" A wealth of information..."

"1169 And Counting is a wealth of information on our Republican past and present , and demonstrates how the Irish political landscape , like that of any nation, will never be a black and white issue..."

(From the ‘e-Thursday’ section of the ‘Business Week’ supplement of the ‘Irish Independent’ , 21st August 2008.)

This blog was listed as one of the 'Finalists' in the '2016 current affairs/politics' category of the Littlewoods Ireland blog awards - but we didn't win the award. Ah well! Thanks to everyone involved for getting us to the final stage of the competition and sure we'll try again next year!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016



By prisoners from E1 Landing, Portlaoise Prison, 1999.


Grateful thanks to the following for their help, support, assistance and encouragement, and all those who helped with the typing and word processing over the past few months. Many thanks to Cian Sharkhin, the editor of the book, Mr Bill Donoghue, Governor, Portlaoise, Mr Seán Wynne, supervising teacher, the education unit in Portlaoise Prison and the education staff, especially Zack, Helena and Jane. Education officers Bill Carroll and Dave McDonald, Rita Kelly, writer, print unit, Arbour Hill.

First Print : November 1999, reprinted March 2000, illustrations by D O'Hare, Zack and Natasha. Photograph selection : Eamonn Kelly and Harry Melia.

ETHAN. (By David Lynch.)

I see you in my dreams

the flower of my seed,

I reach to touch your face

to embrace your every need.

Possessing treasures of the universe

your soul the riches of life,

oblivious to cruel bindings

eyes shine bright as stars at night.

Reciting your poem to me

I feel oh so proud,

the story of the goblin

floating on a cloud.

I hear your laughter

I taste your tears,

surrounding your bed at night

I protect you from your fears.

Whispering I love you

I wonder do you hear?

you smile into my eyes

telling me - loud and clear.

(Next - 'Long Journey Home' , by David Lynch.)


The Far Right has been resurgent across continental Europe for several years. But only in the last 12 months has Ireland seen an emergence of openly neo-Nazi cells.

By Alan Walsh.

From 'Magill' magazine, May 2002.

Immigration, crime and an abandonment of traditional values - the extreme right campaign on just those issues and, in economic circumstances such as those recently experienced in Ireland (ie an economic boom and then an economic slowdown) they garner success, like that that the 'British National Party' and France's 'Front National' group have enjoyed.

The roots of this re-emergence of the far right lie in the stark economic conditions of the 1970's and 80's. France, during the 1980's, witnessed mass unemployment, public service cutbacks and a crisis in the electorate which had become heavily disillusioned with the socialist Mitterand government. The 'Front National', formed in 1972, is now the strongest fascist movement in Europe, and got its breakthrough in a council election in a small town near Paris in 1983. Campaigning largely on an anti-immigrant platform, Jean Marie Le Pen, leader and founder of the FN, used this initial triumph as a base on which to build a series of electoral gains at local level, fielding 25,000 candidates in 1995. These in turn made a platform for an assault at national level, culminating in his most recent spectacular success in the presidential preliminaries.

In England, in a late 1970's climate of massive cutbacks in health, education and welfare spending, and with unemployment running at almost two million, the NF, a combination of many far-right parties including the 'British National Party', took a stance blaming the same immigrants who had been invited to the country to fill the labour shortage after the war. Statistics on racial attacks rocketed and 'NF' politics flourished at local election level to such a degree that it was necessary for the ruling Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher to speak of countries being "swamped by foreigners" back from the far right and cash in on their sentiment. The above, however, are all cultures with grand imperial histories. (MORE LATER).



By Jim McCann (Jean's son). For Alex Crowe, RIP - "No Probablum". Glandore Publishing, 1999.

Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the 'Frank Cahill Resource Centre', one of the founders of 'Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh', the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A'Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.

His first publication last year by Glandore was 'And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh'. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!

CATCH 22 - IN CAGE 22. (In memory of Ned Maguire RIP)

Big Ned's face broke into a grin - "You're one crazy bastard, McCann," he said, laughing. I started to relax, nerve by nerve, but it took me three days to get my nerves back to where they were before Ned asked me for the leather. "Fair play to you, Ned, you can take a joke," I reminded him, just in case he forgot. "I'll get you back for that," he joked. I hope.

