A rare look at London's luckless Irish

SMALL PRINT: For generations of Irish emigrants to London, the cavernous Arlington House in Camden provided a home away from…

SMALL PRINT:For generations of Irish emigrants to London, the cavernous Arlington House in Camden provided a home away from home. The massive redbrick edifice, which was mentioned by George Orwell in Down and Out in Paris and London, is more than a century old and remains a place of refuge from the street for many Irish men.

Many of its long-term residents are Irish. Over the years many of them succumbed to alcoholism, substance abuse, depression and homelessness and other perils of forced emigration.

Though Arlington House is not a home in the conventional sense, they have found solace and comradeship there, as well as a roof over their heads.

The residents of Arlington House are the subjects of a moving documentary, which will be broadcast on BBC1 tonight. Men of Arlingtonfocuses on three residents of the London hostel, two of whom still live there.


Peter Doyle (pictured) was born to a single mother and spent his first 15 years in Irish institutions. He left for England in search of a better life and found a bed in Arlington House. Half a century later it is still his home. Seamus Morgan O’Connell is a descendent of Daniel O’Connell. He was also educated at Ampleforth, the top Catholic public school in Britain, but lost everything after his business collapsed when he was 37. He has been there for 25 years.

The third, Joe McGarry, ended up on the street, but got his life back and went on to chair the housing association that looked after Arlington House.

In advance of the screening of the documentary tonight, comedian Ardal O’Hanlon has written an open letter to the Taoiseach asking him to provide a community resettlement scheme for homeless Irish men in London who want to live in Ireland. O’Hanlon is patron of the Aisling Return to Ireland project, which provides trips to Ireland – in many cases for people who have not been back for decades. In his letter O’Hanlon said there was no willingness on the part of any Government department to take responsibility for this “faceless, voiceless and voteless constituency”.

Men of Arlingtonis on BBC1 at 10.35pm tonight.

There’s nobody in the driving seat but Google with flash new cars

Google’s driverless cars hit the road last week, completing a 1,000-mile test. The cars work in a complex but apparently safe manner, using laser technology that gives the car a 360-degree sense of where it’s going, and with a computer in the boot storing maps and cameras. The company’s foray into non-online industries is not new. The company started investing in massive wind farms last year. It has also thrown money into pedal-powered monorails and new types of solar panels.

The engineer leading Google’s departure into the motoring industry is Sebastian Thrun, who we previously know from such exploits as co-creating Google Street View and heading a team that won a $2 million prize from the US department of defence for creating another robotic vehicle. So why now and why cars? Google has the technology to create these self-driving vehicles thanks to Thrun’s expertise, and it also has the fringe technology in terms of Street View.

Larry Page, the 38-year-old co-founder of Google, is also a driving force behind them, so to speak. Page is big on alternative energy, and applying it to technology, having invested in Tesla Motors, which developed an electric vehicle and uses Google.org – the philanthropic wing of the company – to invest in the alternative energy sector.

Google has been good at creating the circumstances for these self-driving cars to become real road vehicles too, lobbying the state of Nevada to pass laws making it legal for self-driving cars to use the state’s roads. There’s also the feeling that Google has money to burn, and that offshoot investments are inevitable from a company with power, brains and an idealistic view of the future.

Britney hits Dublin just before she hits 30

Pop’s ultimate teenager turns 30 in a matter of weeks, and tonight she plays The O2 in Dublin. Having survived a very public meltdown, why, against all odds, does Britney Spears still matter?

There'sno gimmick. Britney doesn't have wacky style, an unusual singing voice or a famous relationship. What she does have is staying power. She has managed to evolve with her audience. Like it or not, she's an icon. And

Britney’s iconography transcends her shortcomings in the talent department. Britney the brand is bigger than Britney the Louisiana divorcee.

We alllove a comeback kid. Under the legal control of her father, Spears has seemingly managed to vanquish her demons and get back on track just when it looked like her career was finished.

Her fanbase stretches a generation. Britney's golden oldies of Oops! . . . I Did It Againand Strongersatisfy the older pop fans, while tracks such as Till The World Endsand Womanizerearn the respect of new kids on the block. Britney has proven her worth through the ages, unlike relative newcomers Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.

She'scritically acclaimed. You can't hide hits, and critics' favourites, such as Toxic, I'm a Slave 4 Uand Everytimemeans she doesn't get dismissed like the rest of pop dross.

Una Mullally

Una Mullally

Una Mullally, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes a weekly opinion column