Sydney Irishman avoids jail over air-rage incident

Leroy Hyland took four times the recommended dose of sleeping pills on a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney.

Leroy Hyland took four times the recommended dose of sleeping pills on a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney.

A 26-year-old Irishman has avoided a jail sentence after pleading guilty to a range of charges associated with an air-rage incident in October.

Leroy Hyland took four times the recommended dose of sleeping pills before he covered his head in a blanket, pushed a flight attendant and tried to storm the cockpit on an Los Angeles to Sydney Delta Airlines flight. He had been in the US to attend the Conor McGregor fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov in Las Vegas.

Hyland, who lives in Randwick in Sydney's eastern suburbs and is on a temporary working visa, was carrying an 'unidentifiable black object' when he told the flight attendants he had been robbed of his wallet, passport and phone. The flight attendants offered to accompany Hyland back to his seat to find his supposedly missing possessions, Sydney's Downing Centre Local Court heard on Tuesday.

“At this time, using both of his hands, the defendant gave [one flight attendant] a hard shove to his shoulder causing the flight attendant to fall backwards onto [the second cabin crew],' a statement of facts said. “The defendant ran towards the cockpit door and began beating on the door with his fists.”

The banging was loud enough for the captain to hear and internal security procedures were activated.

United States air marshals were forced to restrain Hyland for the remainder of the flight.

“In an attempt to get away from the air marshal, the defendant turned and jumped over seat 6B into the adjacent aisle, stepping on the passenger seated in seat 6C,” the statement of facts said.

Eventually the air marshals were able to restrain Hyland and he spent the rest of the trip handcuffed next to them until the plan touched down in Sydney.

Hyland was deeply ashamed of his conduct, defence lawyer David Newham told the court.

“There's definitely been a lot of soul-searching for My Hyland after this very, very regrettable event that occurred last year,' Mr Newham said.

The court heard Hyland had taken two tablets of the over-the-counter sleeping pill Unisom, then when he felt no effect swallowed two more.

Magistrate Julie Huber said if Hyland had not taken the tablets it was unlikely the disturbance would have occurred.

“Of course, you took four times the recommended dosage,” Ms Huber said, according to the Daily Mail.

“You took it upon yourself to take four times the amount simply because you wanted to sleep. In many respects it is no different from having that extra glass of scotch or alcohol.”

Ms Huber noted Hyland's contrition and that the had co-operated with the air marshals once he was handcuffed.

“It would appear that this is an unusual event and that as far as personal deterrence is concerned the requirement is relatively low,” she said.

Hyland was facing a potential penalty of a $10,000 fine and two years in prison.

Ms Huber fined Hyland $4,000 for behaving in an offensive and disorderly manner and imposed two community corrections orders of two years and three years with a total of 550 hours of community service.

Irish-born ex-bikie faces deportation under controversial policy

An Irish-born former bikie has lost his legal fight against deportation.

An Irish-born former bikie has lost his legal fight against deportation.

An Irish-born ex-bikie, who has lived here since he was six years old, faces deportation under a controversial Australian government policy.

Paul John Pennie’s visa was cancelled in 2016 and his appeal against deportation was rejected in the Federal Court last week.

Pennie, who moved to Australia with his parents in 1980, was sentenced in July 2015 to four-and-a-half years in a WA prison for charges including possessing methylamphetamine with intent to sell or supply and wilful destruction of evidence.

In January 2016, a delegate of the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton cancelled Pennie’s visa, ruling he did not pass the character test due to his criminal record which included being a former vice president of the Bandidos bikies gang.

After the minister refused to revoke the cancellation, Pennie, now 44, took his case to the Federal Court but last Thursday his application was rejected.

According to the Federal Court’s transcript, Pennie has significant family ties in Australia and essentially none in Ireland. His parents, who live in Perth, are elderly and he is very close to his sister and her family.

His sister supported his appeal, telling the court that deportation to Ireland “would destroy him”.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has criticised Australia’s policy of deporting people who moved to Australia as children.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has criticised Australia’s policy of deporting people who moved to Australia as children.

In her judgement, Justice Katrina Banks-Smith referred directly to the level of access to healthcare, social welfare and housing support in Ireland which, she said, was similar to Australia.

A submission by Minister Dutton to the case asserted: “I accept that Mr Pennie departed Ireland as a young child and would experience significant difficulties in establishing and adjusting to life as an adult in Ireland. I also accept Mr Pennie's immediate family and social supports are in Australia and he may experience significant emotional and practical hardships upon return to Ireland. I find that Mr Pennie's psychological conditions may be exacerbated given his history of depression and suicidal ideation.

“However,” he added. “I find that as an Irish citizen Mr Pennie will have a level of access to healthcare, social welfare and housing support that is similar to other citizens of Ireland.”

Ireland’s Ambassador to Australia Breandán Ó Caollaí said he could not discuss individual cases but added: “Any Irish citizen who is deported to Ireland would have the same rights and entitlements as any other Irish citizen in terms of healthcare, access to housing and social services.”

He added: “The guidelines regarding the determination of habitual residence address the issue of returning emigrants very specifically. The guidelines state: “A person who had previously been habitually resident in the State and who moved to live and work in another country and then resumes his/her long-term residence in the State may be regarded as being habitually resident immediately on his/her return to the State.””

The Ambassador also said NGOs like Crosscare and Safe Home Ireland “provide advice and assistance to returning emigrants”.

Pennie, who suffers from heart failure (he suffered cardiac failure in 2014), Crohn's disease, depression and chronic pain, had claimed he feared a lack of medical care for his health issues in Ireland and that he would be homeless.

Since 2014, more than 4,000 people have been stripped of their Australian visa and returned to their country of birth, regardless of how long ago they left.

The policy has been criticised by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

In February, following a meeting with her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison, she said: “I’ve made it clear that New Zealand has no issue with Australia taking a dim view of newly arrived non-citizens committing crimes … but equally, the New Zealand people have a dim view of the deportation of people who move to Australia as children and have grown up there.”

