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Irish people have far more Viking DNA than was suspected

Irish also more prone to certain diseases, DNA tests show

A new “DNA map” of the Emerald Isle reveals that the Viking raiders intermingled with local women far more than was previously thought.

Genealogist Gianpiero Cavalleri of the Royal College of Surgeons pieced together detailed map after studying the DNA of over 500 Irishmen and women.

Read More: First genetic map of the people of Ireland

“Plenty of clues already showed that Vikings had been to Ireland, including ruins, artifacts, and Norwegian family names… The [genetic] signatures that turned up in Ireland are most similar to those from the north and west coasts of Norway, where Vikings were most active,” Cavalleri told National Geographic.

The Vikings from the Scandinavian countries began raiding Ireland around 800 A.D. and continued for two centuries before Brian Boru defeated them at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. In those two centuries, they certainly left their mark and in much higher numbers than previously believed.

Other interesting conclusions are that people whose family come from Ulster are more prone to multiple sclerosis than people whose roots are in Munster. The Irish overall are more likely than other Europeans to suffer from cystic fibrosis and celiac disease too.

Read More: DNA kit deal will reveal the mysteries of your Irish family history

Other trends are less unexpected: there was a clear genetic divergence amongst people whose family came from Ulster which ever since the Plantation era has experienced waves of migration to and from Scotland. Other provinces showed up clearly in the results too but Ulster was unique in this regard.

If you’d like to participate in the study then you are welcome to do so provided all eight of your great-grandparents lived within 30 miles of each other - information the Genealogical Society of Ireland will help to verify.

American mom of Irish kids faces deportation for Christmas

An American mom of Irish kids is facing deportation for Christmas.

Megan and Richard Crowley met in Boston in 2004 after he left Northern Ireland following a bad breakup. Speaking to IrishCentral, Richard said he went to “to get my head cleared” and met Megan a few weeks before he was due to return home.

They married in 2006 and moved to Belfast with their kids shortly afterwards. After arriving in the United Kingdom, Megan was granted temporary leave to remain, but recently her request for an extension was declined by Britain’s Home Office.

Read More: Petition aims to stop deportation of married Irish woman in Australia

On the advice of the local Sinn Féin legislator Megan applied for an Irish citizenship in March. Applicants are told to expect a six month wait before it’s granted, but nine months on she’s still waiting and now facing the prospect of Christmas in America without her four children.

“We tried to get an update to see where it’s at,” Richard said, “but we’re just hitting walls. We know it’s at Stage 2, but the waiting period’s supposed to be six months and it’s now nine and her British visa is up on the 23rd of December.”

It’s the prospect of having to leave her kids for Christmas that most worries Megan at this point, and they’ve decided to be completely honest with them about what might happen to their Mom.

“I feel really bad that I’m doing this to them,” she admitted, but they wanted them to know, “because I might not be here on Christmas Day. My youngest is pretty upset about it, she wonders if I leave will she ever see me again.”

And once she leaves the United Kingdom, she won’t be able to reenter until her Irish citizenship and passport are processed.

“There’s no point applying for a British visa,” Richard adds, “they’ll just take our money and then refuse her. It’s been a constant struggle with them.”

Even their nine-year-old daughter received a deportation notice because of her American birth. Only once the Home Office established she was a British and Irish citizen via her father was the threat of deportation withdrawn.

So far they’re not impressed with the Irish Government’s behavior either.

Read More: Number of Irish deportations rise sharply under Trump stats show

“I don’t know how much more straightforward our application could be,” Megan continues.

“We’ve been married for 12 years; we’ve been living on the island for nine. The requirement is only to be living here for three and married for one year. So we’ve far surpassed any requirement.

“I’ve never been in jail. I’ve never been in trouble. I’m not involved in anything. I’ve not even had any traffic violations here or in America.”

The Crowleys have asked Ireland’s Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, to exercise his discretion and speed up the process but have heard nothing back.

Were he to intervene it would, Richard says, it would “save a lot of bother and a lot of heartache because we just don’t know what we’re going to do now.”

“The British Government are pretty sharp about sending the old eviction papers,” he adds bitterly.

The Crowleys don’t want to return to America; their kids are settled in Belfast and they love the life they have made together in Ireland.

"I love this city. I love the people here. People are so nice and so kind. I would hate to leave Ireland. I would hate to leave my kids," Megan finishes. 

After so many years building a life and family together in Belfast, the Crowleys feel they earned the right to remain in Ireland. The question is will their paperwork come through in time for Christmas?

It's official, Guinness is good for you

The old advertising slogan "Guinness is good for you" is actually true it seems. While Diageo, the manufacturer, makes no health claims for the product, scientific research shows a pint of Guinness a day is actually good for your health. (And that's Guinness with a double n, not the surname that can sometimes be spelled "Guiness" with one n.)

Indeed, it may work as well as a low dose of aspirin to prevent heart attacks according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin who made the discovery.

The Wisconsin scientists gave Guinness to dogs who had narrowed arteries. They found the Guinness worked as well as aspirin in preventing clots forming.

The researchers told a convention of the American Heart Association in Orlando, Florida, that a pint of Guinness taken at meal time had the best impact. They believe that antioxidant compounds in the Guinness are responsible for the health benefits because they decrease harmful cholesterol gathering on the artery walls.

Read more: The fascinating history of Ireland's Guinness family

There was a time that doctors would encourage pregnant women to drink Guinness as they believed it was good for the baby but those days are long gone now that we understand the detrimental effects drinking Guinness while pregnant can have. While the old ads may be a stretch to say that drinking Guinness is, in fact, good for you, this research is enough to convince us that we're safe to order ourselves a pint every once in a while without doing too much damage!

And if for some strange reason you don't feel like treating yourself to a pint, there's plenty of ways you can incorporate Guinness into your cooking or baking taking all the goodness of Guinness with it. 

Here's a list of some of IrishCentral's best Guinness recipes:

* Originally published in 2011.

Your dream picturesque Irish country cottage for Christmas, just $127k

Imagine gifting a thatched cottage in County Galway, with room for horses, to someone this December. Wow!

It seems that IrishCentral readers are dreaming of relocating to Ireland this Christmas, and after the community went wild for an almost derelict Irish cottage priced at $ 29.5k, we thought this beautiful picturesque cottage in County Galway would go down a treat.

There’s something magical about an Irish cottage, almost fairytale like. Whether it’s a romantic nostalgia for a twee “Quiet Man” style Ireland or that visceral feeling of being “in the country” the fresh air, open turf fire, and peace associated with it all there’s certainly something beautiful about these old-fashioned homes.

The old-style fire place inside the Kylebeg cottage.

This one in particular looks very sweet. Located in the townland of Kylebeg, four miles outside Killimore village, in County Galway, this two-bedroom cottage is on the market for just $127,000 (€100,000).

The modern pine kitchen in the Kylebeg cottage.

According to MyHome the house is a “traditional style stone cottage” with stables and a paddock, built on c.2.5 acres of land.

Out the land! 2.5 acres of paddocks.

The accommodation has been recently refurbished, including a modern kitchen / living room which retains the feature fireplace. The house also includes two spacious bedrooms, a bathroom and an entrance porch. Other features include oil-fired central heating, a private well and a septic tank.

The outdoor buildings have also been upgraded in recent years. The buildings include four large purpose-built stables, an exercise ring / sand area with post and rail fencing and a section of shed suitable for storage.

Who wouldn't want a horse to put in these stables?!

Directly across from the property is a paddock extending to 2.4 acres. Currently being used corn crop the fields would be ideal as pasture for a few horses.

Can you think of anywhere nicer to call your base in Ireland?! We can dream right? It's the season for it.

Read more: An Irish cottage for $29.5k – the ultimate Christmas gift

EPIC Irish shortbread Christmas tree cookies recipe

Brighten up Christmas and try this perfect treat from Irish baker Gemma Stafford, with EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum.

Discover the stories of those who left Ireland and shaped the world at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin. EPIC is the world’s only fully digital museum, with interactive galleries telling the fascinating stories of over 300 Irish people, past and present, and reliving some of the greatest achievements in the world of sport, music, art, culture, politics, food, fashion, and science.

One Irishwoman who is making her mark on the culinary world is Gemma Stafford, an Irish chef who specializes in baking. Gemma’s Bigger Bolder Baking now has almost 1.5 million subscribers on her YouTube channel and her site has a wealth of traditional Irish recipes.

Gemma Stafford.

Originally hailing from Wexford, she emigrated from Ireland to the United States almost a decade ago. Nowadays, Gemma is based in Santa Monica, California, with her American husband Kevin, who works alongside her producing her popular weekly videos.

Irish shortbread Christmas tree cookies

Prep time: 20 mins Cook time: 20 mins Total time: 40 mins

Serves: 20


For the cookies:

- 1½ cups (12oz, 345g) butter, at room temperature

- 1 cup (7.5oz, 216g) sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

- 3½ cups (1lb ½oz, 469g) all-purpose flour

-  ¼ teaspoon salt

For the icing:

- 1 cup (41/2oz, 127g) confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar)

- water

- green and yellow food dye

- red edible pearl decorations


- Preheat the oven to 350oF (180oC).

- In an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the room temperature butter and sugar until they are light and pale in color.

- Add the vanilla.

- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar   mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 60 minutes.

- Roll the dough ½-inch thick and cut using star cutters.

- Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the edges begin to brown lightly. Allow to cool to room temperature.

- To make your frosting: Mix your confectioner’s sugar with a few drops of water and stir. Take care to not add too much for it will be really hard to get it thick again.

- In separate bowls, add the food dye to reach desired color of green and yellow.

- Frost each cookie for the trees. Make sure to save some small stars to be dyed yellow to go on top. Leave to dry.

- Stack the cookies on top of each other binding each layer with a drop of frosting.

- Once dry, place your pearl decorations on the points of the stars.

- Finish the tree by placing the star on top!!! Enjoy this cookie 🙂

* EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum was recently nominated for the European Museum of the Year Award 2018, and is in TripAdvisor and National Geographic Traveler’s Top 10 Things to Do in Dublin.

For more information and to buy tickets to the museum visit EPICCHQ.com.

Inside EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, the world's first fully digital museum.

One year after Apollo House takeover, homelessness still rising in Ireland

It's the best of times or it's the worst of times in Ireland, depending on who's talking.

This week's news of rapid economic growth in the Irish economy contrasts sharply with the exploding numbers of homeless people sleeping rough on the nation's streets.

First the good news. The Irish economy has grown by an eyebrow raising 10.5 per cent (year on year) in the third quarter of 2017. “Gross domestic product (GDP) accelerated by 4.2 per cent in the third quarter alone amid a pick-up in personal consumption and further growth in exports,” the Irish Times reported this week. “This was nearly eight times the growth rate recorded in the euro zone as a whole.”

Impressive, or alarming. Take your pick. 

But there's another parallel Ireland in which the booms and busts of these volatile markets don't seem to make any difference, even at Christmas.

At 8,374, the number of homeless people in Ireland is now at the largest number recorded in the history of the state.

It's as if one section of the nation has entirely decoupled from the other. It sounds as if attitudes on both sides are hardening too. The Irish left, increasingly enraged by government inaction on the exploding homeless crisis, are casting about for a viable third way politics that offers the homeless more than political platitudes. To them the homeless crisis represents a foundational challenge that asks who the Irish have become as a people?

Speaking at the Songs And Words For A Home For All event outside Leinster House this week (organized by the group Inner City Helping Homeless) Oscar-winning songwriter Glen Hansard reworked the lyrics of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's “Happy Christmas/War Is Over” thusly:

A very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year, let's hope it's a better one, get your arses in gear: Eoghan Murphy, Simon Coveney, Leo Varadkar, what's the story? A doorway's no place, to be sleeping, a hotel's no place, to raise your children.”

Glen Hansard

Recent reports about the housing crisis have failed to note that tens of thousands of Irish families are now in mortgage arrears, placing many of them at the mercy of foreign vulture funds who are more aggressive in their repossession attempts.

Soon they may be thrown out of their homes according to veteran campaigner Paul McVerry, who also spoke at the Home For All event this week and has called for a national day of protest on April 7.

Meanwhile in a scathing takedown of the country's prime minister Leo Varadkar and deputy prime minister Simon Coveney Irish film director Terry McMahon accused Coveney of deceit.

The people of Ireland have elected people to protect them who actually “do not care if you and your mother and your father and your brothers and sisters die in a doorway,” McMahon told Home For All rally.

On Friday just 19 TD's (ministers) attended a morning debate on child homelessness in the Dail (parliament). Only 13 were present at the beginning of the debate.



The Pogues' Fairytale of New York is not a good Christmas song

One listen to the crazy lyrics of "Fairytale of New York" with its man and woman arguing should be enough to prove it's a bad Christmas song. 

As I write this I'm listening to the "Top 100 Christmas songs" countdown. The countdown is only now in the 90s so there is a long way to go before they get to number one, but I'm sure it will be "Fairytale of New York" by the Pogues and Kirsty MacCool. 

How can I be so sure that "Fairytale" will be number one? Well, this isn't the first of these polls. In fact, it is one of the annual features of the Christmas season that some media outlet will release a poll of either Irish or British people and invariably "Fairytale" is number one.

I am at a loss to understand how this can be. "Fairytale of New York" is a good song; I like it. However, it is a cynical, hopeless song that seems devoid of anything that makes Christmas special.

Read more: "Fairytale of New York" - not just a Christmas song, an immigrant ballad

Now I know there are some people who don't like Christmas and probably enjoy the gritty "realism" that "Fairytale" evokes. Yet, there is no way that most people feel this way about Christmas otherwise there'd be no way that “It's A Wonderful Life” would regularly feature as the best Christmas movie of all time.

I really don't understand why anyone would want to listen to "Fairytale of New York" at Christmas time. It's so depressing.

I used to think maybe it was a case of people not really listening to the lyrics, as happens (happened) with couples who love The Police's “Every Breath You Take.” I don't think that is the case with "Fairytale," however. It really is inexplicable to me.

Springsteen's "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" is fantastic and just about any Christmas song from Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra hits the right note at Christmas time.

Read more: Irish Christmas songs to get you in the holiday spirit

If it has to have "grim reality," I prefer Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas," which is an upbeat song despite the story behind it. And I really like Garth Brooks' "Belleau Wood," which is an excellent song about the 1914 truce during WWI (although full of historical inaccuracies).

Both "Do They Know It's Christmas" and "Belleau Wood" contain that essential Christmas ingredient - hope. "Fairytale" starts with hope, but then spits it out.

I have to say, however, that my favorite Christmas song is none of those above. It is "Good King Wenceslas," which is the very opposite of “Fairytale.” The story of the man of wealth and power trudging through the snow on a dark, stormy winter's night to bring "flesh," wine and pine logs to a poor man is the essence of what Christmas is about. Hope.

Hope was born 2016 years ago and "Good King Wenceslas" is a great summary of what Christmas should mean to all of us.

Read more: The most annoying Christmas songs of all time - Bah humbug!

What do you make of "Fairytale of New York?" Is it a good Christmas song? 

* First published in 2010.

December 16th Christmas advent surprise - an easy-to-make, sweet boozy treat

Feeling a little Christmas party fatigue? You're not alone. But if you're running out of ideas of what to bring, we've got you covered with December 16th's advent calendar surprise: a recipe for making your own Irish cream liqueur

You'll be the toast of all your Christmas parties if you whip up a batch of this delicious Christmasy treat!

