Would you like to find out more about Ireland, it’s culture, and its history? Here are our tips.
If you think something is missing that should be on this page, drop us a suggestion in the comments below.
Keeping up with the news:
- In a time of breaking domestic news, like during an Irish election, nothing will be faster than RTE Radio 1. If a politician concedes or announces victory, it will usually be on this channel first. In ordinary times, if you listen to Morning Ireland each day you will be as up to date on Irish news as anyone. If you prefer a weekly overview, try Saturday with Claire Byrne. A good politics podcast is Inside Politics by the Irish Times.
- Twitter is unbeatable. Here is a list of accounts that are good to follow for Irish news.
- Newspapers depend on your taste. The Irish Times is the traditional ‘paper of record’; the Sunday Business Post often sets the agenda with its investigations, as does the Ireland edition of The Times (particularly on healthcare and church and state issues). In new online-first media, try The Journal.
- Irish news organisations report on Northern Ireland, but Northern Ireland also has its own news bubble. Sources for NI-specific news include: Slugger O’Toole, UTV, BBC NI, the Belfast Telegraph (leans unionist), the Newsletter (unionist), The Irish News (leans nationalist). Listener Catherine Lloyd says comedy quiz The Blame Game is how she keeps up with all Northern Irish goings on.
- Fintan O’Toole is a reliably incisive commentator.
Online historical resources:
- Irish Lives in War and Revolution 1913-1923 is a free online course developed by Trinity College Dublin that explores the complexity of this formative period of Irish history with a rich mixture of first-person accounts, primary sources and lectures. Both Tim and Naomi took this course and recommend it 🙂
- The Bureau of Military History contains searchable accounts from people who lived through and participated in the revolutionary years of 1913-1921.
- CELT is an trove of online texts from Irish culture maintained by University College Cork. It ranges from early Christian annals in the original Irish and English, to Medieval diaries, to the writings of Jonathan Swift and Wolfe Tone.
- www.irishgenealogy.ie is a government-supported website that gives a guide to what resources are available for tracing family history.
- Come Here to Me is a brilliant blog on the hidden history of Dublin that has produced two books.
- The historian Liam Hogan has perhaps been the single most effective campaigner against the Irish Slaves Myth. His online work is a treasure trove of information about the messy true story of Ireland and empire.
Film, documentary, TV:
- The IFI Player has freely watchable vintage footage of Ireland as well as modern documentaries and short films. Particularly recommended: The Party, set in Belfast in 1972.
- The documentary trilogy Provos, Loyalists and Brits explores the lives of different players in Northern Ireland’s conflict. More recently, No Stone Unturned, which investigates the notorious killing of six people who were watching the World Cup in a pub in 1994, has been making waves.
- 1916 The Irish Rebellion, narrated by Liam Neeson, documents the Easter Rising and pays due credit to the role of the Irish diaspora.
- The Queen of Ireland follows drag queen Panti Bliss as she becomes an iconic figure in the campaign for marriage equality in 2015.
- Through legendary historian Shane MacThomais, One Million Dubliners tells the story of the so-called ‘dead centre of Dublin’: Glasnevin Cemetery, final resting place of everyone from the liberator Daniel O’Connell, to victims of Ireland’s notorious Magdalene Laundries, to Naomi’s grandparents.
- Older than Ireland interviews people who were born before the republic was, and finds out how their lives have changed.
- RTE Player streams content from the national broadcaster online, but availability may depend on your location.
- Netflix has Rebellion, a five-part drama about the birth of the Irish republic.
- The Dublin crime drama Love/Hate, set in the present day, broke viewership records in Ireland and highlights the thrall of the countries’ criminal gangs, whose feuds fill the newspapers.
- Listener Caitlin de Jode recommends ‘Good Vibrations’, a film about the emergence of punk music from Troubles-era Belfast. Eoin O’Malley recommends the films of Lenny Abrahamson. Naomi suggests the Irish films of Ken Loach, such as Jimmy’s Hall and The Wind that Shakes the Barley.
- Breakfast on Pluto, based on the Patrick McCabe novel, tells the story of a beautiful soul who flees the cruelties of small-town 1960s Ireland for the dubious refuge of 1970s London.
- The Commitments is a classic based on the book by Roddy Doyle that tells the rise and fall of a Dublin band. The theme is returned to in Once and Sing Street.
