Fearing for her safety and the safety of her family, Nelson went to the RUC looking for protection. Her cries for help were denied. Nelson then went to many people with reports of threats against her life and her subsequent requests for protection ” including Burke with whom she met in Lurgan at a March 1998 dinner, and other delegates from the Lawyers Alliance for Justice in Ireland. After many requests to the authorities (RUC) for protection, she was murdered outside her home in March 1999 by a car bomb. The Rosemary Nelson Murder Inquiry”s main objective is to determine if British authorities, particularly the RUC, had involvement with the murder or protected those involved.Burke did testified in Belfast Thursday the 22nd of May. Here are a few of his thoughts upon returning to Denver. (To read Burkes full testimony go to www.rosemarynelsoninquiry.org – Click on “transcripts” and go to May 22, his testimony is the second that day).”The big thing I thought was very impressive was the people that I had never met nor knew about, who had very similar testimony to mine ” about the death threats that had been made and the attempts to get help for her (Nelson)…one of them was a peer (British) Sir Lewis Blom Cooper, he started off by giving testimony that seemed favorable to the British, but then as he got into it he talked about all of his contact with her and how terrible the situation was for her (Nelson)””They”re (British) trying to show that she was a publicity hound ” and having an affair with a client ” which was just ridicules.” Burke went on to give reasons why everyone who knew Rosemary Nelson believed it was ridicules, including her high ethics as a wife and local lawyer and the small town environment (no secrets). Burke implied that it was common belief these were fabricated rumors put out by the RUC after her death as a diversion and/or to further discredit Nelson. “One person that was on the witness stand was a person who worked in Nelson”s office ” she was asked, “Have you heard anything about an affair between Mrs. Nelson and Colin Duffy?” and she said, “Yes I have…I saw it in a newspaper after she was dead and I didn”t believe it.””The lawyer (Barry Philips) for the inquiry ” called a Barrister ” was the only one permitted to ask questions. Burke thought that the Barrister was generally reasonable in his line of questioning ” with the exception of some argumentative questions that were emailed to him from a solicitor named Donaldson who represented the RUC/PSNI.Burke believes that the Inquiry will go into 2009. He will give periodic updates to the Celtic Connection and the results of the Inquiry.
Rosemary Nelson, mother of 3 young children, drove from her home in LurgenLurgan, a town in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, on March 15, 1999. A hundred yards from her home and down the street from her children”s school, a bomb that had been placed under her car detonated. Friends and family rushed to the wreckage to find her dying of mortal wounds which included loss of both legs and severe abdominal injuries. They tried to aid and comfort her but little else could have been done. Nelson died a few hours later after unsuccessful surgery to save her life at the age of 40. Shortly after the murder, the Red Hand Defenders, a Protestant loyalist/unionist paramilitary group not in support of the Good Friday peace accord and the cease-fire agreement, placed a call to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and claimed responsibility for the killing.Rosemary Nelson was the sole solicitor in her small legal practice in Lurgan (less than 20 miles southwest of Belfast). In her practice she crossed over the sectarian lines that divided her town and represented clients from all backgrounds in routine legal business.As a part of her local practice, she came to public prominence for representing Catholic residents of nearby Portadown in the volatile dispute over the routing of Protestant Orange Drumcree parades. She also took on a small number of other controversial cases in which she represented high profile Catholic clients including the family of Robert Hamill ” a Catholic kicked to death by a loyalist mob while Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers were nearby, and also defended leading republican Colin Duffy and overturned his conviction for murdering a soldier after it emerged that a crucial police witness was a loyalist paramilitary. It was this small percentage of Nelson”s work that led her to be target of vilification by factions of the Protestant loyalist community, and to receive threats to her clients and to herself from that community and the overwhelmingly Protestant unionist RUC. After Nelson”s death many questions emerged about the suspicious circumstances surrounding her murder.” Did neighbor”s reports of intense amount of British Army activity around the Nelson home in the days and hours leading up to the murder have some part to play in the deployment of the bomb?” Did the Red Hand Defenders have assistance from a more mainstream paramilitary organization(s), participating in the cease-fire? ” Was her murder it intended to disruptive the peace process by inciting counter-violence from Catholic, pro-Irish paramilitaries? ” Subsequently, was there a failure of the RUC to secure the crime scene and follow-up investigation?” Was the attack targeted specifically against Nelson because she was a solicitor, or was it a warning to those she represented? Nelson’s murder was one of more than three thousand during the modern day Troubles that began in 1969. In the eyes of many who followed the plight of Northern Ireland, aspects of Nelson”s killing were immediately recognized as similar to those surrounding the murder of Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane in 1989 (Three masked men shot him in front of his horrified family in 1989), a killing widely recognized as a result of British security force collusion. What sets Nelson”s murder case apart and adds further controversy is the refusal of the British state to protect her after her repeated reports of RUC death threats aimed at her and specific requests for protection from these threats were made known to RUC by various people and agencies, including international human rights lawyers ” and even to the US Congress and the United Nations!Denver attorney Tom Burke and others met with Nelson in 1998 and were told directly by her of threats made against her life, and at her request went to the RUC and requested protection for her.Thomas (Tom) J. Burke Jr. lives with his family in Denver, Colorado where he practices civil law for Jones & Keller, P.C. He was born and raised in Minnesota. His ancestors are immigrants from Ireland who came to Minnesota to live and raise families in the State”s first Irish settlement, Shieldsville. Influenced by his family”s Irish background the subject of Ireland became increasingly dear as he grew. While an undergraduate student at the University of Minnesota he studied the history of the British Isles, with emphasis on the history of Ireland. During the late 1960″s distressing events that later became known as “The Troubles” remerged in Northern Ireland. Burke developed a life-long interest in Northern Ireland that would eventually involve him as a witness in one of the most intriguing murder cases of The Troubles.In the early to mid-1990″s Burke became a member of a couple of internet discussion groups having to do with Northern Ireland issues. Through these he learned of Ed Lynch and his New Jersey non-profit group, Lawyers Alliance for Justice in Ireland.”It was a group of lawyers who were interfacing with judicial and political authorities in Northern Ireland,” Burke said, “At that time we had about a hundred members, and it was a very active organization ” they were appearing in all of the court cases where people were being deported (Irish republican/nationalists activists), but the big thrust of the organization was going over there (Northern Ireland) and engaging and convincing them (both sides) that you would never get any peace in the form of a new government without everybody being allowed to participate”Lynch invited Burke to join the Alliance delegation to Belfast in February, 1998. Burke and the delegation arrived in Belfast mid February. The first days the delegation, in whole or in part, met with members of both sides of the divide, Particularly, but not exclusively with those of legal, political, and policing-related groups and professions in Belfast. On the evening of February 17th Burke and all of the members of his delegation met in a secluded separate dining room in the Beresford Arms in Lurgan for a private dinner with a few members of the community. One of the guests was Rosemary Nelson, and it became obvious to Burke that she was the featured person on that particular evening. During the meal Nelson stood up and introduced herself and recounted the nature of her law practice in Lurgan, which seemed for the most part a standard small-town practice. She went on to mention that she also represented people accused of offenses such as being a member of the IRA and also those allegedly involved in IRA actions. At this point there was a pregnant pause ” Nelson went on to say that she wanted the delegation to know that she had been receiving death threats from the RUC. In Burke”s estimation she recounted the fact that 4 or 5 of her clients were independently taken to Gough RUC Barracks outside of Lurgan and typically held for several days and were bruised and battered before being released, normally for a lack of evidence. When here clients were released they went to Nelson with instruction from the RUC officers