What did I like most about Joe’s visit? It ticked off elements of the British media!

It was emotional, it was personal, it was passionate, it was (financially speaking), exorbitantly excessive, but most of all it was a resounding success, not just for the country, but also for the people of Mayo, (especially Ballina), who hosted a céad míle fáilte for favourite son, US President Joe Biden. Of course we must not forget Ballina is also the home of Ireland’s first female president, Mary Robinson, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and a passionate advocate for women and gender equality!

The brief was simple – showcase our little island on the world stage, reinforce our very important friendship and our political alliance with the superpower that is the US, and mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. Oh, and for good measure, if the chance presents itself, cradle a cute baby in your arms. I don’t know about you folks, but my heart skipped a beat when Joe forgot his ‘powerful man’ persona and, wearing his heart on his sleeve, morphed into doting Irish granddad mode, carefully, tenderly cradling baby Margot in his arms!  What a wonderful, historical photo op for mammy, Senator Rebecca Moynihan to showcase at (for example) Margot’s 21st birthday party.

Much as that moment moved me, it paled in comparison (sorry baby Margot) to the chance meeting between Joe Biden and Fr Frank O’Grady, the priest who’d administered the last rites to his dying son, Beau Biden. Perhaps I’m being over-emotional, or perhaps I’m just being a typical Irish mammy, but I shed a few tears when I saw the Biden family’s moving, hand-clasped-over-mouth reaction as they viewed a plaque dedicated to Beau outside of the Mayo Roscommon Hospice and Palliative Care Centre. It was touching, it was tender, and it was warm; but above all, it was human. No matter what nonsense anyone tells you about ‘time healing all wounds’, it’s my experience that we grieve for our lost children/grandchildren until our very own last breath leaves our bodies. Anyone who has lost a precious child or grandchild will attest to this.

While all of the above made for great telly, it also proved energetic enough to be promoted as perfect 2024 campaign rallying fodder. However, nostalgia aside, for me, the best bit of Joe’s visit is how it really ticked off elements of the bitter British media! I’m not ‘Brit-bashing’ – I have huge respect for our nearest neighbours, so much so I married one! And no, it wasn’t because I wanted to ‘make him pay’ for his country’s 800 years of torture and misery; I do genuinely love this man; but, at the end of the day, I’m Irish; cut me in half and I’ll bleed the tricolour…but I digress.

I loved how we, (especially the Mayo people) practically handed over the keys of the country to Joe. In fact I loved how his visit virtually enshrined the Republic of Ireland as the 51st United State of America, and rattled the British media to such an extent, I’m nearly (not quite) willing to tolerate his ‘Mayo for Sam’ rally cry!

British media comments around the way the US President chose to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement; their sniping about how he made ‘an insulting decision to prioritise Ireland over the UK’ and criticism around him ‘not attending’ Charles’ coronation next month made me laugh out loud. Er, bitter much?

There was also the utter tripe being spewed about Joe ‘sticking two fingers up’ to ‘Great Britain and its illustrious history’! The ‘illustrious history’ bit being so funny, it made me convulse.

I think if these elements of the British media should only educate themselves, they’d realise that, when it comes to their nation’s history, there’s nothing whatsoever illustrious, respected or admired about what they once did to the people of this country. Joe Biden’s ancestors, along with one and a half million of our people, had to flee Ireland to escape dying in the great famine; a genocidal, social and economic holocaust caused by the so-called ‘illustrious’ British.

That very famine obliterated our proud little land, starved over one million of our ancestors, halved our population, and oppressed our culture and our language. Yet, despite it all, we emerged triumphant of those begrudging ‘illustrious’ British (the establishment).

As for Joe, well, he’s kind of a rock star, isn’t he? Mind you, his visit did come at a significant cost to the taxpayer, so let’s hope we recoup our ‘investment’ from American tourists visiting the ‘auld sod’.

In the meantime, if Joe shows the same energy and charisma as at last week’s Ballina (or Bawl-in-aw as he calls it) junket, I’d say his 2024 presidential campaign bid is in the bag!

The Stardust tragedy: A night I’ll never forget

They’ve spent 42 years fighting for justice, and this week the families of the 48 people killed in the Stardust tragedy finally got their chance to have their voices heard when a jury was selected and sworn in for the biggest inquest in the history of the State.

In what is known as The Stardust Inquest, a panel of 15 jurors (and some reserves) will examine the horrific and devastating events which took place in the small hours during a St Valentine’s Day disco in 1981. 48 young people (some of them my friends) lost their lives in a fire that raged through the Stardust Ballroom in Artane, Dublin 5.

I was meant to be there that night with my friends  (even though I was underage). However, a simple twist of fate relating to another friend being ‘inappropriately dressed’ (they wore jeans to what the bouncers/security personnel insisted was a ‘formal affair’), saw us being turned away at the door.

We decided not to make a fuss and instead opted to take a taxi into town and grab a bite to eat. It was on the way home in another taxi that we saw the flames rising from what is unquestionably the worst fire in the history of the Irish State.

The people of north Dublin, and, in particular, if I may say, the people of Coolock, have never, ever been the same since that fateful night when 48 innocent lives were lost.

To this day, whenever I head home to Dublin, I cannot bring myself to pass the place where The Stardust once stood; I cannot forget the funerals, and I cannot forget the anguish, the pain and the grief etched across the faces of my friends’ parents. May those 48 souls rest in peace, and may every single one of their family members (and the people of Coolock) finally get the justice they not only seek, but so richly deserve.

Well done to all at RosFM

Well done to all who work and volunteer at our local community radio station RosFM on their shortlisting for a Media Literacy Ireland award for 2023.

As someone who has worked across both print and broadcast media, (radio and TV), I have to say, when starting out on my career, there was nothing more exciting than finding stories and bringing them to the public in a factual, engaging and entertaining manner.

However, back then, as a fledgling hack, there was no such thing as community radio where I lived, nor was there a seasoned, experienced journalist to take me under their wing and train me up in an easygoing, supportive environment.

When I was offered a column in the Evening Herald (before I even left college), and when someone in the newsroom identified my natural ability to be nosey and mouthy added ‘investigative journalist’ to that brief, I had to literally wing it in a ‘sink or swim’ cut-throat, highly charged and very scary industry.

The participants who engage with RosFM’s media training are very lucky to have hands-on mentorship and guidance from the lovely people who work at and manage the station. Finding support on a one-to-one basis, framed in a professional context, will not only teach candidates about the overall workplace environment, it’ll also provide them with professional experience, skills and knowledge to benefit them for the rest of their lives. Maith sibh and comhghairdeas RosFM!