New support network for expat Irish women

Irish women in Australia have found a new network of support through the work of one Dublin-born mother.

After a decade living in Australia, having made the move at 24, Sarah Whelan returned to Ireland for less than two years before deciding to journey back to Sydney, which she realised had become her home.

When the certified transitional life coach touched down she began to share her experiences of leaving and returning online, and expat Irish women flocked to her blog.

“People were really identifying with the things I was feeling,” Ms Whelan said.

“Women identified with the emotional impact…the guilt in leaving family behind.”

Irish Women Abroad founder Sarah Whelan aims to coach women through difficult transitions in their lives.

Irish Women Abroad founder Sarah Whelan aims to coach women through difficult transitions in their lives.

Ms Whelan was inspired to create Irish Women Abroad, an online support network to meet growing demand for answers and advice.

More than 3,000 network members, the majority of whom are Irish-Australian, provide everything from a shoulder to lean on to suggestions regarding every challenging aspect of emigration, from leaving relatives to transporting pets.

It was not long before the community moved off the internet and into the real world.

A recent Sydney meet-up was opened by the Irish Consulate in Sydney’s Vice Consul Rory Conaty, with the Consulate’s funding helping Ms Whelan - whose work with the network is voluntary - to organise events.

The Sydney Irish mission has provided support to Irish Women Abroad since its team members discovered Ms Whelan’s blog.

Sydney meet-up attendees enjoyed a reading from award-winning Irish poet Anne Casey.

Sydney meet-up attendees enjoyed a reading from award-winning Irish poet Anne Casey.

Award-winning Irish poet Anne Casey has recently joined the network after 25 years in Australia, saying she immediately saw the potential for members to bond over shared emigration experiences.

“It’s the empty chairs at birthday parties…it’s the call in the middle of the night when a family member has died.

“You don’t have to explain anything.”

The next meet-up will be held in Melbourne in November, and with an event already planned for returning expats in Ireland, there could be opportunities for further international expansion.

Ms Whelan hopes the “safe spaces” she has created continue to help women find their feet wherever they decide to resettle.

“My vision is for people to feel connected in their experiences…there’s no right or wrong way to feel.”

President challenged in Celtic Club election

The candidate challenging incumbent Celtic Club president Brian Shanahan in the forthcoming election has told The Irish Echo that he does not want to smear his opponent.

But Peter Donnellan, who heads up a group of concerned members dubbed ‘Dire Straits’, does believe the club is being mismanaged.

“None of our pieces of work say anything about particular individuals. None of the things that we put out say bad things about people,” he said.

Current Celtic Club President Brian Shanahan.

Current Celtic Club President Brian Shanahan.

“I think if people felt like they were included, there wouldn’t be the level of antagonism and name calling and this sort of stuff that has been going on in the place for a long time.

“If the sale [of the club’s premises] had gone according to the way sales should proceed instead of trying to bluster and force their way through it like some sort of rugby pack, you would say, ‘right, we’ll probably give it a go’.

“I think a lot of the dissension is caused by the methodology and the abuse and so forth that happens simply if you disagree. You’re perceived as an enemy by nature if you disagree. Because our team don’t agree and they put their heads above the barricades, they’re there to be knocked off. I don’t think it’s necessary and I don’t think it’s productive for the club in the long term or in the short term.”

Mr Donnellan also says his team is just looking for greater transparency within the club. Mr Donnellan says his ‘Dire Straits’ team want to open up club meetings to all members and provide information of these meetings to members who are not present. They also promise to provide regular financial statements and protect members’ rights.

“We’re pretty sure that Brian probably has the numbers and good luck to him but we have a responsibility to say, ‘this stuff can’t keep going on’.

“At the moment we can’t get a list of club members to send stuff to. That’s against the spirit of the act and it’s not within the spirit of the club rules so it’s very hard to get anything directly to members.”

In response to Mr Donnellan’s comments, Mr Shanahan insisted that material put out by the ‘Dire Straits’ team had mentioned people by name.

On the topic of getting electoral

information to members, Mr Shanahan said all candidates had the same opportunity to connect with members. “All members standing for committee are invited to provide a statement of up to 200 words and a photograph to the returning officer and it will be sent to all club members at the club’s expense,” he said.

“This is a long standing practice at the Club, and all candidates should have received this information.

