My new website is live at www.ruairimckiernan.com

Hi folks,

I’ll be closing down this http://www.community.ie website and developing it in the future for it’s original purpose, a more community focused platform.

This means I’m moving my new personal site over to www.ruairimckiernan.com and the latest news updates are there.

You can also sign up for occasional email updates here: http://www.ruairimckiernan.com/get-e-updates.html

 

July 17 – Wicklow, Wexford and wild women

july1012July 17th Hitching For Hope blog. Ruairí’s Hitching For Hope national listening tour is a one month project to hear, document and promote the visions and visions of the people of Ireland in advance of speaking at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties on July 29th & 30th . More info 

Blogging from the road, please excuse errors and sound quality issues etc.). Press the orange play icon on sound files to hear audio. 

About this trip | Blog | Facebook Twitter | E-news LinkedIn | | Donate | Photos | Audio

______________________________________________________

Latest blog (reviewing July 17th)

162010I got up early and caught up on some online work and did a radio interview with Shannonside Northern Sound radio before the lads gave me a lift down through some beautiful Wicklow countryside and into Gorey, Co. Wexford. I did a quick interview with Paul before meeting up with Colm Mac Con Iomaire who brought me over to his house in rural Wexford for some lunch and chats.

I had met Colm briefly a couple of years ago when I was involved with the Dalai Lama’s visit to Ireland. Colm is a founding member of the bands Kila, The Frames and The Swell Season. He also has a solo career and makes magic music. Check out his album ‘The Hare’s Corner’. Sublime stuff.

Colm had flown home from France especially to play with Kila at the POSSIBILITIES summit where the Dalai Lama was speaking. He struck me as a deep thinking kind of guy and we somehow stayed in touch and I ended up meeting him and seeing him play with the Frames in Australia earlier this year.

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At Colm’s house we chatted about his move to rural Wexford from Dublin to get a good quality of life for his family. He talked about the life of a musician, how it has been a struggle at times but ultimately how he is living his dreams. We reflected how so much of that has to do with risk, or perceived risk, and how it’s necessary to make the leap towards whatever you dream of doing and to do so without fear. As Colm reminded me, Billy Hicks had once said ‘we have two choices. Love and fear’. I think he was right.

So much of our lives are lived in fear, fear around our bodies, our image, our reputations, our work, our love lives and especially around money. It is mostly about a fear for the future. About what MIGHT happen but may never happen.

Fear is often cultivated by advertisers, governments and corporations as once you have people afraid, then it’s easier to lead them down a certain path. If however you are invested in love then everything changes. You get your strength from within and you aren’t as susceptible to being manipulated by others. Love isn’t always an easy path, but it is more rewarding and opens up doors to whole new ways of looking and living. It is something I’m still trying to practice, as I’m as much a product of the fear machine as anyone is.

Talking to artists and musicians can be a good tonic. They look at the world differently. In ancient Ireland the poet and the artist were revered. No harm to business people and economists but it really is time to return to these people for counsel. They are dreamers and visionaries. They can see things that others think impossible. It is no accident that the 1916 leaders were poets. It is a candle in the darkness that our President is a poet. Power to the poets!

After a lovely lunch, great chats and a few tunes Colm dropped me down the road where I was picked up within minutes by Justin and his son. They are Dubliners living in Meath and were on route to Kilmuckridge to their mobile home. Apparently Kilmuckridge is a mini Dublin with a huge tradition of mobile homes. Justin was singing its praises so much that when I got out of the car I ended up getting back in, as I just had to see what it was all about. After a bit of explaining to his wife and family (‘who’s the hitchhiker’) I had a beer with them and then went for a swim. Turns out the grandmother had heard me on the RTE Mooney show the week before.

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Chatting to them all and seeing the children roam around freely I could see why people opt for this semi outdoors life for their summers, regardless of the weather. No doubt that the 28 degrees heat definitely gave it a special shine.

After an hour or two Justin dropped me back to the main road. I had a bit of a wait before a local woman picked me up telling me that she doesn’t really pick up hitchers but thought of her son when she spotted me. Her son is living in Australia and we got chatting about the challenges of parents’ kids being abroad. She said she misses him a lot. It must be incredibly difficult for mothers with kids abroad. I spent several years abroad myself, but never really thought about it from my mother’s perspective. It is probably one of the saddest aspects of emigration and needs to get more attention.

I had to wait about half an hour before my next lift came. During the wait I was standing in the middle of nowhere facing a monument commemorating the 1798 rebellion and local people who died in it. It seems to be that during that time of European revolution, we had a chance to really emerge as a great nation, one that valued people before wealth. I remember reading how at the same time the Catholic church conspired with the English government to set-up Maynooth as Europe’s largest seminary at the time, giving the church the minds and men of the nation and a way for the English to control any revolutionary thinking.

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My next lift was a fairly large topless hairy entrepreneurial chef in a four wheel drive. He was full of positive upbeat chat about the various enterprises that he is involved with. There is no doubt that entrepreneurial spirits such as his should be encouraged and supported. Where some see recession, guys like this see opportunity and won’t be held back. More power to them I say.

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In Wexford I got some dodgy fast food (never a good idea I think..) and caught up on some online work in a hotel lobby. At 10.30am Caroline, a school teacher, friend of my friend Diarmuid Lyng, picked me up and drove me out to her beautiful restored farmhouse home 20 minutes into the country in Baldwinstown.

