Why Toto, Ireland *is* a small country…

The short short short version, before fucking Blogger eats it…

Wednesday I spent some time down at Trinity College Dublin. I was there for two reason. One was to use their library to find some books that DCU’s library doesn’t have (which would be any book I want). Because Trinity is a pretty compact campus, it has three smallish buildings that serve as libraries. I spent a couple of hours in one perusing an interesting book which I’ll talk more about later this weekend when I feel like it (again, blame Blogger).

The other reason I was there was to go to a seminar put on by the Institute for Contemporary Irish History. It was a small talk by Professor John Horgan, a professor of Journalism at DCU, and he was giving a talk on “Broadcasting and public life: RTÉ news and current affairs, 1926-1997″. The talk was interesting (roughly 20 people at the most). He had a lot of lively anecdotes, and because I have been reading up on 20th century Irish history lately (a topic I generally know in broad strokes but am by no means an expert on), I was able to follow the ebb and flow context of his narrative pretty well and get all the references. During the Q/A session after, this old Irish dude (who I presumed was some old Trinity professor or whatever) launches into this treatise on the foreign policy dimensions of government censoring the press (part of Horgan’s talk was about RTÉ self-censorship and later government pressure during the Troubles for such actions through Section 31). And everyone listened politely and moved on. But then people started making strange references to him, including one dude next to him who I thought I had heard say something about sitting next to former politicians. Only after I heard some one say his name did it click. He wasn’t some old Trinity gargoyle. He was Garret FitzGerald, a former Taoiseach of Ireland in the 1980s (a Taoiseach is the prime minister for those Gaelic-deficient among you).

As I was telling Andrea later, this would be like going to some small academic seminar at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and seeing Jimmy Carter walk in all alone, and take a seat at the table. Wouldn’t happen. No way.

This very much reminded me of an anecdote Tim O’Neil once told me about how he had a letter of introduction from the department head at Wayne State University when he went over for his research year in Ireland and the immigration officer asked him specific questions about the guy (who O’Neil didn’t really know that well) only to find out later that the immigration dude and the academic had gone to school together. That’s how fucking small Ireland is.

The Republic of Ireland’s population is roughly 3.5 million people. That’s a little over a third of the total number that live in the entire state of Michigan. You could take the entire population of the Republic, double it, and still fit it comfortably in New York City.


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