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Me and pot: medical cannabis and me

Monday, 16 January 2017

A hard winter of the bones

For almost 50 years now I’ve suffered from a debilitating, often crippling and painful condition called Still’s Disease, a form of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis which strikes children. I contracted the disease at 12 years of age. When I search for an image for the condition I imagine ‘a hard winter of the bones’.

Fifty years of experience with almost...

On Hearing Voices

Saturday, 24 December 2016

I hear voices a lot – chance remarks, odd ways of saying things. Sometimes it’s a casual phrase that I hear in a different way; I hear the oddity of it rather than the meaning. These stories are full of those oddities: ‘I bought a heart’, ‘For fun times phone dodger’ (from the inside of a toilet stall in Dublin Airport), ‘interacting with the ghosts’, ‘It was sad but sooner or later I just know this...

We are all barbarians now...

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

In July 2015, at the height of the Greece/EU crisis, the philosopher of liberal capitalism, and theorist of European unity, Jürgen Habermas gave an interview to the Guardian. It was, in effect, a threnody for the idea of Europe, a lament for what his native Germany had done or undone. He identified the European non-elected institutions – the council, the commission and European Central Bank (ECB)...

The Paris Atrocity & the War of Terror

Sunday, 15 November 2015

The recent events in Paris are terrible for many reasons. Firstly the sheer horror of death coming to so many in such a short space of time, young people, old people, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, lovers, friends. This is our immediate response, and that response is amplified by the proximity and visibility in the media of Paris and France. Paris, in particular, has the quality of a mythical...

Dear Jeremy Corbyn

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Dear Jeremy, I’m writing to tell you how delighted I am that you have won the Labour leadership – and so decisively too. It may come as a surprise to you to know that I and many many of my friends here in Ireland have been watching this contest with a mixture of hope and trepidation, but perhaps part of the explanation lies in the fact that my two sons and their families both live in England (and...

Open the gates. Just open the fucking gates.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

In just two days last week more people died fleeing our western-created chaos in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq than Ireland took in as refugees last year. Just to set up the base figure: Last year, Ireland granted refugee status to 130 people (see chart from Eurostat):

By contrast with that stellar record of humanitarian welcoming, last week 71 people died of suffocation in a truck in Austria,...

The Ice Moon Interviews: The State

Monday, 29 June 2015

Dear readers, it’s not often we get a chance to interview an abstract entity. The last time this happened was probably during the famous occasion when Abraham got a chance to chat to God on top of the mountain. Today, The Ice Moon brings you an exclusive interview with THE STATE.

IMB: May I begin by saying how singularly honoured I am, on behalf of the citizens of the world, to have you...

Democracy is dead: relics for sale

Sunday, 28 June 2015

I’m an internationalist not a nationalist. Or put it another way, I don’t believe states are a good thing in themselves, and I certainly don’t believe in all the nineteenth century rubbish about one language, one culture one nation. I think the one question that is never nowadays asked of a state is ‘Who or what is the state for?’ The reason it’s not asked is because everybody knows that the state...

The achievements of Fine Gael and Labour in Government

Sunday, 24 May 2015

The referendum result was as good as things get. Six out of every ten people in Ireland have said a resounding YES to our friends and family in the LGBT community. I suspect a substantial portion of the 37% who said NO are not actually homophobic but simply couldn’t bring themselves to countenance the marriage question. That portion of the ‘no’ side should not be discounted either. The reality emerging...

Long life and Happiness: Vote ‘Yes’ for Gay Marriage

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The main argument against gay marriage made by people like Breda O’Brien of the Iona Institute seems to be that there is a spiritual interdependence between different kinds of marriages - something like karma. If a gay person gets married then it sets some sort of rot, a blight, a fungal infection on every marriage in the country. This does not seem to apply to other kinds of marriages. For example,...

Four Women Who Died For Ireland: on the concept of involuntary patriotism

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

When I was a boy I was chosen from the eight people in my primary school class, three of whom were boys, to read, in public, in the village of Whitegate, The Proclamation of the Republic as part of the celebration of the 1916 Rebellion. This was 1966 and I was 11. In the lead-up to the celebrations we were filled chock-full of the martyrs of Irish history, a narrative that concentrated on our fitful...

