Sydney

Cider brand sues GAA over Sydney Irish Festival

An ad for last November’s Sydney irish Festival which ran into problems over poor ticket sales.

An ad for last November’s Sydney irish Festival which ran into problems over poor ticket sales.

The widely-criticised Sydney Irish Festival, which took place in November, is now part of a legal claim against the GAA.

The manufacturer of Bulmers is suing the GAA in Ireland’s High Court, claiming it reneged on a deal to put the cider brand on tap in Croke Park, according to The Times.

In its action Bulmers, owned by C&C Group, is claiming it had an agreement for “pouring rights” in GAA headquarters. But the liquor company also wants to recover sponsorship money it claims it is owed relating to the Sydney Irish Festival, a GAA event in Australia last November, because the event did not go ahead in the way it had been presented to the cider company.

It is understood that C&C Group believed that sponsorship of the festival was linked to securing “pouring rights” in Croke Park.

The two-day festival in Sydney, which was sponsored by Magners, as Bulmers is known in Australia, was reduced to a one-day event due to lower than expected ticket sales. Held in the Sydney Showground, the festival included a hurling match on November 11 between league champions Kilkenny and Galway, the All-Ireland champions of 2017.

Plans for a “family fun day” on November 10, featuring hurling clinics, amusement rides, player autograph sessions, activities for kids and a Guinness World Records attempt to make the world’s biggest Irish stew, were all cancelled just five days before the event.

Galway revellers at the ill-fated Sydney Irish Festival.

Galway revellers at the ill-fated Sydney Irish Festival.

Well-known ballad singer Mary Black, urban folk performer Damien Dempsey, electro-folk outfit Saint Sister and enduringly popular trad band Lúnasa had been scheduled to perform on the first day of the weekend festival. The announcement of the change was met with disappointment and rancour, especially from those who had booked travel from other states and/or time off work. The late change left them out of pocket on air fares and accommodation.

Many patrons who attended the event were quick to criticise the organisation of the day with long queues for the bars. When some reached the top of a long queue, they were further frustrated to find out they could only get two drinks per person.

Paul Sergeant of Paul Sergeant Events, who was the local organiser of the festival, told The Irish Echo that the hurling had been a huge success but “we were deeply disappointed that we had to make the difficult decision to cancel the Saturday events and we apologise for the inconvenience it will have caused.

“There has been plenty of positive feedback about the day but it was spoilt for some by their experience at the bars. The venue operator has to adhere by RSA [responsible service of alcohol] requirements specific to every event, hence the drinks limit and bar closure times,” Paul Sergeant said.

“We have discussed the issue of lengthy queues with the venue operator and they apologise for being unable to meet the huge demand.”

Asked if another festival is planned for the coming years, Mr Sergeant replied: “The 2018 event was very much a test event. A thorough de-brief will be held … and that will determine what happens in the future.”

Expat businessman's fairytale castle project complete

KING OF THE CASTLE: Killeavy Castle’s owner Mick Boyle with key players in the renovation, Jason Foody, Clare Clarke and Gary Flynn.

KING OF THE CASTLE: Killeavy Castle’s owner Mick Boyle with key players in the renovation, Jason Foody, Clare Clarke and Gary Flynn.

A Sydney Irish businessman has completed a fairytale project in his old hometown.

Mick Boyle, who was born in South Armagh, and his wife Robin have restored the 180-year-old Killeavy Castle to its former glory.

In doing so, they have also launched a new hotel business, creating 85 jobs in the border region.

“Robin and I wanted to change the way people think about South Armagh,” said Mr Boyle, who runs a successful construction business in Sydney.

“We want to create a destination venue where tourists and local people can come to and enjoy great dining, access the beautiful mountain walks and feel very connected with their natural surroundings.

“We want Killeavy Castle to be a world-class destination where people can escape the busyness of modern life and get closer to what’s important.”

It was 2013 when Mr Boyle first became aware that Killeavy Castle was on the market.

The old building, originally designed in 1836 by architect George Papworth of Dublin, had fallen into disrepair after sitting derelict for more than a decade. The Boyles bought the property for £1.3million in 2013 and set about restoring it.

The £12 million renovation involved more than 90 local contractors, from design to construction and landscaping companies, with the expertise to undertake the extensive renovations with painstaking care and to ensure the 19th century building has been fully restored to its former glory.