How to make homemade Irish cream

Christmas and Irish cream (that’s Bailey’s to you and me) go hand in hand. Whip up your own batch. Read more here: http://irsh.us/2hrCQ34

Posted by IrishCentral.com on Wednesday, December 21, 2016


- 1 cup heavy cream 
- 1 can sweetened milk 
- 1 2/3 cups Irish whiskey 
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee grains 
- 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup 
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Combine all the ingredients in a blender. Blend. Then store in airtight container.

Irish cream can be served on its own, on the rocks or as an alcoholic substitute for milk/cream and sugar in a hot coffee (sometimes with whipped cream added on top).

Warning: Irish adulterers are more likely to be caught at Christmas

Experts warn that the festive season is the most testing time of the year for those stuck in unhappy relationships or marriages

Adulterers in Ireland are more likely to get caught by their partner in the run-up to Christmas than at any other period in the year, according to relationship experts.

Counselors have warned that the festive season is the most testing time of the year for those stuck in unhappy relationships or marriages, with many disillusioned partners also opting to start an affair at this time of year.

Tony Moore, an experienced therapist who runs Talking Point Counseling in Portlaoise, Co. Laois, said the season of goodwill could be better defined as the season to be unfaithful.

And he stressed that it's also the time when secretive affairs tend to be discovered, as suspicious partners are more likely to uncover evidence of their cheating other-halves' infidelities.

Read more: The most beloved Irish Christmas traditions according to YOU

"The Christmas period is the time when affairs are most likely to either start or when those who are cheating will get caught out,” he said.

"Firstly, there's a lot more temptation around at this time of year, because people go out socializing more than they usually do.  If someone who's having an affair has had a few drinks, then they're more likely to let their guard down, for example by posting an inappropriate picture on Facebook.

"And it you have a suspicion that your partner might be having a fling, you are likely to become hyper-sensitive around the date of his or her Christmas party, and you'd be more inclined to check your partner's texting history, to look out for the smell of someone else's perfume or aftershave and to look through your partner's pockets.

"People don't often own up to having an affair, but at Christmas they are more likely to get found out."

Moore also warned that the run-up to Christmas will be a particularly challenging period for couples in unhappy relationships.

"For couples in a bad relationship or marriage, this is an awful time of year.  Partners spend much more time together than they usually do and if they're not getting on, then things can become very stressful,” he said.

"People drink more at this time of year, too, but again that is a recipe for disaster for couples who are not getting on."

He added, "Christmas dinner can sometimes prove the last straw for some couples, particularly if it's a big get-together with the in-laws, or other members of the family who just don't get on."

Read more: Plum and star anise Christmas ham recipe

Things that make Christmas in Ireland extra special to me

From Irish Christmas traditions to recurring mistakes, travesties, and incidents the holidays in Ireland are certainly special

There are certain things that happen every year, whether you want them to or not. Best laid plans can remain well-lain and so become “traditions.” Recurring mistakes, travesties and incidents become known as “curses.” And the rest can just be called Christmas.

Here are the top 10 things that make my Christmas mine, in its own special way.

1. The Advent Calendar

We always wanted an edible Advent calendar where you crack open the little cardboard doors and reveal a bright shiny caramel or a sticky fudge. In our house, we have a Nutcracker fabric Christmas tree with cotton puppets that are velcro stuck to the tree with each passing day – non-edible.

My brother and I would fight over the puppets, each a different character from the Nutcracker ballet, but I always bullied my way into possession of the fairies and left him with the rats in true Christmas spirit.

2. The Christmas Tree

Growing up we had TWO Christmas trees. This is not testament to the grandness of our existence, but to the insanity of my mother.

A fake, scraggly and lop-sided tree was hidden in a dark corner of the house for the children to decorate with our badly home-made angels and snowmen. Meanwhile, in the living room, was Mother’s enormous, lush, green real tree drenched in bright gold and crystal decorations. We gave up on our own tree a decade ago, but Mama’s golden tree still reigns strong.

3. Christmas Eve

We host the annual mafia family festivities which is an inexplicably Italian evening. We serve crostini, bruschetta, olives and lasagna before hitting midnight Mass in the village church.

This tradition is completely rootless. There is not an ounce of Italian blood in our veins. However, the pasta and bread makes for suitable lining for the copious amounts of wine and paves the way for a comfortable hangover the next day.

4. Literature

When we were kids, my brother would always stay in my room on Christmas Eve night. He would be so nervous about Santa that he would shake like a leaf as my dad freaked him out saying he could hear Rudolph on the roof and pointing to phantom lights in the sky.

To settle us down, my mom would read us the entirety of "‘Twas the Night Before Christmas" while Dad busied himself being Santa Claus. Hearing it now still gives me butterflies.

5. The Santa Claus

Writing letters was always a huge ordeal for me. Weeks of preparation and design went into these works of art before I tossed them in the fire, cackling as my lengthy list of gifts sparked to life.

We left cookies, milk and carrots – for Rudolph – which my dad would proceed to attack to create the illusion of Santa’s scoffing. He would even cover a horse-shoe in muck and trample deer tracks from the fireplace all around the house.

We were convinced, devout believers in Santa and his reindeer friend until an embarrassingly late age due to this impressive annual fiasco.

6. Christmas Morning

Nowadays, as adult humans, we wake up at a normal hour of 10am with mild hangovers, but as children it was a struggle to keep us sleeping after 6am. We attacked our stockings first which were taken from the top of the stairs and upended onto our parents’ bed while they hid under the covers from our hoots of delight.

Then we would all march to the tree in single file while Mom and Dad hammed up exceptional performances of suspense and surprise, creaking the living room door open to reveal stacks of gifts, streamers, balloons and twinkling lights. It was a magical spectacle every year.

7. Christmas Gifts

Every year my dad asks for a puppy because his inner-child lives strong, but he never gets one because he’s actually a CEO and an extremely busy man. Gifts that my mom has gotten him instead range from a water filter to an electric toothbrush and include a range of socks, slippers and man pajamas.

Everyone else always fares well with inventive, thoughtful and pleasantly surprising gifts. But until we can get that puppy, there will always be a big sad face.

8. Christmas Food

For breakfast we go to Auntie’s house for mulled wine, homemade mince pies and presents. Semi-drunk and already full, we return home where I watch Mom prepare Christmas dinner – which she could probably do with her eyes closed – and try to learn by osmosis. We sit to eat at 4 p.m. where we fight over the bread sauce, two types of stuffing and mouth-watering potato croquettes because there’s always enough turkey and ham to feed about 500 people.

We also have sauerkraut! My mom had a rogue aunt who married a German man in the sixties and so grew up with some German cuisine in the house. At least we can explain this more than the Italian mafia tradition.

9. The Telly

A huge part of the feasting aftermath is what you watch as your body struggles to digest the four tons of food you have just crammed in there. We usually start with "Titanic" or "The Sound of Music" because these are my dad’s favorite movies of all time – and mine too, so don’t judge – before a modern Disney/Pixar rips our hearts to shreds. Family favorites are "Up," "Toy Story 3" and "Frozen" for a good cry into a tin of Cadbury's Roses.

10. Grandmother

My grandmother was a key Christmas guest at our house. This will be our first year without her as she passed away this summer, but I know her presence will be as strong as ever.

When I was too young to remember, she had one Baileys too many and toppled into the Christmas tree taking it down with her – a legendary story which comes up every year with the same hilarity, and I will ensure it passes from generation to generation.

More recently, she famously refused to eat her Christmas dinner until it had been smothered in gravy which my mom had forgotten to make. She sat with her arms folded and a scowl on her face while my mom frantically invented a gravy as the spread sat going cold. Now every year comes the Christmas mantra: “WHERE’S MY GRAVY?”

Each of these delights await me just a few short days away. I hope that some similarly delicious and traditional treats await you all too, and that 2015 finishes off with a familial sobbing session as you reach for your fifth helping of turkey with one hand as the other clutches a half-eaten chocolate Santa.

A very merry and criminally indulgent Christmas to you and yours!

* Originally published in 2016.

105-year-old letter to Santa Claus found in Dublin home

A Santa letter was found after over 100 years 

A 105-year-old Santa letter written by a Dublin brother and sister was found in 2011, offering a fascinating glimpse into the Christmas spirit of old and life in Ireland's capital city in the early 20th century, just five years before the 1916 Easter Rising.

The letter, written by the Howard family siblings to Father Christmas in 1911, was found in a Terenure house when builder John Byrne came across the handwritten note on a shelf behind a fireplace. It has been slightly scorched over the years but the majority of the contents of the letter could still be read.

The brother and sister penned the letter in their Dublin home on Christmas Eve 1911 when they requested gifts and offered a ‘good luck’ message to Santa Claus.

Read more: Christmas letter to Santa inspires New Yorker a century later

The message to Santa was warm but explicit. “I want a baby doll and a waterproof with a hood and a pair of gloves and a toffee apple and a gold penny and a silver sixpence and a long toffee,” wrote Hannah Howard, known as Annie, then aged ten years old, who would celebrate her eleventh birthday that Christmas Day. 

The letter was placed in the chimney of the fireplace in the front bedroom so that Father Christmas would see it as he made his way into the house in the early hours of the morning.

“At that time, the fireplaces were made of brick with a shelf on either side,” said John Byrne. “The letter was found on one of the shelves.”

The Irish Times reports that, as well as the requests for gifts from Santa, the letter also contains drawings and the ‘good luck’ message.

Hannah and the remains of the scorched letter.

The 1911 census states there were three children living at the address. Hannah, who was 10 at the time, and Fred, who was seven, fit in with the initials on the letter. A third child, a 13-year-old called Lily, is also listed. The Howard family, including dad Fred and mom Mary, were all born in England and listed their religion as Church of Ireland.

On reading an article about the letter in the Irish Times, a man living in Bangor, Co. Down, quickly recognized the young girl writing the letter as his mother and his uncle Alfred. not even when his wife referred to the address of his former family home in Dublin.

Victor Bartlem didn’t realize the significance of the tale at first as his wife read out the details in the Irish Times. He didn’t make the connection with his late mother Annie at first, not even when his wife referred to the address of his former family home in Dublin. It was only when Hannah’s name was mentioned that Victor realized his mother’s role in the fascinating story.

Read more: 90-year-old Irish children's Santa letters found in chimney (VIDEO)

“I simply couldn’t believe it. I never knew about this letter. I never even knew it existed,” Victor told the Irish Times.

“My mother attended the Zion Church of Ireland school in Rathgar before going on to marry Alfred Bartlem in 1931, with whom she had two sons, Howard and Victor. She and Alfred moved to a house on Lomond Avenue, Fairview, shortly after they married, where she died in 1978,” reported Victor.

He added that his mother had been extremely creative, excelling at various forms of needlework and later at woodwork and was also an expert baker of cakes and other confectionery.

Her niece Iris Murphy, who lives in Dublin, also contacted the paper after she was alerted to her aunt’s story when her daughter in Tasmania read about it on IrishTimes.com.

“My aunt was a very happy-go-lucky person with a great sense of humor,” said Iris.

Can you remember what you would write in your letters to Santa Claus when you were younger? 

* Originally published in 2011.

This Irish couple's Christmas tale will make your heart swell

An Irish couple, Brendan (32) and Maeve (26), shared their story as part of Stella Artois’ 2014 Christmas advertising campaign under the title “Give Beautifully.”

The charming Irish boyfriend spent four months setting up this Christmas surprise for his immigrant girlfriend, which is sure to melt your heart.

The video’s blurb explains the romantic story: “Maeve moved from Dublin to London so she could be with her boyfriend, Brendan. She was forced to leave behind her beloved piano as it was way too big to move. A passionate pianist, Maeve hasn’t played since. This holiday season, see the beautiful surprise Brendan plans for her.”

How romantic!

The couple told the Irish Independent it took four months for him to set up this romantic Christmas gift.

They met at An Pucan bar, in Galway, when Brendan was on a stag party.

Maeve said “When I arrived, it was 30 men versus five women.

“Brendan was feeling a bit hung-over from the night before so he was asleep on a barstool but when he finally woke up and joined us I thought he was really sweet and had a lovely personality.”

Like with many Irish romances, it all began with rickshaw races down Shop Street and the offer of a dinner date the following week. The rest, as Maeve says, is history.

Maeve applied for hundreds of jobs in the field of health and safety in Ireland and eventually applied for and was offered a position on a graduate scheme with Tube Lines (Transport for London) in October 2012. The couple kept up a long-distance relationship visiting each other every second weekend.

In 2013 Brendan, who worked as a teacher in Borrisoleigh, County Tipperary for ten years, moved to London. They both had their dream jobs in London and more importantly were together, but Maeve was missing one thing – her piano.

Brendan spent four months planning the romantic gesture with production company Mother London.

He told the Independent, “Stella provided the piano which was made in Prague and it is over one hundred years old, so it has its own stories already.”

Maeve said, “I had no idea what was going on, I was in complete shock and a bit anxious...When I got out of the taxi all I saw was cameras all around Brendan, I nearly died to be honest.”

* Originally published in 2014.

CNN analyst calls Trump “Modern-day JFK” on tax reform

Is Trump's secret plan to make America great again like it was in the years following JFK's presidency? The answer is 'Yes,' according to one CNN analyst. 

Stephen Moore, one of CNN's conservative voices, argues that when it comes to tax cuts, Trump is the modern-day JFK

He writes that with not a single Democrat in the House or Senate voting for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,  it is Kennedy's own Democratic party that is failing to carry on and apply his wisdom.

Instead, it is President Donald Trump who has picked up JFK's fiscal baton: 

Some argue that the Trump tax cut will increase the deficit, but they should listen to the wisdom of JFK in 1962, when he, too, was battling a large deficit. President Kennedy declared at the New York Economic Club that "it is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low -- and the soundest way to raise revenues in the long run is to cut rates now.''

JFK knew that America's biggest problem was not the budget deficit but a growth deficit. And based on Donald Trump's proposed tax cuts, he seems to share JFK's wisdom.

Moore is correct that the Kennedy-era tax cuts helped usher in a period of economic prosperity. Congress approved his tax cut plan three months after Kennedy's assassination, and by 1966 the unemployment rate was 3.8% while the economy was growing at a rate of 6.6% – compare that to today's unemployment rate of 4.1% and economic growth rate of just 3.3%. 

Photo: John F. Kennedy Library and Museum

However, what Moore doesn't mention is that Kennedy's tax cuts brought the top marginal tax rate from 91% to 70%, whereas the new Republican tax plan will decrease it from 39.6% to 37%. 

Interestingly, this is not the first time a line of comparison has been drawn between Trump and JFK. Points of connection have been made by people on both ends of the political spectrum. 

Disgraced conservative pundit Bill O'Reilly compared the two during Trump's campaign, arguing that the wealth of their respective families made both men more likely to say whatever they wanted to. 

After the election, Microsoft founder Bill Gates made a public appeal to Trump to be a president in the mold of JFK and lead America through innovation. 

Writing in the Boston Globe this past summer, columnist Niall Ferguson linked both men's reported infidelities, wealthy backgrounds, undisclosed health issues and apparent willingness to engage in nuclear warfare. 

And back in May, historian Johnathan Lewis argued that Trump uses similar tactics to Kennedy in the manner in which he engages with the media. 

What do you think? Are Trump and JFK alike at all? Share your thoughts in the comment section. 


