“We’d be the traditional crowd, we never changed” – An interview with the only elected dissident republican in the Republic of Ireland

The story of how Sinn Féin left the path of violence and entered mainstream politics is well-known, but what about those who never accepted the compromises? One such group is Republican Sinn Féin, which split off in 1986 rather than recognise the Dáil as the legitimate parliament of Ireland. The party is on the margins of Irish politics and holds the distinction of being the only party in the 26 counties that opposed the Good Friday Agreement.

Yet it is not completely without support and does have one elected representative. Tomás Ó Curraoin was first elected to Galway County Council in 2009 and re-elected in 2014 and 2019, representing the district of Connemara South. He’s an old-fashioned man who admits “I don’t have a computer; I can’t work it and I haven’t a clue even about turning it on.” He left school at 13 and spent 17 years in England working as a manual labourer.

Continue reading ““We’d be the traditional crowd, we never changed” – An interview with the only elected dissident republican in the Republic of Ireland”

Speaking an Invented Language like a Native

Simon proudly tells how his six-year-old daughter Sarah recently read her favourite story by herself for the first time. This in itself is an important milestone, but it’s even more special because Sarah didn’t read it in English – she did it in Esperanto. She is one of the few people in the world who speak an invented language as a native language.

Continue reading “Speaking an Invented Language like a Native”

I’m the only one with a mask at an anti-mask protest

There’s more flags than masks here. Half a dozen Irish flags, just in case we forget which country we’re in. A banner is unfurled “Only slaves wear masks”.  As the only person wearing a mask in this crowd of 50 outside the GPO, I stand out. A woman takes up a microphone and starts speaking about taking back control. For no particular reason she shouts “Up the Ra! And I mean the Real IRA, not those other messers!” Three gardaí (wearing masks) wander over but the speaker shouts them down. Soon the whole crowd is chanting “We have no contract with you!” (which they believe means they don’t have to obey the gardaí) until they leave. I don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into.

Continue reading “I’m the only one with a mask at an anti-mask protest”

GameStop is a wild ride – but it’s no revolution

There are few stories as wild as the sudden surge in GameStop’s stock price. Only two weeks ago, it was priced at $19 before sky rocketing as high as $470 per share. The internet is full of people proclaiming this as some kind of revolution, as if ordinary people are standing up to the establishment. Unfortunately, this is not a social movement, it’s a get-rich-quick scheme.

Continue reading “GameStop is a wild ride – but it’s no revolution”

How do you say “Happy New Year” in Esperanto?

At first glance, it looks like an ordinary congress held every year to celebrate the New Year. During the day participants attend various talks and play games, and during the night they party at concerts. But there is one important difference. Everything, from the group discussions on social issues to the late night flirting over drinks, is done through the language of Esperanto. The participants are here to party, but also to promote a language few have even heard of.

Continue reading “How do you say “Happy New Year” in Esperanto?”

Brexit Is A Disorganised Mess – But A United Ireland Would Be Even Worse

Brexit was supposed to be simple. All Britain had to do was tell the European Union they were leaving, sign a few forms and be done. It shouldn’t take more than a few weeks. Then Britain would be able to celebrate it new freedom and prosperity now that the shackles of foreign oppression have been removed. Of course, we all know that it hasn’t worked out like that. Three years after the vote and Britain is still in the EU but facing down unprecedented political instability and what economists warn could be an economic disaster. Negotiations proved to be far more complicated than anyone on the Leave side had imagined and the situation is bogged down in endless talks.

Many Irish people are delighted over the situation, seeing this as a modern example of the old nationalist slogan “Britain’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity”. Many hope the political instability and economic uncertainty will finally push Northern Ireland out of the UK and into the Republic. The prospect of a united Ireland is no longer being treated as a utopian dream but instead as a realistic possibility.

However, I fear a united Ireland would end up repeating the mistakes of Brexit and similarly end up as a disorganised mess. There has been no planning for a united Ireland and no one, not even Sinn Féin, knows what it would look like. There is an assumption that we will just tell the Brits to leave and then sit back and enjoy our new freedom and prosperity now that the shackles of foreign oppression have been removed. It shouldn’t take more than a few weeks, right? Continue reading “Brexit Is A Disorganised Mess – But A United Ireland Would Be Even Worse”

Describing my day as if it were a gritty Sci-Fi novel

In the darkness, the only noise was the electric alarm on my mobile phone. I dragged myself out of bed and began to get ready for day, occasionally gazing out at the building site across the street, desolate as the surface of the moon. This was supposed to be a new modern town of the future, but no one got around to finishing it. Instead it was a bleak endless row of houses with no facilities, full yet also empty. That’s right, you’re reading some gritty Sci-Fi. Bet you never thought there could be social problems in the future? Continue reading “Describing my day as if it were a gritty Sci-Fi novel”

How To Immerse Yourself In Esperanto

Have you just finished Duolingo or another Esperanto course and are now wondering what to do next? Are you trying to figure out how to further advance and develop your skills? Do you want to put the textbooks behind you and actually use the language? If so, here is a handy guide of where to go and what to do next to fully use Esperanto and dive into the community. Continue reading “How To Immerse Yourself In Esperanto”

Using An Anime Computer Game To Teach Esperanto? I Interviewed The Publishers To Find Out More

What would be a good way to get people interested in Esperanto and help them learn the language? This is a question as old as the language itself and there is no shortage of proposals. We’re all familiar with Duolingo’s “gamified” system of learning and I’ve heard people dreaming of a role-playing game set in an Esperanto speaking world where the player gradually learns vocabulary from their surroundings. I thought this was a great idea but just wishful thinking, surely it would cost too much and no developer would be interested?

Imagine my surprise when I found out that a developer was in fact interested. The Expression: Amrilato is an anime computer game where the main character gets transported to an Esperanto speaking world and players are gradually taught Esperanto as they play. Esperanto isn’t just a background feature, it is a core part of the game players must engage with to progress. Interestingly, the game is aimed at anime fans, not specifically Esperantists and all the news and discussion about the game has taken place in the wider anime community. It was originally developed in Japanese by SukeraSparo (whose name is the Esperanto words for sugar and Sparidae, a type of fish) and translated into English by MangaGamer.

As you can imagine, I am very excited about this and contacted the developers to find out more. Continue reading “Using An Anime Computer Game To Teach Esperanto? I Interviewed The Publishers To Find Out More”

Why is Esperanto more popular in some regions than in others?

Why is Esperanto more popular in some countries than in others? Why is the community vibrant in some regions yet barely active in others? Why is the movement strongest in Europe and East Asia but weakest in Africa and Central Asia? Why is it far more popular in Brazil than the rest of South America? Continue reading “Why is Esperanto more popular in some regions than in others?”