News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)

November 02, 2004

News 10/31/04 - Flanigan on Al-Jazeer TV

News about Ireland & the Irish

UT 10/31/04 Flanigan On Al-Jazeera TV –V
UT 10/31/04 Cairns Family Meets Police Ombudsman
BB 10/31/04 Belfast Rally: Stand Against Race Hate –V
LT 10/30/04 Victims Demand Justice & Truth, Not Tea & Sympathy
UT 10/31/04 New Grandchild For Paisley
EX 10/31/04 Omagh Best Film, McSorley Best Actor
ND 10/31/04 Book: Oh, Play That Thing - An Irishman In America
BG 10/31/04 Playboy of the Western World: From Jeers To Cheers
BB 10/31/04 Friar's Faith In Abstract Angel


See BBC video at:

Flanigan On Al-Jazeera TV -V

The three Afghanistan hostages, including Annetta Flanigan of
Richhill, have been shown on the Al-Jazeera TV station

The Taliban-linked militants who claim to have seized Ms Flanigan
and two colleagues are threatening to execute them unless their
conditions - the release of Afghan prisoners from US custody and
Britain sending home its 1,700-strong force - are met.

The three UN election workers were snatched in a busy street in
Kabul on Thursday, and were apparently shown today on video footage
broadcast by pan-Arab channel Al-Jazeera.

The three appeared well, if nervous, in the brief clip, crouched on
the floor against a wall with a militant, his face disguised by a
checked scarf, beside them.

The kidnapping of the three - Ms Flanigan from Northern Ireland,
who has dual British and Irish citizenship, Filipino diplomat
Angelito Nayan and Shqipe Habibi of Kosovo - has sparked fears the
Afghan militants are copying the bloody tactics of their Iraqi

Ishaq Manzoor, a spokesman for the Taliban splinter group Jaish-al
Muslimeen, or Army of Muslims, said before the video was aired: "If
these countries don`t agree to our demands, we will do the same
thing as the mujahedeen are doing in Iraq.

"We may kill them if we could not get a positive response," he
said, adding that he was speaking from near the Afghan- Pakistan

The kidnappers used the video to demand the release of prisoners
from Afghan jails and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

They also warned that if the prisoners are not released by 7.30am
GMT on Wednesday, the hostages would be killed.


Family Meets Police Ombudsman

The family of two brothers shot dead by loyalists in 1993 have met
with the Police Ombudsman to discuss the RUC investigation into the

Gerard Cairns, who was twenty two, and his 18 year old brother Rory
were murdered by UVF gunmen who burst into their home at Bleary in
County Down.

The Relatives for Justice group joined the family for the meeting
with Nuala O`Loan this morning.


See BBC video at: /2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/3966051.stm

Stand Against Race Hate -V

Up to 2,000 people have attended a rally in Belfast's city centre
calling for an end to racism.

Marchers gathered outside the City Hall on Saturday to make a stand
against race hate.

The event was organised by the Anti-Racism Network and the Chinese
Welfare Association under the slogan 'No Excuses'.

Speakers from the Chinese, Muslim and gay communities called for
the government to do more to stop attacks against them.

The organisers of Saturday's march said it was an opportunity for
people to stand together to show their utter rejection of race

They also wanted to reassure members of ethnic minorities that they
had support and solidarity.

The main rally began at the University of Ulster's Art College and
proceeded to City Hall.

'Racist attacks'

Feeder parades begin in west Belfast at Roden Street, and in the
south of the city at Equality House, Shaftesbury Square.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has strongly endorsed
the rally.

The commission's head of legal services, policy and research,
Ciaran O Maolain, said: "Racism in Northern Ireland is not a new
phenomenon, but the commission is especially concerned at the
increase in racist attacks and other manifestations of intolerance
in Belfast, Armagh, Dungannon, Ballymena and elsewhere.

"The recent attacks on gay people in Derry are equally abhorrent."

He said he wanted to see policing resources directed at protecting
minorities and bringing to justice those behind the recent attacks.

"It is worrying that there have been only a handful of prosecutions
for hate crimes which are happening at the rate of at least 300 per
year," Mr O Maolain said.

