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WELCOME

ToniC

Hello I recently heard a song the lyrics of which went: “Reach for the sky, ‘cos if you fall you land on a cloud.” I thought it was nice, the exact kind of positive attitude we love here at Tonic. Of course, I then realised that a cloud could not support a human’s weight. If you followed the song’s advice you would in fact fall to a gruesome death. So much for that positive attitude. There are a lot of things going

wrong in Ireland at the moment, sure, but there are a lot of real reasons to be positive too. The country is still producing sports stars that compete on an international level, young entrepreneurs looking to make it big, and, like we always have, a new generation of artists ready to take on the world. We’ve tried to give you a taste of these things in Tonic. I hope you enjoy reading.

Conor Doyle Editor

Editor: Conor Doyle Science Editor: Jarlath Moloney Current Affairs : Cathal Wogan Business Editor: David Keenan Fashion Editor: Laura Finnerty Culture Editors: Conor Sharkey Sean Noone Sports Editors: Taylor Vortherms John Goggins Travel Editor: Dolores Martyn Food Editor: Aoife O’Neill

Design: Abby Eisenberg Jarlath Moloney Conor Doyle Photo Editor: Shane Fahy Advertising: Aoife O’Neill Sub-editing: Conor Doyle Cathal Wogan

Thanks to: Angela Long Michael Foley Joe Breen You will be at least as happy as this guy by the time you’ve finished reading

Cover Photo: Dave Nowak Contact us at editor.tonicireland@gmail.com 2

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CONTENTS

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34

12 30

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Science

p8: Photo of the Month A solar spectacular p10: Mad science Useless research from the last month p11: 3D v IMAX The future of cinema p12: Lab meat The advent of test tube burgers p14: Tech Talk TONIC’s favourite gadgets

Current Affairs

p16: Digital revolution The end of shops? p18: Africa calling The rise of Africa’s mobile market

Business

p23: CRAs What are they? p24: Bobby Kerr The Dragon speaks p26: Data mining Is your info safe online? p27: Up-and-Comers Ireland’s new businessmen

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CONTENTS

24

p28: Claire O’Connor Fashion designer who dresses the stars p30: Summer fashion What to wear when the sun comes out

Culture

p34: Summer blockbusters The year’s biggest films p38: Martin Maloney Eddie Durkan talks p39: Totally Wired Musical comedy duo p40 Jape Richie Egan bids farewell to Ireland

Sports

p42: John Joe Nevin On his chances in London 2012 p44: Politics and football A dangerous mix p45: Olympic hopefuls Four profiles p46: Rebels rise The rebirth of Cork City FC p47: Gridiron American football comes to Dublin

Travel

p50: Euro sightseeing What to see in Polkraine this summer p51: Travel light Save money by organising foreign trips yourself p52: Jasper Winn Cork travel writer on his craft p54: Northern lights A Scandinavian summer p56: Letter from America An American Perspective on Dublin

Food

p58: Health Delusion Busting health myths p59: Craft Beers The best of Irish brews p60: Bonza Pies The Aussie invasion

p62: Parting Shots with Sean Noone

INSIDE THIS ISSUE

Fashion

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TONIC TALK

“It’s sunny.”

Marianna Costello Tralee

“I just got two tickets to Paul Simon.” Cathal Curran Killarney

TONIC TALK

What’s got

“I sold a play and it’s on in the Project Arts Centre at the moment!” Ciara Ni Chuirc Stillorgan

DUBLIN

SMILING?

“Beer.”

Alan Walsh & John Scherbaum Dublin & Czech Republic

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TONIC TALK

“Well, I’m about to get hit with a catapult, which is fun.” Niall Carey Newbridge

“We’re good drinkers and we’re going to do great at the Euros.” Declan Dempsey Dublin

“I found out recently I’m spending the summer with my family in San Francisco.” Brian O’Beirne Dublin

“The Olympics coming to London.” Olly Wray London

“The sun is out and the tops are off. It’s great!” Laura dePaor Tipperary

“Rekorderlig. It’s like drinking a rainbow.” John Close Dublin

“Life.”

Jack Larkin Dublin

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SCIENCE

X- Class Solar Flare

Photo: NASA/SOHO

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SCIENCE

PHOTO OF THE MONTH

Photo: NASA/SDO/AIA

SOLAR SHOCKWAVES

An X5.4 class solar flare erupted from the sun early last month – the biggest of this solar cycle, barring an X6.9 solar flare in August. There has been a large upsurge in solar activity lately as we come to the solar maximum, the peak in activity of the 11 year solar cycle. The flare affected radio navigation and shortwave radio and also sent solar particles to Earth, which caused a solar radiation storm. The major solar flare on the left can be seen to send shockwaves across the surface of the sun. Shortly afterwards, the sun

expelled two significant coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which travelled at more than 960km per second toward Earth. As these erupted from an area of the sun facing the Earth at the time, a mild geomagnetic storm was caused, resulting in last month’s aurora borealis seen in Donegal. However, this is not the full extent of solar activity. Higher magnitude solar waves that are predicted to erupt nearer to the solar maximum, expected to peak around late 2013, could cause transformer overloads with power blackouts ensuing.

Jarlath Moloney

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SCIENCE Useless Research of the Month

BREAKTHROUGHS

Jarlath Moloney looks at where science funding has been wasted in the last month

Thermal flashlights

TEARFUL TIMES A

A new homemade thermal flashlight costing under €50 can be used to identify heat gaps in insulation and water pollution escaping into the sea. The lights shine different colours corresponding to nearby surface temperatures. Professional ForwardLooking Infrared (FLIR) cameras have cost €1,000 upwards, but these DIY versions mean tenants and buyers will be able to see the heat efficiencies of new houses before committing with cash.

new Israeli study has found that women’s tears reduce their appeal to the opposite sex. The study, carried out at the Weizmann Institute earlier this year, found men’s levels of their main sex hormone, testosterone, drop by 13 per cent when confronted with tears. The men, who looked at pictures of women’s faces with tears or salt solution under their noses, said they felt less aroused by the women when the tears were present. The test was repeated and MRI images were taken of their brains showing less activity in the areas responsible for sexual arousal. The research was inspired

Which picture do most of our male readers find more attractive?

by mouse tears, which act as a signal to attract other rodents. However, researchers didn’t check if tears of joy or men’s tears reduce sexual arousal as well. “This study raises many interesting questions,” said Professor Noam Sobel, one of the research contributors. “What is the chemical involved? Do different kinds

of emotional situations send different tear-encoded signals? Are women’s tears different from, say, men’s tears? Children’s tears?” While this appears to be useless information, the study may shed some light on why sex symbol Halle Berry’s acting career plummeted after her tear-filled 2001 Oscar acceptance speech.

Shocking rain drain

A

merican researchers have come through with another breakthrough: falling rain soaks up energy from wind, but not enough to make any real difference to anything. As climate change is increasing rainfall globally, researchers Julius Dias from the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado and Olivier Pauluis New York University set out to see if this would cause a drastic wind speed drop. Satellite readings used by the two research institutes showed that 1.8 watts of wind energy per square metre are absorbed by rain. While

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this doesn’t seem like a huge amount at the moment, Pauluis expects the rain drain to go up with every per cent increase in global warming. And as temperatures continue increasing, rain will fall from higher altitudes, meaning even more wind energy will be taken. However, none of this is revelatory as all these figures stand in line with current thinking. “We do expect large-scale tropical circulations like the Hadley Circulation and the Walker Circulation to decrease in strength with global warming,” said Dargan Frierson, a US expert also

studying the matter. This means that over the years, as was already known, the trade winds and jet streams will decrease slightly. However, there is no need to start stockpiling for the types of events seen in Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow, where reversals in the trade winds caused a new ice age. The changes won’t be enough to affect or daily lives or the running of wind turbines. Likewise, the rain drain on wind won’t slow down hurricanes, which should increase with climate change, meaning they will have very little effect, if any at all, for a long time.

Bear Necessities Even bears need to look and feel their best according to pictures taken by Dr Volker Deecke in Alaska’s Glacier Bay national park. The zoologist from the University of Cumbria was on holiday when he spied the bear rubbing barnacle covered rocks over its face. It seems the bear was moulting and could have been using the rocks to exfoliate.

Spider Silk Armour Human tissue reinforced with spider silk has stopped a bullet travelling at 165 miles per second. The spider silk, which is four times tougher than Kevlar (which is used to make bulletproof armour) and twenty times stronger than steel, is also being used to develop brain implants and artificial corneas. The material was developed in labs across America, South Korea, Germany and the Netherlands, using transgenic goats to produce the silk.


SCIENCE

3D v IMAX

The future of cinema As the popularity of 3D appears to be waning John Goggins asks what’s next for cinema technology

A

s Michael Hazanvicius (director of silent movie The Artist) stood up to accept the Oscar for Best Picture, it finally appeared that Hollywood had endorsed the notion that reverting to the old format can pay dividends. This theory can be further strengthened with the resurgence of 3D which experienced its golden age in the 1950s. James Cameron’s Avatar, created solely for 3D purposes, was the catalyst for an influx of 3D movies that has seen 33 movies (and counting) being released in 3D in 2012, a vast increase on the 12 movies during 2009 when Avatar came out. After Avatar became the highest grossing film of all time, studios began to embrace the idea that 3D was the way forward. Indeed James Cameron has refused to direct any movie that is not made in 3D, and Steven Spielberg has declared that it is the future of the film industry. However, Tinseltown does not seem to be on the same wavelength as every other town in the world. According to a report by research firm Enders Analysis, despite a record 47 films released in 3D last year, including the final Harry Potter and the latest in the Transformers franchise, box office receipts for the format fell €8.4m to €270m reducing its share of total ticket sales from 24% to 20%. With complaints of headaches, dimness in quality, and irritability whilst watching, not to mention the reluctance to pay extra (around 30% more on average than a normal cinema ticket) in these financially tough times, the 3D craze might prove to be ephemeral once again. Added to this, Sony Pictures

Entertainment have revealed to cinema owners that it will cease to cover the cost of its RealD glasses and so created the realistic possibility that cinema goers with

Christopher Nolan: one of IMAX’s biggest advocates

“The 3D tinted glasses do not seem so rosy anymore”

have to fork out a further 50c for the pleasure of a cinematic experience that Christopher Nolan deems “alienating”. The 3D tinted glasses do not seem so rosy anymore. It is unlikely that Hollywood will accept the notion that “bland” is better and so 3D’s biggest rival could well arrive with the emergence of IMAX (image

maximum). The IMAX screen is on average 72ft by 52.8 feet and can go bigger; to put that in perspective, it would be bigger than a five story building and twice the length of two double decker buses. IMAX increases the resolution of the image by using a much larger film frame which ultimately provides an awe-inspiring film experience. The problem with IMAX is the gigantic cost involved and this is why studios are not too keen to implement it on a widespread basis. Christopher Nolan, perhaps the biggest advocate of IMAX and who refused to shoot Inception in 3D, was the first to utilise IMAX technology for a major motion picture with The Dark Knight, and it is he who will once again throw it into the spotlight with The Dark Knight Rises, out in July. Unfortunately the people of Dublin will have to wait a little while longer to get the full IMAX experience. It was rumoured that the new Odeon cinema at the Point Village would contain a IMAX screen. However, it actually contains an ISENSE screen, which is quite similar by all accounts. A more important date may be December 2012 when Peter Jackson’s eagerly awaited The Hobbit premieres. This film is made for 3D but he hopes to spare us any more cranial collapses by shooting The Hobbit at 48 frames per second – twice the fps of the average movie – thus hoping to erase complaints that 3D glasses mar the brightness of theatre screens. If he does not prove successful, and if The Dark Knight Rises becomes a commercial success, much like Avatar, then the “big screen” could be about to get a whole lot bigger.

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Photo: Paul Gerritsen

SCIENCE

TEST TUBE BURGERS

With the world’s food supplies stretched, Jarlath Moloney looks at one possible solution

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capacity to grow meat through livestock,” Post said. “You can easily calculate that we need alternatives. If you don’t do anything meat will become a luxury food and be very, very expensive.” But who will eat the burgers? Will vegetarians and those in the developing world have problems with the meat? International antianimal-cruelty group, PETA are in favour of the artificial meat, if it can become affordable. “This is meat produced without the cruelty, carbon footprint or waste of resources. It’s a hugely beneficial development for animals. We welcome this development, which shows this is a viable idea,” said PETA spokesman Alistair Currie. Though PETA approve of the development, they say that veganism and vegetarianism are not religions and people need to make up their own minds. Some vegetarian groups have claimed they will not consume the food substitute as long as it

Pre-burger cows (above), the aim (inset), and the process (below)

originates from the by-products of animal slaughter. Their objection is that the stem cells and calf serum used to generate the beef strips have so far come from slaughtered animals. The proposed burgers will be composed of strips of cow muscle grown in a nutrient broth, after it has grown up from stem cells and calf

Photo: Masstrict Uni PR

F

ast food may be getting a whole lot faster as Dutch scientists aim to serve the first test tube burger in October. Professor Mark Post, head of the research project in Maastricht University, announced the discovery at the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences’(AAAS) annual meeting earlier this year. At the conference, Post stated that the goal for developing the burgers is to create a less ethically compromising meat source in the face of factory farming and growing global food demand. New York Daily News reported it will cost €250,000 to produce the first burger, but it will become cheaper when scaled up, Prof Post postulates. Until that time though, the price tag will be a deterrent to the impoverished and malnourished masses in East Africa and Asia. “Meat demand is going to double in the next 40 years and right now we are using 70% of all our agricultural


SCIENCE

WHAT NEXT? If making burgers in a Petri dish wasn’t enough, scientists have now grown spider-goats and chimera monkeys in a lab. Researchers have been combining stem cells to give organisms made up of more than one cell type. At the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) primate lab, stem cells from two adult rhesus macaques were put together to grow three new monkeys, two of which, Roku and Hex (meaning six, in Japanese and Greek respectively) are pictured on the right. Scientists

Heston Blumenthal could be the first to cook the new beef

Post’s previous successes with growing meat from stem cells include mouse meat and pork muscle. The only person to taste the meat so far has been a Russian journalist who nabbed a pork sample while on a tour of the lab. He was unimpressed with the free meal, as early efforts were thought to have the rubbery consistency of scallops or squid. “It’s not quite ready, it’s going to be presented in October,” Post said. “We are going to provide a proof of concept, showing that out of stem cells you can produce a product that looks like and feels like and hopefully tastes like meat. Seeing and tasting is believing.” The health benefits of the meat aren’t to be sniffed at though, as researchers behind the project will be able to alter the fat and unhealthy constituents of the burgers. The Irish livestock trade needn’t worry yet, as the researchers are having difficulty cultivating larger

are hoping the research will aid research in human adult embryos for regenerative medicine and curing degenerative diseases. However, the potential of crossing two monkeys seems to pale in significance when you consider Freckles, the spider-goat. Freckles isn’t a Father Ted creation, but looks, plays and is milked just like any other goat, with the small exception that she has genes from the orb spider. These genes mean that her milk also contains the proteins that make spider silk, used as mentioned in this month’s Science Breakthroughs section.

cuts of meat, such as steak. Substitutes for chicken and mince meat, such as plant product Quorn, have also failed to make a huge impact on meat sales globally. Commercial production of the test tube burgers could also be as far off as ten to twenty years, As the global population is expected to hit 9 billion by mid-century, test tube meat could be a viable alternative to conventional methods of meat production. Stem cells taken from one cow will potentially allow it to produce 100 million burgers, compared to 100 from the current method of slaughter, while also reducing the environmental impact of keeping huge amounts of livestock. “Cows and pigs have an efficiency rate of about 15%, which is pretty inefficient. Chickens are more efficient and fish even more,” Post said. “If we can raise the efficiency from 15% to 50% it would be a tremendous leap forward.” Whether or not consumers will be excited by the prospect of eating burgers from petri dishes, Prof Post is hopeful that the process of obtaining the stem cells can be done without killing the animals in future. However, Post’s reasons for desiging the test tube burgers could be more than altruistic, as he joked the process may allow the creation of more interesting meat products in the future: “We could make panda meat, I’m sure we could.”

