Rebel Wilson to star in Beauty Queen Of Leenane

 Rebel Wilson is a big fan of Martin McDonagh’s work.

Rebel Wilson is a big fan of Martin McDonagh’s work.

Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect, Bridesmaids) will play the female lead in Martin McDonagh’s Beauty Queen Of Leenane for the Sydney Theatre Company next year.

The star of movies like Pitch Perfect, Bridesmaids returns to the Sydney stage in the ink-black modern classic by Academy Award-winning writer McDonagh who wrote and directed Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Wilson’s appearance in this Sydney Theatre Company production is sure to generate plenty of interest when it premieres next November.

The play is part of McDonagh's Leenane Trilogy alongside A Skull In Connemara and The Lonesome West.

The Beauty Queen of Leenane is one of my favourite plays,” Wilson said.

“It’s a fascinating look at a complicated relationship between a mother and daughter, written by my favourite playwright, Martin McDonagh. He writes such dark and comedic characters – I've always been drawn to his work.

“I am really excited to come back to STC to be in this play. The Beauty Queen of Leenane was the first professional play that I ever saw and I saw it at STC when I was 19 years old. I was just blown away by how talented the actors were and how great the play was. Then I performed in that same theatre a few months later in my first proper play, Spurboard, for ATYP and STC Education. So, to me, the play holds a lot of significance – I hope I can do it justice."

Set in a small Connemara town, Maureen Folan lives a lonely existence with Mag, her aged mother. Their relationship is more arm wrestle than warm embrace. Right now, when Maureen stands the chance of having her first romantic relationship, Mag’s cantankerous presence is simply unbearable.

This play was the first big hit for McDonagh, whose films also include the hugely popular In Bruges.

Rebel Wilson said she is excited by her return to live theatre.

“There’s something very special and very magical about seeing theatre. I can’t get enough of going. I love that it’s an immediate experience. The cool thing is that every theatrical performance is different and it depends on the audience and the energy in the room. Just those people there share that one, live, personal experience. You can’t get that from a movie or a TV show, it’s such a particular experience. That’s why, despite all the technological advances in entertainment, people still go to the theatre – and have for hundreds of years. You just can’t beat the shared experience of theatre.”

The play is part of the Sydney Theatre Company's 2019 Program.

Limerick band Hermitage Green eager for Australian return

 Hermitage Green return to Australia in November.

Hermitage Green return to Australia in November.

Limerick folk/pop outfit Hermitage Green have developed a strong affection for Australia, which is why they are returning down under for the second time in 12 months. 

Guitarist Darragh Griffin said the reception they received last year was motivation enough for a quick return.

“When we were there last November, we kind of said, ‘We need to do this regularly; this can’t be a once every three years kind of thing’,” Griffin said.   

“What we’ve tended to find as well is you have to do a bit more work to win the crowds over but that can be kind of an enjoyable challenge.” 

Darragh shares vocal and guitar duties with the Murphy brothers Dan and Barry, the latter of which had a successful career with Munster rugby before taking up music as a serious pursuit.  

The band have been coming to Australia since 2013.

“Our first time going to Australia was a surreal stand-out experience for us. We played a couple of weeks in Perth and had built up a bit of a reputation and people got to know us and enjoyed us and then we did the east coast. 

“We were coming back (to Perth) for one gig at the end of it and for that last gig, there was literally this enormous queue of people up the road where they couldn’t get any more people into the pub so we ended up actually going out and playing to the fewer [number of] people who were waiting, because we knew they weren’t going to get in.

“When you see that kind of hype being built up in the space of two weeks, that’s all it was, and I suppose that news had spread from coast to coast literally between the community and it was absolutely amazing. It’s something we weren’t expecting to happen on that sort of scale at all.”

The Limerick band’s Australian preoccupation is not just about audiences. They’re travelling with a didgeridoo as the instrument features in the song The Lion’s Share.

“I can tell you it’s not the easiest thing to travel with,” Griffin joked.

 The Limerick five-piece played at a special memorial concert for The Cranberries Dolores O'Riordan earlier this year.

The Limerick five-piece played at a special memorial concert for The Cranberries Dolores O'Riordan earlier this year.

How did an Australian crowd react to seeing an Irish band with the quintessentially Australian instrument? 

“It definitely raises the eyebrows. I think you can recognise if someone is doing something from an angle of a gimmicky thing but it’s essentially the foundation the rest of the song is built on top of. You couldn’t have a bunch of Australians coming over to Ireland and jumping around with a fiddle on stage. That wouldn’t be appreciated [just as] it wouldn’t be appreciated in Australia to be disrespectful to the didgeridoo.

“As soon as people recognise that it’s an integral part of The Lion’s Share, I think they appreciate what are trying to do with it; we’re trying to incorporate it into our own sound.” 

The band’s last tour got off to a disastrous start when some band members couldn’t get into the country in time, meaning that their Prince Bandroom gig, the first of their tour, had to be cancelled. They won’t repeat the same mistake again.

