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.