Leinster's Aussie flanker sees no Irish rugby crisis

Australian flanker Scott Fardy in action for Leinster

Australian flanker Scott Fardy in action for Leinster

Scott Fardy, Leinster’s superstar Australian flanker, has sought to calm Irish rugby fans fears over a pre-World Cup form slump.

Fardy, who has extended his Leinster contract by a year, said he thought Ireland were still in good shape to have a tilt at winning the Rugby World Cup which begins in September.

“I wouldn’t be overly worried about things happening before [the World Cup]” Fardy told The Irish Times. “You’ve got seven games to win the thing. Sometimes you have small dips but I don’t [see an Irish crisis].

“So many things that go in that seven-week tournament. Things can go completely wrong for teams. You saw that with Ireland [in 2015] with injuries.”

Fardy signed with Leinster in 2017 and has made 37 appearances since.

In his first season in Dublin, Fardy helped the province to a Heineken Champions Cup and Guinness PRO14 double in a campaign which saw him make 22 appearances and score four tries.

“I’ve re-signed so I’ll be going again for another year,” the 34-year-old told reporters.

“I made that decision a while ago, just things had to get sorted out. I’m really happy to be here for another year and continue to go after trophies.

“We’re enjoying it, my wife’s settled in well and the young fella’s growing up pretty quickly. We’re enjoying our time here in Dublin.

“With the squad you’ve got and the leaders here and the staff as well, no one’s really selling you anything. With the senior players and junior players here, it’s easy to get caught up and enjoy your rugby.”

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.

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.

Opera House to go green for St Patrick's Day

Sydney Opera House will be illuminated green for St Patrick’s Day this year.

Sydney Opera House will be illuminated green for St Patrick’s Day this year.

The Sydney Opera House will be one of a number of Australian buildings and landmarks lit green for St Patrick’s Day this year.

Apart from the Sydney’s most iconic building, the Big Kangaroo Border Village in South Australia, The Big Banana Fun Park in Coffs Harbour, the State Library of New South Wales and Sydney Town Hall will adopt a green hue for March 17.

The Bell Tower, Council House and Elizabeth Quay in Perth as well as the National Carillon and the Embassy of Ireland in Canberra will also be lit in green.

For Sydney, it will be an extra special St Patrick’s Day this year.

The St Patrick’s Day Festival has moved back to The Rocks, marking the 40th anniversary of the first Irish parade through the area in 1979.

The area will be transformed into an Irish Village for the day, a sea of green - offering something for everyone; live music, street artists, a parade, children’s activities, a citizenship ceremony, and live music and dancing. Kicking off with a street parade at 11am, the celebrations will be at Dawes Point Park, with the iconic Sydney Opera House as a backdrop.

Sydney St Patrick’s Day Organisation’s President Karen Murphy said “The St. Patrick’s Day Festival is delighted to partner with Tourism Ireland in turning the sails of the Opera House green! What a stunning setting to celebrate our proud Irish roots globally.”

Other new sites and buildings taking part in Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening 2019 include: Victoria Falls, The Eden Project in Cornwall, The Cotton Tree in Freetown, Sierra Leone; and ‘Niki’, a Cathay Pacific DC-3 airplane on display in the Cathay Pacific headquarters in Hong Kong.

Sydney Town Hall will be lit in green to celebrate the city’s Irish heritage.

Sydney Town Hall will be lit in green to celebrate the city’s Irish heritage.

These new sites will join some ‘old favourites’ which have gone green in previous years – including the Colosseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Niagara Falls, the ‘Welcome’ sign in Las Vegas, the Sky Tower in Auckland, Sleeping Beauty castle at Disneyland Paris, Burj Al Arab, Christ the Redeemer statue, the London Eye and many others.

Sofia Hansson, Manager Tourism Ireland, Australia and New Zealand said, “This is the tenth year of Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening initiative which has now grown to become a significant worldwide reminder of both St. Patrick’s Day itself, and also of Ireland and its appeal as a visitor destination. Many Australians have ancestral links to the island of Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day is a truly unique opportunity to reconnect them with their heritage.”

Update :: Missing Meathman makes contact with family

Kevin Fitzpatrick’s family are concerned for his welfare.

Kevin Fitzpatrick’s family are concerned for his welfare.

