So for instance:
1. St. Patrick- British & Roman!
St. Patrick himself was actually Romano-British, the son of a Roman official that was taken as a slave by Irish sea raiders probably from near Carlisle (at Hadrian’s Wall) in northern Britain in the early 5th century. Even his adopted name is not Gaelic, coming from the Latin term ‘Patricius' (noble).
Yet, as we say in Ireland, the invader/foreigner oftentimes becomes 'more Irish than the Irish themselves' (except for a few Northern Unionists!). Though sent as a prisoner to Ireland & forced to work as a slave looking after sheep in the mountains, Patrick decided to return to Ireland as a Christian missionary years after his escape.
2. Guinness- Invented by Londoners & with some later support from the British Army!
'Guinness' was copied by Arthur Guinness from an 18th century London drink made out of roasted barley. The beer was known as ‘porter’ because it was originally popular with the porters (carriers) in Covent Garden. Arthur Guinness switched from producing the more common ale at his Dublin brewery. However Guinness was initially not well received with Dubliners because of the owner’s support for the British colonial regime and his opposition to the republican United Irishman during the rebellions of the late 1790s.
Guinness’ international reputation had also a lot to do with the British Army! In WW1, the high-energy consumption ‘porter’ breweries in mainland Britain were closed down by the government to concentrate the national energy resources on the armament production factories. However Guinness and the porter breweries in Ireland were allowed to stay open thus giving them a virtual trade monopoly in the then British Empire that stretched across five continents.
3. Irish Pub- Viking roots!
The 'Irish pub' was actually created by Viking invaders in the 9th century in their new slave-trading settlements of Dublin, Cork, Limerick etc. Common to all these Viking cities was the presence of a 'tavern' where Vikings, after grueling days or months spent fighting, raiding, pillaging or trading could come to enjoy the delights of beer, music and food served by gorgeous-looking Celtic wenches.
Over a thousand years later (in 1996), I returned the favour to our Viking brethren by managing the first Irish pub in Iceland- ‘The Dubliner’ in Reykjavik! (pubs were only legalized in that country in 1989)
4. 'St. Patrick's Day Festival Parade’ -an American invention!
It originated in the mid-18th century American cities of Boston and New York where it was created by Irish Americans longing for their homeland and an opportunity to promote their heritage. The first parade took place in New York on March 17th in 1762 when it was led by Irish soldiers serving in the British Army! By the 19th century, it had became a powerful expression of Irish nationalism and the struggle against British colonial rule in Ireland.
5. Irish Whiskey -the essence of the Middle East!
The process of creating whiskey(from the Gaelic 'uisce beatha' = 'water of life') - 'distillation' was learnt from Coptic or Arab alchemists by studious Celtic monks. The former used it for medicinal purposes. However, we Irish soon saw its greater significance in the hospitality and entertainment sectors!
6. Sexy Irish Traditional Dancing- another American invention!
Traditional Irish step dancing only gained an international appeal in the 1990s thanks primarily to the efforts of an American, Michael Flatley.
This Irish-American from Chicago created the choreography for the 'Riverdance' show and, with fellow lead dancer Jean Butler, led the show to amazing success as the intermission act in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1994. Irish step dancing has never looked back since and Riverdance has generated a myriad of successful offshoots. Not only that, but the dour unsmiling
Irish dancers of previous eras were transformed into vivacious high-kicking Irish cailíní and buachaillí in figure-hugging attire. Furthermore, modern Irish dance now unashamedly embraces elements from other cultures (Russia, Arabian) increasing its international appeal even further.
Michael Flatley portrayed all that was good and important about Irish-Americans. When Irish traditions were dying out in the Emerald Isle, it was they that for centuries nurtured and kept alive the flame of Celtic culture.
7. There is no such thing as Irish 'Craic'!
'Craic' is looked on today as an Irish word denoting a quintessentially Irish form of fun (drink, music, amusing & friendly conversation).
In fact there was no such word in the Gaelic Language until the 1970s. It is actually an old English(!) word spelt 'crack' that meant in Elizabethan times 'to boast', 'to banter' or 'to tell a joke' as in the term 'to crack a joke'.
8. 'Irish Coffee'- invented for the benefit of American tourists suffering from the Irish weather!
