Archive | November, 2012

Bloody Sunday

30 Nov


Our trip to Northern Ireland was very interesting and educational.  There was a lot of influential information given and I don’t think I will ever forget learning about it.  One of the major events I found shocking was Bloody Sunday, in fact not only was Bloody Sunday a theme we have been talking about in class, but our group just did a presentation on the film, therefore I had a familiar background on what the event was like.  But the fact that we were learning about the Bloody Sunday that occurred in the actual place we were standing was appalling to me.

The chaos of Bloody Sunday was not that long ago as it occurred on 30 January 1972 in Derry.  The politics and conflicts going on at that time made it a time of trouble for those living in this area.  Though the riots, gunshots and violence was an experience in itself, the event has lead to attempting to bring about justice, equality and freedom for all.

The Museum of Free Derry really struck me, especially when the man whose brother had been killed during the event began to speak. Walking around and observing the stories of people who endured the oppression and suffered during the struggle was fascinating.  It was there on those streets that we were walking around, that 14 unarmed were shot dead and 14 others were injured by the British army.One of the letters actually made me so angry.  The letter was filled with disrespectful words and was from a Soldier sent to the family of a boy that was killed. It actually was a struggle for me to finish reading the letter, that’s how distraught it was.  That experience was really beneficial and gave me chills.  The legacy and memories of those who lost their lives and the people affected still live on.  The trip meant a lot to me and I am so glad I had the opportunity to experience and learn about the history of Northern Ireland.



Teen Moms Ireland

29 Nov

As I have walked around the city lately, I have continually noticed a couple recurrences.  Two of these include smoking and young mothers—pregnant or with children under three years of age. Often times, I have noticed young mothers, sometimes even pregnant or with young children, who are also smoking. The smoking part is not what I am as curious about because I have become used to that since living in Ireland and amongst Europeans, but the young mothers have caught my attention. From what I have noticed, I would say I’ve seen an abundance of girls ranging from sixteen to early twenties in age with children.  Today I noticed some girls dressed in typical catholic school uniforms stopping to talk to a girl who looked their age, but who was not in uniform and was pushing a baby stroller with a cigarette in hand. This scene prompted me to do more research on the topic.

After doing some investigation on the demographic, I have seen that the average age (according to the Irish times) for women to get pregnant in Ireland is not what I expected—it is around the age of 30, and first time mothers is around 26. I found that in 1970, the teenage fertility rate was 16.3 births per 1,000, but it is now 16.8, and the percentage of teenage pregnancies per year is 4%. Also, Ireland’s teenage birth rate is one of the highest in the European Union. Interestingly, abortion in Ireland has remained illegal, unlike other countries in the European Union.

I know that teenage pregnancy has been on the rise, especially in America, but supposedly in 2006 was the first time in ten years that the teen pregnancy rates increased in the states. The U.S. beats Ireland (and every other country) in amount of teenage pregnancies, probably simply because of the difference in population size. On the other hand, Ireland beats America on amount of daily smokers, which I am not surprised about either.

I thought this issue might also have to do with secularization, and the fact that pregnancy out of wedlock has become more accepted; I know divorce, abortion, and contraception can be touchy subjects in Ireland due to the Catholic Church’s negative views and influence. This might have to do with why there are many young mothers. I was curious if the Catholic Church’s views on contraception may have anything to do with this, but it does not look as if it has any influence on that aspect. Interestingly, there was more information about teen moms in Belfast than in the republic; I believe this is due to a new abortion clinic being opened there recently. The research I found online was different from each source, so it is hard to exactly pinpoint the statistics for this topic. I think it is possible that Dublin in particular harbors more teenage pregnancies than the statistics for the whole country reveal. Overall, Ireland’s teen and first-birth pregnancy statistics were lower than I had expected, yet Ireland is close to the top ten on the list in amount of teenage pregnancies, which in relation to the statistics in the states looks deceptively low. I think the struggle between secularization and the traditional views and influence of the Catholic Church are evident particularly in this subject as well.

Irish Charm

29 Nov

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past three months, it’s that Irish people are some of the most friendly in the world. Nowhere else in Europe have I felt so welcome, and this has made Ireland the perfect place to spend a semester of my college career. The fact that we speak the same language, however hindered by regional accents, provides the connection upon which I have come to know so many Irish people.

