Sunday, April 20, 2014

What has Ireland ever done for me?

It's nearly sixteen years now since we moved to Ireland from Belgium. I can still see the scene in the airport. My dad was pushing the buggy with Fintan (2) in it around the departure area in Charleroi airport, Sipke (5) was walking with him and singing ' Molly Malone', the only Irish song we knew at the time, apart from a few notes from 'No, Nay, Never' and 'All Kinds of Everything'.
I don't know what must have gone through my dad's head at the time, he never told me. It must have been tough for him, but he didn't show it.
He did send me a sweet letter a few weeks later, which I keep as my treasure, the only letter my dad ever wrote to me and me alone. Now that he's no longer there, that letter has become the most precious of my posessions, together with my mother's old wrist watch.

A lot has happened since that day, and I think it's time to have a look at my Irish experience so far.
What has Ireland ever done for me?

I have shed the unpleasant Belgian habit of being too formal.
When I first got here, I was seven months pregnant, and went to see a doctor. I was totally shocked when everyone in the clinic called me by my first name. Such rudeness! It didn't take long for me to get used to it, though, and if I go back to Belgium now, I find it very hard to get used to anyone calling me mrs. Demol. I much prefer the Irish way.

I have rediscovered my singing voice.
I used to sing a lot when I was younger. I loved stealing the show during family reunions, or with my friends in school and later in nursing college. But then I met mr Wrong, who told me I was making a complete fool of myself. So I stopped. I never thought of it again. Life took over, and in Belgium life is all about work, and a tiny bit of free time.
It was only when,in Ireland, one night during an after-hunt singsong, I was put on a table in the pub and announced as the lady from a far away country who would sing a tune, that I remembered how I used to sing. I was in a panic and sang the first song that came to my head, a Flemish folk song, which I would have laughed at as a teenager. I sang it and got a warm applause, and I fell in love with the Irish singsongs. I realised I needed some party pieces, and was much better prepared after that. A friend of mine invited me to join the Chorus of Opera Cork, and about 3 years after I arrived in Ireland, I was standing on the stage in the Opera House in Cork as a member of the Chorus in Strauss' 'The Bat' or 'Die Fledermaus'. I never stopped singing since, until a couple of years ago, when family troubles took my voice away again. But the love of music has remained.

I have been able to get rid of the shackles of Catholisism.
This may seem odd, as I have come to a very Catholic country, but the Catholicism here is not what it is in Belgium. I couldn't believe how much the Church rules the lives of most Irish people. The horrible stories of child abuse, the shock I felt when I learned about the Magdalenes, made me sure that I did not want to belong to any religion. I had long had serious doubts before, but the scandals and the exaggerated involvement of the Church in politics and state matters, helped me to make my decision. I am now happy to call myself a secular humanist, and that, thanks to Ireland.

I talk to people that I never met before as if I've always known them.
This is something you do very rarely in Belgium. The chitchat on the train, in a shop, in a lift, in the doctor's waiting room, or just anywhere two strangers are in the same space, is something I would never have done before. Even saying hello when passing someone on a walk has become strange over there. You keep yourself to yourself and the people you know.
It is definitely different here. I have become a true chatterbox. I talk to anyone willing to have a chat, and I find it a lot of fun talking to complete strangers. The funniest is though, that everyone always knows someone I know, whether I meet them in Galway or Dublin, there is always a connection with Cork.

If I have an idea, I can just go ahead and realise it.
It is so easy to be creative in Ireland. Maybe it is in Belgium too, but I have never felt the need to do something different over there, probably because everything is organised for you there anyway..
Apart from starting a jazz club ( which is on a stand-by at the moment due to lack of money), I have organised several concerts. It started with 'Classics in The Countryside', where The Chorus of Opera Cork and The City of Cork Male Voice Choir performed in small churches in the country side, after that I organised a couple of very successful concerts called 'It Must Be The Music' with local artists and a few very willing professionals, and it culminated in the musical theatre that Swiss woman Olivia, together with director Ciaran Bermingham and myself created. It was a love story, told with the use of French songs. We performed during Culture Night in Cork, and at the Bandon Arts Festival. Always with great success.
Unfortunately real life became too much like the story we were acting out, when my husband decided to leave the family, and that's where I lost my voice. But I know for certain that I would never have been able to do this in my own country.
Right now we are in talks to start a community radio in Bandon town, just because we can.