Is the Irish government concerned that Australia is compelling people with criminal backgrounds and no particular support network in Ireland to reside there?

Ambassador Ó Caollaí said: “The majority of deportations of Irish citizens dealt with by the Embassy involve comparatively recently arrived Irish citizens who have overstayed their visa and the circumstances [outlined] don’t arise.”

The Rocks to host St Patrick's Day festivities in 2020

Revellers at The Mercantile Hotel in The Rocks on St Patrick’s Day. Picture: PropertyNSW

Revellers at The Mercantile Hotel in The Rocks on St Patrick’s Day. Picture: PropertyNSW

The Rocks will again play host to Sydney’s St Patrick’s Day festivities in 2020, the Irish Echo has learned.

Despite more than 44mm of rain on St Patrick’s Day, thousands of revellers made their way to The Rocks for the official Irish celebrations.

The determination of the Irish community to celebrate the national day despite the appalling weather impressed Property NSW, who manage The Rocks area.

“Our vision to transform The Rocks into an Irish village was a great success, with our restaurants, bars and retailers, and the Sydney St Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival organisers worked hard to ensure visitors had the best experience possible, despite the weather,” spokeswoman Sarah Cleggett told the Irish Echo.

“The Rocks shares a rich history with the Irish in Sydney and we look forward to celebrating St Patrick’s Day here again next year.”

More than 600 people took part in the modified parade, which weaved its way through the narrow streets of The Rocks. Outside the Mercantile Hotel hundreds of revellers enjoying the live music cheered on the parade as it made its way up to Dawes Point Park, the festival site.

Karen Murphy, president of the Sydney Saint Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival committee, was delighted that so many turned up to celebrate, despite the downpour.

Large crowds made their way to The Rocks on St Patrick’s Day despite the downpour.

Large crowds made their way to The Rocks on St Patrick’s Day despite the downpour.

“The Sydney St Patrick’ Day Organisation volunteers would like to thank the Irish, friends of the Irish and those who were Irish for the day who braved the rain, walked with the parade, splashed in the puddles and demonstrated that hail, rain or shine nothing stops the celebrations on St Patrick’s Day. We are so proud of you.

“We have come home to The Rocks and will return next year. A big thank you to Property NSW who manage The Rocks precinct for their help and support. They have now been adopted into the Sydney St Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival family. Looking forward to seeing everyone again next year.”

The rain eventually took its toll on the festival site at Dawes Point Park, which closed early, at 2pm.

The decision to go ahead with the volunteer-run event resulted in a big financial hot for organisers who are appealing for financial support from the community.

“Even though the day was a great success, the weather did mean that [we] took a financial hit,” Ms Murphy said. “The fact the park had to close early and the heavy rain meant that forecasted revenue and donations fell short. In order to make up for this the committee are planning a couple of exciting fundraising events. Alternatively you can donate using the donate button on the website.”

Australia forcing family to leave because of toddler's illness

Christine and Anthony Hyde with their son Darragh.

Christine and Anthony Hyde with their son Darragh.

A Dublin couple and their young son are facing deportation from Australia because their son has Cystic Fibrosis.

Christine and Anthony Hyde moved from Dublin to Australia in 2009 and have been living in the small regional town of Seymour in rural Victoria for the best part of a decade.

But their three-year-old son Darragh, who has spent his whole life in Australia, has been deemed a health burden which has resulted in their visa application being rejected.

Ms Hyde completed an education degree and masters in special education since coming to Australia and is now an acting assistant principal at a local primary school. Her husband works as a part-time bus driver.

Because of the critical need for trained teachers in regional areas, the couple easily met the criteria for a skilled visa and were invited to apply for permanent residency in 2015, Ms Hyde said.

“On August 3, 2015 we applied to become permanent residents of Australia. A few weeks later our son was born and soon after he was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis,” she said.

“Our family’s application for permanent residency was then refused by the Australian Department of Home Affairs because they assessed Darragh as having a condition which make him a burden on the community.”

The Hydes have launched an online petition to appeal to decision-makers in Canberra regarding their case.

Only ministerial intervention can now keep the family in Australia, they say.

“Unless the Hon David Coleman MP (Minister for Immigration), Hon Peter Dutton MP (Minister for Home Affairs) can help us, we will be forced to leave our friends, family, and the life we have built for ourselves in Australia,” Ms Hyde wrote on the petition blog.

“Darragh has the support of his family, our large support network in Seymour and the wider Australian community. By signing this petition, you are showing your support for Darragh and his life in Australia and you believe that he should be allowed to stay in Australia and have the opportunity to contribute to our community.”

Their situation is complicated by the announcement of the federal election on May 18 which means the government is in caretaker mode.

High salaries 'attracting emigrants home' claims Minister

Pictured at a green-lit Sydney Town Hall are (from left): Owen Feeney, Consul General of Ireland; Linda Scott, Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney; Heather Humphreys, Ireland’s Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation; Breandán Ó Caollaí, Irish Ambassador in Australia, and Sofia Hansson, director of, Tourism Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

Pictured at a green-lit Sydney Town Hall are (from left): Owen Feeney, Consul General of Ireland; Linda Scott, Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney; Heather Humphreys, Ireland’s Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation; Breandán Ó Caollaí, Irish Ambassador in Australia, and Sofia Hansson, director of, Tourism Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

Ireland’s Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys says the salary levels on offer in Ireland are attracting emigrants home.

“Our economy is good,” she told the Irish Echo during her recent visit to Australia. “The wages back home are attracting people back to Ireland. For that reason, there are more people coming back to Ireland than leaving right now.”

A large number of expat nurses sent a strong message of solidarity with their striking colleagues in Ireland during the recent industrial action. Protests in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth featured banners with a clear message for the Irish government: “Give us a reason to come home”.

