Read Page One of Our Ireland Blog, With Our Most Current News Items.
Wanna Be The Rose of Tralee?
If you’re an American lady who’s at least 18 but not yet 28, never married and never had children and able to prove Irish descent, you might be able to take a shot at being The Rose of Tralee. Promoters of the August event in Ireland are looking all over the U.S. for contestants. If you’d like to take your shot, contact Ms. Jackie Nelon at [email protected]
Dublin Looking More Like Los Angeles
The number of cars in Dublin today is double what it was just 15 years ago, The New York Times reports. Since 1990, emissions from cars and other transportation means have risen 140 per cent.
Ireland Rules At Least A Few Waves
The Irish government announced it’s biggest-ever military equipment contact, stating that three new vessels will be built for its navy at a cost of 180 million Euros. This will bring the total size of Ireland’s navy to 11 boats. According to the Irish Navy's website, the fleet also includes a few also has "inflatable craft."
Government Pub Crawl
Commuters to Dublin may have to struggle through three hours of traffic each way, but people in the countryside can now count on a quick ride to the pub, courtesy of the Irish government. A free service to ferry people back and forth to pubs will now be offered to people who live in isolated areas not served by busses or taxis.
A key indicator that Ireland’s housing market is over-heated, according to real estate website daft.ie, is that one out of every five houses built in Ireland in the past four years is now standing vacant. Renters are finding it nearly impossible to get homes. The problem is that real estate prices are just rising too fast. While a renter may pay 1,000 Euros a month to live in the home, the value of that home will go up 3-5,000 Euros every month. Landlords find it more attractive to build houses on spec and leave them empty until someone makes a high purchase offer than to get locked into long or even medium-term leases.
Idyllic Ireland Threatened
Tory Island, a tiny fleck off the coast of Donegal, is often mentioned as a wonderfully remote spot where old Ireland lives on. But remoteness can be tough in wintertime. 34 people had to be airlifted off the three-mile-long island recently after ferry services were cut off for more than a week by storm conditions, causing food supplies to run low there. Some of those airlifted were former residents who were home for the holidays, and couldn’t get back to the mainland at the end of their vacations. The total population of the Island is under 200.
Mystery of the Deep
A team of amateur Irish divers whorecently dove the wreck of the Lusitania in the Irish Sea claim to have found munitions in its cargo hold. The sinking of the Lusitania by a German submarine is considered the key event that brought America into World War One. Historians have argued ever since about whether the ship sank so quickly – in less than 25 minutes – because of the torpedo alone or because of explosions of American ammunition being secretly transported inside the ship to European allies.
Huge Immigrant Influx
According to the Irish Times, a whopping 200,000 immigrants registered in Ireland during 2006. The largest group, 87,000 came from Poland. Other Eastern European countries like Slovakia and Latvia were also big sources of immigrants.
Waiting For A Train
The increasing popularity of commuting to work by train has created a huge snarl on Ireland’s limited railroad system. To deal with the mess, Iarnród Éireann's has come up with an incredibly complicated new series of schedules. An unfortunate result is that several trips now actually take longer than they did 20 years ago.
Family Mixed Literature And Politics
Former Irish senator Michael Yeats died in early January at the age of 86. Yeats, who served as the first Irish vice-president of the European Parliament, was the son of famed poet W.B. Yeats. In between writing couplets, the father also served as an Irish senator (W.B. Yeats died in 1939).
Irish - the New Language of Bureaucracy
The European Union recently accepted Irish as one of it’s official languages. This follows a long campaign to get the old language accepted by Bertie Ahern. Irish newspaper writers were quick to point out that having the EUs new regulations translated into Irish means that even fewer Irish people will probably read them, since most consider the national requirement to learn Irish in grammar school a complete pain in the neck.
Too Much Dublin Luxury
Managers of SAS Hotels, which runs the five-star St. Helens Hotel on Stillorgan Road, are saying that there are now too many luxury hotels in Dublin. Government tax breaks have set off a hotel building spree that has, according to the most recent SAS financial filing, created a situation where “the five-star hotel market in Dublin and the sensitive tourism market present a very challenging period for the hotel's sales..." Don’t expect any big breaks on your five-star room rate, however. In spite of allegedly having too much competition, SAS and the St. Helens are still making a tidy profit.
