Ireland Sends Largest Ever Airlift Relief to Turkey and Syria
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheàl Martin T.D. announced the airlift departure of over 100 tons of disaster relief supplies from Ireland’s emergency stocks to the earthquake survivors in Turkey and Syria.
The airlift left the UN’S Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) in Dubai on Thursday, February 16. It will arrive in Adana, Turkey, where the emergency relief will be distributed by the Irish government’s overseas assistance aid partners, Concern and GOAL.
Worth over €800,000, the airlift is delivering 700 tens, 9,000 thermal blankets, 3,000 personal hygiene kits, 3,000 kitchen sets, and 3,000 water jerry cans.
Ireland is also planning a secondary airlift with relief items to survivors in Northwest Syria with the International Organization for Migration to depart on Saturday, with additional aid expected for the following week.
Announcing the airlifts, the Tánaiste said: “This is the largest ever deployment of emergency stocks under Ireland’s Rapid Response Initiative, which is a reflection of the scale of devastation in Türkiye and Syria. The death toll continues to rise, and hundreds of thousands are grieving for loved ones while enduring unbearable conditions.
“Many survivors are sleeping in cars or makeshift shelters in sub-zero temperatures. These emergency items from Ireland’s prepositioned stocks will provide immediate support, meeting vital shelter, water, and hygiene needs.”
The stock deployments are part of Ireland’s €10 million emergency response to the earthquakes, which includes funding to the United Nations Syria Cross-Border Humanitarian Fund, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Irish Non-Governmental Organizations on the front lines. Their primary goal is to provide cash assistance, emergency non-food items, and shelter.
“It is difficult to comprehend the scale of destruction, and the plight of survivors – many of whom have lost their families, their homes and all their possessions in a single night,” Minister of State for International Development and the Diaspora, Seán Fleming T.D. said.
“This airlift highlights the value of Ireland having prepositioned emergency supplies, so we can respond quickly when a disaster occurs. It is also a perfect example of international cooperation. The close coordination and strong partnerships between the Irish government, our UN partners, the EU’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), and Ireland’s NGO partners, have made this airlift possible today.”
EU Parliament Votes in Favor of Post-Brexit Sanctions Mechanisms for Northern Ireland Protocol
Graffiti depicting Northern Irish Response to New Protocol Bill. Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne, Reuters.In a landslide majority vote on February 14, the EU Parliament backed a post-Brexit sanctions mechanism that would protect the European Union if the U.K. were to violate any of the Trade and Cooperation and Withdrawal Agreements, most notably the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.
With a final vote of 555 in favor, 13 against, and 81 abstentions, Tuesday’s vote exemplified the EU solidarity in preventing a “hard” border in Ireland and preserving peace in the EU.
The sanctions mechanism would be the first EU regulation of its kind.
Seán Kelly MEP, who led the negotiations for the Parliament’s International Trade Committee, said: “Positive indications surrounding a potential EU-UK deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol have emerged since British Prime Minister Sunak took up office. I commend the constructive approach taken by both the EU and UK negotiating teams lately.”
“However, just a few months ago, Liz Truss’ Northern Ireland Protocol Bill made its way through the House of Commons. A Bill that would empower government ministers to unilaterally disapply parts of the Protocol and the Withdrawal Agreement if it became law. The proposed EU retained law bill further illustrates an unbelievable vast expansion of ministerial powers more akin to the times of Henry VIII. The regulation that we have just passed is nothing like either of these, instead it is about our own internal organization and preparation more than anything.”
MEP Kelly also negotiated a new “right to information” law that will “prevent any knee-jerk reactions without due consideration,” according to a press release from the MEP.
“We had the unfortunate incident in February 2021 when the European Commission spoke of an intention to suspend the Northern Ireland Protocol by triggering Article 16 over COVID-19 vaccine procurement concerns related to the UK. When the mistake was realized, the Commission quickly clarified that it would not do so. This should not have happened. That’s why we worked hard to ensure that this new law gives the Parliament greater oversight on such matters,” Kelly said.
“I would also stress that it is in everyone’s interests to make the Northern Ireland Protocol work, perhaps with greater flexibility in terms of implementation. It is the only solution to the hard Brexit chosen by the UK – and that is reality that we all must live with and make work as best we can,” he added, noting that he hopes the trade mechanism never has to be used.
‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ Producer Dies at 57
James Flynn, the co-producer of the award-winning film The Banshees of Inisherin, died on Saturday, February 11. He was 57.
Metropolitan Films, the production company he founded in 1997 with his wife, Juanita Wilson, confirmed he died in a statement shared on their website Monday.
