Dublin City’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution has divided opinion. Zuzia Whelan finds out more.
By Emily Hull
An opinion piece on tourism, written by Ita O’Kelly, was featured on the independent.ie‘s website on November 17th.
Entitled “Tourists: Please Pack Up Your Wheelie Cases and Go Home – I Want My City Back”, the opinion piece has made a stir amongst the people of Dublin.
Social media was home to the bulk of the conversation surrounding the article – with some Dubliners agreeing with O’Kelly, and others believing that she is alone in her views.
We spoke to Dubliners across the city to get their reactions to the article.
Barry Morton from Rathfarnham, but who works in the city centre, commented: “The city is losing its charm. Grafton Street is choked up with tourists listening to poor covers of Ed Sheeran. It’s impossible to get around town.”
Others thought differently. “I think this article is churlish and petty, and it doesn’t reflect the opinions of the majority of Dublin,” said Will Bailey and Tom Parry, two Trinity students.
Daire Kelly, a resident of Killester, said: “The writer isn’t necessarily wrong, the number of tourists is ridiculous and they are severely hampering travel around the city. As a country that travels worldwide so much, it would be hypocritical to shut out tourists.”
Aisling Dunne, a primary school teacher from Clontarf, empathised with some of what O’Kelly wrote. “She makes a point that you can’t go through the city centre with much speed as you’ll be blocked by a tourist stopping to take a picture or walking painfully slowly. This is a pet hate of mine!” she said. “I do, however, love to see the hustle and bustle of the city. I agree that there are too many coffee shops, one every few metres as you walk down the city centre streets. However, I don’t agree that that’s solely due to tourists. The Irish themselves – myself included – are becoming more Americanised and with that comes more coffee. The business of everyday life and working life in Ireland, and the ‘go-go-go’ attitude fuels this ‘need’ for an energy boost.”
However, Aisling sees the benefits of having a city so attractive to tourists. “Having worked in the bar industry for five years, I met tourists on a daily basis. To most this sounds like a nightmare, but I loved it. I was always fascinated to hear how or why people chose to come to Ireland for a visit, and in turn I found out a lot about so many other cultures,” she said.
O’Kelly made a striking point about tourists being the cause of Dublin’s homelessness problem, a point which Aisling rejects: “The problem with homelessness is bad in Dublin, I agree. More needs to be done about it. But stopping tourists coming here won’t fix that problem. A change in the attitudes and mindset of the ‘people in power’ towards the problem of homelessness will!”
The City’s Mary Kate Hickey went along to the lighting of the Smithfield Christmas Tree, and talked to some Dubliners about their favourite Christmas memories.
On Tuesday night, the Not On Our Watch campaign held a vigil outside the Dáil. The vigil, a couple of hundred people strong, took place before and during a Dáil discussion on the campaign’s call for Ireland to take in 200 unaccompanied children from the Calais refugee camp.
So far, one could say that Ireland’s reaction to the refugee crisis has been much less than adequate, and activists for the campaign have expressed how disheartened they are with this government’s almost non-existent response. Over the past two years, the government has pledged to help refugee children and families but how remains to be seen.
TheCity.ie reporter Jack Popeley went to the vigil and talked to some of the people who attended to see what they had to say.
Brian Condra, SIPTU Global Solidarity
“A little over a month ago, we went to the Jungle refugee camp to see the state of it for ourselves. It was the most horrifying thing I’ve seen. I’m 45 years of age and I’ve never seen something so dilapidated and soul destroying, so I’m here in solidarity with everyone else tonight to say to the government that Ireland needs to do our bit.”
Rory, aged 34
“I’m here just to support the campaign, and show solidarity with the refugees in general. This problem we have in Europe, it doesn’t seem Ireland are doing as much as we should at the moment, and this is a good opportunity to play our part and show solidarity with the other countries in Europe who are struggling, yet seem to be performing better than Ireland. Hopefully a bill will be passed.”
Damian McCormack, Doctor
“I’ve visited Calais and Greece and I’ve come to know a lot of the people there who are just like us, and what’s happening in Calais now is an atrocity and I’m here to protest it. The Irish government need to do something immediately.”
Jackie Gilbern, Synge Street
“I just think that it’s an absolute disgrace that there has been no attention paid to these children. We should do something about it, we have to do something about it – it isn’t morally right, and it is inhuman to expect these children to fend for themselves while our government turn a blind eye, it’s totally wrong.”
Nick Henderson, CEO Irish Refugee Council
“I’m here today to support this initiative and this organisation’s work and efforts in trying to get the government to do the right thing, really [and] that is to recognise that there is a humanitarian emergency in Calais, as well as elsewhere in Europe, and Ireland can show leadership and make a real stand to assist other countries in Europe, and take vulnerable children who have had to leave their countries because of war and conflict and persecution, that we can offer them a safe haven for a period of their lives.”
Jan Boyle, Solicitor
“I’ve been working in the area of immigration law in Ireland for the last 11 years, and I think it’s hugely important that the government accept the minimum of 200 children. I think it’s a smaller amount of children to take in in the grand scheme of things. We have accepted people before by way of programme refugees, and we should certainly reach out in this moment. I’m very proud to stand here this evening with my two year old son and I hope to bring him up in a better Ireland.”
Last Friday morning, Niall ‘Bressie’ Breslin held a talk in DCU about mental health.
A talk by the singer, who is perhaps best known for being the former lead singer of ‘The Blizzards’ or as a coach for ‘The Voice of Ireland’, was organised by the DCU student health campaign, Stamp Out Stigma. It saw Bressie offer advice on those who are struggling with themselves, as well as reflecting on his own mental health struggles throughout his life.
