June July 2017 Issue – Irish America https://irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine Sat, 20 Jul 2019 03:40:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 82361074 Barbara Lynch: Cooking for the City She Loves https://irishamerica.com/2017/05/barbara-lynch-cooking-for-the-city-she-loves/ https://irishamerica.com/2017/05/barbara-lynch-cooking-for-the-city-she-loves/#respond Wed, 24 May 2017 05:59:54 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30139 Read more..]]> With ingenuity, a lot of talent, and a passion for cooking, Barbara Lynch rose from cooking for the priests in her Southie neighborhood to one of the top chefs and restaurateurs in the country.

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“Seven minutes and a world away” is how Boston chef Barbara Lynch describes the two places she has straddled in her life: one fancy, expensive and tasteful, the other unadorned, modest and down-home.

The first is the culinary world, where Lynch is an award-winning chef whose restaurants have shaped Boston’s hospitality landscape and strengthened the city’s reputation as a culinary destination. Her company, Barbara Lynch Gruppo, is a multi-million-dollar enterprise of seven restaurants, including No. 9 Park, her first restaurant, opened in 1998 across from the Massachusetts State House, and her newest, Menton, opened in 2010 on Congress Street. Together they represent Lynch’s culinary philosophy of elegant simplicity and style, plus meticulous service. Dining in one of Lynch’s restaurants is both a tasty and tasteful experience.

The second world is South Boston, the neighborhood just seven minutes from downtown Boston, where Lynch grew up, one of seven kids raised by a single mother. The Lynches lived in the Mary Ellen McCormack Housing Project built for World War II veterans who survived the war and came home to start anew. Often described by the media in mythical proportions, South Boston is a peninsula jutting into Boston Harbor, the place where Irish famine refugees straggled to in the 19th century, clinging together while facing down opposition from Boston’s Brahmin class. As a result, Southie residents share an unbridled, irrepressible loyalty for each other and for the neighborhood. Even as it became gentrified in recent years, to those who grew up here, South Boston will always be a well-spring of family and community values like loyalty, pride, and friendship.

Barbara as a teen.

Barbara as a teen.

In some respects, Lynch’s place in the glamorous culinary spotlight belies her true personality and temperament. The culinary world – and South Boston for that matter – is full of characters, many of them gregarious, audacious, larger-then life personalities who insist you pay attention to them. Lynch seems the opposite: she is low-key and alert until she has weighed up the situation, but then her wit, charm and intensity come quickly to the fore.

Both of Barbara’s worlds came into full focus this April, when her unvarnished, candid, and compelling memoir, Out of Line: A Life of Playing with Fire, was published by Simon & Schuster. Just a few days later, Time magazine named Lynch as one of its 100 most influential people in the world for her culinary and entrepreneurial skills. Joining Lynch on the list were Pope Francis, singers Ed Sheeran and Alicia Keys, and athletes Tom Brady, LeBron James, and Conor McGregor.

In the Times profile, Padma Lakshmi, host of the popular television show Top Chef, describes Lynch as someone who “gets things done; even when they seem impossible.” She calls Lynch “a great teacher and a true provider – not just of glorious foods but of different spaces for people to flourish and grow.”

Young Barbara in her  favorite red dress.

Young Barbara in her favorite red dress.

There is some irony to the old sexist dictum that “a women’s place is in the kitchen,” given that the professional kitchens of luxurious hotels and fine restaurants have long been male bastions. Lynch helped changed that, and her ascension as one of America’s top chefs, male or female, was hard-won. In her book, Lynch credits trailblazers she learned from in Boston, including Julia Child and Lydia Shire.

“It’s been great fun and an honor to get to know Chef Lynch this past decade – a time when she has won numerous James Beard ‘Best Chef’ and other honors,” says Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation. “I was especially delighted to see Barbara become the first female chef to win the ‘Outstanding Restaurateur of the Year’ in over 25 years – an extraordinary achievement in a category that historically was all men.”

