Leprechauns speak out!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Great Famine’ responsible for gene defect still causing mental illness

‘Great Famine’ responsible for gene defect still causing mental illness
The years of malnutrition suffered by Irish people during the ‘Great Famine’ could have paved the way for centuries of mental illness in their descendants.
That is the view of Irish historian Oonagh Walsh, who believes the increase in mental health sufferers of people of Irish descent in the last 150 years is a direct result of the famine suffered in Ireland.
She believes that the malnutrition suffered caused an ‘epigenetic change’.
Famine memorial by the River Liffey in Dublin. Image Copyright - Ireland Calling

The lack of a nutritional balanced diet among pregnant women in the mid-19th century, may have caused damage to the development of their babies, resulting in this gene defect. This means that genes were weakened slightly leaving a person at a higher risk of developing mental illness.
The risk has remained as the defect has since been passed down through generations, and been spread around the world as Irish people have continued to leave their homeland.
The ‘Great Famine’ lasted from 1845 until 1850, when a series of failed potato crops left millions of Irish people starving. The population of Ireland was around 8million before the famine, but was devastated with the loss of one million to starvation and a further million who were forced to leave the country.
In 1841, there were about 3,000 people in Ireland suffering from mental illness, according to records of those in mental asylums and similar institutes. By the turn of the century, that number had increased 800% to 25,000, despite the overall population of the country having halved to four million.
Walsh does concede that these figures cannot be considered completely accurate. In the years after the famine, it is believed that some families would commit a relative to an asylum in order to be free of providing for them. This was sadly the fate for numerous elderly or disabled people, who were considered to be a burden rather than an asset, as families struggled to get back on their feet after years of hardship.
Walsh has written a book on the subject, Insanity, Power and Politics in Nineteenth Century Ireland: The Connaught District Lunatic Asylum.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The (Legendary) Island of Hy-Brasil

From King Arthur’s Avalon to Plato’s Atlantis, Jonathan Swift’s Laputa to Pi’s carnivorous Eden, people have long dreamed of magical islands where the miraculous happens and the lost find sanctuary. The Celts of Ireland were no different, and in their tradition, the mythical island was known as Hy-Brasil.

