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Archive for the category “Irish politics”

Granda and Me

For the year and the month that’s in it, I thought this deserves another outing…

Granda and Me

Granda had a ‘thing’ about the church — he was excommunicated during the Irish War of Independence for carrying a gun and that turned his head. Even though Bishop Harty took him back to the fold afterwards and blessed him and everything, Granda never went back spiritually. He just went through the motions.

At Mass, I used watch his Einstein head from the choir gallery, his mind in another world, rising, kneeling and sitting with the flow of congregation. He came without prayer book or beads and sometimes fell asleep, even snored, during fire and brimstone sermons.

Granda seldom mentioned religion, which was kind of taboo in our house. If it did come up in conversation, he’d point to the picture of St. Patrick which hung above the radio in the kitchen and calmly say,
“D’you see that man up there who’s staring down at you? Your own patron saint? Well it’s that man’s followers who dug Ireland’s grave and put the stake in her heart to make sure she was dead and would never rise again.”
I saw grown men and women flee from our house in horror after hearing Granda’s revisionist theories on our patron saint and the men in black who came in his wake.

The picture of Saint Patrick was ever-present and I think it hung on the wall as a prop for Granda’s theories, sort of like a wanted poster. Sitting, eating or doing homework at the table, you couldn’t escape the Saint’s gaze as he stood on the sea-shore in bad weather, rage in his eyes, crosier raised and vestments flapping. At his feet were scores of wriggling snakes, squirming from Erin with their lives. It was a nightmarish sight.
“But what about the snakes?” I asked Granda one day.
“There were no snakes. All that snakes stuff is pure propaganda.”
Proper gander to my young ears, a polite way of saying total bullshit.

Saint Patrick came to the fore at school some months later when Brother Liston announced it was time to practise our Irish hymns, the National Holiday was coming round the bend. There was a big cheer in class, because we loved to sing. It was an easy way to pass the time and the noise we generated blocked the wind and rain and raised our tender young hearts. We could build up great steam with a hymn, belting out Latin words that meant nothing to us. When we got really cooking Brother Liston would light a few candles, put them in front of the statue of Our Lady, close his eyes and conduct the choir with a pencil. Sometimes we sang for hours, candles would expire and the smell of burning wax would bring Brother Liston back from Heaven. Then we’d finish with a rousing march that went—We stand for God, And for his Glory.

We had hymns for all season — requiems, High Mass, Benediction, Novenas, Rosaries, plain chant, hymns for the conversion of Russia, Easter specials, Christmas carols, but Saint Patrick’s melodies were the oddest. Unlike the others, they were mostly in Irish and so we understood the words. But that in turn opened another can of maggots when I deduced that one of the hymns was a plea to Saint Patrick to give us hope. I didn’t realize we were hopeless until then. It seemed something was going on that I knew nothing about. There was no point in discussing my anxiety with Brother Liston so I mentioned it to Granda one Lenten evening over a supper of kippered herrings and brown bread. He asked me to sing a snatch of the hymn, which I did:
Give us hope, Glorious Saint Patrick,
Great Liberator of Ireland,
Soul of brightness and joy,
You who vanquished the druids,
Dark hearted pagans of no good.

The song freaked Granda. He reeled from the table like he was shot. It was all wrong, he flared, it was propaganda. And what’s all this tripe about the druids, he asked, the druids were fine people, very learned and wise. And what was all this about the liberation of Ireland, he cried, sure it’s the Church that oppressed us. Jesus Christ, he moaned that’s the worst piece of propaganda I’ve heard in years. And worser still, it’s being drummed into the heads of children. My mother told him to shut up. His eyes glazed and he shook his wild head of wild white hair and muttered,
“That song is heresy. Pure unadulterated heresy. If the druids were around today, we’d be a lot better off.”
I didn’t know what heresy was, but I knew it was serious and after that I held back on the song at choir practice. Brother Liston twigged my reluctance to sing and stood beside me, his ear a foot from my mouth. Louder, he muttered. I obliged. Louder, he growled giving me a pinch on the ear. I skidded out of key and he hit me a fierce clatter across the head and knocked me out of my desk.

That year, a new curate called Father Malachy organized the first ever Saint Patrick’s Day parade in our parish. It was a small affair that started outside the church after last Mass and trailed through the street, ending at the Protestant Church on the other end of town. The parade was led by a fife and drum band from a place called Bunwanny, a bedraggled lot in kilts and black tunics, they were famous for the amount they drank and they made an awful sound. Behind them marched a company of soldiers without guns, followed by our civil defence corp—the men from the firebrigade, then Bogie Molloy leading a pack of greyhounds. Next came a couple of floats—coal and sand trucks decked with green ribbons, carrying dancers, footballers and local characters.

We had no experience with parades and wondered what to do as it passed. Should we cheer like they did in America? Heckle like we did politicians? Or join in behind Willie Daly’s pony troupe? We joined in. The whole street joined in: shouting and cheering like a crowd of jail breakers, we marched behind Daly’s team of ponies. The town hadn’t seen so much jubilation since the night Bogie’s greyhound won a big race in Shelbourne Park.

Afterwards, Brother Liston corralled us into the parochial hall to sing hymns for the annual old folks party. We sang well, got sweets and green jelly for our efforts and were allowed to stay for the sing-song. Granda was there, a big sprig of shamrock in his cap. He had drink taken and no sooner were we finished with our hymns than he stood up, dragged Murt Hynes, (who sat beside him) to his feet and announced that they were going to sing.
They sang a rebel song, Down By The Glenside. They were old soldiers and never missed a chance to put things in perspective. Brother Liston smiled but didn’t join in the chorus like everyone else. I sang like a lark,
“Glory-oh, glory-oh, to the bold Fenian men.”
After that performance, when the clapping died down, Aggie Marrinan began to croon in a soft voice,
“The night was dark and the fight was over,
The moon shone down on O’Connell Street.”

Everyone sang and the mood had shifted from a religious one to a patriotic one. I was beginning to notice there were different layers to Saint Patrick’s Day. Some had nothing to do with the saint, as far as I could see. It was an occasion to open the valve and let it all out. You could be as Irish as you liked and feel good about it. You could put away the Halloween costume for a day.
Granda was asked to sing again and he obliged with an emigration song which began “On the dock the ship is anchored…” and had a line in the chorus that went — “Three leaf Shamrock I adore thee.”
That started a spate of shamrock songs and then Brother Liston took the limelight and sang a quasi-religious ballad called “Dear Little Shamrock.”
He had a quivering tenor voice, a trained voice, as Aggie Marrinan would say, and his performance was unsettling. Old timers shuffled their feet under the tables, cutlery fell on the floor, chairs creaked. He finished on a high tension note that lasted for half a minute or more, but before anyone could applaud, Granda thumped the table, staggered to his feet and shouted,
“Propaganda! Propaganda!” at the startled Christian Brother.
Cronies pulled at Granda and whispered,
“Sit down Ned. Take it easy.”
John Gallery muttered to me,
“Jesus, your grandfather will be arrested.”
Granda wagged his finger at the monk and shouted,
“Don’t hijack the shamrock, ye did it once but ye won’t do it again!”
The party delved into confusion. People shouted, staggered, chairs overturned, Father Malachy appealed for calm. Aggie Marrinan seized the moment and thumped out “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” on the piano. But they weren’t, they were just cockeyed with drink and anarchy.

Granda was taken home by Coyne the butcher and later that night Father Malachy came to the house to see how he was. In bed, my mother said, opening the door three inches. He didn’t rise for two days and when he did, mother ignored him.
Back at school Brother Liston looked at me strangely and didn’t ask me anything for days, kept out of my space. My mother’s intuition told her he was planning to give me a trouncing for Granda’s indiscretions. She suggested that Granda write an apology to the monk and when he made no attempt to, she wrote one herself. I brought the note to school with me and planned to give it to Liston at the eleven o’clock break, as discreetly as possible.
The note gave me a sense of security, like a holy medal or a drop of Lourdes water is said to give. But then when I wasn’t expecting it, Brother Liston pounced. It was Catechism class and he asked me to prove the existence of God. My proof didn’t even convince me. It was curtains.
“Come up here you pagan,” squalled Brother Liston, beckoning me up to the front of the class for public execution.
“Put out your hand and take it like a man,” he ordered.
I did, and with every blow wanted to scream ‘propaganda’ at the panting monk. He belted me until I cried, not with hurt but with rage. Then he gave me two clips across the face for good measure and said,
“You better learn the Proof of the Existence of God by tomorrow or you’ll get twice the hiding. Pagans aren’t welcome in my class.”

Back at the desk I sat on my hands to ease the searing pain. My cheeks blazed as if they’d been branded with a red-hot cattle iron and I hung my head in shame as the Christian Brother ridiculed me and my family in front of the class. I think that was the day I became totally disillusioned with God, St. Patrick, Rome, vocations, teachers and men in dark clothes.
Mid-morning break came, time to slip Liston the note. As I walked towards him, something older than me muttered inside my head, “don’t bother”. I hurried past the sneering holy man and went straight to the toilet, locked myself into a stall, tore the note into tiny pieces and scattered them into the bowl. I pulled the chain and rang out the bells of hell again and again until a torrent of monastery water washed away my poor mother’s plea in a hundred pieces. No apology, no surrender. That’s the way Granda would have done it.


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THE WEST


Arthur’s Day: Letter to Arthur Diageo

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Hey Arthur, can I have a word with you? There a few things I’d like to get outta my mind, things that have been troubling me for a while.

