Seven years of Irish rain

Tuesday has been the rainiest day of the past seven years according to data from Met Éireann.

An average of 4.97mm of rainfall has been recorded at Met Éireann’s 25 weather stations on Tuesdays, with a total of 1794mm recorded across the country between 1st January 2008 and 31st December 2014.

The driest day is Thursday, with an average of just 4.18mm and a total of 1510mm recorded in that time according to the available data.

The good news is that the two next driest days are the weekend; with Saturday seeing an average of 4.32mm and a total of 1559mm while Sunday is slightly higher with an average of 4.51mm and a total of 1630mm.

The wettest day of the past seven years was 6th September 2010 with an average of 31.24mm recorded at weather stations across the country on that day, including a high of 86.5mm at Knock Airport.

Rainfall for every day of the past seven years can be viewed on this interactive map.

The West and South-West of the country have seen the most rain, with Valentia Observatory in Kerry having recorded the most rain in the period, with a total of 11582mm although there was no data available yet for December 2014 for that station.

There was also no data available for December 2014 from Belmullet Automatic Weather Station, Malin Head AWS and Dublin Airport.

Next come Newport Automatic Weather Station, Knock Airport and Calremorris, all in Co. Mayo, with totals of 11200mm, 9628mm and 8829mm respectively.

Athenry Automatic Weather Station in Co. Galway also has a high average rainfall of 3.34mm per day but due to data only being available since 26th June 2011 for that station, it has the lowest recorded total rainfall of 3345mm.

Similarly, Gurteen Agri College in Tipperary only has data from 9th February 2008 and Finner Automatic Weather Station in Donegal only has data from 27th January 2011 due to a new weather station being installed there in November 2010.

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Travel Ireland Magazine

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I was was recently appointed as Features Writer for Travel Ireland Magazine.

Travel Ireland Magazine is a tourist magazine aimed at culturally curious visitors to Ireland. I write pieces on festivals, exhibitions, theatre shows, shopping destinations and places to dine in Ireland.

The magazine is a monthly publication available in visitor centres, hotels, heritage sites and airports all over the country with a monthly readership of 135,000.

My work in the April issue can be found here.

“I lost the primary thing that held meaning to me for my adult life” – An interview with an activist who spent 16 years in a radical left-wing organisation that he now views as a political cult

Photo: Matthew Willis (circled far right) in January 2008, the last photo he took as an Uhuru Movement member. (C) Matthew Willis

A lot of people become more politically engaged in college as they meet new people and are opened up to new ideas and new ways of thinking. Matthew Willis, who graduated from college in Massachusetts in 1992, certainly found himself becoming more politically engaged during his college years, coinciding as they did with the First Gulf War. He became involved in civil disobedience against the war, including a sit-in at Mac-Dill Airforce Base in Florida. These actions did little to prevent the war and Matthew became demoralised by the failure of the protest movement and his politics became further radicalised. “I wanted something with more power than the ‘peace movement’ seemed to have,” he says of that time.

This was also the time of the Los Angeles riots. The riots followed the acquittal on charges of assault and use of excessive force of four police officers after they had been filmed beating a black man named Rodney King. The riots were the biggest seen in America since the 1960s and Matthew felt a sense of solidarity with the black community, who were rebelling against the treatment that they were receiving from the LA police force. He began listening to Public Enemy and old Malcolm X speeches, and not long after he finished college he moved to Oakland, California, where his brother lived.

With no job, Matthew had time on his hands. “There was an interesting little coffee shop near where I was staying called Uhuru Café, which had a big red, black and green silhouette of Africa hanging in front,” he says. “Since I wasn’t working, I would go in there, order a coffee and read sometimes during the day. The coffee was good, I liked the atmosphere and I was also intrigued that the workers seemed to all be white even though the place gave off a ‘black power’ vibe.”

This was where Matthew first came in to contact with the Uhuru Movement, an organisation to which he would dedicate a large chunk of the next 16 years of his life.

It started when Matthew was reading a book of speeches by Malcolm X, and the woman behind the counter asked what he thought of it, engaging him in a discussion about Malcolm X. “She also introduced me to the politics of Uhuru. I was happy to have someone to talk and debate politics with, and challenged by her position that I had ‘white left’ views, which were reactionary from an Uhuru Movement perspective,” he says of this woman.

