Ireland Expels Four Russian Officials
Four senior officials at the Russian Embassy in Dublin have been asked to leave Ireland, the Taoiseach confirmed this week.
Micheál Martin informed the Dáil of the development, which came after security advised the Taoiseach on Monday.
Russian Ambassador to Ireland Yuri Filatov had been summoned to a meeting at the Department of Foreign Affairs in relation to the expulsion of the diplomats.
The Irish Government said the activities of the officials had not been in accordance with international standards for diplomatic behavior.
The Irish Independent reported that Irish police believe the four diplomats to be members of a Russian military agency, called GRU, which is used to gather intelligence.
Martin has been careful in describing the grounds for the expulsion in an effort to maintain diplomatic relations however it has been widely reported that the individuals had been on the Irish police radar over suspicion of espionage.
A statement by the Russian Embassy to Ireland called the expulsions “groundless”.
The Netherlands, Belgium, and the Czech Republic also announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats this week.
Kenneth Branagh Wins First Oscar
While the world of entertainment news was left reeling after the altercation at the Oscars, Ireland celebrated a big moment as Kenneth Branagh finally won his first Academy Award.
The Belfast native won Best Original Screenplay after a previous eight nominations throughout his career. Branagh wrote and directed Belfast, a movie based on his childhood growing up in the city during the Troubles.
“This is an enormous honor for my family, it’s a great tribute to an amazing city and fantastic people,” said Branagh in his acceptance speech.
Belfast was nominated for several awards, including Best Picture, but Branagh’s first Oscar remains his only one (so far) as both Dune and CODA swept the 94th Academy Awards.
While sci-fi epic Dune took home several technical awards, CODA landed the biggest award of the night, Best Picture. And not to be left out, the Irish have a partial claim to this victory as Irish actor Ferdia Walsh-Peelo was part of the stellar cast.
Walsh-Peelo previously starred in the 2016 Irish hit Sing Street, which has since made its way to Broadway. CODA stars Welsh actress Emilia Jones as a child of deaf adults who decides to pursue her passion for singing. Walsh-Peelo showcases his musical talents yet again as he plays opposite Jones as her character’s love interest and duet partner.
Trial of Former British Soldier over Troubles Killing
The trial of a former British soldier over the murder of Aidan McAnespie has begun this week.
McAnespie was 23 years old when he was shot after passing through a British Army checkpoint on his way to a GAA match in February 1988.
The incident occurred near the Tyrone/ Monaghan border. McAnespie died after three high calibre bullets fired from a machine gun at the checkpoint hit the ground and ricocheted into the victim’s back.
Former Grenadier Guardsman David Holden, aged 18 at the time, is charged with manslaughter. The 52-year-old admits to firing the shots, claiming his finger slipped off the trigger guard as his hands were wet from cleaning duties.
An Army lance sergeant testified to not checking to see if the firing resulted in any casualties but instead taking Holden inside for a cup of tea after the incident.
“As far as I understood, there had been a negligent discharge, nothing more,” the witness told Justice O’Hara, who is hearing the case in the absence of a jury.
After clarifying that the sergeant failed to check if anybody had been hit, Justice O’Hara responded: “Whether he was aiming at somebody or not, if a gun has been negligently discharged, do you not lookout to see if somebody has been hit?”
The witness admitted to only becoming aware of the situation from members of the public present at the scene.
A soldier who was present at the checkpoint at the time of the incident testified to shouting to Holden that McAnespie was “a person of interest” as he approached the checkpoint. McAnespie’s photograph was included in a montage at the checkpoint. He did not have any weapons on him at the time of his death.
The trial continues.
White Plains Hosts St. Patrick’s Parade
The St. Patrick’s celebrations continued last weekend in White Plains as marching bands and local Irish organizations took to the street for the return of the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
The parade, the town’s 23rd of its kind, had been set to take place ahead of St. Patrick’s Day but was postponed due to inclement weather.
Finally taking place on Saturday 26th, the parade included 14 floats, 13 bands, and 40 marching groups.
Jim Houlihan was this year’s, Grand Marshal.
In typical Irish fashion, the day began cloudy with a brief spatter of rain only to finish with a spell of sunshine.
