Politics Sport

Ireland 16 – New Zealand 9. A New Metaphor for Brexit.

God, we needed that.

For so many reasons we needed to beat New Zealand but not least, may I submit, as an antidote to all this Brexit bullshit we’ve been enduring for what seems like the last fifty years.

We needed our boys to make a statement on that field at Lansdowne Road — I will never use the A-word when referring to that place — and by Jesus they stood up and gave the world a big, loud message.

It’s over. We’re no longer satisfied with being second. We’re here and it’s time to get used to us.

Oddly, this is the same message we’ve sent out in regard to Brexit, to the utter incomprehension of the smug, superior Tory toffs who have been goading Britain over the cliff edge for the last two years. How ironic that this is  the centenary of the bloodbath when the Brexiteers’ antecedents goaded poor British people over the walls of the trenches in France and Belgium to be slaughtered.

Our message to them? Precisely the same: We’re here, it’s time to get used to us and no, we don’t do what you tell us. Ireland’s victory in rugby demonstrates a different kind of independence. A new, self-confident freedom that doesn’t rely on anyone else to define it and that doesn’t exist in opposition to anything.

New Zealand’s captain, Kieran Read, to his credit, came straight out after the game and said “They were better than us”. No bullshit. No messing around. Just a straight acknowledgement that a superior opponent prevailed on the day.

Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nigel Fromage, the cheesy con-man of Europe, on the other hand, trapped in a centuries-old bubble of incomprehension, aren’t quite able to process the ugly fact that the annoying neighbours refuse to do as they’re told, no matter how plummy the vowels one adopts.

Can you believe that Nadine Dorries (MP!!!) is today complaining that Theresa May’s deal with the EU means Britain will no longer have any MEPs or EU commissioners?

That is the  level of stupidity that exists within the British governing party.

Imagine leaving the EU and having no MEPs. Who’d have guessed?  That is the level of crass ignorance we have to endure every day in this country when we listen to the ruling party of our nearest neighbours and that is something we have finally decided to stop engaging with.

We have decided to move on, be the adults in the room and let the toddlers at the other end of the playschool slap each other. Let the parents take over. They’re not our problem.

Yes, they’ll leave a mess, but we’ve cleaned up messes before and we’ll get this place nice and tidy too, when the playschool management decide enough is enough and they’re no longer prepared to put up with ill-mannered brats.

There’s too much talk these days about existential issues. When I was a lad, existentialism was all about trying to look moody and interesting while reading French authors you didn’t really understand or enjoy. But these days, everyone likes to warn us about existential crises and I don’t like it. An existential crisis should involve being unshaven, wearing a vest and smoking a Gauloise. It should not be about countries collapsing.

Let me make a prediction, which as everyone knows, will probably be wrong, but why break the habit of a lifetime?

I predict that even if the Tories completely fuck up Brexit and crash out of the EU, we here in Ireland will be just fine after a bit of a bumpy ride.

Britain will try, disastrously, to trade on WTO rules, the only country in the world to do so.

They’ll quickly run out of Mars bars and mushy peas.

Spain will send all their train robbers back home.

Provence will eject all their authors manqué.

And then, after a few months of food riots, they’ll apply to rejoin an EU they didn’t understand in the first place, even though it was their idea.

They’ll be refused of course but we’ll welcome them into the new Irish Commonwealth, as long as they accept our rules. And they’ll have to wear a green shirt when they play New Zealand.

We’re decent like that.

Favourites Photography

The West of Ireland

The West of Ireland exploration continues.

Now we’ve moved from the land of limestone to the land of granite, a place fashioned and sculpted by ice and fire.

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Favourites Religion Society

Irish State Pays For Communion Dresses

When I first heard that people were being paid as much as €300 to cover the cost of their children’s communion ceremonies, I thought it was a joke.

What?  At a time when some families can’t afford coal for their fires, the Social Welfare is paying others to get spray tans for their big fat seven-year-old princesses?

Could this be for real?

Well, unfortunately, the answer is Yes.  It is, and the practice exists mostly in Dublin,  though the payments are not specifically designated for communions.  These are exceptional needs payments, where the definition of  both need and exceptional rest with the officials examining the applications.  We’ll come back to this.