The best example of this I can provide comes from a girl in my history class. The night before I left for a four day trip to Barcelona, I realized I didn’t have any travel size shampoo’s or conditioner. While this may seem like a trivial issue, I spent the day searching different grocery and convenience stores for such products and couldn’t find anything. Jamie, a girl in my class, overheard me asking a friend if she knew where I could them, and told me where I should go. I had no idea where the store was, so after class she didn’t just point me in the right direction but rather walked me to the store, which was about ten minutes away. It was such a small act of kindness, but to me it really epitomized the friendly nature of so many of the Irish people that I’ve come into contact with. This is even further illuminated by the fact that American’s are not always received well abroad, specifically because of our tendency to speak only one language and our penchant to do so quite loudly.

This general propensity for kindness could have something to do with the fact that so many Irish people have immigrated to the US, and therefore many still living here today have relatives or friends in the US. This sort of connection, however distant the relative or friend might be, still provides a bond upon which relationships are built.  In a study conducted by the US Census Bureau in 2008, 11.9% of American reported being of Irish heritage. An even more astonishing figure it that of the relative populations. The Irish diaspora population in the US is about six times that of the population of modern Ireland! So just as many American’s feel a certain connection with Ireland, many Irish probably have ties to America because of the immigration statistics mentioned above. Whatever the reason, I am so appreciative of the welcoming and friendly Irish acquaintances I’ve met over the past few months. I’ve learned so much about Irish culture, language, history, politics, and religion (among other things) not only through my classes, but also from those who have been so eager to share their stories with me.

The Guinness Enterprise Center

29 Nov

During my time in Dublin, I am working at Dublin Community Television, which is based in the Guinness Enterprise Center (GEC). Unbeknownst to me until a few weeks ago, the GEC is more than just an office building, it’s “a hub of entrepreneurial enterprises and business and investment support services.” The GEC recently hosted a showcase event as part of Innovation Dublin, where we had the opportunity to talk to a few board members of the GEC, David Varian and Sandra Reynolds, and hear their mission and vision for the center.

The Guinness Enterprise Center has been around for 10 or so years now, and aims to help start up companies in early stages of development get their feet off the ground. They do this by providing a location they can operate out of, putting support around them through providing access to people who can help develop business plans and concepts, and creating a community so business at the GEC can help each other.

The building has space for 70+ businesses, and also includes meeting rooms and a cafe. So far, 265 businesses have graduated through the Guinness Enterprise Center. According to David Varian, the concept of the center is that when a company is successful they move. The GEC doesn’t hold on to the successful companies; they help them get their start, and when they’re mature and successful they move on to make space for other new companies coming through.

Also present at the event were representatives from one of the GEC’s main partners, the Dublin Business Innovation Center. The DBIC provides support to companies in terms of shaping ideas, business planning advice, and helping get clients investor ready. This range of supports helps identify high growth companies and gets them to market as soon as they can.

At the Guinness Enterprise Center, entrepreneurs have access to services through the DBIC such as project evaluation, study assistance, business plan guidance and preparation, international partnerships, business counseling, and access to finances.


“Envisaging Growing Older”- LGBT Seminar at The Outhouse

29 Nov

I recently spent a few hours at the Outhouse through my internship and had the opportunity of sitting in on part of the LGBT Conference entitled “Envisaging Growing Older’. The Outhouse, located just North of the Liffey, is a community and resource center for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community. The Outhouse hosted a one-day seminar geared toward older LGBT people in which a variety of speakers and question and answer sessions occurred. We heard from Justine Quinn, Attorney at Law, who spoke about inclusive ageing and the law. This included LGBT issues such as gender recognition, civil marriage, guardianship, surrogacy, and adoption. She discussed Ireland’s current laws regarding these issues, the grey areas, and what this means to LGBT people in their every day life. We then interviewed George Robotham, Director of the Board of Outhouse who talked to us about the conference, why it was being held, and gave us a run down of the different speakers and topics being covered throughout the day.

During Justine’s talk, I was made aware of many issues surrounding the LGBT community that I had never really though in depth about before. For example, she spoke a lot about civil partnerships abroad. Every country has different laws regarding civil partnerships and gay marriage, so if one were to get married or have a civil union in one country, and take a trip together elsewhere, your marriage may not be recognized in the destination country, depending on the laws there. So in essence, if you were flying across five countries to get somewhere, your legal relationship status could change five times during the course of the flight. She also spoke a lot about child custody and how important having a will is for this reason. Irish laws currently only recognize one partner as being the legal guardian of a child. So, if this partner dies, the other partner is not recognized as a parent or guardian of the child unless specifically outlined in the will of the deceased partner.