Figures released earlier this week, showed that more than five
racist or homophobic attacks take place in Belfast every week.

'Hate crimes'

Attacks in north Belfast doubled between April and September this
year, the city's District Policing Partnership was told.

Over the 183-day period there were 129 so-called hate crimes
recorded throughout the city.

In the previous year, some 226 racial incidents were recorded
across Northern Ireland, resulting to date in five known

In May, the Northern Ireland Affairs committee said police figures
were underestimating "hate crime" levels by a "considerable margin"
because victims were failing to report attacks.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/10/30 16:56:47 GMT

            ******************************************,,2091- 1337624,00.html

Comment: Liam Clarke: Victims Demand Justice And Truth, Not Tea And

Does Northern Ireland have a "trauma industry" that has cornered
the bulk of victim-support funding by presenting natural human
suffering as a medical condition? Chris Gilligan, an up- and-coming
sociology lecturer at the University of Ulster, thinks so.

Noting the growth of psychiatric counselling services since the
1994 ceasefires, he said: "There are more counselling professionals
than before who are encouraging people to understand their
experiences as medical conditions rather than as suffering as a
result of war and conflict. People have become medicalised and it
blurs the distinction between severe mental health difficulties and

Gilligan's approach chimes readily with many victims who have found
little practical benefit in the deep-listening methods favoured by
many in the counselling profession. Michael Gallagher, the chairman
of the Omagh Support and Self-Help Group, is a case in point.

He has been twice traumatised by the Troubles, the first time in
June 1984 when his brother Hugh, a former UDR member working as a
taxi driver, was shot by the IRA. The second time was in 1998, when
his son Aidan was among 28 people killed by the Real IRA bombing of
Omagh. He has been in counselling on three occasions and feels no
benefit from it.

Of the effect of bereavement on him he says: "I am still the same
person, just a little sadder."

He is even harsher than Gilligan in his observations about the
growth in trauma counselling groups. He says: "The one I was
involved in was at the top end of the market, but there are a lot
of little groups looking for grants who are like vultures feeding
on the dead and injured." He suspects a political motive in the
government's continuing funding of counselling as the key part of
their victims' strategy. "They want to give them a wee cup of tea,
not deal with our problems. It is a way of neutering victims as a
political or social force," said Gallagher.

He argues that they should put the money into proper compensation
to victims as they do in countries like Spain. "Then we could see
how much the victims want to use to buy counselling."

Like many other victims, Gallagher values justice and wants answers
to questions about who killed his loved ones more than tea,
sympathy and a listening ear. The same approach is taken by many
other groups of victims like the Bloody Sunday relatives, the
family of Pat Finucane, Relatives for Justice and Families Acting
for Innocent Relatives.

They may value medical help but their primary focus is in finding
meaning in their suffering and holding the perpetrators to account.
Some 1,800 out of the more than 3,000 Troubles murders are unsolved
and the feeling that the guilty walk free cuts many victims to the

Undoubtedly, counselling is cheaper than the quest for justice.
That may make us suspicious of the government's motives but it does
not rule it out on grounds of cost.

Gilligan's paper finds that more than £20m is put into victims'
support services, much of it for physiotherapy and practical
support rather than counselling. This pales into insignificance
beside the £104m and rising devoted to the Bloody Sunday tribunal,
the £9m in extra funding given to the PSNI to review unsolved
Troubles murders, the amount spent by the police ombudsman's office
reviewing cold cases and the cost of the Stevens and Cory

Scores more millions will soon have to be spent on public inquiries
into the deaths of Finucane, Rosemary Nelson, Robert Hamill, Billy
Wright, Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan, which the British and Irish
governments have promised to carry out. The Omagh families have
received nearly £1m in public funding to allow them to pursue a
civil case against those believed to have carried out the bombing.

The amount of money flowing to police and legal coffers does put
some perspective on talk of a "multi-million-pound industry" run
for the benefit of counsellors. The comparison also brings home the
fact that no strategy for dealing with the sort of trauma that
Northern Ireland has endured is cheap, easy or guaranteed success.
Counselling may not work, but neither do public inquiries. The
challenge is to improve the success rate.

