Friday 28 November 2008

Moneygall, Obama & The Corrigan Brothers - From CD to DC

Moneygall, Co. Offaly, already the undisputed centre of the free world and ancestral home of U.S. President –Elect Barack Obama is now in the race for the Christmas Number One. Corrigan Brothers, Gerard, Brian and Donncha, formally known as Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys have had huge success and worldwide coverage with their infectious song: “There’s no one as Irish as Barack Obama”. The song is to be released as a single on 12th December, following the band’s recent signing to Universal Records, one of the world’s leading labels.
(Song now available: Click the button:Corrigan Brothers - There's No One As Irish As Barack Obama - Single)

New video below:

News of this broke on RTE’s ‘The Afternoon Show’ on the 18th November (See below), where Gerard & Brian were interviewed shortly after they were approached by Shalit Global management who represent among others Mylene Klass and introduced the band to Universal Records.

The song (click here to see the video), which has achieved over half a million hits on YouTube has come to the attention of the Obama team and even prior to the historic election of Barack Obama the lads were invited to play at an eve of Inauguration Ball in Washington organized by the Irish American Democrats. They are also to play on the day on the parade route itself.
Yours truly has been invited along with Henry Healy, one of Obama’s Moneygall cousins, to accompany the band on this trip of a lifetime. I see this as a vocational imperative – these lads need a chaplain and I am happy to accept the challenge! It’s a tough job……’re not convinced are you?......Truth is I wouldn’t miss it for all the bacon and cabbage on the planet!
We fly into JFK on Sunday 18th and after a quiet night in New York hit the road for Washington on board our temporary home, an 8 berth winnabago!

All the hotel beds in Washington are booked up but not to be outdone we have secured this fine specimen of vintage accommodation and a parking spot in the Rose Garden on the White House Lawn.

This will be especially convenient as we can empty our portaloo on the rose beds and give them some additional nourishment. Perhaps this horticultural contribution will be acceptable in lieu of rent. We are also preparing an invitation to the new president to visit this mobile Moneygall embassy after his inauguration and have even arranged for a Guinness tap to be installed to complete the homely feel. Obama will we are sure come to Moneygall one day but not before Moneygall comes to Obama. To support this pilgrimage – Go out now and buy the CD that will bring Moneygall to DC!

Tuesday 25 November 2008

What County is Moneygall in?

A trick question you ask? Read on: (Yes another lazy blog post but there is a big one coming - watch this space!)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

IF BAD luck, like a recession, comes in cycles, then Taoiseach Cowen has to pedal twice as hard these days.

In the midst of the nation's financial woes, at least Brian could console himself with the comforting thought that some day soon, as senior man in the constituency, he may be welcoming Barack Obama to Offaly. Obama can trace the teensiest piece of his roots back to the village of Moneygall, which has been en fete ever since he became president-elect of the USA.

A problem has arisen for Biffo, though. Should the day ever dawn when America's first black president pays a visit to his Irish "home place," he will, of course, be greeted by the senior man in the constituency.

Step forward, so, Deputy Michael Lowry.

When the electoral boundaries were recently redrawn, Moneygall, along with places like Shinrone, Dunkerrin and Brosna, was moved from Laois/Offaly into Tipperary North.

A blow, make no mistake, to Brian Cowen, who has seen a sizeable chunk of his personal vote cross the border along with his hopes of squiring President Obama around his personal political stomping ground.

But fear not. Deputy Lowry is up to the challenge. "I'll go out and brief Obama, fly back with him and introduce him to all the local characters. My contacts in the White House tell me that, subject to FBI clearance, Brian Cowen will be allowed to cross the border into North Tipp on the big day." Michael has already done a reconnaissance of the Moneygall area in readiness for the visit and the next general election. Already, with suitable ports of call in mind, he has been seen measuring up the counter in Hayes's bar and grocery.

Meanwhile, the Moneygall connection has sensationally thrown up what may go down in history as the first difficult and diplomatically sensitive decision to be faced by the Obama administration.

