Read Page One of Our Ireland Blog, With Our Most Current News Items.
Statue, But No Cake, Left Out In The Rain In Limerick
Dublin has its statue of Molly Malone, and now Limerick has a bronze reproduction of favorite son Richard Harris. The life size piece by Jim Connolly, an artist who also happens to be known in Ireland as an advocate of housing development in the countryside much like the people Mr. Harris did battle with in “The Field,” was unveiled in front of Harris first wife and three sons. Harris was known for his starring rolls in “Camelot” and for his mega pop hit “McArthur Park.”
Last Irish Warrior Standing The very last known veteran of the Irish War of Independence, Republican Dan Keating, died in October of this year (2007). The War of Independence, or Anglo-Irish War, arose in the wake of the 1916 uprising, and raged from 1919 until 1921.
Jacko Apparently Passing On Wicklow The Irish rumor mill was recently whispering that wacko former singing star Michael Jackson had payed $20 million for a castle in County Wicklow. Apparently, the rumor is not accurate.
The goats who make their home on Bilberry Rock in Waterford are one lucky bunch of quadrupeds. Sisters Ann and Orla Foley, who’ve lived next to the rock since childhood, have fed and looked after the goats their entire lives. But goat food and goat veterinary fees are all going up in cost these days like everything else. The Foley sisters have set up a “Bilberry Goat Heritage Trust” to collect the eighty Euro needed to feed the animals this winter. The help them out, send your donation to Permanent TSB, Morgan St, Hypercentre, Waterford, Co. Waterford, Republic of Ireland. Account Number - 11307370, sort code 99-06-32.
Even Non-Human Athletes “Juicing”
Though it’s truly more sad than funny, a recent report by an Irish government committee charged that greyhound owners are feeding cocaine to their dogs to enhance performance. No word yet on whether the dogs are being offered major league baseball contracts.
The Sea Still Claims Fishermen
Even in a modernized Ireland, the fishermen who ply the sea still face old dangers. A recent accident claimed the lives of a father and son team of fishermen from Inver, County Donegal. The two were out for lobsters in Donegal Bay when the weather deteriorated. Other fisherman became worried about the Kennedy’s when they did not return to port. Though a Coast Guard helicopter quickly found the two clinging to each other in the water, they died not long after from hypothermia in the local hospital. They had spent about two hours in the cold Atlantic waters.
Still Looking To Get In
Because of Ireland’s economic boom, the emigration wave that brought so many of our ancestors to America’s shores is a thing of the past. But there are still some Irish folks who very much want to live in the USA. The New York Times recently reported on a scam artist who bilked illegal Irish immigrants trying to get in. Saying he was with the Yale University Immigration Law Clinic (a non-existent organization), Mr. Ralph Cucciniello got over 200 immigrants to fork over about $5,000 each, promising he would get them the papers they needed to remain in the U.S. legally. Cucciniello, who raked in over $1 million on the scheme, was arrested in May on charges including grand larceny.
So Long Real Estate Boom
After what seems like an endless boom in real estate, money people from all corners seem to be predicting a reversal of fortune for Ireland. The latest gloomy prediction comes from the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which just issued a prediction that the housing boom in Ireland is over. The group went on to predict that inflation will rise significantly in Ireland, partly because the government is spending too much money.
No Hurry To Get To The Altar
Irish people are waiting longer to get married, and getting might choosy about who they’ll tie the knot with, according to new figures from the Central Statistics Office. The average bride in Ireland is now 31 years old, while the typical groom is 33 (men in farming communities tend to wait longer, marrying at an average age of 35). Irish people, according to the Statistics Office study, are now less inclined than they once were to make a commitment unless they have found an “idealized person.”
Last month some Irish sheep farmers found a friendly, positive way to protest the low price they are getting for their product. A group of them got a rousing welcome as they passed out free lamb chops in the center of Dublin.
Glad To Give Hours of Legal Advice
The eyes of Irish lawyers must be shining. Besides the fact that people in Ireland are suing each other like crazy (read our story about lawsuit crazy Ireland), hourly rates are getting better all the time. Under a new ruling by the Irish Master of the High Court recently, barristers will all get a minimum hourly rate of 100 Euros.
The King Liked His Pluck
Thomas Blood of County Meath was the only person who was ever crazy enough to try and steal England’s crown jewels. Just to add to the degree of difficulty, Mr. Blood attempted his heist in broad daylight on May 9th, 1671. Oddly enough, instead of having him hanged, King Charles II pardoned Blood and actually gave him a large financial award because he was so impressed by his bravado.
