A Travellerspoint blog

The Philosopher's Stone (Cottage)

Boris is a German I met a week or so ago at the hostel in Doolin; he was reading a book on philosophy, the gist of it being can philosophy be taught in the same way that physics or history is taught? He promised to let me know how it turned out.

A couple of days and several showers later, Boris moved on for a few days in Connemara (the showers are important because Boris apparently makes all his big decisions whilst showering) to enjoy some hiking and improve his ability to pun in English.

He got back to the hostel last night, having had a splendid time in Connemara, apart from spraining a wrist after he fell off his bike showing off. As compensation, his punning had improved no end. He described a trip he took on the bike around Killary Fjord to the southern most tip, a small, and I mean small, fishing village called Rossroe.

'Ah! Rossroe' I said. 'If you went to Rossroe, you must have seen the house Wittgenstein stayed in in the late 40's'. Boris' face was as I imagined it appeared when he fell off his bike and hurt his wrist - drained of blood, slack of jaw and beads of sweat on brow. 'Wittgenstein? Wittgenstein lived in Rossroe?'

Wittgenstein, or to give him his full moniker, Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein (1889 – 1951) was an Austrian-British philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, mind and language, I have no real idea what any of that actually means but he seem to be a big noise in the philosophical world. Although he ended up teaching at Cambridge he began his career in a remote Austrian village where he seemed to enjoy hitting his students, concussing one and making the ears of another bleed. During his short lifetime he published just one slim book, the 75-page Tracatus Logico - Philsophucus in 1921, one article, one book review and a children's dictionary, which I assume includes a definition of child abuse.

He was born into one of the richest families in Europe, his sister's wedding portrait was painted by Klimt, which was nice and three of his five brothers committed suicide, which was not so nice. He served in the Austrian army, where he was decorated, during the First World War and as a hospital porter in London during the Second. He also suffered depression all his life.

Not unsurprisingly, he seemed happiest when ensconced in the world of philosophy.

Boris, having a philosophical turn of mind, was stunned by this information and immediately penciled in a return trip to Rossroe and contacted a philosopher friend in Germany, who is on his way to Ireland and had asked for places to visit.

Apparently the book on whether it is possible to teach philosophy as other subjects, ended unsatisfactorily. In philosophical terms, I assume that means that philosophy can be taught, but also, it can't. Maybe.

Posted by johnward 04:36 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Old School Full Irish

Forget all the fancy Dan restaurants and cookery schools that have popped up all over Ireland in the past 20 years or so. Ireland's undisputed gift to world cuisine is the Full Irish breakfast, not the yuppie version with an egg lightly poached in water from a holy well in the Wicklow mountains or black pudding made from tofu. That's the sort of carry on that got Ireland into the mess its in now. Once a country forgets its heritage it will find itself adrift in the cosmos and in hock to the German banks.

FIB is not to be approached lightly; a casual approach is usually a rushed experience which diminishes the enjoyment and will lead to a poisonous bout of indigestion. I've eaten FIB's from the north to the south and east to west in Ireland an whilst there may be a variation or two, the beast is essentially the same. It must also be remembered that the Full Irish is once a week deal; anymore will kill you stone dead.

Firstly meats - rashers, sausages, black pudding and white pudding; poultry is a fried egg (ideally two) , not poached, boiled, scrambled - that's part of a different meal altogether. Baked beans, hash browns, mushrooms are the vegetable content and I've even had chips thrown on top as a homage to Ireland's love affair with the spud.

Toast - I'm open to brown bread being used as the healthy option.

Now condiments.Until today I was always sure that the FIB involved brown sauce; always, always brown sauce. I've only once been told that there is no brown sauce available, naturally I won't be going back there. Red sauce, or ketchup for those of you who went to public school, is no substitute.
Earlier today I was out on one of the Aran Islands, Inisheere to be precise. It's the one with the shipwreck that features in the opening credits of Father Ted (trying to explain the concept of Father Ted to some Americans fell on stony ground). Salt (low sodium is acceptable), but no pepper.

I was down by the aforementioned wreck where a couple of people have a hot dog stand, sandwich bar, cold drink emporium thing going on; there was also a harpist who played tin whistle on hand. It came up in conversation that the only suitable sauce for a full Irish is brown - an old school FIB if you will. I was met with what can only be described a disdain that was teetering over into contempt. Not only was red sauce the preferred choice of one, but mustard was the preference of the other.

An Australian lad who was waiting for a got dog (with mustard) looked bewildered by developments and I have to admit I wasn't far behind. Maybe it’s a Clare thing.