Farewell to The SHOp

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

The SHOp has closed. When a shop closes in a small village it leaves an empty space in the heart and so it is with this magazine. The community of writers and readers of poetry in Ireland and around the world is no more than a village and at the heart of this village are the ‘little’ magazines in which poets see their own work published and get to read what other poets are writing and where readers...

Island of Saints and Sadists: Ireland and Abortion 2014

Monday, 18 August 2014

People often ask me why I write such dark books. You’re such a sunny person, they say. I say: Look around you, what kind of a country do you think you’re living in? Here is a tale of the island of Saints and Sadists.

A young woman came to our country for help, for a home, for safety. We call them immigrants and it has become a bad word in the way that the simple trade of tinker became...

Dear friends in the Irish Labour Party...

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Dear fringy in the Labour Party,  I won’t be voting for you. I have voted Labour in every election since I could first vote. I haven’t always given you my first preference – sometimes there were better left candidates – but you’ve always there in the first two or three, and first more often than not. Some of my younger friends are amazed that I voted Labour at all, but they weren’t there during the...

I have been reading The Tailor of Ulm by Lucio Magri

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Tailor of Ulm (Il Sarto Di Ulm) by Lucio Magri (translated by Patrick Camiller)

Honeymooning in 1979 on a package holiday to the Hotel Alaska, Rimini (it’s surprising how attractive the word Alaska sounds on a hot July day in Italy), I became friends with a man who ran a bar. I remember him saying to me, one day, in reply to some question I asked, ‘Sono communista io’. To make that...

Education: Giving our young people the kind of qualification they need

Saturday, 2 November 2013

We hear so much nowadays about the need to find a way to measure how our education systems work. In England, for example, the government has just instituted a major educational reform that will see GCSEs graded in 9 levels to replace the antiquated 8 point scale. What’s even more shocking is that the old system of designating student achievement by letters (G- A*), which everyone must recognise as...

Twenty Thousand hits: Celebrating with Cigars

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

During the night the Ice Moon passed 20,000 hits. I find that an astonishing figure. When I first began to write this blog I had no idea how many hits a website might achieve. For at least a year I had no way of recording those hits even, though I suspect the number prior to that was small enough anyway, maybe two or three a day, five at the most. Eventually I discovered statcounter.com and set up...

The McAleese Report on the Magdalene Laundries (2013)

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Yesterday the McAleese report on the Magdalene Laundries was published. Like many others, I expected that the report would be a whitewash. Why did I expect that?

Martin McAleese is the husband of former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese. She was chosen for election by reactionary forces who sought to undo the advances achieved during the presidency of Mary Robinson, who was seen by them...

Reilly’s Jew: What ‘austerity’ really means #1

Saturday, 5 January 2013

In Michel Foucault’s book Discipline and Punish there is a phrase that fascinates me: ‘a small penal mechanism’.

‘At the heart of all disciplinary systems functions a small penal mechanism’, he says.

The sentence came to mind recently when I heard that the Irish government was introducing a €75 charge for each round of chemotherapy. The charge is nicely judged: it will only...

Savita Halappanavar and the Doctor’s Plague

Friday, 23 November 2012

When my sister was born my mother began to haemorrhage badly and was in danger of bleeding to death. My father and my aunt (a nurse who qualified in England) pleaded with the doctor to carry out a hysterectomy - then the only treatment. He refused on the grounds that a hysterectomy would prevent her having future children. In effect it would be a form of contraception. When my father threatened to...

James Connolly or The 100th Object in the Irish Times ‘History of Ireland’ series

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Irish Times has been running a series of articles called ‘A history of Ireland in 100 Objects’ and they’ve announced that the public will be asked to choose the final object in the series. I would like to propose, as the 100th object and one which encapsulates the entire history of modern Ireland since independence, the miniature figurine of James Connolly on sale in the shop of the National...