- Into the West is a classic family film about children who go on a journey across Ireland to retrieve a stolen horse in a modern-day Celtic epic.
- Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells by up-and-coming animation studio Cartoon Saloon bring Ireland’s ancient heritage into full colour.
- Ireland has a heritage of myths and legends to rival ancient Greece. These can make great bedtime reading and many Irish children grow up with the stories of Deirdre of the Sorrows, Cúchulainn, and Fionn mac Cumhaill.
- Marita Conlon-McKenna’s ‘Under the Hawthorne Tree’ trilogy tells the gripping story of a family living through the Great Hunger.
- ‘Flight of the Doves’: orphans Finn and Derval embark on a desperate journey to find their grandparents in Connemara.
- ‘The Secret of Yellow Island’ is a mystery adventure tale that brings to life the old ways of island living.
- Music is a storied way of passing on Irish heritage. If there is an Irish cultural centre near you, see what classes they have available. Equally, Gaelic Games — football, hurling, and camogie — have a growing international network that is eager for players.
- The Atlas of the Irish Revolution was a surprise runaway bestseller. It’s a 1,000-page, 5 kilogram tome of original photographs and documents, art, and easy-to-read essays by leading scholars summarising and analysing this crucial period in Irish history.
- Diarmaid Ferriter is a prominent Irish historian who has written volumes on modern Irish history from the revolutionary period, to sexual politics in modern Ireland. One recommended by listener Gerard Down is ‘The Transformation of Ireland’, which covers 1900-2000.
- ‘Motherfoclóir’ is a fun and contemporary guide to the Irish language; it has an accompanying podcast hosted by its charming author Darach Ó Séaghdha.
- Literature depends on taste: Naomi’s recommendations are: Roddy Doyle, Marian Keyes, Sally Rooney, Patrick McCabe, the poetry of Seamus Heaney and W.B. Yeats.
- Listener literature recommendations include: James Joyce’s ‘Dubliners’, Edna O’Brien’s ‘The Country Girls’, and ‘Angela’s Ashes’ by Frank McCourt.
- In history, listeners recommended ‘A History of Ireland’ by Mike Cronin, ‘A History of Ulster’ by Jonathan Bardon, ‘Eighteenth Century Ireland: the Isle of Slaves’ by Ian McBride, Michael Brown’s ‘The Irish Enlightenment’, Sinead McCoole’s ‘No Ordinary Women’, ‘Hannah Sheehy-Skeffington: A Life’, ‘Women of the Irish Revolution’ by Liz Gilles, ‘At Home in the Irish Revolution’ by Lucy McDiarmid, ‘That Neutral Island’ by Clair Willis, ‘Wounds’ by Fergal Keane, and ‘T.K. Whitaker: Portrait of a Patriot’ by Anne Chambers.
- The blogger and DJ Nialler9 is famous for his playlists of new Irish music.
- This Ain’t No Disco is a visual and aural journey through the current Irish music scene, by by music video director Myles.
- A good traditional Irish music seisiúin is a truly special thing. You can find good ones all over the world, if you know where to look, and Irish music festivals are something special too.
- Listener Kerry Dexter recommends this list of Irish music, and songs of healing arising from the Troubles.
- A day: if you are flying into Dublin and want to take in as much as possible, take a walk around the centre of the city to see the main sights. (Particularly recommended are: Trinity College Dublin, Grafton Street, the GPO, and Kilmainham Gaol). If you manage to do that in a morning, hop on the dart or bus to the fishing village of Howth (~16km from the city centre) and get a taste of the Irish countryside walking the hill and cliffs which have sweeping panoramas over Dublin, and finish with dinner and a pint in Howth harbour.
- A weekend: try to do the above, and then go to Belfast and do a black taxi tour. The drivers lived through the recent history and have agreements to take passengers into areas that would be difficult to see alone.
- Four days to a week: add to the above recommendations a trip to Galway. Follow the Wild Atlantic Way on a bike, on foot or in a car, spend an evening in Galway’s pubs and get the ferry out to the Aran Islands. Alternatively, drive out to Derry from Belfast, walk the ancient defensive walls that have survived since plantation times, and nip over the border into the Irish-speaking coastal villages of Donegal.
- Two weeks: do a circuit from Belfast, through Derry, down through Galway, through Kerry (consider doing the Ring of Kerry and having a wild night in Killarney); explore Cork, and finish in Dublin.
- A month: go and live in West Cork.