Journalism

Tonight’s compelling Fair City episode

I used to love Fair City.

I feel so much contempt for this Katy storyline. For anyone who doesn’t know much about the show, Katy is a young woman who disappeared early last year only to reemerge in a dark, depressing room last September.

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Locked in the room, the audience has seen her slowly piece things together: the scary man holding her captive is family friend Ciarán. Unhinged, he’s been keeping her locked up in a hidden room in his garage as revenge against her brother Emmet for something that he did to Ciarán’s sister years beforehand.

Over the last year, the show’s actors and writers have been teasing the audience about when they can expect Katy to be reunited with her family – her sad, suicidal parents Eoghan and Debbie, brother Emmet and her forlorn grandmother Rose.

Even writing this, I’m annoyed. This frustration has been growing in me for months now. It feels as if the people behind the show are laughing at people like me, fans of the show. I don’t watch Fair City to see a family repeatedly put under strain, being put under such mental anguish and torture because of the loss of someone they love.

Advertisements like the one for tonight’s episode, I know, function as teasers – the point is to tease, to mess with, the audience. To make them think something will happen. The makers of Fair City have clearly done their jobs here as, judging from Twitter tonight, everyone was watching the show tonight in the hope that Katy would be freed and Ciarán arrested.

I’m so disappointed by tonight’s episode – it seems like we’re going to get a fresh bout of physical and mental torture, in the form of Ciarán terrorising Emmet.

I signed up for a soap opera, not a thriller/horror show. There’s nothing uplifting about Fair City anymore. It’s grim and heavy.

The acting is great – full marks to Amilia Clarke Stuart aka Katy; Dáithí Mac Suibhne as Emmet; Alan Howley as Eoghan; Niamh Daly as Debbie; Geraldine Plunkett as Rose and of course, Johnny Ward as Ciarán. All are brilliantly portraying the excellent characters written for them – I just wish it wasn’t a storyline in Fair City.

I can’t justify sitting down for each episode to watch this inhumane treatment unfold time after time. It’s so fucking awful.

I was so disappointed when Heather, after finding out about Ciarán, suffered a brain injury. So let down tonight when Katy got to call her gran Rose and nobody believes it because there’s a new storyline: senility.

I’ll continue to watch, because I want to see how Katy escapes and survives.

I love Fair City. I don’t love it ironically. I’m not one of these cynics who love to hate Fair City, who despise it for the sake of despising homegrown effort.

But since Christmas, I feel like it’s the writers, the makers of this show, who are cynical by treating their audience to physical and mental torture in each episode. How can they justify it? Ratings? That’s cynical too.

Journalism

60 Seconds: John Finn

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Veteran US TV and theatre actor John Finn has starred in Cold Case and films including Catch Me If You Can and The Pelican Brief. In his latest role he plays garda Seán Óg in Irish language drug thriller An Bronntanas.

The trailers for An Bronntanas have been intriguingly creepy – what’s it about?

It’s a story of drugs that were intended to be smuggled along the coast of Connemara that are found by a lifeboat crew – and murder and mayhem has ensued around the whole thing. My character’s a local guard sergeant. My son’s a detective who’s investigating the smuggling operation, which has international implications. 

Given your experience playing Lt John Stillman on Cold Case, was it easy to slip into the role of an Irish guard?

It seems to be what I’m typecast as, which is fine, but I’d love to do a role in tights and tutu some day! I have a military background so I’m comfortable with the hierarchy and structures of authority, so, the role was very comfortable for me.

Enforcing the law seems to run in your family…

Yes, that’s true. I have cops in my family; my father was one for a while but he switched to the Fire Department in New York City. 

How did you research for a role like this?

I didn’t ride around with a guard or anything like that if that’s what you’re asking. I wouldn’t even do that in America – it’s just not the way I approach research. I think the most difficult thing for me was with the Irish language and the challenge of understanding what I was trying to say and saying it in a way that was believable.

How did you cope learning lines as Gaeilge?