“It was never my illness that I wasn’t able to cope with. It was disguising it. It was the constant excuses that I had to make because of it and the constant repression of my own identity,” the singer outlined, rather eloquently.
Bressie, who before entering the music industry played professional rugby with Leinster, explained at the start of the talk that this was something that he’s spent a fair deal of time learning about.
“We have to start prioritising [so] that this becomes absolutely number one. From primary school, to secondary school, to third level because, guess what? Everything that you do in terms of your academic achievement and what you wanna do are worthless unless your head is able to cope with life. I learned that the hard way.”
The 35-year old painted an extremely vivid picture of how he suffered as a teenager.
“My only coping strategy was to completely avoid my friends … and as a 15-year-old, I was captain of my school football team, I was representing Leinster at (underage) rugby, I was in a band. I was the anti-stereotype. And I’ll tell you why, not because I was social, not because I was ‘Good-time Charlie’, but because the only time when that pain in my chest went away was when I set foot on the pitch, when I trained, or when I held an instrument. And only at that particular point did it go away. So, I became addicted.”
Bressie went on to openly explain the extent of his demons, as panic attacks and sleepless nights became regular occurrences. He admits that at the time, it was something that when going into school, could easily go under the radar, but he feels that today teachers are more alert to it. “Our teachers are now recognising that this might not just be a kid who’s a bit of a lazy git, that [it] could be a kid in absolute distress, because I was.”
Despite these troubles very much forming a massive part of his life, the star admitted that these problems are certainly responsible for making him the person he is today:
“This is fundamentally where I get my belief that people who struggle with a mental health illness have an edge over other people… once they’re able to find that resilience, bring it out, nurture it, promote it, they’ll realise what they’re capable of.”
Bressie today is a man who has learned how to do this. He uses everything he’s learned to better himself, as well as become a spokesperson for attempting to break down the stigma associated with mental health.
“We have a very unusual relationship and understanding with what self-harm is and it’s absolutely different for everybody, but for me self-harming had nothing to do with attention, I didn’t want attention, it’s the last thing I wanted. It was a release,” he told the crowd.
It wasn’t until he had his worst attack, to that point, when his anxiety led him into intentionally breaking his own arm in his bedroom, that he first spoke out about it, and even then it wasn’t the full story. “I didn’t tell her (his mum) the full picture, I said, ‘Mum, I’m a bit uneasy in myself at the moment.’ And, that was the difference.”
However he admitted that the fear and shame was still too strong at this stage to really explain the extent of what he was dealing with, so he, “did what most Irish men do, I put the head down and went: ‘I’m fine, be grand.’” But, it wasn’t.
From here, he tells the audience about the jump to third level-education, and how this only made things worse. Attempting to go to college in UCD was a step too far for his anxiety and led him to go to great lengths in order to attempt to deal with it.
Self-medication, which Bressie attempted to outline as something that under no circumstances should be done by someone trying to get through their problems, was a measure that he sadly took to shield it. “And, here’s the funny thing about mental health illness. You think you can outrun it, you think you can do something new to make it go away, but you can’t.”
Bressie’s problems forced him to take drastic decisions, closing important chapters in his life. Quitting rugby, he eventually moved back to Westmeath and started his band, ‘The Blizzards’. Again, despite finding success not only in Ireland, but across the UK, his inability to confront, or disclose, his ever-worsening condition led to the eventual breakdown of the band.
“You cannot be in a relationship … if there isn’t 100% honesty. Honesty is the fundamental spine or backbone of any relationship, whether it’s a physical one, whether it’s a family one, whether it’s a friend,” he said.
In a self-imposed exile, he moved to London, where he was barely able to leave his house. It was there he had what he describes as his one and only full-breakdown: “I was walking down the road, it was a really warm summer’s day. And, I can’t describe the fear that came over me. It just poisoned every part of my body.
“I ran straight across a two dual-carriageway road, I didn’t even look left and right… and I ran into a park and I slept under a tree. I remember looking, I could see London city in the distance.”
The distance from the world made him feel safe, and he slept there for the night.
Very shortly after this, Bressie took a leap of faith. He agreed to join ‘The Voice of Ireland’ as a coach, admitting that the excuse to go home to Ireland each weekend and see his mother was the only thing motivating him to do it.
From here he describes the overwhelming fear he had in the build up that he would suffer a panic attack on live television. After a lucky escape in just the third week of broadcast, the singer knew that he had to finally face the problem, and opened up.
“I decided I needed to humanise it. I needed to give it a name, I needed to objectify it. So, I did… I called my mind Jeffery… I got hotel paper, and I wrote down everything I think Jeffery loves. Exercise… good people… healthy food… and on another page I wrote down everything I know that Jeffery hates, and the top of that list was toxic people.”
From here, he made the decision to give every single therapeutic option a chance, in order to not only learn how to cope, but to garner a full understanding of what is going on with his mind. Bressie told the crowd that doing this allowed his mental fitness to reach a level he never thought imaginable.
“It takes time for these things to work,” he said. But as someone listening to his words, it seems to have really made an impact. He cited cognitive behavioural therapy as one of the most influential treatments he used. It should be noted that he did however attempt to underline the fact that mental illness is incredibly subjective and certain treatments work differently on everyone.
The hour long talk flew by with barely a sound uttered by those in the crowd until the end, where Bressie was met with a rapturous and respectful standing ovation for his time. With famous figures coming in to openly talk about these kinds of issues, I think it’s fair to say that we are coming a long way to finally stamping out the stigma in Ireland.
If you ever need to reach out and talk about mental health or feeling down, contact Samaritans at: http://www.samaritans.org/.
You can watch the talk in full at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffWsTemphhY&feature=youtu.be