Monday, February 27, 2017


Click on image for a larger version

You could be forgiven for thinking that this is just an ordinary, if ornamental, sign erected by residents at the entrance to two housing estates, Maywood and Bettyglen.

In fact it is a comment on the current state of the Irish language.

I remember in school when you wanted an Irish word for something you went for the one furthest from the English. So we had craolachán (broadcasty thing) instead of raidió (as we now have) and guthán (voicey thing) instead of teileafón (as we have today). Perhaps it is a reflection of our developing self-confidence as a nation and our no longer having to define ourselves with reference to England, that we can now accept words from Latin and Greek roots into the Irish language, and not avoid them just because the English got there first.

That's the good bit.

But, despite the abject failure to revive the Irish language and have it as the vernacular of a significant proportion of the population, the pantomime persists. Everything in English must have an Irish language equivalent, even if it doesn't. And the further from the English version the better, much of the time.

So we have, for example, Sráid Mhóin on the street sign for Anglesey Street while, admittedly the official nomenclature list does not attempt to translate Lord Anglesey's name, just misspell it (Anglesea). These streets named after British Lords should be left alone.

Anyway I've wandered a bit from Maywood and Bettyglen both of which, but particularly the former, should have been left alone.

Maywood is variously translated as Colll Bhealtaine (after the month of May) or Coill Mhuire (after the Blessed Virgin) and there may be cases where one or the other of these is appropriate. But not here, where the name is a contraction of a girl's name - May Catherwood.

Bettyglen also has its Irish language variations, the one above meaning the Glen of the Birch. But it is in fact named after a girl called Betty from among the family who lived in Bettyglen House. So even Gleann Éilíse would have been better in this case.

If this sort of madness amuses you take a look at some more here.

Monday, February 20, 2017


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I am known for occasionally getting the wrong end of the stick, and that's just what I did on last Tuesday evening (14/2/2017).

I went in to the Alliance Française thinking I was going to a talk on French bloggers blogging in English. Now, that will be fascinating, I thought. But it wasn't to be.

It was actually a book launch and the book was about people blogging in French about the English language in France. Now, that sounded equally fascinating and so it was to be.

Philippe Milloux

We were welcomed by the Director, Philippe Milloux, to the Alliance's new médiathèque which is where all future book launches will be held. Philippe's four year term ends in August and I can say that he has put some life into the place during his stint there. But more of that another time.

His function that evening was to introduce us to Kathleen Shields who had written the book and who would present the book in brief. Of course, we had always the option of reading the full story in the book itself which was on sale behind us at the usual enormous launch reduction. It's in French, just by the way.

Anne Gallagher

But first he introduced Anne Gallagher, a colleague of Kathleen's in NUIM, who gave her address in Irish, French and English. Most fitting I thought. The book is essentially about the Clash of the Titans, the English and French languages, where many of the French have a siege mentality when it comes to English invading their pitch.

But, of course, they share with the English the brutal suppression of regional languages within their own realms and who better than an Irish person to appreciate this, and we do see some reference in Kathleen's book to the irony of the present situation.

Anyway, the French had their day, and their way, with the "language of diplomacy" for long enough. Now the English language (UK and American versions) has knocked French for six off the world stage (pace the Alliance) and many of the French are throwing hissy fits and trying to legislate their way back into international prominence.

In an EU context I know that French was the dominant language in the Commission until the UK, and ourselves, joined in 1973. This recollection of a friend and colleague, Roger O'Keeffe, who worked in the Commission around that time illustrates the situation perfectly.
During my time in the Commission, when a Commission colleague and I replied in English to questions put to us in English, the French delegate rushed up to us after the meeting ended to complain because "The Commission always speaks French". During the transition to the present situation, where English is the lingua franca (!), I sometimes asked at the start of a meeting if people would prefer me to speak French or English.

My own unsuccessful attempt to pressure the Commission into getting its English translation act together is recorded here.

Anyway, among the various nice things Anne said about the book was that it should be translated into English, and indeed into many other languages, and, having just finished reading it, I agree.

Kathleen Shields

Make no mistake, it is an academic book and is written within an academic linguistic framework which makes it a little hard going in places for someone, like me, not already into the academic scene.

But it does break new ground by adding the blogging dimension to the current framework, and these are serious bloggers.

It also has the value of being written by an outsider, if Katleen will forgive the term, who can bring an element of objectivity to the discussion and who, from an Irish background, can appreciate the psychology of minority languages, of which French is now becoming one on the international stage.