Losing faith in hope: Obama four years on

Sunday, 9 September 2012

In the year of Obama’s election I had a conversation with Amiri Baraka, political activist, dramatist, essayist, chronicler of blues and Jazz and performance poet extraordinaire. I asked him what he thought of the, by then, likely prospect of a black American president. The problem with black people in the USA, he told me, is that they think voting for a rich black person will solve their problems....

Julian Assange, Sweden, Ecuador and the USA

Friday, 17 August 2012

Julian Assange has not, as I write, been charged with anything. There are, however two investigations under way. The first and most pressing is the allegation by two former lovers that he engaged or attempted to engage in unprotected sex with them when they had either expressed a wish that he use a condom or resisted his attempt (the circumstances are slightly different in each case). My understanding...

Austerity Works

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

It’s time to stop saying austerity doesn’t work. It works very well. It is designed to support incomes. Greece, for example, has just paid 400 million euro  to Kenneth Dart, a man whose fortune was made in disposable cups and who lives in the Cayman Islands. It worked to instal a new form of fascism in Italy in order to avoid the chaos of asking the electorate what they think. It has made the Irish...

I have been reading Sarah Clancy’s: Thanks for Nothing, Hippies

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

For a long time it seemed that Irish poetry could be about anything from pisspots to pig-slaughtering but it could not be about politics. There were notable exceptions of course – John Montague’s magnificent Rough Field, for example, and Thomas Kinsella’s savage Butcher’s Dozen both grew out of an entirely anti-eirenic response to the developing troubles in Northern Ireland, Kinsella’s, in particular,...

Elections in France and Greece: The Euro Crisis, The Left and the Genie

Thursday, 10 May 2012

The Eight of May was the Fête de la Victoire in France. It was also the day of François Hollande’s first public appearance as president-elect. The right-wing Le Figaro featured photographs of ‘deux presidents sous l’Arc de Triomphe’, in which Sarkozy managed to look even more disgruntled than usual and Hollande looked as if he had just grasped a double-edge sword by the blade.

The public...

Che Guevara & Ireland''s Quisling Capitalism

Monday, 2 April 2012

The controversy over Galway City Council''s proposal to erect a statue to Che Guevara to commemorate his family links to the city (his mother Anna Elizabeth was a Lynch with Galway connections*), is indicative of a wider discourse in Irish society. It has drawn the ire of, among others, multi-millionaire Declan Ganley, founder of the right-wing, pan-European Libertas political party. Ganley is chairman...

This shameful sacrifice of Greece to the gods of the market

Saturday, 11 February 2012

The behaviour of the EU states towards Greece is inexplicable in the terms in which the EU defines itself. It is, first and foremost, a failure of solidarity. The ‘austerity package’, as the newspapers like to call it, seeks to impose on Greece terms that no people can accept. Even now the schools are running out of books. There were 40% cuts in the public health budget in 2010 - I can’t find the...

Tottenham and Beyond: neoliberal riots and the possibility of politics

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

One of the many things that we hear repeated ad nauseam in the context of the present rioting in London is that the rioters are ‘feral’, ‘yobs’, ‘thugs’ or more generously ‘disaffected youth’. All the talk from Cameron and his cohorts is of crime and punishment and ‘the full force of the law’ - as if these young people did not encounter the full force of the law on a daily basis. We are told variously...

Slaves and slavery: The Economy of the Magdalene Laundry and The Industrial School

Monday, 18 July 2011

I have been thinking about the present scandals enveloping the Catholic Church in Ireland. People say, ‘How could they do it, men and women of God?’, or ‘How could they believe in the Gospel’, etc. The bafflement is understandable since the Church has always represented itself as a form of institutionalised love.

However, if you try to understand the Church as an economic entity it makes...

Regeneration is Ongoing - The Death of Rachel Peavoy and Ireland’s Economic Collapse

Monday, 16 May 2011

The death of Rachel Peavoy in Shangan Flats, Dublin, on the night of January 10th 2011, a bitterly cold night in the coldest winter in living memory, stands in so many ways as a metaphor for Ireland itself. She died, according to the pathologist, of hypothermia. There is no avoiding that judgement. According to her neighbour, Linda Mcloughlin, the Shangan flats were ‘colder inside than out’. Another...

