Irish Australia

Sexting nurse's behaviour leads to Irish sanction

A nurse who texted a picture of his penis to a patient while working in Australia six years ago, has had his Irish registration suspended for a year.

While on night duty at Concord Hospital in Sydney in 2013, nurse Edward Keegan sent an explicit photograph to his partner.

Mr Keegan then left his personal mobile phone on the desk – and the photo of his penis on the screen – while he answered a call on the hospital ward phone.

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A drug and alcohol detox patient saw the photograph and, according to evidence given to the Administrative Appeals by Mr Keegan last year, began to pressure him into sharing the image.

Mr Keegan said the patient demanded he make contact after discharge in September 2013 because he wanted to see what was in the photograph "for real".

Concord Hospital where Mr Keegan worked as a nurse in 2013.

Concord Hospital where Mr Keegan worked as a nurse in 2013.

The experienced nurse said the patient left several threatening messages on his mobile phone, so he sent a text asking to be left alone, along with the explicit photograph, the Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard.

In January 2018, the tribunal disqualified Mr Keegan for two years, and would have cancelled his registration if it was still current, finding he failed to observe professional boundaries, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Mr Keegan resigned from his position after the incident came to light in 2015, and moved back to Ireland.

Earlier this week, the president of Ireland’s High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, confirmed sanctions sought by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) against Mr Keegan of Donacarney, Co Meath, who is on the Irish general nursing register.

The judge made orders suspending Mr Keegan's registration for a year, according to a report in the Irish Examiner.

A Fitness to Practice Committee of the NMBI held an inquiry after the Nursing and Midwifery Council of New South Wales notified the NMBI in 2016 that Mr Keegan's registration had been suspended there following allegations of "inappropriate contact" with a patient on dates in September 2013.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Kelly said he saw no reason not to confirm the proposed sanction.

Irish Swan's career takes flight with new contract

Sydney Swans Irish defender Colin O’Riordan has been given a major vote of confidence by his club after accepting a two-year contract extension.

The new deal will see him remain in red and white until at least the end of 2021.

Colin O’Riordan has signed a new contract with the Sydney Swans. Picture: Sydney Swans

Colin O’Riordan has signed a new contract with the Sydney Swans. Picture: Sydney Swans

Originally from Tipperary, O’Riordan joined the Swans as an international rookie in 2015, following in the footsteps of Kerrymen Tadhg Kennelly and Tommy Walsh.

A star Gaelic footballer and hurler as a teenager, O’Riordan captained Tipperary to the Munster U21 football title in 2015 before deciding to try his luck at Aussie Rules.

He made a seamless transition to the Australian game, earning NEAFL Team of the Year honours in his first season on Sydney’s list in 2016.

In Round 17, 2018, O’Riordan’s hard work and thriving NEAFL form were rewarded when he was called up for his AFL debut in a six-point win against North Melbourne.

He also captained the Swans NEAFL side in the grand final loss to Southport last year.

After breaking back into the senior team in Round 8 this year, the 23-year-old has not looked back, playing nine games in a row and providing a wealth of drive from the backline. He also scored his first AFL goal against Conor McKenna’s Essendon.

Colin O’Riordan pictured in 2015 when he captained Tipperary to the Munster U21 Gaelic football title. Picture: Sportsfile

Colin O’Riordan pictured in 2015 when he captained Tipperary to the Munster U21 Gaelic football title. Picture: Sportsfile

Swans Head of Football Charlie Gardiner says O’Riordan’s new contract is a great reward for tireless effort.
“From the moment Colin walked into the club he had a real determination and desire to become a consistent AFL footballer,” Gardiner told the Sydney Swans website.

“Colin’s such a driven and competitive person who works incredibly hard to improve each year. He’s gone to another level again this year and has emerged to become an important member of the team.

“We’re excited he’s joined a number of our emerging youngsters in re-signing, and we look forward to seeing what Colin can produce for the remainder of the season and in years to come.”

Watch O’Riordan’s press conference here.

O’Riordan joins Callum Sinclair, Jordan Dawson, Nick Blakey, James Rowbottom, Justin McInerney and Harry Reynolds, as well as coach John Longmire, in recommitting to Sydney in 2019.

Emigrants should be primary focus of new diaspora policy

The Irish government is working on a new policy for the diaspora as the country seeks to expand and improve its global footprint and influence by 2025.

The Varadkar government is looking for ideas from the global Irish family to inform this new policy.

However, as a recent visit to Australia by the relevant minister Ciaran Cannon revealed, the government has yet to settle on a definition for the Irish diaspora.

If you’re a fifth generation Aussie of Irish heritage, you have a very different existential relationship with Ireland than the 28-year-old nurse from Mayo who arrived into Sydney airport this morning.

For the purposes of this exercise, it is crucial that the nurse, lets call her Aoife, is foremost in our thoughts and informs what we can observe about the recent experience of emigrants.

Why? Firstly, because she is an Irish citizen living and working abroad, hopefully by choice. In her head and her heart she will always be Irish, no matter where she lives.

Irish emigrants have a very different relationship with Ireland than those of more distant Irish heritage.

Irish emigrants have a very different relationship with Ireland than those of more distant Irish heritage.

For the fifth generation Aussie, lets call him Kevin (Rudd?), Ireland holds an abstract place in his cultural memory. But it will never be home.

The good news for Aoife is that all the evidence points to the fact that she will do very well here.

She will get a job almost immediately. When she goes to work, she will meet others just like her. Irish nurses, many of whom, sadly, believe that Ireland does not sufficiently value their skills to pay them, or offer them the working conditions, that they deserve.

That issue aside, Aoife will most likely get sponsored and begin a pathway to permanent residency in Australia, still something that is highly desired among young Irish immigrants.

She may join one of the Gaelic football or camogie clubs or try her hand at Aussie Rules which seems to be such a great fit for young Irish women. Either way, there will be no major cultural or ethnic obstacle to her integration into Australian life.

Coming to Australia from Ireland is such a well-trodden path now that people like Aoife slip almost immediately into the mainstream.

Aoife will become part of a migrant community which, the census tells us, is one of the most successful in Australia.

When individual earnings are compared by place of birth, the Irish appear right at the top of the list. We earn more than any other European migrants.

So Aoife has nothing to worry about then? Well, not exactly.

Returning emigrants, particularly those returning from beyond the European Union, often recount negative experiences when trying to reintegrate into Irish life.

Returning emigrants, particularly those returning from beyond the European Union, often recount negative experiences when trying to reintegrate into Irish life.