“We’re going to Melbourne a week and a half early this time to make sure. A monumental mess-up was what it was and a little bit of naivety on our part. 

“We were just really devastated that people had been coming from far and wide and then suddenly the gig was cancelled. We were just really, really gutted. We do not cancel gigs, it’s got to be something absolutely monumental to cancel a gig because we know the effort people make to go to gigs because we make it ourselves. It’s devastating when it’s called off. We 100 per cent will not be making that mistake again. Hermitage Green will be there on stage as planned.” 

All of Ireland was shocked by the sudden death of Dolores O’Riordan in January and nowhere more so than in her native Limerick. Hermitage Green paid tribute to one of Limerick’s most famous daughters at a special gig in King John’s Castle when they played the famous Cranberries’ songs Dreams and Zombie.

“It was phenomenal, I’m getting [the] shivers thinking about it. 

“There were 2,000 people screaming these lyrics back at us and we ended Zombie and the crowd just kept singing it and it wasn’t really planned out like that. They kept singing the end of Zombie and we had that 15 seconds where we all just stood at the front of the stage and looked over 2,000 people, over the wall of King John’s Castle and onto the city and the Shannon and it was just really, really emotional. It was an incredible moment. It’s a hard one to top. We’re going a few years and that’s a stand-out moment. I’m emotional talking about it. It was incredible.  

“Noel Hogan [Cranberries guitarist] was at the gig, so knowing he was in the audience watching this, on top of everything else, really kind of brought it all home. It was absolutely amazing.”

Hermitage Green kick off their tour in Perth on November 10 before gigs in Brisbane, Melbourne, Newcastle, Sydney and Thirroul. 

Australia to get another quick round of Coronas

 The Coronas are heading back to Australia for a whistle-stop tour.

The Coronas are heading back to Australia for a whistle-stop tour.

Just a year after releasing their Irish number one album Trust the Wire and their last Aussie tour, Dublin rockers The Coronas return to Australia for three shows in November. 

Since establishing themselves in 2003, The Coronas have built up a loyal fanbase in Ireland and cemented themselves as one of our best live acts. 

Fresh from playing to 14,000 fans at Dublin’s 3Arena, lead singer Danny O’Reilly told The Irish Echo how excited the band are to be heading back down under. 

“The reaction we have been getting there is just amazing so we’re really excited about going back,” O’Reilly, the son of singing legend Mary Black, said. 

“We had a cool gig in Sydney in March, just to launch the gigs, and we love going there. We’re really excited and hopefully by the end of November, it will be nice and sunny as well so we’ll get a bit of sun on our skin.

“Often times we don’t get to enjoy the cities too much but hopefully we’ll get a few days either side just to enjoy the place. It was cool to be back in Sydney for a few days. We have a couple of friends living there now. 

“Hopefully when we go back in November, we might have a few days to enjoy it and chill out and catch up with people again.”

It was just last year that the band released their fifth studio album but in June they followed it with new material in the form of the EP, The Reprise, a collection of loose-end songs that did not fit on previous albums.

“We’ve been playing a few songs off it. It’s been going well. It’s always nice to have something new out there.

“I think the EP’s a little bit different for us, it’s a little bit of a departure from what we’ve done in the past. I mean it’s still Coronas, it’s still three and a half minute songs of my whiny voice on top of some pop songs but I think musically it’s slightly different for us. 

“It’s been getting an amazing reaction, much better than we even thought. We thought we were gonna release it under the radar just to have a release for our really eager fans who want to hear some new music but I think it’s helped us garner some new attention and some new fans so it’s really encouraging.

“We had more freedom because we produced it ourselves. It’s the first piece of work that we self- produced. It was very free and easy and like, ‘Okay, there’s no pressure on it to be a big successful album, we don’t need a load of hits, this is just something for us’. And I think taking that pressure off made it more enjoyable.

“Sometimes when you get too caught up in trying to write singles you can get off track a little bit. With this, we didn’t worry at all about getting radio play; this was more of a self-indulgent … undertaking. It was nice to be able to do that and scratch that itch and let ourselves just go with it.”

The lead single on The Reprise is The Note, striking for both the singalong and triumphant tune and the heartbroken lyrics it is married to. 

O’Reilly has often spoken about how he writes about his own life in his music. This song could very well be from the period after his high-profile break-up with television presenter, Laura Whitmore. 

“It’s about the struggle after a break-up and sometimes that maybe things aren’t great and they might not get better and having those depressing feelings so it’s definitely darker lyrically,” he said. “People are loving it and that’s really great to see. It’ s nice we found a home for it because it’s a song we’re really proud of.”

The band have started putting together material for their next album and O’Reilly reveals this comes as a relief after the last album’s difficult preparation.

