A 2016 Papal visit to Ireland, gay marriage, the euro, the British Army joining the GAA were among the news items fascinating our readers in 2015
Here we take a look at some of the top stories of the autumn in 2015.
We looked at the London Irish teachers, Brian Arnold and Colin Hegarty, who are trying to revolutionise the teaching of maths in schools for kids who can’t afford extra tuition.
The pair want to use digital age to give free tutorials and grinds to all and level the playing field.
Brian and Colin came up with what they call an inverse teaching method when they started making their own online tutorials for their students to watch at home to be ready to put their methods into practice when they came into class.
Hegarty Maths, which they came up with while working at Queensmead School in Ruislip, meant that students finding it difficult received support in class rather than falling behind when doing their homework alone in the evenings.
They are looking to implement it as a nationwide online resource for all students and have set up the website hegartymaths.com which all schoolchildren can access.
They hope to improve the content and production and ensure that all aspects of the secondary school curricula are covered in time for the new 2016-17 academic year in September.
Dubliner Arnold, from Clontarf, and Kilburn-born Hegarty, whose parents come from Sligo and Mayo, are competed for £150,000 investment from serial entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson as part of a Virgin initiative for new and growing businesses, Pitch to Rich.
‘ADOPTION TO ADDICTION’
Anne Bradley hit rock bottom …until she and her husband noel escaped alcoholism.
“Your want to give up has to be stronger than your need to keep drinking,” noel Bradley told us as his wife Anne, an artist, released her autobiographical book, From Adoption to Addiction, which detailed the years of her life battling alcoholism, before meeting noel and settling down to have a family twenty years ago.
The couple, who now have a lovely home in leafy in Epsom and two successful adult sons – a soccer coach and a jockey – have avoided alcohol since; a far departure from the day they first met. In a chance encounter the pair, who had separately been travelling the length and breadth of Ireland in search of their next bingeing opportunity, had happened to stay at a homeless hostel on the same night.
The next day she was desperate for some alcohol and her ‘knight in shining armour’ came to her rescue, having lifted a barrel of beer off a train in Newry. They married and thought about starting a family of their own but doctors told the couple were told that they would never conceive with the amount of alcohol they were consuming.
“We just turned to one another and said that we’d give it six months. Six months of being sober and if we didn’t conceive in that time then we could go back on the drink.”
Three months later Anne found out she was pregnant.
They haven’t touched it since.
‘GAA PLAYERS’ TUNISIA TRAGEDY’
Players and supporters of James Connolly Gaelic Football Club in Birmingham were heartbroken by the death of one of the club’s young stars, 19-year-old Joel Richards, who was killed in a terrorist attack in Tunisia.
Another of the club’s members, Joel’s 16-year old brother Owen, was hailed as a hero for helping another victim to safety.
Joel, from Wednesbury, was one of 38 killed when a Tunisian student linked to Islamic State extremists opened fire on a beach in Sousse. Joel was a Walsall FC fan, football referee and student at the University of Worcester. He died along with two other family members in a massacre that claimed 38 lives.
Joel’s uncle Adrian Evans and grandfather Patrick, 78, were also killed. Players wore black arm bands and observed a minute’s silence ahead of their match in the Home Grown Championship against John Mitchel’s. Joel was described as selfless and a keen charity worker.
Connor Kiernan, a friend from childhood, said the club would continue charitable ventures in Joel’s name. Club president Tony Donahue said: “The world is worse off without him. He was special.
“We’re all devastated. I can’t believe it. I just can’t get my head around it.
“He was one of the nicest lads ever. I have had a lot of kids through my hands over the past 23, 24 years and he was one of the most dedicated and likeable children you could meet anywhere, he was a model lad, he was. Incredibly friendly and you would have to know his family to know where he got it from. His family were all lovely.
“He was the nicest lad you could meet anywhere.” Clubmate and schoolfriend Connor Kiernan said: “It is heartbreaking. You hear that word used quite a bit but it is heartbreaking, there’s no other way to describe the feeling among friends and family.
‘A GENERATION OF NEW IRISH’
Eurostat said Ireland gave out the most new citizenships in 2013…relative to its size…of any EU state. And more of those “New Irish” have third level qualifications than the native Irish, said the OECD.
Ireland conferred 5.3 citizenships per every thousand of the resident population. This is followed by Sweden (5.2), Spain (4.8) and Luxembourg (4.7). The EU average is 1.9 citizenships per 1000.