“White left is a term used by Uhuru to describe sectors of marginalized whites – working class, women, gays, etc – who are able to acknowledge their own contradictions, view themselves as oppressed and do political work to change things for themselves, but who are unable to recognize themselves as members of a colonizer nation who benefit from colonialism despite any oppression they might experience, and who will unite with the ruling class against colonized peoples’ interests when push comes to shove,” Matthew explains.

The Uhuru Movement is a radical organisation that grew from the civil rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s and is centred on the principles of Pan-Africanism. Pan-Africanism advocates the political and economic liberation of black Africans on the continent of Africa and those of African descent living elsewhere in the world. The movement is headed by chairman Omali Yeshitela, the leader of the African People’s Socialist Party, which was founded in 1972. The party believes that the US government and nation were founded on “the genocide of Native people, the theft of their land, and the forcible, dispersal, enslavement and colonization of millions of African people”.

According to the beliefs of the party, this means that the existence of people of African descent in the US amounts to colonialism and that colonialism is the biggest problem that black people in America face. Also under the umbrella of the Uhuru Movement is the African People’s Solidarity Committee, a group for white people who support the aims of the APSP. This is the group that Matthew came to join after he was invited to attend an event in East Oakland.

“It was electrifying,” he says of that first event. “It was the first time I heard Omali Yeshitela. I was also invited to volunteer at a fundraiser, selling sausages at an outdoor festival that was going to happen in Marin. I attended and had a good experience meeting interesting and nice people and being appreciated for my work.” That day, July 4 1992, was the first of many volunteer shifts that Matthew would put in over the next 16 years as he became heavily involved with the APSC and the Uhuru Movement.

Initially, things went well for Matthew. “I rose pretty high into the leadership in the African People’s Solidarity Committee,” he says of that time. “I was in the Political Bureau, which is the highest body in APSC (and the only white male to have ever achieved that level of leadership up to that point).”

“I was the local chairman of the Oakland unit. I had a reputation for producing the best propaganda in the entire movement.”

On top of this, Matthew did a lot of other work for the movement. “I produced artwork and literature, provided IT support, participated in fundraisers such as street fairs and bake sales, drove around in a truck to pick up and move furniture donations, did phone banking, participated in multiple weekly meetings, organized events, represented myself as a spokesperson, participated in civil disobedience and donated a significant portion of the money I could earn working at for-pay jobs,” he says.

However, things began to take a turn for the worse for Matthew in 2004 when he was put under pressure to move to St Petersburg in Florida, where the leadership of the Uhuru Movement is concentrated. This relocation was a common thing for Uhuru leaders to be called to do, but Matthew was resistant.

“The idea of uprooting from a place I had lived for 13 or so years to a place where I had no interest in living, where I’d have no job, no income and no network of people outside of the few people I worked with in Uhuru was something I essentially dreaded,” he says.

This reluctance caused trouble with his superiors within the movement. Matthew was declared as “being in struggle”, a move that he believes was made to intensify the pressure on him to relocate to St Petersburg. “’Being in struggle’ is to be in state of political backwardness, where one can do nothing right, and evidence for one’s political backwardness is presented in almost every meeting,” he explains. “When one is ‘in struggle’ he or she is usually stripped of some leadership. In my case, I was expelled from the political bureau. He or she is also expected to submit to a ‘rectification process’. In my case, it was to move to Florida, as was expected of me, and proving myself worthy through assisting APSP.”

And so Matthew found himself forced to move to Florida. Once he was there things did not go well. He was assigned to work with a party member for whom he felt he couldn’t do anything right. “She hated me and would regularly complain about me to the leadership.” This eventually led to Matthew being expelled from the APSC in 2006 and set to do “mass work”. Matthew tried his best to keep his head down, carry out his mass work and return to the party’s good graces but the resentment was building up inside.

“I was growing tired and resentful of working my ass off and getting nothing but disdain and unfair criticism from the people around me as thanks,” he says. “I resented having been bullied to move to St Petersburg where I hated it. I figured I could work hard in the mass work, limit the number of meetings I needed to attend and avoid the kind of criticism I had experienced as an APSC member.”