He stuck the two boots down his waistband, toes first, and pretended to draw against me and then he walked away, laughing. Fra came over to the wire to me and said "You've balls for burning." "Yeah", I said, remembering in that five seconds before Ned started to grin that I could feel all the major organs in my body make their way up my body, "they're up around my throat somewhere."

Some months later Ned was caught escaping and was moved to the 'Sentenced' end of the Camp into the same Cage as me. Strangely enough, the day he came into the Cage all the Dr. Marten boots mysteriously disappeared. Out of sight, out of Big Ned's mind!

(End of 'Catch 22 - in Cage 22'. Next : 'Catching Seagulls'.)


Richard Willis, a carpenter, and his friend Jack Bolster, a painter, sometimes worked together on jobs ; it was on one such occasion that the two men got talking to a British soldier from the military barracks in Mallow, where Willis and Bolster were working ; the conversation ended with the soldier complaining that those in charge of the forty-five strong Mallow garrison were taking a chance by sending out a detachment of thirty Lancers each morning, to exercise their horses for a few hours. The soldier voiced his fear that the remaining fifteen or so soldiers in the barracks would be unable to prevent the IRA from taking munitions from the barracks should they attack, not realising that the two tradesmen he was talking to were themselves members of the IRA.

The seven IRA battalions in the Mallow and surrounding areas had recently formed, from within their ranks, a 'Flying Column', with Paddy Clancy in charge. Richard Willis and Jack Bolster contacted Clancy and told him of the conversation they had with the British soldier - they also had plans and sketches of the barracks, and mentioned that other men in their unit knew the lay-out of the surrounding district, having lived in the area since they were born. Clancy got in touch with Liam Lynch and Ernie O'Malley and a start was made on putting a plan together to raid the barracks for munitions. On Saturday morning, 28th September 1920 - 96 years ago on this date - Richard Willis and Jack Bolster went to the barracks to continue with the job they were doing there, this time accompanied by Paddy McCarthy, whom they introduced to the guards as a Board of Works foreman ; all three were admitted, and all three were armed.

At the same time, Liam Lynch and eighteen members of the 'Flying Column' were assembled in small groups in Barrack Street (where the military barracks was located) and six other armed Volunteers were already in control of Mallow Town Hall, a building which the RIC would have to pass should the alarm be raised and the RIC attempt to get to Barrack Street. The barrack gates opened as usual to allow the thirty or so Lancers out and, once they were out of sight, Liam Lynch walked up to the gate, with an envelope in his hand, and knocked until the guard opened up ; when the gate was opened enough to allow the guard to take the envelope, he was rushed by about twenty IRA Volunteers and held captive. The other twelve or so British soldiers were quickly rounded-up : a Sergeant Gibbs attempted to lock the door of the guardroom where the munitions were stored and was shot dead.

About thirty rifles, a couple of light machine-guns and dozens of boxes of ammunition were removed from the barracks and placed in waiting motor cars which drove off immediately ; the RIC knew nothing of the raid and were not seen that morning. As they were leaving the barracks, the IRA set fire to a load of straw, hoping to burn the place down, but the fire didn't catch - the stairs, floors and walls were all made from stone flaggings. The next night, British troops from surrounding areas wrecked and burned Mallow Town Hall and the local creamery, and looted any shop they could get in to. They were to pay dearly for their presence over the following months, as their own weapons were turned on them by the IRA.


On the afternoon of 28th September 1976 - 40 years ago on this date - Irish left-winger Máirín de Burca (pictured, left) addressed a meeting of about 60 people in Room 1002, Sonoma State College, California : the meeting was advertised under the title 'Irish Women's Rights' and was one of a series of meetings being organised by feminists at the college. Máirín de Burca was addressing a number of meetings organised across the state of California, by 'Republican Clubs' and other like-minded groups.

At each stop on the itinerary, from New York to Los Angeles, the FBI had their agents pumping vast amounts of paper, most of it routine and irrelevant, into the de Burca file. This consisted for the most part in reports of meetings and speeches but, at Sonoma, the US Justice Department decided to go further - they wanted to 'put a spoke into the de Burca wheel'. Two FBI agents were sent to Room 1002 to serve forms demanding that de Burca register as "an agent of a foreign power". This is where the whole farce began.

