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)

December 26, 2004

12/26/04 - NI Couple Caught in Tidal Wave

Monthly Table of Contents 12/04

BB 12/26/04 NI Couple Caught In Tidal Wave –V & A
IO 12/26/04 Two Recovering After Island Accident Drama
TO 12/26/04 Irish Outlook: Damien Kiberd: Target The Right Migrants
TO 12/26/04 Opin: Gerry's Angels Fall From Grace Re: Colombia 3
CN 12/26/04 Irish Sea Rail Tunnel Vision
EV 12/26/04 Irish To Shake Up Eurovision Song Search
PH 12/26/04 In Ireland, An Irish Language Comeback
CT 12/26/04 Cork Debuts As Cultural Capital


See the devastation the tidal waves have left behind

Hear: Mark McBride was on a boat hit by a tidal wave:
"There are lots of people missing, lots of people injured, lots of

NI Couple Caught In Tidal Wave –V & A

A Belfast couple who were caught up in a huge tidal wave in
Thailand have said they are lucky to be alive.

Mark McBride and Lisa Lavery from east Belfast were on a boat that
was hit by the wave - one of a series across South East Asia
following the strongest earthquake for 40 years.

Thousands of people have died in massive sea surges triggered by
the earthquake.

Mr McBride, said on Sunday that it was a scene of utter

"About half an hour out to sea, the captain told us to put on our
life jackets," he said.

"A massive tidal wave was coming towards us. We could see it
coming. Our boat was safe, but we watched as the tidal wave went
past and hit the fishing village which we had just left."

The people on board the boat spent six hours at sea waiting to see
what might happen next.

The captain was afraid to go back into port for fear of the ship
being washed ashore.

Mr McBride added: "While we were out at sea, our boat lifted four
Swedish snorklers, one girl was badly injured as she had been swept
onto the beach and swept back out to sea.

"She was with a group of 15 of which we picked up four, so she lost
her boyfriend. There are just lots of people missing, lots of
people injured, lots of chaos."

Mr McBride and Ms Lavery were holidaying in Thailand. Both are
well, but feel very shaken by what happened.

Sri Lanka: 1,000 dead
India: 1,000 dead
Thailand: 55 dead
Indonesia: 150 dead
Malaysia: 7 dead
Source: Government officials

Villages have been swamped and homes destroyed after the 8.9-
magnitude quake, the fifth strongest since 1900.

At least 1,000 died in Sri Lanka and a similar number were killed
in India.

Casualty figures are rising and deaths have been reported in
Thailand and on Sumatra in Indonesia, thought to be near the
tremor's epicentre.

Exact figures for casualties are hard to confirm but hundreds of
people are said to be missing in India's and Sri Lanka's coastal

Sri Lanka's President Chandrika Kumaratunga has declared a national
disaster, and the military has been deployed to help rescue efforts
for the 500,000 people thought affected on the island.

Thousands have been displaced from their homes by high tides in

The UK Foreign Office has set up an emergency helpline for those
worried about relatives in the wake of the quake disaster - the
number is 0207 008 0000

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/12/26 13:41:55 GMT


Two Recovering After Island Accident Drama
2004-12-26 13:00:04+00

Two men were recovering in hospital today after being airlifted
from Inishboffin island following a car crash.

The accident happened on the island, seven miles off the coast of
Connemara, in gale force winds.

The Irish Coastguard dispatched a helicopter from Shannon last
night after it was contacted by the ambulance service in Galway.

The local men were brought aboard the helicopter on stretchers at
the island's landing pad.

A Coastguard spokesman said they were admitted to University
College Hospital Galway early today.

"The weather conditions were quite severe. There were gale force
north westerly winds and it was too rough for a lifeboat. The
helicopter was the only option," he said.

A hospital spokesman said the men were in a stable condition.

Inishboffin has a population of around 200 people and is a popular
tourist destination.