I am going to refer to some of the content of the book, but I have to confess to a lack of impartiality on my part. There were bits I agreed heartily with and others which gave me apoplexy. And in this context you must remember that Kathleen is the referee in the ring and not herself responsible for much of what she is retailing to us.

However, if I went through all that got me going, one way or another, in the book we'd be here all night. I took about 12 pages of notes, and that is not quoting junks of text, just referencing places where there is something of interest to be picked up on later. So, as I said above, if you want the whole story, read the book.

One element of the discussion attempted to establish whether English was a relatively hard or easy language to learn. I remember my own French teacher, Albert Folens, telling us that it was a very easy language to learn up to the point of utilitarian communication but that you wouldn't master its subtleties in a lifetime of learning. Sounds about right to me. The view in the book is that it depends on where you are coming from and where you are going with it.

I was always aware of the French view of their language as "langue et civilisation française" and it's a pity we didn't get more of this attitude in the teaching of Irish in my schooldays. But I never appreciated the link between this attitude and the French Revolution.

Indeed this statist attitude persists to this day when the Académie vets the terminology and the state (loi Toubon) decrees the use of French, as though you could legislate this in the longer term. The Irish legislated the revival of Irish and look where we are now - nowhere.

It is interesting, as Kathleen found, that the bloggers are a bit more laid back in these matters than their official "betters".

I was interested in the discussion of "Globish", a term I had never heard before. Broadly speaking, it seems to denote a minimalist common denominator version of English reduced to a limited utilitarian vocabulary - a sort of universal pidgin. But it is pointed out that each community eventually adapts it to its own image and you can still end up needing a translator. It reminded me of the Shaw's alphabet saga of yore, where it turned out that the spelling still varied depending on the accent of the writer.

I liked the phrase "la mémoire du mot" which encapsulated resonances and range of meaning. My mind went immediately to sterile Google translations which can't be expected to distinguish the context of a particular word.

The French seem to be more open to accepting English in the sciences than in the humanities in third level education. An amendment to the loi Toubon to this effect was passed in recent times. But I liked this rearguard defence of the inviolability of the humanities:
Les étudiants étrangers qui viennent étudier chez nous veulent apprendre le français, la culture française, la séduction à la française - et les mots pour le dire. Pas pour avaler un succédané de ce qu'ils ont à la maison. Ils viennent pour la part d'excellence qui nous reste - pas pour se noyer dans le flux médiocre d'une pensée normalisée, mondialisée, un prȇt-à-penser aussi insipide que le prȇt-à-vomir de chez McDo.

There is some pretty hilarious stuff in the chapter on advertising and on the cinema. In advertising the French go for the status of English in naming products or their descriptors while American companies go out of their way to use French.

And in the cinema, even where films have an English title for the anglophone market, the French translate this into an English title more appropriate to the francophone market, throwing in the word "sex" at the least opportunity.

I could go on and on but you, the reader, would run out of steam. If you want a bit of divarsion after all that check this out.

So we'll skip to the Director's invitation to "un verre d'amitié" and discuss the book and anything else that comes into our heads with those who have not already left for choir practice.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

My 1916

1916 Exhibition - Nightshot of Pearse St. Library
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I didn't set out to photograph 1916 in 2016 so all of these photos are opportunistic - a moment observed, a flash of inspiration, and CLICK.

When Michael Edwards set Remembering 1916 as the theme for this year's photo competition I wondered if I might have anything to enter. In fact an early version of the title (2016 remembering 1916) would have meant that any entry would have to have been taken in 2016. So I was scratching my head around the middle of the year and eventually identified the five shots below as being suitable. As it happens, they were all taken within that year and I ended up putting them in for the competition.

As you are not supposeed to put any writing on the picture mounts they are all anonymous as far as the adjudicator is concerned and the photo has to speak for itself.

So I thought I'd take the opportunity, now that the competition is over, to fill in a little of the background to the pictures.

Seomra 1916 - Coláiste Mhuire

This is the room in Parnell Square where nationalist leaders came together in September 1914 and decided to have a Rising. It was a broad decision in principle and the details were sketched in later over the course of the following year. The room was in what was then the headquarters of Conradh na Gaeilge, and it was both the library and the office of the Secretary General, Seán T Ó Ceallaigh.

The backstory is here.

The Foggy Dew - RHA

I am not an arty person and had never been inside the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA). But I read in the Irish Times in January 2016 that there was a painting on show there of the RHA's old premises in Abbey Street on fire during the Rising.

I have an interest in the artist, Gordon Brewster, who lost two paintings in that fire and I got permission from Mick O'Dea, President of the RHA and the artist concerned, to go in and photograph the painting for a talk I was giving on Brewster.

