1916 celebrations: a mixed basket of Easter eggs

Easter Monday 1916 Revolutionary celebrations in Dublin had its up and downs, its successes and its disasters.

And I was fortunate to have experienced many of them.

First prize goes to Mother Nature. Realising the heroic efforts of the men, women and children of the Rising had been pretty well ignored by the average JoeMacBlow in Ireland back then – it decided to put on a special show for the centennial.

And what a show it turned out to be, perhaps the brightest, prettiest, sunniest day this year. One that brought out thousands of Irish people to walk the sacred walkways tread by Connolly, Pearse, Plunkett and co., with many of the people wearing turn-of-the-20th century clothing, including tweed waistcoats, flat-caps, bonnets and brogues.

Being from West Belfast, I was also delighted to learn that security for Easter Monday’s 1916 commemorations in Dublin was organised by MICAB, the company owned by Andersonstown-based, former Republican prisoner, John Trainer. I guess all that experience in ‘security operations’ we got over the last few decades up North helps.

1916 commemorations Dublin

Meeting friendly security guards from Ardoyne at the Dublin 1916 Easter Monday celebrations was an utter delight.

Last prize on the sacred day goes to highly-paid, long-time RTE Loyalist, Miriam O’Callaghan. Behaving like a Russian doll with seemingly nothing inside but herself, she got smaller and smaller as an event she hosted entitled “Reflections on Exile – How we are viewed by our American cousins” at The Gaiety Theatre near Stephens Green wore on.

Miriam O'Callaghan, RTE presenter, 1916 Rising events, John Lee historian

Oops! Overpaid RTE presenter, Miriam O’Callaghan, made a few screw-ups on Easter Monday- none more woeful than to eminent historian John Lee at a packed event at The Gaiety Theatre during Dublin’s 1916 Rising tribute events.

Dear Miriam, salary in excess of 300,000 euro, plus expenses, made so many gaffes, she became comical entertainment embodied.

First of all, she had the talented musician-cum-singer Mick Moloney perform his lovely rendition of the ballad, ‘James Connolly,’ twice as RTE’s ineptness meant it had failed to record him properly.

Then, speaking to eminent New York University Irish history professor John Lee, she said, “Is that the proclamation of independence you have there on your knee? Do you know how important that is?” The solemn professor looked aghast.

Later, in a pathetic transplanted D4 attempt to redeem herself, the misguided O’Callaghan asked the same unfortunate, “Let’s talk some more about 1916? How important was it?” adding for assertive emphasis, “Spell it out for me.”

Mairead Mooney of Donegal-based Altan fame deserves strong credit for her words and her singing, though dressed as she was in an All-Black outfit, one might have thought she was a cheerleader for the New Zealand rugby team. But with that sulky-blonde-hair-all-down-my-back look lending her that unique sexy-sensual-come-get-me-wide-eyed-innocence combo, she sang a beautiful, unaccompanied version of ‘Roisin Dubh.’

Mairead Mooney, Donegal-based Altan, 1916 Rising events

Entering the political arena, Mairead Mooney, lead singer and fiddle-player with Donegal-based Altan, said at an event at The Gaiety Theatre on Easter Monday that the 1916 Irish rebels would “turn over in their graves” if they saw what Ireland had become.

Then, sitting on the ‘intellectual’ couches with Lee and Armagh-born Pulitzer-prize-winning poet, Paul Muldoon, for the Q&A session (probably under her PR minder’s guidance to raise her profile for a future Senator’s spot on the Arts and Culture panel when Sinn Fein rises to Government status), she said, bravely enough, “the rebel leaders of 1916 would probably turn over in their graves to see what Ireland has become today,” adding, as a matter of course, “more money should be given for the arts. After all, that’s what Ireland is known for throughout the world.” (And there I thought it was for widespread nepotism, corruption and political and financial incompetence).

Joseph Hillen Ashbourne, Irish Citizen Army parade,

My younger brother Joseph practices his routines as a member of the Irish Citizens Army, encouraged by his Brasov-born partner, Angela.

Then there was my brother Joseph. So proud of him, I am. Selected to march up O’Connell Street on Easter Sunday, he was also chosen to be a member of the Irish Citizens Army and promptly dressed up in suitable 1916 attire the very next day to re-enact the Battle of Ashbourne, the only victory in the entire revolution. And that was just a few of his duties over the Easter celebrations.