Will Barack support Offaly or Tipp in the hurling? While Moneygall is situated within Offaly, its hurlers play in the Tipperary county championship. Now, to add to the confusion, the village remains under Offaly county council for the local elections while switching to Tipperary North for the general election.

"It's confusing up there now," says Michael Lowry. "They won't know where to turn, what county to shout for or who to go to for a twist." Somebody will have to inform the president-elect. Or maybe Biffo explained the situation to him when they talked over the phone last Tuesday night, and he proudly extended the invitation to Barack to come and join him in Moneygall.

Saturday 22 November 2008

Irish America - A broad Church

This from today's Irish Times:

Why Obama's Offaly roots help shatter Irish-American myths

Sat, Nov 22, 2008

ANALYSIS:Irish America was first seen as Catholic, then Presbyterian and now Church of Ireland too, writes BRIAN WALKER

PRESS COVERAGE of Barack Obama's election as US president has drawn attention to his connection with Ireland. His late mother Ann Dunham was a descendant of Fulmouth Kearney who left Moneygall, Co Offaly, for the US in 1850.

This connection is of special interest, however, because it casts an important light on the subject of the Irish diaspora in the US. Indeed, it provides an answer to some of the mystery about this diaspora, the full character of which has often been obscured by widely-held myths about both the Irish Americans and the Scots Irish.

Fifty years ago the number of those with an Irish background in America was put at about 16 million. It was assumed that most of these were Irish Americans who were mainly descendants of Catholic Irish who had come to America from the time of the Great Famine on. The family background of Joe Biden, the incoming vice-president, falls into such a category.

This picture, however, was upset radically in the 1980s. The American census results of 1980, which for the first time stated ancestral backgrounds, recorded a figure of about 40 million people who gave Ireland as their ethnic background or country of origin. This figure was much greater than had been expected.

A second surprise followed with publication of a number of opinion polls which revealed that a majority of those who indicated an Irish background were Protestant and not Catholic, as had been widely assumed. For example, a survey by Gallup in the 1980s put the proportion of Protestants at 54 per cent.

To explain this situation attention now focused on the Scots Irish. The first waves of emigrants from Ireland to America in the eighteenth century consisted largely of Ulster Presbyterians, numbering about a quarter of a million people, who were descendants of 17th-century Scottish immigrants to Ireland. Due to their early arrival and thanks to a multiplier factor, it was argued, their descendants made up a major part of those in America with an Irish background.

This conclusion, however, was dramatically challenged by the outcome of the 1990 census. For the first time, the census allowed people to declare a Scots Irish background. The results recorded a figure of 38.7 million Irish, but only 5.6 million Scots Irish. Again we may note that the National Survey of Religious Identification, published in 1991, confirmed that a majority of people who acknowledged an Irish background were Protestant.

This raised very interesting questions. Who exactly are these people who make up the majority Protestant section of the Irish in America? The assumption had been that they were mostly Scots Irish, but only a small proportion chose to identify themselves this way. From a total figure of 44 million Irish and Scots Irish, self-identified Scots Irish were only about 12 per cent and not half, as we might have expected.

A number of explanations have emerged to try to explain who they are. One of them is that many in fact are Scots Irish, part of the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century emigration from Ulster. When we look at recent US census returns we discover that the area with the largest number of those who describe themselves as Irish is not the north-eastern region (which includes Boston and New York), but the southern region. We know from nineteenth-century census figures that relatively few of the famine and post-famine emigrants went south, so most of these people are a result of the earlier emigration.

Canadian academic Michael Carroll has argued that these people retain what is often a very distant link with Ireland because of their origins and because the Scotch Irish image of individuality and self-reliance linked to the American Revolution accords with how they see themselves. Why don't they call themselves Scots Irish in the census? While the term Scots Irish was sometimes used in the eighteenth century, many from this background called themselves Irish rather than Scots Irish. This has remained the case.