My grandparents had it but I didn’t grow up with it at all. I would hear them speak it casually. Occasionally I would find an Irish dictionary and look up a few words. It wasn’t until the 80s when I was at the Irish Arts Centre in New York that I would dabble in Irish language classes. I quickly realised I would never become fluent. It is hard to find people to converse with, but it became a lifetime hobby.

What drew you to this role?

I didn’t seek it out; it kind of fell together. I had been working on an independent film in the States and someone on that film had a script that he was trying to set up in Ireland. He introduced me to director Tommy Collins and he asked me if I was interested in the role. I said ‘Jesus I’d love to if we could pull it off’. I came over and we talked to the commissioning editor of TG4. I knew they were a little trepidatious about it but it all came together. I feel very fortunate to do something that’s an avocation as well as my career.

How did you get into acting?

I was involved with the Irish Arts Centre back in the 70s helping them build sets. I had no intention of being an actor. Then we did Freedom of the City, a Brian Friel play, and to American ears I could do a believable Irish accent so I played a tiny role in it and I was hooked.

You have an Irish passport and citizenship, what would be your favourite thing about Ireland?

Now you’ve got me on the spot – I don’t know! … If I’m sitting with a good pint and some smoked salmon and brown bread I’m pretty happy. I guess it’s an atmosphere thing. I really love the west of Ireland. For me the ancient culture, you still see it. So, that and a good pint!

What’s next on the agenda for you?

There’s tremendous work in television in the US and a lot of it is done in New York so every week there’s new opportunities to guest the guest spot on the show so that’s what I’ll be focusing on, but nothing specific at the moment.

So after all this do you still have a passion for the teanga?

The language is a real sore spot for some people in this country. From my point of view Irish was here before any of us and it’ll be here long after we’re gone, whether people say it’s dead or not. I just think the key is to use it and that’s why it was so exciting to see people like director of photography Cian de Buitléir using it in a practical sense, and not reverting to English. There was no stress about it, it was just the way he worked. It was pretty exciting.

An Bronntanas, begins tonight at 9.30pm.

An Bronntanas trailer

[Interview originally published in Metro Herald, October 22, 2014]

Activism · Journalism

Volunteers overwhelmed at frontline of ebola horror

Balloons-with-messages-of-hope-tied-by-local-community-for-patients-and-staff-on-the-fence-of-the-Ebola-Treatment-Centre-in-Monrovia.-Photo-Caroline-Van-Nespen-604x345

AS the international community continues to try to prevent the spread of the ebola virus in west Africa, medical staff on the ground are overwhelmed.

According to the World Health Organisation more than 2,288 people have died from the deadly disease, while thousands have been diagnosed with it since the outbreak began earlier this year.

Direct contact with infected blood and bodily fluids spreads the virus and symptoms include fever, vomitting, sore throat, diarrhoea, internal and external bleeding and decreased functioning of organs.

One volunteer, working at the frontline of services in Monrovia, the Liberian capital, said he became emotionally overwhelmed after his arrival to the ebola stricken region.

In an account after he arrived home, he said: ‘Families just pulled up in cars, let the sick person out and then drove off, abandoning them.

‘One mother tried to leave her baby on a chair, hoping that if she did, we would have no choice but to care for the child,’ said Pierre Trbovic, a volunteer with Médecins Sans Frontières.

A Belgian anthropologist, Mr Trbovic travelled to the city to help manage the treatment centre there, which was overflowing with ebola victims. His job: to turn people away – one of the hardest posts at centre, but something that had to be done to prevent the spread of the outbreak. Facilities are in short supply.

‘After a week, people told me I needed to stop. They could see the emotional toll that it was taking on me,’ he said.

Mr Trbovic detailed the routine procedure taken in the high-risk zones of the centre; one safety precaution overlooked and it could mean another life on the line.

‘It can take 15 minutes to dress in the personal protective equipment and, once inside, you can only stay an hour before you are exhausted and covered in sweat.

