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Saturday

Easter Rising 1916 Remembered - Ireland's Crazy History and Broken Present


A Brief History of Ireland and Dublin

In a nutshell, Ireland's history is: warring tribes, St Patrick, warring tribes, Vikings, warring tribes, Normans, warring tribes, King Henry VIII, Oliver Cromwell, King William of Orange, Easter 1916, Independence, European Union, warring tribes...
No real recorded history of Dublin until the Vikings sailed up the River Liffey in the 9th century. Ireland at that time was populated by a lot of Celtic tribes constantly at war with each other, St Patrick having converted some of the pagans to Christianity in the second half of the 5th century. Then the Vikings came over from Denmark, said 'Hej' and that was that. They liked Dublin because it was a good spot for catching salmon and handy for grabbing and exporting slaves. They made their bases at rivermouths across Ireland, including at Limerick, Waterford, Wexford, Cork and Galway - all Ireland's current cities, basically.
Dublin's name in Irish is Dubhlinn, meaning 'black pool', which may derive from a deep river pool where salmon gathered. The original Viking settlement is at a place called Wood Quay, just upriver (on the south bank) from the quaint Ha'penny Bridge, past U2's Clarence Hotel and now the location for the bunker-like offices of Dublin City Council (the original Viking origins of Dublin were dug up and skipped to make way for these horrible offices). The Vikings did annoy the locals, (something to do with the slave trade, perhaps) so a warrior called Brian Boru, from Killaloe, Co Clare, became the first to unite the Irish tribes against a common enemy. Boru's army defeated the Vikings in the Battle of Clontarf on Dublin's north city coastline in 1014. But Boru was killed in the aftermath of the battle. Ouch.
The Norman invasion began in 1169, commanded by Henry II. The Pope at the time gave Henry dominion over the "barbarous nation" of Ireland so that its "filthy practices" may be abolished, its Church brought into line, and that the Irish pay their tax to Rome. The Normans ruled the roost, mixing with the locals,until King Henry VIII decided to reconquer Ireland in 1566. The mainly Catholic Irish peasantry were never treated well and there was the occasional rebellion and famine, with Daniel O'Connell, the Liberator, bringing about Catholic emancipation in 1829. Dublin's main street, and the bridge leading from it to the southside, is named after O'Connell, as is the main street of virtually every town in Ireland. The Great Irish Famine of 1845-49 was a major event, with over a million starving to death. Dublin was largely insulated from the Famine, as the seat of British power, the centre of a defended coastal strip called The Pale, its citadel Dublin Castle. The Pale gave us the expression 'Beyond the Pale', meaning something weird and bizarre. Dubliners call people from outside the city 'culchies' or 'boggers' while country people call Dubliners 'Jackeens' because they loved to fly the 'Union Jack' flag in deference to the British rulers. So there you have it.


But the drive for independence continued, with the Easter Rising, a mainly Dublin event, beginning on 24 April, 1916. Led by Padraig Pearse and the Irish Volunteers, it lasted for six days with much of the action taking place around the General Post Office (GPO) on O'Connell Street. The rebellion was crushed and its leaders executed in Kilmainham Gaol. This outraged the Irishand a War of Independence was launched in 1919. Led by Michael Collins, it was intelligence-led, used innovative guerrilla tactics, and brought about independence in 1921. But Ireland was partitioned, Ulster remaining part of the United Kingdom, and this caused a brutal Civil War, which ended in 1922. A bitter taste remains and Ireland's political landscape is still described as 'Civil War politics'. Neil Jordan's film Michael Collins is an excellent evocation of the period.
Pearse and Collins are revered as heroes (de Valera less so), with many streets and buildings around Dublin named after them. But we owe Britain a great deal, including our love of the language, the finest architecture in Dublin, a key emigration destination and a strong bond between the peoples.
Dublin today is capital of a broken nation, an utterly bankrupt economy and a people with little faith in the inbred political class that caused thespectacular collapse, which began in 2008. There is a general sense of malaise and despondency and a visible urban decay in vacant retail units, derelict office blocks and so-called ghost housing estates. There has also been a noticeable increase in beggars, vagrants and homeless people on the city streets. But Dublin's people have not lost their sense of humour, their joy of life and their love of going out, dining, drinking, partying. Dublin people remain among the friendliest and best-mannered on Earth and are very welcoming.
Dublin was, back in the 'boom' times, considered to be Europe's party capital. The joie de vivre isn't quite as bubbly these days, but  it is coming back, and there is still a discernible buzz to the city centre, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights. Go taste it!