Throughout this time, Matthew was subjected to regular group criticism sessions. “I’d be denounced by members higher up in the Solidarity Committee and then the meeting would be ‘opened up’ so that other attendees could demonstrate their allegiance by agreeing with the denunciation and expressing in their own words how they experienced my shortcomings,” he says of these meetings.

The criticism ranged from valid things like falling short of a deadline, to strange things such as being accused of failing to produce some work that actually had been produced. “I remember sitting in one meeting where I was severely criticized for having ‘sabotaged’ the process of creating an important graphic that I had been assigned to create, listening to these terrible denunciations of me while looking at stacks of the recently published newspaper with the graphic I had supposedly sabotaged being the primary image on the front page.”

Things came to a head in February 2008 when Matthew attended a meeting where he made some criticisms of a paper that had been written, “instead of saying how much I agreed with it, and how profound it was, which was what was expected of everyone in these types of situations”.

“This culminated in receiving a long, wild diatribe accusing me of having done all sorts of terrible things over the years. A week or so later, I was called by a Political Bureau member and told that I was expelled from the mass work and I was no longer welcome to do anything,” he says. “A week or so after that, I was asked to attend a meeting where things could be ‘summed up’. This meeting proved to be nothing more than a kangaroo court, where party leaders could have an opportunity to endorse the content of the email. After that I was banished and shunned.”

Some of the things that Matthew was accused of were reproduced in this article and include accusations of Matthew being a sexual predator, an accusation that Matthew strongly denies. “Most of the leaders in APSC are women who come from radical feminist separatist political roots. While straight, white men are allowed to do work in the ‘Solidarity Movement’ there is a certain level of hostility one will experience,” he explains. “That political environment, coupled with the desire to defame my character with anything they could come up with is why that claim was made.”

After his banishment, Matthew felt somewhat lost. “For several years, I felt humiliation, shame, anger, terror, bitterness and hopelessness,” he says. “I lost the primary thing that held meaning to me for my adult life, along with many of my deepest friends.” Despite this he says he also felt some relief. “I was no longer accountable to the unreasonable demands I had sunken into after all those years as an Uhuru zealot,” he explains.

As time wore on, Matthew began to believe that the movement that he had been involved in was a political cult. In particular he cites Ideological Intransigence, Democratic Centralism and Cultism by Denis Tourish as an influence on his thinking. “Tourish spent 11 years as a member of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI), was able to understand it as a political cult and write about his observations,” he says. “Substitute the names of the leaders and heroes mentioned in his essay with the Uhuru pantheon, and the story is exactly the same.”

Despite his experience, Matthew’s political beliefs remain intact. “My fundamental political beliefs remained unaltered,” he says. “After a while I discovered a number of individuals – many of whom were also Uhuru expatriates – to work with to act upon my leftist political views.” One of these individuals is Courtland Rowles, who had a similar experience in APSC and, like Matthew, believes that the organisation is a political cult.

“There was definitely good that came of it,” he says, when asked if he completely regrets his involvement with the movement. “I think their political and economic theories are mostly correct and I’m glad to be well versed in them.”

Things are less hectic for Matthew now, but he still stays involved with leftist politics. “I donate money and time to various organizations and activists on a case-by-case basis. I’ve helped build a few events. I’ve attended some local demonstrations to denounce police brutality,” he says. “I am much quieter politically now, but the fundamental convictions that led me to Uhuru remain with me.”

And does he think that the goal of the Uhuru Movement is achievable?

“Sadly, it seems most likely to me that humans will become extinct relatively soon and take a number of more innocent species with us as we go down,” he says before warning, “If the goal of African liberation is achievable, it will require as part of the process the exposing of the tendency on the left for organizations to function as political cults.”

The African People’s Solidarity Committee have not yet responded to requests for comment on this article. This article will be updated if they choose to do so.

 

This article originally appeared on www.contributoria.com on 1st April 2015 and was republished in The Big Issue South Africa on 15th April 2015.

