December January 2013 Issue – Irish America https://irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine Thu, 18 Jul 2019 14:56:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 82361074 Travel: Girls on a Bus Through Ireland https://irishamerica.com/2018/03/girls-on-a-bus-through-ireland/ https://irishamerica.com/2018/03/girls-on-a-bus-through-ireland/#comments Sun, 04 Mar 2018 15:06:10 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=13785 Read more..]]> CIE Tours International’s Taste of Ireland Tour is a trip not soon to be forgotten. Irish America sent Tara Dougherty and Sheila Langan to discover its splendor. Scroll down for more photos and a chance to win your own 5 day/4 night Taste of Ireland tour for two.

TARA:
An Irish American’s First Time in Ireland

Perhaps the sentiment you hear most about Ireland is just how nice the people are. For years I’d heard it, that the most striking element of the country was the warmth of its people. It may be my own cynical New York mindset but I couldn’t help but think, “How nice could they really be?” After the trip, I was singing the same tune as all those I’d known.

Having grown up a competitive Irish dancer and later studying Irish literature, music, history and language in college, it seems like part of me has always been in Ireland. So much of the music and culture of Ireland has been an integral part of my life and identity that it felt almost strange to be visiting the source of it all for the first time. Ireland has always had a mystical quality for me, and to say that my expectations were high would be quite the understatement. I was not disappointed.

SHEILA:
Seeing Ireland Differently

From ages one to fourteen, a trip to Ireland in August was part of my yearly itinerary. My granny’s birthday was on the 1st, and that cause for celebration, combined with the prospect of  9:00 pm twilights, would bring my relatives back to Ireland, to Kerry, in droves.

Days were slow and lazy – I was stubborn about adjusting from jet lag, preferring to wake at noon and go to sleep after midnight. We visited neighbors, packed blankets and banana sandwiches for a day on the beach at Banna Strand. Nights were spent sitting together by the fire, eating Irish apple pie (tart, with whole cloves) and playing rounds of Old Maid and Thirty-One. My last August visit to Ireland had been in 2008 – a heavy and strange time to be there, due to the impending financial bust – when I spent two weeks with family in Naas and Dublin before starting a busy semester at Trinity.

This – being with family – is what Ireland in August has always meant to me, and it’s a hard memory to live up to. But when presented with the chance to return  with the CIE Taste of Ireland Tour, I leapt. This would be a trip on different terms and from different eyes. For the first time I would be seeing Ireland not as a daughter or granddaughter, or as a student, but as a tourist. And instead of nestled with my own, I would be part of a 30-person CIE tour bus family as we rolled through countryside from Dublin to Kerry and back again.

Sheila Langan and Tara Dougherty.

SEEING THE SIGHTS

The trip began with a 5:00 am landing at Dublin Airport. Exhausted from the time change and a mostly sleepless flight, we spent the first day touring Ireland’s capital in a daze. The absolutely wonderful thing about a bus tour, though, is the luxury it affords you to sit back, relax, and let yourself be ferried from place to place – your only responsibilities are to be on time and take it all in. So it was all right that our first few hours on Irish soil were a pleasant blur of St. Stephen’s Green, O’Connell Street, Dublin Castle, the cheekily lounging Oscar Wilde statue and the Merry Ploughboys Pub in Rathfarnham.

The following morning we traveled south and west, stopping to take in the Rock of Cashel and to give the Blarney Stone its customary kiss before arriving in the lovely Co. Kerry town of Killarney, where we would be spending two nights. The third and fourth days took us through the hills, valleys and seaside cliffs of the Munster landscape, then across the River Shannon via car ferry and on to Bunratty Castle and Folk Village. The final day was spent returning to Dublin after an all-too-brief stop in beautiful Connemara and Galway City.

Of course, this was all made possible by our wonderful guide and driver, Pat Smith from Kells, Co. Mayo, who made navigating a 30-person bus around hair-bend turns while giving a lecture on Irish history seem like the easiest thing in the world. Pat was brimming with wonderful suggestions, facts and stories. He was also the model of patience and understanding, thoughtfully answering any question, including, on the third day, a few about when we were going to see the Ring of Kerry – when we had already been on the famous road for a few hours. “The Ring of Kerry is not a physical ring, if you like,” he cheerfully explained over the bus’ sound system. “It’s a driving route, and we’re on it.”

Tour groups are never short on new friends to be had. (Photo: CIE Tours International / Facebook)

MAKING FRIENDS

Our first of two nights in Killarney was the most Irish night of our stay as far as the weather was concerned. We wandered the streets through a downpour, shoes soaked, umbrellas snapping in the wind, just trying to find the perfect pub to hear some music and get a feel for the town.

There are over 50 pubs in Killarney, which is not very big, so it wasn’t as though we were lacking in options. Dodging a tourist trap or two, we settled on a smaller pub, the Dunloe Lodge, drawn in by the lively tunes of a few men on guitar, fiddle and button accordion. Unfortunately, just as we arrived they were wrapping up their music seisún.

Seeing some stylishly dressed ladies around our age who had been enthusiastically singing and dancing to “The Fields of Athenry,” we decided to take a chance on asking for a recommendation. We only got as far as, “We’re not from around here and we’re looking for…” before we were instantly adopted. “You’re coming with us!” they declared, and with that a few girls visiting Killarney from Galway City became our personal social tour guides for the evening. They swept us up Plunkett Street and down Main Street to Sheehan’s at the Killarney Grand.

Inside, we did not find the absorbing seisún we had been looking for, but we did find, performing live, a group called J90, who turned out to be the best top-40 cover band either of us had ever heard. Even though they were performing contemporary hits, it was unlike anything you would see in the U.S. – especially on a Monday night. They were a modern-day equivalent of what the showbands of the ’50s and ’60s must have been, and, judging by the crowd and by the praise of Neill, a farmer who drives into Killarney every Monday to see them perform, just as popular.

The resounding lesson of the night was a valuable one, especially for a pair of slightly guarded New Yorkers with exacting expectations: if you go traipsing around dead-set on finding the authentic Irish experience, chances are you’re not going to find it. Better to take it all in, talk to people and enjoy what’s really going on.

The grounds and gardens of Blarney Castle.

FINDING ROOTS

The CIE Tour gave us the unique experience of interacting daily with a large group of fellow tourists. While this may not sound appealing to everyone, there is no quicker way to learn about the sheer magnetism of Ireland; the pull it has on so many people from different places and of different ages. We shared a few meals with our fellow CIE-ers, told our own stories and heard many more, and the theme of our conversations seemed to always harken back to family.

Of the thirty or so on our tour, we were just about the only ones traveling without a relative. Two older couples from the Mid-west were making the trip together – an epic double date by any standards. Chuck and Katie Cavanaugh, a father and daughter from Connecticut, were celebrating her high school graduation, and the Bachmans, a mother and her two daughters from New York, had also come to Ireland to celebrate the younger girl’s commencement.