The Irish Australian Support Association of Queensland (IASAQ) says that Kevin Fitzpatrick from Co Meath, who had been declared missing by his family in Ireland, is OK.

Mr Fitzpatrick’s family had not seen or heard from him since October and raised the alarm with the IASAQ.

A widely-shared social media post on February 22 said: “Kevin stands 6’2”tall (188 cms) is well built, blonde hair, normally cut very short, and is 35 years of age. Last contact with Kevin was October 2018.

“He has worked in Mt Isa, the Ranger Mine outside Darwin in NT and spent a lot of time in and around Brisbane when on break. His family are desperate for news of him.”

But the IASAQ posted a later message saying: “Kevin has made contact with his family and is ok, so thank you, each and everyone of you for the part you played. The strength of community and people working together, and looking out for each other is still powerful enough to achieve a happy ending.”

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.

Cork family 'eternally heartbroken' over violent death

Charles ‘Charlie’ McCarthy died in December 2017 in Fremantle.

Charles ‘Charlie’ McCarthy died in December 2017 in Fremantle.

The family of a Corkman man who died after a fight in Western Australia just before Christmas 2017 said their “lives have changed forever” and they will be “eternally heartbroken”.

Last week, fisherman Andrew Doan (35) was found not guilty of the murder of Charlie McCarthy (32) at the Supreme Court of Western Australia. A manslaughter charge was also dismissed.

Mr McCarthy’s brother, Daniel, and twin sisters Sinead and Siobhan travelled to Perth for the trial. The family did not comment immediately after the verdict but issued a statement through a solicitor in Cork.

“The McCarthy family’s lives have been torn apart since the horrific death of Charlie on December 23rd 2017,” the statement said.

“Charlie was one of seven children to Margaret and Charles McCarthy . . . Charlie was a very hardworking, gentle, fun loving, even tempered and a real family man. He lived for his family both in Ireland and Australia,” the statement said.

“He was very close with his entire family and would ring his mother on a daily basis, despite the time difference. He was a very keen GAA follower especially of his beloved Aghada GAA Club. He had a special interest in his twin sister’s football matches and would contact regularly for updates.

“On the unfortunate night of the 23rd of December 2017 Charlie was on a very rare night out with his wife, Nicole, which resulted in him being the victim of a fatal stabbing. Charlie has left behind two beautiful children, a wonderful wife, mother, father and six siblings.”

Cathay Pacific's Irish route a 'game changer'

Cathay Pacific cabin crew Christine Wang and Winnie Phan with James Ginns, Regional General Manager Europe, Cathay Pacific, and Vincent Harrison, Managing Director, Dublin Airport.

Cathay Pacific cabin crew Christine Wang and Winnie Phan with James Ginns, Regional General Manager Europe, Cathay Pacific, and Vincent Harrison, Managing Director, Dublin Airport.

Expats and tourists travelling between Australia and Ireland are now spoiled for choice as competition ramps up on the lucrative route.

Cathay Pacific is the latest carrier to offer direct flights from Asia into Dublin, joining Etihad, Emirates and Qatar in an increasingly crowded market.

Cathay Pacific flies to Dublin four times a week on the state-of-the-art A350 aircraft and the new route has been hailed as a great success by the airline and tourism chiefs.

Cathay Pacific General Manager Europe James Ginns said, “We’re delighted that Ireland’s first and only non-stop flight to Hong Kong has been well-received by our customers. Our team is thrilled to be able have a role in fostering bilateral tourism and economic growth between Ireland and Asia. We feel confident that this new route will continue to bring more convenience and choice to the Irish public and optimise opportunities for Irish businesses.”

Tourism chiefs in Ireland have also hailed the route as “a game changer”.

Tourism Ireland CEO Niall Gibbons said: “China is the largest outbound travel market in the world and one that Tourism Ireland is committed to growing over the coming years. In 2017, we welcomed an estimated 70,000 Chinese visitors to the island of Ireland; the introduction of the new direct flight from Hong Kong is a major game-changer and offers a real opportunity for us to build on this number.

“We are confident that we are in a strong position to grow this emerging travel market … over the coming years.”

The Airbus A350-900 flies the 12 and half hour route between Dublin and Hong Kong.

The Airbus A350-900 flies the 12 and half hour route between Dublin and Hong Kong.

