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Language and Resistance – Dr. Feargal MacIonnrachtaigh

POSTED ON March 5th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

15.3.5. Feargal Lecture2- Lowell poster

 

 

 

 

 

by Áine Ní Shionnaigh

The Barra Ó Donnabháin lecture is an annual lecture established by Glucksman Ireland House NYU in 2006. It commemorates Barra Ó Donnabháin, a beloved and influential teacher and advocate of the Irish language. Ó Donnabháin, from Leap, Co. Cork, took a degree in Irish and Latin at University College, Cork and immigrated to the US in 1963. One of the leading Irish linguists in the tri-state area, Barra wrote an Irish language column in the Irish Echo for many years as well as contributing essays and articles to a variety of other publications.

On Saturday next, March 7th, Dr. Feargal Mac Ionnrachtaigh who is travelling all the way from Belfast will deliver the tenth annual Barra Ó Donnabháin Lecture on ‘Ó Chumann Chluain Árd go dtí an LÁ DEARG’- Ag Tógáil Gaelphobail ón Bhun Aníos i dtuaisceart na hÉireann”; or, “From Cumann Chluain Árd to An LÁ DEARG: Building Gaelic Communities from the Bottom Up in the North of Ireland.” This lecture will be delivered bilingually in English and in Irish. There will be introductions by Professors Pádraig Ó Cearúill and Hilary Mhic Suibhne of Glucksman Ireland House NYU. To ensure a seat at this event which is already heavily booked, please call or email Glucksman Ireland House NYU on 212-998-3950 or ireland.house@nyu.edu

Dr Feargal is one of the best examples of the success of Irish Medium Education in the North of Ireland. He is a product of Irish Medium Education, attending Colaiste Feirste in West Belfast which is the only Irish medium high school in the North of Ireland. He then attended Queens University, Belfast and completed his PhD thesis in 2009 which was published last year as a book: Language, Resistance and Revival: Republican Prisoners and the Irish Language in the North of Ireland.

This book has been widely acclaimed throughout Ireland, the UK and the US and the second edition is already being published. The contents of the book relate to a wide variety of research interests from sociolinguistics to identity politics and critical criminology. Dr Feargal works full time as a Project Worker with the Gaeltacht Quarter Irish Language development Agency, Forbairt Feirste. He is chairperson of Upper Springfield Irish Language organisation, Glór na Móna. He appears regularly as a commentator on Raidió Fáilte and Raidió na Gaeltachta and contributes Irish language opinions pieces to the Andersonstown News and Nósmag. He is also a prominent member of the Feachtas Dearg campaign. Further information: www.feargalmac.org

Dr Feargal will speak about the background to the demise of the Irish language as Ireland’s spoken language due to Ireland’s cultural colonisation under British rule.

A central part is his own personal experience growing up as a product of the Shaw’s Road Gaeltacht Community in the 60’s, a grass roots community force which started the first Irish medium education in the North of Ireland. He also analyses the politics of incarceration in the Long Kesh (H Block) prison and the role the Irish language played in the prisoners struggle against the overt cultural discrimination of the British state.

He will discuss the Peace Process in the North of Ireland and how the promises laid out in the Good Friday Agreement were still not adhered to which has resulted in a political reawakening taking place, again starting at grass root level culminating in last year’s historic Irish language rights rally, AN LÁ DEARG. This movement reawakening has indirectly resulted in two very significant victories for the Irish language movement in the North of Ireland in the past few months. As a result of an Lá Dearg rally, Irish medium parents from North Belfast organised themselves into Tuistí an Tuaiscirt, a campaigning group to try to get closure on the long standing demand for transport for Irish medium pupils. Following a long campaign, the department eventually agreed to follow through on promises made in the GFA to facilitate Irish medium education and provide the transport. Secondly and equally important, the department agreed to support the creation of a standalone Irish medium high school in Derry as up to now, kids had to be transported to Colaiste Feirste in Belfast. Although two significant victories were achieved towards the end of 2014 thanks to the political re-awakening and campaigning culture, there is still a lot more to be achieved, mainly the campaign for a rights-based Irish language act.

Feargal will be giving the following talks in Boston and Brooklyn in addition to the Barra Ó Donnabháin lecture at Glucksman Ireland House, NYU.

Thursday March 5th, UMass Lowell Boston 5 pm Reception 6 pm Talk and Discussion

Saturday March 7th, 7 pm Glucksman Ireland House, NYU, NYC

Sunday March 8th, 7 pm Rocky Sullivan’s of Red Hook, Brooklyn

Is é an léacht Barra Ó Donnabháin léacht bhliantúil a bunaíodh le Glucksman Ireland House NYU i 2006. Comóradh ar Barra Ó Donnabháin, múinteoir cáiliúil. Rugadh agus togadh Ó Donnabháin i Leap, Co. Chorcaí. Ghlac se céim sa Ghaeilge agus sa Laidin i gColáiste na hOllscoile, Corcaigh agus d’astraigh se go dtí na Stáit Aontaithe i 1963. Ceann de na teangeolaithe tosaigh Gaeilge sa cheantar trí-stáit, scríobh Barra an colún Gaeilge ins an Irish Echo ar feadh blianta fada, chomh maith le aistí cur agus earraí ar éagsúlacht na foilseacháin eile.

Ar an Satharn seo chugainn, 7 Márta, tá Dr Feargal Mac Ionnrachtaigh ag taisteal ó mBéal Feirste chun leacht a thabhairt ar an deichiú bliantúil Léacht Barra Ó Donnabháin ar ‘Ó Chumann Chluain Árd go dtí an LÁ DEARG’- Ag Tógáil Gaelphobail ón Bhun Aníos i dtuaisceart na hÉireann”. Beidh an léacht a sheachadadh go dátheangach i mBéarla agus i nGaeilge. Beidh an Ollúna Pádraig Ó Cearúill agus Hilary Mhic Suibhne na Glucksman Ireland House NYU ag deanamh aitne. Chun a chinntiú suíochán ag an ócáid seo a chur in áirithe go mór cheana féin, cuir glaoch nó seol ríomhphost Glucksman Ireland House NYU ar 212-998-3950 nó ireland.house@nyu.edu.