The task of dealing with the past is made all the more difficult by
the fact that, as Gilligan points out, nobody knows what the future
holds for Northern Ireland. Unlike soldiers in the second world
war, veterans of the Northern Ireland conflict cannot console
themselves with thoughts that they either conquered fascism or, if
they fought on the other side, that they did their duty but were

Gilligan cites a study of retired RUC officers who experience a
sense of emptiness at having given the best years of their lives to
fighting terrorism and later seeing those same terrorists in
government. Many former paramilitary prisoners suffer the same sort
of anguish, asking what their years in jail, their loss of career,
the suffering of their families or the deaths of their victims
signified and finding no easy answers.

As Gilligan writes: "For some people, actions which made sense in
the past have been robbed of meaning in the present. Many people,
both unionist and nationalist, are confused and disorientated.
'What was it all for?' is a question that many have been asking."

There are no snap answers, and a style of counselling that is
patronising and facile contributes nothing. Suggesting that natural
feelings of anger or revenge be worked through during yet more
sessions does not necessarily help, and can undermine the self-
esteem of the victim.

On the other hand, encouraging somebody to identify him or herself
as a victim and to assume that all their mental suffering comes as
a result of a traumatic incident is not necessarily helpful. It can
produce a feeling of dependency and of the die being cast, which
was expressed by one orphaned boy quoted by Gilligan.

"Everything that happens to me is blamed on my da's death, it's
like that's all there is to my life. I just hate school. I hated it
when my da was alive and that hasn't made any difference. I wish
people would stop blaming everything on it."

This sort of honesty is probably the healthiest way of dealing with
such unhappiness.

Nietzsche had a phrase for it — love of fate, or the acceptance
that the past has made you what you are now and that this is the
point from which you start. Love of fate doesn't rule out the
righting of wrongs or forgetting about the quest for justice, but
it does put these things in perspective.

It implies accepting that our deepest identities are already shaped
by past experience and action and that what we will be in the
future will be partially determined by what we do and think now.

Some victims come to this strategy themselves but it has been
worked into a system for dealing with mental and physical pain by
John Cabot Zinn, a Massachusetts-based psychologist. It is used
widely in America as well as being taught by Professor Mark
Williams, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Wales. It
tries to avoid what Gilligan calls the medications of unhappiness
and to help people to accept what they are experiencing without

Those attending the sessions are given some advice. However, they
are mainly trained in methods of relaxation and observation of
their own mental and physical processes, akin to meditation or
yoga. It is not magic, but studies have shown that once somebody
has suffered three bouts of clinical depression, they have a 70% to
80% chance of being a victim again within two years. After being
taught the Cabot Zinn approach, the recurrence rate can go down to
30% or 40%.

There are no answers to the natural anguish and disappointment that
we all encounter when things don't turn out as we wish, much less
for the searing sense of wrong and loss that follows the murder of
a loved one or a serious physical trauma at the hands of an
aggressor. In the buzz word of the Troubles, we never achieve
"closure". History never ends, we go on living it in the face of a
past that remains unchanged.

But the fact is that nothing is cured, and those who promise a neat
resolution are charlatans. However, there is the possibility of
accepting what has happened and carrying on living just the same,
but a little sadder.


New Grandchild For Paisley

Democratic Unionist leader, the Reverend Ian Paisley is celebrating
the birth of his latest grandchild.

For Mr Paisley`s son, Ian Jnr, an Assembly member for North Antrim,
it was his fourth child, Matthew Ian Richard Paisley.

The baby weighed in at 7lbs 6 oz.

A delighted Ian Jnr said tonight: "He was born at 6.30am.

"My wife Fiona and family are doing well.

"Her has two sisters and a brother, Emily who is 10, Lucy Jane who
is eight and Thomas who is three.

"It is also my father`s 10th grandchild and he is ecstatic, we all

"He is another little miracle. The bible says that children are our
inheritance and this is some inheritance."


Omagh Best Film, McSorley Best Actor Gong At Irish Awards

A retelling of the worst bombing atrocity in the Northern Ireland
conflict tonight won the award for best film.