In the Irish summer months, the flight departs Dublin at 11.55am, arriving in Hong Kong at 07.05am. The return flight departs Hong Kong at 12.50am, arriving in Dublin at 06.45am. In the Irish winter months, the flight will depart Dublin at 11am, arriving in Hong Kong at 7.30am. The return flight will depart Hong Kong at 12.15am and arrive in Dublin at 05.30am.

Connection options to and from Australia are considerable with direct flights to Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. A brief stopover in Hong Kong can mean a ‘door-to-door’ travel time of less than 23 hours from Dublin to Sydney when travelling east.

The Airbus A350-900, which services the Dublin-Hong Kong route, carries a total of 280 passengers , 38 in business class, 28 in premium economy and 214 in economy.

Cathay Pacific crew at Dublin Airport.

Cathay Pacific crew at Dublin Airport.

The business class service features state-of-the-art seats which adapt to your preference in-flight and include two pre-set settings for sitting and sleeping with additional controls for smaller adjustments. The fully flat bed is extremely comfortable and the friendly cabin crew are sensitive to not disturbing you unless absolutely necessary.

The in-flight food is excellent with a variety of tasty options for each meal, all served with fine wines and a selection of spirits and beers. Business class passengers can enjoy a wide selection of movies, TV shows, music and games on their own generously-proportioned touchscreen TV and top quality headphones. In-flight wi-fi is also available and passengers can pre-download an app for their tablet or smartphone to access the internet in the air.

According to Australia-based Irish specialist travel agents, the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong-Dublin route is proving very popular with expats and tourists alike.

The writer travelled at his own expense but received an upgrade to business class courtesy of Cathay Pacific.

Fisherman cleared of Perth Irishman's murder

Charles McCarthy died in December 2017 after an altercation with a fisherman in Fremantle.

Charles McCarthy died in December 2017 after an altercation with a fisherman in Fremantle.

A fisherman has been found not guilty of murdering an Irish father-of-two in Perth.

Andrew Doan, 35, was accused of fatally stabbing Corkman Charles John McCarthy, 32, in the head with a screwdriver during a fight next to Perth's Swan River in 2017.

After brief deliberation, jurors found Doan not guilty of both murder and an alternative charge of manslaughter on Friday following a trial in the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

There were gasps and tears when the verdict was handed down.

Walking free outside court, the father-of-one described the past 13-and-a-half months in custody as a "crazy rollercoaster".

"I don't wish it upon anyone," he said.

He wept as he said it was good to be back with family and friends.

Mr McCarthy's brother Dan and twin sisters Siobhan and Sinead, who had travelled from their home in Cork, made no comment outside court. Mr McCarthy, 32, from Upper Aghada, Co Cork, worked as a cable layer in Perth and had two children.

The trial heard how Doan had been fishing with his friend Tien Vu Huynh in East Fremantle in the early hours of December 23, 2017 when Mr McCarthy, his wife Nicole and friend Jason Mikel Curran walked by.

Doan said that when the men saw him and Mr Huynh emerging from the water, they asked: "Have you caught much?"

He mumbled "not much" in reply and they shot back "bit of s*** luck", according to Doan.

Their next comment - along the lines of "Fisheries are going to come and get you" - upset him and Mr Huynh, who are both Asian, interpreted it as racist.

Prosecutor James Mactaggart told the jury it was a "smart-arse, throwaway" comment, Mr Doan said the remark was racist because there was a stereotype "that all Asians catch undersize fish".

The trio walked off but Doan pursued them and a profane, verbal argument erupted.

Doan said his anger soon gave way to feeling vulnerable and outnumbered when Mr McCarthy began "puffing up" and walked back towards him "really staunch" with his fists clenched.

"It looked like he was coming into a demonic rage," Doan said.

He said he panicked, reached into his hoodie pocket, pulled out a screwdriver he had been carrying for crabbing and held it above his head, saying: "Get back or I'll stab you."

Doan said that as he retreated to his car, he had a scuffle with Mr Curran and Mr McCarthy kicked a wheelie bin at him, which just missed.

He said Mr McCarthy then charged and moved to punch him - ignoring his wife's frantic pleas to stop - and impaled himself on the screwdriver, which Doan was still holding.

Doan insisted he had closed his eyes, thrown his arms up to protect his face and forgot the tool was in his hand.

When he opened his eyes, Mr McCarthy was on the ground, Doan said.

He remained at the scene until emergency services arrived, telling police "it was me", and claiming self-defence.