The Irish Times has an interesting report , with good solid figures which emerged from a review of last year’s payments.

In 2011, €3.4 million was paid out to people for religious occasions, which means dressing up their kids, doing their hair, spray-tanning them and getting pissed.

Dublin has the most claims.  5,616 families got money to help with their exceptional needs, receiving an average of €303 each.

By way of comparison, 1,944 families in the south-east got an average of €213.

1,546 familes scored €194 in the mid-west, while 1,334 princesses were created in the north-east at an average cost of €189.

1,282 payments in the south averaged €217, while 1,131 lucky Brides of Christ in the west got €219.

In the midlands, 1,093 little wedding dresses cost the State €196 each, while the north-west claimed only 25 grants, at €223 each.

Think about that now.  In a country whose constitution explicitly outlaws endowing any religion, we paid €3.4 million to people because some public officials think an extravagant display at a religious ceremony is an exceptional need, not an outrageous demand, but why stop with communions?  Why not have exceptional needs grants for kids who desperately need a bungee-jumping experience in New Zealand?  Or kids who need singing lessons to get on the X-Factor?  Or kids who desperately need a set of decks to make them the best DJ who ever lived?  There are parents who would consider these things just as essential as a Holy Communion dress, so why do we discriminate between one and the other?

We now live in a society where the biggest crime is telling the children they can’t have something.  Why?  Because nobody wants to be the adult anymore.  Nobody wants to take responsibility for telling children the most beneficial word they’ll ever learn in their entire lives: NO.

Entire tracts of society have abdicated responsibility for parenting and either forget, or don’t understand, that indulging a child’s every whim is not support but abuse.

Guess what?  You might wish for something but that doesn’t make you entitled to get it.  I’m sorry that your  kids will be disappointed they can’t have a stretch limo or a hair-do or a spray tan, but who gave them those expectations?   If you can’t afford it, you can’t have it.  That’s the reality for all of us, so get used to it.

The more I think about it, the more insane this story becomes.  Certain public officials decided that a fancy communion celebration is a need, and maybe it’s time for a major readjustment.  I’m very happy to see the State protecting people from poverty, illness and oppression.  I think a civilised society provides its children with a proper education.  But I’m not so sure it’s a good idea to be protecting people from their delusions, which include the idea that what they want is what they need.

It’s time to get real.  A Holy Communion celebration is not an exceptional need but an expensive extravagance.

If you can afford it, good luck to you, but don’t expect me to pay for it.



What Will Happen When the Eurozone Collapses?

As political dithering continues, it looks more and more likely that the euro zone will break up, if not completely, then perhaps with some countries being cut loose.  Ireland is one of those countries, which may explain why the government is so diligently adhering to the terms of the troika agreement, and even going beyond it in the case of last week’s payout  to the unsecured Anglo bondholders.  It could be intended to placate those who will ultimately decide who gets kicked out : Germany and France.

In other words, Germany.

In a disturbing piece published in today’s Examiner, and in an expanded version on his own blog, Brian Lucey explores some of the consequences for Ireland if we have to abandon the single currency.

He argues that if any country leaves the Euro, it will cause a cascade effect leading to the disintegration of the the eurozone.  Alternatively, if the Germans decide not to bankroll the system, the euro is also doomed, and Lucey argues that any sensible government ought to be planning how to deal with the consequences, which will be extreme.  A sharp rise in the cost of imported goods and services.  More expensive oil and gas.  Savage cuts in government spending to create a balanced budget immediately.  Big increases in the interest we have to pay on sovereign debt.  High inflation.

The scenario that Lucey outlines would, in my opinion, cause widespread hardship and civil unrest, leading to an inevitable crackdown by government, limiting all sorts of civil liberties, including free speech. Websites like this one might not be permitted to exist in the harsh financial winter we face.

Read what Brian Lucey has to say and take it on board.  He isn’t making it up.




Papal Nuncio’s Diplomatic Immunity

We were standing around in the pub of choice, debating the thorny matter of Vatican diplomatic immunity.  And when I say standing around, I mean of course that some were sitting around and one or two were lying around.  You know who you are!

