Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

October 11, 2015

A family portrait is not complete without all members of the clan being snapped. Tragically, for some families, this can require photographing a baby that is ‘not compatible with life’. Entering a hospital with the expectation of leaving with a new addition to their family tree, sometimes all they’re left with are memories when the baby passes on. Since memories fade, yet bonds do not, a global foundation, called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (NILMDTS), was set up to provide a helping hand to healing hearts.

Offering gentle and beautiful photography in a compassionate and sensitive manner, over 1,600 volunteer photographers operate worldwide, 22 of whom work within the Republic of Ireland. Many of these photographers have had no experience of child loss themselves; yet travel the length and breath of the country, all on their own dime, to help families on the worst days of their lives.

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Judy Garland may have urged us to “make our yuletides gay” in the song Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, but for those of us born that way it’s a year-long thing.

With the presents tucked under the tree and the turkey defrosting in the kitchen, the bells of the cathedral will soon draw lapsed Catholics to their once-a-year spiritual engagement, Midnight Mass, where they will be welcomed with open arms.

One small, silent minority will be praying that 2015 will be the year when their own presence will be as welcome.
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Debs season is upon us once again and, while images of stretch Hummers, ball gowns and black-tied boozehounds abound, there also remains a quiet sort of symbolism around the event.

“It’s about transitioning into the next stage of your life,” says Catherine Cross, a seamstress from Rathangan, Co Kildare. Catherine has just finished making her son’s suit for his debs. “You are moving from your school years into young adulthood, and it was important to us that Lucas experience that,” she says.

Her eldest son, Matthew, has been to three debs balls so far. But for Catherine, Lucas’s night, which will be held next week, is even more symbolic.
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The Wans Who Would Be King

October 11, 2015

The Queen is far from dead. Where once the troika of drag artists — Panti, Shirley and Veda — had the stage all to themselves, now if you look up in any gay bar in the country you’ll see spray-tanned legs, River Island frocks and perfectly applied make-up adorning a multitude of ‘baby’ drags, who’ve learned how to doll up via tutorials on YouTube and RuPaul’s Drag Race.

But girls who ‘man up’ haven’t cracked the mainstream market. Sure, the popstars Lady Gaga, Ciara, and Mariah Carey have all tried — and actresses Anne Hathaway and Kirsten Stewart ‘dragged down’ for Jenny Lewis’s video, ‘Just One of the Boys’. But female drag artists are not afforded the same opportunities as their male counterparts.

There have been seven seasons of Drag Race in the US, and TruTv have started broadcasting season four in the UK and Ireland. And while there are 50 drag queens in Dublin, the number of ‘kings’ is limited to perhaps four who work regularly.

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Leo and Me

October 11, 2015

The main thing that struck me about Minister Leo Varadkars interview with Miriam O Callaghan this past Sunday was not how articulate, courageous and open he was, although he was all of those things and more. Instead it was how awkward-and painfully familiar the whole thing felt. As he and Miriam pirouetted around the elephant that they were clearly there to discuss, the
tightening timber in his voice awakened a dreaded feeling of déjà vu in me, and surely in many other gay men and women, who could sense that loaded question cocked in the wings. 

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Felines on the Catwalk

October 11, 2015

With doe-eyed ‘stud boys’ and hissing ‘breeding queens’ ruling the roost, SimmonsCourt could have rivalled the George Nightclub this weekend when it hosted the inaugural TICA Magnifikatz cat show. A record number of feline’s strutted their stuff in the hopes of catching the eye of six international judges, with over 117 moggies and their mom-ager owners descending on the RDS. Most were armed with ostentatious cages a Russian trophy wife could settle down in, and so much kibble and back scratches was dispensed it felt like I was at the tabby world’s answer to the Fianna Fail Tent at the Galway Races.

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Nirbhaya

October 11, 2015

You might not recognise Poorna Jagannathan, but with supporting roles in HBO’s hotly anticipated ‘Criminal Justice’ and Season 3 of ‘House of Cards’, she’ll soon be a household name. First up is the Irish run of a play dear to her heart. Inspired by the infamous rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi in 2012, ‘Nirbhaya’ features the real-life testimonies of Indian women, including Poorna, who have been the victim of sexual abuse. She talks to Caomhan Keane
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We Irish have a great knack of exporting our problems.

Be we short on spuds, or stuck for spondulicks, we herd our own onto coffin ships and Stenna Lines, in the hopes that they can make a better life for themselves… so we don’t have to. Some of those emigrants started lineages that reached all the way to the White House. Others wrapped themselves in cardboard boxes and sleeping bags, ending up in care homes, or in the grave, from varying addictions and mental maladies.