Real story of heartbreaking Irish mother and children from Titanic movie

The fate of the Irish women and children in the Titanic’s third-class steerage was told in one beautiful and memorable scene.

In one of James Cameron’s “Titanic” most memorable scenes, the fatalities among the third-class Irish immigrants in steerage was heartbreakingly told with an Irish mother telling her children a famous tale from Irish folklore to send them to sleep, knowing that they would never again wake.

With the 1997 movie celebrating its 20th anniversary this December 19, the actors behind these minor characters, who nonetheless had a big impact, are paying tribute to the touching scene that has been the cause of many a teary face in the past two decades.

"And so they lived happily together for 300 years, in the land of Tír na nÓg, the land of eternal youth and beauty,” the Irish mother, played by Jeanette Goldstein, says in the movie, while her daughter, played by Laramie Landis, and son, played by Reece Thompson, drift off to sleep as the ship sinks around them.  

American actress Goldstein, who had previously worked with James Cameron on “Alien,” revealed to Cosmopolitan that it was the other Irish actors on set who recommended the story of Oisín and Niamh in Tír na n-Óg, explaining that the idea of a boy and girl going to an eternal land would be extremely fitting for the scene in which a mother is attempting to comfort her children in a terrifying situation.

Read more: Daughter of Irish immigrants survived the Titanic, Britannic, and Olympic disasters

The Irish mother and children scene in "Titanic" is heartbreaking 

Jeanette as the Irish mother in Titanic.

Even though the minor characters are simply known as Irish mother, Irish boy and Irish girl, the part immediately jumped out at Goldstein when Cameron asked her to read the script for its simple beauty.

“That mother, her focus was making sure her children were calm and happy — knowing they were going to die. I mean, my god, I’m getting chills right now. Those scenes are fantastic,” the actress told Cosmo.

“The very last scene, putting them to bed, was in one way easy and in one way hard. The easy thing was putting myself in that position, because I had gone through the big Los Angeles earthquake in 1994, when my oldest son was five. I was a single parent, my son was in the bed with [me], and it felt like a bomb was going off. I got him out of the bed and stood under the doorway, and he was asleep and I was holding him, and I wanted to scream, but I didn’t, because the same thought [that my character has in Titanic] was in my head: We’re gonna die. Let him die while sleeping. Don’t scream. So that was the easy part. The hard part was, during the scene, trying not to cry.”

Read more: 105 years ago this week my grandmother was booked to go on the Titanic

“I think in the script it said, ‘She tells them a bedtime story.’ That’s all it said. And so I said, ‘Which one?’ I was talking to a lot of the Irish actors [on set] and they said, ‘You’ve got to tell them the story of Tír na nÓg,’ and they wrote out the whole tale for me. It goes so well with the kids — you’re going to a place of final rest, where it’s youth and beauty.”

In an even more heartbreaking moment, the young actor Reece Thompson finished off a sterling job in the scene by asking her when they were going to film the next one where they would eventually get to the boats and make their escape from the sinking ship.

“After we do the scene, he goes to me, ‘So when are we gonna do the next scene?’” she revealed.

“And I said, ‘Which one?’ And he goes, ‘The one where we get onto the boats and escape.’ Oh my god. I was just like, ‘Uhhhh, talk to your mom.’”

Although only a minor character in the overall "Titanic" movie, the Irish boy was an extremely memorable role 

Reece Thompson as the Irish boy in Titanic. Image: Paramount Pictures.

Fortunately, then a five-year-old and now 25 years old, Thompson himself doesn’t remember much about making the scene or any of those heart-wrenching questions he asked his co-stars.

Although of Irish descent, Thompson had to draw on a few more freckles to apparently make him look a little more Irish for the movie, the first he had ever acted in.

“I had done commercials and print ads [prior to Titanic], so the magnitude of a major motion picture, especially one as big as Titanic, was pretty overwhelming,” he told Country Living.

“I had very little understanding of what was going on. I was mostly just excited to be in Mexico [at the Fox Baja Studios in Rosarito] and doing something that seemed fun.”

With just one line to say, Thompson explains how he struggled to understand how he had to put on an Irish accent at such a young age.

“They wanted me to say it in an Irish accent, and as a 5-year-old I had no idea what that meant,” he said.

“So I had my handler or whatever — my mom was on set, but my mom's not proficient in accents either — trying to explain to me how to say it, and I remember just trying to say it over and over and over again. That was the more frustrating part.”

The "Titanic" Irish mother and children scene originally had the room filling with water

Sharing a makeup room with the movie’s star Leonardo Dicaprio on the few days he was on set, Thompson was also asked if he could swim with the initial thinking behind the scene being that the room would fill with water, entrapping the Irish mother and her two young children.

“Initially they really wanted to fill the room with water, have it slowly fill with water, but I didn't know how to swim,” Thompson said.

“I don't know exactly what they were planning, but I remember them specifically asking me if I knew how to swim and me going, ‘If I have floaties, I can swim.’

“Every person who's ever found out — especially women who find out — that that was me in that scene, they always tell me that was the most heartbreaking scene, watching this mother having to, essentially, talk the kids to sleep in a genuinely terrifying moment. So from what I remember, it was only ever played that way. It didn't take that many times to take that one because it was just like, ‘Look like you're falling asleep’ — something I had mastered at 5 years old.”

What is your favorite scene from James Cameron’s “Titanic”? Have you visited any of the Titanic centers in Ireland?

What are you doing May 19? Going to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's wedding?

Date of British royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is annouced

The Kensington Palace Office of Prince Harry has confirmed the wedding date of his marriage to American actress Meghan Markle. The British Royal, fifth in line to the throne, will marry the actress of Irish descent on Saturday, May 19, 2018, in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. 

“His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales and Ms. Meghan Markle will marry on 19th May 2018,” said the Kensignton Palace statement. 

The couple are also said to have chosen Windsor Castle as the wedding location as it holds special meaning for them, having spent a lot of time there since they were introduced by a mutual friend in July 2016. 

Read more: Harry and Meghan's wedding is hiding a horrible truth for Catholics

Meghan Markle's wedding date has been revealed.

There may be one small unfortunate clash for Harry's older brother Prince William, however, as he will be forced to miss out on the FA cup final (English soccer tournament) which he attends annually. Prince William, as President of the Football Association, normally awards the winners the trophy. 

“The couple of course want the day to be a special, celebratory moment for their friends and family,” Prince Harry’s Communications Secretary Jason Knauf said after their engagement last month.

“They also want the day to be shaped so as to allow members of the public to feel part of the celebrations too and are currently working through ideas for how this might be achieved.”

Read more: Meghan Markle’s Irish roots produce an amazing surprise

Will you be closely watching Meghan and Harry's wedding on May 19?

It is reported that Markle, 36, intends to become a British citizen. She will also be baptized and confirmed within the Church of England before the wedding date. 

The "Suits" actress' great-great-great-grandmother Mary Smith emigrated to London from Ireland and married a British soldier named Thomas Bird sometime in the mid-1800s.

Her Irish family apparently disowned her, likely because she married a  member of the imperial army.

Will you be watching Meghan Markle and Prince Harry wed? Will you be avoiding it like the plague? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Party season cherry cheesecake Irish whiskey shots recipe

A little bit dessert a little bit Irish whiskey shot! What do you think? New Christmas party favorite?

This cherry cheesecake whiskey shots recipe has the IrishCentral crew divided. A cherry cheesecake? Yes, please. A whiskey shot? Sure… But together we’re just not that sure. However, so far, the video has over 4 million views on Cooking Panda’s Facebook page so we figured it must be floating someone’s boat.

So here goes nothing! Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Cherry Cheesecake Whiskey Shots

Cherry Cheesecake Whiskey Shots! Get the written recipe here: http://bit.ly/2uFF5tM

Posted by My Recipe Panda on Saturday, 11 November 2017

Cherry cheesecake whiskey shots recipe

Prep time: 30 minutes.

Serves 20


- 1 cup cherry pie filling, store-bought or homemade

- 2 ounces Disaronno

- 1 cup graham cracker crumbs

- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

- 1/3 cup brown sugar

- 1/3 cup butter, melted

- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened

- 1 tablespoon lemon juice

- 1 cup heavy cream

- 1/3 cup whiskey (we leave this up to you but obviously go for Tullamore D.E.W, Jameson or something Irish!)

1/4 cup sugar

- Maraschino cherries, for garnish (optional)


- Add Disaronno to cherry pie filling. Stir and set aside.

- In a bowl, add graham cracker crumbs, cinnamon, brown sugar and butter. Mix to combine.

- In either a food processor or in a bowl with a whisk, combine cream cheese and lemon juice. Add heavy cream, Irish whiskey and sugar. Mix until thick and fully combined.

- In small shot glasses, layer your cheesecakes. First, a layer of graham cracker crust, then the cheesecake filling and finally, the cherry pie filling. If desired, top with 1 maraschino cherry.

- Refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy!

H/T: Cooking Panda

Why Ireland is the ultimate destination for Star Wars fans

To find the magic of Star Wars, you don’t have to journey to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away – it’s right there in Ireland, where much of The Last Jedi was filmed.

A Star Wars fan since I was gifted a VHS box-set of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi for my 9th birthday, I was pretty much beside myself with excitement for the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens back in 2015.

Watching it in a packed theater on opening weekend, I cheered along with the audience when familiar characters like Princess Leia (the late, great Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) graced the screen and was dazzled by the new inhabitants of the Star Wars universe like the courageous Rey (Daisy Ridley) and terrifying Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

But the appearance that filled me with the most joy and awe didn’t happen until the end of the movie, and it wasn’t even a speaking role. No, I’m not talking about Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), I mean the Irish island of Skellig Michael, which was the setting for the planet where Skywalker had been hiding.

The Skelligs from above. Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan

Having spent time traveling Ireland and writing about the Emerald Isle daily, I know full well how majestic, other-worldly, and stunning the Irish landscape is, and with The Force Awakens, I was excited for Ireland to get its prime-time, big screen moment. Sure enough, there were audible gasps and “wow”s when the cameras first panned over Skellig Michael and Little Skellig. Later, talking about the movie with friends, I was proud to tell them that yes, that was in fact a real place, and it was in Ireland.

It seems that Lucasfilm producers and the Star Wars cast were also very impressed, because they spent even more time in Ireland filming the next installment, The Last Jedi, and went to an even greater number of Ireland filming locations in Kerry, Donegal and West Cork.  

During and after filming, neither new director Rian Johnson nor the film’s stars held back one iota when it came to talking about how much they loved being in Ireland.

When they wrapped, they even took out an ads in the Irish Examiner and local papers in Kerry and Donegal thanking the locals and their Irish crew.

With The Last Jedi in theaters now, chances are that in addition to attempting to work on your Jedi mind control powers, you might also be yearning for a trip to Ireland to walk in the footsteps of Luke and Rey and see all the stunning filming locations in person.

Whether planning a dedicated Star Wars trip or incorporating these attractions into a larger tour of Ireland’s tremendously popular Wild Atlantic Way coastal route, here’s how to plan the ultimate Star Wars fan trip of Ireland.  

Go mbeidh an fórsa leat! — May the force be with you!

Skellig Michael

Visitors on Skellig Michael. Photo: Karl Davis

This UNESCO World Heritage site off the coast of Co. Kerry in Ireland’s south-west has long been a popular destination, but since its Hollywood close-up in The Force Awakens, interest in this rocky former monastic settlement has sky-rocketed.

Visit Skellig Michael and you’ll be walking in the footsteps of not only the Star Wars cast and crew, but also the monks who lived there and built the stunning steps and beehive huts between the 6th and 12th centuries. The island is accessible only by boat, with local operators and fishermen giving tours. Be sure to book well in advance as space is quite limited and access also depends on the tide and the weather.

Malin Head

The Northern Lights above Malin Head. Photo: Adam Rory Porter

For The Last Jedi, the Star Wars team went all the way to the tippy-top of Ireland, to its most northerly point, Malin Head, on the Inishowen Peninsula in Co. Donegal. It’s the perfect starting point or end point for a Wild Atlantic Way adventure.

The breath-taking cliffs were home to a Millennium Falcon replica for a number of days during filming, but during a typical day on Malin Head, attractions include Banba’s Crown, a lookout tower built by the British in 1805 as a watchpoint for Napoleonic invaders. There’s also a restored “Erie” landscape sign, used in WWII to inform pilots they were flying over a neutral Ireland. At nighttime, Malin Head is one of Ireland’s best spots to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Before or after, grab a drink at nearby Farren’s Pub – Mark Hamill himself was a patron.

Loop Head

Loop Head Cliffs and Lighthouse. Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan

With the Shannon Estuary on one side and the vast Atlantic Ocean on the other, Loop Head Peninsula in Co. Clare offers some of the most gorgeous views – all the better seen from Loop Head Lighthouse, which dates back to 1854 and was renovated and reopened to the public in 2015. You can even spend the night there as part of a special program with the Irish Landmark Trust.

Loop Head is just an hour and a half’s drive from Shannon Airport. Take the Loop Head Drive, or walk the Loop Head Heritage trail. Get to know the charming nearby towns of Kilkee and Kilbaha, or explore the natural wonders with birdwatching or aquatic focused tours. 

Ceann Sibéal

Ceann Sibéal. Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan

In addition to being a jaw-droppingly beautiful spot in its own right, Ceann Sibéal or Sibyl’s Head on the Dingle Peninsula in Co. Kerry played a dual role for the Star Wars team, filling in as something of a location double for Skellig Michael, which due to its special preservation designations could only host the crew for a limited number of days. Instead, they re-built some of Skellig Michael’s signature beehive huts on Ceann Sibéal.

This proved to be great fun for Mark Hamill and the rest of the Star Wars cast and crew present who got the added bonus of being able to enjoy Dingle, one of Ireland’s most famous and beloved towns. According to local reports, they were patrons of Bean in Dingle, ‘Idás Restaurant, Global Village restaurant, and Dick Mack’s Pub.

Brow Head

Signal tower at Brow Head. Photo: Richard Webb/Creative Commons

The Star Wars cast and crew sure got around Ireland! Not only did they film at Malin Head, the northernmost point, they also set up shop for a few days at Brow Head in west Co. Cork, the southernmost point in all of mainland Ireland.

At Brow Head, not only will you find a surviving British Signal Tower from 1804, but the nearby village of Crookhaven is a popular summer destination, with the year-round population of about 60 inhabitants surging to 400 during the warm months as visitors and vacation home owners flock to enjoy the sunshine. Crookhaven is a two-hour drive from Cork City, with some of the county’s best towns for both history and tourism, such as Cobh, Kinsale, and Skibbereen, along the way.

To find out more about Star Wars, The Last Jedi and the filming locations in Ireland visit ireland.com/starwars

This post is proudly produced in partnership with Tourism Ireland. Find out more on Ireland.com

December 15th's advent surprise is so beautiful you might cry

It's 10 days till Christmas! So naturally we wanted to make December 15th's Christmas advent calendar surprise extra special. 

This is one of the most beautiful and moving videos we've ever seen. Every single time we watch it it brings a tear to the eye. 

Last December, this video of Kaylee Rogers, a then-10-year-old girl from County Down, singing Leonard Cohen’s "Hallelujah" at her school’s Christmas recital went viral, and with good reason – it’s absolutely electrifying.

Rodgers, from Donaghadee, County Down, is autistic and has ADHD, and has used her tremendous singing gift as a way to build confidence.