Bertie Never Had A Bong
It was a rather Clintonesque moment recently when Ireland’s Prime Minister found it necessary to deny that he ever went through a “Bertie the hippie” phase. Mr. Ahern was squirming a bit, perhaps, after his Minister for Finance Brian Cowen freely admitted in an interview that he had smoked pot several times as a university student in the 1970’s. Ahern firmly denied that he had ever inhaled even the smallest bit of marijuana at any time in his life.
Exactly What Award Was That?
Conservative cable show host Bill O'Reilly recently visited Ireland. During the trip, he called into his own show, being hosted by a substitute, to say he was "getting a big award" from the Irish Philosophical Society." He was, in fact, only delivering a speech to the group.
Down On The Hollywood Farm The local gentry in Kilteevan, County Roscommon, are wondering if Tom Cruise is going to follow through and purchase his family's 33-acre ancestral farm there. The actor visited the area a few years ago whilst tracing his Irish ancestry, and his agents are allegedly negotiating to buy the property once owned by the Mapother family. Cruise's proper name is "Tom Cruise Mapother IV."
Bertie's Amazing Speed Dial List
Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern recently told in interviewer for Village.ie that he can get George Bush on the phone within a half hour and that Tony Blair will return his call in 10 minutes. His "very, very close" pal Bill Clinton apparently prefers to just send Ahern frequent notes. He noted that while he plans to remain in politics until his 60th birthday in 2011, he may not remain taoiseach all that time.
Chair Fares Aer Lingus is about to institute a charge of up to €15 per flight for pre-booking a specific seat on one of their flights within Europe. The airline says it has not made a decision yet on whether the same charge will be levied on transatlantic passengers wishing to choose where they will sit.
Scary Stopover Actor John Travolta, returning home from Germany recently, was forced to make an emergency landing of his private jet at Shannon Airport due to engine trouble. Travolta is such a plane-lover that he actually named his son "Jett."
Government Going Nowhere Six top government officials were recently stuck in a small, creaky old elevator in the government center, getting out only when the army came to their rescue. The foreign minister, finance minister, and ministers for health, education, agriculture and communications were apparently packed like sardines in the "lift," which quickly became hot and uncomfortable. After the incident, which lasted about a half hour, some ministers noted they've been stuck in the elevator previously with Prime Minister Bertie Ahern. Irish newspapers were quick to claim that the creaky elevator was a perfect metaphor for Ireland's creaky transport system.
The Dublin City Council is in the habit of using scantily clad models at promotional events, and Ireland's Green Party isn't happy about it. Green Party Women's Affairs spokesperson Cllr Brownen Maher recently complained about the Council's use of "glamour" girls. As an example, she noted a recent event where two models in mini-skirts were hired to appear at a press conference promoting plans to replace decaying water pipes in Dublin. Ms. Maher says the use of attractive young women to draw attention to government events is "cliched and old-fashioned."
Fly To Ireland For Less Than $20? Ryanair's high-energy CEO Michael O'Leary says he's going to start a transatlantic service that will to cost economy class travelers just 10 Euros each way. Under this "hybrid business model," premium class passengers will pay a slightly different fee: 5,000 Euros round-trip for flat-bed seating, showers and luxury lounge accomodations. O'Leary says the service will not debut until about 2009.
Tree of Strife
Yet another battle has been fought in the ongoing war between Irish road builders and fairies (or the supporters of fairies, at least). On the heels of last month's headline-making tale about a dip that keeps appearing in a road outside Killarney because of angry spirits, a "magic tree" in Latoon, County Clare, has become a cause celebre among spiritualists. Plans to make way for a bypass by cutting down the tree, which was allegedly an ancient meeting place for fairies on their way back from battles in western Ireland, have been widely protested by locals. The government says it will now back down and re-rout the road.
It Can Happen Here A small stir was recently caused in the Irish media by a police report claiming there were as many as six Islamic terrorist cells operating in Ireland in 2003.
Take Another Little Piece Of My Road The beautiful Slea Head drive in County Kerry is going to be closed for the forseeable future, because a big piece of it has fallen into the sea. Slea Head is a scenic rural area on the Dingle Peninsula.