What if Aoife, like many of those who came before her, becomes inconsolably homesick? What if her elderly grandmother becomes seriously ill? Does she jump on a plane? Its such a long way. What if she herself has an accident? A car crash? An unplanned pregnancy? What if she overstays her visa?

The Irish in Australia confront similar challenges to other Irish emigrants, whether they be in Boston, Birmingham or Berlin. But the tyranny of distance, in my view, compounds the negative implications and makes our situation almost unique. Our remoteness also makes it more difficult for us to agitate for recognition, support and funding from Dublin.

I think there is an excellent case to be made for additional Irish government resources to be deployed here. For example, we have seen the clear benefits of having a consulate in Sydney and an honorary consulate in Perth. Both entities have enriched the experience of Irish emigrants in those cities, not to mention the broader benefit of promoting Irish interests – a key goal of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's Global Ireland 2025 strategy.

Melbourne and Brisbane, cities with very significant emigrant populations, not to mention their own cultural and historical links with Ireland as well as economic and commercial opportunities for Ireland, are still waiting for their consulates.

If people think this is asking too much, just look at Canada, a comparable nation, which has five honorary consuls to Australia’s one.

Similarly, Australia, despite being the number one destination for young Irish over the past 15 years, receives only a tiny proportion of the Emigrant Support Programme (ESP) budget, less than four per cent. More than 92 per cent of ESP funding in 2017 went to Britain, the US and Ireland itself. In per capita terms, emigrants in Australia receive less than one fifth of what their US equivalents get.

Ireland needs a policy that deals exclusively with emigration, emigrants and Irish-born citizens abroad.

Ireland needs a policy that deals exclusively with emigration, emigrants and Irish-born citizens abroad.

In terms of recognition, of the 100 Presidential Distinguished Service Medals which have been handed out to members of the diaspora by successive Irish presidents, only three have come to Australia.

Those issues aside, let me say that Irish emigrants to Australia do not, in my view, face unique obstacles beyond those which are confronted by any other immigrant to this country. The constantly shifting goalposts of the Australian immigration department may be infuriatingly complex, bureaucratic and expensive but that is not something which can be influenced from Dublin. Ireland can’t solve all of our problems.

But I think we would all welcome more open-ended government to government conversations about extending reciprocal privileges for Irish people here and Australian people there. Older migrants, for instance, may want to spend their later years in Ireland or expat families may want to bring their elderly relatives to live here. These choices need to be supported.

Similarly, it is now very difficult for the partners of Irish citizens to secure post-nuptial citizenship in Ireland. The rules surrounding this were changed only in the last 20 years and should, in my view, be revisited.

It has to be said that many of the most negative experiences that citizens abroad have confronted in recent years have come when they have returned to Ireland.

The negative response in elements of the Ireland-based media to the forthcoming referendum on voting rights for the Irish abroad in presidential elections mirrors the experience of many returning emigrants when they confront the dreaded Habitual Residency Condition when trying to reconnect to Irish life.

It seems to be particularly difficult for returning citizens who have been outside of the EU to complete simple tasks like enrolling their kids into school, applying for a homeloan, getting a drivers licence or securing car insurance. Similarly, the fact that young Irish citizens seeking to study at Irish universities are deemed to be foreign students is a problem that demands an imaginative response.

Just this week I received an email from a young Irish couple who in 2016, after five years in Australia, decided to make the big move back home.

Three months ago, they moved back to Australia.

The young mum said: “It really didn’t work out for us. They go on about how they want us back but they make things hard.”

It really didn’t work out for us. They go on about how they want us back but they make things hard.
— Returned Irish emigrant who has decided to emigrate again

So, in summary, Ireland does not need one new policy for the diaspora. It needs two.

One, a policy that deals exclusively with emigration, emigrants and Irish-born citizens abroad. It is written with someone like Aoife in mind. The experience of emigration (or even living and working abroad) sets people like Aoife apart from the broader diaspora. The goal of the policy should be ensure that Aoife has consular support nearby; that there is a well-funded safety net she can fall into and that should she decide to return home, she can do that seamlessly and with minimum fuss. She should be able to vote in all Irish elections for up to five years and her future husband, wife or life-partner should also be able to get Irish citizenship, just like her children will. Extending the voting franchise will also allow other emigrant issues to be given the political currency they deserve.

The second policy should be all about the children of Irish emigrants and their descendants. The goal should be to ensure that their cultural affinity is enhanced and their Hibernian heritage is celebrated but in a practical way that does not seek to patronise or shake

This can be achieved through increased investment in cultural programmes which support the globalisation of Irish culture. The French, through Alliance Française, and the British, through the British Council, have created successful models for just such activity. Irish music, dance, language and literature should provide more than enough content for real engagement for an Irish equivalent.

Ireland’s universities should be compelled (and funded) to participate. Done right, the policy will reinforce Ireland privileged position as a renowned centre of cultural creativitity and deliver flow-on benefits for business, tourism and the economy. If you build it, they will come.

Echo lists top 100 Irish Australians of all time

The late Jim Stynes is on of the Top 100 Irish Australians of all time as listed in the current edition of the Irish Echo. Picture: Lachlan Cunningham

The late Jim Stynes is on of the Top 100 Irish Australians of all time as listed in the current edition of the Irish Echo. Picture: Lachlan Cunningham

What do Ned Kelly, Errol Flynn and Alan Joyce have in common? Like at least one in three Australians, they are of strong Irish heritage. But they are also all included in the Irish Echo’s list of the top 100 Irish Australians of all time.

Swashbuckling Hollywood star Errol Flynn was the son of an Irish biologist.

Swashbuckling Hollywood star Errol Flynn was the son of an Irish biologist.

The list is included in the Irish Echo’s 30th Anniversary edition which has just been published in print and digital form.

The Top 100 includes prime ministers and premiers, priests and poets, medics and musicians as well as the occasional bushranger.

Fourteen of the top 100 are living including Qantas chief Alan Joyce, Sydney Swans Premiership player Tadhg Kennelly and former Australian of the year Prof Patrick McGorry, who was born in Dublin.

Also included are former Hawke government minister Susan Ryan, WIFI inventor Dr John O’Sullivan and former Chief Justice of Australia Sir Gerard Brennan.

The inclusion of former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating and former Liberal NSW Premier John Fahey demonstrates that Irish influence was not confined to one side of politics.

One of the more interesting characters to be included is Constance D’Arcy (1879 - 1950) who was a pioneer for women’s health in New South Wales and became Sydney University’s first Deputy Chancellor.