In an interview with ITV after the video went viral, the school's principal talked about how major of an achievement the recital was for Kaylee. 

“For a child who came in P4 and wouldn't really talk, wouldn’t really read out in class, to stand and perform in front of an audience is amazing,” he said. “It takes a lot of effort on Kaylee’s part.”

Hear for yourself how enormously talented she is:

10-year-old Irish autistic girl's performance of Hallelijah wi...

10-year-old Irish autistic girl's performance of Hallelijah will move you to tears with its beauty Get the full story here: http://bit.ly/2gOHvxy Credit: Killard House School/Beefy TV

Posted by IrishCentral.com on Monday, October 30, 2017


Irishman bursts into flames on English street

An Irishman burst into flames in England, in what appears to be a case of spontaneous combustion.

Seventy-year-old John Nolan, originally from County, was out for a walk near his home in Tottenham, North London, when he caught fire. Emergency services were called and he was airlifted to a specialist hospital in nearby Chelmsford, Essex.

Despite the best efforts of medical staff, he died of his injuries the following day.

A post-mortem exam revealed that the former construction worker had burns over 65% of his body and an inquest is due to take place in March.

Read More: Irishman found dead in Philly, days before Christmas homecoming

Scientists have always viewed the idea the humans could burst into flames with suspicion but this case has left experts baffled.

Fire specialists say that Nolan was nowhere near fire and police have appealed for witnesses in an attempt to shed light on the mystery.

"Mr Nolan was a well-liked member of the community and none of our inquiries so far have indicated that he had been involved in a dispute of any sort," said Damien Ait-Amer - the officer assigned to the case.

Read More: Irish J-1 student dies after Ocean City swimming accident

His brother-in-law Tom Byrne said he was a deeply kind man.

“John wouldn’t hurt so much as a butterfly,” he told the Irish Post.

“In fact, he’d find a way to bring the butterfly home and care for it. He was a gentleman who would do anything you asked of him.”

The only thing the Irish googled more than “Donald Trump” in 2017

Google have released the top things Irish people Googled in 2017 and it is a veritable window into the Irish mindset.

the only thing bigger than US President Donald Trump for the Irish was Hurricane Ophelia, the worst storm to hit the nation in decades. Thousands were left without power, the roof was blown clear off a school in Douglas, Cork and Bill Clinton strolled around Dublin’s O’Connell Street as if it was the most ordinary day in the world.

Read More: Unable to make NI trip to help break political stalemate, Bill Clinton explores Hurricane-struck Dublin

Next up was Donald Trump, proving once and for all that America is not alone in its need to keep up with every twist and turn in the new Administration. Searches peaked around Inauguration Day but strong interest remains in the United States’ 45th Commander in Chief.

Read More: Americans visiting Ireland find locals obsessed with Donald Trump

The contentious Ireland v Denmark soccer match took the bronze medal and the TV drama ‘13 Reasons Why’ placed fourth with searches peaking in April.

Fidget spinners placed fifth, Hurricane Imra sixth, the strike by drivers of Bus Éireann seventh and the Mayweather v McGregor eighth.

In at ninth place was one of Ireland’s long running obsessions, Eurovision, and in tenth the dark allegations about Harvey Weinstein's treatment of women.

Questions that begin ‘What is’ reveal that Irish people were most curious to find out ‘What is the antikythera mechanism’, which is in fact a way to predict astrological movements.

Other ‘What is’ questions reveal Irish people wanted to learn the definitions of a hurricane, Bitcoin, a pangolin, a tracker mortgage, the Confederation Cup, a teleporter and a fidget spinner.

If more evidence were needed that US politics are closely monitored in Ireland, people also wanted to know what Donald Trump was referring to when he tweeted about ‘covfefe’ and about ‘DACA’ - a US government program that gives work visas to undocumented immigrants who arrived in America as children.

Read More: Irish DACA families and immigration centers speak out

The top queries ‘How to..?’ were also pretty revealing: ‘How to make slime’ was the top one with strong interest throughout the year. How to watch the Mayweather V McGregor fight took the silver and lose weight the bronze.  

How to make pancake mix, solve a rubix cube, download Netflix and register to vote were also popular - an indication that Irish people are beginning to think seriously about next year’s referendum on abortion.

Read More: Ireland will hold an abortion referendum in 2018

For sport, the top event was unsurprisingly Mayweather v McGregor, followed by Ireland v Denmark, the Cheltenham races, Confederations Cup and the the rugby match Ireland v Wales.

The top recipes were spaghetti bolognese, chili con carne, beef stroganoff, guacamole and pavlova. Demonstrating once and for there is little truth in the tired cliche that the Irish diet is made up of potatoes and nothing more.

H/T: Google Trends 

The unsung Irishman who saved George Washington’s life twice

Few Irishmen have done more for American liberty than the greatest spy of all

In an era where Russian spying and stealing state secrets are the order of the day, it is timely to remember the greatest American spy of all.

If you have seen 'Hamilton,' the Broadway musical which also has a U.S. tour, you will know of whom I speak, but alas, Hercules Mulligan is played by an African American, a needless piece of miscasting given Mulligan was a native of Ireland and a proud Irish Republican.

Mulligan saved George Washington's life twice, and the Revolution would have turned out very differently were it not for the Irishman.

President George Washington.

In addition, it was Mulligan who took the young and penniless immigrant Alexander Hamilton under his wing and fired him with enthusiasm for the American cause.

Indeed, were another Broadway show to be made about the period, Mulligan’s story would have powerful impact. He is arguably the most underrated Irish hero in history, as much a founding father as any other figure of the time with the exception of Washington.

Mulligan moved with his family from Coleraine in County Derry to New York in 1746 when he was six years old. He graduated from Columbia University and became active in the Sons of Liberty, the underground movement to make America independent.

The ties with Britain were loosening and what had once been benevolent oversight had turned into mutual hostility.

By 1776, when the British occupied New York City, Mulligan embarked on his secret life, a tailor by day who fitted English generals for their uniforms, and informant by night, smuggling information he gleaned via his servant Cato to the American lines.

Read more: The untold story of how the heroic Irish won the American Revolution

Marriage to the daughter of a leading British officer made him an even more trusted figure by the British top brass.

In 1779, Mulligan saved Washington's life for the first time.  A British officer came calling on the Irish tailor seeking a warm watch coat immediately.

When Mulligan inquired about the haste the officer replied they had Washington in their sights.  “Before another day, we'll have the rebel general in our hands,” he said.

Mulligan immediately sent Cato to warn Hamilton, who was by now Washington’s aide de camp. The message arrived just in time.

The in 1781, two years after his first escape, the British came to capture Washington again.  Mulligan’s brother Hugh, who ran a goods company, received a huge order for supplies for 300 soldiers whose general believed they had Washington in their sights and were about to hunt him down.

Hercules Mulligan warned Washington in advance, and once again the leader escaped.

A hero on the inside, Hercules Mulligan.

After the rebels had won, Washington would not forget his chief spy who had saved the day on two occasions. On November 26, 1783, Washington led the Evacuation Day parade and called to Mulligan at what is today 218 Pearl Street. He tethered his horse, dismounted and ate breakfast with Mulligan, calling him “a true friend of liberty.” Washington generously ordered a full set of civilian clothing.  Mulligan proudly erected a sign outside his shop: “Clothier to Genl. Washington."

Mulligan detested slavery and became one of the 19 founding members, with Hamilton and John Jay, of the New York Manumission Society, an early organization to abolish slavery.

He prospered as a businessman with Washington’s seal of approval.  He retired in 1820 and died in 1825, aged 84.  Few Irishmen have done more for liberty.

Read more: George Washington’s greatest sniper was an Irish marksman

Irish woman determined to walk again after fatal Florida car crash

Sligo-native Elaine O’Halloran broke her spine in two places in a fatal car crash in Florida.

The sister of an Irish woman who was grievously injured in a fatal car crash in Florida in November is hopeful that she will walk again despite the fact her sister broke her spine in two places.

Co. Sligo-born Elaine O’Halloran, 24, was the only survivor of November 25 car crash in which two American friends were killed. Her spine was broken in two places. She has undergone intensive reconstruction surgery but remains paralyzed from the waist down. O’Halloran is believed to have regained some feeling in her legs, however, giving her family hope that the Irish horse groom will make a full recovery.

"Elaine had to undergo a six-hour spinal reconstruction surgery but she is doing better now and is in rehabilitation,” O’Halloran’s sister Jean explained to the Irish Independent.  

“Because she broke her spine in two places she is currently paralyzed from the abdomen down but she has felt some sensation in her leg and toes so we're hopeful that she will be able to walk again."

Read more: Tributes paid to American family who died in Wexford car crash

Elaine O'Halloran is currently in rehabilitation following her Florida car crash.

O’Halloran, who is from Strandhill in Co. Sligo, has been living in the US for the past two years, working as a groom for Co. Clare show jumper David Blake. She was planning on returning to Ireland last week but since the accident has decided to remain in Florida where she can receive rehabilitation treatment.

"She had been planning on coming home last week for a visit but after the accident she wants to stay in the US and get the best rehabilitation treatment she can get. She is looking to come home to Ireland soon, though,” her sister said.

As O’Halloran had no health insurance to cover her medical costs, her employer has established a GoFundMe campaign for $500,000 to help cover the large rehabilitation bills. The campaign has so far raised over $150,000.

Read more: Six things American drivers in Ireland need to know

Elaine O'Halloran and her sister Jean.

"We're hoping to raise $500,000 for Elaine's treatment. We've been so shocked by how kind people have been with their donations. It's really heartwarming.

“The donations have come from random people in Ireland, the US and the showjumping community in the US,” Jean told Extra.ie.

O’Halloran is currently undergoing rehabilitation at St. Mary’s Medical Trauma Center in West Palm Beach.

You can contribute to the GoFundMe campaign here.

Cork gets all the love in major New York Times travel story

The rebel city gets a very special visit from the New York Times and celebrates all the great things to do in the Rebel City.  

Corkonians (people from Cork) will talk forever, if allowed, about all the reasons why the Rebel City is the true capital of Ireland. However, until recently no transatlantic flights went to Cork – Dublin or Shannon were the only two choices –  the city was overshadowed somewhat by the official capital along with some of the other smaller cities and towns, such as Galway and Killarney.

The New York Times recently decided to make the most of the new direct flights to Cork, however, spending what can only be described as a wondrous 36 hours exploring the city's top restaurants and hotels and all the best things to do.

“Travelers who fly in and out of Dublin often overlook Ireland’s second city, but this southern settlement is well worth a full weekend of its own,” writes Brendan Spiegel.

“After the surprise of Hurricane Ophelia barreling through this fall, Cork has recovered and is ready for the holiday season, when the streets are glowing with Christmas lights, outdoor food stalls and even a Ferris wheel offering sweeping city views.”

Read more: Irish pubs you must visit in Cork City

While paying homage to Cork-brewed Beamish and Murphy’s, Spiegel’s day and a half in Cork City fills us with envy at all the delicious food and drink he enjoyed, as well as the amazing insights he found into the city’s history.  

Here are just a sample of the amazing sights and sounds he encountered:

Cork, Ireland: Things to do

Triskel Arts Center

Things to do in Cork City: Triskel Arts Center. Image: Facebook.

A restored neo-classical church which includes an art gallery and holds concerts and film screenings? What could be better?

A day trip to Kinsale

Things to do in Cork City: Kinsale. Image: Facebook.

Kinsale is just 30 minutes south of the city where the River Lee, which flows through the heart of Cork City, finds its way to the Atlantic Ocean. With unique boutique stores and some great seafood, Kinsale won't disappoint  you.  

Mother Jones Flea Market

Things to do in Cork City: Mother Jones Flea Market. Image: Facebook.

A vintage market named after Cork's most famous export, the famed labor leader and revolutionary Mother Jones. You won’t find any tourist items among this market but could pick yourself up some great vintage Guinness signs, according to Spiegel.

Read more: A street in Cork was named best in the world

Cork, Ireland: Restaurants:

While curry chips (or fries to you) do get a mention and we’re salivating just thinking of them, Spiegel went for something a little more special during his time in Cork.


Restaurants in Cork City: Iyer's. Image: Facebook.

You may not immediately think of Indian food when you think of Irish restaurants but Iyer's makes the best of fresh local vegetables for its South Indian cuisine.

Elbow Lane Brew and Smokehouse

Restaurants in Cork City: Elbow Lane. Image: Facebook.

Over the last few years Ireland has seen an enormous growth in the number of breweries and distilleries and Elbow Lane is just one of the new restaurants that have cropped sporting their own nano-brewery.

Alchemy Coffee and Books

Restaurants in Cork City: Alchemy coffee and books. Image: Facebook.

Ditch the chain coffee brands and browse through a multitude of used books while you do so.  

Cork, Ireland: Hotels:

The River Lee

Hotels in Cork City: The River Lee. Image: Facebook.

As its name would lead you to believe, you’ll be in walking distance of the city center's main sights for upwards of €125 ($150) a night.

Hayfield Manor

Hotels in Cork City: Hayfield Manor. Image: Facebook.

A little further out but closer to the grounds of the fabulous University College Cork. You can enjoy walled gardens and afternoon tea from €209 ($245) a night.

What are your favorite things to do in Cork City? Let us know what your recommendations are in the comments section, below. 

Remembering General James P. Cullen, president of American Friends of Sinn Féin

A final farewell to ‘General Jim’ at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. 

He was played in by a lone piper, played out by an army bugler’s rendering of “Taps.”

James P. Cullen, “General Jim” to his many friends, was remembered and eulogized today at a funeral Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan.

Just a few months ago, the retired army brigadier general, and in recent times president of Friends of Sinn Féin, had sat under the same soaring, vaulted, roof at the memorial Mass for his friend Martin McGuinness.

Cullen’s Mass was viewable in Martin McGuinness’s native Derry.

Chief celebrant, Monsignor Robert Ritchie, Rector of St. Patrick’s, told the large congregation that the Mass was being live streamed and was being followed in Jim Cullen’s beloved Ireland.

Monsignor Ritchie asked those faraway viewers to pray for a man whose love for Ireland had always been evident throughout his life and career.

That life ended on Friday last, December 8, when Jim Cullen succumbed to an illness he had been battling in recent months.

He was 72, and while his was a life well and fully lived there was as sense among those in the cathedral that here was a man who had gone from us too soon.

Delivering the eulogy, Cullen’s friend Mike Berman spoke of that full life, of a man who had advised world leaders and had helped shape policy.

He told his listeners of a photo of Jim Cullen with President Barack Obama taken on the day of Obama’s inauguration in January, 2009.

Cullen was present for Obama’s signing of a series of executive orders banning torture and reviewing detention policies.

Cullen’s attendance in the Oval Office that day was due to the fact that he was one of eight retired army generals and navy admirals who had taken a public stand against torture after the emergence of photos of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2004.

That initial grouping would ultimately grow to more than 200 generals and flag officers.

Mike Berman, with a smile, said that had John McCain been elected president in 2008, Jim Cullen would have been in an Oval Office photo on inauguration day, only this time with a president named McCain.

James Cullen, who began an army career in 1969 as a private, this after graduating from law school, would rise to the rank of Brigadier General in the army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps.

While his post-army career would be as an attorney specializing in real estate, Cullen would became widely known as a human rights champion, most especially through his work with the organization Human Rights First.

If you were in trouble, said Berman, “Jim’s phone number was one you needed to have.”