Is é Feargal an shampla is fearr den Gaeloideachas i Tuaisceart na hEirinn. Is táirge é Feargal don Ghaeloideachas in Iarthar Bhéal Feirste, an taon meanscoil i Tuaisceart na hEirinn. D’fhreastail sé ar Ollscoil na Banríona, áit ar chomhlíon sé tráchtas PHD sa bhliain 2009. Dá thairbhe sin, foilsíodh an tráchtas mar leabhar anuraidh, dar teideal Language, Resistance and Revival: Republican Prisoners and the Irish Language in the North of Ireland le Pluto Press.

I ndiaidh rath na gcamchuairteanna leabhair in Éirinn, sa Ríocht Aontaithe agus sna Stáit Aontaithe, cuireadh an dara eagrán den leabhar amach. Sa bhreis air sin, tá neart alt agus páipéar foilsithe aige ag comhdhálacha acadúla ar fud na hEorpa bunaithe ar thaighde ildisciplíneach ar nós sochtheangeolaíochta, ceartas idirthréimhseach, léann Éireannach, stair na hÉireann, cultúir agus féiniúlachta, polaitíochta agus coireolaíocht chriticiúil. Is ball den Feachtas Dearg é Feargal a oibríonn go lánaimseartha mar oibrí tionscadail le Forbairt Feirste, eagraíocht forbartha Gaeilge sa Cheathrú Ghaeltachta, agus is cathaoirleach é ar Ghlór na Móna chomh maith, eagraíocht Ghaeilge san Uachtar Chluanaí. Is minic a bhíonn sé mar thráchtaire ar Raidió Fáilte agus Raidió na Gaeltachta agus é ag cur barúil na Gaeilge chun tosaigh i bpíosaí scríbhneoireachta in The Andersonstown News agus i Nósmag. Tuilleadh eolais: www.feargalmac.org

In Dublin’s Fair City ………

POSTED ON February 13th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

Feb 11th page 8

The largest small town in the world

by Áine Ní Shionnaigh

Last week, I wrote about the magical transformation of the Dublin docklands into the most highly regarded global business and technology hub in Europe. However, the real magic of Dublin is that it’s not only a tech hub but has always been a literary and creative hub which combines to give this city an energy and spirit that cannot be recreated elsewhere. Similar to natural beauty, you either have it or you haven’t and Dublin most definitely has it. Dublin is a master blend of youth and tradition which effortlessly produces an authentic cool vibe blending old Dublin charm and character with new Dublin cool and creative.

Dublin is the largest small town in the world. The original small-town feeling has not been lost. It is a haven for foodies and coffee connoisseurs alike. Craft butchers, traditional bakeries still lie nestled amongst European-style coffee houses and great restaurants boasting world cuisines using local organic raw ingredients. Dublin boasts an abundance of artisan offerings: local meats, artisan breads, craft beers, vintage whiskies and meads, all in all an eclectic mix of shops, cafes, galleries and restaurants.

To paraphrase Dan Barry when he was describing Pete Hamill, “if the cobblestones of the Dublin streets could speak, they would sound like” James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Hugh Leonard and Maeve Binchy. Dubliners and indeed the Irish at large are renowned for being descriptive, historical and humorous; in short a melodic mélange of poets, artists, dreamers, fashionistas, foodies and storytellers. 

You see Dublin has a long history of being a cosmopolitan trading center. Back in the ninth Century, the Vikings made medieval Dublin a trading center, world renowned for wealthy merchants, meat and fish sellers, bakers and brewers which is now being revived.

The physical remains of medieval Dublin can be seen today in the Cathedral Quarter around St Patrick’s and Christ Church Cathedrals and Dublin Castle which was the administrative center for medieval Ireland. Dublin is world renowned for its architecture, it developed from a rough stonewalled medieval town to a graceful Georgian city. It boasts some of the best preserved Georgian architecture in Europe – most famously: Trinity College, Irish Parliament House and The Four Courts.

 For those looking for culture outside the hustle and bustle of the immediate city center, Dublin now has an ultra-modern enviable train and tram system, the DART and the LUAS that transport people to these small surrounding villages within a very short timeframe.  Many of these villages are conveniently within walking distance of the city center.

Smithfield is the location of the old fruit and fish market, an intricate web of worn cobblestones and character. Urban art projects such as the Smithfield Art Tunnel and Block T provide gallery, studio and community spaces for visitors and locals. The Old Jameson Distillery is a delight to behold, opposite of which is what used to be my favorite haunt in Dublin, The Lighthouse Cinema, recently voted by Artinfo as one of the coolest cinemas in the world! Showcasing some of the best Irish and International films in the world. Stoneybatter is the original inner-city Dublin. It is one of the last bastions of Old Dublin. A strong community spirit abounds. It is currently full of artistic endeavors: screen-printers, gallery spaces, an internationally renowned publishing house and bookshop and a recording studio. The Stoneybatter Guild is almost like a mini Etsy providing artists with a commercial environment in which to nurture their art and make it into a sustaining business.

Further afield, fifteen minutes on the DART, north of the city lies the village of Howth, a historic fishing village, a haven for foodies who like seafood. Outdoor activities such s hiking, scuba diving and sailing abound. William Butler Yeats spent some of his childhood here in a cute cottage on Balscadden road that still bears his name.

Fifteen minutes on the Southside of the city is Dalkey, a Mediterranen like village, Dublin’s original seaside resort village. It boasts stunning views of the ocean and a range of outdoor activities from abseiling in Dalkey quarry to taking a dip in the nip at The Vico outdoor swimming spot. It is also bursting with literary tradition, Maeve Binchy was born and lived here as a writer and Hugh Leonard one of our most famous playwrights lived here and based many of his plays here.

What makes Dublin special is the people. Everywhere you go, Dublin is heaving with smiling people that lift your spirits and have time to talk. That’s the magic of the Irish, we still have time to talk, time to be.

Welcome to Dublin.

An tseachtain seo caite, scríobh mé mar gheall ar an claochlú draíochta na dugthailte Bhaile Átha Cliath ar an mol gnó agus teicneolaíochta domhanda is mó a mheas san Eoraip. Ach, ta se tabhachtacht a ra go bhfuil nios mo na mol ardteicneolaíochta I mBaile Atha Cliath ach i gcónaí bhiodh mol liteartha agus cruthaitheach a thugann fuinneamh agus spiorad nach féidir a cruthu in áit eile. Cosúil le áilleacht nádúrtha, tá tú ceachtar ‘sé nó nach bhfuil tú’ tá sé agus Baile Átha Cliath an chuid is mó cinnte é. Is i mBaile Átha Cliath ata meascán óige agus traidisiún a cruthaionn ‘vibe’ barántúla fionnuar cruthaitheah.