Omagh, which was developed in close cooperation with the relatives
of the 31 people killed in the Real IRA bombing, beat off
competition from other films such as Damian O'Donnell's Inside I'm
Dancing and Lenny Abrahamson's Adam and Paul at the Irish
Television and Film Awards in Dublin.

Omagh producer Ed Guiney dedicated the award to the families of the
victims. The key character in the film is based on Michael
Gallagher, who lost his 21-year-old son Aidan in the explosion and
became a member of the support group which campaigned for the
bombers to be brought to justice.

"I guess its gratifying for the families and also the cast and crew
of Omagh," said Mr Guiney. "It was very much a film made with the
families over a two-year period. The biggest day for us was showing
the film to the families and they I think liked it a lot. We're

Guiney said the Omagh film had shown the personal story behind the
tragedies which were often ignored by fast moving TV news. "We all
remember the Omagh bombing. It was one of those big moments for our
generation, like the Kennedy assassination. But we tried to
communicate the personal stories before and after the event. Those
personal stories are often lost," he said.

Gerard McSorley, who played the role of Michael Gallagher, won the
award for best actor at the Irish Film and Television Awards in
Dublin last night.

In his acceptance speech, he dedicated the film to the families who
had faced adversity with "courage, dignity and respect".

"It's about them and that's the reason why it was made. We were
very tentative and sensitive to that because the film would never
have been made without the approval of the families," he said.

He added that the film was tough to do but had helped people like
Michael Gallagher to keep the issue of Omagh in the public eye.

"The Belgian parliament apparently turned out in full to watch the
film at a recent film festival. That's what it's achieving for them
and it's great."

McSorley, who recently played the role of a gang leader in the
Veronica Guerin film, said there was a huge contrast with his role
as Michael Gallagher in Omagh.

"The (Veronica Guerin) character is much darker, menacing, more
violent person. Michael Gallagher is a diffident, gracious,
sensitive, gentle, pleasant human being. So that was the
difference," he said.

Another dramatisation of an event in the Northern conflict also
triumphed at the Irish Film and Television Awards. Holy Cross,
which told the story of the loyalist siege of the Belfast Primary
School in 2001, won the award for best TV drama.

"I think it was very draining. We want to make a film about two
girls and the damage done to each of their families," said Director
Mark Brozel.

He said the decision to show the conflict from both he nationalist
and the loyalist perspectives had given more depth to the film.

"I think when this story was told in the news it was in very black
and white terms. We prefer to show stories in grey rather than in
black and white and we wanted to show the humanity on both sides."

            ****************************************** botleft4021662oct31,0,

An Irishman In America

John Freeman is a writer in New York.
October 31, 2004

OH, PLAY THAT THING, by Roddy Doyle. Viking, 378 pp., $24.95

It must be tempting to write about the New York of the 1920s. Long
before the average cost of an apartment hit $1 million and Mayor
Mike Bloomberg banned smoking in bars, Gotham was America's urban
OK Corral. Gin runners shot and stabbed each other for territory.
Speakeasies hired heavies to man the doors. It was a dangerous,
mean, dirty place, and the people who lived in neighborhoods like
Five Points and the Lower East Side would scrap and crawl over one
another to get to the top.

In other words, it is the perfect place for Henry Smart to feel at
home. When we last saw the hero of Roddy Doyle's "The Last Roundup"
trilogy, he was on the run from IRA assassins. "Oh, Play That
Thing," the second installment, opens with Smart arriving at Ellis
Island - like so many Irish at that time - with nothing but the
shirt on his back and his wits to live by. This raucous, out-of-
control accordion of a book plays the picaresque tune of his

The problem is that once Doyle cranks out a few bars, the song
sounds a little familiar. Henry Roth and E.L. Doctorow, among other
American novelists, already have written extraordinary books about
life on the Lower East Side. "Oh, Play That Thing" feels like a
research project by comparison.

Henry attempts to squeeze his way into the business of marketing
the products of downtown shops - with a fleet of young men carrying
sandwich boards - and he gets squeezed right back out by gangsters
with names like Leon the Cob and Jimmy the Priest, who say things
like, "Bad news comes to town."

Unless you're a fan of gangster movies, you will be forgiven for
rolling your eyes.