Well, when I got in the door and saw the exhibition I was blown away.

The rest of the story is here.

Tarting Up - The Padraig Pearse Pub

I was heading into Pearse St. library one day when I saw the Padraig Pearse pub across the road in the course of being tarted up for the centenary year (better late than never). They were about three quarters of the way through the signage with one of Pearse's heads (the good side) still sitting on the ground waiting for a lift.

I wonder what Pearse would have thought of a pub being named after him just down the road from where he lived. Certainly in the few years run up to the Rising he was loudly proclaiming his denial of some of the pleasures of life, as here.

Two Volunteers - GPO

This pair caught my fancy passing the GPO one day. Two volunteers, one military, one social, the latter mopping up some of the mess not resolved since the Rising.

Who'd have thought the modern Irish State, a whole century on, would need soup kitchens for its poor and disinherited. Some shattered dream.

The GPO was restored but Irish society is still cracked down the middle and the soupers are still with us.

Clery's - O'Connell St.

Since I retired and started taking more photos around the city I'm inclined to look up more than I used to and it's amazing what you see sometimes.

On this occasion the flithered flag flying over Clery's really gave me a jolt. There is both cheek and negligence here, and that right across the road from the iconic GPO. Indeed, in its day Clery's was an icon in itself.

But this vista is a searing comment on what has not been achieved by the Rising or the State which followed it, when staff could be turfed out into the street while the moneybags scuttled off with pocketfulls of dosh gained from a disgraceful financial wheeze.

The tattered tricolour says it all.

So there you have it. Much to my surprise all five of the photos made it into the competition final in the individual (non photo club) category and Seomra 1916 came through as the overall category winner.

Thrilled I am.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Data card copied from Hayes Catalogue
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When I was researching the local history of Ballybrack/Killiney, County Dublin, I trawled the Hayes Catalogue, Manuscript Sources for the History of Irish Civilization. The catalogue was laid out like a series of card indexes and, over a number of volumes. In the volume sorted by place and under the heading Killiney, I found a reference to a survey of Killiney Bay from 1797, the manuscript of which was in the British Museum. I carefully copied down the information for my card index and you can see the card above.

All of this was in the pre-internet era, 1973 to be precise, so I wrote a letter to the British Museum looking for a copy. After some further correspondence I got my copy and ascertained what use I was allowed to make of it, and some other sundry details. I should add that it turned out to be in French. Anyway it all worked out very well and I even published an article on it in The Irish Sword, Ireland's journal of military history.

Then one day, in more recent times, I was perusing the now online version of the Hayes Catalogue when I came across the same reference. Only this time there was something new. The National Library of Ireland now had a microfilm copy of the manuscript.

I wondered what this might be exactly. When I got the copy of the manuscript from the British Museum in 1973 I typed it up and then translated it into English. Apart from the use I made of this myself, I sent a copy of the original, the typescript, and the translation, to Catríona Crowe in the Public Records Office (now the National Archive) in case they were interested.

I now wondered if this might be what was on microfilm in the National Library and yesterday I went in to see. However, it turned out to be only a simple copy of what I had originally got from the British Museum. Apparently the National Library purchased a lot of this stuff from the British Museum on microfilm sometime in the past. I wondered when that might have been as I had not been aware of its existence when I found the original reference.

So with the help of Justin, and a further consultation of the original (1965) Hayes Catalogue, we ascertained that the microfilm had been in the Library since before 1965. In fact the microfilm itself recorded its having been photographed in 1951.

How could I have missed knowing this in my original 1973 consultation of the Catalogue. Sure enough the National Library call number for the microfilm was there in front of my eyes. Why had I not noted it down in 1973. I was kicking myself and scurried home to fish out my original data card.

And there it was. Clear as day. I had actually written down the call number without realising its significance. There had been no need to write to the British Museum in the first place.

Well, now that I have got over the shock, I realise that I probably would have had to write to the British Museum anyway for permission to use and reproduce the document. They also told me that the document did not have a bibliography. In other words nobody, at least as far as they were aware, had published it or written about it. I was the first. And they only charged me 2/6d for what was a better copy than the microfilm version. So, at the end of the day I'm happy enough.

You can read an extended version of the affair and its content here.

So why am I bothering to do this post.

RTFM - look it up.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


The humble ADANA
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This was not my first visit to the National Print Museum. As a former jobbing printer I just can't resist the appeal of all those, sort of Victorian, machines.

The first thing always to catch my eye there is the humble ADANA, even when they have switched it from one end of the room to the other since my last visit.