You’re a grabber Arthur, you never have enough, and now you want us to celebrate a special day in your honour. You’d like us all to get pissed, puke, fight, crash, hurt our loved ones and abuse those who care for us — just so you can fill your till. It’s bad enough that St. Patrick’s Day is a global piss-up. Fuck you Arthur, we’re not gonna do that shit any more, you’re king of the gombeens and you’ve taken us on a drunken ride for way too long.

flagAnd while I have your ear, Arthur, I’d like to say a few words about the Harp. That was your first grab, you took our national symbol…people marched behind that harp, people died for that harp. And you put it on your brew, giving the impression that porter was our national drink and that it was part and parcel of our make up, our psyche. We fell for that one, fell on the floor, down the stairs to the gates of hell.

You got a lot of nerve, Arthur and you gotta lot to answer for. Like, you’ve made fools of us for centuries, made advertising goons of us in the process. And fuck you Arthur, you hijacked our culture and took our brightest and our best. You made a show of Behan, Kavanagh and Myles. Put your pint in the middle of our music, with The Dubliners and The Chieftains too. ‘Fine girl you are!’ and all that carry-on. You said Guinness was good for us, but that wasn’t true, Arthur, though you didn’t care.

You’re a savvy one, you were way ahead of Don Draper, I’ll give you that. After using the music, you moved on to the GAA. Choice of champions? Have you any shame, Arthur? Didn’t think so. And I hear you’re sponsoring an Arts show on the radio. Time to change the station on that one…

So Arthur, before I go, let me tell you the Irish have moved on. Many of us won’t be celebrating your Arthur’s Day this year. It’s a scam to fill your coffers, and you don’t care about the damage done. We’re sick and tired of you hi-jacking our culture, making slaves and fools of us. Sorry Arthur, we don’t love you anymore. We’ve discovered that a pint of rain is your only man.

Eddie Stack



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Irish Diaspora: The Scattering & The Gathering

51skBtRrXBL._SS500_Back in the late 1990s, Dermot McMahon, a Clare businessman had an idea to put together a book about the county’s emigrants. Called The Scattering, the book tracked 78 emigrants and sent a team of photographers around the globe to snap them in their adopted environment. In 2000, the late President Hillary launched The Scattering at Shannon Airport. It was a fitting and poignant venue, as most had left home from there.
A few of those featured in the book were back for the launch, including Martin Hayes and myself. There was much hand shaking and curious looks from well wishers. There was music, tea and sandwiches and the proceedings were broadcast live on ClareFM. I remember having quiet chat with Martin and we recalled the first time we left SNN and wondered how many more times we would walk under the departures sign. I figured we were the last generation that would leave, emigration was at a standstill and Ireland was doing well…

I was wrong, very wrong. Fast-forward a decade and Ireland had boomed, burst, was on the ropes, reeling from shocking changes. The country was in crisis — financially, politically, spiritually and culturally. The Irish were emigrating again and everyone was broke.

To help the country out of the fix, in July 2009 the government convened The Global Irish Economic Forum at Farmleigh House in Dublin and invited the brightest Irish minds and others who had a Midas touch. It was the brainchild of David McWilliams, enfant terrible of economists and author of a few books on Ireland’s rise to fall. One of the elements that came to the fore most strongly in Farmleigh was the ‘potential for leveraging our cultural identity in support of economic regeneration‘. With this in mind, on March 2, 2010, Taoiseach Brian Cowan appointed Gabriel Byrne as the first Cultural Ambassador for Ireland. Probably Cowan’s most enlightened decision, this was a pro bono job, with expenses and would be for three years.

gabeByrne was a popular choice at home and abroad, and he set to work immediately. He played a central role in Imagine Ireland, a year of Irish arts in America sponsored by Culture Ireland. He organised several events that explored Irish identity, including a retrospective of Irish films at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and a series of documentaries about Ireland at the Lincoln Center. The Irish government invested €4 million in Imagine Ireland. Byrne did background work as well — he spoke with studios and filmmakers about making films in Ireland, and with Liam Neeson he produced ‘James X’, a play by Mannix Flynn about clerical sexual abuse in Ireland. By this time, Ireland had a change of government and when the new Taoiseach, Enda Kenny had harsh words for the Vatican, Mr. Byrne praised him for his courageous stance.

government1In June 2011, while Imagine Ireland was making waves in the US, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs announced that Certificate of Irishness would be available to applicants in the autumn. It was estimated that there were 70 million people of Irish heritage scattered all over the globe and the certificate would be a moneymaker. It would be aimed at those whose Irish ancestry went back beyond their grandparents, those Irish who are not eligible for an Irish passport. The new identification would grant them special tourist and travel deals as well as being a concrete acknowledgment of their Irish heritage. FEXCO, a Kerry-based company would provide the certs in association with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

While we were digesting this news, wondering would the idea fly or flop, a bigger announcement was made. At the Global Irish Economic Forum in July 2011, Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar unveiled The Gathering and told us that: “The Gathering will be a year-long program of events, festivals and fun designed to bring record numbers of visitors…an invitation to the world to come and join in Ireland’s renewal.” (Renewal, Leo? Remember what happened to the last New Ireland?)

The Gathering was predicted to generate an extra $399 million for the Irish economy and would cost $5 million. With an 80 to 1 payback, the government was home and dry. Every town and village in Ireland would be asked to participate in the events, aimed primarily at the Irish Diaspora, as well as people with an interest in the country. Fáilte Ireland CEO Shaun Quinn said, “There are a lot of people with Irish connections or a fondness for Ireland who have a vague plan to get here some time — we want to light a fire under them and get them here in 2013.” (Right Shaun, you mean burn them…even before they arrive?)

TradFest And so the show was on the road. The Irish Diaspora was the market and Irish-America was the main target. It’s not known if the mandarins in Dublin had any contact with the Irish Cultural Ambassador, Mr. Byrne about the project. As the year wore on, we heard that: ‘The Gathering is the people’s party. It will kick off in spectacular style at the New Year’s Eve Festival in Dublin and will be celebrated through gatherings of the people and Ireland’s major festivals during 2013.’ (WTF? The people’s party? And the country up to its nose in debt? Was this some sort of ‘pack up your troubles and smile, smile, smile’ routine?)

Gabriel Byrne’s resignation as Ireland’s Cultural Ambassador was a surprise. In an interview with The Irish Times on December 11, 2011, he announced that he was stepping down at Christmas. He had been almost two years in the job and said,
“I just don’t have the time between my career and that.”

The Minister for Arts, Jimmy Deenihan said Byrne made “an outstanding contribution to the country” in his role. “His inspirational leadership of Imagine Ireland is helping to restore Ireland’s reputation at a critical time, breaking new ground for the next generation of Irish artists and helping them to find new audiences for their work in the US…The doors he has helped to open for Ireland and Irish artists in America this year offer huge opportunities for the years to come.”
That was the last we heard about Gabriel for a while.

The Gathering preparations went full steam ahead in 2012. Jim Miley, former general secretary of Fine Gael, was appointed as Program Director on a €168,000 salary. An ad agency was commissioned to spread the word and ads began to appear like spring snowdrops in newspapers and magazines that might be picked up by The Diaspora. On the ground, communities were encouraged and cajoled to create events, invite long-lost cousins home from Texas. 2013 would be The Year of The Irish. We were told that the world was coming to Ireland and urged to be a ‘part of it.’ Discover Ireland crooned: “Irish roots. Tall tales. A love of everything about the Emerald Isle, from Molly Malone to fields of green. Whatever the reason, come to our fair land for The Gathering 2013 and you’ll be part of something special.” (Something special? A heat wave?)

The first time I saw The Gathering logo I was reminded of a light show at a Mr. Floppy rave in San Francisco, late 1980’s. I thought the thing was alive and quickly looked away. But it became ubiquitous. The online edition of The Irish Times had several on its home page, same with other publications. Using this retro-techno version of our sacred triple spiral as a branding tool is distasteful at the very least…it may not bode well for The Gathering. Bad vibes from the ancients…
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The Gathering campaign was officially launched in the US on September 22, 2012. Táiniste Eamonn Gilmore and Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar came to New York to do the honours and to give out a few Certificates of Irishness. Irish-America was invited back to Ireland for a big hooley. You could come anytime of the year, it didn’t matter because the Irish were up for the craic 24/7. There was no sign of the former Cultural Ambassador at the event. And the bad news about the Certificate of Irishness was kept under wraps. In one year, just over 1,000 of the potential 70 million clients had forked out €40 to have a framed computer generated page on their wall. Did the government get it wrong about the Diaspora? Is the Diaspora smarter than the government thinks?

During the run up to the American Presidential election, TodayFM was broadcasting The Last Word with Matt Cooper live from New York. On November 5th, Gabriel Byrne was a guest on the show and dropped a few bombs. He said The Gathering was ‘a scam’, a ‘shakedown’ of the Irish Diaspora. Talking about his work as Cultural Ambassador, Byrne went on to say the he was “really disappointed the way all those contacts, all that hard work was just dropped and it really made me disillusioned and disappointed with this Government who go on about their love for culture, for arts and actually really don’t give a toss about it.”
The former Cultural Ambassador had gone rogue.

The Government and The Gathering heads and the tourist handlers went nuts. Project director Jim Miley denied the plan was a shakedown, and said while Byrne was “a man we all know and love, and he has his opinions — they are one man’s opinions”. Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar said: “the response to the Gathering has been really great in America” and then described Byrne as “popular with women of a certain age group” (WTF, Leo?) TD Michael Ring called Byrne ‘unpatriotic’. The only politician who came to Gabriel’s defense was President Michael D Higgins. He said Byrne was a “magnificent Irish person” who merely wants the Government’s flagship tourism initiative – which he branded a ‘scam’ – to have a deeper connection to the diaspora. Then somebody leaked Byrne’s expenses to The Irish Times. During his term, Gabe chalked up €15,845 for hotels, flights and chauffeurs. So what? He was doing the digging for free. I know a former county councillor who ran up twice that amount in a year and all he did was go to cattle marts and funerals. The expenses ‘leak’ overshadowed news that the government was pumping another $5 million into the The Gathering.