I can now produce and present a radio show.
It's virtually impossible to find an interesting job at my age,but I have become involved with an online radio station, where I have been allowed to produce my own show, The New Rebels and Sounds and Places. The first is a show for immigrants like me , the latter is a world music show.
I didn't apply for a job, I just talked to the woman who was in the process of creating Irish Radio International, and told her I always dreamed of doing a show for immigrants, and she gave me that chance.
So, although it is unpaid, I have learned a load of new skills, and have found something I really enjoy doing. I have in the mean time completed a course in radio documentary making, and can hopefully start monetizing at least a little in the future.

I have found the best possible friends in this country.
Women help each other out so much more than in my old place. The friendships I have here and the support I've had from my friends during the time I had cancer, and now, during the separation, are second to none. And although I'm sure there are deep friendships to be had anywhere, there just is't time enough in busy places like Belgium.

I turn off the immersion and I know what a hot press is.
Yes, I have come to that stage now, where I worry about the hot water costs.

Last but not least, I have had a glorious time with my children
I have cursed the Irish lack of childcare facilities many a time when I first got here, but now I look back and think it may not have been all that bad.
The Irish country side is just perfect for children to grow up in. There is a freedom here that you don't find anywhere else. Belgium has a lot more facilities, much more activities . There are plenty of music schools for everyone, there is always a sporstclub, a sports hall or a youth club. There is pre- and after school care, and great child care facilities. Maybe it's just a bit too easy though. That is what makes Irish children strong. Not everything is organised for them, they have to put a lot of effort into what they want to do. This makes them more independent and much more mature than their peers in Belgium. I know, I know, it is just an idea I have and I may be totally wrong. what do you think?

This is not the full list of good things I have found in Ireland, but I could probably fill a book.
And for the bad things? Well, I've written enough about those.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Creatief Ierland

Ik heb net een artikel gelezen in The Journal of Music waarin Toner Quinn het heeft over de fantastische Ierse muziek cultuur, en hoe de cultuur zich verspreid heeft van traditionele Ierse muziek naar andere muziek soorten.
Er zijn de rauwe spontane optredens in de gemeenschap, en daar heb ik er verschillende van meegemaakt. Iedereen kent wel een party-piece en goede zangers krijgen veel respect. De 'trad session', waar je gewoon kan bijschuiven in de circel met een instrument en met totaal ongekenden mee muziek kan maken.
Deze traditie verplaatst zich ook . Op straat bijvoorbeeld, of tijdens de rugby matchen. Ook het Iers dansen, waar iedereen met iedereen kan dansen en direct weet wat te doen, is in dat geval uniek.

De overdracht van generatie tot generatie wordt ook vernoemd, en ook dat zie ik hier regelmatig. Niet alleen in de scholen maar ook thuis, in de pub en tussen vrienden. Mijn kinderen kennen nu ook de traditionele rebelsongs en zij leren mij wel een paar dingen hierover. Ik kan er ook best een paar meezingen.
Muzikanten spelen hier, zonder klagen met iedereen. Of ze nu ver gevorderde, hoogstaande talenten zijn, of beginners die nog veel moeten leren, hier wordt daar zelfs niet over nagedacht, al doende leert men. Ik ken hier één van de beste jazz pianisten in het land die zonder twijfelen met iedereen meespeelt. Toen hij naar Chicago ging om een masters in Jazz compositie te doen, werd hij meteen gehijacked door de Ierse traditionele muzikanten daar, en hij deed gretig mee. Het gaat hem om het plezier om muziek te maken, heel simpel, zonder stress, uit pure liefde voor muziek.

Hier is Cormac aan het werk in Minnesota tijdens zijn verblijf in de US.

En dat maakt Ierland zo uniek. Zoals ik al zei, dit verspreidt zich naar andere kunsttakken, zoals dansen, plastische kunst, ambachtelijke kunst en theater.
Kijk maar naar de tentoonstelling in Brussel. Volledig bemand en georganiseerd door vrijwilligers. Waar vind je dat nog tegenwoordig?

