Slouching Towards Bantry

A journey is a hallucination. -- Flann O'Brien

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Riot Will Be Televised

Video of the Feb. 25 riot in Dublin that was provoked by pro-loyalist Orangeman parade.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

England Out of Dogtown

They come every year as surely as Cromwell's army invaded Ireland, loud, boisterous, obnoxious foreigners, all. Tis the price of living in St. Louis' designated Irish-American neighborhood. Mind you, it's far from an exclusive ethnic ghetto. Growing up nearby, in a area that somehow has been annexed into the larger Dogtown community in recent years, there was a smattering of Greeks, Italians and Jews. The Burkes and Hogans and Cardinales and Kasinases all lived amongst each other. And in St. Louis, it's impossible to get away from the German immigant population. They would call it "diversity" today, although nary a black face was to be found in my elementary school. Segregation aside, second and third generation American families of European descent in St. Louis were more interested in assimilating back then, finding common bonds that united them. Now the trend is to single out what makes us different. But, of course, on St. Patrick's Day everybody is Irish. So they begin arriving from the hinterlands by the droves by mid-morning, the suburban hordes, who wouldn't live in Dogtown if they were paid to do so and have no idea where the island of Ireland is even located let alone what its history and people are all about. They clog the streets with traffic, get drunk, make noise and then, thankfully, leave. It's only one day not 600 years, but it's more than enough for any native to tolerate.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Follow the Money, Lads

Earlier this year, the Irish Times estimated that the Irish government had received €37 mil from the US Defence Department in 2005 for permitting more than 300,000 US troops to pass through Shannon Airport. This amount doesn't include, of course, the black budget for the CIA's so-called "extraordinary rendition" flights, which use the same airfield as a pitstop. And there are likely other Irish beneficiaries feeding at the Pentagon's trough, including fuel distributors, a particularly dodgy sector of the Irish business sector. But nobody seems to be following the money in Ireland. Instead, the anti-war movement there is directing all its attention abroad to the ultimate "Evil Empire" -- the United States. All well and good, lads, but, in so doing, the Irish movement is ignoring one of activism's primary rules: Think Global, Act Local.

Above: Irish anti-war organizer Tim Hourigan, who managed to get a brief sound bite on the CBS Evening News on March 16. Hourigan was protesting in front of the Irish Aviation Authority in Dublin on Feb. 6 when this picture was taken.


I'm calling it the St. Patrick's Day Massacre, although that might be overstating it a wee bit. The above shot was taken on Feb. 16 at about 3:30 p.m. at a park next to the new Shannon Bridge in Limerick City, County Limerick, the Republic of Ireland. I was supposed to meet Irish anti-war activist and plane spotter Tim Hourigan at that location and time so I could go plane spotting with him. But he didn't show up. In subsequent emails, he said that I was the one who didn't arrive on time and that, after waiting 45 minutes for me in the rain, he departed. Maybe we got our times mixed up. It did rain that day. But it wasn't raining obviously when I took this picture.

As a result of the missed rendezvous, I stayed the next four days in County Clare instead of heading back to County Cork, where I had a free place to stay. This cost me a few extra bob and generally messed up my last few days in Ireland. I made the best of it, though, by visiting the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren, which are both spectacularly beautiful.

The snafu was fading from my memory already, when I received an email earlier today from another Irish anti-war activist, who graciously hosted me while I was in Ireland. She was excited that Hourigan and the Shannon (Airport) plane spotters had managed to get a spot on the CBS Evening News. The segment highlighted the plane spotters' efforts to expose the use of the airport by CIA "extraordinary rendition" flights. This, of course, is why I was supposed to meet with Hourigan last month.

The timing of the activists' media coup with CBS was perfect. Ireland's leader, Bertie Ahern, is at the White House today as part of his annual St. Patrick's Day visit. By coordinating the spot to immediately precede his visit, the activists have put more public pressure on Ahern to address the issue of the CIA's use of Shannon Airport. Obviously, my interest in covering the issue for a fledgling publication -- Ireland From Below -- was eclipsed by the activists' strategy of getting CBS to cover the issue.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Bertie Kisses Bush's Ass, Again

It's become a tradition for the Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) to visit the White House on St. Patrick's Day. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who is flying to Washington to meet with US President George W. Bush Friday, is no exception. But the annual kowtowing is seen by republican-minded Irishmen with contempt. They view it as an ass-kissing ritual that shows the Irish government's subserviance to Washington. If anything, Bush should fly to Dublin instead in their minds. But I'm sure he wouldn't be greeted with open arms there, either. The word republican has a completely different meaning in Ireland, of course, and even Texas Repbublicans probably don't want Bush back nowadays.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A West Cork State of Mind

The Skellig Islands off the southwest coast of Ireland, once home to a noted 6th-Century monastery, is the furthest spit of Irish soil from Dublin. On the mainland, however, that distinction may very well be the tip of the Beara peninsula not far from Garinish, the townland where I stayed for part of my five-week journey.

In Garinish, as in other areas of West Cork, there are more sheep than people, and both the livestock and their keepers seem quite content with the ratio. Part of the local economy, of course, is dependent on the blow-ins, tourists, who come from Cork City or Dub or the four corners of the world, and therein lies the rub. They are inevitably changing the charcater of the place. Moreover, the natives often don't take too kindly to the absentee landlords who have been building "holiday homes" here of late, not to put roofs over their heads but as a tax shelters.

On the other hand, many of those who live in West Cork come from elsewhere, captivated by the stark, unbridled beauty of a landscape that quickly finds a way into their marrow. This is land's end: a place to which saints and travellers, artists and rebels have gravitated longer than anyone can remember; before the Sheahy, Caha and Slieve Mikish Mountains had names or their peaks -- Sugarloaf, Hungry Hill and Knockgour, Knockoura -- straddled a liguistic divide. Here the weather changes and time stands still, if only for a moment, as life laps against age-old mysteries like the tides meet the shore.

So be it destiny or coincidence, the gent on the cover of the decade-old Irish travel guide I lugged from America just happens to be posing in front of O'Neill's pub in Allihies. When my host in nearby Garinish spied the book on his dining room table, he laughed. The man on the cover, he said, is not an Irishman at all, but a mad English artist who has lived on the peninsula for the last 15 or 20 years. No more than a few hundred people live in Allihies, nonetheless, the Irish musicians who played at that same pub are friends of St. Louis musicians whom I also know. John Prine, the American singer and songwriter, drank here, as well, and not too far from Allihies, film director Neil Jordan keeps a holiday home.