Republican John McCain has written with pride about his Scottish Presbyterian ancestors, who came from Ulster in the eighteenth century, and included John Young, one of Washington's staff officers. His wife, Cindy McCain, recently acknowledged this Irish background in response to a question about race in the presidential election by saying: "Yes, you know, Mr Obama is an African-American man, and yes, we're Irish. And isn't that a wonderful thing for America?"

Another explanation is that these figures of Irish with a Protestant background include descendants of people who were Catholic. Several historians have argued that numbers for the Irish in the 18th-century American colonies include Catholics, who became Protestant because there were very weak Catholic Church structures. During the 19th and 20th centuries, in predominantly Protestant America, people from a Catholic background became Protestant. A good example was Ronald Reagan whose father was from an Irish Catholic background, but who followed the Protestant faith of his mother.

Bill Clinton claims a Protestant Irish link from his mother who was a member of the Cassidy family, originally from Co Fermanagh. In 2004 on BBC television, in a reference to David Trimble, Clinton declared: "He's a Scots Irish Presbyterian and so am I... but my state of mind [ is] more like the Irish Catholics. I am more rosy and loquacious."

In fact, Cassidy is a Gaelic rather than a Scots name, and most, but not all, Cassidys in Fermanagh are Catholic. Perhaps this explains Bill Clinton's personality!

Finally, we must consider the explanation that there are people in America who have Irish ancestry and are Protestant, but who are not from a Presbyterian Scots Irish or Irish Catholic background. This is where Barack Obama's Irish ancestry casts a special light on the diaspora.

In Ireland, there has been, and still is, a sizeable section of people from a Church of Ireland background whose roots are often English, but also, sometimes, Scottish or Gaelic. Significant numbers of these people have emigrated to America from all parts of Ireland, but their presence has often been overlooked.

Recently, however, historians have acknowledged that serious attention must be paid to this Irish group. Barack Obama's Irish ancestor, Fulmouth Kearney, is a good example of such emigrants. Thanks to the research of Canon Stephen Neill, rector of Cloughjordan, we know that he and his family were members of the Church of Ireland in Moneygall, Co Offaly. A shoemaker by trade, he left in 1850 to settle as a farmer in Ohio. In 1960, his direct descendant, Ann Dunham, married a Kenyan student, Barack Obama. Their son, also called Barack Obama, will be the next US president.

The latest indicators of Irish identity make interesting reading. The 2000 US census recorded 30.5 million Irish and 4.4 million Scots Irish. This drop in numbers is explained largely by an increase in those who register simply as Americans.

Recently the National Opinion Research Centre published its 2006 general social survey, which included an Irish but not a Scots Irish category. It revealed that of those who described their first ethnic identity as Irish, 48 per cent were Protestant, 29 per cent were Catholic and 23 per cent were unaffiliated or other or no religion.

Numbers in this last category have grown in recent years. It may include vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Her mother's name is Sheeran and her family came from Ireland in the first half of the nineteenth century. An evangelical Christian, she has been described as "post denominational". Links between religion and identity are now fluid for many Americans. Early this year, the Pew Forum survey found that more than a quarter of American adults have left the faith in which they were raised in favour of another religion, or no religion at all.

All this serves to demonstrate the great diversity of those with an Irish background in the US. Contrary to a commonplace Irish American myth, it is Irish with a Protestant background who make up the largest single component of the Irish in America. Contrary to a popular Scots Irish/Ulster Scots myth, the majority of these people identify themselves as Irish rather than Scots Irish. The example of Barack Obama's ancestors reminds us of the danger of viewing the Irish diaspora in America in a simplistic, two-dimensional light.

In Banbridge Church of Ireland parish church there is a memorial plaque, dated 1920, to James White, Chicago, and his father John White, Banbridge. The plaque states that the White family presented a clock and chime of 10 bells to the church, with the proviso that at Halloween the air of "Home sweet home" should be played on the bells. A few weeks ago, as in every year since 1920, this tune rang out over Banbridge.