We could see these groups bonding with each other and with Ireland itself. Another mother and daughter by the name of O’Brien, visiting from Florida, were excited to encounter the popular O’Brien’s chain of sandwich and coffee shops, and were even more delighted to learn that Bunratty Castle (which we visited on our fourth night) had been owned by the O’Brien clan. “We’re royalty!” they exclaimed.

The stories and connections went on and on in our bus full of families. Along the road we encountered another CIE group of over 30 brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins on a family reunion through Ireland and Scotland. They were on a quest to find a connection to their roots, but more importantly, it seemed, to renew their connections with each other.

A young boy poses for photos on the Ring of Kerry.

Even for those on our tour with no Irish roots, there was one moment in particular that made it difficult not to feel the pull of the ancestors. On the trip headed back towards Dublin from the west, we stopped for a brief visit to the family-owned Connemara Marble Factory in Moycullen, just eight miles from Galway City. Ambrose Joyce, Jr. welcomed us with a brief tour of the factory and delineated for us the types of Connemara marble. He showcased million-year-old slabs that varied in color from vibrant greens to lush pinks, some with full aquatic scenes imprinted from ages ago. Connemara marble can be found all over the world, from the floor of Galway Cathedral to the walls of the Senate Chamber of the State Capital Building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

As Ambrose’s tour ended we were free to wander the gift shop and take a closer look at some of the factory equipment. Kim Clemons, a woman on our tour from Mattydale, NY, approached Ambrose with a question about her ring. She asked if the stone, an heirloom from her grandmother, might be the same Connemara marble.

To all of our surprise, Ambrose affirmed her theory and brought Kim over to meet his father, Ambrose Sr. To Kim’s shock and delight, Ambrose Sr. not only confirmed that the ring had been made in that very factory, but that he himself had cut the stone decades before. Kim had stumbled upon an almost unbelievable coincidence, and we couldn’t help but be moved to see the same man who had cut the ring for a grandmother clean up and polish the stone once again for her granddaughter.

The Cliffs of Moher.

SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE

For such a small country, Ireland really does offer something for everyone. Accordingly, so did our tour. For history buffs, there was time to see the sights of Dublin and Galway and, at the Skellig Experience museum, learn the fascinating history of Skellig Michael, the forbidding rocky outcrop off the coast of Kerry where a determined order of monks erected a monastery in the 6th century.

For those who wanted to sit back and take it easy, there was ample time for tea and scones before roaring fireplaces. And for those wanting to connect with the land, there were plenty of opportunities to explore the green fields and stunning vistas, and a memorable sheep herding demonstration by Kerry farmer Brendan Ferris, who had trained each of his dogs to respond to a specific whistle. “Now you know that your dogs can hear you,” he told the amazed audience after the sheepdog trials were over. “It’s just that they aren’t listening.”

The main attraction, of course, was the landscape, which, no matter what the weather, was amazing each day. After the Giant’s Causeway, the Cliffs of Moher are probably the most mentioned, photographed and visited geological attraction on the island of Ireland. And after just two hours of gaping at them on the fourth day of the tour, we completely understood why.

Fields lined by hedgerows on the Ring of Kerry.

When we disembarked from the bus, we were greeted by the sight of a few hundred visitors ambling up the sloping cliffs while complacent cows resting in the nearby fields looked on. Wooden signs asked us to stay within the bounds of fences so low they seemed to know they were futile, as tourist after tourist hopped over and continued on the well-worn path along the cliff’s edge. We would have kept walking and staring, staring and walking, for hours had Pat and the rest of the crew not been waiting.

The best night of the tour turned out to be the one for which we had the lowest expectations. Our home for the fourth night was Bunratty Castle and Folk Village, in Co. Clare, just a short distance from Shannon Airport. The 15th century castle, which has been owned by a number of families, from the O’Briens to the Studderts, is now open to visitors, and hosts a great number each night for a musical, medieval banquet. Our inner children were of course excited, but our adult selves couldn’t help but wonder if we were a perhaps a little old for this sort of entertainment. Judging by the expressions of our fellow visitors as we were handed goblets of honey mead and greeted as lords and ladies, we weren’t the only ones with this concern. The man and woman randomly selected to be king and queen for the night looked none too pleased as they were given their crowns and instructed to order the crowd to the banquet hall.

The infamous Durty Nelly’s.

We shouldn’t have worried. The hosts, servers and masters of ceremony, who, in addition to moving the evening along were all incredibly talented singers and musicians, as adept at speaking in rhyming couplets as they were performing madrigals, maintained that delicate balance between knowing kitsch and genuine entertainment.  By the time the banquet was in full swing, even the once-reticent king was gesturing royally and ordering subjects to the dungeon.

Back in the 21st century, we headed over to The Creamery bar to take in a trad seisún, and then to the infamous Durty Nelly’s. One of Ireland’s oldest pubs, Durty Nelly’s is, to say the least, welcoming. Its dark, low-ceilinged first floor was packed with both tourists and locals, a group of whom sat at the center of a large and enthusiastic crowd of singers, taking requests on guitar and piano. These were not your sensitive artist type musicians, they were large, mostly bald, and serious-looking; clearly not guys to be messed with. But they were also adept at playing and totally appreciative of any song people wanted to sing, from trad tunes to “Islands in the Sun” to “New York, New York.”

Bunratty Castle.

Up until this point, I (Tara) had kept my identity as a musician pretty well under wraps to all our fellow tourists, so what happened next came as a big surprise to me. As the local players finished up a bar-wide sing-a-long of Glen Hansard’s “Falling Slowly,” I felt a hand on my back pushing me up front. Before I knew it, I was face-to-face with the burly musicians, who met me with some fairly skeptical expressions, until I asked to borrow one’s guitar.

I played the first song that came to my head, an original song I’d written a year or two earlier. Much to my surprise, the rowdy bar was silent a minute into the song. Three songs later, the intimidating, singing Irishmen were wiping tears away and I was back in the crowd shaking hands, exchanging emails and promising to send CDs.
However, it really wasn’t until our loquacious tour guide Pat Smith told me, “I’ve been speechless twice in my life and you’ve just made me for the third. These guys are here every couple of nights. I don’t think you have any idea what you’ve done here” that I realized the significance of silencing Durty Nelly’s. It may not be the ten thousand seat stadium some musicians dream of, but it was more than a dream come true for me. I can’t wait to go back.

A double rainbow on our last day in Dublin.

Galway, where we stopped on the last day, on our way back to Dublin, was the place we were the saddest to leave, and where we wished we’d had more time. Dashing off the bus and straight into the city center, we could sense just how alive, interesting and special a community Galway is, and we immediately began making grand plans to return another time for the Galway Arts Festival. After strolling along the Quay and High Street, and the little tributaries of streets branching off, it was time to treat ourselves with stops at Powell & Sons Music and a local book store.

In true form, within the two hours we were in Galway the weather went from glorious to absolutely miserable and back again, and we had to spend the majority of the second hour sheltered in a café. But as we reluctantly walked back to the bus, holding a brand new fiddle and a pile of books not yet available in the U.S., respectively, we couldn’t help but feel that we had each found what we were looking for. ♦

PHOTO ALBUM
(Click to enlarge)

 

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This article originally appeared in Irish America’s December / January 2013 issue.