Did the minister have a message for those nurses?

“The HSE always welcomes nurses back and has established a ‘Bring Them Home’ campaign to support nurses to make the move back,” she said.

“There are a range of incentives to encourage Irish nurses who currently live abroad to consider returning home and joining the Irish health service. Those incentives include up to €1500 in vouched removal relocation expenses including the cost of flights, nursing registration costs and a funded postgraduate education.”

The Government could not say how many nurses had taken advantage of the Bring Them Home incentives, but according to figures published under a Freedom of Information request, fewer than 150 nurses returned under the scheme in 2017.

Ministeer Humphreys with diplomatic, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland staff in Sydney.

Ministeer Humphreys with diplomatic, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland staff in Sydney.

The minister spoke at a number of events about the important role the diaspora has to play in Ireland’s future. She also opened the new Irish Support Agency offices at The Gaelic Club in Surry Hills. One way to engage Irish citizens abroad is to allow them to vote in elections. Does she personally support extending the voting franchise to Irish citizens abroad?

“This is something that the Government has looked at and we’re going to bring forward a referendum [on whether Irish citizens abroad can vote in presidential elections] and leave that decision to the people.”

Ireland is one of the few western democracies which does not allow its citizens abroad to vote.

Meanwhile, Australia is very much part of the Irish government’s plans to explore new markets to diffuse the impact of Brexit, according to Minister Humphreys.

“Diversifying our markets is part of our Brexit strategy,” she told the Irish Echo. “We consider Australia to be a very good opportunity. I know its a long distance but the world is a small place now. There are many opportunities for Irish companies here.”

She also said that Ireland provides excellent opportunities for Australian companies.

Asia’s largest fintech innovation hub, Stone & Chalk (S&C), has partnered with Enterprise Ireland, as a landing pad in both Sydney and Melbourne for Irish fintech companies seeking to enter Australian and Asia Pacific markets. From L-R: Kevin Sherry, Executive Director, Global Business Development, Enterprise Ireland; Hannah Fraser, Senior Market Advisor, Australia/New Zealand, Enterprise Ireland; Irish Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys T.D.; Alex Scandurra CEO Stone & Chalk; Ambassador Breandán Ó Caollaí, David Eccles, Director, Australia/New Zeland Enterprise Ireland.

Asia’s largest fintech innovation hub, Stone & Chalk (S&C), has partnered with Enterprise Ireland, as a landing pad in both Sydney and Melbourne for Irish fintech companies seeking to enter Australian and Asia Pacific markets. From L-R: Kevin Sherry, Executive Director, Global Business Development, Enterprise Ireland; Hannah Fraser, Senior Market Advisor, Australia/New Zealand, Enterprise Ireland; Irish Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys T.D.; Alex Scandurra CEO Stone & Chalk; Ambassador Breandán Ó Caollaí, David Eccles, Director, Australia/New Zeland Enterprise Ireland.

“They see Ireland as a gateway into the European Union. Ireland will be the only English language country left in the European Union when the UK leaves.”

The Minister said the fintech sector is particularly active. A number of Australian enterprises, including Macquarie Bank, are seeking licences to operate in Ireland.

“We welcome that,” she said. “Their corporate governance structures are very similar to ours. They’re happy that our government regulation is strong and we have a stable country. So they know, when they business with us, we do what it says on the tin.”

Ms Humphreys led an eight-day trade and investment mission, covering Melbourne, Sydney and Perth and Singapore. Seventy-one Enterprise Ireland client companies participated in 24 business events and pre-arranged meetings with potential business partners including Telstra, Optus, ANZ Bank, CBA, Cochlear, BT Financial, NAB Bank, Deloitte, Macquarie Bank, Stone and Chalk, and Amazon Web Services.

The minister confirmed plans to open new Enterprise Ireland offices in Melbourne as part of the Government’s Global Ireland 2025 strategy. She would not be drawn on whether the absence of diplomatic representation in Melbourne and Brisbane would be addressed. Perth has an honorary consul.

“We will continue to expand our representation through Global Ireland so whether its our agencies opening new offices or the diplomatic service, we’re always looking to increase our presence all over the world,” the Minister added.

New memoir celebrates the life of Irish Australian cellist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maureen, aged 12, practicing her cello.

Maureen, aged 12, practicing her cello.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Irish Film Festival to screen in Sydney, Melbourne

Between Land And Sea, which focuses on Clare’s burgeoning surf scene, is one of the movies in this year’s Irish Film Festival.

Between Land And Sea, which focuses on Clare’s burgeoning surf scene, is one of the movies in this year’s Irish Film Festival.

The Irish Film Festival returns to Sydney and Melbourne this May.

The festival officially launches in each city with Float like a Butterfly, an uplifting drama from the producers of Sing Street and the Oscar winning film Once. Set in 1972 when Muhammad Ali was set to fight in Dublin, the film follows Frances, a young Traveller girl with big dreams of becoming a champion boxer.

The film has been acclaimed at both the Cork and Toronto International Film Festivals.

The celebration of Irish cinema begins in Sydney with a community screening of Unquiet Graves at Penrith Gaels Club on Wednesday May 1, followed by the official opening night at the Chauvel in Paddington on Thursday May 2. The festival runs in the Chauvel until Sunday May 5.

The Melbourne leg of the festival takes place at the Kino Cinema in Collins Street from Thursday May 9 until Saturday May 12.

This is the fifth iteration of the festival which started in 2015.

Festival director Enda Murray says he is proud of the programme for this year’s festival. When pressed for a ‘must-see’ he nominates The Drummer And The Keeper.

“Nick Kelly, who is the writer and director, was the lead singer with Irish band The Fat Lady Sings back in the day,” he said.

“He brings a songwriter’s sensibility to the film and I love the fact that it revolves around music.”

