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 winter of 2015
‘FAMILY WAIT FOR APOLOGY FROM DWP’
The daughter of a depressed Irish builder in London who hanged himself after losing his disability benefits told us her family received no apology or any communication from the Department of Work and Pensions after a coroner found Anne-Marie O’Sullivan’s dad was ‘driven to suicide’ by it.
The coroner’s inquest into the death two years ago of Michael O’Sullivan produced a damning and withering assessment of the Department of Work and Pensions and its controversial work capability assessments (WCAs) carried out by French firm ATOS.
The coroner directly blamed the DWP for pushing him over the edge to commit suicide in cutting his benefits. Mr O’Sullivan, 60, originally from Tralee, hanged himself after being told he would no longer receive the money he had claimed for ten years, despite three doctors concluding that he was suffering from depression.
Senior Coroner for Inner North London Mary Hassell wrote in her report submitted to the DWP that: “The anxiety and depression were long-term problems, but the intense anxiety that triggered his suicide was caused by his recent assessment by the DWP as being fit for work, and his view of the likely consequences of that.” The DWP later responded to the coroner’s concerns in a document marked “OFFICIAL – SENSITIVE,” conceding O’Sullivan’s case should have been dealt with differently.
Mr. O’Sullivan met his wife Eileen, 60, originally from Leitrim, at the Galtymore ballroom in Cricklewood and they raised their family in Camden and Highgate.
‘CHILD ACT TO BOY BAND TO WOULD-BE COUNTRY MUSIC STAR’
We met the Omagh singer who released his first album aged 8, shared a line-up with Barbra Streisand, Billy Joel and Neil Diamond at 13, joined a couple of US boybands, rapped with Snoop Dogg and formed an electropop duo with ex-Libertine Pete Doherty – all before his 20s.
Meet Lee Matthews who still has a few years to go before he turns 30. He had a big hit in Ireland this year with Cotton Eye Joe. Lee, now 27, had a very early start to his show business career – at the age of 8 years old, as Lee Mulhern, he released an album, on cassette, Hey Good Looking, a selection of pop, country and ballads. His song-writing mother Veronica was in Irish showbands in the 1980s.
Lee, who became a country performer in 2013, said that as a child he loved Garth Brooks.
His family brought him to concerts and always encouraged him to get on stage so from a very early age he got to share the stage with the likes of Daniel (O’Donnell), Hugo (Duncan), Philomena (Begley), Brian Coll and Michael English.
Now he has joined their ranks.
‘POPE TO VISIT IRELAND…(IN 2018)’
2015 began with speculation about a Papal visit to Ireland in 2016, and, unsurprisingly, it was still a story as the year closed but with it looking like becoming a reality 2018.
It came closer to becoming a reality as Bishops discussed it at the Synod of Bishops in Rome in October and followed the Pope’s own announcement in Philadelphia on his US trip that the next Catholic World Meeting of Families – held every three years – will take place in Dublin.
The event was established in 1994 by Pope John Paul II and attended by him and was also presided over by Pope Benedict. The announcement that it would be held in Dublin was made during the concluding mass of Pope Francis’s 10-day pastoral visit to Cuba and the United States.
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said: “He has a great liking for Ireland and he has a concern for Ireland. He is determined, I think, to see the next World Meeting of Families through and to be in Ireland but it’s too early to say that yet.
“I think he would like to (visit). He did learn some English in Ireland and he remembers being in Ireland, it’s a long time ago, anytime he has spoken to me he is quite aware of what life is like in Ireland, the difficulties the Church has gone through in Ireland and his hope that a renewal of the Church in Ireland will come through the renewal of family life.”
“I think he is aware of the damage what was done by the child sexual abuse scandal. He has said that to me on occasion. And, he is aware of the fact that Irish society is changing.
“The place of family in society is changing very much – in western society in general – and he would be aware that that is happening in Ireland.”
Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland Eamon Martin said:
“I look forward to sharing the joy of this announcement with my fellow bishops.”
‘BACK TO THE FUTURE’
A London Irish business is using cutting edge technology… from the 17th and 18th centuries, the London waterways.
Waste and recycling giant Powerday is revitalising the capital’s canal network from its Old Oak Common base near Willesden Junction in North West London, directly alongside the Grand Union Canal, which links the capital with Birmingham.
Mick Crossan, chairman of Powerday, first acquired the lease for the Old Oak Sidings site fourteen years ago. The barges dock at Powerday’s specially constructed industrial size wharf, situated on its new purpose built, state-of-the-art waste re-handling facility.
Powerday can access the 26 mile lock-free stretch of the Grand Union Canal.
Running from Slough to Camden, with access points available at key strategic sites, each barge can transport up to 50 tonnes of construction waste.
‘SELFIE FRIENDLY PASSPORT CARD’
Ireland launched its innovative new passport card which can be used throughout the EU. The credit card sized photocard contains the holder’s passport information and is designed to fit into a wallet and is valid for five years.
Ireland’s Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan admitted that many younger Irish people required to provide proof of their age frequently lost their passports when out for the evening.
The card is available for anyone over-18 who holds a valid passport and can be applied for on-line. Applicants can upload their own photo, including a selfie, from their mobile phone.
Mr. Flanagan said: “I am particularly proud that we are one of the very first countries in the world to introduce such a passport card.
‘EMIGRATION IS UNIVERSAL’
Brooklyn won praise for its evocation of 1950s emigration to New York. Its director John Crowley told us it fills a gap in our film history.