The Myth of Brasil
Also called O’Breasail, Hi-Brasil, O’Brazil, Hy Breasail, Hy Breasal and Insula Fortunatae (Fortunate Island), the “Isle of the Blessed,”[1] was believed to be a place of plenty and happiness, located somewhere to the west. According to Celtic tradition, “Country O’Breasal lay roughly where the sun touched the horizon or immediately on its other side.”[2]
Scholars variously claim Breasail was a powerful chieftain or an immortal god. The clan Ui Breasail is known to historians to have inhabited northeastern Ireland. According to legend, the great Iron Age chief, Breasal, mourned his lost daughter who drowned in the river Gaillimh near Galway Bay (just east of where the island of Brasil is often placed on old maps).
Others note that Breasal was the name given to the Celtic immortal High King of the World who, according to legend, held court on the island of eternal happiness, Hy Breasal,[3] every seven years; during the interregnum, the island is reported to have descended beneath the waves.[4]
Brasil on the Map
Angellino de Dalorto was the first to map Brasil; in his famous1325 work, he placed the island slightly to the southwest of Ireland, and labeled it Insula de monotonis siue de brazile.[5] In this and his 1339 map (published under the name Dulcert), Dalorto represented Hy Breasail as having “a strikingly round form, often divided by a channel.[6]
By 1375, the Insula de Brazil was placed at two sites on the Catalan Atlas – one west of Ireland and the other to the south. Yet, by 1480, one of the two islands, both labeled “Illa de brasil,” had shifted to just south of Greenland, while the other remained near Ireland.
The famous Piri Reis included a round island off the west coast of Ireland in his map of Europe and the Mediterranean in 1513; in addition, two maps from 1595, the Ortelius Map of Europe and the Europa Mercator Map, both continue to situate a round island, named Brazil, to the west of Ireland.
Even into the industrial age, Hy-Brasil was included on maps and charts, apparently, and according to some researchers, appeared in 1776 as “a rock 6 degrees west of the southern point of Ireland,”[7] and continued to be recorded as late as 1865 on British Admiralty charts.
In Search of Brasil
Regardless of whether anyone had actually visited the island and truly mapped its features, at some point in the 14th or 15th centuries, it was lost again.
Many famous and not so famous explorers looked for Hy-Brasil. In 1480, John Cabot launched an expedition to search for Brazil,[8] and repeated the effort, apparently, every year from 1490-1497.[9] Although no definitive proof that Cabot’s expeditions reached the island exists, Pedro de Ayala, a Spanish diplomat, reported in 1497 that Cabot told him he made his journey to and from North America with “the men from Bristol who found Brasil.”
Since then, others reportedly reached the island. In the 17th century, a man named O’Ley claimed to have been “kidnapped and taken to Hy-Brasil.”[10] At about that time, in 1674, Captain John Nisbet, sailing through a fog bank, reported that a landing party who traversed the island met an old man who gave them gold and silver. A second expedition to the island, led by Captain Alexander Johnson, also claimed to have found Brasil.
In 1872, Irish folklorist T.J. Westropp and his companions reported they saw the island appear and vanish beneath the waves. In fact, as late as the early 20th century, Irish fishermen were claiming to have “sailed as far as Hy-Brasil.”[11]
Where Did it Go?
Baffin Island
Some believe Brasil was actually Baffin Island. They support their theory by noting that, through the years, the notably round, bifurcated island in the North Atlantic shifted to the west as maps became more sophisticated.
For example, in later charts such as Johannes Ruysch’s 1508 map, the first split island to appear to the west of Ireland sits in the gulf of Greenland. As exploration continued, this island appears to be placed further and further west. Ultimately, they claim, it becomes the mass we know today as Baffin Island.
In secondary support for this theory, these historians point to Dalorto’s early works, which place Brasil in the middle of numerous “Fortunate Islands.” Baffin Island is just one of over 90 major islands in the Arctic Archipelago.
Under the Sea
Another theory is that the island was part of what is now a “sunken land.”[12] Adherents of this hypothesis note that during the last Ice Age (at its peak 20,000 years ago), sea levels were as much as 120 meters lower. Both the Porcupine Bank west of Ireland as well as sunken ridge under the Aran Islands in Galway Bay may have been exposed, and each is in the vicinity of the mythical location of the island.
Optical Illusion
A third theory is that Hy-Brasil never existed. Meteorologists have found that during certain climatic conditions, mirages can appear in northern territories and may occur when “layers of hot and cold air refract, or bend, light rays. Light bounces off the surfaces of clouds, water, and ice to create optical illusions.
Those who prefer this hypothesis believe that ancient Celts, seafarers and others may have just experienced an optical illusion. Such tricks of the light are known to have occurred throughout Ireland, and pertinently, sometimes in relation to a Hy-Brasil sighting:
On July 7, 1878, the inhabitants of the Irish seaside town of Ballycotton in County Cork were both surprised and astounded by the sudden appearance of an island that had not been seen in the ocean before. Sighseers gathering on the strand were able to see the new island quite plainly and were able to make out is coastline, woodlands, fields, and deep valleys. A number of County Cork fishermen set out in boats to investigate but as they approached, the entire island winked out of existence, leaving them amazed and wondering.[13]
The Lost Island Today
Although out of vogue for most of the 20th century, Hy-Brasil appears to be making a comeback, particularly with fans of the Fortean. According to an episode of the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens, one of the two American airmen involved in the 1980 Rendlesham Forest incident claims that, among the messages he received telepathically from an alien spacecraft were the navigational coordinates of the location of Hy-Brasil

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

10 facts about Guinness

When you walk into a bar in Ireland you could shout across at the barman and ask for a pint of plain, the good stuff, your best or Irish Mother’s milk.