Irish Outlook: Damien Kiberd: Target The Right Migrants

CHRISTMAS used to be a sad time for many Irish families. That was
when the economic management of our country was in the hands of so-
called Christian Democrats (who were susceptible to hot flushes of
welfare statism) and of jelly-kneed pseudo-socialists, who together
contrived to produce an unemployment rate of close to 17% in the

In those days, fathers and mothers travelled to airports and sea
terminals to collect young people returning from Britain and
continental Europe for Christmas.

The festive season was more harrowing for the families of the
"illegals" who had gone to America. They could not return to their
parents, lest they be refused readmission to the land of the free
and the home of the brave.

The atmosphere at Dublin airport is a lot different these days. The
sort of people flying into the country this Christmas are more
likely to be Poles, Latvians and Lithuanians. They will not be
visiting distressed parents but potential employers.

The government's own data suggests that more than 50,000 people
from the "accession-state countries" sought social security numbers
from the Department of Social and Family Affairs between May and
November, the vast majority from Poland and the Baltic states.

While there may be an element of previous "illegals" regularising
their situation in Ireland, the inward flow of migrant labour is
significant. The Central Statistics Office (CSO) tentatively
believes the country will need an extra 50,000 workers a year if we
are to sustain growth at current levels.

These are not wild estimates. The Quarterly National Household
Survey suggests that in absolute terms paid employment in Ireland
rose by 57,200 in the year to August. The best predictions suggest
there will be 1.9m people in paid work in Ireland next year, double
the number that were working at the end of the disastrous 1980s.

Although figures issued by both IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland
suggest employment in manufacturing and internationally traded
services may have reached a turning point, the household survey
numbers directly identify the sources of significant employment

Jobs in construction rose by 21,600 in the year to August;
employment in financial services was up 12,500, other services were
up by 13,000 while wholesalers and retailers took on an extra 9,200

The credit boom and the secular reduction in effective tax rates
are driving the employment spurt in the tiger economy. Now the IDA
is expecting net employment growth of just 200 for 2004 while
Enterprise Ireland is expecting a modest net reduction in
employment at the firms under its care of about 1,400.

These latter figures represent a substantial improvement on the
situation that has pertained since the end of the dotcom boom in
2000 — since when we have lost a net 20,000 "real" jobs — and
should be seen as a hopeful sign.

Are we building our economy on a foundation of shifting sands? Are
we creating an empire of dirt, to quote the late and much lamented
Johnny Cash? I don't think so. Eoin O'Malley, writing in the winter
2004 bulletin from the Economic and Social Research Institute
(ESRI), says that manufacturing output in Ireland was just 0.879%
of the value of production of the EU's nine-largest economies in
1991 — but by 2001 it had grown to 2.142%.

The bulk of the growth was concentrated in the "hot" sectors: for
office machinery the ratio of output in 2001 was 5.2 times that of
1991, for chemicals it was 4.98 times. For medical equipment the
figure was 3.48 times.

Now all of this does not simply translate into jobs. When O'Malley
took a look at the job numbers he found that the ratio of 2001
manufacturing jobs was just 1.45 times that of 1991. The difference
between the output growth and the jobs growth either results from
raised levels of productivity in Ireland or from the use of
transfer pricing by multinational firms that overstates output. Or
it could be a combination of both.

You cannot argue with success and you should not do so this
Christmas. The numbers on the live register will average about
166,000 in 2004, equivalent to about 4.4% of the workforce. In
greater Dublin the percentage is below 3% which is scarcely more
than what we used to refer to as "frictional unemployment". By
contrast the rate of unemployment in Germany is 9.8%, in France it
is 9.5% and in Italy it is 8%. The average rate of economic growth
in the eurozone was previously forecast at about 1.8%, but last
week's revisions of Germany's expectations will have pulled down
that number. By contrast, Brian Cowen, our new finance minister,
has rather boldly predicted GDP growth of 5.1%, with GNP clocking
in an equally impressive 4.7%.

Unemployment in America — which took so many young Irish in the
1980s — is running at about 5.5% this year but the situation is
being propped up by current account and federal deficits ranging
from 4% to 5% of GNP in both cases. As we have said before, the US
economy is like an athlete on steroids.