What the fuck does diplomatic immunity mean? demanded a voice, from somewhere at my feet.

Sir, you have the floor, I conceded.

It means, said someone else, that if the Papal Nuncio runs into a shopping mall with a chainsaw and dismembers twenty or thirty young mothers and old-age pensioners, he can’t be prosecuted.


Because he’s a diplomat.  He’s immune.  You can’t arrest diplomats.

I didn’t think he was very diplomatic with the shite he was talking last week, said someone else.

You can arrest diplomats if they don’t reach their car in time.


The embassy limousine is considered to be foreign soil.

The car?  The car is foreign soil?

Yep.  If the registration says CD, nobody can touch him.  That stands for Corps Diplomatique.  It’s French.

That’s shite.

No it’s not.  But he must have a chauffeur and the engine has to be running.

So if the engine stalls, the car stops being foreign soil?

Yes.  That’s the law.

That’s bollocks.

No it’s not.  Look it up.

What if the Papal Nuncio pulls down his pants and waves the Apostolic Appendage out the  window?

Same thing.  Cops can’t touch the prick.

That’s bollocks.


How about if he had a diplomatic bag?  Could he jump into it?

He could, and he’d be safe from arrest provided he made sure to zip it up.

So the Papal Nuncio, in theory, could run around a suburban shopping centre, dismembering small children with a chainsaw while waving his bollocks at the public and as long as he jumps into a bag when the slaughter is ended, there’s not a damn thing the cops can do about it?

Not a damn thing.

Fuck.  That’s amazing.

Not only that, but he doesn’t even need a bag since we all signed the Groenhavningen Convention.  All he has to do is pull on the Diplomatic Hat and in the eyes of the law he’s on foreign soil.


Deadly serious.  A beret will do.  Or a Panama hat.  A monkey cap.  Anything at all as long as it has a little badge on it that says CD.  That’s Chapeau Diplomatique.  It’s French.

How about a Yarmulka?

Yes, if the Papal Nuncio happens to be Jewish.

An umbrella?

I heard it doesn’t even have to be a hat.

That’s true.  Technically, it could be a sock.  Or a bra.  Or a strap-on dildo. Or a tutu.

How about a glove?


An apron?  With a gimp-mask?


A handkerchief.

At a sneeze.

A glove?




Or a condom?

No.  The Vatican forbids condoms.

How about a willy-warmer?

Yeah. That would work.

So let me get this clear.  If the Papal Nuncio, in theory, happened to go berserk in a shopping mall with a chainsaw, while wearing a diplomatic hat, gloves, sunglasses and jockstrap, there isn’t a thing the cops could do.


Suppose, said a voice from the floor region, suppose he had a diplomatic chainsaw?

Eh …

Or a diplomatic machine-gun?

Well, strictly speaking, as long as he could wear the chainsaw or the machine-gun as a hat …

They can’t shoot him?

Even if he happens to be mowing people down at random?

Even if he happens to be dismembering members of the public.  They can’t shoot him.

No.  He’s on foreign soil.  It would be an act of war against the Vatican.

They’d probably send in the Swiss Guard.

Oh God, you couldn’t have that.

No. No.  God no.

No no no no.  Certainly not.

Jesus no.







Arresting Wrongdoers In Britain and Ireland

For generations, the Catholic clergy warned Irish people about the evils of Britain, and with good reason.  Over there on that neighbouring island, they have all sorts of bizarre practices and peculiar beliefs that are completely alien to our Irish way of life.

For instance, if a person is suspected of wrongdoing, the police arrest and question them.  Now how on earth would that work in Ireland?  If we started doing things like that, the holding cells in police stations would be full of assorted beef barons, property developers, serving policemen, former prime ministers, county council managers, bishops, lawyers, Vatican diplomats, race-horse breeders, night-club owners, supermarket bosses, civil servants, Christian Brothers, doctors.

Even nuns and judges!

You couldn’t be doing that.   It just wouldn’t be right to make decent people share cells with common criminals in their smelly tracksuits.