More than 40,000 foreign workers moved to Ireland in 2013, one of the highest rates in the EU, according to Eurostat, a 50 per cent increase on 2012, when local unemployment peaked.
In 2007 some 150,000 people immigrated into Ireland. Between the 2002 and 2011 censuses the number of non-Irish in Ireland trebled.
In terms of new citizenships, the number of so-called ‘New Irish’ assessed by Eurostat, was 24,262 people, 93 per cent of whom were from outside the EU and just 7 per cent were Europeans.
This is consistent with eleven other EU countries where nine people out of every 10 new citizens originally came from outside the EU, or 89 per cent (871,300 people) with 98,500 from fellow European countries.
In Ireland Nigeria provided the highest numbers of new Irish, at 23.9 per cent, followed by Indian citizens at 12.4 per cent, followed by Filipinos, at 10.2 per cent.
‘BRITISH ARMY SET TO JOIN THE GAA’
London GAA and the British Army made history as the Irish Guards, newly moved to Hounslow, readied to field its own Gaelic Football team, Gardai Eireannach and was accepted by the London County Board.
The new team, with players drawn from Irish households all over the island of Ireland and here in the UK will play its first games in 2016 – the centenary year of the 1916 Rising.
The British Army Regiment, is known affectionately and with respect throughout the Army as ‘the Micks’. The Irish Guards is one of the two Irish regiments in the British Army.
The Irish Guards traditionally recruit in Northern Ireland and the Irish neighbourhoods of major British cities but not exclusively so. There has been a sharp increase from the Republic in recent years in expressions of interest in joining.
The regiment of the Irish Guards was extremely prominent during the State Visit to Britain by President of Ireland Michael D Higgins when he was a guest of Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle.
Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and future King, is its commander and he and his wife, Kate the Duchess of Cambridge present shamrock to its soldiers on every St. Patrick’s Day.
‘JACQUES BREL IS ALIVE AND WELL’
Irish cabaret artiste Camille O’Sullivan performed Jacques Brel at Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, her eleventh successive year at the arts festival.
The Irish-French performer has a loyal fanbase for her interpretations of narrative songs and her ability to take on the characters at their heart.
Jacques Brel was the Belgian singer-songwriter whose theatrical songs earned a devoted following and became a major influence on songwriters and performers such as David Bowie, Alex Harvey, Leonard Cohen, Marc Almond and Rod McKuen.
After hearing Brel in her home in Cork as a child, Camille would later rediscover him in her days studying architecture in Berlin.
When Camille took the large step of leaving her solid career in architecture to pursue performance, her first shows were of Brel’s work.
Camille told The Irish World: “It’s weird going back because where I’ve gone to now, I still sing Brel but of course, my mum is French and my dad is Irish, both of them love Brel and it’s what I’ve heard growing up among other eclectic taste they had.
“Brel is the granddaddy of storytelling, he’s ten years before.”
It was once again ‘so close and yet so far’ for London GAA’s new much touted new stadium as tenders quoted for the £4.17m project turned out to be as much as 50 per cent over the original budgeted cost throwing the whole stadium project into disarray and forcing everyone back to the drawing boards.
The London County Board and its consultant engineers, Tobin Consulting UK Ltd, were forced to put back work by at least a year as they looked for contractors to work within budget.
The new showpiece stadium was supposed to open by May and be a county-level ground for the Irish community in London and in Britain.
But as tenders were invited, and received, from at least five contractors costs exploded by as much as 50 per cent over.
‘HOW TO AVOID IRISH DISEASES’
There are a number of health conditions and disorders that are more prevalent among the Irish.
Ireland has the highest rate of cystic fibrosis in the world and also has the largest proportion of families with more than one child suffering from the condition.
Among those conditions most likely to affect Irish people are Haemochromatosis, an ‘iron overload disease’ which traditional high-iron Irish diets don’t help.
Researchers believe that haemochromatosis originated 40,000 years ago in what is now known as Ireland with a sole ancestor whose genes mutated to over-absorb iron to compensate for the lack of iron in the diet during a time of famine.
Red meat, green vegetables – and even Guinness – are all very high in iron. If left untreated the excess iron can accumulate in the organs and lead to liver disease and heart failure. Symptoms include fatigue and joint pain.
Treatment aims to remove excess iron from the body by regularly.
‘NATHAN PLANS TO BE AS BIG IN THE UK AS HE IS IN IRELAND’
Liverpool-born singer Nathan Carter, who goes from strength to strength in Ireland and this year got his first ever Christmas special on RTE talked to us about how a UK breakthrough has eluded him to date and how he hopes this will change in 2016.
