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Friday, August 19, 2016

Dublin named world's third friendliest city

                             Dublin's Ha'penny Bridge

Dublin and Galway have been named among the world's ten friendliest cities by readers of Condé Nast Traveler.

The city placed third on the list, behind Charleston in South Carolina and Sydney, Australia - and just ahead of Queenstown, New Zealand.
"We had the best recommendations on where to go and what to see from the locals," said another visitor. "Better than any guide book."
"I've never been somewhere with friendlier drinkers," added a third.

Condé Nast Traveler's Top 10 friendliest cities:
1 Charleston, South Carolina
2 Sydney, Australia
3 Dublin, Ireland
4 Queenstown, New Zealand
5 Park City, Utah
6 Galway, Ireland
7 Savannah, Georgia
8 Krakow, Poland
9 Bruges, Belgium
10 Nashville, Tennessee

The list was complied based on Conde Nast Traveler's Readers' Choice Survey, taken by some 128,000 readers in 2015, according to the magazine.
"Just look at this city," it says of Galway. "It's hard not to be charmed."
Live music, pubs and food "enchanted" its readers, the travel bible adds. "These are the friendliest people I have ever met," commented one reader.
Galway was named the world's friendliest city by readers of another US publication, Travel + Leisure, last year, with Dublin ranking third and Cork fourth.
"Again and again, our research shows us that the friendliness of our people is one of our unique selling points," said Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland.
"It is the warm welcome and the ‘craic’ here that resonates with our overseas visitors and makes our cities, and the island of Ireland, such a great choice for a short break or holiday."
Meanwhile, Condé Nast Traveler's list of the world's unfriendliest cities was topped by Newark, followed by Tijuana, Mexico and Oakland in California.

Pól Ó Conghaile

'Whatever “it” is, Ireland has “it” in spades'

'There’s more to life than the weather, and whatever “it” is, Ireland has “it” in spades'

Australian born of Indian parents, Shampa Lahiri explores the migrant life and her love of her adopted country on The Women’s Podcast

I first came here in 1997 and back in those days very young school children used to stop and stare at me in the street. I was here during the last heady days of Mary Robinson’s presidency when the air of optimism and opportunity was palpable. It rained every single day, and yet every second car driving down the road was a convertible. This place captured my imagination like no other. A place where the weather was so awful and yet the people were so cheerful, I just had to come back and find out why.
There are many reasons why migrants leave. We leave our homes, our families, our friends and possessions. We leave our entire life’s worth. In The Irish Times series New to the Parish we read about some of these reasons - about adventure and opportunity, fear and persecution, love, sacrifice and hope. But regardless of our reasons for leaving, there is no doubt in my mind, that the life of a migrant is harder in almost every respect.

We have no family response units to resuscitate us with tea and sympathy when things go wrong. We live parallel lives, the lives we are trying to lead, the lives that we aspire to lead, versus the lives we should have led had we stayed and not broken our parents’ hearts. So when you encounter a foreigner who can’t quite speak English, who is lost in the street or who is struggling with some menial bureaucratic task, please remember this anguish. Not all of us are welfare shopping radicals plotting destruction. Most of us are here trying to lead a better life, we are trying to be better people. And when things go wrong, as they invariably do, it makes us question not just whether we should have gotten out of bed that morning, but whether we made the right life choice. Our successes here may be greater, but so too are our failures.

I was born in Australia of Indian parents. I was raised in between two cultures and I was effectively denied a cultural identity by both. People would always ask me “But where are you actually from?” It is a question I could never really answer because I didn’t really belong anywhere. Here in Ireland I am asked that same question and yet the undercurrent is of genuine curiosity, almost verging on incredulity. I think its because most of the Irish can’t quite believe that us migrants choose to live here when we could be sunning ourselves in warmer climes. But there is more to life than the weather, and whatever “it” is, Ireland has “it” in spades.

The Irish welcome that you are all so famous for is real. To hear my name pronounced correctly every day is a joy that I cannot overstate. That you would take the time and effort to say it properly means the world to me. To walk down the street is such a simple thing. But to do it without the threat or fear of physical violence and racial vilification unveiled is an incredible freedom. And the day that I swore allegiance to the Irish State and became an Irish citizen is one of the most defining moments of my life. Having been denied a cultural identity for so long, I now get to choose. And I choose Ireland.

