Learning Irish is a struggle for me. I’ve tried many programs, and dutifully play with my Irish Rosetta Stone weekly but it is somewhat joyless and difficult without another Irish speaker to practice with. So when the advertisement for the 18th annual Irish Immersion weekend at the United Irish Cultural Center in San Francisco, California came across my radar, I planned on trying to find a way to attend.
This was not my first attempt but the Immersion’s price tag is a bit steep so I’ve never made it before….and probably wouldn’t have made it this time either except that my registration fee was a birthday gift from a dear friend I always go to Ireland with. Kathleen’s theory is that one of us needs to learn Irish in preparation for the inevitable day that we move to Ireland – and I thought I was pretty up to the task. I felt pretty confident about what I already knew when I walked in but I quickly learned that it is one thing to know some phrases or a lot of vocabulary and another altogether to be able to carry on a coherent conversation. I was even more intimidated when I realized that some of ár múinteoirí were prominent and well-known Irish speakers in Ireland, who bring the language to life every day.
Peace. It’s an elusive concept to many countries, tribes, and populations. The idea that there will ever be a time without war is a dream. It is one that everyone claims to hope for but in reality, hundreds of thousands of politicians, economists, religious leaders, generals, neighbors, soldiers, and contractors work against the concept every day. A world without war is a type of idealism that can sum up the beliefs of bleeding heart liberals, traumatized veterans, moderate conservatives, and true libertarians alike…but it has no place in this world that we live in today, outside of philosophy and imagination. As Robert Heinlein said, “You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don’t ever count on having both at once.”
April 29th looms ever closer and the Centenary celebration truly comes to a close…at least until May when the executed leaders will be remembered a hundred years after they were killed. The surrender was originally offered on behalf of the revolution by Elizabeth O’Farrell, but the English would not accept it from a woman. She returned with Patrick Pearse and stood at his side when he offered it himself to “prevent the further slaughter of the civilian population and in the hope of saving our followers, now hopelessly surrounded and outnumbered”. Some argue that it was no surrender at all, but rather a pause to prevent the loss of innocent life because the leaders knew the fight for Irish freedom would continue, with or without them. Others couldn’t bear the thought of standing down for anything, even if their leaders were asking them to. The end to the Easter Rising is a fact, but were the rebels defeated?
That’s a question I’ve been studying for a long, long time and my answer is still yes and no. It’s also for a different post, because this one is about what you can do in Dublin on April 29th to commemorate the close of the battle and to lend your support to those who are still fighting to save one of the most important areas of the city.
Sophie Bryant was born on this day in 1850, into a time when women did not receive much education or have too many professional options. She was lucky enough to be largely home-schooled by her father who was a math professor at the University of London, and by private governesses that he hired. She became fluent in many languages and fell in love with math and science. She was an exceptionally strong student.
Kathleen Lynn was an anomaly among women at the turn of the century in Ireland. She was extremely well educated, which was very rare for females at the time, and she was a doctor – not a nurse – which was an incredibly unusual profession for a woman of that era. She faced discrimination and difficulty in the field for many years due to her gender and it made her a strong suffragist and a very tough woman.
It’s rare that American news coincides so neatly with news in Ireland. It’s a real treat to write about it when it does unless it is a story full of bigotry and grandstanding which unfortunately, is true today. Often times whenever a group is called out for their bullying traditions or symbols of hatred, their response is always the same. They claim that the behavior isn’t racist or sectarian, that instead it is tradition and heritage – as if the concepts are mutually exclusive. Guess what? It IS tradition and heritage and it IS racist, sectarian and vile. The time has come to accept that and leave horrible traditions behind. Continue reading →
‘Irish Lives in War and Revolution: Exploring Ireland’s History 1912-1923‘ was the name of the online class that I just completed thanks to the partnership between Trinity College and Futurelearn. It certainly lived up to its title, but not in the way I expected. Gone were the heroic tales of Patrick Pearse, Constance Markievicz, or Michael Collins. In their places were the voices, letters, and stories of the average person, struggling to get through his or her life in Ireland during periods of protracted conflict. It featured soldiers and volunteers pretty equally and it was really well constructed. I had a fascinating six weeks and I can’t even begin to tell you how much inspiration it gave me or how many historical events have a new twist (or ten) to think about after taking the course. Thousands of people worldwide took this class online, so I guess the first thing that must be said is way to go Ireland – people like you! And the next is a huge thank you to the teachers, mentors and researchers because this class was really enjoyable and educational.