Ambassador’s Message, News from Ireland, Twitter Roundup 31 October

Rain clouds split open like rice-bags

(from A Robin in Autumn/Chatting at Dawn by Paul Durcan, in The Art of Life)* 

Nine Italian Banks failed the European Central Bank’s stress tests. What relevance to Ireland?  Irish banks were not mentioned in the extensive international coverage because they passed the tests, with the exception of one bank (weighed down by a large portfolio of tracker mortgages) that failed one of the tests; Permanent TSB has been making provision to rectify this.  That our main ‘pillar banks’ – the Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Bank – passed these tests demonstrates how far we have progressed from the banking and property crises that began to unfold in 2008.  Though singularly not responsible for these crises, the Irish taxpayer has shouldered the burden of bailing out the banks with a capital injection of €64bn.  It’s gratifying to see that investment enabling the banks to pass these critical tests. The Minister for Finance’s welcome response is reported here

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan wrote an Op Ed in the Irish Times on the importance of the current talks in Northern Ireland   The talks have been joined by Secretary of State Kerry’s personal representative Senator Gary Hart.  The mood, noted Minister Flanagan in a statement, has been positive so far

On the peace process here the Minister expressed his deep concern about the settlement announcements in East Jerusalem  Minister Flanagan urged “the Israeli Government to reverse this decision and to work with the international community in seeking to revive substantive negotiations aimed at achieving the two-State solution which offers the only realistic prospect for peace between Israeli and Palestinian people.” 

One of the great themes in the Middle East is the origin of the peoples that have come and gone over the ages. Developments in the study of ancient genetics has revolutionised our understanding of this field.  This link is to a great story from the New York Times of the contribution that University College Dublin is making to our understanding of the origins of man, particularly the origins of Europeans.  The archaeologists and genetic specialists at UCD, led by Prof. Ron Pinhasi, are transecting a site in the Great Hungarian Plain going back over 7,000 years.  The story emerging is that of an original dark skinned, blue-eyed hunter-gather people,  augmented then by an ancient farming people from the Middle East and then, surprisingly, about 4,000 years ago (the Bronze Age) by a third genetic contribution from northern Eurasia.

Again on the technology front, a young Irish person we can take great pride in is nine year old Lauren Boyle, named as the EU’s Digital Girl of the Year:  Her company   mentors young people on computer coding and, along the way, on life lessons too.

At the other end of life’s span, Fr PJ McGlinchey is a recipient of the Distinguished Service Awards by President Higgins.  I was honoured to meet Fr McGlinchey when I served in Korea.  He has made an incalculable contribution to the life of the people of Jeju Island since he arrived there in 1954.  The work of the Irish Columban Order, Fathers and Sisters, in Korea is really an untold story of quiet heroism and compassion

In keeping with the decade of commemorations and the focus on the birth of the Irish state, I tweeted a photo from the National Library of Ireland of an admission card for the London funeral procession of Terence MacSwiney.  MacSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork at the time, died on hunger strike in October 1920 while interned in Brixton Prison.  A long time nationalist activist and writer, MacSwiney was protesting his internment at the hands of a military court though of course his protest was part of the struggle for independence.  The war of independence was at its height in 1920.  While his hunger strike garnered world-wide attention, the British Government would not budge and MacSwiney died on day 74 of his strike after several attempts at force feeding.  His legacy lives on in his contribution to Irish freedom and his writings as journalist and intellectual

Finally, one of Ireland’s finest poets, and a personal favourite, Paul Durcan was recognised for his contribution with the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award to be presented at this year’s Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards.  His poetry combines acute observation, comedy and pathos about the encounters of everyday life.  This link also has embedded video of Durcan’s highly engaging readings


Eamonn McKee

Ambassador Tel Aviv

*Quoted in honour of the rain currently blessing Israel


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