Schmidt selects all-star cast for Aussie tour

 Jonathan Sexton will return to Australia next month.

Jonathan Sexton will return to Australia next month.

Concerns that Ireland's all conquering Grand Slam stars might be rested for the forthcoming tour of Australia have been put to rest.

Coach Joe Schmidt has named the best possible squad for the historic three-test tour including Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray, Tadhg Furlong, Jacob Stockdale and Robbie Henshaw.

Scarlets' Munster-bound lock Tadhg Beirne is in line for his Ireland debut after being selected in the squad.

Leinster fly-half Ross Byrne is the only other uncapped player in head coach Joe Schmidt's 32-man squad to face the Wallabies in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

Second row Beirne will link up with the Ireland squad after facing Leinster in Scarlets colours in Saturday's Guinness PRO14 final.

British and Irish Lions and Ulster hooker Rory Best has retained the captaincy, moving the 35-year-old a step closer to retaining that leadership role for the 2019 World Cup.

"This has probably been the most difficult selection process for the coaching group to date," Schmidt said.

"We sat down on Monday morning to review the last pieces of footage and to discuss the balance and combinations that we felt we might need in Australia.

"At midday today (Wednesday) we made the final decisions which included a number of very tough calls, and some players are incredibly unlucky to miss out on selection.

 Conor Murray is now widely considered to be the world's top scrum half.

Conor Murray is now widely considered to be the world's top scrum half.

"Over the past couple of months the national coaches have spent time in the provinces and been in communication with the provincial coaches who have done a super job in managing the players across the season.

"The coaching group are excited by the challenge that this three-Test tour will present and, from talking to the players, we get a sense that they too are excited about going on tour and testing themselves against one of the best sides in the world in their own backyard."

Ireland will face Michael Cheika's Wallabies in Brisbane for the first Test on Saturday, June 9, with clashes in Melbourne and Sydney following on successive Saturdays.

Ireland squad for summer tour to Australia:

Forwards: R Best (Ulster, capt), T Beirne (Scarlets), J Conan, S Cronin, T Furlong, C Healy (all Leinster), I Henderson, R Herring (both Ulster), D Leavy, J McGrath J Murphy (all Leinster), P O'Mahony (Munster), A Porter (Leinster), Q Roux (Connacht), James Ryan (Leinster), John Ryan, CJ Stander (both Munster), D Toner (Leinster).

Backs: B Aki (Connacht), R Byrne, J Carbery (both Leinster), A Conway (Munster), J Cooney (Ulster), K Earls (Munster), R Henshaw, R Kearney, J Larmour (all Leinster), K Marmion (Connacht), C Murray (Munster), G Ringrose, J Sexton (both Leinster), J Stockdale (Ulster).

Canberra Irish Club facing funding crisis

 Canberra Irish Club is struggling to pay its debts.

Canberra Irish Club is struggling to pay its debts.

THE much-loved Canberra Irish Club has become the latest Irish organisation to face a battle for survival.

The club, which was formed in 1975 and moved to its current home in Weston in 1982, has launched a crowd-funding campaign in an effort to raise $320,000 to try to cover immediate debt.

Club president Mary Collier said changing nature of the club industry and falling patron numbers had led to the financial problems.  In the past, the club had borrowed money to keep operating, but had still not been profitable.

“We have … accumulated debt over many years,” she said. “In the environment today, people just don’t go to clubs like they used to. I think a lot of ethnically based clubs have found that.”

The club management is working on the two-fold challenge of paying off the debt to avoid insolvency and coming up with a new business plan to make the club profitable again. A Gofundme campaign was launched last month and so far more than $1400 has been donated. They are also forming a committee of volunteers to organise other fundraising activities throughout this year.

The most recent financial report for the 2016/17 financial year shows the need for urgent action. The club made a loss of more than $107,000 – the sixth year in a row it had recorded a loss.

