June July 2002 Issue – Irish America https://irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine Mon, 15 Jul 2019 20:00:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 82361074 A Beautiful Success https://irishamerica.com/2002/06/a-beautiful-success/ https://irishamerica.com/2002/06/a-beautiful-success/#respond Sat, 01 Jun 2002 08:00:54 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=43685 Read more..]]> After 22 movies Jennifer Connelly is an overnight success. Penelope Dening talks to the winner of the Best Supporting actress academy Award.

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A blur of bodies block the corridor, voices muffled to a hum by carpets thick as fur. At the center a slight figure in black (spike-heeled boots, leather trousers, off-the shoulder lace) extricates herself and moves towards me. Like a painting by Georges de la Tour her face glows with a luminosity that defies available light.

“Thank you, but I’ll be fine,” Jennifer Connelly murmurs, brushing aside a minder’s offer to sit in on the interview.

Of course she’ll be fine. A heavy cold that went to her chest had prevented her from fulfilling a punishing press schedule the day before. But today she’s back on track. Because, although few outside Hollywood knew her name until the recent round of award nominations for A Beautiful Mind, Connelly is no Jenny-come-lately to the showbiz game. With 22 films under her belt she has the self-possession of someone who understands the rules but knows that they need not necessarily apply to her.

Jennifer Connelly arrives at the 8th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, March, 2002, in Los Angeles.

Now 31, Jennifer Connelly first flirted with the camera when she was ten. (“McCall’s pattern books, Butterick and these silly things with patent leather shoes and my hair in a little ribbon.”) Two years later a sharp-eyed casting director spotted her resemblance to Elizabeth McGovern and cast her as the young McGovern in Sergio Leone’s immigrant-Mafiosi epic Once Upon a Time in America where she danced her way into movie myth for no other reason than she wanted to go to Italy.

Not a bad reason for a bright child already being hot-housed at a school for gifted children in Brooklyn Heights (the curriculum included Mandarin in sixth grade). Later choices proved less astute, however — films that have famously been described as either regrettable or forgettable. When I suggest that The Hot Shot, a steamy thriller starring Don Johnson — her first role as an adult — probably fell into both categories, she laughs.

“At least that film could have been good. It was directed by Dennis Hopper, and Dennis can be interesting and is a great photographer, so visually it has its moments. And it had a great soundtrack, John Lee Hooker, Miles Davis, Taj Mahal.” More defensive laughter. “Look, I was 18 and a particular kind of 18-year-old. I made choices for different reasons at different times. Like because I wanted to go to Italy when I was thirteen, or because I particularly liked an actor and wanted to work with that actor and didn’t spend enough time thinking about the director. I’ve made choices for different reasons and I’ve learnt from all those choices over the years.”

At the British Academy Film Awards in London, Feb., 2002.

In spite of the bitty education of a child actor (Connelly continued to make at least one film a year while still at school), she exceeded all expectations and after graduating from high school, enrolled at Yale, an experience that without doubt informs her Beautiful Mind performance as the Ph.D student who falls in love with her professor.

Yet Connelly doubts that her college education had any great impact on her performance. “I did have the memories of being in college and how that works. But as I get older I think that everything you do impacts your work, there’s that much more to draw upon.”

Jennifer Connelly’s casting in A Beautiful Mind was in part triggered by her physical resemblance to the wife of John Nash, the genius mathematician on whose life the film is based. Nash overcame schizophrenia and went on to win the Nobel Prize for Economic Science. Photographs of the young Alicia Nash display the same classic beauty. But the similarities go much deeper than that.

“I wanted to meet her before we started working. I went out to New Jersey where she works and sat down and had lunch with her. Alicia was at MIT in the 1950s. Her intelligence was far superior to mine. She was an outsider just by being a woman studying physics. It was much more extraordinary for her to be studying physics at MIT than it was for me to have been at Yale studying what I was studying. Because of her exuberance and vivacity, she was somehow able to bridge that gap for him and re-engage him in the world. But she made enormous sacrifices to help him.

Jennifer makes her acceptance speech at the Golden Globe Awards.
Courtesy of HPFA

“The challenge is to survive that. How do you preserve something of. your own so you don’t turn into a martyr?”

What Connelly undoubtedly brings to the part is a sharp intelligence.

Her research involved trying to understand Nash’s work. “I tried to read his papers on game theory and I had copies of all his work sent to me and I diligently tried to make my way through that. But it’s math of an entirely different language for me. So I tried to grasp some of the concepts but I could only go so far.”

Few actors could even begin to understand the complexities of Nash’s work, but it turns out Connelly already had an interest in quantum physics.

“I was very interested in physics when I was younger and I had thought that when I got to college I would major in physics. Yale is quite a rigorous university and I soon realized that I was not going to change the world with my aptitude in physics and that we would be no more enlightened because of my presence. It was on a whole different level from high school physics and although it was fascinating, I struggled with it more than the other kids.”

After a year’s slog she switched to English. Another year on and she moved to Stanford, adding Drama to the mix. She never graduated. It didn’t seem relevant, she says.

Jennifer with her award at the 74th annual Academy Awards, March 2002. In Los Angeles.

“By the time I graduated high school I’d done a number of movies already and I took it for granted that that’s what I did, without having consciously made the choice that that’s what I wanted to be, just because it seemed to be going that way. I think I saw college as my own personal time — not for vocational purposes, just for my own edification.”

She remains a voracious reader. As her name would suggest, Connelly is of Irish ancestry. Her great-grandparents on her father’s side were born in Ireland — Cork, she thinks, though no one is entirely sure.

Her mother’s family is Russian/Polish. Her father has never been to Ireland and she is determined to bring him soon, together with her four-year old son, Kai.

“A number of years ago, I was doing a press tour and Dublin was the last city and I just rearranged things, rented a car, drove west and stayed for about a month, just kicking around. I remember thinking at the time, I could live here. It was hauntingly beautiful.” While in Ireland she launched herself into a rigorous reading program. Joyce (“Ulysses is one of my all-time favorite works”), poetry and Synge.

As we talk she is suddenly reminded of a curious encounter on a path on Great Blasket Island off the Dingle peninsula. “So I’m walking along and I’m reading — I think it was a book of plays by Synge — and this man comes over to me and says, `What are you reading?’ `Synge.’ `Oh wonderful, wonderful.’ And he talks to me. And he’s just a man walking along a path.

“And then he walks off. A little bit further down someone says to me, `That was the prime minister.’ Just a man on an island, on his own. It was fantastic.”

The birth of her son Kai (the name means ocean in Hawaiian) brought not only a sea change to her personal life but to her career as well.