The Raggy Boy is Gone – Death of Patrick Galvin

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

I first encountered Patrick Galvin’s work in Sean Lucy’s introductory Five Irish Poets. I must have bought it in the year of its publication (1970) or shortly afterwards because I certainly had it while I was still at school. It sat on my shelf alongside The Collected Poems of WB Yeats and Leonard Cohen’s Spice Box Of the Earth, the trio forming my small collection of poetry. I was a country boy...

Ghost Estate: Some thoughts on the writing of a book of poems

Thursday, 24 March 2011

After all this time, the writing of poetry is still the most mysterious thing to me. Prose has its magical moments when the language jives with the plot or character, but a novel is substantially nuts and bolts, a plot hammered into shape, a struggle to control the characters which are forever trying to escape, and there is a daily duty that begins at seven o’clock no matter what the season that’s...

Fintan O’Toole’s Own Cultural Revolution

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Review: Enough is Enough, Fintan O’Toole, Faber, £12.99



Suppose you were swept to power on the back of a massive popular vote – say something like 80%, the kind of number that usually has the USA and its client states jumping up and down and calling you a leftist narco-terrorist. It is now the morning after the week long celebration in which you toured Ireland thanking the...

The Istanbul Declaration of the European Writers’ Parliament

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Many of us travelling to the European Writers’ Parliament, convened in Istanbul for that city’s Capital of Culture year, were puzzled. Taking its lineage from previous gatherings of writers (during the Spanish Civil War, WWII, the occasion of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, etc), it seemed to us that this parliament lacked a focus. We would not be called upon to utter a declaration against fascism...

I have been watching The Pipe, by Risteard Ó Domhnaill

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Risteard Ó Dohmnaill’s film The Pipe encapsulates the balance of power in this shambolic republic – on the one hand the not inconsiderable determination and strength both personal and communal of ordinary people, and on the other the massive force of the state as expressed by the police, the judiciary, the army, the navy, the transnational corporation, private security firms, government and much...

José Saramago – An Appreciation

Thursday, 9 September 2010

One of the many startling things about José Saramago was that he was an overtly political writer in a literary world in which being political does not pay. Remarkably, at the age of 85 he began a highly controversial blog and these occasional pieces, collected in The Notebook (Verso, 2010) – squibs, memoranda, appreciations of friends, and diatribes against a wide range of targets including the Vatican...

Wall supports Brand Ireland

Friday, 27 August 2010

Following on recent calls by An Taoiseach Brian Cowen and journalist Enda O''Doherty for Irish writers to ''do the state some service'' (and leaving aside the fact that the first man to use the expression [see footnote] committed suicide immediately afterwards), I want to say: Good Taoiseach (as Joe Higgins used to put it) I''m your man. I will do the state some service.

I am prepared...

This Shambolic Republic – I have been reading Kieran Allen''s Ireland''s Economic Crash

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Kieran Allen’s excellent analysis of Ireland’s recession – Ireland’s Economic Crash – the first that this writer has encountered from an Irish Marxist, is predicated on a single simple truth: Since 1970, in the worldwide capitalist system, profits have been falling. For example, ‘the profit rate in 1997 was only between 60% and 75% of its average value for the decade 1956-65’. Among other things,...

Irish writers - outsiders no more

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Irish writers are more insiders than outsiders now. We have the Arts Council to give us bursaries, albeit much reduced since the Depression began; we have Aosdána to support us in our old age; we have Ireland Literature Exchange to help our work into translation, there are grants for travel, there’s Writers in the Schools, all of the county councils and urban councils sponsor events and there are...

''Trust Capitalism,'' says Bono, ''we''ll find a way.'' We will in our arse, say the rest of us...

