Our final formal event was at Iveagh House at the Department for Foreign Affairs, Dublin. The American students were joined by their Irish counterparts, including the Iveagh Scholars and their colleagues from the previous day's conference. Many parents and relatives of the Irish and American students also attended.
Guest of honour at the graduation event was the Minister for Diaspora, Joe McHugh T.D. He was introduced to the gathering by Mary Connery from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Minister McHugh heard testimonials from each of the Global Irish Summer Camp participants. Minister McHugh congratulated Niamh Hamill and John O'Connell, directors of the Institute of Study Abroad Ireland, and Liam Kennedy, director of the Clinton Institute at UCD, on their delivery of an excellent programme. Minister McHugh complimented the students and their parents on their engagement with this Diaspora project, and thanked them for their continued support. As delicious refreshments were served, all enjoyed the opportunity to mingle and continue to build friendships and connections in this most beautiful room overlooking St. Stephen's Green
The evening concluded with a farewell meal in the Green 19 Restaurant, and then it was back to the residence at UCD for a few hours sleep before an early departure and those sad goodbyes at the airport. However, all agreed that firm friendships were forged between all twenty participants, and that a reunion is inevitable. Slan!
Áras an Uachtaráin is the residence of the President of Ireland, and is located in Dublin's Phoenix Park, one of Europe's biggest parks. The Phoenix Park is also the residence of the American Ambassador to Ireland and the location of Dublin Zoo. The current President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins was not at home but we recieved a warm welcome from the President's staff.
The students were given a tour of the reception rooms and an excellent history of the former presidents of Ireland. Students were intrigued to discover that Ireland has already had two female presidents (Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese), and a president born in the United States (Eamonn deValera). The current President, a poet and lover of the arts, has left his mark throughout, and we enjoyed the eclectic collection of paintings and sculpture throughout. Our visit ended with an impromptu performance on the grand piano by participant Samantha, who now has a great story to tell about her visit!
Across the park we were greeted by the American Ambassador to Ireland, his Excellency Kevin O'Malley, and welcomed into his residence. The Ambassador bought us through the rose gardens and to the edge of the grounds, where we could see right across the south side of Dublin city to the Wicklow mountains.
There is a small moat on the edge of the grounds. The Ambassador explained that it was important there was no walls, fences or barricades between the grounds of the American Ambassador's home, and Ireland.
The Ambassador led us to the sculpture commemorating 9/11 which features a piece of the Twin Towers. The students were then given the oppurtunity for a question and answer session with the Ambassador. One of the great questions posed was 'how to I get your job!'
It was just past sunrise when our students waved goodbye to Bundoran, and the Wild Atlantic Way. The reality that the programme was coming to an end was beginning to kick in. Our destination was University College Dublin, and we arrived at the Clinton Institute for American Studies to be greeted by the manager of the Clinton Institute for American Studies at UCD, Catherine Carey, and the Director, Prof. Liam Kennedy.
The Clinton Institute had arranged that twenty Irish students of a similar age woud engage with our Global Irish group in a youth conference on Irish and American issues. After an introductory session and a short briefing on study abroad opportunities for American Students in Ireland, we had a friendly al fresco lunch in the beautiful grounds of the Institute.
After lunch Prof. Kennedy and Dr. Hamill took two separate sessions with the American and Irish students. Both groups explored perceptions of Irish and American identity. We then brought the groups together to compare the outcomes of those discussions, with some interesting findings.
After a very informative and illuminating afternoon, our Irish friends returned home and our US students returned to the luxurious reisdence halls at Roebuck to relax for the evening.
It is no easy task to teach the history of Northern Ireland from the Treaty to thg Peace Process, but a narrative that finishes up in a process of conflict resolution rather than violence is a positive way to end the academic lectures that were part of this program. This narrative was beautifully enhanced by our tour of the Bogside with one of the Bogside artists, Mr. Tom Kelly.