to inform her that she was going to die.Looking back on the meeting with Nelson and his N.I. experiences in general, Burke offered his opinion of the climate that surrounded Nelson at the time. “It all started when she (Nelson) had a client by the name of Colin Duffy, who was suppose to have been responsible for some sort of homicide, and she represented him, took it to trial and he was acquitted. The ” all the RUC police just went nuts ” that”s when they started picking people up and bringing them up to the RUC barracks outside of Lurgan and pounding them around for a couple of days and never bring them to charge.” Adding a perspective as an American attorney he continued, “Under American law you have to arraign after you pick them up ” up there they have a week ” and a lot of stuff can get done in a week. People were given damage awards right and left ” 30,000 pounds, one of them ” they didn”t care, they would just pay it and keep on going.”As Nelson continued to stand before the delegates at the 1998 dinner, she told Burke and the delegates that she was concerned for her safety and also for that of her husband and three school-age children. She also directly asked the members of the delegation to meet with the local RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan in regards to her safety concerns and specifically requested to get on the Protected Persons Programme.Burke and other members of the delegation told Nelson that they already had a scheduled meeting with Flanagan in a couple of days and assured her that they would raise her safety concerns and request to be on the Protected Persons Programme.After Nelson sat down and the meal continued Burke, who sat one or two seats away from Nelson, had further conversation with her. She told him one particular story which took place just a couple of weeks previously that frightened her terribly. Nelson had been pushing her cart through a grocery market store in Lurgan when she noticed a large man that she believed was following her. When they got to an area where there were only two f them, he approached her and said that if she continued representing “IRA scum” she would be killed. Having grown up in Lurgan she knew many people by sight, but Nelson said that she had never seen this man before. Two days after their dinner with Nelson, Burke and some members of his delegation met with Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan at RUC Head Quarters. As promised to Nelson, members of the delegation succinctly relayed her concerns of death threats which came from RUC officers via her clients, and her concerns for her safety and her request to be placed in the Protected Persons Programme. Flanagan initially responded by moving to the topic of how difficult it was to investigate matters involving his officers, but eventually said that he would look into matters of Nelson. Almost a year later, in February 1999, Burke and a smaller LAJI delegation which including Ed Lynch returned to Belfast. They had arranged a meeting at RUC Head Quarters again with Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan to follow-up on the previous year”s conversation about the protection of Rosemary Nelson. According to Burke, Flanagan”s response, in essence was that Nelson was not entitled to any protection under the law.”He was very well aware of what was going on, but seemed resolved that he wasn”t going to do anything to protect her.”Within weeks Rosemary Nelson was murdered.By then, Burke was back in the United States. He was working in his Denver office when he heard the report on the news, followed by a call from Ed Lynch who also relayed the news. That evening at home, Burke turned on one of the American network news programs and caught a BBC report on the murder. He recalled seeing RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan commenting on camera with words essentially saying”I am only sorry we had no notice that protection was necessary.” Having been in two meetings with Flanagan in a year”s time, and having knowledge to the contrary of Flanagan”s comments, Burke was completely shocked.In reflection Burke commented, “We all took oaths as lawyers to resolve disputes not by violence but by the law ” and we didn”t advocate violence. But it”s quite another thing to say that you understand why the violence was occurring ” because basically what they (unionists) were doing was trying to squeeze any nationalist out of the new government, they just wanted to organize it so that the Catholic portion of the population wasn”t going to be a part of it ” most particularly the republicans who wanted pretty much an immediate unification with the South.”In 2001 a retired Canadian Supreme Court Judge, Peter Cory was appointed by the British and Irish governments to undertake a thorough investigation of allegations of collusion between British and Irish security forces and paramilitaries in six particular cases involving “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland which were so controversial they stood in the way of a peace agreement.One of those cases was that of Rosemary Nelson”s murder. One of the witnesses asked and who subsequently gave a statement was Tom Burke.The Cory Collusion Inquiry report was delivered by Judge Cory in October of 2003. Cory recommended inquiries including Nelson”s case. The British government agreed to set up an inquiry into Rosemary Nelson’s death following the recommendations ” and pressures ” from Judge Cory.The inquiry”s scope was, “To inquire into the death of Rosemary Nelson with a view to determining whether any wrongful act or omission by or within the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Northern Ireland Office, Army or other state agency facilitated her death or obstructed the investigation of it, or whether any such act or omission was intentional or negligent; whether the investigation of her death was carried out with due diligence; and to make recommendations.”The official opening of the Inquiry in Craigavon, Co. Armagh was in April 2005. Burke, Lynch, and Ned McGinley, then National President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, attended the official opening. Burke, Lynch and others at the two meetings with Flanagan were summoned to New York City to give the Inquiry”s solicitors further statements in May, 2006. ” However, the the actual public hearing where British intelligence officers, police chiefs and top civil servants will be questioned to determine if authorities had a role in the murder of Nelson just opened April 15, 2008 in Belfast at the Interpointe Center in Belfast. Tom Burke has been summoned to Belfast for the Inquiry and as of this writing he is scheduled to give testimony on May 22nd.Celtic Connection, May 2008 issueSources: Celtic Connection interview with Tom Burke; Witness statement of Thomas (Tom) Burke from Cory Inquiry; Irish Aires News; BBC; An Phoblacht; Rosemary Nelson & The Quest for Justice by James J. Brosnahan, Esq. & Dan VanDeMortelwww.injusticebusters.com; www.rosemarynelsoninquiry.org/; www.breakingnews.ie; www.ireland.comhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosemary_Nelson; http://news.sky.com; www.serve.com/pfc/rosemary/rosemary.html
Native-American lore preserves an illuminating record of a complex and extensive interaction between indigenous peoples and the Irish on many different levels. On one level, the happy consummation of native and Irish led to the emergence of the M”ti community, a mixed-blood people who trace their ancestry back to the intermarriage of Indian and Irish-speaking settlers and whose unique culture of music and dance is unquestionably of Irish Gaelic provenance. In more turbulent times, Thomas Francis Meagher, Irish patriot, Civil War veteran and commander of the “Fighting 69th,” and then governor of Montana Territory would use the fear of Blackfeet Indians to inveigle weapons from the federal government as part of a planned Fenian invasion of Canada. In June of 1876, Captain Myles Keogh, Carlow native, recipient of the Papal Medal, and Civil War veteran would join General Custer in the infamous and ill-fated attack on Sitting Bull and the Indian confederation camped on the Little Big Horn. Keogh”s bravery so impressed his foes that they honored him in not mutilating his lifeless body and leaving his horse, Comanche, by his side, the only living thing on the battlefield. Believing his Papal Medal to be a talisman and source of his courage and leadership, the Indians did remove the medal and gave it to Sitting Bull. Legend has it that later pictures of the great Sioux Chief show him with a crucifix and silver disk around his neck ” Keogh”s Papal Medal! Against this classic western background of cowboys, Indians and cavalry, there emerged a city unlike any other in the Irish experience; for where the Irish would come and accommodate to the great metropolises of the east coast like Boston and New York, the Irish in Montana would build the city of Butte from the ground up and shape its character to reflect their Irish, Catholic and Gaelic ethos and heritage. This Irish town quickly came to play a central role in American labour history and to exert a powerful influence on all movements dedicated to the promotion of Ireland, her culture and political freedom.”Great nationalist leaders such as Douglas Hyde, Eamon de Valera, Mrs. Mary McSwiney and others came to Butte seeking help for Irish cultural movements and the cause of Irish independence. They found a city where the Irish language was spoken, Irish dance and music were known to all, Irish Gaelic football was played competitively, and local papers reported tidings from Ireland as faithfully as local and national