“He was trusted by his friends,” said Berman.

“Some trusted him with their fortunes, some trusted him with their lives.”

Cullen, who had been mentored by New York legal and political icon, Paul O’Dwyer, had started his career, said Berman, in an established old law firm somewhat set in its ways.

But the young attorney was determined to have his way in one crucial matter.

He would start his job with a full four weeks of vacation, “two weeks for the army, and two weeks for Ireland.”

And the army remembered.

His flag-draped coffin was carried into St. Patrick’s by army pallbearers and down the front steps after Mass to a sunny but chilly Fifth Avenue.

The sound of Taps faded and the piper filled the silence with “Going Home” and “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”

And Jim Cullen, “General Jim,” was on his way home, to a final place of rest in his native County Offaly.

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LISTEN: The Irish people and potatoes - was Ireland overpopulated in 1845?

The Irish History Podcast’s third installment in the Great Famine series – life in Ireland on the brink

This is the third installment of the Irish History Podcast’s Great Famine series. The Great Famine is the most important event in modern Irish history. It changed Ireland, and indeed, the world forever. While one million perished from starvation and disease, our ancestors also struggled to survive.

Read more: Rents, riots and volcanoes – Ireland on the brink of the Great Hunger

In 1845 the population of Ireland was heading towards 9 million with many people surviving on a diet of potatoes. This has led many to claim that the island was over-populated, and, so, that was the cause of the Great Famine.

This is not true.

In this podcast I head to a remote village of Inver in County Mayo to investigate exactly how many people lived in Ireland in 1845, what was their standard of living, and whether the people were healthy on the eve of the Great Famine. The answers are surprising to say the least.

Read more: Storm brought salvation during the Great Famine to a Kerry community

 * Fin Dwyer is a historian, author, and creator of the Irish history podcast. Over the last seven years, he has been creating free podcasts which makes Irish history accessible to new audiences. He has covered diverse topics from the Middle Ages to the modern history. He is currently focusing on the story of the Great Hunger. With over three million individuals downloads, the show is one of Ireland's most popular podcasts. You can find his podcast on iTunes.

Conor McGregor snapped in London associating with criminals, again

MMA fighter videoed by brothers Jonathan and Andy Murray throwing a wad of notes at a line-up of glamour hostesses

Conor McGregor, who has denied social media rumors that he was in a Dublin pub bust-up with an associate of a gangster, has been photographed whooping it up with two criminal brothers in London.

The MMA fighter was videoed by brothers Jonathan and Andy Murray throwing a wad of notes last week at a line-up of glamour hostesses at the exclusive Cirque le Soir nightclub.

One of the girls who served champagne to McGregor and his group was Kamila Kostka, who was born in Poland and grew up in Newry, Co. Down, before moving to work in London.

Read more: Nine amazing quotes from Conor McGregor

Kostka, who regards herself as Irish, told the Irish Sun she danced on McGregor’s table and the wads of notes he threw was “normal behavior” at the club.

The Mail on Sunday reported that the video footage showed the Murray brothers, 34-year-old Andrew and 27-year-old John, smacking the behinds of the girl hostesses and leering and making faces at them.

The brothers were also earlier the same night at the London Fashion Awards where they and McGregor, a friend since childhood, mixed with celebrities.

McGregor was photographed cozying up to singer Rita Ora. She posted a picture of the pair on social media and dubbed it “date night.”


A post shared by Rita Ora (@ritaora) on

Later she apologized and said she didn’t mean to offend McGregor’s girlfriend Dee Devlin when she was accused of “disrespecting” his sweetheart.

The Murray brothers, from Crumlin, Dublin, are part of the fighter’s entourage and flew to London with him in his private jet. They also traveled to Las Vegas for his fight with boxer Floyd Mayweather earlier this year and then partied with him after he lost the bout.

The Murrays have a string of convictions between them. Jonathan Murray was jailed for 18 months for his part in what was described in court as a “sickening” attack on a man in 2012. He also has 48 previous convictions, including four for drug dealing.

Andrew has 18 previous convictions which include possession of drugs for sale or supply, theft, forgery and public order offenses. When he was convicted of unlawful possession of drugs in 2014 he was photographed giving the middle finger to the camera.

A few days before the London outing with his pals, McGregor was fined €400 at Blanchardstown District Court in Dublin for speeding.

Read more: What you need to know about Conor McGregor

LISTEN: Ed Sheeran covers The Pogues' Fairytale of New York

Ed Sheeran has done the risky move of covering one of the most beloved Irish Christmas songs ever - Fairytale of New York by The Pogues

The "Perfect" singer performed the cover in the BBC Live Lounge with Irish folk band Beoga (who also collaborated with him on the Irish songs on his recent album) and the English singer-songwriter Anne-Marie. 

Give it a listen... what do you think? 

The original was released in 1987 with Kirsty MacColl singing the female vocals and became a touchstone of the Irish immigrant experience in the US in addition to a fiercely beloved Christmas classic.

In his version, Sheeran seems to have glossed over some of the grittier original lyrics, and his singing is a great deal softer and more clearly annunciated than Shane MacGowan's - which may not be a good thing, depending on your perspective!

Can anyone do it justice quite like The Pogues themselves? 

Here's the original - tell us what you think in the comment section. 

The most beloved Irish Christmas traditions according to YOU

No one does Christmas quite like the Irish, with traditions and celebrations galore. But with so many traditions surrounding Christmas in Ireland, it’s hard to know which are the most popular and beloved.

IrishCentral polled our readers to find out which of the Irish Christmas traditions really make the season. Over 500 of you voted, and the results? Midnight Mass was the clear winner! The complete results are below, and honorable mention must go to the truly beautiful Christmas tradition of placing a burning candle in the window of your home – a symbol of warmth and welcome. Mary Robinson, Ireland’s first female president, re-popularized the tradition when she placed a lit candle in the president’s residence, Áras an Uachtaráin, shortly after being inaugurated as president in 1990, as a gesture towards the millions of Irish around the world.

Which of the following is your favorite Irish Christmas tradition? Share your thoughts in the comment section at the bottom of the page.

1. Midnight Mass (49%)

If you’re looking for a church packed to the rafters, look no further that any church in Ireland at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. This is a huge social gathering where family, friends, and neighbors who you may not have seen all year come together and celebrate Christmas.

With Christmas carols being sung and, often, live music being played, Midnight Mass in Ireland is a great place to catch up with old friends and get in touch with the local community at Christmas.

2. Leaving cookies out for Santa (35%)

This tradition is one of the most special for families celebrating Christmas around the world. While not uniquely Irish, it’s a favorite across Ireland, as kids leave treats out for Santa and his reindeer, and winking parents get to steal a cookie from Santa later.

Looking for a good Irish recipe for Santa’s cookies this year? Try these melty chocolate chip cookies made with Kerrygold butter.

3. Baking (or just eating!) a Christmas cake (34%)

In the US, a fruitcake is pretty much a joke. You’ve heard the one about the fruitcake that gets re-gifted every year, right? But in Ireland, Christmas cake – which has a fruitcake base – is not in the least bit funny. Christmas cakes in Ireland are delicious works of art, with brandy-soaked fruit, crumbly sponge, and sweet almond icing. Want to experiment with making one of your own? Ireland’s culinary grande dame Darina Allen has the perfect recipe.

4. New pajamas for Christmas (29%)

Christmas is one of the few days of the year where you can spend most of the day in your pajamas and not feel in the least bit bad about it. You’re too busy opening presents, drinking hot chocolate, watching Christmas films, and prepping for dinner to care. Still, it helps to have a nice and presentable pair, which is where the tradition of Christmas pajamas came from. Plus, they make for the best (read: silliest) family Christmas photos.

5. Caroling (24%)

Whether it’s in the safety of your own sitting room or door to door in the neighborhood in a group, caroling is one of the surest ways to put yourself, and others, in the Christmas spirit. In a country with as rich a musical heritage as Ireland, it’s no wonder caroling is popular – especially when there are gorgeous Irish Christmas songs like the "Wexford Carol" and "Fairytale of New York." To learn some Irish carols and hymns, read more here.

6. Pulling Christmas crackers (20%)

Many an Irish child has, at one point or another, fled the Christmas dinner table in tears when the time came to pull the Christmas crackers, terrified by the loud bang they produce when pulled. But as we all eventually learned, that was a mistake, because inside the brightly wrapped crackers are toys and trinkets, paper crowns, and jokes to make the whole family howl with laughter (or collectively roll their eyes).

7. A big music session in the local on Christmas Eve (16%)

Pubs in Ireland are packed during the holidays (read more about the 12 Pubs of Christmas below) with people off from work and home for the holidays out to celebrate and reunite. Christmas Eve can be an especially busy night, as people pop in before or after Midnight Mass and get one last night out before the family-centric Christmas celebrations begin.

So, of course, the tin whistle, the fiddle, the bodhrán and the uilleann pipes make an appearance for a few songs. This tradition is especially big for the Irish who live abroad and who have come home for Christmas, because nothing quite says you’re home like a pint at the local, sitting by the fire while neighbors you’ve known your whole life fill the room with tunes you’ve known your whole life but haven’t heard in ages.

8. Ugly holiday sweaters (13%)

This started off with aunties, grandmothers and relatives handing over the most hideous sweaters as presents for Christmas, but somehow Christmas sweaters have turned into a competition on the streets of Ireland. The woollier and more ridiculously decorated the better.

9. The wren boys on St. Stephen’s Day (11%)

During penal times a group of soldiers was about to be ambushed, having been surrounded while they slept, but a group of wrens pecked on their drums and woke them. Thus, the wren became known as “The Devil’s Bird.” To insure the bird's treachery isn't forgotten, on St. Stephen’s Day (Dec 26) people process around, going door-to-door with blackened faces and wearing old clothes, and carrying a dead (now more often fake) wren on top of the pole. Then, crowds of "strawboys" dressed in straw suits and masks march to celebrate the wren and are known as the wren boys.

While this tradition is no longer as popular as it once was, it endures in parts of Ireland and is a uniquely Irish way to spend the day after Christmas. Read more about the wren boys here.

10 The twelve pubs of Christmas (11%)

The 12 Pubs of Christmas is has taken Ireland by storm in the past ten years or so. Originally only the most dedicated of drinkers would take on the difficult task, but more and more we’re seeing all sorts of Christmas parties join the fray – from office parties (big and small) to friends and family reunions.

12 Pubs of Christmas is essentially an extended bar crawl. Over the course of an evening you, along with your brothers and sisters-in-indulgence, visit 12 bars and attempt to have a drink in every one. “Christmas jumpers” or sweaters and Santa hats are the uniform of choice for the soldiers of the 12 Pubs and every weekend in December you will see very merry Santa Clauses and Mrs. Clauses in every town in Ireland. To top things off, each stop on the pub crawl comes with its own set of rules.

You can read what they are – and get some tips for planning your own 12 Pubs, here.

Which of these is your favorite Irish Christmas tradition? Or is yours not included here? Share your thoughts in the comment section, below.

* Originally published in 2015.

Mother, 8-month-old and teen shot while decorating their Christmas tree in Dublin

A 23-year-old woman charged with possession of a gun and intent to endanger life Traveller family feud attack

A 23-year-old woman, Charlene Donovan, has been charged with possession of a gun and intent to endanger life following the shooting of an eight-month old baby was injured along with his mother and a teenage boy.

Eight-month-old John was shot by a gunman as his family was erecting a Christmas tree. The mother, Lynn Doyle, 29, was also hit by the shotgun blast as she held her baby in a car outside their home at Parlickstown Gardens, Mulhuddart, Co. Dublin.

The baby’s 17-year-old uncle, Matsie Collins, was also injured. All three were treated in hospital for injuries which were said to be not life-threatening.  The baby was reported to have been injured by up to 30 pellets.

A 23-year-old woman is due to appear in court. It is believe the incident was part of a feud among Traveller families at Parslickstown Gardens in Mulhuddart.

The baby’s grandfather, Arthur Collins, told reporters at the shooting scene, “All we were doing was putting up a Christmas tree, and the next minute, bang bang bang bang bang.  For nothing.

“My son was on the ground, my baby grandson was shot into the face and into the body.

“To tell you the truth, I thought it was bangers. I ran out, I seen her holding the baby, I seen my son on the ground.

“Is it gone that far now that they’re going to kill children before they kill people? This has to be the lowest of the lowest that I’ve ever come across in my life.”

He said the feud started some time ago over a boy and a girl that ran away.

Garda Superintendent Liam Carolan said the arrested man was held in custody on suspicion of possession of ammunition.

He added that the woman was holding the child on her right hip when both of them were struck by pellets from a shotgun.

Despite the grandfather’s claim that the baby was shot in the face, Carolan said the pellets struck his lower body.

X-Men's Michael Fassbender’d rather be racing cars

Michael Fassbender, international race car driver? If the Irish/German star has his way, he could soon be more famous for his exploits behind the wheel instead of a camera.

The newlywed – he wed Oscar winner Alicia Vikander in October – adores car racing and is actively pursing it as a sideline and possible career.  The U.K. Times reported last week that other than his X-Men commitments, he’s stepped aside from pursuing other roles to focus on racing.

“Honestly, if I had the choice I’d choose race driving over acting,” he said.

“Preparing for an acting role, you spend a lot of time on your own. It’s quite dull. But racing, I just love everything about it. I’ve always wanted to race. I thought karting would be the way in, but I was always so busy with work. I thought, ‘Once I reach 40, I’ll start easing up.’

“So at the moment I’m just doing X-Men: Dark Phoenix in Montreal. Basically, I took the year off to do this.”

Fass is doing lots of training with Ferrari and “scored a podium finish in his third race at Mosport Park in Canada,” the Times reported.

Read more: Did you know redheads, ten percent of Ireland, have superpowers?

Watching racing while growing up in Killarney, Co. Kerry lit a spark in Fassbender, who moved from Germany with his German father and Irish mother so they could open a restaurant in the popular town.

“I hope to be in the Challenge series next year,” Fassbender told Automobile magazine. “Maybe a race or two early then another at the latter part of the season. It’s a fantastic series, so well organized, so professional. And some of the guys are really fast. Doing Le Mans someday, that would be amazing. The ultimate goal, I just need to do less acting. But to be 40 and be in this position — racing a Ferrari — it’s pretty special.”

His new bride is 100 percent in favor of his passion, Fass says.

“She loves it.  She was there for third place at Mosport, so she’s a lucky charm. Frankly, I’m just worried she might get into racing and be better than me,” he said.

Read more: So, is 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' any good? Wait till you see the Irish scenes

Lord of the Dance Michael Flatley’s $23.4m Cork mansion fails to sell

Lord of the Dance Michael Flatley has failed to sell his $23.4 million mansion in Cork.

The building has been quietly taken off Ireland’s various property websites, but it’s understood to still be for sale and Flatley hopes that word of mouth will eventually find him a buyer.

Rich in history, the palatial building just outside of the town of Fermoy was built in 1760 and was once owned by Ireland’s first President, Douglas Hyde.

In 1999 Flatley spotted it from a helicopter on the way to house hunt in nearby West Cork and snapped it up for £4 million. Then the house was in a poor condition and Flatley spent the next fours years renovating the place for an estimated $35 million.