As the Sonoma meeting was about to start, one of the students, Kathy Parker, rose and addressed the gathering - "If there are any law enforcement officers present will you please make yourselves known and tell us your business here." The students were suspicious that their meeting was under surveillance ; one man spoke up - he was Tom Blavett, campus security officer. And why was he here, he was aked? Well, Blavett explained, it was raining outside, you see, and he had come in out of the rain. No other reason, he said. That was all. Honest, he said. But the two FBI agents in the room said nothing. They simply noted Blavett's admission and carefully noted his name for their files - but they spelled it 'Thomas Bovet'. But there was a twist - at the end of the meeting, Tom Blavett approached student Kathy Parker and admitted that he had lied about coming in out of the rain for shelter. Actually, he said, he had been sent to the meeting to keep an eye on the two FBI agents!

The meeting proceeded and the students and de Burca discussed Irish women's liberation, or lack of it. The FBI agents listened carefully to de Burca and noted what they considered to be the relevant points ; 'Observation of those in attendance,' they wrote, 'disclosed the audience to range in age from elderly grandmother/grandfather types to very young college age types...' They then entered a note marked 'Confidential' into their files, with the heading 'Women's groups in Ireland ; National Women Committee, Irish Women United, Irish Country Women's Association, Trade Union Women's Forum and the Women Peace Movement' . The information in that file was subsequently transferred to other FBI files and even today is on tap from the FBI computers for use by any FBI agent sent over to Ireland to infiltrate the Irish womens movement. So, if you meet someone on their way in from the airport, speaking with an American accent and asking for the "National Women Committee" or the "Irish Country Women Association" you can be reasonably sure that they've been briefed by the FBI and, should you actually find yourself in the company of a member of, say, the 'Irish Country Women Association' group or, God forbid, the 'Women's Peace Movement', then watch out - you could be red-flagging yourself to the FBI! (This piece is an edited version of an article we posted here in 2009.)

40TH ON THE 25th OF THE 12TH FOR THE 32!

The pic on the left is from the 34th successive Cabhair Swim, which took place at the 3rd Lock of the Grand Canal in Inchicore, Dublin, on the 25th December 2010. And, no, it's not been photoshopped...

...and yes, I know it's only September and it's not right or proper to mention the big day that falls on the 25th December every year which is why I won't yet actually be using that particular word (!) and will 'box clever' by just mentioning that, for the 40th successive year, a Christm... (ooops!) swim will be held at the above-mentioned outdoor venue at 12 noon. On the 25th December, that is. At the 3rd Lock in Inchicore, Dublin. We'll give it another plug between now and then, for all you slow learners... ;-)!

Thanks for reading, Sharon.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016



By prisoners from E1 Landing, Portlaoise Prison, 1999.


Grateful thanks to the following for their help, support, assistance and encouragement, and all those who helped with the typing and word processing over the past few months. Many thanks to Cian Sharkhin, the editor of the book, Mr Bill Donoghue, Governor, Portlaoise, Mr Seán Wynne, supervising teacher, the education unit in Portlaoise Prison and the education staff, especially Zack, Helena and Jane. Education officers Bill Carroll and Dave McDonald, Rita Kelly, writer, print unit, Arbour Hill.

First Print : November 1999, reprinted March 2000, illustrations by D O'Hare, Zack and Natasha. Photograph selection : Eamonn Kelly and Harry Melia.


Diving into the bottomless lake

beginning to wonder will it awake.

Breath diminished, life at stake

desperately seeking that golden gate.

Lungs are empty, heart is still

never before such a thrill

body and mind two separate parts

one the beginning, the other the start.

Feeling like it's floating in space

confident now that it'll win the race,

floating along at a steady pace

high on the plateau of cosmic grace.

Returning to base it feels each follicle,

absorbing air, omitting molecule.

(Next - 'Ethan' , by David Lynch.)


The Far Right has been resurgent across continental Europe for several years. But only in the last 12 months has Ireland seen an emergence of openly neo-Nazi cells.

By Alan Walsh.

From 'Magill' magazine, May 2002.

Far-right politics seem somehow an alien concept in Irish culture, despite being widespread throughout the rest of the continent. The last outright movement of this type here was the 'National Socialist Irish Workers Party' back in 1986 and, up until very recently, the Garda hadn't even been keeping statistics on racially motivated crime.