No chamber of commerce is promoting the tourism trade. There are no golf courses, no grand hotels, no theme parks, no beaches worth mentioning. The roads are dangerously narrow, often hemmed by stone walls, and they wind like corkscrews through the mountains. In winter, there are few tourists and rain can fall for days on end. The natives and would-be natives like it this way. They don't want to make the Beara peninsula more accessible. The eccentric poet, who lives down the road a piece, may still traipse into O'Neill's with his retinue of bedazzled blow-ins, but it's more the exception than the rule. During this time of year, the owner of the Lighthouse pub, which is next to O'Neill's, still stokes his fireplace with blocks of turf. Ollie, the village idiot savant, still rolls his meager cigarettes as he babbles to anyone who will listen, his words mostly unintelligable even for those who speak the native dialect. Through a translator, however, Ollie's gibberish can be strikingly insightful. After railing against the government, he summed up his rant by declaring: "The only freedom is found inside a man."

There's nothing really worth seeing on the Beara peninsula unless you're ready to see it. And there are those who will tell you that it's a waste of time to venture any further south than, say, Killarney. A film director I met in Allihies, himself a blow-in from Dublin, likes to say that this is the "arse end of the island." Then again, the first words of advice that my Irish friend Robert Allen told me upon arrival was, "Don't believe anything an Irishman tells you."

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Fields of Athenry

this is an audio post - click to play

I remember playing along with this song at many Irish-American jam sessions held in a cramped kitchen in Maplewood, Mo. more than 20 years ago. Of course, until last month I didn't have a clue about what the song was about or from whence it came.

Back then I thought it was a traditional ballad. I should have known better because traditional Irish ballads are sung unaccompanied. Since the mid-1970s modern songwriter Pete St. John has laid claim to the words and music. Irish troubadour Paddy Reilly recorded the most well-known pop version, which has been covered by various artists ever since, including more than one punk rock band. The Fields of Athenry has also been filched by sport fans as a theme song.

Lost in the translation of the many tortured renditions is the tune's poignant yet rebellious message. Athenry is a small town in County Galway. Michael, the character in the song, has been put aboard a prison ship bound for Bounty Bay, the location of a 19th-Century British prison colony in Australia. His crime: stealing "Trevelyan's" corn to save his family from starvation due to the Irish potato famine of the 1840s.

Sir Charles Edward Trevalyan oversaw the flawed British response to the famine that resulted in the death of nearly one million people. Known as the "Great Hunger" in Ireland, the potato famine was caused by a fungus, but it was exacerbated by the British policy of laissez faire economics and by a belief in the Malthusian theory, which promulgated the idea that natural disasters such as the potato blight were a devine remedy for overpopulation. In this way, Britain rationalized the famine, while continuing to export Irish grain on the world market.

Abandoned stone farm houses such as the one pictured above are still a common sight in rural Ireland today. During my visit, fisherman and farmer Michael "Mitey" McNally told me that the reason the windows are so small in these deserted cottages is because the British taxed Irish farmers more if their houses had bigger windows.

The Fields of Anthenry

By the lonely prison wall, I heard a young girl calling,
Michael, they have taken you away.
For you stole Trevelyan's corn,
So the young might see the morn,
Now the prison ship lies waiting in the bay.

Low lie the fields of Athenry,
Where once we watched the small free birds fly.
Our love was on the wing,
We had dreams and songs to sing,
It's so lonely 'round the fields of Athenry.
By the lonely prison wall, I heard a young man calling,
Nothing matters, Mary, when you're free.
'gainst the famine and the Crown
I rebelled, they cut me down.
Now you must raise our child with dignity.

By the lonely harbour wall, she watched the last star falling,
As the prison ship sailed out against the sky,
For she'll live and hope and pray
For her love in Botany Bay.
It's so lonely around the fields of Athenry.

Allihies, Saturday Night

by Noel Shine and Mary Greene
this is an audio post - click to play

The midnight revelers gathered at O'Neill's pub in Allihies had been "drowning the shamrock" for hours, when I snapped this shot of Noel Shine and Mary Greene, who were charged with entertaining the boisterous crowd Feb. 11. Talking to them during a brief break, I discovered the couple had played McGurk's pub in St. Louis about 10 years ago and knew several local musicians with whom I, too, am acquainted.

On this night, a group of young French co-eds joined the locals in the craic, dancing to Shine and Greene's country and rock covers. One of the women was ostenibly researching the similarities between traditional Norman cultures of the north of France and West Cork on a Saturday night.

Viva la difference!

Greene bought the old Martin guitar she is playing from St. Louis fiddler Marc Rennard.

500 Guarda for 9 Anti-War Protestors

Irish Times, March 3:

The security clampdown for US President George W Bush’s stopover at Shannon Airport in the early hours of yesterday morning (March 2) was in stark contrast with the garda presence at the Love Ulster march which sparked vicious riots in Dublin.

Overall, some 500 gardaí, army and airport personnel were on alert when Air Force One landed at Shannon en route to America from a state visit to India and Pakistan to generate support for the dubious ‘war on terrorism’. ...

At Shannon, only nine anti-war campaigners were on hand when the plane landed just after 2.30am. Kept outside the perimeter fence, they went unnoticed by Mr Bush who did not disembark during the 80-minute refuelling stop. Demonstrators see the use of Shannon for US troop movements as facilitating the war in Iraq where over 100,000 civilians, half of them children, have died. Despite White House denials, they also believe dozens of prisoners have passed through the airport on so-called ‘extraordinary rendition’ of CIA suspects for torture. ...

Monday, March 06, 2006

My Native Guide

After driving in a circle between the villages of Inchigeelagh and Ballinageary looking for a hostel, I finally stopped in the Rose Briar pub to ask for directions. There I found 70-year-old Ted Vaughn, an Inchigeelagh native, seated next to the hearth with a pint of stout, his fifth of the day.

Having known the previous owner of the property on which the hostel is now located, Ted volunteered to personally guide me to my destination, but not before we drank another pint of the black stuff and then walked across the road so I could buy a few provisions. While I browsed the store aisles, Ted bought a pack of cigarettes and flirted with the shop clerk.

On the way to the hostel, he told me stories of how, as a younger man, he had attended all-night drinking sessions at the place, when it was owned by a friend of his, Tim McCarthy, a farmer. McCarthy, said Ted, had eventually died from imbibing too much poteen -- Irish moonshine. Laughing, he added that one of the renovated accomadations at the old farmstead used to house pigs.