In my youthful foolishness I bought one of these with the intention of publishing a local newspaper. That was madness and I ended up jobbing printing, from visiting cards to a full set of baptismal certificate blanks. So the ADANA was part of my growing up and coming to terms with the world.

Anyway, I poked around the museum a bit more on this visit and if you're interested I'll show you some of the things I found. If you are then still interested and in a position to do so you should pay a visit to the museum which is a magical place.

The great thing about the Print Museum is that the machines are all out on the floor. It is in a sense a working print room and you can get in close as long as you don't touch.

Wooden Handpress

This is a reproduction of an early wooden press. It was built for The Tudors television series and is currently on loan to the National Print Museum.

Columbian Hand Press

This was one of the first of the iron presses, invented in about 1813. This one dates from 1830. It was originally used to produce books and papers until the advent of mechanised printing during the industrial revolution.

Native American influence of the Eagle

One of the attractive features of the machinery of the period, apart from their mechanical perfection and the quality of the materials, is the extent of the decoration. This eagle on the Columbian serves as a counterweight and, along with its companion the rattlesnake, indicates a Native American influence.

Albion Handpress

This one was invented in 1824 and used mainly for commercial book printing until the middle of the 19th century. Its toggle was less oomplex than the lever mechanism on the Columbian.

Albion Atlas

Again, the decoration is appealing.

Heidsieck Platen Press

The platen press came in the latter half of the 19th century. It was mechanised and was ideal for quick jobs such as leaflets and flyers.

Original Heidelberg Press

This press, known as The Princess of Presses, came into play in 1913. It was an absolute wonder in its day and variants were still in use right into the offset era. I won't attempt to describe it here but you can read all about it in this piece.

Movable Type

From Gutenberg's time right through to the age of ADANA, movable type has been in use. The process is tedious. Each letter, and space, has to be individually set up. This is done initially in the composing stick, seen on top of the type case above.


Then the composed page is transferred to the chase. Final justification between individial composite elements is carried out, if necessary, and the whole assembly is tensioned by screwing open the quoins, seen here on the left of the chase.

All this may give you an idea why I didn't end up publishing a newspaper on my ADANA.


The real trick in typesetting was the advent of the Linotype machine where whole lines of print could be cast from a keyboard. Each line was known as a slug and you only had to make sure the lines were all assembled correctly, and combined with whatever litho blocks (photos & drawings) which came via the art department, and you had a newspaper page ready to print.

At a later stage of development, the page was printed to a papier maché type intermediate surface from which a single page plate was cast and bent to fit onto a rotor. This meant that pages could be printed at very high speed. The Linotype typesetting combined with the rotary press enabled the mass production of newspapers right into my youth.

Last edition of Sunday Press

This is from the last edition of the Sunday Press. You can see the intermediate papier maché page (upright and right way round) and the resultant metal plate for the rotor (bottom right and reversed print).

1916 Proclamation

There is an original of the 1916 proclamation on the wall. What, you might ask is that doing in a print museum? The printing of the proclamation is a story in itself - adventure combined with printing ingenuity. Check it out. And just for reference you can examine the typography of the Print Museum's copy in a larger size here.

Wharfedale Press

And this is a machine which can print a load more of them. It is believed that the actual Proclamation was printed on a machine like this. This particular one was used by the Nenagh Guardian until the 1930s. It could produce up to 800 copies an hour.

I hope the above has whetted your appetite for visiting the marvelous treasure trove which is The National Print Museum. You will see all of the above exhibits, which are all my own photos taken on the spot, and a lot more besides.

Further reading, if you're still interested:

National Print Museum website.

History of Printing in Wikipedia

Letterpress Commons

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

St. Brigid's Feast Day

St Brigid's church, Killester, Dublin

The first of February is the feast day of St. Brigid.

I'm told this is the actual Brigid's Cross used by RTÉ in the early days as its logo. It was saved from the props room and put up over the entrance to Killester church where it remains to this day.

Lá le Bríde Sona dhaoibh uile.

Friday, January 27, 2017


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In an earlier post I outlined how I had submitted a comment under the Jersey Evening Post (JEP) online report on the Lord Reginald satirical video. The video had been published in the Voice for Children blog. My criticism was that the JEP's online report did not include a link to the video either in the original blog post or on Youtube. I provided a link in my comment to the original blog post which contained the video.

My original comment
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My comment was not published. So I wrote to the editor of the JEP complaining about non-publication and pointed out that comments from a known toxic troll on the island had been published both before and after submission of my comment.

In his reply, the editor conceded that my comment should have been published, and not deleted by the moderator. He also conceded that the actual satirical video should have been embedded in the original JEP online report.