Byrne’s comments about The Gathering were widely reported. They struck a chord, both with the Irish at home and abroad and people began to wonder about this yearlong celebration. They frowned at the ads. The campaign seemed on the sick side of slick. The photos looked odd. We were being branded. Mad men showing the world what we were not like. This was the ‘Renewal’ that Leo mentioned. Discover Ireland horsing out crap such as “Gather ’round everyone – time to talk about The Gathering. C’mere and we’ll let you in on something. We’re planning something big. BIG big.” (oh Sweet Jesus…)

The Gathering organisers are active in social media and recently a picture of a Gathering ‘trad music session’ went viral among Irish musicians. It was a cheese-smile photo, clearly staged by models and day runners. There was not a genuine musician among them. How they held the instruments showed they were from Central Casting. Although The Gathering has given funding to the Willie Clancy School and other worthwhile events, it has already riled musicians and artists.

A recent thread on Twitter about the year-long celebration brought mostly negative comments —
“Gathering feels like a grubby moneymaking racket. We’re citizens, not commodities.”
“it seems like we’re pimping out our heritage and pimping off the emigrants.” “I don’t like how the politicians are promoting it.”
“the campaign is embarrassing and outdated. This event has no connection to either Ireland or the diaspora.”
“Anybody returning for the gathering is an idiot as it shows they support the morons running this country.”
Hmmmm…

Being still part of The Scattering, I came home to Ireland for Christmas. The Delta flight from JFK to Dublin was full and almost all were ex-pats. These were part of The Scattering, a much different tribe from those expected to attend the Gathering. Entering the arrivals hall in Dublin I felt a gush of welcome. Hundreds of smiling faces, everyone there to welcome Paddy and Biddy home. A boombox played Fairytale in New York, some sang along and a guy waved a sign that read GODOT. Screams of joy and hugs and kisses, nobody has a welcome for their own like the Irish. If only The Gathering could bottle that, the Yanks would never leave.

When I got home, junk mail about the Gathering was there before me. Every house in Ireland received the same. The photos were frightening — models with horse teeth smiles and the mind altering logo spattered everywhere like bird shit. One piece included two postcards invitations which we were encouraged to mail ‘to a friend or loved one overseas to come and visit Ireland in 2013’. All one had to do was affix a stamp and drop in the mail. The mailer said ‘It’s up to you.’ so I hung it on the wall to bulk up the Christmas cards.
Taoiseach---Tanaiste-launch-The-Gathering-Ireland-

Last night a few of the lads came to my place for a session. It was stormy and wet and I had a good fire blazing. We sat around and played tunes for a while, then drank tea and chatted about gigs and stuff like that. Sneezer frowned at The Gathering card over the hearth and said,
“Every house I’ve been to over the Christmas has these shagging cards on the wall like fugging Post-it Notes.”
“I’ve them on the wall too,” admitted Murphy, “I got no Christmas cards this year. Email has fucked all that up.”
“I can’t think of anyone to send them to,” I said.
“Me neither,” sighed Murphy, “I was half-thinkin’ of sending one to the ex, but she might take it up wrong…”
We were silent for a while and then Sneezer took flight.
“It’s a pity that poor ol’ Hunter Thompson passed away,” he said. “If he were alive, I’d arrange that hundreds of invites were sent to him. Hundreds. You know, do a lil’ fundraiser for the postage. I mean, it’s up to us…and the government want the world to come to Ireland, why not invite Hunter? He loved a good party and was always up for the craic. He’d stay for the whole year,so he would. Hunter’d light plenty fires, drink whiskey, back horses, buy drugs, make loud noises, shoot his AK47 at stop signs, lop a few grenades here and there and frighten the crap out of politicians and civil servants. They’d probably deport him, you know…but he would make The Gathering a memorable one.”
Murphy nodded and said,
“Maybe Hunter would be the only one that showed up. I’m getting worried that nobody is posting these fuckin’ cards to anyone.”
Me too.



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Pure Clare — the Flanagan side of my family

My great-grandmother was Máire Ní Ríada, from Moher, in West Clare and she married Pádraig Flanagan from the hamlet of Barr Trá on the other side of Liscannor Bay. The O’Ríadas were a musical family, as were the Flanagans, and both were staunch Irish speakers. At that time, there were seven Flanagan families in Barr Trá and their ‘taoiseach’ was Murt Mór, Pádraig’s father. They were a tight knit clan, fishermen and small farmers, black haired and genteel, and partial to fun and sport. They were cynically called the ‘Barr Trá Gentry’ by their English overlords, who they refused to kowtow to.

Pádraig and Máire’s wedding took place at her house in Moher, and seven currachs of Flanagans rowed across the bay for the celebrations. They came ashore in Clahane, a mile or so from the O’Ríada house. Other guests walked the 10 miles by road to get there. The Barr Trá Flanagans were related to the Doolin Flanagans (also musicians) who were there in force and the wedding must have looked like a meeting of the clans. The celebration was said to have lasted two days and nights with much music and dance, songs and stories.

When it was time to return to Barr Trá, the sea was choppy and the Flanagans stood at the shore in Clahane and looked out at the breaking swell, near where the sunken village of Killstiofín lay. Men spoke in whispers and Murt Mór pulled a fistful of grass from the ground and tossed the blades in the air to see how the wind was blowing. North east and swirling. Not great weather for being on the sea. The sky was darkening and they decided to and make a dash across the bay. They figured it would be safer for the women and the older men to walk home along the coast road and Máire blessed her husband and watched the currachs launching. The crowd waited on the shore at Clahane until the boats had ploughed through the breakers and into the open sea. They said prayers for their safety and walked up to the road and headed for home.

By the time the group had reached the village of Liscannor, it was raining hard and they couldn’t see beyond the breakers. They proceeded to Lahinch, and took the cliff road to Barr Trá. It was a slow walk, hampered by wind and rain. Every now and then they looked out to sea, but there was no visibility. It was dark when they reached home, the men had not arrived, and the village worried.

The Barr Trá people built a bonfire on a height above the shore to guide the currachs to safety. They doused it with kerosene and the flames danced wild in the wind. The women looked to sea and said prayers for the seafarers. Old Murt Mór and his friends smoked pipes and muttered. They knew it was a terrible night to be on the sea and they feared the worst.

Four hours passed before the first currach came ashore. The shattered boatmen brought tales of mountainous seas and the dreaded reefs of Killstiofín. It was their fear that the sunken village would rise from the depths and take them down, as was known to happen back then. They said the currachs were scattered like the Spanish Armada and they had lost sight of the others. More prayers were said and more turf was fed to the bonfire.

One by one, five more currachs arrived with drenched and weary men who said they had never been on a sea so wild. Then there was a lull, and hope was fading for the safety of Pádraig and his men. By dawn the sea had calmed, and a black speck was seen way out in the ocean. At last Pádraig made the shore with his crew, after nearly 12 hours at sea. The men were hugged and blessed and Pádraig took my grandmother to her new home. She boiled the kettle while he undressed and dried himself. She was going to make tea, but Pádraig got a bottle of poitín from a cupboard, so she made hot punch instead. He said he was saving that bottle until he had something to celebrate, and today was the day.

The newly weds were still in bed that night when the Strawboys came rapping at their door. It was party time again, and Barr Trá lit up for a mardi gras. There were celebrations to welcome the new bride, and to thank the sea for not taking the 20 and more Flanagan men who had gone to bring her home.

Barr Trá by Phillip Morrison

Pádraig and Máire had eight children, of which seven survived into adulthood. My grandmother Susan was the youngest and played fiddle and concertina. True to her roots, she became an active member of Cumann na mBán during the War of Independence. After the Rineen Ambush on 22 September 1920, the Black and Tans burned the town of Lahinch, including the Flanagan house on Main Street. Susan’s boyfriend Mick Lehane, a local IRA commander who was wounded at Rineen, and her sister Bridget perished in the blaze. Susan escaped through a hail of bullets, and was declared an enemy of the Crown for her part in the aiding the IRA and more. She went on the run and months later, arrived in Philadelphia in Feburary, 1921. From there she went to New York where three of her sisters lived and became active in the Biddy Earlys, the Clare branch of Cumman na mBan in NY. She told me that for years afterwards, she woke up with nightmares of that horrific night of The Burning.

The Golf Hotel, Lahinch —where British Army officers stayed and played. It was mysteriously burned down in the 1950s.

Susan returned to Ireland with Sinéad de Valera after the Treaty. She arrived home to the Civil War and seeing old friends shoot at each other disillusioned her. She wanted to go back to New York, but her mother pleaded with her to stay. She did, and got married a few years afterwards. Thirty years or so later I was born in West Clare, her first grandchild and the fourth great-grandchild of Pádraig and Máire Flanagan.

A few years ago, my son Aindrias was playing at an Irish trad session in Sydney, Australia. The session was led by an accordion player from Moy, near Barr Trá, an older man who didn’t take to easily to strangers joining his gig. When he left down the accordion to get a drink, Aindrias played a few tunes on the fiddle that he had learned from me, tunes I got from my grandmother Susan. After he finished, the accordion player cried, “Hey! I know who you are now! You’re Flanagan from Barr Trá!”
Aindrias carries their music and their dark looks. Goes to show you can’t beat breeding, as they say in West Clare.

I heard the story of my great-grandparents wedding and the aftermath from the late Micheal Flanagan, from near Spanish Point, who was from one of the seven Flanagan families of Barr Trá. It came back to me during the week and I thought it better to write it down before it left my mind again.


images courtesy of Clare County Library and Phillip Morrison


Books by Eddie Stack

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St Patrick’s Day Story: Granda and me

couldn’t let the day pass by without posting something…dig the graphix…have a great 17th everyone

Granda and Me

Granda had a ‘thing’ about the church — he was excommunicated during the Irish War of Independence for carrying a gun and that turned his head. Even though Bishop Harty took him back to the fold afterwards and blessed him and everything, Granda never went back spiritually. He just went through the motions.