Read More: Michael Flatley bids farewell to Ireland

It’s where he and his wife, Niamh, got married in 2007 and he admitted it was a wrench when he put it on the market after so many happy memories. Nevertheless, the couple decided to sell after concluding they no longer had enough time to spend there. The couple own a large number of properties around the globe – reputedly including a fewer smaller Irish ones – and spend much of their life jetting between them.

Inside the property are six reception rooms, 12 bedrooms, a sumptuous wine cellar, a swimming pool and a cinema. The house has been shown to several multi-millionaires over the past two years and has featured in countless glossy magazines. But no joy.

If the late Michael Jackson were still alive he might have bought the place: as a guest of the Flatleys Jackson was apparently so enthralled by Castlehyde that he told Michael to, “name his price.”

Perhaps with the best realtors and press money can buy there’s only one conclusion as to why the house won’t sell: the price is too high.  

And if Castlehyde is slightly too expensive for your budget, there's always a derelict Irish cottage on the market somewhere down the country. 

Read More: An Irish cottage for $29.5k – the ultimate Christmas gift

Irish theatre to keep an eye out for in New York this December

tRUMPELSTILTSKIN, It's a Wonderful Life, and Disco Pigs starring Evanna Lynch! Merry Christmas!

tRUMPELSTILTSKIN at An Beal Bocht, Riverdale

THE Bronx-based, Irish-run Poor Mouth Theatre Company will present their provocatively titled holiday pantomime tRUMPELSTILTSKIN this week starting Thursday, December 14 at An Beal Bocht Cafe in Riverdale, the Bronx.

Expect a classic Irish panto with sing songs, comedy sequences and more than a bit of topical satire as well as mandatory audience participation (don't worry, they won't mortify you too much).

Just sit back and cheer for the plucky heroes and boo at the nasty villains and be sure bring the kids of all ages because trust us, adults and children will find plenty to laugh at here.

Read more: James Joyce’s The Dead very much alive at NYC’s Irish Rep

If you don't remember the original Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale this pantomime is based on it doesn't matter.  Suffice to say that a poor miller's daughter is forced to substantiate her braggart father's claims that she can spin old straw into fine gold. “Prove it,” says the king.

An Beal Bocht, Riverdale.

Soon the question becomes, who can save the miller’s daughter? And at what cost?

There are big laughs for adults as well as kids in this rollicking show (take heart snowflakes, there is no pointed political content in the show except maybe the fun they have with The Donald's signature look and speech patterns, they promise.)

Written and directed by Scott Kennedy with music direction by Kathryn Donnelly and Suzanne Hockstein, the seasonal panto features Corinne Delaney, Aoife Williamson, Aaron Souza, Michelle Hendee, Suzanne Hockstein, Kathryn Donnelly and Caitlin Seward. Run time is about one hour.

tRUMPELSTILTSKIN begins Thursday, December 14, then plays Saturday December, 16 (with two shows at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.) and Sunday 17 at 2 p.m.  

It's a Wonderful Life at The Irish Rep

It's a Wonderful Life at The Irish Rep.

THE Irish Repertory Theatre in New York is now presenting It's a Wonderful Life, the classic tale of one life changing Yuletide in Bedford Falls adapted by Anthony Palermo and directed by the theater’s award winning artistic director Charlotte Moore.

Christmas Eve, 1946 seems like a long way away nowadays, but after a few words from affable hero George Bailey, the nicest guy in town, we'll be rooting for him to get out his terrible predicament.

Contemplating suicide on the town bridge, George is unexpectedly waylaid by Clarence, his own personal guardian angel, who needs to save the young man to earn his wings. Clarence shows George what Bedford Falls (and America, frankly) would look like if he had never been born.

In a season where Pottersville seems to have renamed not just a town but the nation, how nice to reflect on a feel-good story where the good guys win and the world is finally set to rights.

Go along to rekindle your own Christmas spirit and maybe light the way for others. Moore's production is set in a radio station in the 1940s, with six actors portraying 25 unforgettable characters. See it for that alone.

The Irish Rep is located at 132 West 22nd Street, and the show will run through December 31. Tickets are on sale now through Irish Rep’s box office at 212-727-2737 or online at www.irishrep.org.

Read more: Top Christmas movies of our time

Disco Pigs at the Irish Rep

EVANNA Lynch, 26, played Luna Lovegood, the kooky but fiercely loyal young witch in the beloved Harry Potter series, cementing her world fame before she hit 20. Now's she's coming to New York in the 20th anniversary staging of Irish playwright Enda Walsh's Disco Pigs, after the show enjoyed a critically-acclaimed run at London’s Trafalgar Studios in the summer of 2017.

Lynch co-stars with Colin Campbell (Dublin by Lamplight, Through a Glass Darkly) and both actors will make their U.S. stage debuts at the Rep in January.

Disco Pigs follows a star crossed couple, both born at the same time on the same day in the same hospital and inseparable ever since. We discover that they speak in their own language and that they are disappearing into an imaginary world they have created for themselves in which the boundaries are blurring between truth and illusion.

In the beginning they are a danger only to each other, until their 17th birthday that is, when they discover as night falls and the drink take hold, that they are spiraling violently out of control.

Disco Pigs will run from January 5 through February 18 at the Irish Rep. Visit www.irishrep.org.

Opinion sharply divided on the "Irish" Star Wars sequel The Last Jedi

There are many mixed opinions among the reviews of the new Star Wars installment, The Last Jedi.

Not in dispute is the fact that it will make hundreds of millions of dollars, but critics seem less than enthused with the sequel filmed partly on Skellig Island off the coast of County Kerry and in Donegal and Cork.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson's performance gets a strange reaction from one critic. According to the Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy, Gleeson plays General Hux "goofily" says it's as if Gleeson "were acting in a Monty Pythonesque parody."

Domhnall Gleeson in Star Wars

Then there's a very show-off critique by, who else, the BBC:

"'The Last Jedi' can be seen as the space-opera equivalent of Clint Eastwood’s revisionist western, 'Unforgiven,' in that it pours scorn on its hero’s legendary reputation – but it eventually gives us the satisfaction of seeing why he acquired that legendary reputation in the first place."

But the Irish Times critic did not like it at all – Irish connection or not.

"'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' review: boring, bloated and confusing

"The latest instalment will fill a yawning Star Wars-shaped hole, but it's punishingly long and full of fudge.

"Put simply, 'The Last Jedi' is lodged several parsecs up its own black hole. George Lucas’s 'Star Wars' (that’s what the film was called) was awash with influences from myth, legend and cheap space opera. 'The Force Awakens' held close to the first film’s template, but generated modest interest by dangling new variations on the old characters.

"This time round, those characters are allowed insufficient development to distract from the suffocating self-awareness."

CNN is also critical:

"What precedes that overall, alas, represents a creative step back, not a leap forward. Optimistically, 'The Last Jedi' leaves plenty of intriguing possibilities for the climactic installment. But there's also the kind of room for improvement that reminds us when it comes to 'Star Wars,' such hopes – new or otherwise – spring eternal.”

Yet, other critics are raving instead of ranting:

Cahir O'Doherty, Arts Editor for IrishCentral and the Irish Voice had a very reassuring review for those wondering if Star Wars Episode VIII is any good: 

"I can give you the answer in one word – Yes! Ok, three words – it's fantastically good. In fact, it's without doubt the most thrilling new episode in the long-running saga since 1983's 'Return Of The Jedi,' which is a remarkable achievement in itself."

Star Wars, The Last Jedi

David Edelstein at Vulture and New York Magazine also calls The Last Jedi “shockingly good.”

“What you’d never dare expect is high style, let alone the kind of emotion that holds you through the requisite hopscotching among three different story arcs. There’s no such thing anymore as a straight, single-strand narrative in this kind of “universe” movie, which has a mandate to look backward and forward as well as sideward at any character with the potential to be spun off into his or her own vehicle. But the new writer-director, Rian Johnson, isn’t an impersonal technician (or a rote imitator, like Abrams). He pinpoints the intersection between characters’ desperate need to belong and the special effects that will lift those longings into the realm of myth. He achieves what no one else has since The Empire Strikes Back: a fusion of junkyard genre parts and passion.”

The Last Jedi Ireland

At TIME, Stephanie Zacharek says Johnson has achieved the hat-trick of making an actually well-crafted blockbuster film that rings emotionally true:

“Most big-ticket franchise filmmaking these days amounts to ticking off a series of boxes. If Johnson has ticked any, he’s done it in private, shielding us from all those horrid practicalities. His movie has a sense of humor about itself and a sense of joy, but its emotional generosity, even in the midst of all the extravagant green-screen work, is its best special effect. He’s taken Disney’s money and given the audience all the things money can’t buy: Instead of selling to us, he’s speaking to us. You can feel the difference.”

On RogerEbert.com, Matt Zoller Seitz calls it:

“Everything a fan could want from a “Star Wars” film and then some. Even the sorts of viewers who spend the entire running time of movies anticipating every plot twist and crowing “called it!” when they get one right are likely to come up short here.”

Domhnall Gleeson gets comedic praise from NPR for his “reveling in sniveling” General Hux.

Now all that’s left is for you to be the judge! Do you think it’s going to be a good next installment in the Star Wars franchise? Or, if you’ve somehow managed to see it already, what did you think? Share your thoughts in the comment section.  

Bah humbug! 11 annoying things about Christmas

Call us a bunch of Scrooges, but Christmas isn’t always tinsel and candy canes.

Here are some of the things we find most annoying about Christmas:

1. Shopping


Lines. Bills. Crowds. Parking! Heading to the mall to get that much-needed shopping done usually takes the patience of a saint.

2. Tourists


Here in New York City, the streets become overrun with tourists taking pictures of this and that – with the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center being the number one focus. Fifth Avenue is another tourist trap. Avoid these areas if at all possible!

3. Wrapping


Beautifully designed paper and rolls upon rolls of ribbon! It’s all fun and games until the first paper cut. Or the oddly shaped box. Or when you inevitably run out of Scotch tape.

4. The In-Laws


They’re bad enough during the year, but top them off with some ugly Christmas sweaters and a little too much to drink and you’ve got yourself a regular Christmas nightmare.

5. Christmas cards


Sure, receiving them is nice and dandy, but settling down to write them all...and finding the addresses…and paying the postage...

6. Christmas lights


One goes out, they all go out. Tangles until all eternity. Plus, how about the neighbors up the block who are lit up like the Fourth of July? Less is more, dear Christmas revelers.

7. December 25 birthdays


Must be rough sharing your birthday with the most famous of all birthdays. When can we celebrate your birthday? Are we supposed to buy you people two presents? Oh, this is awkward.

8. Christmas music


While there are plenty of the cheerful, sing-a-long songs, there’s a fair share of the annoying ones as well.

9. Hangovers


Spiked eggnog, peppermint Schnapps, a glass (or several) of Baileys – holiday merriment is wonderful! Until the next morning.

10. Crazy weather


No doubt that the weather has been all over the place in the tri-state area as of late. It is anyone’s guess if we’ll be having a white Christmas or a backyard barbecue to celebrate the birth of Christ this year.

11. The unexpected gift buyer


You didn't think you were close enough friends to warrant a gift, but this person clearly believes you're best friends. Time to make up some excuse about how you forgot to bring your present with you or see what you can muster up last minute.

Was our list not enough for you? Check out the new Christmas classic, ‘The 12 Pains of Christmas’ here:

What do you hate the most about Christmas? Let us know in the comments section, below. 

* Originally published in 2011.

Irishman found dead in Philly, days before Christmas homecoming

A 25-year-old Irishman has been found dead in Philadelphia just days before he was due to fly home for Christmas.

Armagh man Philip Hagan was found dead in his apartment by emergency services on Saturday evening at the city’s Marine Club Condominiums.

A former deputy head boy at The Royal School Dungannon in County Tyrone, Phillip had been working as an actuary for Cigna Health Care after interning with the firm as a student at Heriot-Watt University, in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Colleagues said that he had been working from home during the week as he had felt unwell, but the alarm was raised after he didn’t show up in the office on Friday.

A post-mortem is to be carried out after which his body will be repatriated to Northern Ireland.

Philip Hagan, photographed in 2011.

"The Foreign Office in London have been brilliant and have been offering their support,” his older brother, Jonathan, told the Ulster Gazette.

"The Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust have been hugely supportive and are actively involved in getting Philip home. The support of family, friends and the whole community has been brilliant and very comforting."

Philip’s parents, Jennifer and the Rev Matthew Hagan, were expecting him home on Dec 16, but now face a Christmas without their much-loved son.

Reverend Hagan told the Newsletter he was “very close to the family.”

“He was such an intelligent, loving, friendly and conscientious young man who had his whole life ahead of him.”

Jim Nicholson, who serves as a legislator for Northern Ireland in the European Parliament and worships at Rev Hagan’s Church, said, “The Hagan family are highly respected in the Tynan, Middletown, and Aghavilly area of south Armagh and my sympathy goes out to them on the death of young Philip.

“Family bereavement coming up to Christmas is not an easy burden to bear and our prayers and thoughts are with the Hagans at this time.”

H/T: Irish Independent 

Ballymaloe's mince pies with Irish whiskey cream recipe

A traditional Irish mince pie recipe to get your holiday eating started.

Warm up for Christmas by trying some of these mince pie recipes from Ballymaloe.

We have so much fun with mince pies and do lots of variations. Sometimes we press out a star shape from the top so the mincemeat is visible, then we use that star to cover the next one. A tiny heart can be put on top of another. All mince pies with a pastry top need to be brushed with egg wash before going into the oven.

Makes 20–24 mince pies

Traditional mince pie recipe


225g (8oz) plain flour 175g (6oz) butter, chilled and cut into 1cm (1/2in) approx. cubes

1 dessert spoon icing sugar, sieved a pinch of salt a little beaten egg or egg yolk and water to bind

450g (1lb) Ballymaloe mincemeat

Egg wash

Irish whiskey cream (instructions below)


Sieve the flour into a bowl. Toss the butter into the flour and rub it in with your fingertips.

Add the icing sugar and a pinch of salt. Mix with a fork as you gradually add in the beaten egg (do this bit by bit because you may not need all the egg), then use your hand to bring the pastry together into a ball: it should not be wet or sticky.

Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Roll out the pastry until it’s quite thin – about 3mm (1/8in).

Stamp out into rounds 7.5cm (3in) in diameter and line shallow bun tins with the discs.

Put a good teaspoonful of mincemeat into each tin, dampen the edges with water and put another round on top.

Brush with egg wash and decorate with pastry leaves in the shape of holly berries, etc.

Bake the mince pies in the preheated oven for 20 minutes approx. Allow them to cool slightly, then dredge with icing or caster sugar. Serve with a dollop of Irish whiskey cream. 


Traditional Irish mince pie recipe with meringue


2 egg whites, preferably free-range

and organic

110g (4oz) caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.


Line the tins and fill as in the recipe above, but do not put another pastry round on top of the pies.

To make the meringue, check that your mixing bowl is spotlessly clean and free from grease.

Put the egg whites and caster sugar into the bowl and whisk until the mixture forms stiff dry peaks.

Pipe a blob of meringue on top of each pie with a large star nozzle. Bake in the preheated oven for 15–20 minutes.

Turn off the oven and allow the meringue to cool in the oven.

Mince pie recipe with almond crumble


110g (4oz) self-raising flour

75g (3oz) caster sugar

75g (3oz) chilled butter

25g (1oz) flaked almonds


Line the tins and fill as in the master recipe above, but do not put another pastry round on top of the pies.

