Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The First Nollaig?

 7And she gave birth to her Son, her Firstborn; and she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room or place for them in the inn.  (Luke 2 )

Most English speakers are used to the word Noel meaning Christmas. The o is long and the second syllable gets the volume stress.

The word Noel, sometimes with different spellings, is a given name as well.

According to Merriam-Webster, the origin of noel is:

French noël Christmas, carol, from Old French Nael (Deu), Noel Christmas, from Latin natalis birthday, from natalis natal

The English word for the original gathering or a display of the holy family in the manger at the time of Jesus the Christ's birth is nativity. It can also refer more generally to the process or circumstances of being born.

Again from Merriam Webster, the origin of nativity is:

Middle English nativite, from Anglo-French nativité, from Medieval Latin nativitat-, nativitas, from Late Latin, birth, from Latin nativus.

Other references tie nativus and natalis to nasci (to be born).

The Irish (Gaeilge) word for Christmas is Nollaig.

Interestingly, Nollaig can also be a person's given name as well.

And to make life interesting, Nollaig is also the Irish name of the final month of the year or December in English.

Nollaig has cousins in other Celtic tongues such as:

Nollaig - Scottish Gaelic
Nollik - Manx
Nadolig - Welsh
Nedelek - Breton
Nadelek - Cornish

The resemblance of Nollaig to Noel and nativity is obvious in the history of the words.

In Old Irish the word for Nollaig was "Notlaic" and this compares to the Latin "natalicia" (for the day of birth), from the verb "(g)nasci" (to be born).

Some say the precursor language to both the Latin and the Celtic tongues was Indo-European and the word for birth in Indo-European was *gen- (to give birth).

Upon first inspection, there seems to be a large difference between words starting with g and words starting with n. However, an author named Joshua Wachuta has put it this way:

The letters gn often simply make the n sound, and this has given rise to cognates that have dropped the g entirely. Consider the word natal, an adjective meaning "of or relating to birth." It shares an obvious relationship to gen- in meaning, but at first glance it bears little resemblance in sound or spelling. Children, however, don't always look like their grandparents. Sometimes it's more useful to compare cousins, like natal and genital. Suddenly the resemblance becomes apparent. The new root, stripped of the g, has given rise to other similar words like nascent, native, and nativity.
And now we can add: words like Noel and Nollaig came from the Indo European *gen-.

Whether you say “Happy Noel to you,” "Feliz Navidad," or “Nollaig shona duit,” we wish you the best in this time of birth and renewal!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Irish Singing and Language On the News Via Liet

  National Public Radio (NPR) in the USA has a wonderful segment about the Liet International Song Contest, a singing competition designed to emphasize the minority languages of Europe. The Segment is: A Televised Singing Competition With A Mission.

  Aoife Scott from Dublin is singing in Irish in the competition finals and she is featured at multiple stages of the segment. Minority languages around Europe are discussed, and Aoife talks about how at 18 she realized her parents had given her a gift in teaching her the Irish language.

  Dol Eoin and the six-piece band Macanta from Scotland, will compete performing in Scottish Gaelic (pronounced gallic). Irish and Scottish Gaelic were essential different dialects of one language until the 1700s. Although between the ages of 0 and 5 his grandparents and parents spoke Gaelic around him, they and he let it fall into disuse as he got older. But then he had a dream in Gaelic, and this prompted him to spend two years recording an album all in Scottish Gaelic.

More Irish Musicians in Shamrock Road blogs:

Brían Ó hAirt (Brian Hart)
Bernadette Nic Gabhann
Aoife Clancy
Matt and Shannon Heaton

Tracking Gibberish: JYPQ83SXNGAD

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Who Is One of the Northern Ireland Justice Champions?

Forum wins prize for work on interfaces:

The Justice Minister in Northern Ireland set up a competition for a designation called, "Justice Champion" or "Justice Champions."

There were 58 nominations and only three awards of Justice Champion were made this autumn, 2011.

One of the selected Justice Champions was the Foyle Interface Forum.

The Foyle Interface Forum was started to provide an alternative to sectarian violence and is an umbrella organization which synergizes the efforts and skills of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), the Youth Justice Agency, local politicians, community workers, Apprentice Boys of Derry, and Housing Executive representatives. (The Youth Justice Agency is described as follows: The principal aim of the Youth Justice Agency is to reduce youth crime and to build confidence in the youth justice system. The Agency works with children aged 10-17 years who have offended or are at serious risk of offending.) (The Apprentice Boys of Derry help organize the celebrations, principally by the Protestant community, on Saturday August 13th of every year which marks the annual anniversary of the ending of the Siege of Derry in 1689.)

A Foyle Interface Forum group was begun to reduce the number of sectarian attacks at interfaces in Derry (also known as Londonderry). Such attacks include stone throwing, harassment, mugging, rioting, and attacks with weapons.

The Foyle Interface Forum used its resources to assist those most at risk of offending and turning their energy away from violence.

As a consequence, reports of violence by one community against another are down from former years in Derry.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bua in Concert

Sorry to those in the Capital District but this one snuck up on me. And sorry to those out in webland who cannot attend a concert in upstate New York.

Bua's promo at Old Songs says, "A quartet comprised of some of America’s most talented young musicians, Bua plays Irish traditional music with “a precision and intensity that is rarely heard on this side of the Atlantic.” Their sound stands out among modern bands in the genre by “keeping the music down the path of tradition” and reminding listeners of such fondly-remembered greats as The Bothy Band and Planxty."

I add: Performing both instrumental and sean nós singing, they have something for everyone.

Click here for tickets and details of the event.

More about the group Bua. And of course, there is the interview with Brían Ó hAirt, one of their members on this blog.

If you can't make it to Voorheesville, NY, they will also be appearing at:

Six on the Square Oxford, NY
Sat. 11/5/11 7:30pm

Woods Hole Folk Music Society Concert Series 68 Water Street Woods Hole, MA
Sun. 11/6/11 7:30pm

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dublin Web Summit

More than 1,200 people attended a two-day web technology summit featuring presentations from senior executives and founders of some of the world’s biggest technology and internet companies including Google, Microsoft, YouTube, Skype, Bebo, Amazon.com, and Twitter.

Boxpay, Hittheroad, RedeemGet, Vigill and Vocalytics made presentations in the ESB Energy Ireland-sponsored Spark of Genius competition with a prize fund of €140,000 (almost $200,000). The prize also includes a €100,000 (approximately $142,000) seed investment from ACT Venture Capital.

The Dublin Web Summit, taking place for the seventh time, is the nearly accidental brainchild of 27-year-old Trinity College Dublin graduate Paddy Cosgrave. A company called MiCandidate in 2009, an aggregator of the profiles of political candidates for syndication to the media, had persuaded companies “big media companies around Europe like Sky and the Telegraph” to come to Dublin to evaluate the City. But then MiCandidate was dropped as a sponsor when a management buyout occurred with four weeks to go to the event.

The young Trinity undergraduate Paddy Cosgrave was in a bind. “All these guys were coming over so I was like, f**k, I’d better do something.” He managed to turn the visit into a conference and the rest is history.

An interesting tidbit from this year's summit is the disclosure made by Tony Wang, general manager of Twitter in the United Kingdom in an interview associated with his speech to a standing room only crowd.

Mr Wang said the main considerations when deciding on Twitter offices were availability of skilled staff and good technology infrastructure. Ireland not only has these, but the “friendliness” executives encountered in Ireland was an additional factor. They are establishing an office in Dublin.

One of the most exciting ideas was presented by IfWeRanTheWorld which has an application that harnesses social networks to prompt people to act in ways that will change the world.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

We've Paid Too High a Price By 'Living Inside Bunkers'

The Irish President Mary McAleese, in a bid to increase communications across the sectarian divide, has said, "The openness that faces with genuine curiosity the very otherness of others is far from easy to embrace but we have all paid too high a price for insisting on living inside bunkers where only those who agree with us are welcome and where the voices of the excluded other are muted or silent."

The constitution of the Republic of Ireland is a parliamentary system of government, so the President has largely a ceremonial role. Mrs McAleese was the inaugural speaker at the first Conversations Across Walls and Borders event in First Derry Presbyterian Church in Northern Ireland, outside the Republic of Ireland. Ms. McAlees is approaching the end of her term as President so this speech may be one of her last addresses to the people of Ireland from the post.

Speaking of the City of Londonderry (also called Derry) she said, "That community, like the family if it is to flourish, if it is to be fair, has to let itself be comfortable with diversity and inclusivity,"

Also, she said, "To open ourselves to stories, narratives, perspectives, talents, genius, insights and friendships which are new to us is to open the doors of our lives to a much more exciting and enriching landscape."

She made these comments in the context of the particular difficulties faced by the people of Londonderry (also called Derry). She said, "It has become easier to talk now. The festering wrong that was Bloody Sunday and the Widgery Report that followed it, left this city raw for decades and made healing so very difficult."