She is one of a number of trailblazing women including self-styled anthropologist Daisy Bates, famed cellist Maureen O’Carroll and Golden Globe winner Lisa Gerrard.

Dublin-born author and journalist Clare Dunne is among our Top 100 Irish Australians of all time.

Dublin-born author and journalist Clare Dunne is among our Top 100 Irish Australians of all time.

The list is broken down into six categories: Game Changers, Nation Builders, Trailblazers, Pioneers, Visionaries and Saints & Scholars.

Aboriginal Australia is also represented with legendary songwriter Kev Carmody and designer John Moriarty included.

The list includes characters from every period of Australian history since European settlement from rebel transportee Michael Dwyer (1772-1825) and convict-turned-surveyor James Meehan (1774-1826) to modern-day icons like world champion surfer Mick Fanning (whose dad is from Donegal) and football superstar Tadhg Kennelly.

The characters who gave their names to everything from the seat of Wentworth, to the Cahill Expressway, to the the SCG’s O’Reilly stand and Tooheys beer are all included.

Tyrone Dad's appeal for suffering son

An Adelaide Irish family is praying for a heart transplant to save their three-year-old who has endured five open heart surgeries to alleviate his rare conditions. 

David Hope Glass was transferred to Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital in May, where he is reliant on a pacemaker, mechanical valve and heart failure treatment drug Milrinone to keep his tiny heart beating. 

With just one quarter of David’s heart properly functioning, his parents remain hopeful for a “miracle”, with his Irish father Liam Glass saying the family had placed their trust in God since finding out about David’s condition when his mother Cindy Glass was 20 weeks pregnant.

“We want to show what faith and hope can do, and hopefully one day David can tell people,” he said.

David’s list of medical conditions is long and complex, from Atrioventricular and Ventricular Septal Defects which have left holes in the walls separating the chambers of his heart, to Pulmonary Stenosis, characterised by an obstruction of the flow of blood from the right heart ventricle to the lungs.

The David Glass Appeal is raising money in young David’s name. Photo: Go Fund Me.

The David Glass Appeal is raising money in young David’s name. Photo: Go Fund Me.

An appeal in his name has raised more than $8,000 through Go Fund Me, leaving his parents overwhelmed by the kindness of friends and strangers.

Melbourne’s Irish Australian Support and Research Bureau has also helped the family while they have been in Melbourne.

The money is intended to relieve pressure on the family, with both parents left unable to work as they care for their first-born.  

David was placed on the waiting list for a donor heart this year, his father explaining, “It’s the only option.”

According to Transplant Australia, patients needing a heart transplant commonly wait nine or more months for a suitable organ donation.

Patients can often depend on Milrinone for years, but it is difficult to predict how long it will be effective for each individual, leaving David’s parents and doctors in the dark as to the urgency of a transplant.

While most children with severe heart failure can use a mechanical heart device known as a VAD until a transplant is undertaken, this option would likely be fatal for David due to the increased risks associated with having only one working ventricle. 

Father Liam, David, mother Cindy and Bella at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital. Photo: Adrienne Myszka, Heartfelt.

Father Liam, David, mother Cindy and Bella at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital. Photo: Adrienne Myszka, Heartfelt.

Despite being in a state his father described as sickly stable, David is otherwise like any other child his age. 

He adores his little sister Bella who keeps him company in the hospital, and is obsessed with the children’s show Mister Maker, with starring actor Phil Gallagher recently showering his young fan with signed gifts. 


“He’s a happy, humble wee boy,” said Mr Glass.

David (so named for the young faithful who defeated the mighty Goliath) has his own battle ahead as he awaits a donor heart, but Mr Glass believes his son is in the best hands after he pulled through a recent surgery against all odds. 

The Glass family had been told to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. 

“The surgeon came out crying and said God got me through that...we’ve been praying for the hands helping David.

“I said, ‘now you’re speaking my language’.” 


If you would like to donate to the appeal, visit Go Fund Me.

The Glass family thank Adrienne Myszka for providing photography free of charge.

Watch: New doco captures Sydney Irish emigrant lives

Tomás De Bhaldraithe is one of the emigrants whose life journey is told in A Lifetime Of Stories.

Tomás De Bhaldraithe is one of the emigrants whose life journey is told in A Lifetime Of Stories.

A new documentary and web project captures the amazing life stories of some Sydney Irish seniors.

The documentary, A Lifetime Of Stories, premiered at the Irish Film Festival in Sydney and is now available online. The film, devised by Enda Murray, features in-depth interviews with a number of older Irish migrants in Sydney and allows them to tell their own stories in their own words.

The participants come from the four provinces of Ireland. Pat Foley, Tomás de Bhaldraithe, Marion Reilly, Marie McMillan and Damien McCloskey reflect on their life journeys with humour and wisdom. Pat Foley, 90, left Moyvane in Co Kerry in the early 50’s and worked on the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

Damien McCloskey grew up in Derry and witnessed some of the tumultuous events in that city including Bloody Sunday in 1972. Marion Reilly is from Connemara and had the adventure of a lifetime when she travelled to Australia overland on a hippy bus in the 70’s.

Tomás de Bhaldraithe is from Dublin and is a learned Gaelic scholar and a skilled sailor of Galway hookers.

Marie McMillan is from Dublin. Marie is a skilled performer and has won numerous awards at slam poetry battles around Sydney.

GAA calls time out on International Rules, Wild Geese game

Pearce Hanley is talked by Jobe Watson during the International Rules Series in Perth in 2014

Pearce Hanley is talked by Jobe Watson during the International Rules Series in Perth in 2014

There will no international rules series or Wild Geese Trophy hurling match in 2019, the Irish Echo has learned.

Since the last international rules series in 2017, there had been discussions about bringing the series or at least one of the test matches to America as the AFL looks to promote their game stateside.

But the Irish Echo understands that the GAA has reservations about taking the hybrid code to the US nominating the scale and style of the chosen venues.

Alan Milton, GAA Director of Communications, told The Irish Echo: "The GAA continues to work with the AFL on a five year plan for the International Rules Series. A number of issues, primarily relating to venues, meant it was not possible to stage the series this year.”

The AFL has made it clear that the decision to postpone the series was not theirs.

An AFL spokesperson told The Irish Echo: "The GAA has communicated to the AFL they do not plan to play an International Rules Series this year. We are yet to have a detailed discussion as to what the result of the GAA’s decision means for the AFL and its players."

The last international rules series took place in 2017 when GAA stars travelled to Australia but lost a tough series to their hosts. Australia took the first test in Adelaide by ten points and although the second test in Perth was closer, it still went to the home team, this time by three.

