Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy. ~Ernest Benn

Recent Articles

Welcoming Trump…and Other Words We Mustn’t Use

Welcoming Trump…and Other Words We Mustn’t Use   ‘Irish American News’, July 2019.     I’ve been thinking lately about climate change.  And about golliwogs. There you go:  if talk of climate change has begun to bore you as much as it does me then that word – ‘golliwogs’ – probably grabbed back your attention. It is one of the many words that are no longer acceptable in polite company.  It’s a relic of a past where hurtful and casually racist expressions were used regularly.  Yet those of you who are old enough to remember it will recall seeing that bizarre caricature that it represented for much of your early life, when it peered out at you, unremarked on, from the labels of Robinson’s jam jars. It is an image that has quite rightly been consigned to History’s overflowing rubbish bin.  After all, we’re all a bit more ‘woke’ now… supposedly, in any case.  But it came back to mind recently due to – of all things – the visit here to Ireland of President Donald Trump. I was listening to the usual hysterics getting themselves into a right old trousers-wetting frenzy about the cheek of the man to come here on a private visit, conveniently forgetting that he had in fact been invited by then-Taoiseach Enda Kenny.  (Lord, was that only just over two years ago?  It feels like a lifetime.) And it seems to me that if you invite someone to your home then you at least have manners enough to be a good host.  And in the main Ireland was that, I’m glad to say.  In fact, apart from the expected contingent of headbangers who were out there demonstrating against the visit – the visit of a sitting American President who also actually employs people in this... Full Article →

An Informal Chat with Tony Slevin, former U.S. Marine Corps: 2

Chicago’s Irish American News, June 2019.     “What were you doing when you were posted to Korea?” I ask Tony. “I was working on helicopters as an aerial observer.” Right here is one of the frustrating things about interviewing Tony Slevin, originally from Dublin.  In the past, people I’ve spoken with – hell, people in general – are happy to talk about themselves.  Tony isn’t.  Beyond a polite surface answer to most questions, this guy is pretty much guarded in his responses.  Much is off the record and I’m pleased that I promised him it would be an informal chat or God knows I would be lucky to get anything at all. “When my brother came to me with flyers for the military I went along with him.  As I’ve said, it was in the back of my mind in any case.  Each branch of the service was in the same building.  Eric, he went for the army. “I’m not putting one over the other; but for me it was always going to be the Marine Corps.  In my mind it was more of a challenge and I liked the idea of being part of a smaller and more self-contained unit.” As a movie buff I can’t help but ask him what film he feels reflects life in the Marines most accurately; and there is no hesitation: “It’s the opening part of Full Metal Jacket, the bit set in the Boot Camp.  No question.  There are other decent films out there, but all of them have some flaws or other, ranging from the very small to the ridiculous.  But that first third of Kubrick’s film nails it. “I can’t comment on the rest of the movie, because it was set in Vietnam and I obviously wasn’t there, too busy... Full Article →

IAN : An Informal Chat with Tony Slevin, former U.S. Marine Corps.

An Informal Chat with Tony Slevin, former U.S. Marine Corps. [from Chicago’s ‘Irish American News’, May issue]     I’m something of a slow learner, always have been.  Come to think of it, maybe the only time I learned something really fast was when I never got married again after making such a screw-up of it the first time.  It’s funny because it’s true. For several years back in the noughties I had a terrific job, one that took me all over the world.  And in every country, no matter how far off, I was running into Irish men and women.  I didn’t take much heed of it at first; it was just something at the back of my consciousness, this awareness that the Irish got around to an extent that was ’way out of proportion to their country’s size. Then one evening I was checking into a hotel on one of the Cape Verde islands and I heard someone calling:  ‘Hey, Charley!  How are you?’ It turned out to be someone I had known back in Limerick in 1980.  He had been a young fella who collected glasses in a long-gone bar called The Davin Arms.  Now here he was, working as an accountant on a group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean – and we run into each other.  The following month I met up with a couple of brothers who hailed from County Roscommon and who had just opened a business in Panama.  Then there was the beautiful Irish woman who had been one of the famous Bluebell dance troupe in Paris and who was now selling high-end property in Mexico. With the penny finally dropped I approached Cliff Carlson, publisher of this magazine, with a suggestion that I do an extra column each month on the... Full Article →