Happy St Patrick’s Day – 2015

I thought we’d celebrate this one with something a little bit different, yet not. Have a listen…

Imam Muhammad Al-Hussaini is a second-generation British Muslim who grew up in London during the 70s, and who was drawn to the London-Irish Centre to learn to play the fiddle. Muhammad Al-HussainiLoving the music he went on to meet Pat Connolly, a Connemara sean-nós singer, who helped him hone his singing technique, and in 2014 won Gaelic Voices. In the same year he performed at the All-Ireland Fleadh in Sligo where he captivated his audience.

“I felt a sense of kinship. I always had a deep love of Irish culture and history, the sense of family.”

Muhammad has and does face challenges, expecially with the backdrop of a fairly conservative UK Muslim community, but with such a beautiful voice we’re delighted to be able to listen to his music.

Definitely an honorary member of the diaspora :)

Irish Referendum 2015 – Same Sex Marriage and… what?

Minister Jimmy Deenihan must be peeved, as we are, to see plans for a referendum on Irish emigrant voting rights delayed again. Due to ‘logistical constraints’ the referenda in 2015 will now only focus on:

  • Marriage equality (same sex marriage), and
  • Reduction of the age qualification of presidential election candidates to 21

Addressing the question of marriage equality is a no-brainer. It’s a burning topic and considered an area where Ireland is lagging. It’s also a done deal. The major parties are all in favour, so apart from some theological arguments and heated debate about the subsequent legislation it’ll go through.

Priority no’ 2 is surprising, ie: allowing twenty-one year olds to become President of Ireland.

The government say this is part of a drive to make the Presidency more relevant to younger people, and the conclusion must be that the government is advocating a yes result. I think it’ll take five minutes of televised debate to blow it out of the water, and one simple question will probably do it:

“What qualities, abilities, strengths and experiences do you look for when electing the President of Ireland?”

Stature, gravitas, authority, and a working knowledge of politics, law, and the constitution to name but a few? It’s also cart before the horse. Firstly there’s a restrictive nomination process, and secondly there’s an expenditure structure that favours political candidates. I can’t see any twenty one year old getting past the first hurdle, not to mind accessing up to €750,000 to fund their campaign.

So how did this became a priority. It entered the arena early in the Constitutional Convention when the length of the presidential term was discussed. The age limit suggestion was supplementary and was probably one of the thousands submitted prior to the event.

Term reduction was rejected and the concensus was that nomination should be more accessible. It was also felt that the funding and expenses structure should be reviewed. The vote on age limit change was split 50 in favour, 47 against, and 3 don’t knows. So the convention did what it was asked to do, and voted on a suggestion, however I can’t find any evidence of expert speakers examining the pros and cons.

The final report shows that the convention went on to make constitutional recommendations on many other more important areas such as:

    Protection of the environment and natural resources
    Political reform (Dáil and Seanad)
    Definition of family
    Separation of church and state
    Right to die
    Appointment of judges
    Private property rights
    Bill of rights
    The referendum process
    Economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights
    Women at home, women in public life
    The blasphemy law
    Voting age reduction

Instead, we’re going to use the opportunity of a referendum to discuss leadership qualities and debate whether a 21 year old can be President of Ireland?

In reality, the government took the easy option here – one tricky topic at a time. The marriage equality issue has to be answered, and the presidential age question is only there to get it off the to-do list. If we were serious about making politics and the presidency more relevant to younger people we might do things in a different order:

1.   Reduce the voting age.
2a. Review and change the funding and expense structure for presidential elections.
2b. Change the nomination process for the presidency (less political control).
3.   And then look at an earlier age limit for candidacy (not necessarily 21).

Going about it backwards devalues the work of the constitutional convention, and looks like unstructured thinking. Unless of course what’s really wanted is a no result?

We’d suggest putting the emigrant vote back on the table, and getting these other issues into some semblance of order first. Still, it will be mildly entertaining to see which minister, if any, acts as advocate for allowing 21 year old presidents. Presumably one that’s not too fussed about their own credibility.

Save RTÉ UK Longwave Radio : Petition

RTÉ currently plans to cease operation of its longwave radio service to the UK on 19th Jan 2015. A service that Irish citizens in the UK have been listening to, and relying on, for many decades, and one that remains particularly important to those who left Ireland some years ago.

Transmission was due to cease earlier this year, but the deadline was extended in an attempt to get a better audience measure. If enough evidence is collected RTÉ will hopefully continue the service however they face two challenges:

  • Long-wave listenership cannot be verified
  • Many of those who do listen are not internet users

save_rte_uk_longwaveThe Irish In Britain are running a campaign asking RTÉ to postpone the shutdown until adequate alternatives are available. They are collecting signatures on paper, as well as online, and every signature counts as the axe draws closer. Their biggest hurdle is awareness – many of those who value the service have no idea it is about to close.


If you are a listener, or have family, friends, or relatives that rely on tuning in to stay in touch, spread the word. Letting such a valuable service slide out of operation simply because many were unaware of the decision would be a travesty, and once gone, it’s gone!

Supporting Articles:

Irish Times: 8th Dec:
Irish in UK urge RTÉ to retain radio service

Irish In Britain: Campaign page:
Save RTÉ long–wave radio in Britain

Irish Post: 11th Nov:
RTÉ Radio 1′s longwave service is a priceless link to Ireland for the Irish abroad

Irish Times: 15th Oct: Noreen Bowden (globalirish.ie):
RTÉ’s decision to cut longwave radio service will sever a vital link with Irish abroad


Update: 20th December: RTÉ announce extension to longwave transmission.

RTÉ Radio 1 has confirmed that its Longwave 252 transmission service now has a revised shutdown date of 2017. A full service will continue through 2015 with reduced hours in 2016, working toward full shutdown in 2017. Whether this will lead to a repeat of the current protest waits to be seen, but at least it allows some time to look at audience levels and to consider alternatives.