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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Polling About: Sinn Fein V Irish Independent

                                                     Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein

On March 15th 2015 the Irish Independent reported yet another poll that supposedly showed support for Sinn Fein had declined by a whopping 2%. And in case anyone had missed the accompanying barb that went with it also said that “Sinn Fein at 21% are failing to move beyond that level which shows middle Ireland is not ready to consider it worthy of Government.”

Yet only two days later the Irish Times said that Sinn Fein had risen 2% more than it ever had before which would put it at 25%. So, who is fibbing?

Well, its being economical with the truth as alway with the Independent, and despite the most despicable and tardy lies they tell in general, they have selective amnesia as well. With all that, keeping their version of truth is always going to be about ‘what they said before against what they say now’ and hope you won't be able to remember or be able to tell the difference.

By this I mean in their own poll reports taken by them ten days after the red sea one, and published today, they show that Sinn Fein had slipped again by two points down to 24%. How can you slip down to 24% when you were never supposed to have been at this level in the first place. With Fine Gael going from 26% in the earlier report by the Irish Independent, they now say in this later report they are unchanged at 25%. How can this be mathematically possible aside of how easily it can be written in the form of a lie.

Of course the barb with this report is that the fantasy fall in numbers for Sinn Fein is because of the Paudie McGahon abuse scandal, if it is a scandalous one at all, but is my next pet project. The Irish Independent did grudgingly admit that Sinn Fein remains the second most popular party in the country. 

Between the lines and lies, I believe they have just overtaken Fine Gael. Watch this space!!!

Barry Clifford



Friday, April 3, 2015

Sinn Fein: A Reactionary Party -A brief History (part 1)

                                                             Black and Tans in action

As every political party in the state and other interests is now looking to highjack the fast approaching centenary of the 1916 rising against British rule for their own gain, the clouds are so dense that it hard to see who or what party or interest holds the factual and moral legitimacy to the title of rightful heir apparent for the ascendancy for what happened in those weeks and its final aftermath. Though we are today in the sunlight of friendship with our nearest neighbours, and long may it last, we need to reflect on the darkness of our past to know and understand how that sun broke through and why it is still shining. 

For starters, it could not be because of the hierarchy of the Catholic church for they called for the legal murders of those Irishmen that fought in 1916, it could not be the other powers that still run the corrupt newspaper, The Irish Independent, for they too roared with high indignation that all the leaders must be executed quickly and without mercy. It was not even Sinn Fein for they had not led the rising or were heavily involved because they were not seen to be Independent minded enough, though they were pretty much blamed for everything wrong that has happened since by the media.

But it was what Sinn Fein did after the rising and the long term principles and goals that they held to, that has given them a constant and unshakeable momentum that continues to this day that put them before all the rest.
                                               Black and Tans on the hunt 

That is why the party deserves the recognition as the caretakers of Ireland’s fallen, who has sought to maintain so fervently the aims of what those men and women died for, even if they had disagreed with them. It is Sinn Fein that has wrote and still writes the eulogies for those people and those before them and the many that came after, and tried to ensure that their ultimate sacrifices would not be in vain as the Irish Republic became at last a reality. They were and are a reactionary force for the general good.

But the reality that it aspired for was up against a constant and slippery enemy, and it was not the time honoured one of England. It was the enemy within.

Sinn Fein was born from revolution and a party in the form of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) who had morphed into the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Sinn Fein sprang from the latter but also became their more moderate voice. The IRB back then was in full and violent outrage against the penal laws, and this was before the mother of all famines in 1847 had  murdered more Irishmen, women and children in their hundreds of thousands. The IRB was the reactionary force too in every sense of the word against mass murder. 

The other reality is that the great hunger was a famine in name only because Ireland brimmed with food for export controlled by the landed enemy that was England. It was the penal laws that kept the Irish in open prisons that led to the famine.  Edmund Burke described them best when he said: “ A machine of wise and elaborate contrivance, as well gutted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people, and the debasement in them of human nature itself, as ever preceded from the perverted ingenuity of man.” Hitler would have been proud.

