Posts Tagged Ireland

A lingering dissolution

The Parting Glass

The Parting Glass


In the week that the National Youth Council for Ireland published their study confirming the saddening scale of youth emigration from the island of Ireland over the last number of years I was reminded of Beckett’s line from All that Fall:

“It is suicide to be abroad..but what is it to be at home?… A lingering dissolution.”

I read once that when when Mary Robinson became president of Ireland in 1990, one of her first actions was to light a lamp in the kitchen window of the official residence to acknowledge the many millions of Irish then living overseas. An act of informed symbolism, Robinson’s inspiration was a poem by Eavan Boland called The Emigrant Irish.

It is a political and social shame that we must continue to tend to those lamps, light them anew. But for those who have left, fled that lingering dissolution out of choice or more clearly of late from sad necessity, they flicker. While families and communities wait, with a burning patience, for a return.

Until then let us bring our lamps to the fore that we might remember on other generations who took the same journey abroad, that their possessions might indeed become our power.

EAVAN BOLAND The Emigrant Irish

Like oil lamps we put them out the back,
of our houses, of our minds.
We had lights better than, newer than
and then a time came, this time
and now we need them.
Their dread, makeshift example.

They would have thrived on our necessities.
What they survived we could not even live.
By their lights now it is time to
imagine how they stood there, what they stood with,
that their possessions may become our power.
Cardboard. Iron. Their hardships parcelled in them.
Patience. Fortitude. Long-suffering
in the bruise-coloured dusk of the New World.
And all the old songs. And nothing to lose.

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Images of another Ireland

© richard fitzgerald, 2007, all rights reserved


Richard Fitzgerald: The Parting Glass

Beautiful images of another Ireland.

Hard to believe how relatively recently some of these images were captured and a timely reminder of the many changes – some good, some not so good – that we have witnessed on our island in the last 30 years.

The book is simply sensational.


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Crowdsourcing – Mise Eire

The crowdsourcing process in eight steps.
Image via Wikipedia

Fascinated and excited by the recent launch of Ireland’s very own island-wide Crowdsourcing experiment/competition:

And apart from  few minor points of confusion on the site itself I think it’s been very well done thus far. Intrigued to see how the organisers move into the next phase of evaluation and ultimately implementation which is where such “Us Now” experiments will live or die.

Just reading some of the early ideas/proposals gives much food for thought and in many instances I felt genuinely inspired.  Will be keeping a close eye on this one.


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Embarassed, NI

Young people interacting within society.
Image via Wikipedia



“Out of Ireland have we come.
Great hatred, little room,
Maimed us at the start.”  

WB Yeats (1865 – 1939)



Thanks to Conall McDevitt for bringing to my attention the unfortunate and unsavoury actions of a few mindless NI Facebookers.

This sort of story makes me so ashamed of my otherwise proud Northern Irish (and Irish) heritage. But it isn’t a surprise – I sadly am convinced that too many of our population still bear many of the insular and xenophobic attributes of a people inhabiting a small island on the western fringes of Europe that has for many years been a cauldron for national, racial, religious and community suspicion/conflict.

The events of the summer involving the South Belfast Romany community echoes throughout this latest news piece. But it does not end there. Sadly I have seen, first hand, how racist some members of our society can be as a consequence of tree or four separate instances directed at either my Eritrean born Canadian wife or myself as her partner.  You’ll forgive me if I spare you the details and expletives.  Instances that mean she will never now acquiesce to my long held dream to move back home and raise a family. And I can’t really blame her.

As always of course – and I do recognise this – much of this is the work and views of a (albeit a potentially significant) minority – most of my fellow countrymen and women recognise that we know as much as any nation about the challenges of settling in foreign lands or the hospitality afforded to our people by foreign governments as a consequence of our own diaspora throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries. We are, in the main, a warm and hospitable people who recognise the obligation on us to provide refuge to those who cannot find it elsewhere but also the merits of managed and facilitated immigration.

However at a time when, as a small island economy trying to get off our knees, we need all the friends (tourists, investors, advocates) we can make, we should never underestimate – particularly in the age of social media – how stories like this play out across the globe and influence perception of us as a people and a place.

I’m tempted to take this on a tangent related to the reform of the education system in NI and in particular the importance of the Primary School system in preparing our children not just for further education but to be well rounded, informed and considered members of civic society – true ambassadors for our corner of the world, but it’s late. But those who brought shame on NI with their Facebook vitriol are evidence that something – however isolated the powers that be may claim – isn’t working in how we prepare our young people to prosper in a multi-cultural society and that needs to be addressed (at home, at school and in local communities).  That is  definitely one of my aspirations for our work at the Washington Ireland Program for Service and Leadership.

There is plenty to joke about in this sad day and age without spouting “ironic” vitriol at the expense of some of our society’s most vulnerable members.  Let’s close on this one from Dave Barry – I couldn’t think of a ‘joke’ more apt right now:

“Ireland is a medium-sized rural island that is slowly but steadily being consumed by sheep”.