Hier is Ciaran Bermingham, een acteur die een kleine rol had in Game of Thrones , die het land rondreist met een heel succesvolle tweemans show,'Fred and Alice', en constant betrokken is bij nieuwe theaterstukken. Hij gaf er niets om om volledig gratis mee te werken aan een klein benefiet concert voor borstkanker onderzoek, dat ik in Bandon georganiseerd had. De meeste zangers daar waren amateurs. Ik had twee professionele zangers uitgenodigd, en die vonden het leuk om, samen met Ciaran met ons mee op het podium te staan voor ons slot liedje.

Het leuke is dat iedereen hier graag meedoet, of het nu aan dansen is of aan zingen, Kijk hier naar de video van een trouwfeest waar de bruidegom met zijn vrienden de show steelde met hun Ierse dans, die ze duidelijk in het geheim hadden voorbereid. Het feit alleen al dat al die mannen konden meedansen is te danken aan de overdracht van generatie tot generatie, de scholen waar kinderen allemaal Ierse dansen leren en het plezier om samen te werken met iedereen, hoe groot of klein hun talent wel is.

En wie kan er dit vergeten: tijdens de match die ze gingen verliezen, begonnen de fans 'Fields of Athenry' te zingen tijden de Spanje-Ierland match in Euro 2012.

Creativiteit is een Ierse sterkte, waar volgens mij niet genoeg belang aan gehecht wordt. Alles gaat hier om IT, de kinderen worden als robotten klaargestoomd om de grote bedrijven hier te houden met hoog geschoold technisch personeel. Het gaat zelfs zo ver, dat geschiedenis nu een keuzevak wordt in het secundair onderwijs. In de school van Milo is er geen plaats voor kunst of muziek, in de school van mijn andere twee zijn dit ook keuzevakken.
Maar, waarom die creativitei niet steunen? Er zouden wel meer grote Ierse bedrijven uit kunnen groeien en het houdt de mensen gelukkig en misschien houdt het onze kinderen ook nog hier.

Hier nog maar eens ons liedje van dat borstkanker benefietconcert. Molly Lynch, die hier ook met ons meezingt is nu in London voor een masters in Muziek theater.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Dear women of Ireland, there is nothing wrong with you!

Dear women of Ireland,

There is nothing wrong with you. You are great, beautiful, friendly human beings who have no reason to feel bad about yourselves at all.
I recently joined a new women's group in Bandon. After a first visit I was very impressed with the average level of intelligence within the group, the discussions that were taking place were very interesting and I felt this was the place for me. I would make friends and I would look forward to the Thusrday morning meetings.

And indeed I did make friends, and I thoroughly enjoyed the discussions.

What puzzled me though, were the various women who came to do workshops with us.
The first woman was involved in the West Cork Centre for prevention of violence against women. She was a very determined Northern Ireland woman, of the kind that you would feel very safe with if you were in trouble and looking for a haven. She was coming to give us a workshop in women in leadership. A great idea, so I thought.

We were divided into groups and had to rewrite history through the lives of our mothers and grandmothers.
It was a nice and sometimes a little painful experience, but I just kept asking myself one question. If we are supposed to look at history through the lives of our mothers. If women's history is built from mother to mother, then what about the mothers of only boys, what about the childless mothers, by choice or not? What about my father's mother? Is their history not just as important? If you write women's history passed on from mother to daughter, then these women have no real place in our history? That seems very unfair.

I didn't want to bring a negative undertone to the workshop, so I just let it go.
During that meeting , a community worker from a nearby town had come over to observe what we were doing. She said she would come back to do some more workshops with us. More workshops? What do we need to work on, I wondered? Is something wrong with us? Why are we being observed? Aren't we just a bunch of women who want to meet up, help each other where we can and just enjoy each other's company, or is there something wrong with us?