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.”

Dublin singer eager for Aussie return

Gavin James has built a following from Belfast to Brazil.

Gavin James has built a following from Belfast to Brazil.

“Can’t wait,” Gavin James replies when he’s asked if he is looking forward to his Australian tour in March.

It will only be the second time he has played these shores.

“Should be great craic. It’s a really quick trip but I’d love to go over there next time and spend about a week and hang out a little bit. Still should be great craic though.”

It was in 2016 that the Dubliner played his first Australian shows.

“It was great. The Australian crowds are class. They were singing all the words, a lovely crowd to sing to. I’m excited to see what it’s like this time now that it’s on a bigger scale. We’re bringing the band over as well, so it should be good.”

In addition to his supporting band, James will also bring his new album, Only Ticket Home, which was released late last year and went straight to number two in the Irish charts.

The album features the the triumphant love song Glow, which is accompanied by a feelgood video where the singer walks through the cobbled streets of Temple Bar singing and being joined by all the hen parties, buskers, visitors and mime artists of Dublin’s famous tourist trap.

“We did it in Temple Bar because I played there for years before I got a deal. When I left school, I went straight into Temple Bar and did gigs, 15 gigs a week, but it helped me learn how to sing, write songs and play so I thought I would do a video in Temple Bar and get everybody involved.

“We were lucky with the weather. I remember somebody was saying, ‘We should go to Portugal or something’. I was like, ‘We have to do it in Ireland’.”

From Temple Bar, the then 21-year-old would go onto sign a record deal. His debut album Bitter Pill was released in 2016 and reached number five in Ireland.

James once said that every gig he does is like a party that he is never quite sure anyone is going to show up for. Even now, does he still get that feeling?

“Definitely. It always comes back. I put my first show on in Brazil last year. I was like, ‘Is anyone actually going to come to this show in Brazil? I’m just some lad from Dublin that has one song on the radio over here’.

“I didn’t expect anybody to show up because you never know. The Irish crowds have always been amazing and very welcoming but then you go to a new market, you never know.

“You’re always unsure no matter how much you get played on the radio or how much streaming there is, it all depends on whether it connects with people or not. I think it’s always just a shot in the dark no matter where you play really and if it goes well, book the next tour immediately.”

Just so you know, people did show up to his Brazilian shows and he is booked to go back to play a venue as big as Dublin’s Olympia in Sao Paulo:

“It’s mad that it’s so far away and the music still reaches; it’s deadly.”

Gavin James returns to Australia in March for a whistle-stop tour.

Gavin James returns to Australia in March for a whistle-stop tour.

The Brazilian connection came about after his music featured on Brazilian soap opera Pega Pega and, when he visited the country, he did a cameo performance.

So, how was his South American soap opera debut? “It was gas. The director wanted me to speak in Portuguese but my accent was terrible. There was a girl and her boyfriend, I think they were making up or something. I ended up doing a couple of takes saying it in Portuguese and eventually they took me saying, ‘Howaya, Luisa. This song is for you’. It wasn’t even, ‘Hey, Luisa’. It was, ‘Howaya, Luisa’. It was very funny.”

His music has also featured on the popular Aussie soap Home And Away but he says he’s not sure about seeking a role in Summer Bay.

“I’ll head down to the set and see what happens. They’re always playing the tunes. I always get a text off my ma every time saying, ‘you’re on Home And Away again’.”

The now 27-year-old is also huge in Holland, Singapore and the Phillipines to name just a few faraway places his music has reached.

One memorable recent gig for James involved playing a set at Conor McGregor’s sister’s wedding. How did he come to perform at the family gathering of another very famous Dubliner?

“She was a big fan so his publicist gave me a shout and asked if I was around and the wedding was half an hour from my gaff so I went down, played Nervous, played a couple of tunes at the wedding. I didn’t even meet him. I just ran in, did the wedding and then had to make it back to the airport to get back to London.”

Gavin James plays The Foundry in Brisbane on Thursday 21 March; The Prince Bandroom in Melbourne on Friday 22 March; Manning Bar in Sydney on Saturday 23 March and Badlands in Perth on Sunday 24 March.

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

Many would be emigrants caught in visa limbo

Many Irish workers have been left in visa limbo.

Many Irish workers have been left in visa limbo.