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Sophocles – look away now

iPhone photo - 32/365 - a hand, but not of god...
Image by alexkess via Flickr

“I would prefer even to fail with honor than to win by cheating” the ancient Greek playwright is reported to have once noted.

One wonders what he would have made of events in Paris last night as Thierry Henry and Le Blues pipped gallant Ireland to a place at the 2010 World Cup final with a little sleight of hand (or arm really).

I wish I’d had his proud words to hand last night as I tried to make a similar point to two poor unsuspecting French men in a bar in London as replays showed what most of us immediately expected – that Henry had illegally used his hand/arm, not once, but twice, to create what turned out to be the decisive goal in a pulsating encounter. Unfortunately I am ashamed to say I fell back on some less Athenian language to make my point – although the passion with which it delivered was certainly befitting the most celebrated of ampitheatres.  Wherever you are young Frenchmen, please accept this apology from the bearded, foaming, gestculating Northern Irishman you had the misfortune to sit beside last night. I wish you or your countrymen no harm.  Honestly.

Today it has been fascinating to watch the fall out of last night’s events – on mainstream news, on Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Radio. Some of the hysteria is a little misplaced (a boycott of French kissing has been mooted by a local wag as I understand it) but some of it raises some interesting and important points on sport and the nature of moral responsibility therein.

For a start, if anything good can come of this it will be to press forward the call for video technology to be used to determine – independently and scientifically – the outcome of contentious issues in a game of soccer. The game is too important at this level, too many have too much at stake (not least the fans) and the rewards are such that it is an act of almost willful incompetence that football’s governing bodies continue to resist calls for the introduction of supporting arbitration technologies. The arguments that it will disrupt the game or “it’s an exciting part of the sport” just do not wash.

The game is already disrupted with protests, injury, substitutions, the occasional streaker and (thank you Craig Bellamy at Old Trafford) prolonged goal celebrations. If they want to mitigate that then even limit teams to a set number of “appeals” or reserve only for disputed goals or penalty claims. 30 seconds seems a little time in the pursuit of just reward. Anyway – all those unfit referees will I’m sure be delighted of the rest-bite it will offer as a minimum.

As for the idea that “mistakes have aways been part of the sport”; it’s what makes it such a human spectacle”…well, lets be grateful Sepp Blatter and the boys aren’t in charge of anything really important otherwise we could be rolling back progress on the treatment of disease, turning a blind(er) eye to “well meaning” despotism and trial by jury – in fact no trial or criminal justice system at all for those not caught in the act of the crime, there and then. If you get away with it then the book is closed….I mean, mistakes, they happen and restorative justice well, it’s just so…’yesterday’.  

As a fan its frustrating, for a player even more so I imagine but another victim here is Ireland Inc.  Not just for the lost revenues of bar receipts of last night, today, the coming weeks or next year but all those relying on te success of the nationa team: merchandisers, the press corps, the travel industry etc.  Even Brian Cowen himself must have thought – just for a moment – of the ‘goodwill bounce’ that often comes with National success in the sporting arena.  The stakes were high. Too high to simply give a gallic shrug of the shoulders and say too bad – the referee missed it, case closed.

What I found most interesting today though were the views taken on the man at the centre of it all, Thierry Henry.  Type “Cheat” into your Google search bar (on Bing he makes the bottom of the front page if any-one’s interested – love their search page pictures though) and you’ll find that Henry appears 4th in the list of returns! 4th. But not only is he now synonymous with that most insidious of descriptors, none other than Time Magazine have named him “the biggest cheat in sports history”!! Now whether or not I agree with that is irrelevant – here’s the fact. This great – outrageously talented and until now unblemished – footballer is now synonymous with the word “cheat”. I can’t help wondering what he thinks about that – how he will reconcile himself to it or indeed if he thinks, ‘If only…’. For if only he’d drawn the ref’s attention to it and had the goal disallowed he might have changed the direction of sport irrevocably for the better.

He would have gone down in the annals of sporting history as one of the great sportsmen – one of the great men – of the modern age.  At a time when “cheating” is undoubtedly gnawing away at the heart of the game here was a chance – in front of the world itself – to say: “there is more to sport than winning at any cost”.  A chance to set a real and meaningful example to the thousands of impressionable young people watching on, to his fellow professionals, to those of us who hope for the best in our heroes.