Ted, recently released from the hospital, has throat cancer, but so far refuses to foresake smoking or drinking, although he says he indulges far less in both habits nowadays.

When I asked if I could take his picture, he opened the door to the village hardware store and posed for this shot. As he did so, he told me another tale about the hardware store owner, who having no money to invest in property after World War II, ingeniously built his store by placing planks over a creekbed and then constructing the building. Nobody it seems owned the space over the creek.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Lay of the Land

Bogs unlike swamps or marshes are not necessarily limited to the lowground. Above the conifers in the Sheahy Mountains of County Cork, the wetland rises and falls, each false summit beckoning a climber higher, the sky growing nearer with every step.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Steep Airfare for the Little Bollix

Security for US President George W Bush's brief stop at Shannon Airport in County Clare was estimated to have cost Irish taxpayers 300,000 euros by the Irish press, or 200,000 quid, in the North. If Bush wants to save American and Irish citizens a few bob, he should consider flying Aer Lingus the next time he pops across the pond. Irish anti-war activists used Bush's pit stop to again call for banning US military and intelligence flights from using Shannon as a refueling base in the so-called "War on Terror."

Belfast Telegraph March 1:

A £200,000 security operation was in place overnight at Shannon Airport as nothing was being left to chance ahead of the anticipated stopover of US President George Bush.

Up to 500 gardai, army personnel and airport police were involved in what was the biggest security operation at the airport since President Bush's brief visit to Ireland for an EU-US summit in June 2004. ...

The Great Hunger

This famine pot on display in the village of Inchigeelah, County Cork, is a reminder of the Great Hunger, as it is called in Ireland. The potato famine of 1845 to 1848 is estimated to have killed between 500,000 and 1,000,000 people. It also resulted in the Irish diaspora in which approximately 2,000,000 Irish were forced to immigrate abroad, including the United States and Canada. The famine was the result of a potato fungus, but was greatly exacerbated by the devastating and repressive economic policies of Ireland's then-colonial ruler Great Britain.

Famine pots such as this were used to cook a communal soup to feed the hungry. This one served the Balingeary parish of Uibh Laoire south of Inchigeelah.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Football Hooligans

After immediately blaming Sinn Fein party members for instigating the riot on O'Connell Street Saturday, the Irish Times, has changed its tune, and now says that the violence may have been sparked by "footfall hooligans."

Irish Times, Feb. 28:

Minister for Justice Michael McDowell will brief the Cabinet today on a preliminary Garda report into Saturday's riot in Dublin, ahead of a special Dáil debate on the violence this evening.

The report, which was submitted to the Minister last night by the Garda Commissioner, outlines in considerable detail the Garda planning in the run-up to the Love Ulster parade. It also describes in detail the counter-demonstration, which erupted into violence on Saturday afternoon and led to the loyalist march being abandoned.

The Garda report on the events outlines the intelligence reports from Special Branch detectives that there was no indication of any planned violence by republican dissidents at the counter-protest. ...

... Gardaí have also begun gathering thousands of images of rioters on O'Connell Street on Saturday and will distribute them among intelligence officers with a view to arresting and prosecuting those involved.

Mr McDowell will give a statement to the Dáil about Saturday's events and will refer in detail to the report during his speech as part of a 2 ½-hour special debate. The report provides limited information on who is suspected of being responsible for the violence and is believed to state that the investigations are at a very preliminary stage.

The Irish Times has learned that one line of inquiry being pursued by gardaí is whether football hooligans may have played a significant part in the trouble.

Many Dublin-based hooligans who support Celtic Football Club congregated in a pub in the O'Connell Street area popular with Celtic fans, which broadcasts all Celtic fixtures. As the disturbances broke out, a large group was seen coming from the pub dressed in Celtic jerseys. There have been a small number of violent incidents involving Irish football supporters in the last 12 months. ...

* The Garda is the Irish national police force. Its Special Branch is akin to the FBI, though cynical Irishmen scoff at the suggestion.

* Ulsteris the northern province of Ireland of which six of its counties continue to be under the control of the United Kingdom.

* The Dail is the lower house of Irish parliament. Its members, teachta Dalas or TDs are popularly elected and have more power than their counterparts in the upper chamber.

* Gaelic football is a traditional Irish sport supported by the Gaelic Athletic Association, an organization formed in the late 19th Century to preserve Irish cultural identity through the creation of leagues dedicated to hurling and football. Fans of the sport tend to congregate in pubs and cheer for their respective teams with the utmost courtesy and decorum, according to one knowledgable but less-than-objective source.

Monday, February 27, 2006

To the Barricades

Not on the same par as the 1916 declaration of Irish independence, this flyer, on the door of a Dogtown coffeehouse, solicits residents to "adopt-a-barricade," for the forthcoming St. Patrick's Day parade, which is sponsored by the local chapter of the Ancient Order of Hiberians. The barricades are being offered ostensibly as a way of displaying banners, but are more suited for keeping the drunken hordes from walking on neighborhood lawns.

Faux Pub

Seamus McDaniel's, in the Dogtown neighborhood of St. Louis, serves Guinness and has a poster on one wall of Irish public houses, but that's as close to the real thing as it gets. The shebeen that occupied the same building years ago came closer, however, to replicating an authentic Irish pub. There is no Seamus McDaniels, he's fictional character. Whereas, the previous establishment, O'Shea's, was originally owned and operated by Democratic ward committeeman Jack O'Shea.

Politics Eireann 101

Leinster House, seat of the Irish government in Dublin.

The best way of beginning to understand Irish politics and history is through the news (of course, you have to take into account the conservative bias in the mainstream media that is similar to the US). The following snippet culled from today's Irish Times relates to Saturday's riot on O'Connell Street:

... The Taoiseach dismissed reports that rioters had been "bused in" to the city, saying they were predominantly local people.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who was in Dublin for the march, was among those claiming that Sinn Féin activists were involved in the rioting.

"The police confirmed to us that a number of Sinn Féin activists were involved. Clearly the Sinn Féin leadership is not in control of these people," he said.

The chairman of the committee organising the 1916 commemoration parade on Easter Sunday, Minister for Defence Willie O'Dea, said he was determined that "similar elements will not be able to hijack the event". ...

*Taoiseach is the Irish prime minister. Bernie Ahern is the current taoiseach (pronounced TEE-shock). Ahern is a member of the ruling Fianna Fail political party. Fianna Fail was created by Eamon De Valera, a leader of the War of Independence against England in the early 20th Century. Fianna Fail translates into English as Soldiers of Destiny.

