“You will certainly return for more” – John Hinde on photography in Ireland

Editor’s note: In May 2022 our sister publication, Ireland of the Welcomes, celebrated its 70th anniversary. To mark the occasion, we dipped into our decades of archives and found incredible articles like this and others written by famous Irish figures such as Brendan Behan, Patrick Kavanagh, and Paul Henry.

Probably it is true of any European country, Ireland is the least photographed.

How this has come about is something of a mystery, for it offers the camera article an unequaled variety of subjects and many that must rank at the peak of the world’s finest photographic material. 

Above all, there are two features that contribute to the enjoyment of the visiting photographer. First, Ireland remains one of the few unspoiled countries in Europe. Even its cities have a strangely detached atmosphere as if they lived in a world and an age of their own. Second, throughout much of the year and particularly during the months of April, May, and early June there is a clarity of atmosphere which enhances the ordinary and makes the beautiful enchanting. 

In all parts, there are scenes to excite the heart of every true camera artist, whatever may be his specialty. Indeed, the danger is that he may linger too long near the point of his arrival, and miss the greater gems which await him further afield. So rich is this country in material that the serious pictorialist may become intoxicated by what he sees passing through the main thoroughfares, and overlook the treasures to be found on the lesser-known by-ways and tracks.

How wonderful is the infinite blending of sky and water, be it the Atlantic breakers casting their spray hundreds of feet into the air to be swept inland; the quiet waters of some small lake, blue as the sky above; or a dashing torrent cascading through the purple heather of a mountain glen!

Woven through such unforgettable scenes are lofty peaks wild boglands and homely little valleys studded with color-washed cottages and farms.

To make the picture complete there are the Irish people – gay, friendly people! Simply clad, with a touch of brighter homespun here and there, and an occasional shawl, they go quietly about their daily work. They are never too busy to greet the traveler or give him whatever assistance he may need. 

It was no mere chance that let Robert Flaherty select the Aran Islands when he was seeking material for his film. Indeed, besides being the fried true “documentary,” “Man of Aran” is acknowledged to be one of the greatest pictorial records of our time, and is a source of inspiration to each rising generation in the film world. 

Heather in bloom at the Wicklow National Park.

Perhaps though, your photographic eye may not be stirred by the grandeur of the landscape alone. Then for you, there are stately castles and mansions, set in an old-world countryside; a fair day in some country town, with its cattle-lined street, and jovial jostling crowds; a thousand and one starry-eyed wildflowers in every field and hedgerow, and not least the blue glory of gentian-lined lanes in the Burren of Alpine-flora fame. 

Here are men and women at work, winning peat from the bogs, collecting carrageen moss from the rocks, to be loaded in panniers and carried away by amiable donkeys inshore.

Wheelwrights lovingly building the gay little orange-colored carts seen on every road and craftsmen who skilfully shape the most sophisticated haunting carts for Kerry.

Boatbuilders who hew from home-grown timber sturdy fishing craft, and with lath and canvas fashion the less sturdy but equally seaworthy currachs of the West coast.

After work comes play. A visit to one of the small traveling shows, perhaps a circus with a field full of piebalds and brightly painted wagons; or a midnight ceili at some distance crossroads, where after a brief few hours the happy throng of dancers will dissolve into the moonlit countryside, or it may be just a quiet evening circled before the embers of the open hearth. 

All this and so much more awaits the photographer! 

It is not for me to suggest the type of equipment the visiting cameraman should bring, for we all have our own ideas upon these matters. For landscape work I prefer an old field camera taking cut films or plates, quarter plant or larger. I consider at least two lenses essential, one medium and one long focus. An interchangeable foot of lens shutter with an air valve control giving speeds from one second to one-fortieth of a second is adequate for most pictorial work, although higher speeds are sometimes necessary to “freeze” foliage movement.

For almost all other kinds of work, I favor one of the twin-lens reflex cameras. They permit speedy action but at the same time give a negative big enough to perfect each dust spot assuming the proportions of a walnut when enlarged!

I have already mentioned the vital role played by the sky and water in the Irish landscape. The photographer will do well to arrive with a range of filters enabling him to capture the ever-changing atmosphere provided by these two elements.

A medium yellow filter used with a panchromatic material will even on an inexpensive camera more than justify a small outlay.

For those who wish to dramatize the cumulus clouds which like might snow-capped mountains so often drift across our island, there are orange and pale red filters.

All filters require increased exposure, and most manufacturers of sensitized material publish booklets setting out this information, together with comparative illustrations showing the effects of different filters. 

The village of Inisheerin, on the Aran Islands, County Galway.

The village of Inisheerin, on the Aran Islands, County Galway.

Recently a part of young German students arrived to tour this country. They were all enthusiastic photographers and were equipped with cameras and great quantities of black and white film, but no color stock. After their tour, the leader said: “We came thinking there would be no scope for color pictures in Ireland, but had we known we would have brought only color film.”

His view sums up the opinion of most visiting photographers. Indeed, the secret of the beauty and atmosphere which travelers associate with Ireland is the ever-changing landscape. Across an infinite scall of blues and greens, Nature blends such colors as the purples of the heathers and the reads of the foxglove and fuchsia, casting a warmth and richness of town far exceeding the finest damask. 

The photographer using color stock may find a U.V. filter desirable when taking distant views, and coastal or lakeside subjects. Personally, I do not dislike the blue cast which the absence of such a filter will cause.  To me, it enhances the atmosphere, but this is a matter for the individual worker to decide. Of more practical value is the polar screen, with its ability particularly when photographing at right angles to the sun, to increase the tonal value of the sky, brighten greens, and penetrate haze.

However, when the picture includes water the polar screen must be used with caution, as it may eliminate reflections, and destroy the atmosphere. 

And so, whatever your particular interest – be it landscape, architecture, nature stuff or just actions, in black and white or color, let me wish “good shooting.” You will certainly return for more. 

*This article was originally published in the July / August 1958 edition of Ireland of the Welcomes magazine. 



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Amazing photos from early Kennedy family trips to Ireland

Kissing the Blarney Stone, riding a horse through the lakes and valleys of Killarney, posing at the Giants Causeway – the Kennedy family did all this and more during trips to Ireland in the 1930s. 

In June 1963, JFK became the first sitting US president to visit Ireland. There are many gorgeous photos of the trip to Ireland, which would sadly be his last, all of them imbued with a sense of respect, awe, and history in the making. 

Photos from the Kennedy family‘s trips to Ireland in the 1930s could not be more different. They’re the classic tourist photos that any family who’s taken a trip to Ireland and seen the major attractions has: kissing the Blarney Stone, walking the streets of Dublin, posing at the Giants Causeway, riding a horse through the lakes and valleys of Killarney. Many of the photos are candid or surreptitious shots, some are blurry, smudged, or out of focus.

Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (center, surrounded by several unidentified people), sits on the basalt rock at Giant’s Causeway in Bushmills, Northern Ireland, during a Kennedy family trip in 1937. Original caption read “Joe, Giants Causeway.” Photographer unknown. Copyright John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Plucked from the Kennedy family’s photo albums they were digitized and stored for posterity in the archives of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. 

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy poses in front of the United States Legation in Dublin, Ireland, during a Kennedy family trip. Photographer unknown. Copyright John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy poses in front of the United States Legation in Dublin, Ireland, during a Kennedy family trip. Photographer unknown. Copyright John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

The greatest number of photos come from a trip Kennedy matriarch Rose took with her eldest son, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., and fourth child Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy in July and August of 1937. 

Kick and Joe, Jr. with their mother Rose, on board the SS Washington en route to Ireland. Photographer unknown. Copyright John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Kick and Joe, Jr. with their mother Rose, on board the SS Washington en route to Ireland. Photographer unknown. Copyright John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

They made stops in Dublin, at the Dublin Horse Show and Killiney. They traveled to Blarney Castle and Garnish Island in Cork, to Killarney in County Kerry, and to the Giants Causeway in Antrim before traveling on to Scotland. 