news.” The efforts made by Irish nationalists leaders to come to Montana is instructive of how important Butte and Irish-American communities were in the fight to preserve Irish culture and secure Irish independence. As far back as the time of the Great Famine, representatives of Irish nationalist movements had recognized that “it is on the Irish of America that every movement for the advancement of the old country is largely dependent for support.” It is highly unlikely that the old language and culture of Ireland would be around today were it not for the support of Irish-America; it is also improbable that the Irish War of Independence between 1919 and 1921 would have been won were it not for the support of the Irish of America.” The struggle to preserve Ireland”s ancient culture and heritage continues and Montana, as home to the largest per capita population of people of Irish descent, has once again assumed a prominent role in this effort through its Irish Studies program at the University of Montana, Missoula.The Irish Studies program at the University of Montana is a product of collaboration between faculty and the local community. For a number of years, research scholars have been examining the role of the Irish in Montana; in the meantime, descendants of the copper-miners of Butte, anxious to preserve their Gaelic heritage, established a local group to teach Irish language, music and dance. In 2005, members of this group and faculty worked together to formulate a program of studies that combined rigorous academic study with a commitment to preserving and promoting Ireland”s living Gaelic culture. Students will study Irish literature and history, learn of Ireland”s unique contribution to western civilization, the role of the Irish in America, and, in particular, the much neglected but extremely important contribution of Irish America to the evolution of politics, culture and society in Ireland. Allied to this is the cultural program where students will learn to speak Irish fluently, acquire modern teaching methods to pass the language on to others, learn and participate in Irish music,” dance, theatre and film. The objective is to make Irish culture accessible to those of Irish descent in Montana and the west coast, and to make this access affordable to all. In 2006, her Excellency, Mrs. Mary McAleese, President of Ireland, in officially launching this program, described it as a tribute by those who draw the water to those who dug the wells. Those who dug the wells were the early immigrants from Ireland who worked and sacrificed to pass on their faith, culture and heritage. In many ways, the Irish Studies program is a continuation of that work, part of a legacy or tradition inherited from an earlier generation with all the obligations such entails. One of these obligations is to make access to the tradition affordable to all. In this regard, the Irish Studies program located in Montana”s beautiful Rocky Mountains is relevant to all wishing to learn of the Irish and their remarkable culture. If you are interested in more information, please contact me, Traolach ” R”ord”in, at email@example.com, or our web site at http://www.cas.umt.edu/irishstudies.Traolach ” R”ord”in is a native of county Cork, Ireland and currently adjunct professor of modern Irish language and literature at The University of Montana. He is a graduate of the National University of Ireland where he was awarded a PhD in modern Irish literature for his work on the Gaelic League, the organization which spearheaded the revival of Irish and Irish Gaelic culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This work was the first comprehensive study of the Irish revival movement in all its aspects, and is considered to be of special importance for the light it casts on the political implications of cultural nationalism. Entitled Conradh na Gaeilge I gCorcaigh, 1893-1910, it was published by Cois Life, Teo in 2000. Traolach is currently researching the place of Irish Gaelic Culture in America and the impact of Irish American communities in the development of a coherent ideology of cultural nationalism in the era after the Great Famine. He has also devoted much of his time designing a teaching methodology specifically for American students. UM Irish Studies Testimonials…Lily Gladstone
Lily is majoring in Drama/Dance and recently acted in UM”s production of the Irish play Riders to the Sea, which was directed by Bernadette Sweeney, a professor of drama from University College, Cork who was visiting UM as part of the Irish Studies program. Lily is a member of the Blackfeet tribe of American Indians.”The Riders experience has possibly changed my whole life and given me new perspectives. I”ve had a pretty strong draw to Ireland for awhile”and to Irish theater in particular”due to the historical, political, and in many ways, cultural similarities that I see to my American Indian heritage. Perhaps the most striking similarity is the tie to the elements. Both cultures share a deep and profound respect for the natural world, as opposed to a more western idea of a “man taming nature” view. Other common themes are religious tension, foreign oppression, the battle for sovereignty and independence, and family to name a few”and these are practically identical to themes in Indian Country. The Irish Studies program has changed the way I view the world by allowing me to see these connections between cultures which are on different sides of the globe. The program will open up a world of different perspectives for others, as it did for me.Tom Stock
Tom is a current Irish Studies student who served a lifetime career in the U.S. Marine Corps. Upon his retirement, he decided to return to the university.”Irish Studies is important because it is a direct and active link with over 2,000 years of history and heritage for all persons of Irish descent ” Its loss or extinction would produce an irresolvable cultural void. The continued revival and use of the language will prevent such a tragedy. As a learner of Irish I sense that I am doing my very small part toward its perpetuation. I want to be able to again visit Ireland and live briefly among the Irish and converse with them on their terms, in their own bailiwick, with as much fluency as I can achieve to become, in a sense, one of their own as my ancestors were prior to 1880.”
The O”Boyle”s recently celebrated their first anniversary at their Irish pub and restaurant and are delighted with the results of their efforts and risk. “We opened our doors January 1st 2007 and have never looked back ” I have to say, of all the places”I have worked from Dublin to Melbourne Australia to New York, Pogue Mahone’s has probably the best customers I have ever seen.” said Carl, adding “It has a great family atmosphere and everybody gets on really well. I don’t think I am the only one who has made a lot of friends for life since we opened ” And if it were to all end tomorrow, we would all be the richer for Pogue Mahone’s.” Pogue Mahone”s offers authentic Irish food, including traditional specialties like Irish Breakfast, Guinness Beef Stew, Bangers & Mash, Harp beer-battered Fish & Chips and Mrs. O’Boyle’s own recipe for Shepherd’s Pie. Mouth-watering entr”es include Irish Duck Breast, Salmon O’Boyle, Dublin Roasted Pork, and Dublin Medallions. Weekly events and pub specials make the atmosphere fun and inviting. Live Irish music is scheduled for Wednesday, Friday and Saturday with Poker Night, Guest Bartender Night, and Irish Night (specials on Irish food and beverages) fill in the rest of the week.The O”Boyle”s are gearing up for a big St. Patrick”s Day on Monday, March 17, “We have Chris Parente and Channel 2 TV coming in early to do the live morning show, so if you want to be on TV come on down ” we will be open at 6:40 in the morning with live Irish music and dance ” continuing til” 2:00 am! So, how did they come up with the name “Pogue Mahones”? Carl laughed and at the frequently asked question. “I have no idea, I just always liked it ” its an old Irish expression loosely translated to mean “how do you do”” he explained with a sly chuckle.So stop in for a visit to the family-owned business and welcome the O”Boyle”s to Colorado with a big hearty “Pogue Mahone!” Smooch! Pogue Mahone”s Irish Pub, 17904 Cottonwood Drive, Parker, CO 80134, 720-870-5720, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.poguemahones.net
Ms. Kretschmar, 22, is a Denver native and a full time student, who is currently on the Dean”s List and National Scholars” Honor Society at Metropolitan State College of Denver. She is working towards a degree in psychology with a minor in communications. She is employed full time for an investment banking firm in downtown Denver where she provides IT and office administration support. She volunteers with various organizations striving to make a difference both locally and worldwide. For example, Kelly serves food to the homeless at the Denver Rescue Mission. She also is involved with Women for Women International, an organization that provides women survivors of war, civil strife and other conflicts with encouragement, hope and support to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency.Growing up, she was surrounded by the members of the Denver St. Patrick”s Day Parade Committee of which she is now a member. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, crafts, and the amazing Colorado outdoors. Kelly will reign as Queen Colleen for one year and will represent the Parade Committee at many community events. Ms. Kretschmar and her court of 15 ladies will ride in the Bellco Credit Union Denver. St. Patrick”s Day Parade on Saturday, March 15 in lower downtown Denver.