                                              Black and Tans: One False Move

But like Hitler laws against the Jewish people, though they were criminally unjust and immoral in nature, they were legal. It was that legality that gave butchers, bullies and local interests their clubs to use in every vile manner against the Irish people. Its debasement was so intact within its enslavement that the native American Indians collected money to give relief for the Irish people; where Frederick Douglass, the African American abolitionist, was so moved in his visit to Ireland on the eve of the famine he said this: “ I gaze around in vain for one who will question my equal humanity, or offer me an insult.” For the first time he had seen, what he had thought until then was a privileged race, in worse chains and bondage than he or his people had ever been. It was the beginning of worse to come.


I will quietly and purposely digress for a moment. I live in a quiet and beautiful farming and fishing  village called Oughterard, nestled on the banks of the Corrib in Galway in the area that is Connemara. It was once a garrison village populated by the British armies, the RIC and the Black and Tans, which was yet another auxiliary and armed force that were hell bent on carnage and legal murder. Very near this village stands a wooden marker that tells of those that died of neglect and starvation from the workhouse that still stands there; their remains lie in the next field under the hooves and excrement of cattle.

                                             Black and Tans searching farmers

To travel out a little further from the town, you will see these people’s visible footprints in every valley, on every hill and across every mountain in Connemara. In the most inhospitable places that would challenge hardy mountain goats you will find those footsteps. The winds that chime through the clefts of rocks and through the valley’s of this place carry now their weary spirits as the melancholy rains still carry their tears. Their footprints are the long forgotten and grassed over potato drills that they were only allowed to farm to give life. When those potatoes became rife with blight, a death sentence was passed upon them. It would be a long time before the killing stopped.

As the 20th century was  just beyond it’s teenage years, a Back and Tan Officer in Galway named Lt. Col. Smyth gave this order to his men in June of 1920:
“Should the order (“Hands up”) not be immediately obeyed, shoot and shoot with effect. If the persons approaching (a patrol) carry their hands in their pockets, or in any suspicious-looking, shoot them down. You may mistakes occasionally and innocent persons may be shot, but that cannot be helped, and you are bound to get the right parties sometime. The more you shoot, the better I will like you, and I assure you no policeman will get into trouble for shooting any man.” 

It was Sinn Fein who set out to alter that point of view Lt. Col. Smyth, the British Government and an unwilling Irish elite. It is still an ongoing process for the Irish elite in a world that has changed utterly as they seek to paint Sinn Fein as pariahs rather than the principled party it is today, set against the corruption of Fianna Fail and the ineptness of Fine gael that is propped up by Labour in its usual compliant and pliable mode......... 

Barry Clifford

To be continued……..

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Photo Minute: The Wonderland Caves Of Laos

Idealism of 1916 would go a long way to rekindling our sterile politics

Some argue that somehow Ireland would have been better off had the 1916 Rising not occurred.

Firstly, of course it did occur, and as the poet WB Yeats said thereafter "all was changed, changed utterly".
General Maxwell, who is commonly portrayed in Irish history simply as the ogre figure that shot the leaders of the rebellion, was a more sympathetic observer of the Irish situation than he usually gets credit for.
                                                                        WB Yeats
He accurately diagnosed a number of key factors in the post-1916 situation, saying correctly that, in the wake of the Rising, people were saying that more had been achieved in one week than in all the years of patient endeavour by the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, John Redmond.

Secondly, he blamed the outbreak on the latitude given to the Orangemen, meaning the blind eye turned to the Larne gun-running and to the Curragh mutiny in which the British Officer Corps in Ireland let it be known that they would not take part in any armed attempt to enforce Home Rule on Ulster.

He said that the root causes of Ireland's ills were things like absentee landlordism and the awful slums of Dublin which could easily have been rectified.
And he argued that "a warm-hearted and generous people" such as the Irish should be treated decently.