Posted by johnward 13:41 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Donegal - Ireland's forgotten county?

I was chatting to Charlie and Anne yesterday. They're a middle aged couple from Malin Head in Donegal and it turned out we have mutual friends. I was telling them about my trip to Inishowen last year and we inevitably began chatting about the economy and which bankers should be in prison; this led onto a to talk about emigration. Charlie and Anne have two kids, both living in Derry and so far have no need to think about leaving. A family friend has seven grown up children, all who have now left Ireland. The difference this time is that most emigrants seem to be heading to Canada, Australia, even the Middle East and less to the UK. The long weekend back in Ireland is no longer an option.

Then Anne said something that really shocked me. She said 'If you get cancer in Donegal, you're dead.'' I thought she was making an apocryphyl point about the general lack of medical support available in Donegal, but she was saying that there was no support available; unless you can get to Dublin for treatment or you are rich enough to have good and expensive, medical insurance, you will die.

Fast forward 24 hours and I was listening to a radio programme being broadcast live from Donegal. The gist of the piece was is Donegal Ireland's forgotten county?

One of the participants, a Donegal businessman, when contacted by the show to see if he would take part, was initially reluctant because he didn't want to appear on another programme that featured Donegal people whingeing. He was convinced that listeners would simply turn off when they heard the ''Donegal ones on again, crying''. There's no doubt that there are problems in Donegal, but as the same man said to the presenter ''You didn't need Sherpas and camels to get here.'' I've never seen a Sherpa with a camel, but I got his point.

If Ireland is on the periphery of Europe, then Donegal is perceived as being on the periphery of Ireland. There is less inward investment into Donegal than other counties, commercial rates are on a par with Galway city (although business' have doubled in the past two years), disposable income is 30%+ less than Dublin and unemployment is up. Access via road to Donegal is better than ever before, but train links are still poor.

Whilst the Troubles were at their height, a car journey from Dublin would take something like 6 hours and have to go through several British and Irish army checkpoints. Rather ironically, Derry now provides one of the best access points to Donegal via its airport and good road links in the north, although the city remains the only city in Europe without a motorway within 25km of it.

There seems to be a general feeling that Donegal and it's people are too negative about themselves and this need to change. The Wild Atlantic Way could deliver some economic success, but that will take several years to filter down; without doubt Donegal is in my opinion, the most dramatic county in Ireland in terms of landscape and seascape, it has some of the highest sea cliffs in Europe (the Cliffs of Moher in Clare and just 10 minutes drive from where I am at the moment, are pygmies by comparison), the largest fishing port in Ireland is in the county and it has a well deserved reputation for IT skills.

However, if Anne, who is a nurse is right, all these natural advantages will count for nothing.

Posted by johnward 08:28 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Where the City ends

Doolin in west Clare, hard by the Atlantic, hopping off point for the Aran Islands and home of trad music would fit most people's definition of a bucolic setting - green, if stony fields, donkeys and cows in those same fields, narrow lanes, a few pubs, big skies, space to breathe - all the things that command a premium for stressed city types who spend their time trying to figure out how to screw up the economy next time around.

The more pastoral the scene, the more insidious and hidden the dangers and perils. Think Sam Peckinpah meets the Good Life.

A new report has just been released this week by the Simon Community, a campaigning group for the homeless. The report is called Left Out in the Cold: a Review of Rural Homelessness in Ireland and it highlights the growing tragedy of homelessness in rural Ireland. In many ways what the report says doesn't come as a surprise: within the countryside, homelessness is

...more hidden, more stigmatised and more difficult to endure than being homeless in towns or cities...(Kitty Holland, journalist).

There are fewer resources available for people who find themselves homeless in the countryside and it is that that drives the homeless from rural areas into the cities, exacerbating the existing problems there. Homelessness is rarely top of many politicians priorities and the rural homeless have even less of a profile than their urban counterparts.

The definition of 'rural' in Ireland is simply anywhere outside Dublin, Galway Limerick or Cork.

Almost 4,000 people were in emergency accommodation or sleeping rough in the 2011 census, almost 40% of them were outside Dublin. The report goes on to say that things have deteriorated significantly since 2011, with unreliable public transport links and a reduction in the rural rent supplement adding to the problems.

A drive through any part of Ireland will show that houses, and business have been abandoned or shut down; people often bought at the height of the Tiger and simply couldn't service their debts when the economy crashed and the banks called their loans in.