Action from the Wild Geese Trophy challenge match between Kilkenny and Galway in Sydney last November.

Action from the Wild Geese Trophy challenge match between Kilkenny and Galway in Sydney last November.

The series has been held every two years on average since its revival in 1998 but there was talk of not revisiting it after a bruising series in 2006 although the series returned in 2008 regardless.

Since that time, the number of Irish players - both male and female - playing Aussie Rules has soared. This weekend, seven Irish players will line out for their AFL clubs: Conor Nash and Conor Glass (Hawthorn), Conor McKenna (Essendon), Colin O’Riordan (Sydney Swans), Mark O’Connor and Zach Tuohy (Geelong) and Pearce Hanley (God Coast Suns).

Meanwhile the apparent financial failure of the Wild Geese Trophy event in Sydney last November appears to have influenced the decision to put that concept on the back burner.

The inaugural Wild Geese trophy match took place at Spotless Stadium, Sydney last November as part of the Sydney irish Festival. Then reigning All-Ireland champions Galway came back from fourteen points down to draw the match with league winners Kilkenny and claimed victory in a 65 yard free-taking contest.

The Wild Geese trophy match was enjoyed by fans in Sydney but the hurling was supposed to be a feature of a two day Sydney Irish Festival that should have also boasted music from Damien Dempsey, Mary Black, Lunasa and Saint Sister. However just five days before the event, it was announced there would be no music stars and the festival was cut to one day.

The debacle fed into a legal case being brought against the GAA by cide brand Bulmers (Magners in Australia).

Many took to social media and other outlets to complain about the poor organisation of the event, late notice, queues at bars and lack of children's entertainment.

Although the Wild Geese Trophy was supposed to have a future, it is understood to have been loss-making prompting the GAA to look at the impact it had on other fixtures.

"The GAA President has also established a Fixture Review Committee to examine the Association's various competition structures,” Alan Milton told the Irish Echo.

“In that context it was deemed prudent not to proceed with the Wild Geese competition this year but the staging of competitions such as this will form part of that review process."

Fenian jailbreak revisited in new FitzSimons book

The incredible story of the daring rescue of six Irish political prisoners from ‘the most remote prison on earth’ has been retold in a new book.

The Catalpa Rescue recounts how Irish republicans in Ireland and America hatched a complex plan to free six inmates from Fremantle Gaol in Western Australia in 1876.

The prison was dubbed ‘a living tomb’ by inmates because it was virtually impossible to break out of.  

But according to author Peter FitzSimons, this did not deter loyal Irish patriots in the US from coming to the rescue of their fellow countrymen who had been sent there by the British crown.

The daring rescue inspired a whole new wave of Irish rebellion after it made headlines all over the world and left England humiliated by its audacity.

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According to Sydney Morning Herald journalist FitzSimons who is also chair of the Australian Republican Movement, the rescue “showed those seeking independence could triumph, that Great Britain was not unbeatable.”

He explained:  “The Catalpa Rescue was really the first major success for the Irish republican movement –it was the first black eye Ireland gave England.

 “The Irish snatched six of their soldiers from the most remote prison on earth and the story of how they managed to pull it off is just incredible.”

Peter FitzSimons’ new book bring the story of The Catalpa Rescue to a new audience.

Peter FitzSimons’ new book bring the story of The Catalpa Rescue to a new audience.

The rescue mission was spearheaded by charismatic republican John Devoy who was a leading member of the Fenians in Ireland before he was arrested and forced into exile in America.

Devoy received a letter from one of the six Irishmen rotting in Fremantle prison begging for help and immediately started fund-raising for a rescue.

He recruited an unlikely hero to lead the mission –an experienced Quaker sea Captain George Anthony who had no connection with the Irish cause but who he convinced “it was right thing to do.”

The plan was to disguise the American ship as a whaling boat and sail close to Fremantle where the prisoners could row out to meet the boat in international waters.

But according to FitzSimons, like all good plans “things got pretty hairy” on the day of the rescue.

“The six prisoners got away from their work detail, jumped into buggies and raced to Rockingham beach.  They jumped into a boat and rowed from the shore when three troopers charged onto the beach and started shooting at them but luckily they were far enough out that the rifles couldn’t reach them,” he explained.

Having survived this attack, the men faced further danger as a storm raged that night and they risked being sunk in a long boat that was heavily overloaded.

 “They could very easily have been swamped by huge waves but somehow managed to survive the night,” FitzSimons added.

After a tumultuous night at sea, the inmates still needed to row a considerable distance out to the Catalpa which was waiting for them in international waters.

Peter FitzSimons says writing the book has ‘reawakened’ his own Irish roots.

Peter FitzSimons says writing the book has ‘reawakened’ his own Irish roots.

“As they finally neared The Catalpa, they see the coastguard heading for them and it’s a race against time to reach the ship –the prisoners won the race by a 100 yards.”

But the drama didn’t end there as the coastguard pulled up alongside The Catalpa with cannons ready to fire on the ship.

Captain Anthony had raised the American flag on-board and defiantly told the Coastguard if they fired on an American ship in international waters it would be viewed as an act of war.

The coastguard went back to shore to seek advice and The Catalpa escaped with the six Irishmen safely aboard. It took them six months to sail back to New York where 300,000 people turned out to welcome the Fenians with open arms.

Author Peter FitzSimons said writing the book “was a re-awakening of my Irish roots.”

Peter’s grandfather James B FitzSimons was from Donaghadee in Co Down but left for Australia in the 1880’s. 

He explained: “I went there (Donaghadee) when I was doing my memoirs to get an understanding of where my people came from.

“It was really haunting.  I was looking at this village on the stunning coast of Ireland and I thought how bad things must have been for them to leave this place and go to the other side of the world.”

FitzSimons said his family still have the pistol which his grandfather James brought with him from Ireland –not knowing what awaited him in Australia.

He added: “I remember at my grandfather’s funeral, a man telling me: ‘he was a very fine man but I never understood a word he said.’   It had never occurred to me how strong my Irish roots are.”

The Catalpa Rescue by Peter FitzSimons is published by Hachette Australia and is available to purchase in book shops and online in Australia.

Historic conference harvests ideas on Irish diaspora

Minister of State for the Diaspora Ciaran Cannon addresses the Link Plus gathering at the Embassy of Ireland in Canberra on Saturday.

Minister of State for the Diaspora Ciaran Cannon addresses the Link Plus gathering at the Embassy of Ireland in Canberra on Saturday.

