Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Analysis - LIAM COLLINS

DIN­ING for Ire­land is de rigueur as part of our cel­e­bra­tions of the meet­ing of the first Dail in the Man­sion House on Jan­uary 21, 1919.

The diplo­mats were first to the trough last week — but as we all know, fine din­ing is in their DNA.

Now the en­tire press gallery of Le­in­ster House (the re­porters who cover the af­fairs of the Dail and Seanad) have been in­vited to a slap-up din­ner by the Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail — at the State’s ex­pense.

It ap­pears that af­ter the meet­ing of the First Dail, the re­porters who cov­ered its pro­ceed­ings were taken to din­ner in the Shel­bourne Ho­tel, that bas­tion of Bri­tish priv­i­lege, by the grate­ful Sinn Fein agi­ta­tors who had es­tab­lished the new State.

The meal they ate — clear soup, a meat dish with veg­eta­bles, fol­lowed by ap­ple tart — will be recre­ated at the din­ner in Le­in­ster House. We’re quite sure it will be washed down by a good vin­tage, though a cen­tury ago it was prob­a­bly bot­tles of stout.

The of­fi­cial cen­te­nary cel­e­bra­tion of the First Dail will be held in the Man­sion House a week to­mor­row, Jan­uary 21, when a suit­ably tanned Pres­i­dent Michael D will ad­dress a joint ses­sion of the Dail and Seanad, to which many dis­tin­guished vis­i­tors have been in­vited.

The af­ter­noon will in­clude an ad­dress by a de­scen­dant of a mem­ber of the First Dail, a mu­si­cal in­ter­lude and hope­fully not a men­tion of Brexit.

WHO doesn’t like a rat story? Well, the un­for­tu­nate birds on scenic Dalkey Is­land, it seems.

Ac­cord­ing to Bird­Watch Ire­land, “a healthy pop­u­la­tion” of brown rats has colonised the pic­turesque is­land off Dublin’s Gold Coast and caused such “depre­da­tion” along with storm surges that the tern pop­u­la­tion has been dec­i­mated.

Dalkey Is­land, orig­i­nally a monas­tic set­tle­ment, was a favourite hid­ing place for pi­rates in the old days, but now it seems there is an en­tirely dif­fer­ent kind of ver­min lay­ing waste to the place — though how they got there re­mains a bit of a mys­tery.

Bird­Watch Ire­land re­ported that groundnest­ing birds, Arc­tic, Com­mon and Roseate terns, have suf­fered cat­a­strophic losses since the ar­rival of the rats and only four chicks suc­cess­fully launched them­selves from the is­land last year.

Pipes with rat poi­son have been laid along sec­tions of the is­land to try to elim­i­nate the rats, but rats have an un­canny abil­ity to sur­vive once they get a hold.

Maybe Bird­Watch Ire­land should en­quire about get­ting some of the ‘sa­cred clay’ from Tory Is­land off the coast of Done­gal — which has been rat-free for as long as any­one can re­mem­ber.

The leg­end goes that this clay comes from the grave of seven is­landers who were drowned in a storm, and the el­dest mem­ber of the Dug­gan clan on the is­land is the Keeper of the Clay, which has spe­cial anti-rat pow­ers when com­bined with prayer.

Just what Dalkey Is­land needs now!

WE see where the artist Robert Bal­lagh availed of the brouhaha sur­round­ing the Abbey The­atre dar­ing to make money by putting on plays peo­ple want to see in­stead of hav­ing its paw in the pocket of the tax­payer, to have a swipe at the num­ber of Ir­ish “cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions” run by “out­siders”.

In a let­ter to The Ir­ish Times, he warmed to the theme: “For ex­am­ple, the di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Gallery of Ire­land is an English­man, the new di­rec­tor of the Hunt Mu­seum in Lim­er­ick is a Welsh­woman, the di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Col­lege of Art and De­sign is an English­man, and the di­rec­tor of the Gate The­atre is an English­woman.”

This on top of a Scots­man and a Welsh­man run­ning the Abbey — at a profit. How dis­taste­ful.

But isn’t it a wee bit small-minded, given that an Ir­ish­man, John Gilhooly, runs Wig­more Hall, Lon­don’s most im­por­tant high-brow con­cert venue, while Eng­land has also har­boured the doyenne of our lit­er­ary world Edna O’Brien, not to men­tion hav­ing to put up with Gra­ham Nor­ton, Bob Geldof et al for all these years? They also li­onised Terry Wo­gan, Ea­monn An­drews, Dave Allen with­out be­ing con­de­scend­ing about where they came from.

Mr Bal­lagh is en­ti­tled to his opin­ion, but those who are run­ning our cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions should be judged on the job they are do­ing rather than their na­tion­al­ity.

SPEAK­ING of artists, to­day marks the 20th an­niver­sary of the grant­ing of honorary Ir­ish cit­i­zen­ship to the painter Derek Hill, by the then pres­i­dent, Mary McAleese, the 11th per­son to re­ceive this hon­our.

In an obit­u­ary in The Guardian, the Ir­ish­born for­mer Bri­tish Arts Min­is­ter Grey Gowrie put it rather well when he said Southamp­ton-born Hill painted peo­ple who be­longed to “that fad­ing An­thony Pow­ell world where high so­ci­ety meets the power nexus as well as haut bo­heme”.

Hav­ing set­tled in Done­gal in 1954 in re­gen­cystyle Glebe House, near Churchill, among his vis­i­tors in the mid-1970s was the fa­mously reclu­sive ac­tress Greta Garbo, who ap­par­ently ex­isted on wafer-thin slices of ap­ple, pro­vok­ing one of those who met her to say, “She would have been hap­pier if she ate more”.

Her visit in­spired Frank McGuin­ness, well-known for his per­am­bu­la­tions around Boot­er­stown, to write a play, Greta Garbo came to Done­gal.

THAT quiet, civilised part of cen­tral Dublin, Hume Street/Ely Place, is about to join the 21st Cen­tury with the open­ing of a restau­rant, al­though it is “not to be used solely as a pub­lic house”, as An Bord Pleanala stip­u­lated in a re­cent plan­ning de­ci­sion.

A “low-pro­file” McHale fam­ily, Padraic and Martina, from Clon­bur, Go Gal­way, are be­hind Green Sea Prop­erty which bought the old fever hos­pi­tal, then in a di­lap­i­dated state for €3m in 2012.

The beau­ti­ful old build­ing, which also in­cludes No 16 Ely Place, has thank­fully been sta­bilised since, and in late De­cem­ber the com­pany got the fi­nal go-ahead for a ma­jor de­vel­op­ment, which will in­clude of­fices, a restau­rant and an art gallery.

The McHales have drawn up plans that will “main­tain the his­tor­i­cal in­tegrity” of the fine build­ing with a big ex­ten­sion at the back. A nice restau­rant wouldn’t go amiss in this part of town where Zozimus has a hazy rec­ol­lec­tion of hav­ing a latenight drink in the bar of the Knights of Saint Colum­banus HQ around the cor­ner in Ely Place.

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