Killeavy Castle now has four luxury bedrooms, a formal dining room, a cellar bar and private function facilities, all with period features that have undergone significant restoration. Behind the castle there is a permanent marquee for weddings, retreats and corporate events.

An underground tunnel once used as a servant’s passageway now links the castle to the newly built 45-bed boutique spa hotel, a Grade 2 listed building that was once a coach house, a mill and farm buildings.

Mr Boyle says the renovations will put a modern twist on the traditional charm of the castle.

“What makes us unique is our location and heritage. We are situated at the foot of the mighty Slieve Gullion, with unrivalled natural beauty and incredible views. Our heritage and provenance are at the heart of everything we do.

The restoration includes a luxury hotel with five-star wedding facilities.

The restoration includes a luxury hotel with five-star wedding facilities.

“Our food will be sourced locally or grown in our walled garden; our 85 staff [mostly] live locally, and we have incorporated the beauty of the countryside into the design and interior of the castle and hotel. We also have a working farm with Cheviot sheep and longhorned cattle.”

Asked what the impact of Brexit might have on his new venture, Mr Boyle replied: “I haven’t a clue. I don’t think anyone has a clue.”

Mr Boyle and his family are well-known to the Irish community in Sydney.

Mick senior and Pauline Boyle

emigrated from south Armagh in the 1960s. Young Mick was just five when the Boyles settled in St Mary’s in Sydney’s western suburbs.

“My father was active for many years in Penrith Gaels and was president for several years at around the time the new club opened up,” he recalls.

In the 1990s, Mick junior set up his company Abergeldie, which provides complex infrastructure like roads, bridges, dams, shafts, tunnels, rail and water infrastructure. The firm now employs more than 500 people and has offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Auckland and now, Newry, Co Down.

The general manager of Killeavy Castle Estate, Jason Foody, said the new hotel was already attracting business from across Ireland and overseas.

“There has been a great demand for our unique facilities, with 50 events already booked in, from fairy-tale wedding ceremonies to glamorous receptions. We have had inquiries from all over the world, with people excited to visit the estate and take in the breath-taking scenery.”

The castle and hotel are located at the foot of Slieve Gullion in south Armagh

The castle and hotel are located at the foot of Slieve Gullion in south Armagh

Congratulating the owners on the development, Gary Flynn, business acquisition manager at First Trust Bank, which helped finance the project added: “We are incredibly proud to have played a part in the restoration of Killeavy Castle. The exceptional attention to detail at every step of the project has resulted in the creation of one of the most stunning venues on the island of Ireland.

“Mick’s passion for South Armagh is infectious. It’s clear he is committed to creating hospitality excellence and showcasing the beauty and charm of the local area on a global stage.

“The castle itself still has so many of its quirky period features, sympathetically restored to its former glory.

“So often we see investments of this scale taking place in our cities, so it’s great to see such a high-quality development of this kind enhancing our rural communities and is testament to the potential that is there to be harnessed,” Mr Flynn said.

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.

Queer Irish give green light to Sydney Mardi Gras

(Clockwise from left) Loretta Cosgrove, President of Sydney Queer Irish, Owen Feeney, Consul General of Ireland, Lorna Hennessy and special guest Panti Bliss.

(Clockwise from left) Loretta Cosgrove, President of Sydney Queer Irish, Owen Feeney, Consul General of Ireland, Lorna Hennessy and special guest Panti Bliss.

Dozens of revellers donned pink and green as part of the Queer Irish entry for this year’s gay and lesbian Mardi Gras in Sydney.

This year, the group celebrated “a history of fearlessness in the Irish people that has led us to a more inclusive Ireland”, according to Sydney Queer Irish president Loretta Cosgrove.

“It was a long day starting at 12pm at the Gaelic Club to get our marchers glittered and into costume for some final rehearsals,” Cosgrove said.

“For the 80 marchers, the night of Mardi Gras is the cumulation of four weeks of build up and excitement taking part in rehearsals and getting together to make their props and bedazzle their costumes. For the SQI committee members its been months of work behind the scenes. Many Irish folks bring their skills to SQI so we can pull off such great night. This year we had Aaron Corcoran as lead choreographer and Regina Cremin-Scanell as our glitter and makeup artist.”

Irish revellers at the Sydney Mardi Gras.

Irish revellers at the Sydney Mardi Gras.

Bright, life sized lantern puppets representing the four provinces of Ireland joined SQI marchers in neon green and pink for the parade in an entry they dubbed Solas, the Irish word for light, which symbolised “Irish peoples’ fearlessness and courage to make positive change”.