An historic gathering of Australia’s Irish community leaders has heard a range of views about how Ireland can better connect, engage and support its diaspora.

The Link Plus conference, chaired by the visiting Minister of State for the Diaspora Ciaran Cannon, brought together representatives from dozens of Australia’s major Irish groups and organsations to the Embassy of Ireland in Canberra over the weekend.

It was the first time that key representatives of so many of Australia’s Irish community groups had the opportunity to gather and air issues of common concern.

Ideas and initiatives emerging from the discussions will feed into the Irish government’s formulation of a new policy for the global Irish community to be released early next year.

A broad range of ideas and initiatives were discussed including positive and negative experiences of the Irish diaspora in Australia, how to build on Ireland’s global influence, how to better engage those of Irish heritage and how to better connect different sections of the Irish community.

One of the key concerns, highlighted by a number of speakers, was the treatment of returning emigrants, many of whom face significant challenges trying to reintegrate into Irish life.

Problems associated with accessing social services, enrolling children in school and even getting a drivers licence, particularly for emigrants returning to Ireland from outside of the European Union, were highlighted as examples of areas in need of improvement.

The tyranny of distance was also identified as a contributing factor to the unique challenges for the Irish in Australia. Homesickness was highlighted as a potential cause of mental illness among young and not-so-young immigrants.

Australia’s Irish diplomatic corp at the Link Plus conference at the Embassy of Ireland in Canberra.

Australia’s Irish diplomatic corp at the Link Plus conference at the Embassy of Ireland in Canberra.

The fact that young Irish citizens, not resident in the state, are assessed as foreign students when it comes to third level study in Ireland was also raised as a key concern. It emerged that Croatia, another European Union nation, reserves a percentage of its university places for its diaspora was pointed to as an example of a more progressive approach.

Others called for Australia to get more funding from the Emigrant Support Programme. Only four per cent of the approximately €12 million budget makes its way to Australia. In per capita terms, Australia receives one sixth of the funding doled out to America.

Similarly, Ireland’s relatively small diplomatic footprint in Australia was identified as something which potentially puts a brake on economic and other opportunities in Australia. The absence of diplomatic representation in Melbourne and Brisbane was raised a key area for potential growth.

The successful integration of Irish migrants into Australian life was identified as a key positive. But the conference heard that both Ireland and the Australian Irish community needed to work harder to enshrine that positivity and engagement within future generations of the diaspora.

Economic opportunities emanating from Ireland’s diaspora were discussed and there was broad agreement that culture, tourism and business were key areas for development.

Among the speakers were Martha McEvoy, (Friends of Ireland, Canberra); Professor Ronan McDonald (Gerry Higgins Chair in Irish Studies at the University of Melbourne); Ned Sheehy, (President of the Australasian GAA); Clare Murphy (Celtic Club, Melbourne); Seamus Sullivan, (President, Irish Australian Support Association Queensland); Emma Hannigan (Emerald Women’s Leadership Network), Julien O’Connell (Mercy Health and Pro-Vice Chancellor, Catholic Universities), Marty Kavanagh (Honorary Consul of Ireland, Western Australia), Carl Walsh (President of the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce), Helen Waldron, (Australian Industry Group); Philip O’Sullivan, (Lansdowne Club); Billy Cantwell (Irish Echo) and Fidelma Breen (University Postdoctoral Fellow, The University of Adelaide).

The questions which were considered included:

What has been the overall experience of the Irish Diaspora in Australia?  What are the positive aspects of being a member of the Irish Diaspora in Australia and are there also negative aspects? How can the positives be built upon and the negatives dispelled? What obstacles the diaspora face?

Global Ireland describes the contribution that a large and committed diaspora has made to Ireland’s reputation and influence in the world including Australia. How do we build on this?

Similarly, diaspora links have provided economic opportunities for Ireland and for Irish people both at home and abroad. How do we support and develop those links?

How do you think that we can better galvanise the Irish Diaspora in Australia to have their interests and concerns better represented locally, and at State and Federal level. What are the examples of best practice at the moment?

There are people in Australia who have a strong interest in, and sense of connection to Ireland and Irish history and culture – our so-called Affinity Diaspora. How do we foster this interest?

Who are the Irish Diaspora in Australia and how do we ensure that their interests and concerns are equally reflected? Is there a communication gap between older and younger Irish people living in Australia and how can this be addressed?

Irish doctors fleeing Ireland for Australia in larger numbers

The number of doctors emigrating from Ireland to Australia increased from 22 in 2005-2006 to 221 in 2017-2018, a new report has found.

The number of doctors emigrating from Ireland to Australia increased from 22 in 2005-2006 to 221 in 2017-2018, a new report has found.

Australia is the primary beneficiary of a sustained exodus of Irish-trained doctors from Ireland, a new detailed study has found.

Doctors are continuing to emigrate from Ireland in high numbers and many are choosing Australia.

This is having a seriously damaging effect on the Irish health service, experts claim.

The study, called “Tracking the leavers: Towards a better understanding of doctor migration from Ireland to Australia 2008-2018”, found that even though overall Irish emigration numbers to Australia decreased as the Irish economy recovered, the number of doctors emigrating here has continued to increase year on year.

The report also points out that Ireland’s dependence on internationally trained doctors has increased from 13 per cent in 2000 to 42 per cent in 2017, and last year there were 500 vacant consultant posts nationwide.

The emigration of Irish-trained doctors to Australia is a subset of this larger migration from Ireland to Australia after 2008, the report says.

“It might be expected that doctor migration would follow the same patterns, i.e. peaking between 2011 and 2013 before returning to pre-2008 levels by 2014 as the Irish economy showed signs of improvement.

ALSO READ: Will changes to the skilled regional visa affect me?

“However, the number of Irish citizen doctors granted 457 visas increased in the period 2008-2012 and has continued to increase.

“In 2017-2018, a decade since the onset of recession in Ireland, 326 Irish citizen doctors were issued with working visas (temporary and permanent) for Australia, more than double the 153 issued in 2008-2009. This trend suggests that the migration of doctors is not primarily related to economic circumstances, which began to recover in 2013-2014, but perhaps to health system factors.”

The report, written by the Human Resources For Health group, also observed that early career Irish doctors are increasing attracted by offers of work and sponsorship for RMO/resident medical officer posts in the Australian health system.

“The number of doctors migrating from Ireland to Australia at this early career stage increased from 22 in 2005-2006 to 221 in 2017-2018,” the report found. “In 2017-2018, 221 of the Irish doctors granted 457 visas were early career stage doctors, while the remaining 86 were more senior.”