Easter Rising Centenary
This weekend, Ireland remembers the Rising. The Easter Rising of 1916, often simply called The Rising, was the key event in Irish history. It was that important. Ireland was changed utterly and, as famed poet William Butler Yeats kind of said, 'A terrible beauty was born'.

A Very Brief History of the Easter Rising

Started
Easter Monday, 24 April, 1916

Background
Ireland was part of the British Empire. Irish republicans decided to launch an insurrection while Britain was distracted by World War 1 (1914-18). A number of armed groups took part: Irish Republican Brotherhood, Irish Volunteers, Irish Citizen Army and Cumann na mBan, a women's organisation. The rebels had small arms and faced the mighty British Army.

Key characters
Patrick Pearse led the Irish Volunteers, rose to command the GPO HQ unit and, eventually, unconditionally surrendered. Pearse signed the Proclamation of Independence, along with six others: Thomas J. Clarke, Seán Mac Diarmada, Thomas MacDonagh, Éamonn Ceannt, James Connolly and Joseph Plunkett.

Main event
The Proclamation of the Irish Republic was read by Pearse at the General Post Office, GPO, on O'Connell St, Dublin 1, on Monday, 24 April, 1916, and the flag of the Irish Republic was raised.

Battles
Key battles took place in Dublin, mainly around Mount Street and the Grand Canal, the Four Courts and North King Street, the South Dublin Union, now St James's Hospital, and St Stephen's Green, with significant rebel successes. Rebel positions in the GPO and Liberty Hall were shelled by British artillery, including from a gunboat on the River Liffey. The only major event outside Dublin was a series of successful rebel attacks in Ashbourne, County Meath.

Ended
Saturday, 29 April 1916.

Casualties, Irish Rebels
64 dead, 16 executed.

Casualties, British Forces
132 dead.

Casualties, civilian
254 dead.

Immediate outcome
16 Irish leaders, including the seven signatories of the Proclamation of Independence, were executed, mostly by firing squad in Kilmainham Gaol. Roger Casement, captured while trying to bring Germany into the conflict, was hanged in London.

Impact on course of Irish history
The Rising put militant republicanism back on centre stage, after the 19th century's mainly pacifist attempts at achieving Irish freedom. On January 21, 1919, republican abstentionist MPs, by then known as Sinn Fein, declared the independence of the Irish Republic. The Irish War of Independence began that same day, with an ambush by the newly-formed Irish Republican Army (IRA) on British forces. The War concluded with the Anglo-Irish Treaty on 6 December, 1921, with Britain giving up control of the 26 counties. Britain held on to the six counties of Northern Ireland.

Legacy
The loss of the six counties bitterly divided Irish republicans, leading to the vicious Irish Civil War, 28 June 1922 – 24 May 1923. Pro-Treaty forces, led by Michael Collins and with British support, won. The two leading political parties in Ireland today, Fine Gael (Pro-Treaty) and Fianna Fail (Anti-Treaty), are the direct descendants of both sides in the Civil War. The Rising gave Ireland her independence and led to the Republic we have today. This is justifiably a source of pride to Irish people. But it is also valid to wonder if the Republic which was created made all the horror and death worthwhile. At the time of writing, March 2016, Ireland has no democratically-elected Government and nobody really cares. The European Union has taken the role of empire.

Further reading

The Easter Rising led to the War of Independence, which led to the Irish Civil War, so all three events are linked and should be understood. These Wikipedia pages are top quality, easy reading:


Irish War of Independence, 1919-21: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_War_of_Independence


Centenary

Check the official website for all events being held across the country to mark the Rising. Key commemoration happens over Easter weekend 2016, though the dates do not correspond, but there are events all year long.