Over a couple of lovely whiskeys I stayed up until 1am chatting about Caroline’s views on the education system, on Irish language, music and culture (she teaches in a Gaelscoil/Irish language school), and her love for Irish history – and Damien Dempsey! She reckons Damo is God and definitely seems to be one of his biggest fans having followed him to gigs around the country and brought her daughters to see him.

She’s also a big GAA fan and her grandfather won an all Ireland medal for Wexford in 1916. We chatted about her experience in campaigns against apartheid in in the 80s, her involvement in the divorce action group, and her extensive work in meeting and documenting the voices of older Irish people who fought for justice. This included Bob Doyle who fought against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. This was a mighty Irish woman, no doubt about it.

We don’t hear enough from people like Caroline. Powerful Irish women not afraid to speak their minds. There aren’t enough women in business or politics and many of those that are often end up playing the game and buying into the male dominated world of control, conformity, ego and spin. Ireland would be a better place if the wild women of Ireland could have their say.

Once again tiredness called me to bed and off I went, off to dream for Ireland and ready for a new day of hitching for hope tomorrow.

The hitching for hope continues…

Thanks for all your support.

Ruairí

july0419

About this trip | Hitching blog | Facebook Twitter | E-news LinkedIn | | Donate | Photos

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Places I have visited so far
Galway City, Spiddal, Moycullen, Oughterard, Cleggan, Inishbofin, Clifden, Mam Cross, Leenane, Westport, Croagh Patrick, Newport, Achill Island, Rossport, Belmullet, Mullet peninsula, Ballina, Sligo, Bundoran, Donegal Town, Mountcharles, St. John’s Pt., Letterkenny, Derry, Leixslip, Dublin, Aughrim Co. Wicklow, Gorey, Kilmuckridge, Wexford Town, Baldwinstown, Kilmore Quay, Hook Head, Ballyhack, Passage East, Dunmore East, Cork City. (Updated July 21st).

Media coverage
Thanks to Galway Bay FM, iRadio, the Galway Independent, Mid West Radio, Ocean FM, Tipp FM, WorldIrish.com, Highland Radio, BBC Radio Foyle x 3, the Derry Journal, DonegalDaily.com, RTE Radio One Mooney Show, the Irish Times, theJournal.ie, Newstalk (Breakfast show), Today FM (KC show), TV3 Morning Show, 98FM late night talk, Shannonside Northern South, Flirt FM, South East Radio, The Cork Independent, Cork Evening Echo, The Sunday Times.

Links to media coverage

TheJournal.ie
Irish Times

Derry Journal
TV3 This Morning  show
Radio – Today FM – KC show (after some ads)
Radio – RTE Radio – Mooney show

Updates 

About this trip | Blog | Facebook Twitter | E-news LinkedIn | | Donate | Photos | Audio

July 16 – Aughrim

july1012July 16th Hitching For Hope blog. Ruairí’s Hitching For Hope national listening tour is a one month project to hear, document and promote the visions and visions of the people of Ireland in advance of speaking at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties on July 29th & 30th . More info 

Blogging from the road, please excuse errors and sound quality issues etc.). Press the orange play icon on sound files to hear audio. 

About this trip | Blog | Facebook Twitter | E-news LinkedIn | | Donate | Photos | Audio

______________________________________________________

Latest blog (reviewing July 16th)

Time to get moving. I had somehow gotten stuck in Dublin for a couple of days. I packed my bags again and waited to watch myself on TV3 (a strange experience) before getting a lift with Susan out to the Red Cow roundabout in Dublin.

A Sunday Times photographer had been trying to track me down and it wasn’t working out. I had asked him what his plans for the day was and he said he had to go to Aughrim in Co. Wicklow for a job. I asked if I could hitch a lift with him. Technically not hitching I know but I’m lazy sometimes!

He said no problem. So off we went south, chatting about his life, family and child care costs. We stopped on the road and did a posed hitching shot for a Sunday Times article. Another strange experience. How can this trip stay authentic and real while doing so much media? A delicate balance but perhaps just all part of it.

We wandered through the picturesque sunshine cloaked villages of the Wicklow mountains and ended up in Aughrim. There I sat in a cafe, got some lunch and did another interview. This time a pre-record for 98FM in Dublin. I had texted a friend who had previously introduced me to her friends from Aughrim. I was curious to see if they were around to where I might end up next. I was open to keep moving but the lads had texted me back and offered me a couch for the night.

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James arrived and within minutes we were in full swing chatting about alternative visions for the future including possible different structures for economics, politics, energy, healthcare and more. James was buzzing with ideas and you could tell he was well read and bursting with energy for action. I interviewed him and captured some of his ideas on a short video. See below (sorry about background noise….)

The lads had a booked called ‘Who owns the world’ that an older man in Waterford had given them. This book was a bible of information and was written by an Irish man who had previously worked as a researcher or archivist for the UK parliament. The book is well written and the lads had memorised large chunks of it including mind blowing facts on the individuals and royal families who own so much of the earth and how the majority of us are in many ways still subsidising their land and lifestyles. So much of this is through the common agriculture policy. Sounds like socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor. Aughrim was a major site in the 1798 revolution in Ireland so it felt fitting to be discussing these issues of class and wealth which haven’t gone away in centuries.

