Archive | February, 2013

What Does It Mean to Really Be World Champion?

24 Feb

The Baltimore Ravens are World Champions after their victory over The 49ers

So like every other dedicated American lad, I was set to watch Super Bowl XLVII (47). This year’s Super Bowl was a special one: two brothers coaching opposing teams for the very first time in NFL history (Jim Harbaugh for the San Francisco 49ers and John Harbaugh for the Baltimore Ravens). When the other American students and I arrived at the Woolshed Bar for the festivities we were in for a big surprise, the place was mobbed. It was so packed you could barely move through all the people, there was nowhere to sit, and getting a beer was quite nearly an impossible task. This made me wonder why is American football so popular in Ireland? Shouldn’t they be off watching Gaelic football?

Some research ( has indicated the rise in popularity is because of “machoness” of the sport. Irishmen like there sports rough, if there is physical contact and the chance to get hurt it’s a good game in their eyes.  The article continues to list facts like cheerleaders and any excuse to drink but perhaps these aren’t the only reasons. I personally believe that it’s the fact that Ireland’s culture has been greatly impacted by American culture (such as movies, music, etc.) and this is the natural progression of both our culture’s assimilation into one mixed culture. But it’s not one sided, Gaelic Football has seen a rise in popularity state side but what’s the difference between the two?

The bar we went to, it was so crowded!!!

“A huge difference between American football and Gaelic football is that the Irish athletes are amateurs… Rather, they are regular citizens with full-time jobs, a love for their county, and a love for their sport. (”. The article explains that Gaelic football has 15 players per side in the same positions as soccer. It has a leather ball and players are allowed to walk 4 steps before they have to kick or pass the ball. You score by getting the ball through an “H” shaped goal post going through the top gets you one point and through the bottom is 3 points. I as an American football fan am both a) intrigued by the concept of Gaelic Football and b) see some similarities to the American version. But what really matters is the Baltimore Ravens won 34-31, the Beyoncé concert was amazing, BBC didn’t show the American commercials but both American and Irish lads had a great time at the pub!

-Spencer Oliveira


Clinton’s Role in Northern Ireland Peace Progress

24 Feb

The problems between Ireland and Northern Ireland are well known by many. They are what people refer to as the “troubles”. Talks of trying to generate peace had been going on since the 1980’s. Gerry Adams, the head of the Sinn Fein party, was a key player in these talks to come up with a peace plan. What many people, myself included, do not know is that the US President Clinton also played a part in trying to bring peace to Northern Ireland. While on the tour in Derry the tour guide mentioned how much Northern Ireland liked President Clinton because of his help to create peace during the troubles. This shocked me because I had never heard of Clinton helping Ireland, and many people from the United States do not like Clinton because of his shady history. So I decided to look into what he had done to help Northern Ireland.

In the year of 1994 Clinton sanctioned a visa for Gerry Adams to enter the United States for fortyeight hours. At the time this was largely controversial. Britain opposed the trip which was a big deal because they were one of the United States big allies and to go against them politically like that was risky. However, that is exactly what Bill Clinton did in hopes that by letting Gerry Adams speak at a New York conference it would lead to peace and ultimately an IRA ceasefire. Mr. Adams view on the Northern Ireland situation was clear that he wanted to end violence and embrace a joint declaration. Even though I do believe Gerry Adam’s views and talks in the United States helped take a positive step toward peace Britain was outraged by the fact Mr. Adams was granted access in the U.S.

Not to be discouraged Bill Clinton continued to help with the peace progress and made his first visit in November of 1995. This was fifteen months after the IRA announced the first ceasefire. It was during this visit that he spoke to a huge rally in Belfast at the City Hall. His speech was geared towards his favor of the “peace progress” and it themed along the lines of him calling terrorists yesterday’s men and looking towards a brighter future. Clinton also made a second visit after the republican bombing of Omagh. He made a speech to touch the people saying, “The spirit of reconciliation must be rooted in all you do.” His goal was to inspire each individual to live peace and make peace happen in his “up to you” way of finding a solution. Clinton was also involved in the 1998 talks via phone conversations with the key players from the oval office.

Land and Legend at The Giant’s Causeway

21 Feb


            Giants Causeway is a breath taking and beautiful sight. When I visited this past weekend, I could not help but feel taken away by this amazing piece of nature. Feeling this way, I was not surprised to find out that many myths and legends have emerged related to the Causeway. Although we now know that the Causeway was created by volcanic explosions years ago, the myth surrounding it stays alive through natives and remains a significant aspect of the mystery of Giant’s Causeway.

            One of the most prominent myths surrounding Giant’s Causeway is the myth of Finn MacCool and the giant Benandonner. The legend says that Benandonner was threatening Ireland, so Finn decided to fight him. in the legend, MacCool creates the Giant’s Causeway from rock on the shore to make a bridge to go fight Benandonner. However, when he realizes how big the giant is, he is frightened and runs away. MacCool’s wife hides him by placing a blanket on him and pretending he is a baby. When Benandonner sees MacCool, he is frightened because he thinks that if MacCool’s baby is that large, MacCool himself must be huge. Benandonner runs away, tearing up the Giant’s Causeway as he goes, leaving what we see today.