I had an awareness of a lot of issues facing the LGBT community prior to this seminar through talking to friends of mine who are part of this community, but I had never really thought legally about the depth of the challenges people of this community face every day. It was a very informative and eye-opening experience in a lot of ways, and has really made me see how this community faces a life long battle on just living a normal life. I’m really glad I had the opportunity to attend and hear this perspective on the subject matter.

Here’s the interview we conducted with George Robotham, Director of the Board of the Outhouse .

Shannon Smith

Visiting with Giants

28 Nov

Of the many exceptional sights we were able to explore in Northern Ireland, the must stunning for me was The Giant’s Causeway. I had heard from some that it was considered to be the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” and my expectations were definitely met.

The Giant’s Causeway has two histories. One bases it’s story in scientific fact. The Causeway is said to have been formed anywhere from 50 to 60 million years ago. During that time the ground was fertile and vegetation was thriving. But under the Earth’s surface were constantly shifting slabs of rock called tectonic plates. The Causeway was formed when the plates conecting North America and Europe began to split apart. The cracks that began to form let magma from within the Earth’s surface to seep through. Once the lava came in contact with air and rock, it cooled and formed a solid mass called basalt.

The Causeway stayed this way for a few thousand years, before more cracks made by the shifting plates caused more lava to rise to the surface. This time it dried more slowly, creating columns that we climbed up this past weekend. These honeycomb shaped columns were hidden under the surface for thousands of years. Only after erosion over millions of years did the columns begin to show themselves. The end of the Ice Age also brought about the reveal of the columns with rising and falling tides, which left us with the coastline we see today. Most of the columns are six-sided, though a few have four and eight sides.

Much more interesting and far more entertaining is the mythology that is wrapped around The Giant’s Causeway. The story goes that there was an Irish giant named Finn McCool. He built the causeway as a path to Scotland to fight the Scottish giant named Bernandonner. But before Finn McCool crossed over to fight the Scottish giant, he fell asleep. This gave Bernandonner the opportunity to cross over to Ireland first. McCool’s wife Oonaugh saw Bernandonner and realized he was much larger and stronger than her husband. As a clever solution, Oonaugh wrapped McCool in a blanket and laid him in a cradle, passing him off as her baby. The Scottish giant then saw the gigantic size of the “baby” and could only guess the enormity of it’s father. This made Bernandonner run back to Scotland, destroying the causeway as he went.

For thousands of years people believed this story to be true. There is a matching causeway across the coast in Scotland to make the story even more believable.

It it were up to me, I would take the story of the warring giant’s any day.

Blood Sunday

28 Nov

Something that I was particularly struck by during our trip to Northern Ireland was learning more about Bloody Sunday. The Troubles in Northern Ireland has always been something that I’ve definitely heard about before, yet I was shocked by the fact that I had not heard much about Bloody Sunday. I also did not understand the entire conflict or realize the extent of the violence and tragedy. Therefore, I found the weekend extremely eye opening, and I learned a lot more than I though I would about the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Bloody Sunday occurred on January 30, 1972 in Derry, Northern Ireland and is also sometimes referred to as the Bogside Massacre. On this, the British Army shot 26 unarmed civil-rights protesters. Some of those killed in this shooting were bystanders as well.

The Museum of Free Derry was especially interesting. The pictures, videos, audio recordings, and even coats with obvious bullet holes really made the event that we had heard about come to life. It is unfathomable to me that this horrific event occurred not too long ago.

After visiting the museum, I wanted to learn more. After reading more and more about Bloody Sunday and the conflict in Derry, I visited the website for the Museum of Free Derry. There, I found accounts by survivors of the shooting who told stories of their experience that day ( I found this extremely interesting.

While this weekend trip answered a lot of my questions regarding the conflict in Northern Ireland, it also instigated more questions. How could someone live in Northern Ireland and not associate with being Irish? How can a massacre and all of the conflict and tension be justified? Bloody Sunday was a massacre caused by the British Army, yet there are people there who would still rather be considered British and refuse to associate with being Irish? If there is such tension about being either part of the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland, why don’t they run under a different name? Why don’t those who feel so strongly either way move to the Republic of Ireland or to other parts of the United Kingdom?

It will be interesting throughout the years to see how Northern Ireland deals with the continued tension and moves forward. How long does it take for scars to heal? How long with it take for Northern Ireland to become entirely united? Will there ever be time where one said doesn’t have UK flags and the other side doesn’t have Irish flags?