What people don't realise today is that the threat of a mutiny did not only involve the military. Without the compliance of the British Navy and the Senior Service, the Larne gun-running could not have taken place. The number of Anglo Irish ascendency types, largely, but not exclusively so, younger sons who did not inherit the estates, is rarely mentioned in discussion of 1916.

But this section of the Irish population was an important factor in the policy which threatened that "Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right." This slogan, coined by Randolph Churchill, was backed by the Conservative and Unionist Party from Churchill's time in 1886 to that of Bonar Law on the eve of the outbreak of the Great War, and is the reason why six counties of North Eastern Ireland are today part of the United Kingdom.

Looking at the near deadlock in the Northern Ireland power-sharing executive in Stormont today, one gets a sense, a very small sense, of what the Conservative and Unionist opposition to Home Rule in the 1916 era was.

And insofar as the argument about loss of life is concerned, it should be remembered that none of the anti-1916 camp ever address the reality that even in post-Rising Ireland, Sinn Féin got the vote in the 1918 election which swamped the old Irish party, not for war but for peace. It was the Sinn Féin mobilisation against conscription which earned the gratitude of the people more than the admiration for 1916, great though this was, particularly after the executions of the leaders of the Rising.

We know what the death toll was amongst the segment of the volunteers who took Redmond's advice to fight for the 'freedom of small nations', in other words England. This, however, was only a fragment of the death toll which would have ensued had conscription been imposed on the country as a whole.

However, while it is true that all arguments fail before a gallant deed, one cannot address the question of 1916 purely as a debating matter for or against that great 'If'.
The bell of 1916 tolls for this generation too. And it is not a call to arms, it is a call to apply the relevance of the sacrifice of the 1916 leaders to our present state.
Those men did not fight and die so that we could give away our economic sovereignty as the centenary of the Rising approached.

Their vision was to cherish all the children of the nation equally - not to rip them all off equally.

Christ and Caesar were certainly hand in glove in the production, in equal measure, of scandals that wrenched at the roots of old beliefs and old idealism. Cathleen Ni Houlihan's treasure had been pillaged by a horde of corrupt, greedy bankers, politicians, accountants, lawyers, stockbrokers and paedophile priests.

How many of them have gone to jail? What lessons have been learned? It's been a case of women and children first with the weak and the vulnerable being forced to give up their medical cards, pay the Universal Social Charge, made to suffer innumerable cuts in Social Welfare and watched their children driven into emigration, suicide and unemployment. The path to our present state corresponds with near actuarial accuracy to the length we have travelled from the idealism of the 1916 leaders. A rekindling of that idealism, not futile debate or sterile nationalistic flag waving, is the appropriate way to commemorate the men of 1916.

That way we will have something to really celebrate next year during the centenary of the Easter Rebellion.

Tim Pat Coogan

Paul Robeson (1898-1976) A misunderstood hero

Paul Robeson, HUAC testimony 1956, quoted in The Whole World in His Hands, p. 205. 
         MR. SCHERER: Why do you not stay in Russia?
MR. ROBESON: Because my father was a slave, and my people died to build this country and I am going to stay here and have a part of it just like you. And no fascist- minded people will drive me from it. Is that clear? 

Paul Robeson, Here I Stand, p. 52.
"In a radio broadcast that I made from the Continent to a great London rally in defense of Spain, I explained my stand:
"Every artist, every scientist, must decide now where he stands. He has no alternative. There is no standing above the conflict on Olympian heights. There are no impartial observers. Through the destruction, in certain countries, of the greatest of man's literary heritage, through the propagation of false ideas of racial and national superiority, the artist, the scientist, the writer is challenged. The struggle invades the formerly cloistered halls of our universities and other seats of learning. The battlefront is everywhere. There is no sheltered rear."

