Helen McLean: ‘Mosaic art, which dates back to 2,000 BC, is a dying art’

Teamwork does not come on a much larger scale than the nine-year artistic and architectural collaboration involved in achieving the breathtaking interior of the Church of the Transfiguration on the shores of Cape Cod Bay, a monastic community in the Benedictine tradition. “When the light shines through that amazing window on to the gold mosaic, it’s as though it is illuminated from the inside,” says McLean. ADVERTISEMENT “Any commission is a collaboration between the artist and the community. and me from Ireland.” One lady had grown up on a farm, another loved dogs, so we made little pictorial references to them in the mosaics of the hands. “We made a piece that was based on the hands of the sufferers, incorporating elements that represented their lives or interests. The spirit and intentions of the people effect the artwork, which, in turn, attempts to represent or be a witness to the community’s faith or identity. But in these financially straitened times, people are cutting back on the number of colours used, to save money. McLean was charged with painting the 2,500ft processional path, the apse mosaic of Christ in Glory – in which the face of Christ is five feet tall – the font floor and ambo platform mosaics. The reason was the installation and dedication of a white glass and 22 carat gold mosaic surround for a specially commissioned icon to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Earlier this month she returned from Wexford, where she has her home and workshop, to Holywood, Co Down, the town where she grew up. In recent years, commissions have been completed for hospitals in Limerick and Enniscorthy, a school in Newbridge and a project with Alzheimer’s patients and their carers at the St Brigid’s Centre in Wexford. Her 189sq ft baptismal wall, depicting a vibrant assortment of birds and animals, scriptural and liturgical references, is one of its most eye-catching features. Three years ago, I joined a community of artists in Wiesbaden, Germany, to make the stained glass windows for a chapel in Newtownbutler, Co Fermanagh. Sad to say, mosaic art, which dates back to 2,000 BC, is a dying art.” ADVERTISEMENT McLean comes from an artistic family. She recalls painting on to huge sheets of brown paper, similar to a giant dress pattern. “During my time in Cape Cod, I lived closely with the people and absorbed the natural environment, carrying out detailed …

Donal Dineen’s Sunken Treasure: Boards of Canada – In a Beautiful Place out in the Country

It takes a certain amount of skill to make a tune on a keyboard but there’s a whole lot more involved should you desire to make it sound like it came from space but they had that unique quality. This record will be loved for a long time, It’s evidence of how the good stuff always endures. Vocal samples appeared to float on the heat of some of the warmest tones yet heard. It was released in 2000, a peak year for the form, but this record was head and shoulders above the pack. They appeared entirely independent of their contemporaries and much more adept at twisting and bending the machines to suit their will. It was all highly considered and delicately worked though. A beautiful strangeness characterised their early efforts. Having broken through with the beautiful but often soporific Music has the Right to Children, Boards of Canada had proven themselves arch practitioners on a whole new level. In splendid isolation they had developed several individual mannerisms. ADVERTISEMENT At its core is a kind of softness that has matured magnificently. In a Beautiful Place in the Country was quieter and stranger still. A full two decades since the new-wave explosion down south and the aftershock had yet to reach Scotland. It takes courage to go your own way when everyone else is heading for Ibiza. Dancefloor-friendliness was anathema to their moody sojourns into other realms. There is nothing rushed or urgent about the dreamlike sound of In a Beautiful Place out in the Country. The freshness of the electronic sound gave their youthful songs an urgency. The early pioneers of the new wave such as Yazoo and Depeche Mode could barely keep up with their own synthesisers at full pitch. Much of these are machinery related but the humans have had a hand in them too. The excitement of making electronic music is a fluctuating concept in itself. There was a touch of rush hour about episodes of Top of the Pops in the early 1980s. The art of making electronic sound has gone through many changes.

From the archive: Come hell or high water

It was a miserable end to 1959 for the people of the Shannon basin, and 2016 began with devastation across much of the same area. The expression on the face of his donkey is stoic, resigned, unfathomable. Taken from the air, the front-page image records the sort of flooding big-picture which has become all too familiar around Irish rivers in recent years: fields and ditches turned to lakes and islands. For this shot, though, the photographer chose to zoom in on one small, almost intimate, moment. ADVERTISEMENT The flooding south of Athlone in December 1959 was a major news story in Ireland and even in the UK – there’s a British Pathé film clip of the deluge to be found online – and our front-page coverage tells a dismal tale of army trucks being brought in, families being shipped out and disinfectant being poured into the water. His subjects stand knee-deep in the water which swirls, literally, all around the picture. In Venice they call it Acqua Alta. A Westmeath whirlpool doesn’t have quite the same ring, and this may not quite be St Mark’s Square – but high water is still high water, and an inundation is an inundation in any language. “A farmer leads his donkey and cart through the flooding in Athlone today,” reads the caption, when it really ought to say something like: “This farmer played a blinder with his donkey and cart, carrying goods and people back and forth through the flood waters when most other modes of transport were hopelessly stranded”. Behind them, the brimming water stretches far, far into the distance. He has, you might say, reached the end of his tether. Some aspects of life in Ireland, it seems, never change. The farmer is either angry or despairing – maybe both – as he gestures to something beyond the edge of the frame. It must be freezing and is probably smelly.