“The mail out of this information would be expected to commence some days after the draw for ballot positions is undertaken by the returning officer or his representative. The ballot draw has not yet happened. The assistant returning officer. has advised that all candidates will have their 200 word statements and photographs (once provided) sent to all members in the next two weeks, as is the usual practice.”

On the suggestion there was no business plan and that members are given no indication of how the club is doing and its plans, Mr Shanahan said: “The Club has a budget for 2019/20, which is break even, or a small profit. On top of this, we have assets in excess of $18 million and no debts. After considerable efforts, we were successful in reducing our operation losses, and we are confident of a small profit in 2019/20.

“Furthermore, at the recent confidential members only meeting, attended by ‘Dire Straits’, the Celtic Club’s future strategy and business plans were discussed in detail by me and other committee of management (COM) members. Club members can be allowed to attend COM meetings if they request to do so, there is no blanket ban. Obviously there is a need for discretion as some matters are sensitive and confidential.”

Peter Donnellan is challenging for the Celtic Club presidency.

Peter Donnellan is challenging for the Celtic Club presidency.

The club’s headquarters at Queen Street were sold to Malaysian developer Beulah for $25.6 million in 2016 but the club held onto the option to return to Queen Street when it is

refurbished in two to three years’ time. In the meantime, the Celtic Club’s temporary home for functions and entertainment is at the Metropolitan Hotel, Courtney St, North Melbourne with an administration centre on William St, West Melbourne.

Mr Donnellan insisted that the members were concerned about the lease arrangement.

“We’re told the Metropolitan lease is now on a month-to-month basis whereas we thought the club had a five-year by five- year lease,” he said.

“However, if we’re on a month-to-month lease, the club has lost money on the Metropolitan. It’s not regularly open [so] why don’t we get rid of the Metropolitan and find ourselves a better venue?

“There hasn’t been a business plan, not to my knowledge. There’s been nothing that says: ‘This is what we plan to do, this is what we’ve got, this is how we plan to make some money and move forward.’ The club’s capital is just disappearing. There is no allegation other than mismanagement that we’re making but we have no knowledge at all how things are going and why we’re losing money.

“The sale of the club caused a lot of anxiety within the club and a lot of fighting that probably could have been handled better by every side,” said Mr Donnellan, who served on the committee as secretary.

“I resigned over the non-implementation of governance and accountablity and financial reforms. People wanted to carry on and get things back to some sort of new normal but it didn’t work so I left. There’s a degree of disarray at the club.”

Committee elections are coming up on September 20. The new committee will then take over after the AGM, which is usually in October.

“I expect our votes to go up and from Brian’s team’s reaction, I would expect that they do feel challenged, Mr Donnellan said. “I think they’re concerned that what we’re saying is biting into their base.”

The Irish Echo reported last month that grievances against the Melbourne Celtic Club were coming from a website called The Continuity Celtic Club and that this and the ‘Dire Straits’ team were one and the same. This was incorrect. The website had just posted the ‘Dire Straits’ team’s newsletters and the ‘Dire Straits’ team has nothing to do with the website.

Joy for Irish family as son receives donor heart

A three-year-old boy with rare medical conditions has been handed a new lease of life after receiving a donor heart.

David Hope Glass, whose father Liam Glass hails from Tyrone, underwent an eight hour transplant operation, his sixth open heart surgery in his short life.

“We got the call in the early hours…I dropped to my knees,” Mr Glass said.

“We’re feeling very excited but guilty for the family that’s lost their child.”

David Glass is recovering well on immunosuppressant drugs after his heart transplant.

David Glass is recovering well on immunosuppressant drugs after his heart transplant.

While the Glass family were not able to contact the family who provided the donation, they “bless them abundantly” for giving their child the greatest gift.

After months living at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital, the Glass family had been allowed to move into a nearby apartment three weeks prior to the transplant, but with just one quarter of David’s own heart functioning his parents had been told to prepare for palliative care if he relapsed.

He is now recovering well on immunosuppressants, which are preventing his body from attacking the foreign transplanted organ.

The young boy had never recuperated so rapidly from a surgery, his dad said.

Earlier Story: Tyrone Dad’s appeal for suffering son

Parents Liam and Cindy Glass have relocated their children David and Bella to Melbourne for their son’s treatment. Photo: Adrienne Myszka.

Parents Liam and Cindy Glass have relocated their children David and Bella to Melbourne for their son’s treatment. Photo: Adrienne Myszka.