With many of our EU partners, however, the new far right is very familiar and, in some quarters already, even a tradition, often converging directly with the mainstream. The failure of social democrat and labour parties in Britain and across the continent to successfully present Europe as a culturally cosmopolitan utopia has seen a steep decline in membership and, in some cases - such as the 'Social Democrat Party' in Austria - removal from office.

Low turnouts in many elections, especially that in Austria, are indicative of an electorate, particularly the middle and lower middle class, entirely alienated from traditional politics. These are the precise circumstances used by certain groups to propose themselves as fighting against both corporate dominated globalisation and the handcuffed piecemeal measures of the parliamentary left. These groups, in order to avoid confronting the factual necessities of the market, select the easiest and most deceptively obvious factors on the ground, such as immigration, crime and an abandonment of traditional values as their scapegoats... (MORE LATER).



By Jim McCann (Jean's son). For Alex Crowe, RIP - "No Probablum". Glandore Publishing, 1999.

Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the 'Frank Cahill Resource Centre', one of the founders of 'Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh', the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A'Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.

His first publication last year by Glandore was 'And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh'. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!

CATCH 22 - IN CAGE 22. (In memory of Ned Maguire RIP)

I was alone and in a Catch 22 situation ; was Big Ned having me on or not? This was the question. I had to take a chance : I shouted "What exactly is it that you are looking for?" and, as Ned told me again what he needed, I detected that look on his face that told me that he thought that he had got one over on me. "Where are you going to get the leather for two holsters?" , asked Tommy Barnes. "I have a plan", I answered with a wink, and I put that plan in motion after I had a cup of tea. Of course. I gathered the stuff about me to implement my plan, walked over to the wire and shouted over to Fra McCann in Cage 6 : "Fra, give Big Ned a shout for me but make sure you let everyone know that there's something afoot..."

I couldn't have spoken a truer word : Ned came out to the wire, and I could see dozens of Cage 6'ers behind his back, taking vantage points to find out what was happening. "Any joy, mate?", asked Big Ned. "It was touch and go, comrade, but I've came up trumps for you," I answered. "I managed to get two bits of old leather that should prove perfect for your needs. Stand back from the wire and catch this bag." As Ned made his way to the centre of the cage I launched the bag containing two busted Dr. Marten boots into Cage 6. As the boots were in mid-air I told Ned that it was the best of leather. At one time...

"What the fuck's this?", Ned screamed. "Two bits of leather", I replied. "Are you trying to make an eejit out of me?", asked Ned. "No way, comrade.What's the problem? You asked me for two old bits of leather for holsters and I thought that they would be perfect. I even got them for a left-handed or right-handed draw..." Big Ned looked at me as if I was simple and asked - "Are you simple?" "If they're no good I might be able to get my hands on a pair of Beatle Boots for you", I said. In for a penny, in for a pound. The entire Cage 6'ers and most of the Cage 22'ers held their breath awaiting Big Ned's response. My stomach was churning... (MORE LATER.)


And I am. Shouldn't be, I know, but I feel like a fish out of water - uneasy, disorganised. But I'm getting there : for our post next week (Wednesday 28th September 2016) I'm told we'll have a piece about two FBI agents who were spying on an Irish republican in California but who were themselves being spied on by a college security officer...but, for now, here's two 'On This Date' pieces that we borrowed from elsewhere :


On the 21st September 1827 - 189 years ago on this date - Michael Corcoran (left), a brigadier general in the Federal Army during America's Civil War, was born in Carrowkeel, County Sligo. Corcoran served as a policeman in the Royal Irish Constabulary but resigned during the Great Hunger, no longer able to condone the repressive actions of that police force against the starving Irish. He emigrated to New York and found work in the city's employ while also joining the 69th New York State Militia as a private. He rose through the ranks to colonel commanding the regiment and won the hearts of the city's Irish population when he refused to parade the 69th for the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1860. The state intended to court-martial him for this but the start of the Civil War led officials to dismiss the charges, and Corcoran led the regiment to Washington. At the Battle of 1st Bull Run, Corcoran was wounded and captured and spent the next 13 months in various Confederate prisons before he was finally exchanged.