Tom and his fellow artists Will Kelly and Kevin Hasson have painted a series of 12 murals around the Bogside. These murals tell the story of the Derry community through Art, and the artists passionately insist that their narrative is one of honesty and representative of the people's struggle for civil rights and equality. The series of 12 murals concludes with the wonderful Peace Mural, complete with a dove, and coloured squares representing equal representation of all shades of political persuasions in this beautiful city. You can visit the website of the bogside artists here and we absolutely support their work and recommend you check out their book (which many of our students purchased, signed by all three. Thanks so much, Kevin, Will and Tom.
Derry City was built between 1613 and 1620, a plantation stronghold that still retains the city walls. Famous for the siege of 1689, with the cry 'No Surrender', the city then became the site of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement in the late 1960s, a movement modeled on the US Civil Rights movement of Dr. King and the people of the South. It is a city associated with Culture, in particular the work of Seamus Heaney, Brian Friel, Field Day Theatre and Literature, and much great music and art. We got the opportunity to walk the walls of the city, and tour the beautiful Guild Hall, home to the Derry/Strabane Council, and a fabulous illustration of the history of the city in stained glass.
We returned to Bundoran after a great day across the border, and celebrated our last night in Donegal with a delicious meal at La Sabbia Restaurant. We were joined by Deirdre McCarthy from the Department of Foreign Affairs, one of the team responsible for the concept of this great program for our Global Irish Camp.. thanks Deirdre!
We're off to Dublin for the final two days of the Program... bye bye Donegal, it's been fun!
We are very lucky here in the Northwest, not just because we have the beautiful counties of Ulster to roam, but our neighboring counties in Connacht, namely Leitrim and Sligo, are also remarkable in their history and culture. Our field trip to this area centered around Irish poet and playwright William Butler Yeats, for whom Sligo/Leitrim was inspirational, so much so that this area is known as Yeats Country. WB is buried in the churchyard at Drumcliffe, Sligo, which nestles in the shadow of the iconic Ben Bulben mountain.
Our first stop was at the magnificent megalithic court cairn at Creevykeel, County Sligo. This incredible monument lies almost unheeded by the passer-by, yet it is part of a series of fabulous ancient and sacred spaces around Sligo. From Creevykeel, there are views over Mullaghmore head and Donegal Bay to the west, and to the east, the Dartry Mountains, Ben Whisken and Ben Bulben. It was a good opportunity to discuss how this landscape would have influenced Yeats.
Onwards then to Drumcliffe, which was the site of a monastic settlement associated with St. Colm Cille, and still boasts an impressive high cross and the remains of a round tower. The high crosses not only assisted early Christians to understand the scriptures ( we described it as 9th century PowerPoint!) but they are a stunning example of the fusion of Celtic Art with the establishment of Irish Christianity.
Much later, St.Columba's Church was built at the site, ministered at one time by a relative of Yeats. So taken was the poet by the scenic location of the church that he left instructions to be buried there, and so (eventually*) he was. We had a chance to visit the grave and the church- its stunning swan-shaped handles were a gift from the Australian Yeats Society, and we saw the Yeats memorial with the words of the poem "He wishes for the cloths of heaven" carved in stone.
After that, we went into the Glen's of Leitrim, to magical Glencar Waterfall, immortalized in the poem"The Stolen Child". It was here Yeats imagined the faery folk darting about and conspiring and plotting, and when you visit here, you can understand why.
Our final stop was in Sligo, gateway city to Connacht, overlooked by the great Queen Maedb, standing in her tomb on Knocknaree. Cnoc Na Ri, or the royal mountain was said to be Yeats' favourite. Understandably, some of our teens made a beeline for the bookshop, which was selling the latest Harry Potter! Others discovered the glorious retail experience that is Penneys, and some just wandered along the Garavogue River, soaking up the prettiness of Sligo on a summer Sunday afternoon.
We returned for dinner, and a low-key evening of bowling, and early to bed. We have a few very busy days ahead, but today we were the dreamers of dreams.
*this is another story, but we will keep it for the reunion...