Getting mighty crowded
If current population trends continue, you may soon need sharp elbows just to move around in Ireland. The island’s total population (including Northern Ireland) just recently topped 5 million, but demographers now say it will reach eight million by 2025 (yes – that’s just 19 years from now). Ironically, this would be a return to the population level Ireland had in 1841, just before the great famine.
A Dublin landmark will survive Conservationists have succeeded in their efforts to save 16 Moore Street in Dublin from the wrecker’s ball. The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has announced that the building will be declared a National Monument. 16 Moore street served as headquarters for the leaders of the 1916 uprising, after they were driven out of the Dublin General Post Office by British forces.
Out of songs - and teeth as well
Shane MacGowan, former singer for the mildly famous group The Pogues, has built a unique kind of fame in Ireland over the past decade or two. No longer in the musical game, MacGowan now makes the Irish papers regularly for his drinking exploits, but even more, for his dental problems. A man who once possessed the most multi-directional smile this side of David Bowie (who finally got them straightened a few years back), MacGowan’s celebrity is now based on how regularly he loses a tooth during a pub crawl. The Irish Post, apparently hard up for real news, recently reported that he fell off a wall outside a pub in Kilcurry (County Limerick), resulting in the loss of two more pearly whites. The dental yarn may be almost run, however, as a friend of MacGowan’s reports that at this point, "he hasn’t got that many teeth to lose."
The white woman’s burden
Just in case you thought it was only Irish men who liked to drink too much, a new study by a University College of London Professor shows that Irish women engage in “binge drinking" for times or more every fortnight (two weeks). That makes them heavier drinkers than any other females in Europe and even more than Irish men, only 49% of whom say they go on a bender this often.
Location, location, gazillions
Irish papers recently published some justifiably warm stories about the fine charity of Ms Maureen O’Connell, who specified in her will that her pub in Eyre Square, in the middle of Galway City, would be sold after her death with all proceeds going to the Society of St Vincent de Paul. But we couldn’t help but focus on the eye-popping numbers. Eight years after her death, O’Connell’s pub has now been sold for – hold on to your hats – 11 million Euro (over 14 million US). Although the four story pub included 15 bedrooms, investors have apparently purchased it strictly for the property. At prices like that, it’s no wonder that Irish pub owners are now following the lead of Irish farmers, who long ago discovered that it makes no sense to stay in business when you can become rich by simply selling your land.
Leonardo in Dublin
Old document lovers were quivering this week over the announcement that Dublin’s Chester Beatty Library has obtained to right to exhibit Leonardo Da Vinci’s "Codex Leicester," a manuscript in which the great Renaissance genius expounds on the properties of water and various technological issues from hydraulics to bridge design. The Codex Leicester, which will exhibited at The Beatty next summer, is owned by tech wiz Bill Gates
Pub culture the only culture
Immigrants to Ireland like the fact that people are friendly and there are lots of social welfare benefits, according to a new study by The National Action Plan Against Racism. The main problems, according to the report, is that the immigrants find reland surprisingly expensive and dirty, that is has too much drug use and too many street beggars. Newcomers also say they find "the dominance of pub culture as almost the only social outlet very strange."
Sailor conquers Ireland twice
For just the second time in history, a sailor has repeated as winner of the BMW Round Ireland Race, a grueling 700 mile slog known as one of the toughest sailing competitions in the world. Eric Lisson of the Royal Cork Yacht Club, whose boat is named “Cavatina," won the race previously in 2002.
A Dublin classic re-opens
Dublin’s glorious Shelbourne Hotel (on St. Stephen's Green) is set to re-open this February, after being closed for about two years for a major face-lift. Over 40 million Euros were spent to refurbish the hotel, which originally opened in early nineteenth century and had recently been showing it's age. Many of the rooms will be named for famous people who have been guests. The Shelbourne is owned by Marriott.