While that would certainly have allowed JEP online readers to view the video without leaving the JEP page online, it would seem to have avoided facilitating those who might want to checkout the original blog post. That is why in my comment I gave a link to the blog post rather than just to the video.

In his reply, the editor seemed to be at a loss to understand my "troll" reference and he also wondered who I was.

In my reply, I said I was pleasantly surprised that he considered that my comment should have been published as submitted. I expanded a bit on the identity of the troll I was referring to. I told him who I was and that at the end of the day I was not anonymous as a few clicks would have shown up my email address. Though I did add that I could see why some people in Jersey would see the need to post their comments anonymously.

I gave a link to my earlier blog post and asked if he'd have any objection to my publishing our correspondence.

In his reply, the editor said my comments were reasonable and he would have no objection to my publishing our correspondence.

He correctly deduced that the troll I was referring to was the infamous Jon Haworth who comes onto his radar really only because he suspects that Jon writes spoof letters to the JEP for publication under false names and addresses.

Finally, he assured me that no one gets any protection as suggested on his watch. "If you read the paper I edit, rather than our website, I think you'd struggle to argue otherwise."

Unfortunately, not being on the Island, I am not really in a position to read the print rather than the web version of the paper but I would invite any resident who wants to pick up on his challenge to do so and let me know the result. I realise this could prove a problem for some people who on principle do not buy the JEP. However there is more than one way to skin a cat, so to speak.

In any event I can assure the editor that the Skibbereen Eagle will be keeping an online eye on him.

In the interest of openness, transparency, and all the other virtues that the Jersey administration are accused of lacking, I am publishing our correspondence below.

But first a amall diversion. You will see below that the editor wonders who I am and why I am interested in Jersey. And now Jon Haworth, in comments submitted under this post, is effectively challenging my commeenting in the Jersey Evening Post under a pseudonym. As explained in one of my letters below this was in no way intended to hide my true identity.

My challenge to Jon in the JEP

So I have now opened a Jersey Evening Post account under my full real name and challenged Jon to do the same. Let's see how this pans out.

Andy Sibcy, editor JEP

My initial letter (12/1/2017) following
deletion/non-publication of my comment

Dear Editor

On 6 January 2017 I submitted a comment on your piece about the Lord Reginald video.

I pointed out that you neither indicated the source of the video nor gave a link to it. I found this unusual in an online article. Leaving aside your reasons for behaving thus, and I can only speculate on what they might have been, I was surprised to find my comment (attached), which I thought reasonable and to the point, was detained in moderation and then deleted.

Both before and after submission of my comment, you published comments from a source you know to be a life threatening troll who has been implicated in various unsavoury manoeuvres to suppress criticism and challenge of the Jersey establishment in the context of its cover up of child sex abuse on the island.

I am at a loss to understand the rationale behind this regrettable and inconsistent behaviour and would appreciate an explanation of why my comment, made in good faith, was deleted.

Yours sincerely,

Pól Ó Duibhir

The editor's reply (19/1/2017)

Dear Pól,

Thank you for your email of 12 January. Please accept my apologies for not responding sooner.

The simple answer is that your comment should have been published as the points that you raise are entirely reasonable. I think that the original post should have been embedded with the Montfort Tadier video, a solution that would have made more sense from our perspective as it would have enabled readers to see the video without leaving our site.

The reasoning outlined above also partially explains why your comment was not published by the moderator. The other was that the link it included is to a blog site which routinely includes comments which attack the JEP in ways which can be ill-informed and unreasonable. I have to say that I would have been happy to publish your comment as submitted.

It was detained in moderation by default because you have not commented often enough to have been given the right to comment live (commentators have their first few comments checked before being given that right). It remained in moderation because a combination of sickness and holidays (including mine) meant that the moderation folder was not managed as efficiently as it would normally be. Other commentators will only be flagged up and their comments held in moderation if they use unacceptable language as they are free to comment live as regular contributors.

Your ‘troll’ comment leaves me a little baffled. I am afraid that the JEP site, like many others, attracts a great many commentators who do not offer very much in the way of constructive input. I have no idea which of the anonymous people you are talking about on this occasion, or indeed who those people are behind their pseudonyms.

On that score, I wonder whether you would be good enough to enlighten me as to who you are? As you know, I am aware of your twitter feed and have no idea whether your handle is an abridged version of your real name or not.

If you are in Jersey, I would be happy to sit down and have a chat. I say that because I suspect you are keen to show how your unfortunate experience as a commentator on the JEP site somehow validates views which you have about the JEP. I am not sure whether you have ever discussed those views, or indeed whether you have any interest in hearing an alternative viewpoint, but I would be happy to provide one. I am also intrigued as to the reason for your interest in the Island.