Today was another busy day for our group, beginning with more singing, and some rehearsal for tonight's talent show. Our first song was a hearty happy birthday to our Conor, who turns 17 today. It was the first of several happy birthdays, and eventually a candle which arrived at dinner time
Today's field trip continued the theme of diaspora and emigration, and we travelled to the Ulster-American Folk Park in Omagh, County Tyrone. This open-air museum tells the story of three centuries of Irish emigration, and it's laid out in a very interesting way- visitors go first to the thatched cottages of Ulster, then on board a full-scale emigrant ship, and on to the log cabins of the American Frontier.
After we returned from Tyrone, it was time to get ready... and indeed, our group proved what a talented bunch they are! We did our best to get everyone to perform, but some of our kiddos said they would prefer to be the best audience ever, and we respected that. But what an eclectic show we got! Julia, Abby, Tara and Maggie performed an original song called 'Best Trip Ever' (well, that's a good sign!) and it was a really funny, smart song about the group's adventures so far. This was followed by some wonderful singing by Allison, Kaeleigh and Sam.
Rocco's talents are his magic feet, and Patrick, his awesome guitar skills. Devin stole the show somewhat, with the opening number from the music 'Hamilton', - Ariana says her talent is doing the splits! Niamh accompanied the whole group to a cool version of Justin Bieber's 'love yourself', led by Samantha and Allison again, and our very attractive dancers Patrick, Brendan and Patrick did the dance from Napoleon Dynamite (Hilarious!!!) There was a great surprise at the end, when Kyle and Abby presented the first screening of a movie they have made of the trip so far. We will let them show you this themselves.
It was a very busy day today, with lots of activities with our global Irish summer campers. We began after breakfast with a class about Irish songs and ballads with Niamh and her trusty guitar. Many of our students were familiar with songs such as 'The City of Chicago' and 'I'll tell me Ma' but we had a few local ones to add to the mix, and the current favourite which is obsessing everyone, is a hip-hop/celtic rock tune called 'Skinny Jeans and a GAA Jersey'
After the singing, it was time for the bog! Our colleague, Eoin, treated the students to the experience of a morning in a working bog, turning and stacking the turf, as generations of Irish people did each summer.
After the bog, we returned to base for lunch, and then it was off to beautiful Rougey for one of the highlights of the trip- the Bundoran Beach cliff jump. The rocks at Rougey, complete with diving board, are a popular place for enjoying the ocean, as the formation of a clear and deep lagoon at high tide makes for a great, safe plunge into the ocean. Parents- our lifeguards were right by, in the water and by those jumping, monitoring how and when they all went in, but if you look at our videos and photos, you'll sense the exhilaration of this experience.
It was back to campus for dinner, and then we were off to Ballyshannon for the opening of the annual Ballyshannon Folk and Traditional Music Festival. We were thrilled to be part of a great evening which featured junior traditonal musicians 'Botha', the wonderful Ward sisters from County Leitrim, and the heart-stopping Eleanor Shanley
Our sincere thanks to Mary Daly and the committee of the Ballyshannon Folk Festival for having us to this wonderful event, and we hope we have inspired our visitors with an enduring love of Irish music and dance.
We turned in for the evening, quite exhausted by our busy day, but looking forward to Saturday, with a trip to the Ulster-American Folk Park and the Global Irish Talent Show to look forward to...
We'll keep you posted!
It was rather a sombre day in class, as we now had to examine the fortunes of the Irish after the Plantation and the implementation of the Penal Laws, a set of laws designed to disempower Catholics. Over the 1700s, lands were confiscated, and Catholics, although rapidly increasing in population, were becoming poorer and poorer. The celebration of Mass was outlawed, and the faithful took to the outdoors, to Mass Rocks, to practise their faith.
There was growing disgruntlement among some of the Protestant community towards the end of the 18th century, as they felt neither wholly Irish or English, and this, combined with new ideas about human rights and liberty, resulted in an attempted revolution in 1798, led by Theobald Wolfe-Tone and the United Irishmen. The response to this failed revolution was the very significant Act of Union (1800) which formalized Ireland’s incorporation into the United Kingdom. The parliament in Dublin was dissolved, and Irish affairs were now dealt with in London.
