“The incorrigible Irishman” who was “Hanged by a Comma”

Easter Proclamation of 1916 Rebellion (Image Source : Wikipedia)

Easter Proclamation of 1916 Rebellion (Image Source : Wikipedia)

We are fast approaching the 100th anniversary of the Easter 1916 Rising in Ireland. How do you mark such an event?

Do you trace your finger along the bullet hole marks in the pillars outside of the GPO in Dublin? For this is where Connolly, Pearse, Plunkett, Mac Dermott, and Clarke declared the Irish a Republic, hoisting two Republican flags and reading the Easter Proclamation of 1916. Do you parade through the streets carrying pictures of the rebels aloft in praise of their great deeds?

It will be very interesting to see how the Irish Government will commemorate Easter 1916. I would hope that the stranglehold of political correctness will not prevent appropriate accolades for the men of 1916 from occurring. They should be remembered, celebrated and memorialized.

Roger Casement Sept. 1, 1864 - Aug. 3, 1916 (Image Source;Wikipedia)

Roger Casement Sept. 1, 1864 – Aug. 3, 1916
(Image Source;Wikipedia)

I’d like to start right here, remembering a great man, self described as,”The incorrigible Irishman,” a man who was knighted in 1911, then this knighthood was revoked prior to his hanging on August 3rd 1916. A man before his time, I think.

Political activist, human rights activist, patriot, poet, and keeper of the 1903, 1910 and 1911 “Black Diaries,” Roger Casement needs to be remembered for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising, as much as those who stood their ground at the GPO and as much as those who took to the streets in rebellion.

I mention the black diaries because it was these diaries, kept by Casement, originally thought to have been forged by English authorities at the time of his death, which exposed Casement as a promiscuous homosexual at a time when conservative attitudes would have deemed such behavior as immoral. The diaries were used in such a way as to ensure no one would oppose the hanging of Casement for treason against the Crown.

Casement, a British consul, became famous for his reports on human rights abuses in Peru and the Congo. It was his own first hand witnessing of these abuses during the Boer War that turned Casement against imperialism and toward Republican politics.

Although a supporter of Parnell and an Irish Nationalist in his youth, it was not until 1904 that Casement joined The Gaelic League. Impressed by the non-violent, strikes and boycotts only attitude of Arthur Griffith’s Sinn Féin, Casement joined the party in 1905. In 1913 Casement retired as a British consul, and toured America in July 1914 to raise money to support the Irish Independence efforts. He was instrumental in setting up the Howth Gun Running later that same month.  On 21 April 1916, three days before the rising began, after arriving in Kerry from Germany where he was trying to collect aid in the form of guns and gather Irish men fighting for England now imprisoned in Germany, Casement was arrested  on charges of treason, sabotage and espionage against the Crown.

The Medieval Treason Act of 1351 was applied to Casement’s trial, with the implementation of a “comma” which broadened the Act’s territory from Germany to England, thereby creating the statement, “Casement was hanged on a comma.”

Sculptor Herbert Ward and his good friend Sir Roger Casement. (Image Source; Wikipedia)

Sculptor Herbert Ward and his good friend Sir Roger Casement. (Image Source; Wikipedia)

Among those who appealed for clemency toward Casement were, W.B. Yeats, Arthur Conan Doyle, and George Bernard Shaw. But those who opposed clemency, Joseph Conrad and Casement’s own friend Herbert Ward would see their form of justice carried out.

Casement was hanged at Pentonville Prison and then buried in quicklime on August 3rd, 1916. In 1965 the body was repatriated to Ireland and now lies beneath the carriage, that carried his remains through the streets of Dublin at his state funeral, at Glasnevin Cemetry in Dublin. It was Casement’s dying wish that his remains be buried at Murlough Bay in the northern Antrim coast. However, the remains of Roger Casement were repatriated to Ireland on the condition that he not be buried in Northern Ireland, as per Harold Wilson‘s government of 1965.

The Black and The White: Roger Casement's Diaries written by Roger Sawyer(Image Source: Amazon.com)

The Black and The White: Roger Casement’s Diaries written by Roger Sawyer (Image Source: Amazon.com)

You may click here to read Roger Casement’s speech from the dock via Wikisources, in which he asks the jurors to consider how they would feel if they were judged for having loved Ireland more than England. Was this his “evil example,” or was Casement condemned to death, not only for his part in the Easter Rising of 1916, but because of The Black Diaries and his life as a homosexual?