Thirteen men died at these protests in 1972 in Londonderry (also called Derry). The Widgery Tribunal released a report soon after the event and largely cleared the soldiers and British authorities of blame.

"The Saville Report opened up the hard truth of that story and remarkably that truth did indeed set many people free in ways that visibly helped a healing process to take hold. The survivors and the families of those who died were vindicated after a long and dignified struggle and the air we breathed after the British Government's apology was fresh and energising."

The Saville Report was published June 15, 2010 and concluded that no stones and no petrol bombs were hurled by protestors before the British soldiers shot at them, and that the civilians were not posing any threat.

Mary McAleese continued with, "On the day following the publication of the Saville Report the leaders of the protestant churches in this city met with the victims and bereaved of Bloody Sunday. We looked on amazed, our hearts lifting as generosity and compassion began to flow spontaneously in both directions. We watched the basic building blocks of peace and reconciliation shift into place, lifted painfully by the only powers that can create peace - human hands and human hearts, bridging the gap of division and difference with humanity and decency."


Click Here to Read the Text of the Entire Speech by Mary McAleese

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Expansion of Terror Murals in Belfast Undercuts Reconcilliation

Ivan Little of the Belfast Telegraph reports on Monday, 3 October 2011

"The UVF has raised tensions and angered community workers and residents in east Belfast by starting to paint another controversial mural of masked paramilitaries wielding guns."

He states it’s the third militaristic mural to go up in the Shankill Road area in recent months and that the new mural replaces a memorial to four of the UVF’s old and more recent leaders including Robert ‘Squeaky’ Seymour who was allegedly murdered by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) at his shop in June 1988. But the prior mural didn’t have any guns. The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) is a loyalist paramilitary group in Northern Ireland formed in early 1966.

Several Shankill Road leaders have been trying to re-brand murals in the area to reflect its cultural and sporting icons instead of lauding violence.

Near the new mural is a mural in tribute to "Chronicles of Narnia" author CS Lewis who was from East Belfast.

A loyalist source claimed the new UVF mural was a direct response to one which was unveiled in the Whiterock area of west Belfast in May depicting an IRA firing party at the 1981 funeral of hunger striker Bobby Sands.

Full Belfast Telegraph Article: "Return of terror murals to Belfast streets angers residents."

More on Peace and Reconcilliation in Ireland

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Banjo Burke Festival 2011

The Banjo Burke Festival is on Columbus Day Weekend, October 7-10, 2011. This event is unique in that it will be held entirely in public houses around East Durham. Sessions with musicians cooperatively making music are a feature of the Catskill Irish Arts Week, too, but the Banjo Burke Festival will be held, even its workshops, ceili sets, and concerts, in the pubs.

The musicians committed to appearing are:

Brian Conway
John Nolan
Aine Meenaghan
John WhelanPauline Conneely
John Walsh
Rose Conway Flanagan
Joy Grimes
Pride of Moyvane Ceili Band (Margie Mulvihill, John Reynolds, Felix Dolan, Jimmy Kelly)
Hearts Content (Tom Dunne, Linda Hickman, Iris Nevins)
Ceol na gCroi Ceili Band(John Nolan, Linda Hickman, Brendan Fahey)
Pat KaneJameson Sisters

Concerts on Saturday are from 3:00 to 6:00 PM and 7:00 to 9:30 PM. The workshops, continuous music, sessions, house concerts, ceili sets, and a breakfast are all fit in around those.

More information can be found at http://www.joebanjoburke.org/ . You can register at: Register for Banjo Burke Festival. The website is thorough but if time is running short and you have questions you can call: 607-225-9928

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Irish Short Films

This post is simply a list of short films in the Irish language on YouTube with English subtitles. They vary in quality and style. However, they have multiple uses. They are uniquely entertaining. They mostly show the most common dialogue words used in Irish. They can help Irish language students learn conversational Irish. If you can read English, you don't have to speak Irish to understand the dialogue. Or even Chinese or French, but you'll see what I mean.

Fíorghael (Irish Language Short)

Féileacán (Irish language short)

Fluent dysphasia - Classic irish language short film

Fluent dysphasia -(part 2)Classic irish language short film

yu ming is ainm dom. full version

Ní Féidir! (Short Irish-language Film with English subtitles) 2011

Identity Crisis (Irish short film with English subtitles) 2001


An Interview On a Documentary on the Irish Catskills

For an expanded discussion by Reverend Harold Good of reconciliation in Ireland: Click here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

‘Bloody Sunday’ Victims Are Offered Compensation

A Defense Ministry spokesperson in the British government announced on Thursday, September 22, 2011 that relatives of victims of the 1972 Northern Ireland shootings by British troops, that became known as “Bloody Sunday," will be compensated.

Some relatives have already rejected the compensation.

A Ministry of Defense spokesperson said, “We acknowledge the pain felt by these families for nearly 40 years, and that members of the armed forces acted wrongly. For that, the government is deeply sorry. We are in contact with the families’ solicitors and where there is a legal liability to pay compensation, we will do so.”

Fourteen people were killed by members of a British parachute regiment as they marched in Londonderry (also referred to as Derry) on Jan. 30, 1972. Thirteen more were wounded.

Prime Minister of Britain David Cameron had already offered an apology in June of 2010, saying that a thorough second investigation concluded after one of the longest and most costly public inquiries ever in Britain, that the Bloody Sunday shootings were “both unjustified and unjustifiable.”

“Bloody Sunday” was a seminal event in the three decades of gurilla war in Northern Ireland that claimed more than 3,600 lives from both traditions in Ireland and beyond.

Sisters Linda and Kate Nash, whose teenage brother William was among 14 innocent and unarmed men who died, stated they wanted no part of monetary compensation, but suggested the Ministry of Defense could set up bursaries (scholarships) with the money.

Victims have spent decades campaigning for justice. They had branded the original investigation into the massacre a whitewash. Now that investigation has been repudiated by the second investigation and the British government is responding with meaningful compensation.

For an expanded discussion by Reverend Harold Good of reconciliation in Ireland: Click here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 In Ireland: The Tenth Anniversary

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Crowds gathered to pay their respects outside City Hall in Belfast, and at the RDS Concert Hall in Dublin.

The City of Belfast in Northern Ireland joined with those New York and around the world by observing 1:46PM, the time it was in Ireland when ten years ago the first passenger jet slammed into north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.

The Belfast Telegraph reported Isobel Gallagher from New Jersey and her sister Geraldine McGeown from Belfast, at the city hall memorial, recalled the death of their cousin Jean Andrucki.

Isobel related, "She was in the Port Authority building,"Her mother phoned her to tell her to get the heck out. She said she just had to get two older ladies on to the stairwell and then she was going to leave. But it turned out the stairwell was full of smoke. That was the last time her mother talked to her."

Niall O Donnghaile, the Mayor of Belfast said: "We are not strangers to the circumstances where a loved one leaves the house for work and never returns home again. There are so many people in this city and across Ireland who live with that experience every day of their lives. So we share a common bond of hurt, of bewilderment, of loss between the people of New York, and across America, and Belfast."

A recorded message from the Fire Department of New York's Edward Kilduff was broadcast to those assembled. He thanked the people of Belfast and the emergency services in Northern Ireland for their support.

Mary McAleese, the President of the Republic of Ireland, spoke at the ceremony at the RDS Concert Hall in Dublin, and said, "The television pictures are etched on our minds and the tide of grief has never ebbed.

Ireland stood then, as we stand today, shoulder to shoulder with our friends and family in the United States.

We share our remembering as an act of solidarity with all those who were bereaved or injured and with all those who gave their lives or sacrificed their health in order to help, for if terrorism manifested the meticulously planned worst of human nature that day, there were surely so many others who with no more than a heartbeat to decide, displayed a selfless generosity and spontaneous courage of astounding depth."

She ended with a plea. “May love triumph always.”

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Kieran Jordan Interview at Catskill Irish Arts Week 2011

Kieran Jordan is an Irish dance performer, choreographer, and instructor in the Boston area. One of her specialties is Irish sean nós step dance, which is improvised, percussive, old-style Irish dance. She taught both mornings and afternoons in July 2011 at the Catskill Irish Arts Week in East Durham where she gave us the following interview.

Question: How long have you been doing Irish dance?

Kieran Jordan: I started Irish dancing when I was five years old and have been continuing it for the 31 years since. I love Irish dance and it is my full time work. I wasn't sure I could have a career in Irish dance because when I was thinking about careers, there weren't many people making it their career. This was before Riverdance became popular. There didn't seem to be a future beyond teaching and running a dancing school, and I never pictured myself doing that. I was performing a lot in my twenties, and one thing led to the next. My career is a balance of teaching, performing, and recordings.

It's great to make a living doing what I love and I like being my own boss, although it is challenging. It is not always easy. But hey, this is Catskill Irish Arts week, so I'm not going to worry about it here. I'm just going to have fun! I look forward to this all year.

Question: Do you teach masses of people at once? Do you teach both new and experienced students?