Ronan Noonan has one of the best jobs in Colorado; he is the Smithwick”s Beer Ambassador. Diageo-Guinness Manager Tom McGuire who is involved with the Ambassador”s visit commented, “This is a grass-roots marketing approach to generate brand awareness for Smithwick”s”.Smithwick”s could not have picked a more enthusiastic Ambassador than the 26-year-old from Cork, Ireland. “I love doing what I”m doing, it”s just the best job I”ve had in my life,” said Ronan, “I”m one of the happiest people in the world to be here at the moment ” I can”t emphasize how much I like Denver and the States.” In a perpetual but sincere state of gratefulness, Ronan continued. “I love the people that I work with and am delighted that I got this opportunity ” The people I”m with in Denver are absolutely top notch ” some of the nicest guys I”ve ever met,” he said, referring to McGuire and Kevin Fitzgerald of Diageo-Guinness. “I would like to thank everybody who has made my life easier to adapt in Denver ” my friends Thomas and Kevin and Christiana at U.S. Consulate marketing,” Any one else that you would like to thank? “My parents for giving me the personality to go off and do this ” I”m just happy to be here and have met so many friends and I hope it continues.” With that kind of attitude one would expect so.Ronan almost missed out on his dream job. His two big passions are soccer (he was an award-winning player in college), and travel. His travels had already taken him to Europe and the U.S., when about a year ago he began to plan an extended tour of South America. Ronan had been going to business school for accounting and was having second thoughts about the career choice; he thought that a long stint in South America could bring some clarity. “Then a friend rang me up and said, “Look, I was just on line and saw a job that I think would suit you down to da ground””. His friend explained the job over the phone which seemed too good to be true. Ronan, “being a Cork man, being a bit wily” he decided to do his own research. “I checked it out and thought “this looks like a dream job”, so I decided to throw my hat in the ring ” so 3 or 4 interviews later…” He left it to fill in the blank, which would be ” he got the job as Ambassador of Smithwick”s, and envy of many young men from Dublin to Denver.Arriving in Denver in early January, Ronan brought with him a casual sense of humor to his Ambassador title. He recalled a woman from Kerry that he met in Colorado who asked him if he was an actual Ambassador. He set the record straight with a smile. “This Ambassador title looks good on paper, but I go into a pub like you or anybody goes into a pub for a pint ” at the end of the day I”m just a regular Joe who enjoys a pint of Smithwick”s and wants other people to enjoy a pint of Smithwick”s with him.”Smithwick”s has been providing pints in Ireland for longer than the United States has been a country. When asked how the Americans have taken to the beer Ronan said it was all thumbs-up. “It”s very easy to get people to try a beer that has stood a 300-year test of time in Ireland. There is a reason that it”s Ireland”s top Ale ” It”s smooth tasting, and it doesn”t give you an aftertaste in your mouth.” He added with a laugh, “”As St. Patrick’s Day approaches I’m reminded of an old Irish saying from back in 1710: “A pint of Smithwick’s, please.”According to Ronan “Once people get to know about Smithwick”s it”s going to get big in Denver!” He gave a couple of suggestions on how to maximize the Smithwick”s experience. First, like Guinness take some care in the pour, secondly use a 20-ounce glass which is the way it is done in Ireland “You shouldn”t be drinking Smithwick”s or Guinness, which are two Irish products from a 16-ounce glass, when at home in Ireland we drink them out of a 20 ” drink it like pure Irish in a 20-ounce glass.” And how about the pronunciation? “Be sure to order a pint of our ale, like we do in Ireland. For example, “I”ll have a pint of SMITH-ICKs please.” Or “How about a round of SMITH-ICKs.” Or even, “SMITH-ICKs for everyone in the pub ON ME!”The Smithwick”s Beer Ambassador project will run through the end of March, with Ronan spreading the word of his favorite Ale. You catch up on Ronan”s activities on his blog at email@example.com
Actress Fionnula Flanagan Declines Honor From US Ireland Alliance In Disagreement Over Views On Undocumented Irish In America
In November, Ms Vargo sparked a firestorm of criticism when she attacked the work of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform and said that the undocumented Irish did not deserve support.Ms Flanagan explained that she had been unaware of Ms Vargo’s comments, which included likening the Irish campaign to “putting lipstick on a pig,” when the Alliance announced its award. “At the time I had no idea of the views,” held by Ms Vargo “and/or the U.S,-Ireland Alliance,” on the issue of illegal Irish immigrants to the United States,” she said.”I had not then seen, nor was I aware of the Op-Ed piece which appeared in the The Irish Times on November 16th. 2007 in which (Ms Vargo), President of the US-Ireland Alliance, made those views abundantly clear.””No disclaimer appears therein, nor subsequently, in the Times, that would locate these views as solely yours and since they were published under your titles as President and Founder of the U.S.-Ireland Alliance it certainly reads that you were representing the views of your organization and its Board of Directors.”Speaking in the US this week, Ms Flanagan, said she would “respectfully decline” to be honoured by the Alliance when “it appears to have taken such a strong position against the most vulnerable of my countrymen.”Ms Flanagan also cited her own experience as an “Irish illegal” in the US. “I was broke, dreadfully homesick for my family and lived in constant fear of deportation. “My time of living with such insecurity was relatively short; I can only imagine the anxiety and suffering of families who live thus for years. The experience made me very empathetic to the plight and suffering of all illegal immigrants.””Over the years, when asked, I have lent my name and whatever support I could to a variety of organizations in Southern California which have championed sanctuary and the rights of immigrants who come largely from Central America. Their struggle is not easy and the bias against them is horrendous.”I applaud the efforts of all the immigrant groups who are actively involved in lobbying the cause of their “undocumented” members. I applaud their respective homeland governments when they help to plead their case.”We are the sum of our experiences and mine being what they are I particularly empathize with Irish illegal families. I have supported and will continue to support, both privately and publicly, the work of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform and have campaigned for their cause. I have no evidence that they, or any of the other Irish organizations who support them, wish to exclude anyone for reasons of ethnicity or otherwise. To the contrary, as with the other lobbying immigrant groups with which I am familiar, they express a keen understanding of the power of solidarity.”Given the specter of a looming economic recession, coupled with rising antipathy towards them as a group and, seemingly, a growing wish nationwide to turn them into scapegoats, many illegals fear violence against themselves and their children. Disillusioned by repeated failures of government to solve the issue, they have resorted to organized, proactive lobbying on their own behalf. “To castigate or shame the Irish immigrants for doing so now is not something to which I can in conscience lend my name. Or even appear to do so.”I must respectfully decline to be honored by your organization which appears to have taken such a strong position against the most vulnerable of my countrymen. I thank you and your Board for wishing to honor me; however I wish to withdraw my name from the list of honorees and will not be attending the upcoming Oscar Wilde Event.”The US-Ireland Alliance third annual “Oscar Wilde: Honoring the Irish in Film” pre-Academy Awards party, is scheduled for Thursday, February 21, 2008 at the Wilshire Ebell in Los Angeles. Ms. Flanagan was to join Academy Award winner James L. Brooks and actress Fiona Shaw as an honoree at the event that was created to bring together people in the film industry in the US and Ireland.Ms. Flanagan”s vast body of work includes starring roles in feature films, television and theatre, as well as experience behind the scenes as a producer. She is currently appearing in the Showtime series Brotherhood, in which she plays the matriarch of an Irish family in Providence, Rhode Island.Her feature film credits include the box-office hit The Others, for which she won a Saturn Award, The Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood, James Joyce’s Women, Youngblood, Sinful Davey, Ulysses, Mr. Patman, A State Of Emergency, Reflections, Final Verdict, the Oscar”- winning In The Region Of Ice, Death Dreams, Mad At The Moon and Money For Nothing. Her Irish roots shine in such distinctive Irish films as Waking Ned Devine and Some Mother’s Son. She also won rave reviews playing Felicity Huffman”s mother in Transamerica. In 2007, she appeared in Anthony Hopkins” indie film, Slipstream.Contributed by Seamus Ryan