Click on the arrow below to listen to Patrick Mason’s Radio Drama for RTE Radio 1, “The Dreaming of Roger Casement.”

→ The Dreaming of Roger Casement with Ciarán Hinds as Roger Casement, with Nick Dunning, Robert O’Mahoney  and Mark Brennan.

© Loretto Leary 2013

All pictures in slideshow via Wikipedia

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Sir_Roger_Casement Wouldn’t Michael Fassbender be a fantastic Roger Casement in a film about The Incorrigible Irishman?

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The Mummers, Samhain, and an old pair of tights.

The Mummers (Image Source: Pinterest)

The Mummers (Image Source: Pinterest)

It seems that globalization has reduced the world to McDonald’s, Burger King, Starbucks, and Dunkin Donuts, and in the transition we may have lost traditions that made each country unique in its customs. One such custom is The Mummers, a very Celtic custom and ancient one too.

Although we associated it with Halloween, other parts of the country went on the mummers on New Years Day. It is a day that has become mixed with older traditions such as Wren Day and Straw Boys, both of which I will write about in a future post. For us in south east Galway, Halloween was the night we went on the mummers.

The first time I heard the phrase “trick or treat” was while watching Halloween with Jamie Lee Curtis. We did not “trick-or-treat” on Halloween in Ireland, not back in the 70’s or early 80’s. It wouldn’t make sense to say “trick-or-treat” anyway as no one gave sweets/candy to the children standing in the dark at the threshold of the front door.

We didn’t wear “costumes” that reflected major social events of the year almost past, and we didn’t buy masks either until the 80’s. That must have been when things started to transition.

Papier-mache masks being made (Image Source: media.pyssel.se)

Papier-mache masks being made (Image Source: media.pyssel.se)

We, at least those of us who grew up in the west of Ireland, did not go trick or treating, we went on the mummers. Our masks were usually an old pair of tights pulled over our heads, make-up applied grotesquely on top of it, we looked more like cross dressing bank robbers, come to think of it!  We wore old ragged clothes for costumes. If we did wear masks they were more than likely made with newspaper shaped over a balloon and molded and formed into facial features with a mixture of papier-mâché. They were then painted and eyes cut in, these were the masks we wore.

A Mummers Festival Parade in Newfoundland (Image Source: CBC News Online)

A Mummers Festival Parade in Newfoundland (Image Source: CBC News Online)

The Mummers is a very Celtic tradition and is still practiced with Mummers Festivals throughout the world in regions that profess Celtic origins. Areas such as Newfoundland have such a festival and it is growing in popularity.

Seeing as Halloween, Samhain, is a tradition that was born of Ireland, wouldn’t it be wonderful to see a resurgence in the traditional custom of Halloween, The Mummers. Instead of candy, sweets, traditionally we received money, mostly coins, and we went from door to door singing and playing musical instruments, reciting poetry or even telling stories. Then we went home, bobbed for apples, ate Barmbrack, played games with saucers of water, clay and a ring. Tell me if I missed one!

The custom of celebrating Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the winter. Cattle were slaughtered for the winter in order to prepare for the darker days ahead. Samhain is referenced in Irish myth as the day Cú Chulainn rode his chariot into battle.

Statue of Cu Chulainn dying with Macha in her crow-like form sitting on his shoulder GPO, Dublin (Image Source: Wikipedia)

Statue of Cú Chulainn dying with Macha in her crow-like form sitting on his shoulder GPO, Dublin (Image Source: Wikipedia)

In the picture to the left is the image of a crow, also associated with Samhain, an image of foreboding through out literature, Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven, in film, The Virgin Spring. There is also the film The Crow with Brandon Lee. If you can think of other examples, please let me know.The crow or raven is a symbol of death in both examples given. And isn’t it amazing that we call a large gathering of crows a murder of crows?

In Irish Mythology Macha, an Irish goddess of war and horses, appeared to Cú Chulainn in the shape of a crow and told him he would die in  battle. That is why the statue of Cú Chulainn at the General Post Office in Dublin shows him falling, with a crow on his shoulder.