Kathleen Kennedy (wearing hat) and Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (smoking a pipe), stand on the grass with their arms around each other outside Blarney Castle in Blarney, Ireland, during a Kennedy family trip. Photographer unknown. Copyright John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Kathleen Kennedy (wearing hat) and Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (smoking a pipe), stand on the grass with their arms around each other outside Blarney Castle in Blarney, Ireland, during a Kennedy family trip. Photographer unknown. Copyright John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Photos from this trip also include the kind of snaps you’d take today: of the landscape, of locals, of famous sights. 

Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. in Killarney on a family trip to Ireland, c. 1937. Photographer unknown. Copyright John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. in Killarney on a family trip to Ireland, c. 1937. Photographer unknown. Copyright John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

One year later, the eldest Kennedy daughter, Rosemary, toured Ireland with family friend Betty Rice and an Irish woman named Dorothy Smyth, whom the Kennedys hired to be Rosemary’s chaperone for the trip. 

Rosemary Kennedy (middle, wearing hat, holding purse) poses between Kennedy family friend, Betty Rice (right), and an unidentified woman, in front of a life preserver at Kilcroney Castle in Bray, Ireland, during a trip; writing on life preserver reads,

Rosemary Kennedy (middle, wearing hat, holding purse) poses between Kennedy family friend, Betty Rice (right), and an unidentified woman, in front of a life preserver at Kilcroney Castle in Bray, Ireland, during a trip; writing on life preserver reads, “KILCRONEY.” Photographer unknown. Copyright John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

These photos of the Kennedy children smiling, laughing, enjoying the Irish countryside, are all the more poignant when you consider their moment in time.

Three years later, in 1941, Rosemary would undergo a frontal lobotomy that left her in need of constant care for the rest of her life. 

Rosemary Kennedy (wearing hat, holding cigarette and coat) poses beside a car near Kilcroney Castle in Bray, during her trip to Ireland, 1938. Photographer unknown. Copyright John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Rosemary Kennedy (wearing hat, holding cigarette and coat) poses beside a car near Kilcroney Castle in Bray, during her trip to Ireland, 1938. Photographer unknown. Copyright John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

In 1944, Joe Kennedy, Jr. died while flying a secret bomber mission in WWII. 

Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (second from left) sits aboard a motor boat with an unidentified woman and boy in Ireland, during a Kennedy family trip; an unidentified man (standing) operates the outboard motor at right. Photographer unknown. Copyright John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (second from left) sits aboard a motor boat with an unidentified woman and boy in Ireland, during a Kennedy family trip; an unidentified man (standing) operates the outboard motor at right. Photographer unknown. Copyright John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

And in 1948, Kick Kennedy perished in a plane crash en route to the French Riviera with the 8th Earl Fitzwilliam to seek approval for their marriage from her father, Joe, Sr. 

Kathleen Kennedy (second from right) poses with several unidentified people in Ireland, during a Kennedy family trip. Original caption read

Kathleen Kennedy (second from right) poses with several unidentified people in Ireland, during a Kennedy family trip. Original caption read “with typical Irish Lady.” Photographer unknown. Copyright John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

These photos in Ireland capture more carefree and happy times and are an important testament to the enduring connection between the Kennedy family and Ireland.  

Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (partially visible), leans back to kiss the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle in Blarney, Ireland, during a Kennedy family trip. Photographer unknown. Copyright John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (partially visible), leans back to kiss the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle in Blarney, Ireland, during a Kennedy family trip. Photographer unknown. Copyright John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Kathleen Kennedy (partially visible) leans back to kiss the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle in Blarney, Ireland, during a Kennedy family trip. Photographer unknown. Copyright John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Kathleen Kennedy (partially visible) leans back to kiss the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle in Blarney, Ireland, during a Kennedy family trip. Photographer unknown. Copyright John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Rose Fitzgerald leans back to kiss the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle, while traveling in Blarney, Ireland, during her school year abroad in 1908 (19 years later she would get to take her children to she same spot).

Rose Fitzgerald leans back to kiss the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle, while traveling in Blarney, Ireland, during her school year abroad in 1908 (19 years later she would get to take her children to she same spot).

View of Killiney Strand (Beach) in Killiney, Ireland. Original caption reads

View of Killiney Strand (Beach) in Killiney, Ireland. Original caption reads “View near Dublin.” Photographer unknown. Copyright John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

View of a grocery store in Dublin, Ireland; shop sign reads

View of a grocery store in Dublin, Ireland; shop sign reads “W. Kinsella, Grocery & Provisions”. Photographer unknown. Copyright John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Two unidentified women sit on a cart pulled by a donkey in Ireland. Woman at left is partially visible; woman at right holds reins. Original caption read

Two unidentified women sit on a cart pulled by a donkey in Ireland. Woman at left is partially visible; woman at right holds reins. Original caption read “Along the road.” Photographer unknown. Copyright John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Kennedy Family Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

* Originally published in July 2019. Updated in May 2023. 



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Best ways to spend a summer’s weekend in Dublin

Ask anyone! There’s nowhere better in the world than Dublin when the sun shines in the summer. The streets are abuzz there’s always something to do and the possibilities are endless.

Here are just a few ideas of how to pass a summer’s weekend in Dublin or if you’re a local maybe there are a couple of tips you never even considered.

Get off the tourist track, relax and take it all in like a local.

Walk Howth Head

The Bailey Lighthouse as seen from the loop walk on Howth Head.

Howth is a beautiful fishing village just 10 miles north of Dublin city and conveniently on the DART (local light rail) line or accessible on Dublin Bus.

The walk around Howth Head is amazing. Just 30 minutes from the city center and you feel like you could be anywhere! Rugged cliffs, seagulls, stunning vistas of Ireland’s Eye. On a sunny day, it’s heaven.

The “full loop” of the head is about 8 miles and takes a little over 3 hours.

What better way of rewarding yourself for this physical excursion than with a hearty meal and some libations?

Howth is a fish-eating vacationer’s dream with oodles of really excellent fish restaurants (The Oar House and Aqua to name but two). Then if you’re looking for a fun and friendly pub head to the Bloody Stream, right next to the train station.

Farmer’s Markets

People's Park farmer's market in Dun Laoghaire.

People’s Park farmer’s market in Dun Laoghaire.

It was Darina Allen, the master chief from Ballymaloe in Cork, who brought this concept to Ireland. She had seen them work well in San Francisco and thought Ireland should have its own markets to display its fine farm produce and artisan foods.

These little markets, and some quite large are scattered around the county. Some of the most popular are Temple Bar, Dun Laoghaire, Howth, and Red Stables in Clontarf, to name but a few.

This is a great way to see Irish food at its best. From butcher vans to cheesemongers, vegetables straight from the ground to homemade cakes…if nothing else you’ll certainly pick yourself up a delicious lunch and see what the culinary side of Ireland has to offer.

Paddleboarding

Paddleboarding in Skerries.

Paddleboarding in Skerries.

Also known as SUP (stand-up paddle boarding) this is a relatively new sport to Ireland but it’s certainly going strong. With options in Grand Canal Docks, Dollymount and out in Dun Laoghaire and Skerries over the summer months paddle boards can be seen, pottering about, taking classes, and even doing yoga on the boards.

Although you might think this is a difficult-looking sport, the boards are surprisingly steady and you’ll find your “sea legs” quickly. It’s certainly a serene and fun way to get a different perspective on Dublin.

City bike around Phoenix Park

Biking around Phoenix Park.

Biking around Phoenix Park.

Ireland’s City Bike system has been among the most successful in the world. So far there are 50,000 subscribers to the bike and just recently the City Council added more stations.

Now it’s possible to dock these bikes in every corner of the city center – from Talbot Street to Kilmainham Gaol and all the way to Ringsend – you can nip around with ease.

If you don’t fancy braving the city streets you can take yourself to Phoenix Park. Just minutes from O’Connell Street is Europe’s largest enclosed city center park. With 5.5 miles of bike paths, deer, the Zoo, the Irish President, and the US Ambassador’s home all housed inside this park you could happily spend a few hours cycling about.