“I’m really excited about the new stuff, more so than years gone by. With the last album Trust the Wire we’re really proud of it. I definitely think it’s one of our strongest albums but I think it was the closest I’ve ever been to having writer’s block. 

“I was definitely struggling creatively for a while so I just thought: ‘We’re getting older, trying to continuously improve creatively, it’s going to be difficult and it’s going to just get harder as you get older’. 

“That’s sort of what I had resigned myself to but then we went down to Dingle and had these two weeks where there were just songs falling out of us and I was like, ‘Oh my God. These are great’.”

O’Reilly will not be the only family member in Australia in November as his mother Mary Black will perform at the Sydney Irish Festival.  

Asked if there could be some overlap of their time here, O’Reilly replied: “It will be great. To be completely honest, I had no idea we were going to be in Australia at the same time, so thank you for that. It would be so cool. 

“If I can do it, I would definitely consider going over a week early maybe to Australia, seeing her show and just chilling out for a week. I hope that might work out, make a family holiday out of it.” 

The Coronas play Prince Bandroom, Melbourne on 22 November, Metro Theatre, Sydney on 23 November and Capitol, Perth on 24 November. For more information, go to

Harp In The South a Strumpet City down under

 Kate Mulvany's stage adaptation of Ruth Park's Harp In The South runs until October 6. 

Kate Mulvany's stage adaptation of Ruth Park's Harp In The South runs until October 6. 


REVIEW: “There are no literary tricks, no displays of cleverness, little rhetoric and less sentimentality; it is full-hearted, astutely observed writing at its most cohesive.”

Eileen Battersby wrote this in The Irish Times as a way of describing James Plunkett’s novel Strumpet City (successfully adapted for the small screen by Hugh Leonard in the 1970s) but it could have been written about Ruth Parks’ The Harp In The South.

Different city and a slightly different time but its epic scale, its large cast of characters and its essential Irishness are common threads.

Actor and playwright Kate Mulvany, whose resume is already bulging with fine stage work, has adapted Parks’ three novels about the Darcy family - Missus, Harp In The South and Poor Man’s Orange – for the Sydney Theatre Company. The resultant mammoth production, directed by Kip Williams, is both impressive and captivating. 

The ‘harp’ of the title is Ireland and we are taken on a dramatic journey with the Darcy family from the rural NSW town which they first call home in the new land to the grimy Surry Hills slums to which they move in search of a better life.

The streets of Sydney are not paved with gold and their lives become a daily battle of survival against the forces of poverty, violence, illness, crime, alcoholism and prejudice. 

For all that, there’s warmth and humour galore interwoven into the script along with a number of Irish songs tastefully punctuating the narrative.

While this is a new play, it is immediately familiar to Irish eyes with shades of Sean O’Casey, John B Keane and even Brian Friel.

Emigration is a common theme for Irish playwriting but few are written from the perspective of those who have left, looking back over their shoulder, wondering if the grass beneath their feet is indeed greener.

The opening words of Siúil A Rún, which is used to great dramatic effect in Part 1, spell it out.

“I wish I were on yonder hill, ’tis there I’d sit an cry my fill”. 

Harp In The South is steeped in that immigrant world and for the Darcys, Australia does not ultimately deliver a better life for them or their descendants even if the play (six and half hours of theatre delivered over two performances) ends on an optimistic note.

In the #metoo era, Harp In The South resonates with feminist themes as we see three generations of women battle to keep their families together as their own dreams - and indeed their very lives - are sacrificed and abandoned.

As a consequence, the female characters get all the best lines, whether its Anita Hegh’s relentlessly-aproned Margaret Darcy or local brothel madam Delie Stock, beautifully played by Helen Thompson. The Irish-born matriarch Eny Kilker, played by Heather Mitchell chastises her Australian-born son-in-law Hughie Darcy at one point “Irish? You’re about as Irish as a feckin’ wombat!”.

Sadly, the male actors are not given as much to work with as their characters are either lazy drunks, sexual predators or gormless fools. 

Part 1 is a significantly more satisfying theatrical event than Part 2 and one wonders whether the adaptation could have been more comprehensively edited to create one single production.

But make no mistake, this is a very important addition to the Australian theatrical canon and one definitely worth seeing. For all of its Irishness, it is an Australian story. We see the seeds of Sydney’s multicultural, secular, pluralist, hedonistic present through the eyes of these spirited women and the flawed men who take their loyalty and love for granted.

4/5 Stars.

Global Irish fun run gets into stride again

 Tadhg Kennelly and former Sydney Swans team-mate Michael O'Loughlin at the 2017 Sydney 5k run.

Tadhg Kennelly and former Sydney Swans team-mate Michael O'Loughlin at the 2017 Sydney 5k run.

Seventeen cities, eight countries, one global nation.

The Ireland Fund’s Global 5k run will get into stride again on September 22. 

Events will take place in Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne to raise money for causes in Australia and Ireland. 