Sell ‘em before they steal ‘em
Some extremely rare early Italian bronzes will soon go on sale at Christie's in London, from the collection of Russborough House, the site of one of the world’s most spectacular art collection and several of the world’s most spectacular art robberies in the past 20 years. Lady Beit, widow of art collector Sir Alfred Beit, specified before her death last year that the bronzes would be sold to keep the Russborough Foundation from going broke. Read our story about Russborough's history of art robberies
Irish Halloween a little too exciting
Halloween holds a place of honor on the Celtic calendar. But modern day Haloween is not without its problems in Ire. This year, over 380 fire calls were made in Dublin, while all sorts of egg throwing and property damage incidents occurred. RTE reported that in Longford, a small number of "youths from dysfunctional families" barricaded themselves inside a small local authority housing estate and terrorized residents by, among other things, "breaking windows and pulling up shrubs."
Pirate Queen sinking?
Grace O’Malley may have been a holy terror on the Irish sea in the 1500’s, but her trip to Broadway this year is looking less and less like smooth sailing. Previews of a new musical about her life, "The Pirate Queen," created by "Les Miserables" and "Miss Saigon" creators Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, have received less than swashbucking reviews in Chicago. The show, which is scheduled to open shortly in New York, has taken hits for having overly shallow characters and, in the words of one reviewer, a "too-tepid love story." Read our historical story about Grace O’Malley
If you’re frustrated in your efforts to find good old Guinness Stout, your life is about to get even tougher. Diageo, which has been fighting declining sales of the brown stuff for at least a decade, is now about to introduce a new Guinness that’s red in tone. In addition to the Guinness Draught, Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, and there will soon be a version made with light-roasted barley, which will have a reddish color. Read about Guinness' product agonisties
Greatest Irish person you never heard of
According to a recent poll shows that people in Wicklow, at least believe that the single greatest person in the entire history of Ireland was Anne Devlin. In case this name doesn't ring a bell with you, Anne Devlin, who hailed from Wicklow, was a housekeeper to Irish revolutionary Robert Emmett in the early 1800's. Devlin's job was not to keep the house clean, but to provide an appearance of normality to a building that was constantly being visited by Emmett's conspirators. Arrested by British authorities, Devlin was tortured and kept with her entire family in a prison so squalid that her young brother died there. Even though Emmett urged her to confess to her anti-British activities to save herself, she refused to inform on any of the Irish revolutionaries. Released from prison in 1806, she died in poverty in 1851.
Irish Students Welcome in U.S. Once Again
Thousands more Irish students will be coming to the US next year because of a relaxation of rules on so-called “J-1 Visas" by the State Department. Since the September 11th attacks in the US, Irish students have reported running into all sorts bureaucratic obstacles when they’ve tried to spend a year at an American school. The US State Department, which would now like to get Irish students coming over in the same numbers they once did, have not only relaxed Visa rules, but is actually conducting a promotional campaign at Irish schools to spread the word that it’s once again easy to get into the US to study.
In spite of Ireland’s general economic success these days, the government is allowing rural Western Ireland to suffer serious declines. At least that’s the claim made in a new report by the Western Development Commission, a government body that’s supposed to promote social and economic development in The West. According the group’s report, there is an ongoing decline in both population and prosperity in rural areas because the government has cut back on money for development of the region. It’s hard to know how accurate the Commission’s claims are, since private and public groups have used similar language in the past to promote unlimited home-building in rural Ireland in the past.
The County Clare Council wants to require buskers (musicians) to take an audition before they can play at the Cliffs of Moher. There's a long history of musicians playing atop the cliffs and on the paths leading up to them. Now that a new multi-million Euro visitor center is being built there, however, it looks like the free and open days are ending at this natural attraction. Managers of the site, which is visited by over 800,000 tourists each year, have also announced that they would like to begin charging an entry fee of about 8 Euros per person.