Irish Food Trail

Ireland is fast becoming a foodie hub of the world. Our chefs are now world-renowned and we’ve really put ourselves on the map when it comes to hearty, honest food.

The Irish Food Trail and Tapas Trail are the perfect tours to literally give you a taste of Irish food. The tour lasts for hours and you’ll visit Irish restaurants or pubs, accompanied by a local guide. Along the way, you’ll sample a selection of traditional and modern Irish food and drink and more importantly be immersed in Dublin culture.

Dublin’s literary pub crawl

This is my go-to tourist recommendation as it combines three priceless ingredients – literature, the old streets of Dublin, and its finest pubs.

It all kicks off at 7 pm in the Duke, on Duke Street (check the site below for details). You’re greeted by actors who perform snippets from Beckett, Brendan Behan, Oscar Wilde, and more as they guide you around some of Dublin’s best boozers. This tour is fun, pretty family-friendly, and more about the prose and banter than the drink.

Outdoor yoga

Yup! You heard us. There is nothing like appreciating the Irish outdoors with some yoga classes and pop-up sessions that are happening all over Dublin. Again Dublin being blessed with a wealth of parks and occasionally with good weather, it seems like an obvious mix for us city dwellers or vacationers who need to relax.

From St Stephen’s Green to Dartry Square and Fairview Park it seems like pop-up outdoor yoga classes are everywhere.

Kitesurf on Dollymount Strand

Whether you plan actually trying your hand at flying a kite or you just want to get outdoors this is the place to be at the weekend. In 2015 Dollymount held its third annual Dublin Kite Festival and hundreds came to watch the masters at work.

If this seems too strenuous for you then maybe a stroll across the wooden bridge and along the three miles of Dollymount with views of Dublin Bay, from the Poolbeg chimneys to Howth.

Get the boat

If there’s one thing we’re not short of in Dublin is “the drink” and thankfully in recent years, there are various tour companies that have taken to the water.

There are the Viking Splash folks who drive amphibious WWII tanks around Dublin and then dunk them into the Grand Canal Basin and the Liffey. Don’t worry it’s all safe and life jackets are provided. What’s more, if you’ve kids with you they’ll love this. They’re even encouraged to shout at passersby and pretend to be a real-life Viking.

Then there’s the Liffey River Cruises that will bring you up and down the river from Bachelor’s Walk (near O’Connell Street) to the Docklands. A great way to get another perspective on the city. After all the Liffey is really at Dublin’s heart.

Then if you’d like to go further afield there are Dublin Bay Cruises which has boats that go from Howth to Dublin city center and out to Dun Laoghaire. What better way to pass a leisurely afternoon.

Get outta town

What many people visiting Ireland forget is that it’s actually a pretty small island. Our population is just 4.5 million and the island itself is just 302 miles long and 174 miles wide. What does this mean? Interesting day trips.

Two top trips from Dublin are Glendalough, in Wicklow, and the Titanic, Belfast.

Glendalough has it all. The ancient monastic ruins, beautiful countryside, and walking trails to suit everyone. It’s also quite close to Powerscourt House and Avoca. And all just an hour from Dublin city center too.

Belfast is just an hour and a half away from Dublin by train. Like Dublin, it has a reasonably compact city center which is easy to get around. I would recommend (having done it recently) taking a hop on hop off bus tour of the city which passes by the award-winning and brilliant Titanic museum. I would give yourself at leave 3 hours to get through all that’s on offer there.

Then if you’re looking for somewhere special to grab a bite before heading back check out Mourne’s Seafood.

If all that doesn’t inspire you to book a trip to Dublin then this gorgeous video, by Visit Dublin, certainly will:

* Originally published in 2015. Updated in July 2024.



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Simon Coveney announces he is stepping out of politics at next election

TD Simon Coveney announced today, July 10, that he will be stepping out of politics at Ireland’s next general election, which is set to happen no later than next March.

Coveney, 52, has been a TD for Cork South-Central since 1998. He previously served as Ireland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence, Tánaiste, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, as well as Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

He had previously announced in April that he told Fine Gael party colleague Simon Harris, who was at that point the Taoiseach-in-waiting in the wake of Leo Varadkar’s surprise resignation, that he would “not be making myself available to serve in Cabinet when the Dáil resumes next week.”

Coveney said at the time that he would continue to work as a TD for Cork South Central, but acknowledged that the Fine Gael party needs renewal.

On Wednesday, Coveney announced that he would be stepping out of politics at the next election.

As per Irish law, the same Dáil shall not continue for longer than five years from the date of its first meeting. As such, the current 33rd Dáil must be dissolved by the President of Ireland at the request of the Taoiseach no later than February 19, 2025, and a general election must be called by March 22, 2025.

Today I write to FG members in my constituency to say thank you.
Being elected for 26 yrs has been the privilege of my life. I will forever be grateful for the faith people in CorkSouthCentral have put in me.
Now is the right time for renewal in FG & for me to change direction. pic.twitter.com/4occw2d0PO


— Simon Coveney (@simoncoveney) July 10, 2024

In his letter to Fine Gael party members in his constituency on Wednesday, Coveney wrote: “All my political career I have tried to do what’s right for Cork, for the country that I love, and for our party that I’ve given my working life to since the age of 25.

“However, I have come to the view some time ago that it’s time for me to step out of politics at the next election, after the extraordinary privilege of serving this constituency for 26 years. 

“I hope you can respect my decision to seek new horizons in life outside of Dáil Éireann.”

He continued: “I’ve loved almost every day of public life. I’ve had opportunities in politics that I could never have dreamt possible before 1998; as a councillor, a TD, a Minister, and as Tánaiste.”

He said his career, which has taken him to “every corner of the world,” was only possible “because of the trust and generosity of the people of Cork South Central to whom I’ll be forever grateful.”

He continued: “I wouldn’t be leaving if I didn’t believe the future was bright. Right across the country we saw new candidates emerge in the recent local elections.

“Our party is strong and ambitious, our new leader has brought an energy that is reinvigorating the organisation at every level.

“In this constituency we’ve been promoting and encouraging new talent for years and have ambitious, talented potential candidates to replace me for the electoral tests ahead.”

Coveney said that the main purpose of his letter was to thank the members of his constituency for their support and loyalty to Fine Gael.

“We can be very proud of what’s been achieved, our politics has always worked for prosperity and a fairer society, protecting vulnerable people and rewarding hard work,” he wrote.

“We have remained true to those values, even in the face of the unprecedented challenges of the economic crash, Brexit, Covid, and the inflationary and tragic human consequences of war in Ukraine.

“We still have much work to do of course, but Fine Gael is the party best placed to protect Ireland, our people and our communities.

“Stay positive always. With your continued support Fine Gael will ensure that good politics and good people continue in Government.”

Simon Coveney, pictured here in 2020. (RollingNews.ie)

When on the Neil Prederville Show on RedFM on Wednesday if his decision was cemented during the Cabinet discussions in April, Coveney said: “There may have been a place for me, if I had pushed for that.

“I think the likelihood would have been that Simon [Harris] would have appointed a senior minister in Cork if I’d been available to do that.

“To be honest with you, I’d been thinking for some time, before that change, as to whether I’d run in the upcoming general election or not.

“I’ve had the privilege of getting elected in a by-election, I made a decision to stand in that by-election at the age of 25. Subsequently, I’ve had five general elections.

“I’ve given all of my working life to politics so far, so I did think a lot about that with my family over the last few years.

“When the leadership change happened in Fine Gael, it was a trigger moment for me to look to the future both politically and outside of politics and say, look, now is a good time to leave on my own terms when I’m working hard and getting things done.

“I certainly don’t want to be hanging around politics for any longer than I’m making a significant contribution.”

Coveney said he told Harris to consider others for Cabinet, “and that’s what he did, and I think that’s worked.

“Fine Gael is in a process of renewal. We had just had a good local election and European election, opinion polls are strong going into the general election.

“So I think the decisions I’ve made have been the right ones for the party and I think they’re probably the right ones for me as well.”