Best wishes and in good faith,

Andy Sibcy

My reply to the editor (26/1/2017)

Dear Mr Sibcy

Thank you again for the courtesy of the reply.

Regarding its content.

I am glad you agree that my comment should have been published as submitted and that the video should have been available directly to your readers so that they could make up their own mind about it.

I am not sure what exactly the embedding would have involved. Would it have been stand alone or would it have contained a link to the video's location either in The Voice's Youtube account or in the blog post? That was an element of my comment, namely, that your readers should have been able to also go to the source of the video. These videos are an integral part of The Voice's posts.

As far as the content of The Voice's actual blog posts are concerned, I find them well researched and generally moderate in tone. In fact I recollect, from memory, that the blog made a number of positive comments about the JEP after you took over and I think there were high expectations there of a more robust approach to the administration under your stewardship.

As far as comments on that blog are concerned, they vary. I am aware that the comments are moderated, nevertheless the moderator does let through some very critical comments about the blog itself and its readers/supporters. The net effect of this is that I follow the blog assiduously and consider myself fairly well informed as a result.

In recent times I have had to take to moderating my own blog which has been un-moderated since around 2007 and this is purely because of abusive comments from the well known toxic Jersey troll. In fact the only comments I have blocked are those coming from this horrible person. In passing, I note that you are quite happy to entertain him in your own comments section.

In referring to why my comment was not published you quote "the reasoning above" in your reply, but this hardly seems relevant as you are telling me it should have been published anyway. Your second reason is my inclusion of a link to the blog post in which the video occurred. But you are telling me that my comment should have been published as submitted, ie with the link.

I have no problem with my comment having been detained in moderation. All that you say about that is perfectly acceptable. My only gripe is its ultimate non publication and rejection/deletion from moderation.

I didn't really see the deletion of my comment as some sort of validation of my already relatively low opinion of the JEP. I more or less expected it. But your view now that is should have been published as submitted is, admittedly, a pleasant surprise.

Perhaps I can assist you a little further with my troll comment. It is widely known in Jersey that Kaz81 is just one of the many monikers used by the toxic troll I referred to above. If you are not aware of this, it does not speak very highly for the investigative prowess of the JEP. I do appreciate that blocking him would cause a row and with God knows who, given the support he was given in the gang hounding of Stuart Syvret through the courts. I don't mind his comments, I can take it. But it was pointed out to me that they were of such a nature that they meant some (reasonable) people were reluctant to link to my blog posts.

As to who I am, it's really no secret. My name is Pól Ó Duibhir and I live in Dublin. I holidayed in Jersey in the late 1950s and worked a summer there in 1961. I sort of fell in love with the place and with its people and that fondness has remained with me. That is why I find it so heartbreaking to see what it is becoming. The fact that I post under a variety of pseudonyms is really just coincidental and reflects the thrill of adventure when I first started posting some two decades ago. Póló, as you will see, is a contraction of part of my name and was my nickname in school. Irlpol was to distinguish me from the rest of the family and so on. However, my profile in blogger links to my website and that has a facility for emailing me. So I'm not really anonymous.

And while we are on the subject of identity, I fully appreciate the necessity for some of those on island to post/comment anonymously.

I have already published my original letter to you on my blog and I wonder if you mind me publishing your reply and mine and any relevant subsequent correspondence. I will in any event be dealing with the points in a promised updating of the blog post.

In good faith,

Pól Ó Duibhir

The editor's reply (26/1/2017)

Dear Pol,

Thank you for your reply. The comments you make are entirely reasonable.

I have no objection to your publishing my email.

In my response, I tried to distinguish between my thoughts re the publication (I would have published as submitted) and the reasoning of my colleague who was moderating at the time in question. If that was not clear, I apologise.

As far as 'the troll' is concerned, my ignorance is more a consequence of my not being terribly interested in the often pathetic online bickering which seems to be the obsession of many than a lack of investigative prowess. Frankly, I have far more constructive things to be getting on with than working out who is who.

Equally, while I am sure that followers of various blogs and others (including some who use our comment forum) are well aware of the identities of those who use pseudonyms, I think it a stretch to suggest that they are well known in Jersey more generally.

I suspect that you are referring to Mr Haworth, who comes onto my radar really only because I suspect he writes spoof letters to us for publication under false names and addresses.

I can also assure you that no one gets any protection as suggested on my watch. If you read the paper I edit, rather than our website, I think you'd struggle to argue otherwise.

The offer of a coffee or beer stands if you ever visit. I think that we'd have an interesting chat.