The so-called “Queen of Ireland” Panti Bliss added some celebrity sparkle to the Irish entry.

“The crowd had a big reaction to us and especially loved Panti Bliss who interacted with the crowd in a huge way this year,” Cosgrove said. “We are very proud of all our members who took part and are incredibly grateful to the Irish Consulate in Sydney who have been a huge support to our community group.”

Established in 2010, Sydney Queer Irish (SQI) is a community-based organization supporting the Irish and Irish Australian LGBTI community through a variety of events and support networks.

The four provinces join the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

The four provinces join the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.



Sydney Irish air rage accused 'overdosed' on sleeping pills

Leroy Hyland was restrained on a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney after attending the Conor McGregor fight in Las Vegas in October. Picture: Facebook

Leroy Hyland was restrained on a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney after attending the Conor McGregor fight in Las Vegas in October. Picture: Facebook

An Irishman who attacked a crew member on a flight back from the Conor McGregor fight in Las Vegas had taken an excessive dose of sleeping tablets, a court has heard.

Leroy Thomas Hyland took quadruple the recommended US dosage of a sleeping pill which he had never previously consumed during a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney on October 10th last year.

The 26-year-old then “woke up in a freaked-out state” and believed that passengers were gang members and had stolen his wallet, passport and phone.

Mr Hyland, who is on bail, has pleaded guilty to three charges in relation to a disturbance on Delta Air Lines flight DL41 from Los Angeles to Sydney on October 10 last year.

He pleaded guilty to behaving in an offensive and disorderly manner on an aircraft, common assault and assaulting/threatening with violence/intimidating aircraft crew.

The 26-year-old appeared before Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney on Tuesday where his lawyer said he took an adverse reaction to sleeping pills taken after “an overseas catch-up trip to Las Vegas to watch the Conor McGregor fight.”

Mr Hyland ran out of the usual sleeping tablets he took for long-haul flights and purchased sleeping pills which a shop assistant suggested would “really knock him out” for the 14 hour flight from LA to Sydney.

He initially took two pills but didn’t feel much effect so he took a further two tablets which is quadruple the recommended US dosage, according to his lawyer.

He then fell asleep but woke an hour later and “the nightmare begins.”

Hyland travelled to Las Vegas to watch Irish UFC fighter Conor McGregor in action.

Hyland travelled to Las Vegas to watch Irish UFC fighter Conor McGregor in action.

Mr Hyland was in a “freaked out state” and believed other passengers were gang members and had robbed his belongings, the court heard.

His lawyer said: “This was the first time he had taken this type of sleeping pill and he had no prior knowledge of its effects.”

The Irishman had a blanket over his head “to hide from those he believed were targeting him” and a flight attendant said he was “rambling about getting robbed.”

He believed the flight attendants were part of the group that had stolen his belongings telling them ‘you are part of it, you are one of them.’

The court heard Mr Hyland was disorientated and told crew members: “Someone is trying to steal my identity. I don’t know who to trust.”

Mr Hyland’s lawyer said he was frightened by the situation in which he found himself and at one stage shouted: ‘Help, help’ in a thick Irish accent which may not have been understood.

A doctor’s report tendered to court concluded that Mr Hyland’s behaviour could have been caused by taking an excessive number of sleeping tablets.

After the incident on-board, Mr Hyland was restrained for the remaining 10 hours of the flight and arrested when the plane landed at Sydney Airport where he “appeared very confused” and didn’t seem to remember what had happened on the flight.

His girlfriend was concerned and took him to hospital that night and the court heard he “wasn’t right until 7am the next day.”

Mr Hyland’s lawyer told the court the 26-year-old works 60 hours a week as a sheet metal worker and the act was “so out of left field, there’s a low to zero risk of him re-offending.”

He said: “This man is worthy of a second chance” and asked the court not to jail him.

“He made a mistake and it’s not going to happen again,” he added.

He said it had always been Mr Hyland’s dream to “live and work in Australia” and he hoped to apply for permanent residency in the future and a criminal conviction put this dream “at risk.”

The acting magistrate said she accepted that Mr Hyland was otherwise of “good character” and “didn’t take the tablets with the view that this would occur.”

But she found the offences were “very serious” and asked for a sentencing report to be prepared before she passes sentence.

The case was adjourned until April 16 to allow for the preparation of this report.