You could even just walk up to the bar and hold your forefinger in the air, any barman worth his salt would know that you were asking for a pint of Guinness

Officially the most internationally recognized symbol of Ireland, Guinness is the most popular alcoholic drink in Ireland and in many other countries besides.

Here are some of many interesting facts about the black stuff.

1.Pouring a glass or pint of Guinness is a skill. A “perfect pour” should take 199.50 seconds. This is the result of pour at an angle of 45 degrees followed by a rest. This is crucial. Most Irish people would cringe if they saw anyone pour it any other way.

After a pause, long enough so what’s in the glass is a perfect black, the rest of the glass is filled, again at a 45 degree angle. What is handed across the bar should have a creamy head and should be served at exactly 42.8F.

2.It is a known fact that the Irish love to travel around the world but did you know that Guinness is brewed in more than 150 countries. These include Nigeria and Indonesia.

3.Though the Irish obviously love a pint of plain 40 percent of all Guinness is sold in Africa. Who would have thought that in such a hot climate it would go down so well!

4.Over 10 million glasses are sold every day. Are you doing your part? That’s quite a high quota to fill.

5.Guinness is the perfect diet drink. A pint of the good stuff contains only 198 calories. That’s less than most light beers, wine, orange juice or even low fat milk.

6.Guinness does not contain oatmeal, contrary to a popular myth. This wonderful stuff is made of roasted malted barley, hops, yeast, and water. Also it’s not black. It actually a very nice dark ruby red.

7.The famous advertisement slogan "Guinness is Good For You" is still used around the world. Though Guinness has now officially on the record as denying this claim some research does support that Guinness is good for your heart.

It was not so long ago in Ireland that pregnant women were told to drink a glass of Guinness every day to fortify themselves and their baby.

8.St. James’ Gate Brewery, in Dublin City was leased for 9000 years at an annual fee of about $65.

In 1759 when Arthur Guinness was just starting out in the brewing business he had such confidence in his product that he knew his brewery would still be running in 9000 years time. Well that’s 251 years over with. I’m pretty sure Guinness will make it the next 8,750.

9.The Guinness breweries in Counties Louth and Kilkenny will be shutdown in 2013. There was also talk of closing down the Dublin brewery and moving back it to Leixlip, in Kildare, where Arthur’s career in stout making began.

A national outcry ensued. Guinness will be staying put on the banks of the River Liffey and multi-billion renovations will begin soon.

10.On September 24, 2009 at 5.50 (or 17.59 in the 24 hour clock) Ireland and the world celebrated 250 years of Guinness with “Arthur’s Day”.

The time 17.59 was cleverly chosen as 1759 was the year that Arthur signed his lease on St. James’ Gate. It also gave most people enough time to finish up work and meet their friends at their favorite pub.

It may have been nothing more than massive marketing ploy but it was also one of the largest united parties every held in the world. In almost every country across the globe merry makers raised their glasses and cheered “To Arthur”.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Ireland’s Comeback

If there was an award for “comeback nation of the year,” Ireland would be a leading candidate to take the prize for 2013.

The Dublin government announced last week that it will soon end its reliance on the bailout loans that got Ireland through the worst of the sovereign debt crisis. Though some observers thought Ireland would seek a precautionary credit line – think of it as financial independence with training wheels – Irish officials said that after consulting some of their eurozone partners (particularly Germany), they feel confident that their nation can keep its balance without outside support.

As Ireland regains its economic sovereignty, it is worth comparing the country with other nations that have needed substantial help from the international community. Argentina has repeatedly shorted its creditors, most recently in the fallout from the country’s massive default in 2001. Some of Argentina’s creditors, who refused to take the roughly 30 cents on the dollar it offered them, continue to fight in court for what they are owed. Iceland, meanwhile, first tried to stiff foreign depositors in its previously overstuffed banks, and then trapped non-Icelandic investments in the country using exchange controls. Meanwhile, the ongoing troubles in Ireland’s similarly beleaguered eurozone partners – Portugal, Cyprus, Spain and especially Greece – are well-known.