I know we have laws, but we never really had a tradition of enforcing them because, you see, we’re Irish, and that makes us special.  We’re the best in the whole wide world for making laws.  Jesus, we’ll pass a law about two flies walking up a wall, but the way we get around that is very simple.  We don’t appoint anyone to police the new laws we pass, except, of course, when we find out about a 14-year-old girl going to England for an abortion after being raped.  Then we enforce the laws.  We even hold constitutional referendums to make sure that raped 14-year-olds don’t get over to Britain where the heathens are so degenerate they allow such dreadful things to happen.

Unlike us.

Yes indeed.  Over there in Britain, they arrest influential people — something so incomprehensible to our Irish way of life that we can hardly, well, comprehend it.  They jailed Jeffrey Archer for something that in Ireland would possibly earn him an honorary doctorate or at the very least an invitation to late drinks in the Dáíl bar.  They even arrested Rebekah Brooks — former chief executive of News International.  Imagine that!  Arresting a journalist and a business leader.

It’s true that we have arrested and charged journalists on this island, but they were generally of the troublemaking  kind.  The sort who stirred up difficulty for their betters when there was no need for it.  Journalists like Susan O’Keeffe, who exposed gigantic fraud in the beef industry, prompting the establishment of a tribunal, and who was the only person ever charged in connection with the scandal, for refusing to reveal sources.  Quite right too.  We couldn’t have the Irish police investigating billionaires and prime ministers. Could we?  It’s just not our way, here in the land of the welcomes and the nod and the wink.  Just not our way.

Isn’t it ironic that Ireland leads Britain in protecting the right-thinking, connected classes?  Maybe we should point out to them that we’re supposed to be the classless society, not them. What sort of Communistic takeover has happened that a country such as Britain has started to arrest the rich and the influential for a matter as trivial as breaking the law?

Here in Ireland, we know full well that laws are for the little people.  After all, isn’t this the land of the little people?  And that’s why we wouldn’t dream of arresting men as influential as the Papal Nuncio or the bishop of Cloyne.  Don’t be ridiculous.

It seems the sun has finally set on the glories of the British Empire.  Thank God Ireland is still here to carry the flame.


Giving Back the Six Counties

All these celebrity visits have our heads in a right old tizzy.  Everywhere I look, dyed-in-the-wool Shinners are crying into their beer and asking themselves how they could ever have been so unkind to the nice old lady.

It got me thinking about the part of Ulster that constitutes Northern Ireland.  Give back the Six Counties!! as the saying goes.   Aye.

I think that’s fair enough, as long as the six counties go back to the people they were taken from.

And who would that be?  Well, inconveniently for the modern patriots, Ireland was not a democracy at the time of the  Tudor Conquest.  It was, in fact, ruled by, I’m afraid to say, monarchies.


Yep.  Monarchies just like the Brits.

And how much say did the ordinary Joe have in the running of these monarchies?

Bugger-all, that’s how much.

Now, this presents us with a small conundrum.  When the Brits finally give the Six Counties back to the people they took them from, who exactly will they hand them over to?

Well, it won’t be me and you anyway, unless your ancestors happened to be ancient Irish aristocracy.  If your great-great-great etc grandfather happened to be a small farmer, he had exactly the same freedoms under the local monarchy as he did under the Brits.  None.

So who, then?  Who should get the Six Counties?

I’ll tell you, will I?

We’ll have to head for France and Spain, looking for the descendants of Aodh Ruadh Ó Dómhnaill agus Aodh Ó Néill, na Tiarnaighe Uladh.  We’ll find them in their chateaux and in their vineyards.  They’ll be called Armand O Neill and Roberto O Donnell, and they’ll happily resume the birthright so cruelly torn from their ancestors by the evil Tudor Queen.

We might as well.  France and Germany are going to own the whole island soon anyway.




Disconnection from the State

An acquaintance whose career is in psychiatry once provided a useful working definition of a deranged person : someone holding fixed false beliefs who is impervious to reason.

Looking at the actions of our leaders since 2008, in particular their decision to beggar the country in order to protect criminal conspiracies that could only loosely be called banks, I think there’s no escaping the conclusion that they are, by this definition, insane.