While many countries try and fail to promote multiculturalism, the Irish succeeds. I think its because the fabric of your cultural identity is so strong that you don’t fear change. But I also think its because virtually every Irish family has itself suffered the wretched effects of exodus. Virtually everyone misses a son or daughter, a sister or brother, a friend or family member who has made the same decision we made to leave. I think people are kind to me here because they hope that someone will be kind to their child living the migrant experience somewhere else, a cultural “paying it forward” if you will. But whatever the reasons, I am incredibly grateful for the warmth and generosity which has characterised my time in this wonderful place. I know I will always be a blow in, but now when people ask me where I’m from I say “Dublin”.

20 years I’ve been cartwheeling around the world and sometimes when I wake up in the morning in that split second before consciousness I have to remind myself which city I am waking up in. Every day I try and anchor myself to this place, I try and make myself relevant because if I don’t, I fear that I might disappear and no one will notice, that I am lost to one life and invisible in the other.
If there is any advice that I can give to those who are new to the parish it is this: do not be invisible. You are valuable. Be valuable, contribute, give back to the communities in which you live. But above all else, be proud. Be proud of the decisions you have made and what you have achieved because not many people have the guts to buy a one way ticket. You did. You have courage and determination and you have proven that you can be fearless. So be proud.

But with pride comes humility and we cannot demand the same benefits that derive from birth right. We are not Irish. We must not expect to be first in the queue or place the same demands on the Irish State that the Irish are entitled to take for granted. We have to earn these rights, whether it be the right to housing, medical care, education and employment.

So one final piece of advice - earn your place in Irish society, show people that you deserve to be here, show them how valuable you can be. We are at a critical point in time in the public perception of immigration. We need to be a part of this conversation, not by marching for more rights or by placing further demands on an already burdened State, but by showing, by our conduct, that we can advance, not just our own self interests, but Irish society as a whole. And sometimes we just need to accept that we will, and should, be at the back of the queue.

20 years I’ve been gone and I still can’t lose this accent. 20 years and people still ask me if I will ever go home. It’s another question I struggle to answer and I struggle with it the most when I am standing at the airport clutching my Irish passport in one hand and waving goodbye to my parents with the other. Every year that we are away, their lives go on and we become just that little bit more invisible to each other. Every day they struggle and we are not there to help, another anguish that we bear.
Why do we stay? Why do we stay and suffer these distances, these endless airport goodbyes? Well, I wont presume to answer this question for anyone else, nor am I naïve enough to assume that my experiences can be generalised for all. But I will try and answer this question for myself.

I stay because here I am not just tolerated, but I am welcomed, I am embraced. By the passport officer who says “Welcome home” every time I fly back into Dublin airport and by the woman who chased me down Grafton Street one day to ask me what brand of fake tan I use. I am embraced by the vast majority of Irish people who see me not simply as a colour, but as a fellow human being who is just trying to be that better person. I stay because of my wonderful husband from Donegal, because he is, by far, my greatest joy. I stay for a hundred different reasons which serve every day to wash away the doubt and recriminations that never really leave you once you make that decision to go.

After all these years, I understand the cheerfulness and that it is often bittersweet, especially when it rains. And I stay because I know I will never find anywhere quite as wonderful as Dublin. I am incredibly lucky. I am incredibly grateful. And I love reading New to the Parish” because it makes me realise that I am not alone in my gratitude.
So I will finish by saying thank you. Thank you to everyone involved in the publication of New to the Parish. Thank you for giving us migrants a positive voice. To all the people whose stories have featured in the column, thank you for sharing your wonderful adventures. We are meeting you mid-flight, and I wish you great joy and great success in your journeys. And finally to Ireland, to the Irish, thank you for letting us into the house with dignity, for letting us sit at your table with grace and respect. There are not enough words, in either our languages or in yours, to express our gratitude.

You can download individual episodes of The Women’s Podcast on Soundcloud, Stitcher and iTunes

Shampa Lahiri

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Suffering shellshock and schadenfreude after arrest of Pat Hickey in Rio

It is inevitable that the arrest of Pat Hickey in Rio de Janeiro will give rise to schadenfreude among more than a few people.