In their report, the independent auditors noted that the “company’s liabilities
exceeded its current assets by $336,091”. The club also received a tax bill for more than $169,000 in January 2018.

Debts are now understood to stand at more than $660,000.

One of the rescue options is amalgamating with another, larger club.  

While it is being considered, Mrs Collier said it would have to meet certain criteria, such as retaining the Canberra Irish Club name, and continuing their support of local community groups.

She said the club was a meeting place for more than 30 groups, both Irish and otherwise.  It also runs Irish language, dance and music classes.

As for the future – if the debt gets paid off – the plan is to reinvent the Canberra Irish Club as an entertainment venue.

“We think the way to go is to try and make the club an entertainment venue rather than a traditional pub environment that has just has a bar and bistro and poker machines,” she said. “We have a great little entertainment area which holds around 100 to 130 people … We need to hold more regular Irish based and other entertainment. We are keen to become established as a great venue for live bands as well as functions.”

Mrs Collier, who took over as president last November, said the Canberra Irish Club had a “big heart” and around 5000 members.

“We’re not the flashiest or the most modern venue in town, but we’ve always had that special something money just can’t buy,” she said.

She hopes they can “find our way out by the end of the year”.

“I do believe we can save it … but we know we have a bit of a mountain to climb,” she told the Irish Echo.

A number of Irish clubs across Australia have struggled to trade profitably in recent years.  The Irish Club of Western Australia has been hit by the downgrading of nearby Subiaco Oval. Melbourne’s Celtic Club decided to sell its premises after facing trading headwinds while the Queensland Irish Club was forced to close. 

To make a donation go to www.gofundme.com/help-canberra-irish-club

Historic hurling clash to headline new festival

 The hurlers of Kilkenny and Galway will go head to head at Sydney's Olympic Park.

The hurlers of Kilkenny and Galway will go head to head at Sydney's Olympic Park.

SYDNEY’S Olympic Park has hosted many memorable sporting battles but this November it will stage a truly unique event – a hurling game between National League champions Kilkenny and All-Ireland winners Galway.

The game is part of the huge 2018 Magners Sydney Irish Festival and the hurlers will be joined by some stellar musicians including Mary Black, Lúnasa and Damien Dempsey who are performing at a sunset concert.

Events boss Paul Sergeant said the festival wiill be an action-packed two-day celebration of all things Irish at the Sydney Showground.

 “There was so much to build a festival around,” said Mr Sergeant who is organising the event with the GAA.

“There’ve been lots of great things that have taken place around St Patrick’s Day and other Irish festivals. What is unique about this is it is bringing the sporting component at a top level,” he said.

The festival opens on Saturday, November 10 with children’s activities, hurling clinics, Irish dance and music performances, food and drink and carnival rides.

One of the quirkier events is a Guinness World Record attempt for the biggest Irish stew. They’re aiming to make a whopping 20,000 portions.

“The key part of that is when the stew is cooked it would be donated to the homeless,” Mr Sergeant said.

 Damien Dempsey is among the confirmed performers for the Sydney Irish Festival.

Damien Dempsey is among the confirmed performers for the Sydney Irish Festival.

At sunset, there’ll be the huge concert with hugely popular homegrown stars Mary Black, Damien Dempsey, Lunasa and Saint Sister.

The second day of the festival will kick off with a Big Irish Brunch before the big hurling game, which has been two years in the planning.

It all came about when Mr Sergeant, who had just set up his own events company, bumped into his friend,  GAA commercial director Peter McKenna, at a conference.

The GAA had just successfully staged a shortened ‘Super-11’ style hurling game between Dublin and Galway in Boston and Mr McKenna suggested it could work in Australia.

During the search for suitable venues they realised that Spotless Stadium at Sydney Olympic Park would allow for a full-size, competitive game rather than just an exhibition match. Mr Sergeant reckons even Aussie spectators will become hurling fans after seeing Galway and Kilkenny compete for the first Wild Swans trophy.

“I think they’ll really take to it,” he said.“Certainly the combative and physical nature of the sport really fits into the Australian psyche.”

