Monday, February 25, 2013

About Happiness

Every human being on the planet wants to be happy. Anything that anyone desires is because they think their desire will make them happy. Whether it is health, money, a loving relationship, material things, accomplishments, a job, or anything at all, the desire for happiness is the bottom line of all of them. But remember that happiness is a state inside of us, and something on the outside can only bring fleeting happiness, because material things are impermanent.

Permanent happiness comes from you choosing to be permanently happy. When you choose happiness, then you attract all the happy things as well. The happy things are the icing on the cake, but the cake is happiness.
Rhonda Byrne

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Food in Ireland

Tourist don't go to Ireland for the cuisine. For the beer maybe if you like a stout Guinness or maybe for a Jamison chaser, but food, nah. Irish cuisine consists of over a hundred ways to make meat and potatoes. Traditionally, the Irish raised livestock and their diets relied heavily on the proteins from these animals. In the 16th century, potatoes became a staple of many Irish dishes and it was meat and potatoes from there on.
I have never been to Ireland and unfortunately never would be able to go because I am highly allergic to potato's and would not eat pig's feet either.

But, you may love it, so let's see what the Irish eat today. 

Mutton Stew

Long a staple of traditional Irish cooking, mutton stew is a hearty dish prepared with lamb shoulder, carrots, parsley, potatoes, and seasoning. Many pubs serve a variation on this dish, and it is also available in restaurants and other dining establishments.



A Boxty is a potato pancake made from fine grating of the potato, providing a smoother consistency than other varieties of potato pancakes.





Bacon & Cabbage

Perhaps the best known of Ireland's traditional dishes, bacon and cabbage is often referred to simply as cabbage stew. Typically, you boil the bacon with cabbage and potatoes, resulting in a flavorful and filling dish. Note that the bacon is served in slabs more like Canadian bacon that that found in the US.


By combining two Irish favorites, potatoes and cabbage, and adding other seasoning, you get a creamy starch called Colcannon.

It is said that the Irish eat this mixture on Halloween. Parents even hide coins inside the dish for children to find. The tradition is for a blindfolded single woman to be led to the cabbage patch to select a head of cabbage for the dish. The characteristics of the cabbage she chose were said to be those of her future husband. I guess the women consider Irish men to be real cabbage-heads.

Crubeens or crunchy pig"s feet

Crunchy pig's feet are widely sold in Ireland as bar or street food. This messy dish is the preferred accompaniment to a pint of beer in many parts of the country, and has experienced a resurgence of popularly. This dish looks awful to me.  I would never eat pig's feet but some people in Ireland love it.

Homemade Corned Beef with Vegetables

Here the traditional Irish meal of corned beef and cabbage, served in the US on St. Patrick's day. In the photo it is supplemented with turnips, Brussels sprouts, carrots, and boiled potatoes, an upscale version of the Irish home meal. It is often served with Irish Soda Bread.

So, here they are and hope if you go you enjoy the food.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

History of Ireland

For most of the last millennium Ireland was buried underneath thick masses of ice. As the ice melted and sea levels rose, Ireland's land bridges to Britain submerged, isolating it from the British Isles. The earliest records of habitation were a disparate unorganized migration over 9000 years ago. It has been a land in turmoil since the invasion of the Celts from the Iberian Peninsula.

The Celts

Approximately 2,500 years ago, the Celts invaded Ireland and norther Britain. They introduced a naturalist culture, a common language, and what is still know today as an "Irish" attitude towards life. The most salient feature of Celtic paganism is their extensive practice of human sacrifice and they believed in reincarnation. According to Greek and Roman accounts, in Gaul, Britain and Ireland, there was a priestly caste of "magico-religious specialists" known as druids, although very little is definitely known about them. The druids then also appear in some of the medieval tales from Christianized Ireland like the Tain Bo Cuailnge, where they are largely portrayed as sorcerers who opposed the coming of Christianity. In the wake of the Celtic revival during the 18th and 19th centuries, fraternal and Neopagan groups were founded based on ideas about the ancient druids, a movement which is known as Neo Druidism. As Irish language and customs began to separate from British Celts, the Irish culture began to be know as Gaelic culture.

Christianity (5th Century AD)

However, the Romans who had occupied up to the center of Britain, introduced Catholicism with Saint Patrick being the most notable. Christianity became the dominant religion of Ireland. Through the support of the church, great centers of learning helped create a land of scholars, saints, storytellers, and musicians.

The Vikings (8th Century)

Three hundred years later, the Vikings invaded from the north and began to dominate the land, they founded the cities of Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Limerick and they were the first to introduce the concept of money to the island; but, they integrated into the Irish culture, leaving little of their original Viking roots.