April 6, 2024: Simon Coveney and Simon Harris at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis. (RollingNews.ie)

April 6, 2024: Simon Coveney and Simon Harris at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis. (RollingNews.ie)

Taoiseach Simon Harris responded on Wednesday, saying Coveney is “not just a colleague, he is a friend.”

Harris said Coveney “leaves an outstanding footprint in Irish politics.

“I think we can all agree Simon’s role during Brexit will be his legacy. It was his greatest contribution in politics and of immense importance to this country.

“Today, I particularly want to pay tribute to Simon’s wife Ruth, his three daughters Jessica, Beth and Annalise.

“Simon’s role as Minister for Foreign Affairs meant many nights away from home and I want to thank them today for lending him to the country.

“I know they and the wider Coveney family are so proud of the role he has played in Irish politics, continuing the legacy of his father Hugh. I wish him all the very best.”



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Ireland Senior Men’s National Football Team announces new head coach

The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) announced the appointment of Heimir Hallgrímsson as the new Head Coach of the Senior Men’s National Team today, July 10.

Hallgrímsson, the former head coach of Iceland and Jamaica, will lead the team for the UEFA Nations League and FIFA World Cup 2026 campaigns. 

Hallgrímsson will assume charge of his first competitive fixture this September as Ireland face England in the UEFA Nations League

The new Head Coach will be formally unveiled at an official press conference tomorrow July 11 at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.

Welcome to Ireland Heimir Hallgrímsson 🇮🇪

Our new Ireland MNT Head Coach 💚 pic.twitter.com/aKZMMOPtyL


— Ireland Football ⚽️🇮🇪 (@IrelandFootball) July 10, 2024

The FAI said on Wednesday that Hallgrímsson was identified as their number one candidate earlier this year with his experience aligning perfectly with the Association’s search criteria. 

These criteria included, amongst other factors, previous international Head Coach experience, an ability to move international teams up the FIFA world rankings, a track record of qualifying and competing at major tournaments and experience in the development and progression of young players.

Hallgrímsson’s international experience started with Iceland where he was first assistant manager to Lars Lagerback from 2011 to 2013, joint Head Coach alongside Lagerback until 2016, and then sole Head Coach from 2016 to 2018.

His time at the helm of the Iceland national team coincided with one of their most successful periods, famously reaching the quarter-finals of UEFA EURO 2016, eliminating England in the last 16.

In this time, Iceland also qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and reached a qualification playoff for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Over the course of his time with Iceland, the team reached its highest-ever FIFA ranking of 18th.

Most recently, Hallgrímsson was the Head Coach of Jamaica (2022 – 2024), where he led the team to qualification for this summer’s Conmebol Copa America 2024.

His time with Jamaica also saw the team rise from 64th to 53rd in the FIFA World rankings. Hallgrímsson resigned from his role as Head Coach of Jamaica following the conclusion of their Copa America 2024 campaign at the start of this month (July).

In between his international roles with Jamaica and Iceland, Hallgrímsson gained club experience as Head Coach for the Qatar Stars League club Al-Arabi between 2018 and 2021.

Landed in Ireland: 11.30am
Photo-shoot in a (secret) location: 12.30pm
First FAI TV Interview: 1pm
Announced: 3pm

Quite the day for our new MNT Head Coach Heimir Hallgrímsson 😅🇮🇪 pic.twitter.com/IpAagdwy5C


— Ireland Football ⚽️🇮🇪 (@IrelandFootball) July 10, 2024

Commenting on his appointment, Hallgrímsson said, “It is an honour to be appointed Head Coach of the Ireland Senior Men’s National Team. 

“Ireland is rightly a proud footballing nation which has consistently produced talented players and enjoyed many memorable moments at major international tournaments.

“We have a young and exciting team that has genuine potential. I am looking forward to working closely with the players to help coach and guide them towards improved performances and results ensuring we qualify and compete at major tournaments on a regular basis. 

“We have important and exciting games coming up in the UEFA Nations League later this year and a massive FIFA World Cup qualification campaign coming up next year.

“Finally, I am also looking forward to getting to know the people of Ireland and in particular the wonderful fans of Irish football. It is my responsibility to coach, prepare and develop our team as best as possible to deliver results on the pitch and to make our supporters happy and proud.”

A message from our new Men’s National Team Head Coach 👋🇮🇪 pic.twitter.com/tDRz3KwSpS


— Ireland Football ⚽️🇮🇪 (@IrelandFootball) July 10, 2024

FAI Director of Football Marc Canham commented, “We are thrilled to announce Heimir as our new Head Coach.

“Earlier this year, we identified Heimir as our number one candidate whose capabilities and experience aligned with our criteria.

“Not only does Heimir have significant experience at international level with two different countries, but crucially he also has a track record of qualifying for major international tournaments and taking teams up the FIFA World rankings.

“It was also important for us that we recruited a Head Coach who is interested in the overall development of football in Ireland as outlined in the FAI’s football pathways plan and in particular someone who is interested in the development of our underage international teams both of which Heimir is hugely passionate about.

“I also want to thank and pay tribute to John O’Shea and his staff who have guided the team through recent friendly internationals preparing the team impeccably, creating a brilliant environment for the players and achieving positive results on the pitch.”

FAI Interim CEO David Courell added: “This is a significant day for Irish football with the announcement of Heimir as our new head coach. There has been huge interest in this appointment which ultimately is testament to how much people care about Irish football.

“We are delighted to have secured a Head Coach with the experience we were seeking but more importantly one that shares our vision for Irish Football.

“Heimir was the outstanding candidate, and I am hugely excited at what he brings to the role.”

FAI President Paul Cooke commented, “This is an important day for the Association as we confirm Heimir Hallgrímsson as the Head Coach to take the team forward in the coming years.

“When I met Heimir, I was I extremely impressed by his level of professionalism, experience, integrity, and deep knowledge of the game.

“I would like to thank my fellow members of the recruitment panel, David Courell, Aoife Rafferty, Packie Bonner, and in particular our Director of Football Marc Canham who collectively ran a very thorough and confidential process which was respectful of the candidates involved and which identified and secured the standout candidate.”

Tony Keohane, Chair of the FAI Board commented: “This is a tremendous appointment for the Association.

“Heimir Hallgrímsson’s impressive achievements and experience in international coaching and management align perfectly with the criteria we set out with, and I am really excited at what he will bring to Irish football.

“The Board of the FAI is fully behind this appointment, and we look forward to seeing the team develop under his guidance.”



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Discover Cobh’s hidden charms this summer

Picture-perfect from every angle, the scenic and historic town of Cobh in Co Cork has more to offer visitors per square meter than any other town in Ireland. 

Perched gracefully on the edge of Cork Harbour, Cobh beckons summer visitors with a delightful blend of old-world charm and world-renowned attractions, making it the perfect destination for an unforgettable summer getaway.

Few towns in Ireland have quite so much to do as Cobh, steeped in history, brimming with activities, and picture-perfect from every angle. From historical experiences to adventurous escapades, leisurely trails to high-octane activities, you’re guaranteed to make unforgettable memories with the whole family, but beyond the typical tourist attractions there are some lesser known and unexpected things to do which might just inspire a day trip or summer stay in Cobh.

Streetscape and living history

“Deck of Cards” in Cobh, Co. Cork. Image: Cobh Tourism.

Simply wandering along the promenade and picturesque streets of Cobh is its own opportunity to step back in time, with living history all around you. Period features, architecture, monuments and memorials are simply everywhere you look and best of all, it’s free!

Look up and you will be enthralled at the stunning St. Colman’s Cathedral, a Gothic revival masterpiece that dominates the town’s skyline. Its majestic spire offers panoramic views of the harbour and beyond, a sight not to be missed.

The original White Star Line ticket office where tickets were bought to board Titanic is still in use – it fittingly now houses the Titanic Experience (Museum) , while the modern day Sirius Arts Centre is housed within a building dating to 1854 designed by Anthony Salvin and built by James Smith Barry of Fota which was built to house the Royal Cork Yacht Club.