We were led by madmen, and the madmen were led by an idiot.  Furthermore, when the idiot jumped ship and went to live in a cupboard, the madmen began to display other worrying signs, including clear evidence of a severe personality disorder.  Brian Lenihan, after all, announced to a stunned nation that he wasn’t simply robbing the citizens in order to pay the gambling debts of billionaires.  His budget of 2009 was, in his own staggeringly self-important words,  nothing less than a call to patriotic action.

Lenihan made two fundamental misjudgements with that statement.  The first was the assumption that anyone listening had the slightest respect for him personally, and the second was that propping up a bunch of crooks had anything to do with patriotism, but yet perhaps we can’t blame Lenihan entirely, and I’ll explain why in a minute.

The patriotic action gaffe was, in my opinion, a manifestation of narcissistic personality disorder, which is characterised, according to the standard definition, by a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and a lack of empathy.  Lenihan’s ludicrous call to patriotic action echoed, in a pathetic Irish-backwater way, the absurd, if apocryphal, statement attributed to Louis XIV: L’État, c’est moi. In a sad echo of the Sun King, who could forget Lenihan’s subsequent squirm-inducing moment when he reminded us that he had spoken to Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister, In French? French, of all things, as if we thought they might have conversed in Urdu, or Serbo-Croat.

Even if we only had this to rely on, I think Lenihan’s behaviour conforms very well to the definition of narcissistic personality disorder.  His need for admiration is as pathetic as it is obvious, and his grandiosity is beyond question.  After all, what else would you call it when a man commits €460 billion on behalf of such a tiny country, expects the rest of Europe to believe he can back up this bluster with action and then calls what he has just done the cheapest bailout in the world?

Even that very phrase, the cheapest bailout in the world, carries within it an ignorant, small-town arrogance that presumes everyone else in the world was too stupid to come up with the smart-aleck stroke he had just pulled, when in reality, everyone else in the world knew it was bullshit.  And now that everyone else in the world has called Lenihan’s half-witted bluff, we, the Irish taxpayers, are called on to pay the price for the likes of Quinn, Fitzpatrick and Fingers Fingleton.

I’ll leave it to the crucified taxpayers to decide whether they think the man possesses any empathy.

How did we get to this?

I think the entire country is disconnected.

Lenihan himself was raised in an atmosphere of stroke-pulling.  Bred in the bone.  His father was a consummate chancer, liar and Fianna Fáil apparatchik.  Some readers will be old enough to recall his cringe-making moment on the Late Late Show when he invited the audience to chuckle at his hilarious story of how he intimidated a policeman who had the cheek to raid a pub he was drinking in after hours.

Will you have a drink or will you have a transfer? he claimed to have said, and the whole crowd, including the dreadful Gay Byrne, yukked.  One law for Brian Senior and his crooked cronies.   Another law for the rest of us.  I still don’t understand why the audience laughed instead of taking off their shoes and flinging them at the self-satisfied old liar.

Was there any hope for Brian Junior when raised in the hothouse of distortion that was the Lenihan clan?  I don’t think so.  His father and grandfather were both members of our parliament, as were his aunt and his brother.  Like all the Lenihans, he was raised to believe that he had an entitlement to get his hands on the levers of power, and of course, with a sense of entitlement comes arrogance.

There are many kinds of disconnection.  The Lenihans are disconnected from the reality of our country by their position, their privilege and their money, but I’d like to say one thing now.  This is not solely about Brian Lenihan.  He simply happens to be the public face of a much deeper problem in our society, a problem I touched on before, which goes to the very heart of what exactly constitutes the Irish State.

It seems to me that Lenihan and his kind are the ones who ended up with all the loot after the civil war.  And when I say his kind, I also refer to the people who occupied the other side of that divide.  It seems to me that these two groups were never really fighting about principles at all, but about position, influence, money, property.  Ownership and oligarchy, in fact.  From what figures I can muster, the distribution of wealth in Ireland is what one might expect of a third-world country, with a disproportionate concentration in the hands of a very small few.

Right from the foundation of the state, the small people did not matter.   Emigration and TB were the friends of the rich, invaluable for thinning out the irritating underclasses who otherwise would have to be fed and housed.

