen Hoddle was the manager, when tickets were £5 and we were 14th in the league. To Dave, I’m part of the Russian empire, a glory hunter, and a potential golddigger. I’m not going to lie, I find Joe Cole to be a very attractive man. But I have no qualms about screaming “you fucking wanker” if he misses an important tackle.

you’ll always have a good view. Taking up a prime spot behind the goal, I settle in to watch the action. At first I feel completely conspicuous. I don’t know anything about these teams, or what any of these players are called. I think I have the goalkeeper sorted when I see “Gallagher” written across the back of his shirt but I’m a few milliseconds away from yelling “Great save Gallagher” when I realise that everyone’s shirt has Gallagher on it. It’s their sponsor. Well, that could have been embarrassing. My femalefootball-follower pride is quickly being diminished. Despite the size (Bray has a capacity of 5,000 and it’s barely a third full tonight), there’s still a lot of noise going on. There’s a loyal choir who have taken root in the stands, and supported by a drum, they make a constant racket throughout. On closer inspection, most of them seem to have the average age of 16. This is the one place where they can make a racket on a Friday night and not get in trouble for it. Feeling the need to find some female solidarity, I scan the crowds. There are a few women around, but they seem mainly to be minding young children, and they look bored. There’s a few “young ones” running up and down the walkway, giggling together and tripping over their Ugg boots. And suddenly, I can hear Dave’s voice in my head – these are the WAGs of the future.


Days Like these...

Cricky is an artist, poet and member of Dublin electronica group StarLittleThing


rehearsing, I’d be in the studio every day, after dinner. They rehearse, and I lie down. . . . That’s the most important thing. The work relationship is amazing. I write the songs, and the ideas are sometimes people, sometimes experiences. I find myself dipping in and out of Grattan [Smith, vocalist with StarLittleThing]’s life, in and out of Fayzer [Arron Faye, musician with StarLittleThing]’s life. I could have four people in my head and I sort of live in their heads, and that’s interesting – because someone can say something and set it all off. I have a house in Slane, but that’s a weekend thing. I go down on Sundays, and I swim. I jump in and it’s freezing, then I go and stand in front of a massive fire. In Dublin I live alone, but I don’t get lonely because the only time I spend in the place is when I’m asleep. And I’ve got a bed in every room, so I can sleep wherever I want. I go to sleep when I fall asleep. I try to watch films. I saw There Will Be Blood recently. It was the first time in a long while that I film made me go “wow”, because the story was so simple. It was such a good story. Writing is just play. It’s like being a child. It’s endless. So an artist’s life; all it is, is play.

Photo by Clare Flynn


get up at around 6am. I don’t have an alarm clock, but I don’t need one – I take an idea to bed with me and if it’s strong enough, it’s enough to wake me. I lie there for a while, playing with it, and that’ll usually get me up and kick-start my writing for the day. I used to write books, full-on books – and I got so involved in the ideas. When I get up – after I’ve done the tossing and turning thing – I figure out what cafe is going to be open. If I want to be completely free, I leave the car at home. I don’t cook – I eat out all the time. I have some food in my house: bread and cheese, because there are always people staying over. I eat pretty healthily – for breakfast I’ll have a scone, and some yoghurt. You can eat healthily without cooking. Then I stroll. What I like to do is just walk – someone told me that, for someone who walks a lot, I never lose any weight – I walk from South William Street to Arnotts, through the Ilac, down Moore Street and to the Moore Street mall. They have this restaurant downstairs where they play Bollywood videos, not films, just shorts, all day long. So I sit in front of that. . . . It’s a good buzz.

In life, you allow people to believe what they want to believe. Sometimes I’ll go and join a queue, any queue, and when I get to the end, and they say next, I spread out my arms and say “I’m not next”. Or I’ll go into a shop and start pointing, even if I don’t want anything. For lunch, I’ll go to two or three different places, because there’s always one good thing on the menu. I get a table and order my first course, then I leave some books behind and go on to the next place, have my next course, leave some books behind. . . . Then I do it all again, collect my books, pay for my first course, collect my books, pay for my second course. Sometimes I come back and think my books are gone, but usually the staff take them and look after them. Nine times out of ten, they’re in the exact same place. I don’t have stress, because I deal with ideas. My biggest problem at the moment is getting a particular pen that they don’t do any more. The guy in The Pen Corner is sorting it out for me. He offered to order me a box of them, but I said no, because then I wouldn’t be able to go in and talk to him. I think he was pleased. I don’t drink tea or coffee, except on the weekends, then it’s like a religious experience. There are only two places I'll go for coffee – Cookes or the Bald Barista, but it depends on where the sun is shining. In the evenings, when we’re

- in conversation with Rosemary Mac Cabe

BETTER BECAUSE WE’RE IRISH THE Irish Daily Star is the greatest success story in the history of the Irish newspaper industry. SUCCESS Since its launch in February 1988, The Star has enjoyed phenomenal success as we continue to deliver the very best in news, showbiz and sport. Continual investment and innovation has seen daily readership grow to a remarkable 489,000 which translates into 112,042 copies sold every single day.* Today The Irish Daily Star is Ireland’s second most widely read daily newspaper. To continue this remarkable journey we are always interested in hearing from bright, enthusiastic and self-motivated graduates who wish to work as sub-editors. So if you have excellent written English skills and a strong interest in journalism and sub-editing - along with strong general knowledge - you should definitely talk to us. OPPORTUNITY Your first step in joining our team of top-notch Irish professionals is to send your CV and examples of your work, including headlines, to, or you can write to John Mitchell, Chief Sub-Editor, 62a Terenure Rd North, Terenure, Dublin 6w. *Source: ABC July - December 2007 & TGI 2007

The Complete Slap Magazine  

The end-of-year magazine project from the DIT MA in Journalism class, 2008.