CIE, celebrating it’s 85th year in 2018, offers the largest selection of escorted coach vacations to IrelandScotlandEngland, and Wales. Tours last between 5 and 24 days and this year introduced new Family Collection Guided Vacations for the entire family ages 8 and up as well as new tours in Scotland, including an off-the-beaten-path journey to Scotland’s remote Outer Hebrides islands and a 5-star luxury tour with castle stays. With numerous awards from Scotland’s Heritage, Travel Weekly, Travvy Awards, Flight Center, TravelAge West, and Irish Tourism Industry, including their 2015 Best International Marketing Initiative Award. 

Visit the CIE website for more information on the many tours they have to offer, or view the 2018 brochure now

Click here for a chance to win a CIE Tours 5 day/4 night Taste of Ireland tour for two.

 

 

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Irish Power and Irish Concern: Denis O’Brien https://irishamerica.com/2012/12/irish-power-and-irish-concern-denis-obrien/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/12/irish-power-and-irish-concern-denis-obrien/#comments Tue, 04 Dec 2012 10:23:05 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=13771 Read more..]]> Denis O’Brien, a Clinton Global Citizen honoree and the 2012 Irish America Business 100 Keynote Speaker, is empowering people in Haiti and elsewhere in the Caribbean.  

Denis O’Brien, 54, is Ireland’s most successful businessman and biggest philanthropist. He created Digicel, one of the most successful cell phone companies in the world, and he has a vast media empire, but he is known as much for his philanthropy as he is for his business acumen, especially in the Third World.

Former president Bill Clinton wrote in a Time cover story on October 1 that Digicel’s founder and chairman’s move to make cash transactions available for the poorest in the world via cell phones was the number one idea in changing the world for the poor in 2012.

I caught up with O’Brien just as Time was hitting the newsstands. He was in New York to receive a corporate philanthropic award from the Clinton Global Initiative. In addition to being featured in Time, Forbes magazine had just published their Richest 400 list and O’Brien was rated at number 205 with a $5 billion fortune.

When we met up at the Helmsley Palace Hotel, he had just come from a small dinner with President Clinton and Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire, and a few other heavyweights, and he described with evident relish how the evening had ended with a few spontaneous songs from all concerned.

O’Brien’s company has achieved amazing growth over the past decade. Since its launch in Jamaica in 2001, Digicel has secured some 13 million users in 31 countries in the Caribbean, Central America and the South Pacific, and is the largest single investor in Haiti – 600 million dollars.

The Digicel chairman has become an ambassador for Haiti, talking up investment opportunities to businessmen. And while he is ready to admit there are problems, from a foreign investment point of view, he is more ready to point out that there are really good opportunities. From retail stores to hotels, Haiti is a prime market for corporations looking to turn a profit.

Digicel has made a good return for its investment in Haiti, but it’s not all about making money. Since the earthquake  that killed upwards of 300,000 people and devastated the capital city, Port-au-Prince, Digicel has donated and raised $30 million towards redevelopment including reconstruction of Port-au-Prince’s Iron Market, a key commercial hub. Digicel has also donated free phone time worth $10 million, as well as relief supplies. It is also constructing 50 schools. And, in a country where only 10 percent of the population have bank accounts, Digicel worked with Scotiabank to allow people to withdraw cash and make deposits and person-to-person transactions using their mobile phones.

In an August 9, 2010 article  in Time, Tim Padgett wrote: “The Haiti work has made O’Brien and the Irish the world’s newest poster boys for enterprise-oriented aid of the kind championed by leaders like former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the UN’s special envoy to Haiti, and his New York City-based Clinton Global Initiative.”

O’Brien, who was coordinating CGI’s Haiti Action Group before the earthquake hit, has come to admire the tenacity and fortitude of the people and their willingness to work and learn, and in return he is seen as a champion of the people. (The Digicel building in Port-au-Prince was untouched during the 2008 food riots.)

And it’s not just Haiti. O’Brien, who was born in Dublin, is well-known to Third World relief agencies, especially Concern Worldwide (he serves on the U.S. board). He has made numerous trips with the organization to troubled spots in the globe including Sudan and Malawi.

In Ireland, where he is often the subject of controversy because he is outspoken and direct, he has also made enormous contributions. He chaired the 2003 Special Olympic Summer Games. It was the first time the Games were staged outside the U.S., with teams from 160 countries and over 30,000 volunteers, and it was the most successful Games in the history of the Special Olympics.

These days, Ireland’s downslide is very much on O’Brien’s mind, but here too he is upbeat about the future and says that Ireland is in recovery mode. He’s bullish about the economy. And as he does for Haiti, he talks up Ireland as a place to do business. Interviewed by Margaret Brennan for  Bloomberg TV recently, he said the opportunity for inward investment in Ireland is at an all-time high – particularly in the banking industry.

He, himself, is heavily invested in Ireland where he has just won a major media war and is now the controlling shareholder in Independent Newspapers, formerly the fiefdom of the O’Reilly clan. During that brutish battle he was often painted in an unflattering light by the O’Reilly-controlled press but still came out triumphant.

O’Brien has extensive other media interests in Ireland and has drawn some criticism that he controls too much, but compared to the O’Reilly clan and their relentless pursuits and vendettas in their newspapers down the decades, he is a paragon of hands-off ownership.

Tom Moran, Chairman and CEO of the insurance giant Mutual of America, who also serves as  chairman of Concern Worldwide U.S., had this to say: “Denis has deservedly received great recognition for his financial abilities and business success. But there aren’t enough words to truly express the generosity of his heart.  His attention to his philanthropic interests, including Concern Worldwide, may even exceed his focused attention to business. He has truly earned the riches of this world and the next!”  Wilbur Ross, himself a financial wizard who has invested in Bank of Ireland, praised O’Brien’s ability to face down challenges. “Denis has built a major telecom business despite the well known problems of the region it serves. This carries Irish resourcefulness and resiliency to new heights,” he said.

In the Caribbean, O’Brien and Digicel are seen as a godsend, raising the bar for everyone, with an emphasis on education. Digicel Foundation in Jamaica, set up in 2004, has a goal of 100 percent literacy by 2015. In Haiti it built 20 schools in its first year, and in Papua New Guinea it is building community-based learning centers and reaching children who would not otherwise have access to education.

One Jamaican homeowner I talked to said, “Denis O’Brien may be known as a communications giant but in Jamaica he’s known as a man who communicates with his heart.”

How does it feel to be named in a Time cover story by Bill Clinton as the person who has made the most difference to the world in the last year?

Well look, you know, it was extremely generous of him. It certainly doesn’t feel like that, because everybody is doing their bit in Haiti. There are so many people doing projects – small projects, big projects. There are thousands of people trying to help Haiti at the moment.

How did you come up with this idea of people being able to send money by cell phone?

They’ve been doing it in Africa for many years, but nobody has turned it into a commercial proposition yet. So we have four beta tests at the moment. Well, Haiti has gone beyond beta tests, but Haiti was the number one, and then Tonga, Papua New Guinea, and also Samoa.

Tell me about Bill Clinton.

