Thursday, March 31, 2016

Update 1st April

RTE  | The Easter 1916/2016 Commemoration

One has to applaud the RTE coverage of the 1916/2016 commemoration. RTE certainly stretched its resources to the limit. While I did not watch ‘all’ of the coverage as that would be very time consuming I did get to see a good cross-section of it. The Dublin parade on Sunday was very impressive with the National Services past and present to the fore. The weather, though cold, was complicit by according a bright backdrop to all the pomp and circumstance. The President Michael D. Higgins got as Pat Clarke might say ‘Man of the Match’ throughout the proceedings. Michael D. actually lectured me -with other people- at UCG many moons ago when he was there in the Sociology and Politics Department. One can be confident that when he takes to the rostrum to give an address that it will be done with style and content. I’ll forgive him his tendency towards being somewhat pompous with a rare developed accent for a Clare man.

The initial Sunday wreath laying ceremonies opposite the GPO were affecting with the Proclamation reverberating through O’Connell Street as it did all those years ago. Indeed I remember our own Tom Ryan as a Proclamation reader at an Easter Parade some years ago. The highlight here, for me, was the army band in their traditional blue and red with four great standards, the haunting Yeat’s poem ‘Down by the Salley Gardens’, an Irish anthem even if composed in England i.e. ‘Danny Boy’, Sean O’Riada’s powerful film theme music for Mise Eire’ with the National Anthem’.

It was reassuring to see Martin McGuinness the Northern Ireland Deputy first Minister on the podium taking the salute from the Official Army of the State. Martin has crossed from the dark side so smoothly. The prominence of Donie Cassidy, near the former Fianna Fail Taoisigh Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowan, was less assuring.  I may just have missed them but I did not see my heroes of recent Irish history represented i.e. the SDLP’s Seamus Mallon and John Hume. We hear little of the SDLP today.

The crowd really got into the spirit of the occasion obviously enjoyed it and felt that being it was an occasion for the memory archive.

On Monday President Higgins, a former Labour minister, was present at Liberty Hall for the raising the Starry Plough flag to commemorate James Connolly who was so central to the original 1916. Indeed Connolly and the Citizen Army had to be reined in by the IRB as they were threatening to go it alone with their own ‘Rising’ at that time. Much of the content of the Proclamation was the work of Connolly. Perhaps I missed the story of Connolly on TV but he was a very interesting and obviously intellectual man who was born in Edinburgh, spent a number of years in the British army but became involved with the founder of the British labour Party Keir Hardie, spent time in the US, wrote ‘Labour in Irish History’, worked with James Larkin and founded the Citizens Army. He was a very different branch in the leadership of 1916 and might have cast a very jaundiced eye on the reviewing platform on Sunday and the Ireland of today. I digress as is my wont.

I caught up with a Sunday concert in Collins Barrack’s last Wednesday night with its repeat transmission on RTE. While a good deal of it was ‘heavy’ to my rustic ear it was inclusive in that it had some 1000 members of choirs from around the country and also a large number of children singing, some from Culfadda was it? There was a special piece composed by Shaun Davey with a long ‘poem’ by Paul Muldoon. The orchestra was directed by David Brophy who has done some work with ‘down and outs’ in terms of getting them to sing as a choir for TV. One could nearly feel the cold as the performers struggled. Zoe Conway a classical and traditional performer was one who people might remember from Boyle Arts some years ago performing in the Church of Ireland.

Monday was an ‘open’ day in Dublin with numerous events and I am told by someone who was there that it was a great experience.

‘Centenary’ Show

Anyway the highlight concert of the weekend, ‘Centenary’, was on Monday night in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre with what is sometimes referred to as an ‘eclectic’ gathering of performers. ‘Centenary’ featured singers including Imelda May, Colm Wilkinson, Sean Keane, musicians Sharon Shannon and Donal Lunny and numerous dance troupes in a 85-minute celebration of Ireland and its representation. The show also included filmed inserts with a reading of The Proclamation from Irish people around the world which seemed to hit a particular chord with viewers.

