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Posts Tagged ‘ Celtic Tiger ’

News in Brief- Irish Emigrants Blamed For STD Influx In NZ

irishAlan Shatter is in trouble this week for apparently offending ‘old’ prostitutes. Honestly, the man has experienced anti-semitic hatred and cruel personal jibes recently and then he goes and calls prostitutes working in Ireland ‘old’. Actually, the story is not quite as clear-cut as tabloid headlines would have us believe, SHOCK and AWE. He wasn’t calling all prostitutes old, just some.

Our international reputation isn’t doing so well either after an article in the New York Times has caused uproar, depicting life in post-Tiger Ireland. According to the piece produced by Liz Alderman, there’s a man in Shankill in Dublin who shoots and BBQ’s pigeons to survive. The story has met widespread disapproval from locals and councillors of Shankill alike; Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor said she rejects the description of the town and the main subject of the article, who used to own boats and a five-bedroom house and now resorts to pigeon shooting on the street to survive. NIB isn’t sure, perhaps Shankill is the social equivalent of Mordor, I mean American’s don’t normally exaggerate do they? Continue reading

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Emigration A One Way Ticket To Any Sort Of Future

The tiger is long dead and the empty shells of houses and absence of children at the dinner table signifies the harrowing future of the once mystical and magical land that is Ireland. The traditional picture of an Irish family gathered around a table for Sunday dinner has now diminished with the youth leaving that table and the comfort of the land they knew to seek out futures in foreign lands, far from the arms of their mothers and fathers. The land of Saints and Scholars has become the land of sorrow. Continue reading

Anne Enright’s “The Forgotten Waltz”

Anne Enright’s novel The Forgotten Waltz was published in 2011 and traces the life of Gina Moynihan from mid-Celtic Tiger Ireland to a recession era. Upon her return from Australia, Gina attends her sister Fiona’s housewarming party at her beach view home in Enniskerry, a symbol of the roaring Celtic Tiger of the time. The scene of the party outlines Enright’s satirical views of this time; the house itself, the people, the children multiplying as if being cloned, the “chardonnay years”, as Gina describes them. This suburbanite dream leaves Gina feeling claustrophobic and she retires to the lower garden to have a cigarette as, “It is 2002, and already, none of these people smoke”. It is from this lower part of the garden that Gina sees her future lover, Sean. They will not meet again until Gina is married to Conor with whom she owns a townhouse in Dublin City, perhaps an effort to shy away from the suburban dream that Fiona relishes so much in Enniskerry. As the narrative is in past tense it is evident that Gina’s memories of seeing Sean are now clouded by the love and resentment she feels for him; she remembers a thoughtful looking man, a pretty wife with him and a faceless child of four years old, Evie. Because the narrative is past tense it is evident that Gina’s emotions and feelings have been compromised as she describes people she once loved and cherished with a sort of resentment and bitterness as her relationship with Sean now lies stale, dead and inescapable. Gina leaves her husband Conor, who is tall, broad, tanned and fun-loving for Sean; quiet and small but evidently cripplingly charming, seen from Gina’s perspective as well as the numerous affairs Gina assumes he has had before her. As they embark on their affair Gina leaves Conor with a bleak perspective on the life they had once shared together, believing she was with him, bought a house and married him simply because she felt that was what you should do. Gina moves into her late mother’s home in Terenure where Sean, after eventually leaving his wife and his suburban home, comes to live with her. His dissatisfaction at his life post-recession is evident and very much a part of the downfall of their relationship.

The focus of the story lies very much in Gina’s thoughts on Sean’s daughter, Evie. Evie is very carefully and ambiguously constructed by Enright, it is not clear what, if anything is wrong with the girl. It is clear that following a fall from a swing when she was four Evie developed seizures and underwent much medical attention at the behest of her mother, Aileen. But it is also clear that Evie’s issues run deeper than this for Gina; Evie is both the opening and the closing of the novel as Gina struggles to understand the girl and tries to get to grips with the extent to which her own actions have affected Evie. It is clear that Gina believes it is more than the fall off a swing that has affected Evie’s behaviour and development. Gina finds Evie “peculiar” and also harbours an irrational resentment towards the girl because she feels the affair would not have gone so far had it not been for Evie’s presence in their lives from the very beginning. When Sean and Gina share their first kiss at a party in his family home, they are seen by Evie who fails to understand what she has seen. Gina’s guilt of having done this to a child runs deep. For Gina, a character normally cold and out of touch with her emotions in the book it is clear that jeopardizing a child’s innocence means that you must follow through with your actions – live with life’s consequences. Time passes and Gina and Sean’s love and lust both wither to be left with routine, reality and lonely days for Gina as Sean spends family time in Enniskerry. It is evident that their affair cannot stand to the recession in Irish life, but it must not be abandoned because of Evie.