Wouldn’t it be great to see a return to the tradition of the mummers in Ireland, like the growing Mummers Festival in Newfoundland? It is traditions like the mummers that make a culture unique. Yes we can hold onto McDonald’s, Burger King, Star Bucks and you can still enjoy your Dunkin Donuts, but why should globalization alter unique holidays and customs? Don’t buy the mask, make it! Don’t go trick or treating, go on the mummers!

Shore to Shore: Bridge Textile Arts Project at Shorelines Arts Festival 2013

It really was a sight to behold. I loved how colorful the nets were and the reflections in the waters of the Shannon were reminiscent of the Water Lilies paintings by Claude Monet.

Artist and project director Kate O’Brien did exactly what she set out to do, capture a piece of, “elusive beauty.”

One night in Gander makes a hard man crumble

Interior view of the international lounge at Gander International Airport in Newfoundland. (Image Source: Virdid Place Branding and Design)

Interior view of the international lounge at Gander International Airport in Newfoundland. (Image Source: Virdis Place Branding and Design)

It is January 1994. My chartered flight is already late taking off from Shannon Airport in Ireland. (Do they even offer chartered flights any more?) The destination is, allegedly, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. But a flight that should have taken approximately 6 hours instead takes over 17 hours.

I leave Shannon at about 4 am EST and arrive in JFK at 12:30 am EST the following morning. In between Shannon and JFK I spend twelve hours, involuntarily, at Gander International in Newfoundland.

In 1994 I see it as an old fashioned place, harkening back to the sixties with its decor. But now, almost 20 years later, I appreciate the opportunity I had to see this once-upon-a-time important place and its significance in early trans-Atlantic aviation.

Canadian geese sculpture at Gander International Airport (Image Source: Virdis)

Canadian geese sculpture at Gander International Airport (Image Source: Virdis)

Gander International was opened in 1959 by Prince Phillip. At that time all trans-Atlantic flights had to stop and refuel in Gander. Imagine how many famous people, royals, celebrities, and rock stars walked through the international lounge in Gander.

This was at a time when flying across the Atlantic was reserved for those who could afford it, air travel back in the early sixties wasn’t as accessible as it is today. The notion of foreign vacations, flying off to New York at a whim for a long weekend wasn’t even on the radar for most middle class families, unlike today. Gander International in Newfoundland was the last stop before America.

Instead of appreciating my surroundings and taking it all in, I sat on the Herman Miller couch in the international lounge and decided to buy a postcard of Gander International with my last 50 cents.

Exterior of Gander International in Newfoundland (Image Source: Airport Data.com)

Exterior of Gander International in Newfoundland (Image Source: Airport Data.com)

Then I tried to cash a personal check to buy myself some dinner while waiting for our chartered flight to resume its course, only to be told, “Sorry, but we don’t cash personal checks.” Bummer.

My dinner that long sleepless night was 10 packets of Tayto cheese and onion crisps washed down with gallons of cold water from the faucet in the ladies room. I remember how difficult it was to lean in to the faucet and drink. I should have thought long and hard about eating 10 packets of crisps.

Gander in 1971. (Photo by Peter Hamer Image Source: Airport Data.com)

Gander in 1971. (Photo by Peter Hamer Image Source: Airport Data.com)

Our flight finally did take off, amidst a blinding snow blizzard, and surrounded by 15 foot walls of snow either side of the runway. The plane physically lurched forward headlong into the blinding snow, and audibly groaned, I swear to it. The passengers stopped complaining about how long they had waited and that the chartered flight was not responsible for paying for our dinner…hence the 10 packets of Taytos. Instead, we resorted to holding onto our seats and contemplating whether or not we would have enough leg room to bend over and kiss our asses goodbye.

Mr Tayto, my friend and companion at Gander International for many long hours in January 1994. (Image Source: Wikimedia.org)

Mr Tayto, my friend and companion at Gander International for many long hours in January 1994. (Image Source: Wikimedia.org)

I have a funny feeling that Liz Taylor, Jackie Onassis, Frank Sinatra, and others who landed here in the sixties didn’t share my experience. However, 20 years later, I am glad I saw Gander International. I couldn’t appreciate it at the time I was there, but now I can.

Gander International is an historical place and well worth a visit. But don’t spend as many hours there as I did, don’t go there in winter, and bring extra cash for dinner, just in case.

Ghosts of the Faithful Departed

One of my brothers in Ireland gifted me a book entitled Ghosts of the Faithful Departed by David Creedon. It is a beautiful, sad, and poignant pictorial trip down memory lane.

