Category Archives: Ireland

General information about Ireland travel, culture and humor.

If You Only Read One Article This Year About Ireland – Read This

Not many financial writers can break down the economy of a country in a way that gives you a razor-edged insight into the character and spirit of it’s people. Michael Lewis, author of the classic “Liar’s Poker” and the more recent “The Big Short” is that rare kind of master in the art of non-fiction.

Mr. Lewis’s article in this month’s Vanity Fair, When Irish Eyes Are Crying not only offers the most concise overview of where Ireland is today and how it got there, it seems to express the odd predicament that Ireland has been in for centuries. While it will certainly convince you that Ireland’s financial problems are far worse than you ever realized (its government debt is rated lower than Iraq’s at present) it provides an even more interesting panorama of the internal, external, cultural and personal forces that have come to define the country, in a way that’s eerily similar to the 1950’s.

A convincing case is made that Ireland is, right now, the financially sickest nation in the western world. It’s debt is almost immeasurable, and its crony politicians have made a succession of choices that have amplified the pain it’s citizens have felt and will continue to feel for it’s crazed real estate boom.

Just two bright spots that emerge from the story. First, that the country’s condition is so bad that a default on soverign debt is almost certain. That may offer an end, however Draconian, to the current mess. The second is that, for all their faults, the Irish remain as funny as ever. If you have an resistance to reading a financial article, I guarantee you that this one will provide several deep belly-laughs. Credit Mr. Lewis for also gaining an inside track on the true Irish character. His comments about how the talkative nature of the Irish tends to conceal a deepy reticent character are dead on.

At the very least, you may take some comfort in the fact that, when it comes to real estate, those Irish were even crazier than we Americans.

Finally – A Positive Headline About Ireland – From Facebook

The news from Ireland these days is all about economics and just about all gloomy. One small bright spot, however, is a comment from fast-growing Facebook that the company is actually planning to boost its number of employees there next year. Facebook has about 200 Irish folk in its Dublin office, which serves as headquarters for Europe and the Middle East. Apparently, it’s planning to add another 100 or so staffers in the coming year.

According to Facebook’s top exec in Ireland, John Herlihy, the two reasons Ireland remains atractive are it’s great talent pool and rock-bottom corporate tax rate of 12.5% (America’s corporate tax rate, by comparison, is about 40%). All of this would seem to back up the Irish government’s decision to keep that rate low in spite of other belt-tightening measures in the wake to the recent massive bailout from the EU. More on Facebook and other tech giants staying in Ireland on this Forbes blog.

It Hurts So Bad: Ireland’s Real Estate Bust

Here’s a very in-depth video from the Wall Street Journal network about the depth of Ireland’s economic problems. 30,000 people left the country last year to pursue jobs abroad, and there seems to be little hope that the trend will change soon. A sobering portrait of Eire in 2010:
See Ireland Video

Some offbeat Irish quotations for a spring Tuesday

Just wanted to post a few interesting Irish quotations I came across today. There’s no end to these:

“Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.” – Yeats

“The nicest buttocks in the world are in Ireland. Irish women are always carrying water on their heads, and always carrying their husbands home from pubs. Such things are the greatest posture-builders in the world.” – Actor Peter O’Toole

“I loved Jack Ford. I got him in his later days, and he was a total tyrant and a total autocrat and an Irish drunk. But I had a great time.” – Actor Richard Widmark, describing John Ford, director of many famous westerns.

“Politics is the chloroform of the Irish people, or rather the hashish.” – Oliver St. John

“That’s what the holidays are for – for one person to tell the stories and another to dispute them. Isn’t that the Irish way?” – Lara Flynn Boyle

Irish Easter Traditions

Easter is certainly the most important holiday on the Roman Catholic calendar. Ireland has a long list of traditions around it, some of which relate to Christ’s return to life and some of which have grown out of old Celtic practices that have more to do with the agricultural calendar than with religion.

Easter comes in springtime, at about the same time as the Vernal Equinox, which ancient Celts associated with fertility rites. For Catholics, Easter Sunday comes at the end of Lent, a 40-day period of fasting when many eat no meat, and some give up additional things like smoking or alcohol. Here are some of Ireland’s Easter traditions, a few of which are a bit strange:

On Good Friday:
– A complete “spring cleaning” of the home.
– Doing no work with tools, in order to avoid spilling any blood from an accident.
– Mark one of the eggs laid on the farm on Good Friday to be eaten with the celebration meal on Sunday.
– If you die on this Good Friday, you go directly to heaven.
– Gather food on the shore, but do not go out fishing in a boat.