‘Irish Museums Survey 2016’ quietly encouraging

Against this background, the publication of the Irish Museum Survey, freely available online at irishmuseums.org, is a significant resource for professionals and policymakers involved in the future development of museums in Ireland. They are a relatively recent phenomenon and will continue to change over time. That amounts to about 230 museums, ranging from major national institutions to much smaller regional museums, from, for example, the National Gallery of Ireland to the Irish Fly Fishing and Game Shooting Museum in Attana House, Portlaoise. The Irish Museums Association (IMA), the Irish Museums Trust and UCD’s School of Art History and Cultural Policy all collaborated in its production; it should serve as an invaluable research resource, but rather than being conclusive, it underlines the need for more data. Perhaps surprisingly, only 118 of the 230 “responded to and participated in the survey”, limiting the sample. At the other, it entails digital access to entire collections – surprisingly high at over 17 per cent – and, to diminishing degrees, their ancillary information and material, together with engagement with social media. The survey results are quietly encouraging given the country has endured a dire period of economic recession since the previous survey in 2005. The challenges the sector now faces involve consolidation and development, as reflected in the Heritage Council’s Museum Standards Programme. In time, this expansionary dynamic created the distinct impression that funding bodies favoured eye-catching capital projects over the realities of maintaining and developing institutions. New statement museums, or expansion projects in existing institutions, tend to prioritise vast architectural spaces devoted to anything but the museum collections, he points out. Recent controversies, including that surrounding the temporary relocation of the Seanad to part of the National Museum, are salutary reminders of the persistence of the contingent, marginal status of museums in the political consciousness. Volunteers are vital to the functioning of 40 per cent of museums overall. From that date, visitor numbers have remained more or less stable, at more than six million a year, with just over 60 per cent of those visitors being Irish. The word museum may suggest fixity but that is more apparent than real. Even given significant advances, education, outreach and access are all identified as areas needing further attention. The majority of museums are small: more than three-quarters of them are staffed by fewer than 10 paid employees, and about one sixth are entirely dependent on voluntary …

Cultural dates for your 2017 diary

Plus site-specific stagings, exhibitions, family events and other artistic adventures in Ireland’s medieval city. Music for Galway Midwinter January 20th-22nd This year’s theme is musical prodigies through the ages, from Mozart, Mendelssohn and Korngold to the acclaimed 11-year-old English violinist and composer Alma Deutscher; musicforgalway.ie. Or juggling? With workshops, a storytelling walk in the countryside, lunchtime theatre and “story swap” sessions. baboro.ie Dublin Greek Film Festival October 19th-22nd The third annual Dublin Greek Film Festival will showcase the latest award-winning features, documentaries and short films by Greek filmmakers as well as a range of special events introducing Greek culture to Irish audiences. westcorkmusic.ie Galway Arts Festival July 17th-30th Highlights of the 2017 programme include an exhibition by the Brazilian artist Ana Maria Pacheco Dark Night of the Soul; a new festival commission by the Irish artist John Gerrard (co-commissioned with the Thomas Dane Gallery in London); two world premiere theatre productions; the discussion platform First Thought; a spectacular European street theatre programme, and a series of live gigs in the Absolut Big Top. westcorkmusic.ie Harvest 2017 August 26th-27tj Brand-new festival brings Miranda Lambert, Nathan Carter and the dreamy duo The Shires – think Gunnar and Scarlett from the TV series Nashville, except they’re English – to Westport House, Co Mayo, and Enniskillen Airport, Co Fermanagh, for a weekend of country music. Which would make anybody smile, really. aikenpromotions.com Bulmers Live at Leopardstown Thursdays, June 8 th-August 17th Music at the south Dublin racetrack on balmy summer evenings. fringefest.com Clifden Arts Week September 14th-24th This community arts week provides locals and visitors alike with a wide range of readings, recitals, theatre and comedy – and all in the spectacular surroundings of Connemara. ADVERTISEMENT indiependencefestival.com Spraoi August 4th-6th Alongside the annual Spraoi parade, a programme of newly-commissioned street art work brings Waterford’s historic city centre to joyous life. corkchoral.ie Féile na Bealtaine April 27th-May 1st Among those on the bill for this bilingual festival on the Dingle Peninsula are the novelist Sebastian Barry and the children’s author Shane Hegarty. The 2017 programme will include novelists Mohsin Hamid and Joanna Trollope, poets Michael Longley and Nick Laird, and a host of others. Venues for next year will include Kilruddery, Co Wicklow, the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, and the Casino at Marino. greekfilmfestival.ie Imagine Arts October 19th-29th Where can you find monsters, printmakers, Indian dance and scary fairy stories all nestling together? Previous headliners …