A prevailing challenge for Lynch has been her life-long struggle to move beyond her modest upbringing while pursuing her passion for cooking. “My whole life I’d had to fight – to teach myself, to achieve, to prove what I could do, to overcome a million doubts and fears, including my own,” Lynch recounts.

Barbara as a baby with her mother and five siblings in 1966.

Barbara as a baby with her mother and five siblings in 1966.

She describes one occasion in Italy when she had just cooked an extravagant dinner for a friend’s wedding attended by influential food people. “I still felt tongue tied. I had periodic flare ups of awareness that my Southie accent, constant f-bombing and cultural ignorance marked me as a project rat. I wasn’t ashamed of who I was, but I didn’t want to be a curiosity.”

Growing up in Southie

The fact is, Lynch has always been proud of being from South Boston, and her memoir is a shout-out to this neighborhood of cops and firemen, politicians and judges, gangsters and athletes and dockworkers and iron workers. Lynch is a natural born storyteller, recounting tales of her family and her raggle-taggle girlfriends from the projects, who joined her in a childhood of fun, adventure and hijinks. Lynch and her childhood pals remain close friends to this day.

“We still hang out with each other,” she says, smiling at a recent memory. “We all turned 50 the last couple of years and they all came to my house, like 28 of them. There is plenty of space, but they’re all crowded together, practically sitting on each other. I said, ‘Guys, we don’t have to sit in one lounge chair, we can move around a little,’ and they’re like, ‘No, we like it like this.’

“From my perspective, and I think, my generation, the projects in general were paradise,” Lynch says in an interview. “Most families had seven kids, some as many as 13, many of them single-parent households, and it was usually a mom. We all looked out for each other. My mom lived by the police radio.”

Her mother, Barbara Kelleher, had married Phillip “Yapper” Lynch, a hard-drinking taxi-driver “with the gift of blarney his nickname implied,” Barbara writes. He died of alcoholism at age 34, right before Barbara was born, leaving his wife to raise the kids. It became a difficult life for her mom, Lynch writes, “Money was a constant worry. Between her paying jobs, the housework, and keeping a half-assed eye on us kids, my mother always teetered on the edge of burnout.”

Barbara with her mother in 1988 when they both worked at the St. Botolph’s Club, a private gentleman’s club. Her mother, who passed away in 2004, had lived long enough to witness her daughter’s blossoming career as a chef and restaurateur.

Barbara with her mother in 1988 when they both worked at the St. Botolph’s Club, a private gentleman’s club. Her mother, who passed away in 2004, had lived long enough to witness her daughter’s blossoming career as a chef and restaurateur.

Lynch describes the Southie mentality through her mother’s perspective. “My mother made sure we stayed grounded no matter what. ‘Tomorrow’s another day,’ she’d say, you could be famous, but it’s only for 15 minutes. Tomorrow’s a new day, so back at it. You could lose everything, and we had nothing to lose, so go for it.”

As a latchkey kid growing up in the projects, Lynch had numerous escapades. When she was 13, she and her friends commandeered an idling transit bus on West Broadway and drove it for a few blocks; Lynch steered while the others pushed on the gas and brake pedals. She shoplifted in the downtown department stores for beer money, and got into fist fights with other girls at high school. It was a hard life that can break a person, and that is why Barbara’s life has been inspiring to those who know her best.

“Growing up in the housing projects of South Boston, it took great courage for Barbara to look past all the obstacles and pursue a different path,” says her first cousin and Southie native, U.S. congressman Stephen F. Lynch. “She is the product of a neighborhood that puts a premium on loyalty and a strong work ethic. She was and is fearless.”

“For anyone to reach the top in such a competitive profession is a rare accomplishment,” says Boston’s mayor Marty Walsh, who grew up a few miles from Lynch in Dorchester. “But to do it after overcoming some of the barriers she faced as a working-class woman, it’s really special. I do think that the grit and the persistence that she learned growing up in South Boston had something to do with that.”

When the James Beard Foundation nominated Lynch for “Best Chef: Northeast” in 2003, Lynch wanted to celebrate. Instead of heading to town, she went to the Quiet Man Pub on West Broadway in South Boston, co-owned by her brother Paul, where the local patrons good-naturedly ribbed her – “Beard? I don’t know him. Did he live in Old Harbor? Who the hell is Jimmy Beard?”