“He was always blue to look at, now we see pink lips…he’s like a new boy,” his father said.

Relatives in Tyrone not only prayed for an end to the turbulent times, but also organised local fundraisers which, at the Glass family’s request, will help not only David but other children facing medical emergencies.

“There’s no stopping these people,” Mr Glass said.

“They’ve rallied around us.”

Tyrone locals gathered for a community football game to raise money for David Glass’ cause.

Tyrone locals gathered for a community football game to raise money for David Glass’ cause.

The family, who call Adelaide home, have been supported by friends and strangers alike in Australia and abroad since David’s birth, with recent assistance from Melbourne’s Irish Australian Support and Research Bureau.

Since his life-saving surgery, the three-year-old’s parents have been looking forward to the future, hoping to take their children to visit Liam Glass’ Ireland hometown in coming years.

“We’ve started to dream.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the Glass family meet the costs of David’s care and recovery.

Perth Irish tenor short-listed for major singing prize

Louis Hurley will perform in the prestigious IFAC Handa Australian Singing Competition Semi Finals.

Louis Hurley will perform in the prestigious IFAC Handa Australian Singing Competition Semi Finals.

A Perth tenor whose family hails from Kilkenny will perform in the semi finals of one of Australia’s most prestigious singing competitions.

Louis Hurley and 11 fellow candidates will take to the IFAC Handa Australian Singing Competition stage this weekend, competing for opportunities to develop their careers the world over.

Mr Hurley’s talent was evident from a young age, but he said no one knew where he inherited his skill.

“I fell into this as an accident,” he said.

“My family is the least musical family you could probably meet…my dad’s into grunge music.”

Mr Hurley began his foray into classical voice training at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts at the age of 17 after singing throughout his childhood.

Louis Hurley and his mother Maree Hurley (née McCarthy) recently visited the McCarthy family shop in Brickana.

Louis Hurley and his mother Maree Hurley (née McCarthy) recently visited the McCarthy family shop in Brickana.

He credited prolific American opera singer Joyce DiDonato’s masterclasses with inspiring his ongoing education, and was able to learn from the guru first-hand when performing alongside her in a UK production.

“The first time I actually met her I froze and ran away, but I eventually did talk to her!”

Mr Hurley is currently rehearsing both for the Competition Semi Finals and for a Melbourne Conservatorium of Music production, and believes winning would help him leap into the next phase of his professional journey.

“Opera has this weird disconnect between finishing your studies and starting your career…the operatic voice generally takes longer to develop, so there are a few years of limbo”.

“The prizes help to no end,” he said.

The awards on offer include the $30,000 Marianne Mathy scholarship to assist with musical study, a chance to audition for the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s artist development program, and an opportunity to perform with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

The IFAC Handa Semi Finals will take place at North Sydney’s Independent Theatre on August 11, which will see five competitors move one step closer to joining the long list of winners from over three decades of celebration of opera excellence.

Melbourne set to get its own Irish consulate

Melbourne is one step closer to getting its own full-time consulate after the Irish government announced plans for a rapid expansion of its diplomatic footprint in the Asia Pacific.

Plans to double the country’s representation in this region were announced last week as part of the next phase of the Global Ireland 2025 initiative.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said full details of a new strategy for the region would be revealed during next month’s Rugby World Cup in Japan to promote Ireland as a great place to invest, study, trade with, and visit.

Currently, the Irish mission in Australia consists of the embassy in Canberra, a full-time consulate general in Sydney and an honorary consulate in Perth. The Melbourne Irish community has long argued for a full-time diplomatic base in Australia’s largest city.

Irish academic Professor Jarlath Ronayne served as the city’s only honorary Irish consul. He was appointed in 2002 and retired in 2008. He was not replaced.

Former Irish Honorary Consul for Melbourne Prof Jarlath Ronayne with former Irish Ambassador Richard O’Brien in 2002.

Former Irish Honorary Consul for Melbourne Prof Jarlath Ronayne with former Irish Ambassador Richard O’Brien in 2002.

Ambassador of Ireland Breandán Ó Caollaí said the Irish government was committed to “augmenting our diplomatic presence in Australia”.

“While no decision has yet been taken on where that will be, the growing economic importance of Melbourne, with its a large Irish community, will be an important consideration,” he said, pointing to the opening of a new Enterprise Ireland office in the city in March. Other options for the Irish government might include another new consulate in Brisbane or making the Perth mission a full-time office.