• Brian Walker is professor of Irish studies in the politics school at Queen's University Belfast

© 2008 The Irish Times

Monday 10 November 2008

Power V Authority - You choose!

Click on the link below to hear Dr Tony Campolo address the subject of Jesus and Politics. This sermon was preached at Harvard Memorial Chapel on 26th October and is a vision of how things should and could be.

Click here for the sermon

So this is what Christianity looks like!

You might describe the video below as 'interactive worship' or alternatively 'When Priests Attack'
This from last weekend in Jerusalem - I think the most ironic thing is the Israeli soldiers having to intervene to stop them killing each other! I visited this church as a teenager and found it a perfect illustration of ecumenical relations at their worst!

Saturday 8 November 2008

Late Late Last Night - Moneygall opens the show!

The lads from Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys get Pat rocking!

Remembrance & Hope - A Sermon

Sermon for Sunday 9th November 2008

It would be impossible to get up and preach today and say nothing about the events of this past week, and I am not talking about the events in Moneygall, but rather the focus of those celebrations.
Barack Hussein Obama, an African American man with a very suspicious sounding name is president elect of the United States - Just in case you missed it ;-)

Whatever happens from here on in, the world is changed by an event such as this. Regardless of whether he is a good president or a bad president, the very fact that he will be president changes the shape of the world. In a nation that within living memory refused black people the vote, the right to travel on public transport and in some cases burned and lynched them for the simple crime of being black, the sons and daughters of the perpetrators of such evil have in the privacy of a poling booth proclaimed their trust in one who was not so long ago ‘The Enemy’!

In his victory speech Obama talked about a 106 year old woman Ann Nixon Cooper from Atlanta, Georgia whose grandmother was a slave and who had lived through all the turmoil of the civil rights movement and now had the opportunity to vote for an African American president. He talked about the pain she had endured in her life due to the colour of her skin and in remembering these bad times in the context of his election there was a sense of closure, a sense of the healing of memories and the breaking of the chains of history.

Memories, or more specifically Remembrance is an important theme for many people this week. Today is Remembrance Sunday and Tuesday is Remembrance Day, a time when we call to mind all those who have died in war both long ago and more recently. As a observance it is becoming less and less politically sensitive as people acknowledge the importance of remembering those who suffered so much for a cause that they believed in, and in some cases for a cause for which they were forced to fight! We could get hung up on the rights and wrongs of war but essentially this is about largely young men and increasingly women as well who pay the ultimate price..... ‘Greater love has no one than to lay down down their life for their friends.’

So why do we keep remembering? We remember for the same reason that a 106 year old woman in Atlanta Georgia remembers; we remember because those who have gone before us live on in our hearts and in our lives and sometimes the healing of their pain and the completion of their story is something that may take generations to accomplish. One of the essential elements of our Christian understanding of death is that we share a fellowship with all the Saints, living and departed which transcends time and space, and it is this understanding of death which allows us to find healing for our memories.
But this is only half the story - In remembering what others have done in their lives there is a challenge for us to learn from these memories and act in response to them. That is what RE - MEMBRING means! It is a call to action! Not just words but action! Today’s Old Testament reading from Amos 5: 18-24 puts it so well:
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

I cannot help but think of the similarity of this sentiment with the criticism of Barack Obama; He is all rhetoric and flowery speeches, the critics say! Well that remains to be seen, but it is a genuine concern - Will he walk the talk? I personally believe he will but if he doesn’t a lot of people will be very disillusioned - There is of course far too much expectation put on one man’s shoulders and the reality is that it is only together that we can achieve lasting change in our world. We are not spectators and words alone will not suffice.