Is é Baile Átha Cliath an baile beag is mó ar domhan. Níl an mothú beag-baile caillte. Is tearmann é do ‘foodies’ agus ‘connoisseurs’ caife araon. Búistéirí ceardaíochta, báicéireachta traidisiúnta fós bréag ghleoite i measc tithe caife na hEorpa-stíl agus bialanna mór ag diol bain domhanda ag baint úsáide as comhábhair orgánach áitiúil amh. Stór Baile Átha Cliath raidhse de tairiscintí ceardaithe: Feoil áitiúla, arán artisan, beers ceardaíochta, fuisce beatha seanré agus meads. Siopaí leabhar d’aois i gcás ina bhfuil seoda ag fanacht le fáil ag taitneamh as na sráideanna ‘cobbled’.

 

Chun Dan Barry a athinsint nuair a bhí sé ag deanamh cur síos ar Pete Hamill, dá bhféadfadh ‘cobbles’ na sráideanna i mBaile Átha Cliath a labhairt, chloisfeadh siad fuaime mar James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Hugh Leonard, Maeve Binchy, tá cáil muid ar a bheith tuairisciúil, stairiúil, humorous, is féidir le duine ar bith U2, Glen Hansard,

Melange séiseach filí, ealaíontóirí, briongloidoiri, ‘fashionistas’, ‘foodies’, scéalaithe agus na gormacha fíor a rugadh agus a togadh i mBaile Atha Cliath.

Tá an ailtireacht i mBaile Átha Cliath cáiliul ar fud an domhain, d’fhorbair sé ó bhaile meánaoiseach garbh go cathair seoirseach. Ta roinnt de na ailtireacht sheoirseach is fearr a chaomhnú san Eoraip : go hairithe, : Coláiste na Tríonóide, Gaeilge Teach an Pharlaimint agus Na Ceithre Chúirteanna.

Cad a dhéanann Baile Átha Cliath speisialta do na daoine. I ngach áit a théann tú, tá Baile Átha Cliath dubh le daoine a ardaitheoir do biotáillí agus ag am a labhairt miongháire. Sin an draíocht na n-Éireannach, tá muid fós am chun labhairt, am a bheith. Fáilte go dtí Baile Átha Cliath.

The rise of Dublin as a global tech hub.

POSTED ON February 12th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

Feb 4 2015 page 6

by Áine Ní Shionnaigh

Ireland is finally being officially recognized worldwide for what it is i.e. a great place to live and work. Recent accolades, to name a few, include: Forbes – Ireland is the best place in the world for ease of doing business, Citibank – Of the most competitive cities in the world, Dublin is the city with the best ‘human capital’,  ECA International – Dublin is the second most livable location in the world for North Americans, Condé Nast – Dublin is fifth of the world’s top shopping destinations, well ahead of New York, Paris and London,  Conde Nast – Dublin is one of the friendliest cities in the world, Travel Weekly – Ireland is the best travel destination in Europe, Global Traveler – Ireland is the Best Tourism Destination in the world, Lonely Planet – Ireland is listed in the Top 10 countries to visit for 2015. Dublin has also been the focus of numerous positive travel articles in The New York Times over recent weeks.

One of the most notable good news stories of late is the meteoric rise of Dublin as a global tech hub.  Fairytale like, an area of wasteland at the Dublin docks has literally been transformed into the most highly regarded business and technology hub in Europe.  Many high tech multinationals such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn etc., are thriving here. Over 7000 highly educated tech professionals work and more importantly live in this small area around Grand Canal Dock.  Tech start-ups from around the globe are literally queuing to set up base here.  Just beyond the docks, PayPal, Amazon, Twitter, Zynga, Hub spot, Dropbox and the 2 NYC born Etsy and Gilt Goupe, to name a few have all followed Google and set up home in a city, which to put into perspective, is one fifth the size of San Francisco. This is the beauty of Dublin, it feels like the largest small town in the world.

So who was responsible for waving the magic wand that transformed drab derelict warehouses into techie filled trendy lofts? This is where the fairytale analogy ends as there is no magic, just astute Irish intellect and foresight. Successive Irish governments have developed an open economy and invested heavily to develop Ireland’s infrastructure. Much credit has to be given to IDA, the Irish government agency tasked with attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) into Ireland.

After the dotcom bubble burst, many of the European countries withdrew their foreign development offices from Silicon Valley. The IDA Ireland office in Palo Alto did not and continued to build relationships. One of these key relationships was with Google who began to eye Europe for a place to relocate to. Three times Google unequivocally stated their decision to move their headquarters to Neuchatel, a postcard pretty town in Switzerland instead of Ireland. This is where the determination and tenacity of the IDA shone through. IDA argued that, although Neuchatel had everything Google needed, it lacked one crucial factor, a suitable building which would cost easily in excess of $50 million.

Google wanted a property that resembled a village type, college style, campus environment. IDA had the perfect solution. They brought Google to see a rental on Barrow Street. This enlightened move by IDA was a watershed moment in the economic history of Ireland. Add to the equation: access to young talent from all over Europe, enlightened Irish public policy specifically the Tao Docklands Strategic Development zone which gives council planners the power to make decisions that cannot be appealed to An Bord Pleanala ensuring minimum delay for developers.  End result: Google picked Dublin for its headquarters and that’s where the story of Dublin becoming a Global Tech Hub begins.  

I took a stroll around Googles current base when I was home for Christmas, there are over 2500 staff, wonderful views of Dublin city, a stunning glass sky bridge that connects 3 of its 4 buildings, swimming pool, pool room, games room. More than 65 languages are spoken by employees from over 60 countries. Google and what followed has transformed Dublin’s city center and has done so much for Dublin city center inward investment.

What is the draw that Ireland has that makes IDA’s job easier in attracting all these multinationals and start-ups? Unequivocally the answer is talent.  Ireland boasts the youngest population in all of Europe, Ireland is the only English speaking country in the Eurozone and provides an ideal hub for organizations seeking a European base. The brightest talent from across Europe is attracted to Ireland and offers a multinational and multilingual melting pot of skills. The VP of Dropbox, Sujay Vaswa confirmed this recently by stating “Our No 1 decision criteria when we were looking at where to expand Dropbox in Europe was. “Where is the talent?” The IDA have being collaborating with the Irish education system for years encouraging extra emphasis on science, math and technology. Ireland is renowned for its great academic institutions, there has always been a history of the Irish being great educators.