ALSO READ: Celtic Club chief hits back at online ‘smears’

The expansion plans were announced at a special summit at Dublin Castle to mark one year since the launch of the Global Ireland initiative. The government strategy aims to double the scope and impact of Ireland’s global footprint by 2025. Mr Varadkar told attendees that good progress had been made in the past year with eight new embassies and consulates having opened, including one in New Zealand.

“We are opening new embassies and consulates because we know that by expanding and enhancing Ireland’s presence overseas we can grow our economy here at home and increase our influence internationally,” he said.

“As a small open economy, it is vital that Ireland is open to opportunities on a global scale.”

“The new embassies and offices that we have opened are a clear signal of intent and are already providing practical assistance to Irish citizens, Irish businesses and Irish cultural voices,” Minister Coveney added.

“This is where we are seeing the real value of Global Ireland.

“We have to keep the momentum up and build on this investment to enhance our global presence.”

Celtic Club chief hits back at online 'smears'

The President of Melbourne’s Celtic Club has hit back at claims by an anonymous rebel group that has set up a website to air its grievances.

The so-called Continuity Celtic Club alleged online that the Celtic Club was in dire straits, with a declining membership, and was treating its members with contempt.

The Celtic Club’s president says the claims are unfounded smears and says the club is in the best financial position ever.

Celtic Club President Brian Shanahan.

Celtic Club President Brian Shanahan.

“They’re full of lies and madness,” Brian Shanahan told The Irish Echo.

“The reality is it’s not dire straits. As I put in the letter (to members), you could hardly describe a situation where you’ve got $18 million in assets and no debts as dire straits. It’s a better situation than any Irish club in Australia and probably most clubs.”

The club’s old headquarters at Queen Street was sold to Malaysian developers Beulah for $25.6 million in 2016 but the club held on to the option to return to Queen Street when the site is refurbished in two to three years’ time. In the meantime, the Celtic Club’s temporary home is at the Metropolitan Hotel, Courtney St, North Melbourne with an administration centre in West Melbourne.

The move to the temporary home has been beset with problems which, Mr Shanahan acknowledges, has led to financial losses for the historic club.

“Any move where you sell a property and then negotiate to go back, the change of venue costs you money and we expected to lose money the year or so after the sale. We didn’t expect to lose as much. That’s the issue.

“We have stopped the bleeding. We’re not losing money now and we’re still in a situation where we have $18 million, no debts. The options before us are to go back into prize real estate and we’ve got a temporary place to operate in. We’re renegotiating the lease there in a beneficial way to us.”

On the claim that memberships are declining, Mr Shanahan said, “renewals have to be in by August 31. ... There’s no evidence membership is declining. I think most members will rejoin. We have a steady stream of new members as well.

“Are we trending differently to last year in actual membership? The answer to that is no. We’re going through a transitional period for a year or two. Facilities aren’t what we want at the moment but they will be.

“A lot of our members will stay members because of their commitment to the traditions of the club which we try to hold fast to, promotion of Irish heritage and culture and Australian-Irish history and culture.”

The exterior of the original Celtic Club before the site was sold to developers in 2016.

The exterior of the original Celtic Club before the site was sold to developers in 2016.

Asked if members were being treated with contempt and not consulted, Mr Shanahan said: “No. Every member’s treated properly. Ten members make decisions. Members have one decision, they can vote who they want in. Tell me any club, any government, any serious organisation that, before they make an administrative decision, calls a meeting of members to do it? It doesn’t happen. There’s a reason why it doesn’t happen.

“I don’t agree but people like Dire Straits (Continuity Celtic Club) that tell lies should be treated with some contempt. I do have contempt for people that lie and they lie.”

Committee elections are coming up on September 20 and Mr Shanahan will stand again for president. The new committee will take over after the AGM in November.

Mr Shanahan conceded that activities at the new site have been cut back to rein in costs.

“We found costs were out of control. We tried to transfer all our activities to the Metropolitan. It didn’t work,” he said. “We ended four full-time positions. Not an easy thing to do. We’re in negotiations with the state governement on conditions of operation at the Metropolitan. If those negotiations come off and I’m confident they will, we’ll be able to open seven days a week.

“[But] it’s not as if there’s nothing happening. We have a website, we’ve got podcasts going. We’re trying to reach out to younger members.”

The Irish Echo contacted the Continuity Celtic Club for comment but received no response.