How to Learn Irish in Seventeen Steps, by Roisín O’Donnell

Write ‘Luana Paula de Silva O’Connor’ into the empty box using a running-out blue biro, so that the last letters of your married name are carved into the crisp white sheet. They have got to be kidding. July will slide into August, and your mama will stop asking you when you’re returning to Ireland. A Chara, an Irish inspector will visit your classroom on 3 November at 11:20 to assess the first stage of the Scrúdú le hAghaidh Cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge. She will shake her shaggy blonde fringe into her pinot grigio and say, ‘Ach, Luana, pet, I’d love to help you but I wouldn’t have a fuckin’ notion about Irish.’ Undeterred, ask Séan to teach you. Lean your head against the sun-bleached wallpaper. Gabriela will then turn up, pinching your waist from behind. From the window of a Boeing 747, watch Dublin retreat beneath a torn veil of clouds, until the houses of your adopted city are so small you could scoop them up and fit them into your pocket. Slightly tipsy, call Séan and invite him to the pub. A snow-blotched sheet of bog will stretch for miles before it creases around the edges of the Atlantic. Man. My son’s over there travelling, so he is.’ Follow her into a furnace-warm kitchen and find ten pairs of primary-teacher eyes staring at you like rows of politely seated orcs. Gorm … Dorcha … Bándearg … Buí…. Crawl into your bunk bed just as a pale yolk of sun rises over Loch Con Nualla. Three hours later, enter the grey outskirts of Dublin feeling as if you are resurfacing from the swamps of a hallucination. Blood will pound in your ears for a few minutes, making you feel as if you have gone temporarily deaf. Remind your class to ‘keep your hands and your feet and your unkind words to yourself’. Kiss your sorte necklace and try not to remember the undertaker’s black-gloved hands at your papa’s funeral. Spend the Irish summer at home in São Paulo, where it is winter. Bhí bean an tí an-deas. Forget all of them. Try to make some notes, but find yourself unable to do this because you cannot spell anything in Irish. Pose for photos with your new Irish in-laws against a sky of postcard blue. Disconnect your Path-Finder98 and shove it into the glove compartment. Feel a lump like hot pão de …

A Man Came to My Door, by Ferdia Lennon

When I walked into the kitchen and he and his dog followed. ADVERTISEMENT “Would you like something to eat?” He shook his head. All his features seemed to shiver. I know what you must think of me. I noticed his muddy boots sink into the soft carpet and how he looked from his feet to me with a pained expression. At his heels sat a dog no bigger than a cat. “I’m sorry. But his cheeks were sunken, and red, and, as he held the cup, the bones in his hands stuck out. “Captain, Captain.” The old man was crying now and whispering the same words over and over again: Captain… From the rain his white hair had turned grey, and I watched this grey thing grow fainter in the distance, till it was only a grey speck at the top of a grey road and when it was gone, I watched the road. He said he tried to be good, but it came to nothing. We sat like that for a long time. I let them in. I had a sense when he talked that he was trying to use a vocabulary or a way of speaking that was not natural to him, but which he felt I would approve of. Beyond the words, which I didn’t understand, I knew that he was happy. That he’d followed my career with great pride. The curtains were drawn and I pulled them back to see the stooped figure of the old man move slowly along the driveway and out the gate. Slowly at first, but with each bite something happened to his face, a tightness around the eyes, or in the eyes, loosened, and by the fifth bite he had a smile of such simple enjoyment, such boyish pleasure, that I wanted to take him in my arms, as if he were my son and I the father, and tell him he was very dear to me, that he was important and not just an old drunk made happy by chocolate. “Eat, otherwise it will go to waste.” “Oh.” He ate. For the second time in my life I touched the man’s head, but he moved away and only cried the more. There was a sharp pain in my temples and a feeling of too much blood in my brain, a feeling that my skull must be ready to burst with …