On one cold evening in 1942 at a small windswept airport terminal on the west coast of Ireland, the local chef felt pity for the tired and freezing passengers who had just embarked from a seaplane that had to turn back from its trans Atlantic journey due to atrocious weather conditions.
Being Americans, he knew that they would enjoy a cup of hot coffee (not then much consumed by Irish people) topped with fresh cream. But because of the freezing conditions, he decided to spice it up with a shot of Irish whiskey. Legend has it that one of the passengers, remarking on the unusual taste of this drink asked, "Hey Buddy, is this Brazilian coffee?", to which the chef Joe Sheridan replied, 'No, that's Irish coffee'. And so, history was made!
9. Irish Songs-written by English, Americans, Scots & Australians!
Many of those great 'traditional Irish' ballad songs that are sung with such gusto every night by broken-hearted inebriated Galwegians or Dubliners in some Irish pub across the world were in fact written by English, Scotch, Australian or American!
10. Irish Traditional Music- reinvented by British Punks
It was a London-based Punk group of mixed English & Irish background that shook Irish music to its foundations and re-invented it for a modern Western youth audience. The anti-establishment Pogues, led by their brilliant lead singer and lyricist Shane MacGowan, that revitalised Irish music and brought vibrancy, youthfulness, relevancy and radical politics back into a staid Irish music scene.
Formed in 1982, the inventors of Celtic Punk fused traditional Irish folk with contemporary English punk and rock.
The name 'Pogues' comes from Pogue Mahone, the anglicisation of the Irish 'póg mo thóin,' meaning "kiss my ass".
As with Riverdance, their music was oftentimes condemned by the native Irish purists who preferred to keep Celtic culture in a sealed box untainted by outside forces.
Silly people! Like all cultures, Irish traditions are ever-changing, are constantly borrowing and being re-shaped by external influences.
A traditional Irish (honest!) Toast
In honour of the day itself, may I send you all an old and heartfelt Irish blessing:
"May your glass be ever full,
May the roof over your head be always strong,
And may you be in heaven
half an hour before the devil knows you're dead!"
Noel Treacy TD, Brendan Smith, Tom Hyland, Galway Science & Technology Festival 2012
Decision by 14 Galway City Councillors to overrule the Public Consultation on the Salthill Cycleway Undermines Local Democracy
Celtic female influence extended as far as Iceland....
Even outside Ireland, the influence of Irish women at this time (5-7th century) was felt- St. Ives in Cornwall is called after an Irish female saint (a.k.a. Eva or Aoife), St.Grimonia & St. Proba lived in France (Gaul) in the 4th century, St. Dardaloch in Pavia, Itay (c.300ad) and the nunnery in Austria made famous in the film and musical 'The Sound of Music' was probably founded by an Irish female missionary (Erintrude). In Iceland the hero of one of the great Icelandic Sagas is the Irish female slave Melkorka, a stong willed woman who refused to be coerced by humiliation, rape and brutality. In fact it has been noted by some that the status of women in Iceland (where I lived for a number of years), which was higher than in contemporary Scandinavian societies, possibly owed its origins to the impact exerted by the high number of Irish women living amongst the country's early Viking settlements- they were brought to the country as slaves and wives from the Viking towns of Ireland. It has been said that it was their influence that persuaded many of their pagan husbands to vote in favour of the country's adoption of Christianity at the famous 'Althingi' (parliament) of 1000AD.
This independent-minded spirit must have left a lasting legacy as Icelandic women were amongst the most successful in securing equal rights for women's during the course of the 20th century.
Female Celtic Warriors
Brigit was also a powerful Celtic goddess of fertility associated with the birth of animals and symbolised by fire. Hence her links with one of the four great pagan festivals of the seasons- the Spring Festival of 'Imbolc' which occurs in February and the time of 'lambing'.It is therefore quite possible that St. Brigit was originally a high priestess of the pagan goddess Brigit who converted along with her female followers to Christianity during the time of St. Patrick.