Just down the road from here is the seaside town of Kilkee, which has the dubious honour of having the highest percentage of its houses unoccupied within the prosaically titled West Clare Municipal District. It has over 70% unoccupancy rate compared to a national average of 17%. Now its probable that some of that number is down to the fact that some of these houses are holiday homes, but the fact remains that there are over 7,000 empty homes in Clare and 4,000 or so homeless people in the entire country. Assuming that all these people wish to move to Clare, the housing problem is solved in one go.

Posted by johnward 04:13 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

'Hello Good People'*

We all think we know what and where the Third World is; most of the time it's somewhere else thankfully and we know we don't want it getting any closer.

Probably the last time any of us gave the 'Third World' any thought was when the sweat shop collapsed in Bangladesh killing hundreds of workers. It's doubtful that most of us, including me, did little more than think a little more about buying 5 t - shirts for £3.
It was only recently that I found out what the original definition was of the term Third World. It originally referred to countries that were aligned neither with the USA or the Soviet Union back in the day. So, the answer to the quiz question 'Which is the closest Third World country to the UK?' the answer should come back, according to the original definition, 'The Republic of Ireland.'

At the moment, the Irish Justice Minister, Frances Fitzgerald is in front of the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva, attempting to defend her government's and this country's seemingly woeful record on an entire raft of human rights abuses covering the last 70 years.
Every signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights must appear before this UN committee every four years or so. Ireland's last appearance was in 2008.

Where to start? Probably with an editorial from the Irish Examiner of a couple of days ago:

MINISTER HAS TO DEFEND THE INDEFENSIBLE
Given this country's abysmal record on human rights, it is not surprising that Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is facing a baptism of fire while a bevy of civil servants are subjected to a barrage of penetrating questions from members of the UN committee on human rights in Geneva.

So while a country's appearance in front of this UN committee is mandatory and may not seem too serious at first glance, one of the country's leading newspapers is already saying that Ireland's reputation as a serial abuser of human rights has placed Fitzgerald on the back foot.

Minister Fitzgerald has to defend the country and its actions (or lack thereof) on multiple fronts; the Magdalene Laundries, Travellers ethnic rights*, the Mother and Baby scandal, prison conditions, abortion and the state's role in the ''torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading' abuse of women who underwent a surgical procedure called symphysiotomy. This was carried out on women who were about to give birth and involved breaking the pelvis, with no patient consent. According to the Survivors of Symphsiotomy, almost 1500 women and girls, some as young as 14 underwent this procedure simply in order to facilitate a vaginal birth. It has in many cases, led to a lifetime of pain and disability.

What the committee wants to get to the bottom of is why successive Irish governments seem institutionally incapable of accepting any responsibility for the decades of abuse visited on generations of women and children. Over the decades, the government's default position seems to be - deny deny deny, blame the victim and when that doesn't work buy their silence with a cash pay off.

Despite the litany of abuse laid at the door of the Irish government, there seems little obvious will or desire to change. On one issue alone, abortion, a committee member said that current Irish legislation that limited to saving the life of the mother, didn't satisfy the terms of the covenant. The committee were also concerned about the number of physicians required under legislation, who were needed to certify that a woman's life was at risk and subjecting suicidal women to such checks, would only increase their distress.

In short, the committee accused the State of crimes against women and children and described the list of abuses presented to them as ''quite a collection''. The chair of the committee is a Brit and that sounds like withering understatement. It will not do, and has never done to defend your own reprehensible position on human rights abuses by arguing that you're not as bad as the other guy. If you're content to be labelled as a serial abuser along with dictatorships, theocracies, superpowers and their client states, you'll be judged by the company you keep

In a delicious irony, Ireland won a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council for the first time 2012. Perhaps what we think of as the Third World hasn't actually moved at all.

  • Brid Ouilligan from the Irish Travellers Movement addressed the committee in Gammon, the Traveller language ''Galuin munia needes''

Posted by johnward 06:18 Comments (0)

Brendan Murphy - He suckles at Beelzebub's Teat

A friend of mine, Brendan Murphy from the Falls Rd in Belfast, works at the coalface that is the BBC; by night, he is apparently, Satan's acolyte, suckling at the Dark Lord's nipples.

How do I know this? I know so because Father Padraig O' Baoill tells me it is so. Admittedly, he doesn't mention Brendan by name, but he stands condemned by his works. For Brendan teaches yoga and according to the good father yoga, tai chi and reiki are 'contemptible.' In a recent parish newsletter to his Donegal flock, Fr Padraig wrote:

As followers of Jesus Christ we should not partake in deeds that go against our religion. Accordingly you should not take part in yoga, tai chi or reiki. Do not put your soul in jeopardy for the sake of these contemptible things.

I'm assuming that Father O'Baoill has found, after much effort, the Bible passages that prohibit stretching, bending and waxing your hands about in a non threatening manner.