Hope and humanity take flight in 9/11 musical

A musical play that tells the unique true story of the people who were stranded in the Canadian town of Gander, Newfoundland in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks has opened in Melbourne.

After the twin towers and Pentagon had been targets and nobody knew if there were going to be more attacks, 38 planes carrying nearly 7,000 people from over 100 countries were redirected to Gander, almost doubling the population of the remote Canadian town. In addition to this, there was no knowing how long they would be there.

Come From Away tells the story of how the people of Gander welcomed these unexpected, confused and no doubt scared visitors to their home, not only giving them beds and food but also help and support. It is a moving story that has been lauded with a Tony Award and several Olivier Awards from its stints on Broadway and the West End.

Director Martin Croft told The Irish Echo: "I've been in the business for a long time and this is one show that is really quite extraordinary. We're very excited to bring it to Australia.

"The story is actually not about 9/11, it's about 9/12. It's what happened in the days afterwards that was totally different to New York and the rest of the world's experience of what was happening.

Come From Away is set in Gander, Newfoundland, a place with strong irish heritage.

Come From Away is set in Gander, Newfoundland, a place with strong irish heritage.

“It's about the friendship and companionship and compassion and empathy that this little island showed to 'Come From Away' people. 9/11 is in the background but the story itself is really about the generosity of this town and how they made everybody feel welcome and mothered them, made sure they were safe and tried to make them happy and give them as much information and comfort as they were able to.

"There's a wonderful image the day it happened of people in the airport just standing looking at this world map and going, 'Where are we? I didn't know there even was such a place'. All these different cultures and languages turned up and the poor Ganderites had to learn how to make food to make everybody happy."

All based on real life people and events, the play shows how the local people helped those stranded which extended to great displays of kindness such as waiting by the phone with one woman who was desperate to hear any news of her New York fire fighter son.

"It's incredibly emotional but you get really emotional because of the kindness. It's not because it's sad, you're sitting there watching and thinking, 'Wow, I wish everybody was like this'. That's the moving part of the show, the humanity of it."

Come From Away’s music has a strong irish influence.

Come From Away’s music has a strong irish influence.

The play features music with an Irish flavour, honouring the major Hibernian heritage of Newfoundland. The Gander accent sounds Irish. that comes from it being the first stop and place to settle for so many people leaving Ireland.

"It's an interesting accent because it is such an amalgamation of the immigrant Irish Celtic influx that came after the American/Canadian accent had been established. It blended on this little island that was the first port of call for anyone that was leaving the British Isles."

The play's title comes from the term people in Gander call people from off the island, a 'come from away'. The play has also played in Ireland with a stint at the Abbey Theatre preceding its West End run.

Everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news of 9/11. Martin tells us the people in this play had a very different experience because they saw and experienced so much kindness because of the great evil act.

"They have this strange experience. They knew this terrible thing had happened but they actually had a wonderful time. They were meeting new people, having BBQs, going on walks in this beautiful country and so at the end of it, they had to go back to reality. So in some ways they had a delayed reaction to the enormity of what went on because they were slightly shielded from it, they weren't being constantly fed with it. In the case of Nick and Diane who ended up getting married, it was a wonderful time for them and they feel quite strange about it."

"That's the real appeal of the show, I think. You can see yourself in it so much. They are just ordinary people.

"It's very personal, very connecting and very emotional."

Come From Away is currently showing at Melbourne's Comedy Theatre.

Celebrating the Joyce of life on Bloomsday

The work of Irish writer James Joyce is celebrated around the world on Bloomsday.

The work of Irish writer James Joyce is celebrated around the world on Bloomsday.

The work of James Joyce will be celebrated at a number of events in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to mark Bloomsday.

Joyce’s seminal novel Ulysses is set on June 16 which has become known as Bloomsday after the central character of the novel, Leopold Bloom.

Each year, fans of the book and Joyce’s other work gather to hear passages from his prose read aloud or celebrated through music.

This year’s Bloomsday festivities begin in Sydney on Thursday June 13 at the Stanton Library in North Sydney.

Rebel Wilson pulls out of McDonagh play in Sydney

Among those reading passages from Ulysses will be former NSW premier Bob Carr and the State Librarian for New South Wales Dr John Vallance. Musical entertainment will be provided by Martin Horan.

This event is free but bookings are essential.

On Saturday, June 15, a group of Irish and Australian actors and musicians will celebrate Bloomsday at the State Library of New South Wales.