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We went off for a walk and I did a radio interview with Flirt FM whilst sitting in a stream and trying to block out the noise of a local woman shouting at young people who were using a noisy old jeep to tear up the mountain paths. On the way back we stopped and read a plaque commemorating a local Garda who had campaigned to make the forest walk a reality for all to enjoy. Another example of the power of one person to make a difference that will benefit generations to come.

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On the way back to the flat we stopped at an old Mill and James talked to me the possibility of someday turning it into a community co-op full of art, culture, enterprise and community.

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Back at the house James cooked up a great fish dinner and we chatted to their friend Alanna (who had heard me on Today FM) about the joy they got out of organising a recent local arts festival, that one older man said ‘turned the lights back on in the town’. They brought young and old together, mixed hip hop and trad, and did it all without funding. They had some naysayers and blockages, which is always the way, but it seemed they’ve unlocked something that is already gathering steam for 2014.

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We chatted the night away until 1am with more frightening stats from the Who owns the world book. At this stage my head was full. I couldn’t take in any more knowledge, stories or facts. It was time to call it a day and get some sleep and be ready for more hitching for hope tomorrow.

The hitching for hope continues…

Thanks for all your support.

Ruairí

july0419

About this trip | Hitching blog | Facebook Twitter | E-news LinkedIn | | Donate | Photos

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Places I have visited so far
Galway City, Spiddal, Moycullen, Oughterard, Cleggan, Inishbofin, Clifden, Mam Cross, Leenane, Westport, Croagh Patrick, Newport, Achill Island, Rossport, Belmullet, Mullet peninsula, Ballina, Sligo, Bundoran, Donegal Town, Mountcharles, St. John’s Pt., Letterkenny, Derry, Leixslip, Dublin, Aughrim Co. Wicklow, Gorey, Kilmuckridge, Wexford Town, Baldwinstown, Kilmore Quay, Hook Head, Ballyhack, Passage East, Dunmore East, Cork City. (Updated July 21st).

Media coverage
Thanks to Galway Bay FM, iRadio, the Galway Independent, Mid West Radio, Ocean FM, Tipp FM, WorldIrish.com, Highland Radio, BBC Radio Foyle x 3, the Derry Journal, DonegalDaily.com, RTE Radio One Mooney Show, the Irish Times, theJournal.ie, Newstalk (Breakfast show), Today FM (KC show), TV3 Morning Show, 98FM late night talk, Shannonside Northern South, Flirt FM, South East Radio, The Cork Independent, Cork Evening Echo, The Sunday Times.

Links to media coverage

TheJournal.ie
Irish Times

Derry Journal
TV3 This Morning  show
Radio – Today FM – KC show (after some ads)
Radio – RTE Radio – Mooney show

Updates 

About this trip | Blog | Facebook Twitter | E-news LinkedIn | | Donate | Photos | Audio

July 15 – Dublin and hitching on the telly

july1012 July 15th Hitching For Hope blog. Ruairí’s Hitching For Hope national listening tour is a one month project to hear, document and promote the visions and visions of the people of Ireland in advance of speaking at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties on July 29th & 30th . More info 

Blogging from the road, please excuse errors and sound quality issues etc.). Press the orange play icon on sound files to hear audio. 

About this trip | Blog | Facebook Twitter | E-news LinkedIn | | Donate | Photos | Audio

_____________________________________________________

Latest blog (reviewing July 15th)

This morning I fell out of bed and ran to get the bus into town in time for an early morning Newstalk radio interview. I was really chasing my tail. In the Newstalk waiting area I looked around at all the well dressed bright young things and observed the fast and furious pace of modern office life. I was glad to be out of it, at least for now.

I got chatting to a Canadian man who was going to be going on air after me. He moved to Ireland over 10 years ago because of the sense of fun and community that we had. He said he had lost some of that but that it is on its way back. I know it’s no use having craic and fun with no jobs but it is good to hear that there is a sense of returning to who we really are.

The Canadian’s whole thing is improv comedy and theatre. He said a lot of stressed business people are turning to improv workshops to help them shake off stress, have fun, meet new people and get a sense of being in the moment, outside of the day to day business world.

I can see why this works. Hitching is a bit like that. It forces you to be in the moment. To accept you don’t know when you’ll get picked up, who you’ll meet, where the next adventure might lead to. It can be frustrating if you don’t let go but magnificent when you do. I think too much of life is about control and realistically we can’t control everything so I can see why improvisation can teach us a lot.

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The Newstalk interview was short and sweet and I went and got some breakfast before doing a few vox pops on the street. The main difference I noticed between Dublin and elsewhere was the pace of life. Everyone seemed busy, on their phones, or in a hurry. Well, not everyone but the tempo is much faster. It is therefore harder to stop people on the street and in some cases they probably think I am a charity collector or somebody else looking for their money or their souls.

In the end I did get chatting to several people and picked up a diverse range of views from students, lecturers, homeless people, an unemployed man, a historian and a tourist. I was particularly taken by the young guy who was using his couple of hours off to enjoy life, check out some museums and generally just relax. It can be a much better use of time than hanging on Facebook or worrying about the future. Sometimes you just have to enjoy what you have. Glass half full and all of that.

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Down in Temple Bar I interviewed a young poet who was selling his poetry book whilst standing proudly with no shoes on. He said that there’s too much control in society and that wearing shoes in scorching weather is an example of how we’re conditioned to act and think in certain ways despite feeling uncomfortable. I’ve always enjoyed the no shoes culture when in Australia but trying to pull it off in Ireland is a mission, especially since we don’t get much sunshine. He had a point though. My feet were sweating. Note to self – find sandals and wear them regardless of naff factor.