Tucan at the Button Factory – Review

 

While a healthy crowd turned up to see Tucan launch their superb new album Towers, the Button Factory was by no means full which was a real shame as the band served up a musical masterclass with a little help along the way from some musical friends. Those in attendance certainly left happy after a fun filled night that saw the band in top form as they delivered a great mix of new and old tracks along with the obligatory quirky covers that have become somewhat of a trademark of the band.

Mongoose got the evening off to a start by releasing their inner seagull (you probably had to be there) before Tucan, led by guitarists Donal Gunne and Pearse Feeney. They were joined for most of the night by Claudia Schwab, whose violin added a beautiful, haunting layer to the music. She chipped in with a few vocals too and had her own moment in the spotlight when she performed one of her solo tracks towards the end of the evening. On a night that had a bit of everything, Schwab even through in a bit of yodeling during that performance and impressive yodeling it was too.

The brass section were also very good, notably on ‘Cosmo’s Notes’ and when they indulge in a bit of a solo battle at the end of the night. In fact the whole band are brilliant throughout the evening, but what makes Tucan so good is the mastery and interplay of Gunne and Feeney who seem to be able to will their respective fretboards to do whatever the hell they want them to do – meandering effortlessly through folk, funk, flamenco and all stops in between during a mesmeric performance. ‘Healing Harmony’ trades gentle licks before erupting into some furiously speedy riffs while ‘Astrofolk’ is as space aged yet rooted in the influences of the past as the name suggests.

Some friends were also called during proceedings – the Young Folk joined the throng for a unique take on ‘When Doves Cry’, while fellow Sligo men This Side Up delivered some impressive rap verses over a Daft Punk medley. The latter was an enthralling extended jam that was probably the highlight of the evening.

Plus points must also go to the band for not actually bothering to leave the stage and indulging in the whole, tiresome encore charade. They announced their last song and then just played one more anyway – the crowd happily playing the part of vocalist of a Prodigy medley that brought the curtain down on a night when Tucan and friends owned the Button Factory stage.

This article originally appeared on www.dublinconcerts.ie on 6th April 2015

Hudson Taylor ‘Singing for Strangers’ review

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A bit of buzz has been building up around Hudson Taylor for a while. Having started out busking on Grafton Street, the brothers (Alfie and Harry) relocated to London a couple of years ago and have since been signed by Polydor. They’ve built up an impressive following on social media which will give them a solid foundation and fanbase that will no doubt lap up their debut album Singing for Strangers. That hard work and time spent honing their craft is evident on what is a highly polished debut, built on sweet voices, strident acoustic guitars and the occasional crashing piano chord.

The opening track Just A Thought kicks things off in exuberant fashion, with plenty of ‘Whoa-oh’s’, bringing to mind those other young Irish upstarts Raglans. It’s clear from the start that Hudson Taylor have a knack for hook-laden, clever pop songs about lost love that are just right for repeated radio plays. The pastoral Butterflies and Night Before The Morning After further enforce this view, while next single World Without You allows the duo to show off their impressive vocal range with some stunning falsetto.

Weapons is a charming call to lay down arms and embrace the sweeter things in life while Care appeals to that nice girl to get away from that nasty guy. It’s all very nice and incredibly well put together but there are two tracks that break from the poppy template and these are the tracks that really stand out.

Off The Hook eschews the big sound of most of the album and sticks with a sparse arrangement of folky guitar picking, bass and beautiful harmonised vocals while Battles is the best song on the album. Menacing keys and strumming introduce this sinister folk tune, with world weary lines like “only time will tell if we’re all just cynics on the run” make it the most lyrically interesting track on offer.

This is a really solid album and it will be interesting to see where Hudson Taylor go from here. They have the pop sensibilities and ability to craft a tune that could see them be hugely appealing commercially but that’s not the only weaponry in their arsenal. It would be great to also see them further explore the more folk end of things as well. Whatever way they go, it looks like these young brothers are destined for good things and with a raft of well crafted tunes and years of hard work already behind them, few could begrudge them that success.

This article originally appeared on dublinconcerts.ie on 22 January 2015

First Fortnight articles

I was lucky enough to be involved with the media team for this year’s First Fortnight festival. First Fortnight is an annual festival that takes place in January. The aim of the festival is to challenge mental health awareness through the creative arts.