The chairman of the Irish Medical Organisation’s Consultants’ Committee, Clive Kilgallen, said cuts to wages during the recession have been a major factor in many doctors’ decision to move abroad.

“This is a systemic issue, in particular for consultants appointed after 2012, who could be working for up to €50,000 per year less than their colleagues who were appointed before 2012, and are doing the same job. This is grossly unfair and it is no wonder so many of them have turned their backs on [Ireland],” he told irishhealth.com.

The report also notes that in 2014, 684 Irish/EU doctors graduated in Ireland but 627 doctors emigrated from Ireland to countries such as Australia, the UK and the US.

“These figures are clearly unsustainable for our health service,” Dr Kilgallen said.

Read the full report here.

Minister considers plight of Victorian Irish family

Damian Drum is the Nationals MP for Nicholls. He is supporting an Irish family’s bid to stay in Australia.

Damian Drum is the Nationals MP for Nicholls. He is supporting an Irish family’s bid to stay in Australia.

A local federal government backbencher and the Victorian Premier have voiced their support for an Irish family facing deportation.

Federal member for the seat of Nicholls Damian Drum is backing the Hyde family’s bid to remain in Australia and says Immigration Minister David Coleman is reviewing their case.

“I am waiting for the Minister to get an opportunity to look through the file. It will be done probably within the week,” he told the Irish Echo.

“I’ll be in constant contact with the Minister on this one and we are hopeful that we can get a good decision but we are not in a position to make a call on it yet,” he said.

Christine and Anthony Hyde’s application for permanent residency was refused because their son Darragh, 3, has cystic fibrosis.

Unless the Minister intervenes, the family who have lived in the north Victorian town of Seymour for 10 years, must leave the country by June 18.

“I spoke to David (Coleman) on this case,” Mr Drum said. “The Minister is in a very difficult position here. This situation where you have people out here on work visas who have children with severe disabilities, there is a real potential that this could cost the country millions of dollars and everyone understands that.

“If the Minister intervenes in this case, it will set a precedent so we have to be very careful,” he explained.

Darragh Hyde has been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.

Darragh Hyde has been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.

Despite this, the Nationals MP said he feels “relatively confident” after his conversations with the Minister.

He added: “There’s still a lot of work to be done in relation to all the data that goes into the appeal, all the data that the Hydes need to present. All that data has to find its way from the Department to the Minister.”

Mr Drum said he became involved in the case at the request of the local community.

“Many people from within the community have been stopping me and saying: ‘Can you help this family?’”

He said the Hydes have proven that “they are making a substantial contribution to our nation.”

Christine works as assistant principal at a local primary school and Anthony works as a bus driver.

An online petition calling for the Hydes to be allowed to remain in Australia has received over 100,000 signatures.

Mr Drum said: “The family has got the backing of the local community –I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.

“As local MPs we get lots of requests in this regard and my first answer is always to refuse a letter of recommendation for people that I haven’t met.

“I went against my strict rule in relation to letters of support in this case.  I’ve only done that on the back of a strong letter of recommendation from the school where Christine Hyde works.”

Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews says the Hydes should be allowed to stay in Australia.

Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews says the Hydes should be allowed to stay in Australia.

The Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews has also thrown his support behind the Hydes saying “They’re effectively Aussies.”

The Labor MP said: “This is a great family.  They’ve been SES volunteers and school teachers in their local schools, they’ve have contributed over the past 10 years.

“The young boy was born here, some compassion and some common sense (is needed).

“There’ll be some costs for the medical treatment he needs, but there will be so many more benefits to Seymour, to that local community and indeed for all of us.”

Christine and Anthony Hyde applied for permanent residency in 2015 before Darragh was born.

Shortly after his birth, the toddler was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and their application was rejected on the basis that his illness would be a burden on the state.

The family argued that Darragh’s condition is mild and have doctors reports to back that up.

They also argued that Darragh is Australian born and therefore should not be forced to leave..

“Darragh is Australian –he was born in Australia and has never set foot out of Australia.  He’s never been to Ireland.  It’s really unfair,” explained Christine.

Christine Hyde told The Irish Echo the message she would like to get to the minister.

"Just read the case. Just read our story. Just take it in, read the facts and make a decision: Yes or no. I believe any person that reads our case, like the many others who have, that have a heart and have a bit of compassion will see the unique circumstances around our situation and will say ‘yes’. But I don't even know if they're going to read our case,” she said.

Federal Minister for Immigration David Coleman has the power to allow the Hydes to remain in Australia.

Federal Minister for Immigration David Coleman has the power to allow the Hydes to remain in Australia.

"I have no idea what we're doing. i honestly don't know where to begin. There's parts of me that says, 'It will be fine, don't worry about it'. Then there's parts of you thinking, 'What if we're not? Do we need to start packing?' Where do we begin with this? This is our home of ten years, how do you begin to pack that up in 28 days? We still have to work. We can't just stop life either so I don't know where we are with it at all.

"You don't want to get to a point where you've got ten days and it's a no. Who can pack up in ten days? Get out of the lease and sell a few cars, it's not realistic.

"If they just gave us an answer at least we would have some time to sort things out. There's no point giving us an answer on 17th June when we're supposed to be out of the country on the 18th.

"You have to have that in the back of your head and worry about it as well. We don't want to be seen as the people who overstayed a visa or anything like that. It's not us, we want to follow the request. if the request is to leave by the 18th of June, so be it. We'll do that. Don't tell us on 17th June that the answer is a ‘no’, that you're not going to intervene.

"Now there's a timeline on it, now we have an end date to this, it's like, 'Come on'. I don't know what to do."

“We don’t want to be seen as the people who overstayed a visa or anything like that. It’s not us, we want to follow the request. if the request is to leave by June 18, so be it. We’ll do that. Don’t tell us on 17th June that the answer is a no, that you’re not going to intervene,” she said.

With additional reporting by David Hennessy

President of Ireland pays tribute to Bob Hawke

The late Bob Hawke pictured recently with current labor leader Bill Shorten.

The late Bob Hawke pictured recently with current labor leader Bill Shorten.

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins has added his tribute to the late Bob Hawke, who died on Thursday.

"I have learned with sadness of the death of Bob Hawke, Australia’s 23rd Prime Minister, former leader of the Labor party and trade union leader,” the president said in a statement.

”Bob Hawke inspired great enthusiasm and faith among Australians of all generations in the power of politics to make meaningful changes in society, to the benefit of those often excluded. His emphasis on consensus-driven change and social partnership arrangements left an important legacy.