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Over at the Amnesty building I interviewed John on reception. I know him from when I was based there a couple of years ago in the relocated SpunOut.ie offices. Upstairs I popped into my fiancée Susan who herself was busy setting up an office as part of her work for the great new youth organisation, the Soar Foundation. We had a quick chat and I ran upstairs to interview a couple of the SpunOut.ie team.

It was a strange experience popping into the organisation I founded and used to run (for 8 years). Nearly all new people, some I’ve never met, and a real sense of hard work and dedication. I have no idea what they are doing these days but it was great to see the organisation in full swing during what is a really difficult time for young people in Ireland.

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I rushed off again, this time to do a phone interview with KC on Today FM. The interview went well, it was quite light-hearted but I somehow found myself chatting about the philosophy of the mythologist Joseph Campbell in terms of ‘following your bliss’. This was something that has come up a few times on this trip. I definitely didn’t expect to be chatting about it on popular radio in the middle of the day but hopefully that is a sign of changing times. I think sometimes radio shows don’t give people enough credit. They dumb it down and play the same old crappy music and assume people don’t want to go a bit deeper with issues.

Then again media ownership and control is part of that, perhaps they don’t want to or can’t get involved in exploring how society works because inevitably media and how it works would come under scrutiny. Ireland has one of the most concentrated media ownership regimes in the world and this raises big issues for our democracy and what gets said and by who.

I had a quick lunch with my friend Stephen and headed off by taxi (no hitching in Dublin I’m afraid..) to the outskirts of the city for a TV3 interview. In the studio I got chatting to the make-up artist and interviewed her about her perspective on life and enjoyed her observations.

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I also interviewed Maeve who was the next guest on after me. She is a young teacher who has set-up a support group for people with the same health condition as her. It was great to another example of young people taking action and in fairness this was another example of media working to highlight good causes and important issues, something I think some of the TV3 people have been good on at times, as have others.

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I was fairly exhausted by the time my interview came up but I somehow pulled it out of the bag and managed to jizz myself up a bit and it seemed to go well. It was a pre-record so I would have to wait until the following morning to see.

Back at home that evening I caught up on some admin and reflected on a mad day. I had chatted to 100,000s of people, perhaps over a million if I counted the TV interview, and had over 20 face to face conversations on the streets around town.

The media opportunities are great for spreading the word, reporting on progress and promoting positive messages, but it really was time to get back on the road. I decided that tomorrow I would head south. To where, I did not know but I have learned now to do it as an ‘improv’ project – to make it up as it goes and to allow things to unfold. I had no doubt that another day of discovery was waiting.

The hitching for hope continues…

Thanks for all your support.

Ruairí

july0419

About this trip | Hitching blog | Facebook Twitter | E-news LinkedIn | | Donate | Photos

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Places I have visited so far
Galway City, Spiddal, Moycullen, Oughterard, Cleggan, Inishbofin, Clifden, Mam Cross, Leenane, Westport, Croagh Patrick, Newport, Achill Island, Rossport, Belmullet, Mullet peninsula, Ballina, Sligo, Bundoran, Donegal Town, Mountcharles, St. John’s Pt., Letterkenny, Derry, Leixslip, Dublin, Aughrim Co. Wicklow, Gorey, Kilmuckridge, Wexford Town, Baldwinstown, Kilmore Quay, Hook Head, Ballyhack, Passage East, Dunmore East, Cork City. (Updated July 21st).

Media coverage
Thanks to Galway Bay FM, iRadio, the Galway Independent, Mid West Radio, Ocean FM, Tipp FM, WorldIrish.com, Highland Radio, BBC Radio Foyle x 3, the Derry Journal, DonegalDaily.com, RTE Radio One Mooney Show, the Irish Times, theJournal.ie, Newstalk (Breakfast show), Today FM (KC show), TV3 Morning Show, 98FM late night talk, Shannonside Northern South, Flirt FM, South East Radio, The Cork Independent, Cork Evening Echo, The Sunday Times.

Links to media coverage

TheJournal.ie
Irish Times

Derry Journal
TV3 This Morning  show
Radio – Today FM – KC show (after some ads)
Radio – RTE Radio – Mooney show

Updates 

About this trip | Blog | Facebook Twitter | E-news LinkedIn | | Donate | Photos | Audio

July 14 – To the President’s house

july1012July 14th Hitching For Hope blog. Ruairí’s Hitching For Hope national listening tour is a one month project to hear, document and promote the visions and visions of the people of Ireland in advance of speaking at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties on July 29th & 30th . More info 

Blogging from the road, please excuse errors and sound quality issues etc.). Press the orange play icon on sound files to hear audio. 

About this trip | Blog | Facebook Twitter | E-news LinkedIn | | Donate | Photos | Audio

______________________________________________________

Latest blog (reviewing July 14th)

The alarm howled out at me like some kind of unwelcome wild animal waking me in my hibernation cave. I wanted a day in bed. No chance. Up, dress, march, left, right, get the suit on, and jump in the car. Yep, no hitching to Áras an Uachtaráin, the President’s house. Hitching in Dublin city is hard enough but trying to get somewhere in a hurry is next to impossible.