‘You can’t overstay or it gets dangerous. The patients are really unwell and it’s a lot of work to keep the tents clean of human excrement, blood and vomit, and to remove the dead bodies,’ he added.

Elsewhere, Australia breathed a sigh of relief yesterday when a miner, suspected of having the virus at a beachside tourist area, turned out to be a false alarm.

[Originally appeared in the Metro Herald newspaper on September 12]

PhotoBalloons with messages of hope tied by local community for patients and staff on the fence of the EbolaTreatment Centre in Monrovia. Photo: Caroline Van Nespen

Journalism

DSPCA needs foster carers for kittens

FANCY fostering a cuddly kitten or a puppy for a few weeks? Go on, our furry friends need your love and affection.

The Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) is looking for pet-friendly people to take care of some of their little ones this summer.

DSPCA’s head of education Gillian Bird: ‘It’s the busiest time of year for us, but it’s also the quietest time of year for foster parents.’

With more than 40 animals waiting for foster care this week, the organisation said it was ‘pretty desperate’ for animal lovers looking to take up the temporary responsibility.

The organisation receives hundreds of newborn animals, from a few days old to several weeks old, that must be cared for before their vaccinations at ten weeks – they then return to the rescue and rehoming centre for adoption.

‘We provide you with all of the food, materials, food trays, litter trays and litter required to take care of the animals. And we provide you with training and vet support should you have any questions or problems while you foster. ‘

Carers can look after the animals, including dogs, puppies, cats and kittens, for a set number of weeks, sometimes from one week to ten.

‘If you have a small amount of time or want to make a full-time commitment, we have a pet that needs your help,’ said the charity.

So if you’re 18 or over and can make the journey to the DSPCA’s Rathfarnham shelter on Mount Venus Road – foster carers may be required to return for weekly check-ups – then here’s your chance.

The DSPCA fosters more than 1,000 animals a year, but be warned: ‘A lot of fosterers do adopt, which is a problem. People can fall in love with the animal,’ she laughs.

‘A lot of people get very upset the first time they give the animals back,’ she said. It’s the alternative to long-term pet ownership, think you’re up for it?

Contact DSPCA Fostering on 01 4994720 or email foster@dspca.ie for further details.

[This article was first published on GoMetro.ie on Jul 24]

Journalism

Irish cyclists gear up for charity

CHILDREN’s cancer charity Aoibheann’s Pink Tie (APT) is gearing up for their next fundraiser: a 24-hour cycle – and dedicating each kilometer to a child lost to the disease.

The 500k In A Day challenge will see ten amateur cyclists hit the tarmac this morning, cycling the length of Ireland from Malin Head in Donegal to Hook head in Wexford.

Speaking of the gruelling task, APT founder Jimmy Norman said: ‘This is a huge challenge to drive awareness and much needed funds for families with children undergoing cancer treatment across Ireland.’

Mr Norman founded the children’s charity, which provides practical assistance for cancer-stricken families, in 2010 after the death of his own eight-year-old daughter Aoibheann – the charity’s name derives from her funeral where all guests were asked to wear pink instead of sombre black.

Of its mission, Mr Norman said: ‘Having gone through the experience of having a terminally ill child, myself and my family wanted to do something to assist other families.’

The charity provides respite and home help, sibling and peer support, travel to and from hospitals and clothing, laundry, and food for families.

Speaking at the launch on Jul 29 on Grand Canal’s Marker Hotel APT co-founder Mich Rochford said he was ‘amazed’ at the success of the charity so far. He said he was ‘blown away by the good, decent people of Ireland.

‘They don’t get enough credit for what they do – if the call goes out they really rally. We’re just completely grateful for them,’ he said.

Cycling through the night, the volunteers will climb a huge 3,700 meters – the equivalent of a queen stage at the Tour de France – burning more than 12,000 calories each and will consume more than 15 litres of water between them to hit the ground running.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar also attended the launch, posing for photographs and watching the charity’s special video message while meeting and greeting members of the volunteer-led organisation.