Were this book the first volume in a trilogy, it might be harder to
quibble over the derivative quality of Doyle's story. But "Oh, Play
That Thing" follows a tremendous novel. Alternating between high
hilarity and a kind of restless melancholy, "A Star Called Henry"
thumped a reader's heart like a sledgehammer. You could taste the
blood in Smart's mouth as he climbed out of poverty and into a
place of being needed - then lionized - by the Fenians.

It isn't until Henry winds up in Chicago - and blarney meets the
blues - that this windy follow-up earns back a bit of its heft and
starts charting new territory. Henry discovers legendary trumpet
player Louis Armstrong still struggling to get out from behind his
band. The jazz musician needs a white man to make him legitimate;
Henry needs a cause to attach himself to. As a result, the two fall
into a friendship that would make Cornel West proud.

As readers familiar with Doyle's previous trilogy know, he's at his
best when writing about music - either the making of it or the
dreaming about it, and how both can lift you out of dire
circumstances. But things have changed since Doyle began "The
Commitments." We're in an age of "Pop Icon" and instant celebrity.
Whereas those books felt sweet and innocent - they got there before
the '90s indie-rock boom - this one feels corrupted somehow. It
wants too badly to be liked.

And yet, even the strut and preen of "Oh, Play That Thing" cannot
obscure the fact that Doyle can make music come alive like no one
else. His prose will bop and bang its head to punk or bump and
grind to the blues. He wisely stays away from deconstructing
Armstrong's songs and simply pays homage to them. "Sweet and Low
Down," for example, "was like a quick creep up the stairs; that was
how these men were playing it, shoes off, before the light came on
and caught us."

Like Albert Murray, who brought Duke Ellington to life in his novel
"The Seven League Boots," Doyle is able to take a character who was
larger than life and make him his own. His Armstrong is twinkle-
eyed and wicked, hugely talented and a lover of women. But most of
all, he simply wants to blow that horn. Henry's job is to make sure
he gets paid well for doing it.

Also like Murray, Doyle understands that becoming an American -
whether you're black or Irish - is a game of improvisation, just
like jazz. Murray called this "syncopation," or the "also and also"
of American life. It's an appropriate phrase for this book as well.
Henry can never stop running or reinventing himself because people
from his past are still trying to kill him. When Doyle has Louis
Armstrong on the page, "Oh, Play That Thing" sounds like a hit. But
when Henry has to run again, there is simply too much "also and
also" to this book. In the end, he simply wears us out.

Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.


From Jeers To Cheers

Once scandalous, 'Playboy' now seen as a theater classic

By Maureen Dezell, Globe Staff  |  October 31, 2004

When the curtain went down on the Boston premiere of John
Millington Synge's ''The Playboy of the Western World" on Oct. 17,
1911, Isabella Stewart Gardner leapt to her feet. The cultural
doyenne led a bevy of proper Bostonians in a standing ovation, but
their roar of approval competed with a chorus of jeers from the
balcony, where blue-collar Irish-Americans booed and hissed what
they called the ''immoral," ''blasphemous," and ''anti- Irish"
production by the touring Abbey Theatre.

Also sitting in the Plymouth Theatre on Stuart Street, a young Rose
Fitzgerald Kennedy found she was incapable of clapping or booing,
she told historian and biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin years later.
While she realized that Synge's stunning satire of Irish rural life
was ''a work of art," she ''recoiled" from his depiction of bawdy
women, ''drunken sods and quarreling fools."

The characters bore too close a resemblance to the stock
caricatures of dirty, slothful Irish immigrants that dominated
American stages and newspaper pages in the second half of the 19th
century. At the same time, Kennedy recalled, she was embarrassed by
the outbursts of her fellow Irish-Americans, who took their cue
from the Irish nationalists who tried to disrupt the play's 1907
Dublin premiere.

''It's easy to imagine that this play would affect a member of what
became a very patrician Irish-American family deeply," says Abbey
Theatre artistic director Ben Barnes, who leads the Abbey's 100th
anniversary touring production of ''The Playboy," arriving at the
Wilbur Theatre on Tuesday, almost 100 years after it first caused
an uproar.