From Agamemnon to Zola: The books to look out for in 2017

It follows a young woman from her Dublin bedsit to her grandmother’s creaking house in the country, where she struggles to overcome her isolation while recounting the ferocious beauty of the world around her. Carr also includes his own maps, which are something truly special. Other debuts to keep an eye out for are Laura McVeigh’s Under the Almond Tree (Two Roads, February), in which a young Afghani refugee tells her story; Lisa Harding’s Harvesting (New Island, April), in which teenagers from Moldova and Dublin bond in an Irish brothel; and Sarah Flannery Murphy’s more-than-slightly spooky tale of spiritualists and sexual obsession, The Possessions (Scribe, January). Now a psychologist who specialises in post-traumatic stress disorder, she has some extraordinary advice for those of us who lead more ordinary lives in The Choice (Rider, April). In The Raqqa Diaries (Cornerstone, March) he writes about everything from his father being killed in an air strike to the 40 lashes he received for speaking out against a beheading. Into the Water (Doubleday, May) is set in a small riverside town in the UK, and while the publisher is wisely giving little away in terms of the plot, it will feature two sisters, “the slipperiness of the truth, and a family drowning in secrets”. Gail O’Rorke’s Crime Or Compassion (Hachette Ireland, February) is the story of the first person in Ireland to be charged with – and acquitted of – the crime of assisting a suicide. .” Bliss. And Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends (Faber & Faber, June) – the subject of a six-way publishers’ bidding war – promises us an intimate story of high-risk relationships. The Australian novelist Tim Winton follows his two volumes of memoir, Land’s Edge and Island Home, with a very personal collection of family stories, The Boy Behind The Curtain (Picador, April); and the Nigerian novelist Teju Cole gets behind a camera for Blind Spot (Faber, April), a series of 150 photographs paired with surprising, innovative text. Back on our side of the pond, the author of HHhH, Laurent Binet, offers a madcap reconstruction of the death of literary critic Roland Barthes, The Seventh Function of Language (Harvill Secker, May); Edouard Louis explores the violence, homophobia and racism of contemporary France in The End of Eddy (Harvill Secker, February); and a major French publishing success arrives in English with Christophe Chabouté’s elegant graphic novel The Park Bench (Faber & …

In a word . . . Truth

As I look down into the maw of this freshly dug grave, I cannot but be in awe of its unusual depth. Sweet Prince. On inquiring whether this was, maybe, a mistake as Yorick was the court jester whose skull was dug up by the grave digger in the play Hamlet, he insisted otherwise. Or his usurpation by that giddy offspring, post-truth, to whom he has bequeathed 2017 and the years ahead. How could he be expected to sing Hallelujah one more time in a world now so sucked dry of joy in this past and passing year. Dear friends, has there been a greater tragedy in 2016 than the death of Truth? All did a good job bringing the remains here, if with a haste that seemed unseemly. Not as unbecoming, however, as the pace with which they have since departed this cemetery, even as burial has not begun. We can but hope that this new child’s undiscovered instinct is to pray. Earlier I spoke to the grave digger, who insisted his name was Yorick. They, as Mr Trump said, “must get on with our FN business.” It was, I have been told, a reference to Fake News. “Dear brethren, we are gathered here today to say goodbye to an old and dear friend, and to 2016. Not prey.” Truth, conformity with fact, from Old Norse tryggth, meaning faith, Old English trowth, Middle English treuthe. inaword@irishtimes.com Gracious Ali, and Leonard Cohen in November. The death of this year is not of itself an occasion for grief among these few of us still present, but we do lament the loss of so many dear ones over the past 12 months even as we understand how they could not take it anymore. ADVERTISEMENT Yet, while this flesh is very weary indeed, the cloth is not yet ready to join our old friend Truth whose remains repose here now, awaiting committal to the clay. Here Yorick would “bury another court jester” at depths rarely seen ever before, he said.When complimented by me on the grave he had dug he offered, kindly, to “…do the same for yourself”. I thank the pall bearers who carried the coffin here. Bowie, the first. Messrs Trump, his friend Mr Bannon, their friend Mr Farage, his friend Mr Boris, his former friend Mr Gove, and the altogether foolish Mr Cameron.