Performers for the evening include journalist and broadcaster Daniel Browning, Áine De Paor, Awaye, harpist Clíona Molins, Brendan O’Reilly and members of the Aisteoirí Theatre Company.

The event begins at 6pm and tickets are $10. Bookings can be made via the State Libary’s website.

The Gaelic Club in Surry Hills will host its own Bloomsday celebration on the day itself, Sunday June 16.

The event, which begins at 3pm features a program of readings, music and song. Admission is free.

In Brisbane, the Queen St Mall will play host to a free, family-friendly celebration of Joyce’s work.

Readings will be interspersed with music and other entertainment featuring the Queensland Irish Association pipe band and Irish dancers.

The event runs from 11am to 2pm.

Irish academic Dr Ronán McDonald will discuss the ‘consecration’ of James Joyce’s Ulysses at a celebration of Bloomday in Melbourne.

Irish academic Dr Ronán McDonald will discuss the ‘consecration’ of James Joyce’s Ulysses at a celebration of Bloomday in Melbourne.

In Melbourne, Bloomsday will be celebrated with a seminar and lunch at the Swiss Club in Flinders Lane.

The seminar will be chaired by Australian polymath, writer, teacher, lawyer, social activist, quiz champion and former politician Barry Jones and feature eminent speakers Dr Ronán McDonald, Gerry Higgins, Chair of Irish Studies at the University of Melbourne, and Dr Steve Carey.

Dr McDonald, a Dubliner, will present a paper entitled The Consecration of Ulysses: National or Universal? in which he will examine how Joyce’s ground breaking novel gained its status as one of the great works of the 20th century. Dr Carey will speak about Joyce’s time in Zurich in 1917 during the First World War when he was writing Ulysses.

This key time in Joyce’s life, during which he produced a stage production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance Of Being Earnest, part-inspired Tom Stoppard’s play, Travesties in which the writer is a central character.

Bloomsday organisers in Melbourne are staging a production of Travesties as part of their Joycean celebration.

The play, directed by Globe-trained Jennifer Sarah Dean, will be performed at fortyfivedownstairs theatre in Flinders Lane from June 12 to 23.

Animated Irish movie treat for Sydney, Melbourne

Captain Morten and the Spider Queen features the voices of Brendan Gleeson, Pauline McLynn and Tommy Tiernan.

Captain Morten and the Spider Queen features the voices of Brendan Gleeson, Pauline McLynn and Tommy Tiernan.

The forthcoming Children’s International Film Festival, be be held in Sydney and Melbourne, will feature an star-studded Irish animated movie.

Captain Morten and the Spider Queen, which was co-produced by Telegael (Ireland), Nukufilm (Estonia), Grid Animation (Belgium) and Calon (Wales), took out the Best Animated Feature award at the Schlingel Festival for Children and Young People held recently in Chemnitz in Germany.

Produced on a budget of €10 million, Captain Morten and the Spider Queen is the first feature length stop-motion film to be animated in Ireland.

The all-Irish cast includes Brendan Gleeson, Pauline McLynn, Ciarán Hinds and Michael McElhatton, stand–up comedians Mario Rosenstock, Jason Byrne, Tommy Tiernan and Neil Delamere as well as young up and coming Irish talent Cian O’Dowd and Susie Power who play the roles of Morten and Eliza.

The movie is focused on ten-year-old Morten who spends his days building a toy ship and trying to avoid the ire of his reluctant guardian – a mean ex-ballerina named Anna – while his father is at sea.

Morten hopes to one day be a Captain just like his dad. After a chance meeting with the inept magician Señor Cucaracha, Morten is magically shrunk down to the size of an insect and trapped aboard the deck of his own toy ship as the room around him floods! With a wicked Spider Queen and Scorpion Pirate already on board, being Captain is going to be harder than he ever imagined.

For screening details, click here.

Three Irish nationals arrested trying to flee Australia

NSW detectives with the 20-year-old Irish national who was extradited from Victoria to NSW to face charges. Picture: NSW Police

NSW detectives with the 20-year-old Irish national who was extradited from Victoria to NSW to face charges. Picture: NSW Police

Three Irish nationals have been arrested, charged and detained by police over an alleged roofing scam.

One 20-year-old male was extradited from Melbourne to Sydney to face charges relating to the alleged scam.

He was arrested by Australian Federal Police at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport as he tried to board a flight to Shanghai, China.