The GAA will be picking up the tab for the players’ flights to Australia and the game will be broadcast live on RTÉ. Former Sydney Swan player and current development coach Tadhg Kennelly is one of the festival ambassadors and is, of course, excited about the hurling.

“To have the game I grew up with showcased in Australia at an elite and competitive level is really exciting,” the 2005 Premiership winner said.

He’s planning on bringing his three kids – Maggie, 4, James, 2 and five-month-old Hugh – to the festival to enjoy a taste of Irish culture.

“I’ve already got my four-year-old doing Irish dancing. She loves it,” he told the Irish Echo.

Organisers hope to attract about 40,000 people over the course of the weekend.

For more information, click here.

From Sydney's beaches to my Longford farm

 John Connell is a returned emigrant, writer and award-winning journalist.

John Connell is a returned emigrant, writer and award-winning journalist.

It’s a cool April morning after what has been one of the worst winters in Ireland in living memory. I am sitting down to my computer after morning jobs on the farm and reflecting back on my years as an emigrant. 

Outside my window the gentle waters of Lough Gowna lap and for a brief moment I am transfixed, transported back to Sydney Harbour and gentle days spent there.

I am a farmer and writer now where once I was a journalist and producer in Sydney. I have left that old life behind me but there is a part of me that will forever be Australian.

I came to Australia as a journalism student aged 20 on an exchange program. That move was to define the rest of my life, for six months soon turned into five years and I found myself an accidental Aussie.

I was not alone in that move. Many Irish – indeed, many friends and neighbours – made that same voyage in the years after the recession and worked in the mines and building sites around and throughout the great southern nation.

Sydney was everything Dublin and Longford were not. It was beautiful, and sunny, multicultural and full of opportunities and employment. 

It was in Sydney that I became a writer and a journalist. Putting pen to paper for the first time as a homesick 20-year-old, I wrote my first short story, The Little Black, about a downer cow. The story was to go on to give me my first book deal at the tender age of 23.   It was here too that I met my mentor, the writer David Malouf, who has had a lasting impact on me and helped me become the writer and man I am.

The Australian mentality of the fair go was something new and different to me. Here people judged you not on who you knew, but what you knew and merit was rewarded in a way that Ireland never has quite managed.

I worked for SBS and the ABC before starting my own production company. These were golden years for me; I made friends in both the Australian and the Irish community, including the wonderful and now departed journalist Seumas Phelan. Employment and opportunities, aside Australia was where I met my wife Vivian and so it is forever a joy-filled place for me, a place of grá.

My time in the southern land came to an end a few years ago after a number of health problems forced me home. Those first months in Ireland were not easy ones but they have laid the foundation for my new life here.

Returning to Ireland has been a huge shift. I have lived here now for the last three years and in that time have begun to understand my nation anew. 

There is a beauty and wonder to this place that I see now in ways that I had missed as a child. I had to leave this land in order to appreciate it.

I began farming once again after years as a journalist and the work, while at first hard, proved rewarding. I swapped an office and computer for fields and a tractor. 

I took a great joy in working with my body again and a whole hidden Ireland began to open up to me once more, a world of neighbours and ceilís, of marts and bachelors, local football matches and village fairs.

There were times I missed a nice flat white and a walk by Rushcutters Bay but there is something about bringing a new calf into this world in the middle of a cold Irish winter’s night that no city can ever replicate. 

One has to be active in rural Ireland to feel a part of the community but I have found the rural people of my youth so welcoming and open, for they too have been emigrants and they too know what it is to return.

Australia is where I spent my formative years but Ireland was always calling me home – and it did, eventually.

I’ll forever be an Aussie Irish man, and I’m the better for it.

John Connell, who now lives and works in rural Longford, is a Walkley-winning journalist, farmer and writer. His memoir, The Cow Book, is published this month in Australia by Allen & Unwin.