Kieran Jordan: It fluctuates. I do have some faithful groups of people who have danced with me for years, and I also have new people all the time. Right now I think the interest is low. It might be the recession, but also these things go in trends, waves.

Question: So we are not in a time period like when Riverdance first burst into popularity?

Kieran Jordan: Right now I think the general interest in Irish dance has plateaued. There isn't a huge resurgence right now. Still certainly there are always people who find inspiration in the music and the dance, who get “bit” by this bug!

Question: When you were five years old you learned traditional step dance. How did you make the conversion to sean nós?

Kieran Jordan: In high school I did a little bit of tap dance and then I became very interested in Cape Breton step dance from Nova Scotia in Canada. I just love that music and the steps are so playful and energetic in a way that allows for improvisation between the dancer and the musicians. Things are not as quite mapped out in sean-nós as in traditional Irish step dance. So I started to gravitate toward Cape Breton dance. Then I saw Irish sean nós dancing. I saw Seosamh O Neachtain on a television piece. I watched Donnacha O’Muineachain and Mick Mulkerrin perform at Gaelic Roots at Boston College. And Joe O'Donovan was a great dance master who I was fortunate enough to study with in Cork, at UCC.

In the early 90s it seemed like the interest in sean nós was starting to grow. Maybe there were more opportunities, or maybe it was becoming more visible. So I loved sean nós and I pretty much abandoned competitive Irish step dance. I gravitated toward all these styles like Cape Briton and sean nós, which are about improvising and interacting with the music. I was working with a lot of live music in Boston because there is such a great music scene there. I had a lot of opportunities for collaboration, picking things apart with musicians. I found these dance styles more suitable to my personality. They allowed me to really express myself in my performances and choreography.

Question: Was the dancing in the Titantic movie anything of interest to you?

Kieran Jordan: My memory is somewhat vague but I recall that scene being at the party within the boat among the working class people. Of course it was choreographed for the film, but they choreographed it in a way to make the dance look like a spontaneous party scene. That spontaneity is what sean nós dancing is about. That's what you'll see in the Catskills here. In the sessions at night, myself and other dancers will get up and dance. It's about feeling the moment. Feeling the energy. When someone is dancing and its really synching up well, I think everyone loves that marriage of rhythm and melody. It's great!

So yah, I like that scene in Titanic!

Question: Last year at the dance pavilion there was an exposition of dance. A big crowd came over to see that. Is that what dance does often?

Kieran Jordan:
People love Irish dancing and I think if you look at the ratio in a week like this, there may be 300 fiddle players and maybe 30 step dancers and sean nós dancers. We stand out! There are not as many of us.

Dancing is a very out-front kind of thing. We're not sitting behind an instrument. It's your own body making the performance. So for a dancer, the spot light is on you, and you are very visible. Most dancers love that to some degree, even a shy one like me!

Sean nós dance is movement and sound at the same time. Percussive dance is not just about moving your body, but it's about making percussion that contributes as a musical component.

So there is a stage presence – your physical appearance and presence, and then your ability to make music with your feet. It's coordination, skill, and technique, matched with an in internal sense of rhythm, groove, and listening skills.

Question: You said sean nós dance is very applicable to a lot of ages. Why is that and how does that work?

Kieran Jordan: I think there is a very strong connection between sean nós step dancing and set dancing – the group sets. If you look at set dancing, there are moments within it where there is percussive dancing and there are somewhat improvised moments as well. One of my major influences, Aiden Vaughn, dances steps as a solo sean nós dancer, and works the sames rhythms into his set dancing.
Set dancing is a social thing, it's meant to be for all ages. It's not about performance for the most part. Sean nós is also a social dance form and people of all ages do it.

Sean nós is more about being a musical instrument, listening, and collaborating. You can have bad knees or other joints and you can still pull it off. You don't need to have leaps high off the floor, or perfection with your flexibility. You just need to be able to listen and create a few rhythms. It's often the case where less is more.

Certainly there are dancers who are kind of flamboyant, and that's great as one style, but the dancers I like are subtle and have the ability to groove along with the musicians, rather than claim all the attention out front.

Question: How do you know when to dance with a group of musicians? I've seen dancers go up in one of the pavilions during a concert and they obviously are there to dance, but don't just run out and dance the second they get there. Is there some kind of vibe between the musicians and the dancers so they know when to start dancing?

Kieran Jordan: On stage, here at the Catskills, most of those concert performances are unrehearsed. The music is going. The dancer climbs up the stairs to the stage and listens for where the group is in the set. You are following the structure of the music.

In sean nós the start point is a little more relaxed. In Irish step dancing you would start at the beginning of a tune. In sean nós you can slip your way in when it feels right. Also, one of the nice things about the Catskills are the sessions. It's expected there are going to be dancers in the session. To jump up and dance in a session is really fun. You can't always do that. Dance is a welcome part of the performance here in the Catskills!

Kieran Jordan's Web Site

Interviews with 2010 Catskill Irish Arts Week Participants:

- Bernadette Nic Gabhann

- Aoife Clancy

- Brían Ó hAirt (Brian Hart)

- Bairbre McCarthy

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Andy McGann Traditional Irish Music Festival 2011

Did you ever wish you could go to a special and wonderful event which people mainly hear about by word of mouth?

Well, "Psssssssssssst, do ye wanna hear wonderful Irish traditional music by some of the best from Ireland and the United States?

Then wend your way on down the road to East Durham and attend the Andy McGann Traditional Irish Music Festival on Saturday, July 16th from 11:30 AM to 7 PM at the Quill Festival Grounds."

I am exaggerating a bit. There are articles about it on the web and a Facebook page. Still, for the quality of who will be playing and what you will hear, you'll be hard pressed to find a better value.

All this is available an hour from Albany and only two and half hours from New York City.

Why does this Festival keep happening every year? The Andy McGann Festival is the culmination of an entire week of instruction and celebration on Irish traditional music and arts known as Catskill Irish Arts Week. Since all these great musicians and dancers are there for the week, they get together and appear on stage at the end producing hours and hours of wonderful entertainment. Besides the music, there is story telling mixed in, all of which is true!

The grounds are set up with two pavilions so if you wonder what's happening in the other one, just wander a few steps over and see. There are street fair type foods and Irish CDs, art, clothing, and jewelery for sale. Of course, cold drinks and Irish brews are available.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Whiterock Parade in Belfast

I've been informed through a personal report, and media coverage, the Whiterock Parade in West Belfast went off peacefully on Saturday, June 26, 2011. This was in contrast to during the 2005 Whiterock Parade when Molotov cocktails and blast bombs were thrown at police.

In the intervening years, the Whiterock parade has remained contentious between the Orangemen marchers and nationalist residents of the Springfield Road. The Parades Commission had placed restrictions on the route. Approximately 50 Orangemen, consisting of Orange Order No. 9 district officers and members of the Whiterock lodge, were allowed to cross the interface wall on Workman Avenue to march on to the mainly nationalist Springfield Road.

The other approximately 850 march participants were re-routed through the former Mackies Factory site to join the Springfield Road at West Circular Road and proceeded back to West Belfast Orange hall.

Reportedly, approximately 80 nationalist residents and protestors held a peaceful protest as the parade passed by on the Springfield Road. Signs saying “Loyalist threats work” and “Nationalists have a right to protest outside their own homes” were held by the nationalists, however there was no violence.

Police praised marchers and protesters for their responsible approach.

Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay said, "The parade passed off without serious incident and that is largely due to a lot of hard work that went on beforehand behind the scenes."

Regarding the overall mood, many of both the republicans and nationists were very upset with the recent violence in Belfast and Derry (or Londonderry) which they felt was brought about by gangs. In general people were not going to allow the gangs to continue. There seems to be a sense of more cooperation from both sides.

Rory McIlroy Says Northern Ireland Deserves Peace

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rory McIlroy Says Northern Ireland Deserves Peace

Rory McIlroy, the 2011 winner of the US Open Golf Tournament, is saddened by the recent violence in East Belfast, not far from his home in Holywood, Northern Ireland.

On June 21 and 22, loyalists and republicans battled in the Lower Newtownards Road and Short Strand areas. The police became involved when they came between the two sides. Rocks were thrown. Sledge hammers were taken to police vehicles. Molotov cocktails were hurled. At least three shots were fired and Niall Carson, a Press Association photographer, was wounded on June 22 in the leg by one shot. His condition was reported as stable.

A 20-year-old woman was arrested on a weapons charge. Two people were injured by gunfire the prior night.

The violence became so pitched water cannons were used to disperse the crowds.

Rory McIlroy commented, ""It's sad to see what's happened the last couple of nights. I know that 99.9% of the population don't want to see that.

And if I can just be a little bit of positivity in the news then that's great.

I think everyone just wants to live in peaceful times, and I think Northern Ireland deserves it."