Best wishes,


Tuesday, January 24, 2017


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What am I doing going to a talk on the evolving university library? Haven't I left all that behind me long ago?

It's true that in UCD studying politics, in the last century, I had to get a note from my tutor to get out a book which the Catholic church disapproved of and which was stored behind the librarian's counter on a very high shelf indeed.

Well, apparently all has changed, changed utterly and a terrible beauty of sorts has been born.

The challenge is immense: from the need to digitise existing resources, through how they are then made available both to researchers and the wider public, to how are we going to digitally conserve the present for future generations.

You might think that in today's digital world this could be achieved at the mere push of a button.

Sandra Collins

Not so. And nobody knows this better than Sandra Collins, Director of the National Library of Ireland. Sandra introduced Helen Shenton, Librarian and Archivist at TCD, who was going to lead us through this complex territory, explaining the global challenges and how TCD is responding to them.

First, though, I have to recall Sandra's recent TEDx talk in UCD on this very subject, where, in simple language, she explained the parameters of the enormous task facing us.

Helen Shenton

Helen Shenton came to TCD in 2014 and she was well aware of the task ahead. She was, however, undaunted having worked miracles already in the V&A, the British Library and Harvard. Her experience was vast and she was now bringing it to bear on this institution.

She is not only dealing with digitising what is there, she is also busy figuring out how to use the spaces that become available when material is digitised and the physical copies are then consigned to storage.

TCD Long Room

She is unlikely to strip the Long Room of its books, which at this stage are almost part of the structure of the building. She has already told us how much she is in awe of this wonderful room and how she has given up explaining it to visitors. She just steps back and lets the visitor experience the sheer wonder of it.

Whatever about all the digital and virtual stuff, Helen is also a great respecter of physical space and she envisages the function of the library in the widest sense possible. It is not just a place for reading but for learning, networking and socialising. People also learn from each other so socio-academic space is vital.

Library and College's central location

While TCD's physical space is limited by the surrounding streets, the whole digital revolution opens up the possibility of re-conceiving existing space as it is freed up and there can be new premises acquired off campus. All this without losing TCD's great asset of a city centre location.

And, of course, developments go beyond the boundaries of this one college. Each university/college needs to have its own place of excellence in the scheme of things. Substantial duplication, for which there may have been some justification in the past, needs to be eliminated and the capacity released put to creative use.

Helen & Sandra, all smiles

This is just giving you a flavour of what Helen is at. If you are curious for more, the whole thing is spelled out in detail in the library's strategy, the cover of which is reproduced at the top of this post.

And so, after an enthusiastic and fast moving talk from one librarian, hosted by another "librarian", we call a halt with smiles all round.

[Talk was at the National Library of Ireland at 1pm on 19/1/2017]

Sunday, January 22, 2017


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I am not an arty type. When I hit art it is usually by accident.

That's how I found myself at the Collective Juncture exhibition in Wexford town in 2013. The exhibits there were from the graduating class in Contemporary Art from the Carlow/Wexford IT campus. When I arrived they were awaiting the adjudicators to have their work assessed for their final degree exams. Following this the exhibition would continue open to the public for a month.

I thought it a wonderful idea. But did I know what was meant by contemporary art? Well, I assumed it meant art emanating from living artists. But no. I was told it was also art which touched on the experience of the artist and actually meant something to them or made a difference to them. Having seen the wonderful exhibition I now know what they meant.

So, what has all this arty stuff got to do with Emerging Photographers? I think, a lot. My encounter with this current exhibition brought me right back to my Wexford experience.

Here we have an exhibition by three recently graduated young photographers and they would all fall within the definition of contemporary art discussed above. It was all very encouraging.

This was not just decorative stuff, good and all as the photos were. It was a case of three powerful messages which were very relevant to modern living and which figured high in the personal, social and political consciousness of each of the photographers.

This is the first year of this exhibition which is hosted by the Alliance Française Dublin. On exhibition is the work of Edit Elias, Deirdre Fallon and Sophia Harding.

Each of these three newly graduated Irish photographers were selected by a member of the Alliance Française Photo Committee, which includes: Margaret Brown (professional photographer), Anthony Haughey (artist, researcher and lecturer at Dublin Institute of Technology) and Tanya Kiang (Director and curator at the Gallery of Photography).

l-r: Tanya Kiang, Deirdre Fallon, Edit Elias, Anthony Haughey,
Philippe Milloux (Director of the Alliance),
Sophia Harding & Margaret Brown.