Photo: OHSU

serum harvested from slaughtered cows. The developed muscle cells, with a runny egg consistency, are next attached to Velcro where they stretch and grow like real muscle. The strips will grow to 3cm in length by 1.5cm in width and 0.5cm in depth. Post’s team reckon that 3,000 strips of beef and 200 strips of fat grown in the same way will need to be minced together to make one burger. The cutting edge research is funded by an anonymous benefactor, who is thought could have interests as varied as fighting climate change, world hunger or simply taking the next step in vegetarian friendly cuisine. However, the benefactor won’t be first to taste these burgers, as an unnamed celebrity will sample the finished product this October. It’s hoped that Heston Blumenthal, UK celebrity chef, will cook it up. The reports are unconfirmed though and the owner of The Fat Duck, a three Michelin starred restaurant in Berkshire, UK, has not yet agreed to take any part in the proceedings. A determining factor for Blumenthal could be the burgers unpalatable appearance. Post described the beef strips as having a “pinkish to yellow” tinge which could be off-putting to most potential consumers. But once the process has been perfected, Post and his team are hoping to alter the colour and taste of the meat to be more suitable to the human palate.

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SCIENCE

GALAXY BEAM

Tech Talk

The new Samsung Galaxy Beam, announced in February, will feature a built-in projector which Samsung claims will project images from the phones 3.7” screen up to 50” wide in clear HD – perfect for on-the-go slideshow presentations or impromptu games of Angry Birds on your neighbour’s garage door. As well as the ability to project terrifyingly large images of your own nostrils on any flat surface, the phone boasts a 1.0GHz dual-core processor and 8GB internal memory which can be expanded up to 32GB with the addition of a micro-SD card.

I’M WATCH Happy with the incredible functionality offered by your smartphone but sick of reaching all the way into your pocket to get it? Introducing the i’m Watch, the world’s first Android-powered “smartwatch”. The Italian-made timepiece runs Android 1.6 on a 1.54” touch screen and uses Bluetooth to sync up with your smartphone. You can then use the watch to make calls and access all the standard smartphone features: Facebook, Twitter and Android apps. With either 64MB or 128MB RAM and 4GB internal memory, the watch starts at a reasonable €249. It even tells the time.

Conor Doyle previews the gadgets that we could be carrying around in the next few months

PIVOTHEAD GLASSES Tired of having to wear an oversized novelty hat with a spy camera inside every time you try to take down a convenience store clerk for selling rancid meat? Well, strain your neck no more. Say hello to Pivothead’s line of glasses with an embedded HD camera. The specs record HD 1080p video and feature an 8MP camera for taking still photos, as well as windresistant MPEG1 sound recording and 8GB internal memory. All while making you look like a teenage skiing instructor from an early-90s coming-of-age comedy. Gnarly! The glasses retail from US$349.

LYTRO Lytro’s Director of Photography Eric Cheng said that the technology in their new camera represented “the first major change in photography since photography was invented”. The brick-shaped camera uses a light field sensor, a complicated doohickey that means you need no longer worry about photos being in focus when you take them – they can now be refocused afterwards. Unlike normal digital cameras which measure resolution in megapixels, the Lytro uses megarays – it’s capable of capturing 11 million rays of light per picture. View some examples of the camera’s revolutionary photographs at www.lytro.com/living-pictures/289. From US$399.

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SCIENCE

Hoverboards back from the future? Conor Sharkey

L

ast month, toy company Mattel began taking pre-orders for replicas of the Back to the Future II hoverboard. The date for pre-orders has passed, but Mattel will be releasing a “small quantity” for purchase at the end of the year. The hoverboard is accurate to the last detail, except for one important function: it doesn’t actually hover. Mattel say, with tongue firmly in cheek, that “full hovering technology isn’t expected until 2015”. After the release of BTTF II, director Robert Zemeckis stated that hoverboards were in fact real but too dangerous to be sold to the public. Unfortunately this was just

a joke on Zemeckis’ part, but research has been done into hoverboard technology. Paris Diderot University in France created a hoverboard called the Mag Surf which hovered over a magnetic track. There are plenty of videos online that show people making their own hoverboards. One of the best attempts at creating a

hoverboard that actually hovers comes from YouTube user Dondula7. He says he used an electromagnetic kit that has laser stabilisation technology to keep the magnets in place. The board itself can hold around five pounds of weight. If you’re thinking of copying Dondula7’s ingenuity however, you may want to think again. While the board

is only made from foam, the magnets cost $1,500 (around €1,150) for the set. Unless you’re a die-hard fan, this method may not be for you. This is not the first time a prop from the Back to the Future trilogy has been coveted by fans. When BTTF II was released in 1989, fans clamoured for Marty McFly’s self-lacing Nike sneakers. Unfortunately they also didn’t exist but Nike did release a special shoe inspired by the one from BTTF II, the Marty McFly Hyperdunk Supreme. Fans will just have to wait the three short years until they can cruise around on hoverboards in the appropriate footwear. Unless, of course, they own a DeLorean and a flux capacitor.

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CURRENT AFFAIRS

Photo: Cherrysweetdeal

DIGITAL REVOLUTION

Conor Sharkey asks if traditional retailers of books, music and films can survive in a digital world

H

ow do you purchase music, movies and books? If you wanted to, you could put your coat on, grab your wallet and head to the nearest shopping centre. But that can be tiresome. Who wants to walk? Better to go online and have someone else put in the effort of delivering your album/DVD/book. The problem now is you have to pay shipping costs. And it can take days and days for your desired item to arrive on your doorstep. Why not just download it from iTunes? They have movies and music. If you want a book, just download it for your Kindle from Amazon. Increasingly, people are choosing to

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take their shopping experience online. Instead of heading down to the local record shop or book store, people are looking to the easy (and potentially free) option of the internet. There is nothing wrong with this of course. It is natural that customers will change their buying habits. “The thing that defines the market now is the variety of choice that’s available [to the consumer],” says Gennaro Castaldo, the Head of PR and Press for HMV in Ireland and the UK. “You’re seeing a gradual trend where people are moving away from physical packaged product to either shopping online or to streaming content.” Retailers like HMV must then see how things are changing and react to it,

instead of sticking to the same model that has served them well in the past. Still, they may not have a future in a world that is increasingly living online. “Ultimately, as a retailer, you have to adapt to how your customers are consuming and discovering entertainment content, so it’s going to be led by them.” While retailers must adjust, they also have to learn to embrace the internet and the benefits it may hold for them. “The internet makes it possible to sell books across the planet,” Dermot Carroll, owner of Dublin’s Secret Book and Record Store, says. “This morning for example I posted four books to various parts of the world, so that’s a great boon to me.


CURRENT AFFAIRS “I’m very happy to embrace the internet. It is a ridiculous thing to wish for the world to go back a pace because you’d feel more comfortable in it.” While CDs and DVDs may soon become out-dated, archaic methods of consuming music and movies, like vinyl records they will always hold some niche appeal. But shops that specialise in selling music and movies have to expand and sell other goods. In the last few years shops have begun selling tablet devices and accessories for mp3 players; entire sections are now devoted to selling headphones, magazines and even clothes to people. Blu-ray discs, which are sold at three times the price of a DVD in most cases, are being granted more and more space in stores. Tower Records on Dublin’s Wicklow Street has even opened a cafe on its upper floor in an effort to create a new revenue stream. Some stores may appear to be doing well in terms of the number of customers coming through the door and the variety of goods they now offer, but all is not well, not even at a large chain like HMV. “We might have to lose some of the slightly smaller stores unfortunately,” Castaldo says. “The old model where you’d have a really well stocked store with a fantastic range, that’s getting harder to do because a lot of people shop online.” People choosing to download content from iTunes or Amazon is not the only problem facing entertainment retailers. With the current state of the economy people simply aren’t spending as much and shops can’t expect to sell goods at the same inflated price that they used to. Expanding the kind of stock that they sell is one thing retailers will have to change. They will also have to transform their stores into a different kind of place. Getting people in the door is one thing but getting them to stay and spend money is another. Castaldo believes HMV stores

will have to become much more of a social space. This would involve installing free wi-fi in stores and lockers so customers can order items online and pick them up when they please. But these are only short-term solutions to a problem that isn’t going away. The long-term question is whether actual physical shops can survive. Carroll and Castaldo believe their businesses can for now, but that will only remain true for as long as people want them to. If shops like HMV plan on lasting much longer in a changing online world, they could potentially follow the example of Kenny’s bookshop in Galway. Kenny’s is one of Ireland’s best known bookshops and has been an advocate of online retail for many years now. “We were the second bookshop in the world to be online, back in 1993,” Des Kenny, son of founder Des Kenny

Digital downloads affect both high street chains and independent retailers

Senior, says. Although the possibilities the internet presented may not have been immediately apparent to them, once Kenny’s began using it, they began progressing “at a rate of knots”. They currently sell five and a half million books – new and secondhand – online. They ship worldwide. “Amazon and iTunes may be bigger, but in

some respects we are much cheaper than Amazon. You will also get a knowledge and experience in selling books that has been here for 72 years. “The feeling of a book, the smell of a book, the whole touch of a book is a completely different experience from something you’re getting on a monitor. That’s something that will remain.”

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AFRICA CALLING Cathal Wogan examines the flourishing mobile phone market in Africa

Photo: Angaza Design

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CURRENT AFFAIRS

T

he African consumer has certain desires, a long way away from the filling of your family’s Trócaire box. As the continent and its one billion potential customers move forward in terms of social and economic stability, the disposable income available for companies to battle for becomes more significant. One case in point comes in the form of Africa’s consumer goods market of technology-based products, which has exploded over the past decade – and is only showing signs that further growth is on the horizon. As an emerging market, the continent’s developing consumer culture has drawn the attention of private international investors as well as the focus of investing nations despite the fact that, relative to developed markets, average disposable incomes are still low. China has been the most active nation in the investment process, courting the governments of various African states with the promise of partnership and advances in technology and infrastructure. Companies from around the world are expanding in the market, creating jobs and stimulating economic activity. Even Africa’s most famous football player is looking to cash in. A reported wage of €25 million per calendar year is seemingly not enough for Cameroonian icon Samuel Eto’o. The 31-yearold’s move to Russian club Anzhi Makhachla from Inter Milan made him the best paid player in the world, but now he has set up a mobile phone company, SET’Mobile, in his native country. Launched in January this year, the company is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) rather than an independent network, purchasing in wholesale from Orange Cameroon. And with 650 million active sim card connections and at least 500 million mobile phones on the wider continent as of this year – numbers that make it the world’s second largest mobile market – the opportunity could be golden. SET’Mobile sells affordable and

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functional handsets, focusing on Cameroon’s younger users who will latch on to the selling point that is the heroic captain of their national football team. Only by innovative branding, creative pricing and the offer of continuous technological advancement can companies on both the manufacturing and operating sides of the mobile phenomenon continue to grow, and the boom so far has been remarkable. Telecom companies make up 11 of the top 100 indiginous African companies in terms of revenue for the year 2010. Foreign manufacturers such as Nokia, Samsung and Blackberry have flourished, and not just because of rising incomes and

populations. They have identified the potential for sales of affordable and adaptable handsets. A lack of telecommunications infrastructure across much of the continent means that less than three percent of people have landlines. Moreover, despite continuing improvements in consumer options in the IT sector, most people do not have personal internet access via computers. So wireless and mobile technology, specifically in the form of smartphones, bypasses the need for

“For many Africans, their first experience of the internet will be from a mobile handset”

Are masts like this (right) on the horizon for Africa?


Photo: Mustapha Ennaimi

CURRENT AFFAIRS

land based telecom infrastructure while also providing a cheaper and more accessible way for people to access the internet. “Wireless and mobile technologies provide a solution that is increasingly affordable,” Brad Brockhaug of Nokia Africa says. “And, for many Africans, their first experience of the internet will be from a mobile handset.”

Samuel Eto’o launched his mobile phone company in January

The more traditional buying and selling of second hand or out of date electronic products, often computers and household appliances from Europe, has slowed. This is largely due to the influx of companies offering affordable handsets and affordable operating rates, encouraging a culture of buying. Admittedly though, the fall off in demand has not been completely

natural. An upcoming ban on the import of second hand electrical products to Uganda and the likelihood of similar interdictions in Ghana and Nigeria have seen consumer product recycling fall off. Despite the enthusiasm for mobile internet growth that Brockhaug has signalled, smartphones have not reached levels of mass penetration. Only three percent of Africa’s active

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CURRENT AFFAIRS phones are smartphones. And among those who can afford to peruse the high end market, price is a massive factor. Even in the continent’s most quickly developing consumer culture, South Africa, the iPhone only accounts for four percent of registered smartphones. Blackberry, a company that has suffered due to the flourishing of the iPhone in Western markets, has a 63 percent market share there. “In terms of affordability, $500 smartphones are beyond the grasp of most people,” Brockhaug explains. “However, the desire for the functionality of a smartphone still exists.” Companies must be price conscious. Chinese company Huawei have experienced success at the lower end of the smartphone market, selling phones that are becoming ever more popular at around the €75 mark.

