The facts are rather different.
Saturday, January 7, 2017
There is a parent out there who believes that her ‘Johnny’ can do no wrong even if all the evidence points to the fact he can do little that is right. It is in the end what they choose to believe rather than what is a fact. It is that willingness to disregard facts against an emotional prejudice that fuels in many ways anything from religious intolerance to naked racism, or the overall critique of the young as against rose coloured glasses in remembering yesteryear, and the perceived lack of crime thereof.
The facts are rather different.
The facts are rather different.
In Ireland crime has been steadily decreasing rather than rising and the Muslims have not taken over either. The fact is there are about 60,000 Muslims here, which is less than 1.5% of the population, and the ‘British And The Americans Are Really Coming’ is more reality than fiction. The British outnumber all other immigrant groups bar none, and even though the Polish language is spoken here more than Gaelic, they ranked behind the British and just before the Americans in terms of immigrants. Combined with all of them with the rest, it still is little more than 12% of the population.
There are other prejudices that are encouraged by global events, which by any definition in the world where they happen is always local and defined by its locality. The well- respected Gallup poll found when they interviewed 2,482 Americans, 78% of those that were Muslims believed that the killing of civilians is never justified compared to just 39% of Catholics and 38% protestants. The Atheists did better than the latter two with 56% believing it to be wrong.
When the same question was narrowed down to: “Would it be justified for an individual person or a small group of persons to target and kill civilians,” all of them were against this in higher numbers with Protestant and Catholics on a par at 71% yet Atheists more at 78% and Muslims higher still at 89%.
Reality bites and is all too often avoided to insulate oneself from it. It is an insulation that rarely prevents a cold, and when it happens, reality is the only road to getting cured.
After having dug an ancient archaeological site to a depth of 100 meters last year, British scientists found copper wire dating back 200 years and came to the conclusion our ancestors already had a telephone network back then.
Not to be outdone, in the weeks that followed an American archaeologist dug to a depth of 200 meters and shortly after, a story appeared in the ' New York Times': "American archaeologists, finding traces of 300-year-old copper wire, have concluded that their ancestors already had an advanced communications network 100 years earlier than the British."
One week later, the Irish Department of Heritage reported the following: "After digging a ditch as deep as 300 meters, Mick O'Connor, a self-taught Irish archaeologist, reported that he found absolutely nothing! Mick, therefore, concluded that 400 years ago, Ireland had already gone wireless."
Scientists at Princeton say that it’s altruism, not selfishness, that will ultimately enable human beings to flourish. And Charles Darwin always knew it
‘Darwin thought that sympathetic and cooperative tribes and groups would flourish in comparison with communities made up of more selfish individuals, and that natural selection would thus favour cooperation.’
A new study has claimed that, contrary to received wisdom, it is in fact Altruism not cut-throat competition, that confers real evolutionary advantage.
Research that attempts to link human morality with biological evolution (of yeast, in this case) has always had broad appeal. For decades we have lived with the idea that Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection can explain everything in terms of competition – and that therefore evolution favours selfishness. What place is there for a bleeding-heart altruist in a world where only the fittest survive?
The popularity of this idea can be traced back to the massive success of Richard Dawkins’s book The Selfish Gene (1976). “Let us try to teach generosity and altruism,” Dawkins wrote, “because we are born selfish.” Against this backdrop, studies showing how cooperation evolved in nature seem surprising. In a world where we are taught that nature is selfish and selfishness natural, the discovery of natural altruism can even seem shocking.
In fact, Darwin would not have been at all surprised. The conclusion that cooperative groups will flourish at the expense of more selfish ones, and that as a result moral instincts will gradually evolve, was at the heart of his evolutionary writings. In The Descent of Man (1871) Darwin wrote about loving and cooperative behaviours in dogs, elephants, baboons, pelicans, and other species. He thought that sympathetic and cooperative tribes and groups would flourish in comparison with communities made up of more selfish individuals, and that natural selection would thus favour cooperation.
Another tendency that Darwin shares with more recent scientists is his willingness to leap from the world of natural selection to the language of morality. Writing of the evolution of human cooperation, Darwin predicted that “looking to future generations, there is no cause to fear that the social instincts will grow weaker, and we may expect that virtuous habits will grow stronger, becoming perhaps fixed by inheritance. In this case the struggle between our higher and lower impulses will be less severe, and virtue will be triumphant.”