A couple of weeks ago another person came, again to talk about women in leadership. She was a psychotherapist (?). I was curious to see what she had to tell us. She immediately started with a poem , talking about the Godess within us, and other strange things. Then she made us do group therapy. She passed godess cards around and a book of angels....Therapy for what? Goddess? Angels?? Give me a break!
According to her, all Irish women are opressed, submissive and in need of therapy because of living in a patriarch society. Really?
Find who you really are inside, find the new you, blahblahblah. This time I couldn't keep my mouth shut.
I find in this age of individualism, too many people go 'finding themselves' leaving a path of destruction behind in their own families. I have unfortunately become a victim of someone's individualism myself. I have seen the damage done to my children. I think it's time we take a step back. Sure, some of us could have been more than we are. But we have made choices, and sometimes, these include making some sacrifices. Such is life.

What occurred to me ever since I moved to Ireland , and especially in the country side is the power women have in these villages. The men are just doing the work on the land and discussing the GAA, while the women do all the rest. They take care of each other, they discuss the new arrivals in the village and make the decision to accept them or ostracise them,, they comfort and support each other in tragedy and in happiness , they are the pillars of rural society.
Why oh why would they need group therapy. Sure some husbands are bastards, some are alcoholics and some are violent. And that has to be dealt with. It certainly isn't the case with everyone, And if I was an Irish woman, I'd be very insulted if anyone told me group therapy was needed.

It pleased me to see that I was not the only one who didn't agree. In fact most women there didn't agree. We have decided not to let anyone come over and teach us about what kind of women they want us to be. We can chose if we want to be religious or not. We are a group of women who want to have fun, be friends and help each other out where we can, find causes to support and take action if needed. We are strong and we can do it alone, without therapists or observers, and if we chose to find a godess then we can do that aswell, if we really want to see angels, that is our own choice.

Women of Ireland, you are a great bunch. Time to start believing it.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Limerick meets Brussels, Brussels meets Sligo


Hiermee wil ik iedereen graag uitnodigen op de Irish in Europe tentoonstelling Limerick meets Brussels-Brussels meets Sligo, die plaats heeft in de Sint Gorikshallen te Brussel van 3 tot 28 April. Er zal Ierse hedendaagse kunst en fotografie te zien zijn uit Limerick ( culturele hoofdstad 2014) en Sligo (Europese sport hoofdstad 2014) en ook informatie over kunstcursussen in Ierland en ambachtelijke kunsten.

de kunstenaars

 De tentoonstelling zal werken tonen van Annemarie Bourke, conor Doherty, Godfrey Graham, Gavin Hogg en Ciaran McHugh, alsook foto's die door de Ierse toeristische dienst ter beschikking gesteld werden en informatie over ambachten van Craftbay.

Catherine McEntee, een Ierse schrijfster, en event manager die in Brussel woont is de curator.

Irish in europe

De Irish in Europe Association is een vrijwillige vereniging die Ierland will bevorderen in Belgie door nieuwe banden te leggen en door meer kennis te verspreiden over het Ierland dat niet zo gekend is in Europa.

Als je van Ierland houdt, als je je kennis over Ierland wilt verrijken, als je enkel Dublin, shamrock, Bono en Guinness denkt als je iets over Ierland hoort, dan is deze tentoonstelling voor jou. Je zal er versteld staan van de mooie foto's en de prachtige kunstwerken, en hopelijk wordt je genoeg geprikkeld om eens tot hier te komen.

Iedereen die met deze show verbonden is doet dit vrijwillig (m.a.w. volledig gratis) uit liefde voor Ierland en Belgie. Het zou dus leuk zijn ons een hart onder de riem te steken door de tentoonstelling te boezoeken.


Hier is een interview met Ken Buckley van de Gallery Kinsale, over de Irish in Europe association en de tentoonstelling.

Geniet ervan!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Mixed Race Irish

It has been quite a week in Ireland, with the new problems for Mr Shatter, the news that over 2000 phone calls were taped in Garda offices around the country, which could bring a lot of current and old court cases in jeopardy,the press had a busy time and mr. Shatter is very troubled.

But that hasn't affected our normal every day lives.