“He will also be remembered for the international leadership he gave, as trade union leader, in his opposition to the Apartheid regime in South Africa. On behalf of the people of Ireland, may I express condolences to the people of Australia and in particular to his family, friends and colleagues.”

Ireland’s ambassador to Australia Breandán Ó Caollaí with Bob Hawke.

Ireland’s ambassador to Australia Breandán Ó Caollaí with Bob Hawke.

Mr Hawke, who was 89, was Australia's longest-serving Labor Party prime minister.

In a tweet, Ireland’s Ambassador to Australia Breandán Ó Caollaí described Mr Hawke as a “great friend of Ireland”.

In October 1987, Mr Hawke became the third Australian Prime Minister to visit Ireland after Bob Menzies and Gough Whitlam.

But he became the first Australian Prime Minister, and only the third foreign political leader after John F Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, to address a joint sitting of the Oireachtas.

In that speech, he described Ireland as “the head of a huge empire in which Australia
 and the United States are the principal provinces”.

“It is an
 empire,” he said, “acquired not by force of Irish arms but by force of
 Irish character, an empire not of political coercion but of
 spiritual affiliation, created by the thousands upon thousands
 of Irish men and women who chose to leave these shores or
 who were banished from them, to help in the building of new
 societies over the years.
“

“It is true that more of your fellow-countrymen and forefathers
 became American than Australian. But it is true, too,
 that the Irish form a greater proportion of the Australian
 population than of the American. Indeed, almost one-third
 of Australia's population proudly claim Irish ancestry.


Bob Hawke (right) during his visit to Ireland in 1987. Also pictured is Jacqueline O’Brien, Taoiseach Charlie Haughey, horse trainer Vincent O’Brien and Maureen Haughey.

Bob Hawke (right) during his visit to Ireland in 1987. Also pictured is Jacqueline O’Brien, Taoiseach Charlie Haughey, horse trainer Vincent O’Brien and Maureen Haughey.

He also paid tribute to the “seminal role” of the Irish in the establishment of the trade union movement and the Labor Party itself.

“A number of my predecessors as Labor Prime Minister including 
the incomparable John Curtin and Joseph Benedict
 Chifley were of Irish extraction. In the way Curtin devoted
 himself to the task of leading Australia through the Second
 World War, the Irish attributes of dedicated and selfless
 commitment, determination, character and courage shine
 through.

“It is equally easy to see an Irish-derived compassion
 and vision in his successor Chifley's sweeping reconstruction
 of the Australian economy to equip it for the challenges of
 peacetime.

“Among today's generation of Labour leaders, the Irish
 tradition is still strong and if you looked at a list of my
 Ministers you would see enough names like Bowen, Keating,
 Hayden, Kerin, Walsh, Young, Ryan, Duffy and Kelly to
 satisfy even the most nationalistic among you. indeed, half of my Ministry claims Irish origin so now you may understand 
even more clearly why I feel at home [here].


“Australia is very much the richer for having been able to
 draw on the generous influx of Irish aspirations, Irish traditions,
 and Irish spirit. We would not be the country we are
 today were it not for you.”

 

War hero's Victoria Cross to be displayed in Ireland

Martin O’Meara was described by one officer as 'the most fearless and gallant soldier I have ever seen'.

Martin O’Meara was described by one officer as 'the most fearless and gallant soldier I have ever seen'.

A medal of bravery, awarded to an Irish-born Australian soldier, is to be put on display in Dublin.

Martin O’Meara, from Lorrha in Co Tipperary, is understood to be the only Irish-born Australian soldier to be awarded a Victorian Cross for his service in the First World War.

To mark Anzac Day, Ireland’s Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan announced that O’Meara’s Victoria Cross was to be loaned to the National Museum of Ireland. It will go on display at the Collins Barracks later this year.

O’Meara arrived in Western Australia in 1912 and signed up to the Australian Imperial Force on August 19, 1915.

After training in Egypt in early 1916 O,Meara and his battalion moved to the Western Front in France where it fought on the Somme.

Between August 9 and 12, according to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, the battallion mounted an attack on German positions at Mouquet Farm near Pozières. Devastating German artillery fire caused heavy casualties.

During this period O'Meara, then acting as a stretcher-bearer, behaved in a manner which led one officer to describe him as 'the most fearless and gallant soldier I have ever seen'.

O’Meara braved intense artillery and machine gun fire to retrieve wounded soldiers from ‘No Man’s Land’ over a period of four days. He is estimated to have saved at least 20 Australian lives.

For his gallantry he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

The London Gazette of September 8, 1916 reported that he carried bombs and ammunition to the trenches as they were being heavily shelled.

“He showed throughout an utter contempt of danger, and undoubtedly saved many lives,” it reported.

He was wounded three times during the war and promoted to the rank of sergeant. In November 1918 he returned to Australia and was discharged from the AIF in Perth in November 1919

Traumatised by the horrors of what he had witnessed, O’Meara spent the rest of his life in military hospitals, suffering from what official records call ‘chronic mania’.

He had returned to Ireland once before his death. The residents of his hometown Lorrha had raised money to recognise him, which he donated towards the restoration of the town’s abbey.

In 1929, an Armistice Day dinner was held by the Governor of Western Australia to honour those from the state who had received a VC. O’Meara’s declining condition meant that he could not attend. He died in Claremont Mental Hospital, Perth, on December 20, 1935 at 50 years of age.

New memoir celebrates the life of Irish Australian cellist

The late Maureen O’Carroll, who played cello with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

The late Maureen O’Carroll, who played cello with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

A NEW memoir has been published that celebrates the early life of Irish Australian cellist Maureen O’Carroll, who died in 2012.

Born in the Sydney suburb of Balmain to Irish immigrant parents, John and May O’Carroll, Maureen carved out a very successful career as a professional musician.

She and her nine siblings all showed a gift for music and their parents saw this as the path out of poverty.

Six of them, including Maureen, attended the NSW Conservatorium of Music High School and went on to become professional musicians.

O’Carroll was drawn to the cello at a very young age, and would prop her brother Robert’s violin on a jam tin and play it like a cello.

At 17, she joined the New Zealand National Orchestra and went from there to New York, where she performed with Frank Sinatra, among others. In 1974, she returned to Australia as a single mother of three. She played a blind audition behind a curtain (to avoid gender discrimination) and was accepted into the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

The O’Carroll clan. Six of the children attended the NSW Conservatorium Of Music.

The O’Carroll clan. Six of the children attended the NSW Conservatorium Of Music.