The Normans (12th Century)

Four hundred years later, the Normans who had invaded England from Normandy also invaded Ireland. They built imposing castles and constructed a few roads; but, within a generation or so they too had fallen for the Irish lifestyle.

The Religious Wars (16th Century)

Another four hundred years and Henry VIII attacked Catholic influence on his Kingdom by supporting the rise of Protestantism and stamping out Catholics who were loyal to the Pope. Following Henry VIII, his daughter Elizabeth sent armies to drive out the populace, replacing them with British settlers. The Irish chieftains fought back, only to be vanquished by British forces in the Battle of Kinsale.

Green and Orange (17th Century)

To consolidate its power,the King drove thousands of poor Protestants from Scotland to Northern Ireland so that English Noblemen could take over Scotland and raise sheep. This caused resentment among the Irish local locals, who rebelled in 1641 and attacked the Scottish settlers. Finally, Lord Protector of England, Oliver Cromwell, was sent to Ireland in the fall of 1649 to kill the Catholic native, securing the dominance of the Protestants in Northern Ireland. Meanwhile in England, the battles between Catholic Kings William of Orange, ensured that Protestants and Catholics would fight to the end. The fighting culminated in the Battle of the Boyne, a key event in Irish history, where the forces of William of Orange defeated the forces of the Catholic King, James.

Penal Times and Rebellion (18th Century)

In the early 1700, laws that restricted Catholic practice while making it extremely advantageous to become a Protestant continued to choke the influence of Catholicism in Ireland. Then in 1798, agitation for freedom led to rebellion, a failed invasion by the French, and finally suppression of the rebels by English forces where over 40,000 people were killed in Wexford. In 1801, Ireland became part of the United Kingdom, and for a while, this arrangement worked well. Restrictions on Catholic practice were eased, and life in Ireland returned to normal.

The Famine (Early 19th Century)

In 1845 a potato disease hit the country, causing all the crops to fail. Potatoes were the primary staple of Ireland and thousand upon thousands of people began to starve. Over the following four years, the potato crop failed completely each time. By the time the famine was over, an estimated one million people had died and another million had left Ireland, arriving in the US and Britain, penniless and desperate. The Irish potato famine created a legacy of emigration from Ireland that did not stop until the late 20th Century when the population of four and a half million was less that half what it was at the beginning of the famine.

The Late 19th Century

Following this devastation, those that survived organized into, strong political movements who battled between two principles -  greater rights and greater autonomy from Britain and greater integration into the Union. While England began focusing on its empire and world issues, the question of what to do about Ireland was in the back of every one's mind, but the lobby from the Protestants of Northern Ireland kept the issue of Irish Independence at bay.

Partial Independence

In 1912, a bill to permit Home Rule in Ireland was passed in the British Parliament, but before it could be enacted, Europe was plunged into the nightmare of the First World War, and Irish autonomy was deferred. While the war was still raging in Europe, British and Irish loyalists continually fought, making life in Ireland a nightmare.  Finally, Britain decided to press ahead with Irish Home Rule. Ireland signed a treaty allowing for  independence of all of Ireland except the North, where Northern Ireland would remain under British control.
This was so unpopular that a civil war broke out resulting in over 3,000 deaths on both sides.

Most of today's political parties of the Irish Republic originate from this deeply divisive political split. Ireland became an independent republic in 1948. However the Irish Republican Army (Catholics) and Britain continued a low intensity war in Northern Ireland for 25 years until the signing and ratification of an historic accord (The Good Friday Agreement) in 1998.
Since then, normal life in Northern Ireland has improved and Nationalist and Unionist ministers share power.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

How careful should you be going to Ireland

While we are all aware that crime is happening around us on a daily basis, most of us are not immediate victims of violent crime and few actually experience petty crime. So, we feel secure in our lives, unsuspecting that others may be plotting to prey on us. Traveling to new lands and new cultures raises our risk of becoming victims because criminals prey on the unsuspecting and casual tourists. Suddenly, when we do come face-to-face with criminal acts, it can be a shocking experience. So, the purpose of this blog is to help you be prepared so that you minimize your level of risk.

Traveling in Ireland is not as dangerous as heavier populated countries. European Union data shows that in 2006, Ireland had 102,000 reported crimes while Northern Ireland recorded a 20% uplift to 121,000. For perspective, Scotland had 408,000 and the Netherlands had 1,206,000 (a smoking number for such a small country). So, relatively speaking, Ireland is pretty safe and millions of tourists visit the country every year without becoming victims of crime. As you move from the countryside to the cities, crime rates increase. European Union data shows however, that even the most dangerous city in the Irish Isles, Belfast has only 2.6 homicides per 100,000 people per year while New York has 5.6 and Amsterdam has 4.4. So, Ireland is still very safe. Yet, it is a wise precaution to be a safety-conscious traveler.