He, along with two others, were charged by Strike Force Denain, a St George Police Area Command investigation into a series of alleged frauds, targeting elderly home owners. 

On Thursday March 7, another 20-year-old Irish national, bound for the United Kingdom, was arrested at Sydney Airport by Australian Federal Police.

Placed into custody, police allegedly discovered large amounts of cash and jewellery in the arrested man’s luggage.

He was charged with aggravated break and enter and denied police bail.

St George detectives quickly established that an alleged scam was underway and would continue the next day at a home in Bexley in the southern suburbs of Sydney.

It’s alleged the detectives contacted and warned the home owner, a 72-year-old man.

Following further inquiries, police arrested a 22-year-old Irish national at Sydney airport as he tried to board a flight to Qatar at 8.20pm on Saturday March 9.

A search of his luggage allegedly uncovered a large amount of cash and jewellery.

He was charged with fraud and deal in proceeds of crime; and refused police bail.

Refused bail, he was expected to appear today in the Sutherland Local Court.

NSW Police say they are looking for a fourth Irish male.

Full weekend of Melbourne Irish festivities

The Melbourne Irish Festival hosts a St Patrick’s Family Fun Day at Edinburgh Gardens.

The Melbourne Irish Festival hosts a St Patrick’s Family Fun Day at Edinburgh Gardens.

There are two major celebratory events taking place this St Patrick’s Day in Melbourne.

St Patrick’s Day Family Fun Day, hosted by Melbourne Irish Festival Committee, takes place at Edinburgh Gardens (Fitzroy North) between noon and 5pm. Described as Melbourne’s original Irish festival, this is a free event, supported by Yarra City Council.

The fun day boasts traditional and contemporary Irish music accompanied by Irish dancers as well as activities for kids. Irish food will be served.

St Kilda has its own Irish St Patrick’s Day Festival. This event is the first of its kind in O’Donnell Gardens, St Kilda.

Kicking off at 2pm, the day will be brought to life with live cultural music, traditional Irish dancing, food and activities designed to give everyone a little taste of Ireland. This is an over 18s event but there is a free family festival earlier in the day, between 10am and 1pm. This is a non-ticketed event but tickets are required for the adult celebration.

The Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce is holding a number of events in Melbourne. On Friday, the chamber hosts its annual St Patrick’s Day corporate lunch at Docklands. Starting at noon, this will be a chance to listen to some prominent speakers and do some networking at a waterfront location.

Also taking place on this day will be the chamber’s Brexit conference where visiting Irish Minister Damien English TD will be speaking.

The Irish Australian Support and Resource Bureau in Northcote is hosting a celebration on March 16. This will be a day cedlebrating Irish food, with free Sheridan’s Old Dubliner pork sausages from the BBQ. Craic agus ceol is also promised.

If your idea of a St Patrick’s Day celebration is to catch some of Ireland’s biggest musicians at the moment, you can see Kodaline who play Melbourne on St Patrick’s Day.

Kodaline made their name with singalong hits like All I Want and High Hopes which came from their 2013 debut album In A Perfect World.

This was followed by Coming Up for Air and then Politics of Living which have both further cemented them as one of Ireland’s best rock bands. Kodaline play 170 Russell on March 17.

Irish nationals arrested over Melbourne shooting

Police have arrested two Irishmen over a Melbourne shooting.

Police have arrested two Irishmen over a Melbourne shooting.

Two Irishmen have been arrested in connection with a shooting at Point Cook last week.

Warrants were issued for the arrest of 30-year-old Mark Dixon (who also sometimes goes by the surname Murphy) and 26-year-old Jack Harvey. The men were arrested in the NSW town of Broken Head on Wednesday afternoon over the shooting of 53-year-old Sid Morgan at a Spraypoint Drive home in west Melbourne about 11pm on February 21.

Sid Morgan, a Sydney real estate agent, is recovering from gunshot injuries following an attack in Melbourne last week.

Sid Morgan, a Sydney real estate agent, is recovering from gunshot injuries following an attack in Melbourne last week.

Mr Morgan, a former NSW Police officer who now runs a Sydney real estate business, remains in hospital with life-threatening injuries after being allegedly shot in the face.

Mark Dixon also goes by the name Mark Murphy.

Mark Dixon also goes by the name Mark Murphy.