Overhaul of Ireland’s Leaving Cert Exams
The Irish education system is set to see a massive overhaul as the country’s state examinations have been revised to include more continuous assessments for college entry requirements.
The Leaving Certificate previously saw final year second level students sit a series of exams (practical, oral, and written) over the month of June which accounted for their entire grade and determined the third level course they would qualify for.
The revision of the examinations has been carried out in an effort to reduce stress on students. The exams themselves will now account for 60% of a student’s final grade with the remainder attributed to continuous assessment throughout the two years of the senior cycle.
Exams will also not be confined to the June of final year, allowing students time to concentrate on individual subjects throughout their final two years.
Education Minister Norma Foley told RTÉ News that “100% of the exam being taken on one day in June is a considerable stress for students.”
Two new elective subjects will also be added to the curriculum, beginning in pilot schools in September 2024. These subjects are ‘Drama, Film and Theatre Studies’ and ‘Climate Action and Sustainable Development.’
From Sligo and Longford to Ukraine
The people of Sligo answered the call for assistance from the people of Ukraine by aiding Rapid Response Ukraine. Fergal Nealon (StoryTracks.ie) from Sligo, is part of the effort to fund a weekly delivery to Kharkiv, and other locations within Ukraine, of urgently needed medicines and supplies. Rapid Response Ukraine’s peer-to-peer network can deliver the last mile of these supplies within Ukraine where some of the larger relief agencies cannot at this time.
Fergal is looking to raise funds, as well as source wholesale or donations of drugs, field hospital supplies, and body bags to bury the dead. Rapid Response Ukraine can activate their boots on the ground colleagues to deliver within Ukraine. If you or your network can aid Rapid Response Ukraine’s relief effort, please contact Fergal directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fergal recently appeared on the RTĖ, “Claire Byrne Live” video to tell about a recent, successful mission, which was also featured in the Irish Examiner: An Irish tech boss and a former professional poker player carry out supply runs in the besieged city of Kharkivon March 14, 2022.
Meanwhile, a Longford commissioned mural of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been unveiled.
The piece was created by artist Phil Atkinson and appears on the wall of Durkin Medical in the town of Granard.
The mural depicts Zelenskyy, now a household name across the world, standing in front of the Ukrainian flag with the phrase “Slava Ukraini” which translates to “Glory to Ukraine”.
Speaking at the unveiling, Atkinson said; “You have to feel for the Ukrainian people, whatever the politics and agendas of the people in power, the ordinary people are the ones to suffer. Big thanks to Patrick Durkin for commissioning this, really enjoyed painting.”
Final Season of Derry Girls Coming Soon
And from Longford to a city with its own famous murals…Derry Girls is back for its third and final season on (Irish televisions from) April 12th.
The Channel 4 comedy premiered in 2018 and has become a hit beyond the Emerald Isle and Britain. Created by the original Derry girl Lisa McGee, of London Irish fame, the show depicts the hilarious antics of Erin, Orla, Michelle, Claire, and James as they contest trivial teenage problems against the backdrop of the Troubles and, eventually, the beginning of the Peace Process.
Hopefully, it won’t be long before viewers on this side of the Atlantic get access to the final season.
But fret not, before you tune in to the swansong of the Irish comedy, you can check out the first two side-splitting seasons of Derry Girls now streaming on Netflix.
Dublin GAA Team on Slippery Slope
And finally (in more ways than one), Dublin’s GAA team has continued their fall from the top as they were relegated to Division 2 of the country’s football league last Sunday.
The boys in blue drop to the second division after a poor performance in almost all their matches so far this season.
While the Allianz Football League has never been the top priority of any county, the capital team has maintained a steady spot in the top division for 13 years. Dublin’s loss to Monaghan marked five losses this season.
Despite beating current All Ireland champions Tyrone, Dublin will join Kildare in Division 2 next season, meaning Leinster will have no representation at the top of the competition.
Kerry will take on Mayo in the league final this Sunday while the Dubs will seek redemption against the winners of Offaly vs Wexford in the Leinster Quarterfinals in the upcoming weeks.♦