First Fortnight also run an art therapy centre and I spoke to Louise and Eithne from the centre who explain what art therapy is and how it can help those who are experiencing mental ill health.

I also spoke to festival headliners We Cut Corners about their involvement with the festival and their charity version of ‘Stop The Cavalry’ that they released this year.

I really enjoyed being a very small part of such a great festival and hope to help out again in future years.

Where to Now for Ireland?

Football corner

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In the weeks leading up to Euro 2012, the country was bathed in glorious sunshine and as the green, white and orange bunting began to appear on many houses, a sense of optimism began to grip a nation which has had its fair share of doom and gloom of late. However the weather has since turned and now the bunting hangs limp and nearly lifeless from the same houses, effectively mirroring the hopes of the Irish football team after two demoralising defeats against Croatia and Spain led to us becoming the first team to be knocked out of the competition.

 

While Group C was always going to be a tough group to get out of, no one expected Ireland to do quite as badly as we’ve done so far. Indeed, there was optimism that we could get a result in the opening game but this hope was quashed within three minutes when Mario Mandzukic’s header crept past Shay Given to set the tone for our European Championship campaign. Giovanni Trappattoni has said that we have made silly mistakes that we have not made in the past and while there is much to criticise Trappattoni for it is hard to disagree with that assessment.

 

It seems that the big occasion has gotten to even our most senior players, with the likes of Shay Given, Richard Dunne and Robbie Keane performing way below the level Irish fans are used to seeing at these championships. You would expect such experienced players to not be affected by the big occasion but the shot of the players lined up in the tunnel before the Spain game painted a worrying picture. The Spanish players looked calm, relaxed and focused while the Irish players looked tense and fearful. It was all downhill from there and while most would expect Spain to beat Ireland, the manner of the defeat was quite unexpected. In the past, Irish teams cold be expected to fight and battle against superior opposition and while we may not always get a positive result we would not disgrace ourselves in the way that we did on Thursday night.

 

There is a quite valid argument that we just don’t have the quality of player that we had when we qualified for previous finals tournaments and we are sorely lacking leadership on the pitch. In the past we could count on players such as McCarthy or Keane to cajole and demand the maximum level of performance from the players around them. As great a servant as Robbie Keane has been for Ireland, he’s not that type of inspirational captain and there are very few other candidates for that role. The hope is that we may salvage some pride against Italy on Monday but after that, where to next for Irish football?

 

Shay Given has already said that he is considering his international future and Damien Duff has also said he’s made up his mind on his, although he has not yet revealed what those intentions are. So the Irish team that begins the World Cup qualifying campaign could look quite different to the eleven that lines up against Italy. There are several questions that need to be asked though. Do we have the players to replace the possible retirees? Is Trap the right manager to take us forward? And are we in a position to produce international quality payers in the future?

 

The first two questions are intertwined to some degree. Yes, we have a number of players, young and slightly older, who could come in and potentially improve the side but will Trappatonni be willing to play these players or alter his system from the rigid, defensive 4-4-2 that has been his trademark since he took over the Irish side? Young players, such as Seamus Coleman, James McCarthy, Sane Duffy and Robbie Brady have all shown promise despite missing out on travelling to the Euros for various reasons. Then there are older players such as Keith Fahy, who missed out trough injury, and Wes Hoolahan, who could come in and play in a three man midfield which is favoured by most international sides. Hoolahan and Fahy are also a lot more comfortable on the ball than our current midfielders and could possibly allow us to play a more attractive brand of football. The likes of Swansea and Norwich have shown in the Premier League this season that it is possible to play attractive football and have success in spite of being one of the smaller fish in the footballing pond.

 

Then there is the Robbie Keane conundrum. If we were to change to a 4-3-3/4-5-1 formation and style then there may not be room for Ireland’s all time leading scorer. The likes of Long, Doyle or Walters would surely be more suited to the lone striker role and Keane may have to settle for a role off the bench if we are trying to nick a goal late on in games. Of course these are all probably moot points because Trappatonni is very unlikely to change his style in spite of the overwhelming evidence that changes are required. What is even more baffling is that Wm Koovermans, the recently departed Technical Director of the FAI, had all of our underage sides playing 4-3-3.