Paul Robeson
Paul Robeson, Here I Stand, p. 15.
Hard-working people, and poor, most of them, in worldly goods--but how rich in compassion! How filled with the goodness of humanity and the spiritual steel forged by centuries of oppression! There was the honest joy of laughter in these homes, folk-wit and story, hearty appetites for life as for the nourishing greens and black-eyed peas and cornmeal bread they shared with me. Here in this little hemmed-in world where home must be theatre and concert hall and social center, there was a warmth of song. Songs of love and longing, songs of trials and triumphs, deep-flowing rivers and rollicking brooks, hymn-song and ragtime ballad, gospels and blues, and the healing comfort to be found in the illimitable sorrow of the spirituals. Yes, I heard my people singing!--in the glow of parlor coal-stove and on summer porches sweet with lilac air, from choir loft and Sunday morning pews--and my soul was filled with their harmonies. Then, too, I heard these songs in the very sermons of my father, for in the Negro's speech there is much of the phrasing and rhythms of folk-song. The great, soaring gospels we love are merely sermons that are sung; and as we thrill to such gifted gospel singers as Mahalia Jackson, we hear the rhythmic eloquence of our preachers, so many of whom, like my father, are masters of poetic speech."

Paul Robeson, London Interview, 1930, quoted in The Whole World in His Hands by Susan Robeson, 1981, Carol Publishing Group New York, NY "Othello in the Venice of the time was in practically the same position as a coloured man in America today. "

California Voice (Oakland), June 22, 1956
"Robeson embodies the unrestrained and righteous rage that has broken bonds. His is the furious spirit wearied with tedious checker playing that stretches through nearly a hundred years in order to gain the fights guaranteed a hundred years ago. "Robeson's cry is for justice, happiness and freedom here and now, while we live, not in some far away time in the future. His is the voice . . . that shouts down the promises of by-and-by and bellows 'No! Now!'
"A sensitive, tormented soul, he is that Other Self, the Alter Ego that a million Negroes try in self defense to disown. His protest is the authentic Protest of the Negro. . . . And when Paul Robeson says, 'I don't think a Negro will fight for an Eastland,' Robeson is right."

Silencing "Hate Speech" Doesn't Stop Hate

                                                                        Gerry Barnett

Anti-fascism is in my blood. As a teenager in the late-1970s, I became involved in Anti Nazi League protests and attended free Rock Against Racism festivals. I was concerned with racism in part because I attended a school where 90% of pupils were non-white, and I could directly see the corrosive effects of racism. But I was also aware of fascism because of my grandparents' experience in the Jewish East End of London during the 1930s, where locals and anti-fascist supporters faced the real threat of fascism on a daily basis, and eventually had to physically confront the fascists in the street. 

My generation too saw clashes with far-right groups. The first protest I remember attending was to stop the British Movement (BM) from marching through Paddington in West London, at that time an area with a large black population. A couple of thousand fascists faced tens of thousands of counter-protesters. But although it was important to defend immigrants against fascist thuggery, the real battles against racism were won through discourse, not hostility. The Notting Hill Carnival was created to bring together black and white working class communities that had found themselves living side by side. The reggae and ska music scenes of the 70s and 80s brought white and black people together in the same venues.

By the 90s, the London estates that had been hotbeds of National Front support were the places where you were most likely to encounter mixed-race children. During the confrontational 80s, overt racism had ceased to be acceptable, and British society had been transformed forever. Racism had not (of course) been eradicated, but it had gone into a downward spiral. The nastiest days of the 1970s would never return. London had become one of the most racially mixed cultures on the planet. My own family is a product of that mixture: I'm a Londoner of Jewish descent, with a British-Nigerian partner and two mixed-race children.

But away from the immigration frontlines, a different anti-racism battle was being fought. In the 1970s, student activists in (overwhelmingly white) universities had declared a policy of "No Platform for Fascism", refusing to allow far-right speakers a space in universities to present and debate their views. In hindsight, this policy achieved nothing of value. University students may have felt smug in silencing nasty views on university campuses, but in doing so, they prevented exactly the kind of safe discourse that was needed to undermine bigoted viewpoints. No Platform for Fascism simply protected middle-class students from having to hear nasty words; it was the political equivalent of putting one's fingers in one's ears and singing "LA LA LA" when faced with something one didn't want to hear.