Thursday

World War 3 - Ireland's Neutrality No Longer Tenable

 
Now that Islamic State has threatened attacks in Ireland, it's time to reconsider our position of neutrality and join the civilised world in a combined effort to destroy IS.
 
The Paris attacks have surely alerted us to the utter depravity of this religion-inspired death cult. While attacks in the West get most of our media attention, IS slaughters Muslims by the thousand and seems to aim for the worst excesses of Christianity - the Spanish Inquisition springs to mind.
 
I am ashamed that Ireland stayed out of the struggle to rid the world of Nazism - another death cult with a bankrupt ideology of hate and pain - so this could be an opportunity for us to make up for past failures.
 
World War 3 is upon us and it will continue for many years to come until the poison of militant Islam is discredited. The first step in this process is the military destruction of IS on the ground in Syria and Iraq.
 
This is the defining issue of our generation, more important even than climate change. Can we stop sitting on the fence when democracy, freedom of expression and women's rights are on the line? Or do we wait for the IS hordes to enter Europe, in a destructive spiral similar to the collapse of the Roman Empire, sending us into another thousand years of darkness?

Wednesday

My #Apprentice Audition Experience Left Me Cold

A frigid February morning in London. Tottenham Court Road tube station closed for upgrade, so a Central line train from Buckhurst Hill to Holborn and a walk through the quiet office canyons, tourists and street cleaners. Saturday. Counting Pret A Mangers. Nasty head cold, so into Boots for some dirt cheap painkillers and antihistamine tablets. There's another guy in a suit. It is Saturday.

"Apprentice?" I ask. He nods, smiles uneasily.

The email from the producers is drilled into me. Your interview time is 12:15. Please arrive on time (but no more than 15 minutes early) or we may not be able to see you. It's noon. I see a long queue outside the studio, decide on a Pret espresso. Probably the sixth Pret I'd seen.

So to the line. An hour at least out on the street, chatting to the other candidates around me. A guy tells me he's been through it before and that I should expect to have 30 seconds to pitch and to stick to 30 seconds.

Good advice. Even though we are technically competing against each other.

ARRANGEMENTS ON THE DAY
Due to the volume of applicants and the nature of the day, the selection process may be very short, but you should allow three hours in duration, possibly longer in the event of unforeseen delays. When you arrive, you will be asked to explain very briefly why you think you are a suitable candidate for The Apprentice. Some candidates may be asked to leave after this stage - so please note that it is possible that you may be required for only a very short time.
Please take into consideration your travel time to and from the venue and the possible duration of your stay.
Please come dressed in business wear.
Please note also that water will be provided at the venue but no other refreshments.
Unfortunately, due to the large numbers of applicants, we will be unable to provide any feedback in relation to the decisions made during the selection process.


Into the expansive, marbled lobby for another hour. Security guys - suits and earpieces - check documentation.

DOCUMENTS TO BRING WITH YOU ON THE DAY:
A copy of your passport to include; the front cover, any pages that contain personal details about you, any page with your photograph, any page containing your signature, any page containing an expiry date and any page containing a UK immigration endorsement. * If you do not have a passport, please bring a copy of your birth certificate and a form of photo identification, such as a driving licence. You will have to bring the original of any photocopied documents at a later stage if successful.
Proof of address (for example a utility bill).
Your up to date CV.
A colour passport photograph (taken within the last month).
Full application form (Download and print here)
If possible please type in your answers so we will be able to read them clearly and print a copy to bring with you
This form must be signed by you.
Applicant release form (Download and print here)
Please read this carefully. If you accept the terms, complete your personal details on the first page. must be signed by you where indicated. The contributor release form gives us permission to film, record and retain footage of you during the interview process.
Please note that due to the volume of people attending the interviews we will not be able to discuss the contributor release form with individuals or any proposed amendments. If you attend the interview with an amended contributor release form it may mean that you miss your interview slot and risk the opportunity to progress your application further. IMPORTANT NOTE Please note that if you fail to bring the above documentation, and completed and signed copies of the Application Form and Applicant Release Form you may not be permitted to take part in the selection process and will therefore miss the opportunity to be selected for inclusion in the programme.