 

Perhaps this disconnect between the underage and senior set ups contributed to Koovermans deciding to leave his post and take up the role of Indian national team manager. There are undoubtedly huge problems facing Ireland if we are to produce players for the future. The lack of any proper academy or coaching set up is a major problem and we essentially rely on English academies to develop our players. There is also the problem, as pointed out over the weekend by Ger O’Brien of St. Patrick’s Athletic, of the way our young players are coached at an early age with all of the emphasis on winning and not enough time spent developing young player’s technical ability.

 

Apart from the myriad of internal problems there is also the threat of losing players to other sports. The GAA and Irish rugby have far more professional set ups (despite the GAA being an amateur organisation) and there is every chance that a young player who is gifted in several of these codes would choose GAA or rugby over the shambles that is the FAI set up. Even from the point of view of fan interest the FAI are losing out, rarely filling the Aviva stadium for international matches while the likes of the Leinster and Irish rugby teams regularly fill the same stadium for Six Nations and Heineken Cup games. With the FAI seemingly unwilling to invest in improving the League of Ireland it is pretty easy to understand why someone would choose to spend what little disposable income they have these days on a trip to Thomand Park or the RDS to watch Munster or Leinster rather than visit a run down League of Ireland stadium. The League of Ireland will never be able to compete with the likes of the Premier League in terms of quality and finance but there is quality there, as evidenced by the fact that there are five players in the European Championship squad who started out in the League of Ireland and this would have been six had Keith Fahy not been forced to withdraw through injury. If the FAI showed more of an interest in developing the League and developing youth players the right way the benefits could be enormous in the long run but again, I fear this is mere wishful thinking.

 

So there is much to be concerned about in relation to the future of Irish football. Roy Keane was critical of the Irish fans going along to major tournaments just for the sing song regardless of the quality of the performance but the real worry is whether we will ever get the opportunity to have the sing song again.

This article originally appeared on Tattooed Football in June 2012

The Great Player Merry-Go-Round

football

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So you’ve just won just won your domestic league title and enjoyed an historic run in Europe that’s brought unprecedented attention and acclaim to your club. If you were a player playing for a club in most of the big leagues in Europe you wouldn’t be expecting to have to sign on the dole a few short weeks after such a successful season but that is the harsh reality that some of the playing staff of Shamrock Rovers will have had to face once their season ended after the home defeat to Spurs in the Europa League in December. The Rovers players were not the only ones who had to deal with this situation as it has become the norm for nearly every player plying their trade in the League of Ireland.

 

In a league that has never been blessed with high attendances or huge revenue streams, the economic downturn in Ireland has certainly bitten clubs in the League of Ireland hard and most players are now only able to secure 40 week contracts which cover the length of the season they sign for. In Rovers’ case, of the players signed for the 2011 season, only five were signed to contracts of longer than one year. While several players have since signed on for the 2012 season, eight players have left the club and a further three remain out of contract. With five new players signed so far for next season, the Rovers squad is already beginning to look radically different from the one that achieved such success in 2011.

 

Of the players who have left, two are exciting young prospects (and Irish under 21 internationals) who will be hoping to make an impact for the English sides that have snapped them up. Left back Enda Stevens was signed by Aston Villa in the summer transfer window but allowed to see out the season with Rovers before officially becoming a Villa player this month while striker Karl Sheppard has tread the by now well worn path from the League of Ireland to sign for Reading. Sheppard will be hoping to form a striking partnership with another ex-Rovers player, Noel Hunt.

 

Of the other players who have left, high profile summer signing Rohan Ricketts has announced on his website that he is looking for a club in England and will not be returning for the 2012 season, defender Pat Flynn has signed for St. Patricks Athletic and it has been announced that club captain Dan Murray will not be signing a new contract.

 

Meanwhile, right back Pat Sullivan, scorer of the wonder goal against Partizan Belgrade that helped Rovers in to the Europa League group stages, will also not be returning as he is taking a break from football to travel in Australia for a year. At the age of 29 it could be that Sullivan may not return to football at all which would be a shame as he was a solid and consistent performer and will be a great loss to the Rovers defence.