S

ales of smartphones are expected to rise as prices come down and disposable incomes increase but, for now, cheap rather than smart is still the order of the day. Nokia and Samsung are leading the way in unit sales with €15 handsets that fulfill the basic needs of the customer. Nokia handsets make up the majority in use, with models from the last decade still in circulation. The cost of the services that these phones can give has sparked a real price war between regional and cross-national service providers. Africa’s telecom sectors employ almost 5 million people, yet companies have been slashing prices for calls and texts in order to win over potential customers, reducing revenue despite increasing customer numbers. The only way forward is to promote smartphones and mobile internet but, even in this area, zealous sales pitches boast of tumbling data package costs. There are still technological infrastructure problems though. While the industry booms, it could be argued that growth has outstripped development. Companies as large as South African

22 TONIC

telecoms giant MTN have come under fire in some countries for the quality of their coverage. Unless companies can provide consistent reception and quality data services then they will be sanctioned. Despite whirlwind growth, Africa’s consumer culture is still in its infancy and the mobile phone is

Image: Afrographique

the symbolic icon of technological progression. It is a signifier of a completely new kind of Africa, socially and economically. There is not a smartphone in every hand yet but, for the moment, the establishment of a new era of Africa could be defined by the intrusion of 500 million mobiles and counting.


BUSINESS

who rates the ratings agencies?

John Goggins looks at the culpability of the “triopoly”

2001, “the big three” had all rated Enron’s bonds as investment grade. Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual and AIG were all rated investment grade until September 15, 2008, the day Lehman filed for bankruptcy (the other two went bankrupt not long after). In 2009 Moody’s issued a report titled “Investor fears over Greek government liquidity misplaced”; within six months the country was seeking a bailout. The list goes on. The reason for these mistakes ranges from naivety to stupidity to greed. Those in the financial world told The Big Short author Michael Lewis that “guys who can’t get a job on Wall Street get a job at Moody’s”, and the general consensus within Wall Street is that investment banks took advantage of the CRAs lack of knowledge of what they were dealing in and who were just happy to take the fees. This theory is backed up by the numerous emails that were confiscated in an enquiry into the causes of the global crisis. A Standard and Poor’s employee wrote: “Let’s hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters.” Not only did CRAs cause the problem but they exacerbated it.

One of the big three: Standard & Poor’s

When a company went bust, they downgraded other companies and so everybody panicked and withdrew their stocks and money, thus ensuring that what they feared actually materialized. There is hope of change if the right steps are taken. It is clear that the CRAs need to be stripped of their power. However the greatest good to come from this would be if we heeded the CRAs’ own disclaimer: “Any user of the information contained herein should not rely on any credit rating or other opinion contained in making any investment decision.” This would force financial institutions to take responsibility for their own decisions and not just deflect the blame away from themselves. By making the entry requirements to becoming an NRSRO less nebulous the “triopoly” can be broken up. Another possible solution is to establish not-for-profit CRAs which would be funded by a levy on financial institutions. This solution is being considered by the EU. Some effective alternative to the present situation must be found if Credit Rating Agencies are to become part of the solution to the global financial crisis rather than a surviving contributor to it.

Photo: Funky Tee

P

erusing any financial report or newspaper business section you are likely to find the term “credit rating agencies” (CRAs), a term that has increasingly been treated with opprobrium. Journalists, academics and economists have rushed to castigate the CRAs. They feel that not only were the CRAs complicit in the global crisis, but they were key agents of it. It is clear society needs a villain in every story as it allows them to focus their outrage. This can be unhelpful. However, critically examining the role of the CRAs can ensure that a global financial crisis of this magnitude never occurs again. CRAs assess the creditworthiness of a particular financial instrument like a corporate bond, mortgage backed security and, more recently, countries. They predict the likelihood of whether the debt will be repaid. The most common form of rating is a sliding scale with AAA optimal status, then AA, A, BBB and so forth. BBB and above is considered “investment grade” and anything below is considered “junk”. The three CRAs who wield the most influence are Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s, and Fitch. Known as “the big three”, between them they rate 95% of debt worldwide. Their “triopoly” was cemented when the US SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) anointed them “nationally recognized statistical rating organizations” (NRSROs) in 1975. Though credit rating agencies are supposedly entirely data driven in assessing risk, those in command were human. Five days before Enron went bankrupt in December

TONIC 23


BUSINESS

ENTer

The

DRAGON

Businessman and Dragons’ Den star Bobby Kerr talks to David Keenan about negotiating, coffee and Ireland’s way out of this recession

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any business ventures go up in smoke, but for Bobby Kerr the phrase holds a literal meaning. Panic arose when the upper floor of his exclusive Bang Café restaurant went on fire and subsequently engulfed the entire street in a cloud of smoke, only to be brought under control by the Dublin Fire Brigade. Despite this setback, his affable character is difficult to extinguish. “It’s just one of the things you have to deal with; thankfully nobody was hurt and we’ll be back with a ‘bang’ in no time.” Bang Café in Merrion Row is just one of the many businesses that Bobby operates. 60 of his famous Insomnia coffee shops are sprinkled nationwide. During the Celtic Tiger years, Bobby increased Insomnia’s turnover from €5 million to €13 million, expanding the company from 17 to 60 shops around Ireland. In 2008, he sold the company to an Icelandic company called Penninn for €16 million, avoiding the oncoming financial crisis. He now acts as chairman for the coffee company. His business empire earned him a slot in RTE’s Dragon’s Den, and he presents Down to Business on Newstalk FM. “What I like most about Dragons’ Den is that it makes business fun,” says Kerr. “It’s entertaining in

24 TONIC

such a way that it’s accessible to a wide range of people, especially young people. I’ve never liked the word ‘entrepreneur’; it gives off connotations of boredom and seriousness, when in actual fact starting a business can be both fun and exciting. Business is often overcomplicated when all that I’m looking for in the Den is just someone who can make me rich.” For Bobby, business starts with personality: “I’m a firm believer in getting things done through people; it’s not about being the best, it’s actually about finding people who are better than you and using their skills. The ability to negotiate is everything when starting a business. If you don’t have the negotiation skills, you need to find someone else who does. Everything is negotiable.” The dragon believes his success with Insomnia was also down to understanding the market and identifying its trends. The coffee franchise appeared on the Irish market long before international coffee chains like Starbucks and Costa Coffee set up shop, when the Irish public were just beginning to open up to gourmet coffee. “Insomnia is not something new, we didn’t invent coffee, but we saw trends in the international markets and we predicted that the same thing

Bobby Kerr; and (inset) with his fellow dragons

would start happening in Ireland. “The key part to any business venture is research; one of the biggest mistakes is to have an idea that is underdeveloped. Research is not only identifying trends in the market, it involves years of dedication working in that market and developing your product. Basically, if you want to open a coffee company, you need to spend years working in a coffee shop, and it’s the same in any other business.” Bobby’s success is the result of decades working in the catering industry. His career had its humble beginnings when he was 16, helping his father run the four star Newpark Hotel in Kilkenny. Bobby worked in the kitchen. Since then, he has worked his way up the ranks working with companies such as AIB


BUSINESS

Catering, Jury’s Hotels, Campbell Catering, Bewley’s, PERK Coffee and, finally, Insomnia. At the moment, Bobby detects potential growth in tourism and the Irish food industry. “Personally, I would like to see restaurants that only serve Irish produce on a bigger scale,” he says. “Our agri-food industry is a key part of our economy but is usually just used for exports. It’s also very worrying about how Irish pubs are being closed down, as it is the go-to place for tourists in Ireland.” Although, Bobby insists that Ireland is not all doom and gloom. “Despite the fact that it is difficult to get investment in the current economic crisis, Ireland is very good in terms of rent deals and building costs. But at the same time, the

“We’re lucky in that I can’t see Irish people not wanting their cup of coffee anytime soon”

recession also means that the price of what you are selling is crucial: for example, we try to keep the price of our coffee as low as we can.” During his tenure as chairman of Insomnia, the company has been no exception to the current economic crisis. “There have been a lot of crazy things going on and I didn’t expect it to get so bad so quickly,” he says. “We too have had to close down shops and reduce our staff, but we’re lucky in that I can’t see Irish people not wanting their cup of coffee anytime soon. “For the people who haven’t been so lucky I would say not to give up, that you’re no different from anyone else and if you’re experiencing a loss, then that’s just a part of the learning process; you’re first loss is often your best loss.”

TONIC 25


BUSINESS

MINING YOUR BUSINESS With data mining rampant, David Keenan asks if we’re safe on the web

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id you ever get the feeling you’re being followed? If you’re using the internet, you are. Internet tracking is constantly growing as websites are increasingly interested in finding out information about who you are, where you’re from, and what you’re doing. Although it is now common knowledge that websites use our information for advertising, it is not crystal clear as to who uses it and to what extent. Data mining is now a lucrative business, with the internet advertising industry currently valued at $35 billion. Moreover, the figures of the Internet Advertising Bureau revealed that one third of all display advertising are done through behavioural targeting. Companies like Exelate, Rapleaf,

are files that assign your computer with a number when you visit their website, and then monitor your subsequent activity on different websites too. There are three types of tracker files: cookies, beacons and flash cookies. Cookies are the most common; they are tiny text files that assign your computer an identifying number. Marketing firms use this number in order to establish your interest and online activity. Beacons are little pieces of software that are present on many websites. Like cookies, they track your online activity but they can also track what text you type on certain websites. Flash cookies are tiny files installed onto your computer by Adobe’s Flash Software, which is used to display video or ads online.

Data mining company Rapleaf have been banned from Facebook

“There are often cases in which behavioural advertising can be a violation of one’s privacy” Blukai and countless others specialize in monitoring people’s online behaviour and selling on this valuable information to advertisers. The process begins with the ad network that tracks and analyses the data. These are then given to advertisers who have a product aimed at a specific demographic. Finally, the advertisements are given to content publishers who place the ads on their website. They compile information about you through “tracking files”; these

26 TONIC

Unless you’ve got something to hide, this tracking may seem harmless. However, there are often cases in which behavioural advertising can be a violation of one’s privacy. During the U.S primary elections in 2010, Linda Twombly was exposed to countless advertisements asking her to vote for Republican candidate Jim Bender. Twombly was indeed a Republican voter and had a history of donating to political campaigns. The data mining

company Rapleaf had discovered this through her online activity, built up an extensive profile of her personal details and sold it to the company representing the candidate. The privacy implications that surround online tracking have been treated very seriously. In January this year the EU published a draft proposal for a new Data Protection Regulation, and in February the US government released its privacy blueprint, including the consumer privacy bill of rights. The EU’s e-Privacy Directive was amended in 2009 to require data controllers to “inform when placing cookies or similar tacking devices on a user’s terminal equipment”. However, the regulations don’t prescribe how information is to be provided or whether consent is to be given; only that consent should be “as user friendly as possible”. With the measures put in place, tracking is still rampant. Many users’ browser settings automatically consent to these tracking devices. The data protection agency for the EU complained to the IAB that its current conduct “does not meet the consent and information requirements of the revised e-Privacy Directive”. Clearly, online privacy is still unfamiliar territory for political leaders. This debate will undoubtedly continue.


BUSINESS

Starting up is hard to do

David Keenan talks to two young entrepreneurs growing their businesses in Ireland

DAVE PEPPER

Photo: Con O’Donoghue/Archipelago.ie

Dave Pepper managed to change one of his obscure hobbies into a lucrative business. During his spare time Dave used to take apart his Xbox 360 and fashion it into different shapes and designs to create something unique. “At the beginning, friends and family were worried about me,” Dave says. “It was getting harder and harder for people to get jobs and I was talking about creating toys which I knew nothing about – they thought I’d lost the plot. “I had my electricity cut, got eviction notices and my once friendly bank now believed it would be best if we all met in court to discuss my outstanding loan repayments.” After a friend suggested filming Dave performing his strange pastime, the resulting video went viral with 100,000 YouTube hits on its first day and hundreds of e-mails asking Dave

if they could purchase one of the crazy consoles. This was the catalyst for his new company, Memods. His designs clip onto gaming consoles to give them a more unique look. He pitched his idea to the Guinness Enterprise Centre where he was given a desk, a computer and four months to get his plans together – but received six figure funding in just two weeks. Dave has now made the transformation from unemployed to employer, acting as the creator and managing director of an exciting business entering the multi-million euro games console market. Earlier this year he received his second round of funding, leaving him ready to hit the American and Asian markets. “I was told at the time that it was a silly idea. It was a silly idea, but it was my silly idea and I knew I could make something work with it.”

EAMON LEONARD Eamon spent nearly ten years sitting at a desk doing a job he didn’t like, until one day he gave it all up and started his own business. “It was the riskiest thing I had ever done,” he says. “I quit my job on the spur of the moment. I wasn’t happy with it, and I felt I needed to take control in my life. I had no idea what that actually meant.” In 2008 Eamon set up Echolibre, a software consultancy company which helped startup businesses develop their ideas, something which at the beginning was not very profitable: “When it came to collecting payment from clients we regularly found that they could not pay on time. Often this was because they themselves were waiting to get paid from their clients or customers. As lines of credit dried up, the knock on effect across the small business economy was disastrous.” In 2010, Eamon developed Orchestra, a platform which makes creating

applications in the PHP programming language easier for developers. A year later both Echolibre and Orchestra were acquired by Engine Yard, a cloud computing company based in San Francisco with offices in Portland, Oregon, and, now, Dublin. Engine Yard is an internationally renowned company that received backing from venture capital firms Benchmark Capital, New Enterprise Associates and Amazon. The technology that Eamon specialises in is commonly known as cloud computing, which has been described by some as “the next industrial revolution”. The term applies to software that allows businesses to store and use their files and data online, rather than on individual servers, making businesses more efficient and convenient. Last year, Eamon increased his team from 4 to 12. He hopes to have 35 people working for his Irish branch this summer.

