He was brash and tenacious. He was often obnoxious and nearly always a drunk. He was a brilliant writer, but in his words he was “more importantly, a reader.” He was a cocky, yet humble adventurer who was opinionated but always seemed ready to be wrong or surprised. Anthony Bourdain was not Irish but he had a gift of gab and a way with words that put him on par with many of the great Irish writers that he was inspired by. He was touched by Ireland on his first trip there and on his last he wrote “Heaven looks like this” in the guestbook at the Gravedigger pub.
The last few years have not been kind to many of my musical idols. To be fair, many were older already and had lived full and wild lives so their passing was not necessarily a surprise but when you lose childhood heroes like David Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen it still hurts. This week Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries has joined them, which was shocking. O’Riordan was young and she had three children. She was just starting to record again and get back on her feet. I was looking forward to hearing what she was going to do next, as were many others and this terrible news means that we’ll never know.
It was the tear heard around the world. In one split (ahem) second Sinead O’Connor defiantly threw her figurative middle fingers in the air, lost a record amount of fans, and got banned from Saturday Night Live with her protest of the Catholic church. Many of the flock still haven’t forgiven her even now, twenty-five years later.
Sinead O’Connor is a polarizing artist. She imploded her own rising career by tearing up a picture of the pope in 1992 and has never been able to reclaim it entirely. She is known for being a bit crazy, somewhat suicidal, and incredibly volatile. She involves herself in meaningless Twitter feuds, and makes wild accusations. She rewrote the Irish National Anthem, and has written numerous incendiary letters to the Irish government. Most recently she is collecting lawsuits after accusing Arsenio Hall of being Prince’s drug dealer. She’s kooky and cantankerous, and I still love her. She’s also missing. Continue reading
Dr. Ada English was a strong woman, a fervent Nationalist, a prominent member of Cumann na mBan, and one of the first female psychiatrists in Ireland. Like her peer Dr. Kathleen Lynn, Dr. English devoted her spare time to politics and to healing and aiding the Irish Volunteers who were fighting for a free Ireland. Her story is not as well known as Dr Lynn’s however, since Ada was not in Dublin during the Easter Rising. Many political women of Ireland’s revolutionary periods have slowly vanished throughout the years, and Dr. Ada English has not been an exception to that unfortunate trend, though she should be.
On this day in 1757, “St. Patrick’s Hospital for Imbeciles,” Ireland’s first mental hospital, was opened in Dublin. The name has changed throughout the years to the simpler St. Patrick’s Hospital – but when it opened it was a hospital designed to house the insane and afflicted. It was the final gift that Jonathan Swift (of Gulliver’s Travels fame) bestowed upon the world, and it was created at his request with money left for it in his will.
This last weekend in Merrion Square, hundreds of Dubliners saw an outdoor viewing of one of my favorite movies in the world – Dead Poet’s Society. The proceeds went to various suicide prevention and mental health programs in Ireland which is incredibly encouraging. Here in the U.S., our entire health care system is broken and the worst victims of this are those who suffer from mental health afflictions. Whenever something that is this tragic and heartbreaking happens, we always hope that it will change the dialogue and the system, but it rarely does anything to truly help, except at a grass roots level. Our politicians can’t admit that the reality of how poorly we treat our citizens is appalling because then they would actually have to come up with a way to change it – and that involves a complete revamp of mental and physical healthcare. Continue reading