Ghosts of the Faithful Departed interior photo of room with painting of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on display. (Image Source: Photographers.ie)

Ghosts of the Faithful Departed interior photo of room with painting of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on display. (Image Source: Photographers.ie)

As I browsed through the photographs I began to realize how important a part religion played in the generations before us.

In the 160 pages of this book the iconic Sacred Heart painting was displayed at least 14 times, I had to look hard to see the last few, but they are there!

Religious statues such as the Child of Prague, considered lucky in my home-place if the head was broken off, religious calendars, paintings of the Virgin Mary, prayer books, scapulars, memorial cards, and pictures of various popes feature no less than 37 times in the 160 pages.

It is a beautiful book and shows what holds meaning for people. An unworn dress, purchased in America, with tags still attached, hangs from the back of a bedroom door. Probably too fashionable to wear in Ireland at the time. Maybe a daughter bought it for her mother and sent it home to Ireland as a gift. It was never worn.

I pulled out a magnifying glass to see what stood on mantelpieces beside crucifixes and candlestick holders; a small tin of Brasso, no longer keeping things shiny, but collecting dust like everything else. A calendar dated 1974 droops lopsided from a wall.

The most distressing picture of all is actually two pictures of the same scene, each taken just twelve months apart. Time ravages not just the body, but the things the body builds to give it warmth and comfort.

My father often said, “Time nor tide waits for no man.” Ghosts of the Faithful Departed is a brutal and vivid reminder that they don’t.

How many mothers and fathers sat beside an open fire and prayed the rosary for the son or daughter they saw off to America?

Did the Sacred Heart painting hanging on the wall give them solace? Did the statue of the Virgin Mary or the Child of Prague ease their sorrow? Who knows? Maybe they did.

Murals: A part of history or an eye sore?

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A mural of Che Guevara, who visited and stayed in Kilkee, West Clare has been painted over prior to a Latin Festival celebrating his visit in 1961. The Che do Bheatha Festival is in its third year. The removal of the mural has caused division among county council representatives.

According to The Irish Examiner, “Kilkee Chamber of Commerce President Johnny Redmond said: “Clare County Council has decided it is graffiti and has removed this harmless mural. This at a time when the council says it has no money to kill the weeds that are growing up through the footpath on the promenade but has time and funds to waste on removing an internationally recognised image in the year of the Gathering with Irish-Argentinians coming to Kilkee for the festival.””

The Che Guevara mural in Killkee, County Clare. (Image Source: Irish Independent)

The Che Guevara mural in Kilkee, County Clare.
(Image Source: Irish Independent)

The Belfast Telegraph said that the mural was removed because due to an increased number of US tourists, the Americans were upset by the Che mural. “The Americans left town after seeing the mural. The face of Guevara, who visited Kilkee in 1961, had adorned the same spot for the previous two Che do Bheatha festivals.”

Belfast should know a thing or two about the historical importance of murals. The slideshow above (all pictures are my own. Taken in August 2009) is of murals in the city of Belfast depicting the troubles, the heroes of both sides, and historical figures, such as Guevara, that were revered for their patriotism. Taxi and bus tours of Belfast city include the murals in their informational tours.

Jim Fitzpatrick's iconic image of Che Guevara

Jim Fitzpatrick’s iconic image of Che Guevara

The image depicted of Che Guevara was made famous by Irish artist, Jim Fitzpatrick, whom I interviewed by telephone in November 2011. You can read the interview here. Fitzpatrick met Guevara when he visited County Clare during a  flight stopover in 1961.

Should the Kilkee mural have been painted over or removed because it upset a few Americans? I don’t think so. And I do hope that the Clare County Council will redo the image. Regardless of whether you admire or despise Che Guevara, it is just a mural, and if the locals aren’t offended, why should a tourist be offended?

Is there an Irish Historian in the house?

A great man, at least I think so. William Smith O'Brien (Image Source: en.wikipedia.org )

A great man, at least I think so. William Smith O’Brien (Image Source: en.wikipedia.org )

I need the help of an Irish historian.

I am writing an historical fiction book about the society and political climate in Ireland from 1845-1890. The Great Hunger in Ireland, the Rebellion of 1848, convict Ships, coffin Ships will all come into play. I am trying to recreate an accurate historical account as best I can.

I have tried to find out what types of weapons Home Rule rebels used in the 1848 rebellion and how Irish Americans contributed/ got involved with Irish Home Rule.

