Archive | March, 2015

Kila listening to KÍLA

25 Mar

Before coming to Ireland I was aware there was a band called KÍLA. I think it’s cool to have the same name as a band, mostly because it’s a name you don’t come across often and I have no idea what my name means or where it comes from. So, when I was walking by the window at Whelan’s I saw a poster that said KÍLA was playing a gig, I immediately went home and bought a ticket. How cool is it to say that I went to see the band with my name in their hometown (the band are originally from Dublin), while I was studying in Dublin. It was even cooler that the Wednesday before the show we were discussing the topic of traditional music in Ireland in class. This class was really helpful because when I got to the show on Saturday night I could recognize and name two traditional Irish instruments; the Bodhrán (pronounced “bow-rawn”) a frame drum, and the Uileann Pipes, or “elbow” pipes. The band was formed in 1987 when the members met in an Irish language secondary school, and the lyrics to their songs are written in Irish. When I went to the concert I did not understand the lyrics, but that didn’t matter the music was amazing! KÍLA has incorporated many aspects of traditional Irish music and has mixed it with modern instruments and elements of world music to create a unique sound. Probably one of the most exciting aspects of the concert was the crowd, one of the band members mentioned that she was surprised to see so many young people, most of them in their 20’s at the concert. I think it’s really cool to see people my age interested in traditional Irish music and language especially since, as I have learned in the Irish Life and Culture class, that the number of people who actually speak Irish outside of school is declining. All in all it was a great concert and I would tell anyone that if you have the chance to see KÍLA perform, do it! You will not be disappointed!




image image

image image


Not all who wander, are lost.

24 Mar

During reading week, unlike most other students, I traveled throughout Ireland. Starting in Cork, then to Galway, Limerick, Kilarney, to Waterford, Wexford, then back home to Dublin. Throughout the week the weather was exceptionally crappy, but the couple of days we were in Killarney were the best of the whole 10 days. One day we biked for about 6 hours through the National Park, we biked up a huge hill to find a breathtaking view of the “mountain”. This is the home of the tallest mountain range in Ireland, called the McGillycuddy’s Reeks getting up to 3,280 feet in height. The whole park itself is about 106 square kilometers. We ended up riding through to the lower lake to the Ross Castle which was built in the 15th century, then up to the Muckross House. The Muckross House that we saw was the fourth house the successive generations of the Herbert family ad occupied, spanning to about 200 years. It was built in 1839 by a scottish architect William Burn, and was completed in 1843. The Herbert Family were from County Kerry and became wealthy in the early 18th century from copper mining, but became owners of the land in the late 1700’s. It’s successors, in 1899 were the Lord Ardilaun who was a unionist, and a member of the Guinness family. They were related to the Herbery family, but only through marriage. The last owners were in 1910, the Bourn Vincent Family, who in 1932 had the Bourn Vincent Memorial Park Bill put before Dáil Éireann requiring to maintain and manage the Park as a National Park for the enjoyment and recreation of the public, as said by We then traveled to the Torc Waterfall which was beautiful, then back to the city center of Killarney, where we napped for a couple hours. Couldn’t have asked for a better day though.

Wandering Galway

24 Mar

As soon as we got off the bus, Kila and I both had some exploring we wanted to do. Wandering through the city was one of them, but I wanted a sweater and a claddagh ring, after recently losing the one my mother bought me at the bar eating dirty ranch wings… which is another story in itself,  and Kila wanted to find the Spanish Arch.

The claddagh is two hands; symbolizing friendship, holding a heart; symbolizing love, with a crown; symbolizing loyalty. These are three ideals I have lived by my whole life, and ones that my ancestors lived by dating back almost 300 years ago. The town of Claddagh is a small fishing village right across the river, in Galway making it semi inportant to me to get my ring there opposed to anywhere else. It was more meaningful, hopefully then I don’t leave it on a table.

The Spanish Arch however, we were looking for this huge Arch, for about twenty minutes, about to give up, I saw this artwork on this house right next to the river we were wandering about. It is a facing looking out of the windows, and next to it the bridge. I told Kila, I bet that tiny thing is the Arch, and what do you know, sure enough it was. Built in 1584, the Spanish Arch was designed to protect the quays. Before being called the Spanish Arch, which contains no Spanish significance, it was called the “Blind Arch”. Even before that it was called Ceann na Bhalla,  which means “head of the wall”. Appropriately, it is next to a painting of a head on a wall of a house, now apart of the museum.

In the end, our adventuring came with great successes. I got my ring, and Kila got her not so archy Arch.

Not all who wander, are lost.

Home away from Home.

24 Mar

This being my home away from home these past months, I wanted to blog about the community in which I am living. My host family had two dogs, one was recently put down because of health complications, but when she was well, my host father Ciaran and I would take Suzie and Bonnie out for walks around Dundrum. One day we were walking through a cul du sac close to ours, where stood a castle looking thing. Most times Ciaran tells me lots of historical stories, and things happening in politics presently, on our walks but this one I found most interesting.

Dundrum comes from the Irish phase Dun Droma, that means Fort on the Ridge. The castle looking this we saw was the fort that gives Dundrum its name. It is the remains of the Dundrum Castle, and stands behind the Dundrum City Centre. Most of the land in that time was assigned to the family of Clahull after the conquest of the lands. Sir John de Clahull was the Marshall of the Lordship of Leinster at the time and was the owner of the castle. When he was succeeded, the lands were used for farming, and suffered raids from Irish enemies of the Crown with being so close to Dublin.

That was only a little bid of history, but I would have never noticed that the fort was so close to the house, or that it was the successor of wars and many lords back in the 14th Century, if it wasn’t for the walks we took with the dogs. It is the little things in life.