His health would never recover from that time in Southern prison camps. Promoted to brigadier general on his return, he recruited a brigade of volunteers from Irish enclaves in New York state that became known as Corcoran's Legion. He led the legion and then a division during the Suffolk (Virginia) campaign in April 1863. While there he was involved with a regrettable incident. While riding with fellow Fenian leader John O'Mahoney, Corcoran shot and killed Lt. Col. Edgar Kimball of the 9th New York Infantry. Corcoran was ordered to face a court-martial in the case, but it was never convened. On December 22nd, 1863, Corcoran was riding with Brig. Gen. Thomas F. Meagher and others when he suddenly fell from his horse and died shortly afterwards. Many articles on Corcoran say he was killed when his horse fell on him, but recent research points toward a stroke as the most likely cause of death. On December 27th, he was interred at Calvary Cemetery in the borough of Queens, today within New York City. (From here, as is the 'Eamonn Ceannt' piece - also, more on Michael Corcoran here.)


On this date - 21st September - in 1881, revolutionary Éamonn Ceannt (left) was born in Glenamaddy, County Galway. He was educated at University College, Dublin, and worked on the clerical staff of Dublin city council. Éamonn joined the Gaelic League in 1900 and later taught classes in Irish. He was a pipe player, once playing the uileann pipes for the Pope in Rome. He was said to love the language, music and dance of his native country and to have an unshakeable commitment to Irish freedom. Ceannt joined Sinn Féin and the Irish Republican Brotherhood in 1908 and was also one of the founders of the Irish Volunteers in 1913, and was elected to its Provisional Committee. The day before the Easter Rising in 1916, Ceannt was one of the seven signatories to the Proclamation, in effect, signing their death warrants. During the Rising, he commanded the area of the South Dublin Union. The plan called for him to hold the area with 1,000 men; he had only 130, but his small command, especially Cathal Brugha, resisted the British until Patrick Pearse surrendered the entire rebel force. Like the other leaders of the Rising, Éamonn Ceannt faced the kangaroo court that condemned him with his head held high. On May 7th 1916, he wrote his wife a note, telling her "I shall die, like a man for Ireland's sake" and, On May 8th, he was put up against a wall in Kilmainham Jail and shot by the British.


On this date 15 years ago (2001) the then State 'Taoiseach', Bertie Ahern (pictured, left) announced 'that Ireland (by which he meant the 26-County State) will put its airports, airspace, refuelling facilities and garda intelligence at the disposal of the US in the battle against terrorism' (and is on record for also claiming that "we" [the Leinster House administration and/or those that voted for them?] are "happy to facilitate" such American actions - see page 8, here) and, on the 21st September nine years ago (2007) he was exposed for his 'inconsistencies' (!) in relation to his testimony (under oath, not that that means anything to him and his ilk) at the Mahon Tribunal.

Or am I just another kebab plotting against him, in the hope of upsetting the apple tart...?

Thanks for reading, Sharon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016



Due to the luas works on the island at the GPO, which is affecting traffic etc on O'Connell Street, it will not be possible to hold the annual Eve of All Ireland Rally, in its usual format, at the GPO this year ; instead, Republican Sinn Féin will hold an 'Éire Nua' picket from 12noon to 2pm under the portals of the GPO.

Alternative routes and compositions etc (for instance, to hold the whole event at the Garden of Remembrance, rather than to just assemble there) were discussed at length by the organising committee but, due to the nature of the problem and the shortage of time in which to suitably advertise any new arrangement, it was finally agreed that a republican presence - a picket, in this case - should be maintained at the GPO on the eve of the All-Ireland final. Such a presence has been visible at that location on the day before the final since at least 1958: "One of the largest public rallies seen in Dublin for years was held by Sinn Féin at the GPO on the eve of the All-Ireland Football Final. Headed by a Colour Party and a pipe band, a parade of more than 2,000 people marched from Parnell Square through the main city thoroughfare as a protest against the continued unjust imprisonment of Irishmen without charge or trial. Contingents from all over the country took part and many carried banners and placards including groups from England and Scotland. In the Ulster section was a strong representation of the Derry supporters who thronged the capital city for the Final. One placard they carried asked -'Why are Six-County nationalists interned in the Curragh?'....." (From 'An tÉireannach Aontaithe/The United Irishman' newspaper, November 1958.)