A woman doesn't have a UK work permit and is sent away, dream crushed just as she got in the door.

We were taken to the lifts in groups of 12, by production assistants wearing the big earpiece mics so loved by the TV community. Up a few floors - TV production is big business, apparently hugely profitable - to what must be the staff canteen and general production waiting area, where the audiences get cheap booze before the recording. QI is playing on a big screen, sound off. A couple of staff at reception desks go through all the documents, make copies, allow us through to the chairs. Chairs! There are jugs of tap water and plastic cups. Printouts are taped throughout the space where maybe a hundred people wait, saying Do not talk.

I use this quiet time, at least another hour, to go over my pitch again and again in my head, getting it down to 30 seconds exactly. My name is called and, with 11 others, I'm taken to a small rehearsal studio, numbers on the floor, a man and a woman. Stand behind a number. He's got a stopwatch. 30 seconds to make your pitch, numbers called at random. People go over the 30 and are stopped mid-sentence. I make my pitch and it's good, bang on time. My business proposition is an original app in the financial sector. It's a good idea.

After the pitches, four of us are selected to go to the next stage and the others are thanked for their time. Another elevator ride to a half-used office space, some desks full of the clutter of paperwork and personal effects, other desks bare, some chairs and a waiting room. A view of the British Museum, just a block or two away. I'd hoped to get down to see the Rosetta Stone after the audition. After a couple of hours, the production assistants brought packets of Walkers crisps and cans of fizzy drinks and apologies. Some candidates were unhappy at the endless waiting and made this abundantly clear. I chatted with a Scottish guy and we wondered if this was part of the process.

My name was called and I was led to a room that looked like a smaller canteen, tables set up, maybe a dozen one-on-one interviews in progress. A woman interviewed me for about twenty minutes, along the lines of the questions from the application form. How would someone who knows you well describe your worst points? What intimidates you? What makes you angry? What is the worst lie you have ever told? What is your greatest regret and why? Describe something you would do if you knew you would not get caught? And some businessy questions. What's the difference between gross profit and net profit? Some mental arithmetic. What's 16 times 24? Or something similar. After a long day of waiting, this is hard. I try to focus on my business proposition, which is strong. I get the impression that my business idea is not so important.

Into the night with other candidates, single file. It's dark and the museum is long closed. Oxford Street is buzzing. I pick up some souvenirs.

Cheap, plastic tat. This may be a long day for you but we hope you enjoy the experience and we look forward to meeting you.

I don't get a callback. I don't know if any of the hundreds who shared that day did. I see the first episode of The Apprentice Series 11 and I wonder about the truth, the reality of it all.

---

The links to application form and release form are live - well worth a read.

Find out more about Gary at www.GaryJByrnes.com


Sunday

#Syria - How to Stop the War

Everything about this crazy war is on a biblical scale. So much of it bizarrely symbolic.

Syria's been at the heart of the cauldron of religious and geopolitical conflict since the year dot, with Damascus the oldest continuously-inhabited city on the planet. The hideous Islamic Sate, born of western and regional powerplays, threatens the planet with an Armageddon, while instilling fear and revulsion on a planetary scale. Syria's also the location of the Battle of Yarmouk (636) which was a final decimation of Byzantine Roman power by the first post-Muhammad Islamic army. As then, so today, the floods of refugees are epic. Wouldn't you flee with your family if you thought that Islamic State could take over your neighbourhood? Of course you would. Until the war is over, the people have no hope, so they come to us, so we must offer human kindness.

With Russia and Iran pumping in weapons, the US - as always - arming its own chosen ones, and plenty of mustard gas up for grabs, Syria could continue to spin out of control over the next decade, like the lazy, slowmo catastrophe that it's been for how long? how many hundred thousand dead? how many million refugees? how many drowned children in the Mediterranean?, and then bring the entire Middle East down with it.

Or we could stop the war.

Assad, born into his position, will go. But with Russia, Iran and Hezbollah fighting for him, he will be near-impossible to dislodge from his Damascus base, so he must leave at a time of his choosing. The rest of Syria is already partitioned: Kurd, Shia, Allawite, Sunni, Yazidi, FSA. And Islamic State.