Mix together the flour and sugar and then rub in the butter with your fingertips to make a coarse crumble. Add the flaked almonds. Sprinkle a generous teaspoon of crumble on top of each mince pie. Bake for 15–20 minutes.

Irish Whiskey Cream for mince pieces


1 tablespoon Irish whiskey

1 teaspoon icing sugar, sieved

225ml (8fl oz) softly whipped cream


Fold the whiskey and sugar into the whipped cream.

These recipes come from Darina Allen's recently reissued Christmas cookbook 'A Simply Delicious Christmas'.

Love Irish recipes? Visit our recipes page or like IrishCentral’s Recipes Facebook page and never miss a recipe again!

* Originally published in 2014.

Joe Biden comforts Meghan McCain grieving father John McCain’s cancer diagnosis

Joe Biden reached out to comfort Meghan McCain in an emotion interview in which the pair talked about John McCain’s diagnosis with cancer.

The Arizona Senator was diagnosed with glioblastoma in July this year; it’s the same aggressive type of brain cancer that claimed the lives of the Irish American icon Ted Kennedy and Biden’s son, Beau.

Beau passed away at the age of 46 and his father has written a book about the grief that followed.

“Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose” was released in November and for Meghan McCain it was too emotional to read.

Read More: Irish American John McCain shows 60 Minutes he’s truly a fighter

“I couldn’t get through your book, I tried,” the 33 year old told Biden with tears in her eyes. 

“I think about Beau almost every day. I was told, sorry, that this doesn’t get easier, but you cultivate the tools to work with this and live with this. I know you and your family have been through tragedy that I couldn’t conceive of, what would you tell people? It’s not about me, it’s about everyone with cancer.”

Biden, whose friendship with her Dad stretches back decades, switched places with the TV anchor so he could hold her hand.

“One of the things that gave Beau courage was, my word, John. Your Dad, you may remember, when you were a little kid, took care of my Beau.”

In addition to serving as Attorney General of Delaware, Beau Biden was also a Major in the state’s Army National Guard. Like John McCain he saw active duty overseas and the elder statesman’s heroism clearly inspired him.

Read More: Ted Kennedy, a great Irish chieftain has passed

“There is hope, and if anybody can make it, your dad … her dad is one of my best friends,” Biden continued.

“The thing that I found, and Beau insisted on and your dad’s going to insist on, is you’ve got to maintain hope. You have to have hope.”

Afterwards Senator McCain tweeted his appreciation, saying that the whole Biden family served as “an example and source of strength to my entire family.”

You can watch the full interview below:

Happy birthday Edna O'Brien, one of Ireland's finest writers

Today marks the 87th birthday of legendary Irish writer Edna O’Brien.

Edna O’Brien was born on December 15th, 1930 in County Clare, Ireland. O’Brien escaped her strict Catholic upbringing to become one of the most celebrated and controversial writers of her generation. After stints living in Galway and Dublin, O’Brien moved to London with her husband, novelist Ernest Gabler, where she gave birth to two children and began her career in the letters. O’Brien is credited with changing the face of Irish fiction by introducing a new narrative to the pantheon of writing: the uncensored, truthful experience of women’s inner lives.

O’Brien is best known for her revolutionary first novel The Country Girls, which included realistic portrayals of intimacy and sex, and has been hailed as an indispensable text in the evolution of Irish writing. At the time of publication, The Country Girls, along with the second and third books in the trilogy, were promptly banned in Ireland and many instances, burned. This visceral reaction to O’Brien’s writing was typical of the regressive, deeply conservative Ireland of the day. Over the next five decades, O’Brien would continue to challenge the commonly held assumptions on what women should write about. The topics of her work regularly deal with the relationship between the sexes from a female perspective, how women are changed by their relationships with men and how they can retain their personhood in a male dominated world.

O’Brien first came to prominence as a novelist, but over the decades since her 1960 debut, she has become a playwright, a poet, a short story writer and most recently, a memoirist. In 2012 her memoir ‘Country Girl’ was released to widespread critical acclaim. A new collection of her stories, The Love Object: Selected Stories, a fifty-year retrospective, was published in 2013.

O’Brien is one of Ireland’s most celebrated writers, counting among her rewards the Irish PEN Award, the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, an Irish Book Award and the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award for Irish Literature. Edna O’Brien is not known just for her tremendous literary career, as she has been an active participant in social issues throughout her life. Most prominently of these has been the issue of women’s rights. Never one to hold her tongue, O’Brien has been a powerful persona in advocating for women’s rights in Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Indeed, for O’Brien her esteem among her peers and the general public has only grown with age. Philip Roth has called her the “most gifted woman now writing in English”. She continues to write to this day, and she has managed to keep her wry sense of humor - in a recent interview with the Independent, Edna O’Brien said

"I think I had to get old. I had to have my hip surgery before they would give me the credit."

So three cheers to Edna O’Brien on her birthday; here’s to one of the great Irish writers.

Democratic Unionists are the biggest Brexit losers

The biggest loser in the Brexit fallout was the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which had held up agreement between the Irish government and the British prior to the historic acceptance of a soft border by both countries last Friday.

Prior to the agreement, the DUP threatened to bring down the British government as it props up the current Tory Prime Minister Theresa May.

But by threatening May, the DUP damaged its own best chance of influencing future British policy on Brexit.

No prime minister likes to look weak, and no prime minister takes kindly to being summoned from a meeting with other European leaders and told that she cannot proceed with an agreed Brexit plan.

But that’s what happened earlier last week when DUP leader Arlene Foster called May in Brussels and told her that the DUP wouldn’t support her Brexit deal.  May had to agree to the DUP demand that she not go ahead with the deal, but it came at a huge cost for unionism.

No British prime minister has appeared weaker and less in charge of her government than May. It was the DUP which revealed that the emperor had no clothes.

It would have been a very interesting exercise for May to try and defy the DUP and allow the party to do its worst, an attempt to bring down the British government.

But would the DUP have carried out its threat? If May went out of power, and a subsequent election held, she would have been replaced by former IRA supporter Jeremy Corbyn who would certainly have no truck with unionism.

But the fact that May agreed to carry out the orders of the DUP has also left its mark.

Read more: Objection voiced as Ireland signs up to EU defense pact

Within a few days a new Brexit border agreement, essentially indistinguishable from the old one, was put together, this time with the DUP on board.

It was a remarkable moment, and an example of how the power of unionism continues to wane as political events move forward.

The DUP position made no sense. They were not in favor of a hard border, yet they acted like they were. The difference between their position and the British government’s was actually quite minor.

Theresa May and Arlene Foster outside 10 Downing Street.

The story of Brexit continues, though, the most complete political disaster in British history, right up there with Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler.

Nothing good will come of Brexit. The Tory Party has been torn apart by it, the British public is divided, and there seems no end of political intrigue and backroom deals as the British struggle to extricate themselves from the European Union.

The DUP had a singular opportunity to be of assistance to May in her hour of need.  Instead they decided to confront her and embarrass her, and in the process likely lost her support and backing in the future.

Brexit has brought a united Ireland closer.  The issue is now on the bargaining table.

Some superb negotiating by the Irish government led to the acceptance by the British that a border is not practical.  One can see in the near future a similar judgment when demographics put nationalists in the majority on the issue of the partition of Ireland.

The amazing thing is that Brexit was not necessary. Former British PM David Cameron called the vote in an attempt to end right wing opposition, and in the process lost his leadership.

But the British have lost something else. The outward looking, cool Britannia of Tony Blair no longer exists.

Now there is only a continuing argument as to how they can march backwards into the past and leave the European Union.

A casualty of all this is the DUP, which will become evident as the years pass.

Read more: Returning Irish emigrants refused usual free university fees

Speaker Paul Ryan set to quit next year says Politico Magazine

Is Speaker Paul Ryan set to retire in 2018? 

Speaker Paul Ryan is set to step down as speaker after the 2018 election, family and political colleagues have told Politico magazine.

The Irish American from Wisconsin is said to be fed up with the constant battles among Republicans in the House and desperate to spend time with his three children back home before they are too old.

Politico stated: “Ryan has made it known to some of his closest confidants that this will be his final term as speaker. In recent interviews with three dozen people who know the speaker—fellow lawmakers, congressional and administrative aides, conservative intellectuals and Republican lobbyists—not a single person believed Ryan will stay in Congress past 2018.”

Read more: Paul Ryan "The Irish Undertaker" is letting Trump bury democracy

It will come as no great surprise to many. Like his predecessor, John Boehner, Ryan has faced a barrage of criticism from the right from the Freedom Caucus members who specialize in humiliating their own leadership. In addition, it is looking more and more like 2018 will be a Democratic wave election and the GOP may lose the House if not the senate, too.

The Irish American Speaker Paul Ryan can trace his Irish roots to Co. Kilkenny. Image: WikiCommons.

But with new tax laws in place and a year to try and  attack alleged overspending in social programs, Ryan seems certain to call it quits. He is very conscious that his father and several male members of his family all died young from heart conditions.

Ryan traces his roots to Kilkenny and has been a reliable friend of the Irish Embassy during his time as speaker. Another Irish American, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy from California, will be the favorite to succeed him. Politico says the succession race has already begun.

Would you be sorry to see Paul Ryan leave his position as Speaker of the House? Who would you like to see as his replacement? 

Pete St John treats crowds to Fields of Athenry, Dublin in the Rare Auld Times on a Famine ship

Dublin musicians were out in force on the National Famine Commemoration Day when an impromptu concert started on the Jeanie Johnston

A little bit of magic was captured on the National Famine Commemoration Day in Dublin, on board the Jeanie Johnston Famine ship. The man who wrote Ireland’s most famous song “The Fields of Athenry”, Pete St John,  was serenaded by some rare musical Irish talent and luckily someone caught it on video.

An Gorta Mor Commemoration on Jeanie Johnson

Watch Pete St John, who wrote The Fields of Athenry serenade a crowd on board the Jeanie Johnston in Dublin!

Posted by IrishCentral.com on Thursday, December 14, 2017

Read more: How "The Fields of Athenry" became Ireland’s most famous song

Pete St John was joined by Brian Furlong (guitar and singing), Kevin Glackin (fiddle), and Roy Buckley (singing) as they entertained the crowds on what looked like a wonderful sunny day. In the second half of the video the group performs another St. John classic, “Dublin in the Rare Auld Times” and the songwriters even treats the crowd by singing a poignant and fitting verse.

IrishCentral spoke with music Roy Buckley, who performed St. John’s “Field of Athenry” in the video. He said he was just “glad somebody caught this on video!”

St John’s career has been a prolific one. Buckley told IrishCentral “The legendary Pete St John, the man who wrote The Fields of Athenry, Dublin In The Rare Old Times, The Ferryman, The Mero, Tara Tansey, Hey Johnny McGory, Danny Farrell, Ringsend Rose and lots more great Irish folk songs.”

Irish judge excuses man in love for first time from jury duty

Well, that's one way to get out of jury duty! This heart-warming scene that played out in a Dublin court is being compared to something out of Love Actually. 

Yesterday at the Criminal Court of Justice in Dublin, a court reporter witnessed a scene straight out of a romantic blockbuster and shared it all on Twitter. 

As potential jurors were being interviewed by the judge, one man said he would not be able to serve because he was going away for the weekend. 

When the judge told him that the court wasn't in session over the weekend, he clarified that he'd be going away until Monday and it was because:

"I'm 54, a bachelor, and it's my first time in love." 

How did the judge respond? 

He told the man to leave and gave him his blessing!

For the cynical souls wondering if this was the world's most brilliant ploy for getting out of jury duty, the journalist, Sarah-Jane Murphy, assured the Irish Independent that the man was the real deal:

"Sarah-Jane reveals that the man spoke hesitantly at first but then with more confidence when he delivered his reason for not being able to serve.

'The judge broke into a broad smile and the man walked away grinning,' she revealed, 'The woman beside me turned to me and said, 'Did I imagine that?'"

What a moment! 

If you were the judge, would you have dismissed the lovebird from jury duty? Tell us in the comment section. 


Myanmar leader and Bob Geldof lose Freedom of Dublin

Both Bob Geldof and Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi have been stripped of the Freedom of Dublin.

The award was given to Suu Kyi in 2012 after her release from house arrest by the military that run Burma - also known as Myanmar - in Southeast Asian. Then she was hailed as akin to a Burmese Mandela, a heroine and a champion of democracy human rights.

Now councillors have voted by a landslide of 59 votes to two to revoke the award after reports emerged of the Burmese military killing thousands of Rohingya in what the UN has described as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

Read More: Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi to get Freedom of the City of Dublin award

Suu Kyi in Dublin five years ago

Despite living in Burma for centuries, the Rohingya have long faced discrimination and lacked civil and political rights. Médecins Sans Frontières believe at least 6,700 have been killed in recent months and 647,000 have fled the country to nearby Bangladesh.

The Burmese Government says only 400 have died and Suu Kyi, who serves as the nation’s first State Counsellor, has rejected international reports of ethnic cleansing.

“I don’t think there is ethnic cleansing going on,” Suu Kyi told the BBC in April. “I think ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression to use for what is happening.“

Last month Bob Geldof decried her as a “handmaiden to genocide” and handed back his own Freedom of Dublin award in protest.

“I don’t want to give this up, I’m really proud of it, you know?” Geldof told reporters outside City Hall, scroll in hand.  

Geldof gives his award back.

“And you know I get handed things by states and cities around the world, but I’m a Dub and this meant very much to me. I don’t want to do it, but it’s the most I can do and the least.

“Aung San Suu Kyi was extravagantly welcomed to this city and I was a participant to that and it turned out that she’s a killer, and I don’t want to be on the same list as what the UN described as a genocide.

“And perhaps she should appear at the Hague tribunal. Dublin should not have any truck with this woman. She’s let us Dubliners down and she’s let Ireland down, because we thought she was one thing and we’ve been duped. She’s a murderer.”

Read More: Bob Geldof rejects Dublin honor in protest of Burmese Aung San Suu Kyi

But his protest did not impress Dublin’s Lord Mayor, Mícheál Mac Donncha of Sinn Féin.

Geldof was “entitled” to return the award, he said before adding, “I find it ironic that he makes this gesture while proudly retaining his title as Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, given the shameful record of British imperialism across the globe.”

Now the council has also voted to remove Bob Geldof from its list, citing his decision to hand back the award.

CEO of Dublin City Council, Owen Keegan, said, "it was clear he wanted to hand it [the award] back. It was not conditional".

But Geldof has hit back, saying he’s “disgusted” that the honor was revoked at the same time at Suu Kyi’s, as he’d always said if she was removed from the list he would be happy to continue as a Freeman of Dublin.

Where’s the best place in the world to kayak? Donegal, of course

County Donegal, the coolest place on the planet, has been named as the best place in the world to kayak

It’s news that won’t surprise many locals, kayakers have been flocking to visit a small uninhabited island two and a half miles off the coast of Co. Donegal.

Surrounded by the much more famous Gola Island – which was evacuated in the 1960s – the island has no fresh water and is home only breeding seabirds whose squawks are ever present in summer time.

Read more: Donegal named coolest place in the world by National Geographic

There is no ferry service to Umfin Island (or ‘Iompainn’ in Donegal’s native Irish) and the only other way to get there, other than swimming, is by kayaking.