Mr Hyland was supported in court by his brother who travelled from Ireland to attend the hearing.

His employer, his partner and a close friend all provided character references to the court.

A victim impact statement from the US flight attendant who was attacked by Mr Hyland was also submitted to court.

Putting The Rocks into Sydney's shamrock celebration

The Rocks area of Sydney will host Sydney’s official St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

The Rocks area of Sydney will host Sydney’s official St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

The Rocks area of Sydney will be the centrepiece of the city’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

The Saint Patrick’s Day Festival, with the theme Back to Our Roots, will kick off with a walking parade through the area on Sunday, March 17, reminiscent of the first Irish community parade.

The parade will kick off at 11am from First Fleet Park and will make its way through the historic area finishing at Dawes Park.

The parade will be family focused, an event spokeswoman, Mary Doherty, said.

The map of the St Patricks Day Parade route for Sunday, March 17.

The map of the St Patricks Day Parade route for Sunday, March 17.

“Already applications have been coming in from local dancing schools, mothers groups and sporting clubs. Groups or individuals who want to join the parade can still submit an application on the Sydney Saint Patrick’s Day Festival website,” she said.

The celebration will include a day-long program of activities at Dawes Park starting at 11.30am.

“This year’s festival has something for everyone, young and not so young, Irish, non-Irish and those who just want to join in the craic,” Ms Doherty said. “As always music will be at the centre of the celebrations and this year’s line-up is fantastic.

“There will be live music from favourites such as Strawberries and Cabbage, Blackwater, Chris Harper and The Bottlers and plenty of up and coming acts in the form of buskers and street artists.

“The kids can enjoy dancing, Irish language sessions, cultural entertainment acts, musical performances, prizes for best dressed, crafts, face painting, a tattoo artist, raffles and lots more.”

Approximately 50 Irish nationals will become citizens at a special citizenship ceremony on the day.

A large licensed bar and various stalls will offer everything from food and drinks, to crafts. The party extends from Dawes Park with the entire Rocks area transforming into an Irish village for the day. To add to the celebration, the sails of the Sydney Opera House will be illuminated in green as part of Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening project.

The layout for the family celebration at Dawes Point Reserve.

The layout for the family celebration at Dawes Point Reserve.

“Now, would you get a better photo opportunity than that?,” Ms Doherty asked. “The Harbour Bridge, a green Opera House and a park full of people being happily Irish!”

The Mercantile Hotel, the iconic Irish pub in The Rocks, will be offering a full Irish breakfast from 7.30am on the day, plus live entertainment.

The Sydney Irish business community will celebrate St Patrick’s Day on Friday March 15.

More than 1,000 revellers are expected at the Lansdowne Club’s annual St Patrick’s Day Lunch at the International Convention Centre with special guest Heather Humphreys TD, Ireland’s Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Earlier in the day, the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce will host a St Patrick’s business breakfast at Doltone House at Hyde Park.

Irishman escapes conviction after festival drug arrest

An Irish tourist has escaped conviction after being arrested with ten MDMA capsules.

An Irish tourist has escaped conviction after being arrested with ten MDMA capsules.

An Irish tourist arrested with 10 MDMA capsules at a music festival in Sydney on Sunday has faced court.

David Crean, 32, was one of ten people arrested for drug supply at the Ultra Music festival in Parramatta.

He was charged with supplying a prohibited drug after a sniffer dog sat down next to him when he entered Parramatta Park at about 1.45pm, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Mr Crean, who was reportedly on a two-week holiday to Australia, escaped conviction after he argued the party drug is "not strong enough" in Australia and all of the pills were for his personal use.

According to police evidence tendered in court, Mr Crean was "nervous" and "visibly shaking" when he was spoken to by police, and when an officer asked "be honest, do you have any drugs on you?", he admitted he had drugs in his underwear.

Police uncovered a plastic resealable bag filled with coffee grounds and 10 capsules of MDMA during a search in a private tent. Mr Crean told police he "did not intend on selling the capsules and planned on consuming all of them himself as the purity of MDMA in Australia is not strong enough", the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Mr Crean's lawyer told Parramatta Local Court her client was willing to plead guilty to drug supply to get the matter dealt with quickly so he could return overseas on Friday.

Magistrate Richard Funston did not record a conviction because of the small amount involved and Mr Crean's lack of a criminal record. He told the tourist he could have died if he took the capsules.