“Everything has changed since I had my son and I don’t think it’s coincidental. Because I started so young, there was never a moment where I said `I want to be an actor, this is what I want to do with my life.’ When I did Once Upon a Time in America it wasn’t as if I had studied, or had aspirations or even watched a lot of movies — none of it. I was like any kid: hanging out, climbing trees — so I kind of slid into it. People kept giving me movies and I kept doing movies. I questioned other things, questioned my school work and whatnot, but not that responsibility of making films. I became on the one hand superficially mature — because I was aware of the responsibility — but on the other hand deeply stunted, because I was shy and wanted to do well and make everyone happy. It was a very peculiar way to grow up. Spiritually and emotionally it was very limiting. I don’t think that I became a teenager until I was in my twenties. I don’t think I really started to evaluate who was giving these performances, and who was doing this work until I was in my twenties. And then I had to, as it were, re-choose it.

A scene from the film with Australian actor Russell Crowe who was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance as John Nash.

“For someone with a personality like mine, working over those years turns you into a bit of a puppet: people telling you how to be, what to do, how to speak. And me trying to please them all.”

The intensity of the emotions that engulf Connelly in her role of the wife of a schizophrenic are more akin to that of a mother than of a lover. That she is able to inhabit this ambivalent emotional landscape, she says, is directly connected to the birth of her son. Mothering him, she says, enabled her to learn to mother herself and opened herself to a far greater range of emotional possibilities than she had thought possible before.

“So I feel connected to the movies that I have done in the last four years in a way that I don’t to anything else I’ve done, really. There are things I like about certain movies that I did before with filmmakers like Sergio Leone who I have immense respect for and Jim Henson [Labyrinth, Henson’s fairy tale co-starring David Bowie, which she made in 1986]. But as far as my contribution is concerned, I feel it’s like looking back at very old photographs of yourself where you can recognize features but beyond that it’s like `What was going on?'”

The films that helped transform Connelly’s career were Inventing the Abbots (produced by Ron Howard who directed A Beautiful Mind), Waking the Dead and Requiem for a Dream, in which Connelly gives a brave and harrowing performance as a Coney Island heroin addict.

This last in particular reassured Hollywood backers that she had the weight to balance Russell Crowe’s charged screen presence, and the recent Academy Award nomination shows that their trust was not misplaced.

Connelly brings to the role a powerful vulnerability and, equally important, a quality of stillness — the perfect foil for Crowe’s unavoidably showy performance as the prickly genius himself.

Jennifer as Alicia Nash in A Beautiful Mind.

As for the actor’s reputation as a similarly difficult character, Jennifer pauses. Dishonesty you sense is not a game she is prepared to play. “He’s extremely challenging,” she says. “Rehearsals were very exhilarating. We’d go in, up-end the scenes, talk about everything, question everything and put it back together. He didn’t take anything for granted. But all in all we had a great working relationship.”

The story of the long-serving actor finally getting critical acclaim is not as rare as it once was: Think of Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson and Jim Broadbent in Britain, George Clooney and Sharon Stone in the States. And the late bloomer has huge advantages, Jennifer Connelly believes, in terms of coping with and ultimately avoiding the downside of megastardom.

“One of the perks of having been around and seen so much for so long is that I’ve seen a lot of what’s on offer. And I have things in my life that are just as important to me, more important to me — my family, my health, my peace of mind — that I am fiercely protective of.”

Although she no longer lives with Kai’s father — David Dugan a photographer — she continues to live in Greenwich Village in order that her son and his father can remain in close contact. Her son comes with her whenever it seems appropriate — although she has always given him the option to stay at home to be close to his friends and to his father.

“So I feel I am safeguarded by those things and by my support system that I have always had with me: my family and my friends that I have had for fifteen years and who don’t have anything to do with this business and who couldn’t care less.”

The greatest reward of success for Jennifer Connelly, she says, would be a wider choice of roles. This for her is the “ultimate goal.”

“I really like to work now. I really enjoy what I do. Finally. It’s a passion. I feel blessed to do what I do and I feel like it’s just the beginning and I have so much more to learn, so if it gets me more interesting projects with more people who I can learn from, then I’m thrilled. The ultimate goal isn’t to be famous, the ultimate goal is to work on stuff that matters.” ♦

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Shortly after this interview Connelly went on to win the Academy Award for her role in A Beautiful Mind.

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The Fist Word: A Touch of the Poet https://irishamerica.com/2002/06/the-fist-word-a-touch-of-the-poet/ https://irishamerica.com/2002/06/the-fist-word-a-touch-of-the-poet/#respond Sat, 01 Jun 2002 07:59:14 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=43714 Read more..]]> By standing shoulder to shoulder, hope for the future will triumph over the hurt of the past.”

– President of Ireland, Mary McAleese

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We were delighted to see Jennifer Connelly (cover story) take home the Oscar for her performance in A Beautiful Mind. Connelly is not only a beautiful star, but she’s also a hell of an actress with a great mind. In this interview with Penelope Dening, she talks about her time at Yale, her trip to Ireland and her fascination with Irish literature.

Of course, it would have been a double-header for the Irish if Russell Crowe had won the best actor award, him having Irish ancestors, but that didn’t happen.

Crowe, who starred as Connelly’s husband, schizophrenic mathematician John Nash, did, however, receive BAFTA’s Best Actor Award (the British Academy Awards). In his acceptance speech, the Australian actor was moved to quote Irish poet Patrick’s Kavanagh’s poem “Sanctity”:

“To be a poet and not know the trade,/To be a lover and repel all women;/Twin ironies by which great saints are made,/The agonizing pincer-jaws of heaven.”

Unfortunately, in the televised broadcast of the awards, the poem was cut, which caused Crowe to lose his temper and rough up the program’s director, Malcolm Gerrie.

How had Crowe happened upon the Kavanagh poem? Was it through the auspices of the Irish Christian Brothers who are big educators in Australia? As it turns out, it was Irish-born actor Richard Harris who had given Crowe the poem. (Harris worked with Crowe on Gladiator, for which Crowe did win the Academy Award in 2001).

Methinks Kavanagh, who died in 1967, would have gotten a great kick out of the ruckus and the subsequent international media coverage which has renewed interest in the Monaghan man’s poetry.

The fiasco is surely worthy of a William Kennedy novel. His latest book, Roscoe, as with his previous works “acknowledges the absurd imperfection of human beings.” It is, as Pete Hamill reflects in his review, “a very Irish attitude created by the high-minded hypocrisies of generations of British rulers.”

Kennedy, as his interview with Tom Deignan attests, is foremost an American writer, yet the world he creates, peopled as it is with Irish-American characters — those hardscrabble descendants of Famine immigrants — is very Irish.