“All of us in Metropolitan Films are deeply saddened by the passing of our esteemed co-founder, colleague and great friend James Flynn, who, after a short illness, departed peacefully on Saturday morning, with his wife Juanita Wilson and children Alex and Anna by this side,” the statement read.
Beyond the Oscar-favorite The Banshees of Inisherin, Flynn worked on several hit films like The Secret of Kells, nominated for an Oscar for its groundbreaking animation, the film adaptation of Frank McCourt’s book Angela’s Ashes in 1999, and in 2008, The Door, which was directed by his wife and nominated for an Oscar in 2010.
“James fought his recent illness with courage, dignity, positivity, and discretion to the very end. For that reason we are acutely aware that the news of his passing has been an unexpected shock for all of us and for many people within and beyond the industry,” the Metropolitan Films statement continued.
The Screen Directors Guild of Ireland shared their condolences on Twitter, saying the organization is “deeply saddened by the passing of producer James Flynn, a huge loss to the industry and our thoughts are with his family,”
Ed Guiney, Oscar-nominated producer who worked with Flynn on Sweety Barrett, told The Irish Times that “James was a wonderful person, a brilliant producer – he had an encyclopedic knowledge of film and was the smartest of all of my generation of producers.”
CIE’s 31st Annual Awards of Excellence
CIE Tours, the leading tour operator for Irish destination vacations, held its 31st Annual Awards of Excellence on Saturday, February 8, at the EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin.
The event recognizes hotels, attractions, and restaurants that made the top contributions to the company’s near-perfect customer satisfaction rating of 94.6% for 2022.
Recipients were chosen based on post-tour surveys from nearly 20,000 of the 25,000 customers who traveled with CIE in 2022.
In its 91 years of operation, CIE has championed guided tours throughout the island of Ireland and dominates the Irish tour company in the North American market.
The Awards of Excellence events were launched in 1990 to commend Ireland’s hospitality workers who “promote Irish tourism by providing consistently excellent experiences for travelers,” according to a press release from CIE.
In congratulating the award winners, Elizabeth Crabill, CEO of CIE Tours, said, “The Irish vacation experience is unique, and its popularity is evident in the strong rebound we witnessed once international travel re-opened following the pandemic. It’s particularly gratifying to see overall customer satisfaction ratings nearly identical to 2019.”
Merit Awards were granted to 54 hotels and tourist attractions with a customer service rating of 92% or higher.
The CIE Award Winners are as follows:
- Best 5-star hotel: Grand Central Hotel, Belfast
- Best 4-star hotel: Cabra Castle Hotel, Cavan
- Best 3-star hotel: Dooley’s Hotel, Waterford
- Best Hotel Accommodation: Dunraven Adare Hotel, Limerick
- Best Hotel Dinner: Ballygarry Estate Hotel & Spa, Kerry
- Best Hotel Service & Hospitality: Clayton Hotel, Burlington Road, Dublin
- Best Event Dinner/Entertainment: The Crosskeys Inn, Antrim
- Special Dinner Feature: Killeen House Hotel, Killarney, Kerry
- Best Tour Feature: Marine Bar, Waterford
- Best Walking Tour: Westport Walking Tour, Mayo
- Best Visit: Cliffs of Moher, Clare
- Best Lunch: Taylors Three Rock, Dublin
- Best Sheep Dog Trial: Atlantic Sheepdogs, Sligo
- National Heritage Award: Brendan Ferris Sheep Dog Trials, Kerry
“The encouraging pipeline of bookings for the coming year are ahead of expectations, and we look forward to ensuring that partners and host communities continue to benefit from our success in attracting visitors to travel with CIE Tours to Ireland,” Crabill added.
Rare New Footage of 1986 Titanic Exploration Released
Many divers have adventured to the Titanic’s resting place to scope out what is left of the Belfast-built ship that sank roughly 350 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, in April 1912.
But the first divers, Massachusetts-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), released rare new video footage of their historic tour of the Titanic in 1986.
The 1986 expedition was the first time human eyes had been laid on the doomed ship since its disastrous end in 1912. Most of the footage from the dive had never been released to the public.
Over 80 minutes of uncut, unnarrated footage of the wreck premiered on WHOI’s YouTube Channel on Wednesday, February 15, a day after James Cameron’s Oscar-winning romantic epic, Titanic, was re-released in theatres on Valentine’s Day, just two months shy of its 25th anniversary.
The Titanic’s location was pinpointed in September 1985 when WHOI and the French oceanographic research organization Institut français de recherche pour l’exploitation de la mer (IFREMER) towed an underwater camera over 12,000 feet into the North Atlantic Ocean.