The magic of Dublin is that it’s not just a tech hub, it has always been a literary and creative hub, all of which are intrinsically linked. A freelance writer Ratha Tep actually moved there and is so happy to be living in Dublin city “with its ivy-swathed Georgian buildings, winding cobblestone side streets and amiable spirit”. “What I found was a newly energized city rich not only with jovial cheer, but also an abundance of artisan offerings and a creative, literary spirit”

After all, what makes Ireland special is the Irish themselves.

Teideal: Ta Baile Átha Cliath ag baint taitneamh as na h-amanna.

Faoi lathair ta mBaile Átha Cliath, Eirinn ag baint formhor na awards atá le fail: lena n-áirítear an dara chathair is fearr ab fhearr le Meiriceánaigh chun cónaí ann, ceann scríbe siopadóireachta is fearr os comhair Páras, Milano, Londain, ceann scríbe taistil is fearr, Forbes áit is fearr le gnó a dhéanamh agus fós ar an stádas cánach na hÉireann tá ceist amháin agus gan ach go bhfuil labhair riamh faoi.

Bhi tús iontach le 2014 de bhri an bhfógra i Nollaig 2013 ag na Stáit Aontaithe Bíobla, Forbes, a ainmníodh Éire an tír is fearr ar fud an domhan le haghaidh gnó, den chéad uair i sé rangú de 145 náisiúin.

Díreach thar na duganna, thainig PayPal, Amazon, Twitter, Zynga agus Dropbox, a ainm a lua go léir ina dhiaidh sin Google agus ar bun sa bhaile i gcathair, a bhfuil a chur i bpeirspictíocht, tá Eirinn nios lu na San Francisco. Is é seo an áilleacht i mBaile Átha Cliath, mothaíonn sé cosúil leis an mbaile beag is mó an domhan.
Mar sin, cé a bhí freagrach as usaid an draíochta a chlaochlú stórais tréigthe dorcha  i techie líonadh nua aimsire.  Tá sé seo nuair a thagann deireadh leis an analaí síscéal mar nil aon draíochta, ach intleacht agus suileacht cliste Éireannach. Rialtais i ndiaidh a Éireannacha a bheith forbartha geilleagar oscailte agus infheistíocht mhór chun bonneagar na hÉireann a fhorbairt. Tá cuid mhór creidmheas a thabhairt don IDA, an ghníomhaireacht rialtais na hÉireann de chúram hinfheistíocht dhíreach choigríche (FDI) a mhealladh go hÉirinn.

Paddywhacked by a New York Times ‘paddy wagon’

POSTED ON February 12th  - POSTED IN News & Views
By James Mulvaney
The New York Times crossword puzzle is usually a breeze on Monday. On January 26 it stopped me in my tracks.
Clue 27 down was “police van” and the answer was “PADDYWAGON.”
I was horrified. The term refers to the historic bigoted presumption that most arrested people were Irish, likely drunk and disorderly.
I dashed off a letter of complaint to the editor and got a reply several days later from puzzle editor Will Shortz.
“Sorry to have offended you,” he started.
You’d think a crossword guy would know when to stop.
Shortz didn’t.
“But I’m afraid this isn’t a term I’m going to worry about. The Irish are not a group that’s discriminated against in the U.S. I don’t know anyone who has the slightest ill feeling about Irish people.”
An apology, by definition, cannot include the word “but,” my late mother said often enough for me to remember.
Eileen O’Keefe Mulvaney, a woman with a fine hand managing the English language and a doctorate in the teaching of reading, started me on the Times crossword. She also taught me not to use ethnic slurs. She would not be pleased with Mr. Shortz.
Beyond Shortz’ ignorance of that important rule, his condescension was insulting. He continued: “And virtually no one today would connect the term ‘paddy wagon’ in any disparaging way with the Irish anyway.”
The crossword puzzle editor of the New York Times has appointed himself the arbiter of the sensibilities of the as many as 44 million people who claim Irish ancestry based on the U.S. census.
Were we offered the chance to vote? Why is this the first time we’ve been informed?
I first spotted the phrase as a clue in a puzzle dated August 18, 2014 (35 down). I submitted a letter to the editor saying such an offensive term had no place in the paper.
I referred to the Times archives—quoting Pulitzer Prize Winning Columnist Anna Quindlen — to bolster my position that the phrase is offensive (I too have a Pulitzer Prize, albeit for Investigative Reporting, not opinion writing).
No reply was forthcoming. I occasionally stewed.
I am a today a teacher in the Law and Police Science Department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
I teach my students— the next generation of the NYPD— that even innocent intent does no forgive the use of ethnic insults.
The year I was born, my father’s ethnicity proved more significant than his academic achievement.
He was managing editor of the Cornell Law Review but none of his applications to white shoe— read WASP— law firms were so much as acknowledged. “They don’t hire Irish,” he said.
His father, and my other grandfather, told me about clubs they couldn’t join, schools they couldn’t attend, and towns with restrictive covenants to keep our people out.
I didn’t give it much thought until the mid-1980s when I was working as an American reporter covering the war in Belfast.
On more than one occasion I was manhandled into the back of a prisoner van by the RUC.
As a resident of Andersonstown I was a presumed Paddy— a Royal-hating Catholic — therefore worthy of incarceration, penal law be damned.
My American press card would eventually win my freedom (albeit without apology for the temporary incarceration or gratuitous punches, kicks and verbal insults).
My second letter of complaint quoted a 1992 Times story in which the Rev. Calvin Butts III, Pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem saying the phrase “paddy wagon” was “a slur against the Irish.”
It is true that we Irish do not suffer much discrimination these days.
That does not give license for ethnic insult. New York Governor, David Paterson, appointed me as deputy commissioner of the New York State Division of Human Rights, the nation’s oldest civil rights law enforcement agency.
Our historic law proscribes, among other things, discrimination on the basis of national origin. The law says nothing about a social statute of limitations that allows discrimination and hate-speech after a group attains a degree of comfort.
The New York Times is an important institution. Arrogance diminishes its value. The job of the New York Times is to present facts, and, in the case of puzzles, provide amusement.
Their job is not to tell me how to think. When a reader disagrees it should spark introspection, not dismissal.
Language matters in news stories, editorials and crossword puzzles.
My grandfathers spoke of newspaper classified ads that said “Irish Need Not Apply.”
I guess the new rule is “Irish Should Not complain.”
James Mulvaney was based in Ireland in 1984 and 1985 under a fellowship sponsored by St. John’s University and Newsday. He wrote extensively from both sides of the political divide quoting paramilitaries, politicians and non-aligned residents. He was the only American journalist at the 1985 Airlie House meeting that brought together unionist and nationalist leaders for private talks in Virginia in what is now recognized as the beginning of the Irish peace process.
In a 20-year newspaper career, Mulvaney wrote from five continents and led a team that won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. He was appointed by Governor David Paterson as Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Division of Human Rights. He is an adjunct professor in the Law and Police Science Department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York.
caption: A Paddy Wagon is more than just a name as this early 20th century photo illustrates.