The Irish endured several years of harsh austerity as they rebuilt their national finances. Irish citizens, by and large, did not look to their government as the employer of first and last resort. Nor did Ireland try to tell the world that trusting the Irish banking system was foolish, and that any losses from doing so were investors’ own fault.

In fact, Ireland’s problems arose mainly because the Dublin government made a well-intentioned but hasty pledge to stand fully behind Ireland’s banks just as the housing bubble burst. Ireland said when it made the pledge that guaranteeing its banks’ liabilities was affordable, but the policy ended up bringing the country to the edge of bankruptcy. As it was, Ireland had to accept international help in 2010, taking loans from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

But like responsible borrowers everywhere, Ireland has positioned itself to get a second chance. The country is about to emerge from its bailout and re-enter the global credit markets as a borrower in good standing, with its financial house in order and its economy about as strong as can be expected in the slow-growth eurozone. Ireland originally fell because of its choice to back its banks, not because of longstanding government overspending and fudging the books (as was the case in Greece). This difference is enough to make many investors more optimistic about Ireland in the long term.

“Taking a precautionary credit line was more psychological than financial. Ireland’s decision seems to have been very well accepted by the market,” Moody’s Kristin Lindow said, according to Reuters. Ireland is slated to announce a new medium-term economic strategy next month, another key step in rebuilding investor trust. For now, investors mostly seem willing to give Ireland the benefit of the doubt.

Ireland may lead the way as Europe slowly tries to move forward after several years of simply trying not to slide back. Spain followed Ireland in announcing its exit from its own bailout program, also without an emergency credit line. It remains to be seen if Ireland’s path will eventually lead the way for Portugal and Greece as well. Even Greece, the poster child for national financial mismanagement, reported last week that it is on a path to a balanced budget.

Welcome back to the fold of financially responsible countries, Ireland. One day, maybe the United States will join you there.

Monday, June 10, 2013

First Woman Irish Methodist Bishop

For the first time in history a female cleric has been elected as one of Ireland's four main church leaders.

Reverend Dr Heather Morris will be installed as president of the Methodist Church next Wednesday.

Anglicans in England are divided on the ordination of women bishops but there is a "covenant" between Anglicans and Methodists in Ireland, prompting some to suggest that Dr Morris has become the first woman bishop.

Dr Morris said: "It's not for me to express an opinion on the Anglican debate but one of the things I love about Methodism is the fact that being a woman does not matter.

"I have said before that my election wasn't an issue around gender.

"My experience has been one where, as a woman in ministry, I have been nurtured and encouraged to use the gifts that God has entrusted to me. I see this as just a natural progression."

There is no indication that Irish Methodists will break with tradition on other matters like gay marriage, abortion and assisted suicide and Dr Morris says there will be no radical change of policy during her presidency.

She said: "I am happy to stand with where the Methodist Church in Ireland is on those issues.

"For example, with regards to same-sex relationships, we believe that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that marriage is the place for sexual intimacy."

Dr Morris was born in Nigeria, where her parents were missionaries, but educated in Belfast and Dublin.

Her appointment follows a family tradition - her father, Rev Paul Kingston, is a former Methodist President in Ireland.

The 48-year-old mother of two sons - Peter, 20, and David, 17 - insists God "called" her and her husband Neil together.

"He gave up a brilliant job to support me when I entered ministry," she said.

Dr Morris, like her predecessors, is quick to point out the Methodist emphasis on the word "all".

She added: "Our ministers were involved in peace talks in the 70s, when people didn't speak across the sectarian divide, and they are still courageously building peace in the community."


Saturday, June 08, 2013

Pope Francis makes me proud

08 June 2013

Pope Francis has revealed that he never wanted to be pope and that he is living in the Vatican hotel for his "psychiatric" health.

