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 from the summer of 2015.
‘NO PLACE FOR ROYALS’
On 8 April 2014 during the Irish State Visit to this country the Queen said at Windsor Castle: ‘My family and my government will stand alongside you throughout the anniversaries of the war and of the events that led to the creation of the Irish Free State.’
This year Ireland said it would not now be inviting any member of the Royal Family to its 1916 Centenary events as the main parties contest with each other as to who are the true heirs of the 1916 leaders.
Ireland’s then Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore had said two years ago he hoped this country’s Royal Family could take part in next year’s 1916 Centenary celebrations, IRELAND 1916.
Then last year during President Michael D Higgins’s State Visit at the banquet at Windsor Castle Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth also expressed a similar sentiment – something she would never have done if it were not being actively discussed.
In the time since Mr. Gilmore was deposed by Joan Burton and the politician responsible for the commemorations, Arts Culture and Gaeltacht minister Heather Humphries, said definitively to the Irish World that any invitation to the Royals to attend next year’s keynote events is out of the question.
“There’s not going to be a question of having Royals at the Easter Commemoration because it’s a national event. It’s for the Irish people, it’s about the Irish people.”
Ms. Humphries, whose Department got into trouble in Ireland for using gibberish supplied by Google Translate for its Irish language description of next year’s centenary celebrations said the change of heart by the government in Dublin should not be seen as ‘a snub’.
“That’s (all) some time ago that was said, the plans are working forward now, it’s a national commemoration and we don’t envisage having any foreign dignitaries.”
‘TICKETS TO GO ON SALE FOR IRELAND’S ORIENT EXPRESS’
Belmond Ltd, the train company behind the luxurious Orient Express, opened reservations for comparably luxurious tours of Ireland.
The Belmond Grand Hibernian, the new Celtic sister to Belmond Royal Scotsman, will be Ireland’s first luxury touring train. It is scheduled to start next August 2016, and the first journey will be a four-night tour Ireland: Legends and Loughs.
Travelling from Cork to Killarney, Galway and Westport – highlights will include a tour of Jameson’s distillery, ‘kissing’ the Blarney Stone, private access to Blarney Castle Gardens followed by the lakes of Killarney, the scenery of Connemara national park, sporting activities at Ashford Castle, sheepdog trials and traditional Irish music and crafts in Galway.
The two-night Realm of Giants tour, journeys north from Dublin to Belfast and Portrush, visiting the Titanic Experience, the Giant’s Causeway and the Old Bushmills Distillery. Both journeys can be combined to create a six night Grand Tour of Ireland.
Travel will be akin to a land cruise with daily excursions that invite guests to immerse themselves in traditional sessuins to folklore to literary tours. Keen golfers will enjoy access to some of the world’s finest golf courses, as 50 of Ireland’s 300-plus golf courses are of championship class. Each carriage is named after a county, and the sleeper carriages accommodate 40 passengers in en-suite cabins.
‘PEACE COMES DROPPING SLOW’
Going quite some way to redress the clumsy, public withdrawal of an invitation to the 1916 commemorations the Irish government, and Ireland, pulled out all the stops to enable Charles and Camila fulfil one of the Prince of Wales’s longest held ambitions, visiting the Barren and the site where his beloved Godfather and mentor Lord Mountbatten was murdered in 1979.
Two decades after his last official visit to Ireland and 13 years after his most recent, the future King of England, Scotland and Wales enjoyed a specially arranged itinerary that reflected the very special nature of the visit.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams was quick to hog as many photo opportunities and headlines from his cup of tea with the future monarch but that, in itself, was also a welcome testament of how times have changed. Lord Mountbatten and others including children, were killed by a 50lb radio-controlled IRA bomb placed on his fishing boat. Boat. Shadow V, on 27 August 1979.
‘RISING FROM THE SHADOWS’
Sister Christine Frost, a Catholic nun from Limerick, has been helping the community of Poplar for the past 45 years. She hit the headlines when he took down a jihadist ISIS flag from the Will Crooks estate in Tower Hamlets.
Sensationalists assumed it was because of her Catholicism but it wasn’t.
“Kids here have no opportunity, housing or employment.
“We are right on the border of Canary Wharf where business is booming, but not on its doorstep. There are more American banks there than there are in New York! There are people travelling through every day from Bristol, Birmingham, to work yet these young people have no chance although they’re as bright and as capable as anybody.”