"It's an incredibly foolish thing to do and obviously – I say it for the purpose of the court as well – people die of drug overdoses," Mr Funston said, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

During the event, which attracted over 20,500 people, 395 person searches were conducted, with 98 drug detections made during the operation for cannabis, cocaine, and MDMA.

Twenty-nine revellers were issued Criminal Infringement Notices, 28 for possession of MDMA, and one for cocaine, along with 13 cannabis cautions.

Former Sydney Rose harassed in Kilkenny pubs

Brianna Parkins, the 2016 Sydney Rose Of Tralee, says she had to fight off drunken pests on a night out in Kilkenny.

Brianna Parkins, the 2016 Sydney Rose Of Tralee, says she had to fight off drunken pests on a night out in Kilkenny.

The 2016 Sydney Rose of Tralee, Brianna Parkins, says she had to fight off a man who put her in a headlock at a bar in Kilkenny last week.

The 28-year-old, who now lives in Dublin, claimed the man went on to try to kiss her against her will, forcing her to push him away from her and her friend.

Speaking on The Ryan Tubridy Show on RTE Radio One, the Sydneysider said "in a perfect world", the incident would have been seen at the time as an assault.

"The plan was to head down to Kilkenny, great to drive through the town, the craic was moderate to high, we were all excited, tanning each other's backs in the Airbnb before heading out," she told Tubridy.

"We get to the first bar and within 10 minutes - I hadn't even ordered a drink yet - I get put in this headlock by this massive sort of rugby-built dude.

"He grabbed me in a headlock in one arm and my friend around with the other arm and just goes in for the shift. It was like being cuddled by an Alsatian, slobbering all over you.

"This was maybe 9.30 or 10pm - not too late for being that sloppy."

She said that this wasn't the first time something like this had happened to her on a night out in Ireland, but what shocked her further was that no one stepped in to help when they saw her forcibly release herself from his grip.

Brianna Parkins on stage with Daithi O’Sé at the Rose Of Tralee.

Brianna Parkins on stage with Daithi O’Sé at the Rose Of Tralee.

"In a perfect world, it would be assault but I'm 28, I've been going out for years, it's kind of sad that I am almost desensitised to that - you expect that now on a night out," she said. "But what I didn't expect was, I reacted like a normal person, grabbed him by the back of the head, reefed him off me and my friend, gave a few solid good shoves for good measure and he kept coming back at us.

"I just had to keep responding more and more aggressively and everyone in the bar turned to look at me as if I am the person causing the problem, but this bloke had a good 30kg on me - physically, we weren't evenly matched.

"No one helped, his mates didn't help, they thought it was funny and the bouncer looked at us like they were going to almost consider kicking me out."

It was like being cuddled by an Alsatian, slobbering all over you.

She moved on with her group of friends to another bar after they finished their drinks, and while they were approached by men, nothing happened when they refused their company. However, she added that there was a further incident in another bar later in the night when a man "screamed into her face" when she turned down his advances.

"We don't even stay half an hour, a big group of guys are dancing around us, dancing on us quite aggressively," she said.

"They're trying to cuddle us and put their arms around us and you're like 'no thanks' - as a girl you try give the polite 'no', because you're told not to be bitter or aggressive.

"He got up into my face and screamed, 'You're on a night out, love' and I'm like, 'I know, I'm dancing with my friends and having a good time and I don't want to be bothered by you guys'.

She said the sort of behaviour she witnessed would not be seen in outback pubs in Australia.

"I've been in rough, outback pubs in Australia but I've never had that level of carry-on happen."

She said it made her consider that these kinds of incidents should be reported to gardai.

Australian solidarity with Irish nurses campaign

Expat nurses send a powerful message to the irish government from the steps of the Sydney Opera House.

Expat nurses send a powerful message to the irish government from the steps of the Sydney Opera House.

More than 250 Irish nurses gathered at the Sydney Opera House on January 20 with a simple message for the Irish Government: ‘Give us a reason to come home’.

The nurses gathered to show solidarity with their colleagues, nurses and midwives, at home who are campaigning for better working conditions in Ireland.

The protest was replicated in Melbourne and Perth as well as London, Saudi Arabia and Doha .

Laura Phillips, a Dublin nurse who organised the Sydney protest, said she had been overwhelmed by her colleagues’ support.

“It’s a support message. We can’t be there at home; we’re across the world for the reasons that they’re striking. We can’t be there to show our support so we thought we would send that message and also send a message to the government. There are nurses here who want the option to come home but won’t. They refuse to work for the pay scale that’s being offered,” she said.