Brisbane-based Dubliner releases debut album

 Mick McHugh has just released his debit album,  A Million Stars.

Mick McHugh has just released his debit album, A Million Stars.

Having shared the stage with artists as illustrious as Amy Shark and Damien Dempsey, Australian-based Dublin singer-songwriter is making a statement of his own with his debut album, A Million Stars.

After a successful crowdfunding campaign, Mick wrote the album with help from none other than Shane Howard of 70's/80's folk/rock group Goanna. Singles Not in Kansas Anymore and Good Good Day have been well received, even receiving industry award nominations.

Mick started recording in early 2016 and explains it may have been a long road but he wanted to make sure he was on the right track.

"I wanted to make sure I did it right," Mick told The Irish Echo.

"It gave me a great opportunity to step it up, to take myself to that next level as an independent artist and compete with the big guns. That was why I took my time to do it. I took the long road to make sure I did every step right."

One of these steps was securing the services of Howard, renowned songwriter of iconic tracks like Solid Rock.

"He is first and foremost a songwriter and he is all about the song, that is what he cares about. He cares about the song. That's why he was brilliant to work with. He was really all about the song.

"He said to me, 'Mick, if you want me to work with you, you have to give me something to chew on'. It had to be something deep. He was writing songs that mean something, songs that have a bit of weight to them and have social commentary.

"I was telling a story of how I turned up to a gig one time and I realise my stuff wasn't going to work here, ya know, because you have your stuff and you know where it works. I turned up and was like, 'Oh man, not in Kansas anymore'.

"I was telling him this story and he clicks his finger, points at me and says, 'that's the song we're going to write'. We went into his man shed with the two guitars and we came out a few hours later with this song and it's done very well for us, finished as a finalist in the Great American Song Contest and it was a semi-finalist in the International Songwriting Contest. It was quite an easy process to work together."

 Mick McHugh is a Dubliner but now calls Byron Bay home.

Mick McHugh is a Dubliner but now calls Byron Bay home.

Is it satisfying to get accolades such as these award nominations?

"It is absolutely because it's a long journey and as an independent artist in this point of my career, it's not financial gain so when it gets shortlisted, you know the song is doing its job, that it strikes a chord. It's definitely very satisfying to get the feedback. It's a pat on the back saying, 'Good on ya, man. Keep going'. That's what i means, you're getting it right and it means something to people."

Mick has been honoured to support big Irish acts like The Coronas, Gavin James, Brian Kennedy, Nathan Carter, Bell X1 and Paddy Casey when they have come to Australia.

"When you get to do those gigs, you get to see someone at the peak of their performance so being around those situations is brilliant because you get to see these bands, not just the show but the entire process and that is really beneficial to me going out there then as an independent artist on my own doing the same thing. Then of course you get the exposure to their audience, and you've nothing to lose, you've everything to win. You show people what you do and you're gonna pick up fans, you always do."

The time of Mick's album release coincided with the time he became an Australian citizen after 12 years here. This is a source of pride as it is a country that has been good to him: "I'm an Aussie, mate. Absolutely, very grateful to Australia for the journey it's given me and continues to give me. I've become a full time singer-songwriter.

"I saw the opportunity: 'Because you're emigrating, you have a clean slate. Here's your chance to just pick up the guitar and go for that'.

"Very grateful to Australia that it responded and gave me a chance to grow. I work hard at it, that's the other thing. I was coming out of Dublin going, 'I'm working in restaurants, I'm working in engineering, I'm working in teaching. I'm giving a lot of people a lot of my time. I wonder what would happen if I gave that time to myself?' That was my other inspiration to give this a go, very grateful to Australia the way it's given it back to me. With Australia, if you put the work in, it will come back to you."

Having already launched A Million Stars in his home town of Byron Bay and in the Gold Coast, Mick launches the album in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney this month.

He is also planning on visiting Tasmania, Perth and Adelaide.