[Laughs.] You know, his best snippet from last night was, “the weight of ants is more than the weight of human beings in the world today.” He was weaving this thing together… He always surprises, and he gets more and more interesting. And the Clinton Global Initiative is the real model. Everybody goes to CGI, and we all have a good chat and we head home. We learn a few things. But if you go to the CGI, number one you’re making a promise and you have to deliver on it. And what he’s done is he’s used all of his contacts around the world and he’s corralled them all to do something good.

His engagement in Ireland is critical. I mean, talk about having an ally. Think about all the countries in the world, there are two hundred and something – yet he’s a great advocate for Ireland. He has such a great mind.

He was Google before they invented Google, and he still is Google.

Why was Clinton so enamored of your idea?

Ninety-five percent of people are unbanked in Haiti. In Papua New Guinea it’s probably even more. So now for the first time people can have money, save money, without having to put cash under a bed or hide it somewhere. They have a pin code so nobody can access that cash and it’s totally secure.

Looking back, what was the moment when you said, “I’m going to go there, to the underdeveloped countries, the path not taken by so many others?”

It wasn’t really that brilliant, because if you see a country and only ten percent of the people have a mobile phone, while every other country in the world is at seventy-eighty percent – some are at one hundred – you know it’s going to go there, it’s going to go in that direction. It’s a matter of having the best combination of things in your proposition: a good network, good prices, and a good team and good marketing. So we just rolled out teams – mainly Irish people – who put this into effect in country after country. Now we have local managers, who we have trained up. So we probably have, worldwide, still about 200 senior Irish managers sprinkled all over our operations. Burma is like – there are only two million people who have cell phones there and about 63 million people in the country. So the only three places left in the world where phones are needed, where somebody needs to bring a network to them, are North Korea, Cuba and Myanmar [laughs]. That’s it!

What’s next?

I think, the next thing is this: If you take all our mobile phone customers, they’re all eventually going to go on the Internet, and many of them already have. We’ve built 4G networks in fifteen of our countries, and everybody now is buying smart phones. So it’s a completely different revenue stream.
And I’m sure in another few years there will be another major business opportunity that will be attached to a cell phone.

Let me ask you about the Irish diaspora. Do you think the potential is tapped in Ireland, or do you think people fully comprehend?

Well, do you know, I was so disappointed with the Institute of Directors when several Irish-American business leaders offered to serve on Irish boards and [an Irish] chief executive came out and said, “We do not need these people, you should be appointing people in Ireland who have expertise in Ireland to the boards, we don’t need people from the States.” And I thought, that is just such a closed mentality. You know, Ireland is globalized now and there are so many talented people in the diaspora who have something to contribute. You take a guy like Craig Barrett – you say Holy God, he is one of the iconic figures of the information age, CEO of Intel, and he’s the perfect guy to bring in your board. So why would you rule out the opportunity to bring in a Craig Barrett for any business in Ireland, any state-owned company?

In what other areas do you see the diaspora being helpful?

You know, there’s so many Irish Americans who have had a real experience of crisis – financial crisis or whatever. Many of them worked on Wall Street, many of them were in government, and it’s just a matter of tapping them.

Maybe it’s too late now because most of the steps have already been taken by the [Irish] government, but if you were back in 2008 again, you wouldn’t be ringing Merrill Lynch, you’d be ringing three or four Irish-American guys like Adrian Jones at Goldman Sachs who you’d have on a list as your crisis cabinet.

What do you see when you look at Ireland now?

I’m positive about Ireland. There’s recognition in Wall Street, and writers in the know on what is happening in Europe are saying Ireland has taken its medicine in a serious, serious way. You know, they’re still fighting away in Greece about what they’re going to do, whether it’s going to be eleven or twelve billion, and it’s really an academic argument at this stage about whether or not you’re going to do it. So Ireland has taken all its medicine. We’re well past the point of no return now, and we have been the model country in terms of handling our problems. Everybody else has done a bit but not enough, and you can never do enough in this area.

Do you ever look at something like the Forbes World’s Billionaires list, see your name on it and say, “Who’s this guy? How did I get here?”

[Laughs] Not really, not really, no.

Where does your acumen come from? Was it your parents?

You know, I’d like to think it comes from the farming background.

Buying and selling.

Right. Buying and selling. My father was born in Cork but my mother was born to a farming family in Armagh. My  father’s whole side of the family came from a small farming background, and I think that is where it comes from. City kids miss that. Going to the fair, looking at that whole thing of trade – when do you sell, when do you buy, the whole emotional intelligence. If you go to a mart you’ll learn an awful lot, it’s like a life’s education in a day.

Did you do that with your dad?

No, but I would have gone to Tandragee in Armagh and they had a chicken farm at that stage, so I understand “what’s the price this week for eggs” and so on. When I look at managers, some of our best new managers in Digicel come from Kerry; they come from country, hard livings.

And I look at kids today in, say Dublin, and they’re the 4×4 generation. They don’t have that toughness. I think physical toughness transfers into business and you become more resolute if you’ve had a harder upbringing. And, you know, now there’s probably no science to what I’m saying, but it’s just kind of my instinct. I listen to presentations in Digicel and these tough country guys are up there talking about what’s going on, and it might be a tough market, so you need these men. In fact, in some of our harder markets, we put the mountainy men in!

Where does your philanthropic gene come from?

Everybody in Ireland has a philanthropic gene. If you were raised in Ireland in the ’60s,  ’70s,  ’80s, everybody was collecting for something. There was always a tin somewhere. If you go into a shop in Ireland there are always at least three tins – there could be five in the west of Ireland.

Now that Chuck Feeney’s foundation is paying itself down  – what’s left when Atlantic Philanthropy leaves Ireland?

Philanthropy in Ireland is different to here. Here people do it for tax reasons and they do it because they feel good about it, and it’s very public. It’s a big-bang approach. In Ireland there are certain levels, like large-scale philanthropy, and then the next level down, but people don’t really advertise it. They’re not interested in getting a photo with a big check for a university or whatever.

I’m involved in fundraising for UCD. There’s an incredible amount of philanthropy that has supported UCD and the reforms that President Hugh Brady has made. It’s the same in Limerick [University], and it’s the same all over the country. So people say, “Oh, there isn’t much philanthropy in Ireland…” There is, but it’s quieter.

People in Ireland – some people here too – have the view that everything that is reported in the [Irish] media is overly negative.

Well, there’s a lot of hare coursing of people in Ireland. People in political life have made mistakes, but it’s just a constant, constant theme of chasing them, photographing them, following them, putting them on the front page. And that kind of negative journalism… I mean, look, people made mistakes. But they are also human beings. Remember that. I thought chasing Brian Cowen to some university in California was an appalling thing to do. He’s out of public life, he’s a private citizen. Leave him alone. That would be my view. So I think we need to stop it. And it’s mainly in the print media, and we need to move forward, Yes, in all of this there should be a light shone on it, but we can’t keep regurgitating the same negative personal stuff.

What’s the future of newspapers?