Laura explains that nursing in Ireland left her burnt-out and completely frustrated while she was earning only €30,000 a year.

Since relocating to Australia, not only does she earn nearly double, earning $90,000 (€57,000), but conditions are better with a strict ratio of four patients to one nurse.

“I was trained to a really high standard but I wasn’t able to bring the highest standard to the bedside because the time wasn’t there. It’s impossible when you’ve got a patient load of six to eight patients along with other terrible working conditions.

“It’s very frustrating. Then your pay packet at the end of the month doesn’t reflect any of this, the extra hours I used to spend. Every shift would mean at least an extra hour on the ward and getting no thanks for it whatsoever. It was just impossible to do.”

Irish nurses Helen McEnery, Niamh Burns, Laura Phillips and Sorcha Sharkey in Sydney to show their support for their colleagues in Ireland who have taken industrial action for better working conditions.

Irish nurses Helen McEnery, Niamh Burns, Laura Phillips and Sorcha Sharkey in Sydney to show their support for their colleagues in Ireland who have taken industrial action for better working conditions.

Ireland will continue to lose good nurses to Australia and other countries if the issues at the heart of the strikes are not addressed, she claimed.

“It’s sad to see because we are trained to a really high level in Ireland on the taxpayers’ money and then the other health systems reap the rewards. That’s the reality of it. That’s why there’s been such a response to this support message.

“I know nurses who want to go home. Some have gone home and actually came back out because they couldn’t do it, they couldn’t work in the conditions and be paid that. It’s not a reflection on our skills, our high qualifications.

“Every other public sector job is paid better than us. The general public have been fantastic in terms of support. These are people who receive the care, see the constraints of the health system. These are families, parents, relatives. The question that has been asked time and again is, ‘how does extra money in a nurse’s pocket help the health service?’ It’s just where it starts. They have a massive recruitment issue and retainage (sic) issue. Nurses won’t work for what they’re being offered.

“There’s the age old idea that nursing is a vocation. It is not. It is a career. We’re highly skilled professionals. Nobody’s going to stand for that in this day and age. No nurse went into nursing because they wanted to make money. I would have gone into a different line of work for that; that was never my intention. My intention was to look after patients. Patient safety is completely at risk.”

Irish nurses at Federation Square in Melbourne.

Irish nurses at Federation Square in Melbourne.

More than 30,000 Irish nurses and midwives have been taking industrial action in a bid to bring the government to the negotiating table. Urgent surgery and critical care were not affected but about 13,000 outpatient appointments and 2,000 planned procedures were cancelled. Emergency departments operated but with fewer nurses. It was INMO’s first strike in 20 years.

A planned three-day strike earlier this week was called off after the Labour Court intervened with a proposal to improve nurses wages and conditions.

The Irish Echo spoke to another Irish nurse who did not want to be named but was also at the Sydney protest. The nurse from Galway told The Irish Echo: “I think we all got a little bit emotional. It’s quite sad to think that 10 of our year of 50 (student nurses) are left at home and we’re all leaving for the same reason.

“They try to do these incentives to bring us home but not one person I talked to wants to go back to the Irish health system with the way we were treated.

“I think we’re a third world country at home compared to the way we work out here.

“The care at home is second to none but that’s because the nurses are brilliant but we’re just not treated the way that we’re treated out here.

“It’s tough because we all have family at home and all our families would love to see us at home but I know well my mam would kick me up the bum if I went home to go back to the HSE. She would send me back on a plane to Australia.”

Irish Australian women honoured on St Brigid's Day

Winners of the 2019 Brigid Awards pictured with Senator Deborah O Neill (patron, Irish Friends of Labor) and Kaila Murnain (general secretary of NSW Labor). From left to right: Deborah O Neill; Kaila Murnain; Pam O’Mahony; Mary Yaager; Genevieve Kelly; Patricia Amphlett (“Little Pattie”); Anne Murnain; Geraldine Murray; Catriona Barry and Fiona Nix.

Winners of the 2019 Brigid Awards pictured with Senator Deborah O Neill (patron, Irish Friends of Labor) and Kaila Murnain (general secretary of NSW Labor). From left to right: Deborah O Neill; Kaila Murnain; Pam O’Mahony; Mary Yaager; Genevieve Kelly; Patricia Amphlett (“Little Pattie”); Anne Murnain; Geraldine Murray; Catriona Barry and Fiona Nix.