The government is responding with an action plan that will likely involve an interfaith task force. Specifically, Peter Robinson, First Miniser of Northern Ireland and and his Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness have instructed a government official to interact with community leaders in the Newtownards Road and Short Strand areas of Belfast.

In a joint statement Robinson and McGuinness said, “We would ask everyone to give the official the time and space to conduct this work.

The official has been asked to bring back a report promptly and make recommendations as to how problems in the area can be addressed. By working with local communities and agencies, we want to ensure that interface issues are tackled across Belfast.”


Bomb Kills Policeman In Northern Ireland

500 Pound Bomb Found in Northern Ireland

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Catskill Irish Arts Week

This posting is for those who are considering attending Catskill Irish Arts Week 2011 in East Durham for the first time.

The basics of the Catskill Irish Arts Week (CIAW) music, singing, and dance classes are all at this web site: Catskill Irish Arts Week.

If you come, you will be warmly accepted just for having an interest in Irish culture.

If you pay attention and practice, you will gain so much from the classes.

If you approach and speak with respect and interest to anyone during the week, from staff to other students to every teacher to famous "stars" of Irish performing or craft, you will be treated to caring and attention, as well as good craic!

Those that attend full time get a morning and an afternoon class (which you stay in all five weekdays) which are titled and laid out in schedule here. The staff will help you when you are signing up to get placed at the correct level and to optimize your days.

You yourself need not be musical or a dancer to go to the week, as the Arts and Crafts classes are top notch. Also, there is the wonderful Irish History and Language class taught by Bairbre McCarthy.

Speaking of Bairbre, she and the other teachers of young folks offer a Children's Workshop that is fun on so many levels (language, dance, music, and singing) while passing on an appreciation for Irish culture to the future performers.

After the afternoon class, you'll want to come to the lecture series which will have a schedule here. These are well done talks and conversations, and are seriously underated. They are not like the bad lectures you may remember from school. They are fascinating, fun, and often both.

When you call for lodging, some places offer meals included. If you do that, you'll have days to meet everyone who attends regularly and that has its own rewards. Another strategy is to pay a little more, but move to a new venue for every meal. That way you'll get a variety of food and atmospheres, and you'll be able to converse with the regulars and find out what they like about staying at that establishment. If you are going as part of a group, you might want to discuss this ahead of the week.

You may want to sit around your motel and listen to some folks in an impromptu session (seisiún) in a gazebo, on the patio, on the steps, or on a shady piece of lawn. They happen at motels mostly, but listen for arrangements elsewhere. The quality of these sessions varies, but often they are amazing in long streaks. The only charge is a few hoots and hollers, smiles, applause, and the well timed compliment or three.

Did you know there are concerts during the week? Not really promoted, are they? These concerts are held in the big pavillion on the official grounds Tuesday through Friday. With your official CIAW bracelet and pin, you'll get in for free. Those not in CIAW can attend for a reasonable admission. These concerts are tremendous and offer time between sets to socialize and peruse the merchants' booths. One piece of advice: if you want to get an artist's CD, don't wait. They may sell out, or they may leave and take their unsold CDs with them!

After the concert, you're not done. You still have to go to the pubs! There is a schedule in your packet when you arrive. Certain pubs concentrate on certain categories. Also, there are CD release parties during the week.

Some people go early to one pub and switch later to another. Get good directions for all the pubs you want to visit or invite someone who knows the way. As the saying goes, Giorraionn beirt bothar, or Two shorten the road.

Speaking of road, be careful walking along the road as you may have to park a bit away from the pub and share the country road at night with vehicles.

Breakfast lunch and dinner after pubbing? These are when you find out, you missed something great at another pub. Get used to it. No matter how hard you try, you'll wish you were at a pub you weren't because so and so played so and so better than in concert! The only antidote is to talk up what you saw. I'm not saying you have to lie, but you can tell the truth to great advantage, can't yah?

Besides the scheduled and unscheduled events, you can hike, shop at the Guaranteed Irish Shop, ride a bike, play horseshoes, ...

Here's my final hint: get some rest. The lure of all the attractions at Catskill Irish Arts Week can be so strong, you don't realize you need some rest. You might need a nap, except you'll miss...?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Boston College Resists Subpoena for Confidential Interview Records

Boston College filed a motion resisting a federal subpoena for confidential oral history interviews of paramilitary fighters for the Provisional Irish Republican Army. The motion was filed with the US Attorney's office.

The recordings were made of paramilitary fighters from both cultural traditions on a promise of confidentiality of each interview until the subject person interviewed became deceased.

Boston College argues the release could threaten the :

  • safety of those interviewed

  • safety of the two former paramilitary members who conducted the interviews

  • safety of other Boston College staffers

  • viability of other oral history projects

  • the ongoing peace process in Northern Ireland

The recordings are held in the Boston College library and were used in the efforts of the Center for Irish Programs. The site of the program at Boston College was chosen in March, approximately three months ago, to hold the archive of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning. A site in the United States was seen as a compromise given chosing a university in Belfast or Dublin would carry a potentially negative association for one or the other cultural traditions in Ireland. The records of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning were supposed to be sealed for thirty years.

The court order seeking the records is sealed so the public and Boston College do not know which British agency is requesting them.

While the concerns of Boston College are well expressed, a basis under the United States constitution for resisting the subpoena does not appear to be articulated in the description of the filed documents resisting the subpoena.

More About the Peace Process

Earlier Post on the Subpoena

Monday, May 30, 2011

Interview with Bairbre McCarthy on April 9, 2011

On April 9, 2011, I interviewed Bairbre McCarthy, storyteller, Irish language teacher, and writer. Her most recent book is “The Keeper of the Crock of Gold.” I am sure you'll enjoy the delightful discussion I had with her:

Question: How did you get the idea for your latest published book, “The Keeper of the Crock of Gold”?

Bairbre: I feel that Leprechauns are not treated properly. I am basically sticking up for Leprechaun rights!

Everybody knows the traditional stories of how people grab a Leprechaun, squeeze him, and shake him. And they never get good results. I figure if you treat them with respect, maybe you'll get good results.

Question: Is that the book that was presented to President Obama's children?

Bairbre: That's right. That was pure surprise to me. I just found out of it the day before the book went to the White House. I had a call from the Prime Minister's office from Ireland and I thought it was one of my brothers fooling me. I was laughing at the guy for awhile and then he got very serious and said, “Well are you the author of this book?” Then I realized it wasn't one of my brothers.

It was just chance. I don't know really how they found the book. What I'd heard was the Prime Minister sent out a team to book stores and libraries in Dublin and asked them to recommend something. They chose a book of poetry for Mrs. Obama by one of the Irish poets. And they wanted something for the children and they chose mine! So I am very lucky really. I guess some Leprechauns were looking out for me.

Question: Because you treated them with respect in the book! Who presented the book?

Bairbre: It was the Irish Prime Minister. We call him “Taoiseach” (said something like the English words “tea – shock”) in Irish. We always use the Irish words in Ireland for the government positions. So we call him the Taoiseach but he is the Prime Minister. It's a tradition that the Irish Prime Minister or Taoiseach comes to the White House every St. Patrick's Day.

Question: I picked up that President Obama is being invited to Ireland. Now, you grew up in County Clare? What was it like there? Did you hear stories as a child?

Bairbre: Yes. I really was very fortunate. My father was a good story teller, as were my grandparents. But I think everybody in Ireland is a story teller!

It's very much part of the Celtic culture it's in the blood. We carried on the oral tradition for so long, it's become part of us.

I didn't consciously become a story teller until I'd been living over here in the United States and I'd been teaching Irish language and history. When you try to teach the history you have to teach the stories.

Over twenty years ago, somebody in my class was a librarian and asked me would I come down to the library and tell some stories. That's how it all started!

I had the idea for the language students that I would have a dual language book on the Irish legends.

I got a grant from the New York State Arts Council and self published it. I was able to send it out to publishers and Mercier Press in Ireland really liked the idea of the dual language. Plus, they do like to publish a lot of mythology and folklore. They've been my publishers ever since.

Growing up in County Clare was very different. I've been living over here for thirty years. I think Ireland has made great progress in catching up with the rest of the world from those times. When I was growing up we listened to the radio a lot. We heard stories on the radio.

Question: What is your take on the language these days? Is Irish gaining in popularity, both in Ireland and in the USA?

Bairbre: It is! I'm very pleased with how it survived. When you think about how difficult it was for the Native Americans in this country, and their culture hasn't survived very well. The Irish language and the Celtic culture is making a big come back. People are happy to go back home and proud of their roots. Many of them go back to learn Irish if they have abandoned it for awhile.

Question: Can you give us a peek at the book you are writing?

Bairbre: I can! It's actually a young adult book about Cú Chulainn because I thought he was such a great hero. He is very much a Herculean mythical figure. Often we don't get a picture of what it would have been like for him growing up as a child, with all those powers. So that is my approach.

I'm working on it with the same illustrator as my other recent books. I am very pleased with it. My illustrator, Oldrich Jelen, is from the Czech Republic. Of course, the Celts began there, so he's very familiar with the culture.