Racism in Ireland

23 Mar

Coming from a country that is currently buzzing with issues of race and racism, I was intrigued to hear that as a whole, Ireland does not experience similar issues. We have been told in class that in general, Ireland experiences little issues around race and is at large not considered a racist nation. Yet, after a few recent experiences I have begun to ask myself, is Ireland more racist than it claims to be?

On a recent trip to Pavee Point, I got to see a darker side of Irish society. Pavee Point is a center for the Traveller and Roma communities and works to shed light on the many difficulties the two community face in Ireland and around the world. Established in 1985, Pavee Point works in several areas including education, drug and alcohol addiction, and advocacy for women within the Traveller and Roma communities. The organization also does outreach programs, such as information sessions, to encourage communication between Traveller and settled communities.

During my visit to Pavee Point I gained some shocking insight into the discrimination the Traveller community bears in Ireland. At present, Travellers are advocating for legal recognition as a racial minority, in hopes to reduce the marginalization they are currently under. The effects of the prejudice against the community are evident in Traveller’s mental and physical health. Within the Traveller community, suicide accounts for 11% of all deaths, and the suicide rate is 6-7 times higher in the Traveller community than it is in settled communities. Perhaps even more shocking, the life expectancy for Traveller women is 11.5 years less than that of settled women and is 15.1 years less for Traveller men compared to that of settled men.

An additional experience at a free concert in Dublin further raised my suspicion of racism in Irish society. A band called Evolution of Hip Hop took the stage at a local music venue in what I took to be a shocking and offensive manner. The all white Irish band wore matching sneakers and track suits as they performed and array of songs by black American artists. Throughout the performance I was shocked at the manner in which the band appropriated hip-hop culture while the rest of the audience did not blink an eye.
No culture is bias-free. Racism is an on-going issue, which cannot be ignored. In light of recent observations and experiences, I believe that racism is alive and well in Ireland. Hopefully with the help of organizations like Pavee Point, conversations around race will become more common. With any luck, “music” groups like the Evolution of Hip Hop and shows like My Big Fat Gypsy wedding will soon go out of style as their harmful effects are exposed.



Not So Black and White

23 Mar

One aspect of our recent trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland really opened my eyes to a few new aspects of Irish history, and the world’s conflicts in general. After touring with first a Catholic political prisoner and then a Protestant, we were really able to see both sides of the conflict, as well as both sides of the changes occurring in the city.

The first prisoner, the Nationalist, repeated what we have heard in class—the Catholics did not have opportunities and were discriminated against. He took us to the peace wall, which was a very powerful experience. It showed me how sheltered we really are. The wall showed murals of all different instances of injustice that happened all around the world. And to be honest, I did not know half of what they spoke of. It was crazy to me to see how much bad exists in the world without us even knowing.

The real eye-opener, however, was our tour with the Unionist prisoner. Throughout our class, after hearing about all the issues the Catholics were put through during the Troubles, I had always viewed the Protestants as the bad guys. Think about it—everything we learn deals with fighting against the British’s hindrances. I wasn’t even aware of it, but somehow I figured that nobody could hinder another group of humans so much without being inherently awful. But talking with the Unionist prisoner completely changed that mindset. While there may have been some terrible actions done by the Unionists, equally as terrible actions were performed by the Nationalists. In addition, the roles were somewhat reversed after the rebellions. The Protestants began to become the target of some discrimination, leading to terrible unemployment on their side of town. The small amount of time that we had with the Unionist prisoner and his interesting stories completely switched my mindset of who was really in the wrong throughout the troubles.

Both prisoners also talked about how changes are coming about in the city. Even though the Troubles are over, there is still some hostility between the two sides of the city—in part caused by the wall dividing the Protestants from the Catholics. I was really interested in the fact that there has been talk to remove this wall. It may not happen any time soon, or even at all. The prisoners said that both sides demanded other things to change (such as the unemployment rate) before the wall could come down. Even if the wall does not come down, I think it is really cool that two groups of people who had so much hate for one another in the past are attempting to do something that will bring them all together.

– Hanna Ciechanowski

Brother Against Brother

23 Mar

It’s hard to believe that in a mere month, I’ll be saying “slán” to Dublin already; time really does fly by when you’re having fun. Oh, and learning some stuff along the way too. Our “Northern Ireland” study tour ironically enough started much like our previous study tour: with leaving someone behind at Griffith Hall. But while some people may have saw that as an unfortunate omen, I saw it as a sign that this trip was only going to be just as interesting, if not more, than our Western Ireland tour. While Belfast was surprisingly underwhelming in size, it made up for its lack of volume in history and social development. After hearing the former Nationalist and Unionist prisoners speak about the atrocities committed during The Troubles by both sides, their own included, I realized how misled I had formerly been regarding the period. I knew the IRA was a terrorist group, however, I believed they were only acting in response to the violence initiated by the Unionists; I thought they were simply protecting their people, not instigating new acts of bloodshed. However, the situation was far from being black and white, good vs. bad, right vs. wrong. Regardless, it’s truly amazing how much progress the city has made in such a short period of time. In less than twenty years two groups of people, groups who were formerly shooting one another down in the streets and setting off bombs alongside enemy streets, are now not only only working together to maintain peace but sharing a belief that The Wall, which has separated these battling groups and alleviated conflict, can be taken down. It gives you hope for the world. If the Nationalists and Unionists, who were in conflict in some way or another for hundreds of years, can come to a peaceful solution and live as cohabitants, there’s hope for similar battles taking place in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, etc. -Megan Cummins