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Bono cultivates a strange image. The recent photograph of him when he did an op-ed for the NYT seems to portray an aggressive counter-culture figure, hostile and glaring through those signature coloured glasses. The imagery of his shows (as far as I can judge from photographs) is of strange expressionist creatures, alien spaceships, and, again, those, hostile counter-culture figures, while the music...

The Shock Doctrine Comes to Ireland: Reading the McCarthy Report with Naomi Klein in mind

Saturday, 18 July 2009

I have written before on the subject of Naomi Klein''s book The Shock Doctrine and I predicted then that our right-wing government would make use of the Ireland''s peculiarly disastrous economic situation to institute a shock reduction in the public sphere. Much has already been accomplished in that area, with 10% reductions in public pay, a reduction in educational provisions for the disadvantaged...

An uplifting fable about the humility of ants and the hubris of bees: Also a well-known error in logic

Thursday, 28 May 2009

This is an uplifting fable about the humility of ants and the hubris of bees; one, furthermore, in which the bee reaches a sad but necessary end. Everybody knows that in fables two animals engage in a discussion which otherwise would be impossible for them, during which discussion universal and profoundly troubling truths emerge in a way which is palatable to, though not necessarily readily understood...

The Ryan Report into Child-Abuse: If I were a good man and a priest I would leave the church now.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

The Ryan Report into the abuse of children in schools run by Roman Catholic religious organisations is a sobering document. Its contents are so shocking that it takes a certain act of will to believe in its findings. Reports of sexual violence of every conceivable kind co-exist with descriptions of systematic or casual brutality of an almost childish nature – forcing children to drink water from...

In Memoriam David Marcus 1924-2009

Saturday, 9 May 2009



''In the blink of an eye we went from broken windows to death camps.''

                                        Unknown Rabbi





i. In the blink of an eye



glass in the air

a heartbeat

to let things settle

we closed our eyes



there were chimneys

in the dust

I have been reading Late Victorian Holocausts by Mike Davis

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

I have been reading about the great capitalist famines of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and what strikes me most strongly about Mike Davis'' thesis is the ineluctable link between the apparatus of capitalism and structural mass poverty and famine.

Professor Davis makes a convincing argument for seeing these late-Victorian famines in places as diverse as India, China,...

Customers not Citizens: Consuming Education

Monday, 13 April 2009

In the introduction to his most famous book on education, Ivan Illich says that for most of his life he never questioned that universal free education was an absolute good. This, I believe, would be the position of most people, even conservatives. But Illich went on to argue that institutionalising education (in fact as a service industry) has led to the institutionalising of society. In other words,...

Happy Birthday John Montague

Saturday, 28 February 2009

John Montague is 80 today. In University College Cork, in the seventies, a thriving community of writers centred around John Montague and Professor Sean Lucy. Although, for reasons that I have now forgotten but which were, no doubt, sufficient unto the day, I remained outside his circle (a circle that included Thomas McCarthy, Maurice Riordan and Seán Dunne, for example). Nevertheless I found him...

I have been reading Tim Robinson''s Stones Of Aran

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

The astonishing thing about The Stones Or Aran is its intensity. Beautifully, elegantly written, it demands a concentrated imagining of the landscape of Aran in a way that we no longer expect from a book. Ordinarily, a book like this is supplemented with photographs or drawings. This thought occurred to me quite early in my reading but I had to wait until page 210 for a an admission by Robinson that...

Dear Barack Obama... An Open Letter to the President-Elect of the USA

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Dear Barack,

As you know, many people around the world who are not citizens of the USA are hopeful about your election, even people of the left. There are two factors at play here. Firstly, and, I’m sorry to say, most importantly, we’ve all had a bellyful of the previous incumbent and would have been prepared to give almost anybody else an even break. Secondly, like your fellow citizens,...

On the present crisis in the markets

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

We have heard much in recent weeks and months about the rogues of capitalism: the irresponsible bankers, the chancers, the gamblers, the short-sellers and so on. These are the exceptions, we are told, the nasty people who ‘take advantage’ of the market. They are not content to play their part in the quiet accumulation of vast wealth. They are greedy enough to risk bringing everything down.

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