I landed at the Áras in good time, surprised again that they let me through the gates despite the dozens of times I’ve been there now. As a member of the Council of State some people have argued that I’m now ‘part of the establishment’. I find that a bizarre consideration as I’m quite sure members of the establishment have money to pay their rent and don’t find themselves hitching around the country. Or maybe they do. Perhaps I’m being judgmental.

The President himself is technically the top of this establishment but I also see him as the man who grew up in poverty, whose Dad was marginalised for fighting on the losing side of the civil war. His parents gave him over to relatives to raise, and who has used his intellect, passion and poetry to rise to the top of the ugly game of politics. I know him as the man who isn’t afraid to rattle the cage, who isn’t afraid to hug, and still knows how to smile despite the madness of the matrix that surrounds him. Anyway, enough about that.

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In the Áras I met Sally Mulready, a fellow member of the Council of State who is based in London and works with older Irish emigrants and advocates for those who spent time in the Magdalene Laundries. Sally has been a tireless campaigner for justice and a much-needed voice for our forgotten emigrants, many of whom were forced to leave the island they love.

I also got chatting to Gerry, one of the house staff who told me about his early days in Dundalk, about joining the army, about his love of campervaning and his life meeting Presidents and Prime Ministers, Kings, Queens and all sorts. He’s an older man with a sparkle in his eye and I’m sure a good book in him if he ever writes it.

Off we went in an army van over to the royal hospital in Kilmainham for the national day of commemoration. This was a world away from the life of a hitchhiker. Inside we mingled with dignitaries and clergy and watched as the who’s who of the political world converged for this multi-faith ceremony to honour those who died in past wars, including during 1916 and in UN service.

I looked around, with Minister Alan Shatter beside me, and realised that these people all knew each other. I was 20 years younger than most and I’m sure stood out like a sore thumb. Still, it didn’t bother me. If I could hang out at an orange march the day before, then the diversity of this crowd wasn’t going to phase me. In saying that, I’ve never had much of an appetite for networking and mingling and ended up talking to the wives of those out pressing the flesh.

I’m sure in so many ways it is those same wives that keep the show on the road in more ways that one. I remember Ian Paisley’s wife once saying ‘he might be the head of the family but I’m the neck and the neck controls the head!’.

Out we marched, Council of State before ministers, into the court-yard and out in single file before the several hundreds of army, clergy, media and general attendees. We sat right up front, right behind where the Taoiseach and President ended up sitting, and myself and Sally looked at each other as if to say ‘what are we doing here?’.

RTE TV screenshot of us walking out

RTE TV screenshot of us walking out

We were there to learn, to observe and to tune into a different experience and to commemorate those before me that have struggled for this nation before me. Regardless of rank or status it didn’t matter where I was seated, I was there to hold the spirit of those I work with, the young people, those in the community, the campaigners for justice.

The ceremony started with the Imam reading from the Koran. I’ve always liked the chant-like sound of Muslim prayer. It wakes the senses and it feels like you’re tuning into something deeper beyond words. However I was never keen on the 5am wake-up call in Morocco, Turkey or Zanzibar, when the loud-speaker would call you to prayer when all you wanted to do was sleep. I admire their discipline, but the option to sleep or opt-out is good too.

The Taoiseach, various Christian leaders and a Rabbi all read prayers and reflections, before the President laid a wreath in remembrance. The ceremony was very militaristic in ways and the formality was probably necessary in order to be respectful, but I also felt it might be dated in ways. I wondered about the lack of people under 50 present. I’m sure they had other things to do, but I don’t think many would have even known about it never mind be invited. I also wondered about the possibility of allowing for the honouring of the dead for those who practice no religion but share the same values and intention.

Afterwards the crowd gathered in a large hall for free wine, beer, tea, coffee and nibbles. The President was in his glory as he met people from all walks of life. He seems to have a never-ending patience for listening, talking, greeting and welcoming. In this way he truly is a people’s President. I noticed the large amount of Northern Ireland accents and got chatting to a few of the visitors who told me about their service in the British Army or in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. It seems the theme of President McAleese’s ‘building bridges’ work is continuing in that regard.

Uncomfortable with the push and squeeze of the mingling I took to the fringes of the room. Often you get chatting to others who are seeking refuge on the fringe. I wondered who I might meet. The last time I was at a similar function I got chatting to the Swiss ambassador who told me that we Irish need to better manage our money. If only it was that simple. If only we had their gold deposits!

Within minutes a woman called Mary approached me and apologetically asked me if I was a member of the Council of State. I said I was. She said her friend dared her to ask me why or how I had been appointed. I said the President appointed me. She wanted more info. I said I was a community worker and I suppose he wanted a younger perspective given 50% of the population is under 40. I told Mary that given I had helped her out that she’d now have to help me.

So I interviewed her about why she was there. Here’s the interview:

I didn’t have time to meet and greet more or to chat to the President because I had an appointment to attend. My back has been giving me trouble for 2 years now and I was worried about setting off on this trip with a backpack given the pain I was having. It was a Russian massage therapist called Vasile that I met at the Body & Soul music festival that had given me some hope for my back. I also had a good chat to him about his 12 years in Ireland, life in Russia, and how they compare. He is truly in love with Ireland.

Very good massage therapist based in Lucan, Dublin. Tel. or text: 086-3949882 / 085-7123412

He said he could see what was wrong with it and helped me out before I left on my trip. So here I was half way through the adventure, having a pit stop with a mechanic, getting ready for the second and southern half of the trip. Back at home that evening I decided to just chill out with Susan and get ready for another early start at the Newstalk radio studios.