* DUP is the acronym for Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP is a right-wing political party in Northern Ireland founded by Protestant loyalist extremist Ian Paisley, who is still active in Northern Ireland politics.

* Sinn Fein, (prononced SHIN-fane) translates into English as "Ourselves Alone." It is the only political party active in both the 26 southern counties of the republic and in UK-controlled Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein, which is often associated with the Irish Republican Army, continues to advocate for the unification of the island under one government.

The Irish Civil War involved a split between de Valera and Michael Collins, another leader of the War of Independence, culminating in Collins' assassination in 1922. Prior to the split, Collins (known as "The Big Fellow") had been sent to England by de Valera to neogotiate a peace treaty with England. The resulting treaty allowed for England to continued occupation of the northern six counties of Ulster, which de Valera opposed. In 1926, de Valera formally disassociated himself and his followers from Sinn Fein and formed the Fianna Fail. De Valera, who became the longstanding leader of the republic, is believed to have taken political advantage of the civil war to consolidate power. Theories persist that he may have also been responsible for Collins' death.

*On Easter 1916, republican forces made up of the secret Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), the Irish Volunteers, and the Irish Citizen Army attacked the British, taking over the General Post Office (GPO) in Dublin and announcing the formation of a provisional government of the Irish Republic. They surrendered in less than a week. In short order, 15 leaders of the insurrection were summarily executed by the British, which turned public opinion in favor of the rebels and soldified support for the coming War of Independence.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Mind Your Heads, Lads!

Gardai advance on Republican crowd on O'Connell Street in Dublin yesterday. Demonstrators had assembled to protest a parade of loyalists from Northern Ireland who are opposed to the Republic of Ireland's involvement in the political process in in the six northern counties known as Ulster, which are still part of the United Kingdom.


Those who participated in the violence were limited to small contingent of younger protestors who used fencing material, from the ongoing foot path (sidewalk) construction along O'Connell Street, as weapons.

The Whole World Is Watching

Protestors yesterday in Dublin snapping shots of the violence on O'Connell Street, where peaceful demonstrators were trapped for two hours, after the gardai (police) barricaded side streets to contain the crowd.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Calm Returns to O'Connell Street

Irish Examiner, Feb. 25, 6:22 p.m. Dublin time:

O'Connell Street reopens after riot clean up

O'Connell Street is re-opening following today's riots which brought the city to a standstill.

The clean-up is underway with estimates about the damage running into hundreds of thousands of euro.

Charlie Lowe, Dublin City Council Area Manager said: "The area was quite well populated at around 5 o’clock", when all the rioters had dispersed.

"Generally, the fact that people are back on the street with the Garda co-operation indicates that everything is more-or-less returning to normal.

Unionist Parade Stirs Up Troubles in Dublin

This press report was published before the brawl between republicans and unionists in Dublin earlier today.

Feb. 25, 10:59:07 AM

Loyalists arriving in Dublin for ‘Love Ulster’ parade

More than 1,000 Loyalists are arriving in Dublin this morning for their planned march through the city centre.

Six Orange Order marching-bands are due to take part in the event, which will begin at the top of O'Connell Street at 12.30pm, and finish with speeches outside the Dáil.

Organisers claim they are marching to assert their cultural identity, and to protest against the Government's involvement in Northern Ireland.

However, spokesperson Willie Frazer has played down fears that the march will provoke violence, saying: “The Gardaí are more than capable of policing parades… and if there’s trouble that’ll be up to the Gardaí to deal with, and they will deal with it, irrespective of who it comes from.”

Everybody Loves a Parade

"... The rioters' mayhem forced Protestant hard-liners to abandon their plan to parade through Dublin. It would have been the first parade in Dublin by pro-British Protestants since Ireland's partition into a mostly Protestant north and mostly Roman Catholic south in 1921. ..."

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Last Chieftan

Michael Joe O'Sullivan (see below) is likely a distant descendent of the last Celtic chiefs to rule in Ireland before being defeated by English forces in 1602. At left is the ruins of Dunboy Castle near Castletownbere, a vestige from the O'Sullivan clan's 300-year reign.

Sweet Revenge

For more than a century, the Puxley family of England owned the copper mines of Alliheis, exploiting the workers' labor while living in luxury in a mansion near Castletownbere on the opposite side of the Beara peninsula. During the War of Inpendence of the 1920s, the Irish Republican Army torched the Puxley's posh digs. It's a fair guess that nobody cried in their beer over the loss at the local pubs. Plans are just now underfoot to redevelop the mansion.

Workin' the Copper Mines

The copper mines of Alliheis, where Michael Joe O'Sullivan's father worked (see below), provided jobs for this part of the Beara peninsula for more than a hundred years, but the work was dangerous. "The mine shaft was 1,800 feet deep and there's a miner dead for every foot of it," said Michael Joe.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Inimitable Michael Joe

On my first night in Garnish, Michael Joe O'Sullivan walked into his friend Mitey McNally's house and sat down at the dinner table, while we were in the midst of devouring plates of fried mackerel. After sizing me up for a moment, he did his best to speak slowly enough for me to decipher what he was saying in his deep West Cork brouge. "If we kidnapped ye, would anybody pay the ransom?" he asked.

Before returning home to run a pub in nearby Alliheis more than 20 years ago, Michael Joe worked construction in London. His late father labored in the copper mines of Alliheis from the 1930s until the early 1960s, when the mines shut down. Michael Joe shuttered the pub four years ago.

Molly and Me

This statue of Molly Malone -- the fair lass forever immortalized in song -- is called tongue-in-cheek by Dubliners, "The Tart with the Cart."

"In Dublin's fair city,
Where the girls are so pretty,
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone.
She wheeled her wheelbarrow,
Through the streets broad and narrow,
Crying cockles and mussels alive, alive, oh! ..."

Losing the O'

Conr Carter, 62, a grounds keeper at Gougane Barra National Park in County Cork, built this dry wall by himself in a little more than a week. Carter, a Gaelic speaker, is also an exceptional raconteur in English. One story he told in his deep Cork accent recounted the explanation given by a friend of his daughter's on how the O' was dropped from her last name of Sullivan. .

"We drank the soup and dropped the O'," she had told him. Carter laughed heartily after repeating the young woman's words. That was the punchline, but, of course, I had to have it explained to me.