The author of such works as Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game and Legs joined Arthur Miller, Studs Terkel, and others on stage at Lincoln Center recently to pay tribute to another great American writer with Irish roots, John Steinbeck. Through Kennedy I met the author’s son, Tom Steinbeck, who fondly recalled the trip to Ireland he made with his father, written about in this issue by Jim Dwyer.

It is something how Ireland can continue to influence its sons and daughters generations removed from its shores. As John Steinbeck said, “Irish blood doesn’t water down very well; the strain must be very strong.”

“I am American but when I write Ireland liberates me,” Tom Flanagan once said in an interview with Irish America. Sadly, Flanagan passed away last March, soon after attending St. Partick’s Day festivities in New York City. Poet Seamus Heaney wrote an elegant eulogy of his friend for the New York Review of Books, which we are pleased to reprint here.

In Flanagan’s work, as with many Irish novelists, artists. dramatists, and poets, the great conflicts and dispossessions in Ireland’s history are central. (One of the best long poems on the subject is Patrick Kavanagh’s The Great Hunger). It is a theme that is examined here again by artist Robert Ballagh, who talks to Elizabeth Martin about his latest work and recent exhibition at The Irish Arts Center in New York, which explored the relationship between the land and language and the Irish.

September 11 was one more blow in the epic saga of the Irish, as we are reminded in Lynn Tierney’s profile of Fire Chief Bill Feehan — one of the many Irish Americans who, in the words of Irish President Mary McAleese, when called upon “faced the test with no thought for themselves.”

McAleese reflected on the ties that bind our two countries together when she attended our “Tribute to the Spirit of America,” in March, at which we commemorated those we lost and celebrated the efforts of the rescue workers. As we’d envisioned, it was an evening in the best tradition of an Irish wake.

Paddy Moloney played a couple of laments on his tin whistle. Little Collier Willmer from North Carolina danced for us. Irish tenor Ronan Tynan sang for us, as did Cathie Ryan. It was an evening that brought Irish and Irish-American together and cemented the bonds between the two.

The President brought the evening to a close when she presented awards to representatives of the FDNY, the PAPD and the NYPD, and told those gathered:

“The generations who went before them would be proud of a modern generation who have known the easy times and comfort of prosperity but who when tested, chose the hardest road of all.” We hope you enjoy this, our summer reading issue, with its heavy focus on literature and the arts. We continue, as always, at Irish America, to explore the relationship between the Irish-born and the American Irish, and foster understanding between the two. In the words of the Irish President, “By standing shoulder to shoulder, hope for the future will triumph over the hurt of the past.” ♦

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Steppin’ Out in Scotland https://irishamerica.com/2002/06/steppin-out-in-scotland/ https://irishamerica.com/2002/06/steppin-out-in-scotland/#respond Sat, 01 Jun 2002 07:59:13 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=43801 Read more..]]> The 32nd World Irish dance championships were held inGlasgow and drew dancers from around the world. David Kirkwood reports. Photography by Paul McSherry.

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Scotland, for ten days in spring, became the world Mecca for Irish dancing when dancers from across the globe descended on Glasgow.

The 32nd World Irish Dancing Championships, Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne 2002, was held in the Clyde Auditorium — or `The Armadillo’ as it is known by the Glaswegians because of its exterior design.

It was the first time in its history that the contest had been held outside of Ireland, and young competitors from across the States and nine other countries danced their hearts out in an attempt to impress adjudicators with their skills during ten days of intense competition.

Dancers traveled with family, friends and coaches from countries as diverse as the U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland and South Africa to the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in which the Armadillo is located. American pupils of Irish dancing schools, from New York to California, aged eight to over 21, accounted for around a quarter of the 4,300 competitors dancing for the title of World Champion.

The total competitors included 1,800 solo dancers in different age groups and another 2,500 members of the 200 teams competing in ceili and drama dancing.

Left- Laura Halford, Alison Rabkin-Golden and Elizabeth Fleming from San Francisco stand outside the Armadillo, Glasgow.

Irish dancing has grown in popularity in recent years with the phenomenal global success of international shows such as Riverdance and Lord of the Dance, which have taken Irish dancing to a worldwide audience.

Young men especially have been inspired to pull on their dancing shoes as a result of witnessing the virtuoso solo dancing of performer Michael Flatley.

The effect of Flatley’s influence was evident in the superior performance of American lads in the World Championships this year.

First place in the boys 15-16 solo competition was won by Shane Kelly of the Broesler School of Irish Dance, New Jersey (out of 43 dancing). Tim Seeman of the O’Hare School, Chicago, came first in the 17-18 category (out of 23) and Timothy Kochka of the Davis Academy, New Jersey, won the 19-21 competition (out of 24). Sean Fegan, chair of the finance committee of An Comisiun Le Rinci Gaelacha, the World Irish Dancing Commission, and a former dancer himself, doesn’t think that the American lads outshone the lasses.

“This is just a random outcome. The male dancers may well attain no place at all next year,” he explained.

A young dancer from florida proudly finishes her routine.

The highest placed females from the U.S. were at team level: Trinity Academy of Illinois reached second place in the girls’ figure Under-13 (out of 11 teams), and came third in the girls’ figure Over-16 (out of 13 teams) and the team from The Murphy Irish Arts Center of Ohio was fourth in the Dancedrama (out of 11 teams).

Though the American girls didn’t win any firsts in the solo dance categories, several placed high and it could be argued that their achievement is greater because they had to face a greater number of competitors.

Third place was attained by Kristin Butke of the O’Hare School, Akron, Ohio, in the 19-21 age group (out of 113 dancers — the winner was Angela Crowley of the Scanlon School, Birmingham, England). Butke is a seasoned performer having toured Europe with Michael Flatley in Lord of the Dance. Jillian Dury of the Trinity Academy, Chicago, placed third in the girls 11-12 (out of 151 dancers — the winner was Suzanne Coyle of the McLaughlin School in Glasgow). Fourth place in the girls 19-21 was reached by Nicole Rankin of the Richens-Timm Academy, Chicago.

The Armadillo was an ideal venue for the massive event and welcomed more than 20,000 people connected to the Championships.

One of the many American dancers who took part in the event.

The warren of hallways and rooms inside was quite a challenge for the dancing guests to map out, but the younger ones saw it as an adventure and soon mastered the layout of the venue.

Dancers could be seen practicing steps — passion and determination etched on their faces — decked out in full costume, in the corridors connecting the auditorium to other parts of the SECC complex as well as in the practice rooms provided.

There was a carnival atmosphere around as tiny children, brothers and sisters of the dancers, wandered round carrying candy, popcorn and balloons.

And TV screens were conveniently placed around the venue to give live coverage of the dancing action in the auditorium, which seats more than 3,500 and was more than comfortable for the parties gathering each day for the different competitions.

