“What caught my eye was the book’s title, The Impossible Irish. And what really hooked me was the ‘dedication’ . . . ‘This book is flung in the face of the Irish – a fighting race who never won a battle, a race of politicians who cannot govern themselves, a race of writers without a great one of native strain, an island race who have yet to man a fleet for war, for commerce or for the fishing banks [...], a pious race excelling in blasphemy, who feel most wronged by those they have first injured, who sing of love and practise fratricide, preach freedom and enact suppression, a race of democrats who sweat the poor ...”

An Irishman’s Diary about a 75-year-old polemic

“Depressed by the prospect of a long period in opposition, Cumann na nGaedheal and its successor Fine Gael make a series of exhibitions of themselves in which blue is the predominant colour. The experiment ends in 1933, with the return to a broader palette.”
The politics of art

An Irishman’s Diary on the history of a strained relationship

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott: criticised for saying “probly” instead of “probably” and “gumment” for “government”. Photograph: Rick Rycroft/AP

An Irishman’s Diary on the politics of language

Gay McKeon of Na Píobairí Uilleann, the uileann pipers’ club, at their Henrietta Street centre in Dublin. The pipers’ future looks secure. But it was different 46 years ago, when Na Píobairí Uilleann had to be set up to protect an endangered species. Photograph: Dave Meehan

An Irishman’s Diary about Na Píobairí Uilleann

Some of the laws to be abolished date from the era of Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland James Butler in the mid-1600s

‘Largest repealing measure’ in State history will see laws dating back to 1600s abolished

Behan took to drinking Pernod Ricard, which as he said was “the nearest thing to absinthe”, the spirit (by then illegal) of fin-de-siècle Parisian bohemia. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Rebel in Rome

An Irishman’s Diary about Brendan Behan

The new club was far from being a rival for the custom of the rich and powerful. Its target clientele were Dublin’s down-and-outs. And in recruiting members, it was unusual among clubs in also wanting to get rid of them, sooner or later, having first equipped them for a better life. A 130-acre farm was  acquired in Clondalkin. When the second World War broke out, turf was also harvested, for sale in the club shop at a tally a bag.

An Irishman’s Diary about the Mount Street Club

Wladimir Gawriilowitsch Krikhatzkij’s painting ‘The First Tractor’. Throughout the 1920s, thousands of Cork-built Model Fs were sold to the Soviet Union, where the communist authorities were so impressed they soon started making cloned versions. In the meantime, the Cork machines must have aided collectivisation of farms. As such, one or two may even have had their portraits painted. The concept of a community’s “first tractor”, collectively purchased, was a recurring theme in early Soviet art. Whatever they did for communism, meanwhile, the tractors were a boon to Irish trade, at least for a few years.
A chassis of State

An Irishman’s Diary about historic tractors

“The Garvie mill was made in Aberdeen, as its nameplate announced. But I learned with a moistened eye that it had spent its working life among the little hills of Monaghan. And as we stood around admiring it, I was introduced to a veteran mill-man whose face was vaguely familiar.” Photograph: Frank McNally
Neat and tidy in Trim

An Irishman’s Diary on idyllic Meath

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