Ireland

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It’s about time another consulate came to town. For a city of such international influence, the recent arrival of the Irish Consulate marks the second official diplomatic post for Austin and the second consulate in the last 80 years for Ireland. The strongest connection pulling for this partnership is research and development in the tech industry. However, just like any up-and-coming startup, the consulate is going through the growing pains of finding office space in downtown Austin and working hard to network through meetups and events around the city.

Consul General Adrian Farrell said this particular consulate has been “quite upfront” about its focus on trade and economy. On the controversy over American technology companies relocating funds and operations to Ireland for tax break advantages, Farrell affirms the end of this so-called “Double Irish” tax scheme, which the Irish government declared its intention to phase out earlier this month. Apart from the obvious access to Europe, the convenience of an English-speaking country, high level of education, and an affordable cost of living are favorable reasons to invest in the Emerald Isle.

Accompanying the consulate to Austin are Enterprise Ireland and the Industrial Development Authority, two organizations which seek to support entrepreneurs at different stages of their business. Gerard Hayes, a new addition to the consulate crew, said the preference toward quality of life and a strong work ethic are two qualities both Texans and the Irish seem to have in common. Hayes, with a background in hospitality, now serves as vice president of emerging business for IDA Ireland but was once an intern on exchange who worked in the Barton Creek area and subsequently “fell in love with Austin.”

Hayes’ experience is akin to what one UT professor hopes to bring to students through the Ireland-Austin connection. Brad Love, a faculty lead for the University’s Pro-Social Public Relations Maymester program, travels to Dublin each summer introducing students to the reality of professional communications. He also contributed to the city’s proposal to host the consulate in the first place. For Love, the academic and career opportunities are a strong point of exchange that Austin and Ireland could further develop. According to Love, the University’s purpose is to “bring the best of Texas to the rest of the world,” and rightfully so.

Farrell says one can find Irish students in almost any discipline in UT and wants to “fuse more relationships” with institutions of higher education in Austin. He shared the view of campus from President William Powers Jr.’s office last month and plans to meet with different heads of faculty throughout the next few months. From a cultural standpoint, the Briscoe Center recently highlighted the Irish influence in Texas history, for Farrell and the consulate’s partnership with the Ransom Center will bring out events featuring Irish art and literature in the next year. While perhaps the general University population has yet to see the convenience of Ireland’s in-town consulate, the ties are ready to be set.

Piedad is a journalism junior from San Antonio. Follow Piedad on Twitter @janjourn.

Members of Austin’s first ladies Gaelic football team, Laura Wills and Dawn Zimmaro, practice at Zilker Park on April 15th. The team was organized by the The Celtic Cowboys Sports & Social Club in September and is continuing to gain popularity among Irish and non-Irish Austinites.

Photo Credit: Mikhaela Locklear | Daily Texan Staff

So you stumble upon a game being played in Zilker Park. The players are clutching what looks like a volleyball to their chests and crashing shoulders as if they were playing rugby. But every few steps the ball is dribbled like a basketball or kicked like a soccer ball. No, this is not some mashed-up American hybrid sport. This is Gaelic football.

Gaelic football has been played in Ireland for centuries and was codified in the late 1800s after the formation of the Gaelic Athletic Association. Irish children grow up playing the sport and the best players receive the honor of representing their parishes on county teams. The Celtic Cowboys Sports & Social Club created Austin’s first ladies Gaelic football team in September. 

“It’s a good time to join,” said Pat Doab, team coach and President and Co-Founder of the Celtic Cowboys Sports & Social Club. “Everyone’s still learning the game. There are only two Irish ladies that have seen the game before, and at that they haven’t played in years so they’re still coming back in.”

The game involves skills like dribbling, kicking and soloing, which is dropping the ball to kick it back up to your hands. Players have to do something with the ball after every four steps they take, whether it’s bouncing the ball, soloing or passing it off to another player. 

Each team has a goal with a cross bar. If the ball goes over the bar, a point is scored. If the ball is kicked under the crossbar and into the net, a three-point goal is scored. Scores are kept in a goal-point format. For example, if a team scored 3-5, that means they have 14 points total because three times three is nine and nine plus five is 14. Simple enough, right? 

The team has become more than just another typical adult league. To the team’s Irish members, Gaelic football is a comforting reminder of home. Team member Orla O’Connor moved from Ireland to Austin in October and joined the team soon after.