The Armadillo is situated on the bank of the River Clyde, which was until fairly recently one of the world’s most bustling shipbuilding rivers where the cruise liner Queen Elizabeth II was built.

The ‘Armadillo’.

Close by the Armadillo is a relic 100-meter-high crane, a poignant reminder of the shipbuilding era.

Across the nearby Bell’s Bridge is the glistening new Glasgow Science Centre, a massive attraction visited by half a million annually and which saw an increase in these numbers for the duration of the Irish dancing event.

Many visitors to Scotland took time out to visit other parts of the country such as the capital city, Edinburgh.

Joseph Fleming from San Francisco traveled with his daughter Elizabeth, who was competing in the Girls 11-12 solo competition, to castles and landmarks around Scotland.

He said: “We loved our time in Glasgow and found the people to be most kind and helpful. We will definitely return to Scotland, we had such a wonderful time there.”

Glasgow indeed proved itself the perfect host of the global event with its magnificent facilities and the world-famous Scottish welcome.

At the opening event of the Championships Glasgow’s Lord Provost Alex Mosson spoke of the Irish heritage of Scotland and was followed by the Irish Consul General Conor O’Riordan who said that “since the Irish settled in Scotland the two countries have drawn closer together.”

Undoubtedly, the close cultural and historical links between Ireland and Scotland — reflected in similarities between the two countries in music, song, dance and Gaelic language — played an important part in Glasgow being chosen for this year’s extravaganza of Irish dance.

Dancers from New York (right) and Derry (left) compete.

As if to exemplify this the World Championships was kicked off with a fine demonstration of Scottish culture. A piper took to the stage in full Highland regalia and gave a foot-stomping rendition of traditional Scottish airs. He was followed by Amanda McCann, a Scottish Highland dancer who was received with warmth and fascination by the crowd of Irish dance enthusiasts.

Scottish traditional dancing differs from Irish dancing in that the dancer in Scotland uses his or her arms in the dance whereas the Irish equivalent holds the arms rigidly by their sides.

Folk legend has it that Irish dancing evolved into its present state when dancers were forced to keep their arms still by the priests of the Catholic Church who regarded the use of the arms in dancing as `wanton.’ Irish dancing traditions in Scotland have been cultivated since the first influx of Irish immigrants who came to escape the Famine.

The culture the immigrants brought with them has thrived amongst their descendants in Scotland. Today there are 53 dance schools spread throughout Scotland, most of which can trace their origins back to the beginning of the last century.

A number of these schools featured prominently in this year’s World Championships.

Scot James McCutcheon, the chair of finance on the local event organizing team, is also a dancing teacher at the successful Setanta School in Scotland along with his wife Noreen.

James and Noreen teach their son Ronan (11) who this year became the first Scottish solo male to win at world level.

James said: “We were delighted that Ronan won. It was a great honor for him to achieve the title. He was injured at the beginning of the year and was under an added pressure in that this time the Championships were taking place in Scotland with his grannies, aunts and uncles watching. I really had to balance my attention this year between my administrative duties and training Ronan but I thought, all in all, the Championships was a great success.”

The location of next year’s World Championships will be decided at the forthcoming AGM (in May) of An Comisiun le Rinci Gaelacha, the World Irish Dance Commission, based in Dublin. ♦

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Robert Ballagh : The Land and The Irish https://irishamerica.com/2002/06/robert-ballagh-the-land-and-the-irish/ https://irishamerica.com/2002/06/robert-ballagh-the-land-and-the-irish/#respond Sat, 01 Jun 2002 07:58:14 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=43816 Read more..]]> In his latest work, Irish artist Robert Ballagh explores the relationship between the Irish and the land.

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March 10, 2002, New York: Looking remarkably fresh after a long plane fide from Dublin, artist Robert Ballagh took time to show me around the recent exhibition of his new paintings that were displayed so beautifully at the Irish Arts Center for an exhibition entitled “Tír is Teanga” (Land and Language). The exhibition’s title relates to a nineteenth-century Irish cultural revival rallying call. In essence, the poetic emphasis links Ballagh’s current work to nineteenth century artistic and cultural concerns centering on land, politics and language which continue to prevail today.

Robert Ballagh.

Best known for his highly realistic figural works from the 1960s-70s, Ballagh’s current interest in landscape allows for a provocative exploration of his approach to his work. Upon reflection, these new paintings, like much of his previous work, reflect myriad nuances on political and cultural themes that are inextricably linked with Ireland, past and present.

“For most people, these works will represent a departure from what they traditionally expect from me. In my thirty-five years of painting and exhibiting, I never really dealt specifically with landscape before. Just two years ago, I decided to have a go at it after developing and working with new painting techniques that were used for the Riverdance designs.”

Typically, it takes up to six months for Ballagh to complete a painting. When Riverdance producer Moya Doherty, approached him to design the 50 to 60 visual images needed for the show, Ballagh quickly realized he needed to rethink his technical approach. He began working directly on the canvas without the use of glazes and under-painting he traditionally employed. “Specifically for the Riverdance production, when I began to think about landscape, I decided to develop the concept a bit more. As you can see, the paintings are quite fluid, I emphasized the looseness of the formal techniques, and decided to incorporate textural elements fight into the various compositions.”

Ballagh conveys a quiet sense of passionate detachment when discussing his work. He is equally delighted to reflect on his work’s art historical precedents, as he is to explain his concerns with formal approaches and techniques. This exhibition’s giclée prints are the result of a digital process, in which the original oil on canvas paintings are photographed, scanned and airbrushed. Using archival inks, Ballagh then printed the image directly onto watercolor paper.

Crann [tree] by Robert Ballagh.

“Tír is Teanga” is comprised of a series of horizontal, wide-angle views of vast, evocative landscapes. Each print is divided into three parts; the first depicts what is typically a mountainous land mass above a horizon, the median portion of the panel presents an intervening body of water, and in the lower section, Ballagh includes sand, leaves, twigs or stones that represent the materials/elements of the land presented.

The three oil paintings in the exhibition – River Run (View of Dublin Bay), Fómhar (Autumn), and Réalt na Mara (Star of the Sea) – include actual textural, three-dimensional materials. In the prints, the sand, twigs and leaves are reproduced as photographs. This third section, or predella, incorporates the critical language component of the series with the enigmatic visual images.

Ballagh brilliantly contrasts and juxtaposes potent visual images of a mythic and romantic Ireland with the enduring, reaffirming power of the ancient Irish texts. By embracing the nuances and symbolic meanings of anonymous Irish proverbs, he decisively fuses political and cultural historic concerns with prevailing contemporary discourse.