The global patron for the run is Irish Olympian Sonia O’Sullivan, who will take to the field in Melbourne this year. The Sydney run will be led by former Sydney Swans star Tadhg Kennelly. 

“It’s hard to believe we’re in the fifth year of this event,” said John Gallagher, chairman of the Ireland Fund Australia Sydney Young Leaders.

“It’s grown every year but we are really hopeful that this is the year that the run becomes a really established, fun event for runners, walkers, families, pets, anyone who likes, on the Irish Australian community calendar in all three cities. 

“We’re thrilled to have the support again of both Sonia O’Sullivan and Tadhg Kennelly, helping us to raise much-needed funds for worthy causes in Ireland and Australia.”

Starting in Brisbane at 7am, with the baton handed to Sydney and then over to Melbourne, the young leaders will run 5kms in their respective cities before passing the virtual baton. 

The Global 5k will conclude when the last young leader crosses the finish line in San Francisco. 

“It’s a really excellent event,”
Kennelly said. “I brought the family along last year; tried out my knees again for the first time in a few years. 

“And it’s a very Irish take on a fitness event – we all get the exercise in first, and the sausages and goodies afterwards! I enjoyed the chat and the craic and meeting everyone last year.” 

People can support the event by signing up to run, by volunteering on the day, by sponsoring a runner or making a donation. 

All runners get an event T-shirt, plus a delicious breakfast BBQ after the race. Sponsorship packages are also available. 

Global 5k runs take place in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, New York, Boston, Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Toronto, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Belfast, Dublin and London.

Pope Francis meets Irish victims of clerical abuse

 Pope Francis speaks to the audience at Croke Park Stadium in Dublin, during the Festival of Families. Picture: PA

Pope Francis speaks to the audience at Croke Park Stadium in Dublin, during the Festival of Families. Picture: PA

The Pope has met with victims of church abuse and mistreatment in Ireland after expressing pain and shame over failures to tackle the scandals.

The 90-minute private encounter with eight survivors at the Papal Nuncio's residence in Dublin came hours after the Pope acknowledged that Irish people had a right to be outraged by the church's response to the crimes.

On the first day of his historic visit to Ireland, the pontiff also prayed for all victims of clerical sex abuse. The Pope's decision to address the dark legacy of abuse in a speech in Dublin Castle drew praise in some quarters, but others criticised Francis for not saying enough or offering a public apology.

With the reverberations of a litany of clerical sex crimes casting a shadow over the first papal visit to Ireland in almost 40 years, Francis acknowledged the gravity of what had happened.

"With regard to the most vulnerable, I cannot fail to acknowledge the grave scandal caused in Ireland by the abuse of young people by members of the church charged with responsibility for their protection and education," he said.

"The failure of ecclesiastical authorities - bishops, religious superiors, priests and others - adequately to address these repellent crimes has rightly given rise to outrage and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community.

"I myself share those sentiments."

Later in the day, Francis sat in prayerful contemplation inside a Dublin cathedral at a candle perpetually lit for those abused.

On a full day of engagements in the Irish capital, the Pope also visited homeless people who receive support from a centre run by the Capuchin Fathers' religious order.

In his Dublin Castle speech, the pontiff also expressed hope that remaining obstacles to reconciliation in Northern Ireland could be overcome. Ireland has undergone seismic social changes in the four decades since the last papal visit in 1979, when John Paul II was lauded by a nation shaped by its relationship with an all-powerful Catholic Church.

But the church's response to clerical sex abuse scandals, most of which emerged years after John Paul II's visit, have severely damaged trust in the religious institution and seriously weakened its influence on Irish society.

While thousands lined the streets of the capital to catch a glimpse of Francis passing in his famous Popemobile on Saturday afternoon, the crowds were certainly not on the scale witnessed when John Paul II made a similar trip. And among the well-wishers lining Dublin's streets there were also protesters, who vented their anger at the pontiff as he drove by.

During his address at the castle, Francis referred to steps taken by his predecessor Pope Benedict, as he insisted the church was acting on abuse.

"It is my hope that the gravity of the abuse scandals, which have cast light on the failings of many, will serve to emphasise the importance of the protection of minors and vulnerable adults on the part of society as a whole," he said.

Afterwards, one abuse survivor, Colm O'Gorman, branded his response as "disgraceful".

"He could have talked to us all in a way that was blunt, that was clear, that was frank, that was human, that was accessible," he said. "He refused to do so. And that's a huge shame. I think frankly it's rather disgraceful".

 Pope Francis and President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin.

Pope Francis and President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin.

In the speech, the Pope said he also wished to acknowledge women who in the past had "endured particularly difficult circumstances".

Later, he passed close to the site of a former Magdalene laundry as he arrived on Sean McDermott Street in the north inner city to meet well-wishers outside

Our Lady of Lourdes Church. The notorious laundry institutions run by Catholic religious orders effectively incarcerated thousands of young women from troubled backgrounds and forced them to work under harsh conditions.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had earlier urged the Pope to "listen to the victims" in his own address at Dublin Castle. In forthright remarks, the Taoiseach said there had to be "zero tolerance" for those who abuse and anyone who facilitated them.

