Throughout history there are not many instances that one can absolutely prove that a horrible crime was just a part of a scheme that would have led to something much, much worse. The Miami Showband killings in Ireland is one of those times and it is an appalling lesson of just how brutal and insane the Troubles could get. It is also a clear cut example of how involved the authorities were in some of the most heinous crimes of the era.
Showbands were quite a popular phenomenon in Ireland. The uniqueness of the showband was documented in the film “The Commitments” which was popular throughout the world. These bands usually had five to ten members and were loved for playing showtunes, pop music, jazz and down home rock n roll greats. Many played the favorite traditional tunes of the area as well and they were extremely popular from the 50s right up until the mid-seventies. It’s amazing how quickly attendance and participation waned when one was targeted so ruthlessly by the paramilitaries of the UVF. Continue reading →
100 years ago exactly, a large shipment of arms landed in Ireland. It took the actions of extraordinary women to accomplish the Howth Gun Running scheme of 1914. One, Alice Stopford Green, gave a loan to have the capital for negotiations. Two more, Molly Childers and Mary Spring Rice, raised the rest of the funds to purchase the weapons. They were transported on the Childer’s family yacht – The Asgard – and two of the women sailed proudly with them. This is not to say that they did it alone but without the actions of these women, this large landing of arms destined for the hands of the Irish Volunteers may never have happened. Continue reading →
52 years ago today, Ireland lost an incredible feminist voice. Few women have ever managed to juggle being an activist, a rebel, a suffragist, a wife, a prisoner, a judge, a volunteer, a commanding officer, a hunger striker, an author, and the President of a political party, especially during a time when most women were dismissed and ignored. In fact, only one comes to mind.
Margaret Buckley (née Goulding) was an unrepentant suffragist and Republican woman who began her long and lustrous career of activism and politics as the president of the Cork chapter of Inghinidhe na hEireann, before the organization merged with Cumann Na mBan. Later as a married woman, she became a prominent organizer of the Irish Women’s Workers Union and eventually returned to her role as President, but the next time she did it as the head of a newly revamped Sinn Fein. Continue reading →
Here’s one that on the face of it, might not normally fit in my blog. I usually rail against the PUP and many loyalist factions and traditions but I always try to give credit where credit is due. David Ervine is one person who deserves that credit and I write that without hesitation, if only to show how similar both sides of the divide in the North of Ireland may be. At the end of the day, I am a firm believer in peace, empathy, and understanding. I also believe that while fundamental change is incredibly difficult, some people can accomplish it. I may be naive, hippy-ish, or simply too far removed from the first-hand experience but I believe David Ervine managed to pull it off.
Today would be Nelson Mandela’s 96th birthday. Once a warrior branded a terrorist, he then became the leader of South Africa and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He died while I was in Belfast, and people were leaving fresh flowers under his mural. Here’s a lovely picture of the mural, with the flowers underneath to celebrate today which is Nelson Mandela day.
flowers on the mural
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”
On the last day of our recent journey in Ireland, it was pouring down rain and we were headed back toward Shannon from Belfast. We were on the main highway and getting cranky because of the storm and from the bigger roads, there’s not a lot of super beautiful scenery or many interesting things to see . It was not the way we wanted to leave, so once we were in the west, we picked an exit at random and started exploring it. There were a few ruins here and there. There were a few historical signs pointing off in random directions and we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere on a country road hunting for castles. A tractor was coming at us from the other direction and as we pulled over to let him pass, we asked him if there were castles nearby. He told us about 3 or 4 of them and ended with “but you know it’s raining, right?” He shook his head when we said we didn’t care, muttering something about crazy girls. Then he began to give us directions to the one that wasn’t a hotel saying, “Well then, just go up the road a few miles, look for the dog at the top of the hill, pull into the driveway of the stone house, knock on the door, and ask for the key to the castle.” We thanked him and continued on down the lane. We found the dog, shivering and wet. We pulled into the drive, and knocked on the door of the stone house. When a very startled man answered and we asked for the key to the castle, he too responded with “You know it’s raining, right?” while he frantically looked for it. After a phone call or two and a reasonably thorough search, this is what he gave us – there’s no mistaking that it is the key to a castle, with that kind of key chain.
Since my return from Ireland I have been trying to figure out what I could do for work in order to move there. Unfortunately, I do not have a background in Tech which seems to be one of the only fields where business is thriving in the Emerald Isle, so I have been hunting for other ways. It turns out that I just needed to apply for the Minister of State/Gaeltacht affairs position, since apparently the job requires very little knowledge of Irish and does not require fluency in the language.
Seriously?! It is my impression that if you are put in charge of Gaeltacht Affairs, you should be able to conduct business or resolve conflict in Irish, since you are representing that language and the people who speak it. Perhaps I have that wrong and Joe McHugh will do just fine but I don’t think I’m mistaken in what the job requirements should be.
If I am though, I would like to formally announce that I am applying for the job. After all, Tá beagán Gaeilge agam.
“I do wish you lot had the decency to shoot me.” -Constance Markievicz, 1916.
Constance Markievicz may have wanted to die like her compatriots for her role in the Easter Rising but the English wouldn’t execute a woman. In the end, they may have wished they had, for the Countess had another 11 years to continue being a thorn in their side. She went straight into an even more political role, creating a world where women were more equal to the men, remaining staunchly Republican and inspiring thousands of people, including myself, throughout the years since. She is one of my favorite heroes. Continue reading →
I write for a few places – one of my longtime favorites is the Atlas Obscura which is a combination of an obscure travel guide and a historical Atlas. Their Irish section was woefully sparse before I filled it out (which I am still doing) and sometimes I like to share the entries.
The deserted village of Slievemore was one of the first I knew I had to add when I went to Ireland. We were there in the early hours of the morning and it was pouring down rain but we explored it anyway.
Interesting fact: When you’re deep into the Gaeltacht island of Achill in December, it is important to note that there are no off season accommodations. In fact the Annexe Pub was the only place we could find anyone and the amazing bartender had to call a friend who owns the summer hostel to turn on the heat and give us a room for the night. It was a much appreciated and really lovely thing for him to do for the crazy tourists who were traveling without an itinerary. If you make it out that way, have a pint – the Guinness was perfect – and give him some love from the crazy American ladies that he saved from a freezing storm.