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FASHION

Alternative

luxury

Designer Claire O’Connor has dressed fashion heavyweights like Michelle Obama and she tells Laura Finnerty that the future is bright for Irish fashion

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t 32, Claire O’Connor has the fashion world at her feet. She has dressed the current Miss Universe, as well as First Lady Michelle Obama on her visit to Ireland last May, and had the honour of showing at Vancouver Fashion Week in November. TV presenters like Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh and Kathryn Thomas have been spotted in Claire’s designs, which are available at The Design Centre in Powerscourt. Claire seems overwhelmed by all that 2011 threw at her when we meet. Of her future plans, she says: “I want to continue to grow my business in Ireland. I am currently working on a bridal collection in addition to my ready to wear. More recently I have been spending time in New York working on a variety of projects, which is an avenue I want to expand.” Claire’s focus on bridal wear has paid off and her most recent bridal photo shoot featured on Rock and Roll Bride, an international website. The shoot offers Claire’s unique spin on bridal chic. Expanding into the American market would offer Claire opportunities Ireland is unable to give her. The Irish fashion industry is notoriously hard to break into, and offers a small market. Many would be forgiven for giving up when faced with this, not to mention with the recession, but Claire remains optimistic. “There’s a lot happening in Irish fashion right

28 TONIC

now,” she says. The Project 51 showcase is just one of many initiatives encouraging Irish designers at the moment. Project 51 introduces 15 young designers, including Claire, to the Irish public. The designers work together as a collective and run a shop in South William Street. Like many of her predecessors, Claire draws motivation from her peers. “Galliano & McQueen allow me to dream,” she says. She draws a lot of inspiration from everyday surroundings, “very basic, simple things”. Claire sticks to structured designs in an attempt “to appeal to a size 14 as much as a size 8”. In the past she has made garments up to size 22. Structure was important in ensuring they remained flattering on all sizes. Claire also speaks about the importance of prints in her creations. “Digital print play a big

womenswear heralding a unique concept of alternative luxury”. Claire O’Connor has taken on many challenges in recent years:

“There’s a lot happening in Irish fashion right now” part,” she says, “and so I try to work them in such a way that your eye is automatically drawn to the centre of the garment.” The name of Claire’s label, Lil C, alludes to the American hip hop scene. Hip hop has been another constant source of inspiration for Dublin-born Claire. She describes Lil C as “contemporary

studying at the Grafton Academy, launching her own label and working under designers such as Pauric Sweeney and Marc O’Neill. However, none was quite as demanding as the task of creating 32 dresses in 32 days. Claire undertook this challenge last November when she was offered the chance to show at Vancouver


FASHION Your guide to

young Irish Designers Simone Rocha Following in the footsteps of her internationally acclaimed father John, Simone is already making big waves in London having created a collection for Topshop and been featured at London Fashion Week on numerous occasions. Simone’s designs have also been worn by the world’s most fashionable (or crass, depending on your view) woman, Lady GaGa. Best of all, we can claim this fashion superstar as one of our own.

Fashion Week. Claire took it in her stride. When asked about the project and the pressure, Claire is calm. “I thrive under pressure,” she says. “As soon as it was finished I was on to my next task. I’m well used to working with deadlines.”

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uch an attitude has served Claire well as she has worked her way from the bottom up. She still has work to do, though, if she wants to establish herself as an international big hitter. Fashion is ever changing, and Claire’s top tips for summer 2012 are “under the sea”, 1920s, peplum skirts and pastels, but she, like any designer worth their salt, is all about “print, print and more print,

Claire’s recent focus has been on bridal wear with a kick

in particular floral and birds. Print is set to be even bigger for autumn and winter 2012 too.” Claire’s most striking characteristic is the positivity she exudes, and the future looks bright for this young Irish designer who is leading the way in mixing classic shapes with modern patterns and styles. Claire O’Connor is on the verge of becoming synonymous with Irish fashion, so snap up something from her collection now. Her pieces are available from the Dublin Design Centre in Powerscourt with prices ranging from €100-€1,500. Alternatively visit Project 51 on South William Street to sample her work and the work of Ireland’s other next top fashion designers.

J.W. Anderson J.W. Anderson graduated from London College of Fashion in 2007. This menswear designer has a following in the UK and US but is virtually unknown in his native country. Anderson (Jonathan William, in case you were wondering) is among a small number of designers specialising solely in men’s fashion, though he does produce a number of accessories and a limited clothing collection for women. Harrods, ASOS and Net-a-porter have all sold his collections. This year’s graduates Every year fashion students graduate from NCAD, Limerick College of Art and Design and the Grafton Academy. Upon graduation many will begin work for an established label but some go it alone, and these brave souls are the future of Irish fashion. To really get a flavour of the young Irish talent out there, attend the NCAD Degree Exhibition, open to the public from June 8 to 17. By purchasing a piece, not only will you be supporting young Irish designers but you may also be the proud owner of an original from the world’s next Christian Dior.

TONIC 29


FASHION

SUMMERTIME

and the livin’ is easy

Summer 2012 looks set to be a scorcher. Tonic tells you how to remain fashionable and cool in our picks from the high street With thanks to the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts and History, Collins Barracks Photography: Andy McDonnell and Fergus McNally Stylist: Laura Finnerty

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FASHION

(This page) Shorts €17.99 Denim gilet €24.99 Sandals €64.99 New Look (Opposite Page) Left: Dress €39.99 Shoes €29.99 New Look Center: Shorts €23.79 Forever 21 Tank top €12.75 Forever 21 Espidrilles €8.99 New Look Right: Dress €34.99 Sandals €64.99 New Look

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FASHION Floral Maxi Skirt €29.99 Sheer Shirt €24.99 New Look

Denim Crop Top €15.75 Forever 21 Print pants €19.75 Forever 21 Sandals €22.99 New Look

32 TONIC


FASHION Tribal T-shirt €14.99 Chinos €24.99 New Look

Umbrella €10.00 Dunnes Stores

Skirt €17.75 Print blouse €31.75 Forever 21 Sandals €14.99 New Look

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CULTURE

SUMMER SIZZLERS

Conor Sharkey looks ahead to the blockbusters hitting our screens this summer

avengers assemble Release Date: April 27

T

he Avengers? “Surely not a remake of that god-awful Sean Connery movie from 1998?” no one cries. Despite the fact that few minds will be drawn to Connery’s film, Marvel have renamed their big summer release. Now as well as simply avenging, in this part of the world the Avengers will now also assemble. Marvel have put their faith in Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy: the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly), to bring their Avengers together From left to right: Robert Downey Jr., Joss Whedon, Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans Far right: Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow

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on the big screen. Whedon is a risky choice considering his single theatrical release, Serenity, seriously underperformed at the box office. So can the Avengers movie get people to assemble at their local multiplex this summer? Chances are it will, and if the thought of Iron Man, Captain America and Thor knocking seven shades of crap out of each other on the big screen doesn’t appeal, then maybe you need to stay away from the cinema until September.


CULTURE

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN Release Date: July 4

S

eeing as it’s been just five years since Sam Raimi’s much derided Spider-Man 3, you could be forgiven for thinking that Peter Parker has earned a welldeserved break from our cinema screens. However, this July Spidey will be rebooted with the release of The Amazing Spider-Man. This incarnation of Spider-Man will be very different from the Raimi trilogy however. There will be no Mary-Jane and no shouty newspaper editors. In there place will be a new villain in the shape of the Lizard (aka Dr Kurt Connors, who will be played by everyone’s favourite Welshman, Rhys Ifans). Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) is taking over directing duties in a film which will see Peter Parker spending a lot more time in high school and less time taking photos for the Daily Bugle. The 3D format means The Amazing Spider-Man will also be shooting web right in your face. (Steady now...) Don’t let that put you off though. Between POV shots of Spider-Man swinging from rooftop to rooftop, Emma Stone being her usual charming self as Peter Parker’s love interest Gwen Stacey and Garfield’s new take on everyone’s favourite web-crawler, The Amazing Spider-Man could breathe new life into an ailing franchise.

Spider-Man’s new look: Andrew Garfield as the new webslinger Left: Peter Parker and Gwen Stacey cosy up

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CULTURE

T H E R A I D 36 TONIC

Iko Uwais as Rama in The Raid

Release Date: May 18

I

t is rare for an audience to applaud at the end of a film. It is even rarer that an audience will break out into spontaneous applause in the middle of a film to show their appreciation for the sheer balls-to-the-wall brilliance they are witnessing. However, this is just the kind of reaction The Raid gets and deserves. When you’re not slapping your hands together like an eager seal, you’ll be wondering just how no one died making what is possibly the best action film in a generation. The story is a simple one. The Raid sees a SWAT team enter a high-rise building to take down a drug lord; they are met with resistance. It may not sound like much of a plot (such a threadbare premise usually only belongs to a direct-to-DVD Steven Seagal movie), but this is only the outer layer of a cake overflowing with creamy action-packed filling. The Raid is a strange beast. It is an Indonesian film, featuring an

Indonesian martial art, with a new Indonesian star (Iko Uwais as Rama) but it is written and directed by a Welshman, Gareth Evans. Perhaps it is this strange marrying of cultures that makes The Raid the standout film that it is. Along with Yayan Ruhian (who plays Mad Dog), Evans and Uwais have crafted some of the most creative action sequences ever seen. There are no beefed up Stallones or Schwarzeneggers; Uwais and Ruhian fight in a flurry of fists and feet. They break necks, arms and hearts (in a bad, kill you kind of way). They may be small in stature, but they would be more than a match for any of Hollywood’s tough guys. The film is of course being remade by Hollywood, with Gareth Evans hanging on in an executive producer role. This makes it all the more important that people go and see The Raid in its original form. We may never see its like again.


CULTURE

ThE Dark Kn i gh t Ri s e s Release Date: July 20

T

here is one absolute must-see film this summer. One film that everyone will be talking about. Not seeing it would presumably result in your membership of the human race being revoked. Maybe that’s a bit extreme, but this July everyone will be flocking to see The Dark Knight Rises. The end of The Dark Knight saw Batman become a wanted man after he took the blame for the crimes of Harvey Dent. He is on the run from the Gotham City Police Department, but must come back to take on a new criminal element in Gotham. This will almost certainly be Christopher Nolan’s last visit to Gotham City and if it is to live up to the hype he will have to go out with a bang. There is speculation that this could mean Nolan will kill Batman. Lending some credence to this rumour is the presence of Bane (Tom Hardy), who, in the Batman comic Knightfall, broke the Dark Knight’s back and threw him from a roof. If anything like this happens in TDKR, Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego could be out of action permanently. As well as trying to break the Bat, Hardy has the difficult job of taking over from the late Heath Ledger, who put in an Oscar-winning performance as Batman’s nemesis, The Joker, in The Dark Knight. This final chapter in his Batman trilogy has to live up to a lot of hype. Its predecessor was a massive success at the box office, grossing over $1 billion worldwide. To find out how this “epic conclusion” actually concludes we will all just have to head to the nearest cinema this summer.

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CULTURE

DON’T JUDGE A BUCK

stage to give it a go. I’ve wanted to be an actor since watching Return of the Jedi, but alas I never pursued it as a career. Hopefully if things work out, I might appear in something a little more dramatic. Do you consider yourself an actor or comedian? I’d consider myself as both, but more so an actor. It’s in my nature to entertain people I meet in daily life. I’d outrageously provoke or shock people for my own entertainment. I’d like to try stand-up as myself. I’ve a collection of very funny stories about friends and relatives. Surely it would be funnier than some of those who claim to be mainstream comedians, selling out enormadomes while talking about lowest common denominator subjects. Do you watch much TV?

By HIs Cover

Martin Maloney, the man behind Eddie Durkan, talks to Sean Noone

How much of Eddie is actually you and how much is a character? I’d say Eddie is 30 percent me. There’s a lot of my own daftness thrown into the mix. In the early YouTube episodes, certain scenes were based on exaggerated events, things that had actually happened to me. Eddie’s character has changed a lot over the course of the last few years. I think he’s more or less become himself at this stage. What would you be doing if it wasn’t for Hardy Bucks? If I wasn’t doing Hardy Bucks I’d be trying to jostle my way into music as a performer. I’d probably have gone back to college and done music production or a television course. Maybe I’d move to London and wear ironic granny clothing while working in an arty Shoreditch bar.

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How did you capture small town Ireland so well? I think it boils down to observation. Growing up in a place like Swinford, I took everything in. There wasn’t really much to do other than playing football and watching people move through the town. You’d spend a long time weighing up people and their relationships. It’s kind of like having a massive family. We got to know so many types of people so well; it was easier to understand the collective consciousness of life in a small town. There are things you cannot avoid the way you can in a city. What would you like to be doing in five years? In 5 years I’d like to get to where Michael Fassbender is. I think he’s a great actor who takes his work very seriously. It might seem strange, wanting to go from Hardy Bucks to something like Shame, but I feel that I would love to take on more challenging roles in drama. I feel I’m well able at this

I don’t watch much TV. There’s not a lot on these days other than lazy, uninspired “reality” TV: X Factor and Big Brother. Big Brother was the first nail in TV’s coffin. Channel 4 was brilliant back in the day, a platform for some of the best comic minds. Now people are satisfied to watch any old wank. It’s a shame. How do you spend your free time? Free time is spent trying to keep the beer gut off... then drinking more beer. I enjoy quality home time with my loved ones. When feeling inspired I like to cook and play PS3. I’ve recently purchased a juice machine, which is 30 minutes of entertainment in the evening. Though cleaning the bastard is a real nuisance. What are some reasons to be positive in Ireland in 2012? The recession is making people pack up and leave. But I believe that the first steps to a better Ireland is to think positively in all areas of life. Always have something to look forward to, whether it’s a night out, a holiday, buying something you’ve always wanted or even a Mike Denver gig! Share the idea of positive thinking and the negative will sort itself out.


CULTURE

Totally Wired B

ackstage at the International Comedy Club on Dublin’s Exchequer Street is hardly the swankiest of locations. It’s just a small space at the bottom of a stairs that leads up to the women’s toilet. There is a nervous tension in the air. Pints are sipped, guitars tuned and good wishes offered before people make their way to the stage. Des Bishop, MC for the night, is warming up the crowd. It says a lot about musical-comedy duo Totally Wired and the progress they have made in just two years that they top the bill on an evening hosted by a comedian as well known and well liked as Bishop. They still don’t think they’re famous though. “No we’re not at all,” says guitarist Lorcan Hughes. “I think we’re about a one out of ten on the scale of fame,” says the other half of Totally Wired, Emmet Quinn. As they talk, the bond between the two becomes obvious. “We bounce off each other well,” Emmet says. “People always say that to us.” “He makes me laugh.