Integrating a parallel online business to your existing print business is where everybody has to go. We’re doing that in radio, we have to do it with newspapers in INM [Independent News & Media], from a very, very low base. So there’s a lot of effort to do that. The old board of INM just didn’t believe in the Internet, which is pretty startling when everything else is changing in the world. It’s like saying “oh, nobody is going to buy a smart phone tomorrow.” So that has to happen. It’s going to be a very painful process for INM for the next two or three years. And it may not get there. I’m a realist to think that the business has so many challenges, mainly from a banking point of view, that it may not… we’re at the mercy of our banks at the moment because we’ve too much leverage and a declining profitability profile. We have a new CEO that everybody believes in, we have a new chairman in Leslie Buckley, and you couldn’t get a better person, but my God, it’s going to be a huge struggle. We’re late into the field and now we’re doing what we should have done six or seven years ago. But look, it’s not all bad, and some great people work for INM, it’s just a “how do you turn a whole ship around and motor as quick as you can” story.

What needs to be done to improve Irish economic prospects?

What we need is more investment, especially on the SME side, with small businesses. How do you take medium sized businesses and turn them into multinationals? That is the key. And how can you persuade Irish entrepreneurs to hang in there, come to Wall Street, raise some money and keep going. How do you create the next multinational like Smurfit, Cappa, CRH, whoever the hell it is, out of Ireland? That’s the real trick here. And I know Enterprise Ireland [government agency responsible for helping Irish companies], it kills them to see Irish companies being sold, having nurtured them, the whole team working with businesses. And the other thing, if you take our relationship with the United States, we need to develop – and we’ll probably never develop the same relationship – but we need to develop a different kind of relationship towards China. And still I think that we need a minister for China. It could be a junior minister, but we need a minister for China and indeed a minister for the diaspora.

Denis O’Brien, thank you.

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The First Word: Share the Extraordinary https://irishamerica.com/2012/12/the-first-word-share-the-extraordinary/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/12/the-first-word-share-the-extraordinary/#respond Tue, 04 Dec 2012 10:22:28 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=14020 Read more..]]> “They are extraordinary. It boggles my mind that there are still good people like that in the world.”
– Jim O’Connor said of the Mormon missionaries who showed up in the Rockaways after Hurricane Sandy and are still helping with the clean-up. The Daily News. 

As we head into the holiday season and look forward to celebrating with family and friends, we are reminded of all the things we have to be thankful for.

I personally had a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving as I sat down with good friends for a wonderful dinner. I was grateful to have survived “Sandy.”

I live in Manhattan on the East River – a tidal strait that connects on both sides to the ocean. It was pretty scary when Hurricane Sandy hit and the river overflowed. The salt marks are still on the walls of the lower level of my apartment complex, the flood water having reached the first floor.

But other than being scared, and having the inconvenience of living without power for seven days, I was unscathed and physically the better for having to walk up and down fourteen flights of stairs every day.

One of the hardest hit areas was the Rockaways (see article on page 37).  These tight-knit Irish-American families of New York firemen and police officers are a bit skeptical of help from outsiders. They like to solve their own problems. But the enormity of the storm damage was overwhelming.

Among the first to arrive on the scene were a group of young Irish workers from Navillus Contracting, whose president, Donal O’Sullivan, is one of our Business 100 honorees.

Help also arrived from another surprising source. About 6,000 Mormon volunteers arrived from across the country to help with the recovery effort and were embraced by the community.

Rockaway has known more than its share of tragedy. The community lost 50 people on 9/11, many of them firefighters. You would think that this new tragedy would kill the spirit in the people, but it hasn’t.

The Irish in Rockaway have extraordinary resilience, and heart. As they struggled to rise again after 9/11, they reached out to help wounded soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. For eight years now, the community has hosted an annual Wounded Warrior Weekend – a four-day summer water sports festival. The soldiers stay with local families, and trained instructors teach them how to use water-skiing equipment that has been specially adapted for amputees, so that they can enjoy the freedom of the water. This past July, 52 wounded soldiers, 19 of whom were in wheelchairs (three were triple amputees and one was a quadruple amputee), took part in the festival.

“The Wounded Warrior project has helped us heal,” Flip Mullen, one of main organizers, said when I talked to him last summer. And when I contacted him after Sandy, he and his wife Rita sent back a message, saying,“Thank you for your concern. We are safe. Many homes were destroyed, but we are a faith-built community and we will rebuild the town we love so well.”

And I have no doubt that the Rockaway Irish will rebuild. They have shown what they are made of, and what people can do when they stick together. And, please God, by next July, they will be ready for those soldiers to descend on their beach again.

And as our own East Coast region moves forward with recovery efforts, let us not forget that the hurricane also left a trail of destruction in the Caribbean, causing millions of dollars of damage in Jamaica. The consequences for Haiti were even greater. Flooding killed 54 and left 200,000, already in temporary housing from the earthquake, homeless.

In this issue, we recognize the work of Denis O’Brien who received the Clinton Global Citizen Award for his work in Haiti. Denis is the Irish-born founder of Digicel, one of the largest cellular phone companies in the world. Since it set up shop in Jamaica in 2001, Digicel has become a godsend to the people of the Caribbean, especially Haiti, where the work that it has done post-earthquake has been phenomenal.

Digicel’s slogan is “Share the Extraordinary.”

More than anything, Hurricane Sandy has shown us that there are many ordinary human beings who, in times of need, prove to be quite extraordinary.

Mortas Cine.

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Abbey Theatre Archives Go Digital https://irishamerica.com/2012/12/abbey-theatre-archives-go-digital/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/12/abbey-theatre-archives-go-digital/#respond Tue, 04 Dec 2012 15:21:51 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=14012 Read more..]]> Dublin’s renowned Abbey Theatre and the National University of Ireland Galway announced an unprecedented digital archive partnership on October 22.

The collaboration, which is the largest digital theater project ever undertaken, will entail the digitization of the  1.8 million items in the Abbey’s archives. The range of artifacts includes posters, programs and photographs, lighting plans, set and costume designs, sound cues, and historic audio recordings.

The earliest item in the archive, an 1894 poster of the first production of W.B. Yeats’ The Land of Heart’s Desire at the Avenue Theatre in London, predates the theater’s founding but is hugely significant as a testament to Yeats’ ambition to present Irish theatre outside of Ireland. Another gem reveals that Éamon De Valera took part in the Abbey’s 1905 production of A Christmas Hamper.

Dr. Jim Browne, President of NUI Galway said that the project would “see NUI Galway bring the most advanced digital technology to bear on one of the country’s most historic theatre archives,” and added that the project was based on “an awareness of the importance of the Abbey Theatre for the social, cultural and economic history of this country.”

The project began in September and will continue at the Galway campus’s James Hardiman Library over the course of three to four years, bringing together the university’s top researchers, students and archivists.

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A “Legenderry” Year in Northern Ireland https://irishamerica.com/2012/12/a-legenderry-year-in-northern-ireland/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/12/a-legenderry-year-in-northern-ireland/#respond Tue, 04 Dec 2012 10:21:44 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=14016 Read more..]]> “Let it be Legenderry” is the phrase being coined by the Derry-Londonderry 2013 City of Culture initiative, a year-long celebration of the Northern Irish city.