Gina is a wholly unlikeable character, her lack of emotion for her sister or Conor throughout the novel is striking and her attraction to Sean even when their love has dissolved is irksome and perplexing. Though it is evident Sean is meant to be charming and attractive, in contrast to Conor he is somewhat snake-like; small and suited up, cunning and, similarly to Gina, emotionally absent. However Sean also harbours his own pain over Evie; not being able to help and heal his young daughter and then subsequently destroying her stable and perfect suburban life has brought upon him similar feelings of guilt that Gina has and they cannot abandon each other because Evie has already suffered enough.

Another aspect to the novel that I found to be striking and poignant was Enright’s contrast of post-Celtic Tiger era of Ireland to the mid-Celtic Tiger and then reverting back again. I will explain. As I have mentioned before Enright’s take on Celtic Tiger life is satirical, she mentions it all; the wine consumption, never seen in Ireland as much before, the mobile homes in Brittas Bay, the work weekends away, the children who cry at the sight of the electrician’s cigarette because they have never been exposed to the sight of one before. Enright takes all of these elements and subtly contrasts it to Ireland in the 1970/80s when Fiona and Gina were growing up in Terenure. Gina remembers her childhood with fondness, even the bad parts. For her, the new Irish society is futile; the wine, the suits, the business lunches and dinner events are empty to her as she sits in her old family home alone on Christmas Day, ostracised from the suburbanite dream of her sister and Sean in Enniskerry.

Overall, the novel is a grim reality of an affair in a new and exciting time for professionals in Ireland. There is no happy ending with Sean, no passionate reunion with Conor, no new life started somewhere new and exciting and no breakthrough understanding with Evie. Even as Evie stands before her as a teenager in the closing of the book, Gina still cannot quite get her, “I can’t quite see her face”, Evie remains to her a mystery that she must live with. Gina is left with the reality of being stuck with Sean, stuck with Evie, stuck in her family home in Dublin, looking back on her marriage in fear of realising there was love there after all and a fear of admitting her mistake. Gina is a hard character;tough, unbreakable and eerily calm in the face of her life choices.

Education Cuts Pose a Real Threat to our Future

  • Threats and bully boy tactics. That’s what Ireland’s present government is becoming known for. We’ve already seen it with the fiasco that has been the introduction and implementation of the hated household tax – threats of further fines and lawsuits should Irish citizens refuse to simply shut their mouths and stump up a good chunk of what little cash is left to them to pay for someone else’s mistakes.

That hasn’t resonated too well with the Irish public. Despite government figures which quote a compliance rate of around 60 per cent, when the figures concerning landlords with multiple properties on which they must pay the charge are removed, the number drops down to the half-way mark. Householders aren’t the only ones who are being forced to shoulder the debts of people farther up the chain and thus apparently immune to retribution. Recent reports are suggesting that students and their parents will be hit by a review of grants, while Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney has been openly warned by Finance Minister Michael Noonan to cease publicly opposing any proposed changes to the system.

Grants are already means tested to the hilt. Everything from which a student’s parent receives income is included in the application, and as someone who has had the misfortune of having to wade through the river of paper needed to secure a miserable few euros of assistance, I can attest to the processes’ thoroughness. Rest assured, should an area of income amount to only one cent, that cent will be considered. Now the penny pinchers are scrutinising the system as closely as possible, in an attempt to find new ways by which to deny prospective students government assistance. Savings accounts are one possible way they have hit upon. Should you have gone against the grain during the years of the Celtic tiger, and squirreled away money rather than recklessly spent it, bad news. And if you’re a farmer? Bad luck again, apart from the heavy rains delaying the harvest once more. Aside from business premises, farmland may also be included under a new, ‘improved’ means test, despite the fact that it may be simply sitting there collecting grass, without making a significant or even any contribution to a family’s income.