Totally Wired talk to TONIC’s Conor Sharkey about life, love, laughter and Christy Brown We have the same sense of humour,” Lorcan adds. “Emmet’s my ‘gig-wife’.” The easiest way to describe Totally Wired is as an Irish Flight of the Conchords. Sure there are some similarities with the New Zealand based comedy duo, but comparing the two groups is like comparing cheese and milk. Sure they both come from a cow, but you wouldn’t pour a jug of brie on your Corn Flakes in the morning. Totally Wired sing about much more risqué subjects. Organ donation? Check. Stephen Hawking singing Footloose? Check. Flight of

the Conchords wouldn’t dare tread where Totally Wired gladly stomp around. “I’m much more of a prude than him,” Emmet says of Lorcan. “The second verse of Footloose used be sung by Christy Brown, but I wanted to cut it.” The two are now so immersed in comedy and performing that they find it hard to watch other comedians. “Watching comedy is difficult now because you’re always analysing what they’ve done,” Lorcan says. “It’s like being a filmmaker watching a movie and

looking at the lighting,” Emmet agrees. The likelihood is that one of Ireland’s most promising comedy acts will soon be heading further afield in an attempt to spread their name. “We will probably go to London at some stage, but it’s like starting all over again,” Lorcan says. “You’re waiting months to get a spot at the comedy clubs over there.” Wherever the lads may end up, Totally Wired are certainly one of the most exciting Irish comedy acts around. And the crowd in the International Comedy Club are just about to find that out. Totally Wired play The Academy May 26

The lads’ verdict on some of Ireland’s best new comics Niamh Marrion: The face of an angel, mind of a devil

Conor O’Toole: The geek shall inherit the earth! So good he make fonts funny

Kevin McGahern: Actor, poet, surrealist; all this and funny!

Jim Elliot: A stylish and smooth American...a TV show beckons

Danny O’Brien: Ladies & gentlemen (well, mostly ladies), bad taste never tasted so good

Kieran Lawless: Pound for pound one of the funniest men in Ireland and the second funniest Mayo man after Enda Kenny

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Farewell, Jape On the eve of leaving Ireland for Sweden, Jape bids his fond farewell to Sean Noone

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ichie Egan has been a fixture on the Irish music scene for many years now. He is our musical chameleon in chief. Our Jack White. Our Damon Albarn. Whether it’s with Redneck Manifesto, Jape or an inestimable amount of other acts he has played with, it is hard to see how he has had a moment to rest in the last decade or so. Not that his time was wasted. He has influenced a massive cross section of Irish musicians. James Vincent Mc Morrow describes him as his musical hero. Rockers Delorentos are similarly effusive in their praise. The Dubs, who have played with Jape on a number of occasions, “love Richie. He gave us some fairly inspirational advice down the years. Also a gent.” On March 8 this year Egan walked away with his second Meteor Choice Music Prize in three years. But even before the €10,000 prize cheque had time to clear in his bank account, a massive change was on the horizon for Egan. He had a sold-out Whelan’s show to prepare for and packing to do for his big move. The Whelan’s show was billed as the farewell show before he and his wife up sticks to Malmo, Sweden. It was a difficult time for him. “Last weekend as a Dublin native... it feels a bit intense. I need a Guinness,” he told Tonic shortly after his show. “I was trying to work out if it would be logistically feasible to ship a keg of

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Guinness to Sweden.” The few quid he has thrown into the Diageo coffers aside, what kind of legacy has he left in the wake of his departure? His first couple of albums “Comosphere” and “The Monkeys in the Zoo Have More Fun than Me” fell reasonably flat... except for one song. “Floating” was a qualified hit for Jape, but received global attention when overheard by Brendan Benson one night in Whelan’s. Benson liked it so much that he,

“I was trying to work out if it would be logistically feasible to ship a keg of Guinness to Sweden” together with Jack White, Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler, took it on as part of the Raconteurs’ live set. It was third album “Ritual” that put Jape onto the next level. It was up-tempo, electronic and catchy. There was a selection of standout tracks that none of his previous albums had, like “Christopher & Anthony”, “Phil Lynott” and “I Was A Man”, which has all but usurped “Floating” as Jape’s signature song. For it, he picked up the Choice Prize. It also got him some regular radio airplay and helped fill venues around the country.

Pushing on from there proved problematic. Twice Egan had to scrap the work done and return to the drawing board. That decision ultimately proved to be the making of “Ocean of Frequency”. It’s similar to “Ritual” in its electronic nature, but it’s certainly not a “Ritual II”. Where that was upbeat, this is sombre. Where that was witty and light, this is deep and reverential. It hints at the reasons for imminent departure throughout. On the albums lead single “Scorpio”, Egan sings: “I’m in between where I once was and where I need to be.” “Please Don’t Turn the Record Off” has the clearest nod to this. “Please don’t turn the record off, I’ve got nothing to go home to,” sings Egan. “You’ve imagined yourself leaving, but you don’t have the balls… to do it.” All of this could leave the album thoroughly depressing. It doesn’t though. It is nostalgia and not any form of depression that is the overriding emotion of the piece. It’s a gift that Egan has left us on his departure. We will certainly miss his music, but what will he miss about us? And what of his new home? “It’s a little early to say to be honest. I am looking forward to writing away from Dublin and Ireland for a change of headspace. Malmo is cool. I’m moving into my new studio tomorrow. I am excited. I’ve been writing since I got here. And cycling.”


CULTURE

Jape playing his farewell gig at Whelan’s Photo: Jamie Neely

Who’ll take Jape’s place? COME ON, LIVE LONG

Despite being together for just over a year they sound cleaner and tighter than many veterans. Their music recalls the expansive quality of Arcade Fire while having a sound all of their own. An outstanding Hard Working Class Heroes set followed by a very well received EP, Mender, has set tongues wagging throughout the country. They are currently working on an album which they hope to release later this year.

FUNERAL SUITS

Starting off in 2008 as a trio the band made waves in 2009 with some impressive live shows. All then went quiet for a couple of years. They’re now back and have set about recording their debut album with former Blur and The Smiths cohort Stephen Street. They have had support slots for the likes of Franz Ferdinand, Passion Pit and The Maccabees among others. Their album will be released in early June.

LAST DAYS OF 1984

Right from their first gig last summer, there was a massive expectations put on the shoulders of the Dublin duo. Soon after came debut single “River’s Edge”. This went some way to justifying this hype with its Animal Collective-like sound, though they have more of a dance sound than the Americans. They have played with Tune-Yards, Health, Beirut, Battles and many more. Their debut album “Wake Up to the Waves” is released on May 7.

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FIGHTING TALK Shane Fahy catches up with Olympic hopeful John Joe Nevin at the National Stadium

“Going around and seeing all these superstars, you know you’re a part of something special”

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ohn Joe Nevin is talking about the bizarre nature of the Olympic village in Beijing where he and the late Darren Sutherland chatted with the likes of Rafael Nadal, the Williams sisters and Novak Djokovic, and also caught sight of Ronaldinho, no less, from afar. And superstardom is where Nevin could be headed to this summer in London if he wins the gold medal in the bantamweight category. He qualified for what will be his second Olympics last

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October when he won his second world bronze medal. The 22-year-old Mullingar native began boxing aged seven at Brosna Boxing Club. At thirteen he joined Cavan Boxing Club in Cavan town to further his development. Nevin left school around this time and took up a job for Gaffney News Distributors delivering national newspapers to shops around town. Growing up he looked up to the boxing exploits of brother-in-law David Nevin

who sadly passed away recently aged only 25. Ireland’s sole boxing qualifier for the 2004 Olympics, Andy Lee, also served as inspiration to the young Nevin. “You’re looking at all these top Irish boxers. They inspired me to do what I’m doing,” he says. His performance at the World Junior Championship in the summer of 2006 when he reached the quarter-finals underlined his potential. This led to the IABA (Irish Amateur Boxing


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Association) putting him on a development grant of €5,000. The next year at the European Juniors he got to the quarter-finals again and lost controversially to his Russian opponent, Misha Aloyan, who then went on to win gold. Such good form convinced Nevin and the IABA that he could go far in the sport. “They kind of knew and I knew myself that there was something there.” This talent quickly became evident in 2008, his breakthrough year. He won his first national senior title and, still on the development grant pittance, the precocious Nevin managed to qualify for Beijing in late February, storming to gold in a European qualifying tournament. That April he was put on a high performance grant of €20,000, and in June, with the Olympics looming large, he won gold at the EU Championships. In Beijing the then 19-year-old Nevin acquitted himself well. He progressed past the first round and lost 9-2 to eventual champion Enkhbatyn Badar-Uugan of Mongolia in his next match. “I improved since that,” says Nevin. “I came on the year later and won the world bronze medal at Milan. I picked up from my mistakes and moved on.” That bronze along with the one secured last October means that Nevin is the only Irish boxer to win

two world championship medals, and though he was disappointed to lose his semi-final, this fact did yield a sense of satisfaction. “When I got time to come home and think about what I’d done I was very happy.” This achievement did not go unnoticed, and in recognition of a successful year for Irish boxing

The Mullingar man in action

“I’m up there with the number one and I can beat anyone on my day”

both Nevin and Katie Taylor were nominated for the Sports Personality of the Year award last December. Besides Nevin, Darren O’Neill and Michael Conlan have also qualified. There is a very real possibility that more will do likewise through the final Olympic qualifying tournament in Turkey later this month, thereby improving on the tally of five who participated in Beijing. London is fast approaching. Nevin and the rest of the Irish squad train daily at a gym alongside the national stadium. Nevin says the squad is

“more or less a family”. They have a simple but effective routine: go for a brisk jog interspersed with some sprints or a weights session at around 11am, and then a boxing session at 4pm encompassing sparring and boxing bags. Nevin won his fifth straight national title in February, resoundingly winning the final 23-3 against his cousin Michael Nevin. Only a few weeks later, however, he suffered a cracked cheekbone in a WSB (World Series of Boxing) bout in Paris and feared that his Olympic dream was over. Thankfully the injury is relatively minor and will only prevent him from sparring for 4-5 weeks. Ranked fourth in the world, Nevin is eagerly awaiting the beginning of the games and is a realistic possibility of a medal, even – dare it be said? – gold. He has beaten both the world number two and number three, and lost narrowly to the number one, Tajikistani Anvar Yusunov, crucially giving away a penalty of two points. “I’m up there with the number one and I can beat anyone on my day.” His technical ability lends itself to a counter-punching style of boxing, to “stand off a lad and show my skills”, he says. But he will mix it in close and fight if need be. “I can box and fight.” Maintaining focus at all times and showing respect for all opponents is key. “No matter who it is, whether it’s the number 100 in the world or the world champion, you have to go in there with the same attitude.” Family and friends from Mullingar will make the short trip over to London for the games. “It’s good that it’s near home because I can have family over,” says Nevin, but beyond that, he does not think the closeness is an advantage. His dream has always been to go professional, and he will if the right offer comes in after the Olympics. For now though, London is foremost on his mind. “If I can improve another ten per cent between now and then I’ll be happy,” he says. “I need to be ready from the word go and do my stuff.”

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POLITICAL FOOTBALL Shane Fahy examines the time when politics and the beautiful game have met

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ootball and politics should not mix, yet they have conspired to on countless occasions. With a European Championship approaching, it is worth remembering when the two have fused in European history and society and served up a toxic brew. The interaction is usually ethnically and culturally based, or social and ideological, or both. In Spain it is as if the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s is symbolically relived any time Real Madrid play Barcelona or Athletic Bilbao. Real are noted for their historical closeness to Franco and to the right generally. Barca, meanwhile, are the team from the city that was a key Republican stronghold during the Civil War and a key symbol of Catalonian nationalism and identity. Not to forget the Basques and their most successful team Athletic Bilbao. Athletic are a political statement in and of themselves, stubbornly sticking to their La Cantera policy of only playing ethnic Basques. Fascism’s detestable symbolism popped out from the dustbin of history on a couple of occasions in the Italian Serie A in 2004-2005 when Paolo di Canio celebrated scoring goals for Lazio by making the fascist salute. Some of Lazio’s fans are extremely right-wing. On

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the opposite side of the coin are Italy’s most avowedly left-wing club Livorno, from the city where the Italian Communist party was formed. In his 2003-2007 stint with Livorno, striker Cristiano Lucarelli made the clenched fist salute many times. The former Yugoslavia was ravaged by war during the 1990s, and has since broken up into six countries. Pre-war the majority of its national football team consisted

The most famous kick of Boban’s career

“It is as if the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s is symbolically relived any time Real Madrid play Barcelona” of Serbs and Croats. Before the beginning of the military hostilities in 1991 that led to Yugoslavia’s break-up, the top team at the time in the country, Red Star Belgrade, travelled to Zagreb in Croatia to play Dinamo Zagreb on 13 May 1990. Reflecting the conflict to come, a riot broke out in the stadium between both clubs’ fans. In the ensuing chaos even Dinamo player and future Croatian captain Zvonimir Boban got involved, kicking a policeman he saw beating a Dinamo fan, an action for which he is feted in Croatia. Red Star’s hardcore ultra-

nationalist fans called the Delije were fighting with Dinamo fans in the stadium that day. It is from their numbers that the war criminal and profiteer Zelljko Raznatovic, better known as Arkan, recruited when forming his paramilitary group, the Tigers. They perpetrated crimes against the Croat and Bosnian Muslim populations during the war. Ukraine, co-host of Euro 2012, underwent the Orange Revolution in 2004. The rigged presidential election that saw Viktor Yanukovych defeat Viktor Yuschenko led to huge numbers of Ukrainians protesting against Yanukovych at Independence Square in Kiev. The protests inspired differing views in Dynamo Kiev’s strike force from their great team of 1999. Andriy Shevchenko supported Yanukovych, while Serhiy Rebrov came out on the side of the reform-minded Yuschenko. Football is a simple and wonderful game. Its universal appeal means that wider societal forces are reflected and intersect with it, from the immoral actions of Arkan and his Tigers to the less harmful examples mentioned above. Occasionally, the game can be a political football. In an ideal world, football and politics would be separate. Unfortunately, we don’t live in one.