Now we have to face up to the consequences of all of this for the
Irish labour market. We have driven the female participation rate
to about 75% in the 25-44 age bracket and are reaching the point
where no additional female labour will be available to boost
output, even with tax individualisation and possible future tax
breaks on receipted creche costs.

Unemployment is slightly above those previously mentioned
frictional levels. The only way to sustain economic growth in the
range of 5% to 6% per year is to suck in labour from overseas.

We have an asylum system that is creaking at the knees, costing
vast amounts of public cash as we detain thousands in hostels and
pay them insulting weekly allowances.

We also have tens of thousands of people from eastern Europe coming
here on a hopelessly haphazard basis. We do not know their
qualifications, though they are clearly willing to work (they are
not entitled to welfare) and are, in many cases, technically

Why not set out an immigration policy that opens up the tiger
economy to people with the right skills? Other countries, including
Canada and Australia, have done this successfully. The former
republics of the old Soviet Union had more than 1m people with
dotorates in scientific disciplines, and 12m people with
qualifications in engineering and other scientific and
technological areas.

We have doubled employment in Ireland since 1990. The task now is
to add another 1m to those in paid employment by about 2015. This
can only be done by turning Ireland into a much more cosmopolitan
labour market. That in turn means rapid processing of economic

PS: Last week saw another bout of hand-wringing about the
construction sector from both the ESRI and the CSO. The two
organisations conspicuously failed to notice for some years that
builders were responsible for more than a fifth of wealth creation
in Ireland, yet now the ESRI almost ludicrously opines that
building may have accounted for about 1% of this year's economic
growth of 5%. Where have these people been living? Building
accounts for more than 200,000 jobs in this country and the gross
value of housing output alone is worth about €20 billion to the
economy. And that ignores the rest of the booming construction

The CSO thinks there was some sort of slowdown in the third quarter
of 2004, but is this correct? The builders are moving swiftly ahead
and planning applications are higher than ever.

Sean Mulryan of Ballymore Properties got approval for 600
apartments at Pelletstown last week, and other developers will
follow in his wake despite local objections.

Other builders are trying to buy a pitch and putt club in Navan for
€20m in the hope that they will be allowed to use the land for
residential purposes. If they succeed in getting the site a lot of
schoolboy golfers are going to be a whole lot richer.

Harry Crosbie is arranging project finance of €500m for a
retail/hotel development on a 10-acre site near the Point theatre
in Dublin. A conference centre with space for 8,000 people is being
built in Athlone and even Jim Mansfield is ending the year on a
happy note with councillors in south Dublin giving him the nod for
his privately funded ornament to Irish capitalism (another
conference centre) in west Dublin.

These people have not bought into the prevailing mood of pessimism
that afflicts our forecasting agencies even at this, the festive

When will economists and statisticians wake up and smell the


Comment: Sue Denham: Gerry's Angels Fall From Grace As They Get
Behind Colombia Three

Poor Catriona Ruane and Mary Lou McDonald are called "Gerry's
Angels" behind their backs by fellow Shinners who are jealous of
the fact that they often flank El Presidente on visits to Downing
Street and other prestigious venues. However, that squeaky clean
image is suffering a little from their close association with the
cause of the Colombia Three.

Last Monday Catriona struggled for credibility at a press
conference in Bogota. The three amigos, she proclaimed, were "not
fleeing from justice as there was no justice done" and their
"passports were not false, but just the information on them was

Ruane pledged to raise the case of these three "EU citizens at the
European parliament" and McDonald, MEP for Dublin, put in a
fruitless parliamentary question demanding EU intervention. The
parliament's reply was so embarassingly dismissive that the DUP's
Jim Alister summarised it as "Go away, stupid".

Meanwhile, where are the Colombia Three now? Someone called
"Freddie Scap" has claimed on a satirical republican website that
they have been in the jungle filming a new reality TV show — I'm a
Provo, Get Me Out of Here.