Changes to Australian visas have people waiting for their 457 visa application to be processed worried that they could not only not be granted leave to stay in Australia but they could also lose the money they spent on their applications.

When the rules changed, many occupations were removed or downgraded and those who were eligible for a four year visa and to apply for permanent residency can now only get two years. A 457 application should take 5-10 months but applications have been taking longer to process since the changes were announced.

Australia scrapped its skilled 457 visa programme last year. The programme had allowed tens of thousands of Irish workers to enter the country legally since 1996. The visa changes were announced in 2017 by then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull who said he wanted “to put Australians first.”

Turnbull alleged the 457 visa was being misused by employers to import cheaper workers and not to fill genuine skill shortages.

For individuals who have a 457 application in progress with the department, it is open to them to wait until a decision is made on their application
— Department of Home Affairs

The 457 visa was replaced with the Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (TSS) 482 but the list of occupations that qualify for the 482, is significantly reduced. The new visas has been described as limited, expensive and with an intimidating amount of paper work.

People can apply for a refund of their visa fees but there are no guarantees. The employer's nomination fee of $330 is not refundable.

A spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs told The Irish Echo: "The Department assesses all valid visa applications unless the application is withdrawn. For individuals who have a 457 application in progress with the department, it is open to them to wait until a decision is made on their application. Refunds are only available in limited circumstances and does not include circumstances where an applicant has withdrawn their application due to change of mind."

The people affected by the situation are often in Australia on bridging visas. They may no longer be entitled to a four year visa. If they have to apply for a 482 visa, they may not be entitled to work rights under any new bridging visa while they wait for the application to be processed.

The Home Affairs Spokesperson continued: "The bridging visa held in association with a 482 visa application will remain valid until the 482 visa application is finalised. Applicants holding a bridging visa with no work rights may apply for permission to work. Each request is assessed on a case by case basis."

People who applied for 457 visas before 18th April 2017, when the new rules were announced by Malcolm Turnbull, were to be protected by the old rules and still avail of permanent residency applications, shorter temporary transition periods before applying for permanent residency and the higher age bracket. But these may not apply if they have to make a new application for a 482.

The Department fo Home Affairs says: "Transitional arrangements were put in place in March 2018, in relation to certain requirements for people who held or applied for a subclass 457 visa before 18 April 2017.

Changes to the visa rules have made it more difficult for many skilled workers.

Changes to the visa rules have made it more difficult for many skilled workers.

"People who held a 457 visa before March 2018 and meet the various requirements, including being nominated in an eligible occupation, can apply for permanent residence through the Direct Entry (DE) stream of the subclass 186 or 187 visa.

"People who held a subclass 457 visa on 18 April 2017, or had applied for a subclass 457 visa on 18 April 2017 that was subsequently granted, are able to access certain existing provisions under the Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) stream.

"Eligible overseas workers will need to lodge an application for permanent residence within four years, by March 2022."

Thousands of Irish availed of the 457 following the economic crash ten years ago.

The new visa has also limited availability and is only obtainable as a short-term visa, for a maximum two years, or a medium-term visa up to four years.

Brian (not his real name) is one of those caught in an immigration no-man’s land.

He came to Australia with his wife and two children. He has been on a 457 since 2014 as a carpenter. His first employer nominated him for permanent residence. Brian spent $7,000+ agents' fees on the permanent residence application. Then his employer went out of business before the PR was granted. As a result, Brian’s PR visa was not granted. He lost the $7,000+ and had to start again.

Brian then had to move his 457 visa to a new employer, but his visa only had a few months left so he had to then apply for a new 457 visa. He paid new 457 fees of $2,700. He applied for his second 457 visa in December 2017. The employer’s part was granted in October 2017 so expired in October 2018. Brian’s second 457 visa cannot now be granted.

Brian will be forced to re-apply for a 482 visa. The 482 visa costs are more than double the fees he paid for the 457 visas. 482 visa fees will be $5,500.

Brian's employer lost $330 on the first application, but will now be forced to pay the new Skilling Australians Fund (SAF) levy of $7,200 to lodge the new nomination. A huge cost that will surely deter a lot of employers from even agreeing to proceed.

It was also reported in October that more than 630 Irish people had been deported from Australia over the last two years according to figures released by the Australian Department of Home Affairs.

Overstaying a visa, having a visa cancelled or invalid visas were the most common reasons for their deportation.