The exhibition was launched on 19 March 2017 and during it's run, until 6 March 2017, the public are invited to vote for their favourite photographer. This vote, together with the choice of the AF Photo Committee, will determine which of the three selected photographers wins a trip to the renowned Arles Photography Festival.

So let's see what's on offer. I'll give my own reactions below. It is well to remember though that what is on display here is roughly only half of the original graduation exhibition of each exhibitor. I'm saying this as a look at the full set of photos deepens your appreciation of the set and in some cases gives further individual commentary on each of the photos. You can see the full sets on the exhibitors' own websites. Their names, in the headings to the individual sections below, are linked to their websites.

Edit Elias

Edit Elias & Anthony Haughey

Edit is introduced by Anthony Haughey. She is a Dublin based photographer from Hungary and has just received her BA Honours degree in photography from DIT.

Her project Congo Mémoire explores the history of the Congo (Democratic Republic of) in collaboration with members of the Congolese community in Ireland. It consists of two elements: (i) a book of contemporary and family photos and manuscript diary/commentary tracing those members' experience, and (ii) a series of photos powerfully illustrating the exploitative nature of the relationship of outside powers with the area over the years.

I was pleased to see she had not forgotten to include the pioneering exposures of Roger Casement.

Edit with photo from her hands set

Each of the powerful pictures consisted of a hand or hands holding a representation of a different aspect of exploitation.

Without looking at the commentary I identified a diamond, a bullet, a coffee leaf and an oil pipe switch. Turns out I got only one out of four right. I had the diamond. But the "bullet" was actually a capacitor, from a computer, which relied on a precious metal, Coltan, which has unique properties vital to modern electronic devices. At least I identified the leaf, but it was not a coffee leaf, just a fallen one, which I take to represent the general exploitation of the area's natural resources and the suffering of its people through through interminable resource wars. And finally the oil pipe switch. Well that was a red rubber broken off the top of a pencil. I had not known that the rubber produced out of blood and suffering had been known as red rubber.

Edit's text is a no holds barred commentary on the suffering that goes into the products we use heedlessly in our daily lives.

Sophia Harding

Sophia Harding & Margaret Brown

Sophia is introduced by Margaret Brown. She has her BA Honours degree in photography from the Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dún Laoghaire. She is currently living in Bundoran.

Her project Now You See Me explores how we view others. Are they all that they seem? Is what we see all that they are? Do we stereotype people on the basis of limited impressions? Do we avoid engaging and simply see them as "other" and so keep them at a safe distance.

Sophia with photo from her mother & child set

Sophia has taken the same mother and child and shown them in a variety of contexts.We see powerlessness in the form of addiction and neglect in a domestic setting and also in those forced to flee such a setting and become refugees at the mercy and whim others. Do we engage or stand back and let the camera facilitate us classing them as "other".

Deirdre Fallon

Tanya Kiang & Deirdre Fallon

Deirdre is introduced by Tanya Kiang. She initially studied photography in Waterford, where it was accompanied by criminology, but her degree is from Griffith College, where she won the Canon award for her final year exhibition.

Her project The Watchmen draws on Bentham's Panopticon.

Central Bank plaza from Deirdre's set
Many levels and layers of observation

The basic idea is that we behave differently when we think we are being watched. So how is our behaviour in the modern world affected by omnipresent surveillance including our own self-awareness as we operate in cyber space.

In The Watchmen the subject's peripheral location is swapped with that of the Panopticon's watchman, and you are invited to consider the implications

Final Images

Philippe Milloux

Philippe ends his term as Director this coming August and I think the Alliance will miss him. He is a very hands on Director and takes great pride in his own work and that of the Alliance generally. I have found him great to deal with in the short time I have known him.

Under some pressure from me, Philippe overcame his natural modesty for a moment and admitted that the idea for this exhibition/competition was his. He reminded me that it is part of the Alliance's mission to give young artists a chance to become known and seen on the cultural scene of the cities where French institutions are located. He put the idea to fellow experts and good friends from the photo panel and they loved it. In the style of a good leader he praised the hard work of Christine and her Assistant who were charged with making it happen.

He's thrilled that it went so well and the Alliance intend to run it annually and so build up a network of photographers from among the participants. This will be a part of Philippe's legacy to the Dublin Alliance.

I don't know where he's going next but Bon Voyage Philippe.

Tanya Kiang

I couldn't resist this one of Tanya with the cultural and business background.

Margaret Brown & Philippe Milloux

Margaret snapped me in the course of the evening. I haven't seen it yet but I snapped her back anyway.

Deirdre Fallon & Anthony Haughey

A final shot as I observed Deirdre and Anthony in conversation from the roadway beneath.

And just to prove that I wasn't the last to leave.