What's a few vowels between friends like us, Eamon?

The ace reporter and art dealer Eamon Mallie, he of the
strangulated vowels, put on such a posh do for his daughter Ciara's
wedding last week that, if it had come a few days later, guests
might have wondered if he was in on the Northern Bank robbery.

The garden of Chateau Mallie, off Belfast's elite Malone Road, was
taken over by a huge marquee where guests enjoyed partridge,
monkfish and steak washed down by a €57-a-bottle vintage. Security
guards discreetly minded Mallie's valuable art collection. Good on
ya, Eamon. Sue won't mention those vowels again if you ask her to
the next one.

All I want for Christmas is a district patrol car

"Heart-warming" is the best description of the Christmas e-card
sent out by the Police Service of Northern Ireland's south region
press office last week. It shows one snowman pointing a hairdryer
at the vitals of another.

In the republic, it was the icy heart of Michael McDowell that the
boys in blue wanted to melt with a series of bitchy "letters to
Santa" printed in the Christmas edition of Garda Review. Galway
West officers asked for "a reasonable district patrol car — perhaps
what's left of Eamonn O Cuiv's car so that we can fix it up and
make a safe patrol car out of it" and "fast carrier pigeons, an
armoured car, or a radio system that works", and even "9,500 medium
cans of pepper spray". It makes a change from a partridge in a pear
tree, I guess.

In Kerry, they were even more barbed: "I would like to see the
Garda press office defend the good name of Garda Siochana every
time inaccuracies are given as facts in the media . . . likewise I
would like to see the minister for justice stop the spin — the new
Garda traffic corps has really been in existence since 1973," said
one disgruntled cop. Ouch.

It's bah, humbug and stuff your turkey at An Post where a planned
boardroom dinner and booze-up for retiring members was cancelled
after worker representatives refused to attend. Although one
worker-director was among those to be honoured, others feared that
militant posties would be appalled to see their spokesmen
hobnobbing with capitalist oppressors in such a display of
bourgeois decadence.

The Northern Bank robbery hasn't come a moment too soon for one
starving Sinn Fein apparatchik and occasional contributor to An
Phoblacht. The hard-up party hack was recently spotted tucking into
sausage and chips in a pub in Dublin's Griffith Avenue. However,
when the waitress returned with the bill, the stony broke Shinner
had scarpered.

Northern Ireland is becoming more diverse, as the spate of thuggish
racial attacks shows, but most welcome the contribution of
adherents of minority beliefs. The new Northern Ireland Multi-Faith
Calendar, sponsored by Belfast and Omagh councils, celebrates the
part played by Muslims, Hindus and other minority faiths in
enriching local culture. It's a handsome production and Sue is
prepared to give a free copy to the first 25 readers who can tell
her: 1. How many Buddhists there were in the north at the last
census? 2. What Diversiton is? And 3. What happens at Diwali?
Answers can be sent by post to our Dublin office or by e-mail to

Lowry, the former head of the RUC's Special Branch in Belfast, is a
man of Labour sympathies who enjoys a social drink, so there was
surprise when he was guest speaker at Ballymena DUP's annual dinner
— a decidedly dry affair — last month, where he lashed into Sinn
Fein. But Lowry told Sue: "I'll address the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis on
policing if I get an invite." Gerry Adams please note.


Irish Sea Rail Tunnel Vision

Dec 26 2004
Laura Kemp, Wales on Sunday

A FUTURISTIC vision of a rail tunnel under the Irish Sea, linking
West Wales and Ireland, has been unveiled by a group of engineers.

The Irish Academy of Engineers envisages a 50-mile link under the
sea, with a journey time from Dublin to Pembrokeshire of one hour
10 minutes.

High-speed trains travelling at up to 150mph are predicted.

The vision proposed by the public body includes a tunnel link
connecting Rosslare to Fishguard in Pembrokeshire across St
George's Channel - the route of current ferry crossings.