“Angela’s Ashes it isn’t, In America it isn’t either. This experience hasn’t been put on camera before.
“Home is different when you return from living abroad because you’ve changed and so you’re in a sort of exile for a while. It’s not about economic deprivation. It’s about an emotional state that happens when you leave home.
A Chinese gent who immigrated to Vancouver from Singapore who has a radio show for the Chinese community admitted he’d been talked into watching Brooklyn.
He didn’t want to go see it at all but once he’d seen it, he was passionate about getting this film to the Chinese community in Vancouver because he felt it was their film.
This is what it feels like in a town that you’re not from.”
‘MADE IN KILBURN’
Foster and Allen marked their forty years together by thanking Irish World readers and the rest of their fans. Mick Foster and Tony Allen have been playing music together for the past 48 years, but the double act their fans know and love only had its origins in Kilburn Park 40 years ago.
“Me and Tony started playing together while he was in school, we lived only half an hour away from each other.”
Tony left his school in Moate, County Westmeath in 1967, and after playing with Mick in local band The Nightrunners, he could not possibly have imagined that they would be releasing a 40th anniversary album in 2015.
“We had done some gigs in London with the band and Paddy Callaghan had taken over The Prince of Wales pub in Kilburn,” said Mick. “The rest of the band were going back for gigs in Ireland, but he asked Tony and I to do a week on the keyboard and accordian.
“We agreed to stay on and that was pretty much the end of us in The Nightrunners and the start of us as a two-piece.
‘FAREWELL CHRISTY KISSANE’
The London Irish community lost its own Kilburn legend, publican Christy Kissane who passed away at the age of 69, having attended the Kerry Association London dinner in Cricklewood the previous weekend.
A procession down Kilburn High Road was followed by two chartered jets to Kerry full of mourners.
His close friend Danny Tim O’Sullivan said that he was to Kilburn what Nelson’s Pillar was to Dublin’s O’Connell Street.
“Everyone knew of Christy, and he was Kilburn. The same way that people would look out for Nelson’s Pillar on O’Connell Street, Christy was the pillar, a beacon of Kilburn High Road.
“We hope that in time we can honour him with a fitting tribute, perhaps a plaque in the area, for him and his family,” he said. His first pub, in the mid-1970s, was the Windsor Castle on the Harrow Road which he built into a chain of pubs and taverns across west and north west London before eventually concentrating on his pride and joy, the Kingdom in Kilburn.
The Kingdom, was in itself a testimony to Christy’s love of GAA as he frequently hosted the Kerry players and the Sam Maguire Cup. He was well-known for his tireless support of the GAA and Irish community here, having sponsored many a club and county, and setting up many a person with work and contacts on their arrival to the area.
Ireland’s emigrant support funding for the biggest Irish organisations in the UK was cut as Diaspora Minister Jimmy Deenihan told them they must be smarter about raising money.
Last year’s £5.1 million funding, was also a reduction on 2013’s figure of £5.4 million.
Approximately three quarters of grants made are for amounts under £50,000.
It came out of a £8.194 million global budget, with the UK the largest recipient – due to the size of the community – over America, Australia and the EU. Grants were made to 110 UK-based organisations in support of a range of projects for which applications have been received through the ESP operated by Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Mr Deenihan, at a London Embassy of Ireland reception for the recipient organisations, told them they need, in future, to look at other avenues and self fundraise to ensure longevity rather than rely on state handouts. The London Irish Centre in Camden was again the programme’s biggest recipient, but had its funding reduced from £500,000 last year to £429,000 this year.
Mr Deenihan said: “Since being appointed the Irish Government’s first ever Minister for the Diaspora, I have had the pleasure of visiting many of the organisations represented here today.
“It has been a great privilege to see first-hand the tremendous work that is being done and the profound impact that your services have on our emigrants in Britain.”
He said it was clear that the unpaid, volunteer tradition was at the heart of Irish community organisations across the country.
‘IT HASN’T GONE AWAY, YOU KNOW’
The High Court in Belfast reignited Ireland’s hugely divisive abortion debate when it ruled that Northern Ireland’s ban breaches Irish women’s human rights.
The ruling opened up the debate south of the Border with the leader of Fine Gael’s junior coalition partner, the Labour Party, Tanaiste Joan Burton, who is trailing very badly in opinion polls, indicating that liberalising abortion law is a potential vote winner for it among its own supporters.
She said it would be a precondition for her party reentering coalition with FG – assuming it has enough TDs.
Sinn Fein said abolishing the eighth amendment will be one of its manifesto pledges.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he would allow a decision to allow Fine Gael TDs a free vote on a proposed repeal of Ireland’s eighth constitutional amendment to prevent a split in his own party. His U-turn came after one of his Cabinet members, Children’s Minister Dr James Reilly – a former Health Minister – called for Ireland’s hugely restrictive laws to be reconsidered and a referendum held to repeal the eighth amendment.
Moving swiftly to try and neutralise the issue Mr. Kenny told his own parliamentary party that he plans to put the abortion issue to a “citizen’s convention” with Fine Gael TDs and senators allowed a free vote on its recommendations.
Mr Kenny did not allow a free vote on 2013’s Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill which saw five TDs and two senators expelled from the party for defying the whip.
The Belfast judge who made the ruling said he despaired of Stormont’s politicians actually doing anything about it.