Dublin Easter Rising events

Two against one isn’t fair, but having commandeered my brother’s Lee Enfield, I obviously have the upper hand against Joseph and our nephew. Dara.

When I left Dublin this morning, he was headed to Liberty Hall for yet another event he had been asked to participate in at which President Michael Higgins spoke.

And last, but not least, my Transylvanian-born wife, Columbia, now an Irish citizen, who duly took up with a Republican group and marched proudly (with me alongside as dutiful husband) past the GPO, Dublin Castle and the Four Courts to Kilmainham Jail where rebel leaders were executed.

Columbia Hillen, Sinn Fein, Easter Rising Commemorations

My Transylvanian-born wife, Columbia (in blue, with scarf, and the only person with such a name among 21 million Romanians) displays her Republican spirit on O’Connell Street on Easter Monday.

So let’s wait to see what the next 100 years brings. Considering her birthplace, Columbia may be the only one of us alive then.

‘Justice(s) in Ireland’ – a cozy cartel

Believe it or not, I’m not going to write about the national election, either the one here or the one across the Atlantic.

(except to say…Fianna Fail will support a minority Fine Gael government and acrobatically pretend to be ‘in’ Government and ‘out’ of Government and Hilary will win the White House but will be run close by Bernie Sanders whom she’ll choose as her vice-president in an effort to get him to stay quiet, though I’d prefer Bernie to win outright).

Rather than elections – we all need a break – I’m going to write about a poor, unfortunate woman who was shafted by what is loosely – very loosely – called ‘the justice system in Ireland.’

justice in Ireland, Concillor O'Donnell

The lady in question is an emigrant, the luckless Petra Kucklick of Creeslough and she was run over by reckless driver, John O’Donnell, a long-time Fianna Fail member, who in order to get elected to Donegal County Council at a time when that particular political party was rightly blamed for bankrupting Ireland became what I call a ‘pseudo Independent.’ He showed his true colors last week openly supporting Fianna Fail’s Pat the Cope Gallagher, a friend of the family, who, in turn, let down those who voted for him by saying he wanted to be Ceann Comhairle, where he won’t have any voting rights on any issues whatsoever – a fine, upstanding way to represent one’s constituents on the national stage.

But back to Petra.

Run over and injured by Chauffeur O’Donnell in the year 2000, she has been waiting for fair compensation for 16 long years. Does this seem like justice to you?

Not only, but even now, after the public tax payer has doled out tens of thousands of euro on repeated court hearings on this particular case – not on whether O’Donnell is guilty or not, that has been clear from the very beginning – but on why an obviously guilty party has not paid out proper compensation.

Even now, this week, at the latest episode in what has become a legal circus, an utter mockery of any justice system, Mr. O’Donnell comes to court, after being told last month to bring all documents showing he has no money – a claim he makes to avoid paying compensation – and raises two fingers high to all those present – document-less.

Donegal justice, legal system Ireland

As for the expensive clothes said Mr. O’Donnell has been buying and the fine dinners with the best of wines for himself and his friends, well……what’s a man to do, one has to live in the style to which one has become accustomed. A full year of payments he was finally asked to make to Ms. Kucklick amounted to less than the suit he chose at the local menswear shop.

But there’s one element to this whole story that has escaped attention thus far. Why would a judge of any kind, never mind the one in this particular case, Paul Kelly, let a man screw around like Mr. O’Donnell has done? After all, every time this case is adjourned – and O’Donnell has demanded that regularly – it costs the ordinary citizen a lot of money.

judges in Ireland, Irish corruption

A glimpse into the expenses of judges in Ireland may provide part of the answer. Judges claimed a total of 1.65 million euro last year, excluding salaries. All expenses for judges in Ireland, including mileage, are tax-free. Judge Kevin Kilraine, who presides in Donegal, for example, claimed 65,392 euro in 2014 and featured in the top five claims nationally last year also.

And what about Judge Kelly…. could money have something to do with why he seems so easily to allow Mr. O’Donnell to nonchalantly ignore repeated requests from the court for details on his personal financial worth, in a case that has lasted 16 years? After all, the more the cases are adjourned, the more judges get in expenses.

How much do you think Judge Kelly’s expenses amount to? Hazard a guess….

In journalism, the golden rule is: ‘Follow the money … or the politics.’ In the case of Councillor O’Donnell, it seems both elements play a role.