            Learning about this myth interested me, so I decided to do some more research into Celtic legend. I was interested to learn about many other legends and adventures surrounding Finn MacCool. I read some sections of a book called Mythology: Myths, Legends, and Fantasies and learned that Finn was a military leader and a wandering hero. He was first named Demne, but he was a very gifted child and was renamed Finn meaning “fair” or “shining”. The book also mentioned many of his other adventures. One I found particularly interesting was about Finn and the Fianna. The legend claims that the Fianna were first an elite band of warriors who supported the high king at the seat of Tara. Each year, Tara was attacked by an underworld demon and burned. The king of Tara asks Finn MacCool for help, and Finn agrees but asks to rule the Fianna as a reward if he succeeds. The king agrees, and Finn kills the demon. He takes the Fianna and they grow in strength under his command. The book also mentioned that it is believed that some aspects of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table are based on this tale. It also mentioned that the political part “Fianna Fail” is named in honor of this mythical group.

            From this research, it became clear to me that legend and myth remain interwoven into Irish life and Irish places. The Causeway has become a place full of myth and legend, from the legend of Finn MacCool to the rusted pennies left between the rocks of the Causeway holding traveller’s wishes. The Giant’s Causeway remains a place where legend is kept alive and where people from all over the world come to marvel at the mysteries of the natural world.




Parker, Janet, Alice Mills, and Julie Stanton. Mythology: Myths, Legends, and Fantasies. Struik Publishers, 2007. 226-227. Google Books. 

All in a Day’s Work: Northern Ireland

20 Feb

This past Saturday stands out to me as my personal favorite day so far during my time studying abroad. In the middle of our weekend trip to Northern Ireland, we all got to enjoy the likes of the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Giant’s Causeway, and both the cities of Belfast and Derry. The scenery along the drives to all of these places was equally as magnificent as the time spent there.


Our day began in Belfast, as we all gathered for breakfast in the hotel. While not much took place in the city on that day because we simply left it behind, it was still great to be able to wake up in such a great place. We had toured the city the day before, and I was surprisingly impressed with how much I enjoyed it. I certainly had strong expectations for what Belfast would be like, but nothing can compare to actually walking its streets and learning its history while being there.


Our first stop for the day was at the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in County Antrim. The scenery both on our way there and especially actually at the site was unbelievable. The experience of it all was amazing too, as I had not only heard countless stories of people crossing the bridge themselves, but also saw the experience as a way of overcoming my fear of heights. Sure enough, I walked across with confidence, and feel that I’ve finally overcome my fear.



We continued on along of course more beautiful scenery, this time en route to the Giant’s Causeway. Long known as a place of myths and legends, heralded by the great giant Finn MacCoul, it was exciting to turn the tales into a reality firsthand. I was amazed to learn the story about the Causeway’s physical formation while standing directly in the midst of it. The blending of the mythical tales about the Causeway and the truth about the cooled lava creating the structure very slowly over time was a lot of fun to hear about. There was nothing better than the view we caught from taking the Red Trail up above the rocks:


We eventually made our way into what has come to be my favorite city since arriving to Ireland, “Legen”Derry. I had previously been unaware of how rich the city is in history, culture, and stories. I knew of Bloody Sunday of course, but to walk along the streets where the events took place was incomparable to learning about the tragedy in class. Further, the city is a wonderful sight to behold in itself, as it is lined with classic buildings and roads, and highlighted by the curving Peace Bridge.


The weekend as a whole was incredible, and Saturday was certainly my favorite because it provided us with the best of everything during the trip. 

One woman’s freedom fighter is another woman’s mother

20 Feb


These days, Bernadette Devlin McAliskey spends her time doing, in effect, what she has been doing for her whole life. She talks, so people will listen. McAliskey’s efforts today can only pale in comparison to the energy she exuded during the early 1970s, as she waved high the banner of Irish republicanism.


Bernadette Devlin McAliskey is currently 65 years old.

Long gone from her early days of serving in the British Parliament and banned from visiting America, (her beliefs considered too radical and liable to incite riots) McAliskey remains a polarizing figure.

Less than a decade after she fought in Derry’s Battle of the Bogside and witnessed the horrific events of Bloody Sunday, she and her husband Michael fell victim to a failed assassination attempt by members of the Ulster Freedom Fighters. McAliskey was shot several times in the chest, arm and thigh, in full view of the couple’s three children.

 One of those children, whom Bernadette had borne out of wedlock, was Roisin. Roisin McAliskey, likely spurred by her mother’s strong pro-nationalist views, has become just as imposing a figure as Bernadette in her day.


This mural, in the heart of Derry, is hailed as a living memory to the actions of those in the fight for a unified Ireland

Long suspected of having once been a member of the Provisional IRA, Roisin was once arrested by German officials, who thought she was connected with a mortar attack at a British army compound. She was four months pregnant at the time and would eventually give birth to a daughter, under heavy armed guard, in England.