Mr Varadkar also acknowledged the Irish state's failings in the mistreatment of many in the past, describing the nation's history of "sorrow and shame".

"Wounds are still open and there is much to be done to bring about justice and truth and healing for victims and survivors," he said.

"Holy Father, I ask that you use your office and influence to ensure this is done here in Ireland and across the world."

Mr Varadkar said he hoped the Pope's visit marked a "new chapter" in Ireland's relationship with the Catholic Church.

Earlier, the Pope met Irish President Michael D Higgins at his official residence in Phoenix Park. Mr Higgins also raised the issue of abuse, conveying the anger felt by many Irish citizens at the scandals.

The Pope also used the first day of his visit to praise those who helped forge Northern Ireland's historic Good Friday peace agreement in 1998.

In an apparent reference to the current political deadlock in Northern Ireland, which has seen the region without a properly functioning devolved government for 20 months, Francis said: "We can give thanks for the two decades of peace that followed this historic agreement, while expressing firm hope that the peace process will overcome every remaining obstacle and help give birth to a future of harmony, reconciliation and mutual trust."

Francis is ostensibly in Ireland to attend the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) - a major global church event focused on promoting family values.

He ended his first day of engagements by joining 82,000 others at a WMOF musical celebration in Croke Park. Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli was among those to sing for the Pope, delivering a powerful rendition of Ave Maria. The Pope's Saturday itinerary also included meeting with engaged and recently married couples in Dublin's Pro Cathedral.

On Sunday, the Pope will fly west to Co Mayo, where he will follow in the footsteps of John Paul II and take part in a religious service at a holy shrine in Knock. He will then return to Dublin for the closing centrepiece of the WMOF event - an outdoor Mass in front of an expected congregation of half a million people in Phoenix Park. 

New PM Morrison quoted Bono in maiden speech

 New Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison with daughters, Abigail, second from right, and Lily, second from left, and wife Jenny after being sworn in at Government House, Canberra. Picture: Andrew Taylor

New Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison with daughters, Abigail, second from right, and Lily, second from left, and wife Jenny after being sworn in at Government House, Canberra. Picture: Andrew Taylor

Newly sworn in Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has no discernible links with Ireland but he did quote Bono in his maiden speech.

Mr Morrison, 50, has promised a stable government at the end of a tumultuous week in which his predecessor was forced out of office, 13 ministers resigned and parliament was shut down for an afternoon.

Disgruntled government legislators forced former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull from office on Friday, arguing that most had lost faith in his leadership.

He is the fourth prime minister to be dumped by their own party since 2010 in an extraordinary period of political instability that frustrates most Australians.

Mr Morrison distanced himself from the turmoil, saying he had not been part of the push led by fellow lawmaker Peter Dutton to oust Mr Turnbull over four chaotic days, inspired by a feud between hard-right conservatives and moderates.

"We will provide the stability and the unity and the direction and the purpose that the Australian people expect of us," Mr Morrison told reporters. "The work of government continues. I want to assure all Australians that those normal wheels are turning."

A devout Christian, who is a member of the Pentecostal church, Morrison is seen as both socially and economically conservative. He is synonymous with the hardline Stop The Boats strategy aimed at intercepting refugees and asylum seekers before they reach Australian shores.

 Bono and U2 on stage in the US in 2018.

Bono and U2 on stage in the US in 2018.

In his maiden speech to parliament in 2008 however, he spoke passionately about the plight of African people confronting war, poverty, famine and corruption.

"Africa ... is a humanitarian tragedy on an unimaginable scale," he told the House of Representatives.  "It is a true moral crisis that eclipses all others. The African tragedy is driven by war, poverty, disease, famine, corruption, injustice and an evil that is robbing generations of Africans, our fellow human beings, of their future."

He then quoted Bono.

"Paul Hewson, better known as Bono, said: 'There is a continent—Africa—being consumed by flames.... when the history books are written, our age will be remembered for ... what we did—or did not do to put the fire out ...'"

Time will tell as to whether Mr Morrison can put the fires of hate out within the parliamentary Liberal Party.

Two Aussie Roses miss the cut for TV final

 Perth Rose Laura Cannon, South Australia's Emilie Helbig, Sydney's Caitlin MacInante, Melbourne Rose Suzie Jackson and Queensland Rose Sarah Griffin-Breen on the surfboard at the K Club in Co Kildare last week. Picture: Domnick Walsh

Perth Rose Laura Cannon, South Australia's Emilie Helbig, Sydney's Caitlin MacInante, Melbourne Rose Suzie Jackson and Queensland Rose Sarah Griffin-Breen on the surfboard at the K Club in Co Kildare last week. Picture: Domnick Walsh

Five Australian Roses made the long trip to Tralee but only three will feature in the live TV 'final'.