This change, unfortunately, also affects the ability to properly distribute the 'song book'-leaflet packs which will now be kept in storage for another occasion, although other material will be distributed, as best as possible, allowing for the constrained space we have been obliged to operate in and this new, temporary, format also denies the organisers the use of the small stage and lectern unit which has been a feature of the event since the 1980's. But we'll make the best of what we've got - see you at the GPO in Dublin on Saturday, 17th September 2016, between 12 noon and 2pm.

Thanks for reading, Sharon.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016



...100% over there*, but not firing on all cylinders here just yet!

But we're working on it, even as we find ourselves thrown in at the deep end! On Sunday next, 11th September 2016, RSF Dublin are holding a 650-ticket raffle in the usual sports pub on the Dublin/Kildare border and, as usual, we're helping to organise same and will be there on the day to assist in running it. And, for once, there are three sporting fixtures which we are hoping to watch - the Red Bulls are playing against DC United, the Jets are up against the CB's and the Yankees are gonna have their work cut out for them if they hope to teach the TB Rays a lesson! YAY RA RA! and all that...!

Then the following weekend (on Saturday 17th September) we have been asked to help out with a republican event in O'Connell Street in Dublin at which about fifty 124-page Irish republican songbooks (and other Irish republican printed material) will be distributed, free of charge - details here. We hope to post one of our usual offerings here on Wednesday 14th September next but, considering that the weekend coming (Sat/Sun 10th/11th) is spoke for, as is Monday evening, 12th (raffle autopsy in Dublin city centre!) and then it's straight into final preparations for the 17th September rally, we can't be 100% sure of our output! But do check back with us anyway and, in the meantime, have a nice day!

(*...but of course 'output' would have to be located there. Well, it is - and it is 100%!!)

Thanks for reading, Sharon.

Saturday, September 03, 2016



..are the preparations that have to be made before you go, in relation to the 'life' you're temporarily leaving and the 'life' you're temporarily entering, and the fact that you have to play 'catch-up' when you return. And more so, on both counts, when it's a five-week holiday you're taking, and even more so again when you're a mother who works outside the home as well as in it.

But the five of us planned and plotted every move within an inch of its life and then, naturally (!) cut corners and muddled through as we had to in order to secure our five-week break and now, having returned to the 'life' we temporarily left, we are having to once again cut corners and muddle through as best we can and accept the fact that we can no longer decide to people-watch in Central Park and/or watch the sun rise during a rooftop party in the Bronx and/or hangout for a few hours with friends in Marcus Park in Harlem and/or dance with the Devil (retired!) on the boardwalk at Coney Island and the hours spent with the chess players in Union Square Park and the dozens of other treats we afforded ourselves on a daily basis. And we're still rebelling against having to live within the confines of this 'life' even as we make ourselves do so, consoling ourselves at every juncture with the knowledge that we're not finished by a long shot with our New York adventures. Just temporarily so...

Anyway : back to blog business - before our holiday we discovered that we had been nominated in the 'best current affairs/political blog' category in the 2016 Littlewoods Ireland Blog Awards competition and, on our return from New York, discovered that we had somehow made it as far as the 'shortlist' for that category and, in the last few days, have noticed that this wee blog has managed to make it to the 'finals'! The competition will be held on Thursday 15th September 2016 in Dún Laoire, Dublin but, win or lose, we thank all those who voted for us and got us this far, as it's nice to know that our readers appreciate the political message that we promote here. And, if we lose, all those who voted against us will be introduced to our new friends from Coney Island...!

Thanks for reading ; we'll be back soon to our usual output but, for now, anyway, the five-hour time difference and the need to get back to our overall 'normal' day-to-day operations are battling with our objections and unwillingness to do so. And the latter feeling will get an award for the way it's winning...!

Slán go fóill anois, Sharon.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016



..a wonderful piece of shit : rats carved out of bone, dodging the rattling subways and shaking themselves awake to scurry 'round confused people, who measure their tragedies against those of their neighbour. A city of immigrants in transition, enduring breakfast, lunch and dinner in a traffic jam, a people jam or a subway jam. And we can't fully let go of it. Beautiful chaos! (Apologises to Nicodemus Nicoludis.)