Through the high tech boom, this Home Rule municipality of about 19,000 residents has managed to keep its charm of yesteryear. Outside of City Hall, a Miners memorial statue acknowledges the coal miners that populated the area beginning with the Welch mine in 1877. Though the town went through some tumultuous times with mining strikes, union disagreements, and general mining town hooliganism in its early development, the streets of downtown Louisville today reflects the nostalgia of a quieter time with family restaurants, shops, and businesses.This quaint town with a blend of modern and historical relevance has gained national attention in recent years as one of the best places to live in the U.S. In May of 2006, Bert Sperling & Peter Sander, in their book Best Places to Raise Your Family: The Top 100 Affordable Communities in the U.S., ranked Louisville first on their list of best places in the U.S. to raise a family. In August, 2007, Money magazine listed Louisville as third over all and “Best in the West” on its annual “Best Places to Live”. They “focused on smaller places that offered the best combination of economic opportunity, good schools, safe streets, things to do and a real sense of community.” The Money article highlighted Louisville”s “old wooden buildings downtown still give the place the feel of a small frontier town,” and described the “Outdoor life is spectacular.” Add another measure of quality of life – a blossoming arts community.With an impressive staff which has credentials from Broadway to Carnegie Hall, The Art Underground opened its doors in historic downtown Louisville last September in a makeshift studio on Main Street. This month marks the opening of their custom studio, just a block over at 901 Front Street ” complete with dance flooring, mirrors, acoustic balance, and a separate visual arts “create” space. The non-profit organization offers theatre and visual arts for all ages, and music and dance from Celtic to Hip-Hop. In addition to providing high quality arts classes, The Art Underground hosts workshops, art galleries/exhibits and other events, and promotes opportunities for patrons and artists to connect and support a growing arts community.”I love downtown Louisville,” said Lori Jones, Arts Underground Executive Director, “I think it has the potential to be an arts hub, and that”s my ultimate goal, to promote all of the arts in the Louisville area ” that will give a core for downtown and help it strive.” Jones and her family have called Louisville home for 14 years. With a background in teaching and volunteer work she has witnessed good things that happen when people combine with passion and purpose. “I”ve seen it happen before,”, “A great synergy happens when you bring people together to be a part of a community,” said Jones who was delighted with the staff, board of directors, and volunteers who have banded together to make The Art Underground a reality. “It”s incredible how it all came together ” the timing has been just perfect ” it”s something that can”t be planned, it just happened.”Jones helped start the synergy for The Art Underground with discussions with friends and like-minded community members including current Arts Underground Board of Directors Lisa Larisch Phillips, a professional artist with art gallery experience in NYC; Lori Scheiffler, a successful business owner, CPA, with a background in the arts; Terese Carroll, recipient of a Ford Foundation scholarship to the School of American Ballet and the official training academy”of the New York City Ballet while in High School (She ended up going to the University of Virginia Law School and became a corporate lawyer); and Jones who most recently was on the Board of Directors of youth theatre group CenterStage Theatre Company. “Our Board of Directors is small, but each member has brought a great deal of expertise to the endeavor,” said Jones, adding that her co-Board members, “have incredible backgrounds and have been instrumental in pulling this (T.A.U.) together.””A lot of good-hearted and really talented people have come on board with us” said Jones. Among those people is soon-to-be landlord for the new Art Underground space, Arlin Lehman. According to Jones, Lehman is a supporter for an arts theme in downtown Louisville and has been going above and beyond to try to make the Front Street facility special for The Arts Underground patrons. “It”s a beautiful space with high ceilings and natural light ” and there is room to expand,” said Jones, “Parents can sit on our wonderful patio and watch their children practice.””Several more individuals have offered their services for free to help make The Art Underground function well…Ileane Olson has jumped in to lend her business expertise to the organization whenever needed,” said Jones, “Many other people have stepped forward to help with a variety of services…office painting, moving from the temp space to the new space, manning the office, marketing and design services ” and even cleaning.”In addition to much help received by local individuals, The Art Underground has partnered with Louisville businesses for mutually beneficial relationships. “We have partnered with the Old Louisville Inn to use their performance space for our Celtic programs,” said Jones, and added that Dana Vachharajani Music and Casablanca Dance Studio in Louisville have agreed to share space for classes.The Arts Underground received a few scholarship donations according to Jones. “I called some local schools to identify possible recipients. The very first recipient was enthusiastically recommended by personnel at one of the schools.” The 8 year-old girl and her two siblings ages 4 and 5 are being raised by a single father who brought them to Louisville to escape the crime in Detroit. When moms of some of the other kids in this little girls’ class heard about the dire circumstances in her family, they sprung into action to help the family with food, gifts and other support. “This has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my job so far.” It’s been very heartwarming to see a sense of community develop in new and different ways from what I had originally anticipated.”Information about The Arts Underground.303-229-1127 or www.theartunderground.org.
The Denver-based Wick School of Irish Dance, founded and directed by Linnane Wick Joseph, is celebrating its twentieth year.”The dancers were joined in Los Angeles by Linnane Wick and Maureen Shea Cerise, a former Wick School championship dancer and current instructor.”I was excited and emotional beyond measure for those kids and there families, for Maureen, and myself ” you know, a lot of hard work had paid off,” said Linnane, whose school has had many champion dancers over the years, but never three at once, “By standards of the Western Regions these days, the Wick”s School is not a huge school so it was pretty phenomenal ” to get three wins.” adding, “I felt like a little kid at my birthday party, not wanting it to end, I kept trying to find somebody else to celebrate or just hang out ” I just didn”t want the night to end ” It was a huge feat, you never know if it is going to happen again so you just bask in the glory of the moment.” All of the solo dancers competeted with 60 or more dancers in their age bracket. It wasn”t just the three first-place Wick dancers who did well. Of the 25 solo competitors 17 placed.” Of those who placed,”seven Wick School dancers qualified to compete in the World Irish Dance Championships over the Easter Holiday in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In addition to the three Oirechtas champions, the other world qualifiers include:” Broccan Ware, Erin Hayes, Annabella Maurera, Claire Morlock, and Emma Anderson.So what did Linnane attribute her schools success? “These kids worked really hard ” at least 3 to 4 practices a week at the studio ” than their practice outside the studio.” And perhaps a little divine inspiration from Fred Wick, Linnanes”s dad and patriarch of the Wick”s School who passed on in September? “Let”s just say that his presence was felt … It would have been great to see his reaction – he would have kept the party going.”