Aoibheann’s Pink Tie is Metro Herald’s charity of the year and they’re asking for €2 donations, which you can send by texting ‘Aoibheann’ to 50300.

[This article was originally published by GoMetro.ie on Jul 29]

Journalism

Electric Picnic tickets going for nearly triple the price

ELECTRIC Picnic (EP) tickets may be officially sold out, but not if you’re willing to pay nearly triple the original asking price from its official ticket resale partner.

The popular music and arts festival will take place later this month and unfortunate music lovers without tickets can shell up to £440 (€555) for 3-day tickets, compared to EP’s early bird price tag of €194.50.

After the early bird, EP’s official resting price for a weekend ticket was €229.50, which, when converted to sterling £182, is still well above the figures appearing on the Get Me In resale site – the lowest price on offer is £384.99 (€485) at time of writing.

Organisers of the Stradbally festival said they had no control over pricing on the official partnering site.

Festival Republic head Melvin Benn said: ‘We (EP) and GET ME IN! (GMI) do not have any control over the prices being quoted.

‘Only the seller does and some sellers are, unfortunately, taking the piss and you will need to do the negotiation unless and until the government introduce legislation limiting it.’

A spokeswoman for the festival said that the resale partner provided a ‘safe space’ where ‘all tickets are verified’, which reduces the risk of festival-goers turning up at the event with fake or falsified tickets – and this is why the festival endorses the website.

Describing itself as ‘ticketmaster’s official marketplace’, the GMI website boasts a Fan Guard Guarantee, which ultimately promises that all tickets sold are valid.

On its website it states: ‘GET ME IN! is an open marketplace dedicated to live event tickets. Ticket sellers list tickets on our platform and buyers make informed choices based on transparent information. Like any marketplace, sellers compete with each other, providing the lowest price for consumers.’

EP takes place in Stradbally, Laois from Aug 29-31 and features headlining acts Portishead, Beck and Outkast as well as Foals, The Pet Shop Boys and Lily Allen.

[This article was originally published on GoMetro.ie on August 6]

Journalism · Video

VIDEO: You’ve got to sand it to them…

GETTING sand in one’s shoes is a nightmare for some but not for sand sculpture duo Duthain Dealbh, who bring their giant sand sculptures to the city this week.

Now in their 12th year exhibiting at Dublin Castle, the team are building three pieces of work on the Upper Courtyard of the grounds using an impressive 80 tonnes of sand.

Duthain Dealbh’s Daniel Doyle, who is carving this week, said: ‘This year, we’ve chosen the theme Black, White and Grey and we use them as a starting point for each of the sculptures – we take those words, black, white and grey, and we start exploring what they actually mean to us.’

His current work is called Letting Go – it shows a carved man and woman turning away from a cut-out heart.

‘It’s about relationship break-up and that moment of: is it over, is it not? It’s not a simple black and white situation; it’s the grey area,’ he said.

Doyle began his sculpting career with colleague and Duthain Dealbh co-founder Niall Magee after graduating in Fine Art Sculpture from DIT nearly 16 years ago.

The duo create their fleeting sculptures in sand, ice and snow internationally throughout the year.

One wonders how a big mound of sand can withstand the elements, but unlike Homer Simpson’s sugar pile, these sand structures won’t fizzle at the mercy of the elements. ‘Rain doesn’t really cause a problem. A bit of it every now and then helps dampen down the sand,’ he said.

And what about letting it go, knocking down the art work? Sledgehammer?

‘We usually have diggers. The sand gets so hard when you’re finished you really need a big machine to take it down.
‘It’s kind of nice that no one can actually own the piece. That way, it’s like it’s in the eye of the beholder. So everyone takes it away with them.’

Visit the sand sculptures, while they are still standing, at Dublin Castle until August 21.

[This article was originally published in the Metro Herald and GoMetro.ie on Jul 29]