Dotted around the town are other fascinating gems including the Annie Moore statue, Lusitania Memorial, Heartbreak Pier and the Titanic Memorial Gardens and the iconic ‘Deck of Cards’ houses which are row of colourful houses stacked side by side on a steep hill with the iconic cathedral as the backdrop, probably Cobh’s most photographed scene.

Take a walk on the wild side 

Cobh is brimming with attractions that cater to all interests. For nature enthusiasts, a visit to Fota Wildlife Park is essential. Located just a short train ride or drive away, this expansive park is home to a diverse array of animals roaming in natural habitats, offering a unique and engaging wildlife experience.  

There is also the nearby Cuskinny Nature Reserve which is a haven for flora and fauna, bring your binoculars to go bird spotting on Cuskinny Bay or from the roadside viewing area on the lagoon. There is plenty of biodiversity to be spotted growing in the cracks and crevices of the town’s old walls and within the atmospheric Old Church cemetery for something a bit off the beaten track!

Culinary Delights

Hedermans SmokeHouse. Image courtesy of Cobh Tourism.

Hedermans SmokeHouse. Image courtesy of Cobh Tourism.

Cobh’s culinary scene is a feast for the senses.  In this coastal town you can indulge in the freshest seafood and enjoy savoury dishes made with locally sourced produce all while soaking in stunning views of the harbour. Whether you seek a taste of traditional Irish cuisine or modern twists you’ll find your choice of cosy cafés or waterside restaurants within easy walking distance. 

For a food lovers excursion head to Belvelly in Cobh where the award-winning Frank Hederman Smokehouse is open for pre-booked tours. only. Here you’ll learn about the traditions and techniques of a working smokehouse and gain insights to the time-honoured process involved in curing and smoking fish and seafood which supplies markets in Cork including the English Market and further afield, you’ll even get to sample generous platters of food with homemade brown soda and refreshments offered, and they pack anything that you don’t eat as a picnic. 

Explore by Day, Revel by Night: Cobh’s Art and Music Trails

A busy day in Cobh. Image: Cork Tourism

A busy day in Cobh. Image: Cork Tourism

For a daytime activity with a difference why not dip into culture why not follow Cobh’s Art Trail (compiled by Cobh Tidy Towns). This self-guided trail features colourful murals, intriguing sculptures and art galleries or pay a visit to the sensational Sirius Arts Centre.

One of many reasons to linger on a summer visit is the Cobh Music Trail. As evening falls, follow the winding trail through the town’s lively pubs and venues, where you’ll be treated to an eclectic mix of musical genres. From traditional Irish folk tunes to contemporary hits, the music trail showcases the immense talent of local musicians, making it the perfect spot to kick up your heels.

Cobh rolls out the musical entertainment on the bandstand in the Promenade every Saturday and Sunday throughout the summer with a mix of Brass Band, solo artists and Orchestras right through to September.

Cruise Spotting and making a splash!

The Cunard Liner Queen Anne pictured on her maiden voyage to Cobh in June 2024. Image: Cobb Tourism.

The Cunard Liner Queen Anne pictured on her maiden voyage to Cobh in June 2024. Image: Cobb Tourism.

Summer time in Cobh is synonymous with big cruise liners docking at the quayside, as international tourists spill out to discover the town’s historic and cultural attractions, the arrival of large cruise liners creates a festival atmosphere in the town with local animation groups dressing up in colourful vintage apparel to roll out a Cobh welcome. The full list of cruises docking can be viewed here

Cobh Confraternity Brass and Reed Band play a farewell recital on the quayside as many liners sail, bringing a sense of nostalgia and fun as the ships slip away from the quayside. Towards the end of the summer there is the Cobh People’s Regatta – an annual maritime festival taking place from  16 -18 August 2024 with fun for all, on the water and on shore. Or why not get out on the water yourself with a boat tour or self drive excursion!

Getting there

Although located on an island, Cobh is very easy to access. With a direct road, frequent rail services and a ferry connecting it to the mainland, you’ll find your way.  There are twice hourly train services to Cobh on weekdays which add ease, accessibility and day-tripability and the joy of travelling by rail. The Cobh Connect bus services depart from Patrick’s Quay in Cork City regularly with several stops around Cobh and there is also a night service at the weekends for nighttime revellers. You can also access by car and ferry via the Cross River Ferry. 

For more information, visit VisitCobh.com



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Where to find the best Irish breakfasts in Ireland (and some recipes, too!)

Breakfast may be the unsung hero of the Irish food scene, but the popularity of a traditional full Irish or fry-up, along with American-style brunch, continues to grow.

Yet how often do you see a breakfast review in a weekend restaurant column? Georgina Campbell, president of the Irish Food Writers’ Guild, asked that question herself when she spearheaded her “Irish Breakfast Awards” and honored the winners in Dublin a few weeks ago.

Campbell’s awards were created for the purpose of creating a benchmark system to motivate the industry to raise the standards of the Irish breakfast experience.

“A flavorsome rendition of the traditional breakfast plate, together with wholesome accompaniments including Irish soda bread and good Irish butter,” was what the panel of independent assessors was looking for, according to news from the awards committee.

“We need to stop taking the Irish breakfast for granted and let this simple meal be cause for celebration itself,” said Campbell.

And so it is that the awards honored three-, four- and five-star hotels, country houses, guesthouses, bed and breakfasts, and food producers who contribute products to the most important meal of the day.

At the highest end of the scale, The Merrion, Dublin, triumphed for its “range, consistency, and seamless service,” with its baked goods and charcuterie board “showcasing both Irish and international meats and artisan cheeses.” 

We’re delighted to have won the Best 5* Breakfast Award at the Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards 2017.#MerrionMoments #Dublin pic.twitter.com/xWQYRk9SoZ


— The Merrion Hotel (@MerrionHotel) April 28, 2017

The best four-star hotel breakfast was served at Ballynahinch Castle, Recess, Connemara, where the judging panel said: “breakfast is a high point of the experience” and noted the full baked ham on the buffet table and other breakfast foods made from the hotel’s own rare breed pork. Gougane Barra Hotel, Macroom, County Cork, took the three-star honors, with mention of “the breakfast meats from Twomey’s craft butchers” and the proprietor’s “rich walnut and treacle bread.”

Well done @Pete_Durks and team on winning best 4 Star Hotel today at the #breakfastawards @GCsIreland @Failte_Ireland pic.twitter.com/ZnSf89EvtK


— Ballynahinch Castle (@BallynahinchCas) April 26, 2017

Renowned Ballymaloe Country House in County Cork triumphed in the country house category for its “fresh, local, and seasonal ethos, its Bircher Muesli made with their own apples, and cooked breakfast made with Ballymaloe farm eggs, bacon and sausages.”

Ballymaloe House, Cork.

You can find a full rundown of the winners here and look below for some recipes from some of the best:

Five-star hotel: The Merrion, Dublin. Highly commended, Culloden Estate & Spa, Belfast; The Europe Hotel & Resort, Killarney

Four-star hotel: Ballynahinch Castle, Galway. Highly commended, The Mustard Seed, Ballingarry; Galgorm Resort & Spa, Ballymena

Three-star hotel: Gougane Barra Hotel, Macroom. Highly commended Killeen House Hotel, Killarney; Raheen House Hotel, Clonmel

Country house: Ballymaloe House, Shanagarry. Highly commended, Roundwood House, Mountrath; Rathmullan House, Donegal

Guesthouse: Newforge House, Magheralin. Highly commended MacNean House, Blacklion; Inch House, Thurles

B&B: Corrib House, Galway. Highly commended Ballinwillin House, Mitchelstown; The Mill Restaurant & Accommodation, Dunfanaghy

Brunch: Rua, Castlebar. Highly commended, Knox, Sligo; Hatch & Sons Irish Kitchen, Dublin

Breakfast foods: O’Neill’s Dry Cure Bacon, Burren Smokehouse Salmon, Flahavan’s Oats, Clandeboye Estate Yoghurt.