“For someone who is Irish, what it means is that you have a piece of home when you go away,” O’Connor said. “Austin and Ireland are so far removed from one another, physically and culturally, so it helps you to not miss home so much.”

The Celtic Cowboys Sports & Social Club, founded in 2004, houses both the men and ladies Gaelic teams in addition to soccer, hurling and golf teams. The group’s Irish roots have built a greater sense of community beyond their sports teams. 

“When Pat started this, it was exclusively people that had come over from Ireland and were trying to hang out and not feel so alone,” said Amy Swanholm, chair of the team’s leadership committee. “He’s been doing it for about 10 years now and there’s still a lot of Irish people involved, but there’s also people that just think they’re awesome. I mean, I’m Swedish, I’m not Irish at all. A lot of the girls on the team aren’t, but it’s just a fun group of people.”

The team’s bustling social life is simply a bonus to carrying on proud Irish traditions throughout the world. 

 "One thing that is still flourishing is the GAA and our national sports, so it’s fantastic to see it around the world because Ireland’s so small," O’Connor said

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

DUBLIN — The debate over legalizing abortion in Ireland flared Wednesday after the government confirmed that a woman in the midst of a miscarriage was refused an abortion and died in an Irish hospital after suffering from blood poisoning.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny said he was awaiting findings from three investigations into the death of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old Indian woman who was 17 weeks pregnant. Her case highlighted the legal limbo in which pregnant women facing severe health problems can find themselves in predominantly Catholic Ireland.

Ireland’s constitution officially bans abortion, but a 1992 Supreme Court ruling found the procedure should be legalized for situations when the woman’s life is at risk from continuing the pregnancy. Five governments since have refused to pass a law resolving the confusion, leaving Irish hospitals reluctant to terminate pregnancies except in the most obviously life-threatening circumstances.

Halappanavar’s husband, Praveen, said doctors at University Hospital Galway in western Ireland determined she was miscarrying within hours of her hospitalization for severe pain on Sunday, Oct. 21. He said over the next three days, doctors refused their requests for an abortion to combat her surging pain and fading health.

The hospital declined to say whether doctors believed Halappanavar’s blood poisoning could have been reversed had she received an abortion rather than waiting for the fetus to die on its own. In a statement, it described its own investigation into the death, and a parallel probe by the government’s Health Service Executive, as “standard practice” whenever a pregnant woman dies in a hospital.

Opposition politicians appealed Wednesday for Kenny’s government to introduce legislation immediately to make the 1992 Supreme Court judgment part of statutory law. Barring any such bill, the only legislation defining the illegality of abortion in Ireland dates to 1861, when the entire island was part of the United Kingdom. That British law, still valid here due to Irish inaction on the matter, states it is a crime punishable by life imprisonment to “procure a miscarriage.”

In the 1992 case, a 14-year-old girl identified in court only as “X’’ successfully sued the government for the right to have an abortion in England. She had been raped by a neighbor. When her parents reported the crime to police, the attorney general ordered her not to travel abroad for an abortion, arguing this would violate Ireland’s constitution.

The Supreme Court ruled she should be permitted an abortion in Ireland, never mind England, because she was making credible threats to commit suicide if refused one. During the case, the girl reportedly suffered a miscarriage.

Since then, Irish governments twice have sought public approval to legalize abortion in life-threatening circumstances — but excluding a suicide threat as acceptable grounds. Both times voters rejected the
proposed amendments.

An abortions right group, Choice Ireland, said Halappanavar might not have died had any previous government legislated in line with the X judgment. Earlier this year, the government rejected an opposition bill to do this.

NAIRN, Scotland— Britain-Ireland rallied past the United States on Sunday to win the Curtis Cup, ending the Americans’ 16-year domination of the tournament.

The outcome means that for the first time all four major professional and amateur men’s and women’s team trophies are held by Britain, Ireland and Europe.

Britain-Ireland beat the Americans 10 ½ to 9 ½ despite needing to win five of the eight singles matches Sunday. Stephanie Meadow of Northern Ireland scored the critical point by defeating Amy Anderson.

Britain-Ireland and Europe now hold the Curtis Cup, men’s amateur Walker Cup plus the pro Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup titles.