But rather than learn from the success of the broader anti-racism movement, student unions have become increasingly eager to censor any viewpoint that their leading clique finds distasteful. No Platform for Fascism has become simply No Platform. Universities, which should be the foremost venues for the discussion of ideas - especially controversial ideas - are instead becoming sanitised places where the issues of the real world are brushed away out of sight. In addition to fascist views, all forms of (alleged) racism, anti-semitism, islamophobia, homophobia, misogyny and transphobia are banned from discussion. Furthermore, speakers who are alleged to hold bigoted views can be No Platformed, even if they are speaking on unrelated subjects.

No Platform is a deeply patronising exercise. A proponent recently argued on a Facebook thread that the presence of a Britain First speaker in a debate might upset Muslim students, and so should not be allowed. But this assumes that Muslim students are all deeply sensitive, and are incapable of dealing with far-right speakers in face-to-face discussion. It takes away the one safe place where Muslims might confront anti-Muslim views safely. And it ignores the fact that Muslim students still have to face prejudice in the real world outside universities. All No Platform does in this case is remove a valuable opportunity to challenge and expose the weakness of bigoted viewpoints.

All censorship, including No Platform, is an elitist activity. Censors are generally self-appointed individuals who believe they have the right to decide which viewpoints should not be spoken or heard by anyone. Most censorship works without any form of due process; if someone is alleged to have broken the law, they have the right to a fair trial. But if someone is alleged to be racist or transphobic, fairly or unfairly, there is no right to a trial; the elitists who run student unions are judge, jury and executioner.

Sadly, the idea that "bad" views should be silenced is gaining traction beyond universities. British hate speech laws are overly broad and allow the police to intervene in public discourse. As a Jew, I have no problem with Spurs fans calling themselves "Yiddos", and I'm perfectly capable of hearing and responding to anti-Jew viewpoints. But the political and media elite have chosen to take that power away from me; along with Asians, blacks, gays and other supposedly "oppressed" groups, I'm deemed too sensitive and too incoherent to defend myself.

However, silencing hateful views doesn't prevent hate; in fact, it does the opposite. it allows tensions to build, and helps promote the view that selected minorities receive special treatment. I have no doubt that the rise of Ukip is driven, in part, by censorship of "unacceptable" viewpoints. The more hamstrung Labour and Tory politicians become by over-sensitive language policing, the easier it becomes for Nigel Farage to present himself as a straight-talking man of the people.
Worst of all, censorship of "hate speech" is an admission of defeat. It is a statement that bigoted views are so powerful that they cannot be countered with words, so must be silenced by force. But bigoted views are not powerful at all; they're based largely on ignorance and fear, and are easy to ridicule and undermine, given the chance for debate. But instead of debate, the taboo of "hate speech" gives us a braying mob that silences unpleasant or provocative viewpoints with howls of "racist!", "homophobe!", "misogynist!"...

We live in a far more tolerant and accepting society than our grandparents did; we have achieved this in spite of, not because of, the PC language police. Minorities are never served by censorship; ultimately, it can and will be used to silence anyone. Free speech must reign in a free society, and this must necessarily include bad speech. As Voltaire (allegedly) said: "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."

Gerry Barnett

Are natural cleaning products actually any good?

As part of her annual Spring clean, Nuala Woulfe swapped chemical cleaning agents for natural ingredients. Did they work as well or was it just a lot of hassle so she could feel good about herself?

I spring cleaned my home with ‘natural’ ingredients like lemons, bread soda and vinegar to cut down on household chemicals. But is cleaning naturally good for the environment?
Yes, says Ger Hayes, senior technician at environmental consultancy firm, It reduces the amount of cleaning bottles to be recycled and boiling water or the use of vinegar or alcohol is sufficient for most sterilisation needs.

“Personally, I wouldn’t be buying cleaning products. They’re more costly than traditional methods. We don’t need half the stuff we buy. Even things like bleach — if you can smell it, you are breathing it in.
“People often over-clean their house too, whereas even with unpleasant odours, opening a window for fresh air is better than spraying. It’s partly about changing people’s mindset.”
Hayes also says chemicals do not affect all people equally.