Five weeks isn't enough. As regular readers will know, this wasn't our first holiday in New York and it sure won't be our last. The five of us are breathless after it ; wrecked, shattered, exhausted, broke - unhinged, even, and not willing to settle back into our 'normal' routine. Indeed, not able to settle back into our normal routine, and not even prepared to try and do so. We never had an experience like it and we know we never will again. Every second of every minute of every hour of every day of those five weeks we were alive and in our element. It's the place where we are meant to be. That city suits us - the pace it moves at, the easy ability to blend in, the concrete atmosphere, the noise, the smells, the heat, the ignorance and arrogance of it, the callousness and cruelty we witnessed and, above all, the different ways which New Yorkers (and guests) coped and/or attempted to cope with those attributes : some fought back with kindness and generosity but others let it get to them and turned, temporarily, ignorant and arrogant. And maybe that's why they named it twice - despite 'all the scandal and the vice', the city and its people have a heart of gold.

One of the many homeless people we encountered in New York - collecting empty 'soda' cans and empty plastic water bottles from trash cans in the streets,for which one of the many recycling yards will pay six cents per unit. We witnessed, and talked to, more elderly than young people engaged in this endeavour.

We gave him a fiver, and told him if he has a similiar sign re Clinton, we'll give him another fiver!

We landed in JFK airport at about 2pm their time on Saturday 16th July 2016 and were loudly met by two of our friends, Shay and Emma (hugs and kisses all 'round!) and, when we eventually got to the arrivals lounge, Joel had arrived in a huge 'town car' and, after even more hugs and kisses (!), we loaded our bags into the car and our two-car convoy headed to the Bronx, where Pat, Frank and Sam had the beautiful apartment ready for us, and the kettle boiled! We were there for hours, chatting, then we put our stuff away and headed out for a walk around the neighbourhood, a by-now familiar territory.

The 3rd Avenue subway station in the Bronx - although Joel insisted we call him whenever we were ready to hit the town, we used the subways and busses to get there (wherever 'there' was!) and would usually give Joel a call to collect us, if he didn't mind. He never complained once, bless him, even though it would be very late (or very early in the morning!) and we would probably have been tired and emotional (!) by that stage...!

During our evening strolls in the Bronx we met loads of fellas and girls that had befriended us over the years and all of them had a story to tell about our previous visits (blush blush!) and arrangements were made for two weeks worth of sight-seeing. And, somehow, we managed to squeeze what must have been about six weeks worth of partying out of those two weeks in the Bronx, included in which were two roof-top parties and four occasions where we toasted the sun coming up over the NYC skyline. Unbelievable and breathtaking.

Five of us went out on one of many such strolls through whatever neighbourhood we happened to find ourselves in : I took the pic of my two friends as the three of us were out searching for the other two. Found them, about an hour later, in a shopping mall...!

Our third week (despite the protests of all our friends in the Bronx, who wanted us to stay in the area, offering us alternative accommodation!) found us in Queens, in a fantastic and spacious apartment, where we would have been waited on hand and foot by Kevin, Heno, Mel, Larry and the girls and our other friends in that great borough had we wanted - but we didn't stand still long enough for any of them to catch us, never mind to keep up with us, although we did have a big, kick-ass picnic in Kissena Park, at which about thirty of us sat for a few hours in the shade of old trees and had our fill of food and drink on a hot day and then quenched our thirst and relaxed again in the evening with a few beers (and ciders!) in The Courtyard Bar, in Sunnyside. Oh the simple pleasure of having nothing to do and all day to do it, especially when you're in New York!

We had the pleasure of moving between Harlem and Hell's Kitchen for our fourth week, with Liz and Susie, their fellas and our friends from previous visits all making sure we were comfortable, and we took full advantage of the brilliant sunshine in the many parks and basketball courts in those boroughs to rest in and recharge ourselves for the actual shopping and window shopping that we over-indulged in. It's days like those that you don't want to end - in the middle of a stampede of time-poor people yet able to move in any direction at your own pace. It's simple things like that that help you appreciate your surroundings. Our final week - for this year, anyway - was enjoyed in a scrumptious apartment in Brooklyn, from where we went dancing in Williamsburg and scoffed ice-cream cones in Coney Island, and had great craic altogether for a few hours with a group of men, in their late 60's and early 70's who, as we found out afterwards, were retired 'wiseguys' and "would be best avoided" ; no doubt in their youth that would be the case but, at all times while they were with us, they were gentlemen to a tee and treated the five of us with the utmost respect and courtesy, and insisted on walking us back to the subway station that evening and staying with us until Joel arrived to collect us at midnight.