The Hickey”s came across the facility while looking for an investment property to expand their Colorado business interests which include The Celtic Tavern, Delaney”s Bar, and Erin”s Sandwich Shop. “Our first impression when we walked into the building was “Oh my God, this would be perfect for an Irish center or Celtic heritage center.” To get a few more sets of eyes and opinions they called Denver Gaels” Ciaran Dwyer and Martin Concannon and asked them to take a look. They did come and left with the same enthusiastic response as the Hickeys.The facility seemed ideal, with a 3,000 square foot hall and a full commercial kitchen, offices attached and more office space on the second floor, a huge basement, and a half acre garden with a full 1,000 sq. ft. kid”s playground in back. The Hickey”s envisioned the entire ground floor as an Irish center with great meeting space, dancing space, session rooms for musicians. The basement could by used for band practice or performance to smaller crowds. In addition to the main building, there is a 6 bedroom hotel and a cottage.The Hickey”s did have a second sober thought before proceeding with the project. “We started to think of the logistics of trying to get everybody together (Irish/Celtic groups/associations) to try and get the funding and all the rest,” said Noel, “so I just decided, you know what, it would be awful easier if I just bought it myself.” The Hickey”s have begun to lease office space and book events. “There is already a bit of life in there,” said Noel, “The cottage is leased, and we have a general contractor, plumber, architect, Denver Gaels, Erin”s Sandwiches, and AOH (Ancient Order of Hibernians) using office space.” The Hickey”s hope that more folks continue to use the facility for parties” weddings, dances, gigs, anything at all. Noel added, “We have a fully functional kitchen that would be perfect for a catering business.” They are open to most business that would like to be in the building, but Noel stressed, “We would like to create sort of a home for all the Celtic different organizations – without a home you”re always looking for somewhere to hold things, ya know.””Right now we are just calling it The Celtic Center – it”s going to be called The Celtic Center and Offices,” said Noel about the multi-structure facility located at 1533 Glen Ayr Drive, just north of the 8800 block of West Colfax at the entrance of the Glen Creighton neighborhood. Known simply as “The Glens” because of the Scottish named streets ” Glen Dee, Glen Moor, Glen Garry, Glen Dale, Glen Bar, Glen Gyle, and Glen Ayr ” the area was developed by Cyrus J. Creighton in the early 1920″s when it was just farmland west of Denver. Creighton hired Denver”s leading landscape architect Saco R. DeBoer to design the neighborhood with curving tree-lined lanes intersecting at Creighton Park at the center. It was Denver’s and Lakewood’s first landscaped subdivision with the theme “Glen Creighton is the park for quiet restful homes.” Today The Glens are an ambient enclave of 140 homes on irregular sized lots with eclectic architectural styles reflecting the patchwork growth of Lakewood. And 90 years after its inception, the once Scottish subdivision has “The Celtic Center” as a neighbor.To lease office or kitchen space, or book your event call Noel and Wendy at 720-210-3080by Pat McCullough
What led you to choose specific heritages? Well, first of all, many thanks for your kindness about the book. I suppose I chose specific heritages or national groupings to include in the story, partly by looking at which groups were present in large or growing numbers in America at the time. While the narrative moves backwards and forwards a bit, it”s largely set towards the end of the Civil War and in the Reconstruction era; and by those years you see the Irish being present in truly astounding numbers in America. The historian Roy Foster has calculated that, by the 1870s, 39% of all those alive who had been born in Ireland were living in America. So you could really speak in earnest about “an Ireland abroad”. And you see other immigrant groups arriving in larger numbers: Germans, later Italians, many English and many others. And of course for decades there had been a truly massive population of slaves. It seemed important to shape the book in a way that would at least attempt to be true to all these realities, reflecting the fact that, for example, some people with Irish blood had black skin, some spoke many languages, some were very proud of their Irishness, others wanted to forget it, and all found themselves struggling in a society they did not yet understand ” because pretty much nobody did. As for what you say about “100 proof” Celts, I would very respectfully wonder how many of those there truly were. By the middle of the 19th Century, Ireland had long since known assimilations of various kinds. We still see this is Norman and Huegenot placenames in Ireland, for example. Certainly, my central character James O”Keeffe, although he is an Irish nationalist, feels all sorts of allegiances to other cultures. He is half-Italian (married to a woman is half-American, half-Nicaraguan), was educated in England, has traveled widely in Europe, speaks and writes French. He sees himself as a world citizen and his true desire for Ireland is not that the country becomes a narrowly Gaelic island but that it takes its equal place among the free republics of the world. The Confederate Duggan and the Union General O”Keeffe (both Irish patriots) present a powerful example of rifts that are never reconciled, and they also underpin the fact that the Irish in America were never a geographical, political or social monolithic block. I think this feature in Irish-American literature is often underemphasized. Do you agree? Yes, I do, very much. There has been a good deal of writing about the kind of Irish immigrant who always regretted being in America, for example, and not enough about those who were content enough to go. In that context, it”s always struck me as odd that in the literally thousands of traditional ballads of Irish emigration, there isn”t one where the narrator is delighted to be in the new land, far away from the poverty and misery of Ireland. You do see this aspect in immigrants” letters, fairly often, but not in more public forms of literary endeavor. I think the history of literary writing about Irish-Americans has often been beset by clich”, the reductive idea that every Irish immigrant voted Democrat, was Catholic, was poor, missed home, lived in a ghetto, drank too much, etc. For me, the most interesting Irish American stories are often about those who had a profound desire to assimilate, who changed their names and histories, wanting to disappear into America. The picture is always far more complex and interesting than most of us realize. You could say the ground upon which almost every Irish-American stands is constantly shifting. So many characters, so many backgrounds, so many tongues! How did you prepare for the assortment of voices and their testimonies? I guess by a lot of planning and careful thought before I sat down to write. What was happening to America”s language in the 1860s was really fascinating and it became clear to me early on that a way would have to be found of the book”s text reflecting, indeed sometimes embodying, the extraordinary process by which a language as beautiful and expressive and endlessly various as American English forms itself. But really, all the voices are included in order to give the book texture and music and hopefully to make it a richer reading experience. That”s the main concern I have always, what the reader wants here. As I work on a book I”m pretty much always thinking about the reader and what he or she wants, which is vital to know. If you can discern that, you can play with readers” expectations ” you don”t always have to supply what they want at the time they want it, but you do have to know what it is they want. So, sometimes we want the music loud, and sometimes soft, and sometimes the whole orchestra, and sometimes just one voice. You clash the cymbals or you lilt a lullaby ” it all depends on what the reader wants. And on what you can do!The book places the Mooneys in Louisiana and follows them, along with other southerners into the American West. So much Irish and Irish-American writing concerns itself with folks on the east coast. How did you decide to take the story into the West?Well, I was aware of the silence you mention and that seemed to suggest the story of the Western Irish really needed to be told. We sometimes think the story of Irish-America is exclusively a narrative set in the Atlantic cities and Chicago, but of course it isn”t. Billy the Kid himself was the child of Irish immigrants and was born in the Lower East Side of New York, only heading west in his teens. I”m intrigued by the idea of the Irish cowboy, and also