"I used to go down to these places regularly but I have stepped off the last three years to focus on making the music so delighted to be stepping out again. Then we have some festivals on the cards. It's just great to be back on the road."

Mick McHugh's A Million Stars is Out Now. Mick McHugh launches the album at The Milk Factory, Brisbane on May 12, Long Play in Melbourne on 18 and 19 May and Moshpit, Sydney on May 26. For more information, visit his website

Melbourne Rose of Tralee entrants 2018

Melbourne's Rose of Tralee selection ball takes place this weekend at the Regent Theatre with events for Queensland, South Australia and Perth following in quick succession. Here are the Melbourne hopefuls for this year.  Best of luck to all the entrants.

Australian premiere for orphan girls play

 The cast of Highlands Theatre Group's production of  Belfast Girls .

The cast of Highlands Theatre Group's production of Belfast Girls.

Belfast Girls, a play which dramatises the journey of Irish orphan girls to Australia in the mid-19th century, is to have its Australian debut this month.

The play, written by Irish playwright Jaki McCarrick and directed by Stephen Clancy, will be performed by the Highlands Theatre Group (HTG) at the Mittagong Playhouse in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.

Set in 1850 in the immediate aftermath of the Great Hunger (an gorta mór), the play follows the fortunes of five young women who set sail for a new life in Australia aboard the Inchinnan. Each carried with them their own dark and shocking secrets of the past.

As their journey nears its end, they battle with memories of past deeds and confront the reality of what their futures in this new land, may actually hold for them.

Between 1848 and 1851, more than four thousand young women - many of them orphaned by the famine - left Ireland under the Earl Grey Scheme to boost the female population of the colony.

The HTG is one of only nine amateur theatre groups throughout the world to be given permission to stage the show. 

Writer Jaki McCarrick became interested in the orphan girls story when she found a namesake,  Nora McCarrick, from Easkey, Co Sligo, who had travelled to Australia under the scheme.

"This was a chapter of Irish history I knew nothing about," she said.

"I read what books I could find on the subject, including Robert Hughes’ The Fatal Shore, Thomas Kennelly’s History of Australia, Trevor McClaughlin’s Barefoot and Pregnant? Irish Famine Orphans in Australia, Irish Women and Irish Migration, edited by Patrick O’Sullivan.

"In my reading of these books and articles, I discovered that a particular group of ‘orphans’ were considered to have been especially feisty and colourful, known for their use of obscene language and riotous behaviour. These were known as ‘the Belfast girls’."

The HTG will stage six performance of the play. For more information, and bookings, visit htg.org.au or call Destination Southern Highlands directly on (02) 4871 2888.

 

St Patrick's Day will be a UK holiday under PM Corbyn

 Leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.

Leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.

St Patrick’s Day will be a public holiday in Britain if Labour wins the next election.

Labour will press ahead with plans to introduce new national holidays to mark the patron saints of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, if it wins the next general election.

After eight years of “damaging Tory austerity”, Britain’s workers deserve a day off, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said last week.

Labour will ask for the support of the governments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland so that the same four holidays can be enjoyed in all regions.

Under Labour’s proposals, public holidays will be held on St David’s Day (March 1), St Patrick’s Day (March 17), St George’s Day (April 23) and St Andrew’s Day (November 30).With eight public holidays, Britain has the fewest of any G20 or EU country.

“If we win the next election, St George’s Day will become a national holiday for Britain’s workers. It will be a day where we can all show our pride and celebrate our country’s tradition of fairness, inclusivity and social justice” Mr Corbyn said.

 “Eight years of Tory austerity, which Labour will bring to an end, have had a disastrous effect on our vital public services and workers have paid a heavy price in the cost of living and their working lives.

 “We will give our workers four extra days paid holiday.

 “The four nations that make up our country are more divided as a result of the damaging and divisive policies of this Conservative government.”

Legendary Donegal trad outfit set for Oz return

 Altan – (from left) Mark Kelly, Ciarán Curran, Martin Tourish and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh. Absent from the photograph is guitarist Daíthí Sproule.