Learning to Cook

“I wanted to be a nun at one point,” Lynch recalled when we spoke recently on the phone. “For some reason I felt like I needed a purpose in life.” At age 12, she was cooking and house-cleaning for the parish priests at nearby St. Monica’s Rectory and as a teenager worked at the Soda Shack in Southie, where she made steak and cheese subs. She was a cocktail waitress at the Bay Side Club in Southie, where State Senate President Bill Bulger held his legendary St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast gatherings and where the locals partied hard on the weekends. She got a stint with her mother at the St. Botolph’s Club on Commonwealth Avenue, a private gentlemen’s club founded in 1880 that only opened its doors to women in 1988. It was here she began thinking of becoming a chef. “I had dyslexia and A.D.D., so I figured if I could cook I would always have a job,” says Lynch. “I couldn’t follow anyone else’s formula; I couldn’t work in an office; so cooking was good for me.”

Lynch credits her home economics teacher Susan Logozzo with keeping her in Madison Park High School during the tumultuous school busing years by allowing her to take the home economics class multiple years in a row. Lynch calls Logozzo “not only a great teacher but a great role model.”

Lynch never turned down a cooking gig, even when it was beyond her skill set. “Half the excitement was the risk, the breath-taking, heart-stopping challenge,” she writes. “I’ll figure it out, I thought. I always have.”

Chef Barbara with Jacques Pepin and Patricia Wells.

Chef Barbara with Jacques Pepin and Patricia Wells.

One summer, Lynch finagled a job as assistant chef on the Aegean Princess, a dinner-dance cruise ship sailing between Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The head chef promised to train her how to cook for 150 high-paying guests on a fancy ship, but he quit just days before the first cruise.

Undaunted, Lynch told the ship owner she could handle the job as head chef, and with no experience in banquet cooking, she somehow managed to cook enough steaks and lobsters, baked potatoes and corn cobs for the guests as “pure adrenaline was pumping through my veins.”

Lynch continued to take risks while building her company steadily between 1998 and 2012. After culinary pilgrimages to Italy and France, she created her own distinct French-Italian menu that won praise from Food & Wine magazine and the New York Times. She created a test kitchen/restaurant named Stir, which featured regular cooking classes and a massive cook book library. Her cookbook, Stir: Mixing it up in the Italian Tradition, won the Gourmand Award for Best Chef Cookbook in 2009. She opened a butcher shop, a grocery store, and a restaurant dedicated to fresh oysters. One of her restaurants, Sportello, is modeled after a 1950s-style soda fountain diner called Brigham’s that her mother took them to as children. Another place, called Drink, is dedicated to the art of the cocktail.

Looking back on that decade, her congressman cousin Stephen said, “I worried during the economic crisis of 2008. All the financial experts suggested that businesses slow down and ride out the recession. Instead, Barbara opened up three more restaurants and a grocery store and published a cook book, all hugely successful. Unbelievable. That’s impressive.”

Sustainable Future

Lynch’s relentless quest of taking chances and working non-stop eventually took a toll. Married with a young daughter, Marchesa, Lynch became introspective, questioning her self and her lifestyle. Approaching the age of 50, she decided it was time to confront her demons, including excessive drinking, an occupational hazard in the hospitality industry. She writes in her book that she “hunkered down, got to work on myself. I went to therapy. I ate healthy food. I boxed for exercise. I painted constantly. I stopped drinking.”

The change in lifestyle brought Lynch to a new chapter in her life that continues to unfold. In 2012, she was selected to join the prestigious Relais & Châteaux, an association of 550 of the world’s best chefs and their properties. She wrote in her bio that because she “wanted the opportunity to make others happy I became a chef. That feeling has never left me.”

That same year, wanting to give back to the community that nurtured her, she established the Barbara Lynch Foundation, dedicated to nutritional and culinary education for the people of Boston, especially children.

Barbara Lynch's Out of Line (Atria) was published this April.