Francis showed a personal and spontaneous side as he met thousands of children from Jesuit schools across Italy and Albania.

Tossing aside his prepared remarks, Francis surprised the youngsters by asking them if they would like to ask him some questions instead. "Yes!" they shouted to cheers and applause - and the concern of teachers who fretted that no-one had prepared anything.

Answering their questions one by one, Francis told them the decision to become a priest had been difficult and that he had suffered "moments of interior darkness" when "you feel dry, without interior joy". But he said he went ahead because he loved Christ.

One of the most touching moments came when Teresa, a bright-eyed redhead no more than six, asked Francis flat out if he had wanted to be pope. Francis joked that only someone who hated himself would ever want to be pope. But then he became serious: "I didn't want to be pope," he said.

Someone else asked him why he had renounced the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace in favour of his spare suite in the Vatican hotel, where he has been living ever since the March conclave that elected him the first Jesuit pope and first pontiff from the Americas.

It was not so much a question of luxury as personality, he said. "I need to live among people," he said. "If I was living alone, isolated, it wouldn't be good for me. A professor asked me the same question, 'Why don't you go and live there (in the Papal apartments)'? And I replied, 'Listen to me professor, it is for psychiatric reasons'," he said chuckling.

This week, the Vatican confirmed that Francis would not holiday at the papal summer retreat at Castel Gandolofo, in the hills south of Rome, and would instead remain in the Santa Marta hotel with a reduced work schedule.

Francis' predecessors have all decamped for at least a few weeks each summer to the estate, where the lush gardens, lakeside perch and cool breezes provide a welcome respite to the oppressive summer heat of Rome. The estate, which by acreage is bigger than Vatican City, is entirely walled in, making it a perfect escape for a pope who wants isolation and solitude - but not one who wants to eat breakfast each morning with a group of fellow priests, as Francis does in the communal dining room of the Vatican hotel.

Once or twice a year, Pope Benedict XVI would take questions from young people, but the questions were always submitted in advance so he could prepare a response. The questions on Friday were clearly spontaneous. One little boy from Sicily asked Francis if he had ever visited. No, Francis said, but he recently saw a beautiful film about the island.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

900 Gardai drafted to ensure success of G8 Summit

A MASSIVE security operation, codenamed Shield and involving 900 gardai, is being mounted on this side of the Border for the international G8 economic summit at Lough Erne in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, later this month.

The garda deployment will include highly trained members of specialist units, and the overt side of the operation will get under way from tomorrow week.

But intelligence gathering on the movements of potential troublemakers and demonstrators from previous economic summits is already well advanced, with the gardai working closely with a range of police forces and security agencies from other


The officer in charge of the operation, Assistant Commissioner Kieran Kenny, said yesterday at a briefing in Monaghan that he was not really expecting trouble but was planning for all eventualities.

Gardai have contacted the Courts Service about arranging special court sittings to deal with suspects, while detention facilities to hold them have also been organised in the region.

A large network of land and water patrols has been planned and will include a series of permanent and rolling checkpoints in the Border counties.

Gardai will keep track of arrivals at all air and sea ports and cross check them with a dossier of known protesters who have attempted to disrupt previous economic summits.

Apart from the threat of trouble from international terrorists and demonstrators, gardai say they are also conscious that homegrown dissident republicans may attempt to stage an incident as a propaganda stunt.

Mr Kenny said he was satisfied he had sufficient resources to deal with any problems that arose, and said measures such as shutting down mobile phone service in a specific area would only be implemented if there was an indication that a major incident was being planned.

For security reasons, he declined to say how many international delegations attending the summit on June 17 and 18 would be accommodated in hotels located in Donegal, Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan.

However, it is understood that the main participants will be based in Northern Ireland.

Mr Kenny confirmed that at the moment there were no plans for road closures or diversions south of the Border but advised people residing in or travelling through the area to expect delays on roads leading to the summit site at Lough Erne Resort.