Bringing home the terror show

 

NO ONE ever accused John Bruton of having a black sense of humour, but part of his reaction to the Israeli shelling of the Qana UN base sure sounded to these ears like a sick joke.

There he was on Thursday evening's news, telling us that his Government had stood foursquare with Israel in its fight against terrorism, but please please pleading with the Israelis to recognise that states "must not sink to the level of these terrorists".

Well might you respond to this sucker punchline if only states such as Israel would sink to the mere level of non state terrorists, the world would be an altogether more peaceful place, with a military machine that was able to slaughter 15,000 people when it invaded Lebanon 14 years ago, that can demolish the infrastructure of a modern city with a few days bombing, that can murder scores with 12 minutes casual shelling from its well fortified positions, such a state must surely be slighted by comparisons with the crude, desperate, ugly suicide bombs and rockets of the killers who oppose it.

No, history says it generally takes a state, or a powerful proxy, to incinerate a city, to napalm a village, to kill a whole shipload or convoy of fleeing sailors or soldiers, to "precision bomb" an air raid shelter, to build a death camp. In terms of resources expended and results achieved, the murderers in Hamas, Hizbullah, ETA, IRA, PLO, Irgun - you name it - are only in the ha'penny place.

Friday's callers to Liveline (RTE Radio 1, Monday to Friday) seemed to have an angry inkling of this - though a couple of guys took a strong, and unanswerable, "that's war" line - and were looking for a more forthright Irish response to Israel's actions; an end to diplomatic relations was even suggested.

It was no coincidence that many were citing Robert Fisk's brilliant, heartbreaking reporting. Fisk could not only be read most days last week in this newspaper, he was on the radio literally around the clock. From Morning Ireland through Pat Kenny to Today at Five, he was, as always, unafraid to provide context, history lessons, straight good sense about proportionality and eyewitness evidence that contradicted official versions of events. In sum, an unusual journalist who we're lucky bus a special relationship with Ireland.

A Fisk strength is the ability to move from the big picture - strategy, geopolitics - to the small - a woman carrying the body of her father. It is the latter dimension of war, its many and varied consequences for just plain people, that is explored in Adrian Smyth's provocatively titled documentary, Thank You, Mr Hitler (RTE Radio 1, Thursday).

Its not wildly promising subject is the return of a middle aged man, Reg Hale, to the Devon village where he was fostered as a child during the second World War. His mission to see a proper tombstone on the grave of the couple who provided for him in their home for four years, the appropriately named Boards. (A previous visit had revealed that the name of Ed Board, Hale's "father" and "a very hardworking farm labourer", was missing from the gravesite.)

Nothing in the content of this programme is going to set the world on fire either. Reg's devotion to commemorating Ed and Laura Board is evident, but he isn't especially eloquent in giving his memories any flesh. His account of the odour of rotting potatoes in the late spring, for example, gets no more evocative than "the smell was something terrible" (hardly a stunning insight for many Irish listeners anyway).

More interesting, from this man who now lives in Dublin, is his enthusiasm for the village of Colaton Raleigh, where 50 odd years ago he lived the poor life of a labourer's son. It comes through in contrast to his indifferent thoughts on Croydon, his "real" hometown - where Smyth also accompanied him.

"I'm much more tearful about Colaton Raleigh. When we get - there I'll be able to give you much more memories and how I'd like to return," said this most co operative of interviewees.

Actually, when it comes, this "evacuee's"arrival at his old Devon home is more exuberant than tearful: "Hey, look! Blue sky, boy!"

But the main thing about Thank You, Mr Hitler is that it is an aural pleasure. In a week that heard Nuala O'Faolain bring her arguments about poor technical standards at RTE to the Sunday Show (RTE Radio 1, Sunday), Smyth's work is terrific, providing a sense of space and place that would do the highest priced drama proud. The finish is a gem: as the hymns of an English country church fade, we hear old folks taking photos and chatting in the graveyard. "Thank you," says Reg, fading now. "Tea and coffee now ..." And out and the Festival Fringe will include a celebration of church music, along with lunchtime and evening concerts in various venues. Tel: (021) 308308.

West Cork Chamber Music

Festival

Bantry House, Bantry, Co Cork

June 23rd-29th

This new festival of classical music features artists like Barry Douglas, Philippe Cassard, Robert Cohen, Veronique Dietschy, Anthony Marwood and the Parisii String Quartet, with the RTE Vanburgh String Quartet providing the central focus of the event. The beautiful surroundings of Bantry House will provide the perfect setting for the experimental ensemble combinations which will take place throughout the week. Tel: (028) 37551.