SPORT Ciaran 0’Lionaird Gráinne Murphy 2011 was a watershed year for the Leevale AC runner from just outside Macroom. It made up for the frustration he experienced in 2010 when he suffered two herniated discs in his back. Surgery would have meant the end of his athletics career, so instead he embarked on a gruelling rehab program that eventually resulted in a full recovery. Injury-free he began 2011 in fine fettle, recording PBs over numerous distances, from 10,000m down to his preferred distance of 1,500m. It was the latter PB that marked a turning point. At Oordegem in Belgium in early August he brought his 1,500m time down to 3:34:46, thereby qualifying for the 2011 World Championships and this summer’s Olympic games. He performed brilliantly to place 10th in the World Championship final last September. Ultimately it’s all about the Olympics and his goal of a medal. He has certainly run through adversity before.

With one eye on London, Shane Fahy profiles some of Ireland’s

olympic

hopefuls Derval O’Rourke has been a mainstay of Irish athletics for nearly a decade, always saving her greatest performances for the biggest occasions. The Leevale AC hurdler and Cork City native has achieved much in the eight years since. She won gold in the 60m hurdles at the World Indoor Championships in 2006. Her two silver medals at the 2006 and 2010 European Championships have secured her place in Irish athletics history. In 2009 she finished fourth at the World Championships. O’Rourke competed at the recent World Indoor Championships in Turkey but failed to progress past the semi-final. She will turn 31 in May, so it looks like London will be her last crack at the big time. Let’s hope she proves a championship runner once again.

Derval 0’Rourke

19-year-old Gráinne Murphy will be one of Ireland’s youngest competitors at the games. The Wexford swimmer will compete in the 800m freestyle. Murphy excelled a junior level. She won three golds and one bronze at the European Junior Swimming Championships in 2009. The subsequent transition to senior level has been seamless. Murphy won silver in the 1,500m freestyle at the European Long Course Championships and two bronze medals in the European Short Course Championships. This led to a nomination for the Sports Personality of the Year award in 2010. The World Championships last summer were disappointing as she did not make the qualifying time. But at the Dutch Open Championships in Eindhoven in early December she finished third in a time of 8:31:14 over 800m, well inside the “A” standard. London will provide the ideal setting for Murphy to develop her undoubted talent.

Kieran Behan

Gymnast Kieran Behan qualified for the Olympics in early January and will be only the second Irish gymnast to compete at an Olympics, following Peter McDonald’s participation in Atlanta ’96. Born in London to Irish parents, the 22-year-old has overcome many difficulties to realise his Olympic aspiration. Aged 10 he had a non-cancerous tumour in his leg removed, was told he would never walk again and wheelchairbound for fifteen months. He recovered and returned to the gym. More adversity came his way two years later when he suffered black-outs after he hurt his head practicing the high bar. His recuperation took three years. Then in 2010 he ruptured ligaments in both knees. But he recovered again. And respectable performances at the World Cup series and World Championship led to his participation at the London Prepares test event. He qualified for the games by finishing 34th. Such a story of raw courage is what the Olympics should always be about.

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A REBEL RISING

Cathal Wogan on the renaissance of Cork City

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he financial side of football, particularly in Ireland, is often difficult to decipher. Anecdotal half-truths of mismanagement and corruption smatter the lower levels of the game, while the top levels in Europe look to be flush with fast cars and diamond earrings. With economic conditions highlighting harsh realities over the past few years, the mist is being cleared. As much of the world looks hopefully towards an end to the global financial crisis, businesses and institutions have been forced into self-reflection. The same applies to football clubs. Nobody knows that better than John O’Sullivan, the former Chairman of Cork City FC. O’Sullivan’s tenure at the helm of the club came to an end in November as the Rebel Army finally climbed back into the top flight of Irish football. City, one of the nation’s biggest clubs, had been to the brink of non-existence. Financial problems that began in 2008 snowballed and in February 2010 the club’s operating licence application was denied by the FAI. “There had been some mismanagement under the previous regime,” O’Sullivan explains. “Around that time we were going

through a takeover process with two individuals, Peter Grey and Michael O’Connell, and FORAS (Friends of the Rebel Army Society). There is a wealth management company in Cork called Quintas that were in on that too. When we were going through that process we realised that there was about €1.3 million in debt racked up.” This debt, coupled with complications over the ownership and running of the club, led to the FAI’s decision. Without a license to play in the Premier Division, the ownership issues could not be resolved and Cork City Investment FC Ltd, the club’s holding company, was served with a winding up order and liquidated. FORAS applied for a license and were granted permission to field a team in the First Division under the name Cork City FORAS Co-op. This gave O’Sullivan and FORAS an opportunity. “The day after the holding company had a liquidator appointed, we started to work with him on acquiring the history and the naming rights of the club which was still going with the underage teams. “A while later we finally bought the club as it was from the liquidator. A lot of people put a

Turners Cross: A happy place to be in 2012

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lot of time into the process of the takeover and then, when that went through, we had to try and get a team on the pitch in ten days to play the first game of the season.” That season turned out to be incredibly difficult. They had to completely reorganise the set-up at the club. Even ensuring that Cork City could play at their home, Turners Cross, was not straightforward. “In the lead up to the season and during the license application, we spoke to Shamrock Rovers who previously mad massive problems themselves. The one piece of advice we got from them, and it really stuck, was that if you can run a household budget you can run a club. “You need to project forward. We budgeted for finishing last in the First Division. From a financial point of view we knew that was the only thing we were guaranteed. “The other thing is cash flow management. If you know you have a home game every second week, you just need to be sensible about it and work on that.” Working on reasoned projections and healthy cash flow, Cork City are now a safer, viable project. In 2010 they managed to break even and recorded a small profit for 2011. The budget could be expanded this year after promotion back to the top flight, but things are still being operated cautiously. O’Sullivan stepped down when the club achieved promotion but he won’t be an absentee for what should be a bright future. He still does whatever is needed on match days, selling tickets or acting as a steward, and is still involved with FORAS. The margins are still tight and the house must be kept in order but, for the moment, Turners Cross is a happy place to be.


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THE AMERICAN INVASION Taylor Vortherms examines the growing popularity of American football in Ireland

PHOTOS: TAYLOR VORTHERMS

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nn Maguire stands on the sidelines with the blue collar of her UCD American football jersey visible underneath layers of winter attire. Her cheering does not subside as the sun vanishes behind ominous clouds, and pellets of hail begin to batter the field on which the game between University College Dublin and the Carrickfergus Knights continues. She is one of few fans present. In contrast to the weather’s unpredictable nature, Maguire’s appreciation for the sport’s hard-hitting intensity keeps her attendance regular and loyalty consistent. In the United States, “football” refers to a different game than in the rest of the world. American football is played between teams of 11 with the objective of advancing into the opposing team’s end zone by running, throwing or kicking the ball. It is a collision sport recognized for its physicality as players attempt to obstruct their rival team’s efforts to advance down the field by tackling the opponent with possession of the ball. This aspect drew Maguire into the sport during the early 1980s when she first witnessed and became enamoured with William Perry in the height of his football career as a defensive tackle for the Chicago Bears – one of 32 teams in the US National Football League. “I just have so much respect for someone who can be so big and run so fast,” Maguire says as she reflects on that team’s era of success. “He was just so fun to watch.” The sport has begun appealing to an increasing number of athletes overseas, including Dave Murphy, team captain of UCD’s American football team. Murphy became involved in the sport three years ago after following the New Orleans Saints’ path to victory in the Super Bowl in 2009. “The sport is definitely gaining popularity here,” says Murphy. “The number of teams in the developmental league has doubled since I began playing, and our team expands every year.” The developmental league is an organization where players are introduced to the sport before entering the competitive Irish American Football League. The rules of the developmental league have been adjusted to

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accommodate the smaller squad numbers and inexperience of many of the participants. Players typically remain in the developmental league for two years before entering the IAFL.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said he is confident that having the Rams host games in the UK will allow the league to better serve the growing popularity of the sport beyond the borders of the

“The sport is definitely gaining popularity here. Our team expands every year”

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his year, Super Bowl XLVI between the New York Giants and New England Patriots broke the record for most-watched Super Bowl with 113 million viewers in the United States alone. This escalating number indicates that interest in the sport within the US is at an all-time high. The NFL has made recent attempts to expand its fan base and strengthen its revenue streams in Europe. In January, the league announced that the St. Louis Rams would play as the home team in London for a game a year for three years at Wembley Stadium. In an article on the Huffington Post, NFL

United States. While European fans have demonstrated occasional curiosity in American football since it was introduced, they have not yet shown enough interest to sustain it as a mainstream popular sport. The World League, later renamed NFL Europe, was launched in 1995 and consisted of teams in both Europe and the US. It never fully caught on and ceased operations in 2007. However, the NFL has made recent progress overseas in promoting recognition of American football in Europe. According to ESPN, the


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THE BASICS: Field and Duration -An American football field is 360 by 160 feet in size -The scoring areas at both ends are referred to as “end zones” -There are two goalposts at the end of each end zone, each with a crossbar at 10 feet -The game lasts 60 minutes and is divided into four 15-minute quarters with a 20-minute break at halftime Teams and Positions -Each team consists of 11 players on the field -Positions are categorized into two groups: 1) Offence Positions include: quarterback, halfback, fullback, wide receiver, tight end, offensive tackle, offensive guard, and centre 2) Defence Positions include: defensive end, defensive tackle, nose tackle, linebacker, cornerback, and safety

league began playing games in London in 2006 and since then, the NFL’s popularity has doubled, and participation in American football has grown 50 percent since the NFL arrived. Television viewership is increasing, with Super Bowl ratings up 74 percent since 2006 and viewership of Sunday games up 154 percent over the past five years. There has been speculation that if the NFL continues succeeding in building a fan base in Europe, London may have its own NFL team someday. The league’s latest success ignites hope that Europeans will embrace American football, as some Irish athletes already have. “I got into football from growing up watching the sport on TV,” says Murphy. “I just love the physicality involved.” While the players’ passion for the sport is demonstrated in their boisterous cheers and aggressive hits on their opponents, the game ends with handshakes and kind words of encouragement between

A run through defence (top) Both teams at the line of scrimmage (inset)

the teams. “The boys on both teams are just great. They are always respectful of one another,” Maguire says. However, the attitude shifts to a less amicable tone when UCD plays Trinity College. “There is definitely a rivalry there. The boys get pretty pumped to play them, and they play hard.” Maguire intends to watch the upcoming game from the sidelines. As Europeans gain exposure to the American brand of “football,” more fans may join her in the near future.

Scoring Rules 1) 6 points for running or throwing the ball into opposition’s end zone (this is known as a touchdown) -Following a touchdown, teams have two options: -1 point for kicking the ball through opposition’s uprights and over the crossbar, or -2 points for running or throwing the ball into the end zone 2) 3 points for kicking the ball through opposition’s uprights and over the crossbars (called a field goal) 3) 2 points for tackling opponent with the ball in his own end zone (called a safety) Toss and Kick Off -The game begins with a coin toss, which decides which team will begin by kicking the ball to the opposing team -The team winning the toss at the beginning of the game can decide to kick off to the opposing team and begin on defence in order to receive kick off in the second half, or to receive opening kickoff and begin the game on offense

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TRAVEL

EURO SIGHTS TO BEHOLD Going East to watch the Boys in Green this summer? Want to do more than just watch football? Dolores Martyn has some tips POZNAN

DONETSK

Check out the Morasko Meteorite Nature Reserve north of Poznan (inset). It contains seven craters, the largest with a diameter of 100m and a depth of 11m. This and four others now contain freshwater lakes. They are estimated to date to 5,000 years ago though they were only first discovered in 1914. The reserve also contains Mount Moraska, the highest point in Poznan, and is home to some uncommon plant species, including wild ginger, the Turk’s cap and tropical hornwort, and bird species such as the European nightjar and the black woodpecker. The 88 and 188 local bus lines stop a short distance from the reserve.

The Park of Forged Figures (pictured above) is believed to be the only one of its kind in the world. It combines the city’s long standing steel industry traditions with magic and fantasy. The park was opened in 2001 and demonstrates over 90 masterpieces of blacksmiths’ art. Many of these are based on Slavic fairytales and signs of the zodiac. It is steeped in superstition and traditions that are said to help with problems such as making decisions, unrequited love and conceiving a child. It is popular for newlyweds to visit on their wedding day. It is located behind Donetsk City Hall opposite the Beily Lebed shopping mall.

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KIEV

GDANSK

Make the most of the summer sunshine at Hydropark Island on the Dnieper River. Just minutes away from Kiev’s centre, it is accessible by the Metro and has several beaches including one specially designated for people of a nudey persuasion. The island also provides boating and water attractions, paintball, ping-pong, restaurants, a casino, an open air gym dating from the Soviet era and the Sun-City Slavutych disco right on the beach.

Europe’s oldest crane is a must see if you find yourself on the banks of the Motlawa river. The crane was rebuilt in 1444 after the original structure burned down. It was used for loading and unloading ship’s cargos and erecting masts on sailing ships up until the middle of the 19th century. It also served a defensive function and was one of the gates to the city. Visitors are welcome inside to see the exhibitions on port life between the 16th and 18th centuries.