She hopes her 4Cs Canary Wharf, Crossrail, College and Community will change all that.
‘IRISH BAN ON ABORTION IS UNDER SIEGE’
In a clear indication that opponents of Ireland’s north and south ban on abortion is no longer tolerable for a significant sector of the community various groups stepped up their legal and political challenges.
In this country Britain’s so-called ‘yummy mummies’, Mumsnet, raised thousands of pounds to pay for abortions for Irish women in the same week Amnesty International condemned the bans.
Mumsnet, the country’s biggest mothers’ website, raised over £10,000 for an organisation which offers financial assistance and advice to women who travel to this country, from both sides of the Border in Ireland, to terminate their pregnancies for medical or social reasons.
It led to calls from antiabortion groups to block the hugely popular site in Northern Ireland. Amnesty International launched a hard-hitting campaign condemning Ireland for treating women ‘like criminals’ and said its abortion laws violate human rights. Mumsnet is visited by at least 5 million people every month.
It chose the Abortion Support Network (ASN) as one of five causes to benefit from its fundraising ‘Giving Week’ in which the website matched the amount raised by public donations for each charity, which, in the case of ASN, was £5,453.88 contributed by 227 people donated via Mumsnet’s JustGiving page.
The Abortion Support Network provides information on arranging the “least expensive abortion and travel costs to women in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man”.
It also gives grants to women in financial difficulty.
‘IRELAND’S “RICHEST” MAN CLASHES WITH TDS AND MEDIA’
In a clash that was repeated many times throughout the year Ireland’s biggest media mogul, Denis O’Brien, went to the courts to silence TDs discussing any preferential treatment he may have received from the country’s bail-out bank, IBRC.
Mr. O’Brien, who owns most of the Irish Independent group reportedly had a €315 million IBRC loan extended on the basis of an apparent verbal agreement, despite it having allegedly been earlier repeatedly rejected by the bank’s group credit committee, TDs were told.
Mr O’Brien tried to extend an injunction against RTE to cover the parliamentary privilege of TDs in Dail Eireann.
The Irish edition of The Sunday Times, the website Broadsheet.ie, the Oireachtas website and several UK newspapers, and this paper, published verbatim transcripts in print or audio-video links on-line to Kildare’s Independent TD Catherine Murphy’s remarks in the Dail either in their editions or on their websites.
Ms. Murphy, had expressed concern over the sale of a lossmaking, bankrupt water metering company, Siteserv, at a €50m loss to the taxpayer, to Mr. O’Brien – and a €5 million sweetener to its directors and owners – Ms. Murphy said she had been supplied with reliable information from confidential sources that Mr. O’Brien – who at one stage was reported to have “performing loans” with Anglo totaling as much as €800m but which he has been paying down – enjoyed a rate of 1.25 per cent on loans worth upward of €500m when the rate for anyone else would have been 7.5 per cent.
An inquiry was set up but will not report until after the General election.
‘IRISH WOMAN CHOSEN TO RUN OXFORD’
A 56-year old Waterford mother of three adult children who happens to be a world renowned terrorism expert and who once nearly ran away to join the IRA after Bloody Sunday, Professor Louise Richardson, was anounced as the next vice chancellor of Oxford University and the first ever woman to hold the post since the college’s creation in the 13th century.
The Tramore-born political scientist made her career at Harvard University and is finishing her term at St. Andrew’s University in Fife which she has run since 2009.
She said: “Oxford is one of the world’s great universities. I feel enormously privileged to be given the opportunity to lead this remarkable institution…and am very much looking forward to… advance Oxford’s preeminent global position in research, scholarship, and teaching.”
‘LEEDS IRISH CENTRE: THEN AND NOW’
We looked in on the country’s most successful Irish Centre in Leeds run by Tommy McLoughlin as it celebrated its 45th birthday.
From humble origins on three acres of land sourced by Councillor Michael Rooney in 1970 the Irish Centre has been the hub of Irish fellowship in the city. Today it is one of its premier venues and is widely regarded as the ‘best Irish Centre in Britain’.
The first purpose built Irish Centre in the country was officially opened on 8 June 1970.
Since then it has had many extensions and renovations to become the entertainment, sporting and catering venue it is today, boasting a membership of 1,150 people, four function suites, a private members’ bar, a sports field with changing and showering facilities and a commitment by its members that is second to none, from the Trustees to the Committee.