'Wiseguys' stay out of hot water at Coney Island!

Which, when you think of it, is emphatic for New York life itself - very capable of doing you harm if approached in the wrong manner but the best company to share time with otherwise! And a special mention here for Joel who, as always, looked after us like we were family, and for whom no job was too big or too small, too early or too late. As you can imagine, collecting five 'merry' Irish women at, for instance, 4am, requires a certain 'understanding' on any man's part!

Anyway : we're home now, with our new shoes and handbags and all our other new and bargain-priced acquisitions and all our new reminders, memories and pics of the most unreal experience we have ever had in each others company in all the years we've known each other. And we want to do it all again. We will!

Thanks for reading, Sharon.

(We'll be back to normal blog business soon but, for now, my head is not quite ready for it and my heart is still apple shaped...)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016



We touch down in JFK on Saturday, 16th July 2016, at about 2pm local time - myself and the four girlfriends and as much baggage as we're allowed : this is a five-week holiday (YES! 5 WEEKS!! ) so there won't be any crazy spending sprees (although we will squeeze in one trip each to Jersey Gardens and Woodbury Common. Maybe two..!) nor, indeed, would there be a five-week holiday at all only for the fact that our friends, colleagues and comrades in that great city have, once again, offered the five of us the full use of empty apartments they own in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Hell's Kitchen, no charge (but we'll take them out to An Béal Bocht for lunch!), and we have also been gifted the use of a town car and our usual (!) driver, Joel, for the five weeks!

Our first two weeks will be happily spent in the Bronx, courtesy of Shay and his girlfriend, Emma, where we'll be 'minded' by Pat, Frank and Sam and it is in that lovely borough that the five of us have been invited to two roof-top parties, both of which, naturally, we'll attend! Our previous stays in the Bronx were absolute magic - the people we were with and the dozens upon dozens of locals that we spent our days with, the venues they took us to, the contrasting atmospheres we shared with them, the trips to local parks and pubs (hello all in the Celtic House, MacDwyers and Séan Mulligans!!), the Bronx Zoo and the Bronx Mall, to name just a very small number of the attractions in that borough which, along with Union Square in Manhattan, are two of the best and must-see locations in that great city.

For our third week, we're booked in to our usual lovely apartment in Queens, where Kev, Heno, Mel, Larry and the girls will spoil us rotten before unleashing us to wreak havoc on the neighbourhood - in the nicest possible way, of course! - then to Harlem (East 101/Lex!) for our fourth week, which is a fantastic place - much like the Bronx - in that the people that live there are real down-to-earth, with no airs or graces, and we have always got on famously with all the Harlemites that it has been our pleasure to share company with - they, like their Bronxite 'cousins', seem to share an affinity with us Irish, in that they have much the same sense of humour and outlook on life. A 'home from home' for us, if you like but, as in any city or town - in any country - 'home' sometimes just has to be anywhere that's warm and relatively safe and, in instances like that, a ten-minute chat to a person less fortunate than yourself can be as welcome to all involved as the cash or food you give them. And we enjoy those occasions : there but for the grace of God.

Our fourth week will see us graciously ensconced in a three-bed duplex apartment among our new and old friends in Hell's Kitchen (hello again, Liz and Susie, and all those we agree with in singing 'To Hell with Clinton Hill'!!) - we are looking forward, again, to our tours of the taverns and speakeasies and basketball courts and local parks and sight-seeing on the Hudson River docks and so much else - too much, indeed, to cover in just one week. But we'll certainly give it a good shot, and you lot know what to expect this time!

Our fifth and last week will be enjoyed in Brooklyn, which means meeting up again with our dance buddies in Williamsburg (and its lovely bridge) and our surfer dude friends in Coney Island - I could show you some pics from our last outings there but you'd have to prove that you're over 21 first. And even then, they'd be heavily censored! That's enough now (and for ever!) about 'last week' holiday stuff - we don't want to know. The five of us are gonna let rip, again, on this holiday and we're really looking forward to every hour of it, which we will gladly spend in the best of company in that amazing city. We'll be back home on the 20th August next and should be capable of putting a blog post together within days. I said "should be..." !

(*A.S.A.C.R.O - 'As Soon As Cash Runs Out'!)

Thanks for the visit - and have a nice day, y'all...!