At Mass, I used watch his Einstein head from the choir gallery, his mind in another world, rising, kneeling and sitting with the flow of congregation. He came without prayer book or beads and sometimes fell asleep, even snored, during fire and brimstone sermons.

Granda seldom mentioned religion, which was kind of taboo in our house. If it did come up in conversation, he’d point to the picture of St. Patrick which hung above the radio in the kitchen and calmly say,
“D’you see that man up there who’s staring down at you? Your own patron saint? Well it’s that man’s followers who dug Ireland’s grave and put the stake in her heart to make sure she was dead and would never rise again.”
I saw grown men and women flee from our house in horror after hearing Granda’s revisionist theories on our patron saint and the men in black who came in his wake.

The picture of Saint Patrick was ever-present and I think it hung on the wall as a prop for Granda’s theories, sort of like a wanted poster. Sitting, eating or doing homework at the table, you couldn’t escape the Saint’s gaze as he stood on the sea-shore in bad weather, rage in his eyes, crosier raised and vestments flapping. At his feet were scores of wriggling snakes, squirming from Erin with their lives. It was a nightmarish sight.
“But what about the snakes?” I asked Granda one day.
“There were no snakes. All that snakes stuff is pure propaganda.”
Proper gander to my young ears, a polite way of saying total bullshit.

Saint Patrick came to the fore at school some months later when Brother Liston announced it was time to practise our Irish hymns, the National Holiday was coming round the bend. There was a big cheer in class, because we loved to sing. It was an easy way to pass the time and the noise we generated blocked the wind and rain and raised our tender young hearts. We could build up great steam with a hymn, belting out Latin words that meant nothing to us. When we got really cooking Brother Liston would light a few candles, put them in front of the statue of Our Lady, close his eyes and conduct the choir with a pencil. Sometimes we sang for hours, candles would expire and the smell of burning wax would bring Brother Liston back from Heaven. Then we’d finish with a rousing march that went—We stand for God, And for his Glory.

We had hymns for all season — requiems, High Mass, Benediction, Novenas, Rosaries, plain chant, hymns for the conversion of Russia, Easter specials, Christmas carols, but Saint Patrick’s melodies were the oddest. Unlike the others, they were mostly in Irish and so we understood the words. But that in turn opened another can of maggots when I deduced that one of the hymns was a plea to Saint Patrick to give us hope. I didn’t realize we were hopeless until then. It seemed something was going on that I knew nothing about. There was no point in discussing my anxiety with Brother Liston so I mentioned it to Granda one Lenten evening over a supper of kippered herrings and brown bread. He asked me to sing a snatch of the hymn, which I did:
Give us hope, Glorious Saint Patrick,
Great Liberator of Ireland,
Soul of brightness and joy,
You who vanquished the druids,
Dark hearted pagans of no good.

The song freaked Granda. He reeled from the table like he was shot. It was all wrong, he flared, it was propaganda. And what’s all this tripe about the druids, he asked, the druids were fine people, very learned and wise. And what was all this about the liberation of Ireland, he cried, sure it’s the Church that oppressed us. Jesus Christ, he moaned that’s the worst piece of propaganda I’ve heard in years. And worser still, it’s being drummed into the heads of children. My mother told him to shut up. His eyes glazed and he shook his wild head of wild white hair and muttered,
“That song is heresy. Pure unadulterated heresy. If the druids were around today, we’d be a lot better off.”
I didn’t know what heresy was, but I knew it was serious and after that I held back on the song at choir practice. Brother Liston twigged my reluctance to sing and stood beside me, his ear a foot from my mouth. Louder, he muttered. I obliged. Louder, he growled giving me a pinch on the ear. I skidded out of key and he hit me a fierce clatter across the head and knocked me out of my desk.

That year, a new curate called Father Malachy organized the first ever Saint Patrick’s Day parade in our parish. It was a small affair that started outside the church after last Mass and trailed through the street, ending at the Protestant Church on the other end of town. The parade was led by a fife and drum band from a place called Bunwanny, a bedraggled lot in kilts and black tunics, they were famous for the amount they drank and they made an awful sound. Behind them marched a company of soldiers without guns, followed by our civil defence corp—the men from the firebrigade, then Bogie Molloy leading a pack of greyhounds. Next came a couple of floats—coal and sand trucks decked with green ribbons, carrying dancers, footballers and local characters.

We had no experience with parades and wondered what to do as it passed. Should we cheer like they did in America? Heckle like we did politicians? Or join in behind Willie Daly’s pony troupe? We joined in. The whole street joined in: shouting and cheering like a crowd of jail breakers, we marched behind Daly’s team of ponies. The town hadn’t seen so much jubilation since the night Bogie’s greyhound won a big race in Shelbourne Park.

Afterwards, Brother Liston corralled us into the parochial hall to sing hymns for the annual old folks party. We sang well, got sweets and green jelly for our efforts and were allowed to stay for the sing-song. Granda was there, a big sprig of shamrock in his cap. He had drink taken and no sooner were we finished with our hymns than he stood up, dragged Murt Hynes, (who sat beside him) to his feet and announced that they were going to sing.
They sang a rebel song, Down By The Glenside. They were old soldiers and never missed a chance to put things in perspective. Brother Liston smiled but didn’t join in the chorus like everyone else. I sang like a lark,
“Glory-oh, glory-oh, to the bold Fenian men.”
After that performance, when the clapping died down, Aggie Marrinan began to croon in a soft voice,
“The night was dark and the fight was over,
The moon shone down on O’Connell Street.”

Everyone sang and the mood had shifted from a religious one to a patriotic one. I was beginning to notice there were different layers to Saint Patrick’s Day. Some had nothing to do with the saint, as far as I could see. It was an occasion to open the valve and let it all out. You could be as Irish as you liked and feel good about it. You could put away the Halloween costume for a day.
Granda was asked to sing again and he obliged with an emigration song which began “On the dock the ship is anchored…” and had a line in the chorus that went — “Three leaf Shamrock I adore thee.”
That started a spate of shamrock songs and then Brother Liston took the limelight and sang a quasi-religious ballad called “Dear Little Shamrock.”
He had a quivering tenor voice, a trained voice, as Aggie Marrinan would say, and his performance was unsettling. Old timers shuffled their feet under the tables, cutlery fell on the floor, chairs creaked. He finished on a high tension note that lasted for half a minute or more, but before anyone could applaud, Granda thumped the table, staggered to his feet and shouted,
“Propaganda! Propaganda!” at the startled Christian Brother.
Cronies pulled at Granda and whispered,
“Sit down Ned. Take it easy.”
John Gallery muttered to me,
“Jesus, your grandfather will be arrested.”
Granda wagged his finger at the monk and shouted,
“Don’t hijack the shamrock, ye did it once but ye won’t do it again!”
The party delved into confusion. People shouted, staggered, chairs overturned, Father Malachy appealed for calm. Aggie Marrinan seized the moment and thumped out “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” on the piano. But they weren’t, they were just cockeyed with drink and anarchy.

Granda was taken home by Coyne the butcher and later that night Father Malachy came to the house to see how he was. In bed, my mother said, opening the door three inches. He didn’t rise for two days and when he did, mother ignored him.
Back at school Brother Liston looked at me strangely and didn’t ask me anything for days, kept out of my space. My mother’s intuition told her he was planning to give me a trouncing for Granda’s indiscretions. She suggested that Granda write an apology to the monk and when he made no attempt to, she wrote one herself. I brought the note to school with me and planned to give it to Liston at the eleven o’clock break, as discreetly as possible.
The note gave me a sense of security, like a holy medal or a drop of Lourdes water is said to give. But then when I wasn’t expecting it, Brother Liston pounced. It was Catechism class and he asked me to prove the existence of God. My proof didn’t even convince me. It was curtains.
“Come up here you pagan,” squalled Brother Liston, beckoning me up to the front of the class for public execution.
“Put out your hand and take it like a man,” he ordered.
I did, and with every blow wanted to scream ‘propaganda’ at the panting monk. He belted me until I cried, not with hurt but with rage. Then he gave me two clips across the face for good measure and said,
“You better learn the Proof of the Existence of God by tomorrow or you’ll get twice the hiding. Pagans aren’t welcome in my class.”

Back at the desk I sat on my hands to ease the searing pain. My cheeks blazed as if they’d been branded with a red-hot cattle iron and I hung my head in shame as the Christian Brother ridiculed me and my family in front of the class. I think that was the day I became totally disillusioned with God, St. Patrick, Rome, vocations, teachers and men in dark clothes.
Mid-morning break came, time to slip Liston the note. As I walked towards him, something older than me muttered inside my head, “don’t bother”. I hurried past the sneering holy man and went straight to the toilet, locked myself into a stall, tore the note into tiny pieces and scattered them into the bowl. I pulled the chain and rang out the bells of hell again and again until a torrent of monastery water washed away my poor mother’s plea in a hundred pieces. No apology, no surrender. That’s the way Granda would have done it.


Books by Eddie Stack

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THE WEST


The Warrior Carty: an Irish Christmas Story


I grew up in a small pub in the west of Ireland, where every market and fair day, a cadre of old IRA men held fort at the corner of the counter. Known as ‘The Boys’, they were our local heros, the men who fought the British at Rineen, Monreel, 81 Cross and other hotspots. I once saw a picture of them taken in 1919 and was struck by how young they seemed back then, they looked like boys who’d just left school.