The director also singled out A Lifetime Of Stories, a documentary in which older Irish emigrants reflect on their lives. Sydney residents Tomás de Bhaldraithe, Pat Foley, Marian Reilly, Marie MacMillan and Damien McCluskey are some of the locals featured.

“From witnessing Derry’s Bloody Sunday in 1972 to sailing around Ireland on a Galway Hooker, these are men and women who have experienced life to the full,” Murray said.

Float Like A Butterfly follows the fortunes of an Irish Traveller girl who dreams of becoming a top boxer.

Float Like A Butterfly follows the fortunes of an Irish Traveller girl who dreams of becoming a top boxer.

Among this year’s festival highlights are:

Float Like a Butterfly

It’s Ireland in 1971. Muhammad Ali is fighting in Croke Park in Dublin and Frances (Hazel Doupe, right) a young Traveller girl dreams of being a boxer. From the producers of Once and Sing Street, Float Like a Butterfly is a powerful and timely story of a girl’s fight for freedom and belonging.

Unquiet Graves

This documentary alleges that the British government colluded with Loyalist paramilitaries in the deaths of more than 120 citizens in Ireland in the early 70s. Unquiet Graves details how members of the RUC and the UDR, (a British Army regiment) were centrally involved in the murder of over 120 civilians during the recent conflict in Ireland. Director Seán Murray will be a guest of the festival.

Between Land and Sea

Lahinch, Co Clare is an unlikely home to five surfing schools and one of the world’s most dramatic big-wave breaks beneath the majestic Cliffs of Moher. This enthralling documentary presents some incredible surf photography and an engaging portrait of new lifestyles for young people on the West coast of Ireland.

The Drummer and the Keeper

Two young Dublin men find friendship despite their mental health problems in this tender and uplifting rock’n’roll story. Gabriel (Dermot Murphy), a drummer who is bipolar, meets Christopher (Jacob McCarthy), a teenager with Aspergers Syndrome, while the pair are in rehabilitation. An unlikely friendship blossoms despite the hardships giving both young men something to live for.

The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid

An Irish farmer takes on a multinational company in this weird and wonderful documentary.

A Lifetime Of Stories is a documentary in which older Irish emigrants in Sydney reflect on their lives. One of the subjects is Tomás de Bhaldraithe.

A Lifetime Of Stories is a documentary in which older Irish emigrants in Sydney reflect on their lives. One of the subjects is Tomás de Bhaldraithe.

Dublin Oldschool

A WANNABE DJ deals with life head-on in a drug-fuelled weekend Dublin’s rave scene in the ‘90s. Ulysses meets Trainspotting. Director Dave Tynan is a festival guest.

Metal Heart

We hear amazing stories of travel, work and family in the oral histories which the subjects present in their own words. From partnering with Hurricane Higgins in snooker to a young woman driving overland to Australia via Kathmandu on the ‘magic bus’ in the ‘70s - these are men and women who have experienced life to the full.

No Party for Billy Burns

Billy Burns (Kevin McGahern) is a would-be cowboy lost in the dreary fields of Cavan. Billy seeks romance and adventure and dreams of riding into the sunset but the local rednecks have other ideas.

The Camino Voyage

Five artists including Oscar winner Glen Hansard embark on a modern day Celtic Odyssey as they row a currach 2,500km from Ireland to Northern Spain.

Captain Morten and the Spider Queen

A FAMILY cartoon featuring a shrinking boy, a talking caterpillar, and the voices of Brendan Gleeson, Pauline McLynn and a host of Irish comedians.

For tickets and the full program, click here.

Podcast series gives voice to Irish Australian emigrant tales

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To access the Lucky Country series, just click here.

Doubts cast on Morrison government's 'bush visas' plan

Australia’s skilled immigration system is facing another shake-up.

Australia’s skilled immigration system is facing another shake-up.

Doubt has been cast on whether the Morrison government’s plan to compel large numbers of would-be skilled migrants to regional areas will work.

Under new plans aimed at easing congestion in the major cities released on March 19, as many as 9,000 skilled migrants each year will have to live and work in rural or regional parts of Australia for a period of three years if they want to apply for permanent residency.

These designated areas essentially includes everywhere except Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and south-east Queensland but does include the cities of Adelaide, Darwin, Hobart and Newcastle.

The new Skilled Regional Provisional visas, along with other incentives such as priority processing, will enhance opportunities for regional Australia, the government says. 

“They will enable regional businesses to fill vacant jobs faster and encourage skilled migrants and their families to settle and remain in regional areas,” the announcement said. “There will be greater incentives for regional employers to nominate skilled workers, including access to additional regional occupations and priority processing of regional visa applications.’

“We’re only talking about people going into places where there are jobs and opportunities,” the Prime Minister said at a press conference in Canberra announcing the plan. “We have a lot of shires around the country saying to us ‘we want people’.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants more skilled immigrants to live and work in regional Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants more skilled immigrants to live and work in regional Australia.

But immigration experts have claimed that demand for existing regional visas is actually falling and have cast doubt on the PM’s claims just months before an anticipated federal election in May.

One migration agent said the new ‘three years in the bush’ provision would “be a turn-off for many”.

“A larger number of the visas available will require migrants to first take a provisional visa to live in a regional area and then, after proving they have lived there for three years have the opportunity to apply for permanent residence,” he said. “This will suit some but will be a major turn-off for many.”

Minister for Immigration David Coleman said permanent residency would be the carrot for new migrants to ‘go bush’.

“For people who emigrate to Australia, permanent residency is at the top of their priority list,” he said.

“It means that you can stay in the country and plan your future in this nation. So by linking the requirement that a person stays in a regional area for three years to their permanent residency, we will see a very, very high level of compliance with that requirement.”

Minister Coleman said if applicants did not comply “they won't get permanent residency and they will not be allowed to settle in Australia”.

Millions of dollars have been allocated to monitor compliance within the scheme. After three years applicants must prove they have lived and worked in the regions but Prime Minister Morrison played down fears of a ‘big brother’ approach by his government.