There was a drop off, during the boom, in the number of people seeking assistance from organisations like the London Irish Centre, who helped get indigent Irish back on their feet. Provisions were even made to bring older emigrants home via The Safe Home Program, set up in 2000, to assist those who had left the country to return to live out the end of their days near the homes they were reared.

But there are over 400 Irish living rough on the streets of London in 2014. And, as our government continues to fluff the figures of those signing off the live register, we can expect to see that number rise.

The boat, like the needle and the bottle, has long been a cause of death among us Irish. Prolonged, state sponsored, with no warning.

Full Article Irish Independent

CHRISTMAS can be tough at the best of times, but it is particularly difficult for parents who have lost a baby. As other families prepare for Santa Claus, they are reminded of their loss and can struggle to see the joy and wonder of the season.

December 1 marks the fifth anniversary of a carol service for bereaved parents. Held in St Joseph’s Church, Cork, at 4pm, the candle-lighting ceremony allows those who have lost a child – through stillbirth or neonatal death – a chance to mourn and honour their child with others who have suffered similarly.

It was the opening salvo of what was to become Feileacain – the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Association of Ireland, which provides support to anyone affected by the death of a baby during pregnancy or shortly after.

Full Article Irish Independent

Scotch on the Rocks

June 27, 2014

The islanders of Inis Oirr relive the dramatic rescue of the crewmen on board the MV Plassey… and the salvage of her precious cargo of whiskey.

Originally Published in the Irish Independent

What A Crock!

June 27, 2014

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Oh the green hued irony of it all. As cities around the world dye hair, faces and food products to emit a shamrock sheen, it’s not just the rivers of booze-propelled vomit that have taken on artificial colouring. Having corrupted the spiritual celebration of Samhain into that candy and carnage bacchanal (Halloween), the Yanks have tarted up St ‘Patty’s’ Day as well. Now it’s less to do with our national identity and more a commercial enterprise, where people celebrate their ‘Oirishness’ by dressing up like Disney-fied versions of our fable folk.
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Many’s the person who’s made the pilgrimage to the Hill of Uisneach in Co Westmeath, the geographical and sacred centre of Ireland and final resting place of the god who bequeath us our name. Brian Boru staked his claim to the midlands there in the year 999 while in 1111 the bishops carved up all the diocese of Ireland at that very spot. Saints Patrick and Bridget have been; Padraig Pearse and O’Connell too. Recently unearthed evidence even suggests ancient Egyptians and Lebanese traders sailed up the Shannon to do business there.

This weekend it’s Bressie’s turn when he plays his biggest solo gig to date at the fourth Festival of Fires. Revived in 2009, it’s part music festival, part historical celebration, based on the ancient Celtic festival Bealtaine, where “Burning Man meets Braveheart”. Arts, culture, history and heritage mingle at this druidic spot, culminating in the burning of a massive bonfire.

Full Article, Irish Examiner May 4th, 2012

Thirty one years after the first AIDS case in Ireland, HIV is still headline news.With 166 new infections reported last year amongst men who have sex with men, there has been a particular spike amongst guys aged 25-34. This could be because more men are getting tested than ever before. Yet some are concerned that this generation have been inoculated from the harsh lessons learned during the 1980s.

“I remember a moment, 20 years ago, when I realised all the people I had hung out with in college or on the scene were dead or HIV positive,” says Ciaran McKinney, who was a prominent gay activist at a time when sex between men was illegal.

The murder of Charles Self and Declan Flynn radicalised a generation of young gays who gathered in collectives around the country raising visibility, successfully picketing Pearse Street Garda Station until the cops stopped gathering information on gay men through intimidation.

As word filtered back through the diaspora and imported publications of a ‘gay cancer’, a small group of activists figured that, while there hadn’t been any indigenous cases in the country yet, it was only a matter of time. Something needed to be done. They formed Gay Health Action (GHA) in January 1985.

Full Article, Irish Examiner July 14th 2013

Crossing A Painful Divide

October 23, 2013

SUSAN Woods had picked her spot. Sat behind the wheel of her BMW the father of two had found the perfect place to end her life. Conscious of the fact she had been trapped in a man’s body since the age of four she had no more fight left in her. If she didn’t transition she’d die.