The show was watched by nearly a half a million people last Monday night on RTÉ One and I imagine it was watched by many Irish people abroad via the various media outlets. If you did not see it I recommend it and I presume it can still be viewed on iPlayer or wherever.

So the weekend was not just a Commemoration of 1916 it was a cultural festival.

With all the old songs being sung one I remember my father singing, it must have been around the 1966 with the 50th anniversary of the Rising was

‘Three Coloured Ribbon’    

All around my hat I wear the tricolour ribbon
All around my hat, until death comes to me
And if anybody's asking why do I wear it
It's all for my true love, I never more shall see.

War of Independence |  Picture Exhibition in King House

A picture exhibition portraying the personnel and activities in the Boyle area during the War of Independence was opened in King House on Saturday last, March 26th, by the Boyle 1916/2016 Commemoration Committee. The special guest on the occasion was renowned musician Matt Molloy, from Ballaghaderreen whose father was imprisoned in King House but was helped to escape by the local volunteers.

It is an impressive display and future generations will be well served by the research work done by such committees. The audience was entertained by Lizzie Brennan’s ‘Abbey Community College’ traditional group with some lovely music and some of those iconic songs dealing with the period including the heartfelt rendition of the song ‘Grace’ relating the story of her love for Proclamation signatory Joseph Mary Plunkett. Grace Gifford married Plunkett a few hours before his execution. His father Count Plunkett was to contest and win the famous North Roscommon bye-election in early 1917.

It was nice to see Matt Molloy join the group and it is a memory that those young musicians and singers will treasure. Matt himself played after his short address and the tune he played was appropriately enough ‘Easter -Ester- Snow’. Padraig Brennan, Secretary of the Commemoration Committee followed with his closing remarks and was quite emotive when remarking that his grandfather Pat Brennan, who was one of the prime leaders of the Old IRA in Boyle, was actually buried in Eastersnow graveyard near Croghan. So well done to all involved with the event.

We return to the King House on Friday evening next for the launch of Barry Feely’s seminal work ‘They Dared to Challenge’ covering the story of ‘The Troubles’ in the Boyle area from 1916 to 1922. It is an important record illustrated by many photographs, drawings and very significant autographs of notable participants from the struggle. It will be another important local contribution to the written record of the time.

‘Inside the GPO’ Contradiction

While I have referenced some of the fine programmes linked to the Commemoration this one on Tuesday evening was a ‘puff pastry’ contribution not worthy of being shown at this time. The reason I tuned in was to see how a homeless man, who uses the portico of the GPO as a night shelter, was treated and how he provided such a telling contrast to all the hoopla of the Commemoration. While he uses the area as his sleeping location he is moved on early in the morning so as not to endanger the image of the building. Apparently, while homeless, he is an actor Tommy KD who can be seen on the TV advertisement for the Dublin Simon Community filmed at various locations like the GPO, the Four Courts, Mount Street Bridge, Moore Street and Dublin Castle. In the ad. Tommy carries a sleeping bag emblazoned with the 1916 Proclamation ‘cherishing all of the children of the nation equally’ and all that. The reality is that there are people in Dublin City and throughout the country still fighting for their lives and dying on the streets of the capital because of homelessness. This really hit the headlines in December 2014 with the death of Jonathan Corrie near Leinster House.

While I have spoken well of the Commemoration activity festival, which is all transient, perhaps a tangible 2016 monument could also have been put in place such a decent new hostel for the homeless of the capital. While this country has many positives in terms of general freedoms, elections, rights to free speech, good services in terms of health, education and so on there are deficits that are not insurmountable and homelessness is amongst those at the top of the list.