Question: I got to visit Prague and they are very much into publishing there, aren't they?

Bairbre: They are. They published a Czech version of that book that went to the White House. I thought it was very nice when I saw it.

I've been invited to go to the national storytelling festival next year in Tennessee. But I also am going to start bringing tours to Ireland, storytelling tours. I'll tell the stories behind all the ancient sites. The details will be on my web site. We'll arrive in Ireland on Easter Sunday, 2012. I'm sticking to the wonderful west of Ireland for the week.

Question: So you'll fly into Shannon Airport?

Bairbre: Yes, and we'll go to two of the areas where they speak the Irish as the first language – the Gaeltacht (An Ghaeltacht). We'll go to Connemara and down to Dingle. We won't be traveling all the time – I want us to appreciate what's there.

We'll start in County Clare and the first night I want to bring everybody to my nephew's restaurant which looks out on the Aran Islands. It's near Doolin. That's a lovely place with a lot of music. I'm going to go as far as Westport in Mayo. We're going to do a night in Galway.

Question: How did you happen to come to the US?

Bairbre: I came to Saratoga Springs thinking it was a suburb of New York City. I knew about the flat track. My father raised race horses, steeplechase racehorses. I came to the racetrack and I met my husband almost right away. And that's why I'm still here!

Learn more about Bairbre's books here.

Bairbre's Web Site.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fire Damages Ancestral Home of President Chester A. Arthur

The Belfast Telegraph reports fire broke out at around 8:20 PM in the ancestral home of Chester Alan Arthur, the 21st US President.

The thatched Arthur Cottage and interpretive center in Cullybackey, Co Antrim present the story of President Arthur to tourists and other visitors.

President Arthur’s grandparents, Alan Arthur and Eliza née Meharg lived at the cottage. William Arthur, President Arthur's father, was born in the Cottage on December 5, 1797. He and other members of the family left for North America sometime between 1816 and 1820. He married Malvina Stone and became a Baptist Minister. Chester A. Arthur was born on October 5, 1830 in Fairfield, Vermont.

Besides Fairfield, there are other connections of Chester A. Arthur to the northeast US. Arthur attended Union College in Schenectady, New York in 1845 where he studied the traditional classics. As a senior in 1848, he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and president of the debate society. He regularly donned a green coat to show his support for the Irish Republicans.

After living outside of Hoosick Falls, New York, Arthur returned to Union College and received his Master's degree in 1851.

At Union College, Arthur was a student of Eliphalet Nott, whose civil rights beliefs may have influenced Arthur's opinions. Union College Political Science Professor Clifford Brown has said Arthur became a New York City lawyer after graduation, and fought for civil rights. Arthur was involved with integrating the transportation system in New York City when the system depended on horse drawn trolleys.

Chester A. Arther died on November 17, 1886 and his grave is Albany Rural Cemetary in Menands, New York.

There is a statue of him at Madison Square in New York City and another outside the gate to Jackson's Gardens at Union College.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland is investigating the fire at the Arthur Cottage in Ireland. Evidence is no one was at the property at the time the fire started. Apparently, the interpretive center and cottage remain intact.

Read more: Belfast Telegraph

Or: Union College article

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Muine Gall Agus Is Feidir Linn

Imagine my surprise when I heard President Obama speaking Irish!

I am a student of the Irish language (Gaeilge) and have great respect for this language with ancient roots and for the expressiveness of those who speak it.

And by now I am well aware President Barack Obama has an ancestor named Fulmouth Kearney who came from Moneygall, County Offaly, Ireland to the United States in 1850.

When Obama "came home" to the town yesterday, he said, “I’m Barack Obama, from the Moneygall Obamas ... And I’ve come home to find the apostrophe that we lost somewhere along the way."

My Irish teacher - Dr. Roslyn Blyn-LaDrew, says that the town name is "Muine Gall" in Irish. The first part should be said, "MWIN-yuh."

The name "Moneygall" has nothing to do with money as Muine means a “thicket” or a “scrub” area covered with shrubs. The “gall” part can either mean “a foreigner” or “of foreigners.” The word is also found in the place name “Dún na nGall,” or Donegal, as in the town or the county. So essentially “Muine Gall” means “foreigners’ thicket.”

During his visit to Muine Gall, Obama seemed to exhibit the speaking skills the Irish are known for.

At Ollie’s Bar in Moneygall, the President sought some advice on how much to let the foam on his pint of Guiness subside before drinking it. “You tell me when it’s properly settled," Obama said to the barkeep. “I don’t want to mess this up."

Plunking money on the bar, he added, “I just want you to know the President pays."

Standing in the low-ceiling pub, surrounded by distant relatives, Obama drew the connection across the big water saying: “There are millions of Americans who trace their ancestry back to this beautiful island. Part of what makes it so special is because the Irish influence on American culture is so powerful in the arts, in politics, in commerce."

But the President saying, "Moneygall," is not really Irish, as close as it comes.

The actual Irish I heard came is this quote:

"Ireland, if anyone ever says otherwise, if anybody ever tells you that your problems are too big, your challenges are too great and we can't do something, that we shouldn't even try, think about all that we've done together, remember that whenever hardships the winter may bring, springtime is always just around the corner.

And if they keep on arguing with you, just respond with a simple creed -- Is feidir linn. Yes we can."

This sentence, "Is feidir linn." is loaded with special Irish grammar.

Irish has the distinction of not really having a single word for "yes" as its function is fulfilled by the responder using the verb, most often, in their response. So the "yes" part of "yes we can" comes from the emphaticness of the sentence instead of a single word that means "yes."

An example might be translated as, "Are you thirsty?" and the Irish answer is, "I am thirsty."

The first word in "Is feidir linn," "Is" is known as the copula, which is an amazing grammatical structure we could puzzle over for hours. In order to keep it simple, we'll say the "Is" is like the verb, "Always is..." The Irish grammarians are coming after me with big sticks because I said that, but that is the easiest way to construe that word in such a sentence.

The second word, "feidir" means "possible" when used with the copula.

And "linn" is a prepositional pronoun, but in Irish the prepositional pronouns are conjugated like verbs in the Romance languages. The root prepositional pronoun is "le" which is one of those words with a maddening number of meanings. Are you ready? Le means "with, to, for, or against" according to Irish dictionaries. Other students and I have found it stretching even beyond this dizzying array of meanings, but maybe we imagined it?

Anyway, in this sentence the "le" part of the prepositional pronoun seems to mean "with" and the "inn" part of the prepositional pronoun is the ending that adds "us."

So real fast, "Is feidir linn" means "Always is possible with us!" or "Yes we can!"

At this point in my life, I have too many T-shirts, but I read an entrepreneur or two in Ireland are selling T-shirts with "Is feidir linn!" on them. If I see one, I'll probably buy it.

Such an optomistic phrase: Is feidir linn!

Click here to hear to hear President Obama's Speech in College Green, Dublin, Ireland

Click here for more about an Irish American children's book for the President's and First Lady's children

Click here for more on Muine Gall by Dr. Roslyn Blyn-LaDrew

Click here to learn about one man and his part in bringing peace to Northern Ireland.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Irish Climber Rescued from Denali

On Thursday, May 12, 2011, climber Jeremiah O’Sullivan, 40, of Ballinhassig, County Cork, Ireland was plucked off Mt. McKinley in Alaska. Mt. McKinley is also known as Denali, which in the language Koyukon Athabaskan means "The High One" in English. O'Sullivan was able to manuever into a basket which was lowered 200 feet from a hovering helicopter.

He had broken his leg from a fall climbing a ridge with three other climbers near the 20,320-foot summit. The rescue itself took place at approximately 19,500 feet. This may have been the highest helicopter rescue ever in North America. With temperature effects the helicopter can only power to approximately 20,000 feet and the pilot must wear oxygen.

A 38-year-old Swiss climbing companion named Beat Niederer, a member of O’Sullivan’s party, who was found dead near 18,000 feet after becoming separated from climbing partner Lawrence Cutler, 45, of New York. He apparently died while the two were trying to descend to a camp at 17,200 feet after the fall. The guide, Dave Staeheli, 56, of Wasilla, had stayed with O’Sullivan until O'Sullivan's rescue.

The helicopter pilot, Andreas Hermansky, who learned how to fly in Austira, may have used the basket to rescue O'Sullivan because the ground was too steep to land safely or because the downwash from the helicopter would create whiteout conditions blinding him from landing safely.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Boston College Asked to Give Up Recordings

Oral history recordings for a project at Boston College are at the center of a controversy, according to the New York Times.

The recordings were made of paramilitary fighters from both cultural traditions on a promise of confidentiality of each interview until the subject person interviewed became deceased. Now authorities in the United Kingdom have subpoened the accounts of two former republican fighters who apparently accused Gerry Adams, the president of the republican political party Sinn Fein, of directing a hidden group within the Irish Republican Army (IRA) that carried out certain kidnappings and disappearances. Gerry Adams has long denied having been a member of the IRA, let alone having any involvement in the kidnappings and disappearances.