On Easter Saturday:
– Go to church and drink a few sips of holy water, then sprinkle a bit on the family and even the farm animals for good luck.
– Turn off all lights in church at 11 pm and light a Paschal Candle as a symbol of Christ rising from the tomb.

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On Easter Sunday:
– Get up at sunrise and do a celebration dance.
– A mock funeral is conducted by the town butchers with a dead herring. The poor fish is a symbol of the end of Lent, when some Irish folk once ate lots of herring, because it was the only available alternative to meat.
– Gather for a contest called a “cake dance,” where the winner gets the cake

Happy Easter!

Some lovely photos of Northern Ireland in winter…

…courtesy of the readers of

Click to see slideshow

How many Irish olympians are there in Vancouver?

I saw a mention of an Irish athlete competing in the skeleton event at the Vancouver Olympics and thought: “There aren’t a whole lot of ski mountains in Ireland that I know of — I wonder how many Irish Olympians there are at the Vancouver games right now?” Well, in case you were wondering about this too, Irish athletes are competing in four Olympic events:
– There is a women’s 2-person bobsled team let by pilot Aoife Hoey. The brakeman is Claire Bergin and Leona Byrne is alternate brakeman.
– 32 year old Patrick Shannon of County Wexford is competing in the skeleton (a sled event on that track where the unfortunate accident occurred during training).
– The Irish ski team is comprised of slalom skiers Kirsty McGarry and Shane O’Connor, both of County Dublin.
– Last but not least, Ireland is represented in cross-country skiing by PJ Barron, a 20 year old originally from Scotland (Scotland, by the way, has 19 athletes competing in Vancouver). Mr. Baron has completed his event. He came in 91st in the Men’s 15km individual race.

According to this amusing post, the Irish athletes, or their fans (I’m not sure which) are making so much noise late at night in a Vancouver Irish pub that people in the neighborhood are complaining.

Author interview: A 30-year search for an Irish family’s history

This week I came across an intersting story from Maureen Wlodarczyk, author of a new book called “Past-Forward – A three-decade and three-thousand-mile journey home.” It chronicles a search for her Irish family history that took her thirty years of work to complete. Ms. Wlodarczyk whote the book in tribute to her grandmother, who celebrated her Irishness, but knew very little of her ancestors who came to the U.S. from County Sligo in the potato famine years of the 19th century. I talked with Maureen about her huge genealogy project and what got her going on it. (Her book is available here.)

irish genealogy bookWhat made you embark on your 30-year search for your Irish family background?

From my early childhood, I was very close to my maternal grandmother Kate who was the daughter of first-generation Irish-American parents, as I am the only daughter of her only daughter. Over the years as I was growing up, I heard bits and pieces about her “difficult” childhood, the loss of her mother when she was nine and her father’s drinking and inability (or unwillingness) to keep the family together after her mother’s premature death from tuberculosis in 1913. The knowledge that she had endured so much but yet went on to marry at 16, a marriage of over 50 years, becoming a wonderful mother to five sons and a daughter, and a devoted grandmother and great-grandmother made me so proud of her….and so sad to know that while she was the essence of family to us, she knew next-to-nothing about her own family and had no meaningful good or positive memories of the family members she had known as a child. I became very curious to know more about her childhood and thought that if I could discover her Irish family history, I could dilute those bad memories with a broader generational story of our Irish roots, hopefully replacing disappointment and shame with some amount of pride in knowing “who we were”.

Did you find out exactly when your relatives came over from Sligo (your grandmother was born in the U.S., right?)

Yes, she was born in Jersey City, NJ. It took over thirty years of off-and-on searching and the advent of the internet and genealogy resources like and the Heritage Centres in Ireland, but I did confirm my great-great-grandfather John J. Flannelly’s birth in Skreen Parish, County Sligo in 1841 and his parents’ (William and Mary Lang Flannelly) marriage there in 1832. That led me to find that William & Mary and their 6 children (including my great-great-grandfather John) arrived in New York City on November 28, 1846 on the packet ship “Marmion”. They left their home to escape the Great Famine.