Those who did not take the emigrant boat or succumb to tuberculosis, settled into the sub-standard public housing estates grudgingly supplied by the State.  Many worked and struggled to improve their lot, and that of their children, but some began a long journey into the alienation and nihilism that today produces random street violence, gun crime and what is anaemically referred to as anti-social behaviour.

Why?  Could it be that the poor don’t see any connection between their lives and the country at large?

Yes, it could.  When you spend a lifetime being condescended to by petty officials, jumping when some doctor snaps his fingers at you, worrying, staving off the money-lender, it’s hard to have a sense of civic pride.  A sense of belonging to a State that has never shown you any respect.

I’ll agree that the political correctness of the 90s produced a mendicant class that feels entitled to be given whatever it demands, but that mentality didn’t come from thin air.  It was bred through generations of low-grade skirmishes between poorly-fed, poorly-educated people, and the slightly-better-fed but still poorly educated people who looked down their noses at the underclass as they pushed their dole money through the hatch once a week.

Of course, there was a different underclass as well, wasn’t there?  An underclass far more demanding than any tracksuited, hoop-ear-ringed chain-smoking teenaged mother shouting at an official in the dole office.

I’m talking about the underclass that had three Range Rovers in the drive.  The underclass that had the prime minister’s mobile phone number handy, and in a bizarre symmetry, this underclass was just as disconnected from the State.  As we have seen in the last couple of years, this underclass cared as little for Lenihan’s call to patriotic action as did some  sixteen-year-old single mother in a Health Board flat with junkies shooting up in the stairwell.

I’m talking about not only the property developers who did so well from McCreevy’s little boom, but also those who inherited the State when it was founded out of blood.  The doctors and the lawyers who for generations knew that they could grow rich by charging the poor large fees that would leave their children hungry.

That’s the legacy of our Freedom Fighters in 1921.  Not some idyll of comfort and safety, but a harsh reality that our people would pay through the nose to keep the cosseted elite in continuing luxury.  Unlike the UK which we left, there was never a comprehensive national health service.  Never an independent school system.  Never a proper public transport system. We kept the abusive industrial schools open long after the Brits shut them down.

And now, finally, we’re left with the one sector of society who believed in Ireland.  The middle ground.   These are the people who ultimately are being forced to pay for the dishonesty, criminality, greed and incompetence of the very wealthy.

The poor never saw themselves as part of this nation, apart from some absurd Celtic Twilight fantasy dreamed up by the wealthy and peddled by the  Wolfe Tones to keep them compliant.  The wealthy never saw themselves as part of the nation either, but simply believed they deserved to live off it in opulence.

This weekend, people in Limerick will be taking part in a run to raise funds for the Mid-West cancer unit.  Why?  Because the government has no money for anything except the banks.  Only today, we learn that all our insurance premiums will be taxed to pay for Seán Quinn’s greed.

People no longer pay their taxes willingly because they feel the money is going to an immoral end.  And if the middle ground has also lost faith in State, what’s left?

If the one remaining section of society that used to believe no longer has faith, the game is up.  We no longer have a country, if we ever did, and if it wasn’t all an illusion since 1921.



The Real Ireland

Reinventing Ireland

The Non-Fighting Irish

Time for Change

Let Ireland Grow Up

Time For A New Electoral System

Ireland Needs Vision and Focus

Queen’s visit

New Easter Rising

What Has Independence Given Us?

Favourites relaxation

Easter on the Shannon

Limerick, as you know, has the magnificent River Shannon flowing through it, and the river has always been at its heart.  While not quite a seafaring people, we are a riverine species, and why wouldn’t we be when we have such splendour and beauty on our doorstep?

Little more than twenty minutes from Limerick, we have the magnificent Lough Derg, a place we all love, and the scene of many a night’s carousing.

As usual, we all blundered up the lake for the annual blasphemous Good Friday booze-up and singing-thing.  This is a very special custom, for it upsets the fervent and the observant.  It annoys and discombobulates the True Believers, especially the wolfing down of bloody steaks on this blackest of black fast days.