The hitching for hope continues…

Thanks for all your support.

Ruairí

july0419

About this trip | Hitching blog | Facebook Twitter | E-news LinkedIn | | Donate | Photos

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Places I have visited so far
Galway City, Spiddal, Moycullen, Oughterard, Cleggan, Inishbofin, Clifden, Mam Cross, Leenane, Westport, Croagh Patrick, Newport, Achill Island, Rossport, Belmullet, Mullet peninsula, Ballina, Sligo, Bundoran, Donegal Town, Mountcharles, St. John’s Pt., Letterkenny, Derry, Leixslip, Dublin, Aughrim Co. Wicklow, Gorey, Kilmuckridge, Wexford Town, Baldwinstown, Kilmore Quay, Hook Head, Ballyhack, Passage East, Dunmore East, Cork City. (Updated July 21st).

Media coverage
Thanks to Galway Bay FM, iRadio, the Galway Independent, Mid West Radio, Ocean FM, Tipp FM, WorldIrish.com, Highland Radio, BBC Radio Foyle x 3, the Derry Journal, DonegalDaily.com, RTE Radio One Mooney Show, the Irish Times, theJournal.ie, Newstalk (Breakfast show), Today FM (KC show), TV3 Morning Show, 98FM late night talk, Shannonside Northern South, Flirt FM, South East Radio, Cork Evening Echo, The Sunday Times.

Links to media coverage

TheJournal.ie
Irish Times

Derry Journal
TV3 This Morning  show
Radio – Today FM – KC show (after some ads)
Radio – RTE Radio – Mooney show

Updates 

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July 13 – Celebrating love and diversity

july1012 July 13th Hitching For Hope blog. Ruairí’s Hitching For Hope national listening tour is a one month project to hear, document and promote the visions and visions of the people of Ireland in advance of speaking at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties on July 29th & 30th . More info 

Blogging from the road, please excuse errors and sound quality issues etc.). Press the orange play icon on sound files to hear audio. 

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Latest blog (reviewing July 13th)

From the Derry orange order parades the previous day, to a wedding in Kildare today, it seemed that I was getting no shortage of variety. I arrived back in Dublin at 11pm last night and was up early getting myself cleaned up and ready for the wedding. I was back at base in Dublin, in my own bed and catching up with Susan after 2 weeks on the road.

We headed to the shop and picked up the Irish Times. My big mugshot was on the frontpage with the title ‘hitch-hiker guide to the national mood”, promoting a feature article inside by Brian O’Connell. Phew. Half way through the tour and I was back at base and reading about the trip in the national newspaper. A  strange kind of feeling.

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The sun was booming down so we hit the beach and got a quick dip at Dollymount strand before getting suited and booted and heading off to Kildare for the wedding.

As we landed at the sprawling estate hotel at the edge of Leixslip I got to thinking about how so many weddings are in these old colonial landlord estates and maybe it’s a sign of progress that we the people at least now have access to them and can see how the other half lived for so long.

In so many towns around Ireland, including my home town of Cootehill, the big house of the landlord had their 100s of acres of prime land walled off from the local population. The landlord ruled supreme. People in Mayo told me that the landlord used to have the so-called right to sleep with any bride-to-be in his area and that often a child that resembled the landlord was born to the new couple. We still have our landlords and division, but I think we’ve made progress in many ways in opening up the gates.

All of that aside, this day wasn’t about politics or class. It was about love. Time to celebrate unity not division. So I put my wandering mind to one side and embraced the day with an open heart. Susan’s cousin Deirdre and her English-Sri Lankan partner Sam were getting married in a ceremony they designed themselves in a garden at the back of the main castle.

It was great to see the different backgrounds and nationalities coming together to celebrate love. Culture merging and evolving beyond the narrow divisions of the past. It was great to be at a ceremony that didn’t need the sanction of a church that so many don’t believe in but go along with regardless. It was great to see English and Irish, Sri Lankan and others come together as one to celebrate love.

The ceremony was joyful with Sam giggling his way through it and readings of poetry and scripture from different family and friends including Deirdre’s aunt Anna, a Catholic nun who read the  words of Rumi, the Sufi mystic, with such grace and passion.

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There was music and song by their friends and family and Sam jumped in childlike joy when the ceremony came to an end.

I got chatting to lots of people through the day and heard stories about work, holidays, love and loss. I was particularly struck by Sam’s father’s heart-felt words on what a kind and caring son Sam is. He cried with respect and love for his son and recommended various spiritual and philosophical texts for his son to assist him in his emerging career as a psychiatrist.

He ended with a plea for all the younger people present to work for fairness and justice. As a Sri Lankan emigrant from a war-torn country he knew what he was talking about. It was refreshing to hear a man speak from the heart and to call for justice in a way that so many shy away from.

Later in the evening I spoke to a young couple about politics and their frustration with trying to get by despite being in supposedly well earning jobs. They are struggling with childcare options and costs, mortgage repayments and a feeling that they are getting walked on by government in order to pay the unjust debts of bondholders and gamblers.

me and Susan

me and Susan

We talked about political reform, how the current system can no longer serve us, and the need for politicians like they work for us by reporting back to us, explaining their decisions, and remembering who pays their wages. I could sense their frustration and anger and know that there are many 100,000s like them. If only all of us who feel this way got organised. What could we achieve?