But perhaps just as disappointing was to hear Damian Duff and a few other Irish players say today that “they don’t blame Henry” inferring it’s the match officials fault. Henry has said “ask the referee why he allowed it”. But it was entirely his fault – and no one – least of all Irish players should try to redirect the blame. The reason the referee didn’t call foul play was simply because he couldn’t and didn’t see it; nor did the other officials. Surely that was clear to Henry when the goal was not disallowed. If not then he is suggesting the referee was complicit /a cheat – as are those Irish players who “don’t blame” Henry.  Sadly it got worse as Damian went on to suggest that “if it had been at the other end I or Robbie Keane would have tried the same thing…you just don’t expect to get away with it” and for the first time I lost some sympathy for the boys in green.  Because suddenly its only a problem even for Ireland because he didn’t get caught. The act itself – well, sure we’d all chance our arm…wouldn’t we? And as long as we and Damian Duff condone that then we’ll always be at the mercy of well meaning but fallible human officials (shorn as they are of supporting technology). My goodness Damian –  did you really think it’s ok to say that and still expect some sympathy or for us to direct our ire at the hapless unsighted referee and not the cheat himself- what are we becoming?!

Still. To the victor the spoils they cried…but I sense/hope that time will tell that this was a hollow victory and Thierry Henry has made the wrong choice – for France, for sport and for himself.   As I watched him clap and smirk his way around the stadium last night post match I couldn’t help thinking of the proud principles that underpin the national shirt that he has worn with such distinction up to now: Liberté, égalité, fraternité. 

They think it’s all over…it is now. 

PS In any event, if we’d manage to convert one of the three gilt edged chances in the course of the game we’d all have been saved a huge load of grief and old Thierry could have shimmied back to Camp Nou, reputation intact and a summer of relaxation to look forward to in 2010. And that is a fact.

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Happy 15th WIP

A proud moment

A proud moment

October 8th was a proud day for all of us who have – in one way or another – been fortunate enough to benefit from our association with The Washington Ireland Program for Service and Leadership (WIP) as it celebrated it’s 15th Birthday in Dublin.

It was a particularly proud day for me as a WIP Alumni (1997) as my employer, Accenture, agreed to co-sponsor the celebrations, our second Annual WIP Celtic Cup Golf fundraiser was a wonderful success at the K Club in Kildare and I was afforded the opportunity to join President of Ireland, Mary McAleese and US Ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney in speaking from the stage to those attending the evening reception at Dublin Castle.

The Washington Ireland Program for Service and Leadership (WIP) is a unique, not for profit,  US-Ireland charity that is helping to prepare the next generation of young Public Service leaders from Northern Ireland, Ireland and, through it’s sister Program The South African Washington Ireland Program (SAWIP), South Africa. Starting off back in 1995 as a program exclusively about conflict resolution in Northern Ireland and restricted to a small number of NI students only, the program has matured into a broader international program addressing a wide range of issues which a new generation of leaders will be required to tackle.

Every year, WIP inspires and equips ~30 young people from Northern Ireland and Ireland and 6-8 from South Africa, who have distinguished themselves in their own communities (academically, socially, politically or through acts of Public Service), to lead.  It does this by offering scholarships on our Service and Leadership Development Program. Over the course of this 6 month Program each year WIP works with these young people to:

  •  Encourage and reward acts of active citizenship and Public Service in their own communities – required in order to gain acceptance onto/graduation from the Program
  • Expands their professional leadership skills by placing them in Political, Business and Social internships for 6 weeks in Washington DC each summer*
  • Creates an environment in which they are challenged to consider and develop the leadership skills (and conscience) necessary to address the real and immediate Public Service challenges of their generation – development of post conflict societies; economic recovery and sustainability; social exclusion/mobility; social enterprise; religious and cultural dislocation
  • Supports them in completing Public Service projects in the USA (e.g. a New Orleans clean up effort in 2007) and
  • Administers a Public Service leadership development training course during their Washington DC summer internship.

These skills are perhaps less fashionable/typical in a charitable sense but they are absolutely necessary and we should not be ashamed of investing in their development. I like  think of it as an act of supreme optimism (a gamble on inspiring future leaders) and investment in long term sustainability – sustaining Public Service and Leadership skills (and commitment) for the next generation. That’s an investment from which many others will in turn benefit – WIPs ‘power of multiplication’.

At a time when the idea of and need for “leadership” has never been greater across the globe, I am so proud to be associated with WIP.  We WIP Alumni are a very special and privileged group. Each of us has been provided with the gift of opportunity: the opportunity to learn; the opportunity to gain perspective and understanding; the opportunity to live with, work with and meet some of the most inspiring servants and leaders imaginable – our host families, our intern colleagues, our guest speakers, our WIP and SAWIP classmates. What we do with that opportunity is now up to each of us. Trust has been placed in us that we make good on the investment that has been made in us by the groups above as well as the WIP Board. What we do next determines the direction and meaning of this Program.

At a time when we face some unprecedented challenges on a local and global scale: challenges of economic recovery and development, social mobility, international conflict; energy provision and sustainability; rising nationalism and associated racism…….I think WIP asks all of us associated with it this question: 

 “If I am not for myself then who will be? But if I am only for myself – who am I? And if not now – when?’

That’s a question we must continue to ask – at home and abroad.  Happy Birthday WIP. Here’s to 15 more.

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