As I noted in my overview, Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. The political situation in Northern Ireland has improved substantially since the days of the “Troubles.” Nevertheless, the Police Service of Northern Ireland posts a severe risk of violence in Northern Ireland. Attacks by violent dissident groups primarily focus on police and military targets; however, recent attacks have targeted the private vehicles and homes of security personnel, police stations, and other justice sector buildings, increasing the potential for travelers to be caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. U.S. citizens traveling to Northern Ireland should remain alert to their surroundings and should be aware that if they choose to visit potential flashpoints or attend parades, sporadic violence remains a possibility.

Don’t become a victim

Petty crime such as pick pocketing is known to occur and is usually directed at foreign tourists. Prime pick pocketing areas include busy tourist attractions of Dublin and Belfast as well as train and bus stations. Be especially careful during the tourist season and in high traffic areas such as the Guinness Storehouse, Trinity College, or other places that attract large crowds. Late night trains where tired passengers often fall asleep are a favorite of pick pockets. The rules are the same everywhere.
  • Don't become alone at night in dark places
  • Don't go into isolated or poorly lit areas and don't use ATM's in poorly lit areas
  • Don't carry your wallet in the open
  • Don't carry more cash that you need that day, leave extra cash, credit cards, and personal documents at home or in a hotel safe
  • Don't leave your belongings in airports, train stations and other highly trafficked areas 
Be a smart traveler. Remove the temptation - visible luggage or personal items from cars when parking, especially near popular tourist sites. The American Embassy has learned of some cases where travelers discover a flat tire and someone immediately volunteers to assist. Capitalizing on the distraction, an accomplice meanwhile steals valuables from the vehicle.

Drugs in Ireland

Hard drugs including heroin and cocaine are completely illegal in Ireland and being caught either in possession of these drugs or selling them, holds stiff penalties almost certainly including prison time. However, the use of alcohol in the form of a stiff shot of Jameson or a stout Guinness is a national pastime and will only be penalized with the requirement to sign for and with the pub patrons.

Whether you were directly involved in the event or not, your reaction will be personal and individual to you. You may immediately feel strongly affected by what has happened.

If you need to contact the police or need a ambulance, here are the numbers:
Dial 112 or 999 and ask the operator to put you through to the Gardai (Republic of Ireland) or the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
EMS and Ambulance
Dial 112 or 999 and ask the operator to put you through to the ambulance service.
Tourist Assistance service
Dial 01 478 5295

Friday, February 1, 2013

Religion and Weather in Ireland


With its Celtic roots, the primary religion in early Ireland was Druid. However, invasions brought Christianity to Ireland by the early 5th century and it was spread through the works of early missionaries such as Palladius and Saint Patrick. Still the most dominant religion today, the Catholic Church claims over 47% of the population with the Anglican church in second position. However the numbers show a disturbing trend. Once a bastion of Catholicism, Ireland has lost is way in the eyes of the church as those who claim to be Catholic fell from 67% in 2005 to 45% today, the fastest drop in the world, excluding Communist Vietnam. It is ironic that the country which originated Saint Patrick's Day is rapidly becoming non-catholic. Perhaps the snakes will return?

The reasons for this change run deep in Ireland's history and have been amplified by recent sex crimes in the modern church. After the defeat of King James II of England in 1690, laws were introduced which discriminated against Roman Catholics and by 1829 the Catholic Emancipation loosened the restrictions imposed by the church. During this time the Anglican Church of England grew in importance.

Recently, the outrage over the Church's handling of claims of sexual abuse against children boiled over and lead to Ireland’s Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, indicting the Vatican as he charged, "the rape and torture of children were downplayed in favor of upholding the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and reputation."


Ireland has a mild, temperate climate with a mean annual temperature of around 50°F. Rain showers can occur at any time of the year and any time of day, after all, that's how it got the nick name, "The Emerald Isle." The light rains and misty mountains create a sense of magic throughout the countryside. The magic that has led to legends of fairies, leprechauns, and magical pots of gold. 

June through August is the driest time of the year with warmer, longer days, making this a great time to visit. The southeast is the driest area. The summer is also peak tourist season and most of the yearly festivals occur during this time, attracting large crowds of visitors. Spring and autumn are pleasant, but you will need to be prepared for surprise light showers. Winter days are grey and gloomy with low temperatures, but not freezing. Ireland seldom gets freezing weather or snow. Snow is scarce in Ireland and the temperature rarely drops below freezing, however there is less sunlight during this time of the year.