Allow Assad to create a federal Syria, with himself as head of state. His adversaries take control of the areas they hold, with local discussions working out border disputes. Crowdsource a constitution. Full and free elections, to vote on a federal, participative democratic system. Once they stop fighting each other, all the Syrian groups with credible demands for self-determination would find common enemy in Islamic State.

IS wouldn't survive six months. Better: the planet, and her children, wouldn't have to bear the daily horror. Win/win, I'd say.

---

Find out more about Syria here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syria

Discover Gary's fiction at www.GaryJByrnes.com

Greece, Democracy and a Fascist Plot

Is there an adult in the room? Dominique Strauss-Kahn, MD of the IMF when the world economy collapsed. His mind was probably on other things.



We are living through a struggle between democracy and fascism. On one side, the Greek people have been given the opportunity to participate in a democratic process, in a reflection of the first democracy to emerge from that very nation around 500BC. In the other corner, the hated Troika* of European Central Bank, European Commission and International Monetary Fund. So, is this democracy V fascism?

The definition of fascist is "totalitarian, authoritarian, one-party, oppressive, autocratic, dictatorial, undemocratic, monolithic, despotic, tyrannous" (Free Dictionary), so could that be a valid description of the Troika?

European Central Bank
The owners and shareholders of the ECB, which is structured as a corporation, are the central banks of all 28 EU member states. The primary objective of the ECB is to 'maintain price stability within the Eurozone'. This is defined as price inflation of 'close to' 2%. The main decision making body of the ECB is called the Governing Council. The Council's minutes are not published. The Central bank of Greece has paid-up capital in the ECB of €220 million, for a 2% stake. Curiously, the ECB has paid-up capital of a mere €7.6 billion. Non-euro EU countries also own stakes in the ECB, which is also curious, as the ECB also runs the euro currency.
Eurozone inflation in May 2015 was 0.2%.
More from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Central_Bank

European Commission
The European Commission is the executive body of the EU, essentially Europe's Government, with 28 commissioners, a staff of 23,000. Commissioners are appointed by member state governments, as opposed to being elected. In Ireland, the plum role of commissioner is normally awarded to disgraced politicians as a reward for doing dirty work, or just to get them out of the domestic political arena. The EC is increasingly sidelined by Germany, France and the UK.
More from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Commission

International Monetary Fund
Set up to rebuild Germany after WW2 (which included massive debt write offs!), the IMF is controlled by America with a complicated organisational structure and voting system, which is based on wealth. The IMF is about pure financial muscle, even though it claims to have the reduction of global poverty as one of its aims. Eight countries get to appoint an Executive Director, including Saudi Arabia, a twisted, fundamentalist monarchy with no regard for human rights, no democracy, the root cause of much climate change, the wellspring of Al-Qaeda and IS.

Most observers agree that, when the IMF forces its loans on a country, income inequality rises. The IMF has been described as a pillar of global (economic) apartheid, a supporter of dictators and a cheerleader for US neoliberal policies.

800 million people go to sleep hungry every day. Current MD, Christine Lagarde is paid a tax-exempt salary of $467k, plus allowances and entertainment expenses.
More from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Monetary_Fund

So three supranational organisations, run by political appointees, with utterly failed objectives, are running scared from democracy. What does this tell us? Interestingly, all three member organisations of this unholy trinity are wholly behind the US/EU trade deal, TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. This deal is being negotiated in secret and aims to create a supranational judicial system that will operate above national law to deal with trade disputes. TTIP essentially gives corporations their own global legal system as a means of ensuring 'free trade'. If TTIP passes, I can guarantee that Irish Water will be sold to a global corporation within five years.