Roisin McAliskey is suspected of being a one-time Provisional IRA member

“The conditions of Roisin’s imprisonment were horrendous and provoked an international outcry,” writes Stuart Ross, of Solidarity Magazine. “She suffered some of the worst conditions endured by Irish political prisoners in Britain.”

Bernadette has never said that her daughter engaged in any illegal activity, but has continued to heap pressure on the British government by her speaking engagements and newspaper columns. Mere hours after the results of the Saville inquiry was released two years ago and Prime Minister David Cameron issued a formal apology to the 14 deceased victims of Bloody Sunday, McAliskey argued that the entire British government, not the individual soldiers who created the massacre, should be put on the dock.

“Bloody Sunday isn’t just about the families or how the 13 individuals lost their lives that day; the 14th dying later of his wounds,” she argues in a column published in the Guardian. “It is about whether the British government committed a war crime in 1972 and in so doing started a war.”

As recently as last August, McAliskey raised eyebrows with her comments on the role of women in the household; another example of the rebel force indelibly kept alive through a large wall mural in Northern Ireland.

“It is difficult for somebody… to balance a personal life and that includes children, you will have no choice but to do two jobs for the price of one,” she said.

Walking the Walls

20 Feb


Over the weekend, while in Northern Ireland, I was able to walk the walls that surround the city of Derry. After doing a bit more research, I was able to find some more information on the walls of Derry. The walls were built between 1614 and 1619. Derry was one of the 40 cities in Ireland that had walls built around it by the end of the seventeenth century; however, it is the only one in Ireland that are still complete.

Our tour guide was very well-informed on what the walls have endured over the years. What really interested me was when he took us to an area that held a mass grave of people who had died during the siege of 1689. When William of Orange took the throne of King James II, James attempted to secure Ireland through conquering vital cities, so that he could take back his throne through Ireland. One of the cities he attempted to conquer was the city of Derry. At the time, the city of Derry was not sure what to do. While they were deciding, the young apprentice boys of the city took the keys to the walls and locked them. The city then held out against the army of King James II for 105 days until relief was finally given to them.

The mass grave stood out for me, because even though the walls are still there and you can see them; the grave is a sound reminder of what those people went through to defend their city against something that they did not believe in. Those people, whether they died of starvation or wounds from the siege, suffered for a cause that they firmly stood by till the end. I think that, that kind of determination and will-power is admirable. I do not know whether I could ever do what those apprentice boys did, nor do I know if I could die for the cause of “No surrender!” as those people did. I think the fact that I walked the walls that those people in that grave walked is astounding.

This walk along the walls, as well as the story of the siege reminds me of the trip that I took in the Republic of Ireland to Malahide Castle. There, the Talbot’s ate dinner before they went off to fight for King James II against King William of Orange in the Battle of the Boyne, and none came back. In Ireland there are so many different sides to some of the same stories and it’s incredible to me that I get to see the remnants of them. 


How Long? How Long Must We Sing This Song?

20 Feb

On January 30, 1972, in the Bogside of Derry, tragedy struck. During the 30-year period of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, over 3,000 lives were taken as a result of the conflict between the Unionists and Republicans, Protestants and Catholics, British and Irish. 1972 was the bloodiest year due largely in part by the built up animosity between the two groups. On January 30, 1972 what became known as “Bloody Sunday” changed the lives of families forever as 26 unarmed civil rights protestors were shot by British troops. The 14 deaths and multiple injuries directly linked to the Bloody Sunday became the inspiration not only for people to fight back, but also for music.

In addition to songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney about Bloody Sunday, U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday addressed the devastating event and the pain experienced as a result. The song was not intended to be a rebel song, but an account of the troubles in Northern Ireland. U2’s drummer, Larry Mullen stated in 1983, the year of the song’s release:

“We’re into the politics of people, we’re not into politics. Like you talk about Northern Ireland, ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday,’ people sort of think, ‘Oh, that time when 13 Catholics were shot by British soldiers’; that’s not what the song is about. That’s an incident, the most famous incident in Northern Ireland and it’s the strongest way of saying, ‘How long? How long do we have to put up with this?’ I don’t care who’s who – Catholics, Protestants, whatever. You know people are dying every single day through bitterness and hate, and we’re saying why? What’s the point?”

The immediate reaction for some was to pick up their riffles and fire away; however, bands like U2 took a different and inspirational approach. Sunday Bloody Sunday has had a huge impact on people across the world. Not only did it make people aware of what was going on, it also allowed people to feel sympathetic for those directly affected.


Having grown up listening to U2, I was aware of the tragedy that the song addresses. However, it wasn’t until my visit to Derry that it all became real to me. After walking through the streets of the Bogside, seeing the murals, going to the Bloody Sunday memorial, and visiting the museum, I was able to truly understand what happened on that tragic day. It is clear that the people of Derry will never forget what happened that day and songs like Sunday Bloody Sunday serve as a constant reminder. U2’s ability to take a heartbreaking event and turn it into music and inspiration is beautiful and I am so thankful to have been able to see where it all came from.