Irish To Shake Up Eurovision Song Search

RTE has announced a major change to the way in which its song for
the Eurovision Song Contest is chosen next year.

Although the popular talent show 'You're A Star' will decide on the
performer, a separate show will pick the song.

The final of 'You're A Star' will be held at the Helix in Dublin on
6 March 2005, as in previous years, two acts will compete to win a
chance to sing at Eurovision. The performers will not be singing
potential Irish Eurovision songs in this show. Eleven days later on
17 March 2005, the winner of the show will appear in a show
performing all of the potential songs for Eurovision.

The change allows viewers to judge the songs independently of the
performer, something that is felt happened in recent years. Each
performance will include additional dancers and backing singers as
needed to give an overall impression of how the song might be
staged in Kiev.

An open contest has been launched, asking songwriters and composers
to submit their material to the broadcaster.

RTE states, "The 'new' countries in the contest have embraced the
changed style of the show more than the older countries have. For
example, they use the six people that are allowed on stage to
create exciting visual acts. Most western countries were still
sending a solo singer and static backing vocals." With this in
mind, they add, "We decided to begin the song selection earlier, so
that we would have the option, depending on the standard and before
the You're A Star final weeks, of commissioning a suitable song
from an established songwriter, with a particular singer - or act -
in mind."

Source: RTE


In Ireland, An Irish Language Comeback

Once seen as a drudge, study of Gaelic is now the cool trend on the
Emerald Isle.

By Tom Hundley
Chicago Tribune

DUBLIN - Exemplified by George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett,
William Butler Yeats and James Joyce, the Irish have long been
masters of the English language. It's the Irish language that has
them stammering.

English has been on a 700-year march across Ireland, relentlessly
pushing the Irish language, or Gaelic, toward oblivion. These days,
Irish survives as an everyday language mainly in a half-dozen
scattered regions on Ireland's sparsely populated western edge.

Yet, statistically speaking, the Irish language is in good shape.
It may even be undergoing a renaissance of sorts.

According to the Irish government's 2002 census, 1.57 million of
the island's 4 million inhabitants say they can speak Irish - up
from 1.43 million in 1996.

But experts say the number of people who are truly fluent in the
language and use it on a daily basis is much smaller: 150,000 to

Still, this is better than Gaelic's Celtic-language cousins in
Scotland and Cornwall and on the Isle of Man. The number of
Scottish Gaelic speakers has dipped below 60,000 and continues to
decline, while the last native speaker of Cornish died in 1891 and
the last native speaker of Manx died in 1937.

Welsh is the only Celtic language besides Irish that appears to be
thriving in the British Isles, with 582,400 Welsh claiming to have
some knowledge of their ancestral tongue, according to the 2001
census. Despite having to share its small island with the most
rapacious of modern languages, Irish has withstood the English
onslaught mainly because Irish language study is a mandatory part
of the national school curriculum through 12th grade.

For generations of Irish students, language study was a drudge - no
more exciting than the Roman Catholic catechism, another mandatory
school subject. But in the last decade or so, Irish has become more

"What has happened is that Irish has become cool and trendy. You
could call it the 'yuppification' of the language," said Padhraic O
Ciardha, an executive at TG4, a state-sponsored Irish-language TV
station that began broadcasting eight years ago.

O Ciardha, who is from the Irish-speaking area of Connemara, on
Galway Bay, learned English as a second language.

"When I was a kid in the '60s and '70s, Irish was very uncool. When
we'd go into Galway, we'd speak in a whisper. Irish was the badge
of the rural, the backward, the culturally repressed part of
Ireland," he said.

But as Ireland transformed itself from one of Europe's poorest
countries into one of its most prosperous, as it reversed a
century-long trend of population decline, and as it sought out a
sense of its individuality in the age of globalization, the Irish
rediscovered their language.

Over the last 20 years, the number of schools in which Irish is the
language of instruction has multiplied tenfold, and some of the
schools are far beyond the Irish-speaking enclaves on the country's

"In Dublin, it's become a kind of yuppie totem to send your kid to
one," O Ciardha said.