Sydney's Caitlin MacInante, Melbourne's Suzie Jackson and Perth's Laura Cannon will be part of the televised Rose Of Tralee final which will be broadcast over two nights from early Tuesday morning Australian time on RTE.

But Queenland's Sarah Griffin-Breen and South Australia's Emilie Helbig have missed out.

Unlike in previous years, only 32 of the 57 participating Roses get to take part in the televised portion of the pageant.

Queensland's Rose Of Tralee organisers posted the following message on their Facebook page.

"We are so incredibly proud of our beautiful Queensland Rose, Sarah. Her journey so far in Tralee has been amazing and we are excited to celebrate the rest of the Festival with her. All 57 Roses have done their Families and Centres proud and we wish the 32 through to the Dome the best of luck."

Others who posted on the official Rose of Tralee page were less magnanimous.

"Not fair on the other Roses," Fiona Real posted when the final list of 32 was revealed. "Won't be tuning in to watch the live shows. I think they should all go through after all the effort these girls went through to get there."

The final list of Roses for the first of two broadcasts is: Abu Dhabi, Arizona, Carlow, Dublin, Florida, Kerry, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Leitrim, Monaghan, New York, New Zealand, Newfoundland & Labrador, Toronto, Waterford, Westmeath and Yorkshire

All three remaining Aussie Roses will take part in the second broadcast alongside: Boston & New England, Chicago, Cork, Down, Dubai, Galway, Germany, London, Mayo, Philadephia and San Francisco.

The Rose of Tralee will be available to watch for free, live and on-demand on RTÉ Player.




Strong Irish vein to adapted stage epic

 Tony Cogin, Anita Hegh and Tara Morice in Kate Mulvany's adaptation of Ruth Park's  The Harp In The South .  Picture: Rene Vaile

Tony Cogin, Anita Hegh and Tara Morice in Kate Mulvany's adaptation of Ruth Park's The Harp In The South.  Picture: Rene Vaile

A MUCH-LOVED story about a Catholic Irish-Australian family living in the Surry Hills slums in the post-war years has been turned into an epic play opening in Sydney this month.

The Harp in the South follows the lives, loves and losses of the Darcy family who run a boarding house amid the dirt and the squalor of inner city Sydney in the 40s and 50s.

It’s a two-part production staged over a mammoth five-and-a-half hours so audiences can be completely immersed in the Darcys’ world.

The play is based on a trilogy of novels by Ruth Park and has been adapted for the theatre by award-winning playwright and actress Kate Mulvany.

Mulvany, who has Irish hertitage, fell in love with The Harp in the South while growing up. She described it as a “beautiful, sweeping, romantic” saga.

“It was just this book that seemed to be on everyone’s shelves,” she said.

“I guess it was because Ruth Park was so inclusive of everyone in her writing. Everyone could find themselves, or their mum, or their grandparents in it. And for me, it was the very, very strong Irish vein that ran through the book in every single way.”

 Guy Simon, Contessa Treffone and Rose Riley in the Sydney Theatre Company's production of  The Harp In The South . 

Guy Simon, Contessa Treffone and Rose Riley in the Sydney Theatre Company's production of The Harp In The South

At the heart of the play are first generation Irish-Australians Margaret and Hugh Darcy and their two daughters Roie (Rowena) and Dolour.  Audiences will follow them through the generations and the decades in a production full of song, laughter and tears. Their Irish-born grandma, played by Heather Mitchell, provides many of the gags.

 “She is sort of like an over-sexed, blatantly honest, funny, little tiny creature,”Mulvany said. “I really enjoy it every time she goes on stage.”

There’s also a tight-knit community of neighbours, many of them new immigrants from different parts of the world. The colourful cast of characters includes the notorious madam who runs the brothel next door, nuns and even an Orangeman intent on starting the Troubles in the Darcy’s kitchen.

The Harp in the South reflects the life of Surry Hills’ hardscrabble post-war residents – the Irish, the Chinese and the Europeans – who filled its streets with life and colour.

One of the play’s central themes is community and “finding a place to belong when you’re far from home” and it celebrates the fellowship that existed among the slum dwellers.

But it certainly isn’t all a rose-tinted depiction of the ‘good old days’. 

Along with the grinding poverty, there’s violence, backstreet abortions, alcoholism and death. 

 Playwright Kate Mulvany, who adapted Ruth Park's classic for the stage.

Playwright Kate Mulvany, who adapted Ruth Park's classic for the stage.

Park lived in Surry Hills after she got married, so she knew well the conditions firsthand.

“I’m not going to cast it in a golden light because it’s not,” Mulvany said. “Ruth Park never wrote it like that, either. It’s tough.”