According to Carter, during the famine in the mid-19th Century, many Irish-Catholic families converted to Protestantism, which often mandated changing their names, too. The O'Sullivans, a clearly Catholic name, became just plain Sullivan so that the newly converted could be entitled to the soup being doled out by the Protestants. In other words, the name change and religious conversion were precipitated by the threat of starvation.


A kip is a hut. In Dublin it also denotes a bordello; a hovel or crash pad. "He lives in a kip south of the Lifey."


Among the Irish a foxer is the same as a moonlighting job, but the term is more inclined to define a job that is done strictly for cash to avoid taxation; the underground economy. "A foxer or two on the side never hurts a lad."

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

News Agents

Newsstands, which are ubiquitious in Ireland, are called news agents. The reason there are so many is because people read newspapers in Ireland, many newspapers. Now isn't that a novel idea, reading a newpaper? Take your choice: the conservative Irish Independent, aka, the Indo, sister to its English counterpart and owned by Irish millionaire Tony O'Reilly, available in tabloid or broadsheet; or perhaps the more high-brow, snooty Irish Times; or the populist Irish Examiner, formerly the Cork Examiner, a national paper with a decidedly southern perspective; or, one of my favs, Daily Ireland, a republican/nationalist newspaper published in the North, which favors Sinn Fein and swipes the Brits. I could go on but you get the picture. The climate is right for reporters here because there are competing newspapers. The broadcast media, radio and TV literally read the headlines to listeners and viewers because print journalists break the news everyday. It's called a free press, and despite its flaws and profit-driven motiviations, the American versions pales by any comparison.

Trade Secret

As a fledgling reporter many years ago, I remember being struck by words of advice offered in an Esquire magazine interview with journalism icon Carl Bernstein.

Bernstein opined there were three universal rules: never keep the company of women who can't put their lipstick on straight, reside only where palm trees grow and the truth is always in the details.

Bernstein's glib throw-away lines seemed, at the time, to pocess a cocky self-assuredness that I longed to call mine. His lipstick remark was obviously a reference to his womanizing exploits. And, of course, the "truth" and the devil are both in the details, nothing too original there. But the palm tree remark had a certain allure to me because the exotic plants can't survive a Midwest winter any better than they can in Washington, D.C., from whence Bernstein had escaped, after a not too graceful fall from his personal pedestal in the Fourth Estate, aka, The Washington Post.Apparently, by the time I read his words of "wisdom" in the 1980s, the once-heralded reporter who helped bring down Tricky Dick in 1972 had been banished to a place where palm trees grow, which, in retrospect, would seem not so bad a place to go into exile. Better than Siberia.

The great secret I didn't know then but have just discovered is that even though Cork lies more than 10 degrees north of St. Louis and Galway and Dublin more than 15, palms trees grow in all three cities and elsewhere throughout Ireland -- all year round -- outside. These are not potted plants, but trees 15 or even twenty feet tall. Say what you will about the wind and the rain, Ireland has a mild, temperate climate for both nurturing palms and journalists on the rebound, I suspect.

Dear Pocketbook

The word dear is used less as a term of (excuse the redundancy) endearment and more to denote an excessive expense. For example, the price of everything in Ireland, from petrol to fish and chips, is dear to a poor American.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

License Plates

Unlike the States, where they yield little or no information other than to the police, Irish license plates read like an open book. The license plate above, for instance, indicates the vehicle was purchased new in 2000 in County Dublin (D) and was the 104,950th vehicle registered that year. All rental or hired cars, as they are called in Ireland, are registered in Dublin regardless of where the branch of the hiring agency is located. So it's easy enough to spot a Dub or a blow-in on the road, and some culchies would probably tell you there's not too much difference between the two.

The Footpaths of Dublin

Footpaths are urban sidewalks not hiking trails.
Above: Dublin's Grafton Street at lunch hour.


A bowsie is a lout or n'er-do-well, a term of contempt.


A chancer is a risk taker. A scofflaw who jaywalks across a busy Dublin street is a chancer.

Not So Bright

As a way of expressing doubt in someone's intelligence, the Irish might say, "He doesn't have the head of a spider."

The Brown Evelope Bunch

The Irish are fond of political discourse, and they have incorporated some choice American words such as gerrymandering into the debate. They also have their own colorful way of describing political skullduggery. Two terms that I jotted down in my notebook early on in my visit that struck my fancy were the following:

Smoked-salmon socialist A person who comes from a privelaged middle or upper class background and espouses left-wing rhetoric; not a true socialist or of the working class, a poser, bourgeois.

Brown evelope bunch or crowd A member of a corrupt group of politicians or public officials who are paid off by developers and/or lobbyists who are intent upon buying influence to advance their agendas.

The Real Donnybrook

St. Louisans think of Donnybrook as being the free-for-all current affairs program on local public television that features retired St. Louis Globe-Democrat editor Martin Duggan, a fine Irish-American lad, and his sidekicks, including St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan and former Riverfront Times publisher Ray Hartmann, the show's alleged liberal. But the real Donnybrook is an upscale neighborhood in Dublin, which long ago hosted the Donnybrook Fair, a place, according to legend, where horsetraders and other riffraff regularly came to blows. And believe me, the Irish are still arguing about the details of that particular interpretation. If you'd kindly buy me a pint, sir, I'd be happy to explain it all to ya, fer yer edification, no less, and in the name of historical accuracy, of course. Fair play, lads. Mind yourselves. Cheers!

Love It or Leave It, There's No Place Like Home

It's easy enough to get out of the United States, but returning after a lengthy stay abroad is a bit of a post-9/11 shock for even the most jaded American. Security or the perception of "security," has reached an institutional and bureaucratic level that borders on the absurd. First you go through the Irish-maintained security, including metal detectors and such. But that's not enough. You then go through American Customs in Ireland at the Shannon Airport -- before you even leave the country. Then a private contractor searches the plane. Then armed officers of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) come through the plane and look at your passport, again. Then when you deplane in Chicago, you go through the metal detectors, again, you pick up your checked luggage and go through Customs, again, and re-check it, again, so that another TSA grunt can inspect it. In my case, the subject of suspicion was my duct-taped guitar case, which contained a $70-made-China instrument along with my dirty laundry.

When I finally got back to St. Louis, approximately 22 hours after leaving Ennis in County Clare, I found St. Louis "International" airport to be completely deserted, a tomb.