But there is a danger in making the leap from the single-celled to the saintly, and again it is one that has been evident since the 19th century. Darwin’s fellow evolutionist Herbert Spencer defined altruism in physical terms – generally as any action that benefited another organism at some cost to the self – but even including mere physical division and loss of matter in very simple organisms. Friedrich Nietzsche retorted that in that case, even urination should be counted as an altruistic virtue.
The final reason we care about studies like these is that they seem to have the potential to shed light on politics and society. The Dawkinsian picture of selfish humans driven by an evolved individualism chimed with the social and political ethos of the Margaret Thatcher era. Loadsamoney had selfish genes. But there have always been those on hand to make the opposite political case, too – such as the Russian anarchist and socialist Peter Kropotkin, author of Mutual Aid (1902), who argued that the multiple examples of cooperation among animals proved that mother nature was a communist not a capitalist.
Both these political arguments are guilty of the same fallacy. Selfishness and cooperation, like love and hate, war and peace, rape and murder, are all “natural” and “evolved” in one sense. But human beings, unlike yeast cells, have morals and minds, with which we make choices and form emotional attachments. We also form ourselves into social groups which determine our values. It is through these moral and social means that we decide whether, and in what respects, to follow or to resist nature.
SAY what you like about twittering US President-elect Donald Trump, but he gets things done. This week, he has been claiming credit for the US Congress rolling back on watering down ethics standards in politics.
His Twitter finger — which will soon hover over the red nuclear button — is also believed to have been a factor in the Ford motor company scrapping plans to build a new plant in Mexico. The Donald is chomping at the bit to make America great again.
OK, the guy is a narcissistic loose cannon, with apparent attention deficit disorder, who knows nothing of process or diplomacy, and has precious little regard for many of the basic tenets of democracy. But, in the short term, at least, he may get a few things done.
A failure to get things done is one of the reasons why liberal democracy is in the doghouse across the western world. Instead of vision or an aptitude to improve the lives of the bulk of citizens, too often initiatives are caught up in tortuous process, fear of vested interests, or fear of discommoding anybody who is deemed to matter.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the poor, benighted democracy that passes for a system in this country. Getting things done has never been as difficult as the body politic now makes it out to be.
Not so with The Donald; not yet, anyway. On Tuesday last, the new US House of Representatives met, and decided to make hay while the world was still in shock at the election of a reality TV star to the presidency. Some bright spark pushed the idea that an ethics watchdog for Congress should be made up of politicians, rather than anybody outside the bubble. This was a good old-fashioned stroke, reverting to a discredited system of self-policing.
The Donald, who has pledged to “drain the swamp”, was having none of it. He took to Twitter. “With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog as unfair as it is…may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many others things of greater importance!” That policy document actually took two tweets to complete, but The Donald is not a man to scrimp.
Earlier that day, Trump tweeted about car manufacturers migrating south to Mexico, taking a potshot at General Motors.
“Make in USA or pay big border tax!”. (The use of the exclamation mark is set to be a regular feature of policy documents in the forthcoming US administration. In fact, the importance of the policy may be discerned by the number of exclamation marks in any particular tweet!!!). Within hours, the Ford company was cancelling plans for a big plant in Mexico. Trump took credit for that, and why wouldn’t he?
It’s no way to run a country. But before dismissing the “attention deficit disordered Donald”, take a look at how things are done in this country.
Earlier in the week, when the annual scandal of hundreds of people lying on trolleys raised its head once more, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, had just the solution. He announced that he would review the acute bed capacity in Ireland’s hospitals.
A review was carried out last year, and another the year before. This will be a review inside a plan, wrapped in a report.
The most pressing issue facing the country is housing. Here, the Government has set out a strategy that is top- heavy with targets. Let’s see how that gets on.
One aspect of housing policy that came into effect this week was a register for vacant sites. Landowners will have to register sites that are lying idle, while thousands of people are without homes. An incentive to get things moving is the imposition of a financial penalty based on the value of the idle site, which is a good idea, except the fine doesn’t kick in for another two years, just in case anybody is discommoded.
The future of the Eighth Amendment constitutional ban on abortion has come to the fore over the last few years, following three decades of discussion on its appropriateness or otherwise. Instead of addressing the issue in the national parliament and leaving it up to the general populace, we have a citizens assembly to discuss it and pass it onto parliament, which will hand it over to a committee that may finally give the citizens their say. Perhaps the body politic needs another few decades before facing up to it.