“It is very, very special to have captured golfing history today,” Britain-Ireland captain Tegwen Matthews said. “I had joked and joked to the team about all the pressure they were under to win this week given that it would mean holding all four main team trophies between GB & I and Europe against the States.

“So that was a challenge for me and it’s just fabulous we’ve won because I am just as competitive as my players in wanting to achieve that goal and we have managed to do that.”

This was only the second time the team won in Scotland in the 80-year history of the event.

Britain-Ireland captured the opening three matches — Kelly Tidy beating Austin Ernst 2 and 1, Amy Boulden beating Emily Tubert 3 and 1 and Holly Clyburn beating Erica Popson 3 and 2.

It put Britain-Ireland ahead for the first time in the event by 8 ½ points to 6 ½. While it lost the next two matches — Lisa McCloskey beating Pam Pretswell 4 and 3 and Tiffany Lau beating Bronte Law 2 up — the home team sealed the victory by winning the next two matches.

England’s 16-year old Charley Hull sent her team to 9 ½ points by defeating Lindy Duncan 5 and 3 before Meadow clinched the winning point in defeating Anderson 4 and 2.

No. 4-ranked Leona Maguire of Ireland lost the final singles match 6 and 5 despite a recent run of good form that included a recent eight-shot victory in the Irish U-18 Girls Open Stroke-Play Championship.

“It was certainly not the result I was looking for,” U.S. captain Pat Cornett said. “So I am a little disappointed, but then the result is good for the game and good for the Curtis Cup. Then it just shows how fickle this game can be and I reminded the girls that after all it is just a game.”

Cornett’s leg is in a cast and she will head home to California for an operation on her left ankle. She broke two bones in a golf-cart accident Friday. Her husband, Mike, remains in an Inverness hospital because of cellulitis in his feet.

“It’s now a case of we can’t get out of Dodge City quick enough,” Cornett cracked.

Cornett has yet to decide if she will try to captain the 2016 U.S. team in St. Louis.

Journalists who were fired or suspended from their jobs for their opinions during last year's pro-democracy uprising hold a moment of silence Thursday in Manama, Bahrain, in memory of journalists killed and tortured in prison during a gathering to mark World Freedom Press Day.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS — On World Press Freedom Day, Reporters Without Borders condemned the “astonishing pace” at which journalists are being attacked and murdered — 67 killed in 2011 and 22 more deaths since the beginning of the year.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the attacks “outrageous” and urged all countries to prevent and prosecute violence against the media and take action to ensure the safety of journalists and freedom of the press.

At Thursday’s U.N. commemoration of Press Freedom Day, Ban Ki-moon asked the assembled diplomats, members of the media and civil society representatives to observe a minute of silence “in honor of the journalists who were killed in the line of duty last year.”

According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, 179 journalists were detained in 2011, a 20 percent increase over 2010 and the highest level since 1990, Ban said.

“Countless others face intimidation, harassment and censorship at the hands of governments, corporations and powerful individuals seeking to preserve their power or hide wrongdoings and misdeeds,” the secretary-general said.

Ireland’s President Michael Higgins, a former broadcaster, told the commemoration the deaths demonstrate the risks that journalists and media workers face and “their vulnerability to intimidation, violence and persecution.”

“Many were victims of targeted killings, while the circumstances of other killings may never be fully explained,” he said.

Reporters Without Borders updated its list of “predators of the freedom to inform” to 41 individuals and group. It said the first quarter of 2012 clearly showed that the world’s predators led by Syria’s President Bashar Assad and Somalia’s Islamist militias “are capable of behaving like outrageous butchers.”

The media advocacy organization, based in France, decried the increase in attacks and killings of news providers — up from 57 murders in 2010 to 67 in 2011, and 22 so far this year including five journalists killings in Somalia, four in Syria, and two each in Bangladesh, Brazil and India.

In Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, dozens of Somali journalists met Thursday in somber silence to celebrate World Press Freedom Day, a meeting that took place only hours after the killing of the fifth Somali journalist this year. Two armed men shadowed Somali radio journalist Farhan Abdulle after he left his station late Wednesday, then shot him dead.

The killings also continued in Mexico, which has become one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists amid a raging drug war. The bodies of two news photographers were found dismembered in the eastern Mexican state of Veracruz on Thursday, less than a week after the killing in the state of a reporter for an investigative magazine. The Reporters Without Borders predators list was updated this week to include Vasif Talibov, leader of the Nakhchivan region in Azerbaijan, in addition to the country’s president, Ilham Aliev.