The recordings are held in the Boston College library and were used in the efforts of the Center for Irish Programs. The site of the program at Boston College was chosen in March, approximately two months ago, to hold the archive of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning. A site in the United States was seen as a compromise given chosing a university in Belfast or Dublin would carry a potentially negative association for one or the other cultural traditions in Ireland. The records of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning are sealed for thirty years.

While concerns have been expressed about the ability of universities to research such conflict and resolutions if the confidentiality of such interviews is not maintained, a basis under the United States constitution for resisting the subpoena has not been articulated publicly.

Subsequent Posting On Boston College's Resistance to the Subpoena

Monday, May 9, 2011

Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson Finish Trip to North Korea

Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the US, and Mary Robinson, the seventh and first female President of the Republic of Ireland, traveled with two other political leaders to North Korea. The other leaders are the former president of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari and Gro Harlem Brundtland, a past prime minister of Norway.

Mrs. Robinson called the situation in North Korea a “very serious crisis” over food supplies because of a harsh winter, severe flooding and an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. She said the withdrawal of American and South Korean food shipments had aggravated the already-dire situation, which had become, she said, “a matter of life-and-death urgency.”

They are part of a group called The Elders which was announced the first time in a speech by Nelson Mandela on the occasion of his 89th birthday. The Elders offer their wisdom and independent leadership to address the world's toughest problems. Mary Robinson is one of the founding members.

Robinson was President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997.

In addition to the intense tension between North and South Korea, the North Koreans are holding an American named Eddie Yong-su Jun, who was taken into custody in connection with illegal religious activities in the North. Mr. Carter said he is disappointed not to have obtained the release of the American.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

East Durham Irish Festival, Memorial Day 2011

Tom McGoldrick, Festival Director of the East Durham Irish Festival, wants everyone to know the Fesitival is May 28th and 29th, 2011.

Groups include:

  • "The Whole Shabang", direct from Ireland on a Reunion Tour to East Durham

  • "Bridget's Cross" from Cleveland, Ohio

  • "Celtic Spring" from California

  • "Shilelagh Law"

  • "Black 47"

  • "The Prodigals"

  • "Celtic Cross"

  • "Andy Cooney Band"

  • "Kitty Kelly Band"

  • "Jameson's Revenge"

  • "The Moonshiners"

  • "St. James Gate"

  • Advance tickets are available @ $12.00 each, a $4.00 saving, by calling 518-634-2286 (credit card sales acceptable) or send your check to East Durham Irish Festival, Box 189, East Durham, NY 12423. A $1.00 handling charge will be added to each total sale.

    One venue is a large pavillion and the other is a tent, so rain isn't a problem. And yah wouldn't think it would be for the Irish, right?!

    Motor Homes and Campers are WELCOME to the grounds at NO CHARGE for the weekend.

    CALL WITH ANY QUESTIONS! 518-634-2286

    Location: East Durham, New York
    Time & Date: May - Saturday the 28th - Sunday the 29th
    Festival Schedule

    More Irish Musicians in Shamrock Road blogs:

    - Brían Ó hAirt (Brian Hart)
    - Bernadette Nic Gabhann
    - Aoife Clancy
    - Matt and Shannon Heaton

    Tuesday, April 26, 2011

    Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson going to North Korea

    Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the US, and Mary Robinson, the seventh and first female President of the Republic of Ireland, are going with two other political leaders to North Korea. The other leaders are the former president of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari and Gro Harlem Brundtland, a past prime minister of Norway.

    They are part of a group called The Elders which was announced the first time in a speech by Nelson Mandela on the occasion of his 89th birthday. The Elders offer their wisdom and independent leadership to address the world's toughest problems. Mary Robinson is one of the founding members.

    Robinson was President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997. The President of Ireland is directly elected by the people for a seven year term, and can serve at most for a maximum of two terms. The President is largely cermonial because the government of the Republic of Ireland is parliamentary. Some of the solely discretionary powers include:

    • the ability to refer a bill to the Supreme Court to ascertain its constitutionality

    • allows ministers to sign international treaties in her name

    • the right of pardon, although it is exercised rarely

    The President has a number of other functions but these are at the permission or direction of some other branch of the Irish government.

    Robinson is given credit for changing and invigorating the presidency. She reached out to the Irish 'diaspora' around the world. She also was the first Irish President to meet Queen Elizabeth the II at Buckingham Palace.

    With regard to the opposite end of the spectrum, she met with the local MP, Gerry Adams, the President of Sinn Féin on one trip to Belfast.

    In addition to the intense tension between North and South Korea, the North Koreans are holding an American who was taken into custody in connection with illegal religious activities in the North.

    Sunday, April 24, 2011

    Event in Troy, NY: Peace and Reconciliation in Ireland

    Rod Aldrich will relate his eight days in Northern Ireland on a United Methodist Church sponsored Volunteer In Mission trip to promote peace between the two faith-identified cultural communities. His eyes were opened to the daily and annual influences that prolong conflict and make reconciliation more difficult than most Americans assume. Join Rod on Thusday, April 28th at 7 PM in the Sanctuary of the Pawling Avenue United Methodist Church at 520 Pawling Avenue, Troy, NY. for a slide show. Listen to the stories forever written on his heart by the people and places he visited.

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    Interview with Kevin Roe, Manager of Celtic Cultural Center On Concerts, Exhibits, & Bingo

    Kevin Roe, General Manager of Celtic Cultural Center, 430 New Karner Road, Colonie, New York gave us a wide ranging interview on March 4, 2011. In this fourth in a series, Keven discusses concerts, exhibits, and bingo:

    Q: Does Albany have more Irish as a percentage of total population than Boston?

    A: Yes, that's correct. That comes from the US Census. The form people fill out has a space for ethnicity and national origin in the optional questions section. Of course, if you go to Boston, which is a big city, you can find places that have very high percentages of Irish. For instance, South Boston, which may have more people than the entire Capital District, is very high in people of Irish heritage.

    Q: There really is an audience for Irish Americana here, isn't there? As much that, as folk music appreciators.

    A: Yes, in our neck of the woods, the people often know the Irish songs.

    Regarding concerts at the previous Hall location in East Greenbush, we brought in four or five national touring acts in Irish and Scottish traditional music to play at the Hall, open to the public at very reasonable fees. They were expensive for the Hall. We had to underwrite all of those. We would have had to draw in 500 people to break even, and we never planned that we would. Each concert cost us between advertising, sound and lights, performer fees, etc. between $3,500 and $5,000. With the reorganization of the Hall, we cannot justify such concerts at this time. We will be presenting top notch Irish and Scottish traditional music again, but it won't be until the fall before we can justify that kind of expense. Maybe we can find some of our old musician friends who will appear for a discounted fee. I am talking to a couple of groups who are willing to do that, and it's a matter of finding times and dates.

    But we feel good that the active Celtic arts are going well. We wanted to promote the learning of the arts before we turn to the concerts and presentations. They go hand in hand in a circle, but we wanted to be sure we have the learning established first.

    We did participate in the Irish perceptions lecture series. We paid a fee to the Irish American Cultural Institute, which is a not for profit partnership between the cultural organization and the Irish government and academia. They would send lecturers over from Ireland: usually two in the spring and two in the fall. We would still be doing that if it were available. It was dropped and it was unfortunate because it was great.

    We do have two speakers committed for speaking on cultural matters and we hope to set that up for the fall. Tom Hetterman, who is an Irish dance teacher, is going to do an overview and history of the Irish language.

    Q: What is the exhibit that Chrissy (a young woman near us working with prints during the interview) is working on here at the Hall?

    A: For some time, the Irish American Heritage Museum has provided the Hall with a revolving exhibit from the museum. The one most people remember concerned the American Presidents who had Irish ancestry. Adams was the first one and he was our second President. They showed from Adams all the way up to Clinton.

    I was in Ireland right after President Clinton visited there. With my gray hair, with me being an American in Belfast, and me being there probably six weeks after Clinton, all the kids were convinced I was President Clinton!

    But back on this installation coming in now, it's a thirty panel display of the Irish in music. The exhibit demonstrates the influence of Irish music on American culture. A lot of people don't know how much rock and roll comes from Irish rhythms and how much jazz and tap dance were influenced by Irish music. Certainly tap dance is almost directly related to Irish step dancing. The early Irish immigrants and their interaction with African Americans produced tap dance.

    Q: How often do you do bingo here at the Hall?

    A: We do bingo every Friday night and Sunday night at 7 PM. It's a $6,000 game, meaning the regular prizes add up to $6,000, and there are two share-the-wealth games. The average amount of money we give away is between $9,000 and $10,000. A share-the-wealth game involves a split prize based on the money spent on that game. One of those games has a 70 / 30 split and one has a 75/25 split with the larger percentage going to the winner and the smaller portion going to the hall. Doors open at 4 PM and games begin at at 7 PM.