After ‘The Boys’ had a few drinks, conversation turned to the ‘campaign’ and who did what and who didn’t do that. Sometimes it seemed there was unfinished business from the revolution being settled in the pub. One man, Murt Hynes, used thump the counter and my father would have to tell him to take it easy. In the late afternoon, Murt often challenged his mates to take up the cause again and ‘finish the job for once and for all.’ They stared at the floor in silence, finished their drinks and went home. Alone, Murt would sing a few rebel songs and then my mother made a plate of ham sandwiches to fortify him for the journey home.

The Warrior Carty is set on the day of a fair around Christmas time. The character is not directly based on any of ‘The Boys’, but I have always felt he was one of them.


The Warrior had enough of the Christmas fair and took cover in Looney’s bar. It was empty, dark and cold, still waiting to be strobed by the solstice sun.

“A harmless aul fair,” sniffled Bridgey, totting up his bill on a brown paper bag. “Four shillins for the Powers an’ three an’ sixpence for the bottle a porter…what’s that altogether?”

“Seven an’ six Bridgey,” said the Warrior, leaving three half crowns on the red formica counter. He settled them into a small pile. “Thanks Bridgey, and good luck to you.”

“The same to yourself…ahh, they have the country ruined…and everythin’ is so dear sure…”

“They have this poor country shagged, Bridgey. That’s about the size of it now.”

“‘Tis true for you…”

“And what’s more, the crowd that’s doin’ it never fired a shaggin’ shot in their life.”

“‘Tis true for you.”

“Anyways,” sighed the Warrior, flopping his arms in resignation, “give us another small whiskey.”

“Powers, wasn’t it? ”

“‘Twas…that’s the way now Bridgey. What kind of a Christmas are ye havin’ so far?”

“Yarrah…’tis quiet. Don’t you know yourself now. An’ sure today is the big day an’ can’t you see the way it is. Quiet, sure. You might rise a stir in it yourself above in the Square later on.”

“Not today, Bridgey.”

“No?”

“Not today, Bridgey,” the Warrior repeated, shaking his head, “but anyways, this is the overcoat I was tellin’ you about, the last day I here.”

She admired the dark crombie coat and listened to how he came upon it. And he was wearing the good blue suit, clean shirt, collar and tie. These he bought from the Pakistani hawker who came to Ennis every Saturday. That was another story, better left for another day, he said.

“Is there anyone dead belongin’ to you?” she asked.

“No, not that I know of, Bridgey,” he answered. “And I didn’t hear anything up the town. But there was a funeral this morn beyond in Maheramore, I s’pose you heard that. That poor Mrs. Canney was buried. Her son is married to a daughter of Paraffin Hogan’s.”

“Is that the boy that drives Blake’s lorry.”

“Now you have it.”

“That’s where Doran’s hearse must have been. It passed up the road a while ago.”

“I got a lift to town with them. ‘Twas my first time in a hearse and it won’t be my last, Bridgey.”

“‘Tis true for you.”

She smoked one of his cigarettes and put the pieces together. The Warrior was wearing his good clothes because of the funeral. He had a few drinks after filling the grave with Doran. That’s why he wasn’t going up to the Square, he had drink taken. He never drinks before going to the Square.
“Are you alright now for a while? I have to put down the dinner.”
“Sound as a bell Bridgey — but give us another half wan an’ a packet of plain cigarettes so I wont be botherin’ you.”

Bridgey peeled potatoes into a bowl by the kitchen fire.”That bar out there is freezin’,” she sniffled. If it got any colder she would have to get an oil heater. She could hear him stamp his feet to keep the blood running to his toes.

“Are you alright, Warrior?” she called, tapping on the bar window.

“Sound as a bell, Bridgey. The circulation.”

“I hope he don’t throw a turn,” she mumbled. It would be the talk of the country — The Warrior Carty to die in the only pub he was served in. The six other publicans in the town would not let his toe inside their doors but Bridgey saw no harm in him. He was persecuted by his own after he fought for them in the War of Independence and the Civil War. Later he went abroad and the misfortunate wretch got shell-shocked in some foreign war. That’s where the strange behavior comes from, like the exhibition above in the Square. “God help us,” she sighed and added an extra potato to the pot.

The usual crowd gathered in the Square before midday and waited for the Warrior Carty. This was the highpoint of their fair — to see and cheer this robust man lift a cart-wheel, which was as big and as heavy as himself, and balance it on the hub of his chin while the Angelus bells rang out. It was an extraordinary feat and he performed it at every fair, hail, rain or snow. He did it to distract the fair from prayer and succeeded for the most part. The Warrior’s act could be the making or the breaking of the day.

When the church bells called for prayer in Looney’s bar the Warrior blew a smoke ring for every peal. It was as defiant as he wanted to be that midwinter’s day. He knew the followers in the Square would be disappointed, but that was life — nothing lasts for ever. He had retired. The decision had been made in his sleep and he was obeying. Orders from the management. Not God, just the Management.

The crowd felt like fools. Cheated of their entertainment and their prayers, they dispersed sullenly and griped about the Warrior. Where was he? Had he not walked the town earlier in the day, showering everyone with Christmas greetings? It was not his form to ignore the call of duty, especially today, The Small Fair of Christmas.

A long lean farmer said he must have lost his nerves. His neighbour disagreed. “The Warrior was born without nerves,” he claimed. It was his age. “He must be sixty-five or seventy years old if he’s a day,” he insisted, sliding into Peter Egan’s bar. Inside, they joined a couple of cattle jobbers who were already discussing the Warrior.

“Well sure, he started out first in Boland’s Mill in 1916…then he led the Faha column of the boys in 1920,” declared a barrel-shaped jobber in a once-white coat. “I know it. And he never surrendered after the Civil War. I know that, too. Carty never handed over the gun.”

“Tha’s right sure. ‘Don’t give up the fight.’ I often heard him say that,” drawled his companion. “An’ he went off to Spain with the Brigade too. Maybe that was to get another wallop at the Blueshirts

“Maybe, but I don’t think so.”

“An’ sure if they hadn’t locked him up in the Curragh Camp durin’ the last war he’d have been soldierin’ somewhere.”

some of the Clare IRA who ambushed + vanquished the Black & Tans at Rineen, 1921

Bridgey left a plate with a piece of haddock and a potato on the counter.
“Ate this,” she said. “It’ll do you good.”

“The Blessin’s a God on you Bridgey,” he said and picked at the meal. He felt like confiding in her. He wanted to explain why he didn’t go to the Square and what he was doing in Sunday clothes. But it was a delicate matter and she might pick it up wrong.

“Bridgey…” he asked, motioning for another whiskey and stout. “Do we soften with age?”

“‘Tis hard to say,” she said slowly and pondered at her reflection in the mirror behind the whiskey bottles. “The aul fair’ll be over early,” she muttered, putting his drinks on the cold red-topped counter. He would be her only customer today.

The money-box was getting heavier and he was getting drunker, but in a quiet sort of a way. For a short while, a beam of evening sun warmed the bar and they traced about things of long ago like rekindled lovers. He reminisced about the great fairs, when you could walk on the backs of beasts from one end of the town to the other without stepping on the ground. Bridgey reminded him of the great dances that used be held before the Christmas years ago.”All that’s gone now,” she sighed.

They recalled the big crowds arriving home from England and wondered where they all were now.”A sad day for Ireland, Bridgey,” Warrior sighed and a cloud of silence darkened the bar. Bridgey fumbled under the counter and a string of Christmas lights blazed a trail around whiskey bottles. Tiny beads of yellow, green, red and blue blinked at the Warrior.

“Jaysus, Bridgey,” he said slowly, “but I love Christmas, even though Christmas is not the same as it used to be.”

“Nothing stays the same sure,” she said, almost in a whisper.

Sipping a cup of tea, she peered at him from the dark kitchen. He was talking to himself and counting his money, cursing her blinking Christmas lights. The Warrior had enough drank for one day but she hated to ask him to leave. He tapped the counter with the heel of his glass and called her.

“The same again, Bridgey…is that clock right?”

“No…’tis slow…hurry up an’ finish this like a good boy. Tonight’s the night of the carol singin’ above at the church an’ I must get ready.”

“Sound Bridgey. An’ Bridgey, before I forget it…give us a naggon of whiskey and a packet of Players for the morn.”

“Here,” she said, wrapping the small bottle and cigarettes in a brown paper bag, “this is from me for Christmas.”

He pressed his chest against the counter and lowered his head as if to kiss her. But he clasped her cold hands instead and whispered, “You never forget the Warrior. The blessin’s of God on you. Bridgey, you’re the only wan in this town who has any breedin’.”

“You can’t bate breedin’ Warrior.” she said, “How’re you goin’ home?”
“Walkin’.”

She came outside the counter with a broom and peered out the front door.
“There’s no wind out. Take it aisey an’ you’ll be sound.”

“I’ll be sound anyway…But Bridgey as the song goes — ‘Oh what matters when for Erin dear we fall.’ I don’t mind in the least fallin’ for Erin…many’s the good man an’ woman have done so in the past. But Bridgey, what I do mind, is fallin’ for some of the shaggers that live here.”

“Our Lord fell three times,” she said quietly, sweeping his crushed cigarette butts into a heap.

“And he rose again Bridgey. We’re martyrs for punishment.”

The Warrior drained his glass slowly and put Bridgey’s Christmas present into his overcoat pocket. He wondered if he should try for another half one, but decided not to, it would be bad form.

“Bridgey… I’ll hit away,” he said. “Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year to you astore.”

“The same to yourself and be as good as you can, Warrior. Happy Christmas to you now. Mind the step as you g’ out.”

She bolted the door behind him and unplugged the Christmas lights.