Barbara Lynch’s Out of Line (Atria) was published this April.

“I hold Barbara up to our young people, as an example of what you can do if you pick yourself up, learn from your struggles, and commit to your passions and dreams,” Mayor Walsh says.

“The fact that she’s kept her successful restaurant businesses close to home is an example of how she continues to help mentor, inspire and employ people in the Boston area who need work and a role model like her,” says Ungaro.

Lynch continues to discover new passions and dreams. She recently bought a five-acre property outside of the fishing town Gloucester, about 40 miles north of Boston.

“We have microclimates up here, so I want to make my own salt, and do some things with seaweed. I want to experiment with moss, and curing fish,” she says. Lynch is also working with the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association and helping to establish a community garden so people can have fresh produce.

But her latest venture, Salt Water, Inc., brings Lynch right back to her home turf and also full circle to an earlier episode in her career involving cruise ships. She is partnering with Boston Harbor Cruises, the National Park Service, and Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation to provide new menus for concession stands on Georges Island and Spectacle Island, and at the Boston Harbor Islands Welcome Center on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Salt Water will also handle the food onboard the cruise ships transporting visitors from the mainland to the islands, and cater private events too.

Lynch says the new initiative can “redefine the way we celebrate through food with friends, family, and colleagues on Boston Harbor. I can’t think of a better way to highlight our mutual commitment to the community, Boston Harbor, and the city we love.”

On Irish Cooking

Like many Bostonians, Barbara Lynch was aware of her Irish American heritage long before she made her first trip to Ireland in 2014. In fact, one of her early forays into cooking was making Irish soda bread with caraway and currants.

So when Tourism Ireland and Boston Irish Tourism Association created a Gaelic Gourmet series in 2006 to bring guest chefs from Ireland to cook in Boston hotels and restaurants, Lynch was among the first Boston chefs to roll out the green carpet.

She immediately invited the visiting chefs and tourism officials to dine as her guest at No. 9 Park, making them feel welcome and trading cooking ideas with them.

Subsequently, Lynch has become “an amazing culinary ambassador who is passionate about Ireland and her Irish heritage,” says Ruth Moran, publicity and communications manager for Tourism Ireland. “She is keen to build awareness for the wonderful culinary renaissance that Ireland has experienced in recent years.”

Honorary event chairs Tyra Banks, Gail  Simmons, and Martha Stewart with James Beard Foundation  President Susan Ungaro and all participating chefs (Barbara Lynch is third from left), mixologists, and winemakers at the 2013 James Beard Foundation Women in Whites Gala hosted at the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York.

Honorary event chairs Tyra Banks, Gail Simmons, and Martha Stewart with James Beard Foundation President Susan Ungaro and all participating chefs (Barbara Lynch is third from left), mixologists, and winemakers at the 2013 James Beard Foundation Women in Whites Gala hosted at the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York.

During the Gaelic Gourmet Gala at Boston’s Hotel Commonwealth, where 10 Irish and American chefs cooked side-by-side, Lynch was paired with Darina Allen, the cookbook author and proprietor of Ballymaloe House and Cookery School in eastern County Cork.

“Darina had brought over her own butter and a full salmon with her from Ireland. She started talking to me about her cows and the grass they eat,” Lynch recalls, breaking into a Cork accent, “‘You’ll never have butter like this, there’s nothing like it in the world.’ I couldn’t wait to go over to Ireland and visit.”

Allen in turn recalls being hugely impressed by Barbara’s vitality and passion for quality ingredients. “She’s such an inspirational entrepreneur who uses beautiful ingredients creatively in her own very distinctive style,” she says.

The two chefs were reunited in 2014 when Lynch visited Allen’s Cookery School. “You have to go there and see her gardens,” she exclaims. “She has a microclimate there that’s just amazing: fig trees, kiwi trees. She made soda bread in planter pots that was just delicious. To me, that is what cooking is all about, nothing fancy, but it comes from the heart.”

On that note, Lynch is convinced that Irish cooking is unfairly overlooked in the culinary world, and she plans to do something about it.