But the trip wasn't quite over yet. For $3.25, I rode the Metrolink light rail service from the airport to the Central West End station. Entering the elevator with my suitcase, backpack and guitar I discovered vomit and urine all over the floor. When I exited at street level and crossed to the bus stop, I found myself in a cluster of homeless people, including a legless guy in a wheelchair and a woman sleeping on top of a air vent with no shoes.

Love it or leave it, there's no place like home.

The Longest Day or My Crash at Gate 14

This unflattering self-portrait was taken during my lengthy layover at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago last night. By this point, I had been traveling for approximately 20 hours. I spent what seemed like hours trying to reset my watch crossing the Atlantic to no avail. Finally, I just started substracting six hours from the digital read out. Pity the poor Luddite in the age of second-class jetsetting.

... And Carry a Big Stick

Now that's I'm back in the land of the Conquistadors not to mention your average street thugs, I lament not buying myself a shillelagh, which is named after the town in mountainous County Wicklow south of Dublin, where the combination walking sticks and cudgels originated.

Above the Cloud Deck

Cruising at 37,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean is now an experience that tourists take for granted. On my Aer Lingus flight, returning Americans spent their time sleeping, watching bad Hollywood movies or drinking Heiniken, while complaining about their $100-a-night accomodations in Dublin. Meanwhile, outside the porthole, the earth's upper atmosphere performed works of wonder.

Aerial View

Shannon Airport (or Warport), besides being a contentious pit stop for American military and intelligence flights, was once an essential link in all Trans-Atlantic crossings. But in recent times it has been relegated to the second tier in Irish aviational priorities. Consequently, when flying in and out of the western Ireland facility, travelers often have to take off and land first in Dublin before reaching their destination. The brief flight across the country, and stopover, adds an additional hour or more to arrival times, but in daylight hours yesterday it afforded me my last glimpses of the emerald green poblacht or republic. As West Cork fisherman and sheep farmer Michael "Mitey" McNally likes to say, "Ireland is made of small fields and small farmers."

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Mystery of the Burren

This dolomen, one of many found in Ireland, is an enigmatic reminder of our prehistoric ancestors. Stay tuned.

Land's End

The coast north of Doolin in County Clare is a craggy landscape that abruptly meets the foaming tides of the North Atlantic.

Rock of Ages

This boulder is located along the coast road in County Clare where the rocky area known as the Burren meets the sea.

Cliff Hanger

Need I say Moher?

Drinking from a Holy Well

On the road to Doolin in County Clare, I stumbled across St. Bridget's holy well. Bridget, a patron saint of Ireland is apparently Patrick's femine counterpart. The image shows the icons left by pilgrims inside the wellhouse.

JFK all the Way

The martyred Irish-American President John F. Kennedy is still revered here in Ireland near the same level as St. Patrick or Ste. Bridget.

Circus, Circus

Circuses are big in Ireland and they apparently come in two varieties, the Russian type or the American version. I saw posters for several during my five weeks here. One American circus was advertised as a "a two-ring," a scaled back version of the Barnum and Bailey or Ringling Brothers. The poster at the left was displayed on a lampost in Ennis.

A Good Idea in Theory

When I first arrived in Ireland, I thought that I was going to be able to blog on the fly so to speak, adding text and images via wireless connections such as the one available here at Shannon Airport. Alas, I was mistaken. So the plan now is to add additional text and photos on my return, thereby creating a day-to-day chronology of my five weeks here.

Cold and Frosty Morning

The hardest frost since I've been in Ireland descended on Ennis this morning. But still not hard enough to freeze the camelias in the garden of the hostel, where the sounds of water fowl honking (I assume they weren't Canada geese) could be heard on River Fergus. Goodbye, Ireland.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


It's the reason that the Thames River is pronounced "Tims." There's no "th" sound in the Celtic tongue. "Tank" you very much to all my new friends in Ireland, long live the republic.

Westerners from Another World

My host here in Ireland, for the first few weeks of my visit, was writer Robert Allen, a Belfast lad who hales from a Protestant background. It would be presumtious of me to try and explain briefly in a blog entry what it must have been like for him growing up in Ulster in the 1970s, and how he still grapples with rejecting his unionist background. For this is the stuff of books not blogs.

But a story in today's Sunday Times, of Ireland brouches the subject well. The writer, Belfast native Walter Ellis, also from a Protestant background, tells a tale about his relationship with a friend and distant cousin who became a member of the Official IRA and then a leader of the Irish National Liberation Army.

Writes Ellis: "... Most westerners, growing up in stable societies, did not go through what I and other Ulster men and women experienced in the 1970s and beyond. ..."

A Speakeasy by Another Name

A shebeen was originally a thatched-roofed cottage with a small window from which drinks, most likely Irish moonshine called poteen, was sold. It now generally refers to a drinking establishment or pub.


The word jail is spelled gaol in Ireland.

Just Plain Derry

Language in Ireland is of utmost importance. Control of language. In this respect place names are important. The second largest city in Northern Ireland is known by unionists and Brits as Londonderry, but for those who favor the republic the city is called just plain Derry.

Go Away

Instead of saying "get out," as a means of expressing disbelief, the Irish say, "go away."

Newspaper Give Aways

Irish newspapers routinely feature promotions in which they give away CDs and DVDs. For instance, inside this morning's Sunday Times of Ireland is a copy of the film Danny Darko. I've also bought papers that have had CDs by the Dubliners, and compilation disk of Celtic love ballads given away on St. Valentine's Day.

Caveat Emptor

There is a real estate office here in Ennis that caters strictly to Bulgarian properties. I've noticed one or two others in my travels around Ireland. Apparently, there's a big market for Eastern European properties here because of their low cost.

Mind Yourself

The first words I heard in Ireland came from the Aer Lingus attendant who advised me as a way of greeting to mind myself. I've managed to do just that for more than a month. But there's still one more day to go.

Everybody Loves Saturday Night

Roving packs of young people walked through the narrow streets of Ennis last night, where the pubs overflowed with people, music and drunk and disorderly conduct. By midnight, I bought some chips to take away, as they say over here, and beat a hasty retreat back to my room. Too old for this shite, lads.

Couple in the Next Room

The couple in the next room might not win a prize but they made an effort early in the evening before going out pubbing. On their return, I was woken from a shallow sleep and lay there waiting for the fun to begin. It didn't, thankfully, but I couldn't fall back asleep.

My aversion to hostels came in 1981, when I spent a night or two at the "Tilton Hilton," a flophouse next to the police station in Key West. But I've found my stay here at the Abbey Tourist Hostel in Ennis more than tolerable. For one, they have free internet!