Main Street smelled like a farmyard in the wake of the fair. It was quiet apart from a few children who played in the light streaming from Callaghan’s sweet shop. The town was winding down for the carol service and the Warrior numbed when he discovered the pubs were blacked out. He tried them all — Tracy’s, Egan’s, Hogan’s, Vaughan’s, The Widow’s and Dinn Joe’s.

“Shag ’em,” he snorted. “An’ shag ’em again.”

He had hoped to breeze into the enemy camp in the quiet of the evening, just when the day’s takings were counted and the publicans were happy. He would extend the olive branch and ask to be served again. He would keep the peace. There would be no more trouble, no more defiance. No more would he lure the Christians away from the Angelus prayer by balancing the cart-wheel. He was retiring from all that.

But his plan was foiled because he had tarried too long with Bridgey. And the church didn’t help. The pubs would be closed until after the carol singing. Muttering about goodwill and room at the inn he plodded back down the street to wait in the shadows until God relented.

Passing Peter Egan’s he had a sudden urge to lash his boot through the glass paneled door but was distracted when the new curate, Father Hannon, suddenly appeared like a host. “Hardy weather,” the pale priest hailed, side-stepping him.

“Say wan for me Fader,” grunted the Warrior and wandered in the opposite direction.

He slipped into Hogan’s Alley to relieve himself in the darkness, but Gretta Greene saw him. The mad woman from Frohaul who had once done him a turn behind the town hall peered into the laneway and jeered, “The frost ‘ll kill et. The frost’ll kill et an’ make a small boy a you Warrior Carty you dirty scut you. I’ll say a prayer that you’ll go ta hell.”

With his back to the church he plodded on. Two women, pious as nuns, scurried past, arm in arm.

“Peggy, is that the Warrior Carty?”

“Tis. He’s an awful nuisance.”

“He’s in town since early today. I saw him when I was gettin’ the paper. Was there a girl in that family?”

“No. An only child that fella, an’ spoiled an’ young. He lives on his own. The mother died in the workhouse. Sure that fella couldn’t take care of himself.”

“Never married?”

“No. And he let a great farm of land go to wrack and ruin. Drank it.”

The Warrior felt the cold in his bones. Frost glistened the black tar road that separated the lines of shops. Stars above and stars below. He stood at the Square and gazed at the sky. A great black dome dotted with peep holes to heaven. Shocked by the thought, his head reeled. “Jaysus…I’m half drunk,” he mumbled to the night. “I’d better sit down before I keel over.”

Outside Hogan’s pub he flopped on an empty porter barrel. Hogan would be his first port of call with the olive branch, the whiskey would keep him warm till then. He uncorked the naggon and listened to the Christmas carols escaping from the church. Some he knew from long ago and crooned along between sips of whiskey. Memories paraded before him and he felt the town growing strange. It reminded him of a desolate railway station he saw from a train, one winter evening in war-torn Spain. “I’m only just passing through,” he muttered.

After the carol singing, the faithful passed the Warrior slouched over the empty barrels outside Hogan’s.

“He’s in town all day,” a man from the Vincent de Paul whispered to his wife.

“Thank God you don’t drink,” she whispered back. “It’s a terrible curse.”

Father Hannon shook his head and crossed to the other side of the street. “An awful disgrace,” he muttered to Coyle the butcher.

Nobody bothered the Warrior and hard frost crept over his crombie coat in a white fur. At closing time Frank Hogan tried to move him on, not out of sympathy or concern — but out of fear that the old soldier might erupt during the night and cry him out. But the old soldier was dead. Twisted like a vine, white as ice. The Warrior was gone and only his burly body remained.

His remains were brought to the church in a plain coffin paid for by Bridgey Looney and Ned Duffy. Laid out in his good blue suit he looked like a saint in death. After Mass on Christmas morning only a few mourners followed the tricolor-draped coffin through the streets. The Christmas morning cap guns were silent, the children called a truce for the funeral.

It was bitter cold in the graveyard above the town and Father Hannon rushed through the prayers. Ned Duffy fired four shots from an old revolver and children in the town below replied with a thousand rounds or more.

“Home is the hero,” Bridgey whispered. “May God be good to you, Warrior Carty.”

The Warrior Carty is published in The West: Stories from Ireland. A spoken word version of the story with music by Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill is available for download here.


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Ireland, November 23, 2010

(this is a post by guest blogger Doireann O’Sullivan)

Never before has politics caused me great personal distress. I have gone on rants about student grants, gotten into arguments about the EU, shed tears for the Troubles and protested against the Iraq war. But not until this week have I experienced a constant state of emotion that veers between anger and upset, due to the actions of the Irish government.

The arrival of the IMF and the revelation that our economy is to be under its control, makes all of my day-to-day worries and activities insignificant. That might seem dramatic for someone my age, 29, given that I have no children, debt, or mortgage, or job. But for me, making plans seems futile because I don’t know if it is worth sticking around to see them through. Is this a country worth planning for?

I returned here after many years abroad because I missed the people and the sense of place, and wanted to build a life and a career here. Recent unemployment aside, for the most part, I have achieved this. I was instilled with a sense of hope when I saw things like the Greens getting into power, when I went to Electric Picnic for the first time and when I heard about creative ventures like Project Brand New and Story Land. I was proud that there was progress and creative initiative in my native land. We had turned a corner, a generational shift had occurred and we were looking at new ways of doing things. But in Ireland, things don’t change that quickly.

When NAMA was introduced, the Greens sold out, and so Fianna Fáil remained in power. There was no major backlash from the people at that time. Later, Bertie resigned, wrote a book, got a job with a tabloid newspaper and declared himself an artist. Though he had conned them, Irish people continued to buy his book, and read the rag he writes for, without a murmur of concern. People bemoaned the decline of the country but still refused to do anything about it. We kept going to Electric Picnic, even though it became one of the most expensive festivals in Europe. Surely now, after the past seven days, people will say ‘we’ve had it’?

There is a National Demonstration organised for next Saturday, November 27th. I have asked several friends and colleagues if they are attending, and most are not. It seems to me that for some reason, Irish people don’t believe in action. We don’t believe that change can be achieved through protest. We don’t believe in ourselves as a political force. This is probably why our country has been run by incompetent, corrupt, unimaginative and self-serving careerists for decades.

But who is to blame for that? Who voted them in? We can’t keep blaming older generations who consider their vote an inheritance, and maintain the alliances of their parents; that generation is almost gone. We can’t keep blaming the politicians because we’re the one who let them away with their actions. We’re aware there’s a lack of professionalism across the board in Irish society, most seriously at government level, but we have done little to address it.

Where are all the educated, well travelled, open minded, forward thinking citizens? Are they sitting at home, giving out and maybe posting links to articles online? The majority of them are not engaging in any real public discussion, never mind making plans to take radical action. They are not taking responsibility for the country’s affairs. Sound familiar? In a way, they are adopting the government’s stance. Monkey see, monkey do.

I don’t understand why this is so. I know intelligent, passionate people who have opinions about the current situation, but who will find a weak excuse not to take to the streets on Saturday or to attend meetings in the meantime. Am I radical? Are they lazy? Are they the product of an individualist society? Or are they completely disillusioned with politics after decades of corruption and mismanagement?

The answer to me is simple: We need change. We have voices. We have feet. We have brains. We need to engage, discuss, shout, write, march and make it known that we do not accept the recent decisions made by the government. As Fintan O’Toole rightly pointed out in today’s Irish Times, accepting the call for a general election in the new year, or post-budget, is too late. The damage will have been done. This needs to happen now! Before the budget goes through. The people I have spoken to seem resigned to the fact that an early election will not happen, and in turn, their resolution breeds inaction and their indifference is thus justified for another generation.

All over Ireland, students brandish posters of Che Guevara, people reminisce about punk, play Gil Scott-Heron, pass comment on Chavez, give out about Cowen. Sit in their houses. Let others take action.

It is upsetting to think that we are letting this happen. It is horribly sad to think that many Irish people do not feel their voice is powerful enough to force change; that we have no choice. Does this mean we deserve to be governed by people equally devoid of conviction?

I spoke to several people about the current crisis today, all of them in their twenties. Many of them were uncomfortable with the conversation after the opening minute. I felt like a crazed lefty when I asked if they were attending the demo on Saturday. They didn’t share my outrage. They wanted to discuss something else: yes, it’s terrible, but life must go on.

I tried to busy myself with plans for Christmas and beyond, but I couldn’t escape the news buzzing from the radio detailing the latest from Dáil Éireann. Meanwhile girls on the bus talked about ways to wear their hair. The actions of the government make me angry, but the inaction of the people makes me despair. I hope that the National Demonstration this Saturday will lift this cloud of despair and prove me wrong about the passivity of my fellow citizens.

Doireann O’Sullivan, Ireland.



After Hours, After Nama: The Resurrection

This is the 3rd and final part of After Hours, After Nama. It’s fiction… See Part 1 and Part 2 for previous pieces.

2.50AM Henry calls for two pints, and the anticipation of free porter puts The Geek on a roll. Egan begins filling the order and listens to him telling Henry, “We’d be in a different Ireland now, if the proletariat had taken to the streets when the shit first hit the fan. We took it lying down. Are we destined to be always picking up the tab for an elite?”

“My point exactly,” muttered Henry, looking at the floor. Egan topped the two pints and left them on the counter. Henry put a fistful of money beside them and said, “That’s the bank.”

The Geek's View of Ireland

“Sláinte, Henry.” saluted the Geek. He took a drink, smacked his lips and said, “We have a weak gene, which we indulge, rather than taking responsibility for it. We’re suckers for fairytales, deep down we believe the crock of gold and the rainbow crap…we’re weaned and reared on it. So at any given time, a certain percentage of the population are away with the fairies, whether they be the politicians or their followers or both. How else could the same clots be voted into government, election after election? We fall for the bait every time. We have a societal rot.”