According to The Age, Mr Morgan shot dead his own brother-in-law in 1995 after becoming aware of allegations that the man, Mansour Suha, had been molesting three young girls, two of them relatives.

He shot Mr Suha in May 1995 at a home in Sydney's Oakhurst.

On August 1, 1997, a jury found him not guilty and he was acquitted of both murder and manslaughter.

He was however refused reinstatement into the NSW police force and went into the real estate business.

Jack Harvey, 26, was arrested in Broken Head.

Jack Harvey, 26, was arrested in Broken Head.

Victoria Police described Dixon as 180 cm tall, with a medium build, short brown hair, a fair complexion and speaks with an Irish accent.

Harvey is described as having a slim build, short brown hair, a goatee beard and also speaks with an Irish accent.

Irish-born Sinead Diver wins Melbourne marathon

Sinead Diver

Sinead Diver

Mayo-mum Sinéad Diver has won the Melbourne Marathon in record time.

Diver, who moved to Melbourne in 2002 and now calls Australia home, set a new course record with a time of 2:25:19 making her the fastest ever Australian female athlete to complete the 42.195km distance in Australia.

It’s also the second fastest marathon ever run by an Irish woman after Catherina McKiernan’s record of 2:22:23.

“Today was the best marathon experience I’ve ever had. It’s really special to get a PB in my hometown. Finishing in the ‘G’, with all my family and friends cheering me on was so emotional,” said the Irish Australian.

Diver is a three-time World Championship representative, and has a spate of wins to date including the Launceston 10, where she broke a course record and ran the fastest 10km road race by an Australian since 2006. 

Diver’s best performance came at the Sunshine Coast Half Marathon where she ran 1:09:20, the fastest time by an Australian in eight years and second fastest ever recorded in Australia. 

She now sets her sights on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Sinead Diver crosses the finish line at the MCG.

Sinead Diver crosses the finish line at the MCG.

Melbourne to host global Irish famine event

Dr Val Noone next to the Famine Rock at Williamstown.

Dr Val Noone next to the Famine Rock at Williamstown.

The famine monument at Williamstown in suburban Melbourne will host this year’s International Commemoration of the Great Famine, the Irish Government has announced.

It is the first time Melbourne has hosted the event which takes place in a different country each year.

The ceremony will take place on Sunday, October 28 and Melbourne Irish Famine Commemoration Committee’s chairman Dr Val Noone said he and his team were “honoured” to be chosen.

The Williamstown Famine Rock was erected 20 years ago to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of 191 Irish orphan girls into Hobson’s Bay aboard the Lady Kennaway.

The impoverished girls from Irish workhouses were brought out to Australia between 1848 and 1850 to become servants and wives under the Earl Grey Emigration Scheme.

Dr Noone said descendants of the orphan girls’ will attend this month’s commemoration which will also include Irish music and song, flower-laying and speeches.

“We pass the microphone around and give them a chance to tell us who they are descended from, what age they were when they came, and what ship they came on,” he said.

“When you think of what it was like for those girls, many of them only 14 or 15 years of age, to step ashore in Melbourne, 20,000 kilometres from home facing a terrific challenge.”

Irish Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan said some 1700 of the 4000-plus young Irish women who came to Australia under the Earl Grey scheme first landed in Melbourne.

“This year’s commemoration represents an opportunity to not only honour the work of the Irish community in Melbourne in preserving its history but also to pay special tribute to the memory of those young women and their contribution to their adopted homeland,” she said.

Sadly when the girls first arrived, some of the local press whipped up anti-Irish feeling. 

The Melbourne Argus newspaper was particularly harsh, describing them as “ignorant creatures, whose knowledge of household duty barely reaches to distinguishing the inside from the outside of a potato”.

Dr Noone said they would have needed “courage and determination” to deal with the discrimination, prejudice and racism they encountered.

“It is moving to think that those girls, scorned and libelled by the local press when they arrived, are being remembered and honoured,” he said.

Irish studies Professor Elizabeth Malcolm is a great-great granddaughter of Margaret Cooke from Co Kildare who came to Australia on the Earl Grey scheme when she was just 16.

“I have often taught the Famine to students, so I am very familiar with its horrors,” Prof Malcolm said. “When I discovered I had an orphan ancestor, it was exciting at first, but, on reflection, I found it very sad. Margaret must have had a pretty terrible early life.”

Dr Noone said they’d been having annual community commemorations at Williamstown since the memorial was first erected 20 years ago.

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