The past isn’t a script set down in stone

Vandalizing public spaces under the delusion that such acts make yesterday a better today is sad-sack politics that fosters democratic weakness

The past isn’t a script set down in stoneFor her book Talking Stones: The Politics of Memorialization in Post-Conflict Northern Ireland, Elisabetta Viggiani mapped 157 publicly visible sites of Troubles commemoration in Belfast. Broken down, the city’s memorials alone offer a ratio of one wall plaque, garden, public tableau or statue for every 25 of the 4,000 or so people killed by the…

The power life of a medieval heiress

The combination of Isabel de Clare’s inherited wealth and William Marshal’s earned status made for a fortuitous pairing

The power life of a medieval heiressThe teenage Isabel de Clare was a desirable prize in the late 12th century marriage market. As the heiress to substantial lands in Ireland, Wales, England and Normandy, she had much to offer. Both sides of her pedigree contributed to this inheritance. Isabel’s father was Richard de Clare, popularly known as Strongbow. He came from…

Digging for the bones of a lost Irish hero

Digging for the bones of a lost Irish heroThe Spanish city of Valladolid has an Irish historical connection. It was there that Red Hugh O’Donnell was buried in 1602. Now, thanks to an archaeological dig aimed at finding his long-lost tomb, the connection is back in the news. Known as Red Hugh because of his hair colour, he was the kind of historical…

Flu pandemic of 1918 brutal, virulent killer

One hundred years ago, a flu pandemic swept across the world, killing tens of millions of people, particularly those in the prime of life

Flu pandemic of 1918 brutal, virulent killerFrom the wet and windswept northwest of Ireland to rural southwestern Ontario, the flu pandemic of 1918 to 1920 was remorseless. My mother and my wife’s father lost siblings to an illness where death might come within 24 hours of first symptoms. And sometimes it was particularly brutal. Historian John Barry has described it this…

Ireland on the cusp of political upheaval

Should Sinn Fein come to power, it’ll be interesting to see how they deliver results. Making promises is easy. Getting a job done is different

Ireland on the cusp of political upheavalIreland’s recent election produced an unusual result. You might call it downright peculiar. Or maybe just momentous. Irish politics has been dominated for the past century by two parties whose origins derive from the civil war that followed the establishment of an independent Irish state. In many cases, family voting patterns were faithfully handed down…

A child’s Christmas Eve in 1950 Dublin

One of my earliest Christmas memories was going to see Roy Rogers, the "King of the Cowboys", in The Gay Ranchero in a Dublin cinema

A child’s Christmas Eve in 1950 DublinAs you get older, one of the things that Christmas evokes is a sense of remembering. And for me, one the earliest such memories relates to Christmas Eve 1950. It was the first time I ever went to the cinema. Or, as Dubliners would have said, the pictures. I was six years-old at the time…

What if Brexit leads to the breakup of the United Kingdom?

A separate Scotland and a unified Ireland would certainly face new challenges. But life might be easier for the English

What if Brexit leads to the breakup of the United Kingdom?If Brexit happens and has the unintended consequence of facilitating Scottish independence and Irish unification (picking up where last week’s column left off), what would that mean for various groups? For Scottish unionists, leaving the United Kingdom would certainly be a major psychological wrench. Unlike, say, the former states of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia – both…

Brexit’s potential for unintended consequences

How about Scottish independence and Irish unification, just to start the conversation?

Brexit’s potential for unintended consequencesLet’s do a thought experiment. We’ll begin by making two speculative stipulations. First, assume that Boris Johnson comes out of the United Kingdom’s Dec. 12 general election with a comfortable Conservative majority. Thus empowered, he pushes his new European Union withdrawal agreement through parliament without any material amendments and the U.K. then leaves the EU…

Republic of Ireland offers valuable social, economic lessons

Looking for – and finding – solutions to hot-button issues from education to economic vibrancy to population growth

Republic of Ireland offers valuable social, economic lessonsNew Brunswick has much to learn from the Republic of Ireland. My recent selection as a Dobbin Scholar by the Ireland Canada University Foundation allowed me to conduct an academic visit to Maynooth University and the Republic of Ireland in June. The purpose of my visit was to explore the lessons that the Celtic Tiger…

With war on the doorstep, The Singing Cowboy came calling

His tour of the U.K. and Ireland just before the Second World War was a huge success. But prudence meant his entourage came home early to avoid any danger

With war on the doorstep, The Singing Cowboy came callingThe summer of 1939 was nerve-wracking for Europe. As July slid into August, it became increasingly clear that – barring a miracle – war was on its way. And there were no miracles to be had. There was, however, a distraction that delighted tens of thousands. Gene Autry, The Singing Cowboy, came calling across the…

How Ireland stayed neutral in a world at war

Under the leader ship of Eamon de Valera and with a very small army, virtually no aerial capability and little naval service, Ireland was a sitting duck in the Second World War

How Ireland stayed neutral in a world at warAs we approach the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, it’s worth remembering that many of the countries caught up in it were unwilling participants. Rather than enlisting in a universal crusade against the evils of Nazi Germany, they wanted nothing more than to stay out of the conflict. For instance,…

The unexpected rise of Margaret Thatcher

Into the U.K.’s Winter of Discontent came a woman of sharp edges and a clear mind about how change would be managed

The unexpected rise of Margaret ThatcherOn May 3, 1979, United Kingdom voters trooped to the polls and produced a result that nobody would have countenanced a mere five years earlier. Defeating the sitting Labour government, Margaret Thatcher led the Conservatives into a lengthy sojourn in office. The novelty derived from the U.K. never having had a female prime minister, let…

The echoing calls for reconciliation and sound social architecture

In Ireland, in South Africa, in Canada the desire for stability, resolution and trust runs deep

The echoing calls for reconciliation and sound social architectureRose Conway-Walsh identifies as a confidently progressive left-of-centre leader of Sinn Féin in the Irish Senate. She’s equally confident, however, that many of Ireland’s pressing, implacable existential problems could be resolved by turning the clock back to April 24, 1916. “Everything is rooted in the Proclamation. If we only had fulfilled the ideals laid out…

Ireland’s greatest mythical hero

The story of Cuchulainn is one of heroism. But it has also become a cultural touchstone and a political rallying cry

Ireland’s greatest mythical heroWith St. Patrick’s Day almost upon us, it’s appropriate to write something with an Irish theme. And what better subject than the greatest hero of Ireland’s mythical past – Cuchulainn. As the word is derived from old Irish, a bit of phonetic assistance would help. The variation familiar from my childhood is “Coo Cullen.” It…

Travelzoo’s top 2019 picks for deal-seeking Canadians

And one Calgary hotel helping you keep up your fitness resolutions while on the road

Travelzoo’s top 2019 picks for deal-seeking CanadiansYour news feed has no doubt been peppered with lists aimed at inspiring your travel choices in 2019. But here’s a list that speaks to what many Canadian travellers hold dear: good value. Travelzoo, an international publisher of exclusive offers and experiences for 28 million members, has curated a list of six diverse destinations around…