Backstage diaries: how we’re planning for a cultural 2017

ADVERTISEMENT What are you hoping for in 2017? How are you making the most of your place? NEW MUSIC FESTIVAL Dublin, March Simon Taylor, chief executive, National Concert Hall How are your preparations going? What are you hoping for in 2017?: We have three major international singers coming for this festival. Let’s go for it.” HINTERLAND FESTIVAL Kells, June Geraldine Gaughran, director How are your preparations going? We’ve agreed to use our 25th anniversary as a platform into the future, rather than looking back into the past, but we are revisiting our motives for starting the festival in the first place, so as to shape Spraoi for the next 25 years. Our sets are like film sets, almost – we start building in March and then we roll them out into the fields two weeks before the event. This has given us a tremendous roots-down connection into the place we work out of. It’s a good gathering point for the street arts and spectacle community on an annual basis. It will be similar in feel to previous years, but we’ll have two days of history events programmed, as ever, by Myles Dungan. We always wanted to have a Waterford dimension to the content, and to make that local content to a very high standard rather than being an add-on. SPRAOI FESTIVAL Waterford, August TV Honan, director How are your preparations going? How are you making the most of your place? To get the baritone Simon Keenlyside here, with his busy schedule, is terrific – and we’re hoping that people who would normally come to hear him singing Mozart, or whatever, will say, “Wow: he’s singing Gerald Barry and Thomas Ades. The whole idea of carnival is participatory, so people come in fancy dress or they build something over the weekend or try a craft or make a sculpture, then it all comes alive on Sunday with a big fire show. It’s our first year as a standalone festival, but we’ve had four years as part of the Hay Festival in Wales. July may be a long way off, but there’s lot’s of planning at this time – lots of little tweaks and changes. Now we’ve started to grow our own identity and we have their blessing to do that. For our 25th birthday festival we already have acts confirmed from about six countries; we’re doing some refit work on the …

Run-DMC file $50m law suit against Amazon and Walmart

– (PA, Guardian Service) The lawsuit alleged that the retailers have improperly profited, diluted and harmed the Run-DMC brand, which it said has generated more than $100 million US in revenue since its inception in the 1980s. George Michael postmortem proves ‘inconclusive’ Deadmau5 – W:/2016ALBUM/ review: Lazy but likeable U2 earn $55m in 12 months, according to Forbes He claims the stores, which also include US retailer Jet, did not have the right to sell products including T-shirts, wallets and hats bearing the Run-DMC logo. McDaniels founded Run-DMC in 1981 along with fellow rapper Joseph “Run” Simmons and DJ Jam Master Jay, who was shot dead in 2002. McDaniels, who owns a firm named Run-DMC Brand, said that these products violated federal trademark laws. Rap group Run-DMC has filed a $50 million (€47.4 million) lawsuit in New York accusing Amazon, Walmart and other retailers of selling products that traded on the group’s name without permission. A founder of the group, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, was listed as the plaintiff in the lawsuit, which was filed in the Southern District of New York. Their hits include King of Rock, It’s Tricky and the pioneering Aerosmith cover Walk This Way In 2009, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, becoming only the second rap act to be awarded that honour.

George Michael postmortem proves ‘inconclusive’

The results of these tests are unlikely to be known for several weeks. Mr Michael’s death is still being treated as unexplained but not suspicious.” PA Michael’s publicist said his family and friends had been “touched beyond words” by the “incredible outpouring of love” from fans, adding there were no suspicious circumstances around his death. George Michael secretly gave couple £15,000 for IVF treatment Una Mullally on George Michael: A gay man devoid of shame Ten songs in the key of George Michael’s life A postmortem examination was carried out on Thursday. The 53-year-old star was found dead at his home in Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, on Christmas Day. Thames Valley Police said: “The cause of death is inconclusive and further tests will now be carried out. A postmortem examination into the death of singer George Michael has proved “inconclusive”, with further tests to be carried out, police said. “Thames Valley Police will prepare a file for the Oxfordshire Coroner.

Radio review: No escape from the jaws of the past as a grim year ends

It may not be the most blindingly original insight, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Another long-departed musical act features in Ken Sweeney’s documentary In Search Of The Blue Nile (RTÉ Radio 1, Wednesday). “I’m sure bands have done far worse,” Buchanan replies drolly. As Lockhart chats to his panel of guests, the discussion moves in rapid succession through the big names who died, from David Bowie and Prince to Leonard Cohen and George Michael, a late entrant to this unfortunate list. In Final Partings (RTÉ Radio 1, Friday), this focus is unavoidable as presenter Jim Lockhart hosts his annual look back at the lives of musical stars who passed away during the previous 12 months, a period to which the word “carnage” can be easily applied. And there are moments when the uniqueness of the county come through, as when O’Connell sits in on a traditional music session. The reason for the group’s split, after 25 or so intense years, is wryly summed up by Moore: “How many people do you know who lived in a submarine together and then went home together?” The Blue Nile may have run their course, but as long as there are devotees like Sweeney around, their shimmering music won’t be lost to history. If the physical search for the band doesn’t seem to have been that arduous – the documentary opens with Sweeney chatting to Buchanan in a taxi – they still retain an elusive quality. ADVERTISEMENT A familiar fixture in student bedsit soundtracks of the 1980s, the Blue Nile enjoyed modest chart success but nonetheless remained something of a cult item. Scripted by author Donal Ryan, the production is occasionally overegged – mawkish choral ballads detract from its moral core – but its central story combines mundanity, menace and tragedy with an emotional punch. And for all the group’s reticence and ingenuous idealism, there’s a nice laconic streak too. The original study portrayed a tight-knit but extremely poor community where the personal freedoms we take for granted were at a premium, especially for women. Whether visiting a cattle mart or taking a local bus, O’Connell forms a connection with his interviewees and captures a sense of place. At one point the group burned their studio tapes, an act that Sweeney suggests is unusual. Using Arensberg and Solon’s volume as a comparison is an original idea but after a while the constant …