While Greece's misfortune - much like Ireland's - results from political incompetence, it must be remembered that most of the Troika's bailout funds to Greece are used to pay off existing debts, primarily to German and French banks, with only 10% going on social programmes or investment (and it sickens me to hear Christine Lagarde lecturing anyone about tax codes when she doesn't pay a cent in income tax). Again, a similar situation to Ireland's. What's different about Greece is the recent election of the Syriza-led Government, on a platform of ending austerity and crazy loan-piled-upon-loan policies, and with a left wing focus. Ireland's neoliberal Fianna Fail Government caved to the Troika's demands because they fitted with our Establishment mindset. And Ireland's current Fine Gael/Labour Government is even more right wing and neoliberal. But Greece is different. Greece doesn't fit with the groupthink of taxes, cuts, austerity and debt. So Greece must be stopped. We are witnessing an attempt at regime change by the Troika, to get rid of fresh thought and install a government that embraces groupthink.

The Troika is composed of three deeply dysfunctional organisations, each of which has failed miserably to achieve core goals, instead creating a superstate that operates above what we call democracy. The Troika is not answerable to the citizens of the world in any meaningful way and it rules by fear. As such, I believe that the Troika can be called fascist and that democracy itself is entering a dangerous phase, however Greece votes.

*Troika is from the Russian, meaning three of a kind.
Participative democracy is the only alternative to a fascist, neoliberal European Union. Find out more here: https://www.facebook.com/wesayireland
Find out more about Gary J Byrnes here: http://www.GaryJByrnes.com

Tuesday

Ireland's Gay Marriage Referendum - A True Watershed

Ireland's Gay Marriage Referendum, Friday 22nd May, 2015
It's ironic that Ireland is to be the first country in the world where a public vote will decide to change the Constitution to allow marriage between same-sex couples. Ironic because our 1937 Constitution was drafted by famously conservative, Catholic Eamon deValera, guided - it's widely believed - by the then Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid. Dev would have had no idea that Irish society could have turned from the Church in such numbers. We have grown up.

In a Constitution that's littered with all sorts of crazed homage to a mysterious sky being, we're not taking anything out, simply adding a sentence:

“Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”

The rest of the god stuff will have to come out of the Constitution, and the sooner the better. For now, let's take a step towards ridding this Republic of the prejudice, ignorance, hatred and suffering that have been inflicted on society by the evil of organised religion. We are awake to the fact that our priests are obsessed with sex. Obsessed! Theoretical virgins who want to own and control our organs, especially women's organs. Oh, they adore women's organs!

So we are on a long road, one which will lead us genuine equality for all, for access to contraception, abortion and a free healthcare system that isn't about carving up women or considering the almost-life of an unborn foetus as more important than its so-alive mother. There's still a long way to go. But we take a great step forward towards a genuine democracy and a secular Republic when we vote yes.

---

Get Gary's stunning Ireland Trilogy free from Smashwords here - https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/171603 - just use coupon code WW76G

Find more free ebooks from Gary at www.GaryJByrnes.com

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Friday

Paris, a Shining Beacon for a New Age of Enlightenment?

eiffel-tower-paris-gary-j-byrnes
Eiffel Tower, Paris, seen from Trocadero

My latest novel, To Eat the World, places two characters from the food and art worlds into one of this planet's great cities, New York, and a race against time to save us all. I'm constantly thinking about my creations, Sophie and Jacob, and where they should experience their next adventure. I've just enjoyed my first visit to Paris. So now I know where my characters will go. They will walk the hills of Montmartre, then eat croque monsieurs in the shade of the Tuileries Garden. They will get up close to the greatest art in human history. They will be stupefied by a multisensory assault, every sensation tickled, every cultural and gastronomic yearning embraced.

louvre-paris-gary-j-byrnes
Inside the Louvre's pyramid
Dublin, my hometown, is a quaint little city, capital of a dysfunctional, bankrupt country. Ireland is a broken, depressed nation, certainly, but Dublin has its moments. Contextually, Dublin was the second city of the British Empire for many centuries, on an island strategically important to the Crown and in relative proximity to the capital of empire, London. Dublin's only notable examples of decent architecture are the remaining monuments of colonialism. After a brief interlude of independence, which entailed little more than domination by the brutal Catholic Church, mass emigration and the entrenchment of a new landed gentry of farmers and slum landlords, Ireland is once again a colonial outpost. But this time, our capital is in flux. A tussle between distant Germany, Frankfurt, home to the European Central Bank, our financial overlords. And Washington, which sees Ireland as a convenient military transit hub off the coast of Europe and a convenient tax avoidance location for the biggest American corporations, many of them large political donors back home. Ireland is also a great place for US presidential hopefuls to drink a pint of Guinness and we punch way above our weight in greenhouse gas emissions. Thanks to cow farts, mainly.