What did you find out about your family history that surprised you?

I discovered, just a few years ago, that my immigrant great-great-grandfather John Flannelly served in the Union Army during the Civil War and was hospitalized in Williamsburg, VA after the Battle of Williamsburg in May 1862. Although I was born and raised in New Jersey, I have always been drawn to Williamsburg VA, having vacationed there many times over the past 30 years, and have been a part-time resident of that city for the last ten years (long before I discovered my great-great-grandfather had been there as a soldier). I consider myself a person of very strong intuitive sensibility and suspect that drew me to Williamsburg to walk on the very streets where my great-great-grandfather had walked more than a century before.

Are you the only one in your family interested in this kind of information?

I am not the only one who has shown interest but my level of interest and need to search are well beyond any other family member’s. But, I do have a genealogy “buddy” who is always game for an outing….even a day of “cemetery-hopping”: my mother’s cousin Dorothy. She is in her mid-80s, the daughter of my grandmother’s sister, and has the energy and enthusiasm of a person half her age.

Did your grandmother seem interested in knowing about her family history? Did she see herself as a person influenced by her Irish heritage?

My grandmother enjoyed being Irish. St. Patrick’s Day was a favorite holiday when she watched the NYC parade on television and also would watch the John Wayne movie “The Quiet Man”. When it came to her own family, for the reasons I mentioned before, she struggled with some level of shame or embarrassment about things that had happened between her parents and in the aftermath of her mother’s death. While I was able to get her to tell me some details about those years, she was somewhat reluctant to reveal things that had happened. It was the same with her sister. That’s why I say that “time can’t heal all wounds”. I know it didn’t for my grandmother.

What were the main roadblocks you ran into in getting the documents about your family, and how far back were you able to trace your genealogy in Ireland?

The main roadblocks were the fact that my grandmother only had limited family knowledge and that the records available in Ireland prior to the mid-nineteenth century are very limited in many locales. Also, before the last decade and the ever-expanding resources available on the internet, it was necessary to travel to access records or to write to vital statistics departments, waiting a very long time for a response and hoping that the person who handled your request did a thorough job….the kind of job one would do for themselves. So far, I have been able to trace my Irish roots back to the second half of the eighteenth century and my great-great-great-great-grandparents Owen and Mary Flannelly, who were born in the 1770s.

What did you find harder about this project – doing the research or writing the book?

The research was harder and much more protracted, having come in dribs and drabs over so many years. That’s not to say the writing was easy. I had a couple false starts and then, when I decided to write the story in the form of a letter to my grandmother, I found the vehicle for telling the story as I would have told it to her, had she lived.

What, if any, related tangents arose from the search for your family history?

In the last three years, I convinced a male family member to participate in a YDNA testing program under the auspices of a family clan organization in Dublin, Ireland. Those test results put me in touch with new DNA-discovered “cousins” in the US and in Ireland and they have become extended family. I am now an officer of that organization, the Flannery Clan, and help members by doing genealogical research, which has been very rewarding for me and very exciting for them. Not only did I finally solve the mystery of our Irish roots but, where during my grandmother’s childhood the family was broken apart in many ways, we are now (a century later) rediscovering and restoring family connections.

Review published of my book with author interview

I’m very excited to report that a fun and, I think, pretty accurate review of my book was just written here by Andrea Coventry
She also published a very full-length interview with me here on Associate Content. Thanks Andrea!

Seeing John Doyle & Karan Casey at Joe’s Pub Tonight!

I’m excited about seeing John Doyle and Karan Casey play live tonight at Joe’s Pub in New York. Here are some good live clips of them from YouTube.

“The King’s Shilling” – Karan Casey with James Taylor. She did a very nice recording of this with John Doyle some years ago, but this version with James T and Jerry Douglas is nice

“The Ballad of Accounting” with a big backup group. Karan’s voice sounds really great on this one:

A very old, held-held clip of Solas, but Karan and John Doyle do a nice harmony here:

“A Pound A Week Rise.” Finally, here’s a knock ’em dead performance by John D in a radio station with frequent partner Liz Carroll. He’s an astounding guitarist.

Info on seeing them at Joe’s Pub, which happens to be a great venue.