What weapons were used in the Irish Rebellion of 1848 and where did the rebels get the weapons from? Were any weapons brought into the country from abroad?

Thanks so much to anyone who might be able to give me some answers.

But Come Ye Back?

Home in Ireland (Image source: Flickr)

Home in Ireland (Image source: Flickr)

Due to a slow economic recovery, the low real estate prices in Ireland may tempt some immigrants to return, not permanently, but possibly purchase a holiday home in Ireland.

Is now the right time to return, albeit temporarily, to Ireland?

There are lots of great deals to be had, but the money that you will pay to purchase a home in Ireland won’t be the only thing you will have to pay for. Apart from the usual expenses such as food, electricity, and house oil, you’ll need to consider the hidden expenses that come with owning a second home and maintaining it. Here is a list of things to consider before you decide to pack your bags.

 Non Principal Private Residence Form (Image Source: Docstoc.com)

Non Principal Private Residence Form (Image Source: Docstoc.com)

1. The Non Principal Private Residence Tax requires that owners who own a second home that is not their primary residence in Ireland pay an annual 200 Euro tax to the local government.

“The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, as amended by the Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011, introduced a €200 annual charge on non principal private residences, payable by the owners to the local authority in whose area the property concerned is located.”

2. Because of the lack of gas pipeline in rural areas of Ireland, house oil heating is the best option to heat your second home. The cost of 1000 liters of heating oil for your home according to Cheapestoil.ie for the Galway region is 890 Euro. If you pay with your credit card there will be an additional surcharge. How long will 1000 liters of oil last to heat a house in Ireland? Lots of factors affect this. How cold the outside temperature is, how large your house is, and how well insulated the house is all come into play.

Most of the older homes in Ireland are not well insulated, therefore heat will be lost through the walls and roof. You might have to insulate the older home to get more value for money with house oil. On average, most people time the heat to come on for an hour or two in the morning and then it turns off. It comes back on again before they come in from work. One home owner posted the following comment about heating his home in Ireland on askaboutmoney.com.

Oil tank for home heating oil in Ireland (Image source: inspectapedia.com)

Oil tank for home heating oil in Ireland (Image source: inspectapedia.com)

“I moved into a new log house just before Christmas. I’ve run out of oil for the second time today. I’ve already spent 700 euros (1000 liters) in 3 months. At the rate I’m going it’s costing around 40 euros a week!! I’m getting different opinions on how long 500 liters should last and want to know what is the average length yours lasts and any advice on making my system more efficient.”

The response given to his/her query was as follows:

“A 1000 liters lasts me 12 months. I am out all day and only use it from 4pm onwards in winter and not at all in summer I would use it for longer sat and sun. I also have open fire so I burn coal. I have 4 bed house.”

The most important thing to note about buying oil to heat your home in Ireland is the shocking new trend of home owners having their oil tanks siphoned off. Another commentator gives sound advice about this:

“A friend of mine in Kerry, like yourself was very surprised when her oil ran out so quickly. Turns out oil tanks are being siphoned off on a regular basis all over the place. Get a lock on the tank!!”

As the second comment states, open fires are also needed to heat a home adequately in Ireland. Wood, turf, coal and peat briquettes all cost extra!

Cars on Irish Roads (Image source: Breaking News.ie)

Cars on Irish Roads (Image source: Breaking News.ie)

3. If you live in the countryside in Ireland you’ll need a car to get you around. Car tax, insurance and petrol/diesel are all pricey, and remember if you are now a US citizen you can’t spend a day over 6 months out of the US or your citizenship will be revoked. So that car will be sitting idle for 6 months. You’ll have to trust someone to come over now and again to check on your home, and start the car to make sure the battery isn’t dead! Let’s hope someone will do it for free, but I don’t think they will.

Irish and American Flags (Image source: www.clker.com -)

Irish and American Flags (Image source: http://www.clker.com -)

4. Speaking of American citizenship, remember this when you are in Ireland for the duration: American citizens still pay taxes even if they live abroad for 6 months of the year. You’ll be paying taxes on the car and house laying idle in the US as well as any US income you are earning while you are in Ireland.

5. On average groceries and necessities will cost more in Ireland, the Euro exchange rate will not give you more bang for your buck either. There’s not much of a difference, but big enough for you to notice the price hike in necessities such as in petrol, house oil etc.