Azerbaijan’s U.N. Ambassador Agshin Mehdiyev, the current Security Council president, denied any repression of the media, telling a news conference Thursday that “we have a free press. ... We don’t have any people imprisoned because of their professional activities or political views.”

In Tunisia’s capital, hundreds of journalists from around the world gathered for special World Press Freedom Day events held in a country where reporters long faced repression before protesters brought down the country’s dictator last year and sparked uprisings across the Arab world.

UNESCO’s director-general, Irina Bokova, and Tunisia’s President Moncef Marzouki, a former human rights activist, were among those taking part in events that included a conference on improving security for journalists and improving access to information.

“The days of control of the media are over,” said Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali.
On Thursday, a Tunisian court convicted the head of a private TV station for disrupting public order and violating moral values by airing an animated film that some religious leaders say insults Islam.
The court in Tunis ordered Nabil Karoui to pay a 2,400-dinar (€1,200, $1,575) fine because his station, Nessma TV, aired the animated film “Persepolis” in October.

Secretary-General Ban told the U.N. commemoration that the world has seen over the past year and a half across the Middle East and North Africa “the central role played by social media, mobile telephones and satellite television in generating an extraordinary ripple effect: from a vegetable seller’s simple cry for human dignity, to the fall of autocratic regimes.”

“As the use of those tools expands, the world is likely to see more historic changes — and other applications that can advance human well-being,” he said.

Ireland’s Higgins stressed that billions of people are still unable to access the Internet and while the “digital divide” has shrunk somewhat due to the proliferation of mobile phones, greater efforts are required to ensure that the poor, elderly, disabled and those living in rural areas become connected and don’t become victims of greater inequality.  

Printed on Friday, May 4, 2012 as: Reporters worldwide still write under duress

A demonstrator stages a protest in the street of Davos during the 42nd Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland, Thursday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

DAVOS, Switzerland — Cash-strapped governments in Europe must persuade skeptical citizens to accept severe austerity measures if their countries are to recover and thrive in an increasingly tough global economic environment, European leaders said Thursday.

If there’s no seeming light at the end of the tunnel and divisions within society get too wide, they said Europe’s imperiled economies — and Europe as a whole — will find it increasingly difficult to get to grips with its two-year debt crisis.

They warned at the World Economic Forum that Europe appears set to be eclipsed by the rapid economic rise of China, Brazil and others.

For Enda Kenny, the prime minister of bailed-out Ireland, governments will fail if they don’t carry their people with them when imposing measures that reduce the living standards of large chunks of the population.

“When they give a mandate and they give trust to government and say ‘Here’s the plan and let’s all work together,’ things can actually happen faster than people might imagine,” Kenny said in a panel that included two other European prime ministers and one president on the second day of the annual gathering in Davos.

The Irish, according to Kenny, “simply went mad, borrowing” in the early part of the 21st century and when a property bubble spawned by easy credit and greed burst, the Celtic Tiger economy imploded. The country was left with a massive black hole in its public finances that could only be plugged by a financial rescue package from the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund.

In return for the money, Ireland has had to cut salaries as well as the size of the state, and increase the pension age. The hope is that Ireland will become more competitive and regain the confidence of the financial markets.

People, he said, following the excesses of the previous decade understand the need for retrenchment but that should never be taken for granted.

“People get frustrated if they don’t see results,” Kenny said.Much of the debate over recent months has centered more on establishing confidence in the rules and institutions governing the euro than on belt-tightening.

There has been a rising chorus of opinion for Europe, and Germany in particular, to back alternative ways out of the crisis, such as boosting its rescue fund or allowing the European Central Bank to play a more pivotal role by buying up more and more of the debt of the imperiled.

On Monday, European leaders are meeting again in Brussels to thrash out a framework for much stricter fiscal discipline. A top priority is re-establishing confidence in both the euro and in the ability of European countries to engage in serious belt tightening.

The annual Davos forum is under growing criticism from those who feel it’s too removed from the real world. Activists from Occupy Davos are camping out in igloos and yurts to call attention to income inequality.

“This is a man-made crisis and the people who have caused the crisis, many of whom are in Davos, should be held to account,” said Salil Shetty, the secretary general of Amnesty International, told The Associated Press.