A few days ago, the Irish Times published a story outlining the catastrophic drop in the numbers of priests and nuns left in Ireland. (Admittedly one man's catastrophe is another man's improvement). Between 2002 - 12 the number of priests fell by 13% and in the same period, the figure for nuns fell by 23%
The Association of Catholic priests is talking in terms of a crisis in vocation and gave told Irish bishops that within two decades Irish priests will be as rare as hen's teeth. So they (the ACP) have come up with some suggestions - ordain married men of proven responsibility and virtue, invite priests who have left the priesthood to get married, to return and ordain women.

All radical stuff. Fr O'Baoill is currently in Lourdes and I'm fairly sure that when he gets back he'll have an attack of the vapours. I hear yoga is very good for relaxing.

Posted by johnward 04:20 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Gilbert & Sullivan have come to Ireland

Just when I thought the Garth Brooks fiasco couldn't become more ridiculous, it has.

Enda Kenny had to answer questions in the Dail yesterday about why the government hasn't intervened to ensure that the Brooksmeister hasn't been given the freedom of the city and had Croke Park renamed Gart Brooks Stadium, all in order to get the be Stetsoned one to Dublin. The reason politicians no longer get involved in nonsense like this is that they can't be trusted. The last time it happened here, governments fell, careers were ruined and the cost to the country in lawyers fees would need the takings from the equivalent of 100 Garth Brooks concerts to balance the books. Enda has insisted that a meeting should take place between Christ Burke, the Lord Mayor of Dublin and Owen Keegan, the man who decided that only three of the five concerts should go ahead. This was yesterday and the matter was seen as so important that neither man could find an opportunity for a get together until 5pm tonight, the same time Brooks is holding a press conference in Nashville

Now the Mexican ambassador to Ireland has offered his services to Christy Burke, to act as a mediator between the city and Brooks. A Dublin TD, Joe Costello has chipped in suggesting that this cock up is so damaging to Brand Ireland (whatever that is) that Enda should use the video conferencing yoke to chat to Garth, mano a mano. Not only are the Mexicans onside, but some 'investors' are considering approaching Obama (that's he of the Offally Obamas), to see if he can convince Garth that the affection he holds Ireland in should actually stretch to performing the concerts that he is contracted to do.

Once again, the newspapers, tv and radio is full of this story - the fact that Irish government is supposed to be undergoing a major reshuffle, the Orangemen are getting stroppy threatening all sorts of direness up North, road traffic carnage seems to be on the up and the little matter of a Mayo appearance in a Connaught football final on Sunday that should have Enda's full attention, doesn't seem to register.

If this was an Irish soccer training camp, Roy Keane would have been off days ago. This is a genuine Irish (soap) opera.

Posted by johnward 08:42 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

The Marching Season: Put your watch back 300 years

I was having a drink with my cousin Pat and his wife, Mary, the other day when I commented on the amount of cars from the north I'd seen in Mayo. Pat said ''the 12th is coming up; lots of people want to be away''.

And of course he was right - the 12th July is the official start of the Marching Season in the north, where Orangemen will don sash and bowler, bang the Lambeg and demand to march their traditional routes, often through Catholic/Nationalist/Republican areas. Inevitably, the Parades Commission will turn down some of the requested routes, language and positions will become entrenched and inflamed and frustrated Protestants will take to the streets, mostly young Protestant men, in order to bang heads with the PSNI.

The battle of words has already started because the Parades Commission has done exactly as I anticipated and banned the return leg of a march through Belfast's Ardoyne area. This has led to the unionist parties boycotting some government meetings and cross border get - togethers. So far, so predictable.

I was talking to a man in Cong, a driver of a car with northern plates in fact. He told me that he's from the Protestant community and although he 's not here specifically to avoid the start of the Marching Season, neither is he sorry to be away. He's only in his early 40's, so he's known his fair share of both good and bad in the north. And as a Protestant from the north, he bangs his head in frustration as every year the Orangemen either shoots itself in the foot, by appearing as out of date and redundant as a Garth Brooks concert ticket or simply menacing what seems to appear, an increasingly fragile peace process.

All sides are making political hay out of this annual head butting by appealing to their hard core support: the UnIonists will never surrender whilst Sinn Fein smugly present themselves as the party of compromise, flexibility and accommodation. The Unionists desperately need to get some decent media management as SF has been running rings around them for decades. If the Orangemen don't want to go the way of the dinosaur and run the risk of centuries of their culture resembling a morris men convention, they need to get their act together.