Egan exhaled loudly and lit a cigarette. He knew The Geek would like a smoke, but didn’t offer him one.

“What do you mean by societal rot?” Henry asked politely.

“A suspension of critical faculties. ” The Geek said. “We are no longer independent thinkers, we do our masters bidding. We might as well be on a Roman slave galley. We’re all paddling, so guys can have chauffeurs and yachts and stuff…”

“All I know,” Egan sighed, “is that I’m being screwed.” And nodding to The Geek, he said, “I’ll need you to give me a hand with the books for the race.”

“Absolutely…no problem, Peter,” the nerd said, straightening his tie.

3.00AM
A harmonica played a few lonesome notes that segued into Dirty Old Town. Right on cue, Lulu Hoppal warbled, “I met my lo-ho-ho-hove by the gasworks wall…Dreamed a dreee-ee-eeaaam…” The bar howled and Egan picked up the remote control gizmo and zapped on the television.

Without warning, Lance Piggott of CNN loudly announced to the pub that killer bees were on the rampage in Zagrastan. The singing faltered, and everyone looked at the buzzing plague on the maxi screen above the fireplace. Enough of that, Egan clicked the remote and surfed his drinkers to Al Jazeera…BBC…a Korean cooking show, a jewelry auction in Boston. A roar erupted from the pub when he clicked to Telemundo Mexacali 12, broadcasting the Mexican Open Greyhound Grand Prix live from Ortega Stadium in Cancun.

3:06AM
Flickering television light and spatters of Spanish enter Monty’s brain and he regains consciousness slowly. To determine his whereabouts, he lifts an eyelid with caution. He sees the pub staring at the screen, where tall women parade dogs. The pub’s eyes search for Ballygale Bandit, the local greyhound, owned by John Joe Mac, trained by Murty Kerins and sponsored by NAMA.
“Which wan is he?” asked Dodo Malley.

“Number four, the brindle dog with the lady in the tricolour.” pointed Egan.

“I hope she comes home with them,” Henry said, “she’d warm me up on a winter’s night.”

“Jaysus, but that’s very like Miko Kelly there in the front with the red shirt,” Egan said, as shots of the spectators appear.

“Fuck me, it is!” cried Mary White, “and that’s Maggie Kane and Dolores beside him.”

Betting Odds Flashed on the screen:

La Bamba 3/1
El Greco Grande 5/2
Senor Castro 2/1
Ballygale Bandit 3/2
Coca Dolce 1/1
Chi Yung 3/2

Egan lowered the volume and announced, “I’m openin’ a book now if anyone’s interested in having an interest in the race.”

“I’ll put five on the Chinese dog,” Bart Hogan said, tossing 5 fedros on the counter.

“I’ll do ten on the Bandit,” Pakie Lamb said.

“Fuck the begrudgers,” Laya Lohan said, “I’ll do the same.”

“Me too,” a woman agreed.

A crush formed at the bar as Egan took the punters’ money. He wrote in his black book and called out numbers to The Geek, who scribbled dockets for the bets.

3:10AM
The hum of betting and clamour of drinking invades Monty’s head and his body heats up. The frada warms accordingly and clicks into life, quiet as a late night fridge. His mind begins to speed as thoughts hurtled through like meteors. His fingers tap on the instrument’s track pad. Dog, dog, he mutters, dog, dog. Suddenly the frada emits a bark that startles the pub.
“What the fuck was that?” Egan asked.

“Sounded like a dog,” Henry muttered.

“Must be outside,” Duddy Nixon said, placing two fedros on Senor Castro because his brother lived in a place named like that in San Francisco.

“Dogs can pick up the fever,” Olive Collins said, “you know…the vibe like…dogs always want to get in on the action…they’re like bankers and lawyers and the rest of them…”

3:25AM
Egan closes the book and makes a phone call to lay off his bets. The Geek has the remote control gizmo and turns up the volume. On the screen, the women lead the dogs to their traps, to a fanfare of trumpets. The pub is tense and silent, all eyes on the race.

A bell clangs, and an electric hare zooms down the track. Dogs yelp and traps shoot open as the ball of fur darts by. In the background, the race commentator, Diego Avilia, rattles in Spanish. Monty stands to get a better view of the screen and meanders to the counter. He picks up Henry Connoly’s pint and has a slug. Nobody sees him, the race has their full attention.

In front from the break, Senor Castro soon had a length on El Greco, who was followed closely by Chi Yung and Ballygale Bandit. Behind them came La Bamba and Cosa Dolce. The pub cheered on Ballygale, but he pulled back after the first bend and fell to last place. He slowed to a canter, then a dance. A split screen showed dogs racing in one screen and the Bandit waltzing in the other. The commentator rattled faster.
“Fuckin’ hell!” exclaimed Egan.

“He’s doped,” Geek said.

“This is…this is fuckin’ crazy!” cried Egan.

Ballygale Bandit was dancing in front of millions of viewers on satellite tv. The pub erupted in shouting and swearing and firing threats at the greyhound.

Monty was tapping the frada. There was something he should be doing…something concerning the dog on the television. Something to do with the microchip he implanted in the dog’s ear last week. Something to do with the frada. Something to do with NAMA.
“Oh no!” he shrieked and suddenly pecked at keys on the frada.

The television screen turned black. Green strings of computer code flashed on it, barks and static farted from the speakers. The Geek fiddled with the remote, but it made no difference. Egan grabbed the controls and clicked impatiently. More of the same. Then someone noticed Monty frantically toggling switches and knobs on the frada. They screamed at him to stop.

Henry grabbed Monty as he hit a power chord with full reverb. Suddenly, the screen filled with the head of a greyhound: Ballygale Bandit, tongue pumping and the pub forgot about Monty. They watched the Bandit clocking eighty miles an hour and leading Chi Yung by a shoulder coming into the last bend. They cheered for the homedog and wild as Hendrix, Monty worked up steam, pushing the frada to the max. He was drowned out by the roar that went up as Ballygale Bandit pulled away on the home stretch and finished almost two lengths ahead of the field.

While everyone cheered and hugged and laughed in the pub, Monty powered down the frada, wiped his brow on the sleeve of the fur coat. He lifted a pint from the counter and had a good slug out of it.
“Jesus,” he whispered to Henry, “I almost fucked that up, man, the Bandit was supposed to do the dance at the end…you know…at the presentation…I can’t even remember the fuckin code for the dance now…but fuck it, who gives a shit, right? We won, right?”

Henry nodded and prised the pint from his hand.

“That dog was carrying a lot of cash,” Monty whispered, “NAMA would have hung my ass if I fucked up…but I didn’t, see? I didn’t fuck-up and we won, right? Monty might be fucked-up but he doesn’t fuck-up. Right? I’m not like the developers, right?”

He tapped the frada and two horrendous barks froze the jubilant pub. In the silent vacuum Monty politely asked, “May I please have a pint, Mr. Egan, to toast our local greyhound’s victory.”

Exhaling a cone of smoke, Egan shook his head and said, “Sorry Monty, you’ve had enough. Yourself and your frada nearly fucked up everything here tonight…not just once or twice, but several times.”

“But we won, didn’t we?” pleaded Monty, “only for the frada this fucking country would be bankrupt again tomorrow. And that fucking dog would be in a taco. What have you against my frada? Where’s your vision, man? Where’s your vision?”

Monty's Mantra for the NAMA Blues


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After Hours, After Nama: Part 2 — The Google Deal

Here’s the second part…like NAMA, it’s taking unexpected twists.
Read part 1 here

2.05AM
Peggy Morgan came to the counter and ordered a small brandy and a bottle of Tarzan Extra. She was with her mother’s lodger, Ms. McCabe, who worked for the dentist, and Egan wondered if they were lovers or just friends. After serving her, he asked Henry, “Has she a NAMA deal as well?”

“She has indeed. Apparently she’s a poet and gets a good slice of pie. Imagine! Did you know, that according to Fás, there are sixty-five registered poets in Ennis? Hah? More poets there now than Polish plasterers in the old days. Go figure that one out.”

“Brutal. And I bet you, there’s none of them as good a poet as Quaker Leary from Ballyfin.” Egan said.

“My point exactly. The Quaker wouldn’t go within an asses’ roar of NAMA; he wouldn’t take a penny from them. He paddles his own canoe. And for the record, there’s twenty-two potters in Kilfadeen, all on the NAMA tit. I mean, how many jugs do you want on the dresser? Hah?”

Happy Leprechaun with friend

“Twenty-two blue cuckoos,” said Egan, filling a pint for himself, “And you heard that Mattie Clark got on the Leprechaun Scheme? I mean, more luck to the poor devil, but do we need another fuckin’ leprechaun in this parish? Like, we have at least a dozen of ‘em.”

“My point exactly. But you see, Peter, we’re a tourist nation now, we’re in arts and entertainment. Tourists expect to meet leprechauns and talk to them, watch them do tricks with a crock of brass coins. But most of these shagging leprechauns spend their days on the beer. And a more awkward bunch of flutes you won’t meet in a month of Sundays. In my opinion they’re a liability to the place, they’re giving us a bad name…I mean how can it serve us well, to be known as the leprechaun capital of the world? Give me a break! Cut them off! The same goes for that terrible bore, MacClune the sheanachie, he’s another NAMA beneficiary, another national asset, an’ a most toxic one. I cringe every time I see him giving a spiel to tourists…and he hanging around Doyle’s Corner with a caubeen and a clay pipe. Straight from Disneyland. You see, they get paid for this shit. They’re all artists now, Peter.”

2:20AM
“What gets me most about this art stuff,” confided Egan, “is that it’s impossible to know the good from the bad. Like, you know if a carpenter hangs a door the wrong way…but this art stuff is different.”