 

As things stand, both of the goalkeepers who played in the second half of last season have yet to sign new contracts. Jamaican Ryan Thompson, who became something of a cult figure in his season in Tallaght, has not yet signed a new contract but has stated on Twitter that he would be open to a return while Englishman Richard Brush is also out of contract and there have been rumours that he his ready to quit football to become an undertaker of all things!

 

On the credit side Rovers have signed defender Graham Gartland, who was released from his contract with St. Johnstone earlier this month and should prove a capable replacement for departed skipper Murray, provided he steers clear of the injuries that have blighted his career so far. Left back Conor Powell has also been signed and should prove an excellent replacement for the departed Stevens. After less than successful spells with Colchester and Sligo Rovers in 2011, Powell will be hoping to regain the form that saw him being talked up by Giovanni Trappatoni as a potential international player a few short years ago. Striker Daryl Kavanagh and skilful winger Killian Brennan have also been added to the squad, signing from St. Pats and Bohemians respectively, and should add healthy competition for places in the starting eleven.

 

Rovers will also be starting the season under a new manager after the departure of Michael O’Neill, who has subsequently been appointed as the manager of Northern Ireland. Stephen Kenny has left his post as manager of Derry City and has returned to his native Tallaght to take on the job of managing Rovers. Kenny has an impressive track record in League of Ireland football since being appointed as manager of Longford Town at the age of 27. Having won promotion with Longford and taken them to an FAI Cup final, he has subsequently won a League of Ireland Championship with Bohemians and four League of Ireland Cups and an FAI cup in two spells with Derry.

 

Kenny also guided Derry to a third place finish in the Premier Division last year in their first season back at that level, having been demoted to the First Division due to financial problems. While he may not have been as successful as he would have liked in his spell in charge of Scottish side Dunfirmline, Kenny’s record in Ireland speaks for itself and Rovers fans should be confident that their club is in good hands under his watch. There is a possibility that Rovers may even play a more attractive brand of football under Kenny than the long ball game that O’Neill liked to pay at times.

 

With so much upheaval in terms of player turnover at the club it may be difficult for Rovers to emulate the feats of last season and it also makes it difficult for fans to become attached to players when it is possible that the player will only be with the club for a season, or even less. This is a problem all across the League, as can be seen from the huge change in personnel at most clubs. For example, St. Patrick’s Athletic have signed 11 new players while 10 have left and Bohemians have signed 12 new players with 9 leaving. Sligo Rovers, who finished second in the League and won the FAI Cup, playing an attractive brand of passing football under former Wolves and Coventry player Paul Cook, had no players under contract once the season ended in November. While they have since re-signed a number of players from last season as well as signing a couple of new recruits, it shows that the close season can be a worrying time for almost every player in the league as they hope for a new contract from either their previous or new employers.

 

Stephen McGuinness of the Professional Footballers Association of Ireland (PFAI), spoke recently on RTE radio about the steps the PFAI have taken to assist players who are out of contract. As well as setting up a training camp for out of contract players in an effort to help them find a new club, the PFAI tries to provide some financial support to players who wish to further their education and has even contributed money to some players who were unable to make their mortgage payments during the close season.

 

McGuinness also spoke of his hope that Ireland’s qualification for Euro 2012 will result in a financial windfall for the FAI which will allow them to provide more assistance to clubs. While it would be great if the FAI were to provide more assistance to clubs or even spend more promoting the League in an effort to get more fans through the turnstiles, it is more likely that the debt ridden association will be using any money earned from Ireland’s European adventure to repay some of the loan that was taken out to build the Aviva Stadium.

 

It is an unfortunate fact that the current situation of players scrambling around for a new club every year may be the norm for the foreseeable future. When the season kicks off in March many players will be pulling on a jersey with a different crest than the one they wore last year, knowing that they may be wearing a different crest again in 2013. It’s a far from ideal situation for all concerned and yet the league is still producing quality players, with five former League of Ireland players having played for Ireland in the past year.

 

What a shame the FAI doesn’t focus more on promoting the league. With such drama unfolding before a ball has even been kicked every year, it surely wouldn’t be a hard story to sell!