The fourth annual Brigid Awards took place in Sydney on February 1, with singer Little Pattie among the award-recipients.

The awards, named in honour of the eponymous Irish saint, recognise the contribution of women of Irish heritage to Australian society and span the business, community, political and social justice spheres.

Singer Little Pattie (aka Patricia Amphlett) received the Bridget Whelan Award for a career that saw her shoot to fame in the 1960s and perform across Australia and the US, including on Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show.

She has been an advocate for social change and sang the iconic It’s Time TV commercial during the 1972 Australian federal election when Labor reformer Gough Whitlam became prime minister. 

Senator Deborah O’Neill, patron of the Irish Friends of Labor and federal senator for NSW, said she hoped the awards would “continue to grow in the future, and in particular to reach out to the many young Irish who have made New South Wales their home in recent years”.

“Politically, the world faces many challenges in the coming decade, and it is incumbent on Labor to step up and meet the challenge of delivering a fairer and more equal Australia.”

Pam O’Mahony received a Community Hero Award for her work on behalf of the Irish community in Sydney and NSW through the GAA, the St Patrick’s Day Parade Committee and through the long-running Ireland Calling Radio show.

Genevieve Kelly received a Community Hero Award for her work on social justice through the trade union movement; as a founding member and first NSW President of the Australian Social Welfare Union; through education, as a lecturer and president of the NSW Lecturers’ Association; and in the political sphere, as mayor. With roots in Cork and Kilkenny, she was the first mayor to make a formal apology for the Aboriginal genocide a commemoration of Captain James Cook’s first landing in Australia at Kurnell. 

 Fiona Nix received an award for her contribution to the business community as founder of Australia’s leading independent film and entertainment agency NixCo, which has been involved in movies such as Moonlight and Hacksaw Ridge.

Other award recipients include: Anne Murnain, who has campaigned to raise awareness on poverty in rural Australia, particularly among Aboriginals; Catriona Barry, board member and chairperson of 3 Bridges, a community organisation that helps disadvantaged people; Mary Louise Yaager who has been involved with the St Vincent de Paul, the Sydney Archdiocese and the Right to Home Campaign; and Geraldine Murray, nominated for contribution to the Megalong Valley Pony Club as the club’s treasurer and fundraiser.

Popular Dubliner found success in Australia

Dubliner Clare Foley, who died on January 6, was a popular member of Sydney’s Irish community.

Dubliner Clare Foley, who died on January 6, was a popular member of Sydney’s Irish community.

OBITUARY: The Irish Australian community is mourning the death of Sydney-based Dubliner Clare Foley who passed away on January 6 at the age of 44.

Born in 1975 Clare attended St Pius School, Terenure (1979-1987) and Our Lady’s, Terenure (1987-1993).

She graduated from University College Dublin in 1997 with an Arts degree in English Literature and French followed by a Masters in International Marketing from Dublin Institute of Technology in 1998.

In September 1998, Clare was selected from more than 1,000 applicants for the Enterprise Ireland International Graduate Programme based in London. She worked with Irish companies helping them to win business and increase their exports with UK retailers. It was a role that called for strong networking, communication and event management skills. She was a natural. Clare moved to Sydney in 2004 with her partner Alex and took up residence in the Eastern Suburbs.

A proud Irish woman she was steeped in the Australian Irish community from the word go. She was a feature in Ireland House, first working for the Consulate of Ireland and then once again for Enterprise Ireland. In 2009, Clare became a member of the inaugural Australian Ireland Fund Young Leaders committee and remained a major supporter of Ireland Fund events.

From 2010 to 2013 Clare was the head of hospitality at Ticketek before moving to the Australian Rugby Union as the head of hospitality and events. Clare thrived in the role and the John Eales Medal Awards night became her annual triumph. The green jersey was always under the gold and she always delighted in an Irish win.

In July 2018 Clare married Alex Henderson, her long term love, at Tankardstown House, Slane, Co. Meath. It was a day the best of her life, she always said.

Well-known for her caring, warmth and sense of fun, Clare was passionate about friendship and has a wealth of friends who adored her.

Clare passed away on January 6, 2019 of advanced breast cancer. She was 44. She is survived by her husband Alex; her parents Tim and Margaret and her sisters Emma, Hilary and Louise.