My friend in Cong's parting comment was 'Fly into Belfast and put your watch back 300 years.' Not the first time I've heard this, but rarely with such resignation.

Posted by johnward 09:26 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

3 into 5 is a no go

So, Garth Brooks, the Brooksmeister, the Bard of the Dustbowl, is sticking to his Tulsa guns and will deprive the Emerald Isle, the land of Yeats, Synge, Joyce, Heaney and Kavanagh, of his presence in 2014.

Ireland will have to await the Second Coming, for that is how Brooks' appearance in Dublin has been portrayed, for a very long time. And after this debacle, Brooks may very well strike Ireland off his list as 'Unsaveable. Delete from database.' The only thing I can see that will change his mind is if his fans promise him the lives of their firsborn to appease his wounded dignity and flatter and reinforce their sense of victimhood. Don't be surprised if some nut job doesn't take Dublin City Council to the European Court of Human Rights and probably win.

I fear for the future employment prospects of Owen Keegan, the man who made the decision to allow only the three agreed concerts to go ahead. He seems to be a man that attracts political enemies and perhaps this is what they have been waiting for. But the fact of the matter is that the promoter, Peter Aiken, sold 400,000 tickets for something that didn't exist because it was unlicensed. He was quoted last week as saying that at no point had the council made him aware of potential problems. In fact he had assurances there were no problems. When asked who gave those assurances he wouldn't say but said that nobody said it wouldn't go ahead! Not the same thing at all . Today in the Irish Times, Aiken confirmed there was no insurance in place to cover his losses as insurance companies will not insure events without a license.

I do have a possible solution to the problem, which I will be emailing to the promoter and Dublin City Council shortly. By the time the first concert is due to be played, the World Cup will be finished and that means that Garth Crooks ex Stoke City, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, West Bromwich Albion and Charlton Athletic striker, BBC pundit and a man capable of both stringing a sentence together and wearing a stetson, will be avaialable. And it only means a one letter change to the posters.

Posted by johnward 09:19 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

''No Messing!!''

I've been in Cong, on the Mayo/Galway border for 5 day now. It's a small place, and if you don't like the John Ford movie The Quiet Man, which was shot here in the 1950's, excellent fishing and good walks, there's probably little to keep you here more than a day or two at best. I stayed on an extra day because of mackerel.

I popped into a local restaurant yesterday, The Hungry Monk, for a cup of coffee. I'd only been in there five minutes when someone on the table next to me ordered a plate of the pan fried mackerel and I have to say if it tasted as good as it looked this place was on to a winner. Apparently it did and they are. I know this because there was lots of yum yum noises and those immortal words ''The gooseberry compote made it!!''

I wasn't hungry but I promised myself I'd go back today. The actual dish is pan fried mackerel, new season potato salad, salad leaves, the aforementioned and exceptional, gooseberry compote and tomato sembal. Now I'm the first to admit I have as much idea of what a sembal is as I know how to fly a plane, but I do know is that everything tasted great, including the home made bread, which I have to admit gives my auntie Biddy, who was the best bread maker in Ireland, a run for her money.

There's lots I liked about the Hungry Monk. First its size - its only 10 tables or so with a couple on the pavement. Secondly is the minimal menu - it has half a dozen dishes chalked up today including smoked salmon, pan fried salmon, Kelly's Beef Cheek Irish pastrami and Cheddar cheese plus the same number of desserts. Third it uses local suppliers and that means that the customers eat what's available and that means seasonal. They also serve a blaa, which apart from being a nightspot in Oslo, is a roll peculiar to Waterford. If its made outside the county it c north to Cong every day.an no longer be an authentic blaa, a little like Cheddar cheese made in Scotland or champagne made in Bristol. To satisfy the requirements, Aisling has it baked in Waterford and couriered north to Cong overnight.

There is a complete lack of pretension and that's down to the owners - John who is front of house and Aisling who is the chef. The Hungry Monk has only been open five months and starting a restaurant business is always one of those decisions that can come back and bite you on the bum, but John and Aisling seem to know what they're doing. They arrived in Cong via Carlow, Boston, Castlebar and Japan, working their way around the world in the food business, gaining the expertise and the know how needed to make something like this work.

I suppose what you need to make your own business work is passion and you need to make sure that that passion is felt firstly by the rest of your staff and ultimately the customer. It's good food, prepared simply, priced fairly and as Aisling said to me with ''No Messing!''. And it made me stay an extra day in Cong.

The only down side is that one of the staff had tickets for the now cancelled Garth Brooks concert, a story that continues to divide the nation.