In fact, when Park’s book was first published in 1948 there was a public outcry at its depiction of the slums, especially because Park was a New Zealander. And while modern Irish
immigrants might appear to have little in common with the Darcys, Mulvany said they may struggle with some of the same issues.

 “Do you belong either in Surry Hills or in Ireland? How far does Irish blood go?”

Mulvany wrote the play for the Sydney Theatre Company after being given the commission to adapt an epic novel and turn it into event theatre.

Audiences can choose to watch the two-part production on different days, or on the same day with breaks.

The 18-strong cast is in rehearsal and has the enormous task of playing 150 parts, switching costumes and personas for what has been described as one of STC’s most ambitious productions.

 “They’re doing very well with it; I’m sure they’ll turn on me soon,” Mulvany said with a laugh.

The Harp in the South runs from August 16 to October 6 in the Roslyn Packer Theatre.

For more details go to

Irish-born former WA senator dies, aged 73

 Cavan-born Jim McKiernan has died at the age of 73. 

Cavan-born Jim McKiernan has died at the age of 73. 

Former Labor Senator for Western Australia and proud Cavan-man Jim McKiernan died at his home in Perth on Friday after a long battle with cancer. He was 73.

WA Labor paid tribute to the Irish-born parliamentarian, who represented his state in the Australian Senate from 1985 to 2002.

"Sad news for the WA Labor family today, with the passing of the great Jim McKiernan," they posted.

"A unionist, a great parliamentarian, and one of the great senses of humour in politics.

"From Cavan, Ireland to the Dillingham shipyards in Fremantle, to the Senate in Canberra, his story is one of a working class kid made good, and a life well lived. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones. Vale Jim."

The third of eight children of James and Mary (Maisie) McKiernan, Jim left school at age fourteen to help support the family.

He worked as a petrol pump attendant and an abattoir worker before emigrating to England. In 1969, having gained a trade qualification as a first-class machinist, he migrated to Perth,  taking advantage of an assisted passage scheme.

He took on a position as a machinist/fitter and turner at Dillingham Shipyards in Fremantle, where he remained for the next four years.

He joined the Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU) which later became the Amalgamated Metal Workers' Union (AMWU). In 1976 he was appointed as the AMWU's first full-time education officer in Western Australia,.

He joined the Australian Labor Party and became increasingly immersed in politics.

He put his name forward for preselection to run for a Western Australian Senate seat and in the 1984 half-Senate election, McKiernan was elected to Canberra.

After his first marriage to Jean ended in divorce, McKiernan married Jacqueline (Jackie) Watkins, a sitting member of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly who held the seat of Joondalup (1983–89) and, later, the seat of Wanneroo (1989–93).

McKiernan was re-elected to the Senate in 1987, 1990 and 1996, the latter two from the top of the ALP ticket.

During his time in Canberra, he agitated to remove references to the Queen from the oath or affirmation of allegiance to be made by new Australian citizens.

The passage of the Australian Citizenship Amendment Bill 1993 brought this campaign to a successful conclusion and many Irish permanent residents became Australian citizens as a consequence. According to those closest to him, it was his proudest political achievement.

One of his roles was as returning officer for the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party (1990–96) a role which famously saw him preside over and announce the results of both leadership ballots held between Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, in June and December 1991.

During these contests McKiernan was a vocal Hawke supporter and a critic of Keating, effectively precluding him from a ministerial post under a Keating-led Government. In his final days, Hawke gave him a call to wish him well.

McKiernan became an early victim of Section 44 of the Constitution when he was forced to give up his Irish citizenship before the 1990 election.

He said in 1999: “Regrettably in the late ‘80s I had to, on advice, relinquish my Irish citizenship. It was something I didn't particularly enjoy doing at the time, but it was something I had to do in order to hang on to my job.”

McKiernan remained in the Senate until his retirement in 2002.

He used his valedictory speech to reflect on his personal experience of migration. He stated that his generation of Irish were 'born for the road' and that, in his case, fortune had smiled upon him, in both England and Australia.

According to his parliamentary biography, "His fellow senators lauded his contribution to and expertise in the field of migration and noted the assistance his staff had provided when negotiating difficult migration processes. They also noted that he had brought a great sense of humour to the chamber and had been one of its outstanding characters, with his unorthodox taste in ties drawing considerable comment."

He is survived by his wife Jackie, his and her children Steven, Donna, Jimmy, Lisa, Kim, Kate and Ben, their partners as well as 14 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

A celebration of his life will be held at Pinnaroo Memorial Park on Monday, August 20 from 3pm. His coffin will be draped in an Irish tricolour and the Eureka flag.




Hawks hand Meath rookie AFL debut

 Conor Nash becomes the third Irishman to debut in the AFL this season.

Conor Nash becomes the third Irishman to debut in the AFL this season.

Meathman Conor Nash will debut for Hawthorn FC this weekend, the third Irishman to debut in the AFL in 2018.

The 20-year-old joined the Hawks in late 2016 as a Category B rookie.