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KNOW BEFORE YOU GO Planning on a working holiday abroad? Dolores Martyn gives TONIC readers tips on saving money

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ometimes it pays to go it alone. Never more so than when organising your travel plans. Organising a long distance, long term journey is easier than you think. Don’t be fooled by the nicely marketed packages offered by travel agents that make it appear they are saving you time and money. If it is possible to organise it yourself you will probably end up saving money and being much more confident and prepared for your travels. USIT are the first port of call for many students and young people when they first set out to travel. But what exactly are you paying for? USIT’s basic Work Australia package costs €429. This includes your one year working holiday visa, one year’s travel insurance, an Australian sim card with $10 credit, an Australian bank account number and a tax file number. There is also the option of paying €50 for a three month “job membership” or €65 for a year’s membership. It sounds good but when you break it down are you getting your money’s worth? Applications can be made for visas online or by paper through the Australian Embassy website at a cost of approximately €217 for the working holiday visa (www.immi. gov.au/contacts/visa-enquiries/ whm.htm). Travel insurance can be purchased from www. backpackertravelinsurance.ie for €129.99.This makes a total of €347, €82 less than USIT’s package. It does not cost €82 to open a

Shop around before you go to save money

bank account, get a sim card or a tax file number. Nor does a travel agent’s involvement in getting you these make things any easier. Firstly, you are confined to having your bank account or phone network with whichever company the agency is linked to. It doesn’t even really save you any time or hassle as you still have to go into the bank after you arrive and show all the necessary identification and fill out

done at home and the procedures are pretty much the same even if it is in a different hemisphere. A similar package is offered for New Zealand for €399. Considering you can apply for your NZ visa through the New Zealand embassy online or by paper application for approximately €90, and get backpacker travel insurance for €129.99, it is anything but cheap. By doing it yourself you are paying

“If it is possible to organise it yourself you will probably end up saving money” forms to activate your account. If you unlock your phone with your provider before you leave, you can easily get a sim card in Australia, usually for free, and choose the provider that suits your needs. Your tax file number is the equivalent of a PPS number. It’s not something you buy. You can easily apply for it online. As for the “jobs membership”, you are basically paying €65 a year to gain access to a jobs website – and anyone leaving Ireland is probably more than familiar with how to go about looking for work at this stage. You are being charged for basic things that we have all

€219.39 and saving almost €180. USIT has also recently started to market their six month working holiday visa to Argentina which they advertise from €150 for just the visa. The same visa can be obtained directly through the Embassy of Argentina in Dublin for €50. With all the advances in technology it has never been easier to be an independent traveller. Organising your visa really isn’t as complicated as these companies often make it out to be. Don’t be fooled by what are often no more than gimmicks and plan your trip the way you mean to continue – as a savvy independent traveller.

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TRAVEL

FROM SADDLE TO PADDLE

Travel writer Jasper Winn talks to Dolores Martyn about blogging, horses and kayaking around Ireland

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e has canoed the length of the Danube, roller skated around the Netherlands, travelled as a swing and ragtime musician throughout Europe and researched horse cultures from Marrakech to Fes across Kyrgyzstan and from Argentina to Chile across the Andes – and that is only a taster of Jasper Winn’s adventures. Jasper, who was born in west Cork, left school at 10 having decided two years earlier he was going to be a writer. He began travelling when he left Ireland in his late teens and travelled Europe making money as a musician. The travel writing industry has seen radical changes since he first set flight and he admits it took some time to adjust to.“I’ve got over my bad temper,” he says when speaking of the less luxurious travel lifestyle he now leads. “We were over paid, over pampered in the 90s”. These days everyone is making less; there are no expenses, no advance commissions. He has adjusted to this. “I’m not a high maintenance traveller.

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Anyone who gets into travel writing for money is deluded.” The role of the internet in travel writing caused him some uncertainty at the start. “I was negative about the internet because I didn’t know how to use it.” He has now learned to embrace new media and believes it is the way forward. “It’s exciting,” he says. “It’s not constrained anymore – anyone can be a travel writer.” He finds some of the most creative travel tales on online blogs and used a blog to record his kayaking trip around Ireland. He used Facebook to promote the subsequent book, “Paddle: A long way around Ireland”. “The interconnectedness of the world is both fantastic and awful at the same time...I can do a whole lot from any internet cafe from anywhere in the world (but) that feeling of being somewhere else is harder to find.” He doesn’t believe you necessarily need a gimmick to make your travel blog

stand out and thinks in the past it was “the expected thing”. “I cycled around the Sahara desert twice by accident. It seemed like a

“Maybe that’s the great seduction: you live in the moment, you don’t know what’s going to happen”

practical way to get around. It wasn’t.” In 2007 he brought his adventures back to Ireland when he decided to undertake a kayaking journey around the island. “I had no interest in kayaking. It just seemed a nice way to get around,” he says. It was the windiest summer on record and had it not been, he admits,


TRAVEL The Immrama Festival of Travel Writing

there wouldn’t have been a book. His adventure was not exactly meticulously planned. He hadn’t been in a kayak for a year when he started his trip in Castlehaven. He believes it is more rewarding to “throw yourself into situations and see what happens”. He expected his trip to last six weeks – but that turned into three and half months. “Maybe that’s the great seduction of travel and travel writing. You live in the moment; you don’t know what’s going to happen... It’s about the unexpected happening and how you respond to it.”

“Paddle: A Long way around Ireland” is available nationwide

now prefers slow travel compared to his younger days when he would go anywhere just to go.“I’m much more excited about slow adventures, doing things really simply. I still get a big thrill in finding a great story, finding an angle on a story.” orses are his passion – even if He thinks festivals such as the Lismore the readership interest isn’t there. Immrama Festival of Travel Writing Regardless, he intends to go to festival provide “a lot of the fun of travel Minorca to research a little known horse writing”. They give the opportunity for fair held there each year. While picking travellers and writers to meet up and a favourite place is a difficult task, there swap tales. The social aspect of the travel are places he is drawn to again and again. lifestyle is a large part of the appeal He has a special place in his heart for for Jasper. While a lot of his journeys Patagonia. It is “full of horses, guitarists and seem to be about pushing himself to friends” and he will happily spend three or achieve something, he says he wasn’t just four months there doing research. His travel interested in challenges. “I was interested patterns are swallow-like, he says, in that in the people and culture.” he returns to certain places at certain times He became impromptu key speaker at of the year, usually spending winters in last year’s festival when cornered in the Sweden. hotel bar after the intended speaker had to back out. He also gave a talk on a canoe on He is currently working on a multimedia the River Blackwater as part of the festival. project of sorts, one which he will allow to This year he will make appearances in develop at its own speed in its own way. Dingle at the Bealtaine Festival in early He is dusting down an old adventure in the hope of creating something unconventional May and the West Cork Literary Festival. that uses print, videos and internet. It is not Jasper is as enthused as ever to continue just the forum for travel writers that has his journey: “Often I don’t find I’m doing a changed but also his approach. He says he specific trip – just a continuation.”

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June 2012 sees the tenth year of the Immrama Lismore Festival of Travel Writing, which celebrates national and international travel writers and the art they pursue. The only festival of its kind in Ireland, it is appropriately set in the picturesque town of Lismore in Waterford, home to Ireland’s best known travel writer, Dervla Murphy. Every year the festival hosts many of the world’s best travel writers, who hold seminars and discussions on different aspects of travel writing and literature. The festival has brought a colourful selection of renowned writers to Lismore throughout the years, including Robert Fisk, Michael Palin, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Conor O’Clery, Kate Aide, Jan Morris and, of course, Dervla Murphy. The festival was originally set up to promote Lismore, a town steeped in history. The 15th century book of Lismore which was found in the walls of Lismore Castle and is now on display at Lismore Heritage Centre was written in Irish and contains an Irish translation of The Book of Sir Marco Polo – “Leabhar Ser Marco Polo”. According to the committee, Immrama has been dedicated to the art of travel writing, good music and fine entertainment since its inception. Their goal was to create a festival of outstanding quality and each year they have delivered. It is a unique opportunity for travel writers themselves to meet up with others in their field and swap adventures and discuss issues in the industry. It also gives the general public an insight into an exciting lifestyle, all while focusing on great literature. The 2012 festival will take place in Lismore from June 7 to 10.

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TRAVEL

NORTHERN LIGHTS Never one for the package summer holidays in Costa del Cocktails, Sean Noone headed north to Scandinavia to take in a few festivals

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candinavia always seemed a strange place to me. A part of the world where the women were tall, blonde and beautiful, where the only music was metal, and where, during the summer, the sun never went down. A place, surely, more for city breaks than for two week summer holidays? I was willing to put that to the test and formulated a trip through the mysterious north incorporating a few music festivals. To begin our journey we took an early Ryanair flight that dropped to the parochial Skavska airport south of Stockholm. In the city, the mercury was topping 20 degrees and it actually felt like summer. Quite a change from the drizzly Dublin we’d left. We caught our second flight of the day from Arlanda to Turku, Finland. Turku is a small, very European city. An information booth gave us directions to the campsite and we erected our tent and customary Irish flag – which we soon realised was one of three in the site – and headed down to catch a few bands. The festival itself is held on the island of Ruissalo, a couple of miles outside the town centre, which for 51 weeks is a nature reserve and for one a festival site. At night we went into central Turku (a big advantage of having a festival near a city) where most of the craic is to be had at the Irish pubs (there are three in the environs of the main square). There is also Heseburger for those looking for a post-festival feed at non-festival prices. Three days, a good festival and one embarrassingly drunken night later, we bid goodbye to Turku and set sail on the ferry back to Stockholm. Our hostel was on Gamla stan (the Stockholm version

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of Temple Bar), an island in the bay that separates the slick, businessy Norrmalm to the north from the relaxed, alternative Sodermalm to the south. Gamla stan is replete with reasonably priced (meals costing about 150sek, equivalent to about €15) restaurants happy to cater for the non-Swedish speaker. We popped our heads in the lively O’Connell’s Irish Pub to get advice on where to take the rest of our night but there was sufficient craic to be had with the amicable Anglophones present that we struggled to pull ourselves away. The next part of our travel was about to get under way so we made our way to the central train station for our night train to Oslo. The ticket seller told us that return tickets to Oslo cost 1400sek each. Assuming a miscommunication we asked again. “Yes, 1400sek: one

Oslo has history but is very much living in the present

four zero zero.” “And how much just to Oslo?” “500sek each.” “So it’s 900sek back from Oslo?” A polite shrug and a nod gave us our answer and made our decision. “We’ll just take the one way ticket please.” The train which was supposed to drop us into Oslo at about 7.30 the following morning was delayed and, after a mad dash, we made the bus for our onward journey to Kvinesdal for the Norway Rock Festival. A few hours later we were in Kristiansand waiting for our next bus. The subsequent trip took us up a fjord to a rain-soaked yet spectacular valley that would be our home for the next three nights. Soon after we pitched our tent, there was the rumbling of engines as a group of bikers pulled into the festival site. Given the headliners were Alice Cooper and Motorhead,


TRAVEL stuck at home this summer? The Tonic Guide to value-formoney festivals in Ireland Indiependence

Photo: Podknox

that wasn’t surprising. The noise they made, together with the persistent rain, made for a rather miserable weekend. The music was a distraction but for every Alice Cooper, Motorhead and surprisingly good Volbeat there was an unknown local metal band who seemed offended that you turned up to listen to them. With only one stage, there was no escaping. The festival finished on Saturday and, come Sunday morning, we were emotionally and physically drained and not looking forward to the six hour bus ride back to Oslo. It was late when we got there so we went for food and a quiet pint in Garage (an Oslo Whelan’s). We retired early and the next morning set out to discover the city. And what a treat it was. Oslo has history, but is very much living in the present. It’s modern without feeling cold. It’s pretty without rubbing it in your face. It’s just the right amount of busy that you weren’t bored yet didn’t feel rushed. There is one flaw with Oslo though, and it is a major flaw. It is incredibly expensive. You are unlikely to get a drink for less than 65nok (over €8!) and food was no better value. With our flight out of Stockholm in a few days we had a decision to make: another night in Oslo or two in Stockholm? It turns out that a “last minute” train ticket (which we bought about four hours before

This indepentdently run festival in Mitchelstown, Cork, last year featured Ash, And So I Watch You from Afar and Dan le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip. It also offers the appeal of being close to a town which is good if you have run out of cans or are just in need of some fresh food. Indiepenence runs from August 3-5. Three day camping for €99.

Not even the presence of Motorhead’s Lemmy could save the Norway Rock Festival

the departure time) costs less than a quarter of one bought a week in advance. We paid about €20 for our night train back to Stockholm. Back in Stockholm, we were primed to be more adventurous with the nightlife than our visit the week before. After a few drinks we went looking for somewhere to take the excitement up a notch. “There won’t be anything exciting tonight, or tomorrow,” the barman informed us as we were placing our last orders. “Do people not go out midweek?” “Oh yes, students always go out midweek.” “But not this week?” “It’s July. All the students are off for the summer. Most of the locals are in France or Spain on holiday. The city is empty, didn’t you notice?” I guess we didn’t. Pet Sounds and Greenpeace (which may have been a gay bar) each had a bit of a crowd, but didn’t open beyond 1am. So it was a decent, but disappointingly quiet two nights that ended the journey. Back in Dublin it was drizzling.

Forbidden Fruit In its second year, Forbidden Fruit is stepping up to fill a gap left by Oxegen this year. It boasts a strong line-up with headliners including Leftfield, New Order and Death Cab for Cutie. There is no camping, but it’s location in Kilmainham, just outside Dublin City Centre, means you can go and get a good night’s sleep and be fresh for the next day of the festival. Forbidden Fruit runs from Saturday June 3 to Monday June 5. 3 day tickets are €115. Castlepalooza Castlepalooza takes place on the grounds of Charleville Castle, Tullamore. Castlepalooza offers punters the chance to visit the castle and take a break in the day spa or various workshops. There is also, of course, two stages of music though no lineup has yet been announced. Castlepalooza takes place on the August Bank Holiday weekend. Three day early bird tickets are available now from €74 for camping or €65 noncamping.