There has been a flurry of activity about Derry ever since it won the first-ever UK City of Culture title, for which it competed against 54 cities in the United Kingdom. The result was announced in 2010, and the famous walled city has been busy preparing ever since. Culture Company 2013, an independent group formed in partnership with Derry City Council, Ilex Urban Regeneration Company and the Strategic Investment Board, is planning the program.

Though the initiative’s official name, Derry-Londonderry City of Culture, points to the social, political and religious divisions still to be navigated, the opportunity for the city to show all that it has to offer is a clear indication of how far it has come from the days when its name was most closely associated with The Troubles and Bloody Sunday.

Throughout 2013, the city will host an array of events. Derry is known for its rich musical heritage, and the City of Culture website promises that “the city will be overrun with musical talent.”  Phil Coulter will return to his hometown on June 15 to perform with the Ulster Orchestra. There will also be a 10-day (August 11-18) All Ireland Fleadh, the world’s largest Irish festival, brought by Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann.

For theater lovers, Brian Friel and Stephen Rea’s Field Day company will return to Derry with a new work by American playwright Sam Shepard. From May 19 -25 a festival will mark the 80th anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s landing in a Derry field, with over 40 events to celebrate the pilot’s legacy. Derry will also host the World GAA Congress from March 22-24.

In anticipation of the year ahead, Lonely Planet guidebooks named Derry fourth in its list of the top ten cities to visit in 2013.

Visit www.cityofculture2013.com for further information.

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The Last Word: Enough Sitting on the Fence https://irishamerica.com/2012/12/the-last-word-enough-sitting-on-the-fence/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/12/the-last-word-enough-sitting-on-the-fence/#respond Tue, 04 Dec 2012 10:20:27 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=14004 Read more..]]> The young Indian dentist who died in Galway when doctors refused to terminate her pregnancy even though she was carrying a non-viable fetus has sparked protests all over Ireland, with citizens calling for the government to consider the life of the mother in such cases. 

Dear Taoiseach,

I have never before ‘made representations’ to my TD on any matter, and I must confess that up to now I have found the very idea to be ludicrous, and I have no truck with those who contact political offices for help with allowances or out-of-date passports. Like almost everybody else in the country, I have at times despaired at the financial mess we are in and I am infuriated by the injustice of watching my pay packet being raided while bankers continue to receive massive payouts and politicians receive unvouched expenses. But I have never voiced an official complaint.

I have paid my household charge, hold a television license, both household cars are taxed and insured, and my husband and I regularly volunteer on committees relating to our childrens’ activities and schooling. We have made, and continue to make, every effort to raise our children to be part of a new generation of respectful and hard-working Irish citizens. I know some or all of them are probably destined to leave the country at some point, but as a former resident of the US, I don’t believe this to be a terrible outcome – emigration can be a wonderful thing.

In short, I tolerate a lot. Yes, I give out, and shout at my television, but I don’t join protest marches or write to my TDs demanding this, that or the other. But Taoiseach, that changes here. The untimely and tragic death of Savita Halappanavar is altogether a step too far in what purports to be a civilized country, one which values life.

Ten years ago, on March 6, 2002, I gave birth to my second child, a beautiful boy. Later that evening, with permission from my doctor, I left my hospital bed to cast my pro-choice vote in the referendum. Very luckily for me, abortion has never been something I’ve had to worry about, but the difficult business of birthing, and the even more challenging business of child-rearing made it clear to me that I could never preach to another woman about her choices.

It seems to me that while Ireland has the easy option of England on the doorstep, politicians would be happy to just let things lie, in order to avoid the wrath of such vocal lobbyists as the so-called pro-life groups. But the rallies held this week in Dublin, Cork and Galway should surely indicate to you – our legislators – that we have had ENOUGH.

Enough sitting on the fence, enough shaming ourselves in the eyes of the world, enough refusing to tackle the difficult issues, and enough allowing the Catholic Church to dictate our civil laws. The Church had control of this country for long enough and look where that got us.

So please, Taoiseach, grasp the bull firmly by the horns here. It’s time to sort out this abortion mess, for once and for all. Let us show our daughters that this is a country which values their freedom of choice. My eight-year-old daughter Zoe recently showed you around her school’s willow garden when you visited Snugboro N.S. She was a combustible mix of nerves and excitement in the lead-up to her big moment, but greatly enjoyed the day. She may be young, but she is already starting to think deeply about things, asks many questions about the way in which the world works, and like most children has an innate sense of fairness and justice. I do not relish having to explain to her the workings of a country that would not listen to a dying woman’s plea for help.

I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of pride as we saw images of you, just days after your appointment as Taoiseach, with President Obama in the White House on St. Patrick’s Day. It  rather surprised me, that sense of pride, as I always saw being Irish (or any other nationality) as a condition of birth rather than something to get puffed up about. Perhaps it came from our shared Castlebar roots, or maybe it was because I felt that we were ushering in a new political era in Ireland – a welcome change from the corruption and greed of the preceding years. For whatever reason, at that moment, I felt very proud to be Irish. Reading about the death of Savita Halappanavar this week, I felt nothing but shame.

I realize that the Irish electorate is not always deserving of being asked to determine such crucial issues – particularly after the disastrous turnout for the Children’s referendum – but this is a key issue that has long stalked our country and will continue to do so until we tackle it.

As one who was disenfranchised for six years while living in the U.S., I have never shirked my voting responsibilities, and have regularly brought my children to the ballot box with me in order to demonstrate to them the importance of voting when they are old enough.

The death of Savita Halappanavar, and the way in which you and your Cabinet respond to it, is something that will weigh heavily on my mind the next time I have occasion to vote in a general election.

Yours, in hope,

Darina Molloy, Castlebar, Co. Mayo

Darina Molloy is a former Assistant Editor of this magazine.

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Dáil Survey Shows Positive Attitude Towards Immigrants https://irishamerica.com/2012/12/dail-survey-shows-positive-attitude-towards-immigrants/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/12/dail-survey-shows-positive-attitude-towards-immigrants/#respond Tue, 04 Dec 2012 10:19:00 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=14008 Read more..]]> It’s an issue of significant division within the US government, but a recent survey of Irish elected officials found largely positive attitudes towards reforms that would benefit immigrants living in Ireland. The survey, led by international research agency Millward Brown, polled a sampling of 71 Irish TDs (the elected officials of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish Parliament) via phone. Over half said that they had personally addressed the issue of immigrant rights in the Dáil since 2011, and another 7 percent said they intended to do so in the future.

When it came to education, 82 percent agreed that if the children of immigrants had already completed second-level education in Ireland, they shouldn’t have to pay international fees for third-level education. In addition, the survey noted the TDs’ support of diversifying and expanding school curriculum to reflect Ireland’s increased range of faith and culture.

More than half of the participants indicated support for allowing asylum-seekers to work while waiting for their visas, and 65 percent said they were in favor of fast-tracking the visa process for qualified immigrants.