A group of scientists returned to the site in July 1986 with a human-operated research submersible named Alvin, and a deep-sea remotely operated vehicle (ROV) called Jason Junior that captured images and recorded video of the shipwreck that the submersible couldn’t access.
Beginning with the Alvin approaching the Titanic, the video shows the ship’s rusted bow and deck parking, and Jason Junior goes further to record the chief officer’s cabin, promenade windows, and the ship’s interior.
Haunting footage captures objects that appear to be decaying furniture on the ship’s floor and a rusted chandelier swaying eerily from a beam.
Since the 1985 discovery, the ship’s mast has collapsed, the deck and gymnasium have fallen in, and the ship’s bow is anticipated to crumble soon.
Just 706 people of the estimated 2,227 passengers survived – some of them were Irish and lived to tell their stories.
School Program Launched in Honor of Staten Island Boy Who Died Trying to Rescue Pets from House Fire
In December 2007, nine-year-old Tommy Monahan perished in a house fire on Staten Island while trying to save his pets. The Staten Island boy was escaping the fire with his parents and older sister when he dashed up the stairs to save his lizard and pet Yorkie, but the fire was too intense and claimed the lives of Tommy and his beloved pets.
In remembrance of the young hero, PS 36 in Annadale, where Tommy was a student, held its inaugural Tommy Monahan Pet Talk instructional curriculum in collaboration with the Animal Care Centers of NYC and the city Department of Education.
At the program launch, his sister, 23-year-old Gabrielle Monahan, said: “His biggest passion was animals. Any time that there was a bug in the house, he would scream ‘Don’t kill it! Don’t kill it!’ — and he would get a cup.”
Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella joined representatives from the Animal Care Centers of NYC to put on a presentation for fourth graders to emphasize the meaning of a healthy relationship with animals, the importance of pet adoptions, and how to advocate for animals on their behalf.
Fossella shared stories of Tommy’s love for animals, who was a fourth grader when he passed away.
“We’re really honored to be here to help honor the legacy of Tommy,” said Katherine E. Reeves, community kids coordinator of Animal Care Centers of NYC, who was at the launch event in Annadale.
The Monahan family joined together with the Animal Care Centers of NYC last October when their new state-of-the-art facility in South Shore, Staten Island, dedicated the lobby to Tommy.
At the PS 36 launch, Monahan recalled fond memories of Animal Care Centers of NYC, saying: “So anybody who would come into our house and would say a curse word, or a bad word like ‘stupid,’ would have to put coins in the jar. And then every year on his birthday, we would go and we would donate the money to the Animal Care Center on Staten Island.”
The Pet Talk initiative is aimed at fourth graders in PS 36, but Fossella hopes it becomes part of a city-wide curriculum.
“We’re going to leave it up to the teachers to adapt. This is a test program. We’re going to learn and see what best works at PS 36, and then where it needs to be tweaked, we’ll do so,” Fossella said. “Our goal is to expand it to every school on Staten Island, public and non-public, and then if the mayor and others in the Department of Education see the measure of success here, we’ll expand it citywide.”
In the meantime, the Monahan family is thrilled to continue Tommy’s legacy. Now that Gabriella is a teacher, she was asked to launch the Pet Talk program.
“I took that as kind of my brother saying he is going to follow me, no matter what I do, so my family is really excited for this next step in remembering him and building his legacy even more,” Gabriella told SI Live.
U2 Announces “Achtung Baby” Concert Series in Las Vegas for Fall 2023
In an intergalactic-style 15-second ad at the 2023 Super Bowl, U2 announced a series of concerts in Las Vegas this fall, celebrating their 1991 album “Achtung Baby”.
The new tour, entitled “U2:UV Achtung Baby Live at the Sphere” is part of the launch of MSG Sphere at The Venetian in Las Vegas, a new 17,500 concert globe with a 16k viewing screen that wraps the arena.
“We’re the right band, ‘Achtung Baby’ the right album and the Sphere the right venue to take the live experience to the next level,” U2 said in a statement.
Drummer and founding member Larry Mullen Jr. will be absent from the performances as he recovers from an undisclosed surgery that prohibits him from playing. Bram van den Berg, drummer of the Dutch group Krezip, will replace Mullen for the Las Vegas tour.
“It’s going to take all we’ve got to approach the Sphere without our bandmate in the drum seat, but Larry has joined us in welcoming Bram van den Berg who is a force in his own right,” U2 members Bono, the Edge, and Adam Clayton said in a joint statement.
“The Sphere show has been in the works for a long time. We don’t want to let people down, least of all our audience… the truth is we miss them as much as they appear to miss us… our audience was always the fifth member of the band. Bottom line, U2 hasn’t played live since December 2019 and we need to get back on stage and see the faces of our fans again.”