While I am at it and in case readers think that I was carried away with the TV images I have written before of reservations with the ‘blood sacrifice’ element of the Rising, the text of parts of the Proclamation ‘our gallant allies in Europe’, the military tenor of the national anthem, the fact that the 50th Anniversary of 1916 in 1966 would have contributed as a backdrop to the Northern Ireland trauma of over thirty years and so on. I hope this year’s events will not have its repercussions of that nature. I wonder too, while it is right to know our history and commend those who gave so much to establish our freedoms, I wonder are the messages being foisted on the youth of today a kind of indoctrination that we criticise in foreign states. We have seen images of children ‘re-enacting’ with cut out guns and a very good picture on the front of this week’s The Roscommon Herald of a young man in a uniform of the day with two antique guns in his belt. I’ll leave it at that. As the saying goes ‘all looks yellow to the jaundice’

Donor Awareness Week

Donor Awareness Week begins on this weekend. It must be one of the most noble acts imaginable for someone to donate a life enriching bodily organ to another person. There are approximately 700 people in Ireland awaiting life-saving heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas transplants. Thanks to the gift of organ donation over 3000 people in Ireland are enjoying extended life. In 2015, 266 organs were transplanted, 233 were as a result of the generosity of the families of 81 deceased donors and the remaining 33 were from living kidney donors. Health Minister Leo Varadkar launched Organ Donor Awareness Week in Dublin’s Mansion House earlier this week.

My friend John Mac Phearson, this time last year, related to me his personal experience of receiving a life enhancing organ donation, the Gift of Life, in 2011 when he was diagnosed with liver cancer. He expressed his huge gratitude to those who participated in the scheme and urged people to become involved by having a donor card.  One of its great proponents is the former Derry footballer and TV analyst Joe Brolly.  Joe has himself donated a kidney to a friend.

Organ Donor cards and registration for organ donation can be done in a variety of ways and uses the most up-to-date communication technologies. The cards can be got by phoning Lo-Call 1890543639 (FreeCall) or Freetext the word Donor to 50050. You can now store organ donor card, the Ecard on Smart Mobile Phones. Simply search for Donor ECard at I Phone Store or Android Market Place. They can of course be got also at your local chemist shop.

John O’Brien R.I.P.

I wish to recognise here the passing of a John O’Brien of Abbeytown earlier this week. I met John regularly at the local shop and was friendly with him. We discussed issues of the day and he held strong views on them. We talked of football and hurling of course and he had a particular love of hurling. He was a well read and bright man  and one of his hobbies was doing The Times crossword which in a testament to a person’s mental dexterity.
He came to Boyle some fifty years ago from Laois. He worked in the forestry at Rockingham and was a very accomplished worker in that arena as his colleague Jim Clarke relayed to me. He loved the woods and nature.

He was a fine singer a dedicated member of Boyle Church Choir and they were there in force at his funeral mass to enhance the liturgy. They provided a guard of honour and a poignant round of applause as he began his final journey back to his native Mountrath.

I express my sympathy to his partner Lily, his family and friends.

At his mass a relative dedicated a very appropriate poem of Robert Frost to John ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ which opens with ‘Whose woods these are I think I know’ and ends with the following verse

‘The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep’.

Roscommon v Mayo

Roscommon went down to a very strong Mayo team last Sunday. Physically Mayo were intimidating in areas especially the O’Sheas’. Mayo needed to win and it showed. The pitch was really unplayable but because of a number of issues the game was not called off as it might have been. I imagine the referee was of a mind to call it off but was dissuaded from doing so with such a big crowd present and other considerations. Mayo had a large vocal support at the game on Sunday.

The probability that next Sunday’s game v Dublin will not go ahead at the Hyde either and there is a possibility that it will transfer to Carrick-on-Shannon perhaps. Both teams deserve credit for delivering an entertaining game played with high levels of commitment. Roscommon’s deficits showed on Sunday and while the improvisations have worked to date the weaknesses will be exploited. Still Roscommon’s style of play based on pace and quick transfer of the ball was smothered by Mayo and the conditions and one would feel that a good day with solid underfoot conditions will be much more suited to their approach. Also when the U 21 players are totally available it will be an added bonus.

Roscommon U 21's v Mayo

Roscommon will seek to maintain their record run in this competition against Mayo in Sligo on Saturday. They have been in seven finals on the trot and are going for a third successive win. While I feel that Roscommon has a very good balanced side Mayo always have very good teams at this level also. So it is anybody’s guess how Saturday’s final will develop. Regrettably Boyle’s Evan McGrath misses the game through injury. We wish him a speedy recovery.


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