The main point of contention concerned the question of which government body should oversee immigration issues.  Thirty-eight percent agreed that the Minister for Justice should have the final say on citizenship approvals, while another 38 percent disagreed. Killian Forde, CEO of The Integration Centre, an NGO that advocates the integration of immigrants into Irish society, told the Irish Times that this division spoke to “a gap between the local authorities and national government on the issue of integration.”

Seventy-five percent of the TDs agreed that immigrants will be crucial in Ireland’s path to economic recovery.

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Maureen O’Hara: From Santa to St. Patrick https://irishamerica.com/2012/12/maureen-ohara-from-santa-to-st-patrick/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/12/maureen-ohara-from-santa-to-st-patrick/#respond Tue, 04 Dec 2012 10:17:19 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=14000 Read more..]]> The movie Miracle on 34th Street won’t be the only place Maureen O’Hara will shine this Christmas season. Bean Ui Dhombnaill, a school-teacher from Donacarney National School in County Meath, decided to compile a series of children’s bilingual books and CDs of Irish folklore. These books will retell the great stories like those of Cuchulainn, Fionn Mac Cumhaill, and the Children of Lir.

Her first story is about St. Patrick and her idea blossomed further when she decided that Maureen O’Hara, legendary actress and native Dubliner, would be the perfect narrator. Much to Bean’s surprise, Ms. O’Hara cheerfully accepted the assignment.   Bean said, “There wasn’t a dry eye in the house” as she recited St. Patrick’s Prayer. “She was wonderful!”

Maureen’s narration of the St. Patrick story for the CD is in English and the Irish version is narrated by Prof. Alan Titley of the University of College Cork. There are ten books in the series and along with the CDs will be published by Irish Folklore Publications. Bean Ui Dhombnaill is negotiating with other Irish acting legends to narrate the remaining nine stories. The books will be available in bookshops and from Amazon.

Even today, with the Internet, websites, and social networks Maureen O’Hara remains tremendously popular. Fans still love Miracle on 34th Street.” When we spoke recently, Maureen said, “I also love it!” After all, Maureen, herself is from a large family and very sentimental about Christmas. She has always embraced the warm values the movie portrayed. She also adored her costars in the film, and has special memories of all of them. John Payne, who played her romantic lead, was a frequent co-star and good friend, as well.

Edmund Gwenn, who played Kris Kringle, was “a sweetheart. By the end of the movie, I think he really believed he was Santa Claus and so did we!” Perhaps the fondest memory she has of Gwenn was that he was “always good to chat with.”

Maureen also loves talking about Natalie Wood, who during the making of Miracle on 34th Street bestowed on Miss O’Hara the endearing nickname “Mama Maureen.”  Maureen describes young Natalie as a polite, normal, happy girl, “a real sweetheart,” with a very nice mother. She also revealed that during the making of the film little Natalie still believed in Santa Claus.

Another great Christmas holiday venture for Maureen was the made-for-TV movie A Christmas Box in 1998. Without question, Maureen can light up a frame of film like no one else at any age, and The Christmas Box is no exception. She was then 78 years old. There are many things that bring us the spirit of Christmas, but Maureen O’Hara’s presence in this film remains a very special gift to her fans.

Whether reading Irish folklore, starring in Christmas classics or enjoying a Christmas phone call from her family, the Christmas holiday is clearly very close to Maureen’s heart. When asked what her favorite Christmas food is, she replied, “All of them!”

Maureen has now returned to the U.S., and resides near her grandson, Conor FitzSimons, his wife and two children in Boise, Idaho. She is a strong believer in family, hard work, and simple kindness. Clearly, with these values as her guide, the warmth she has displayed in all her films is no surprise.  No wonder she’s one of the world’s favorites during the Holidays.

When she appeared on the Johnny Carson show in 1991, Johnny asked what it was like to be in all these timeless classics.  The always feisty O’Hara quipped, “When I’m nailed into the box and long gone, you’ll still be seeing [Miracle on 34th Street] every Christmas and The Quiet Man on St. Paddy’s Day.”

INSTRUCTIONS FOR OBTAINING AUTOGRAPH:

Send only one photo for autograph to Maureen O’Hara (she does not provide photos)
PO Box 667 – Eagle, Idaho 83616
Include a self-addressed stamped envelope for return of the photo. Any further questions email June Beck at momagazine@gmail.com.
DO NOT SEND BOOKS FOR AUTOGRAPH.

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Irish Eye on Hollywood https://irishamerica.com/2012/12/irish-eye-on-hollywood-26/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/12/irish-eye-on-hollywood-26/#comments Tue, 04 Dec 2012 10:16:54 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=13996 Read more..]]> The latest with your favorite Irish and Irish-American film and television stars.

1. Irish actor Chris O’Dowd is among the stars of Judd Apatow’s latest comedy This is 40, to be released December 21.  O’Dowd (Bridesmaids, Friends With Kids) plays the annoying pal of Apatow regular Paul Rudd in this film, which has been described as a “sort of sequel” to the mega-smash new-parents flick Knocked Up.  This time around, Apatow is exploring the jam-packed lives of fortysomething parents. As their children grow up, their parents grow old and their jobs demand more time, Rudd and co-star Leslie Mann play a married couple trying to stay sane – and married. The Sligo-born O’Dowd (apparently holding on to his accent, at least to judge by the film’s trailer) plays Apatow’s carefree, stoner friend.

2. Chris O’Dowd will also be appearing with actress Kelly Reilly and a host of other Irish talent in 2013’s Calvary.  The red-headed Reilly earned raves this fall in the thriller Flight, starring alongside Denzel Washington. Reilly (born Jessica Kelly Siobhán Reilly) has slowly and steadily been building an impressive Hollywood career, recently appearing alongside Robert Downey Jr. in both of the mega-hit Sherlock Holmes films.  Reilly’s next role will team her up with numerous fellow Irish actors. (Reilly’s grandparents emigrated from Ireland to England.) After locking lips with Denzel in Flight, Reilly is next slated to appear in Calvary which will also star the aforementioned Chris O’Dowd as well as Brendan Gleeson. Calvary is about a priest who listens to a potentially dangerous confession and then goes on the run. Calvary – slated to be released next year – was written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, who also worked with Brendan Gleeson in the film The Guard. McDonagh is the brother of acclaimed playwright Martin McDonagh.

3. Also in time for Christmas, there’s Ed Burns’ Long Island Irish dramedy The Fitzgerald Family Christmas (see interview on page 92). And another member of the Gleeson clan – Brendan’s son Domhnall – will star in the latest big screen version of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel Anna Karenina. Gleeson co-stars with Jude Law and Keira Knightley.

4. And one final bit of Gleeson family news: Domhnall and fellow Irish actor Michael Fassbender have both signed on to star in a comedy about rock musicians entitled Frank. Fassbender plays the eccentric title character, a rock star who recruits an up-and-coming player (Gleeson) for his band. The film was written by Jon Ronson, whose book The Men Who Stare At Goats was made into a film by Irish-American hunk George Clooney.