Coghlan record in Millrose crosshairs

POSTED ON February 12th  - POSTED IN News & Views
By Ray O’Hanlon
No matter how many years have passed, Eamonn Coghlan and the Millrose Games remain synonymous.
The Dublin middle distance running legend has been linked with the games for years, not least for his seven Wanamaker Mile wins.
This year, Coghlan’s name is in lights because another runner, Bernard Lagat, record eight-time Wanamaker champion, has a Coghlan record in his sights.
That would be Coghlan’s masters record for the indoor mile, 3:58.15.
  Lagat, however, is being humble, or at least cautious, in the context of Coghlan’s impressive mark.
“I see Mr. Eamonn Coghlan as one of the all-time greats in track and field, so I don’t think about breaking his records,” said Lagat.
“He made the records and broke the boundaries for people like myself to follow. Age is only a number, and he made us all believe it. I’m still listening and learning.”
And this at 40.
Lagat will be in the Wanamaker for the 108th Millrose meet this Saturday, February 14, St. Valentine’s Day.
It’s unlikely that he will massacre the field. Indeed, he’s not expected to win his ninth title at all given his years.
But Coghlan’s number, also posted at the 40-years-of-age mark, is well within Lagat’s current capabilities.
“It’s a great field and Eamonn is coming to New York to see the race,” said Longford’s Ray Flynn, Coghlan’s middle distance contemporary, and Millrose meet director.
“This is another year for the Millrose at the Armory in Manhattan and the meet has really settled in there,” Tennessee-based Flynn added.

‘Pillow’ examines love, betrayal, trust

POSTED ON February 9th  - POSTED IN News & Views

Pillow CarolRosegg

Jacqueline Kealy, John McConnell and Brona Crehan in “Pillow on the Stairs” at the Cell Theatre this month. [Click on image for larger view.]

PHOTO: CAROL ROSEGG

By Peter McDermott

After readings and workshop tryouts in 2014, all of the advice offered to playwright Brona Crehan could be boiled down to: “Do a full staging.”

Now, an off-Broadway production of her “Pillow on the Stairs” is at hand. Crehan herself will play one of the three roles at the Cell Theatre on West 23rd Street from Feb. 11 through Feb. 28, alongside Jacqueline Kealy and John McConnell.

“What follows creates a web of secrets and denials that binds this trio of ordinary, flawed individuals together for a lifetime,” announces the publicist’s handout about the subject matter, adding that it’s an “intimate story about love, loyalty, betrayal, and trust.”

The Dublin-born playwright said the starting point for the John Keating-directed play is: “Ever wonder what your life would be like if you had made one decision differently?”

“People have been very enthusiastic and supportive,” Crehan added.

“I’m wearing a number of hats. I’m producing and all that goes with that,” said the married mother of 8-year-old and soon to be 6-year-old sons. “It’s been quite a learning experience.

“I’ve surprised myself with fundraising,” she said. “I’ve never liked to ask for money.”

But she was impressed with the philosophy of the Irish Arts Center’s Pauline Turley, who said: “If you don’t ask the question, the answer is always going to be no.”

Actors Kealy and McConnell did not say “no” to Crehan when she came calling. She knows the pair, who are husband and wife, going back to 1996 when they were on stage in “The Lobby,” written by fellow Dublin-born playwright, Don Creedon. She was also introduced to another of the production’s actors Dave Davitt, who later became her husband.

“So, Don has a lot to answer for,” Crehan deadpanned

Performance of “Pillow on the Stairs” are, beginning Feb. 11, on Wednesdays, Thursday and Fridays at 7 p.m., with an additional performance on Saturday, Feb. 28. Tickets are $30, available at 800-838-3006 or www.thecelltheatre.org.

Can Hollywood handle the truth?

POSTED ON February 4th  - POSTED IN News & Views

Between the Lines / By Peter McDermott

lbj, mlk

Lyndon Johnson with Dr. Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders in 1964. [Click on image for larger view.]

YOICHI R. OKAMOTO, LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON LIBRARY AND MUSEUM.

 

A friend emailed from Ireland recently to say: “I was looking forward to seeing Tom Wilkinson’s portrayal of LBJ. I don’t think I’ll bother now.”

He directed me to a blog at the New York Review of Books penned by Elizabeth Drew. “By distorting an essential truth about the relationship between Lyndon Johnson and Dr. Martin Luther King over the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” she wrote, “‘Selma’ has opened a very large and overdue debate over whether and how much truth the movie industry owes to the public.”

My friend, being passionate about both history and politics as well as intellectually serious, believes it owes it a lot.

Drew continued: “The clear implication is that Johnson was opposed to a voting rights bill, period, and that he had to be persuaded by King. This story has now been propagated to millions of viewers, to the point where young people in movie houses boo Johnson’s name.

“But there was no struggle. This is pure fiction,” she said.

Drew wrote what some consider the best book ever on Watergate – “Washington Journal,” first published in 1974 when she was 39, and reissued by Overlook Press last summer. As a meticulous political commentator with a long memory, her criticism of historical inaccuracy carries some weight. She had this to say in the same blog post about a work telling the story of a series of encounters that took place in 1977. “Both the play and the movie ‘Frost/Nixon’ base the plot on a historical falsehood: Nixon agonizingly utters a confession he didn’t make; in fact it turns what he actually said on its head by leaving out some crucial works.”

Two decades ago, Anthony Summers, the County Waterford-based author of a much admired book about the Kennedy assassination, “Conspiracy,” took exception to Oliver Stone’s “JFK.” He said that the director could have made just as fine a movie by sticking to the facts.

Stone, though, has a peculiar relationship with facts. Interviewed on Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now” at the time of the 50th anniversary, he made two ridiculously contradictory statements about the Zapruder film, which Goodman failed to call him on.