[If applicants do not stay in regional areas for three years] they won’t get permanent residency and they will not be allowed to settle in Australia
— Minister for Immigration David Coleman

“There is a strong self-assessment process to this because people need to demonstrate where they have been. Through people’s own records, where their addresses have been and where their power bills are, their employment records, their tax file numbers - all these sorts of things - we have a pretty reasonable understanding of where people have been and where they've been living.

“[But] the suggestion of some sort of walking the beat enforcement arrangement here is obviously ridiculous.”

The Irish Echo has confirmed however that if applicants for the Skilled Regional Provisional visas are made redundant during the qualification period, it will be up to them to find another job or their dreams of residency may vanish.

The latest statistics show that demand for regional visas (the current 187 employer sponsored visa) has actually fallen from 10,198 places in 2016/17 to 6221 places in 2017/18, a 39 per cent drop.










Ailish makes footy history with Adelaide Crows

Ailish Considine of the Adelaide Crows with the AFLW Premiership Cup alongside proud mum Kay.

Ailish Considine of the Adelaide Crows with the AFLW Premiership Cup alongside proud mum Kay.

Asked to descibe the feeling of becoming the first Irish woman, and indeed the first non-Australian, to win an AFLW Premiership medal, Ailish Considine simply said: “unbelievable”.

“It doesn’t even feel like it’s real,” she told the Irish Echo after Sunday’s grand final win over Carlton.

In her first year with the Adelaide Crows, the Clare woman and her team stormed to a 63-18 final win at Adelaide Oval. Considine’s goal in the first quarter put Adelaide into a strong lead that they would not relinquish.

Five Irish women competed with AFLW clubs this year with Yvonne Bonner and Cora Staunton at Greater Western Sydney Giants, Sarah Rowe at Collingwood and Aisling McCarthy, who was nominated by her club Western Bulldogs for the Best First-Year Player Award in the AFLW Players Association Most Valuable Players Awards 2019, making up the Irish contingent.

In the competition’s third year, Considine became the first Irish import to win a Grand Final. Asked how it felt to have made such history, she said: “I probably didn’t overthink it but it obviously was mentioned. I saw it on media and stuff. It was in the back of the mind and I guess I just left it there.

“It’s an amazing achievement and I hope I won’t be the last because there’s so much talent back home.

“I think definitely a few more will make the trip out and give Australian Rules a go. It’s unbelievable but hopefully I’ll be the first of many.”

The triumphant Adelaide Crows team, 2019 AFLW Premiers. Picture: AFL

The triumphant Adelaide Crows team, 2019 AFLW Premiers. Picture: AFL

The 25-year-old had much support from home and her family made the trip to support her on the big day.

“It’s absolutely surreal, the whole weekend was just an absolute whirlwind. My family flew in on Friday night. They were here for the weekend and for the game. It was just an absolutely huge weekend and to come out with the win was just an amazing feeling and it was amazing to have my family there and celebrate with them, for them to be part of it as well. The support from home has been brilliant. My phone has just been hopping.”

She marked the occasion of picking up her medal by doing a little jig for the crowd much like Tadhg Kennelly did when he was Ireland’s first AFL Premiership winner in 2005.

“The girls were like, ‘You have to do something when you get your medal. Make sure it’s something Irish being the first Irish woman to win one.’ I had to follow through, I guess. I didn’t do it very well but at least I did it. I held up my part of the deal.”

The game was straightforward for Adelaide who have been in unstoppable form with a one-point loss to Western Bulldogs in Round 1 their only defeat of the campaign: “We approached it like it was just any other game … concentrate on your own game and try and get a good result.

“We did the same thing yesterday and that’s probably why it went so well for us. In fairness to the girls, they’re a great bunch of girls and they didn’t let the week get to them, the build up or the big game or the big crowd. They’re a privilege to play with. Our coaches and staff really kept us level-headed for the week as well. We were fortunate enough to come out with the right result.”

AFLW clubs only renew contracts annually but Considine knows she would love to back for the next campaign after she returns home to play Gaelic football for her club and county in the summer: “I would love to be back playing here again. I’ll have to wait and see and hopefully I’ll be back next year.”

Taoiseach's fanmail to Kylie revealed

Kylie Minogue got fanmail from the Taoiseach.

Kylie Minogue got fanmail from the Taoiseach.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar asked Australian pop star Kylie Minogue if he could welcome her to Ireland personally when she came to Dublin for a concert last year.

Mr Varadkar wrote a note on official headed notepaper from the Office of the Taoiseach, which was released following a freedom of information request by the Mail on Sunday.

The letter, which was signed “Leo V Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister)” was sent before Ms Minogue’s planned concert at Dublin’s 3Arena on October 7, which she had to reschedule due to a throat infection.

“Dear Kylie,” the Taoiseach wrote. “Just wanted to drop you a short note in advance of the concert in Dublin. I am really looking forward to it. Am a huge fan! I understand you are staying in the Merrion Hotel which is just across the street from my office in Government Buildings. If you like, I’d love to welcome you to Ireland personally.”

Toiseach Leo Varadkar and friends with Kylie Minogue in Dublin. Picture: Twitter/Tiernan Brady

Toiseach Leo Varadkar and friends with Kylie Minogue in Dublin. Picture: Twitter/Tiernan Brady

The Mail on Sunday, which obtained the letter, reported that the Department of the Taoiseach twice refused a request for the letter to be released under Freedom of Information legislation, arguing that it was written in a personal capacity by the Taoiseach and “does not relate to matters arising in the course of, or for, the purpose of the Taoiseach’s functions as the head of Government”.

Ultimately the Taoiseach consented to the release of the letter after an appeal against the decision was refused.

Mr Varadkar received a phone call from the singer apologising for the cancelled gig, the paper reported. He eventually went to the rescheduled concert, which took place in December and met the singer after the gig.