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TRAVEL

TONIC’s very own Abby Eisenberg gives an American’s perspective on Ireland

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remember hazily back to my first night in Dublin. Dazed, jet-lagged, starving and lost, my roommate and I were determined to go out and explore the city. It seemed very foreign to us at the time – old stone buildings, wacky accents, no recognizable stores, and a lot of unrecognizable foods. Here, elevators are lifts and “craic” isn’t a drug, but a good time. We walked, excited, peering into the storefronts on Grafton Street. We stared and snapped pictures of Trinity College like we would never see it again. We laughed at how many pubs we saw as we wandered down the curving, dead-end streets. “Am I really all the way across the Atlantic Ocean?” I remember thinking to myself repeatedly. Before I had even arrived in Dublin, I had heard a lot about it. You’ve got to learn to drink Guinness and whiskey. Irish people all eat lots of potatoes. They are really nice. You won’t be able to understand their accents. Your experience will be life-changing. Yes, I had heard plenty about Ireland before I arrived. And some

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LETTER FROM AMERICA

of it proved to be true. To get the basics out of the way: yes, pubs are big here. Guinness is good, but I still can’t drink whiskey. The potato consumption seems pretty normal. People are really that nice. I’m getting better at understanding the accent. These things only tell a small part of the story, though. I’m a twenty-year-old American journalism student and I have come to Ireland for an exchange semester abroad. I was raised in Saint Louis, Missouri, a good-sized city in the heartland of the country. I came here almost two months ago in search of an adventure. I’ve found studying in Dublin to be the best decision I’ve made for a lot of reasons, but mainly because of the wonderful people, incredible scenery and the critical perspective it has instilled in me for my home country. People Our walk that first night was invigorating – our first orientation to a new home. At first, we weren’t bothered at all by how many times we got “turned around” (as we like

to call it) throughout the course of this particular evening. While I admit this was probably mostly due to our tiredness and false sense of confidence about knowing where we were going, we quickly learned the hard way that getting around Dublin doesn’t involve much logic. Many streets aren’t labelled, and even if they are, they change names every block or so. You’re hardpressed to find a street that runs north and south or east and west. All of these things made it necessary to spend my first few weeks trying to just feel the layout of the city rather than trying to reason with it. This is happening slowly but surely. Months later, I’m only beginning to walk around town with confidence. So, periodically, we would crankily move to the side of the crowd to meekly unfold our map and try to make some sense of where we were. But it seemed like every time we did, a person went out of their way to approach us to ask if we needed help or to offer to point us or walk us in the right direction. This was all before we even had the chance to turn the map


TRAVEL

“This must be the most beautiful spot in the country” – only to be proved wrong with each successive trip. When the weekends are near, I feel myself itching to take that train back out of the city. I long to breathe in that stinging, cold sea air and soak up the bright greens and hazy blues of the coasts. Because I am a student sometimes, I can’t do this as much as I would like, but I’ve found plenty of opportunity so far.

Photos: Abby Eisenberg

right side-up. Which brings me to one of my primary observations of Irish culture: people here really are amazingly nice. Whether a classmate, a bartender, or just someone you meet on the street corner, not only are people generous with directions, but many genuinely want to talk to me and hear about where I’m from and how I like Ireland. I’m often addressed coming and going with a jolly “Cheers!”

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his welcoming atmosphere extends to Dublin’s social scene. Here, social life seems to generally centre on the pub scene. As a twenty-year-old from America, I can’t lie and say I wasn’t looking forward to be able to legally drink. But what I didn’t anticipate was what the pubs themselves would be like. One of the first nights my fellow Americans and I ventured out for a (legal) pint, we were surprised to find people of all ages gathered around, enjoying their pints and watching a game on the television.

A couple danced to a song for their anniversary while people stood around and cheered. A group of young people looked as if they were enjoying a few drinks before going out dancing for the night. A family with children shared laughs as they sought refuge from the chill outside. A couple whispered quietly to one another in a corner. I quickly observed that pubs aren’t purely about drinking, but rather about providing a place where people can come and just enjoy each other’s company in a warm, friendly atmosphere. Scenery I’ve been enjoying this low-key way to spend my weekend nights. Though my parents seem to be convinced otherwise, I don’t actually spend all of my time hanging out in pubs. I would say that some of my best moments in Ireland thus far have been those spent outside of the city. Where I’m from, you have to drive for days or take a plane ride to see anything remotely different. This is not true at all here. I’ve already visited Howth, Dingle, and the Cliffs of Moher. As I left each of those destinations I recall thinking:

“Hot dogs on every corner” Studying in Dublin has obvious given me insight into Irish culture, but perhaps some of the most poignant things I’ve observed and learned have actually been about my own native culture. I recall while I was visiting Howth, we stopped to ask a group of young schoolboys for directions. One asked us where we came from. “America, eh?” I recall one saying in jest. “Hot dogs on every corner!!” We laughed at his weirdly truthful assessment of our homeland and continued. (In Columbia, Missouri, where I go to school, there really are hot dog stands on an alarming number of corners.) Since then there have been some (slightly more colourful) remarks regarding my motherland that have caused me to stand back and think about some things I have always taken for granted. Already, the world feels bigger and more complex. I feel myself beginning to understand people and things outside of my bubble.

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hat first night seems like yesterday, but somehow also ages ago. Now, I can walk past Trinity without thinking twice. I’m still no master navigator, but I can generally get from A to B without too much trouble, and I’ve even begun to master Dublin Bus. My time here is already almost half up and I find myself painfully regretting how fast the time is going by. I really can’t imagine being anywhere else.

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FOOD & DRINK

THe Health Delusion

A new book on nutrition aims at shattering a few myths about healthy eating, writes David Keenan

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ith all the countless health gurus, self-help books, glossy health magazines and wonder foods, the sad truth is that the majority of us are unhealthy. A new book, entitled The Health Delusion, exposes the many myths and misconceptions we have about our health, and claims most of our information about health comes from people who are either not qualified enough to speak about nutrition or are only interested in selling you their product. The book is written by two nutritionists – Aidan Goggins and Glen Matten – who are both frustrated with the misinformation provided by the diet, health and pharmaceutical industries, arguing that they consistently jeopardize our health in order to boost profits. “A lot of drugs on the market these days like antioxidant supplements are used in order to prevent heart disease when in actual fact they can have the opposite effect and actually cause it. The pills are just nutrients taken out of actual foods, and are used to trick the body, which may actually end up causing harm,” Aidan says. “We’re not against the drugs industry, but we think they should be used as the last resort, and people should instead use the natural foods that the vitamins and nutrients are extracted from. A lot of the drugs are marketed as a ‘wonder drug’ or a ‘quick fix’ to people’s problems, when it actually involves a longterm change in their lifestyle and diet. In fact, the ‘wonder drugs’ prescribed often give people a false sense of security in which they are more likely to lead unhealthier lifestyles when the risk is still there.” Aidan believes that diseases such as obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes are not

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being tackled in the appropriate way, and many of the approaches taken can actually make the problem worse. “We’re against all low fat and diet foods and the whole process of calorie counting; these foods omit essential nutrients and are making people thinner rather than healthier. By cutting out saturated fats, we end up eating too many carbohydrates which in turn increase our chances of getting diseases. Our research suggests that a fat person who exercises is often healthier than a skinny person who doesn’t exercise. It’s all about getting the correct amount of nutrients in your diet, as well as getting plenty of exercise.” Aidan and Glen think that we are living in an age of sloth. “We worked out that we only get five percent of the average exercise that people did in the 1950s, which is all due to the modern methods of transportation and recreation that inhibit us from getting the correct amount of exercise for a healthy living. That’s roughly a half an hour exercise for five days a week. “We are also concerned about how the mineral selenium is entirely absent from the typical European diet, given that it is commonly linked to cancer prevention. Selenium can be found in foods like brazil nuts, sunflower seeds and fish.” But it’s not all hard work, Aidan insists. “In the book we have a lot of simple things you can do to improve your diet, like switching from normal tea to green and also switching from dairy chocolate to dark chocolate. Dark chocolate actually contains a thing called flavonoids which are greatly beneficial in preventing diseases. A quick rule of thumb is to have as many colours in your food as possible – foods that are coloured naturally of course!”

The Health Delusion is available on Amazon

5 health Myths 1. Saturated fats are bad for you: Saturated fats are good for you as part of a healthy diet. Cutting them out of your diet may actually increase cardiovascular diseases. 2. Low fat foods are healthier: With low fat foods, the fat is often replaced with sugar, sweeteners and salt to boost taste. 3. Granola and muesli are healthy: While the oats in the food are healthy, they are coated with sugar and then baked with oil. One cup of Granola’s Quacker Oats contains 23g of sugar – about 6 tea spoons! 4. Fruit juices are healthier than fizzy drinks: Tropicana orange juice contains almost the same level of sugar as Coca Cola – and more calories. 5. Egg yolks raise your cholesterol: Eggs actually contain dietary cholesterol which is different from the serum cholesterol found in your blood. They are also great sources for protein and vitamins.


FOOD & DRINK

THE ART OF CRAFTS Conor Doyle gives the low-down on the best independent Irish brews Belfast BLONDE

An BRAIN BLáSTA

Galway Hooker

knockmealdown

This refreshing honey-coloured beer is brewed in Belfast by College Green Brewery – a recent spinoff of Hilden Brewing Company, Ireland’s oldest independent brewery. The beer is light and easy to drink, perfect for a day in the sun.

Made by the Porterhouse Brewing Company, this whiskeycoloured ale packs a whopping 7% punch. The name “An Brain Blásta” translates as “The Tasty Drop” – and, with strong flavours bursting through with every mouthful, you can’t argue with that.

This citrus-tasting pale ale from the west of Ireland is all about the flavours. Named for the boats that used to bring booze to the Aran Islands, this beer will have you hook, line and sinker. Enjoy with a meal.

Handcrafted from mountain river water in Cork by the Eight Degrees brewery, this hoppy porter is the up-andcoming brewery’s reinterpretation of traditional Irish stout. With hints of chocolate and espresso, barley and hops, this one could be a classic.

porter

Dark arts porter One of only two drinks produced in the steam-fired brewery of Kildarebased Trouble Brewing, this coffee-coloured porter tastes and smells strongly of dark chocolate, with hints of caramel and coffee giving it a rich, balanced flavour.

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FOOD & DRINK

BONZA, MATE! Aoife O’Neill talks to the company that wants to satisfy your hunger with the taste from Down Under

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FOOD & DRINK

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very day sees the youth of Ireland leaving in their droves to pursue a slice of the good life in the land of hopes and dreams that is Australia. Luckily for us at home that are not quite ready to up and re-nest just yet, Emma and Colin Rafferty have delivered a slice of the good life right back home to us in Ireland. A good slice of Aussie pie that is. This innovative couple have been very successful in satisfying the hunger of the Irish with their

The topselling Aussie Meat Pie

homemade pies. They range in fillings from the Aussie Meat Pie’s beef and gravy, to the Veggie Pie’s sweet peppers, onions, chickpeas & roasted squash in tikka masala sauce. There is a pie to fulfil the desires of any appetite, including an all-familiar bangers and mash pie. The Bonza menu also offers hearty side servings of mash, mushy peas, beans and salads, not to mention the “Sangas” range, otherwise known as sambos for those not quite down with the Aussie lingo. Also

diet of construction workers of Australia are the pies, which Colin noted would go down fantastically back home in Ireland. In Australia, these pies are everywhere. They are what Subway is to the US, what the breakfast roll is to the Irish. With the Irish-Australian connection growing ever stronger, the Raffertys realised on their return home that the pies would go down

“Oh my God the pies! I remember the pies!” delicious Australian-recipe pies. A year and a half ago the first of the couple’s Bonza Pie shops popped up in the Ilac centre, generating a great reaction from customers from the get-go. Following its success, another Bonza Pies was opened at the beginning of 2012 on Poolbeg Street. The menu consists of 11 hearty

available to the Bonza customer is a breakfast menu, choice of pastries, coffees and a selection of Australian chocolate and biscuits. Emma and Colin saw opportunity in the Irish market for such a menu after returning to Ireland from Perth, Emma’s hometown. Colin, who is Irish, met Emma while working in construction in Perth. The staple

a treat here. Emma remarked on how many people have come into the stores exclaiming : “Oh my God the pies! I remember the pies!” The fact that so many people can relate to it straight away has added to the success of Bonza Pies – that is, along with the mouth-watering flavour of the pies, always sure to go down a treat with the Irish appetite!

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48 PARTING SHOTS

hours

(ok, 96 really)

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ave you seen those ads for 48? You know 48, the mobile phone company aimed at “those 48 months between 18 and 22”? With the tagline “Go Conquer”? That encourages people of that age to go out all night, drink to excess, take drugs and be promiscuous? They annoy me. I don’t like the implications: that life begins the day you turn 18 and ends the day you turn 22; that once you fall outside these confines you are either too young to enjoy yourself or you are past your best; that I, being more than 48 months outside this 48 month period, am unable to live this devil-may-care lifestyle. For one long weekend in February I set out to prove that, despite the ravages of age, I am still able to party harder and go longer than my wouldbe conquerors.

FRIDAY I got up early (in the afternoon) and ate. Work was work: before too long we were down the pub for a few drinks. I moved on; my presence was requested for a few birthday drinks. A friend was putting those 48 months further behind her and we were meeting in an intriguing “pop-upclub”. The reality: a tenner into a mostly empty converted church. Pints cost over €5 but there was some strange cocktail that was bang on the fiver mark. My plan: crack into these cocktails and see what happens. What happened was drink, drink, dance, drink, drink, blank, taxi, home. Saturday It felt like there was a pneumatic drill

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In which our hero Sean Noone valiantly goes on the piss for the weekend

pounding at my skull. Work was work though, and before too long we were down the pub for a few. A Big Mac for dinner and it was onto another birthday. We grabbed a few pitchers of cheap beer in town before heading on to a club. Bouncers searched my bag on the way in. I flipped it open and leafed through the contents, showing definitively there was no alcohol therein. Inside I ordered a coke and filled the glass with the rum I had stored safely in my pocket. Dancing ensued.

Sunday Sunday arrived hangover-free. Work was work and, before too long, we have been handed a raft of 2-for-1 drink vouchers for the local. That made our decision for the evening and it was a case of two beers at a time until the bar closed around 11. Four drinks down and only a tenner out of my pocket, we made our way to the club. A few drinks and a dance were the order of the evening in honour of another friend, this one off to sunnier shores. It had gotten late, the bar had closed and a taxi took me home. Before retiring, I set my alarm for the next morning. “Your alarm is set for 4 hours and 15 minutes from now,” read my phone. Bollox! Monday 4 hours and 15 minutes later and I made my way to college. I worked till 11, headed home and napped. At about six I was up, far more awake and ready for dinner. But no! A college project had hit a stumbling block and we were all

required to pick it up, dust it off and put it where it needed to be. This took longer than expected and it was 9.30 before we were done. There was little to do now but head for one or two down the pub. As the clock pushed past 11 I checked the wallet. A few scattered coins and cobwebs smiled back at me. A quick dash to the last bus and I was out. My 96 hours of 48 were over. Tuesday Eurgh!! So my four day 48 adventure didn’t lead down the path of unexpected adventures, unremembered promiscuity or reckless abandon. It was four days of work, going out, hanging out with friends and drinking (heavily). It was four days that wouldn’t have been bettered if I had taken enough pills to make a pharmacist blush, covered my clothing in vomit and gone home for a night of passion with a random girl I just met. But maybe that just means I’m 26 and I knew that to begin with. I conquered.

Our brave reporter in the field


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64 TONIC


Tonic