But what motivates us to act? As a Christian it is a desire to follow Christ, but we live in a world that asks us to park our faith as soon as we leave the church or the home. It is seen as something private that is only to be shared with those who wish to experience it and it is to play no part in the politics of the world. And so if we are to compare ourselves to the bridesmaids in todays Gospel, not alone would we have no oil for our lamps but we would not even be carrying them in the first place. As children of the light we are only allowed to light our own little corner of the world!

But the events of the past week have changed this too - I am not going down the road of comparing Barack Obama to a Messiah figure - He is not that - he is mortal human being like the rest of us and there is a real danger of setting him up as the answer to all the worlds problems. Or Hope is in Christ alone! But in Barack Obama we find a man who is not ashamed of his faith in Jesus Christ, a man who believes that faith is an integral part of who we are as human beings and that we cannot turn off our faith when we go out into the world. Faith in Jesus Christ has political implications, not party political but political in so far as informing our respect for the dignity of all humanity and the creation in which we exist. If we believe like Jesus, that the outcasts in our society are every bit as important as the people of power then that will change our politics and how we relate to our fellow human beings.

Things are changing in the world and all is not doom and gloom. This just might be the beginning of a change in direction that is sorely needed. Perhaps it signals a world emerging that is not so antagonistic to faith and belief. On this Remembrance Sunday we remember not only the dead of war but primarily the life, death and resurrection of one whose story is our story and who has the capacity to bring healing and hope to a new generation.

Friday 7 November 2008

What cost a life in Ireland? Cervical vaccination plan scrapped!

This from RTE News:
The planned national cervical cancer vaccination programme for around 75,000 young girls, due to start next year, has been scrapped by the Health Minister Mary Harney due to Budget cuts.
The vaccine was to be offered to all 12-year-old girls in primary schools from next September, at an estimated cost of under €10m.
The HSE recently completed and submitted its implementation plan for the vaccination programme to the Department of Health.
But Minister Harney has said this evening that because of scarce resources, she will not be proceeding with the programme and intends to focus on cervical screening.
Around 90 women die from cervical cancer each year, making it the eighth most frequently diagnosed cancer in women in Ireland.
Two vaccines are available which prevent infection with the human papilloma virus, known to cause most cervical cancers.
In August, Minister Harney announced that she had approved the start of the vaccination programme following the advice of an expert body.
At the time, due to budgetary constraints, the minister decided not to proceed with a recommendation also for a catch up programme for 13-15 year old girls. Story from RTÉ News

So let me get this straight.....We pay our Taoiseach more than the American President - We waste 50 million Euro on E-Voting machines and we withdraw preventative cancer treatment from adolescent girls - We have arrived! We are truly a nation without principles!

Tuesday 4 November 2008

The night before the morning after.........

The tension is increasing. All day long the media have been descending on Moneygall and capturing the mood of the village as preparations are made for tonight's election watch party. A couple of satellite trucks sit on the side of the main street preparing to beam the good wishes of the residents of Moneygall to a land far away, but to a son of Moneygall who is close to their hearts. Senator Barack Obama is the only name you here in this town - and tomorrow they hope to wake up to hear that their Senator is to be President Barack Obama, the first Irish-African-American president of the USA!

Faith in Financial Freefall

My thoughts on the implications for the churches of the current global economic crisis - from today's Irish Times. Click HERE to read in the online paper or see below:

Tue, Nov 04, 2008

RITE AND REASON:The economy is dead but, in these times of financial freefall, what are the funeral arrangements, asks Stephen Neill?

IT WOULD be very tempting in the current economic crisis to jump on the bandwagon of hysteria and fear, and present a "return to faith" as the path to calm and stability. In the Irish context, some might say that this is an opportunity for Christianity to reassert itself.

The truth is, however, that Christianity is part of the problem! As the inheritor of the mantle of Christendom, the church still bears the scars of its prolonged flirtation with powers and principalities, whereby the Gospel that brought offence to the establishment and spoke the truth to power became a bastion of that same establishment.

Patently dishonest systems not unlike our failed global economy largely went unchallenged as long as the church had its own space in which to operate. Christianity, once the champion of the marginalised, withdrew from the margins and built walls around an increasingly exclusive centre.