Altan – (from left) Mark Kelly, Ciarán Curran, Martin Tourish and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh. Absent from the photograph is guitarist Daíthí Sproule.

ONE of Ireland’s most prominent traditional bands, Altan have brought the music of Donegal around the world and are about to return to Australia on their 30th anniversary tour.

The first trad band to secure major label representation when they joined Virgin in the 1990s, Altan have paved the way for many bands who followed and have played with greats like Dolly Parton, Enya, The Chieftains, Bonnie Raitt and Alison Krauss. Altan will be at the National Celtic Festival in Portarlington, Victoria next month, playing tracks from The Gap of Dreams, their most recent and 12th studio album.

“We’ve been talking about going to Australia for a while and now that it’s all coming together, we’re delighted and it will be great to be part of the festival,” lead vocalist and fiddle player Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh told The Irish Echo from Ireland.

Last year marked three decades for the band, which was formed in 1987.

“I think all of us were kind of shocked. It just kind of flew by and now we’re 30 years on the road and enjoying the music still.”

There has been heartbreak along the way as Mairéad lost her husband as well as the band’s flute and tin whistle player Frankie Kennedy to cancer in 1994.

“I think of him all the time. We frequently mention him in funny stories on the road. We are always laughing at the memories, it’s always fun times that we think about and times when everything comes together musically. And where there’s a huge response to the band, we always think of him as well. He’s mentioned a lot.”

The album’s title comes from its other worldly inspiration as the songs explore mythical elements like mermaids and banshees.

“Well it’s an idea that all the older musicians used to talk about: Getting the tune from the other world, let it be the fairies or it came on the wind or something like that. The door is always open between this world and the other world. That’s exactly what the old fiddlers used to say, that there wasn’t a big difference between this world and the other world when the music came from the other world,” she said.

“We decided to use that phrase. All these kind of other worldly ideas came to our head, we decided to go with that.” The album also features the next generation of Irish music with Mairéad’s daughter Nia, who is only 14, making a contribution. Bandmate Mark Kelly’s son Sam also plays on it making this album a family affair.

“My daughter and Mark’s son Sam came in and they were the only guests we had really on the album and they were delighted, hopefully they’ll play more,” she said.

Altan play the National Celtic Festival in Portarlington 8-10 June. Altan will be joined at The National Celtic Festival by Scottish stars The Paul McKenna Band and Irish-Australian troubadours Hat Fitz and Cara. Altan play Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne on 12 June, The Old Museum in Brisbane on 13 June, Lizzottes in Newcastle on 14 June, Factory Theatre in Sydney on 15 June, Fly By Night in Perth on 16 June. For more information and tickets, go to www.troubadour-music.com

Senator's daughter is Sydney's Rose of Tralee

 2018 Sydney Rose of Tralee Caitlin Macinante

2018 Sydney Rose of Tralee Caitlin Macinante

If newly-selected Sydney Rose Of Tralee Caitlin Macinante needs any tips on what the role involves, she need look no further than her own mum.

Ms Macinante was chosen from 16 hopefuls at last night's Sydney Rose Of Tralee selection ball in front of a full house at the Hyatt Regency Darling Harbour.

The 26-year-old business development manager, who lives in Newcastle, is a daughter of federal Labor Senator for NSW Deborah O'Neill, who represented Sydney at the Rose Of Tralee back in 1980.

The family's Irish heritage comes via Caitlin's maternal grandmother, who hails from Co Kilkenny and her maternal grandfather, who comes from Cork.

Ms Macinante is currently studying for a Bachelor of Education degree via correspondence and is passionate about inclusive schooling and equity among learners. Caitlin also sings and plays both guitar and piano.  

 Senator Deborah O'Neill with Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese.

Senator Deborah O'Neill with Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese.

