I was proud to dress up in the colours of Ukraine and hold the country's flag high yesterday as I took part on my bike in the Connemara Greenway presence in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Moycullen.
It was so lovely to be joined by so many good friends demanding the completion of an access-for-all Connemara Greenway including John Power (CEO for Aerogen & the campaign's No 1 supporter), Claire Lillis (what a fantastic job she did with the promotional signage!), Micheal Ó Cinneide (the great co-leader of the Corrib BEO initiative - the Corrib blueways & greenways are so interlinked!), Helen Caird (eco artist extraordinaire), Ronald van Dijk, Gabe Bourke (who travelled from Donegal to join us!) Thomas Flanagan (who cycled from Barna) Kevin Jennings (chair of Galway Cycle Campaign & who cycled with friends from Galway city), Dick Delaney (who begins today a cycle with family from Galway to Dublin!), Thomas Ó Cadhain (who, in spite of being in pain with a severe injury, walked with his crutch), councillor Alastair McKinistry (who has been a staunch and strong political advocate for it) Pat Collins, Kyran O'Gorman (a great Blue advocate of Lough Corrib)....
All along the route of the parade, the watching crowd cheered and clapped their support for the Greenway. The enthusiasm was palpable!
But I felt, as so many others across our country did yesterday, that it was important too that there should be a tribute and a remainder of the brave men, women and children fighting a people's war against Putin's brutal invasion of their country and his attempts to wipe an independent sovereign country of the map of Europe and assimilate into an anti-democratic new Tsarist Empire. So I dressed up head to toe in the colours of Ukraine carrying my home-made Ukrainian flag and tunic
I feel too that Irish people, because of our history, have a special affinity with small countries that suffer oppression and occupation from aggressive rulers of larger more powerful neighbours. Hence the popular support in Ireland too for Palestine.
I hope someday to visit a free Kyiv, Lvev, Kharkiv and Mariupol in a free Ukraine.
St. Patrick’s Day is Ireland’s national holiday and understandably St. Patrick himself is looked on as the personification of all that is Irish.Yet he and so much of the traditions associated with the Festival have their origins far beyond our green shamrock shores.
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!
(Click on song title below to hear the song)For instance Dirty Old Town (that many mistakenly believe refers to Dublin) was written by the (Scottish-) English socialist folk singer Ewan MacColl; From Clare to Here by English singer songwriter Ralph McTell; Willie McBride/Green Fields of France by Scottish Australian Eric Bogle; Danny Boy by English lawyer Fred Weatherly; My Wild Irish Rose and When Irish Eyes are Smiling by New York Broadway star Chauncey Olcott; and the late great American country music star Johnny Cash wrote Forty Shades of Green
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!"
An editor of the state-controlled flagship Channel 1 television station, she ran onto the set of its live evening news programme yesterday (Monday) shouting: “Stop the war. No to war" and holding a handwritten sign with the script "No war, stop the war, don't believe the propaganda, they are lying to you here."
Marina Ovsyannikova is a true Russian patriot.
Say her name with pride.
Sadly she could have paid the ultimate price for speaking out against Putin's war machine and invasion of Ukraine as possibly torture and a harsh imprisonment sentence could have awaited her under recent draconian legislation enacted by the Duma. But the reality of what she could have suffered did not deter her.
Marina's bravery should never be forgotten and her message against the destruction of Ukraine by the neo-Nazi Putin regime should be spread far and wide.
She also released a pre-recorded video on the OVD human rights group in which she spoke of her shame at working for Channel One and facilitating the propaganda of the Putin regime in brainwashing the Russian people.
“Regrettably, for a number of years, I worked on Channel One and worked on Kremlin propaganda, I am very ashamed of this right now. Ashamed that I was allowed to tell lies from the television screen. Ashamed that I allowed the zombification of the Russian people. We were silent in 2014 when this was just beginning. We did not go out to protest when the Kremlin poisoned Navalny”
“We are just silently watching this anti-human regime. And now the whole world has turned away from us and the next 10 generations won’t be able to clean themselves from the shame of this fratricidal war.”
“What is happening in Ukraine is a crime and Russia is the aggressor”
“The responsibility of this aggression lies on the shoulders of only one person: Vladimir Putin.”
Marina pleaded with her fellow Russians to join the anti-war protests so that the brutal invasion and destruction Ukrainian;s peoples and their cities would end. “Only we Russians have the power to stop all this madness. Go to the protests. Don’t be afraid of anything. They can’t imprison us all.”
According to the United Nations, 12,700 people were arrested up until Sunday for taking part in anti-war street demonstrations across Russia as Putin's regime introduces emergency legislation to criminalise peaceful protests against his invasion of Ukraine in order to stifle the country's growing anti-war movement.
A similar situation is happening in Minsk and other Belorussian cities as many young Belorussians protest against the dictator Lukashenko' participation in Putin's war.
These people are the bravest of the brave, facing the threat of years in prison and deserve our respect and admiration.
So too do the populations of Russian-occupied Ukrainian cities who are regularly protesting against Putin's soldiers, telling them to leave their country and go back to Russia.
Like Bush and Blair who organised an illegal invasion of Iraq based on lies about weapons of mass destruction, Putin is a war criminal who fabricated a litany of lies to justify an illegal war. The results are the same- militarisation, destruction, economic collapse, civil conflict and population collapse.
The result of this ultra nationalist dictator who wants to recreate the Tsarist Empire is that thousands of Ukrainians and Russians have already being killed, cities destroyed by land and air bombing and circa 2 million people have had to flee their homelands. So many of these refugees fleeing west to Poland and other European countries are Russian speakers hence belittling Putin's propaganda that he came to Ukraine as their liberator to save them from genocide.
Message to Putin from the people of Ukraine: "WE ARE UKRAINIANS, WE WILL NOT BE ASSIMILIATED, RESISTANCE IS NOT FUTILE!"
Solidarity with the brave men and women of Ukraine in their fight against the huge invading army, air and naval forces of the anti-democratic tyrant who wants to wipe their country off the face of the Earth and absorb it into a 'Greater Russia'.
Civilians stand unarmed in front of Russian tanks and soldiers. Women and children make Molotov cocktails to defend their homes and neighbourhoods against one of the world's largest military.
Solidarity too with the brave ordinary men and women of Russia who have protested on the streets of Moscow, St Petersburg and dozens of other Russian cities against the invasion and 4000+ of whom were arrested and face punishment from a brutal regime.
Solidarity with the brave journalists, artists and politicians in Russia such as Katerina Kotrikadze, Tikhon Dzyadko, Dmitry Muratov, Yelena Kovalskaya, Elena Chernenko, Alexey Navalny, Lisa Peskova, Tatyana Yumasheva, Valery Meladze, Oxxxymiron and Ivan Urgant who spoke out against the invasion of Ukraine.
Solidarity with the sports players and fans from all across the world who at tournaments and matches over the weekend proudly held and applauded flags and banners in support of the Ukrainian resistance and against the imperialist Putin.
Freedom to all nations. No to dictatorships