by the huge numbers of Irish western stories yet untold, for example about miners, prospectors, and other settlers in the west, especially the enormous numbers of Irish who headed west in the years after the Civil War. Those are as much a part of the Irish-American story as are the New Yorkers and Chicagoans.Tell us a bit about your research in America ” which states?I went to Montana for a few days in December of 2005, a truly fascinating place for those interested in the history of the Western American Irish. One early Governor of the Territory, before it was incorporated as a state, was the Irish-born revolutionary Thomas Francis Meagher, and shades of that interesting and complex man appear in General James O”Keeffe, a central character in Redemption Falls. And with my wife and our two young sons I lived in New York for a year, researching the history of Irish involvement in the American Civil War at the New York Public Library, where I had a writer-in-residence fellowship. As well as that, over the years I”ve traveled pretty widely in the United States and anywhere I”ve gone I”ve usually done a little rummaging around for the Irish history of the place, if there is one, which there usually is. Since the novel is set during the Civil War, I read a great many first-person testimonies of the conflict. Perhaps 150,000 Irish-born immigrants fought for the northern side and perhaps eighty thousand for the south. There are stories of immense courage in the face of almost certain death, but I think, at least I hope, that Redemption Falls is animated by an insight into what made many of them fight. There was a fear among many of the Irish Americans of the era, who had endured a great deal of abuse in the United States, that the new country would never truly accept them as equals. My own sense is that this is what lay behind the decision of the Irish to sign up in such vast numbers. I think they wanted to demonstrate a loyalty to the adoptive land, which is what makes what they did so poignant. And of course, I learned that there was a whole range of other reasons why people fought, too. For the money, or out of boredom, or out of a sense of adventure, or out of loyalty to the state as opposed to the whole country. The letters written by the soldiers are often very moving indeed. In that pre-media age, they had so little idea of the realities of warfare, and many were so young, really little more than children. And the stories of the women in the soldiers” lives ” wives, sweethearts, mothers ” are often absolutely riveting and powerful. I don”t think enough has been written about Irish and other immigrant women in the war, and the often staggering sacrifices they made. It was really important to me that the three central women in Redemption Falls are as important to the story as the men are. Most Americans feel that the country has strong regional, cultural differences. Do you find this to be true? Please share some observations. Oh yes, that”s manifestly true. To me, America is like a series of adjoining countries rather than one unchanging entity. That it functions at all is one of the most fascinating things about it. You see this very pointedly, I think, in how English is spoken in America, just the vast variety of influences on the spoken word. Think of the French-Cajun history of Louisiana, the Spanish of contemporary Los Angelenos, the drawl of Texan English, the slang of urban hip-hop, the beautiful economy and precision of the Chicago blues, which is itself a sort of translation of the folksong of the Mississippi delta, and an encountering of that music with the realities of northern life, as well as with the technologies of recording and electronic music. All this hit me powerfully one day when I was visiting the Sun recording studio in Memphis, where Elvis and Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins had worked. The way the studio is organized, as you walk around they play recordings of the musicians laughing and joking and clowning and tuning up. One woman on the tour, a very nice Bostonian, joked to me that she could hardly understand a word that Elvis and the others were saying, because they were southerners! And yet she could understand me, a non-American. So I”m not sure “E Pluribus Unum” is really an accurate motto. Out of many, America is many, which seems a wonderful thing to me.Who are your favorite authors and why? What daily reading do you do? This is an almost impossible question, since its answer would change very often. But among the authors who mean most to me are Charles Dickens, for his exceptional gift at creating unforgettable characters, Richard Ford, for his skill in writing a sentence at once simple and beautiful, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who can make those little ink-stains we call words seem as explosively exciting as a firework display. But there are lots of other authors whose work I love: J.D. Salinger”s “The Catcher in the Rye” is a book I absolutely treasure, since it”s the novel that made me want to be a writer myself. And a couple of years ago, I read all of George Orwell”s work in sequence, and found it a fantastically enriching experience. I don”t read fiction every day, especially when I”m trying to write it, but I do try to read a little poetry most evenings. I love Heaney, Elizabeth Bishop, Paul Durcan, Emily Dickenson, Paul Muldoon, John Donne, Derek Mahon, Simon Armitage. When I was a teenager, a novel I loved was John Fowles”s The French Lieutenant”s Woman. Fowles wrote that he had begun working on the novel because of a persistent visual image he couldn”t explain or make sense of. In Lyme Regis, in the south of England (where Fowles lived at the time) there is a Victorian-era pier and the image came into his head of a young woman standing on the pier looking out at the sea. She was dressed in a black hooded cape and was always facing away from him. Fowles said that his reason for writing the novel was “to make her turn her head and look at me” and in a way that”s what I felt about Eliza Mooney in Redemption Falls. I wrote the story to make her turn and look at me. Favorite music? I cannot imagine a day without music and I love all sorts of genres of musical expression, from grand opera to punk rock, from American blues to Irish ballads. For me, America”s greatest achievement in the arts has been in the field of popular music. No other country on the face of the earth could possibly have produced geniuses as diverse as Stephen Foster, Robert Johnson, Bob Dylan, Bessie Smith, Muddy Waters, Woody Guthrie, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Elvis, Bruce Springsteen, Jimi Hendrix, Patti Smith, Mahalia Jackson, Paul Robeson, Little Richard, Otis Redding, Gene Vincent, Brian Wilson ” the list is endless. I love the bel canto operas of Puccini and have sometimes been moved to tears by them, but there”s no aria in the world to compare to Roy Orbison singing “Crying”, and no lament to compare to Billie Holiday”s “Strange Fruit”. And it all comes from the most beautiful and valuable aspect of the American democratic tradition: the notion that ordinary lives are worthy of celebration, that a story need not be about a duchess or a king to have merit. Any poet in the world would have given his right hand to have written a line as beautiful and haunting and absolutely truthful as “there”s no love-song finer/but how strange, the change from minor to minor.” So if I absolutely have to choose (which I”m glad I”m don”t have to) give me an American song any day of the week. If it”s sung by Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald or Aretha Franklin or Billie Holiday, I feel I”m in the presence of something truly miraculous. Please tell us about your early education and how you came to be a writer. Well, my first teacher (when I was aged four) was a very tough old nun, who had old-fashioned views about education. She drummed the ABC into us and we were all a little scared of her ” but actually she was a wonderful teacher and not nearly as strict as she seemed. Later, I attended Blackrock College in Dublin, and then University College Dublin, and then Oxford University. But I think my early interest in literature comes from my parents, especially my father. My parents were Dubliners and they were always interested in books. When books are in a house, children grow up thinking literature is nothing strange. So we would have grown up with paperbacks of the works of people like John McGahern and Benedict Kiely around us, and collections of Yeats”s poetry, and Patrick Kavanagh”s books. My father was a great lover of Victorian English poetry, and would read to us at night from the works of Tennyson and Robert Browning. Those, really, were our bedtime stories. So I grew up thinking the English language was a beautiful and magical thing, and that fiction could bring you to all sorts of extraordinary