“Everyone talks about Italian grandmothers or French mothers who teach their children how to cook, but nobody talks about Irish grandmothers. I feel that Irish cooking is underrated. I want to do an Irish cookbook of recipes from Irish grandmothers.” ♦

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Michael Quinlin is author of Irish Boston (Globe Pequot, 2013) He co-founded the Boston Irish Tourism Association in 2000 and created Boston’s Irish Heritage Trail.

For more information, visit barbaralynch.com.

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First Word: The Joys of Cooking https://irishamerica.com/2017/05/first-word-the-joys-of-cooking/ https://irishamerica.com/2017/05/first-word-the-joys-of-cooking/#respond Wed, 24 May 2017 05:58:48 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30300 Read more..]]> Our cover story on top chef and restauranteur, Barbara Lynch got me thinking about my first forays into cooking, which involved wrestling with a Stanley wood-burning stove. I have fond memories of that black-iron beast, and the time I spent practically hugging it for the warmth that it threw off. Always cold as a child, the “range” as we called it, was the only source of heat in the kitchen, and I stayed as close to it as possible, often warming my feet in the oven on winter days.

I learned to cook when I was very young, to boil potatoes on top of the stove, and fry sausages and eggs, and I learned to bake, but my mother was the master of the fire. She knew how to stoke it, how much wood was needed to get the oven temperature just right so that our apple tarts came out with a nice golden crust. It was a talent that I came to appreciate when I was left in charge of the house for the first time. I was 12, and mother was away giving birth to one of my younger siblings. A hospital stay of 24 hours is now the norm, but back then women stayed in hospital for at least a week.

I enjoyed being in charge of my younger siblings while my mother was away. (Later they would accuse me of being bossy, but I like to think I was a benevolent dictator!) In my memory of that time, my mother was barely out the door when I had the baking utensils out and I was making my favorite buns. I measured all the ingredients (quadrupling the recipe since there were so many of us) and mixed everything in the yellow porcelain bowl. Then I poured the lot into two bun (cupcake) trays and after carefully putting them in the oven, I waited. And watched, and waited some more.

After an hour, the buns were as pale as when I first put them in. I added more wood to the fire, but to no avail. No matter how much I poked the logs, I couldn’t get the oven temperature up. Finally, I gave up and took them out, still pale in color and hard as stone. Alas, my brother Dessie happened into the kitchen just as I was taking them out the oven. Biting into one of my anemic specimens, proved to be an experience that he never forgot, and has never let me forget, either. Luckily, he lives on the West Coast, so I don’t see him that often, but when I do, his first question, more often that not, is: “Made any rock buns lately?”

Things got much easier in the cooking department when we got a gas cooker, but that old Stanley range, rock buns aside, still holds a warm spot in my heart.

All this reminiscing is by way of saying that I identify with Barbara Lynch, who at age 12, was cooking for the priests in Southie, her Boston Irish neighborhood. I will venture to say that shouldering that kind of responsibility early in life didn’t do her any harm, nor me either.

Another thing that endears Lynch to me is that in my early years in New York, I spent a lot of times in restaurants – waitressing. I remember those times with great affection. I loved the social aspects of the job, how everything revolved around the kitchen, and that wonderful surge of adrenalin that you got during the lunch and dinner rushes. But most of all, I remember the camaraderie that we shared as a team. We were all young and far away from home, mostly immigrants from different parts of the globe, and we had a lot fun together.

Lynch’s story is one of many interesting features in this, our summer reading issue. Rosemary Rogers writes a thought-provoking piece on reporter Dorothy Kilgallen who was investigating JFK’s assassination when she herself died under mysterious circumstances. Colin Lacey’s piece on the roots of Irish and its links to other languages highlights the common bonds we share with others. (And reminds me again of the restaurant workers I knew back in the day. I dare say, that should I find myself on the other side of the wall, my kitchen Spanish will stand me in good stead.)