“Some people who are over-exposed to certain chemicals, it can cause sickness, tiredness and even chronic fatigue. We’re all different and each organism will react differently to chemicals,” he says.
Keeping chemicals to a minimum can benefit people affected by eczema or cancer, even migraine. The Migraine Association of Ireland says 500,000 Irish people get migraine and American studies suggest half of sufferers are prone to attack from smells.

“The 3 Ps — perfume, petrol and paint — would be a trigger in a lot of people,” says Fiona Collins, of the association.
“People do call to say that smells are a factor in their migraines and what should they do. If you are affected by smells and can reduce the amount of household cleaning products around the home, it would probably be a good idea,” she says.

In Ireland’s only eco-village, Cloughjordan, Sandy Anthony hasn’t bought a cleaning product in three years. The Tipperary-based entrepreneur is writing an e-book on how to clean your home naturally and is in negotiations to sell her products.

“I started making soaps as gifts — that’s where my interest began. I’m also writing an e-book, because there’s a lot of rubbish on the internet about how to clean things and they just don’t work.”
Even after three years, Anthony is still experimenting and has just made her first batch of linseed oil/ liquid soap cleaner, with which she cleans leather, wooden floors and natural tiles.
So with eco ideas and problem areas identified in my home, I began my own spring clean. Armed with lemons, tomato ketchup, vinegar, bread soda, hot water and assorted cloths, here’s what I did and what works. (With any item, it’s a good idea to patch-test first.)

The hob:
I sprinkled bread soda on my stainless steel hob and squeezed the juice of a small lemon on top. The mixture bubbled.
Massaging a squeezed half-of-lemon gently over the hob, everything lifted after a few minutes and it gave a fantastic shine when I rinsed off with water and a cloth. No effort was required; it was fast and the smell was nice.
Result: 10/10.
(Sandy Anthony told me the lemon wasn’t necessary, so I tried out bread soda on my stainless steel sink and made a paste with a little water. Again, everything shifted easily and quickly.)

I hate the smell of conventional oven cleaners, so I tried bread soda and lemon in the oven and on the oven door.
Tips say to leave overnight for best results, but after an hour I rubbed down with the rough, plastic side of the sponge and everything came away.
Results: 9/10.

I placed a cup of boiling hot water in the microwave and then microwaved on high for 45 seconds.
You can squeeze in a few drops of lemon, but it’s not necessary. Steam lifts all food splashes, when left for 10 minutes and wiped down with kitchen towels.
Result: 10/10.

Eco tips from the internet say use vinegar.
Method 1: One cup of vinegar to two cups of hot water in a basin. I used white-wine vinegar.
My windows were squeaking clean, but no matter if I rubbed down with kitchen towels, newspaper or micro-cloth, I couldn’t get rid of streaks and there was too much rubbing.
Result: 6/10.
Method 2: Put vinegar into a spray bottle and spray onto mirrors or glass. This worked better, but only in small areas. The vinegar seems to dry fast and streaks appeared. Long-term, I’m not certain it wouldn’t damage glass.
Result: 8-10.

Cleaning brass was recommended with lemon or tomato ketchup.
First, get a magnet and if it sticks your brass is not real and should not be cleaned using ketchup/lemon. My door brass was almost green. I rubbed in some ketchup on the door knob and let it sit, then rubbed off loosened grime with a kitchen towel.
I tried the knocker with lemon juice. Both methods shifted grime — a bit of rubbing was necessary.
Result: 6/10 for lemon and 7/10 for ketchup.
Thought the lemon-cleaned brass dulled after a few days. However, I’d probably be willing to stick with eco methods and give a rub every time I’d a spare lemon.