Her husband and family extend their gratitude to all who supported Clare in the last two years, especially the ARU and the teams at the Kinghorn Cancer Centre and the Sacred Heart Hospice.

A celebration of Clare’s life will take place at 12 noon, February 15 at Thomas Prior Hall, Ballsbridge. If you would like to make a donation in honour of Clare please visit https://give.everydayhero.com/au/in-honour-of-clare-foley-1

Singer Meg Mac cherishes Irish heritage

Meg Mac is a star on the rise with a national tour in April.

Meg Mac is a star on the rise with a national tour in April.

Irish Australian artist Meg Mac announced herself as a talent to watch out for when her song Known Better was selected for Triple J’s Unearthed progamme in 2013.

Accolades were soon coming her way. She was named Unearthed Artist of the Year while Marie Claire Australia chose her as an Artist to Watch and she received a nomination for Rolling Stone Australia’s Best New Talent award.

The ARIA Music Awards in 2015 saw her up for Best Female Artist and Breakthrough Artist while she was yet to even release her debut album. When her debut Low Blows landed in 2017, it went straight into the ARIA Chart at No 2 and won critical acclaim.

Now Meg has returned with GIve Me My Name Back, the first single from a new EP set for release in April when she also tours around Australia. The song is described as a ‘rallying cry, imploring girls to stand up, speak up and assert themselves’ and is about reclaiming identity, dignity and self-worth.

“It kind of means something different to everyone,” Mac told the Irish Echo.

“I’ve been getting literally hundreds of messages from people telling me what the song means to them and it’s completely different from what it means to me. Everyone can relate to what it feels like to lose who you are or your identity or feel like you’re not your full self anymore and that’s what I wrote it about but being able to see how it is relating to people is really amazing.”

The Irish Australian, who was born Megan Sullivan McInerney, has been writing material for her new EP and the next album to follow. She says she is now conscious of the pressure of producing a good follow up record.

“I think the first time you make something, that pressure isn’t there and then ever since then the pressure’s been there so I kinda just have to ignore all the pressure because if you focus too much on it you’re not going to make meaningful music,” she said.

Her powerful voice often sees her compared to Adele and Amy Winehouse but her earliest and strongest influences come from her Irish background. She was born in Sydney to parents from Donegal (Ballyshannon and Letterkenny) and Cork (Adrigole).

“Mum was always singing Irish songs. I realise now I know them and can sing along just from hearing them as a kid,” she recalls.

Meg Mac was born in Sydney to Irish parents from Donegal and Cork.

Meg Mac was born in Sydney to Irish parents from Donegal and Cork.

“My mum’s dad played accordion, bagpipes and violin, but my mum still has his button accordion and she often gets that out but she usually ends up getting really emotional and has to put it away. And he’s like in the folds of the accordion, he’s handwritten all the names of his favourite songs in all the folds. I never met him because he died before I was born.

“And my dad loves The Pogues and the Fureys, he’s always playing them so it was always around. My sister did Irish dancing.

“I think it is a strong influence. When my mum would sing a lot, she was just singing without any accompaniment. I’ve always loved being able to sing without music, you can just sing the song. When I’m writing as well, I love to be able to sing just the song and have a song be able stand up on its own, have a melody strong enough and pretty enough to seem like all those songs my mum would sing. Often, I’ll just write away from the piano, just singing.”

You will more than one member of the McInerney family on her records as sister Hannah often joins Meg on backing vocals.

“It’s easy, she knows how to sing with me. If I’m at home and I’m writing and I want harmonies, I’ll just call out to my sisters and they’ll come in and then straightaway I can hear what I wanna hear. It’s easy. And you can tell them that it sounds wrong or they’re doing it wrong and they’re not gonna be offended.”

The 28-year-old has fond memories of visiting her family in Ireland.

“Yeah, I’ve been a few times. I still have family there although I haven’t been in a few years.

“I always remember driving all the winding roads and having to stop for sheep to come across the road and then into my auntie’s house and she’s like, ‘go and dig out potatoes’. I’d never done that before: Go outside, pick the potatoes that we were going to eat for dinner. The most important memories are of my cousins, my grandparents. Living so far away, didn’t get to see them that much.

“It’s that weird thing where it feels like home but it’s not actually your home. That’s where both my mum and dad are from and I’m Australian but really I’m not Australian so it feels familiar. Whenever I meet Irish people, it feels like family.”

Meg Mac tours Australia April and May. For information visit www.megmac.com.au