Ditto how we are going to pay for, and respect, a precious resource like treated water, not to mention paying for, and respecting, the environmental impact of wastewater. Unlike the rest of the developed world, Ireland has no specific charge for these services. Instead, we had an alleged expert commission examine and report on the issue, before Christmas. That body handed it over to a committee assembled for this specific purpose, which will then pass the matter back to the Oireachtas.
It also emerged, during the week, that drink driving is on the rise again, as evidenced by a 35% increase in arrests over Christmas. The Minister for Transport, Shane Ross, told Danny McConnell, in the Irish Examiner, that there had been an increase in road deaths, which is “calamitous”. “If drink-driving continues, we will have to look at dramatic ways of tackling it…because drunk-driving has been resurrected as a huge problem,” he said.
Despite the gravity of the situation, he wants to wait for another three months, before deciding whether to lower the blood alcohol limit. Bringing in such a measure immediately might save lives, but it would discommode rural TDs, as Ross acknowledged this week.
So it’s best to hang tough, see what happens, and provide space for the issue to be slid onto the long finger. Then, once the tip of the long finger is reached, the minister will actually make a decision. Unless, of course, he sees a pressing need to commission a report on whether or not he should make a decision, ahead of a proper review of any proposal.
This kind of paralysis by analysis in so many areas of politics is adding to cynicism about how the country is run. Everything is parsed, examined, subjected to test runs, raised and flown from the nearest flagpole, to gauge reaction, and then put through a tortuous process or realisation. Finally, there tends to be a decision at Cabinet, which is dispatched to the general public like a lobbed grenade, while all the ministers scurry for cover under the Cabinet table.
Is that any way to run a country? Is it any less crazy than The Donald governing by Twitter? Is it any more likely to better the lives of the bulk of citizens?
Moves are under way by the National Parks and Wildlife Service to tighten up the permit system which allows farmers to shoot Killarney red deer.
The Wild Deer Association of Ireland, which is concerned with deer management, as well as conservation, is concerned at the number of permits issued by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in 2016. The section 42 permits, which the department says are only issued to farmers whose crops and lands are “seriously” worried by deer, have almost doubled, yet no census of the deer population has been completed, the association say.
The tightening of regulations comes after claims in December that licences to shoot the red stags are ending up in the hands of American hunter tourists for “substantial sums”.
One US hunter tourist staying in Kenmare last October paid €5,000 for a permit and guide to a commercial company, to shoot “a Kerry mountain stag” on private land near the Killarney National Park, it was claimed. Now, strict notification about when and where the highly prized red stags and hinds are to be culled are attached to the granting of permits to landowners whose crops are being damaged.
Thirteen permits for Section 42 of the Wildlife Act were issued in 2016 to farmers in Kerry to shoot the deer or have them shot by a hunter. It will now be mandatory for the hunter or farmer to notify National Park management in Killarney when and where the animal is to be culled. They must also let wildlife rangers inspect the carcass so trophy hunters are discouraged.
However, the Wild Deer association also wants further restrictions, including that the culling of red deer should be carried out by wildlife rangers, rather than by commercial hunters. They are also looking for a complete prohibition on the shooting of Killarney red stags and want the Section 42 permits confined to hinds.
The Killarney deer is a unique subspecies at least 6,000 years old. It was brought back from the brink of extinction 50 years ago when numbers had fallen to about 60. Numbers are now estimated at 600 to 700.
Thursday, January 5, 2017
You will search in vain for any notable person defending the Irish, with the exception of the great Frederick Douglas, in the era of “No Irish Need Apply.”
Thomas Nast, the darling of the establishment, drew the Irish as apes, savages and monkeys and it was clear many of his fellow artists and powerful interests felt the same way. Newspapers like The New York Times were unremittingly hostile to the new immigrants.
It was left to a Scottish Catholic emigrant, James Gordon Bennett (1795 -1872), one of the great figures in American journalism, to speak out on behalf of the Irish. He did so in the New York Morning Herald, later the New York Herald.
James Gordon Bennett.
Bennett had a remarkable career and died publishing the most popular paper in America. Alas, his son was unable to match his genius and the newspaper eventually disappeared.
The New York Herald will be best remembered for taking the lead in creating the legend and promoting the historical importance of Abraham Lincoln.