And now for some recipes, you can recreate at home!

Ballynahinch Castle breakfast muffins

Makes 18 muffins

If you’re looking for luxurious accommodations and fine dining in the heart of Connemara, Ballynahinch Castle is the place for you. Set on a private 450-acre estate of woodlands, rivers, and scenic walks, the authentic and unpretentious castle hotel claimed the top prize for four-star properties in Georgina Campbell’s recent breakfast awards. The hotel is pleased to share its recipe for these fruit-and-nut-filled muffins, one of the most popular items on its breakfast buffet.

Ingredients:

For the topping

1/2 cup flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup Irish oats
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon sunflower oil
1 1/2 tablespoon honey

For the muffins

2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Pinch of salt
4 large eggs
2/3 cup sunflower oil
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups grated carrots
1 large Granny smith apple, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
1 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup flaked coconut
Softened butter, for serving

Method

Preheat oven to 325° F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.

Make topping. Combine flour, butter, and sugar in a food processor; pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in oats, seeds, water, oil, and honey; set aside.

Make muffins. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. In another large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla. Stir in carrots, apples, pecans, sultanas, and coconut; fold in flour mixture (do not overmix).

Spoon batter into prepared pan and spoon topping over each. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving (flavor improves after 1 to 2 hours).

Killeen House Tangy Tomato Relish

Makes 2 cups

In addition to wonderful service, a relaxed atmosphere, and congenial proprietors Michael and Geraldine Rosney, Killeen House Hotel in Killarney also serves a mean breakfast. The small hotel, highly commended in the three-star hotel category, prides itself on its flexibility when it comes to breakfast, so whether you’re a golfer rushing out for a tee-time or a traveler hurrying off to a day of touring, you can enjoy a “To-Go Irish Breakfast Sandwich” that’s become “the stuff of legend” for those who’ve had the pleasure of partaking in it.

Outside of the normal ingredients of Irish bacon, organic eggs, and locally sourced sausages, the secret ingredient in the breakfast special is this tangy tomato relish, shared with Echo readers for the first time in 26 years! Thank you, Michael and Geraldine.

Ingredients

3 pounds tomatoes, chopped
3 red onions, chopped
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon Mixed Spice or pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon orange zest

Method

In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine tomatoes, onions, sugar, mixed spice, orange juice, and zest. Bring to boil, and then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, for 40 to 45 minutes, or until mixture thickens. (As skins separate from tomatoes, remove and discard). Adjust for taste, adding additional sugar for sweetness or vinegar for tartness.

Bring to boil, and then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, for 40 to 45 minutes, or until mixture thickens. (As skins separate from tomatoes, remove and discard). Adjust for taste, adding additional sugar for sweetness or vinegar for tartness.

Adjust for taste, adding additional sugar for sweetness or vinegar for tartness.

Let cool, and then spoon into clean jars; cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page expands this year to “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, or to order a signed cookbook, visit www.irishcook.com.

This article originally featured in the Irish Echo. You can read more from them here.

* Originally published in 2107, updated in 2024. 



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“Seismic earthquake” as Ian Paisley Jr loses seat held by family for 54 years

The loss was described as a ‘seismic political earthquake’ in North Antrim. It meant Ian Paisley Jr lost the seat he has held since 2010, in a shocking end to a family dynasty in the region.

 TUV’s Jim Allister was elected MP with 28.3% of the valid poll – 11,642 votes, a narrow majority of just 450.

North Antrim was regarded as one of the safest DUP constituencies going into the election, having been held by either Mr Paisley or his father since 1970.

Mr Paisley Jr came a close second with 11,192 votes – in a dramatic negative 23.6-point share change.

Mr Paisley said being a Member of Parliament for 14 years was a “huge privilege”.

He said: “The tides of life ebb and flow, as we all know.”

He added: “Life is made up of many chapters and I embrace the next chapter as happily as I embraced the previous chapters.”

Jim Allister talking to the media at Meadowbank Sports Arena, Magherafelt, during the count for the 2024 General Election. Picture date: Friday, July 5, 2024.
Meanwhile, the Alliance Party has triumphed in the DUP stronghold of Lagan Valley – the seat formerly held by ex-party leader Jeffrey Donaldson.

Sorcha Eastwood defeated DUP candidate Jonathan Buckley in the high-profile contest in Lagan Valley.

However, Alliance looks set for defeat in its two other main targets – North Down and East Belfast.

DUP leader Gavin Robinson looks well placed to beat Alliance Party leader Naomi Long for the fourth successive election in East Belfast.

Jeffrey Donaldson.

Jeffrey Donaldson speaking to the media outside Hillsborough Castle. Charges against former DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson are to be heard at Donaldson did not stand for re-election in Lagan Valley, having stepped down as leader in March when he was charged with historical sexual offenses – charges he denies. (Pic: PA)
In North Down, the cross-community party’s deputy leader Stephen Farry has all but conceded to independent unionist Alex Easton.

Donaldson did not stand for re-election in Lagan Valley, having stepped down as leader in March when he was charged with historical sexual offenses – charges he denies.

Reacting to her landmark victory, Ms Eastwood said: “It’s a fantastic night for us but it’s also a fantastic night for the people of Lagan Valley.”

She added: “I’m a Lagan Valley girl born and bred, and this has been in our heart for a long time and I’m just delighted.”

Ms Eastwood said it was a “huge” moment for the party, for her and her community.

SDLP Collum Eastwood.

SDLP Collum Eastwood.

In other early results in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein retained its seats in Mid Ulster, North Belfast, Newry and Armagh and West Tyrone while the DUP held Upper Bann and East Antrim.

One race that few predicted would be tight was North Antrim but the DUP’s Mr Paisley has been defeated by Mr Allister.

The UUP is increasingly hopeful former Stormont health minister Robin Swann can take a seat from the DUP in South Antrim.

Sinn Fein is confident it can hold off the UUP in the ever-close Fermanagh and South Tyrone count, where former RCN general secretary Pat Cullen stood for the republican party against Ulster Unionist councilor Diana Armstrong.

Asked if Sinn Fein was nervous about the result in the constituency, Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O’Neill said: “We’re feeling very confident that it has been a good poll from us across the board but it’s very early in the evening.”

Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O’Neill.

Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O’Neill.

Ms O’Neill added: “The politics of this election was very much about the politics here at home, about making the Executive and the Assembly work.”

All eyes are on the race for the greatest number of seats across Northern Ireland, with the potential of Sinn Fein cementing its position as the largest party in the region, having come out on top in the last Assembly and local council polls.

Such a result for the pro-Irish unity party would be bound to intensify the debate around the region’s constitutional future.

Sinn Fein, which ran a relatively low-key campaign, could secure first place by retaining the seven seats it already holds if the DUP drops down from the eight seats it won in 2019.

The DUP is under significant pressure in a number of constituencies and could be in for a bruising night.

Mr Robinson’s elevation to the leadership of his party came after the DUP suffered a huge shock when former leader Donaldson quit.

Apart from the sudden departure of Donaldson from the political stage, the DUP has also been under fire from unionist rivals amid claims it oversold a Government package of measures on post-Brexit trading arrangements that the party used to justify the end of its two-year boycott on devolution at Stormont in January.

The Ulster Unionists were without an MP in the last parliament and the party was growing in optimism on Friday morning that it will pick up South Antrim.

Asked if he was on course for victory in South Antrim, Mr Swann said: “It seems to be heading that way.”

However, retired Army colonel Tim Collins, who ran for the UUP in North Down, blamed voters for being more interested in “potholes and hedges” than international affairs after conceding defeat before the result was declared.

Success for the SDLP would be the retention of the two seats held in the last parliament by its leader, Colm Eastwood in Foyle, and deputy leader, Claire Hanna in South Belfast and Mid Down.

Ms Hanna said both are set for victory.

The TUV, which is an arch-critic of the DUP’s decision to drop its protest boycott on devolution, did not stand in the last election.