5. The BBC may be asking for trouble on this one.

Last summer, some people grumbled when BBC America announced plans that they would be airing Copper, a series about the Famine-era Irish in New York City. Some feared the renowned British broadcasting giant would resurrect anti-Irish stereotypes. However, most critics agreed Copper was a fair depiction of the era, and a second season is planned.

But the BBC is wading into more controversial waters now that it has announced plans to develop a series based on the mystery novels of acclaimed Irish writer John Banville, writing under his pseudonym Benjamin Black.

Currently titled Quirke, the series will star Dublin native Gabriel Byrne. Set in 1950s Dublin, the books feature Quirke as a brooding figure who runs the city morgue. Given the access this position grants Quirke to dead bodies, it should be no surprise to learn that he gets caught up in murder investigations from time to time.

Thus far, this may seem none too controversial. But John Banville has had some tough words for the era in which his Quirke novels are set.

Last year, Banville told the editor of The New York Times Book Review that Ireland in the fifties “was a time of great secrecy. We were in the clutch of the Catholic Church. The church for us was what the Communist party was for Eastern Europe. We only discovered this when we got older, how unfree we were. And everything was hidden, as we have discovered, to our horror, in the past five or 10 years.”

It’s one thing for an Irish Catholic to say such things. Will the venerable BBC explore such controversial terrain? Or will they focus simply on the steamy streets and the bloody murders? Time will tell. Byrne is set to start filming Quirke soon, and the series is expected to air on BBC next year.  No word yet as to whether or not the series will cross the pond and be shown on BBC America.

6. In another Irish broadcasting controversy, Downton Abbey’s Irish-born actor Allen Leech recently defended the show’s exploration of Irish rebellion. Leech plays Irish chauffeur Tom Branson in the hit series.

Some viewers were offended in one episode this past season when the Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith) referred to an Irish character as a “drunken gorilla.”
Other not-so-nice things have been uttered about the Irish and the Catholic Church since another Downton character has decided to raise his child as a Catholic.

Leech defended the series and its use of anti-Irish sentiment.

“You have to remember that, at that time, in England, that’s actually how the Irish were depicted,” Leech told Ireland’s Herald newspaper. “Ireland is pretty much to the fore in this series. I think it opens a dialogue in relation to what actually did happen and makes people realize what Ireland was going through at the time.”

He added: “I think Branson shows how passionate people can be in relation to their own country and he’s passionate about everything he does, be it in going after a woman or his pleas for his country. It’s great that it brings Ireland’s history to a whole new audience.”

Leech will be seen in an upcoming thriller called In Fear and will star alongside Irish American star John Cusack in another future film called Grand Piano.

7. Irish American actor / director Thomas McCarthy – whose indy film hits include The Station Agent and The Visitor – has reportedly signed on to direct a film which is sure to kick up yet more controversy in Catholic circles: a drama chronicling the Church’s cover-up of rampant child abuse allegations in the U.S. “This is a story that feels like it has to be told,” McCarthy told the Boston Globe, which is widely credited for uncovering the extent of abuse allegations. The paper’s coverage will serve as the basis for McCarthy’s film.

Among the revelations published in the Globe: Cardinal Bernard Law had covered up abuse by shuffling accused priests from one parish to another. Many of the same priests were later again accused of abuse. Law, meanwhile, was granted a post in the Vatican. The shockwaves in Boston unleashed a wave of revelations in parishes all across America.

McCarthy is a New Jersey native who, aside from writing and directing, has appeared in many TV shows and films, including Little Fockers and Michael Clayton. He also played the corrupt journalist Scott Templeton in the celebrated HBO series The Wire.

8. Speaking of Irish American cable TV stars, Mad Man John Slattery is slated to star in an upcoming film In Our Nature.  Slattery’s character brings his much younger girlfriend (Gabrielle Union) to his family’s cabin in upstate New York, where he happens upon his estranged son (Zach Gilford from Friday Night Lights), who had a similar weekend planned with his girlfriend (Jenna Malone). Father and son have many issues to work out, though it’s not likely Slattery, in real life, would go too deep into therapeutic chit chat. Slattery told Vanity Fair in 2009: “I grew up Irish Catholic in Boston and there was a mentality that was, you know, don’t whinge about it. Just get on with it. You got a problem? Figure it out.”

9. In TV news, the Irish are coming and going on CBS. First, Las Vegas is turning into Little Ireland. The CBS crime show starring Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis also features Dublin-born star Jason O’Mara as well as Irish American actors Michael Reilly Burke and Michael O’Neill. And finally, Jersey City Irish American Susan Flannery is leaving the CBS soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful after 25 years.

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Galway University Dinner a Smashing Success https://irishamerica.com/2012/12/galway-university-dinner-a-smashing-success/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/12/galway-university-dinner-a-smashing-success/#respond Tue, 04 Dec 2012 10:15:51 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=13992 Read more..]]> On Thursday, November 1, the National University of Ireland, Galway hosted its 6th annual Gala Dinner at the Metropolitan Club in New York City.  This year’s event honored two graduates: Michael P. Higgins, Galway graduate, 1982 and managing director of Real Estate Finance, CIBC World Markets, and Academy Award-winning actress and honorary Galway graduate Anjelica Huston. The evening also featured a special performance by internationally acclaimed singer Moya Brennan of Clannad.

Proceeds from the event will support the Huston School of Film & Digital Media at NUI, Galway, which was established in 2003 under the active patronage of the family of film director John Huston, who called Galway home for more than two decades.

Anjelica Huston, who spent many of her early years in Galway where her father, film director John Huston had a house for 20 years, was gracious in her acceptance speech acknowledging how having her father’s archives at Galway meant that she always had a piece of home in Ireland.

Sean Lane, a Galway graduate, now a partner at U.S. Trust, talked about how Michael P. Higgins had served as a mentor when he was first starting out in the financial industry, advising him to be direct and always give your client your best price. Higgins in turn, talked about how his Irish heritage had stood by him over the years, especially that Irish ability to “keep on keeping on.”

Moya Brennan and Clannad, fresh off a tour of the U.S., held the crowd in raptures with songs such as “The Lass of Aughrim,” the song that featured in John Huston’s last movie The Dead (from Joyce’s short story), while Anjelica Huston, who starred in the movie along with Donal McCann, mouthed the words to herself. Huston, now starring in the TV series Smash, was one of the last to leave the dinner and professed that she had had “a grand time.”

There was a particular celebratory note to the occasion, as those assembled had safely come through Hurricane Sandy which had struck just 48 hours before the event.
Dr. Jim Browne, president of NUI Galway, said, “Despite the enormous challenges posed by Hurricane Sandy, our dinner was at capacity, with many of our guests traveling great distances and under very difficult conditions to be with us. Our friends and graduates closer to home left their darkened houses in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey to show their support for NUI Galway. It was a very special evening.”

Past honorees of the Annual Galway Gala in New York City include Gabriel Byrne; President Bill Clinton; chairman of the American Ireland Fund Loretta Brennan Glucksman; singer/songwriter Paul Brady; Galway graduate and vice president of the Coca-Cola Company, Irial Finan; and managing director of Goldman Sachs, Adrian Jones, also a Galway alumnus.

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