Traveller's Hard Life
The itinerant lives of Ireland's Travellers, formerly known to many as "tinkers," is extraordinarily difficult. A recent study reported by The Irish Times said that Travellers are eight times more likely to be unemployed than the rest of the Irish, and have just a one per cent chance of living past the age of 65. There are still over 20,000 itinerant people living in Ireland. Virtually all reside in mobile homes rather than the painted horse wagons once associated with them.
Neither Rain Nor Sleet Nor Iceberg A set of keys from the Titanic's mailroom, recovered from the body of one of the workers who died there, recently fetched 147,000 Euro at an auction in London. The Irish Times saw this as a fitting moment to memorialize an Irish postal worker, one James Bertram Williamson, who lost his life in the disaster. The ship's postal workers - all five of whom perished - were seen trying to haul heavy sacks of mail up from the hold, refusing to put down their work to save themselves. Titanic enthusiasts will recall that the mail room, close to the ship's bow, was one of the first places to flood completely. Crewmembers on the ship's forward deck recall the air vents whistling because incoming water below was forcing oxygen up out of the bow section so quickly. In the first big movie about the Titanic, the black and white "A Night To Remember," architect Thomas Andrews goes below to inspect the iceberg damage, and is told by an excited crewmember that "the mail hold's flooded already." The Irish Times reports that families of three of the mail workers who were Americans will each get $2,000 from the proceeds of the auction. No word yet on compensation for Mr. Williamson.
Blasted Fairies Again
Outside Killarney, there’s a dip that keeps appearing in the N22 no matter how many times road crews try to fix it. One local politician, a Mr. Danny Healy-Rae, thinks he knows what’s causing the problem: fairies. The area, after all, is surrounded by Celtic stones and monuments and many local place names refer to “lioses,” or fairy forts. Local highway department officials have yet to buy into the fairy concept. They claim the dip keeps reappearing because of a “geotechnical” problem.
Swimming Footballs & Ducks
Ever hear that story about the message in a bottle? Well, The Irish Times made room to report on a football (which some might call a soccer ball) kicked into the River Dargle in Bray by a the coach of a county team. The ball was eventually found by a gentleman on the Isle of Man, just about all the way across the Irish Sea in the direction of England. Because the ball had the coach’s phone number written on it, the man was able to return it. He noted that other items from Ireland frequently wash up on the shores of the Isle of Man, particularly large numbers of plastic ducks from the annual duck race in the River Liffey.
Four Very, Very Productive Irish Employees
Wonder why Ireland got so rich? Well, one reason is the fact that corporate taxes there are incredibly low. Unfortunately, this has encouraged some American companies to do more than make widgets there. California tech company SanDisk was recently called out for funneling almost a billion dollars in revenue through a subsidiary in Ireland that had just four employees. Amazingly, the company appears to be in little trouble for this bit of creative bookkeeping. "It's no different from any other holding company," Hugh Connolly of SanDisk told The Irish Times. "Most international companies have that kind of holding company structure."
Ire Getting Pricey
Ireland’s inflation rate has reached a six-year high. Government debt and higher electricity prices are two key factors.
The View From This Cliff Is Just...ahhhhhhhhh!
The Irish government has cut a deal with farmers, so they can feel comfortable about hikers strolling across their land. Under the new “Countryside Walkways Scheme,” farmers will be paid about 1,000 Euro per year each to let the public onto paths that have criss-crossed their land for decades. The deal includes an indemnification against lawsuits by local authorities - a key provision for farmers who’ve become nervous about being sued by people who fall and hurt themselves on their land. One infamous case in 2003 resulted in a Donegal farmer being ordered to pony up 84,000 Euro to a woman who fell off a cliff on his land. The Irish Supreme court later overturned that award, making a common sense observation (almost unthinkable today in the U.S. court system) that the woman should have known it was dangerous to walk up to the edge of a cliff.
Beautiful Birds of Prey
Popular tourist site Ailwee Cave in North Clare will soon be adding a falconry center to it’s grounds. After strolling the deep and sometimes very dark chasms underground, visitors will be able to head back above to see live vultures, eagles, falcons and hawks.
Inishbofin in Danger
The lovely island of Inishbofin, off the coast of Connemara, could be “literally washed away” if a major coastal preservation project isn’t begun soon, according to Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív. Eircom.net reports that the sea is coming dangerously close to a number of homes on the small island, and that the road looping around it is no longer fully passable in winter. Some non-residential structures have already collapsed into the water. The 3.9 million Euro preservation project will include the construction of a sea wall.