Tag Archives: #cultureandsocietypost


24 Jul

Sean-nós (old style) is a form of traditional Irish song. Usually sung unaccompanied and in Irish, sean-nós songs are solo and intricate. Music is more important than lyric and singers elaborate on the songs in their own way, like jazz improvisation. Melody is not regular – it can vary from verse to verse and change every time it is performed.

Ornamentation is the most distinctive feature of sean-nós singing. Dynamics (where the song gets louder or quieter for effect) are not part of sean-nós – instead, the singer will vary the rhythm, change the speed, or add grace notes or melodic turns. Sean-nós is often thought to be Indian, North African, or Arabic music when those unfamiliar first hear it – there are theories that sean-nós was originally influenced by music traveling from those regions through Spain. The distinct features of sean-nós make it unpopular with some, but the style is highly detailed and difficult to do well.

There are three main styles of sean-nós in the three areas where the Irish language is still spoken to some extent. The Gaeltachtaí of Munster (mainly in Kerry, Cork, & Waterford), Connacht (mainly in Mayo & Connemara), & Ulster (in Donegal) have their own distinct styles.

Donegal sean-nós has clear Scottish influences and is less ornate than the other styles, as well as more nasal.

Connemara sean-nós is the most ornamented style and shares some forms with traditional instrumentation, with many grace notes.

Munster sean-nós is not quite as ornamented as the Connemara style and has longer gaps between notes. Vibrato is also more prominent.

Interest in sean-nós has grown recently. TG4 (the Irish language television channel) is doing a series on sean-nós singers: the trailer is below.


The X Case and Abortion Legislation

23 Jul

Coming from an American perspective, seeing the way the abortion debate is playing out in Ireland is fairly strange. The Supreme Court case that made this a national issue was 20 years ago, and the issue has been too hot for any government to touch since. It’s an absurd state of affairs, when public opinion is so firmly on one side of an issue, and the government is unwilling to legislate on it.

We finally got some legislation passed in both houses of the Orieachtas as of this week, which legalizes abortion when the mother’s life is at risk including from suicide, but that doesn’t go as far as public opinion. The Red C poll below shows the overwhelming support for the government’s bill and a significant minority who would support access to on-demand abortion. In fact, a more recent poll showed that support for on-demand has risen to 39% in the period just before the vote in the Dáil.

It’s also interesting to see the direction of legislation in both the US and Ireland. In the US abortion was legalized in one fell swoop in Roe v Wade, and Republican legislatures have been tripping over themselves to restrict it as much as possible. Ireland is very much working in the other direction. The Supreme Court here mandated its legality in some cases, but it’s now an issue of getting the laws to catch up with public opinion, which supports much greater access to abortions.Red C Polling

This unwillingness to take action on women’s issues, or worse, clearly being on the wrong side of women’s issues, has been a staple of the Irish parliament basically since inception. It certainly isn’t a uniquely Irish phenomenon, but the 20 year gap between being told to take action by the Supreme Court, and actually doing something is particularly egregious.

Dublin vs. Galway Hurling Match

14 Jul

There are many Gaelic games that are played in Ireland, which are played under the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). Gaelic football and hurling are the most popular games, and other games include Gaelic handball and rounders. There are versions of hurling and football that are played by women, however, not organized by the GAA.

 Hurling is a sport that has been played for over 3,000 years.  The object of the game is for players to use a wooden stick, called a hurley, to hit a small ball between the other team’s goal posts, either over the crossbar for one point or under the crossbar into a net, which is three points.There is no professional league for hurling, so the players are unpayed amateurs.

On July 7th, the entire group went to Croke Park to see the Hurling match between Dublin and Galway. Dublin won the Leinster championship (score of 31-19), which is the first time in 52 years that Dublin has won. While at first it was confusing, the point system is fairly simple, so it was easy to pick up on what was happening. It was a great experience because we were immersed into the crowds with all of the Dublin fans. Like many American sports, people were very vociferous and enthusiastic. 

One thing that I didn’t like was that when there was still several minutes of the match left, Galway’s fans started leaving the stadium. It happens in the US at games as well (people want to beat the traffic), but it’s seen as extremely rude. The point is to cheer for your team until the very end, even if they have clearly lost. It’s also disrespectful to the opposing team. For Dublin, this was a very important game and in all the excitement of winning the Leinster Hurling Championship for the first time in many years, it’s rude that people were leaving the stands so early.Image

Full Irish Breakfast

6 Jul

REAL full iris breakfast

Since arriving in Ireland I have stayed in several hotels: The Maldron Hotel in Smithfield, The Abbey Hotel in Donegal, Sationhouse in LetterKenney and Jurry’s Inn Hotel in Belfast. All four of these hotels had one unifying characteristic; every morning they all offered their guests the option to indulge in a full Irish breakfast (pictured above). The full Irish breakfast at each hotel consisted of the following key components: bacon, sausage, fried eggs, white pudding, black pudding, white and brown bread, fried tomato, sauteed mushrooms and baked beans. The main course was accompanied by an assortment of pastries, Breakfast tea and/or coffee.

I found the Irish full breakfast to be very different from the American full breakfast. In my opinion the Irish breakfast is more filling than the American breakfast, mainly because the Irish breakfast is served buffet style, whereas an American breakfast is served as a set plate.

A typical plate of a full American breakfast will usually consist of two pieces of white toast, two scrambled eggs, three pieces of either bacon, sausage or pork roll, home fries and a side coffee. Eggs can often be substituted for syrup covered pancakes or waffles. I have yet to find any pancakes or waffles at an Irish breakfast buffet, which is slightly upsetting to a sweet-toothed American, like myself.

Two key components of the Irish breakfast that I was completely unfamiliar with were the white pudding, which is a meat dish of pork, suet, bread and oatmeal in the shape of a sausage, and black pudding, which is essentially the same as white pudding, with the additional component of coagulated blood. In my opinion, the white and black puddings tasted very similar to each other and to the sausages served in an American breakfast.
Brown bread, fried tomatoes and sauteed mushrooms are ingredients specific to the Irish breakfast that I had tasted before in American dinner dishes. I really enjoyed the mushrooms and tomatoes in the breakfast dish. I found that I prefer the Irish fired eggs to American scrambled eggs. Thus far, I have thoroughly enjoyed my full Irish breakfasts and plan to indulge in some a few more Irish breakfasts in the near future.