In other stories, Geoffrey Cobb writes about Thomas Crawford, the son of Irish immigrants, whose “freedom” statue sits on top of the U.S. Capitol dome. Olivia O’Mahony writes about Samuel Beckett, and Ray Cavanaugh writes about the Healys, a mixed-race family who passed for white back when inter-racial marriages were forbidden.

On a cheerful note, Allen Leech, Downton’s Abbey’s Irish chauffeur, takes questions from Adam Farley, and Edythe Preet writes about her father, his love of literature, his story-telling abilities, and his passion for strawberry shortcake. And there’s lots more besides. When you are done reading, I recommend Maudie, a beautiful movie that I’m sure you will love as much as I did. You can read about it in this issue too.

Mórtas Cine. ♦

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Bus Éireann Dispute Sparks Suspicion https://irishamerica.com/2017/05/bus-eireann-dispute-sparks-suspicion/ https://irishamerica.com/2017/05/bus-eireann-dispute-sparks-suspicion/#respond Wed, 24 May 2017 05:57:04 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30389 Read more..]]> The daily routines of many Irish commuters were thrown into disarray when employees of Bus Éireann, an intercity and regional bus service that connects areas in Dublin, Limerick, Waterford, and Galway, went on strike for 21 days in April. Protesting poor company conditions and unfair pay, the workers lifted the pickets following a Labor Court reform proposal to improve work conditions, make 200 staff members redundant, and cut the wages of the company’s highest earners over the coming months.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald blasted transport minister Shane Ross for his claim that he was “not a mediator” and would not be “dictating” to the company or unions on internal issues. Speaking at Leinster House, McDonald criticized the government’s hands-off approach during negotiations, saying it revealed a “privatization agenda” on the part of Ross and the Irish government.

“Those workers who are risking their livelihoods on the picket lines are simply being used in an ideological campaign to privatize our bus routes,” said McDonald. “That is an indictment on this government and they should hang their heads in shame.” ♦

 

 

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Michael D. Higgins First Leader to Light Uisneach Fire in 1,000 Years https://irishamerica.com/2017/05/michael-d-higgins-first-leader-to-light-uisneach-fire-in-1000-years/ https://irishamerica.com/2017/05/michael-d-higgins-first-leader-to-light-uisneach-fire-in-1000-years/#respond Wed, 24 May 2017 05:56:06 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30392 Read more..]]> In May, Irish President Michael D. Higgins became the first Irish leader to light the ceremonial fire on the hill of Uisneach in County Westmeath since the last High King (presumed to be Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair) nearly 1,000 years ago.

Higgins follows in the footsteps of previous modern Irish leaders to make the pilgrimage to Uisneach, including Daniel O’Connell, Pádraig Pearse, and President Éamon de Valera, though none participated in the ignition ceremony. The Uisneach fire is a tradition dating back thousands of years to mark Bealtaine, the beginning of the Irish summer, each May. Several thousand people joined President Higgins for the 2017 ceremony.

In ancient Ireland, the hill at Uisneach was the seat of the High King, as well as the spiritual and political center of the island where Ireland’s namesake, the goddess Ériu, is said to be buried and leaders of the four provinces would meet. It was also an important focal point for political rallies during Ireland’s fight for independence. The site, which has been privately owned for nearly 100 years and contains several surviving monuments, forts, cairns, and relics dating back 5,000 years, is currently in contention for UNESCO World Heritage status.

“Having the president visit the hill and light the fire on this important year for Ireland gives me great pride,” David Clarke, said. Clarke and his wife Angela own the farm on which Uisneach sits. “It was a truly historic occasion and one that will go down in the history books. This is all part of our shared mission to help reposition the hill at the center of 21st-century Irish cultural life.”

Higgins’s visit in May also corresponded to the opening of a new visitor’s center on the site, set to become part of Ireland’s Ancient East Heritage Trail. ♦

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Irish Artist Awarded for Refugee Shots https://irishamerica.com/2017/05/irish-artist-awarded-for-refugee-shots/ https://irishamerica.com/2017/05/irish-artist-awarded-for-refugee-shots/#respond Wed, 24 May 2017 05:55:39 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30395 Read more..]]> Irish photographer Richard Mosse was awarded the 2017 Prix Pictet photography award in May for his Heat Maps series, which tracks the journeys of Middle Eastern and North African refugees with the use of a military-grade surveillance camera designed to detect body heat. The device is classified as a weapon under international law. Mosse intended for his use of the camera to rehumanize the individuals it was designed to dehumanize, producing a number of haunting large-scale prints, including those depicting panoramic views of the Idomeni refugee camp in Greece, and a film entitled Incoming.