    Q: Where does the Celtic Hall want to be in five years?

    A: We want to be right here!

    We like the location. The building is certainly adequate. We have an option on land next door if we need it.

    We'd like to become a regional cultural center for the northeast. We want any program that comes to New York City or Boston, to also come here. Theater, music, everything. We cannot draw the numbers New York does – put on an Irish play and have 2,000 attend. But we can expect a couple hundred people. This can be a thriving Celtic cultural center with devoted locals and far traveling fans!

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    Interview with Kevin Roe, Manager of Celtic Cultural Center On Instrument Lessons and Dance

    Kevin Roe, General Manager of Celtic Cultural Center, 430 New Karner Road, Colonie, New York, gave us a wide ranging interview on March 4, 2011. In this third in a series, Keven discusses instrument lessons and dance:

    Q: What about musical instruments outside of bands?

    A: In addition to the piping and drumming on the music side, we have always offered a wide variety of Irish instrumental lessons: flute, fiddle, bodhran. In the two year layoff that we had between properties, those teachers have found opportunities elsewhere. We hope to have them back and teaching by the fall. We hope to be offering those lessons again at some level. At certain times, we had 20 to 30 students taking Irish music lessons here. Currently, it's a one off type of thing. A couple of teachers come in from Boston or New York and they use this space to teach. They schedule their lessons throughout a day, then go back. When they need space again, they come back. But that's not a regular program right now.

    Q: And dance?

    A: On the dance side, we have the Braemar Highland Dancers that is also a multi-generational dance school that's older than you or I. There are women older than me who come up and tell me I was a Braemar dancer. But literally, it's true. It's been around 70 years. There are three instructors and they are all under 30 years old.

    Yes, we were Scottish bagpiping and Irish dancing to start, but one of the first programs we had was Scottish dance. The Scottish dance students, their parents and their grandparents have been instrumental in keeping us going because they've hung in through thick and thin. If I need something, I know I can rely on them.

    That school has 20 to 30 dancers. They just brought in a new class of 5 and 6 year olds and they included nine young women. They teach kids from 5 to 18. There is a progression through, so as they get older, they learn more, they dance at higher levels.

    The same with Irish dance, which very recently we were able to obtain a certified Irish Step Dance teacher for here at the Hall named Lex Hickey. We've taught dance for eight years with teachers who were like grad students, who weren't quite certified yet. They either went on to other things or when they became certified, they decided this wasn't where they were going to teach. So this new teacher is young and certified. She is already teaching here, as she took over the existing students.

    The Irish Step Dance is what you see on River Dance. This is the main activity for Irish-American young women. There are certainly some very talented boys and young men who do it, but approximately 85 percent of the participants have thus far been young women. In September with the beginning of a new year of classes, the couple will take over all of the Irish dance instruction at the Hall. We are very pleased that has occurred and are really optimistic about where that is going. We have kindergartners and first graders coming every week.

    Irish Dance became very popular when River Dance came out. We had to put caps on competition numbers. It's been on the decline, over the past 5 years or more, but it has plateaued by number of participants. I know that because I work with the Feis Commission. A Feis is a dance competition. The Feis Commision knows the numbers of participants and tracks the numbers from year to year. The participants have not declined over the last two years.

    Besides the young ones learning their first few steps, we have a number of college age young women who are returning. They gave up competition when they were in late high school. Now that they are back from college, visiting home from college, or going to college here, and they are doing Irish dance for fun, exercise, and social aspects.

    The other program, that I know is dear to your heart, is the Irish language program. We had twenty or more beginner and intermediate students in Irish language programs. There are a couple of teachers around. Bairbre McCarthy lives north of Saratoga Spa and has a career over and aside being an Irish language teacher. She is a writer, and an Irish story teller in performance, besides her full time career as a public school teacher. She's welcome to teach here any time. We are looking for someone to lead at least a beginner or introductory course this fall, which is when we are planning to gear up the full panoply of courses here in the fall.

    Q: What about the Scottish dance school and eventually the Irish dance school: where and when can people see their performances?

    A: The Irish dance school is currently doing performances. Our existing students are great at dancing before the public. They have what is called a “dance out” which is a performance that is not competition. They are having a dance out tonight (the evening of the interview).

    For the next portion where Kevin discusses concerts, exhibits, and bingo at the Hall, click here after this link goes live in a couple of days!

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    Interview of Kevin Roe, General Manager of Celtic Cultural Center on Pipe Bands

    Kevin Roe, General Manager of Celtic Cultural Center, 430 New Karner Road, Colonie, New York gave us a wide ranging interview on March 4, 2011. In this second in a series, Keven discusses the pipe bands which call Celtic Hall home:

    Q: Please tell me about the pipe bands? Aren't they a big thing here? I don't know a thing about them, except they are here.

    A: Neither did I because I've never been a piper.

    There are four pipe bands that call Celtic Hall home, currently.

    Scotia-Glenville Pipe Band has been around for 15 years or more. They are a youth band with no member over the age of 18. When members age out, they go to other bands. You would think it would be a training band, but in competition it regularly beats the adult bands. They don't compete in a separate category. They are very good and they work very hard. As the name suggests, they were organized out in Scotia-Glenville which is a school district which covers two towns – Scotia being one town and Glenville being another. Scotia is, of course, named after Scotland. It's right outside of Schenectady which had a large Scottish population around the turn of the last century – 1890s to 1900. The Scotia-Glenville Band has 30 to 40 players who are at the Celtic Hall a couple of times a week for their practices. Most of them are in each week again for lessons or meetings.

    Schenectady Pipe Band is one of the oldest pipe bands in North America. I think they are either just coming up on, or just passed their centennial. I hope I didn't miss it!

    They are one of the most well known pipe bands having been around so long. They play a number of public appearances they've been doing for years and years. If you go to the Union College commencement, that would be the Schenectady Pipe Band. They play at Hudson Valley Community College. They play all over.

    There is another youth band which is the Twin Rivers Boy Scout Band. Twin Rivers is what they call the local Boy Scout Council because they cover both the Mohawk River and Hudson River. There are approximately 15 to 20 young men who form a non-competitive band. They are a learning and educational band. We are very pleased to have them here. We believe the more we can do to promote young people getting into Celtic, both Irish and Scottish cultural arts, the better off we'll all be.

    There is a band here called Oran Mor. They are a Grade 1 pipe band, which to someone outside of the piping world, which would be you and I, means very little. Grade 5 is the beginning and Grade 1 is the top, the highest level of competition. There are only three Grade 1 pipe bands in the United States. There are three in Canada. In the US, there is one here, there is one in Los Angeles, and there is one in Washsington, D.C.

    Q: Are members brought in to Oran Mor by invitation or tryout?

    A: Both. You can tryout to get into the band, but you end up having to be invited anyway. The piping at that level is pretty close knit. The people who organize the Oran Mor Band know and invite good players from all over the East Coast. Anybody from the Northeast, if they are playing in a band, they are playing here. There are members from southern New Jersey, from Maine, from Plattsburgh, and even some Canadians who come down and play in this band. They are here two if not three days a week. They have to practice a lot because there is a lot of work that has to go into maintaining that level of skill.

    We also have a school here at the hall for the teaching of piping outside of the pipe bands. Anybody wishing to learn the bagpipes or the drums can contact the Hall. Currently, the first three lessons are free. The nature of bagpiping is if you don't like it after three lessons, you won't like it anyway, so why charge them? If you do like it, you are going to be doing it for a lifetime.

    Q: I believe I've seen some of the beginning lessons.

    A: Yes, they are given on chanters. The instrument looks like the flute or whistle the snake charmers use. That's what people learn on. You don't get your pipes until you are fairly proficient on the chanter. You can buy pipes before promotion if you want to, but any good teacher is going to make sure you are proficient on the chanter before teaching you on actual pipes.

    For the next portion where Kevin discusses instrument lessons and dance at the Hall, click here after this link goes live in a couple days!

    Saturday, April 16, 2011

    Interview with Kevin Roe, Manager of Celtic Cultural Center On Its Founding

    Kevin Roe, General Manager of Celtic Cultural Center, 430 New Karner Road, Colonie, New York, gave us a wide ranging interview on March 4, 2011. In this first in a series, Keven explains how the Celtic Hall, as it is known, came to be:

    Question: How did the Celtic Cultural Center or Celtic Hall as it's known informally, get started?

    Answer: The Association (Capital District Celtic Cultural Association Inc.) founded the Celtic Cultural Center in late 1997 and the beginning of 1998. A group of dance parents, some of whom were also pipers or drummers involved in pipe bands, and I were lamenting there was no mechanism to raise money for the dance schools or the pipe bands. Also, the support of the exiting Irish and Scottish organizations was nowhere near the task.