I didn’t drink during the day as there was too much going on. People to meet, interviews to sort, websites to update. Still falling behind with the blogs despite having hidden in the car for an hour to get one sorted. We got home at midnight ready for another big day, this time off to the President’s house.

Never a dull moment.

The hitching (and non hitching sometimes) in hope continues…

The hitching for hope continues…

Thanks for all your support.

Ruairí

july0419

About this trip | Hitching blog | Facebook Twitter | E-news LinkedIn | | Donate | Photos

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Places I have visited so far
Galway City, Spiddal, Moycullen, Oughterard, Cleggan, Inishbofin, Clifden, Mam Cross, Leenane, Westport, Croagh Patrick, Newport, Achill Island, Rossport, Belmullet, Mullet peninsula, Ballina, Sligo, Bundoran, Donegal Town, Mountcharles, St. John’s Pt., Letterkenny, Derry, Leixslip, Dublin, Aughrim Co. Wicklow, Gorey, Kilmuckridge, Wexford Town, Baldwinstown, Kilmore Quay, Hook Head, Ballyhack, Passage East, Dunmore East, Cork City. (Updated July 21st).

Media coverage
Thanks to Galway Bay FM, iRadio, the Galway Independent, Mid West Radio, Ocean FM, Tipp FM, WorldIrish.com, Highland Radio, BBC Radio Foyle x 3, the Derry Journal, DonegalDaily.com, RTE Radio One Mooney Show, the Irish Times, theJournal.ie, Newstalk (Breakfast show), Today FM (KC show), TV3 Morning Show, 98FM late night talk, Shannonside Northern South, Flirt FM, South East Radio, The Cork Independent, Cork Evening Echo, The Sunday Times.

Links to media coverage

TheJournal.ie
Irish Times

Derry Journal
TV3 This Morning  show
Radio – Today FM – KC show (after some ads)
Radio – RTE Radio – Mooney show

Updates 

About this trip | Blog | Facebook Twitter | E-news LinkedIn | | Donate | Photos | Audio

July 12 – The orange order

july1012 July 12th Hitching For Hope blog. Ruairí’s Hitching For Hope national listening tour is a one month project to hear, document and promote the visions and visions of the people of Ireland in advance of speaking at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties on July 29th & 30th . More info 

Blogging from the road, please excuse errors and sound quality issues etc.). Press the orange play icon on sound files to hear audio. 

About this trip | Blog | Facebook Twitter | E-news LinkedIn | | Donate | Photos | Audio

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Latest blog (reviewing July 12th orange parade in Derry)

I woke up in the union jack cloaked streets of Derry’s waterside area. I was on ‘the other side’ of the divide. Mark Patterson, the BBC Radio Foyle presenter who interviewed me the previous day, had offered to put me up and bring me as a ‘southern voice’ to their outside broadcast at the orange order’s 12th of July parades. Having grown up south of the border and being from what is supposed to be the opposite side of the divide, I thought it was an offer too good to be true. The only issue would be getting to Kildare in time for a wedding the next morning but I’d figure that out later.

Mark had also brought me to a bonfire in the Protestant enclave of the fountain area at 2am the previous night (see previous blog) and my head was still pounding from the drums as he woke me whistling the tune of the sash my father wore, the traditional orange song.

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I grew up in a border town and 20% of our school was Protestant, with some of them possibly more linked to orange or British traditions than others. There were no real issues at school but the conflict was still in full swing across the border and this would have fed juvenile bigoted comments and songs from time to time. I had a big interest in history and was interested in the military check points when we crossed the border on our way to Donegal, so I was always very conscious of the orange order and saw them as a divisive, racist and negative force in society.

I particularly remember watching the Garvaghy Rd. marches on TV when the two main unionist politicians, Ian Paisley and David Trimble, led triumphalist and provocative marches through a Catholic housing estate. At one stage the tensions throughout Northern Ireland reached fever pitch.

There wasn’t much time to consider all of this when I arrived downstairs bleary eyed to meet Mark’s friend Boyd and his wife, children, mother and father in-law, and 2 dogs. All were in festive mode with the dogs dressed up in British flags. A general buzz of excitement was in the air. I was introduced as ‘the hitchhiker’ which was beginning to sound like some kind of Stephen King novel, and tried to explain why hitching had brought this southern boy from the republic to this particular place in time.

Over cups of tea and a bacon sandwich I ended up having the craic with them all and realised that for them this was like any other family on a festive day, not so much about politics as about fun. They were more than happy to embrace me as the curious listener willing to learn.

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It turned out that Boyd had travelled the world and had a good perspective on life, history and religion. He is a photographer and has just completed a book on orange halls so I figured he’d make a good initial interview candidate as I sought to challenge myself for the day.  Recording coming soon..

Outside the house the streets were decked in blue and red bunting and the union jack as bands, marchers and spectators prepared for what was going to be a noisy and colourful spectacle. It reminded me of Paddy’s day except different colours and perhaps a more militaristic style of music and marching. I suppose it has to be said also that Paddy’s day, although religious in origin, feels more open to different religions and races.  There was also a clear gender divide with the marchers all being men due to the order being solely a male organisation. Still , I was here to watch, listen and learn.

Boyd asked me if I wanted to meet the top dog, the no.1 orange man, the grand master. So off we went to find him and I managed a quick interview before the parade kicked off. He was fine but not overly friendly and he gave me a few stock lines that I wouldn’t have minded exploring more if we had time. I later heard on the news that day that he had made some unhelpful comments in relation to the rioting of his members in Belfast.