But, taking her car to 120mph, her mind was filled with the possible consequences of that decision. “I was facing the loss of my wife, my family, my earning ability. My place in society, ” she says. “My identity, as every one knew it, was about to change.” Feeling like she’d failed as a man — and not knowing if her kids could cope with a transgendered father — she planned to speed into an exposed bridge pillar off the Ashford Bypass.

“I simply couldn’t see how I could solve all the problems I faced.” But when the moment came to turn right and end it all, she drove on. “I’d love to say I’d had a change of heart. But I just couldn’t turn the wheel.”

Full Article, January 18th 2013

Brief Encounter

October 23, 2013

A YOUNG cub, in any professional sloth, is expected to jump through hoops before becoming selective about how they earn their honey. At 21, I was asked by an editor to get Botox for a cover story the magazine was doing on “The Youth Corridor”.

A few years later they asked me to review brassieres for the well-endowed lady even though I didn’t possess breasts of my own — and the only ones that tickled my fancy were deep fried and Halal. Saying no to editors is akin to pinning a DNR notice on your by-line — especially for freelancers. So when asked by this paper if I was free to speak to Made in Chelsea’s Rosie Fortescue, about the knicker collection she was promoting with her twin sister Lily, I chose to jump.

Full Article, Irish Examiner August 4th

Currach Racing

January 12, 2012

The currach is as identifiable with the green, green shores of Ireland as the harp, the shamrock and the IMF bail out. And while no longer needed as a means of survival Danny O Flaherty has committed the last 20 years of his life to reviving the popularity of the boat. First by forming Coiste Lar Na gCurrachai (Central Currach Committee), with the objective of promoting currach racing in Ireland and then by forming the Celtic Nations Heritage Foundation, who host the annual World Cup Currach Regatta in his adopted home of Louisiana.

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Forty Years of Aer Arann

August 4, 2010

IT STARTS as a buzzing noise in the distance. The heads of paddling children shoot skyward to search for a little black dot in the sky. At the nearby airfield, a fire truck taxis up and down the runway, sending rabbits and donkeys scattering, and an orange windsock flaps in the wind. The buzz becomes a growl, the growl becomes a roar, and a propeller-driven aircraft makes a perfect landing on Inis Oírr.

Air travel to the Aran Islands is 40 years old this month, as is Aer Arann, the company formed to make it possible. Electricity, post-primary education and industry all came to the islands as a result of the flights, along with hundreds of thousands of tourists. One hundred in 1969 became 14,000 in 1976. Now 25,000 tourists fly to the islands each year.

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STRIKE!

May 20, 2010

Twenty-five years ago, a group of retail workers began industrial action in support of a colleague and ended up as heroes in the fight against Apartheid. Caomhan Keane speaks to the Dunnes Stores Strikers. Photographs by Rose Comiskey and An Phoblacht

As they came in to work on July 19th, 1984, the staff of Dunnes Stores on Henry Street couldn’t have known that this day would begin one of the longest industrial disputes in Irish history. For months, they had been trying to pin down management about what they saw as unfair working conditions; so when instructions came down from their union, IDATU, telling them not to handle South African produce, they were only too willing to enforce it.

“We weren’t making a stand against Apartheid,” says Mary Manning, now 48, the first person to boycott. “It was more of an ‘up yours’ to Dunnes.”

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X-Files Reboot

February 1, 2016

Two episodes in and The X-File’s revival is lumbering about like it’s just been ejected from the Pet Cemetery. It looks and acts like what was once beloved. But for a show that had already clung on long after it’s creative hay day, something at the core of the show hasn’t made it back after Chris Carter applied the paddles, ignoring the DNR notice that’s attached to all classic TV shows whose memory should be left alone unless the creators have a very good artistic vision for why they should be brought back to life.

What’s left gorked before us is a mongrel of the later seasons feral mythology, and a nose wrinkling stench that all involved are back for the bucks and not out of any true love for the project.
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Pan of Aran

January 25, 2016

As first jobs go, mine’s a bit of a doozy.

Six times a day, with the help of my adopted pup Streak, I took to the airfield at Inis Mor Airport to clear it of rabbits and donkeys that may have wandered onto the runway, allowing for the safe landing of the daily flights from the mainland that brought with them- not only passengers, but the post, the papers and perishables.

Another donkey has wandered into the path of Aer Arann of late, and alas, Streak is no longer with us to chase him off.

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Spotlight

January 24, 2016

If it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to abuse one, a point proved, beyond all doubt by director Tom McCarthy in the excellent Spotlight. Looking at how the Catholic Church covered up and facilitated the actions of Paedophile priests in Boston, while hot-shot lawyers profited off of those same actions, it’s a well deserved ode to the journalistic profession, so often portrayed in a venal hue on the silver screen.