Final curtain call for Boyzone, Ireland's pop supergroup

Boyzone on stage in Belfast in January at the start of their Thanks You & Goodnight tour.

Boyzone on stage in Belfast in January at the start of their Thanks You & Goodnight tour.

Boyzone, Ireland’s first true pop supergroup, are ready to take their final curtain call.

More than two decades since they first got together, the band are about to tour Australia for one last time when they arrive with their Thank You & Goodnight tour this weekend.

The 'boys', now all in their 40s, have decided to let go of the vehicle that brought them huge success.

Boyzone burst onto the scene in 1994, scoring hits in the UK and Irish charts with songs like Love Me for a Reason, Key to My Life, Picture of You, Father and Son, Words and Baby Can I Hold You.

Shane Lynch reflects on the early days, describing their sudden fame as “a hell of a ride”.

"I was 17 years old and kind of catapulted around the world just not really knowing what lay ahead, just being on a crazy adventure,” he tells the Irish Echo from Dublin. “But I was lucky enough to experience some major things with the other boys. Some of it is very vivid and some of it is very poignant in my life and then some of it is a distant memory like it never even happened."

Put together by pop mogul Louis Walsh in 1993, the band was originally made up of Ronan Keating, Keith Duffy, Stephen Gately, Mikey Graham and Lynch. Although some of them had promising careers and sports scholarships, the five lads from Dublin gave these up to pursue a career in music. They quickly became the biggest pop group to have ever come out of Ireland.

"I think the magic times for Boyzone were, without a shadow of a doubt, the 90's that brought us our huge success. I think probably the best memories for me is when we got back together in '07, '08, those kind of times when we were fresh in our minds and it wasn't such a mad ride anymore.

Boyzone on stage (from left) Shane Lynch, Mikey Graham, Ronan Keating and Keith Duffy.

Boyzone on stage (from left) Shane Lynch, Mikey Graham, Ronan Keating and Keith Duffy.

“The way music worked had changed and you weren't really going from radio station to radio station anymore. It all became a lot easier in the noughties and I think those are kind of the best memories for me. The blur factor of the 90's, it's hard to pinpoint anything that was a highlight as such. I think the highlights really came in our older stages and just being able to enjoy being a band."

Lynch, who took part in last year's Celebrity Big Brother and also regularly competes in motor racing, says the current farewell tour has been a great excuse to hang out with his old mates.

“We really don't get to hang out anymore, it's only a blessing if our paths cross at any point. We don't get to call around, 'you wanna play football?' It's not like that. When you have children, it just all gets a bit distant. It's almost like a continuous stag weekend when you go on a tour, it's a celebration of the joyous moments. We're very blessed to be able to do it."

Over the years, the 42-year-old has also come to terms with previously undiagnosed dyslexia which, he reveals, made it very difficult for him to read tour schedules or autocues in the early days.

"It was the 80's when I went to school, dyslexia wasn't really a thing and it was just more that you couldn't read and write or you were a troubled kid or whatever.

"I was able to hide it for those (Boyzone) years and it was just as I became older, I found my real confidence to be able to say, 'Actually, you know what? I actually can't do what you guys do'.

“All the Boyzone boys didn't know for many, many years. As it turned out: Yeah, I'm massively dyslexic. I wish I took that journey on that path many, many years ago. A lot of people say the school system let me down and all that stuff, it really didn't. I let myself down. I'm the one who didn't say anything.

"It became a great thing in the end because it built my character into who I am today in a survival test of things. That said, life could have been very difficult and it can be very difficult for people out there who can't read and write and are scared to go back.

“They're horrible times and horrible memories, those kind of schooling times so to go to adult education or to find out you can get to read and write the older you get, it's a lengthy process but I would advise anyone out there who has any sort of problem like that, not to be afraid."

The other members of Boyzone have had differing levels of success since the original split in 2000.

Ronan Keating, 42, has enjoyed huge success as a solo artist and spends a lot of time in Australia with his second wife Storm, a Queenslander. He has also appeared on a number of Australian TV shows including All Together Now and X Factor.

Keith Duffy, 44, has been acting on screen and stage since breaking into a new career with a part in the long-running TV soap, Coronation Street.

Mikey Graham, 46, trained as an actor after Boyzone split in 2000 and has made a number of TV appearances including in TV3’s Celebrity Apprentice Ireland.

The group were hit by tragedy in 2009 when original member Stephen Gately died of natural causes. He was 33 years old. The band, the nation and the world were shocked by his untimely death. Lynch says Gately continues to inspire the remaining Boyzone members.

"It's coming up to ten years now that we've lost Stephen and ten years is a long time and without a doubt, time is a great healer. What we try to do in our show is to make it a celebation of Stephen also.

“He was an amazing part of Boyzone, amazing character and without a doubt very much missed amongst us as a group, let alone as a friend gang and a guy that I would have grown up with.

“The way to miss him, it's not necessarily a tear to the eye, it's more of a smile. There's a lot of emotion for sure that runs through the crowd and certainly has done on this tour. It gave different emotions to different people and I think that's what music does, that's exactly what music is all about. When we meet up and we talk about Steo, we celebrate Steo. It delivers different impacts for different people but for us guys, we're definitely there to celebrate it."

While Lynch savours those early days of Boyzone he ‘lost it’ on The Late Late Show last year when host Ryan Tubridy showed a clip of the band’s cringeworthy first appearance on the show 25 years ago.

“I’ve busted my bollocks to get here. See that clip? You can shove it up your fucking hole,” Lynch told Tubridy on the live show.

Lynch laughs when asked about the outburst.

"You know what it was? It's kind of plain and simple and I, as a grown man, perhaps should have expressed myself in a little bit more of a controlled way but I guess I had had enough at that point. We all kind of lash out at times.

"My frustration was they invited us onto the show to celebrate Boyzone and talk about the great 25 years and to give us a real boost.