So the nineteenth century saw a minority of Protestant landlords in power, and the majority of the Irish people reduced to tenants, in poor circumstances. The population continued to grow, but little consideration was given to the Catholic peasants of Ireland. The poor became dependent on the potato as a source of food, given that they had only a little space for farming, and a lot of mouths to feed. And then-catastrophe. Between 1845 and 1850, sequential failures of the potato crop led to widespread famine and starvation. We discussed the responses of the government, and also took the opportunity to discuss the responses of governments to current crises – a great conversation- and then we looked at the choices of the poor, which was the nineteenth century workhouse, or emigration.
This led us to consider how a massive wave of emigrants to the USA impacted, and as this was the time that many of our students’ ancestors emigrated, it was a poignant and interesting discussion.
Our field trip then took us to sites relevant to all of the above. We visited Asseroe (Eas Aodh Rua) Abbey, which was later the site of secret masses, held at Catsby’s Cave. This is not only a beautiful location, but a deeply spiritual site. Close by, there is St. Patrick’s Well, where several of our students filled bottles of water to take back to the grandparents! We were also joined by a very friendly puppy, who, despite her gender, the students (Conor) named ‘St. Patrick’!
We then visited the site of Ballyshannon Workhouse. This grim building was constructed early in the nineteenth century for the relief of the poor, but during famine times, became overcrowded and much hated by those forced to go there. The students also visited a memorial to nineteen orphan girls who were shipped from the Ballyshannon workhouse to Australia.
Then we went to the Ballyshannon and District Museum, an unusually located collection of memorabilia, in the top floor of Slevin’s Department Store. The Museum, curated by local people, has a reconstruction of a cell at the workhouse, and the coffin and straw bedding are bleak reminders of this dark period of Irish history.
Our final stop was down at the port, where the famine ships departed for America. Although emigration to the United States had begun in the eighteenth century, it was the nineteenth century that saw large-scale movement of poor Irish to New Orleans, Canada, New York and Boston.
We stood at the harbour’s edge, imagining the sadness and lonliness of those who left, and those who remained behind. However, as sad as it was, we know that those who emigrated did so, so that their children, and their children’s children could have better futures. Looking at our twenty healthy, smart, happy teens who have come back to Ireland on this trip, it is perhaps the happy ending for which they hoped.
This morning we drove north, through 'the gap', to Letterkenny. Our first stop was at Letterkenny Institute of Technology. This is a regional college with roughly 4,000 students enrolled during the school year. We met with the President of the College, Mr Paul Hannigan, who gave us a presentation on the background of the College.
We then got a tour through the CoLab with the Head of Development, John Andy Bonar. The Colab is located on the college campus and is an incubator for startups, run by local entrepreneurs. The college encourages the CoLab companies to hire from within the collge as they expand. We learned how the college sustains the companies and integrates their employees with events occuring in the college, as well as providing social spaces to meet their students.
We met co-founder of Arklu, Ian Harkin. Ian's company 'Lottie' is a global success. The 'Lottie Dolls' are age-appropriate dolls for young children. Ian was a previous graduate of the College and returned to the CoLab to start his project. In traditional Irish style, the students were offered one million cups of tea through the day.
We then moved onto Glenveagh National Park. The park is 170km of rugged land with a beautiful deep lake, it is also home to Ireland's most annoying creature, the itchy midge. We were greeted at the Vistor Centre by Cathaoirleach (Mayor) of Donegal County Council, Cllr. Terence Slowey and Donegal County Council's Mary Daly. They gave the students a formal welcome to the region. Cllr. Terrence shared stories about his youth working in the US, most poignantly at the twin towers in New York in the 70s.
Anna gave us a tour of Glenveagh Castle, right in the heart of the park. This castle was erected in the 19th century and has a history teeming with secrets and curses. We learned about the Belgian Walk and roamed the castle gardens.These gardens have been kept since the 1880s. The end of the day was spent looking over the Lough Veigh and the valley with the castle behind us.
As the sun set we learned about the Gaelic Athletic Association's traditional games. We played a bit of hurling, camogie, and GAA football. A big thank you to Bundoran GAA for letting us use the football grounds and Aodh Rua GAA Club for lending us their equipment. Slán.