    We decided to put together a small not-for-profit organization to do bake sales, maybe shows or concerts. The first fund raiser was selling hamburgers under the bridge at a Troy Flag Day event. We raised $500 and we thought we were very successful. Then we did a concert at which we were lucky to draw in some acts that became national acts, who came without guaranteed fees and only wanted modest fees. The concert did very well and we had $10,000. We thought we'd book a big concert in March in the Egg, and the weather got us. We lost a little money at that point.

    We slowed down our activity somewhat and started looking for other opportunities. We were fortunate to be offered an opportunity to run Bingo at the Troy Atrium, and we took it.

    We began to do bingo and at the end of the year we had $50,000. We opened an office in Troy with five rooms making up about 2,000 square feet. Peter Jones, an Irish musician, owned the building at the time and he leased to us. We did Irish dance, some language, and music.

    After a few years we realized we were paying an inordinate amount of rent in a space we could use for only four hours on any particular day, because it wasn't ours. That's when we decided to create our own home. We leased a space in East Greenbush. That lease was bought out as someone wanted the space enough to do that. We received compensation to terminate our lease early. With the proceeds from that we bought the wonderful building on New Karner Road (430 New Karner Rd, Colonie, NY) and of course we have a mortgage to pay.

    The cultural programs themselves have built up over time. They've been impacted by the ups and downs of us having a space and not having a space. We were without space for two years. We are now in the process of revitalizing the programs we have.

    Q: How many square feet do you have here?

    A: We have 22,500 square feet of interior space. The main halls are a total of 12,000 square feet. The balance is office space, music studio, dance studio, storage, bathrooms and kitchen.

    The programs are affected a lot by the space. Our programs have grown by five times what we were doing in East Greenbush, because of the more central location, and we've gotten wiser in what we do and how we do it. The organization is a little more experienced now.

    Q: Before we learn more about the Celtic Hall, do you mind explaining your Irish history, Kevin?

    A: I go back to Ireland through both sides of my family. The sides go in different directions. My father was the only son of an only son, so we don't have a lot of uncles and aunts; it's a pretty direct line. We've been able to trace our émigré ancestor on the Roe side to Galway. Unfortunately most of the Irish records were destroyed during the rebellion in 1916 or before that. What few are left are in parishes, and much of the country was very rural in the mid-1800s when my family came here. We did find the parish and did talk to the parish priest in person. Turns out the bartender in Town was also a good contact as the bartender knew everyone in Town, and the Town is less than a hundred people. We spent about two hours talking to the bartender who had been the village bartender for the last 50 years, but he had never heard of my family.

    On my mother's side, there is a completely different story. They were Ulstermen. Some refer to them as Scotch Irish. They were just as Irish as Paddy's pig, but Orangemen. Their fealty was to the crown and to Scotland. When I go to see my great uncles and aunts in Canada, they are very much identified with Ulster and they are Unionists. The Roe side of the family would naturally identify with Nationalist, Republican positions. When I figured that out about ten years ago, I was surprised. My mom said you have to go meet Uncle Billy, the Orangeman. He literally went through his whole life known as Billy The Orangeman. He was somewhat radical in his political stripe even in his own family. There is a lot of cross over in the Irish in America and I guess I'm a perfect example. With my Ulster heritage, when I need to be Scottish here at the Hall, I can at least pretend!

    For the next portion of Kevin's talk where he discusses the pipe bands at the Hall, click here after this link goes live in a couple of days!

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    Thoughts on Spate of Violence in Northern Ireland

    Thoughts on Spate of Violence in Northern Ireland

    The rejection of the killers of Officer Ronan Kerr was widespread and from all communities and quarters:

    Prime Minister David Cameron

    Gerry Adams

    Fr John Skinnader

    First Minister Peter Robinson

    Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe Rev Ken Good, and Dr Seamus Hegarty, Catholic Bishop of Derry

    And the investigation seems to be developing so perhaps those with information have come forward:

    Third arrest over Ronan Kerr murder

    However, that same article states the dissident groups are targeting Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) members in spite of the public rejection of their methods.

    And most recently, a 500 pound bomb was planted in a van under an overpass on the Belfast to Dublin motorway.

    In these cases, the key seems to be dissident Republican groups. The peace makers in Northern Ireland have to ask themselves why haven't the people in these dissident Republican groups been reached when so many in Ireland have? The integration of the police force seems to be making them insecure and angry. Would more public statements by Catholic / Republicans who want the PSNI integrated reach them? Somehow the peace process passed by these dissidents. What steps can be taken to turn their hearts and minds so they have no desire to resort to violence?

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    Shannon and Matt Heaton Concert on April 9, 2011

    Shannon and Matt Heaton were back at Cafe Lena in Saratoga Springs last night, Saturday, April 9, 2011, and were in fine form.

    But before we get to their performances, Matt and Shannon blessed us with a new and wonderful opening act - Hannah Sanders and Liz Simmons. These two were unfamiliar to me, and probably to the vast majority in the audience, yet it was love at first chord. From Hannah's “limbo” to get through a tight spot in the microphone stands as they first stepped on stage, they were relaxed and engaging with their interpersonal stage banter and their real story intros.

    They sang some traditional pieces, then turned to personally penned creations which each deserve to become well known traditional pieces; they were that good. One original composition by Hannah features a Sufi poem.

    Their singing voices are an obvious strong point as they are clear, complex in undertone, and they use their voices' full dynamics. Their harmonies are rich and supportive – never distracting.

    Yet, I noticed another strength. I feel men singers seem to be strong in their guitar work, as a rule. Maybe it's the whole raging guitar hero thing teenage boys go through. A higher percentage of female vocalists either play their guitars themselves in basic mode, or seek the accompaniment of a player of guitar or other instrument. While there is nothing wrong with these approaches, Liz and Hannah have strong guitar skills and the match of instruments well played with voices is special.

    Turning to the Heaton's, their nearly seventh month old son Nigel has joined the act with his sparkling eyes. He's lucky to have such skillful musicians and singers as parents and he seemed happy about that.

    Back on instruments for a moment, Matt's skill with guitar and bouzouki (safer to refer to it as a “banjo” in airport talk), and Shannon's expression on whistle and flute are tremendous. Occasionally, I've sometimes heard a bit of friction between traditional Irish instrument musicians and Irish singers, but when you see Shannon and Matt, you know the two sides of Irish music are a complete package.

    I apologize to all for not taking complete notes, but some of the songs they performed were “The Bird in the Bush,” “The Heartland,” “Lily of the West,” “Where the Moorcocks Crow,” “Giant of the Road,” and “Botany Bay.” I'm sure the rest will pop into my mind in the next few days as the tunes I just named are circulating in my mind.

    They were joined by Sam Zucchini of Saratoga environs playing the bodhrán. He masterfully added depth and Celtic authenticity.

    Then not once, but twice, the masterful story teller Bairbre McCarthy treated us to a story. The first was about a tinker on the Cork peninsula who heard a voice in a dream telling him to go the Ha'penny Bridge over the Liffey in Dublin. The second was about how Cuchulainn (The Hound of Ulster) got his name. Her magic transported us with words while the musicians added a touch of atmosphere.

    For the encore, all the musicians (and Nigel!) were on the stage at once. We will have the memories of that wonderful blend to hold us over until they return.

    More about these fine artists is available at:

    Matt and Shannon Heaton

    Hannah Sanders

    Liz Simmons

    Bairbre McCarthy

    Bairbre McCarthy's Books

    Sam Zuchini
    More Irish Musicians in Shamrock Road blogs:

    - Brían Ó hAirt (Brian Hart)
    - Bernadette Nic Gabhann
    - Aoife Clancy
    - Matt and Shannon Heaton

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    Libyan Revolutionaries Apologize to Victims of IRA Bombings

    The Government of Free Libya announced an apology to lawyers representing almost 160 victims of Irish Republican Army (IRA) bombings for the Semtex supplied by Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi.

    The Government of Free Libya is an interim authority presently headquartered in the town of Benghazi in eastern Libya.

    Jason McCue from the London-based H2O Law, the firm which successfully sued four men over the 1998 Omagh bomb, speculated large amounts of Libyan supplied Semtex, which was unaccounted for after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, may be in the hands of dissident republican groups and even may have been used in the bomb which killed Officer Ronan Kerr last Saturday.

    Allegedly Irish IRA paramilitaries were trained in the 1970s in the Libyan desert.

    Families of those killed by IRA bombings involving Semtex or having other connections to Libya are planning to bring legal suits against the former Libyan foreign minister Moussa Koussa who recently defected from Libya and is now in Britain.

    The United States dropped financial sanctions on Monday against Moussa Koussa saying the move might encourage other senior aides to abandon Colonel Qaddafi, the country’s embattled leader.

    Meanwhile, in addition to the Irish victims of violence, Scottish authorities want to interview Moussa Koussa about the airplane bombing over Lockerbie in 1988 and other issues “in the next few days.”

    Read about Ronan Kerr here.

    Read more: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/libya-rebels-apologise-to-families-of-ira-victims-15138654.html#ixzz1InKnSzQE