This year, we were spoilt for choice, with the possibility of parties in three different places, and I felt my only option was to attend all three, but I didn’t plan on being waylaid within seconds of my shoe-leather striking the pier, when some friends shouted at me from the plushly-appointed cruiser on which they were slugging back large amounts of foreign beer.

Oi, Bock!  C’mere and have a bottle!

Is there grub? I shouted back.

Sure is, they chortled.

Meanwhile, another crowd of bowsies were shouting good-natured abuse from inside a camper van, but the promise of grub won the day.  Grub and beer.  I am Homer Simpson, and so I boarded the fine vessel and tucked into some fine Czech beer from Budejowicke, a town I once visited solely because it contained that excellent brewery.  (It has little else to recommend it).

Singing drifted across the water from a boat.  Singing, fine musicianship and a little cloud of smoke.  More singing wafted from the camper van.  The smell of steak searing on the bbq filled the magnificent vessel on which I was a guest.  The sun filled the sky and for a little while it was possible to forget what our government and the ECB had been up to.

That was when a gigantic converted barge hove into view and damn me, but I knew those people as well.  This Easter weekend begins to show more promise than I could have hoped for, which is saying a great deal, for these weekends on the Shannon are always first class.

And so it was that the following day, I found myself chugging up the Shannon at three knots, driven by a sweet-sounding 59-horsepower Lister diesel, enjoying the experience of not-very-much happening.

I have to get back, I told my host.

Sorry, he replied.  You’re booked in here tonight.

Right.  I surrendered.  Go with the flow.

It was lovely to note the absence of Celtic-tiger guffaws from illiterate nouveau-riche fools drinking over-priced wine on giant over-priced plastic power-boats they didn’t know how to drive.

As my host remarked, They’re all gone and we’re still here.

You see, in spite of all the economic misery, the gloom, the despondency and the negativity, there are times when you have to look around you and realise that we live in one of the best places in the world.  Therefore, rather than bore you with a tedious account of my savage journey to the heart of Good Friday night, why not just glance over a few pictures and enjoy the wonderful amenity we have on our doorstep?





History Tradition

The Eve of St Patrick

Tonight it is when ghouls and goblins joust in the crepuscular half-light as the numina of land and air dance their ageless intertwining.   Tonight it is when the leipreachán and the bean-sídhe take their true forms, when the cú-sidhe and the cait-sidhe chase each other from dún to lios to rath and when the ancient heroes of our dawn bestir themselves, shake their mantles, heft their broadswords and wonder if their time is come at last.

Tomorrow, we celebrate the mighty battle in which Saint Patrick slew Saint Pancake so that overweight children the length and breadth of Éireann could march in the freezing cold, and so that aspiring young models could paint themselves orange and sit on top of a moving car holding a bunch of balloons.

Saint Patrick, as he waved his mighty weapon, bellowed God Bless America!

Legend tells that Saint Pancake replied with a roar: Shake hands with your uncle Dan.

For four long years, the two heroes fought, from the mountains of Mourne to the Vale of Avoca and from the Banks of my own lovely Lee to the Homes of Donegal.  They battled from the stone outside Dan Murphy’s door to the Garden Where the Praties Grow.

When at length the warriors grew weary, they watched for a while as the sun went down on Galway Bay before taking up arms again and having at it.

The battle was so fierce that the very sea itself recoiled in fear and the clouds fled from the sky.

Here’s a health to you, Father O’Flynn!! shouted Saint Pancake.

I’ll take you home again Kathleen, responded Saint Patrick.

Three long weeks I spent up in Dublin, said Saint Pancake.

Three long weeks to learn nothing at all, replied Saint Patrick with a sneer.  Down a boreen green came a sweet colleen.

And with that, he plunged his sword into Saint Pancake’s heart.

They say that Saint Pancake’s dying words were I like to ramble down the old boreen, but some say this is only a legend and that his last words were When Irish eyes are smiling, sure, ’tis like the morn in Spring.

Either way, one thing is certain.   That was the day when Saint Patrick won freedom for very old Americans to walk down the middle of Irish streets waving at the natives.  On that day, alarm companies the world over won the right to drive their trucks in convoy, very slowly, for people to look at.

A great day for Ireland.