Paul O’Connell pips Graham Norton to be Ireland’s Christmas No 1

Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography Born to Run was not far behnd, selling 8,893 copies. John Kavanagh’s MMA book, Win or Learn, toped the paperback non-fiction chart with 3,073 sales, pipping Waterford Whispers News by Colm Williamson and Talking to Strangers by Michael Harding. Then There Was Light:Stories from Ireland’s Rural Electrification was a surprise hit, selling 2,069 copies. Last year, Paula Hawkins’ psychological thriller The Girl on the Train topped the charts, selling 60,476 copies. by Kieran Donaghy (3,978) The Irish rugby international’s autobiography, which also won the Irish Sports Book of the Year Award, narrowly pipped Holding, the debut novel by Graham Norton,  which sold a remarkable 13,890 copies, more than 9,000 copies more than its nearest fiction rival, Game of Throw-ins by Ross O’Carroll-Kelly, which sold 4,506 copies. Holding has been this year’s big Irish fiction success story, proving significantly more popular in Ireland than Britain despite Norton’s huge media profile there. The Midnight Gang by David Walliams (9,143) 4. Guinness World Records:2017 (5,836) 6. The Battle by Paul O’Connell (17,841) 2. Double Down: Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (5,302) 7. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen (8,893) 5. Last year’s Irish Christmas number one was David Walliams’s Grandpa’s Great Escape. Game of Throw-ins by Ross O’Carroll-Kelly (4,506) 9. Lyrebird by Cecelia Ahern (4,415) 10.What Do You Think of That?  Pippa by Pippa O’Connor (4,580) 8. The book sold more than 35,000 copies in its first week, which alone would have placed it fifth overall for the year. ADVERTISEMENT The Irish Christmas top 10 bestselling titles were: 1. It was also a good Christmas for Irish authors Cecelia Ahern, whose novel Lyrebird sold 4,425 copies; Sebastian Barry (Days Withpout End, 3,217); Emma Donoghue (The Wonder, 2,696); and Cathy Kelly (Scenes from a Happy Marriage, 2,576). John and Fatti Burke’s Historopedia sold 3,455 copies, and Pigin of Howth by Kathleen Watkins and Margaret Anne Suggs also made the children’s top 10 with 1,545 sales.  Irish satire thriving in competitive world of fake news Brendan Ogle’s balanced insider’s guide to water protests The view from a pagan place by Kevin Barry Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling was the top-selling title of the year, with 69,653 copies in total to date. Holding by Graham Norton (13,890) 4. Ireland’s number one title this Christmas was The Battle by Paul O’Connell, which sold 17,841 copies in the seven days to …

Anthony Cronin: an appreciation by Timothy O’Grady

He was lifted by talent, whether it was effervescent or in a minor key. He was a link to generations both great and dead. He started a novel, wrote many poems and observations, lived publicly and privately. I first encountered him in newsprint. I read Dead as Doornails and The Life of Riley and Identity Papers, several poems, more columns. He was, among other things, a kind of live essayist performing in real time. It seemed to take only three or four of them to reach from the top of the column all the way to the bottom of the page. He wrote the books about his friends Myles and Beckett, both of them fortunate, I thought, to have a writer, someone who knew the strains and ambiguities of facing the page, rather than a journalist or scholar write of their lives. I cycled out to Sandymount, drank in Merrion Row, walked routes described in Dubliners, ate Kylemore buns and read The Irish Times. I’d called the house just before Christmas to see how he was. I don’t know if friends of long-standing realised how well he’d landed with Anne. In the coming days, perhaps, this will be seen. I’d arrived in Ireland from the United States. I heard stories about him. He was a high figure, I thought, but not above keeping company with the young and striving. He’d been acolyte and accomplice to Behan, Myles and Kavanagh. ADVERTISEMENT Anthony Cronin: Poetry, politics and this all too short life When Anthony Cronin met Fintan O’Toole: ‘Poetry kept me sane’ I got to know him when he was living with the writer Anne Haverty in London in the 1980s. He felt no loss in giving praise. It seemed to touch a national vein in him as well as an aesthetic one. “I’ve never been happier,” he said. I used to look forward to meeting him as you might to a spring morning. I’ve been watching from the other side of the Continent and over the past couple of years the slow steps of Anthony Cronin’s increasing frailty. Today I heard of his death. “He’s having his dinner.” When I went to call again it was too late. For now, he was interested in writing what he saw and thought rather than about his bones and conduits. His latest is Children of Las Vegas: True Stories about Growing Up in the …