Rape of Brigit & decline in the status of Women in Irish society
But over time, the importance of women in society was reduced as Viking raids, wars and the growing influence of the patrician 'male only' Vatican took its toll. The death knell came in 1132 when it seems troops of the King of Leinster Dermot MacMurrough sacked the monastery, raped the abbess Brigit, carried her off and forcibly had her married to one of his followers. As is the case throughout the history of humanity, 'rape' is used as the ultimate weapon against female independence and the physical symbol of man's power over womankind. McMurrough is the same man who invited the British Normans to Ireland to aid him in his wars; they of course soon decided to conquer the country for themselves staying in the process for over 800 years.
Bloody Sunday massacre in January 1972 was part of a wider campaign of oppression against the nationalist community of Northern Ireland
I took this photo in Cork city a few months ago and deeply regret
that no similar scene exists in Galway city.
But it was agreed twenty years ago that such a cityscape would be part of the fabric of our own city.
In 2002, the “Strategy for Economic, Social and Cultural Development 2002-2012” for Galway City was published after two years of deliberations and discussions by the Galway City Development Board which grew out of EU and national directives to reinvigorate local government in Ireland. It comprised all of the major stakeholders of the city including Galway City Council, the community and voluntary sector, IDA, Chamber of Commerce, health board, state agencies, education bodies, trades unions, the Western Development Commission, An Garda Síochana, Ireland West Tourism, Galway City Partnership and Údáras na Gaeltachta whose Vision was to have a Galway that was ‘Inclusive, Progressive, Historic, Sustainable, Accessible, Equitable, Creative and People-centred’. I was a member of that collaborative board in my capacity as a community forum (now GCCN) representative. One of its key objectives was to “Develop a Safe Citywide Pedestrian-friendly, Cyclist-friendly, Disability and Child-friendly infrastructure” with an agreement to “explore the feasibility of having a sustainable integrated transport infrastructure based on the following hierarchy: 1. Pedestrians. 2. Cycling 3. Public transport 4. Private motor car.” It was also agreed to review the possibility of having a light rail system into and around the city. There was a shared sense of positivity, respect and a belief that we together could create something really special.
Much progress was undertaken in the early years towards achieving
the Strategy’s goals. But in the last decade as more and more cities across the
world enthusiastically reimagined their cities where walking, cycling and public
transport were prioritised, we still seem to have an outdated health-damaging greenhouse
gas emitting car-centric culture. The recent furore about the temporary Salthill
cycleway is understandable as it is a prime example of Hobson’s Choice with both
options in their present form not coming up with viable solutions and causing in
the process serious problems to pedestrians, cyclists, bus users and disabled parking permit holders. Galway
City Council could and should have done better and consulted more in advance
before coming up with these alternatives that are pitting good people against good
people. The taxpayers and citizens of this great city deserve better from our
public servants. The so-called third option of ‘no change’ is though unacceptable
as the present situation represents a serious barrier to creating a healthy
sustainable future for our increasingly urbanised world. In spite of a myriad
of attractive facilities such as Galway Atlantaquaria, Quincentenary/Circle of
Life Park, Salthill Park, large children’s playground, fine pubs and restaurants
as well as possessing one of the most famous scenic seascape views on the
planet, Salthill needs a major revamp in order to reclaim its status as the
country’s leading seaside resort both for locals and tourists alike.
Making the locality walking and cycling-friendly is fundamental
to this transformation. I have taken part in all of last year’s Galway Urban
Greenway Community mass cycles to Salthill involving people of all ages and have
seen how these events have made the ambiance of the area more relaxed and more
On the other hand, I was working last weekend in Salthill and the contrast to the cycling days could not have been more starker. Over much of last Saturday and Sunday it was bumper-to-bumper traffic belching out smoky toxic fumes with the harsh noises of cars revving a constant unwelcome disturbance.
Therefore I am making a submission to City Hall this week supporting Option 2 that includes a two way cycle lane on the Prom with two way vehicular traffic along the R336 (from the Grattan Road Junction to the Pollnarooma West Junction) but with the proviso of supporting disabled parking at Ladies Beach, and a pedestrian and a bus flow. A properly planned two way cycleway in Salthill can become part of the promised safe citywide pedestrian and cycling infrastructure that we have waited decades for. 2022 is the year that Galway has to redirect its transport infrastructure towards pedestrians, cyclists and mass public transport. There is no future otherwise.