Bank of Ireland (Image source: The Guardian.com)

Bank of Ireland (Image source: The Guardian.com)

6. The biggest shock is the pace of life in Ireland. While some people love the slower pace, there are times when faster is better. Banks close for one hour for lunch every day. The post office will not deliver mail as quickly as it does in the US.

6. Customer service isn’t the same. I’ll give you an example. When traveling by Iranród (Iron Rod) Éireann (Irish Rail Road) three years ago, my husband and I stood on the platform and asked the IRE employee where we should sit on the train as there had been some confusion about it. His response was, “How the f*#!k should I know! Sure I am just the driver!” (Yes, we can laugh at it, now!)

Really bad customer service (Image source: www.techtv101.com)

Really bad customer service (Image source: http://www.techtv101.com)

More recently as we stopped at the toll booth leaving Shannon Airport after just arriving from the US my husband offered the worker in the booth $10 because we had no Irish money on us. “Now if I was in America, would you take my Irish money?” was his response. Yet he took Sterling money from us. So in my opinion, customer service is lacking in some places in Ireland. Not all, but in the ones that, ironically, have a lot of dealings with tourists. The hotel industry could teach these fellas a thing or two about “customer service.”

That’s not to say that there are no places that offer good customer service, but it was shocking to experience the negative customer service in areas that deal with a lot of tourists such as the Irish Rail Road and the toll booth outside of Shannon Airport.

But hey, we have some poor customer service here in the US also, but I have to say, after 20 years of living here, I can only recall two. It isn’t the end of the world when you do have a bad experience, but when you are on vacation and it happens, it does leave a poor opinion of the place visited.

Irish Turf cutters, SAC Bog Owners, and The Hen Harrier

Anyone who reads my blog knows that the ongoing issue of the persistence of SAC raised bog owners in Ireland to protest their right to cut turf on their privately owned land is a debate that I see as being a slippery slope about land ownership and rights.

Indulge me, if you will, as I break down the grey areas about this ongoing battle and how it has developed. The more I read, the more questions I have about both sides here.

I fully understand the need to protect the land and endangered habitats and species. But I also fully understand the need to protect private land ownership rights. Yet, I don’t agree with freely destroying the environment. How much damage are the bog owners doing to the environment?

Lots of questions, lots of grey areas. And where all of this will end up, I just don’t know.

Commercial turf cutting machine (Image source: BBC)

Commercial turf cutting machine (Image source: BBC)

Grey Area #1: Turf cutting in Ireland was traditionally done with a sleán on a needs basis. Each household cut enough turf to heat their house for the upcoming winter.

Nowadays the cutting of turf is done by commercial turf cutters. It is far more invasive to bog land than the old fashioned sleán cutting.

A sleán (Image source Flickr.com)

A sleán (Image source Flickr.com)

Should commercial turf cutting be made illegal, and wouldn’t that mean that Bord na Mona would have to stop cutting turf also?

Grey Area #2: The Irish government is paying out many thousands of Euro in compensation to Irish farmers to stop cutting turf on SAC raised bogs.

Would it not be better to spend that money elsewhere such as developing artificial habitats, emulating raised bogs, on bogs owned by Bord na Mona?

Is that possible, I wonder? Can they create national wildlife preserves to provide safe habitats for the endangered species, such as the hen harrier and insects and foliage that grow and live in raised bogs.

Grey Area #3: Why is it that Bord na Mona went unchecked for decades as it destroyed raised bogs under its custodianship and today private bog owners are battling for their right to cut their turf?

Don’t forget that Bord na Mona is shipping peat over here to the US and running a competition on Ireland Earth, “Contestant must purchase one box ($32.00) of Ireland Earth Peat Briquettes through Amazon.com, and be within the first 1,000 transactions.”

And don’t forget that Puraflo Filtration systems are made from peat particles shipped from Ireland to Maryland, USA. Both Ireland Earth and Puraflo are owned by Bord na Mona.

Motivation?

Motivation?

Grey Area #4: Is this all about the money? Are there possible “hold-outs” for higher compensation from bog owners?

Is Bord na Mona making big money from it’s bogs and thus goes after the little guy who doesn’t make money for the government by cutting his own turf.

The government is watching the private bog owner and monitoring what they are doing. But who is watching the government and Bord na Mona?