The fresh faced singer has droves of teenage fans flocking to follow his tours in Ireland. “I really want to spend the next few years concentrating on ‘breaking’ the UK.
“After the last tour the album I released here got into the Top 40 but my next goal now is to break the top 20.
“In Ireland my last albums have gone to number one, but the market is so much bigger here, you have to shift so many more copies in order to do well but I’m determined to get there. “There definitely seems to be a market for it here.
“There’s actually 16 of us on the road now and we really are rehearsing so much to make sure we put on the best show possible.
“I’m obviously from Liverpool, and I’ve enjoyed my time in Ireland so much, I’ll always tour there, but I am so keen on using the next few years to see what we can do in the UK.”
‘IS THIS THE WAY TO…MAYO?’
Tony Christie, who is known for his big hot Is This The Way To San Jose?, chose to honour his Mayo roots this year with The Great Irish Songbook.
He was born Anthony Fitzgerald and dedicated the album to his late father whose own traditional Irish songs created Tony’s interest in music. Tony’s grandparents emigrated to Sheffield from the west of Ireland in the 1930s.
Although well known for his powerful, jazz tones, Tony’s love for music was first found listening to his family playing in a Ceili band.
Coming from a very working class background in Sheffield, his Mayo grandfather brought his melodeon to South Yorkshire when he came over to England looking for work.
His grandmother played the fiddle in a céilí dance band and Tony’s father played the piano when he wasn’t away with the RAF.
Upon his return his dad became a National Coal Board accountant and was keen for Tony to follow his line of work, which he did and which he duly hated. He was by then performing at working men’s pubs on weekends, which brought in more money than his day job.
His career took off but his father never seemed approving of his musical career, encouraging Tony to go to school during the day to have something to fall back on. However, upon his father’s death in 2000 Tony was sorting through his belongings with his family members and was astonished at what he found.
“He had all of my press cuttings kept away from when I first started out. It was like the ultimate seal of approval from him, just after his funeral. I was in bits.”
‘EU EXIT RISKS NORTH PEACE’
Taoiseach Enda Kenny used a Cambridge speech, at the British Irish Association to intervene in Britain’s referendum debate.
He said a UK exit from the EU could seriously undermine the peace in Northern Ireland, just as business in Stormont was suspended for the latest round of emergency talks over the IRA’s continued existence.
Mr. Kenny said relations between Ireland and Britain “have never been stronger”.
“From the time of the Queen’s visit in 2011, you might say the geochemistry has changed. At Dublin Castle Banrion Eilis a Do (Queen Elizabeth the Second) brought healing across the centuries when she spoke to us in our own language.
“At Windsor Castle Uachtaran na hEireann (President of Ireland), Michael D Higgins was honoured as a friend and neighbour. I was delighted to greet Prince Charles in my home province of Connacht.
“All of this has occurred because of, and in the name of, peace and in the name of all who work for peace and believe in it.
“That peace is not only about the past or the present. It is about the future of our islands.”
He told the invited guests at Queen’s College that he had just met President Francois Hollande in Paris.
“We discussed Britain’s relationship with the EU. With economic and political turmoil inside the EU and on its borders it needs to build its strength and cohesion, not to lose one of its foremost members, the UK.
After much anticipation and some controversy in the months after the story first broke in July, a few false starts and some pretty intemperate opposition from those opposed, the Irish Guards were officially admitted to London GAA by a casting vote.
Rank and file members of London GAA accepted the Guards team as one of the county’s official football teams after an incredibly tight vote which was was deadlocked at one point.
The regiment now has a 45-strong panel that that will play competitive GAA next season. The team’s organising sergeant told us: “This is a great opportunity for us as the Irish Guards to be able to play competitive GAA football, a sport close to our hearts and minds in a structured and disciplined way with like minded teams and individuals.
“What happens to fall out from this will only increase the current warmth felt in Anglo-Irish relations.”
The Irish Guards squad train every Tuesday and Thursday and have already arranged at least friendlies against two other London clubs and the Irish Army.
The Irish Guards already play golf with the Irish Defence Force, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and Garda Siochana in what is called the Bond of Friendship between the forces.
London GAA had already started working with the newly established team, with Community Development Administrator Lloyd Colfer running training courses to help with their preparation.
The organising sergeant said: “London GAA has been informative, supportive, really onside with us with everything from equipment to information to direction.”