The common greeting used in Ireland is "Hi-ya."

Transistor Radio

Say what you will about the wonders of Internet communications and Ipods, a good-old-fashioned transistor radio is also an asset while on the road, particularly when staying in rooms at hostels sans televisions. The radio gives you a bit of company when alone even if you're listening to a public affairs program broadcast in Gaelic. A pair of earphones also helps block the noise coming through the paper-thin walls.

The O'Briens

Here in Ennis and elsewhere in what is now County Clare the O'Brien clan ruled as chieftans for ages starting 11th or 12th Centuries. There is a castle here built from the O'Briens. There is also a sandwich shop by the same name, a chain that is common throughout the island. The Irish version of St. Louis Bread Company or perhaps a cross with Bread Co. and Subway. Not a bad cup of joe.

Black Lights

Last week in Dublin, I stopped by Trinity University, the Harvard of Ireland, not for academic purposes or to view a page from the Book of Kells but to relieve myself. Inside the tiolet, the place was illuminated with black lights. Asking a friend and my Dublin guide about it later, she said the black lights are a deterrent to shooting up in the john. Supposedly, the purple ambiance prevents junkies from finding a vein to hit. And I thought it was some kind of hippie-dippie art installation. Go away wit ya now!

Black Stuff

Black stuff is the Irish slang term for stout beer, specifically Guinness, but also Murphy's and Beamish.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Iijits Guide to Irish Driving

That's the tenative title to my soon-to-be bestseller. The first rule, after you remember to get behind the wheel on the opposite side (no small feat) is to always remember to look right. This rule is also a matter of life or death when crossing a street as a pedestrian.

Hi Sign

Driving in rural Ireland is similar to the United States in that once beyond a certain invisible line drivers begin to acknowledge each other. Over here it's a casual wave of the index finger.

Gone Native

County Clare has to be the favorite haught of American tourists. Either that or I've been here so long that the winter-off season has changed to the tourist season. I've heard more American voices in the last two days then I did in the last month.

But in the village of Corafin, I did encounter an Irish voice. The driver, a woman, stopped me on the edge of the village of Corofin and asked in a lilting tenor "which way to the Burren." I pointed down the road. "You can't miss it." The Burren, a rocky landscape, takes up about half of County Clare.

After more than a month roaming around over here. , I'm starting to give the natives directions. Guess it's time to split.

Middle of the Road

After driving around this country for five weeks, I finally figured out why Irish motorists tend to just flat out stop in the middle of the road. They do this for any number of unknown reasons. Often they'll just be out in the highway sorting things in thier boot. And when I say highway, I don't mean the kinds of highways that most Americans would consider such. These are narrow roads. The Galeic word for road is actually derived from "cow path."
As the roads have widened a wee bit, people haven't adjusted to the change. The reason that they stop dead in the middle of the road is this: There is no
place to pull over.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Irish Tenor, Extraordinaire!

A session in Ireland is more or less a jam session in which musicians informally gather and play. Last night, the session at the pub in Ennis featured among others a middle-aged vocalist with his family in tow. The kids squirmed in their seats as dad sang songs about the dastardly Black and Tans and a lament on the death of Michael Collins. History here is still passed down this way.

A Foreign Sound

Last night at a pub here in Ennis there was a table of Americans sitting behind me and their accents seemed foreign to my ear.

A Nation of B&Bs

Short of sleeping with strangers in hostels, the Bed and Breakfasts are the most practical accomdations in Ireland. Each is unique, and the older ones still retain a sense of actually staying in someone's home. The B&B I stayed at in Ennis, for instance, was operated by a former boxer whose son, also a pugalist, had won the Championship for the All-Ireland award in the welterweight division six times. The trophies were all over the front hall and in the breakfast nook. The family also was involved in traditional Irish music. Thankfully, penny whistle practice knocked off early.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

1916 Rising

This year will mark the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland. The leaders of the rising were summarily executed by the British, which led to the war for independence that followed. The rising took place when republicans of different political stripes banded together and took over the General Post Office in downtown Dublin. According to the current headlines in the Irish press, the rising is still very much a political issue with politicians from various parties jockeying for position in advance this year's planned tribute to the martyrs.

Sam Maguire Cup

In the movie Michael Collins by Neil Jordan, the British enter an Irish football match and start firing randomly at players and fans. This actually happened during the war for independence here. After Ireland became a republic, the Gaelic Atheltic Association named its Irish football trophy for Sam Maguire, a footballer and also IRA member.

East Is East, And West Is West

The conflict in Irish society in recent decades has been measured, particularly from abroad, as relating exclusively with the issues related to the continuing British occupation of the six northern counties in Ulster. But there is also a longstanding division between the east and the west of the country. This also has to do with Britain's centuries-long colonization of the island. Native Gaelic-speaking people tended to be centered in the west of the country, while Dublin and the eastern parts of the country, with few exceptions (noteably the 1798 rebellion in County Wexford), tended to be less resistant to British rule. This has caused an historical split, which also is related to the rural and urban differences and it is part of lexicon of the language.

A Dub jackeen, for instance, is a derogatory term for a Dubliner who is sympathetic or at least tolerant to the Brits. Dub, of course, refers to a Dubliner and jackeen is derived from the England's flag, the Union Jack, essentially meaning "little Union Jack."

A psuedo-British accent, in turn, is derisively referred to sometimes as Mid "Mid-Atlantic.

Dublin Four, is the equivalent of a zipcode of for one of the upscale districts in Dublin and is associated with ambitious yuppies.

Culchies, conversely, are rural folks, bumpkins or hillbillies.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Land of the Robins

The hostel that I stayed at for the last two nights is located in the mountains above the River Lee and is called Tir na Spideoga, land of robins. For more than a decade it has been operated by a German couple. Before that it was the farm of Tim McCarthy, who died according to local sources from drinking too much poteen, Irish moonshine.

Go on Yellow

Irish traffic signal, which are rare because of roundabouts (more on these later), turn yellow and then green. Once the yellow light appears it is acceptable to go through the light.

The Lee Valley

The waters of the River Lee start in the mountains and lakes in the West of Cork in the Gougane Barra National Park near the villages of Inchageelah and Ballingeary, which is known as a Gaeltacht, or Gaelic-speaking area. The river widenes into lakes here and is noted for pike fishing. The river runs 35 miles, emptying into the sea at Cork City.

No Passing

No overtaking means no passing in Ireland.