A promising athlete in his youth, Nash split his time playing Gaelic football and rugby. He represented Ireland in the U18 rugby side, and was touted as a star in the making due to his pace and stature.

He has since transferred these traits to the game of Aussie Rules, enjoying a breakout season with the Box Hill Hawks while averaging 13 disposals, four marks and just under a goal a game.

“I’m absolutely ecstatic,” Nash told Hawthorn's website after hearing the news that he’d be making his AFL debut against the Geelong Cats this weekend where he will come up against Laois-man Zach Tuohy and Kerryman Mark O'Connor who may get his first game for the year.

“When I found out yesterday in front of the family in the car, it was just pure joy."

Nash’s parents and young brother and sister were enjoying a holiday in Australia and were preparing to return to Ireland before receiving the news.

“Clarko (coach Alistair Clarkson) asked them if they could prolong their flights until Sunday or Monday,” Nash said. 

“I can’t wait, and I look forward to contributing to the team."

“They’ll get to see me play which is a very special moment for them, and for myself as well.”

The 197cm utility from Navan has shown an aptitude for several different positions on the ground, and says he’ll bring the pressure in whatever role he is given.

“I’ll be creating chaos, [creating] pressure as well, and using my speed and athleticism. 

“I’m sure I’ll be spent after the game.”

Nash becomes the third Irish player to debut in 2018 behind Tipperary's Colin O'Riordan for the Sydney Swans and Darragh Joyce for St Kilda. Nash's Irish teammate Conor Glass made his debut last year but none of the trio have been selected this weekend.

Elsewhere, Pearce Hanley is back in action for the Gold Coast Suns, Ciaran Byrne retains his place for Carlton and Conor McKenna starts for Essendon. 

Unique Irish dance show set to charm audiences

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CRAIC TEAM: The cast of Irish Celtic features some of the world’s best Irish dancers

A UNIQUE Irish dance show is set to get feet tapping in Melbourne and Sydney, with the acclaimed show Irish Celtic set to make its Australian debut.

Set in a traditional Irish pub, the show brings the warm welcome and raucous entertainment for which Ireland is known to a theatre stage to make for a night out like no other. Coming direct from successful tours of Germany and France, Irish Celtic boasts the talents of the finest performers from the best Irish dance companies as the show is choreographed by Jim Murrihy, an original cast member of Lord of the Dance and Feet of Flames.

The performances are married to the musical direction of Anthony Davis whose soundtrack will remind audiences of classic films such as Titanic, Braveheart and The Last of the Mohicans and all is brought together by artistic director Toby Gough, international award-winning director of Lady Salsa which played on London’s West End for two years.

Choreographer Jim Murrihy told The Irish Echo they are excited to be bringing the show to Australia. “It’s an area we haven’t been to yet and hopefully it’s the start of many years of touring around Australia and New Zealand and Asia.

"It’s a great show and I think they’ll love it. “Irish music and dancing is accepted worldwide since 1996 when Michael Flatley and Riverdance put Irish dancing and Irish music on the map. “It goes down really well in all those countries.

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Even with the language barrier, I think the music and dancing pull everything together.

“It’s a theme show, set in a pub. We have a narrator who is the owner of the pub, Paddy Flynn, and it’s a simple enough story. He’s passing down keys of the pub to his son Dermot and as the show goes along, he talks about the history of the pub and all the things that used to happen there, anywhere from births to deaths to parties, we talk about the Titanic when people left Ireland to go over to the States many years ago, so he’s telling a story.

“We want the audience to get involved in the show and that’s one of the main things. We want every person to feel like they are in that pub that night that we are portraying.”

The show will electrify fans of Irish dancing who get to see the elite of the craft and what they can do.

“The majority of our dancers are world champion Irish dancers, great performers from Lord of the Dance and Riverdance so we have a very talented cast.

"The dancers are extremely talented, the cream of the crop around at the moment. You will see that in the performance. We do a great number and it’s just the four boys and the sean-nós dancer and it’s just about who can do the best rhythms and taps, who has the highest kicks, the fastest footwork and the audience really likes that.”

When asked how he thinks the show will go down with Australian audiences, Murrihy is reminded of when he came to Australia before as part of Michael Flatley’s production.

“I think it will go down well. In my experience, they have been very receptive to Irish music and Irish dance. Hopefully it will be the same, hopefully they come away smiling and clapping. If they’re cheering and clapping for the first number, then the rest of the show will be fun.

"They just sit back and relax and enjoy the show and become part of the Irish pub. We want them to feel like it’s an Irish pub.

"What we do in Ireland on a social scene witH musicians in a pub, we’re just taking that from an Irish pub and putting it on a theatre stage. “Who can’t relate to a night out in a pub and the things that go on?”

Irish Celtic plays at The Palms at Crown, Melbourne until August 5 and the Capitol Theatre, Sydney from August 7 to 12. For more information, go to