Posted by johnward 07:12 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

3 into 5 don't go

Garth Brooks is big. I knew he was big but I didn't realise he was huge! A singer of such epic proportion, but looking like an extra from City Slickers, he has relegated the World Cup, a newly created Caliphate, an upcoming government reshuffle, the election of a new leader of the Labour Party, assorted other political shenanigans in Ireland, Marching Season Madness and any sleb tittle tattle onto page 32. The ''Will Garth play Croke Park?'' is the only story in town, and it seems a particularly Irish story.

I've heard Brooks' stuff and I really, really, really dislike it. Unless it's Hank Williams, Willie Nelson or Johnny Cash, it ain't country. Brooks gives music a bad name but people love him. They love him so much that 400,000 of them, some from as far away as New Zealand and the States have bought tickets to five gigs in Croke Park scheduled for a couple of weeks time.

And there lies the problem. Croke Park is owned by the GAA who have an understanding with local residents that there will be consultations and negotiations with those residents over concerts. 80,000 people a night descending on your street does tend to cause problems. The original deal covered three consecutive nights at Croke Park, but it seems that the GAA and the concert promoters got carried away with themselves, adding two extra nights, which sold out immediately.

More importantly they added them without telling the residents or making sure that the licence was in place to allow any of the concerts to go ahead. In Ireland there is a tradition of putting the cart before the horse - book the act, book the venue, print the tickets, sell the tickets and assume the licence will be granted.

This time around, some of the residents threatened legal action if these five concerts went ahead. Radio phone in shows were jammed with callers pro Concert anti Resident, pro Resident anti GAA, pro Garth anti everything else. The only thing all could agree on was that the promoter and the GAA are responsible for the mess. Then late yesterday afternoon, Dublin City Council issued a statement saying that three of the concerts would be licenced to go ahead, not five.

Cue more media frenzy. The manager of Dublin City is Owen Keegan, an increasingly controversial figure in some circles, and it was he who took the decision on grounds, it seems, of possible anti social behaviour and the chaos five nights of Garth Brooks would cause the residents around the stadium.

Then came word from the Brooksmeister himself - it was the five concerts or none at all.

To choose which shows to do and which shows not to do, would be like asking to choose one child over another...I have faith that Dublin City Council will make the best decision for the people of Ireland.

Garth must be getting confused with that old country standard ''Both my kids have acute renal failure and I have only one kidney to give'' because it's not the same thing at all. And a someone who knows about these things apparently, a caller to one of the shows, said that gigs four and five are pure gravy to Brooks - its where all the profit lies. So enough of that Oklahoman homespun wisdom, Garth.

Anyway, we heard in short order from the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Christy Burke, who said that the City manager's decision is final and non reversible followed by Fianna Fáil’s tourism spokesman, Timmy Dooley, who published a bill yesterday which he said allowed for an appeals process in circumstances where a local authority refuses to grant an event licence. He then went on to call for Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar and Environment Minister Phil Hogan to get involved to save the two shows and the tickets of 160,000 punters. With politicians ducking for cover, a spokesperson for Hogan pointed out that Minister Jan O’Sullivan is responsible for planning matters and it didn't matter anyway as ministers were prohibited from intervening in what was purely a Dublin City Council fiasco, thank you very much.

There is a lot of money at stake here, money that the local as well as national economy will benefit from, so the Restaurants Association of Ireland is now calling for a single, national, events body to streamline all tourism music and sporting events in Ireland, with its chief executive, Adrian Cummins, claiming:

The breakdown in communication between organisations in the Garth Brooks fiasco has the potential to damage Brand Ireland abroad, but also tourism businesses internally

I'm never sure what people mean when they say things like Brand Ireland, but Lord Henry Mouncharles of Slane Castle and mega gig fame pitched his euro worth in, bemused as to how it got to this situation. The subtext was it wouldn't happen at Slane, although he fell just short of saying ''we'll help them out, I have a spare castle doing nothing at the mo''.

Even newly-elected Labour Party leader and Tánaiste, Joan Burton, weighed into the row, stating: “I am very sorry for all of the fans,” adding: “I hope an amicable agreement can be reached.” PolSpeak for thank Christ this is nothing to do with me. Any politician who can sort this out will be guaranteed at least an extra 160,000 votes next time around.

The only person who seemed to talk any sense was a lawyer whose name I'm ashamed to admit I've forgotten. She was supposed to be on talking about something really important like police racially profiling minority communities, particularly the Roma, but she was inevitably asked about this debacle. She said that the country should take Brooks up on his offer to stay away. My sort of lawyer. And music critic.

Posted by johnward 02:47 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

The Beautiful Game - It's so Un American!!