Thatched Roofs

There are 1,500 residences in Ireland that still have thatched roofs and more than a third of those can be found in County Wexford. An image of one will be added to this post later.

Two Finger Salute

The latest way of flashing the peace sign in the U.S., by casually showing raising the back of your index and middle fingers, would be offensive here in Ireland. Two fingers here are the same as one in America. For instance, the front page of the Irish examiner yesterday showed an acquitted gangster flipping two fingers at the Garda, which is the Irish name for police.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Where's the Beef?

Hamburger or ground beef is called mince meat in Ireland.

No Pain, No Gain

The Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary dates back to the 4th or 5th centuries A.D. According to legend, St. Patrick baptized the ruling king, Conall Corc, at the site. During the rite, Patrick's crozier or sword is said to have accidentally pierced the Celtic ruler's foot. Thinking it part of the Christian ritual, Corc suffered in silence.

A Modest Proposal: Roll Over, Jonathan

St. Patrick's Cathedral, on the south side of the Liffey River in Dublin, is the resting place of noted Irish satirist Jonathan Swift. If he were able to comment from his crypt, I'm sure he would have something caustic to say about the Church of Ireland charging five euros to view his tomb.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Road Through Tipperary

The road from Limerick east is dotted with Norman-era "keeps," the fortress-like residences that they built after their arrival here, circa 1169 A.D. One fine example of these ancient architectural structures is across the road from the Blarney Woolen Mills, a tourist trap; others lie neglected in ruins in fields by the side of the road.

Lost inTranslations

Crisps are potato chips.
A slip road is an exit ramp.
Calming traffic is slow traffic.
Chemists are pharmacists.
A filter lane is a turning lane.
Petrol, of course, is liquid gold priced at more than one euro a liter.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

William's Chair

The old man next to me at the Crane bar on the Sea Road, seemed to be indicating in no uncertain terms that I had somehow invaded his space. He was staring past me, and brushing my elbow every time he went his to quaff a bit of his pint of Guinness. Even though I wasn't getting it at the moment, the message he was sending became perfectly clear after my friend Robert Allen explained the situation later. Robert, who had been sitting on my other side, was occupying William's seat. William, said Robert, had been sitting at the corner bar stool he was seated on for the better part of the last 30 years. Robert had taken the seat just to wind the old man up. Cheers, William.

A Traveller's Ghost

The old woman I encountered on Quay Street in Galway could have been Biddy Ward, the widow of traveller Galway John, but for the fact that Biddy, a local character died years ago. She was begging for alms, mumbling her story in such a deep brough that I could only make out that she was trying to 'get home.' I gave the woman a few coins.

Home for Biddy was, for a good bit of her life, a camp by nearby lough or lake, where she lived with husband, a tinker, and raised 21 children. In her later years, according to the yellowing newspaper clip framed and hanging on the wall of McDouagh's fish and chip shop here, Biddy spent her time begging in the streets or holding court in a local pub.

I happened to read about Biddy after my fish and chips order was delayed. Noting the snafu, the waitress comped my meal.

Things like this happen in Galway.

Galway Vice

Strip clubs are few here and controversial, but off-track betting parlors are ubiquitious. Ditto casinos and card clubs, which operate out of storefronts.

Off License

Off License is a now-archaic term that you will often see posted on the front of pubs. Before the liquor laws were changed recently, pubs had to be granted special dispensation to sell drinks beyond the normal closing hours, which were early by American standards.


Travellers are Irish gypsies. Traditionally, they were itinerent workers, usually tinkers. The term now denotes con artists.

Sport is Singular

Sport is singular here. It's not the sports page. It's the sport page.

Everything is Brilliant

The word brilliant is used as Americans might say fantastic or great or beautiful.

Dull Skies

TV weather forecasters don't talk about cloudy skies in Ireland. Instead, they refer to gray days as dull.

The 6 p.m. Angelus

The angelus, a prayer to the Virgin Mary, is broadcast by RTE television each night at 6 p.m. The minute-long slot shows people of all walks of life pausing to silently pray as church bells chime in the background.

Parking Lots

Car Parks are parking lots.

Narrow Is the Way

Everything is narrow here, the streets, the roads, the aisles of grocery stores the feckin' toilet stalls.


Snugs are booths with door on them found in traditional Irish pubs. There aren't too many of them left. One of the finest examples of snugs is found inside Belfast's Crown pub, across from the Europa Hotel, which was frequently bombed during the sectarian strife of recent decades. After years of such blasts,the owner of the pub had a template made of the stain glass windows in the front of the pub so that they could be replaced each time the hotel was bombed across the street. The pub has now been preserved by the British National Trust.

Heating Fuel

Many homes in Ireland are still heated with peat, either the natural type or compressed briquettes. In addition, coal is often used in fireplaces and stoves. The coal is imported from Poland and costs approximately 11 euros for a 20 kilos.

Spring Is Here

The ground hog may have seen his shadow in the U.S., forecasting another six weeks of winter, but here in Ireland flowers are blooming, including crocuses and daffodils.


Blow-in is the term used for foreign tourists.

A Biscuit of Another Kind

A "biscuit" is a cookie in Ireland. It is served often with coffee or tea. Packaged cookies at the supermarket are labeled biscuits.

Yer Man

"Yer man" is a phrase that is routinely tacked onto a sentence regardless who the speaker is talking about. For instance: "Yer man drove the lory to Dublin."

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


A pastie is a deep-fried sausage patty, usually served with chips (french fries).

Irish Burgers

The fast-food franchise that advertises 100 percent Irish beef in its burgers is called SuperMac.

Vocabulary Lesson

A solicitor is a lawyer.
An estate is a subdivision.
A council estate is a government subsidized housing project.

Political Shorthand

A Sinner (pronouned SHINN-er)is a member of the Sinn Fein, the political party that has traditionally advocated the unificiation of British-occupied Northern Ireland with the 26 southern counties that make up the Republic of Ireland. Sinners are not necessarily directly linked to any factions of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), but they often hold similar political views. Of course, the degree of affiliation between the political party and the para-military organization is itself a matter of dispute. The conservative Irish Independent, newspaper, which is referred to as the Indo here in Ireland, ties the Sinners and the IRA directly together in its style sheet.

Yellow Man

Yellow man is the generic name for a type of Irish hard candy made with honey and baking soda.

For Every Season

During my stay in Garnish, one sheep died and another was born. The images show Michael "Mitey" McNally and his sheep dog Jake and the new born lamb.