Etched in glass, cast, bronzed or silver plated, the poignant titles include Dhéanfa sgéal de chlochaibh trágha (You would make a good story out of the stones of the strand), Faoi bhun an chrainn a thuiteas a dhuilliúr (It is at the foot of the tree the leaves fall), Tá lán mara eile ins an fharraige (There is another tide in the sea) and Rithid uisigí doimhne ciuín (Still waters run deep) The titles insist upon the enduring relevance and resonance of the power to name and indeed, own and inhabit Irish land.

Cuan [harbour] by Robert Ballagh.

Contemporary Irish landscape painting is burdened and blessed with a rich and difficult history that continues to inform the work of artists who present their personal vision of a land in which everything about `land’ is political.

Ballagh himself is no stranger to politics and for him, discussing the relationship between politics and the landscape provides an opportunity to reinvestigate themes, which didn’t particularly engage him in his younger years but now draw him in.

“I don’t know where the idea for incorporating the text came from, but very early on in the development of this series, it struck me to use the Irish language within my work. I reference Brian Friel’s brilliant play Translations, which refers to that early period in the nineteenth century when the whole country of Ireland was being surveyed.

“Essentially, the British changed the name of every street, mountain and body of water. Throwing out the Irish names, and in their place, enforcing the `Anglicized’ version (which may or may not have any relation to the actual meaning of the Irish name).

“These ideas have informed my work. I’m interested in reclaiming the Irish language, and in that process to reclaim part of Ireland’s history that existed long before the Anglicization.”

With reclamation in mind, Ballagh chose to depict panoramic, spectacular views of Irish land that primarily relates to myth, in opposition to a specific place within Ireland.

Púróga (Pebbles) by Robert Ballagh

“There is a huge yearning for land in Ireland; in most other countries land was related to class, one group of people had it and the other didn’t. In those cases, it was a question of nationality. However, in Ireland the people had the land taken from their possession in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It is extraordinary to think of a whole people and culture living in a society within a country without owning any of the land.

“One of the things I wanted to try and get across is the mystical thing; it is not a specific place. If I gave it a specific location, I feel it loses the mythic quality I’m interested in representing.”

Questioned about his insistence on the formal union between text and the visual, Ballagh explained his feelings towards the issue of accessibility in contemporary art. “If you are accustomed to an Irish landscape painting being a beautiful image from the past, that approach isn’t really all that modern. I hope this new work is challenging to people. I’m concerned that a lot of contemporary art puts an insurmountable barrier to an audience and I feel strongly that it’s necessary to create an `open door’ to let people in. I don’t think great art should be facile, but I don’t think it should be so complex that it is inaccessible. I feel a good artist can make complex art that is open and can appeal to many levels of appreciation. Not everyone has had time to study art history. I think the work should be sufficiently sophisticated to give many levels of meaning.”

For some Americans, understanding the unique significance of the depiction of Irish landscape may require a deeper, more thoughtful look at the longstanding and often torturous connection that exists in Ireland between land, history, language and politics. “History is written about events and people, but in Ireland an underlying factor is always the land. For so many centuries, the Irish were a landless people, and we are deeply affected by our desire to own it [land] as it was.”

Sliabh [mountain] by Robert Ballagh.

Throughout history, Irish artists have attempted to symbolize the powerful significance of the land in poetry and song. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, visual artists traditionally turned to the land in an attempt to express nascent nationalist concerns and ideologies, as typically seen in the work of Maurice MacGonigal, Paul Henry, Sean Keating, and Charles Lamb. Inevitably, the conservative efforts of de Valera’s governmental policies alienated many post-modern artists who resisted the connection between conservative politics of the early twentieth century and the consuming desire of Irish artists to paint the land.

Post-millennium, many Irish artists, including Ballagh, explore the issues of Ireland and its visual representation. This intangible connection between Irish identity and visual representation attracts visual artists who probe, expose and deconstruct preconceived notions of what land means for the Irish, then and now. Ballagh’s recent work in particular invites the viewer to rethink the significance of Irish landscape. Tír is Teanga is rife with implicit and explicit allusions to politics, power and history. Ballagh’s reclamation of his cultural and artistic roots reveals a depth of feelings beneath his cool, detached formalist approach. “That is what was driving me in this work, to bring the true Irish back to the land scape…I’m interested in playing games between text and image. Text relates to the visual, but of course it has a deeper meaning on a human level.” ♦

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World Cup Fever https://irishamerica.com/2002/06/world-cup-fever/ https://irishamerica.com/2002/06/world-cup-fever/#respond Sat, 01 Jun 2002 07:56:20 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=43717 Read more..]]> In our dreams we take out Spain, beat England on penalties and Jason McAteer scores the winning goal against Brazil in the World Cup Final.

The Carlsberg beer ad which is running in Ireland at the moment may only be wishful thinking, but as the nation gears up for the greatest sporting occasion of the year, there is growing optimism that Mick McCarthy and the lads will do us proud over the next few weeks.

With Ireland’s captain fantastic Roy Keane back at the helm, it looks like anything is possible. Keane had been out with injuries but it now seems certain that he will have recovered in time for the big event.

Football fever has hit Ireland in recent weeks. Bank loans are in, savings have been raided, relatives and friends have been tapped as the most desperate of Irish soccer fans try to make their way to the World Cup, which kicks off in Japan on May 31.

But unlike the good old days when Jack’s Army traveled en masse to every venue where Ireland played, only the most dedicated and resourceful will be able to witness the boys in green in action in Japan and Korea.

A three-match package with a travel agent in Ireland starts at Euro 4,300. Japan is probably the most expensive country in the world. A taxi from the airport into Tokyo will cost Euro 260.

But fans have been finding ways to keep costs down. A three-course meal at a top Tokyo hotel will cost up to €1000 but you can live on Big Mac’s at €3 a go. For the homesick, a pint of Guinness during happy hour in one of the country’s twenty or so Irish bars, will cost just €7.

And you can sleep in a capsule for €33 or for €6.55 for three hours, which should be sufficient for the hardier supporters.

For those who do not make it to Japan and Korea, the World Cup is in danger of becoming something of a dry affair.

Bar staff are threatening to go on strike during the tournament.

The Mandate trade union, which represents over 3,000 Dublin bar staff, is to ballot its members on industrial action after pub owners de-recognized the union in negotiations about pay and conditions.

For the fans it’s a case of déjà vu. The last major bartenders’ strike was during the 1994 World Cup in the States.

But even if industrial unrest doesn’t scupper the Irish supporters celebrations, the time difference will.

Ireland kicks off on June 1 against Cameroon at an unsociable 7:30 a.m. ♦

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Voters Head to the Polls https://irishamerica.com/2002/06/voters-head-to-the-polls/ https://irishamerica.com/2002/06/voters-head-to-the-polls/#respond Sat, 01 Jun 2002 07:56:03 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=43722 Read more..]]> Will Bertie be back, will there be a Quinn tide, or will Sinn Féin’s day finally come? These are the questions facing the Irish people as they head to the polls on May 17.