In a global economy where English is king, why bother with an
obscure language spoken by no one beyond the country's borders?

"Because its part of our human heritage," said Jeosamh Mac
Donnacha, an Irish language scholar at the National University of
Ireland's Galway campus. "We should be just as concerned about
preserving a language as we are about preserving historic

The Irish language reached its peak in the 14th century, when it
was spoken throughout Ireland, in most of Scotland, and in parts of
western England.

"That lasted until the Irish aristocracy lost power and English
became the language of politics, the court and, eventually, the
marketplace," Mac Donnacha said.

"The final big blow was the famine of 1845," he said. "Most of the
people who died or who emigrated were the poorest, and they were
the Irish speakers."

Eamon de Valera, the father of modern Ireland, dreamed of an
independent island united by a revived language. But even de
Valera, who was born in New York, first had to learn the language.

When the Irish Free State came into existence in 1922, the new
constitution defined Irish as the "national language," with English
"equally recognized as an official language."

The new government confidently adopted an education policy designed
to replace English with Irish. It underestimated the power of the
English juggernaut.

Irish language remains a prerequisite for university matriculation.
Lawyers and judges are required to have a working knowledge of the
language, and up until last month, so too were the police. The
words of the national anthem are in Irish, but for most citizens,
Irish was something that was beaten into them in school - and
promptly forgotten after graduation.


Cork Debuts As Cultural Capital

Dance, song and art mark coming year

By J.D. Brown and Margaret Backenheimer
Special to the Tribune
Published December 26, 2004

If doubt and indecision plague your travel dreams, Cork may be the
cure. Not only is this southern port wearing the green of Ireland,
it is serving as the European Cultural Capital throughout the year

This annual honor, passed from city to city since 1985, confers on
Cork the opportunity to commingle the best of its own cultural
traditions with those of continental Europe. Cork can be lively
enough without a cultural crown, but as the reigning monarch it
should be that much more a lord of dance, song, art and merriment,
with new festivals, concerts and displays bobbing up by the week.

The last time Cork presented itself on the world stage was at the
Great Cork Exhibition of 1902, a world's fair so successful its
encore lasted through 1903. Cork is hoping for similar acclaim in
2005, but visitors can expect a more subtle presentation, grounded
in the arts rather than in monumental architecture, display halls
and carnival tents.

Mercifully, Cork will still be Cork, a port that has come to rival
Dublin as the first place of arrival in Ireland. But Cork is more a
maritime parish than a booming metropolis (its city population is
about 125,000, with 250,000 in the metro area) .

Expect nothing particularly over the top from Cork, nothing
pompous, pretentious or earthshakingly hyped. There will be dozens
of fresh performances and homely get-togethers in the streets, the
pubs, the museums and concert halls, to be sure—more of Cork packed
into a year than in a normal decade, that is.

The real difference is that Cork will also be seeing itself in the
widening scope of a new Europe, part of a greater mix of nations
and traditions, and the festivities will reflect this enlarged

The Cultural Capital year kicks off on the weekend of Jan. 8-9
ambitiously enough with what's billed as the largest street party
in the history of the Emerald Isle. Its centerpiece is a dynamic
installation of lights, sounds, fireworks and machinations known as
"Awakening," in which the River Lee, whose two channels enwrap the
downtown island of Cork, is revisited by a sea monster. This is the
serpent that St. Finbarr, the town's 7th Century patriarch,
defeated in a medieval battle, and the serpent's return in an age
of high technology signifies something of Cork's transformation
from a hard-working agricultural port to a city of culture and

Most of Cork today is a pleasure for visitors, seldom crowded, easy
to walk when a few days are allowed. St. Patrick's Street, Grand
Parade and South Mall on the downtown island buzz with fine
restaurants and a pub music scene to rival Dublin's, while on the
outer banks of the River Lee there's a sampler of what's Irish in
the landscape, from Georgian neighborhoods to village greens.

