Dublin Bay Photo Retrospective, 2015

I thought I’d post a slideshow of some of the photographs that I’ve taken of Dublin Bay, which have been quite popular on Facebook this year. For full screen best effect, click on the title of the post and allow the carousel to move forward by itself. If you save down and use one of these photos, please credit and link my site, thanks.  Happy New Year to all!

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Leonard Cohen: He’s our man

This is my contribution to a piece by Martin Doyle with tributes from John Kelly, Sara Baume, Peter Murphy, Evelyn Conlon and more.  For all writers’ contributions, please click this link.

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-15-44-29It wasn’t until the mid-nineties, a decade into the study of Tibetan Buddhism, that I began to listen to the music of Leonard Cohen. A beautiful Chinese artist friend would have no other soundtrack as she painted.  She said he transported her to a richer place than the blank, cold studio she was working in.  I only began to hear Cohen with her, then after she moved away I heard him more clearly by myself on a Buddhist retreat in Vermont.  Along pathways between pinewood trees and incensed shrine rooms, I played him constantly – in defiance of the strict rules of the monastery (no “entertainment”).  The experience was intensified by my fascination at Cohen himself having just retreated from the craziness of the music business to a Zen monastery in California.

Such respite from the turbulence and uncertainty of daily living in today’s world is always ephemeral.  Even Cohen came back into the spotlight when he began to tour again in recent years.  But his music is, in a way, is like a retreat.  It takes you out of the fray and into aural balm and wit and darkness that even while dark, is calming and sensual. (more…)

A first story between covers

Ireland-in-Exile-Cover-WEBWhile entering story competitions and having work appear in publications is very exciting for a young writer, there is something very special about the first time you see one of your stories in an actual book.  Dermot Bolger was someone whose work I deeply admired.  I had not long before read and been blown away by The Journey Home, a stark, tough novel about Dublin in the dark eighties, when he contacted me to see if I had a piece to contribute to a collection of stories written by Irish writers abroad.

At the time, Joe O’Connor  and Emma Donoghue were living in London, Harry Clifton was in Africa, Colum McCann was in Texas, Sarah Berkeley in San Francisco, and Eamonn Wall and myself formed part of the burgeoning New Irish arts community in New York.   The amazing thing was that during the eighties and early nineties, anybody  living abroad, let alone writers, were nothing less than the national black sheep – the cheek of them to have emigrated leaving the rest of the Irish in the badlands of eighties Ireland!   It was a crime that was dealt with by cruel silence.

Enter Dermot Bolger (who had, himself, made a personal decision not to emigrate) with Ireland in Exile, which was, in effect, the first collection and recognition of the contemporary generation of scribes that had left – as many generations had left before.  With its cogent introduction by Joseph O’Connor and daring to present the nascent talents of many who would subsequetly become household names, its a book in which I’m very proud to be included.

To read my very early nineties contribution, The Suitcase, click here.


A Palm Tree Christmas – Sinead O’Connor in LA, 1990

Sinead Cover-bord-blog

Pic: John Francis Bourke

As first published in Hot Press magazine, Dec 1990:

In the wake of Prince’s death, publications have been quoting Sinead on the subject of Prince – a story which broke after I interviewed her for Hot Press one Christmas long ago.  I wanted to re-post the interview here in its entirety, since Sinead had so much more to say when we spoke in December, 1990.

* * * * * * * * * *

Due to overcrowding in JFK and strong headwinds, the plane is late touching down in LAX. Although the inevitable tinselly Christmas decorations are in evidence all over, it hardly feels like Yuletide to photographer John Francis Bourke and me. In New York we shivered in the icy winds belting down Broadway as we waited for a cab, here we roll down the car windows and laugh at the palm trees. Bikers zoom along in open jackets, helmetless. At the “Cat and Fiddle” on Sunset, people are eating at tables outside on the patio. In December.

The splendid, glittering tackiness of the West Coast boulevards at night is countered the following day by a pristine, cloudless sky and unusually hot sunshine, which scalds into the hotel bedroom where we’ve scheduled an interview with America’s favourite diva, Sinead O’Connor. Or just “Sinead”, as they’ve taken to calling her. Americans have even finally succeeded in pronouncing it properly, a sure sign of acceptance. LA Weekly has a centerfold spread advertizing “RED, HOT AND BLUE” that lists the performers on the album: “U2, Sinead O’Connor, David Byrne” etc. Sinead is at the very top of the list, as she has been on most lists in the U.S. for most of this year. Until the January release of “Nothing Compares 2U”, she was respected high-cult Princess, the prized choice of the connoisseur. With the subsequent smash hit of the single, video and album “I Do Not Want What I Have Not Got” she went straight up there alongside Madonna and Whitney, outclassing and outselling both.

Having decided against something brashly rock’n’roll like the Sunset Marquis, the small Ermitage Hotel tucked in behind Sunset Boulevard is perfectly anonymous and very friendly. Maria at the reception desk smiles without fuss as Sinead comes in, and apart from one man who nearly drops on the spot when he runs almost straight into Sinead in the elevator, all is comfortably low key. By 9:00 am, we’re camped out on the bed, Sinead, Ciara and Hot Press – fuelled with Cappuccinos and toast. We chat a bit, an amusing starting point being the discussion of the fact that it’s still very much taboo for women to curse in America – a habit Irish and particularly Dublin women are addicted to. Sinead seems in fine form, having passed her driving test the day before and in the process of buying a car so she’ll be able, finally to drive around her newly adopted city. (more…)

MY WEEK: from The Sunday Times


Here’s a piece from The Sunday Times newspaper, giving an account of “MY WEEK”.  Hard to capture – between the election of a clown as sad as Trump and the loss of a king as fine as Cohen – but here goes!


 “The author enjoys ‘high mirth and low bitching’ over a US election
that makes her question if autumn is the only sign the clocks have turned back.” 


Never liked it, autumn. And never more so than the day the clocks go back. Mostly, I resist accepting it until the last moment possible. It finally has to be let in, with its crisp, chill mornings, afternoon-nights and grounded leaves. All supposedly natural signs of death before rebirth. I’m not usually such a pessimist, but, for me, this morning is a shady whisper of darkness on the way. (more…)

HOT PRESS Profile by Anne Sexton


A piece in Hot Press magazine by Anne Sexton, with photo by Paula Nolan and review by Olaf Tyaransen. Below see an extract from the interview – the rest in Hot Press magazine, available in all Irish newsagents right now!


An arts journalist and performer, Helena Mulkerns lived and worked in Paris and New York before joining the UN as a press officer. 

It was her ten years with UN peacekeeping missions that inspired her collection, Ferenji and other stories. Ferenji means ‘foreigner’ in old Arabic and Persian.  As the name suggests, Mulkerns’ stories centre on the lives of foreign aid workers in various conflict and post-conflict zones. (more…)

Birthday Wishes to Val Mulkerns

Birthday wishes to author Val Mulkerns – my favourite Irish lady of twentieth century letters, 90 years today:  pictured here last week, on a morning walk near her home.  Starting out in the literary world as Associate Editor working with Seán O’Faoláin in The Bell, she has published five novels, three collections of short stories, two children’s books and many published essays and critical writings. The third edition of Val’s 1984 novel The Summerhouse was published last year, and a new edition of her 1986 novel, Very Like A Whale follows this Spring.   For more see: www.valmulkerns.com