“The first thing they do is try and take you down or take you back to a time that was not nice for you. What I mean by that is The Late Late Show as we all know is not Boyzone's best time in life ever, it's actually the worst so it's like being reminded of being the dumb kid in school, the fat kid in school, the ugly kid in school. That was a hard time in Boyzone's life so to be kind of kicked in the bollocks by your own TV show, the biggest TV show in Ireland and to regress you back to those times was, I thought, very unfair. I think it was a nasty thing to do, it was like bullying at its highest level. Laugh it off because it's a TV show? No, I just felt I was being bullied at that point and I guess I came out kicking and screaming or expressed myself the way I did. That's just how I felt at the time."

Boyzone kick off their farewell tour at HBF Stadium in Perth on March 30 before performing at Adelaide Entertainment Centre on April 2, Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne on April 3, ICC Theatre in Sydney on April 5 and finally, The Star in the Gold Coast on April 6 and 7.

Irish boy Fox finds his voice in Australia

Entertainer Bobby Fox, who now calls Sydney home, was born in Edgeworthstown, Co Longford.

Entertainer Bobby Fox, who now calls Sydney home, was born in Edgeworthstown, Co Longford.

Bobby Fox had to come to Sydney to find his voice. And what a voice.

The Longford native is one of four featured singers in the new production of Saturday Night Fever, which opens at the Lyric Theatre in Sydney next week, the latest entry is his impressive showbiz resume.

Fox is now an established star of Australian musical theatre with credits ranging from Jersey Boys to Hot Shoe Shuffle to Spamalot to Assassins. But it was Irish dancing that originally steered him towards a life in showbiz.

“All my upbringing was Irish music and Irish dancing,” he tells the Irish Echo at Saturday Night Fever rehearsals in Sydney. “When I first came to Australia I wanted to expand my horizons as a dancer but I absolutely needed a break from Irish dancing.”

He had performed and toured internationally with Riverdance as well as a number of spin-off shows.

“I was a champion dancer up to the time I joined Riverdance in 1998 but that was when I became passionate, that’s when the passion went ‘click’ and I just wanted to perform.”

Fox relished his time with Riverdance and describes the ensemble as “the very best”. He went on to join a show called Dancing On Dangerous Ground, in which he performed in London and in New York, at the Radio City Music Hall. He then joined To Dance On The Moon, a smaller Irish dance show. It was this production that first brought him to Australia in 2002. But he knew it was time for a change.

“I was doing a performing arts course in Sydney and one of the elements was song ‘prep’. So I had to put a song together and perform it for the class. Everyone around me was saying ‘you have to come back to Australia’.”

He says he owes a debt of gratitude to the couple who ran the course, Elena and Mario De Cinque of ED5 International, who helped him apply and ultimately secure his residency.

“They researched the visa pathway and gave me the money to pay for it. They just said ‘pay us back when you have the money’. Three weeks after I got my residency I got a call to say I had a part in the Sydney production of Mamma Mia. As soon as I had my first couple of paychecks I said ‘thanks lads’ and I was on my way.”

Bobby Fox at rehearsals for Saturday Night Fever in Sydney.

Bobby Fox at rehearsals for Saturday Night Fever in Sydney.

If Mamma Mia was the springboard, Jersey Boys was the splash hit.

The stage musical, which dramatises the remarkable real-life story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, premiered in Sydney in 2010.

The show had won Tony and Olivier awards in New York and London as well as a Grammy for best recording of a musical so expectations were high for the Australian production.

The Edgeworthstown man’s ability to master Frankie Valli’s trademark falsetto was key to him securing the role and he was given the nod by the singer himself.

“I had sung falsetto before but I didn’t think it was that special,” he says. “I could sing before Jersey Boys but Jersey Boys taught me how to sing. I learned how to do it safely, how to clarify it, how to expand the sound, how to take it from just hitting the note nice and sharp to it being something that bellowed through walls.”

Fox went on to perform the role almost 1,000 times around Australia leading to other musical theatre roles in Blood Brothers, Oklahoma and the Australian musical Ladies in Black, which toured nationally and for which he received a Green Room Award nomination. In 2017, he performed in Assassins for which he received a Helpmann Award nomination. On screen, Fox’s credits include Upper Middle Bogan, It’s a Date, Tricky Business and House Husbands. He also appeared in the feature film The Cup. He is also one of Australia’s most in demand corporate and event entertainers.

He admits to creative restlessness and says likes to expand his musical resume along the way.

“I know there’s always something more to me. If I was doing the same thing all the time I would explode.”

In Saturday Night Fever, he is one of four star vocalists along with Paulini, Marcia Hines and Nat Conway, performing songs like How Deep Is Your Love, Stayin’ Alive and More Than A Woman. His involvement, he says, came about through his girlfriend.

“My partner Mel [actress, singer and model Melanie Hawkins] who plays Stephanie, was auditioning for the show so we watched the movie together. That was the first time I had actually seen it. I was obviously familiar with the music and I’m such a big fan of disco. The craftsmanship of the tunes is second to none.”

Fox, whose sister Lisa is an accomplished actor and performer in Ireland, will soon get a chance to

channel his Irish heritage in his own show, The Irish Boy, in which he will sing, dance and reveal his other musical skills on the button accordion and the bodhrán.

“What I want to do is take the traditional and combine it with what’s happening now. I want to replicate that session feel like when the craic’s on and the tunes are good..”

Dubliner Enda Markey, who is producing the show, said, “Bobby is one of the most charming and charismatic performers in the country, and it’s been a real labour of love to be able to develop The Irish Boy with him to create a unique celebration of our home country, showcasing Bobby’s incredible talents.”

It will also give Fox a change to dance again. Last year, while performing Assassins at The Sydney Opera House, he fell on stage during his big number on opening night, breaking his foot.

“It will be a year in June since that happened,” he says. “I’m keen to get the feet moving again.”

Dublin comedy trio set to overdose on craic

Sean Finegan, Conor McKenna and Sean Flanagan are Foil, Arms and Hog.