So, The USA's (USA!! USA!! USA!!) race at the 2014 World Cup is run with reputations and transfer fee potential enhanced for all concerned. The football watching public were enamoured of their never say die spirit ( which is more than can be said of the French effort against Germany last night) plus an appreciation of the amount of skill they showed. The standing of the game has probably never been higher in the Land(on) of the Free and Home of the Brave.

Take Thomas, a 16 year old from San Diego I met in Donegal. He couldn't wait for the next game to come around and could quote me strengths and weaknesses of all the players. He did insist on calling a kit a uniform, but that is nit picking. He loved what he saw, and once the US were knocked out he was going to switch to Holland. Or Mike D'Amico who has followed the US team through Brazil dressed as President Teddy Roosevelt in his Rough Rider uniform (or kit?). He started enjoying football a few years ago and supports Spurs because he liked their motto "Audere est Facere", which means "To Dare is To Do". As an American, he may have been better off following Milwall's unofficial motto ''Nobody Loves Us But We Don't Care'' but that's for another day.

America and Football may be sharing a warm, lavender scented, frothy bathtub at the moment, but their are storm clouds on the horizon. Step forward Sarah Palin, one time candidate for the position of Vice President and doyenne of US Foreign Policy with an acute understanding of the nuances of 21st century global diplomacy..

Back on the campaign trail in '08 I spoke with an American patriot and veteran who served in Iraq. He said the Iraqi terrorists would play soccer in the streets of Baghdad together. If that is the sort of person who loves that sport, count me out. Here in Real America, we don't watch soccer.

Once Sarah realises that the next world cup is to be held in Russia, I can see her offering her unrivalled knowledge of the country to someone like ITV where she will sit alongside evr so hysterical Adrian Chiles, Ian ''The next young player who says he does not want to play for England should be ordered to ring the parents of a soldier who has died serving his country in Afghanistan and tell them his reasons'' Wright, Glen ''I mistook Al Jazeera for Algeria'' Hoddle and an increasingly bewildered Lee Dixon, who must be thinking did I really leave the BBC to spend time with muppets like these? Sarah will fit right in.

Or there's Ann Coulter, darling of the American right and dedicated footy hater

If more ''Americans'' are watching soccer today, its only because of the demographic switch affected by Teddy Kennedy's 1965 immigration law. I promise you; No real American (my emphasis, but I can feel her rage radiating off the page) whose great grandfather was born here is watching soccer. One can only hope that, in addition to learning English, these new Americans will drop their soccer fetish in time.

So there you have it - the fact of the matter is that the Beautiful Game has rarely, if ever lived up to that description, particularly recently, but there is something wonderful about a sport where all you need is a ball and a couple of sweaters to play in your own World Cup. So Sarah and Ann, the tide of history may sweep you away, but if not, you can kiss my hairy arse!

Posted by johnward 02:37 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

The Antrim Conundrum or How The North became Balkanised

Mid and East Antrim is a 'super council; this doesn't mean that it's doing a fine job and its constituents are at one with the world. It does mean that its one of these new streamlined, consumer focused, customer interface ready types of council. And as such it needs 21st century, delivery conscious, result orientated councillors. Step forward Declan O'Loan, the only SDLP representative on the council and he's vexed.

It seems that 9 of the seats on the council were allocated using PR specifically the D'Hondt (perfected by a Belgian of the same name and therefore eligible for the quiz perennial, 'name 10 famous Belgians') method and not Cllr Declan's preferred system named after the French mathematician Andre Sainte - Lague. No, I haven't heard of these voting processes either, but they are apparently de rigeur in many countries including Moldova, Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, Scotland, Wales and the London Assembly, although I can't remember the last time I heard Bo Jo talking about the relative merits of Sainte - Lague over D' Hondt. If he did wax lyrical, he would know that both systems are very similar, but Sainte- Lague uses different divisors. Mmm?

Back to Mid and East Antrim. It had 9 seats to fill under D'Hondt (if that's not the name of a future Bond villain, I don't know what is); 8 of these seats went to Unionist parties and the remainder went to a member of the Alliance Party. Using Sainte - Lague would have meant Sinn Fein would have picked up a a seat and the unionist majority would have been reduced from 5 to 4.

Cllr Declan then got a little carried away with apocalyptic visions of the future. He was quoted in a newspaper article

If this approach is taken generally we really will have the Balkanisation of Northern Ireland, with a winner take all approach in lots of areas. The consequences for peaceful living together here are potentially catastrophic... we have seen in Mid and East Antrim a failure of leadership.