Five miles to the northwest is Cork's top tourist attraction,
Blarney Castle, built in 1446 and home to the stone that must be
kissed by every traveler. Sixteen miles southeast down the River
Lee is the old port of Cork, now the town of Cobh (pronounced
Cove), where so many Irish left for America during the famines and
where the Titanic made its last port of call before disappearing
into the Atlantic in 1912.

Cork city has its own historical sites, too, from St. Finbarr's
cathedral to St. Anne's Church, where poet John Donne's letters
reside and where the bells toll for those who climb up to its
steeple. Cork also happily offers sips at the Beamish and Crawford
Brewery, a view of its commercial heyday at the Cork Butter Museum
and comfortable stays at such establishments as the Victoria Hotel,
which James Joyce described in his breakthrough novel, "A Portrait
of the Artist as a Young Man."

In the heart of Cork along its river quays is City Hall, the last
such edifice to be built in Ireland. Burnt down by the British in
1920 and rebuilt in 1936, its steps served as a platform for
President John F. Kennedy in 1963 when he addressed the largest
crowd ever assembled in Cork.

What visitors are likely to enjoy most in 2005, however, are the
city's festivities. Cork is already a city of festivals, and in
2005 these annual celebrations, which run the gamut from song to
celluloid, are slated for an extra shot.

This year the Cork St. Patrick's Day Festival, March 17-19, for
example, has elevated its usual parade into a "Caravan of Dreams"
to jump-start three days of storytelling and dance that culminate
in a riverside party on Sunday. More rarefied is the Cork
International Pipe Organ Festival, May 21-25, with concerts, some
free, in the city's cathedrals, churches and concert halls. That's
followed by the festivities of Maritime Cork, held on the North and
South Custom House Quays, May 28-29, when naval, commercial and
pleasure craft are slated to crowd the harbor, and midday concerts
will line the shores.

The city's premier music event is the annual Cork International
Choral Festival, April 27-May 1. In 2005, this festival offers two
special events on the same night, April 29. At City Hall, "Ethnic
Voices" will showcase choral groups from varied traditions. County
Cork's own Cuil Aodha will be on hand to add its voices to those of
traditional singers from Switzerland, West Africa, Sardinia and
even the Republic of Tuva, a republic within the Russian Federation
where Mongolian shepherds perfected the Hun Huur Tu "throat music."
The same night, "A Choral Journey in Words and Music," drawing upon
living composers throughout the European Union, will be performed
by the National Chamber Choir in St. Finbarr's Cathedral. The
ornate cathedral itself will be further transformed May 9-28 during
"Thin Air," an interactive sound installation of art music with
interfaces scattered throughout the cathedral.

Other special performances span the 2005 calendar, beginning with
the Bord Gais Special New Year Opera Gala, Jan. 22, at City Hall,
where Chilean tenor Tito Beltran will share the stage with local
soprano Cara O'Sullivan. Cork City Hall is again the venue for the
Cork Pops Orchestra's "Tea Dance" on May 15, where waltzes, tangos
and two-steps are on the card, as well as on Nov. 4, when the
Shanghai Percussion Ensemble starts to rumble.

Meanwhile, the refurbished and elegant Cork Opera House has a full
schedule, with the Abbey Theatre's 1926 production of Sean
O'Casey's "The Plough and the Stars" leading off Feb. 1-12; the
"Marriage of Figaro" in full costume following on Feb. 16-17 and
19-20; and wrapping things up with the Chinese play "Chang Hen Ge"
by Wang Anyi, premiering Oct. 29.

The Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Ireland's finest this side of
Dublin, serves up Tuesday lunchtime concerts by the Cork Orchestral
Society on Jan. 25, Feb. 8 and March 22; it later stages "Five
Centuries of the Spanish Guitar" Nov. 15-18. The Kronos Quartet,
joined by pipa player Wu Man, stops by St. Francis Church May 13-
14. Finally, on Nov. 11 the East Cork Early Music Festival brings
together Irish and European musicians for a performance of the
Monteverdi Vespers of 1610 in the North Cathedral.