This time, ''The Playboy" is making international headlines not
because of its content, but because of the Abbey's precarious
financial situation, which has been called its worst in 10 years.
The company faces a $2.6 million deficit and layoffs, which have
been blamed on declining attendance and overspending on its
centenary celebration; its board is searching for a replacement for
Barnes, who is stepping down next year after a six-year tenure that
he acknowledges as ''stormy."

''A theater like the Abbey is often off the arts pages and onto the
news pages," says Barnes, who says the financing difficulties stem
from the theater's lack of resources. The government- funded Abbey
should rethink its mission as a national theater, he says, and
restructure to support that mission, part of which means marketing
its ''international brand name."

As for the play itself, Barnes says he is bringing Synge's classic
to six cities in the United States not just because of the
historical connection, but because ''if you make it vital and
fresh, it can appeal to people of any generation, at any time," he

The Abbey has brought ''The Playboy" to the United States 10 times
since its inaugural tour, the last time in 1990. ''This play that
was once a problem is now looked on with a great deal of pride,"
particularly given the recent renaissance in Irish art and culture
on both sides of the Atlantic, says Ciaran O'Reilly, an actor who
has performed at the Abbey and is now producing director of New
York's Irish Repertory Theatre. ''The work itself has held the test
of time because it is one of the most beautiful plays in the
English language."

Synge, who died at 38, was as extraordinary a playwright as William
Butler Yeats was a poet and James Joyce a writer of fiction,
O'Reilly maintains.

Synge, Yeats, and Lady Augusta Gregory cofounded Ireland's national
theater in 1904 -- nearly two decades before Ireland became an
independent nation. An impoverished colony of Great Britain,
depleted by mass migration that followed Ireland's Great Famine of
the mid-19th century, ''Ireland at the time was a very
conservative, Catholic country, very sensitive to its image,"
Barnes says. Irish nationalists, many of whom would lead the Easter
Rebellion and Irish war for independence, envisioned an ideal
Ireland that was religious, republican, and rural, its countryside
populated by pious peasants.

Synge's radical rendering of rural Irish life in ''The Playboy"
portrays the wild beauty and untamed way of life he witnessed while
living in the Aran Islands off the western coast of Ireland, the
same place that inspired his other ''peasant plays," including
''Riders to the Sea" and ''The Well of the Saints." Ireland at the
turn of the last century ''was realistic, sensual, and explicitly
theatrical," says Barnes, ''and this was disturbing, particularly
because of how well crafted the work is."

Boos and hisses aside, the Abbey's monthlong Boston run in 1911
passed largely without incident and was a critical and popular
success, as was the entire tour. That was despite protests in
Philadelphia, where the entire cast was arrested on charges of
immorality, and in New York, where Irish nationalist agitators were
frustrated in a series of attempts to disrupt the run.

The drama is now a 20th-century classic, a splendid example of the
influence Synge and Irish dramatists of his era had on the American

During the Abbey's 1911 run in New York City, Eugene O'Neill, a
ne'er-do-well drunkard and itinerant sailor living at Jimmy the
Priest's, the West Side dive he would later immortalize in ''The
Iceman Cometh," traveled uptown to see every performance the Abbey
mounted at Maxine Elliott's Theatre.

O'Neill was enthralled with ''Riders to the Sea" and influenced by
the entire Abbey repertory, according to his biographers Barbara
and Arthur Gelb. ''It was seeing the Irish Players for the first
time that gave me a glimpse of my opportunity," said O'Neill, who
went on to become the father of American drama.

The Irish playwrights influenced American writers besides O'Neill,
says Boston College professor Philip O'Leary, who teaches a course
that compares the Celtic and Harlem renaissances. Synge had an
influence on W.E.B. DuBois and Claude McKay, among others,
''because of his depiction of rural people who spoke splendidly in
a funny dialect," says O'Leary. ''And the Abbey had a huge
influence in encouraging the birth of the small, nonprofit theater
movement in the United States, a lot of which started with O'Neill
and the Provincetown Players, a small group that put on quality

''Synge not only was an extraordinary playwright," says O'Leary.
''He broke new ground as a playwright, and he managed to plumb the
issues of Irish identity that made middle-class Dubliners and lace-
curtain Irish-Americans uncomfortable."