The party suffered a blow last month when Reform UK leader Nigel Farage personally endorsed two DUP election candidates, despite his party having an official electoral alliance with the TUV in Northern Ireland.

That led to a highly unusual situation in TUV leader Mr Allister’s own North Antrim constituency, where he ran on a joint TUV-Reform UK platform, even though Mr Farage personally backed the DUP candidate in that area, Mr Paisley.

However, that does not appear to have derailed Mr Allister’s challenge and he has performed well above the expectations of many.



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“Irish heiress” con artist in custody in Northern Ireland after extradition from US

Marianne Smyth, who was arrested in Maine earlier this year in relation to charges in Northern Ireland, has been extradited from the US.

Smyth has been extradited, a spokesperson for the US Department of Justice confirmed with the Associated Press on Tuesday, July 2.

Separately, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said that a 54-year-old woman had been extradited from the US to Northern Ireland for a number of fraud offenses on Tuesday.

While the PSNI did not name Smyth explicitly, the description appears to match the American con artist’s story.

“The offences occurred in Northern Ireland between March 2008 and October 2010,” the PSNI said in its statement on Tuesday.

“The female was initially arrested in the USA in February 2024 and today [July 2] completed the extradition proceedings with her successful return to Northern Ireland.

“The woman is due to appear before Newtownards Magistrates Court today, Tuesday 2nd July 2024.

“As is normal procedure, all charges will be reviewed by the Public Prosecution Service.”

Sergeant Davey from the International Policing Unit said: “This demonstrates our continued and effective working with our international partners to track down wanted persons and bring offenders to justice.

“In this case we worked closely with the United States Department of Justice and US Law Enforcement to locate, arrest and extradite this suspect.

“We appreciate the continued support of partners in the USA in assisting the Police Service of Northern Ireland in locating offenders.

“Our message is clear to anyone who has left Northern Ireland to avoid arrest or the consequences of their actions. We will relentlessly pursue those that are trying to delay or deny justice to victims of crime.”

According to the BBC, Smyth, who has an address in Co Down, appeared in court in Newtownards on Tuesday to face allegations of theft and fraud by abuse of position.

No application for bail was made and Smyth has been remanded in custody. The case was adjourned until a preliminary enquiry at Downpatrick Magistrate’s Court on July 18.

Smyth, who was previously convicted of two felonies after defrauding victims of over $60,000, was arrested in Maine in February 2024 on eight separate charges from Northern Ireland.

Smyth is accused of four counts of fraud by abuse of position and four counts of theft, according to extradition paperwork filed with US District Court
District of Maine (Bangor) in February.

According to the extradition complaint, the alleged crimes took place in Northern Ireland between March 2008 and October 2010. At the time, Smyth was an independent mortgage adviser for An Independent Mortgage Solution Ltd (AIMS).

Smyth allegedly “failed to invest and stole from” two people in the amount of approximately $25,500, another person in the amount of approximately $25,500, another person in the amount of approximately $29,000, and another person in the amount of approximately $92,000.

Court records show that PSNI Detective Constable Mark Anderson wrote in February 2021 that the allegations against Smyth were first reported to the PSNI in July 2009. By that time, Smyth had left Northern Ireland and returned to the US. She was alerted as wanted for arrest should she ever return to the UK.

The PSNI conducted a review of the case in 2017 and a file was submitted to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) in January 2019. A decision to to prosecute Smyth on indictment was taken in October 2019.

In February 2021, the Magistrate’s Court in Northern Ireland issued eight warrants for Smyth’s arrest; in September 2023, three of those warrants were withdrawn due to typographical errors but were reissued that same day.

The US Marshals Service believed Smyth, who last entered the US in 2013, was in Bingham, Maine. She was observed there on January 22, 2024.

Smyth was arrested on February 23 and appeared in court that same day. She requested an extradition hearing and was detained without bail pending the hearing on the request for detention.

On March 7, Smyth’s request for bail was denied and she was detained pending her extradition hearing. 

A federal court ruled in May that there was “sufficient evidence to sustain the charges,” with Smyth set to be turned over to the custody of the US Marshals Service pending a final decision on her extradition by the US Secretary of State. 

Smyth previously targeted television producer Jonathan Walton, who, upon discovering Smyth’s misdeeds, launched a campaign to out her.

Walton first met Smyth in Los Angeles in 2013 and quickly moved from being just neighbors to “best friends,” Walton said in an August 2019 piece for HuffPost.

Smyth would constantly treat Walton and his husband to fancy dinners, often telling the couple that she had plenty of money, money which she brought with her when she left Ireland, and that she enjoyed treating her friends.

Bizarrely, Smyth had a strange fascination with wanting to be Irish – so much so that she crafted a persona that was based upon having been raised in Ireland.

Indeed, Smyth’s still-public X account features plenty of engagement with posts about Irish sports, Irish language, and even a retweet of an IrishCentral post.

Walton wrote in the HuffPost piece: “Mair told us she was originally from Ireland and one night she pointed to a framed document hanging in her living room. ‘This is the Irish Constitution,’ she said. ‘See that signature at the bottom? That’s my great uncle’s.’”

“Since my knowledge of Ireland was scant, I believed her,” Walton wrote, “I had no idea that like her shoes, that tale was also fake.”

He describes how intricately Smyth fabricated her lie: “Mair brought me Irish tea and pastries and regaled me with stories of how when she was a young girl, her grandmother, who was supposedly in the Irish Republican Army, would bring her to the top of a bridge and teach Mair how to hurl Molotov cocktails down on British soldiers.

“I was captivated and horrified. But her stories about her family were all lies too.”

Walton would later find out that Smyth was actually born and raised in Maine before moving to Tennessee. It was 2000 before Smyth ever even visited Ireland, and while there on vacation, she married an Irish man she had previously met online and lived in Northern Ireland for nine years.

Most of Smyth’s elaborate scam hinged on her nonexistent family in Ireland. Walton says: “Mair told me that an uncle, the patriarch of her family, recently died and her cousins were dividing up an estate worth 25 million euros.

“She said she was supposed to receive 5 million euros ― the equivalent of $6.5 million at the time ― as her share of the inheritance.”

In his piece for HuffPost, Walton details how he helped bail Smyth out of jail, and how she swindled him out of tens of thousands of dollars before he eventually learned the truth.

After launching his blog to find more of Smyth’s victims, Walton says he was contacted by police in Northern Ireland: “I even got a call from a police detective in Northern Ireland.

“He told me authorities in Belfast had been looking for Marianne Smyth for years.

“The detective said she had worked as a mortgage broker in 2008 and had scammed many other people and then vanished.”



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On This Day: US hero Thomas Francis Meagher died in 1867

On this day, July 1, 1867, General Brigadier Thomas Francis Meagher died after falling overboard on the Missouri River. In honor of his anniversary, we look at the astounding biography of the  American Civil War hero and leader of the Irish Brigade. 

Although he lived only a short 44 years, Thomas Francis Meagher, who was born in Waterford in 1823, played a pivotal part in two of the most important movements in the histories of Ireland and the United States.

Yet today, to many Americans and Irish alike, Meagher is a distant landmark of history, the Civil War hero who, early in the war, guided the “Fightin’ 69th” and following their success was asked to form the famed Irish Brigade.

New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Timothy Egan knew nothing of Meagher when he literally stumbled upon him. “Quite by accident,” Egan confessed to IrishCentral. “After a visit to Ireland in 2009 with my family, I was looking for a way to tell an Irish American story. And then I found Meagher. I bumped into him, sort of—the statue outside the Montana capitol, in Helena. I’d never heard of Meagher until I saw the statue, and that started me down a curious road.”

But the story of Meagher starts long before the American Civil War. It begins in Waterford, Ireland where he was born into privilege in 1823. Well educated in both Ireland and England by his politically-connected father, Meagher was appalled at what he saw the English doing to Ireland.