To me, 'Balkanisation'. is one of those words you toss into the melange of political debate when you want to create images of chaos, bloodshed, war crime, psychopathic killers with pet tigers and the breakdown of civil society... basically Sarajevo circa 1992.

Unsurprisingly, Unionists, who also have had their fair share of the end of the world is nigh brigade, were a lot more sanguine about the future and did point out that up until now, D'Hondt was the preferred option of choice for the SDLP.

Personally I would scrap the lot and use the Lewis Duckworth Method, which has the advantage of being both a funny Irish beat combo and a complicated means of working out the results of cricket match following four days of rain and bad light, which is often the weather in Ulster at this time of year.

Posted by johnward 07:25 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

How do you solve a problem like Anthony?

What a week!

Ireland is experiencing one of those increasingly regular examinations of the country's soul, that is proving so dark it's positively noirish. It's to do with the Catholic church Inevitably , psycho nuns, malignant priests, abused unwed mothers (the ultimate sin), absent fathers, complicit doctors, heartless families, an embarrassed and ashamed society and the buried bodies of hundreds of babies and toddlers. Alongside this is the committee set up by the government to look into the banking crisis in...crisis, Enda is looking and sounding increasingly sullen ans waspish in the Dail and the new Lord Mayor of Dublin is insisting that not a single solitary British royal should be invited to and so sully the 1916 Commemoration in two years time.

But what seems to be exercising the country is Anthony Nash and how he strikes a sliotahr. Anthony is the goalkeeper for the senior Cork hurling team and has perfected a particularly devastating method of taking a 20 metre free. As hinted in the name, a 20m free should be taken 20m from the oppositions goal - there's even a line to show how far that is. Nash has a rushing technique that brings him several metres beyond this line and thus nearer the goal, from which he inevitably scores.

He strikes the ball ferociously and opponents are concerned that taking the field against Cork is akin to putting themselves in mortal danger. So they want the rules clarified and this carry on stamped out.So the GAA, the sports governing body, via something called the Central Competitions Control Committee, has finally ruled on this and are enforcing Rule 2.2 which reads

''whereby a player taking a penalty or a 20m free may bring the ball back up to 7 metres from the 20m line for the purposes of making a traditional run at the ball, but shall strike the ball on or outside the 20m line but not inside it.''

It was also decided that those cowardy custard defenders would have to stay on their goal line until the ball was struck. Having gone this far, the committee then had to define what 'struck' meant, but as far as I can make out, they did the opposite and said what it wasn't. They clarified that 'lifting the ball', presumably prior to striking the ball, is not striking the ball!!

All this soul searching may have clarified the matter but Cork actually solved the problem by themselves, by simply appointing a different penalty taker, the equally ferocious and accurate Patrick Brogan, who has the added advantage of being able to hit the ball from 20m.

Sport is cruel, which of course one of the reasons we love it so much. And this has been a particularly gratifying week. The mighty Spain, humbled and crumbled, have probably tiki taka'd their last and have booked their return tickets from Brazil and the hurley loving fans of Cork and the injury fearing players of everywhere else, have probably seen the last of that fearsome phenomenon, The Nash Pen.

R.I.P.

Posted by johnward 03:24 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Paul Chatenoud RIP

I met Paul Chatenoud for the first and only time in 2008 when I stayed at his bed and breakfast on top of a mountain in Donegal.

I stayed for three days in one of his beautifully restored cottages overlooking Loughross Bay during 10 days in Donegal and remember his gargantuan breakfasts, quirky artworks that surrounded the buildings and plenty of good conversation.

It was Paul that told me the story of how, when he first converted the cottages into a b&b, he took a booking from a party of seven Americans, who when they arrived couldn't possibly stay as the water that came out of the taps was dirty. Paul explained that the water filtered down through the mountain bog so that was why it was a thin muddy colour, but perfectly ok. Unfortunately the fantastic views, great accommodation and the good company weren't enough compensation, so they turned their car around and headed back down the mountain. From then on Paul always made sure that potential customers from the USA were aware of the water situation and if they booked there was no refund!!

Paul died at the end of January and I saw his obituary and photo in the Irish Times last week. I knew that he'd come to Ireland and fallen inn love with the place and when he went back to Paris he sold his book shop and came back to Donegal permanently. He was a musicologist and philosopher and I always remember him with a cigarette clamped in his mouth, even when preparing breakfast.

His obituary described him as cross between Jean Paul Sartre and Charles Aznavour with

the furrowed face of a philosopher but the twinkling eye of an entertainer

I've never satyed anywhere quite like the Green Gate bed and breakfast and I'm fairly sure I never will again.

Posted by johnward 04:16 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

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