It’s not just a monetary impact that this will have. Sure, more families will have to fork out extra to ensure their kids receive a necessary education and have some hope of getting a job in the next few decades. But for others, university simply isn’t going to be an option anymore. The number of entrants and graduates will fall and all the bluster about finding more jobs will be pointless, because in the future, there won’t be the people to fill them. Instead, we’ll have scores of young people, whose only qualification is a Leaving Cert or perhaps a FAS course which, in a world where many employers are looking for master degrees more and more, means they are about as useful for getting a job as only having done your Junior Cert.

We pride ourselves on our Irish identity. At home or abroad we fly the flag, shouting for our representatives with an unbridled fervour and passion, or looking on in pride as they tour the world. We are fighters, lovers, a race of proud people who stand up to oppressors and never say die. Ireland, at one stage and for quite a long time, was also the land of saints and scholars, the island of education, to whom the rest of the world flocked in search of knowledge and learning. Our leaders have already ensured the next generation will be saddled with the debt of a few. Will we throw away their chances at an education too? Our future lies with the young people, and if we can’t do our utmost to provide them with the best possible education, we’ve not only failed them but our country and its future. If only our politicians showed the same level of support and apparent admiration and care for the ordinary people of this country as they do for the exceptional ones.

In the end, the power to refuse these movements should rest with the Irish people. It is to us that our politicians answer to, and it is us who can make or break them. We elect them to run our country on behalf of us, to look after the population as a whole, rather than run us into the ground and shove our faces in the dirt while we’re down there. Perhaps we need to look after ourselves. As V said so memorably, “people should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.”

The Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards 2011

Voting is well underway in this year’s book awards and in fact you only have a few days left in which to make your choices as the voting closes on 13th November. There are ten categories in the awards each with six shortlisted titles (five in both of the children’s categories) from which to choose. The public can vote via the Bord Gáis Book Club site and are automatically entered into a prize draw for one of five €100 National Book Tokens. In tandem with this set of votes, the members of the Irish Literary Academy (comprising around 100 people connected to the book trade) receive ballot papers to make their selection. The eventual winners will be announced at a Gala Dinner and Awards Ceremony on November 17th at the RDS in Ballsbridge, Dublin. It promises to be another glittering literary occasion for the UNESCO City of Literature.

Apart from the headline sponsor Bord Gáis Energy there are sponsors for the different prize categories such as Specsavers who support the children’s awards and Ireland A. M. sponsoring the Crime Novel of the Year category. Within the book trade itself, Dublin based wholesaler Argosy is the Irish Non-Fiction award sponsor while Eason and Hughes and Hughes Booksellers take care of the Popular Fiction Award and the Irish Novel of the Year respectively. The concept of the Irish Book Awards actually has its origins in the Hughes and Hughes Irish Novel of the Year Award (inaugurated in 2000) which eventually expanded to include more categories and sponsors in 2006. Some sponsors have come and gone over the years but at present only the Sports Award lacks a sponsor as Club Energise Sport pulled out from the IBA. In these austere times the companies that do still sponsor such awards are to be commended for their contribution to Ireland’s cultural life.

A quick skim over the novels in the fiction categories shows the wealth of talent around at the moment, comprising both established authors (such as Anne Enright, Sebastian Barry, Shelia O’Flanagan and Patricia Scanlan) and newcomers such as Sarah Harte with her Celtic Tiger inspired novel The Better Half. The shortlisted non-fiction titles cover a wide range of topics and include sport, biography, the state of the nation and cookery books. There are too many great titles to mention them all here but here’s a quick taster: Orla Tinsley’s thought provoking memoir Salty Baby which is up for the Best Newcomer prize (sponsored by the Sunday Independent); the final part of Tim Robinson’s Connemara trilogy (Best Irish published category sponsored by the International Education Services) and How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran (up for the John Murray Show Listeners’ Award).

If you haven’t got around to voting yet, take look at the Bord Gáis Awards page and read the list of contenders in more detail. Then take the plunge and make your choice. You never know, you may even win some book tokens in time for Christmas.

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