I’ll admit that I can be a bore sometimes about such things. Recently, when I raised my issues about Stone’s version with someone who writes about cinema, he said: “Yeah, but ‘JFK’ is a bloody great film.” And many believe the same thing about Alan Parker’s “Mississippi Burning,” which at the time of its release in 1988, a Time magazine columnist labeled a “cinematic lynching of the truth.”

Movie people, when defending their treatment of historical material, say that they are not documentarians, which is the position of “Selma” director Ava DuVernay. When you’re telling a real story, you’ve got to be creative, they say.

Then, there are those who feel that when telling a fictional story, you have to get real. James Joyce, for example, would often contact his connections back home to ask about some detail or other when writing “Ulysses.” You could see he’d have made a hard-core American Civil War reenactor, obsessing about buttons and threads and ensuring that the correct regional foods be consumed before a “battle.”

One could imagine, too, Joyce enjoying the atmospheric “Lincoln,” starring Daniel Day-Lewis, at least until being tripped up by some inaccuracy or other. It might be the moment when the president is introduced to two wounded soldiers, one of whom is called Kevin.

“Kevin?” he’d shriek.

There are 2,731 male Kevins listed in the 1940 U.S. Census, a small fraction of the number around today. But, the 1860 U.S. Census lists precisely four. Three of them, to be sure, were Irish immigrants of military age, and the fourth a baby, but it’s not a name any self-regarding reenactor would choose.

So, everyone has his or her own ideas about authenticity. DuVernay’s film is about history from below. She is not interested in another white-man-as-savior story. And so LBJ is a composite stand-in for all the well-meaning liberal politicians, including JFK, who dragged their heels on voting rights.

Amy Davidson of the New Yorker is among those who has defended DuVernay. “Her film is fair to Johnson; the portrayal is multifaceted and respectful,” Davidson wrote in a blog, “and fully cognizant of his essential commitment to civil rights. What ‘Selma’ is not, though, is cartoonish or deferential. Is that, again, the problem?”

Indeed, is it even possible to be “fair” to a complex, large-than-life figure like LBJ? Robert Caro has written four volumes so far of his “The Years of Lyndon Johnson” (he has yet to reach the events of Selma) and you might think he’s the last word on the 36th president. But not everybody finds his psychoanalytical take on him so compelling. Caro might respond – in the manner of DuVernay and most authors and filmmakers in the same position – “There’s just no pleasing some people.”

 

An artist in new surroundings

POSTED ON February 4th  - POSTED IN News & Views

breezy point

“Breezy Point” by Lisa O’Donnell, 2014, oil on board, 48 inches x 36 inches [Click on image for larger view.]

Clifden, Co. Galway, artist Lisa O’Donnell moved from London to New York in the summer of 2014 to research material for her art practice and to complete a three-month residency at New York Artist and Residency Foundation (NARS) in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. In this piece she recounts her experiences and explains the background to one important outcome of her time in the city, “Trasatlantcha,” her collaborative project with New York artist Maeve D’Arcy, which opens next week at the Irish Arts Center.

After three years living in London where I completed my Master of Fine Art at Central Saint Martins, I found myself on a path to New York. It seemed to be a natural progression from the work I had been making in London where I made paintings based on archived photographs and film footage relating to the Irish in London during the 1970s and ‘80s. The 1980s became the focus because many of my relatives had moved to London in that period and shared stories and experiences with me. Also on the MFA course I met New York artist Maeve D’Arcy who influenced my decision to develop the work about New York when she recommended an abundance of information and resources to research.

The move to New York was initially quite a shock to the system. Life as an artist and newbie to the city offered many challenges and new experiences — some good, some bad, some mad. But, I think it is important for people, especially artists, to force themselves out of their comfort zones and into new surroundings where they are faced with an array of experiences that develop them personally and creatively.

I spent the summer months before the residency collecting images, information and general research that served as the starting point and subject matter for the paintings created during the residency at NARS. I collected source material from the archives of The American Irish Historical Society and this newspaper. I am interested in the possibility that paintings are more effective than documentary photographs when interpreting history and memory. I explore how painting can represent these blurred and fragmented subjects, in this instance, relating to the “New Irish” in New York during the 1980s and early ‘90s. I narrowed it down to this period as it seems to be the last significant period of immigration. I tend to focus on smaller stories and images that reflect the social and cultural tendencies of the time. I steer clear of overly political images, not because I feel them unrelated or uninteresting, but because I don’t want to make sensational paintings. Also I feel these “smaller” more personal images/stories can be just as representative of political and serious issues of the time. The idea of the personal as well as collective memory and experience is important. I am interested in how these black and white documentary images can be raised from the archives and explored and transformed in a poetic way through painting.

The residency at NARS offered me an invaluable period of time and studio space to develop my work as well as the opportunity to be surrounded by many talented artists from New York and all over the world. The program offered professional development through panel discussions, artist talks and regularly scheduled studio visits with New York art professionals. We had the chance to meet with curators, critics, art historians, and gallerists to discuss our work in an intimate setting. During the residency I participated in a group exhibition at the NARS gallery and also a spoken word exhibition curated by Alessandro Facente who is the special projects curator at NARS.

New York similarly to London has many challenges artists have to face: how to support themselves financially; how to find one’s place and keep it, in a city and society that is constantly and rapidly confronted by gentrification and marginalization. None the less, artists, and creative people searching for motivation, inspiration and opportunity are drawn to New York’s energy despite the obstacles. The world class museums and galleries are on a par with London but there is something unique about New York and how art is extremely concentrated in certain areas: the rows of galleries in Chelsea, the clusters in the Lower East Side or Bushwick or Long Island City. Also, I found a really great spirit of do-it-yourself among the artists I have met in New York, whether it is organizing their own exhibitions, critique groups, talks, happenings or creating new audiences for their work. This is something I found really invigorating and it induced great momentum in my practice.

The results of the project will be on show in “Trasatlantcha,” a two-person exhibition with Maeve at the Irish Arts Center in New York from next Tuesday evening through April 2015. The premise of this exhibition consists not only of the physical work on show but the idea of bringing together two artists from two different places with two different experiences of the diaspora, exploring their associated histories and memories through their separate visual-art practices. Conversations about transience and their overlapping have been central to their dialogue, hence it is particularly poignant that this show will travel from New York to Ireland for the Clifden Arts Festival in September 2015.