However, since I started my (voluntay) job with the online radio, Irish Radio International, where I have my own show, The New Rebels, aimed at the immigrant society here and their families abroad and since I have touched the problem of racism, I am regularly confronted with some very difficult truths.
It is of course easy to ignore all that and keep on blogging about all the good things in Ireland (of which there are many), but I think we all have a repsonsibility in revealing truth, however unpleasant that truth may be.

I connected with a lady from London, Carole Brennan, who is a co-founder of the recently established Mixed Race Irish group, an association of Irish people with African dads and Irish mothers, born in the 50s, 60s and 70s, and often raised in industrial schools here in Ireland, where they were often psychologically, physically and even sexually abused.
A lot of them left Ireland after their 18th birthday and now live in self-imposed exile, but some of them stayed, like Christine Buckley, who became famous for her fight for justice for those who suffered abuse while in care.

Christine Buckley passed away a few weeks ago, and Mixed Race Irish will now continue to fight for the rights of the Mixed Race children in care.

According to Carole Brennan, there are about 150 or more people, now middle aged who grew up under these conditions. The group wants the Irish government to recognise them, to admit to the horrible abuse these children have suffered, and to apologise.

When I first spoke to Carole , I could hardly believe what I heard. After the Magdalenes, the child abuse by Catholic priests and the scandal of the industrial schools, now this , and I had never heard of it. Children who have been locked up, rejected and abused since the day they were born, becuse of the colour of their skin.
Here is the interview: Justice for Mixed Race Irish podcast from The New rebels programme on IRI by roosdemol

The Irish Times has published an article about Mixed Race Irish as well a few days ago. So far I haven't yet seen many reactions to it. The group has a lot of work to do, and they need all the support they can get.

I have asked the question if the same occured in Belgium, and a few people have sent me links. Yes, Mixed Race Belgians were also put in orphanages, and later adopted or fostered. I haven't found any reports on abuse,so far. What is interesting as well is that in Belgium they were all children of African mothers and Belgian fathers. Once the women were pregnant, the fathers would disappear, and the African mothers would go to the missions to ask for help. There they were convinced to leave the children behind, to give them a 'better future'.
I still have a lot of research to do on this subject, but it seems to me that the subject of mixed race children is one that needs to be addressed in the whole of Europe.

Here is the Facebook page of Mixed Race Irish. Please give them your support

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mixed Race Irish

Bewogen week

Het is nogal een bewogen week geweest hier in Ierland. Niet alleen in de politieke wereld, waar Alan Shatter, steeds meer en meer in de problemen geraakt over de problemen bij het politiekorps, An Garda Siochana. De geruchten dat er afgeluisterd werd bij de  gardaí klachten-ombudsman brachten al een pak problemen mee, maar nu blijkt dat er ook over 2400 telefoongeprekken getaped werden in verschillende garda bureau's; mogelijk van gesprekken tussen aangeklaagden en hun advocaten, zodat het gevaar bestaat dat huidige gerechtzaken, maar ook oudere uitspraken in opspraak kunnen komen.

Minister van justie, Alan Shatter heeft het moeilijk.

Naast de huidige problemen, gaat ons leven gewoon voort natuurlijk, maar nu ik vrijwillig aan het werk ben bij de online radio Irish Radio International, en daar mijn eigen show voor immigranten heb, word ik ook dikwijls met moeilijke waarheden geconfronteerd.


Mixed Race Irish

Ik kwam in contact met Carole Brennan, een lid van de net opgerichte Mixed race Irish group, een groep van Ieren met Afrikaanse vaders en Ierse moeders, die in de jaren 50, 60 en 70 geboren werden en in Ierland omwille van hun kleur in weeshuizen ( industrial schools) geplaatst werden, er psychisch, fysiek en dikwijls ook sexueel misbruikt werden. De meeste onder hen verlieten Ierland na hun 18e verjaardag en wonen dikwijls in Engeland, maar waarschijnlijk ook wel elders. Sommigen onder hen bleven hier, onder hen Christine Buckley, die bekend werd door haar strijd voor rechtvaardigheid voor kinderen uit de 'industrial schools'.

