Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Party Break in Dublin - Both Birthday and Political

The Spire - Dublin's newly iconic landmark
We're just back from a two-day break in Dublin which was very pleasant. We were invited to my cousin Betty's 80th birthday party a few weeks ago, a significant event taking place in Sutton Golf Club. As she was widowed only last October when her husband Kevin passed away, it marked a milestone in her life, and it was a lovely occasion, poignant yet happy, with lots of memories for many people.

Betty is my first cousin; our fathers were brothers, and while my father died shortly before my third birthday, I knew her parents well, and sadly now all that generation has passed on. There were 12 boys in my father's family and he was second-youngest. In the 1911 Census he is listed as a 4 year old, which I find very moving as I never really got the chance to get to know him. He seems to have belonged to a warm loving close family, and I had lost contact with them over the years of being abroad, and also growing up away from Dublin where they all lived, as my mother and me moved back to her family home in Lismore after my dad died.

At the party there was some wonderful entertainment, as Betty and Kevin were very involved in Variety, the children's charity, and were heading up the Dublin arm of it over many years. They had many friends in showbusiness in Ireland and Brian Hoey, a renowned tenor, was the MC at the birthday party. He has a wonderful singing voice and a broad repertoire, singing a variety of songs from past times. He was joined by the soprano Niamh Murray who sang some wonderful pieces from The Merry Widow and other operettas. My mother would have remembered seeing her at the Pioneer Centenary Celebrations in Croke Park in 1999 which was a nice link for me.

Betty with her family
A lovely touch at the party was the singing of the favourite song of each of the twelve brothers, as  far as could be remembered, by either a family member or by Brian Hoey. I was moved to tears when my father's favourite song was sung by my cousin Paddy - the lovely ballad The Old Rustic Bridge by the Mill. I hadn't known that was his favourite song, and each family meeting in recent years has increased my store of information about my father and fills more  blanks. He and my mother were less than four years married when he died so there's a whole history from his earlier years I am only now learning. It was lovely to renew links with long lost cousins, some of whom I hadn't met since we were children. Hubby Jan is great on the genealogy and has enjoyed filling in the blanks in the extended family tree, and sharing it with interested cousins.

The view from our room -  with Howth Head at sunrise
We stayed in the Marine Hotel in Sutton, about a five minute drive from the golf club - or would be had we not got lost on our first attempt and driven around a few blocks but not quite getting there. We'd no mind to drive miles after the party to a distant hotel, so it was just ideal. The hotel was lovely, reasonably priced for such a venue - I'd booked on and it was 99Euro for B&B for two. Perfect location if you were looking for an out-of-town yet close to amenities as the Dart railway station was just down the road, and the buses run by the gate. We woke in the morning to the most lovely vista of the sunrise over Dublin Bay and Howth Head in the near distance. We could see all the way down to the Dublin Mountains, and I took some photos from the room with a view. We didn't have time to use the pool or the leisure centre, maybe next time!

Bull Island & the Bull Wall from Sutton-Dublin
After a lovely breakfast we drove into town to go to Wynn's Hotel where there was a Labour Members' Forum hosting a number of eminent speakers on the political situation and the place of the Labour Party in the current government and into the future. I won't go into too much detail as politics can be very contentious at the moment - suffice to say that this forum was hosted by a loose gathering of grassroots Labour members who are anxious that the party not sellout to its partner in government, Fine Gael, or to the wider temptation of the trappings of power. The link above will give a good overview to those interested readers.

There's palpable public anger at the cutbacks, we're all trying our damnedest to be understanding of the invidious situation the country is in and the government are in a damned-if-they-do and damned-if-they-don't place. What we don't want is that the  leadership become arrogant and complacent in their position of political power and stay stuck in the moment because they were elected to instigate the reforms that were promised in the election manifesto and the programme for government. We all know there's compromises where there's coalition, but Labour are at risk of being subsumed into the larger party if they don't put a red line under certain issues and claim credit for the good things that get done by their initiation and not have the larger party take all the credit, wittingly or otherwise. It was good to see many TDs (MPs) and Councillors in attendance, our own Ciara Conway TD was there along with many of the other younger elected members.

Labour Members Forum in Wynn's Hotel
A variety of speakers from economists to trades unionists to the National Women's Council of Ireland spoke of alternatives to austerity by deferring payments to the bondholders under the IMF/ECB rulings we're in thrall to since losing our economic sovereignty. They spoke on the impact of cuts and austerity measures on single parents and vulnerable groups dependent on welfare in the absence of jobs. Best line of the day came from Trade Unionist Sam Nolan from the floor - "Give a man a gun and he'll rob a bank; give a man a bank and he'll rob the world." It was a good debate platform with plenty of opportunity for audience participation, and it reflected the mood of the party grassroots who are at pains to protect the integrity of the party we belong to and whose ethos we hold dear. I'm glad we had the chance to attend this conference, and you can get the mood from Twitter by following #labourmembers.

We hit the road home after the conference and it's lovely driving in the lengthening evenings into the sunset - with hubby driving and me knitting we must make an eccentric sight - but it sure whiles away the miles!

I'll do another blogpost on my lazy city afternoons in the past week. They deserve a separate platform!

1 comment:

Mimi said...

Sounds like a lovely break, Catherine, with a good mix of fun and business.
That hotel looks really nice, I've driven past it on many occasions but didn't even know they did B&B. And a good rate too, especially to wake up to such a view!
I'm also glad you got to fill in some more info. on your Dad. I think out thirst for that becomes sharper as we get older, and every source of info. is valuable.