Local adventurer Iain Miller has been taking kayakers to the island for years, but it’s not for beginners. The temperamental Atlantic has to be calm for people to paddle through it and those who don’t like the dark might also want to give it a misss: kayakers pass through a 43-yard stretch of pitch darkness before appearing on the other side.

The reward is breathtaking views of the Donegal coastline, the surrounding wildlife and an island nearly untouched by man.

Read more: Donegal airport named among “most scenic landings” in the world

Watch the video and see for yourself!

Have you ever been kayaking in Ireland? Where's the best spot you would recommend?

Britain First leaders arrested in Belfast, 2 weeks after Trump retweet

Britain First’s deputy leader Jayda Fransen faces charges of inciting hatred via social media.

The leaders of far-right British group Britain First were arrested in Belfast on Thursday, accused of behavior intended to or likely to stir up hatred.

Deputy leader Jayda Fransen was rearrested in court just minutes after she was released on bail for the same offense. The 31-year-old had been arrested in London in November 2017 by plain clothes officers of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) for questioning about a speech she made at a "Northern Ireland Against Terrorism" rally in Belfast on August 6, 2017. 

Fransen, who is from south-east London, was charged with using words which were threatening, abusive or insulting during her speech and had been released on bail to reappear in court in January 2018 when she was re-arrested. 

It is believed that the re-arrest was a result of anti-Islamic social media comments Fransen made on Britain First's social media pages during her time in Northern Ireland. It is reported that she appeared in a video outside of Belfast's Islamic Center which referred to the center as a "den of iniquity."

Read more: Galway Muslims hope to produce an Irish-language version of the Qur'an

Jayda Fransen appearing in one of her many controversial YouTube videos. Image: YouTube.

She referred to the arrest as a "nonsense charge" and confirmed from the dock that she will contest the charges. 

"I criticize Islam and now they want to send me to prison for two years," she said.  

Earlier on Thursday, Britain First's leader Paul Golding had been arrested by the PSNI as he accompanied his deputy Fransen to court. Ten others gathered in the public gallery to supported Fransen while several protested outside, arguing that Fransen was entitled to freedom of speech with which to make her inflammatory, anti-Muslim remarks.  

Although the judge refused to place a block on her social media use, Fransen is now banned from being within 500 meters of a public demonstration or rally. 

Fransen was at the center of a political storm between the US and the UK last month when several anti-Muslim videos she posted on Twitter were retweeted by US President Donald Trump. The action resulted in a stand-off and a rare public rebuke from British Prime Minister Theresa May. 

Britain First is a far-right, ultra-nationalist British organization formed in 2011 by former members of the British National Party. 

Does Jayda Fransen have a right to make her anti-Muslim remarks?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Listen to beautiful Irish hymn Wexford Carol on Advent Calendar, Day 14

A beautiful Irish Christmas song set to traditional accompaniment is behind the door of Advent Calendar, Day 14

With carol singers lining up in shopping malls and many Christian schools getting Christmas nativity plays ready for their grand performance in front of proud parents, people all over the world are brushing up on the lyrics to their favorite Christmas carol.

One of our favorites has to be this beautiful Irish Christmas carol, Wexford Carol. 

Otherwise known as the Enniscorthy Carol, after the town in Co. Wexford where history tells us it was composed in the 12th century, the lyrics are based on the nativity of Jesus Christ and it is known as a traditional religious Christmas song throughout the country. 

Read more: Irish Christmas blessings for you and your loved ones

You can find the full lyrics to Wexford Carol below the video: 

Wexford Carol lyrics

Good people all, this Christmas time,

Consider well and bear in mind

What our good God for us has done

In sending his beloved son

With Mary holy we should pray,

To God with love this Christmas Day

In Bethlehem upon that morn,

There was a blessed Messiah born.

The night before that happy tide,

The noble Virgin and her guide

Were long time seeking up and down

To find a lodging in the town.

But mark right well what came to pass

From every door repelled, alas,

As was foretold, their refuge all

Was but a humble ox's stall.

Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep

Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep

To whom God's angel did appear

Which put the shepherds in great fear

Arise and go, the angels said

To Bethlehem, be not afraid

For there you'll find, this happy morn

A princely babe, sweet Jesus, born.

With thankful heart and joyful mind

The shepherds went the babe to find

And as God's angel had foretold

They did our Saviour Christ behold

Within a manger he was laid

And by his side a virgin maid

Attending on the Lord of Life

Who came on earth to end all strife.

There were three wise men from afar

Directed by a glorious star

And on they wandered night and day

Until they came where Jesus lay

And when they came unto that place

Where our beloved Messiah lay

They humbly cast them at his feet

With gifts of gold and incense sweet.

Read more: Irish Christmas song to get you in the holiday spirit

What is your favorite Christmas carol? Let us know what you'll be performing this Christmas Day in the comments section, below.

Top Christmas movies of our time

There’s nothing better over the Christmas season than huddling up by the fire in the glow of the Christmas tree and watching a Christmas movie.

Here are some of our favorites acted and created by the Irish and Irish Americans:

1. “Elf”

Will Ferrell’s character, Buddy the Elf, has become a famous Christmas character and his movie, “Elf” is beloved by all ages.

The movie tells the story of Buddy (Ferrell) who travels from the North Pole to New York City to find his birth father. Since its release in 2003 it has been a classic.

2.“Miracle on 34th Street”

This is a 1947 Christmas Classic staring our own Maureen O’Hara. The movie tells the tale of a group of people who are left wondering whether or not a department store Santa is the real deal.

3.“How the Grinch Stole Christmas”

This 2000 live-action film version of the Dr. Seuss book was a massive success. With Jim Carrey playing the Grinch, and direction from Ron Howard, they managed to fit in most of Dr Seuss' original rhymes from 1957. The movie spent four weeks at #1 in the U.S.

4. “Holiday Inn”

This is the actual film the famous “White Christmas” came from. It tells the story a of jilted fiancé (Bing Crosby) who gives up show business to run a farm. Finding farming a bit tough he opens the Holiday Inn, staging shows on national holidays.
The 1942 movie stars Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire with 12 original pieces from Irving Berlin written specifically for the movie including “White Christmas.”

5. “Scrooged”

This 1988 modern version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” sees Bill Murray get “Scrooged.”

Murray plays a mean, grumpy TV exec who is visited by three ghosts like in the original story. The marketing team used Murray’s prior history and involvement in “The Ghostbusters” to sell the movie.

The U.S. tagline read, “Bill Murray is back among the ghosts, only this time, it's three against one.”

6. “Bad Santa”

Although it’s not exactly the most family friendly Christmas tale, it is pretty hilarious and definitely promotes the message of Christmas.

Lauren Graham plays the love interest alongside Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox and Bernie Mac. Thornton plays a department store Santa with a wandering eye, a foul mouth and a drinking problem.

7. “White Christmas”

This 1954 movie starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye is probably the best known Christmas movie of all time.

Of course, the movie includes Irving Berlin’s song “White Christmas.” It also stars the brilliant Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen.

8. “Family Stone”

The Family Stone is a 2005 American comedy-drama film starring Dermot Mulrooney and Sarah Jessica Parker.

It tells the tale of the Christmas holiday misadventures of the Stone family in a small New England town when the eldest son brings his girlfriend home with the intention of proposing to her with a cherished heirloom ring.

* Originally published December 2014.

Leading Irish businessman in US announces retirement from Coca-Cola

One of Ireland’s leading boosters and businessmen in the United States is retiring from Coca-Cola. Irial Finan (60) head of the Coca Cola bottling company, considered one of the top executives in the company, will step down in March 2018, a company press release stated.

Finan is on the board of the American Ireland Fund, has been a global leader for investment in Ireland and was very influential in the Irish diaspora outreach strategy. He is very highly regarded in Irish circles.

Coke CEO James Quincey, who is British, has been cutting senior management staff as well as announcing major layoffs.

Finan’s retirement appears to end the Irish American era at Coke, headed up by the late Don Keough, who was the Coca-Cola president from 1981 to 1993 and who subsequently has had a huge influence on the company.

Finan, a native of Roscommon, started his Coca-Cola system career with multiple finance and operational roles across Europe. In 1995, he was promoted to managing director of Molino Beverages, with responsibility for expanding markets, including Ireland, Romania, Russia and Nigeria.

From 2001 to 2003, he served as CEO of bottler Coca-Cola HBC, where he managed the merger and integration of Coca-Cola Beverages PLC and Hellenic Bottling SA. He led the combined company’s operations in 26 countries.

In 2004, Finan became President, Bottling Investments and Supply Chain, and Executive Vice President of The Coca-Cola Company. Finan has been instrumental in leading the company’s bottling operations. At its height, BIG had operations across five continents and more than 80,000 employees.

EPIC Irish heroes and villains who “made it” in America

Discover famous and infamous figures from Ireland’s history at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin.

Over the centuries, some 10 million people left the island of Ireland to seek out a new life. Visit EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin to find out about the Irish people who traveled the globe.

Nominated for European Museum of the Year 2018, EPIC is the world’s only fully digital museum. The 20 interactive galleries tell the fascinating stories of over 300 Irish people, past and present, and relive some of the greatest achievements and accomplishments in the world of sport, music, art, culture, politics, food, fashion, and science.

Spurred by adventure, necessity and curiosity, many of those who left their homeland and settled around the globe achieved great things, as did their descendants. However, there were a notorious few whose impact was less than positive. But let’s start with the heroes.


John F Kennedy and Jackie on that fateful day in Dallas.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States. With great-grandparents hailing from County Wexford, Kennedy was elected in 1961, becoming the first Catholic US President. Admired as a skilled orator and renowned for his political vision and charismatic personality, he was also much-loved in Ireland, which he famously visited in 1963 and captured the imagination of the Irish people. Although 22 of the 45 men to have held the office of President claim some form of Irish ancestry, JFK left an indelible and enduring mark on the world.  

Liam Neeson

America's favorite actor, Liam Neeson.

Known for his ‘very particular set of skills’, the foremost being acting, Liam Neeson rose to global prominence in the Academy Award-winning movie Schindler’s List. For many, though, the popular Northern Irishman is synonymous with his role portraying revolutionary leader Michael Collins. He has featured in well-known movie franchises, from Batman Begins to Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Not one to be typecast, he more recently established himself as an action hero Dad in the hit movie series Taken. In addition to his successful screen career, the Ballymena man is also known for his work supporting charitable causes.

Leonora Barry

Leonora Barry.

Leonora Barry was the first female labor organiser in American history and typified the strong Irish woman. She had emigrated from Cork and found herself widowed and penniless in Amsterdam, New York. By the late 1880s she was in the senior ranks of the Knights of Labor, a union with over 600,000 members. She travelled the country advocating equal pay for equal work and racial equality (just 25 years after the Civil War) and protesting against sexual harassment (more than a century before it was formally addressed by legislation).

The Irish Whales

The Irish Whales.

Long before Conor McGregor strutted his stuff, the first modern sporting superstars were the Irish Whales. This group of athletes competed for the United States and Canada and became internationally famous for their exploits at the Olympic Games between 1896 and 1924, becoming the most celebrated and successful sportsmen in the world. The Whales dominated weight throwing events at the Olympics, and were also known for their prowess around the dinner table! The Whales were all at one stage members of the New York Police Department, apart from Con Walsh who worked in the Seattle Police Department.

Chief Francis O’Neill

Another County Cork emigrant, Daniel Francis O'Neill (1848 – 1936) was a Chicago police officer who rose to become Chief of Police in the city. He fostered a life-long passion for Irish music and was a keen player of the flute, fiddle and pipes. O'Neill is celebrated as one of the 20th century's greatest collectors and publishers of traditional Irish music.

Nellie Bly

Nellie Bly.

Born Elizabeth Cochran Seaman in Pennsylvania with Irish ancestry, under her pen name of Nellie Bly she became a pioneering investigative journalist. She got her break at the Pittsburgh Dispatch in 1885 after writing a strongly-worded response to an article describing working women as ‘a monstrosity’. Nellie wrote various undercover pieces, publicizing harsh conditions suffered by workers, and also ventured to Mexico as a foreign correspondent, aged just 21. Later writing for The New York World in 1889, she famously completed a trip around the world – which she completed in just 72 days – beating Jules Verne’s character Phileas Fogg.

But what about those of more dubious character? Below are some ne'er-do-wells of Hibernian heritage.

Billy the Kid

Billy the Kid.

Henry McCarty AKA Billy the Kid (1859 – 1881) has become one of the legendary figures of the Wild West. His mother was an Irish immigrant from Antrim who raised her son in a New York slum before heading out west. Billy the Kid claimed to have killed 21 men, or as he put it “one for every year of my life”.

Catherine O’Leary

Catherine O’Leary.

More unfortunate than villainous, O'Leary was an Irish immigrant living in Chicago, Illinois, who became infamous when it was alleged that an accident involving her cow knocking over a lantern in the family barn started the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which killed up to 300 people and left 100,000 homeless. The incident ruined O’Leary’s good name and she was said to have died heartbroken. It also spawned several songs, with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys even winning a Grammy award for an instrumental titled ‘Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow’.

George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly

George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly.

A Memphis-born bootlegger, bank robber and kidnapper, George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly (1895 – 1954) is considered one of the most famous gangsters from the Prohibition era. Despite his enduring fame and violent nickname, Machine Gun Kelly never actually killed anyone, and he was never known to fire his namesake Tommy gun (a gift from his wife and partner in crime, Kathryn) at anything but tin cans. He spent the last 21 years of his life in prison, serving a 17-year stretch on Alcatraz.

Find out more about intriguing figures from Ireland’s past at EPIC. Voted one of TripAdvisor's Top 5 Irish Museums and chosen by National Geographic Traveler in its Top 10 Things to Do in Dublin, EPIC is an essential first stop for visitors to Dublin with an interest in Irish people, culture and history. EPIC also houses a state-of-the-art genealogy centre, the Irish Family History Centre, to help visitors explore their Irish ancestry.

For more information and to buy tickets to the museum visit EPICCHQ.com.

'Outlander’s' Caitriona Balfe goes Golden again

Will the third time be a charm for Caitriona Balfe, who scored Golden Globe nomination number three for her starring role in the super-popular Starz drama 'Outlander'?

Dubliner Balfe, 38, has built quite an amazing Hollywood career for herself thanks to the show which straddles time between World War II and Scotland, circa 1743. 'Outlander' wrapped its third season on Sunday and set records for viewership, an average of 1.51 million viewers turning in this season, up nearly 40 percent from season two.  The on-screen chemistry between Caitriona and her Scottish co-star Sam Heughan is palpable…but it doesn’t extend off set, as the BFFs both have significant others.

Read more: Saoirse Ronan, Martin McDonagh and Caitriona Balfe earn Golden Globe nominations

Caitriona and Sam gave an interview to Entertainment Weekly just before the finale, which apparently contained a whole bunch of underwater scenes. The episode was shot in South Africa, and the former Irish model (and fluent Gaelic speaker) said shooting the finale was “fun. Things like that are always really exciting, and to sort of learn something new … It was quite cool until Sam rammed my face into a big chunk of wood.”

The producers made sure their stars were comfortable. “We had a nice heated paddling pool at the side. So when we would get out between setups and stuff, we were in a paddling pool and they furnished it with some rubber ducks and beers,” Caitriona said.

She was the only 'Outlander' star nominated for a Golden Globe, surprisingly. And her co-star was the first to congratulate her on Twitter.

Read more: Opinion sharply divided on the "Irish" Star Wars sequel The Last Jedi

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