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Horrible Histories

January 24, 2016

Starting the same week as RTE’s Rebellion, it was easy for BBC’s War & Peace to obliterate the competition when it came to making a first impression. A proper, all-star cast playing characters that could stand up to the celebrity playing them. Stunning exteriors and interiors of the Russian palaces and country retreats that hosted balls and bacchanals that dripped with fur, glittered with bling and were sloshed on snobbery. While the gripping fight scenes actually stimulated the sense of being in the middle of a battlefield, as opposed to being on the outskirts of a suburban estate with the bangers going off in the distance.

Based on what’s considered to be one of the greatest novels of all time, it also had the advantage of not being a scripted piss-pot, brimming with simplistic reductions of political ideologies, historical inaccuracies that undercut -rather than charged, the drama and characters so threadbare they fail to engage on any level.

But as both shows hit their midway point, Rebellion’s soapy histrionics are being pulled up by a cast who fly through the action like stray bullets, making accidental emotional impact as they ricochet from one implausible set piece to the next.

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In spite of what the metal band on my third finger, left hand says, I’ve never had any desire to get married. Engaged yes. There’s something romantic and hopeful about the promise of a lifetime together. But I always imagined the day after the white dress was tucked away, and the rice had killed off a few pigeons, I would feel like Kate Winslet in the movie Titanic, the post-ceremony comedown dragging me back to reality in chains. A wedding is (supposed to be) for life, not just the party, gifts and salmon-sparked indigestion.

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Trumbo

January 19, 2016

Being aware of the waspish word of mouth Trumbo received when it was released in the United States may have helped me see it, not as the missed opportunity it very clearly is, but as the inoffensive, entertaining biopic it ended up being. Like Carol and Brooklyn, which similarly lost themselves to a fan girls flit of fifties fashions – divorced from the politics and peculiarities of the day, the movie is more an aesthetic pleasure than an inciting watch.

It draws no parallels between the self-censorship of the entertainment industries, then and now. Between the demonising of certain sects and creeds in the name of patriotism. Or the line between an artist’s politics and their work.

It’s wholly unoriginal, uninspiring and underdeveloped.

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Rebellion

January 19, 2016

Three different women, under the influence of three different men, get caught up in the action of Easter Week 1916 in Colin Teevan’s nice looking, slow moving, typically tarted-up costume drama. The tent pole in the national broadcasters coverage of the centenary, there are moustachioed Brits, comic colloquialisms, unwanted pregnancies and adulterous actions as the signatories of the proclamation drop on by in ‘would you look who it is’ cameos, in a drama that keeps its focus on ‘the real people’ of Dublin, made up here for the purposes of our entertainment.

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Mozart in the Jungle

January 19, 2016

Why is it so difficult for television makers to create an involving series about the arts or entertainment industry? Following on from the hate watch that was SMASH, the soap infused drag show that is Empire, plus that skaggy ballet bore Flesh & Bone, comes Mozart in the Jungle, a programme that shocked everyone when it was renewed for a second season by Amazon, and then stunned critics when it was nominated for -then won, two awards at The Golden Globes last week. 

Based on the 2005 Roman-A-Clef of the same name, it charts the bumpy rise of a young Oboist, Hailey, played by Lola Kirke (sister of Girls Jemima) as she battles through the flanks of the made up New York Symphony. 

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Transparent

January 19, 2016

The problem with the mass dumping of entire seasons of TV shows onto streaming sites like Netflix and Amazon is that once you’ve ingested them whole, you’ve a good 12 months to go before you can next digest fresh plot. It can be difficult to find your way back into the intricacies of the story, to remember who raped who, who aborted whose child or who was attacked by what prostitute, where, when and why.

The joy of a show like Transparent- which is back on Amazon as we speak, is that unlike, say, House of Cards, it’s the minute details- the feeling, suppressing and transducing of emotions that grips. The details of the story may be foggy, yet the spray from the emotional swell is bitterly familiar and addictively distressing.

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Deutschland 83

January 19, 2016

Just like there are people who will excuse Rebellion its many faults because it’s a homegrown production, so too are there people who will forgive Deutschland 83 the same because it’s a fancy, foreign import showing on Channel Four’s new Walter Presents service, that specialises in showing the best foreign-language drama series from around the world.

What you think of it will depend on how you like your TV done.

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