Are commercial turf cutters going to lose out on their livelihood by not being able to cut as much turf as they used to? It’s a tough question to ask, but I need to put it out there…Is this all about the money?

The Hen Harrier, a protected species of bird of prey in Ireland (Image source: www.hidephotography.com )

The Hen Harrier, a protected species of bird of prey in Ireland (Image source: http://www.hidephotography.com )

Grey Area #5: Why would someone advocate getting rid of an endangered species such as the hen harrier, described as a “pest,” on a recent Facebook post?

Is this bird of prey invasive? Is it thriving so well it is destroying other wildlife? Can it be hunted and eaten? Is it flying off with a small dog or cat in it’s talons?

Why else would someone advocate getting rid of this bird, a protected species, unless that person just wanted to stir the pot even more between the NPWS and bog owners. Is this debate about the right to cut turf on privately owned bogs or the right to go out and kill endangered species simply because they are “pests?”

I firmly believe in having codes as to how we build our homes, how we protect the land, leaving this earth as we found it. But shouldn’t the government who is enforcing the laws be answerable to those same laws?

Shouldn’t the government step in and try to find a middle, a common ground between environmentalists and bog owners? Relocation bogs may not be the answer. If Bord na Mona has bogs for relocation, why can’t these bogs be used to recreate the environment of a raised bog by keeping all the peat being shipped to America and building an artificial habitat to protect the endangered species that environmentalists and conservationists fight for?

That I Should Rise and You Should Not

DeparturesWhat is it that stirs a person to emigrate? Apart from factors such as financial and oppression, why is it that the “tired, poor, and huddled masses” teem to foreign shores?

Forced emigration isn’t an easy pill to swallow. It isn’t the end of the world either. In my situation I left incrementally, in dribs and drabs, for a vacation, to work for a year, to work every summer while in college, and finally to secure a green card that I won in the Morrison Visa lottery in 1993.

Eventually the notion of “having to leave” transformed into “wanting to leave.”

“Of all the money that ‘ere I spent, I’ve spent it in good company. And of all the harm that ‘ere I’ve done, alas it was to none but me.”

Crossroad of the world (Image source: Irishtimes.com)

Crossroad of the world (Image source: Irishtimes.com)

I missed my family. I missed the Sunday walks in the forest park. I missed the smallness of a small town, and the bigness of a large family. I grew accustomed to a  commuter town with sirens and car horns, with train tracks so close to my house I could hear the lonesome whistle of the diesel train as it passed by every Tuesday at 2am; and over here no one drops in for a cup of tea.

The Irish decorated their homes with flags, figurines of leprechauns, and tea towels with the ingredients for Irish soda bread to help keep Ireland alive. To me it was a reminder that I had left the real thing for something artificial.

“And all I’ve done, for want of wit, to memory now, I can’t recall. So fill for me the parting glass. Goodnight and joy be with you all.”

portumna 1- sm (1)

Portumna, County Galway.

Twenty years later I too have brought bits of Ireland back with me. Sods of turf, cups with shamrocks, statues of Setanta and the Children of Lir, Christmas ornaments with the Claddagh design, ceramic tiles with the numbers 2 and 7 in Celtic design now adorn my mailbox, mementos of my hometown.

“Oh of all the comrades that ‘ere I’ve had, are sorry for my going away. And all the sweet hearts that ‘ere I’ve had, would wish me one more day to stay.”

Though I thought Ireland would stand still in time, it didn’t. Siblings grew older and greyer, and so did I. Nieces and nephews reached the ages where I now respect their opinions, talents, and advice. People died, babies were born, houses were built on a country road and shortened the journey that as a child I thought was a long one.

“And since it falls, unto my lot, that I should rise and you should not. I’ll gently rise and I’ll softly call, goodnight and joy be with you all. Goodnight and joy be with you all.”

Things changed, people changed, and so did I.

The day is fast approaching when I will have lived longer in America than I did in Ireland. That day will be April 4th 2016. I will be 23 years out of Ireland. I left when I was 23. Do I miss Ireland? Yes. Did something stir within me in 1993 and make me rise and emigrate? Yes.

longdistanceEmigration, either forced or voluntary, isn’t the end of the world…we’re all just trying to make a living the best way we can in different parts of the world. Four walls, a roof and a means to make a living; we’re all doing the same thing, only on different soil.

(The lines in italics are from the song The Parting Glass)