Photographer Richard Mosse.

Photographer Richard Mosse.

“[The camera] depicts the human body as a radiant glow of biochemical processes such as respiration, energy production, hypothermia, and warmth,” Mosse, who hails from Co. Kilkenny, told the Guardian. “All that’s left of them is the biological fact of their birth.”

Mosse previously represented Ireland in 2013 at the Venice Biennale with his video project exploring Congo rebel groups, “The Enclave,” and in 2014 went on to win the prestigious Deutsche Boerse photography prize. ♦

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New Roles for Irish Diplomats https://irishamerica.com/2017/05/new-roles-for-irish-diplomats/ https://irishamerica.com/2017/05/new-roles-for-irish-diplomats/#respond Wed, 24 May 2017 05:54:52 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30401 Read more..]]> Irish ambassador to Great Britain Dan Mulhall (above right) is set to replace Anne Anderson as the Republic of Ireland’s 18th representative in the United States as part of a rotation in the senior ranks of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Barbara Jones (right), consul general of Ireland in New York, will take over as the ambassador to Mexico, with responsibilities for Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Peru, and Venezuela as well.

Mulhall is a native of County Waterford and is an avid promoter of Irish literary culture and posts regular poetry samples from W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, and other writers on Twitter. He is expected to meet with U.S. president Donald Trump in the next few months to discuss Irish-American relations.

Jones, who has served as consul general since 2014, was born in County Wexford and has served previously as head of humanitarian aid policy in Ireland.

Anderson, the first woman to occupy the post since her appointment in 2013, is preparing for retirement. Originally from Clonmel, County Tipperary, she has also served as the ambassador for Ireland in the United Nations, the E.U., France, and Monaco. ♦

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Entrepreneurial Emigrants Invited Home https://irishamerica.com/2017/05/entrepreneurial-emigrants-invited-home/ https://irishamerica.com/2017/05/entrepreneurial-emigrants-invited-home/#respond Wed, 24 May 2017 05:53:53 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30404 Read more..]]> Returning diaspora who wish to kickstart new businesses on Irish soil can now apply for support with a new government-funded mentoring scheme, Minister for Diaspora and International Development Joe McHugh announced in May. Funding of up to €100,000 ($111,000) will be provided to the initiative over the next 12 months as part of a new effort from the Department of Foreign Affairs to engage with Irish emigrants over the globe and facilitate those who desire to return home.

“Returning emigrants often have much to offer their local communities,” said McHugh.

“Research suggests that time spent living abroad improves capacity to succeed in creating and growing businesses.”

The project’s goal is to provide emigrants who are planning to or have recently come back to Ireland with resources to draw upon for beginning new business ventures. It is also committed to shedding light on and tackling obstacles in entrepreneurship for that particular demographic, such as gaps in personal and professional networks or knowledge of local current affairs fundamental to the success of a newly-established enterprise. Visit dfa.ie and search “Emigrant Support Programme” for info. ♦

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Census Reports on Love and Language https://irishamerica.com/2017/05/census-reports-on-love-and-language/ https://irishamerica.com/2017/05/census-reports-on-love-and-language/#respond Wed, 24 May 2017 05:52:37 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30408 Read more..]]> The results of the Republic of Ireland’s most recent census, conducted April 24, 2016, were released April 6. The census, which occurs every five years, requires everyone on Irish soil to submit a thorough account of their personal information for the production of updated national statistics. First produced in 1821, the census tracks the changes in Ireland’s population distribution, age, gender, housing, and lifestyle.