AIB Music Festival in Great

Irish Houses

Nationwide

June 6th-16th

The finest music in the most luxurious surroundings: that's what this festival has been offering music lovers since 1970. The venues this year include Lismore Castle in Co Waterford, Birr Castle in Co Offaly, Mount Stewart in Co Down, and Kilruddery in Co Wicklow. Featured artists include American violinist extra ordinaire Anne Akiko Meyers, the Brussels based Danel String Quartet, pianist Barry Douglas and Russian gypsy trio Loyko. Tel: (01)

278-2506.

TRADITIONAL

Fleadh Cheoil Luimnigh

Glin, Co Limerick

May 31st-June 2nd

The official County Fleadh takes place on the Shannon Estuary, close to the historic Glin Castle, home of the Knight of Glin. Organised by the local branch of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, this is one of the country's biggest traditional music festivals, with three days of competition and over 800 entrants in various categories. Tel: (068) 34152.

Fleadh Ceoil Na hEireann

Listowel, Co Kerry

August 23rd-25th

This is the High King of Fleadhs, the original All Ireland traditional music festival, attracting huge numbers of visitors for the busiest weekend of performance and competition on the Irish festival circuit.

Tel: (068) 23036.

O'Carolan Harp & Traditional

Music Festival

Keadue, Co Roscommon

August 2nd-11th

This celebration of the harp features ceilis, competitions, set dance workshops and concert appearances by De Dannan, Declan Nerney and the harpist Maire Ni Chathasaith. There's also a Country House Dance, a gala song contest, craft demonstrations and a Famine play. The festival will be officially opened by the Fianna Fail leader Bertie Ahern. Tel: (078) 47204.

Cork Folk Festival

Cork

September 6th-8th

This festival of traditional and folk music takes in various venues around Cork City, including the Opera House, Everyman Palace and the Triskel Arts Centre. The full line up has not yet been finalised, but Irish acts Cooney & Begley are confirmed, along with UK acts The Old Ro String Band and The Boat Band. Highlight of the festival is a commemorative concert, for Sean O'Riada at the City Hall. Tel: (021) 317271.

Fleadh Nua

Ennis, Co Clare

May 23rd-27th

The Fleadh Nua differs from the traditional Fleadh Ceoil in that the emphasis is on exhibition rather than competition. This year's festival will feature displays of traditional music, song and dance, along with workshops and talks. This, year, the Fleadh has become truly Nua by going on the Internet; the website is http:// www.iol.ie/ibi/fleadh96 and the i-meal address is ceoltrad.iol.ie. Tel: (065) 25727.

JAZZ/BLUES

Castlebar Blues Festival

Castlebar

May 31st: June 3rd

This festival has been attracting blues fans to the West Of Ireland for many years, and director Pat Jennings has kept the emphasis on quality rather than quantity. This year's festival features 17 blues bands in 17 venues around the picturesque town, all playing for free, plus a late night Blues Ball. The line up is a mix of bands from the US, UK and Ireland, and includes 9 Below Zero, Henry McCullough, Fattenin Frogs For Snakes, Randall Lee Rainwater, The Detonators, Henry Grey and Honey Boy Hickling. Tel: (094) 23 111.

Guinness Temple Bar Blues

Festival

Temple Bar, Dublin

July 19th-21st

Dublin's boho section is the perfect setting for this yearly blues explosion, and the festival has already staged some memorable concerts by B.B. King. Jools Holland, Robert Cray and the late Rory Gallagher. No line up is confirmed for this year as yet, but you can bet your bottom dollar that the acts will all be topnotch. Tel: (01) 6772255.

ROOTS/COUNTRY

Budweiser Rhythm, Roots &

Country Festival

Galway

May 3rd-5th

This year's hoedown in the City of Tribes features the immensely popular k.d. lang, country rock legend Steve Earle & The Dukes and Ireland's latest superstars, The Corrs. As usual, most of the gigs will be in small, intimate venues, and folk can mosey on down the Pub Trail and visit some friendly honky tonks. Yee hah!

Various

Paddy Music Expo

Limerick

May 2nd-6th

This is the fourth year for Limerick's annual festival of music, and it embraces every style from rock, pop, folk, trad, country and classical. Highlights of this year's Expo include a performance of Irish composer Patrick Cassidy's The Children Of Lir at the University Concert Hall, and a concert by popular singer songwriter Christie Hennessy. There will also be a street parade, lots of outdoor entertainment and the Paddy Music Expo Awards, which will be presented to the winners of the talent showcase. Tel: (061) 400222.