Being a child of two rebels who had fought for Irish independence, Maureen was deeply patriotic about Ireland. At one Sydney Symphony concert, she noted Rule Britannia was on the program and refused to play it. She placed her cello down and marched off stage, only returning at its end.

The new book, A Musical Memoir of an Irish Immigrant Childhood, has been written by her daughter Leora although Maureen is posthumously credited as a co-author.

“Even though her family endured hardships and poverty, my mother always had an optimistic outlook and her humorous takes on her childhood is what makes her recollections so enchanting,” Leora told the Irish Echo.

“As an adult, I was working in New York City as a television writer and producer and decided to move to Seattle where my mother lived, so that we could finally work on this memoir.

Maureen, aged 12, practicing her cello.

Maureen, aged 12, practicing her cello.

“We sat side by side for many months to write the book. It was important to us to authentically capture the memories as seen through the eyes of a child. During the writing process, I learned much more about my mother’s life, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to work with her to capture these memories.”

In this extract, Leora writes about her father’s barber shop in Balmain which was called The Anchor. While hairdressing certainly took place at The Anchor, John O’Carroll ran other enterprises from the shop, which was set up in the family home on Darling Street.

“The most popular feature of the Anchor, however, was not the barbering, but Dad’s other business – his lending library. Housed in a partitioned area at the back of the barber shop, was a small collection of books which included volumes of Macaulay’s History, The Complete Works of Benjamin Disraeli, and The Novels of Lord Lytton, all undoubtedly purchased as a lot by my father at an auction.

“They were dry and unreadable Victorian works, but they weren’t meant to be read. One of dad’s sidelines was bookmaking. He wasn’t binding more volumes for the library but taking bets on the horse races. Bookmaking was an illegal activity, but this didn’t stop many shopkeepers from engaging in it, and my father enjoyed maintaining a unique system to disguise the betting; a borrowed book would be returned with the bet and money placed inside, and another book would be checked out ready for the next bet.

“On Saturdays, the Anchor was a social centre for many local men, who were off work that day and would evade their share of household chores by insisting to their wives that they need a haircut or shave. But of course barbering wasn’t the main attraction. Saturday was the most important day for horse racing and consequently, a particularly busy one for the lending library.

Leora O’Carrollm, who wrote the memoir with her late mother.

Leora O’Carrollm, who wrote the memoir with her late mother.

“Clutching their Lord Lytton novels, the men would hover around the radio in the smoke-filled Anchor, engrossed by the announcer’s incessant monologue of race results from tracks around the country, and as this was thirsty work, they took turns carrying a billy can up the street to the London Hotel to be filled and refilled.

“The lending library was enjoying a burgeoning patronage when my father fell victim to an informer. It was suspected that the woman who ran the comic book shop a few doors away didn’t appreciate the competition, and one day two policemen came into the Anchor – “We’re sorry Jack, but we have to take in your account books.” They probably were sorry too, also being patrons of the lending library. My father didn’t say anything but looking unconcerned, beamed one of his cheeky grins and proudly handed over his ledgers. All of his records had been written in Gaelic.

“Gaelic was not a common written language in Australia and while many Irish people may have spoken the ancient Celtic tongue, there were very few who read it. An attempt was made by the authorities to find a translator. The search was unsuccessful, and even if there was someone who could translate Gaelic, no self-respecting Irish person would have ever agreed to be employed in such a fashion.

“Without the required evidence, the case was dropped and my father resumed his concerns at the Anchor, congratulated by all the eager literary members of his lending library.”

Maureen O’Carroll: A Musical Memoir Of An Irish Immigrant Childhood is available via Amazon

Podcast series gives voice to Irish Australian emigrant tales

Ciarán O’Raighne has spoken to a wide range of Irish emigrants for his podcast series Lucky Country.

Ciarán O’Raighne has spoken to a wide range of Irish emigrants for his podcast series Lucky Country.

Lucky Country is a brand new podcast and national community radio series in which Irish immigrants tell their stories in their own words.

Produced by Dubliner and long-time Sydney resident Ciarán O’ Raighne, the series seeks to get to the kernel of the Irish emigrant experience in Australia.

“Lucky Country is all about Irish voices,” O’Raighne explains.

“Why they came, their trials and tribulations. Men and women from all provinces. Catholics, Protestants and everywhere in between.

“Aged in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and even an 82-year-old who worked on the Snowy Mountains scheme. Some grew up in the six counties at the height of the conflict in Northern Ireland. Others came in more recent years after the Celtic Tiger imploded nine years ago.

“The storytellers come from the island of Ireland and work as semi-professional soccer players, business owners, graphic designers, television producers and even a boxer who holds NSW and Australian titles.”

Harry Cummins, 83, from Dundrum came to Australia more than 50 years ago and lives in the Snowy Mountains area. He is one of the subjects of Lucky Country.

Harry Cummins, 83, from Dundrum came to Australia more than 50 years ago and lives in the Snowy Mountains area. He is one of the subjects of Lucky Country.

Putting the podcast together has been a labour of love for O’Raighne, who presents a twice-weekly show on Celtic FM under his broadcasting name, Jack Murphy.

“The Irish are known for their storytelling,” he says. “Perhaps it dates back to pre-electronic media device days, when village storytellers went from house to house to tell stories to the locals in exchange for a bite to eat and something to drink. Oral story telling was also a critical way to keep Irish Gaelic culture intact under British colonial rule.”

The Irish, O’Raighne says, also have a particular affection for radio.

In an address to the United Nations in 2016, President Michael D Higgins spoke of Ireland’s affection for the spoken word.

“Irish people spend more time than most nations listening to the radio. Our national, local and community radio stations are invaluable resources.”

The father-of-two has been in Sydney since the late 1980s and recently celebrated 25 years on the air.

Before leaving Ireland he presented arock music show on a Dublin radio station. He also worked as a news announcer in his university days.

In the late 80s, O’Raighne got his US Green Card but decided to first go on an adventure to Australia on the fledgling Working Holiday Visa. He has called Australia home since then.

He continued his passions of playing rugby and was selected to play for the Western Australian state squad and, later, played first grade for Northern Suburbs in Sydney.

He has also worked as a freelance broadcast journalist with ABC radio, BBC and RTÉ.

“The series has been made possible with the assistance of many volunteers and I’m grateful to everyone who worked on Lucky Country,” O’Raighne told the Irish Echo. “We also received some help from the Irish government’s Emigrant Support Programme together with the Australia’s’ Community Broadcast Fund.”

To access the Lucky Country series, just click here.