“Aha!” said Henry, after he had a drink. “You put your finger on the crux of the matter. With art, there is no good or bad. Not anymore. I always said there should be a regulator for the arts.”

Book of Kells, Saints and Scholars

“But you know, I blame Labour and the Greens. When they were in government, the whole shebang went belly-up…”

“I agree. NAMA should have stuck to the property problem, letting them near the arts was ludicrous. But that was the Greens, that was the Greens. And once NAMA sold the Book of Kells to Google, we were shagged, After that, everything was on the table. I know it got us out of a hole at the time, but…”

“Well of course, that was let go because of the whole church scandal but then they sold the Cliffs of Moher to Microsoft who hung a big fuckin’ sign on it that you can see from New York! What’s all that about?” Egan asked.

“My point exactly!” Henry said, beckoning for another pint, “We became a brand…good old Ireland of the grá mo chroí welcomes. Céad Míle Fáilte and all that shit. You see, even though Labour and the Greens were top-heavy with brains, they were no match for Google or Microsoft or Don Draper.”

Egan nodded. He knew Henry was getting loaded, but good enough for a few more pints, so he put another one in front of him.
“None of them were as smart as poor ol’ Charlie Haughey, bad and all as he was,” he said.
“My point exactly!” Henry said.
A woman named Kiki O’Neill was singing ‘Two Little Orphans’ and the pub roared the chorus. Brutal stuff. Henry said she had a NAMA deal — she sang five hundred songs a year and got big money for it. A microchip sent a message back to Apple every time she sang, he said, and money went straight into her bank account in Kilrush.

“It’s all microchips and PIN numbers now,” complained Egan.

“My point exactly!” said Henry, “we’re owned by Google and Microsoft and Apple, like it or lump it. They know where we live, what we ate. We’re fuckin’ guinea pigs, Peter, and they’re watching us. Monty explained it all to me one night. Bad and all as poor old Monty is, at least he’s a genius, I mean, and I really don’t begrudge him the Elite Plan he has. In all fairness, the likes of him need to be supported. ”

2:35AM

The Geek Hynes

The Geek Hynes, a thirty-year-old unemployed nerd had been eavesdropping and said,
“What’s wrong with a poet or a singer getting a NAMA deal? NAMA helped all the big crooks, didn’t they?”

“But tis gone too far,” Egan said and Henry nodded, “I mean, there’s a fella in Barrana who got a NAMA deal to make statues out of old telegraph poles with a chainsaw…”

“My point exactly!” said Henry, “and they gave thousands to that nut Babbler Forrester to compose a concerto! I mean that guy hasn’t a note in his head…what was that Shakespeare said about the monkey and the typewriter? Oh damn, it escapes me now…but it’s the same thing.”

“The reality is, this country is just an anthill now,” the Geek said, “we’re all drones, bringing home bacon for the queens. We should have revolted when the Celtic Tiger imploded…we needed a program like the WPA that the Yanks had during the Depression. But we had to reinvent the wheel and fucked it up. Anyway, we can’t blame the Brits for the disaster, we showed the world we were well able to crucify ourselves. We believed our own blarney, the joke is on us.”

Egan moved down the counter to serve Dilly Mangan. He only tolerated the Geek because he needed him to hack the till now and again to get around the NAMA taxes. The landlord figured the Geek was too bright for his own good, and too thirsty as well. A tipsy woman was singing “Wooden Heart” in the dark and like a mating call at twilight, Dixie Daly, an amateur jockey, harmonized in the chorus. Egan wondered if they too had NAMA deals. The Guinness clock over the bar read 2.45am. Soon the greyhound race would be broadcast from Cancun, so he filled himself a pint, lit a cigarette and took a black ledger from under the counter.

(to be continued…)


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After Hours, After NAMA

I’ve tried getting a blog together on NAMA, but it’s a slippery fish, hard to grasp and gets weirder by the day. So I thought I’d write a bit about Post Nama Ireland instead. This is fiction and in three parts.

It was well past closing time and the pub was crowded, dark and steamy. Monty Hogan staggered towards the counter, lost balance and fell on a table of drinkers. Men and women scrambled out of his way, toppling bottles and smashing glasses. Drinks splashed and a woman screamed that her dress was ruined. Another woman cried,
“Fuck you Monty!”
Helpless as a babe in a cot, Monty lay across the table, clutching his frada — an electronic gadget that looked like a computer fixed to a guitar neck. It blared head wrecking psychedelic whirls and a man roared,
“Stop that noise!”
“Turn off the frada!” a women shouted, “turn off the fuckin’ frada!”

The Frada, financed by NAMA

The frada screeched louder when two men lifted Monty off the table. Peter Egan, the publican, grabbed a syphon of soda water from a shelf and sprayed the flashing instrument. There was a sizzle and Monty jolted, then collapsed on the floor clutching the silenced gadget.
“Don’t touch him or ye’ll get electrocuted!” warned Mossy Fossett, “call d’ambulance! d’ambulance!”
“I’ll call fuck-all at this hour of the morn!” shouted Egan, “Drink up or shut-up!”

Two Good Samaritans settled Monty on a bench seat. He was drenched in soda water and Lily Doyle felt his brow and took his pulse.
“He’s alive anyway,” she announced, and a jumble of relief and disappointment rumbled around the pub.

1:25AM
Monty is forgotten and Lulu Hopal, the merriest widow in town, croons ‘Yesterday’. Her voice is ethereal at first, but gets distraught by the second verse. She veers off song and addresses her dead husband Faxo, asking why he had to go and spoil the show.
In tears, Mary White orders a gin and tonic, and Egan the landlord has to lower his head, to catch her whisper. Then she puts her tongue in his ear and kisses his cheek. Perks of the job, he fondles her breasts and she sighs,
“You never visited me like you promised.”
“Any night now,” he muttered and turned away to fill a pint of porter for Oliver Collins, and another for himself.

Bart Carson, an undercover gossip, asked Egan if he’d heard the rumour about Bella Donnell and Father Wogan. He hadn’t, and took a sharp draw on a fag when Bart said the priest tried to exorcise a demon from the ex-nun and failed.
“She ended up on top of him,” Bart whispered, clutching Egan’s elbow, “the two of ’em were bollix naked when Mary Callinan came into the room with a Mass card for him to sign!”
Shaking his head, Egan turns away and fills two half-whiskeys for Dido Lavorn, a blonde hell raiser, decades beyond her prime.
“Peter,” she whispers, “if you want a bit of housework done anytime, just let me know.”
“Sound,” he nods, and lies that he has no ice.

1:42AM
Henry Connoly, a long time patron, sings ‘When the Swallows come back to Capistrano’ and Sharon Jones holds Egan’s hand over the counter and hums along in harmony. After the applause, from a dark corner near the Ladies, the sultry voice of Dodo Malley pleads,
“Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone…”
Glasses clink in anticipation of a classic performance as she emerges from the darkness, singing from her heart, holding a small mixer bottle as a microphone:
“I’ll tell the mah-ha-haaan, to turn the jukebox way down lo-ho-hooo…”
Some other women wailed along and Egan wondered if he should call it a night and throw them all out before things turned chaotic. That happened once in a blue moon, things slipped out of order in a blink. Someone would fuck-up, some one else would react and next there’d be an explosion. He pulled on a cigarette, slugged his pint and gauged the crowd. They were mostly well-on, but good humoured. He’d let them be. Anyway, soon the dog race from Mexico would be on the television and he’d make a good till.

Egan squinted over at Monty, drew hard on the fag, and asked Henry Connoly,
“What kind of a yoke is that frada anyway?”
“Something he invented from bits a computers an’ electric guitars an’ things. Monty’s a genius.”
“I know,” Egan sighed, topping his pint and beginning one for Henry, “the fucker is nuts. The rig-out of him…in a fuckin ballet dress an’ a fur coat…isn’t he getting dosh from NAMA?”
“Apparently every month he gets a thousand fedros or maybe more from them and all the pills and stuff that he can swallow.”
“It’s an amazing NAMA,” Egan said cynically, “the rest of us payin’ tax to keep the show on the road an’ Monty inventing contraptions to drive us up the fuckin wall…”
“National Asset and Protected Personalities, I think that’s the name of the fund he’s drawin’ from.”
“Jesus wept.”
“Well, I knew that scheme to monitise the arts was always going to be a disaster. Money down the drain. It’s worse than NAMA 1. I mean, Monty and his likes add damn all to the economy. They make this art shit and they’re costing us a fortune. Give me a break.”
“At least the builders built something and used up sand and timber and stuff. And they spent their money.”
“Exactly, Peter. We’re back to the Saints and Scholars, that’s what we’re famous for now. Geniuses like Monty, no more tar and cement. It’s all art nowadays. Apparently that’s what the tourists want to experience, the arts.”

Egan lit a cigarette and said, “I don’t know what tourist would want to come and visit Monty.”
“Well, of course he’s very talented,” said Henry, “and he’s a fine fella when he’s not on a jag, very well mannered and sociable, sensible dress ex-ceterra, ex-ceterra. Afternoon tea in the Imperial Hotel with his mother and so on. And then he snaps…something gets to the poor hure and he goes astray bit by bit until he’s gone totally gaga. Then Galligan gives him the needle and after a few days he’s right as rain.”
“He’s gaga enough now,” said Egan, “I mean…you could put up with the frada occasionally, if he could play it or turn the fuckin’ volume down…and anyone can get shit-faced once in a while but havin’ both of them full-on and he prancing around in the ballet get-up, now that shit can get to you.”
“And of course you can’t bar him or you’d have wan of them shaggin’ anti-discrimination cops on your arse. But sure there’s no harm in the poor hure, he’s his own worst enemy. And who’s to say that if we had a mother and father like Monty has, that we’d be any better than him. Worse maybe.”
“NAMA has a lot to answer for.”

(to be continued…)



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