On the first page of the “The Immortal Irishman,” Egan writes: “You would not think in Irish, so the logic went if you were not allowed to speak in Irish.” The English stripped the Irish of their culture—then introduced famine. “Today,” said Egan, “we would call it ethnic cleansing. It’s also close to apartheid. Basically, the English did everything they could to strip away the basic dignity of a people. They took religion, language, sport, property, even music. And all it did was make the Irish more defiant. They clung to their religion, they made the harp a national symbol, they even started a hurling club in the first British colony, in Newfoundland—all as a way for a conquered people to remain Irish.”

Meagher grew up during one of the most interesting periods in Irish history. One of the treats of “The Immortal Irishman” is Egan’s wonderful description of the Young Ireland movement of the 1840s. First, there was O’Connell’s emancipation of the Catholics; then the Young Ireland movement with Thomas Davis, John Mitchel, William Smith O’Brien, and Oscar Wilde’s mother, Speranza—and Meagher knew all of them personally (Meagher and Speranza were even thought to be lovers).

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IrishCentral asked Egan how great was the influence of the Young Irelanders, not only on Meagher but on the Fenians of 1867 and the rebels of 1916? “Meagher and Young Ireland influenced both the Fenians and the Easter Rising rebels,” replied Egan. “You can see his influence in a book Arthur Griffith wrote about the time of the Rising, praising Meagher, and resurrecting his words. The Young Ireland slogan—Ireland for the Irish—was basically the same as the young rebels used in 1916.”

The thing that galvanized Meagher and the Young Irelanders was the Famine, which devastated Ireland during the 1840s, cutting the island’s population almost in half. Egan takes a good look at Charles Trevelyan, the man put in charge of famine relief. Trevelyan, a fine Christian man, thought the famine was sent from God, as a means of ridding the English of the lazy Irish—a “selfish, perverse and turbulent people” according to Trevelyan—always looking for a handout. “Being altogether beyond the power of man,” Trevelyan said, “the cure has been applied by the direct stroke of an all-wise Providence.”

When reminded that we still hear this type of stuff out of American politicians during election cycles as they cite the need to cut food stamps to the poor—pitting the “givers” against the “takers”—Egan said, “Yeah, I actually wrote a New York Times column on this. I was in the middle of researching the famine and Paul Ryan’s comments came to mind. It started a pretty vigorous discussion in Irish America magazine as well.”

General Brigadier Thomas Francis Meagher.

General Brigadier Thomas Francis Meagher.

Meagher also was close to John Mitchel, one of the weirdest Irish nationalists to ever breathe—a true political schizophrenic. In Ireland he was for freedom; in America, he was for slavery, and against blacks, and, especially, against President Lincoln. (Mitchel considered the slaves “an innately inferior people.” He also described President Lincoln as “an ignoramus and a boor.”)

Meagher was fiercely anti-slavery and a personal friend of Lincoln. “A very strange relationship,” said Egan of the Meagher-Mitchel friendship. “They were very tight in Ireland; Mitchel had Meagher’s back. Meagher was the voice; Mitchel the pen. Then they reunited in both Tasmania and America. But things got dicey in the U.S. Mitchel was a white supremacist, and he ended up losing (I think) two sons, who fought on the side of the slaveholding Confederacy. As I recall, one of the Mitchel boys was on the other side of Marye’s Heights wall when Meagher’s Irish Brigade charged.”

The “Rebellion of 1848” was really a skirmish in County Tipperary, but it was cited by Patrick Pearse (“six times during the past three hundred years they have asserted it in arms” Pearse wrote in the 1916 Proclamation) as one of the times that the Irish had risen up in arms against the British. Betrayed by an informer, it also cost Meagher his freedom when he was convicted of sedition, although he wasn’t even present at the “Battle of Ballingarry.” His death sentence was commuted and he was exiled to Tasmania.

Life down-under wasn’t too bad for Meagher because his family had money. He lived well and found a wife. (They were to have one child, which Meagher would never meet because of his banishment from Ireland.) But he longed for freedom. As other convicts had done, under harrowing circumstance, he escaped to America. “America was a fascinating mess” his friend Richard O’Gorman told Meagher on Meagher’s arrival in New York. There was the problem of all the new immigrants and the nativist backlash of the “Know-Nothings.”

Things haven’t changed a lot in over 150 years, have they? If you exchanged the Irish for the Latinos it’s just about the same policy. “So true,” agrees Egan. “A point I try to make. It shows that, even though we’re a nation of immigrants, this anti-immigrant nativist streak comes and goes; it’s never far from the surface.”

The “Know-Nothings” went after Irish Catholics with a ferocity that America would not see until the civil rights battles of the 1960s. They terrorized the Irish in such cities as Philadelphia and Boston, burning churches to the ground, but did not succeed in New York principally because of the stand taken by “Dagger” John Hughes, the County Tyrone-born, toupee-wearing archbishop, the man who started building St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Yet as the Civil War and the military draft took center stage the moral compass of Hughes was compromised and in the case of John Mitchel, utterly destroyed. Meagher stood strong, backing the Union and remaining strongly anti-slavery. “Meagher originally was an agnostic on slavery,” says Egan. “But he changed his view, and changed rather dramatically, after all the sacrifices the Irish Brigade made on behalf of the Union cause—which was, after all, the cause for liberation of black men. Once he came to that conclusion he was all in. And you saw, in the draft riots, that it would have cost him his life at the hands of fellow Irish had he been in New York when the rioting broke out.”

The heroics—and sacrifices—of Meagher’s men at places like Bull Run, Richmond, Antietam and Fredericksburg was instrumental in allowing the Irish to be accepted as Americans. “They were amazing warriors,” says Egan, “and no one thought they’d be able to fight at the start of the war. But they also kept their cultural traditions intact; they essentially took them to war—the horse races, the feasts, the masses, the plays, the poetry readings, and music.”

“The Immortal Irishman” is Egan’s seventh book and took him three years to write. His previous books include “The Big Burn,” “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher” and “The Worst Hard Time,” for which he won a National Book Award. There are many colorful characters—Meagher himself, O’Connell, Thomas Davis, Mitchel, Smith O’Brien, Dagger John, General Sherman, Lincoln, etc. in “The Immortal Irishman.”

Did Egan ever think of making the book a novel? “No,” he replies definitively. “Here was a case where truth was much better than fiction. If you made up the dozen lives of the period no one would believe you.”

Meagher received his general’s commission directly from President Lincoln. “Lincoln liked Meagher and vice versa,” says Egan, “even though they were in different political parties. Lincoln made time to see Meagher even when he saw no one else. Lincoln shrewdly named Meagher a general as a way to win over the Irish masses to the Union cause.”

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After his first wife’s death, Meagher remarried in New York and after the Civil War, the couple were sent to the Montana territory by President Andrew Johnson where Meagher soon found himself the Acting Governor. There was a lot of lawlessness out there and Meagher fought the battle on the side of the angels. It may have caused his death because Egan believes, Meagher was murdered by his opponents. “I do. And I think that’s the emerging consensus view of historians in Montana who’ve looked at him in the last ten years or so. The earlier story of his death was bullshit.”

One of the things that strikes the reader of “The Immortal Irishman” is the similarity between Meagher and another Irishman—John F. Kennedy. Both were born into privilege; Meagher came from Waterford and Kennedy’s people came from the next county north, Wexford; both were extraordinarily handsome with keen intellects; both were the greatest orators of their day; both were war heroes; both were heroes of the civil rights movements of their time; and both were murdered in their middle-40s.

Did these similarities occur to Egan? “They did. And I’m glad you noticed. I only picked this up when I was looking for an ending and starting going through stories of JFK’s family, and the trip to Ireland. Many, many similarities—the charisma, the speechifying gift, the warrior heroism, the love of verse.”

Thomas Francis Meagher, a man not only for his time, but an Irishman for all time.

*Dermot McEvoy is the author of the “The 13th Apostle: A Novel of a Dublin Family, Michael Collins, and the Irish Uprising and Irish Miscellany” (Skyhorse Publishing). He may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him at www.dermotmcevoy.com. Follow The 13th Apostle on Facebook.

* Originally published in 2017, updated in July 2024.



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