The population (now over 4,761,867) has increased by 3.8 percent since 2011, with 97.8 males for every 100 females. The 2016 census is the first in Irish history since the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015, and reported accordingly – over one third of people in Ireland are married, with 6,034 such of such couples being same-sex.

The total number of people who answered “yes” to being able to speak the Irish language in 2016 was 1,761,420, a 0.7 percent decrease on the 2011 figure. Interestingly, 43.1 per cent of women indicated they could speak Irish compared with just 36.4 percent of men; however, whether this is representative of competence or confidence is difficult to know. The percentage of the population that reported speaking Irish beyond the education system was 17.4, with 53,217 Irish speakers living outside the Gaeltacht. Gaeltacht areas themselves are presently home to two percent of the population.

Regarding other languages, the 2016 results show that the amount of people speaking foreign languages in their household has gone up by 19 percent, with Polish being the most commonly-used at 135,895, nearly double the number of those who claim to speak Irish daily in non-school environments. ♦

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Ireland Announces Online Passport Applications https://irishamerica.com/2017/05/ireland-announces-online-passport-applications/ https://irishamerica.com/2017/05/ireland-announces-online-passport-applications/#respond Wed, 24 May 2017 05:51:24 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30411 Read more..]]> In March the Irish government rolled out a major change to its passport issuing office, allowing Irish citizens to renew their passports online, from anywhere in the world. The service, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan said, “is one of the most significant innovations in customer service that this department has delivered over the past 15 years.”

The new service is a milestone in Flanagan’s Passport Reform Program, which aims to modernize and streamline the process of applying for and renewing Irish passports with a focus on fraud detection and prevention. Launched in 2015, the program has a combined capital and current investment budget of €18.6 million and will run through 2019.

Last year saw the highest number of passports ever issued by Ireland, with a total of 747,810 applications processed, a nine percent increase from 2015. This year that trend appears likely to be sustained. By March, the most recent month for which numbers are available, there has already been a 26 percent increase in passports issued over the same period in 2016.

Currently, the online passport application service is limited to those over the age of 18 who already hold an Irish passport and are not changing their name on that passport, but a department spokesperson told Irish America that the department envisions all Irish citizens, including first-time passport applicants, will be able to apply online by mid-2019. ♦

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Irish Beach Brought Back to Life Overnight https://irishamerica.com/2017/05/irish-beach-brought-back-to-life-overnight/ https://irishamerica.com/2017/05/irish-beach-brought-back-to-life-overnight/#respond Wed, 24 May 2017 05:50:01 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30414 Read more..]]> Sand has returned to a village beach on Achill Island for the first time in over 30 years after a surprise deposit from the Atlantic Ocean in April. Since storms washed away the sand in 1984, leaving only rocks and rock pools, the beach at the small town of Dooagh has been devoid of what was once a lifeline for residents, first as a source of soil fertilization and later as a draw for tourists, who are now returning.

“We have a beautiful little village as it is, but it is great to look out and see this beautiful beach instead of just rocks,” Alan Gielty, who owns a local restaurant, told the Guardian. “Since people have seen the news of the beach, we have had plenty more visitors from the middle of the country.”

Speaking to the Irish Times, Sean Molloy of Achill Tourism called the development “enormously significant,” recalling how the strand once supported four hotels and several guesthouses.

Prior to the construction of a pier in 1927, the beach was used as a curragh launch and seaweed was mixed with the sand to enrich the soil and fertilize crops. But this also isn’t the first time the beach has disappeared, according to Molloy, who notes a similar occurrence in the 1890s.

Dooagh Before the sand returned, March 2017.

Dooagh before the sand returned, March 2017.

Sand migration is part of the life cycle of coastal beaches, which regularly change with the tides, though usually not to such a dramatic degree. And even though this renewal saw thousands of tons of sand deposited over 300 meters, Molloy advises caution, telling CNN the beach is still likely in flux: “Because of the sand coming in, we don’t know how safe the beach is now because currents could be changed and it’ll take a little bit of time.”

Still, he’s hopeful, telling the Times that “Achill already has five blue-flag beaches, so we are hoping that in time it will be awarded a sixth.” ♦

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