“Trasatlantcha,” by Maeve D’Arcy and Lisa O’Donnell opened on Feb. 3 at the Irish Arts Center, 553 West 51 St., New York. Jonathan Goodman, a professor of Pratt Institute, moderated a discussion with the two artists at the opening. Gallery viewings by appointment Monday-Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 212-757-3318.

 

New Orleans fundraising for wounded Garda

POSTED ON January 29th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

Hanrahan jpg

 

 

 

 

 

By Irish Echo Staff

letters@irishecho.com

The Irish American community in New Orleans is rallying to the aid of Brian Hanrahan, the Limerick-based Garda who was shot and seriously wounded in a mugging in the city early Tuesday.

Garda Hanrahan is recovering from his wounds in hospital and has been visited by Ireland’s Honorary Consul in the city, Judge James McKay.

McKay is also a member of the National Board of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the AOH is among those organization now spearheading a fundraising drive for Garda Hanrahan.

“Regrettably, Garda Hanrahan met a criminal element in our city. I am pleased that he is now meeting the compassion and support for which the Irish community in New Orleans is world-renowned,” Judge McKay said in a release Thursday.

In addition to the Hibernians, the New Orleans Emerald Society and Irish Network New Orleans are involved in the fundraising effort.

On Sunday, Feb. 1, there will be a fundraiser at the Irish House on St. Charles Avenue, while donations can also be made to the AOH Police Officer Fund, PO Box 19569, New Orleans, LA 70179-0569.

Garda Hanrahan, 31, is being treated in the intensive care unit at University Hospital after surgery to remove a bullet in his back. His wife, Emma, has flown to New Orleans to be with her husband. The couple have one child.

Garda Hanrahan, who is stationed in Newcastle West, Co. Limerick, was shot twice, in the lower back and thigh. His father, with whom he was on a driving holiday, had returned to their hotel and Garda Hanrahan was alone when attacked.

Hanrahan, a native of Killenaule, County Tipperary, stood up to his attacker, who had demanded money. When Hanrahan refused, he was shot twice, before his assailant fled on foot with $200 in cash that Hanrahan had withdrawn from an ATM.

The Times Picayune website, www.NOLA.com reported: According to the NOPD, Hanrahan and his father told police they were drinking together in the French Quarter until about 4 a.m., when the dad decided to call it a night and return to their hotel. Hanrahan told police he stayed out, eventually meeting an unknown man who offered to take him to a party. Hanrahan first stopped to withdraw $200 from an ATM.

A source familiar with the investigation said the men walked approximately two miles to the intersection of New Orleans and North Tonti streets, an often dark two-mile walk that would have taken approximately 40 minutes if started from the middle of Bourbon Street. Hanrahan told police once they arrived on New Orleans Street, a second man approached and demanded his money.

Hanrahan said he refused, and the man pulled a gun and shot him twice. The suspects went through the victim’s pockets, removed the $200, and fled together on foot, police said. Responding officers said they found Hanrahan laying in the driveway of a home on New Orleans Street, bleeding from the gunshot wounds.

Hanrahan was unable to provide a description of the gunman, police said.

“It’s very unfortunate,” NOPD Chief Michael Harrison said of Hanrahan’s shooting. “We feel this way about every citizen involved in a shooting.”

An attack on French democracy

POSTED ON January 21st  - POSTED IN News & Views

Between the Lines / By Peter McDermott

de gaulle

President de Gaulle on a visit to West Germany in May 1962.

[GERMAN FEDERAL ARCHIVES]

A lot of newsprint was used to convey analysis in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, but one of the best pieces, for me, didn’t require any, because it was published by the online magazine Salon. However, I do also suggest below that Andrew O’Hehir failed to press home his argument.

He wrote: “What happened in Paris this week was a political act. Terrorism is always a political act, or nearly always. Its goals lie in the here-and-now or at least the near future, not in the hereafter.”

O’Hehir, who is Salon’s film critic, continued: “I don’t believe this attack was driven by religious faith on any fundamental level, and to define it as an assault on freedom of speech is far too narrow. Its true target was multicultural democracy in general and the specific version, both more fragile and more successful, found in France in particular.

“If anything, this attack testifies to the power the French model still holds, even in an era of sustained political crisis, social conflict and economic stagnation,” he continued in his Jan. 10 essay. “Amid its evident difficulties, France remains a peaceful, prosperous and culturally vibrant nation with a relatively well integrated and increasingly secular Muslim minority. (As has been widely reported, one of the police officers killed on Wednesday was a Muslim.) That model of democracy — or perhaps we should say that possibility — is exactly what came under attack from the Charlie Hebdo gunmen. Their aim was to pry open that model at a tender spot, expose its contradictions and undermine its stability.”

O’Hehir summarized what for the gunmen might have been a good outcome for the Jan. 7 attack – increased hostility towards French Muslims, which would fuel alienation and the growth of radicalism, and a boost in support for the anti-immigrant National Front, led by Marine Le Pen.

All of this was an interesting overview – and also a refreshing contrast to so much of the punditry seen over the past two weeks. It seems that with every calamitous event – a news story that will still be talked about in 100 years – there’s no shortage of commentators viewing it through the prism of their own obsessions, whether right, left, national, religious, or whatever.

Sometimes this can be tediously predictable. For instance, Glenn Greenwald, a former Salon writer who broke the NSA/Snowden story in the Guardian in 2013, published a series of anti-Semitic cartoons along with his piece in his online magazine, the Intercept.

Greenwald is an absolutist when it comes to First Amendment rights and that’s why he has defended the Citizens United decision on campaign finance handed down by the right-wing majority on the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009. His politics aren’t easy to classify; but, it seems, he wants those elements of the fringe left that he likes to ally with sections of the libertarian right, united by their common goal of sticking it to the man.

His Intercept piece was just a more intelligent, if extreme, articulation of an argument seen a lot in recent days: our politicians and our Western societies are hypocritical when it comes to freedom of speech.

 

Lure of absolutism

I thought that O’Hehir was perhaps addressing that type of response with this: “Debates about the role of religion in modern society, and the outer limits of free speech, are undeniably seductive. I am liable to get drawn into them at any moment. But when we allow our discussion about a political act, which took place in the familiar context of a Western liberal democracy and whose origins are not especially mysterious, to get sidetracked into grand pronouncements about abstract moral and philosophical categories, we are deliberately clouding the issue and not talking about the things we should be talking about.”