places. And I guess I still think that now. Certainly I believe in the power of fiction to shed light and bring news, since fiction, at its heart, is a kind of invitation to empathy. It”s the strange paradox of fiction that somehow in imagining briefly what it is to be someone else we can come to know more deeply what it is to be ourselves. That”s true of any kind of good storytelling, from the nursery rhyme to the literary novel, to the movies, or even a good joke. It”s why a really good novel can never be about style alone. It always has to be about people.Favorite travel destination?France, Italy, the United States, London. Ireland is so different today from when I first visited in the 1980s. Your feelings about the Celtic Tiger?I think anyone who grew up in the Ireland of the 1970s and early 1980s remembers a fairly depressed country, lacking in any kind of self-confidence. These days that has changed utterly, I think largely for the better. Ireland has almost full employment, a very successful economy, and in fact has become a destination for a considerable number of immigrants. Younger Irish people have grown up in a vibrant and outward-looking culture, knowing they will never have to emigrate ” although cheap air travel has meant that almost all of them visit other countries regularly, so there isn”t that awful sense of insularity that benighted the Ireland of my childhood. That said, many of us have reservations about some aspects of Irish life now. There is no doubt that Ireland has become a far more materialistic society than it used to be. There is an obsession with consumerism, and with having the right car, and the right designer label and other such nonsense. But I think this is what happens when people have been poor for a long time and
hey suddenly get a few bucks ” there”s a bit of a party, and everyone rushes the candy-store, and only the very joyless would worry too much about it. But my own feeling is that the party has now lasted for ten years and it”s time to move on to the next stage: we need to ask ourselves what kind of society we would like to have. A lot of Ireland”s recent wealth has been wasted, I feel. We could have done so much to make the country a fairer and more equal place, and we didn”t. But it”s not too late, and I always hold to the hope that the best is yet to come! Favorite place in Ireland (besides home)?Cashel Bay in Connemara, County Galway. What of Mary Duane from Star of the Sea? I presumed she was the mother of Eliza and Jeremiah, and kept hoping for word of her throughout the book. Ah, but that might be a future story. You are quite right! The story of what happened to Mary Duane will be revealed in my next novel. I always conceived of Star of the Sea as the first part of a trilogy of Irish-American life. Redemption Falls is the second part. The third and final part is in my mind at the moment and I hope to write it next year. I would very much like to call it “The Dawn”s Early Light” but I can”t help thinking there must already be a novel called that! THANK YOU!”
Irish-American Society of New Mexico Sponsors Six Teens in Final Year of Children’s Friendship Project for Northern Ireland
CFPNI was the brainchild of Peggy Barrett, a Pennsylvania woman (born in Co. Cork) who was stirred into action after watching scenes of violence from Northern Ireland on her television. In 1987 she and her husband, Jack, decided to set up the now famous charity with a band of volunteers from her local area to bring pairs of young people”one Protestant, the other Catholic”to live together in their homes across the US. That initial program has grown in scope over the years with the help of hundreds of volunteers and families from across Northern Ireland and all over the US. To date, CFPNI has helped more than 2,000 NI teens caught up in the “troubles” through cross-cultural programs aimed at promoting understanding through interaction.The New Mexico Chapter of the CFPNI was formed as a committee of the IAS in 1989. In 2005, I became the Southwest Coordinator, and began the onerous (but so fulfilling!) task of recruiting host families who would be willing to take two teenagers into their homes for the entire month of July. Last year my committee and I recruited five families; this year we recruited three. On June 21st of this year I traveled to Northern Ireland (by way of Continental to Houston, then diverted to Gatwick, then delayed in Dublin, then reunited with my luggage, then on to Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, by bus, whew!) to attend the “pre-departure meeting” with the 72 teens who would be participating in the project this year (including the six slated to come to New Mexico). “Try to be good visitors,” I told them in my speech. “Yes, the food is going to be weird (we don’t put gravy on Chinese food here in America for one thing, can you believe it?), but if you can be open-minded and tolerant, you will have a wonderful experience.” They whooped and hollered. I was exhausted already, just thinking about chaperoning all 72 of them to the US in a few days.On June 27th, the 72 teens and I (and another NI Coordinator) made the loooonnnggg journey to the US. Six teens and I raced through the Newark airport and by some miracle made our connection to Houston and then on to Albuquerque, where we were greeted by the host families, CFPNI committee members, and a piper! The teens were totally embarrassed by it all (but in a good way).And then the real fun began: Off went Rhian and Emma to the Bryers (Vikki and Bob); Aine and Emma to Martina Mesmer; Rachel and Siobhan to myself and Don Baker. And what a summer they all had: trips to Santa Fe, Taos, Acoma, Chaco Canyon, the Grand Canyon, the Tram, Cliff’s, the Zoo, the Botanical Gardens, museums, etc. etc. etc. If there was something cool to see in New Mexico, they saw it. (Of course, being teenagers, the place they loved the best was THE MALL. And because the pound sterling was”still is”doing so well against the American dollar, they had plenty of money to spend.) When they left on July 25th, there was much smiling through tears”we all knew we had had a summer we would never forget.On October 18th, Don and I arrived in Belfast Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, to attend the “Re-Union””an annual event where the teens and their families in NI (and some of their American families as well) reconvene to assess the lessons learned from their summer in America. At the Reunion, to highlight the lessons they learned from their summer in America, some of the teens put on skits: some hilariously spoofing the stereotypes found on both sides of the Atlantic (“I hope to have great craic in America!” “WHAT!?!?! You think you”re going to get CRACK here? Are you a drug addict!?”); and others zeroing in on our all-too-human tendencies to judge others by how they look, not how they act. (“You may be stupid as a rock, but I”m going to hire you because I think you”re cute!”)The celebration was marred only by the realization that this would be the last Re-Union, as the US and NI Board of Directors had voted the day before to disband CFPNI after its twenty-year run. The reasons for this decision are many, but the primary reason is that the “troubles” in NI do not seem so troubling now. Many of the CFPNI teens, for example, already knew each other before the program; the segregation of Protestants from Catholics is not so rigid as in the past. This is not true in all parts of the North, of course: In Derry (if you’re Catholic; “Londonderry” if you’re Protestant), the neighborhoods are clearly delineated by either the Tricolor and pubs with pictures of the Pope, or the Union Jack and pubs with pictures of the Queen. And the father of one of my teens told me that he would never consider going into either of the two pubs in his little village as they were both “Protestant pubs” and he would not be welcomed there.But our CFPNI teens (some now in their mid-30s) will not necessarily have the same segregated adulthood as their parents. For one thing, they have more money now than their grandparents and are thus less inclined to want to spend time brooding over historical differences. For another, they have been to the other side of the Atlantic and have seen for themselves what life is like in a country where (for the most part) no one cares what your religious preferences are. Twenty years ago, Peggy Barrett envisioned a Northern Ireland that had achieved peace through understanding and interaction. Thanks to CFPNI (and other similar programs, such as the Ulster Project and Friends Forever), the people of NI are well on their way. The Irish-American Society of New Mexico is proud to have been a significant part of that achievement.For more information about CFPNI (www.cfpni.org) or the IAS of NM (http://www.irishamericansociety-nm.com/), contact Ellen Dowling at 505-307-1700 (firstname.lastname@example.org).