When you are on the edge of Europe and first landfall for Atlantic storms - look out. But on the upside, all the rain has given us the oul’ Forty Shades of Green. And since the weather rarely changes, basically anyone can be a meteorologist. Think of the employment opportunities!
Real estate agents will tell you that location is everything, and Ireland’s prime spot on the western edge of Europe (and right next door to England) has attracted marauders since around 800 AD. The Vikings arrived first to disrupt the island’s monastic culture and enjoy the bracing sea winds. The Norman Invasion followed, bringing us English involvement for the next 800 years, with the Plantation of Ulster, Penal Laws, the Act of Union, the Easter Rising and the Civil War. Not to seem unfriendly, but next time, call before stopping by, OK?
3. Boy Bands
Ireland’s music scene has spawned superstars like U2, plus top-selling acts like The Cranberries, The Corrs and Thin Lizzy. But no matter how hard they’ve tried, the country’s boy bands haven’t been able to crack the U.S. charts. Sure, Boyzone and Westlife sold trillions of CDs in England -- but it’s possible that buying frenzy was more about lingering British guilt over 800 years of oppression rather than any real desire to hear “Flying Without Wings” or “Love Me for a Reason.” American ears have proved immune, though Niall Horan, 1D’s sole Irish member, has escaped the Irish curse. (So far.)
4. Celtic Tiger
Back in the early years of the 21st century, Ireland’s booming economy mirrored America’s dot com bubble – there was so much money floating around that people were lining the cat’s litter box with shredded £10 notes. Then came the crash, and Ireland’s moment as the Swinging Capital of Europe came to an end. Austerity was the new Black and standing in the dole queue replaced waiting outside a nightclub’s velvet ropes. On the upside, the government bailout of corrupt banks has united the country by making everyone feel the same emotion: disgust.
World-class chefs like Darina Allen, Neven Maguire and Kevin Dundon are leaving foodies swooning with their locally-sourced, minimalist approach to Irish cuisine. But how many of us think “Irish” (as opposed to Chinese, Mexican, Italian and Indian) when ordering takeout? Irish food meant boiled potatoes, boiled cabbage and boiled bacon -- filling, yes, but tasty? Meh. Going to an Irish restaurant in New York usually meant three things: it was also a bar; the chef would give “Irishy” names to regular food (Killarney Chicken, anyone?) and dessert meant apple pie. Things may have changed, but soda bread with caraway seeds is forever.
The Famine Irish made their mark on U.S. politics when they realized that the one who gets the votes is the one who wields the power. Early 20th century machines like New York’s Tammany Hall were notorious for corruption and cronyism. Then the Kennedys burst onto the scene. Joe Sr. became an advisor to FDR in 1932 and Ambassador to the Court of St. James in 1938, and groomed his sons John, Bobby and Ted for careers in public service. Though two fell to assassins’ bullets, they each left their mark on history – JFK as president, RFK and Ted in the senate. Later generations of the family have followed the “family business” but many have been tarred by scandal. It’s a safe bet that they don’t feel they’ve been particularly lucky.
Once they had a beautiful one of their own, and then “strangers came” and took it away (see No. 2: Invasion). Usual story. It probably shouldn’t have surprised anybody that the English would insist on everyone speaking their language -- British tourists still think that “foreigners” will understand English if they SPEAK LOUDLY ENOUGH.
Eurovision used to be like a family gathering: everyone sang a song, and whoever was the least crap got the biggest piece of pie and had to host dinner the following year. Ireland had a few wins throughout the years, like everyone else. Then the other countries realized that winning actually cost a lot of money. They started throwing their 12 points across the Irish Sea, and suddenly, we couldn’t lose. RTE was going broke from all the honor. Then we caught on and started entering acts like Dustin the Turkey and Jedward. Let’s just say, we won’t hosting anytime soon.
Tommy Makem movingly wrote of Ireland’s Four Green Fields back in 1969, but people still debate the Treaty, Michael Collins, De Valera, the Good Friday Agreement, power sharing and all that. The bottom line: thousands are dead, and the question of a united Ireland is still unresolved.
10. Daniel O’Donnell
Take Irish showband music, strip it of anything even vaguely sex-related, add some syrupy ballads about mammies and shamrocks and a lovely cuppa tea, and you have the Pride of Donegal™, Daniel O’Donnell. With his wholesome demeanor and pleasant features -- plus a passable singing voice -- Wee Daniel has charmed the socks off legions of grannies who should know better. So much for the wisdom of age.
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