It has been the longest campaign and the most polled contest in the history of Irish elections, even though the actual date for the contest was only announced towards the end of April.

All the main political parties have been in election mode for months and newspapers, both national and local, have been analyzing poll after poll in the hope of finding out which way the electorate will swing.

It looks set to be a good election for the main political party Fianna Fail, and for its leader Bertie Ahern. Despite all the recent financial scandals involving senior Fianna Fail politicians, particularly former leader Charles J Haughey, it looks like the party vote is holding strong.

And there are even whispers about an overall majority.

However, the junior government partners, the Progressive Democrats, are battling for their very survival. The party had four seats going into this election, but will be lucky to retain two. The recent scandal involving one of the PD’s most senior politicians, Bobby Molloy, where he was castigated by a judge for inter-fering in a rape case, has done the party huge damage. Until then the PDs had occupied the high moral ground in Irish political life.

It looks like a bad election is also on the cards for the main opposition party, Fine Gael. They have a new leader, Michael Noonan, who has not inspired the electorate since succeeding former leader John Bruton.

The party is in danger of losing up to 8 seats. Opinion polls forecast the party vote collapsing.

The Labour Party could benefit most from Fine Gael’s misfortune. Some analysts are predicting a Quinn tide. Party leader Ruairi Quinn’s recent ratings have gone up and it is thought that he might recapture seats lost in the last election.

But the question on everyone’s lips is how well Sinn Féin will do on their first real electoral outing in the South. It is thought that they may have peaked too soon. The party has also suffered as a result of repeated allegations of vigilante activity particularly in North Kerry where former gun-runner Martin Ferris was expected to do well. The accusations of IRA involvement with FARC guerrillas in Colombia may also work against them. ♦

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The Catholic Church in Crisis https://irishamerica.com/2002/06/the-catholic-church-in-crisis/ https://irishamerica.com/2002/06/the-catholic-church-in-crisis/#respond Sat, 01 Jun 2002 07:55:14 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=43727 Read more..]]> As in the U.S., the Church in Ireland is in crisis over continuing allegations of clerical child abuse.

The scandal has taken its first scalp with the forced resignation of the Bishop of Ferns, Dr. Brendan Comiskey, for his mishandling of child abuse cases in his diocese. But there is ongoing pressure on some of the church’s most senior clergymen, particularly Cardinal Desmond Connell, to resign because of the manner in which they handled incidents in their diocese.

It appears that the hierarchy is formulating its response to the issue on the hoof, and there is increasing evidence that the church is split in its attitude to helping the civil authorities investigate allegations of abuse by clerics. The majority of lay people want the church to hand over all their files to the gardai, but within the church, there are many senior canon lawyers who believe that any information gleaned by the church through its own investigations should be kept confidential.

They say that if the church cannot give confidentiality to abused priests, it will paralyze their own investigations and will put children at risk.

Cardinal Connell has been forced to issue a statement about his handling of one case in Dublin where a priest abused a young child as she lay ill in a hospital bed.

Mrs. Marie Collins was abused in 1960 by Fr. Paul McGennis. He later admitted abusing children to the church authorities, although he did not remember her “specifically.” But the church authorities refused to confirm his admission to the gardai and then threatened to sue the victim for passing on church correspondence to the police.

Cardinal Connell admitted that the victim’s complaints about the church handling of the case had been justified and offered her his heartfelt apology.

But there was no ringing mea culpa. Instead he blamed the Monsignor handling her case for failing to cooperate fully with the gardai even though she had also been deeply hurt by his own attitude to her case.

Many priests as well as ordinary church members now believe that the Cardinal is an obstacle to the healing process and should step aside.

Just weeks ago, the Bishop of Ferns, Brendan Comiskey, was forced to resign because of his failure to act against pedophile priest Fr. Sean Fortune.

Fr. Fortune had abused young boys over a period of two decades. Three of the priest’s victims have since committed suicide. ♦

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George Mitchell on the Middle East & Northern Ireland https://irishamerica.com/2002/06/george-mitchell-on-the-middle-east-northern-ireland/ https://irishamerica.com/2002/06/george-mitchell-on-the-middle-east-northern-ireland/#respond Sat, 01 Jun 2002 07:54:17 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=43729 Read more..]]> CAUTION IS ADVISED WHEN MAKING COMPARISONS BETWEEN AREAS AS COMPLICATED AND DIVERGENT AS NORTHERN IRELAND AND THE MIDDLE EAST. BUT AS THE VIOLENCE IN THE MIDDLE EAST INTENSIFIED, DIPLOMATS AND PEACE-MAKERS STRAIN TO FIND A WAY FORWARD BY EXAMINING THE DYNAMICS THAT SOLIDIFIED NEW POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS IN NORTHERN IRELAND AND BROUGHT A PEACEFUL SOLUTION TO A PROBLEM THAT THE “EXPERTS” SAID COULD NEVER BE RESOLVED. SENATOR GEORGE MITCHELL’S INVOLVEMENT IN NORTHERN IRELAND IS WELL DOCUMENTED. AFTER HE RETIRED FROM THE UNITED STATES SENATE IN 1995, THEN PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON ASKED HIM TO LEAD AN INITIATIVE ON TRADE AND INVESTMENT IN NORTHERN IRELAND. HE WAS THEN APPOINTED BY THE BRITISH AND IRISH GOVERNMENTS TO CHAIR AN INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION ON DISARMAMENT OF PARAMILITARY WEAPONS, A PRECURSOR TO THE NEGOTIATIONS THAT HE CHAIRED, WHICH LED TO THE 1998 GOOD FRIDAY AGREEMENT.

WHEN CLINTON WAS LOOKING FOR A WAY TO BREAK THE IMPASSE IN THE MIDDLE EAST, HE AGAIN TURNED TO MITCHELL. THE FORMER SENATOR CHAIRED A FACT-FINDING COMMITTEE THAT EVENTUALLY DREW UP A SERIES OF RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MOVING TOWARDS A NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENT OF THE ESCALATING CONFLICT. THE “MITCHELL REPORT” WAS DELIVERED TO PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH IN APRIL OF 2001. TWO PRIMARY COMPONENTS OF THE REPORT WERE THE DEMAND THAT THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY, LED BY YASSER ARAFAT, MAKE A “100 PERCENT EFFORT” TO PREVENT TERRORIST OPERATIONS AND THAT THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT FREEZE ALL SETTLEMENT ACTIVITY. KELLY CANDAELE TALKED TO FORMER SENATOR MITCHELL IN FEBRUARY, 2002.