blanche-metro-paris-gary-j-byrnes
Blanche metro station, Art Nouveau at Montmartre
Because Irish culture is so deeply coloured by our experience as part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and our reliance on the US for jobs, inward investment and export markets for alcohol, we have lost any real understanding of what it means to be Irish. We consume British and American news media, music, sport, junk food and junk culture and we have sleepwalked into the Anglo-American groupthink. This is evidenced in many ways, from our docile acceptance of the open market capitalist mantra to the sacrifice of caring society on the altar of the banks. And we've always had a sneaking suspicion of the French.

musee-dorsay-paris-gary-j-byrnes
Musee d'Orsay
The French are savages - they chopped the heads off their monarchs! The French have no place for organised religion! The French always surrender! The French smell! The French are rude! These are the subtle messages that have been propagated through the Anglo media and into the Irish psyche for generations. The French traits of liberty, equality, secularism and republicanism have been transformed by the British and American establishments into negatives and this poisonous message has been gleefully disseminated by a monocultural media.

Well, I have woken from a bad dream and have seen the reality. Sure, Paris can stink, but so does every major city. Yes, Parisiens can be rude, but Londoners tend to be ruder. Certainly there is not a McDonald's on every street corner, and that can only be a good thing. Of course France has no place in her constitution for kings or queens or popes or mullahs. And that is only right. Ireland, smothered by the insidious blankets of empire and religion, lost her greatest talents to Paris, among them James Joyce and Samuel Beckett. And the contrasts with dowdy, backwater Dublin could not be more pronounced.

venus-de-milo-louvre-paris-gary-j-byrnes
Venus de Milo, Louvre
Paris is an epic, stylish city, full of a unique design sensibility, artistic expression, treasures of the the world, glorious architecture and a confident sense of itself. Parisiens are justly proud of their unique and exciting city and it is no surprise to me that Paris should be the world's top tourist destination. It is a genuinely multi-cultural, buzzing metropolis. People sit outside bars reading books. Books! People write, draw, paint, talk. People stroll through the parks in 1920s dress. Couples dance for tips in the squares. There is a fashion shoot around every corner. You can eat wonderfully simple food in a classic restaurant in the city centre for less than you'd spend on a burger meal in Dublin.

It is precisely because Paris is so successful at what it does that it has become a target for the haters. Rightwing US media buffoons hate that France didn't help to destroy and dismember Iraq. Cheese-eating surrender monkeys? Give me Camembert de Normandie on crusty bread over genetically-modified junkfood any day. And the evil spawn of US foreign policy, al Qaeda, with their hideous attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine, hate the very idea of free speech and their brothers-in-arms, Islamic State, despise the values of secularism that are at the very heart of what France means.
bouillon-chartier-restaurant-paris-gary-j-byrnes
Gary J Byrnes at Bouillon Chartier restaurant

France is not perfect - nowhere is - and that nation's colonial experiences are every bit as shocking and destructive as Britain and America's. And France seems to have an unhealthy obsession with nuclear weapons. But these shortcomings could be laid at the feet of her 'Establishment'.

Paris, the birthplace of the Age of Enlightenment, is the only city I've experienced which has the potential to foster a new enlightenment. With secularism, true republicanism, technology and culture at its heart, Paris must step up now and offer a clear vision of a better world. We can't all live in Paris, so Paris must come to us. France tried to save Ireland once, despatching thousands of troops to assist in the 1798 rebellion against British rule. France must once again come to our rescue by taking the lead in the European Union, challenging the austerity dogma and putting people first.

Je suis waiting...


Find out more about Gary at www.GaryJByrnes.com

Taste Paris at Bouillon Chartier, more details at http://www.bouillon-chartier.com/en/

Win a signed copy of Gary's latest thriller with Books Ireland Magazine at http://www.booksirelandmagazine.com/

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