And so today we have a church that is more concerned with its own survival than its mission, a church that has lost its prophetic voice and become an exclusive club rather than an inclusive movement. The frequently deafening silence of the church on issues of systemic injustice confirms a deep public cynicism towards institutional religion, compounded in Ireland by the clerical sexual abuse scandals.

The church has responded by retreating into a self-centred focus on personal salvation and private morality that has only increased its isolation and impotence. It is increasingly reluctant to wander too far from safe ground, concerned more with its own brokenness than with the brokenness of the people of God.

As part of the establishment, the church has not been immune to the global financial crisis, and is finding it difficult to fill the void left by the failure of global economics. Until last year, my own denomination, the Church of Ireland, counted among its major investments a substantial holding in the tobacco industry.

One of the strongest arguments for keeping these investments was their profitability, but at what cost? We are an integral part of this global economy that is in meltdown, and we cannot expect to emerge unscathed.

The church needs to rediscover its radical voice and present an alternative vision of how things should and could be. There is a model already. The Green movement is fulfilling a role in society that was once the preserve of the church. In a fragmented and highly individualistic world it provides a global community of shared values.

It affirms our interdependence and it calls people to concrete and often sacrificial action. With notable exceptions, people of faith are not well represented in this movement and in some cases are hugely cynical of it. Could it be that this antagonism is rooted in guilt, conscious or otherwise, that the church is not at the forefront of responsible environmental stewardship, or perhaps jealousy that someone else got there first?

However deeply repressed, there is a consciousness within the church that things are not meant to be this way. We are reminded every time we open the Scriptures that being a follower of Jesus is not about safety, security or respectability. Jesus spent his whole earthly life with failures and misfits, counting among his followers terrorists, extortionists, traitors and prostitutes.

These assembled misfits were the genesis of the church. If these "failures" could change, then there was hope for everyone. That is what the church is or should be about - showing people that they are not slaves to the past or to any system, economic or otherwise. To borrow a phrase from a once marginal American presidential candidate, the church should be about "change we can believe in".

When it ceases to present that challenge it is no longer a church, but a sterile and impotent body destined for destruction. The church is not the seat of power, but the agent of bringing God's love to the powerless. The current global economic crisis is about far more than collapsing markets - it is about the collapse of a toxic world view and with it perhaps, and even hopefully, the church as we know it.

• Canon Stephen Neill is rector at Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary

© 2008 The Irish Times

Saturday 1 November 2008


This has just been sent to me:

Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys (Ger, Brian and Donncha Corrigan) and Shay Black are pleased to announce that they have resolved all of their earlier differences regarding the song 'There's No One As Irish As Barack Obama,' written by Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys with additional lyrics added (by permission) by Shay Black and others.

Both Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys and Shay Black have posted their respective video versions of the song on YouTube.
Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys
Shay Black

Following a telephone conversation between the band and Shay, the band now know that Shay's intentions are sincere and that any confusion that might have been caused was not of Shay's doing. The band are happy to allow him to continue to perform the song and happy to wish him success with his YouTube achievements.

Ger Corrigan of Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys says 'We respect Shay, and his sincerity was made clear to us during my call with him. This is now behind both of us and we will get on together ensuring that the spirit of the song helps elect the great Irish Democrat Barack Obama!'

Shay says 'I am proud to perform the lads' song as my contribution to enlightening (and entertaining) the American voting public about Senator "O'Bama's" Irish roots.'

The band will work with Shay and intend to perform the song including Shay's verses with Shay both in the USA and Ireland. Ideally they hope to host Shay as their guest in Moneygall, Co. Offaly, the birthplace of Obama's Irish great-grandfather, and to hold a real Obama Fleadh when Mr. Obama makes a successful return to his Irish ancestral home.

Shay Black
USA: 510-393-7429

Ger Corrigan
Ireland: 00353 61 330994