Bread soda or baking powder left in a tub in the fridge, or anywhere there’s unpleasant smells, will absorb odours.
Result: 10/10.
I found a few drops of pleasant aromatherapy oils; rosemary, lavender or lemon in a spray of water make a nice air freshener.
Two drops of essential oil can be put on cotton wool, or on sheets of kitchen paper, to freshen up a problem area like a laundry basket. (Remember to keep oils out of contact of small children).
Using an aromatherapy burner allows oils and water to evaporate into the air. About three drops in your washing machine drawer freshens laundry.
Oils like rosemary, tea tree, and lavender have disinfectant properties and can be useful in the bathroom diluted in a spray. I tried all these methods and found the outcome pleasant.
Result: 9/10.

I rubbed olive oil into my dark, wooden fireplace and it became shiny. It was easy and fast.
Result: 9/10.
I also tried olive oil on my leather sofa (the bit the cat got) and it shined up, but nothing amazing.
Conclusion: I’m not the kind of woman who loves cleaning the house. If there’s cleaning to be done, I want it to be fast, effective and low on overpowering smells, and some eco methods do seem to deliver on these requirements.
I found bread soda the most suprising and versatile ingredient.
Internet tips suggest a very wide use for bread soda and I’m definitely interested in trying more.
However, information from the internet can also be confusing and overwhelming, so it’s best to start small and always, always patch-test first.

Nuala Woulfe


Photo Minute: Feeding Frenzy

Photo Minute: Can someone just teach this bear to fish

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A two thousand year old letter from a son to his father

Here is the actual letter, beautifully written in Greek on papyrus, not by the boy himself but by a hired public letter-writer. and sealed like this one:

Written in the second century by a kid named Apion from a small town in Egypt.
He enlisted in the Roman army at Alexandria, got on a big government ship, and sailed to Italy. The ship made it through a terrible storm.
As soon as he landed and got his new uniform and pay, he went to have his picture painted for his family and sent it home along with this letter:

Apion to  his father and lord Epimachos: Many good wishes!
First of all I hope you are in good health and that things are going well for you and my sister and her daughter and my brother.  I thank the Lord Serapis [an Egyptian god] for saving me right off when I was in danger at sea.
When I arrived at Misenum [the Roman war harbor, near Naples], I received three gold pieces from the Emperor [Trajan?] as road money, and I’m doing just fine.
Please write me a line, my lord father, about your own well-being, second about that of my brother and sister, and third so that I may devotedly greet your hand, because you brought me up well and I may therefore hope for rapid promotion, the gods willing. Give my regards to Capiton [some friend] and my brother and sister and Serenilla [a family slave?] and my friends. I’m sending you my little  portrait through Euktemon. My [new]Roman name is Antonius Maximus.
All my best!

It went by the very efficient Roman military post and made it safely all the way to the little village in Egypt, where the boy’s father and family read it almost two thousand years ago. After the father died, the letter got lost in the household rubbish and archaeologists found it not too long ago under the fallen walls of the house. With it was another letter written by Apion years later to his sister after he had long been stationed somewhere on the Roman frontier and had a wife and children of his own.  That is all we know.

Michael Clifford was a chef who had real bite

WHEN 52-year-old Michelin-starred chef, Michael Clifford, died, in April, 2006, the Irish culinary world reeled at the loss of a rare talent. 

Though his death was noted in the media, the wider, public response was muted.
In the era that pre-dated social media, which has fuelled populist interest in all things food, chefs, even great ones, were far from household names.

Suffice to say, if Clifford had died last week, Twitter would have gone into meltdown, for he was was one of the most important of Irish chefs, not just technically gifted, but a true innovator.
Andrea ‘Andy’ Petrini, listed in Time magazine last year as one of 13 ‘global gods of food’, first encountered Michael in the late ’80s.

“He was the link between a very French-infused kind of cuisine, in vogue for his generation,” says Petrini, “and what was starting to happen in Ireland, working with local producers in season.
“Michael was also ahead of what was about to happen in London in those days, where you only had Marco Pierre White turning the scene upside down.

He was one of the first to have a fantastic Irish cheese board, one of the first to use not only Michelin-star produce, but also poor, simpler products, for example the black pudding — it has a very peasant connotation and to put it into an a la carte restaurant menu was very revolutionary in those days.”

