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The great Galway 'busker war' of 2017!

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This is Emma.                                                                           

Emma’s a gem.

Emma and people like her add so much to the vibrancy of my city.

Throughout the year, she’s a huge hit with tourists and locals alike. She takes up her spot at the top of High Street, puts on a backing track, and dances to the best of Irish music.

Shoppers take a break to enjoy her superb skills as a traditional Irish dancer, while visitors soak up this perfect taste of the vibrant native culture in Galway.

A few yards up the street, more visitors are captivated by the Galway Street Club. A ‘raggle-taggle’ collection of performers from all over the world, they entertain the masses for free on Shop Street and their act has become so successful that they are now invited to play decent-sized venues all over Ireland.

When they are not pumping out the sounds outside Eason’s, their perch is often taken up by James.

Gifted with a voice akin to Luke Kelly, one of his sessions on the street …

No poppy for the innocent victims

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For an Irish footballer who lives in England, it’s a source of annual abuse. 

For An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, it’s become a new cause for
derision.

And for a small, but brave number of high-profile people in Britain, including Channel 4 presenter Jon Snow, not wearing one is a courageous statement in the face of a wave of xenophobia and jingoistic nationalism.

The red poppy.

Is it right to wear one on Remembrance Sunday?

And is it ever right for an Irish person to wear a symbol which honours the members of the British Army?

An Taoiseach broke new ground when he became the first Irish leader to brandish a poppy in the Dail this week.

It hardly came as a huge surprise, given that this is the leader who tweeted about remembering “where he was when Princess Diana died” on the day two homeless people passed away on the streets of Dublin.

The Irish people clearly have a very problematic history with the British Army, even though more than 200,000 men and women from this island served with…

Why do the Irish denigrate the truth-seekers?

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In Ireland, we tend to denigrate and ridicule those who seek out the truth or shine light on our darkness.                                             
It’s as though the mirror they hold up to Irish society is too ugly to witness, too painful to face up to, so that it’s easier to assassinate their characters than to acknowledge their search for justice.
Take Jonathan Sugarman.
There are restaurants in Dublin who refuse to accept a reservation upon hearing his name. There are pubs where he’d be shunned, seen as a pariah, if he joined the great and the good as they let their hair down on a Friday night.
Because, for the vast majority of Irish bankers, the party has never stopped.
Why would they disown him? His only ‘crime’ has been to do his job properly and to tell us the truth.
When I spoke to him this week, ten years had passed since he did the right thing, at enormous cost to his finances, his career, and his mental health.
An Israeli citizen living and working in Ireland, he thought he w…

Lessons learned since taking redundancy

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Just over three years ago, I found myself in a terrible place. The company I worked for was in serious difficulty, my industry in turmoil, and I was offered an opportunity which seemed like a poisoned chalice at the time. Voluntary redundancy? After more than 22 years in the newspaper industry, I was so fearful of change, even if there had always been a wanderlust and a desire to explore new horizons running through my adult life.                                                 

I had even taken a gap year in 2010 which opened me up to a whole new world. Diving in tropical waters off the coast of south-west Thailand or helping out at an educational project in Nicaragua provided wonderful experiences and rich spiritual rewards, but hardly offered the security and material comfort most human beings crave.

Our own history of famine, eviction, and emigration has given Irish people an understandable sense of anxiety about the need to forge out comfortable lifestyles – there are surely dee…

Debasing the prize

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“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

In his bleak vision of a totalitarian future, conjured up long before the era of social media and “fake news”, George Orwell depicted with alarming prescience the way in which war could be used to debase the English language.                                               

In his dystopian novel, 1984, Orwell did not want to depict his central character, Winston Smith, as a hero, but rather an unfortunate victim who dares to question a terrible system in which language has been twisted far beyond its original meaning.

Political life in Western Europe may not have turned out exactly as Orwell predicted – those who question the authorities are generally not “vaporised” or forced to disappear from sight in 2017 – and yet he would be impressed by the 21st century vocabulary of war.

“How could freedom be slavery or war be peace?” a modern reader might ask.

And yet when you look at terms like “friendly fire”, “carpet bombing”, or “c…

Deported - for trying to bear witness to degradation

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Have a look at this picture of four Irish people arriving back to Dublin after being deported from an international airport. Do they look like terrorists, subversives, or a threat to the State?

Their “crime” was to attempt to pay a visit to one of the most troubled regions on the planet, in order to bear witness to the terrible reality of daily life for ordinary people on the ground.

They didn’t travel with hatred in their hearts or violent intentions, but to listen to ordinary people and the charities who work among them, show solidarity, and learn from those living and working in a conflict zone.

There was a time when Northern Ireland was a “no-go area” for tourists. If you went to Belfast, according to the prevailing wisdom of the time, you probably needed your head examined.

Nobody ever went there unless they had family or business reasons.

In the early 1990s, I was among a small group of journalists who spent a few days exploring the delights of the beautiful Co Antrim coastline …

At least Leo remembers where he was ... !

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If you want to see how modern Ireland works, take a look at the media coverage of the devastating floods across India, Bangladesh, and Nepal last week and contrast them with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Florida.                                                    

It may have escaped your attention that more than 1,200 people died in South Asia last week, with more than 40 million affected by the severe flooding, but you would never know that if you received all your news from mainstream Irish media.

In Florida, two people had died as of late Monday night, but you heard a lot more about the hurricane in the US than the 18,000 schools which were destroyed or damaged in South Asia, leaving 1.8 million children unable to attend their classes.

It’s quite clear that some lives are far more important – and worthy of reportage – than others.

And that’s just the way President Donald Trump wants you to think, as he and elements of the media divide the world into “us” and “them” while pla…