Christmas kisses, a poem by Anne Casey

We never had it It was something you saw in the movies old ones re-running on TV that handsome couples teasingly kissed under Chaste tristes in black and white like the pure white berries of the mistletoe But perhaps a bit waxen Somewhat wooden My mum would ask, ‘Would you ever think of coming home?’ I remember my father laughingly kissing my mother once under a holly sprig It seems more apt So much more like love with its pricks and bright red shiny beads Anne Casey is a writer, lyricist and poet, originally from Clare, now living in Sydney. Her debut poetry collection will be published by Salmon next year

Settling, a short story by Jan Carson

She will be reading the People’s Friend or knitting. It’s this place.’ But I knew he couldn’t tell the difference. ‘I’ll be back in a wee minute,’ I say. Tonight we will sleep on the sofas: Matt on one, and I on the other, because our bed is still in bits against the wall. Nothing should be the same in London. Give my grandmother a good meaty subject and she can go for hours, like Paisley himself, no pulpit required. People in other apartments peaked their blinds to glare. I can tell this from the cut of his shoulders and the way he is handling the teaspoons: quickly, smoothly, confidently, like a person who knows exactly what he will do next. He took a cup of tea standing up, a round of toast with jam, and was back on the road before three. ‘Just for handiness sake.’ This makes sense. His voice was vinegar sharp on the vowels, butter on the consonants. The dirt came off in layers but the guilt persisted. It was a muggy day. ‘The same fella done our living room.’ Now the shock of her has settled, I’m not sure how I should be different around my grandmother. Last night we slept on bath towels with rolled-up jumpers instead of pillows. ‘Aye, Nana,’ I say. I am particularly surprised because my grandmother is dead. If you’re at all serious about your career, you’ve to move to London.’ ‘There’s nothing for us in Belfast,’ I added. He doesn’t want anyone seeing the stains we make. Matt is in the kitchen deciding which cupboard will be saucepans and which is tall enough to hold the cereal boxes. Afterwards, I felt ashamed. He is already rooting here, planning his Monday morning commute. This is the moment I start to split in two. It was also cruel. Matt will fall asleep first, exhausted from carting our furniture up six flights of stairs. I haunt myself, and the shock of this makes me step back sharply, clawing my heel on a suitcase. I have also abandoned the chopping boards, mugs and everyday glasses, which had gone hoar-white from the dishwasher. ‘Oh, dear,’ I say. ADVERTISEMENT The Glass Shore review: A further feast of female voices Jan Carson interview: girl from the north country Children’s Children by Jan Carson review: sharply written and inventive I open the door, slower this time, hoping …

Marion Cotillard: “I don’t like to kill people, so that’s why I didn’t play Assassin’s Creed”

ADVERTISEMENT “To be able to explore more than my culture is something that I am very grateful for. This comes from playing a Polish girl, an Italian girl, half-American with Public Enemies. I play a bit. “I might have worked with kids,” she says. It was meant to be. The timing could hardly be more immaculate. There is a lot of violence. Justin Kurzel’s Assassin’s Creed brings two surprisingly grown-up actors – Marion and Michael Fassbender – to the hitherto unlovely genre that is the videogame adaptation. She sits upright wearing a friendlier face than most French superstars allow. It changes how open or closed you are. The way someone breathes is important. But I wouldn’t call myself that. I love to sing. So, I always wanted to explore as much as I could. One of these things is not like the other. There is a very long silence. As long ago as 2003, Tim Burton found her a role in Big Fish. There was some heavyweight competition that year, but the French woman powered past Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett to take the statuette. Neither of my parents held me back. None of those experiences would have happened without La Vie en Rose.” We all think we know what the Oscars are like. It creates tension in the body. Still, even the most talented actors can fall through the cracks. “My father was very supportive. It took a while for her to register outside France, but, born in 1975, she was already, by her early 20s, a domestic star. I began to share my life between France, the US and England. As a child, she appeared in her dad’s plays and began picking up smaller roles in films and TV as a teenager. I don’t know. So, yeah, they were very supporting.” With her singular looks (her mother has some Algerian blood) and intense, focused delivery, Cotillard was always likely to make an impact. Traumas affect how you breathe, too. What surprised her about the experience? It changes the way you walk. “Of course, it changed life for me,” she says. There is another enormous silence as she steeples her fingers and smiles at the ceiling. I was surprised by the fact that a French movie in French had done it. They knew it was a hard life, but they respected my choice. We do know that they have …