Kelly Candaele: Reflect on your experience in Northern Ireland. Were there lessons that you learned there or a paradigm that helped formulate your thinking as you went to the Middle East?

Senator Mitchell: There are some obvious similarities. But as much as we would like it to be, there is no formula that once applied in one situation can simply be transferred to another situation. The differences are significant, the personalities are different, the histories are different, and though there are certain principles that may apply in any peace negotiation process, I think that one must be cautious about transposing elements from one place to another.

What are those principles that apply in both cases?

First there has to be a great deal of patience and perseverance. It’s easy to become discouraged. I’m asked by reporters almost every day since there is continually violence in the Middle East, how can there ever be an agreement? Since one party says no to this, how can you ever expect them to say yes? The fact is, all of these situations are difficult, complex, have deep historic roots, and require an almost endless supply of patience and perseverance and determination.

Second, in the pursuit of peace, one cannot be deterred by those who use violence to achieve a political objective. In Northern Ireland when I started the process, I was told repeatedly by the delegates that we had to keep it going because if it ended the conflict would resume. Over the two years of negotiations and during the second round of negotiations I presided over, there were repeated acts of violence that had the obvious intention of derailing the process. But we kept it going.

And I think the same is proving to be true in the Middle East. The process has to keep going even in the face of horrific violence and in the face of setback after setback.

The third principle is that it takes strong and courageous leadership in the face of violence, in the face of high emotion and demands for retaliation, to take risks for peace.

And fourth, which I think is now at work in the Middle East, there is no such thing as a conflict that cannot be ended. All conflicts are created and sustained by human beings. There will come a time when the cost of conflict is so high that people will turn to the alternative of negotiation and discussion even though that entails painful and difficult political risks for them.

I believe there was a peace agreement in Northern Ireland because people were sick of war. The conflict raged on for a quarter of a century and the overwhelming number of people in Northern Ireland were sick of the war. I think that’s going to happen in the Middle East. Life has become unbearable for the members of both societies. Indeed that’s precisely what Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat both told me in my last meetings with them months ago. “Life has become unbearable for our people,” is what they said. So I think they will mm back to negotiation because as painful as it is, it’s less difficult and less costly than conflict.

I was struck by the similarity in language of the Mitchell Report on the Middle East and the language that took place in Northern Ireland. It seems there are certain structural similarities to peace-making in both places. But differences as well. It seems clear that in Northern Ireland, to a great extent, the parties had come to terms with their own problems and could meet at a negotiation table. There are those who say that that dynamic has not happened yet in the Middle East That the Palestinians have not come to terms with the reality of Israel’s existence. And that Arafat is not Gerry Adams in that he has not been able to tell his followers the truth about that situation.

Well, the public opinion polls consistently show that a majority in both societies — Israeli and Palestinian — support a peaceful resolution that will result in two states. Certainly, all of the negotiations and agreements, and most specifically the Oslo Accord, explicitly acknowledged the two-state solution. So it’s quite clear that there was an acceptance of that in both societies. It is of course true that there are some Palestinians who reject that, and who take the position that there cannot be a Jewish state in the Middle East. That position is wrong and it is a fantasy. That position is not going to be a reality. On the other side there are some in Israel who favor a solution called “transference,” and believe that somehow the three-and-a-half million Palestinians will be removed to another place. That policy is a fantasy and will not become a reality. But I think it’s clear, certainly to me, that history, geography, destiny has created a situation where they must live side-by-side in separate states. The question is how to reach an agreement to permit that to occur in a manner that’s peaceful and brings prosperity for both.

Dec. 7, 1998: George Mitchell is applauded by fellow recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. John Hume, left and Gerry Adams, right, during a ceremony in Boston. Also pictured are Liz O’Donnell, Ireland’s Minister of State and Paul Murphy, N. Ireland Minister of state. Eight Northern Ireland political leaders, and Mitchell were honored for their part in the Good Friday Agreement.

When there was a resurgence of IRA violence after the 1994 cease-fire, there were some who said “Gerry Adams is irrelevant and we are not negotiating with a guy who can’t deliver.” Sharon has said that about Arafat.

That’s stretching for analogies that don’t exist. There are a couple of principles that I think are applicable here. By the time I got to Northern Ireland in early 1995 it had become clear there was a military stalemate. The IRA could not succeed in its stated objective of expelling Britain from Northern Ireland through the use of force. And Britain, certainly not while retaining its democratic values, could not wipe-out the IRA, as some of the more aggressive urged at the time. So there was a military stalemate. Although the military circumstances are quite different in the Middle East the overall situation is similar in that there is no military solution to this problem. Israel has overwhelming military superiority but it is of course very difficult to bring it to bear in an effective manner. It simply isn’t possible to impose a military solution because the resistance would simply continue. On the Palestinian side, it is simply not going to happen, that the state of Israel is going to be destroyed.

There is a strong sense, because Israel withdrew from Lebanon, that violence does achieve something. The IRA believed for a long time that the only effective approach to the British was the bomb and the bullet.

Let’s be realistic. The notion that political objectives can be achieved by violence didn’t originate in, nor is it limited to, Northern Ireland or the Middle East. It’s as old as mankind and for Americans the prime example is our own Revolutionary War. So the question is, what is the circumstance under which it occurs? I think it’s impossible to generalize in these situations. And it is even impossible to have an unwavering, never-changing policy. A policy that is correct today may be incorrect tomorrow because the circumstances change. At least in both Northern Ireland and the Middle East there is no feasible military solution. Neither side can with confidence pursue a solution that is entirely military in nature and doesn’t contemplate some kind of negotiation to try and achieve accommodation of political objectives. That I think is the greatest similarity.

Now, that doesn’t apply in every situation. I’ve been asked why doesn’t the United States negotiate with bin Laden and Afghanistan and Al Qaeda? And of course there is no basis for negotiation there. There is no specific delineated political objective on which a negotiation could be based. There is no credible entity or person with whom to negotiate. I point that out merely to say that each situation is different and unique and each one must be addressed in the circumstances at the time.

In terms of Arafat, his role as the sole elected authority of the Palestinian people presumes an ability to control violence.

The fact is he doesn’t have complete control and everybody knows that. In our committee’s report we called upon Arafat to make a one hundred percent effort to control violence. Israeli government officials suggested that language to us. They said, “We know he doesn’t have complete control but he needs to make a complete effort, which he has not done.”

In terms of the critical issues of security for Israel and the dismantling of settlements which is central to the Palestinians, many would say there has not been a great deal of change [since the Oslo Accords] and in fact things have gotten worse.