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The parade went on for well over an hour as perhaps over 100 bands strutted their stuff. The sun was shining and people were in great form and it was hard not to compare it to the St. Patrick’s Day parades when families stand by the road side to watch and cheer. However the emblems, flags, and logos were a constant reminder that this was about one thing – celebrating the orange tradition and the Protestant faith. It was particularly interesting to see so many orange bands from across the border in Donegal.

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Up at the cricket grounds, or what is called ‘the field’ when acting as a gathering point of orange parades, I joined the BBC lads and observed their outside broadcast while doing some of my own interviews including one with an ‘apprentice boy’ and a couple with a nationalist historian from Co. Monaghan and a young Catholic actor dressed in period costume, both of who were attending a march for their first time.

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On and on the marching went, the drums, the flute, the flags. I can’t say I felt in any way threatened but I probably knew I had allies around and the cover of the BBC or at least my own recording mission. But more than that, I just wasn’t too bothered. Once upon a time I might have got worked up about these things but things have changed. Perhaps it would be different if I lived in the north and felt intimidated or isolated by this expression of culture and identity. I know this is the case for my friend who lives near Belfast who previously witnessed an orange order member shouting 5-0 into the Ormeua road betting shop where 5 innocent men were shot.

There was a chance that I could have ended up the day thinking it was indeed the ‘orange fest’ fun day that it was being re-branded as but there were a few tell tale signs on flags, banners, tattoos and t-shirts and were a reminder that things were more political than that. I observed little indicators that there was a paramilitary and aggressive element in or around this. Militaristic uniforms, an anti Bobby Sands t-shirt, a UFF flag.

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As the BBC broadcast started to wrap-up I was called over to give my observations. I was introduced to William Hay, a Donegal Protestant who is the speaker of the Northern Ireland assembly, a member of the DUP, and it seemed a proud orange man. We shared the interview together, two men from the other Ulster. I explained how I grew up with some hostility to this tradition but could see that for many or most people it was something handed down to them, and in practical terms a family day out for fun and meeting friends and neighbours.

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I understood too that it’s about religion and identity, things that I think we need to move on from. I talked about how when I went to college in Scotland I hung out with both sides from Northern Ireland and through interaction, fun and dialogue we realised we were all one. I said the challenge is to find our common humanity and common struggles.

I said that on the whole I thought it was a positive experience but may not be for the Catholics who feel they have to leave their home towns and cross the border en masse on this day each year. I mentioned that it might be different if I lived here or in the Ardoyne, which turned out to be a major flashpoint later that night. To many northern nationalists and republicans the orange order represents a bigoted organisation that is anti Catholic, anti women and anti gay, and it is unclear how they will ever be fully accepted as a positive force.

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One thing that stands out for me was Mark Patterson’s interviews with various members of the orange order, young and old. Mark, who has a Protestant background, was trying to better understand the tradition, the reasons for marching, the identity politics. Many said it was about honouring their ancestors, about connecting with history and tradition, seeing it as a social thing, and a fun family day. However it was hard to find a clear sense of what the ‘Protestant identity’ is that so many talked about. One young woman when questioned further, and to the backdrop of continued drums, said it was just something that was just ‘drummed into’ her.

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So much of our culture, our religion, our politics, our beliefs and behaviours are also just drummed into us. By parents, priests, preachers, teachers, politicians, media and advertising. This is of course true on the nationalist and republican side where bigotry can also exist. The challenge is to navigate through which bits were handed down or pushed onto us, which bits we really believe in, and which bits are positive and life serving.

I left Derry with plenty of food for thought as we collectively work to find a new future for both sides of the border on this small island. I was once again impressed by the warmth, wit and kindness of the people of this great city and inspired by their hope for the future and hard won peace. It seems that there still remains a huge amount of reconciliation work to be done. There has been such much hurt over the years. However things are moving in the right direction and the peace train cannot be stopped so long as the people stay committed and find ways of listen, talk, debate and share together.

The hitching for hope continues…

Thanks for all your support.

Ruairí

july0419

About this trip | Hitching blog | Facebook Twitter | E-news LinkedIn | | Donate | Photos

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Places I have visited so far
Galway City, Spiddal, Moycullenl, Oughterard, Cleggan, Inishbofin, Clifden, Mam Cross, Leenane, Westport, Croagh Patrick, Newport, Achill Island, Rossport, Belmullet, Ballina, Sligo, Bundoran, Donegal Town, Mountcharles, St. John’s Pt, Letterkenny, Derry, Leixslip, Dublin, Aughrim Co. Wicklow.

Media coverage
Galway Bay FM, iRadio, the Galway Independent, Mid West Radio, Ocean FM, Tipp FM, WorldIrish.com, Highland Radio, BBC Radio Foyle x 3, the Derry Journal, DonegalDaily.com, RTE Radio One Mooney Show, the Irish Times, theJournal.ie, Newstalk breakfast show, Today FM (KC show), TV3 Morning Show.

Links to media coverage

TheJournal.ie
Irish Times

Derry Journal
TV3 This Morning  show
Radio – Today FM – KC show (after some ads)
Radio – RTE Radio – Mooney show

Updates 

About this trip | Blog | Facebook Twitter | E-news LinkedIn | | Donate | Photos | Audio