Except that at this juncture, O’Hehir allowed himself a very wooly discussion about freedom of speech at the expense of explaining more clearly why Jan. 7 was an attack on Western democracy, AKA liberal democracy, and more specifically upon the French model he admires. He might have explored what it is that makes French multicultural democracy work and have the, as he qualified it, the “possibility” to evolve and develop and continue to assimilate people who are different.

O’Hehir’s formulation that the Charlie Hebdo attack wasn’t just about freedom of speech is absolutely correct. Indeed, one could argue that it wasn’t about freedom of speech at all, insofar as most radical Islamist violence is not concerned with that issue and we could conceive all sorts of murderous attacks in Paris where it wouldn’t be.

What if the gunmen had slaughtered 10 members of parliament who favored France’s controversial “headscarf ban” or 20 because of the nation’s interventionist foreign policy?

We would hope after such an event that people would hold up signs all over the world saying: “I am the French Republic.”

But one suspects that, for some, it is the “outer limits of free speech” that what’s sexy here, along with the special lure of absolutism.

The First Amendment and Second Amendment absolutists measure freedom in their own ways – ways that seem very limited and not too logical. For instance, it’s possible for a country to cherish and uphold advanced notions of freedom of speech and at the same time treat minorities abominably; and it’s never been much of a problem for dictatorial and authoritarian regimes to tolerate easy access to weaponry in civil society.

The people who poured into Paris’ streets 10 days ago were not just affirming the right to freedom of speech but also the right for a person to do his or her job in a free society without fear of political assassination. And presumably it was a statement in favor of Western democracy – which believes in the open society, in the rule of law, in government by consent, free and fair elections, the right to hold signs in protest and the right to due process.

Do the wealthy get a better shake from our institutions. Yes, they definitely do. But the system works because we adhere and respect those same institutions, even if we want far-reaching change. We can possibly agree that most of the politicians we elect are hypocritical some of the time and some are most of the time. Are we all guilty of hypocrisy in our political attitudes? Not all, but maybe most of us are some of the time.

The absolutists can have a skewed view of our society – our societies – that leaves out the human factor. The fact is that we elect people to parliaments and they restrict and liberalize as they see fit. There’s nothing to stop Christians and Muslims making common cause around a set of blasphemy laws. Would that make our society less free if they were passed? Certainly. But, it would be still free enough for secularists to campaign for their repeal. Just as believers can hope that at some point France can relax its secularity a bit, and not be so hung up about what people wear and nor so uptight about religious symbols on state property. Or, perhaps, it’s the believers who will learn to adapt. Likewise, Greenwald and Citizens United backers will perhaps argue that those who seek to represent the less well-off should raise their fundraising game so as to compete on a level playing field with the rich and powerful.

 

Battle for Algiers

When discussing and defending French democracy, a little history might be helpful.

It was interesting in this debate over the past two weeks how Algeria, the ancestral homeland of the Charlie Hebdo gunmen, got mentioned by those who see the Muslim as a victim primarily, and how it was avoided by those who see the Muslim as a problem.

France decamped from Vietnam in 1954, and then disengaged without much fuss from Morocco and Tunisia, but the political class, from moderate left to far right, decided to put up a fight in Algeria, not least because it was home to a million people of European heritage. Paris had, since the mid-19th century, considered the city of Algiers and the territory that hugged the Mediterranean coast, in contrast to the arid interior, to be an integral part of the French Union.

But “l’Algérie française” was becoming ungovernable. Fierce and brutal repression of a pro-independence insurgency, including the use of torture on a vast scale, pushed much of the Arab population of 9 million into the arms of the National Liberation Front, or FLN.

A growing political crisis in domestic France brought the return of the leader and great symbol of wartime national resistance, General Charles de Gaulle. After a dozen years of self-imposed political exile, de Gaulle proposed the Fifth Republic. The most notable feature of the Constitution passed on Sept. 28, 1958, was its president possessing strong executive powers. Overnight, France went from a parliamentary system far more chaotic than Ireland’s or Britain’s to having a head of state with rather more constitutional power than that granted to the U.S. president.

De Gaulle assumed the presidency in January 1959. He had said he would back l’Algérie française, but soon came to see it was unsustainable. He broke his election promise; he had a broader mandate to govern France.

The Fifth Republic was less democratic and less free, in more than a theoretical sense, than the Fourth Republic, but it allowed for the decolonization of Algeria and provided the stability that enabled the later growth of the multicultural society that O’Hehir praises.

The right-wing terrorist OAS, which believed de Gaulle had betrayed French Algeria, devised several plots to kill him, but it was an allied group that came closest to succeeding in Paris on the night of Aug. 22, 1962. (Madame de Gaulle was in the car with the president when it was hit by machine-gun fire, and that lack of chivalry was one reason he refused to commute the death sentence of the man who’d planned the attack).

The OAS (in English, the Secret Army Organization) was said, too, to have helped instigate two police massacres of pro-independence Algerian demonstrators in Paris, in October 1961 and February 1962. In the latter incident, scores of victims drowned in the Seine.

Soon, the European “pied noir” population packed its bags for France; meanwhile, the FLN, in its moment of victory, allowed bloodlust free rein.

In his recent excellent biography of Francois Mitterand, the Socialist president of France from 1981 to 1995, Philip Short writes in a footnote: “During the French presidential elections in 2002, 2007 and 2012, where immigration, especially from North Africa, was a major campaign issue, it was widely acknowledged that France’s difficulties in integrating its Arab population, even those born in France of the second and third generation, were rooted in the hatreds and incomprehension sown 50 years earlier during the Algerian war.”

The “anti-imperialist” left preferred to put this front and center in its narrative of Jan. 7, regarding the tragedy as the product of a colonial wound. There’s a strange symmetry here with the position of conservatives who conversely ignore that painful history as a factor and would rather focus on Islam and the “clash of civilizations” as the issue. The right, alas, is somehow blind to the overwhelming evidence that immigrants, including Muslims, adapt over time to the mores of their new countries.

Four percent of the French people identify as Muslim, and lot of them aren’t particularly religious, no more than most of the 51 percent that say they are Roman Catholic.

Overall, the government reports that 8-10 percent are from a Muslim background, which immediately gives us some sense of the complicated picture here.

And this is why Andrew O’Hehir is on the mark here in celebrating France’s multicultural experiment – not merely as it exists now, but the “possibility” of what it could become, in the way that Americans can strive for a “more perfect union.”

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