The Guinness Book of World Records has new challengers. Across the globe, a variety of book and website publishers are springing up to certify odd, silly and meaningless records, The Wall Street Journal reports. The Guinness Book is a multi-million dollar business that stands to lose big if products like Wikipedia and Record Holders Republic, which have less-rigorous standards of proof, capture a bigger slice of the market. Even Guinness's own record-holders are now jumping into the game. A book called The Alternative Book of Records was recently published by a German man noted in the Guinness Book for flipping a pancake 416 times in two minutes, a major accomplishment indeed.
Today, June 13th, is W.B. Yeats' birthday. Yeats was born in Dublin in 1865, and grew up both in London and Sligo, his mother's hometown. Yeats saw Sligo as a mystical place full of spirits. His poem "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" evokes the area: "I will arise and go now, and go to Inisfree And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee And live alone in the bee-loud glade"
Over 100 basking sharks are in the waters off County Kerry. The Irish Examiner reports that while the "Irish Whale and Dolphin Group" has not yet confirmed the sighting, several people report seeing the sharks near Valentia Island. It's not unusual. Basking sharks, which like to feed on plankton, have also been sighted off Donegal, while whales have been seen off reland's east and west coasts.
Irish newspapers are scrambling to defend themselves against lawsuits over the odd story of Liam Lawlor, a former Fianna Fail TD who was killed in a car accident last November in Moscow. Lawlor was a flamboyant politician who was called everything from "a larger than life figure" by Bertie Ahern to a man who "personified the corruption that infected Irish political life" by the thetimesonline, had recently resigned in a scandal. A young woman who survived the Moscow crash was identified as an underage prostitute by among others. She is in fact a Ms. Julia Kushnir, a 29 year-old interpreter. Now that she has recovered from her own injuries sustained in the crash, she's suing six Irish newspapers who allegedly said she was a prostitute.
It’s great that a story like this can still make headlines in Ireland. The Limerick Post reported this week that a local horse trainer has been turning the heads of motorists throughout the city by strolling around with his new zebra. Johnny Cross says he bought the one-year old animal in Holland recently as a curiosity, and to see if he could successfully break it (a supposed impossibility with this species). Efforts to tame the zebra have gone, well, not too badly. Said Cross: “He’s as good as you could expect for a zebra." The horse trainer says he has no intention of trying to race his new pet.
With gas and oil prices going through the roof, good old turf is looking like a more attractive fuel in Ireland. There's a significant increase in the number of people digging the stuff up for burning in West Donegal, in particular, The Irish Emigrant reports. Restrictions on where turf can be cut and even on the tools used for it, however, could limit the extent to which that beautiful smell will make a comeback in Irish villages.
The estimated 50,000 illegal immigrants from Ireland now living in the US will get a shot at American citizenship under a new immigration bill passed by The Senate. The progress of the bill has been closely watched in the Irish-American community, though Irish illegals comprise a tiny percentage of the 11 million plus illegal aliens in America. The Senate bill contains a guest worker program which, according to Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern, should allow the majority of Irish immigrants to legalize their status here. A big hurdle remains, though: The Senate's bill will have to be reconcilled with an immigration bill passed by The House of Representatives which focuses far more on restricting the flow of immigrants into the country.
It seems hard to believe that drinking was ever a taboo subject in Ireland. But Lee Dunne's book "Paddy Maguire is Dead" was actually banned there in the 1970's because it's account of alcoholism was considered too graphic (the author's response to the ban back then was to hand out one hundred copies for free on Grafton Street in Dublin). Only now is Mr. Dunne's book being published in reland, by Killynon House Books.
Multi-national companies are flooding into Ire. The Irish Investment and Development Agency reports that over 120 companies, mostly in high-tech, either expanded or opened new operations in Ireland during 2005. The companies, who see Ireland as the lowest-tax entry point to the European Union, added 3,400 jobs to the Irish economy.
They're freezin' in a place called Birr, in County Offaly (dead center in the country). In case you're wondering, "grass temperatures" are a standard measure in Ireland, taken by measuring the air temperature about an inch above a flat field of short grass.