But Michael was also a reserved, even secretive man, so only a handful are accquainted with the story of his personal life — first in an orphanage and then an industrial school — prior his professional cooking career.
Michael Peter Clifford was born in Co Kerry, on June 29, 1953, to Catherine ‘Kit’ Clifford (nee Fleming) and James Clifford, but when Michael was an infant, Kit was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She was dead within six weeks.

Michael’s older brother, Timothy, was taken in by his maternal grandparents; young Michael was put into an orphanage in nearby Killarney.

“After our mother died, it had a huge effect on our father,” said Timothy Clifford.
“I don’t think he coped well with it. I was, maybe, six or seven the last time I saw him.
“Michael would be let out to spend a week or so with me, and my grandparents, during the summers.
“There was talk that another uncle, living quite nearby, would adopt him, but it fell through.

Liam Collins was a solicitor in Clonakilty, Co Cork, and his wife, Betty, was a pharmacist, who, after her compulsory post-marital retirement, instead devoted herself to children, rearing eight of her own and fostering four, including Michael Peter Clifford.

Betty’s daughter, Helen, says: “My mother said she just fell for Michael Peter when she saw him. How could you not?
“A beautiful, blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy. He was nine, going on ten, and he came at Christmas, Easter and summer, and returned for school to Killarney.
“We used to just run wild down in Inchedoney.
“There was nothing there then, but us and another family in holiday houses.
“The first day Michael Peter came, he asked my father was the sea at Inchedoney a big lake, because he’d never seen the sea before.”

But one summer, when the Collins family went to collect Michael from the orphanage, he was no longer there.
Because he had reached the age of 12, the nuns felt it was no longer appropriate for him to be living alongside girls and had him transferred to St Joseph’s industrial school in Tralee.

“My mother went to Tralee to get him,” says Helen, “but was told she couldn’t have him. She wrote to the bishop. He said, she couldn’t have him, because it would be unsettling for him to be taken out and unsettling for the other boys.

“She wanted to go to the cardinal, but my father wouldn’t let her. She wrote to Michael Peter every month and sent him parcels and we never saw him again until he was 16, when he was released.
“And when he was released, they handed him all the letters and presents she had sent him. They had held them all back.

“She died in 2001 and one of the last things she said was she never forgave herself for what happened to him. She went to her death broken-hearted and I couldn’t console her about that. They were bad times.”
When Michael was released from the industrial school, at the age of 16, he was expected to go into an apprenticeship in Tralee, but this time Betty Collins would not be thwarted.

Liam Collins organised for Michael to go to the renowned catering school in Rockwell College, and there began a stellar career.

Michael later moved to London and from there to Michelin-starred establishments in France and Holland.
Michael returned to Ireland in 1981 and was snapped up by Declan Ryan, of Arbutus Lodge, and soon earned a Michelin Star for Ryan’s Cashel Palace restaurant.

He was later headhunted for a new Dublin restaurant, White’s On The Green, making a national name for himself, before opening his own restaurant with his wife, Deirdre, in Cork. Clifford’s was housed in the old county library building on The Mardyke, and became one of the most renowned restaurants in the country, laden with awards and acclaim. They opened a bistro next door, to reach a wider audience but were probably ahead of their time and were financially over-extended.

The family relocated, eventually opening Clifford’s in Clonmel. It was Michael’s last restaurant.
Michael Clifford once said: “As a small boy, I never wanted to own a guitar and sing rhythm-and-blues. I never wanted to line out for Manchester United. I never wanted to be Taoiseach. I wanted to cook and I wanted this as far back as I could remember”.

And cook is exactly what he did.

Joe Mc Namee

Photo Minute: Galway- in the rare ould times

                                               Sitting around the fire on the Aran Islands
                                                  The Claddagh just before demolition
                                                              A man from Connmara
                                                         A shop/store in Galway
                                              Collecting seaweed in Cashla Connemara
                                                                    Going to mass
                                                               Market in Ballinasloe
                                                                        Men of Aran
                                                                A local storyteller