Bennett revolutionized newspaper coverage, covering speeches word-for-word rather than brief summaries, he hired 63 journalists to cover the Civil War, and he was the first to write financial articles covering Wall Street issues.
Bennett clearly remembered his own days as a penniless immigrant and the No Irish Need Apply signs he saw everywhere in 1830. Also, receiving advertising with No Irish Need Apply statements upset him greatly.
His anger at the ethnic hatred saw him put pen to paper in July 1830, a clear indication the offending signs were prevalent even then.
No Irish Need Apply sign hangs in a shop window.
Here is how one lonely voice, as far back as 1830, stood up for the Irish:
New York Morning Herald, July 12, 1830.
“Several advertisements with this insulting appendage have been from time to time left on our hook for insertion, but which we rejected with disdain for their authors.
If one Irish servant maid commits a fault, is that a reason that all other Irish girls must be bad? Surely not. Those who write those illiberal and foolish advertisements must remember that the misconduct of a few can afford no ground for insulting a whole nation; and a nation like Ireland - renowned for the virtue of her females, and the genius and generosity of her sons.
Know that America cannot be patriotic who would offer a deliberate insult to the country of General Montgomery and Commodore Barry.
When we were making the great struggle for our liberties, were we not nobly assisted by IRISHMEN?”
Niall O' Dowd
DUE to the vagaries of Irish weather, we had nicer days in November and December than we had in the summer.
I’ve had reason to remember one horrible day — a long-planned day to cycle the Great Western Greenway, in Mayo.
Setting out from Westport, the morning didn’t look promising; by lunchtime, the rain was lashing and your hapless cyclist was already soaked to the skin. Eventually, after almost making it to Mulranny, about 13km from the final stop at Achill, we had to turn back: not so much because of rain, but a driving head wind blowing in from Atlantic was almost impossible to pedal against.
It was also a day when we couldn’t see any of the much-vaunted scenery because of low cloud. The greenway itself is mainly on a disused rail line, but there is more of it on the public road than we expected.
Signage could be improved, especially by putting up warnings to cyclists to slow down coming to acute bends at the bottom of slopes on the greenway, which can be tricky to negotiate at speed. The plan is to return on a, hopefully, better day in 2017, due in no small part to the service provided by Travis Zeray, of Clew Bay Bike Hire. The Canadian just can’t do enough for visitors and his local knowledge is superb, down to where the best black pudding can be got in Mayo.
Another standout memory from 2016 is a trip to Garinish Island, Glengarrif, on a glorious day, in August. The ornamental garden of tropical plants was also being visited by hundreds of other people, while white-tailed sea eagles roosting in the area were also attracting attention.
Still in West Cork, great to see the evergreen Matt Murphy, an environmentalist before the term was coined, has lost none of his passion or crusading spirit.
He’s the editor of Sherkin Comment and the latest issue contains an interview with professor emeritus Brian McKenzie Bary, first professor of oceanography at University College Galway. The professor, now 97, did lots of useful research over a long, distinguished career.
On a sad note finally, Eileen Cronin, an old friend and a woman known to countless hillwalkers in The MacGillycuddy’s Reeks for decades, died before Christmas after a short illness. Most people climbing Carrantuohill pass by Eileen’s home, near Beaufort (widely known as Cronin’s Yard), and she had a cheery salute for one and all.
In the 60s and 70s Cronin’s Yard, was base camp for the Kerry Mountain Rescue Team. A most hospitable woman, Eileen would make pots of tea, served with her delicious apple pie, for rescuers, gardaí, media people and anyone who dropped by. Eileen will be missed greatly. May she rest gently.
It’s the most famous Irish song of it generation, perhaps the most popular ever, yet very few seem to know the history and background to “The Fields of Athenry.”There are 846 versions of it on YouTube and it has been translated into 50 languages.
From the terraces at every Celtic match to lusty versions at Irish international soccer and rugby games to spirited versions at Munster rugby game’s “Fields of Athenry” has become Ireland’s calling card.
Every weekend there are renditions in every pub, club and folk music festival and the song has dominated so much that there are even fake versions of it.
Liverpool Football Club supporters sing “The Fields of Anfield Road” with the same tune, there is even a separate Northern Ireland version “The Fields of Aughnacloy”.
It’s most famous moment perhaps came when it was sung for as long as eight minutes in the final game of Ireland's 2012 European Nations Cup participation once fans knew the team were knocked out by World Cup winners Spain 4-0. It was the ultimate tribute to the tune.