''The Playboy" is set in an Ireland where neither civic authority
nor the Catholic Church holds sway. Its title character, Christy
Mahon, staggers into a hamlet and becomes a swaggering local hero
when he claims he has just killed his father. The peasants in the
town of Mayo are in need of excitement when Christy arrives. Pegeen
Mike, who boasts she can knock the heads off two men, fights off
competition to seduce Christy and save herself from a joyless
marriage to her designated husband, Shawn.

Synge drew on ancient Celtic poetry to create scenes between Pegeen
Mike and Christy, ''some of which are among the most beautiful
written for the theater," says O'Reilly of the Irish Rep. ''He also
shows how quickly human relations can fall apart."

When Christy's father turns up, the hero is exposed, and Pegeen
Mike and the townspeople turn on him.

To O'Leary, Synge was a prescient observer of the dark elements of
Irish culture -- the rebelliousness and the flirtation with
violence -- that audiences are more comfortable with today than
when the play premiered.

The Abbey's own situation may be uncertain, but ''The Playboy" is
in no danger of disappearing from the international stage. A
universal story of reinvention, it has appealed to tale tellers and
truth seekers in countless villages and cities around the world
where it has been produced, adapted, and even rewritten.

In the late 1980s, writer Mustafa Matura recast the story as an
island tale. The production, mounted at London's Cort Theatre, was
called ''The Playboy of the West Indies."

''The Playboy of the Western World" opens at the Wilbur Theatre on
Tuesday.Maureen Dezell can be reached at

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Friar's Faith In Abstract Angel

By Steve Brocklehurst
BBC News Online

A Franciscan friar with a love of abstract art has unveiled a new
sculpture which he hopes will help bring religious art into the
21st century.

Father Joe Walsh's depiction of St Michael the Archangel, which
adorns the wall of the Poor Clare Sisters convent in north Belfast,
is not at all what traditionalists would expect.

And that is just the way the 54-year-old chaplain thinks it should

The life-sized ceramic sculpture with a 9ft wing span made of
stainless steel is his largest project since graduating from the
University of Ulster last year with an art degree.

'Human vulnerability

The naked figure of St Michael is thin and partial, reflecting the
way that no human being is complete, according to Father Walsh.

He believes that angels are ordinary broken vulnerable individuals
that are encountered everyday.

"The idea is that the ceramic part which is the body would be the
human vulnerability and it is through that God brings his message.
The steel is the constancy, stability, strength power of God," he

The friar is not at all concerned that his work may be a little
modern for some tastes.

"I am a firm believer that religious art has reached a sort of low-
point and that we need to bring about the sort of art that is
contemporary and opens a debate," he said.

"While I think that religious imagery should bring some comfort, it
should also promote debate."

Father Walsh said that in a televisual age people are more adept at
interpreting imagery.

"I don't know if people are very tagged into preaching anymore. I
think you have to get people in more immediate ways," he said.

He believes that modern art is an ideal way of engaging with

'More spiritual'

"There is no point creating art today that looks like it came from
the 19th century," he said.

The friar, who is the chaplain at the convent, is a great fan of
abstract art.

He said that despite the archangel being a somewhat contemporary
depiction, it was very definitely tagged to the client.

"Given my own freedom I would have probably just made the wings or
something. I prefer abstract. I think abstract is more spiritual,"
he said.

St Michael the Archangel is one of the patrons of the convent.

Traditional images of St Michael depict him in a war- like pose
befitting his appearance in the Biblical book of the Apocalypse.

Father Walsh said: "I could have done the traditional Michael in
armour with swords. But then it struck me that the idea of any
messenger of God being armed is just a little bit weird.

"I don't think weapons are the way of God somehow or other.

"Also, do people in Belfast need swords? If I were somewhere else I
might have done it. I do have a helmet for him and a spear but I
never put it up and I am not sure I want to."

"In ordinary life I think anything that comes at you from God with
a weapon is scary. I don't think it portrays the love of God very

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/10/29 08:30:33 GMT

Jay Dooling (
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