Goodbye Pokémon Go. Goodnight killer clowns. Good luck Brangelina

This is a tragedy-free zone. Obviously, it was worth discussing how such everyday harassment invades public space. Why would guns or violence have anything to do with this story? A few critics over-compensated by hailing the film as a comic masterpiece. GERRY ADAMS IS NOT A RACIST Don’t shoot me. This is a disaster-free zone. It’s about to happen again as Ruth Negga campaigns for an Oscar. Is she being controlled by Putin? It is time for our annual round up of the most annoyingly persistent garbage of the year. THE BRITS HAVE STOLEN SAOIRSE RONAN It’s hard to know whose side to be on here. I said: “Gerry Adams is not a racist.” Hang on, I didn’t mean: “don’t shoot me”. BOATY MCBOATFACE UNDERMINES DEMOCRACY Did you know that more people voted for Ed Balls in Strictly Come Dancing than voted for him in parliament? The story did, at least, finally confirm that sensible people are as wary of clowns as they are of werewolves or zombies. The ship was named after David Attenborough. I just meant: “don’t get angry”. The summer silly season was alive with Men’s Rights idiots proclaiming that, by recasting Ghostbusters with women, Hollywood was stealing their childhood. It’ll be straightened bananas next. Sinn Féin is a lovely party and Gerry is a very nice trampolinist. Anyway, in May Adams got in trouble for tweeting the n-word. Remember when hula hoops were going to damage the hips of a coming generation? THE DEMISE OF BRANGELINA CALLS AN END TO AN ERA They were the Dick and Liz of our time. The story reached the heights of absurdity when newspapers began pointing out that the lurking individuals in big shoes weren’t “real clowns”. Remember when shattering clackers were set to blind all our children? HOW TO TALK TO A GIRL WEARING HEADPHONES Oh, this guy! It’s the biggest celebrity story of the year and nobody knows anything about it. Here’s a photo of her on an ice floe. Sadly, the more we mention this creep the more validity we give his unlovely publications. It’s an honest error. On the other hand, a person with not a corpuscle of patriotism in his veins would be justified in fuming at Richard Suchet, Sky reporter, when he argued that Ronan should take such an error as “a compliment”. The aftermath was tedious. What did go on in that aeroplane, …

Joseph Plunkett’s Easter Rising medal is back on sale

The Easter Rising medal posthumously awarded to Joseph Plunkett, one of the seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation, is to go on sale with a much-reduced reserve next month. Only that awarded posthumously to Patrick Pearse is in State ownership. In the 1940s, the Irish government awarded medals to the next-of-kin of people who had died in the Rising. Pearse letter A surrender letter written by Patrick Pearse – valued at up to €1.5 million also failed to sell in Dublin earlier this month. Now the unnamed vendor has slashed the price and it will go under the hammer in Whyte’s auctioneers January 27th sale of historical collectibles in Dublin with a median estimate of €50,000. The market peaked a year ago when an original copy of the 1916 Proclamation made a hammer price of £250,000 (€291,000) at auction in London. Dublin-born, Jesuit-educated Plunkett was executed by the British authorities in Dublin on May 4th, 1916, for his role in the Rising. Irish buyer pays €37,000 for Cromwellian porridge bowl Sir William Orpen archive bought by National Gallery of Ireland Going, going, not going: Pearse letter must stay in Ireland for a year But during the last year, three of six further copies of the Proclamation offered for sale have failed to find buyers and the last one to appear at auction made just €150,000. Last spring, just ahead of the centenary commemorations, the medal had been valued at up to €100,000 but failed to sell at auction. ADVERTISEMENT It was retrieved by a friend, Cathal Gannon who she told could keep it. Plunkett’s medal was sent to his widow but, according to Mr Whyte, “she threw the medal into her dustbin” because she was hostile to the government. Mr Gannon later gave the medal as a gift to the current, unnamed owner who is selling it. Auctioneer Ian Whyte said it was “an opportunity to buy a key piece of 1916- memorabilia at half-price”. He was allowed to marry his fiancée Grace Gifford a few hours before his execution in Kilmainham Gaol. The drop in value will alarm collectors who have bought Easter Rising collectibles in recent years. Six of the medals awarded to the next-of-kin of the seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation are still in private hands. He had fought in the GPO and was one of seven leaders who had signed the Proclamation of the Irish …