The World Champions coach, Vincente del Bosque, said afterwards: “I thought (with) that the Irish fans and players showed us what the game is really about.”
Meanwhile, Arsenal’s famed manager Arsene Wenger, working as a French TV pundit, asked the commentators to stop talking so that viewers could hear the Irish singing “Fields of Athenry.” The German commentators did the same. It was, by common consensus, one of the most moving moments in sport, a defeated team cheered to the echo by their hardcore fans singing their anthem.
Many think it is an old ballad, but in fact it was written in 1979 by the incredibly talented Pete St John. Originally released by folksinger Danny Doyle, in the same year, it went on to be covered by more than 500 performers.
The most famous version by balladeer Paddy Reilly was 73 weeks in the charts early in the 1980s, cementing the imprint of the song on the national Irish psyche.
The song title comes from an east Galway town, 25 miles from Galway City, which few could find on a map and would have remained relatively obscure but for the song which has made it internationally famous.
“The Fields of Athenry” was composed in a terraced room in Whitehall, in North Dublin, almost 40 years ago.
Pete St. John lived an itinerant life, traveling the world, living for 15 years in the United States. When he returned home he saw a country changed with many of the old ways gone, a fact he remembered in his other famous song “Dublin in the Rare Old Times”.
Speaking to the Scottish Daily Record in 2004 St. John noted “Fields of Athenry” “is a song about the potato famine in Ireland - it's that simple. I'd gone to Galway and read some Gaelic tracts about how tough life was in those dreadful times.
"The people were starving and corn had been imported from America to help them. But it was Indian corn with a kernel so hard that the mills here in Ireland couldn't grind it.
"So it lay uselessly in stores at the docks in Dublin. But nobody trusted the authorities - the Crown - to tell them the truth, so hundreds of starving Irish people marched on the city to get the grain. Some were arrested and shipped off to Australia in prison ships.
"I wrote a ballad about it, inventing Michael, Mary and a baby - a family torn apart because the husband stole corn to feed his family.
"The `Trevelyan' in the lyric was the Crown agent at the time, he did exist. That inspired the line `Against the famine and the Crown I rebelled'.
"All this information came from Galway, so I set the song in Athenry, a little Galway village where the potato fields lay empty ... the fields of Athenry."
It made St. John famous and created a new Irish anthem in a country redolent with Famine folk memories even if people do not fully comprehend them.
The major breakthrough occurred when it was adopted by Celtic Football Club as their anthem. St John remembers singing the song acapella before 60,0000 Celtic fans and feeling overwhelmed when they all joined in. The song never looked back after.
Indeed, the list of artists who have recorded Pete St John songs reads like a Who’s Who of the Irish music scene, including as it does The Dubliners, Paddy Reilly, Frank Patterson, Danny Doyle, Johnny McEvoy, Mary Black, Dublin City Ramblers, Luke Kelly, Ronnie Drew, The Barleycorn, Sonny Knowles, Brendan Shine, Daniel O’Donnell and countless others.
As Sean Laffey, editor of Irish Music magazine stated “Pete St. John’s the “Fields of Athenry” has become an anthem for the masses (after being brilliantly interpreted by Paddy Reilly) in much the same way as the Corrie’s “Flower of Scotland” is now almost the unofficial National anthem of the Scots.
“Remember these were written when pop music was at its most pervasive, yet the folk quality of the songs has triumphed over the ephemeral fashions... The value of songs like the “Fields of Athenry” is truly priceless.”
Here’s the lyrics to the beloved song:
By a lonely prison wall, I heard a young girl calling
Michael they are taking you away
For you stole Trevelyn's corn so the young might see the morn
Now a prison ship lies waiting in the bay
Low lie the fields of Athenry
Where once we watched the small free birds fly
Our love was on the wing, we had dreams and songs to sing
It's so lonely round the fields of Athenry
By a lonely prison wall
I heard a young man calling
Nothing matters Mary when you're free
Against the Famine and the Crown, I rebelled they ran me down, now you must raise our child with dignity
By a lonely harbor wall
She watched the last star falling
As that prison ship sailed out against the sky
Sure she'll wait and hope and pray
For her love in Botany Bay
It's so lonely round the fields of Athenry.
Niall O' Dowd
From baby food to breweries, and steaks to sushi, small local producers are gaining support by producing quality goods.