Excluded voters keen to be heard

  Supporting a ‘yes’ vote: Christine Howell, Shauna Stanley, Gary Hansell, organiser Lizzie O'Shea, Pam Lowe, Jimmy Yan and Grace Carroll at Melbourne’s Drunken Poet.

Supporting a ‘yes’ vote: Christine Howell, Shauna Stanley, Gary Hansell, organiser Lizzie O'Shea, Pam Lowe, Jimmy Yan and Grace Carroll at Melbourne’s Drunken Poet.

Almost all Irish citizens living in Australia are not allowed to vote in the referendum on abortion. Irish diplomatic staff can but that's about it.

The vote, on May 25, will ask people to consider repealling the 8th amendment, which prohibits abortion in almost all circumstances.

But a series of events have been held in Sydney and Melbourne advocating for a ‘yes’ vote. 

Diaspora Downunder Dollars for Choice (#ddd4c) is a campaign aiming for 30 events around Australia to fundraise for Together for Yes.

Convenor of the Irish Pro Choice group Shauna Stanley said it was frustrating that expats “cannot get our voices heard at the ballot box” but “we can contribute some of our hard-earned Australian dollars to give the Together for Yes campaign every chance for success”.

DDD4C has received pledges from all around Australia, including themed parties, events and a pub quiz at Melbourne’s Drunken Poet pub.

“We have had an amazing response, with lots of creative ideas from supporters all over the country. It’s been hugely inspiring to see this kind of grassroots organising. 

“Irish people always love good craic, but have shown themselves to be extra keen to get on board for this cause,” Stanley said.  

 Louise Nealon, Ann Marie Crotty and Loretta Cosgrove at the Sydney fundraiser for the Yes campaign at 34Bia in Redfern, Sydney.

Louise Nealon, Ann Marie Crotty and Loretta Cosgrove at the Sydney fundraiser for the Yes campaign at 34Bia in Redfern, Sydney.

“This has a movement led by women organising to demand their rights, against a well-funded anti-choice lobby. We may be 20,000 kilometres away, but we can feel the international reach of the sisterhood,” said Stanley.

Fellow campaigner Elaine Arnold said “We wanted to [find] a way of collectively contributing towards positive progression in Ireland.”

Supporters of a ‘yes’ vote also gathered at the Irish-owned 34 Bia restaurant last weekend for a fundraiser. Organised by Louise Nealon and Ann Marie Crotty, tickets included a full Irish breakfast and a donation to the Together for Yes campaign in Ireland.  Ticket sales and raffle raised more than $2000.

Dublin arrests over Irish Australian cocaine smuggling racket

 Wads of cash, hidden in a mattress, were discovered by Gardai investigating the Irish Australian drug racket. Picture: RTE

Wads of cash, hidden in a mattress, were discovered by Gardai investigating the Irish Australian drug racket. Picture: RTE

Young Irish people in Australia are being targeted by Dublin-based criminal gangs as part of an international drug ring.

Gardai in Dublin are working with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in an effort to break up a cocaine smuggling racket.

Six people, some of whom have just returned from Australia, were arrested in Dublin last week.

The investigation is being carried out by the Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, which is working closely with the AFP, according to RTE.

It is understood arrests have also been made in Australia in the past few weeks and sums of money have been frozen.

At least six premises have been searched in Drumcondra, Artane, Finglas and Swords and around €250,000 was seized, according to gardaí.

Those arrested are aged between 24 and 31, and include five men and a woman.

Gardaí believe that cocaine is being sold in Australia and the money is being funnelled back to Ireland to be laundered.

Gardaí say the operation is indicative of the scale of the Kinahan crime gang's international drug dealing operation.

Assistant Commissioner John O'Driscoll, who is in charge of Special Crime Operations, said the Gardaí are continuing to liaise with Australian police who have frozen significant sums of money. 

He also said that the operation is focusing on the money trail. 

Speaking on RTÉ's Six One News, Mr O'Driscoll said young Irish 'professional' people in Australia were the gang's target market.

He said that criminal gangs are following the market, adding that the business is lucrative.