Sean Finegan, Conor McKenna and Sean Flanagan are Foil, Arms and Hog.

“Can’t wait, really excited about it.” Sean Finegan of Foil, Arms & Hog says he and his mates are chomping at the bit to bring their sketch comedy show Craic-ling to Australia.

“Dying to get out there just to see how the material goes down with a crowd that has been asking us to come for a long time. We’re very excited.”

The comedy trio have only performed in Australian once before, at the Adelaide Fringe Festival in 2017.

“We did the fringe there for a month. We were gigging four times a night. Nobody knew us and we lost a fortune but had a brilliant time. That’s the last time we were in Australia. We arrived in the middle of a 40-degree heatwave and it melted us but didn’t deter us from coming back.”

FInegan is one third of Foil, Arms & Hog alongside Sean Flanagan and Conor McKenna. The trio write, shoot and edit a new sketch every week to release on Facebook and YouTube.

It’s a formula that has given the trio a massive online following and, one suspects, a steady income. For example, their brilliant take on Brexit, with Britain and Europe portrayed as a divorcing couple has clocked up more than 450,000 views.

In the stage show Craic-ling the trio conducts a class on how to hold a baby, sings a Gregorian chant about life as a monk and re-enacts the assassination of a classically trained actor. Chortle.co.uk described the show as “an effervescent hour of fast-paced gags, fizzing with energy, invention and great lines”.

How would Finegan describe the show for the uninitiated?

“It’s sketch comedy. People think certain things when they hear sketch comedy. In Ireland, there’s no sketch comedy scene whatsoever so when we started out; we started doing stand-up sets. There was no opportunity for any lights or sound, it just had to be funny. It’s very quick, off the bat. We would go sketch to sketch and we started to interact with the audience. It’s kind of like a blend between stand-up and sketch comedy as most people think of it. There’s no overarching theme. Instead of a random series of jokes, we do a random series of sketches, whatever we think are funny.

“People think it’s going to be similar to the online videos but it’s nothing like that. The stuff on stage is way whackier, weirder, much more out there.”

Finegan says they have no idea how the gags will go down, Down Under.

“We have one sketch where three guys join a monastery, become monks and they become really bored really quickly.

“Buckfast is an alcoholic drink made by monks and they find that. I don’t know. How familiar are people in Australia with monasteries? Should we be worried?”

How do the trio decides which material is for their online fans (they have 900,000 followers on Facebook) and what will go on stage?

“The wordier stuff works really well for video. The stuff that works on stage tends to be the bigger world ideas, like crazy stuff you couldn’t film without a Hollywood budget but, with a blank space, the audience can imagine whatever they want.

“The weirder and wilder stuff really bring the crowd into it as well.

“It might take us a week to work on a video for the internet but it would take us two or three months just to write one sketch for stage, it’s just so much more difficult. The standard is so much higher for stage for what you watch on screen but it’s what we enjoy doing more even though it’s harder, the rewards are so much bigger.”

The trio first came together in 2008 while they were still students at University College Dublin. The name evolved from their respective nicknames. Sean Finegan was the comedy ‘foil’. Conor McKenna was ‘all arms and legs’ and Sean Flanagan ostensibly hogged the limelight.

Finegan says he hopes to see a big Irish turnout at the Aussie shows.

“We did a gig in London. It was a really big gig for us in the Hammersmith Apollo and a load of Irish living in London came out and it was almost like this reunion party. It turned into this mad Irish night out. It’s like you’re playing in the World Cup and you’ve got a great travelling support.”

The last time they were in Australia, an elderly Irishman at one of their Adelaide shows was so taken with them, he tried to give them money after the gig.

“He had been living in Australia his whole life and after the show he came up to us and put a pile of money into our hands and he says, ‘Thank you so much for reminding me of home; you’ve taken me back’. We were like, ‘What? This is ridiculous for a silly comedy show’.

“It’s comedy, there’s no messages involved with it but to create something emotional in someone was really nice.”

Foil Arms & Hog kick off their Australian tour in Melbourne on April 9 before performing three shows in Sydney from April 23. The first two Sydney shows are already sold out.

Jail for man who bashed two Irish backpackers

Two Irish backpackers were bashed by a man armed with a baseball bat.

Two Irish backpackers were bashed by a man armed with a baseball bat.

A Queensland man has been jailed for five years for the brutal bashing of two Irish backpackers who have been left with lifetime health issues.

Ashley John Moss pleased not guilty to grievous bodily harm and assault occasioning bodily harm but a jury in Cairns District Court found him guilty on Friday, March 15.

Moss hit Irish backpackers Owen Fogarty and Daniel McDermott in the head with a metal baseball bat after they got into an argument in front of his Mossman home in 2017.

The group of backpackers went to confront the father of three after he assaulted one of their friends earlier in the night, and the argument escalated.

Judge Dean Morzone told the court Moss' response was "grossly disproportionate, excessive and unreasonable", according to the ABC report.

"There was antagonistic behaviour between those in your yard and the tourists in response to the earlier assault and things became heated," he said.

"None [of the tourists] entered your yard and you could have retreated inside instead you took the time to collect a metal bat.”

After receiving emergency medical treatment in Australia, both Mr Fogarty and Mr McDermott returned to Ireland.

Mr McDermott lost hearing in his right ear and suffered tinnitus and seizures as a result of the bashing.

He was also on the wait list for a cochlear implant.

"His long-term prognosis is unclear," Judge Morzone said.

"He couldn't work for 10 weeks and still has a scar on his head. He also gets nervous in large groups and says he gets flashbacks to that night."

Moss broke down as he was sentenced.

"Your sister describes you as protective, kind and caring," Judge Morzone noted.

"Your otherwise good character is marred by a criminal history impacted by drugs and alcohol."

Moss was sentenced to five years in prison and will be eligible for parole on September 16, 2021.