GLORIOUS SUSHI LTD
Tetyana Zhemerdyey, originally from Ukraine, started Glorious Sushi after finding that she was unable to buy Japanese food after moving to Ireland.
Biography: A small company based in Waterford, producing a range of Japanese foods for the Irish market.
It is a reflection of Ireland’s changing palate that a company producing sushi in Waterford is going from strength to strength.
When Tetyana Zhemerdyey moved to Ireland from Ukraine, she already had a passion for Japanese food but found herself unable to buy it here.
“In my early 20s, I worked part-time in a sushi bar called Yakitoria. My passion for sushi and everything Japanese flared and became somewhat of an obsession.
“I’d practise endlessly making classic sushi rolls and Asian salads at home while perhaps inventing some new ones along the way.
“After moving to Ireland and working in a local factory, I kept remembering about how much I loved making sushi for my family and friends. There was no sushi bars, and no store sold anything Japanese food-related. That’s when I saw my opportunity,” she says.
Tetyana already had a degree in marketing and, after undertaking a Waterford Area partnership course, started the company Glorious Sushi in 2011.
She continued to grow her knowledge by taking specialised courses in Asian food in the UK.
The business expanded from its beginnings in her family kitchen to a factory in Dunhill, despite initial reluctance from some.
“It was tough going in the beginning, with many sleepless nights trying to create what sushi I’d want to impress my customers with as many were a bit sceptical of trying sushi for the first time.
“After a while, our sushi were gaining popularity, with us having tasting days in various stores where a customer could sample the produce before purchase, but also really taking control of social media,” she says.
The hard work has paid off, with Glorious Sushi now supplying SuperValu stores around Munster as well as some independent shops and fishmongers.
They also supply products to Aldi stores, making a little taste of Japan available nationwide.
WHITE DEER BREWERY
Don O’Leary and Gordon Lucey of White Deer Brewery, Ballyvourney, Co Cork. They started their 9 White Deer Brewing Company with one product, Stag Ban IPA, in June 2014.
Biography: Based in the West Cork Gaeltacht, this recently-opened brewery is producing a range of beers, ales and stouts for the Irish market.
Engineer Gordon Lucey and publican Don O’Leary have found growing success in the brewing market, thanks to a carefully planned rollout and a focus on responding to customer demand.
Gordon developed an interest in brewing while working in various locations abroad over the years and joined up with Don, owner of The Mills in Ballyvourney, Co Cork, to see if they could make a serious business of producing craft beers.
Their research persuaded them they could and they started their 9 White Deer Brewing Company with one product, Stag Ban IPA, in June 2014.
“Rather than launching with six beers, we knew we’d have to put a lot of effort in to get one up and running — getting it right and getting it accepted,” Gordon explains.
Despite their determination to take their time and manage each stage, their range has expanded rapidly, to six, including the award-winning Saor, a gluten-free beer. “No one knew it was a gluten-free beer at the Blas na hÉireann awards, because it’s blind tasting. It is a good beer that just happens to be gluten free.”
They have received such a positive reception to Saor they are planning a range of five gluten-free products, including a red ale and an IPA.
“Feedback has been unreal, every week we are getting emails from people saying thank you. They were sick of drinking cider or wine at barbecues.
“It’s kind of our niche in the market, it’s something we looked at from the start as Don is gluten intolerant. We’ve grown it nurtured it. Everyone has a unique selling point and ours is that.
“Rather than make what we think people want, we’ve decided to make what people actually do want. It’s working and we feel that this range will add a lot to our portfolio,” Gordon says.
POITÍN TODDY MARMALADE
Betty Smith, co-owner of A Taste of Irish Spirit with her selection of award-winning marmalade at her home in Newcestown , Co Cork. Picture: Eddie O’Hare
Biography: An award-winning range of marmalades, produced by husband and wife team Betty and Jim Smith from their home near Bandon in Cork.
Anyone interested in a cottage industry making jams should consider heading to Bandon, Co Cork, although they will have to prepare for a lengthy apprenticeship.
Making Poitin Toddy Marmalade keeps Betty Smith, 80, and Jim 83, busy, but despite their ages, they have no desire to stop anytime soon.
Their enthusiasm might be traced back to having only come to their thriving business in retirement.
Betty laughed when I asked if about a background in food preparation. The former scientist says: “I’m not a cook, I’m not that domesticated.”