The detention of any 71-year-old in a foreign country would normally be a cause for concern for anybody who knows the individual, but it’s fair to say Hickey has stepped on more than a few toes down through the years.
The most recent to have felt the sharp end of the former judo champion’s personality was Sports Minister Shane Ross. “Shell shock here in Rio,” the minister tweeted as the news broke — you could almost smell the schadenfreude through cyberspace.

Ross had flown to Rio on Sunday after letting all and sundry know he was going to ensure Hickey allowed an independent person to be included in the Olympic Council of Ireland’s inquiry into how a man had been arrested in possession of hundreds of tickets from the OCI allocation.
The summit between the pair ended with Hickey emerging cool, calm, and not a little smug, and Ross quite perturbed at having been effectively snubbed. There would be no independent person sitting in on an OCI inquiry.
Now, it would seem, all has changed utterly with the arrest of Hickey.
From Dublin, Hickey worked as an auctioneer, but it was in his capacity as a sports administer that he came to prominence. He enjoyed a successful career in judo, acquiring a black belt.
While long retired from the sport, he remains physically active. Until recent years he was known to go for 45-minute runs in the Phoenix Park three or four times a week.
While active in judo he began his voluntary work as an Olympic official. In 1988, he was elected president of the OCI for the first time and has held the position since.

His strength lies in his political nous and his ability to water the grassroots of the wider Olympic sporting family. While he has often been in conflict with bodies associated with the high- profile sports, he has always enjoyed support from the lesser known sports, which enjoy equal standing within the Olympic body despite their minority status in terms of participation.
There have been many controversies along the way. At the Atlanta Games in 1996, there was an embarrassing standoff over what kit Sonia O’Sullivan could wear due to a disagreement between the athletics body BLE and the OCI. Hickey stood his ground and found himself in conflict with sport minister Bernard Allen.

Four years later, a major controversy blew up over accreditation for the Sydney Games for then sport minister Jim McDaid. Following a high-profile falling out, it soon became obvious that the government of the day would prefer not to have to deal with Hickey as the top man in the OCI.
An alternative president was proposed for election. Richard Burrows, from a prominent business family and a renowned sailor, went forward as a representative of his sport. Government sources made it plain whom they would want at the helm at a time when allocation of monies to sport was on the increase.

As with other battles in the political sphere, the two sides adopted very different positions.
Hickey assiduously canvassed support among all the sporting bodies, travelling up and down the country to do so. Burrows, apparently buoyed by the backing of official Ireland, sat back and awaited his election. Apart from McDaid, other figures such as Eamonn Coghlan, Michael Carruth, and Mick Dowling suggested it might be time for change at the top.
The outcome, in the 2001 election battle, was emphatic, with Hickey willing 27 voters to 10. Accurately or otherwise, Hickey saw McDaid’s hand behind the attempt to unseat him.
“Guys like him felt they could run the world,” Hickey said later. “‘I’m a big minister, do what I tell you.’ It doesn’t work like that. My constituency is different.” There has been no challenge to his leadership in the intervening 15 years.
He did indicate he was going to step down after the London Games four years ago, but ultimately changed his mind. In one interview last year, he suggested he felt compelled to stay on after being urged to do so by sporting bodies.

Prior to the ticketing controversy, he had indicated he might once again revisit the prospect of retirement and is known to favour the FAI’s John Delaney as his successor. Observers have noted that the two men have many similar qualities in terms of political nous and reputations for getting their way in their respective bodies.

The pinnacle of Hickey’s career in the OCI — for which he is not paid a salary — was probably last year at the inaugural European Games, which he opened as president of the European Olympic Committee. The opening in the Azerbaijan capital of Baku was attended by, among others, Vladamir Putin and Lady Gaga, all looking on as Pat did the honours.
In light of what has transpired since the Rio Games began, he may well wish that he had gone out on top. While there is much hyperbole about the lack of success at the Games, it is the ticket-touting scandal that delivered the ultimate ignominy for a man of Hickey’s standing. His longevity has ensured he is one of the better known figures at the Games, and no doubt ripples about his arrest quickly took off right across the city and beyond yesterday. You’ll never guess who’s just been arrested...

If he does emerge from the whole affair intact, it seems most likely that he will finally decide it is time to step down. This may be one controversy too far for this survivalist extraordinaire.
Michael Clifford