This article originally appeared on Tattooed Football in January 2012

I shouted at an old lady once…

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Maybe I shouldn’t have done it. It wasn’t a nice thing to do but something inside me snapped and I shouted at an old lady. I can’t remember the exact words exchanged now as it was about ten years ago. I was queuing up to buy a ticket outside Tara Street station when the old lady standing beside me began to grumble about the Asian lady working in the ticket office. Her exact words were something along the lines of; ‘those people’ shouldn’t be let into this country to work. I don’t think she was expecting me to roar back at her that her attitude was disgusting and that I thought it was a safe bet that she had brothers or sisters living overseas, and how would she feel if her relatives were treated with such contempt? She didn’t seem impressed with me but she also didn’t have any reply. Maybe I gave her something to think about. Or maybe she just thought I was a cheeky young upstart. Either way, I don’t regret it. There is an attitude among some Irish people that people from other countries are either over here to sponge off the state or take Irish people’s jobs and that they have it handy. Not only is this attitude tiresome, it’s far from the truth.

I was reminded of my outburst at that unsuspecting old lady when I was in a car about two weeks ago, passing by the Garda National Immigration Bureau on Burgh Quay, not far from Tara Street. It was around 11 o’clock at night and there was a queue of people waiting outside. As it turns out, these people are students and migrant workers who are being forced to queue overnight to get an appointment to renew their visas. This has been going on for a number of months, although it seems that the Bureau will soon be joining the rest of us in the 21st century with the implementation of an online system for booking appointments in the New Year. How would that nice old lady have felt if she did have relatives overseas who were being forced to queue up on a cold winter night just to stay in the country they moved to hoping for a better life? She’d probably be annoyed, and rightly so. We’re great at looking out for Irish people who have left these shores but we’re not so great at looking after people that arrive on those same shores, some of whom might even believe our ‘hundred thousand welcomes’ schtick.

Today, Jerry Buttimer chaired an Oireachtas Health Committee meeting on health service issues affecting the Irish diaspora. There are an estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish living in the US at the moment and they are not eligible for routine medical assistance because of their illegal status. Fortunately there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel for the undocumented Irish, with President Obama recently announcing that he would be using executive powers to prevent deportation of these people. This also means that Irish people who have been living in America will be able to re-enter the country after visiting home – you can probably be sure that they won’t have to queue up overnight in the cold to secure those re-entry visas.

This is great news and was no doubt helped by high profile visits to Washington DC by then Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore and Sinn Fein heavyweights Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald over the past six months. It’s fantastic to see all of this work going in to protecting the welfare of Irish citizens abroad. Public representatives should be working to protect Irish citizens living abroad but they should also be working to protect those who arrive here hoping to work or study and at the moment they don’t seem to be doing enough on that front. Those 50,000 undocumented Irish citizens probably have a lot of family members of voting age still living here. It would certainly be a lot more votes than the family members of the students and workers queuing in the cold have. But at least some of those family members might have votes. There are around 4,000 people, including 1,600 children, living in direct provision centres who can only dream of such luxuries.

While the queues outside the National Immigration Bureau are a fiasco, the direct provision system is an outright scandal. Entire families are spending an average of four years living in chalets and mobile homes, in conditions that the state’s own watchdog, The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, have deemed to be unsuitable. The people living in these centres aren’t allowed to cook for themselves and their children can’t go on to third level education because they are classed as international students and would have to pay full third level fees of around €10,000 per year. That’s a prohibitive amount when your parents are only receiving an allowance of €19.10 per week. That’s €2.72 per day. To put that in to context, prisoners receive an allowance of €1.70 per day. Only one of those groups of people have committed crimes yet they are both treated in much the same manner and there doesn’t seem to be any will to help these people.

When Gerry Adams was in Washington he said that all the undocumented Irish wanted to do was, “live a full life paying their taxes, and be able to travel between Ireland and the USA without fear of losing their jobs”.

There are people living in Ireland who wish to do the same thing and are being denied those rights. As a nation of emigrants who have made a positive contribution to the countries that we have settled in we should be doing more to help those who wish to do the same in our country.