Monday, 19 April 2010

An Druma Mór The Big Drum

The Big Drum launch at Glucksman Ireland House.

Dr Art Hughes is one of the world’s leading Gaelic scholars and he is a visiting Fulbright Professor at Glucksman Ireland House, New York University for the academic year 2009/10. Part of Dr Hughes’ remit was to finish off four books during his term at NYU, plus undertake some teaching. With the year now drawing to its close, he has succeeded in doing what he said he would do during the term of his Fulbright Professorship in the Big Apple.

On Friday 23rd April at Ireland House he launched his 15th book: a literary translation entitled The Big Drum. This novel was written in Irish by Seosamh Mac Grianna as An Druma Mór and it is widely recognized as one of the finest ever written in the Irish language. The core of the novel concerns a feud between two marching bands in a little seaside hamlet Ros Cuain (or Rannafast) in County Donegal in the North-West of Ireland in the years 1912 to 1922. This townland was part of the Gaeltacht or ‘Irish-speaking area of Tyrconnell (Donegal)’.

Seosamh Mac Grianna (1900-90), a brilliant and artistic young writer, completed the book in 1930 and it was due to be published in 1935 but the Irish Government decided, at the eleventh hour, to ban the book because of fears that some local characters who featured in the book (albeit under pseudonyms) may have taken court action for libel. Banning the book was a devastating blow for the young author who abandoned his writing career after this unwarranted censorship. Mac Grianna was to spend the next 30 years of his life in a lost wilderness and the last 30 in a mental institution!

For the first time, an English translation of this important Gaelic novel has been prepared by Professor Hughes. Not only does Hughes provide an excellent translation with explanatory end notes, but he also provides a 12,000 word essay on the author’s background and the reader would be advised to read this appended essay (page 119 ff.) before beginning the novel proper.

The novel while seemingly ignoring such major events as the First World War (1914-18) and, to a degree the Irish Easter Rising of 1916, can also be viewed as an examination of the need for feuding in the human race as a whole, where this small local skirmish can be seen as a parody for wider warfare and the inherent struggle of groups or factions of people to control and subjugate each other. This novel is a hidden gem which has now been put on wider public display.

Professor Hughes must be congratulated for bringing the work of Seosamh Mac Grianna to an international audience. In addition to his skills as a literary scholar, Art Hughes has also painted the cover.

The book details are as follows:

The Big Drum Seosamh Mac Grianna, translated A.J. Hughes (Ben Madigan Press 2010).

It is available to an American readership via the website

Go the following page to order a copy:

Friday, 16 April 2010

Voices From The Grave - Belfast Launch

Ed Maloney (Left) and Anthony McIntyre
McIntyre a Ph. D. and a former Republican prisoner, handled interviews with IRA and INLA activists for the Boston College project.
He is also author of Good Friday: The Death of Irish Republicanism.
©Joe ÓNéill

After an introduction by politics professor Paul, (Lord) Bew, author and journalist Ed Maloney,spoke about his latest work ''Voices From The Grave''at the historical Linenhall Library in Belfast last evening.

For a review go to:
The Sunday Times review by Stephen Robinson

During his talk Maloney revealed that a deal has just been negotiated with RTE for a TV programme based on the book.

Family members of Brendan Hughes, and old comrades from the Lower Falls Road attended the book signing.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Honourable Member for West Belfast - Running on his Record

Statistics, Damned Statistics, and ''Statistocrats''

On March 31 2010, the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency (NISRI) released the report of the Results from the Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation 2010 study. The report is an update of a previous 2005 study. A Consultation Document was published in July 2009, and public events were held from July through November 2009, in Omagh, Lisburn, and Belfast, to facilitate public comment. Over 600 copies of the document were distributed and over 550 downloaded from the NISRI website. There were 42 written responses to the document and over 90 verbal responses noted.

In August 2009, Northern Ireland Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson, welcomed the consultation process saying, “If the Executive is to continue to make a real difference to local people’s lives, it is vitally important we have the most up-to-date information available to help us target resources more effectively. As the public finance position becomes tighter, it is more important than ever that we make best use of the resources we have.''

''I would ask for anyone with an interest in this important work to come forward with their views. This can help make a real difference to our most disadvantaged communities.''

The results of the consultation were peer reviewed by external academics and a Blueprint Document detailing the results of the final indicators for inclusion was published in February 2010.

The NISRI studied 890 small areas in Northern Ireland with a population of 2,000 people, and listed them in order of relative deprivation. Fifty two separate indicators relating to seven types or 'domains' of deprivation: Income, Employment, Health & Disability, Education Skills & Training, Proximity to Services, Living Environment, and Crime and Disorder were used to access levels of deprivation.

Spreadsheets, Graphs, and a 'statistical hors d'oeuvre', usually have the effect of making my eyes glaze over and send most of us into a stupefying state. With this report however it is relatively easy to draw some simple assumptions. The first one is, that in the top 100 regions of the most deprived communities in Northern Ireland, the first four are in the constituency of the Member of Parliament for West Belfast. They would be: Whiterock 2; Whiterock 3; Falls 2; Falls 3; with Shankill rating number 6.

To put what that means in perspective some simple number comparisons will demonstrate the enormous gap between some better off communities and the more deprived members of our communities in West Belfast.

For example:
Take a Belfast neighbourhood which most of us would considered affluent like Malone Rd.

In the Rank of Income Domain scores (where 1 is most deprived)

Malone 1 would score a whopping 883.
Whiterock 2 A grand total of 44
Whiterock 3 A grand total of 1

Employment Deprivation
Malone 861
Whiterock 2 & 3
11 and 1

Health Deprivation & Disability
Malone 880
Whiterock 2 & 3
1 and 4

Education, Skills and Training
Malone 866
Whiterock 2 & 3
78 & 9

Living Environment
Malone 589
Whiterock 2 & 3
26 & 141

Crime and Disorder
Malone 386
Whiterock 2 & 3
140 & 197

Children & Older People
Malone 838 & 888
Whiterock 2 & 3
90 & 1
50 & 13

In this disgraceful state of deprivation that exists in his Westminster constituency, Mr. Adams is ably assisted in the Northern Ireland Assembly by no fewer than 4 other Sinn Fein elected representatives for West Belfast: Sue Ramsey; Paul Maskey; Jenifer McCann; and Fra McCann. I guess it is only fair when kudos are being awarded, to include the SDLP representative for West Belfast, the very vociferous Alex Attwood. Alex is never short of a few words when it comes to criticizing his Sinn Fein political opponents.

Unfortunately, the numbers for Falls 1 and Falls 2, Clonard, Beechmount, and Andersonstown, do not make for any better reading.

Outside of Belfast, two of the worst areas are Castlederg Co. Tyrone, and Crossmaglen Co. Armagh.

I can almost hear the response of the Sinn Fein leader to the charges that his constituents rate the worst in every field of this deprivation study.

'The Statistocrats in the Assembly are trying to topple the Peace Process.'

For more information on the Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation 2010 study.

Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Who Fears to Speak ...

Volunteer Pádraig Mac Con Mara
Memorial Plaque to Volunteer Pádraig Mac Con Mara
Ballina Churchyard Co. Tipperary
© Joe ÓNéill
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam
"May his soul be on God's right side"
Ballina Churchyard Co.Tipperary
©Joe ÓNéill