Cork's pub music scene is expected to carry on nightly the entire
year, and for those with a thirst for the traditional Irish sound,
as well as for the two local ales, Murphy's and Beamish, these
venues might well provide the best evenings of song in the city.
The annual Woodford Bourne Cork Midsummer Festival returns June 14-
25 with its ceilidh bands and bonfires, a suitable lead-in for the
Rory Gallagher Exhibition at City Hall, June 21-Sept. 3, where 50
years of rock 'n' roll will be on display to honor this blues, jazz
and rock icon, a native of Cork.

Not all festivals will be given over to music. The West Cork Drama
Festival in Rossmore will present 10 nights of Irish amateur drama,
March 11-20, and the Rosscarberry Oyster Festival in West Cork will
mix Guinness and seafood picnic-style outdoors, March 26-27.

Down in Cork's old harbor, at Cobh, the Titanic Commemorative
Weekend observes the 93rd anniversary of the sinking, April 15-17,
with plenty of displays and memorabilia on hand. Water lovers might
also enjoy the Ocean to City competition from Crosshaven to the
Custom House Quay on June 4, when 1,000 rowers launch what's being
called Ireland's largest rowing race, and what its promoters hail
as a "people's festival."

People are also key to the International Folk Dance Festival, which
draws on local and European dancers from a variety of traditions to
fill its stages across County Cork, Aug. 17-21. As summer fades
into the mists of autumn, the main street of little Midleton will
set up its annual Food and Drink Festival, Sept. 3-4. Later yet
comes the Lee Swim, a 1930s tradition last held in 1992. Swimmers
attempt to cross the River Lee between North Gate Bridge and City
Hall on Oct. 20 at 4 p.m. (A reassuring note: Cork's sewage system
was recently overhauled.)

Fall finishes with a flourish Nov. 11-13 at the Lesbian Fantasy
Ball, an annual fancy-dress party with prizes for the most stunning

Movie fans would argue that Cork's top festival is really the 50th
edition of the Cork Film Festival, which will be highlighted in its
golden year by the Oct. 16-23 Short Film Project's selection and
screening of the 100 greatest short films of all time. Serious
readers, however, might turn the page to the Frank O'Connor
International Short Story Festival at University College Cork,
Sept. 1-30, for a spate of readings and the awarding of an
international prize of 50,000 euros ($66,521) for the best
collection of short stories published over the last two years.

From short stories to short films, Cork, ever wise, is not trying
to overreach its grasp. It intends to host no Olympic-caliber
sporting events to puff up its eminence as European Cultural
Capital, but rather something on the order of the women's mini-
marathon, Sept. 18, a fun walk/run with 7,000 participants taking
to the streets; the European Union Chess Championship, March 21-31,
in the Gresham Metropole Hotel; or the World Road Bowling
Championship 2005, May 6-8, in Skibbereen, County Cork, held on a
traditional Irish "bowling road" and, to whatever ends, employing a
28-ounce, cast-iron ball.

Certain yearlong events will bind the 2005 cultural reign together.
"The Knitting Map," staged in a city center warehouse, is a fabric
art project in which knitters will stitch together a single vast
city shawl, its pattern continually updated by satellite-imaging
technology to reflect the unfolding movement of the city and the

Another overarching project, "Enlargement," is designed to embrace
the homecoming of Eastern Europe and the cultures of the new
European Union. The EU's 10 new states will occupy the Cork Vision
Center at St. Peter's, once a place of worship for Cork's mayors,
and present their culture as they see fit each month, creating a
"sitting room" of Europe's visual arts. Estonia will prevail in
January, Hungary in February, Latvia in March, Slovenia in April,
Lithuania in May, Poland in June, the Slovak Republic in July,
Cyprus in August, the Czech Republic in September and Malta in
October. Ireland will make its own statement in November.

Copyright © 2004, Chicago Tribune

Monthly Table of Contents 12/04
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