Christine Buckley is een paar weken geleden overleden, de Mixed Race Irish willen nu haar strijd verder zetten voor de  'halfbloed' kinderen . ( wat een vreemd woord toch)

Volgens Carole Brennan zijn er naar schatting een 150 tot 200 mixed race-kinderen opgegroeid in industriele scholen.  De groep wilt dat de staat en de katholieke kerk erkennen dat ze deze kinderen, nu van middelbare leeftijd, onrechtvaardig behandeld hebben, ze eisen ook erkenning als volwaardige Ieren.

Toen ik met Carole Brennan sprak, durfde ik het bijna niet geloven. Na de schandalen van Magdalenes , het kindermisbruik en de industriele scholen, komt dit er nu bovenop. Kinderen die omwille van hun huidskleur opgesloten, verstoten en misbruikt werden, en ik had er hier nog nooit over gehoord.  

Je kan hier naar haar interview luisteren:

Er is ook een artikel in de Irish Times verschenen, maar ik heb weinig of geen verontwaardigde reacties gezien, buiten mijn eigen sociale kringen. Ik denk dat ze een lange strijd voor zich hebben. 

Mixed Race irish heeft ook een Facebook page, waar je hen kan steunen en volgen.

Nu stel ik mij de vraag of dit in Belgie ook het geval was? Ik denk het niet, maar kan er iemand mij daarover inlichten?


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Het probleem met Bono....

Ik heb er lang over getwijfeld om over Bono te schrijven. Ik weet dat hij heel populair is in Europa en de wereld, mijn kozijn die zelf niet ongekend is in Belgie en Nederland , graag door de woestijn raast rond nieuwjaar en het sportpaleis gemakkelijk vult, zei zelf dat Bono één van zijn grote helden is. Ja, dacht ik toen, best te zwijgen.
Bono is gekend door U2, zijn werk in Afrika en zijn zonnebril.

Niet iedereen is zo gelukkig met Bono en zijn goedbedoelde bemoeienissen in Afrika. Ja, sommige Afrikanen hebben er eigenlijk genoeg van en sommigen vinden dat Afrikanen best zelf de problemen in Afrika oplossen.

Maar dat is een discussie voor een andere keer. Bono is in Ierland al lang niet meer zo populair. En zeker niet meer sinds de crisis. Hij steekt zelf niet onder stoelen of banken dat hij een rasechte kapitalist is en doet zijn best om zo weinig mogelijk belastingen te betalen.

Ik denk niet dat hij zelf beseft hoe onpopulair hij hier is bij de gemiddelde burger, en de regering weet het duidelijk ook niet. Zij gebruiken Bono nog steeds als pronkstuk. Zoals vorige week op het EPP congress in Dublin, waar Bono een toespraak gaf waarin hij zei dat niet de Troika, maar de Ieren zelf voor de financiele redding gezorgd hebben.

Het feit alleen dat Bono daar stond te praten over de Ierse economie, de man die gekend is voor zijn belastingsontduiking, werkte iets los bij de Ierse burger. De commentaren op het internet liegen er niet om. Bono had beter gezwegen.

Hier is een artikel in The, een populaire nieuws site, de commentaren spreken boekdelen. en hier is een artikel uit de Sunday Independent van vandaag, waarin er nogal veel over bullshit geproken wordt.

Hier is het commentaar met de meeste likes:
'Bono is niet juist geplaatst om te preken. Als je zo geinteresseerd was in de goede wil van je medeburgers, dan zou je je belastingen hier betalen en ze niet bijsturen naar goedkopere belastings oorden. Had de titel geluid: Ieren bailen Europa uit, had hij misschien nog gelijk gehad. Waarom spreekt hij trouwens op wereld evenementen? Hij houdt het beter bij zingen, alhoewel zijn stem op die van een geconstipeerde kikker lijkt. Schrijf ons een liedje ( maar zing het niet zelf) en geef de verdiensten aan een goede zaak, in plaats van jezelf voor gek te zetten!'

Een paar jaar geleden ging de grap rond dat Bono zichzelf als de Messias ziet ( What's the difference between Jesus Christ and Bono. A. Jesus doesn't walk around thinking he's Bono.), het was nog goed bedoeld. Nu is er echter een bittere ondertoon.
With or without you, Bono? We zullen de vraag maar niet beantwoorden.