Their first batch was created to help get them out of a financial sticky spot. “We ran up a large vet bill for one of our dogs and couldn’t pay it. We had a bottle of (legal) poitín at home so that was the start of it.”
The marmalade proved so popular that they have since expanded their range to include a version with cinnamon and cloves and another with ginger. They are all selling well and particularly popular with tourists.
“They don’t understand initially what poitín is but once you explain it they love it. American tourists, once you mention moonshine they know exactly what it is,” says Betty.
The original bottle is long gone, and they now source poitín from West Cork Distillery in Skibbereen.
However, all manufacturing still takes place at their home in Bandon. Their main outlets are Supervalu stores in Cork although they also supply some independent shops in the county. And Betty believes there is plenty of potential for their award-winning product.
“I don’t really know how to go about handing it over or selling it on but the potential is great. We’re in Supervalus in Co Cork but that’s just one county. We’ve got all the rest to go at,” Betty says.
Elliot Hughes from Dingle Distillery. Picture: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland
Biography: An Irish-owned distillery using Kerry spring water to create a range of whiskeys, gin and vodka.
Entrepreneur Oliver Hughes built his Porterhouse business up through brewing and bar ownership before making a detour to the top shelf.
The former barrister had kept a house in Dingle for many years and saw the Kerry town as a natural home for a distillery. And when he brought a Scottish expert on board to help, the Dingle location worked its magic on him too.
“Oliver took on the services of John McDougall to help, who had a 50-odd year career in distilling in Scotland,” explains Dingle Distillery general manager Mary Ferriter.
“John came to Kerry and fell in love, not with the scenery but with the fog and the wind and rain. He was very excited about the quality of the water. So a decision was made to create a triple-distilled single malt whiskey.”
Dingle Distillery uses Kerry spring water to create a range of whiskeys, gin and vodka
Production began in November 2012 with the first cask filled the following month. With a three-year wait for the spirit in the casks, the company turned their hands to gin and vodka.
Mary again credits the Kerry spring water for being the crucial component in their five-times distilled award-winning vodka and gin that promise a taste of the Kerry landscape.
In December 2015, the first whiskey casks were opened and the company released its first batch of single-malt whiskey, with more to come in limited amounts in 2107.
The company suffered a tragic loss this year while they waited for their first batch to mature, with the unexpected death of Mr Hughes at the age of 57.
But the legacy he left behind in Dingle is deeply appreciated.
“I liken him to a farmer, he came here to west Kerry and he dug up deep. There is a craft here now that will go from father to son, please God,” says Mary.
PIP & PEAR
Irene Queally of Pip & Pear, Chilled baby food, says people want real food for their babies. She believes texture is as important as taste, which is reflected in the products produced by the company.
Biography: Started in 2014, Pip & Pear has grown from a menu served in a single restaurant in Waterford to producer of broad range of baby and toddler foods sold nationwide.
Irish baby food company Pip & Pear originated when founder Irene Queally started her family with husband Bill, and found the food available to buy far from what she would choose to feed her babies.
“When my own children were born, I didn’t feel like anything that was in the market was close to the kind of food that I would eat and feed the kids, it just wasn’t the same quality or flavour. It all started from there,” says Irene.
Irene and Bill also own the No 9 Barronstrand Street restaurant in Waterford. She began using the restaurant kitchen at night to prepare her own recipes and they decided to offer a limited menu for babies.
Despite the meals being in competition with free baby bowls, the initial range of five choices was hugely popular.
“I think now more than ever people want real food for their babies. People were buying multiple portions to takeaway and use at home or freeze.”
The feedback was so positive she entered the Blas na hÉireann awards, where they won Gold at their first attempt and also met with supermarket buyers.
Three years on and their range is now stocked in SuperValu and Aldi, with Tesco due to come on board in 2017.
The initial five recipes have grown to a broad range catering for babies and toddlers up to three years.
Irene believes texture is as important as taste, and that is reflected in the company’s products as children mature through the age ranges.
“A lot of pouches and jars, they’re blitzed to nothing so there’s no chewing involved and babies need that for development.
“So we start with a puree but then move to a mashed consistency. And because of feedback from mums, we’ve added a toddler range from one to three, which is much chunkier in texture,” Irene said.
J&J O’LEARY FAMILY BUTCHERS
Biography: Millstreet butchers who have built up a national reputation thanks to an award-winning and constantly evolving product range.