[After Oslo] there was a substantial period of cooperation and very effective security coordination, which is the one thing that both sides agreed on in their meetings with us. There was a sharp reduction in violence. There was the belief that there was an agreement to have separate states, that there would be a viable, geographically contiguous, independent Palestinian state. That has come to be recognized and accepted much more widely than before. The problem arose in that the hoped-for economic improvement did not occur. Unemployment was higher at the end of the Oslo period than at the beginning. Economic growth and prosperity did not materialize. In what Clinton said, he was right: that you need economic growth and job creation to underpin these very difficult transitions. That’s what’s necessary in the Middle East now. There’s been a devastating loss to the economy on both sides but greater to the Palestinians as a result of this conflict. ♦

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The Green and the Gold https://irishamerica.com/2002/06/the-green-and-the-gold/ https://irishamerica.com/2002/06/the-green-and-the-gold/#respond Sat, 01 Jun 2002 07:53:53 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=43736 Read more..]]> February’s Winter Olympic Games were memorable for more than just the judging controversy in me pairs figure skating final. As host country, the United States won its highest ever number of medals, including gold medals for Irish-Americans Jim Shea, Sarah Hughes and Kelly Clark.

Shea, a resident of Lake Placid, New York, won the skeleton competition, which involves racing a narrow, thin sled down an icy track — head-first. Speeds of up to 85mph can be achieved in this not-for-the-fainthearted sport. Shea’s victory is all the more significant in that he is a third-generation Olympian whose father James competed in three Nordic (skiing) events at the 1964 Olympics and whose grandfather Jack won the 500m and 1500m speed skating gold medals at the 1932 Lake Placid games. Indeed, Jack might well have succeeded in the 1936 Innsbruck Games but he chose not to participate, in protest against Hitler’s actions in pre-war Germany. Sadly, Jack died in January in a car accident, weeks before his grandson took home the gold. After his victory, an emotional Shea pulled out a picture of his grandfather, dedicated his victory to him and proudly wore his gold medal over the one his grandfather won seventy years earlier.

Shea can trace his Irish heritage back to post-famine Ireland — Jack’s grandfather emigrated from Annascaul, Co. Kerry to Montreal around 1849.

Sarah Hughes’ performance in winning the women’s singles free skate captivated the American public and judges alike. The sixteen-year-old showed nerves of steel and came from fourth place in the short program — apparently out of medal contention — to give an outstanding performance in the long, sensationally combining artistry and grace with an athletically challenging seven triple jumps, five of which were in combination.

Hughes, who was featured in the June/July 2000 Irish America as an Olympic hopeful, hails from Great Neck, New York and has skated since she was four years old. As one of a family of six children, she stills attends the local school in between practice sessions and remains refreshingly unaffected by her success. As a fourteen-year-old, she showed maturity beyond her years when she told Irish America, “It’s upsetting when you don’t skate well, but you always learn a lot, whether it’s a good experience or a bad experience. What’s good about skating is that you can just keep coming back. There’s always the next time to go and prove yourself again.”

Sarah Hughes poses with her gold medal after the awards ceremony for the women’s slating at the Winter Olympics in salt Lake City.

Hughes comes from a sporty family and may owe some of her athleticism to her grandfather John who emigrated to Toronto from Northern Ireland at the age of 19 after a shoulder injury put an end to a promising soccer career.

Snowboarder Kelly Clark’s victory in the halfpipe event may go some way towards making the sport a more mainstream event. The International Olympic Committee added snowboarding, a recreational pastime, to the Winter Olympics in 1998 in a move to modernize its image. Eighteen-year-old Clark from Vermont has been snowboarding for 10 years. She won the halfpipe event (so called because it takes place in a 525-foot-long, U-shaped halfpipe snowboard run) with a pair of jumps, one called a 540 Front-Side Grab (a 540-degree inverted spin), and the other a McTwist (a 720-degree spin at the bottom). In the 30 seconds in which she was airborne, Clark jumped higher above the lip of the halfpipe than any of her competitors, gaining more of what they call in the business “amplitude.” Afterwards, Clark said, “Snowboarders have their reputations. But my doing this, especially in the U.S., says a lot. Maybe it will shine a light on snowboarding and people will look at it in a different way.”

Gold medal winner Kelly Clark raises her snowboard while standing on the podium after the women’s final halfpipe competition.

Ireland, not known for its Winter Olympians, almost found itself on the medal podium in the Winter Olympics when Irish athlete Clifton Wrottesley finished fourth behind Shea in the skeleton competition.

Wrottesley had been in a medal position at half-time before being edged out by bronze medalist Gregor Staelhi of Switzerland, but it was still an amazing performance by the Irishman who had hoped to achieve a personal best by finishing in the top ten. Wrottesley took fourth place with very good grace. “No way is it the worst position to end up. For me, this is the best feeling in the world,” he said. “The guys on the podium are the rightful winners. I never expected anything like this, so there is no sense of defeat whatsoever.”

Wrottesley is an Eton-educated peer who was born in Dublin and spent his early years on a farm in Co. Galway. After the death of his father in a car accident, he moved with his mother to Spain before returning to England for his education.

Clifton Wrottesley.

Wrottesley, who holds dual nationality, considers himself to be both Irish and English or Anglo-Irish and hopes his performance will boost interest in winter sports in Ireland, which he feels are inadequately funded. “My hopes are that I will be able to continue representing Ireland in the skeleton up to the next Olympics in Turin in 2006. However, without the necessary funding, we will not be able to continue, let alone better the fourth place we got in Salt Lake City. The Irish Government is slowly coming round to the idea of recognizing winter sports, which means that they may provide funding, though at a very basic level.”

Wrottesley recognizes that it is difficult for a small country like Ireland to compete in winter sports events against larger nations that have their own tracks and a history of government and corporate munificence in funding promising athletes and other participants in sporting events. “It was a small miracle we managed to do as well as we did this time round. I hope by what we achieved at Salt Lake that we have, at the very least, managed to open the eyes and ears of Ireland to the fact that if you try hard enough, a little talent can go a long way. All it needs is a little imagination. To use a well known sporting word — Believe!” ♦

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Sister Artists https://irishamerica.com/2002/06/sister-artists/ https://irishamerica.com/2002/06/sister-artists/#respond Sat, 01 Jun 2002 07:52:52 +0000 https://irishamerica.com/?p=43743 Read more..]]> Those who love art and are visiting the South of Ireland might consider stopping in at a new gallery that has opened in Mullinahorna Ring, Co. Waterford. The gallery is owned by Joan Clancy and the first Exhibition “Spring Sky” featured works by her daughters, Blawnin Clancy and Rayleen Clancy who have been gaining fine reputations as artists over the past few years.

Shimmer by Blawnin Clancy.

The gallery is situated on the coast road between Coláiste na Rinne and the Cunnigar. ♦

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