Brothers James and Jerry O’Leary took over the thriving butchers shop from their father but have added their own stamp with their prepared meats and award-winning sausages and burgers.
Despite only selling products from their premises in Millstreet, O’Leary’s have developed a range impressive enough to have claimed a number of national prizes.
“We took the business over from my father 15 years ago, we’ve been butchers all our lives,” Jerry says.
“In the last few years we’ve gone through a transition into more value-added products, trying to hold on to our traditional butchers business but also trying to change things around. What chefs have done to restaurants, we’re trying to bring to the butchers. We try to make it flashier and fancier and also make it easy for people to cook. So we’re always coming up with new products.
“This year we introduced our mushera venison burger, coming from the Millstreet National Park.”
They have also seen a growing trade in prepared meals, with O’Leary’s doing the hard work for their customers. They change their range constantly, but offer shoulder of lamb as a recent example.
“That product we marinated for a week first, with all our own herbs and spices. Then we vacuum pack it in a roasting bag and all the customer has to do is go home and put it in the oven. It’s taking restaurant-style cooking to the home and keeping it simple.”
Their innovation has seen them reaping awards on a regular basis, with the venison burger earning a gold Blas na hÉireann award at this year’s competition.
Given the success, have they considered branching out into supplying other business?
“No, I’m a bit selfish like that,” Jerry jokes. “I keep them to myself.”
Biography: A Clare microbrewery producing a range of beers and ales on their converted family farm.
Clare siblings Maeve Sheridan and Michael Eustace have found success bringing an American west coast beer sensibility to the west of Ireland.
Maeve was living in Luxembourg but keen to move home with her family, while Michael managed a bar in Dublin.
Noticing the growth in craft brewing around Ireland, the brother and sister decided that was a possible use for the outbuildings on their farm in Kilmaley, which has been in the family for eight generations.
“The hay shed is nearly 100-years-old so it was nice to repurpose it,” Maeve says. “We have all the brewing equipment in there. We broke through into the milking parlour and we have our labelling machine, a bottling line and cold storage in there.”
There’s little waste, with the spent grain being fed to cattle still kept on the farm.
With no direct brewing experience, the siblings knew the had a lot to learn: “It’s like a home cook trying to open a Michelin star restaurant.”
They enlisted a master brewer from the US who spent a year working with them and an apprentice they took on under the now-defunct Jobbridge scheme.
With his help they started brewing, and have found a ready market for the products on their doorstep.
“There was no one in Clare doing it [craft brewing], even though more than a million tourists pass through the county each year,” Maeve explains.
Maeve says they can tell a bar’s tourist profile from the beers that sell well there. “In O’Connors in Doolin, it’s all IPA for the Americans, while in Spanish Point, it’s the wheat beer and Foxcatcher for the Germans and French.”
Not that they are neglecting their west of Ireland base — one of their most popular brews is Blue Jumper IPA, a Father Ted reference and the perfect nod to the locals.
ST PATRICK’S DISTILLERY
Biography: Incorporated in 2014, the company are based in St Patrick’s Mills in Douglas and are producing a growing range of high-quality spirits.
St Patrick’s Distillery’s business idea was born from the growing market for gluten-free products but the business have found that exceptional flavour is the real driver of their business.
Founder Tom Keightley worked in the pharmaceutical industry and saw the growth of products catering to those with food intolerance. The company started producing gin and vodka made from a product that has zero gluten — potato.
General manager Cyril Walsh says no sooner had they catered to that demand, when another appeared.
“As soon as we ht the market with product, we were asked straightaway about whiskeys. Clearly whiskeys are not gluten-free so we outsourced elements of production, although we retain key control areas like blending.
“We started with oak-aged Irish whiskey, which was very well-received and we now have a total of three whiskeys, including a single malt and a cask-strength whiskey.”
The company concentrate on the export market, with their name an invaluable marketing tool, particularly in the US where they intend to focus for 2017.
“Having a strong brand name like St Patrick’s Distillery, we believe we have a great opportunity to capitalise on the awareness of St Patrick as intrinsically Irish and instantly recognisable.
“We’re very fortunate to be able to trademark the name; the fact that we’re based in St Patrick’s Mills in Douglas probably helped in that regard,” Tom says.
Their next product launch also harks back to Irish tradition, a 50% proof poitín distilled from a traditional recipe of malted barley and potato.
“We’re using a traditional recipe, from Croagh Patrick in Mayo, where poitín has been produced for millennia.”