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Colm Tóibín says some Protestants in North regard Republic as ‘strange and foreign place’

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Novelist Colm Tóibín has said some Protestants in Northern Ireland regard the Republic as “a very strange and foreign place”.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1’s The Brendan O’Connor Show on Saturday, Tóibín said that what he called a “united Ireland solution” had not been properly thought out.

“Anyone who spends time in Protestant or Presbyterian Northern Ireland realises that there are people who really do view the Republic as a very strange and foreign place and they don’t want, I mean they really don’t want, to be under its sway.

“And we have to take account of that. The great thing about the Good Friday Agreement was it included both/and, so that you can be both British and Irish,” he said.

“So what would you say to someone whose identity was fully British, who saw Scotland in a way as their sort of hinterland or as their mainland, saying . . . you’re going to have to be run by Dublin?

“And they will say, ‘Well I don’t want this’, but the whole point of our politics in the last few decades has been to say if you don’t want it we will work out a constitutional arrangement whereby your desires can be in some way represented.

“So this united Ireland solution seems to me to be too quick and easy and sort of un-thought-out.”

Asked if he thought people in the Republic thought a united Ireland would mean Northern Ireland essentially “coming into” the Republic, he said: “Any solution like that would have to be like East Germany/West Germany, where West Germany just takes over the East.

“And I think the question to ask people is: how much more tax would you pay willingly to fund Northern Ireland? Because someone has to fund it.”

Earlier in the interview, on the subject of a united Ireland, he struck a jovial tone when he said: “If you were in Derry and someone said there’s going to be a united Ireland tomorrow and you’re going to join the 900,000 people who are on a waiting list to see a consultant [in the South], or stay in the NHS. ”

Derry currently also has large health waiting lists.

Tóibín said: “On the practical levels do we want to have their [Northern Ireland’s] sectarian hatreds down here and the basket case that is their economy and the basket case that is their politics . . . and do they want the basket case that is say . . . the ordinary daily workings of the HSE, for example?”

New novel

Tóibín’s latest novel, The Magician, is an imagined recreation of the life of the German novelist Thomas Mann, known for writing The Magic Mountain and Buddenbrooks.

Asked by O’Connor if he was worried about the rise of Sinn Féin in Ireland, Tóibín responded: “I just want to know one thing really. I want to know: who did the Kingsmill massacre? Just if they could tell us that.

“Just pick one. It could be [the] Enniskillen [bombing].”

The Provisional IRA was responsible for the Kingsmill massacre of January 1976 in which 10 Protestant workmen were killed.

“We don’t know who did that. What was the thinking behind taking 11 Protestants out of a minivan, or 12, and making the Catholic run, shooting the 11, one of them surviving, Alan Black, and the others being dead as young men?” asked Tóibín.

Tóibín said he had spoken to Mr Black, the only surviving shooting victim, about watching the children of the dead men grow up. “So somebody did that and they’re probably still alive.”

He was asked if he would accept that these things were “not an issue” for many young people who saw Sinn Féin as the party that could solve problems for them that they believed others were not solving.

He agreed and said he also thought it was true that the shape of Irish politics since the foundation of the State had been that parties “that at one moment still has pikes in the thatch” comes fully into the political process.

“It’s a generational thing…If you’re my age you just can’t not think about these things but obviously if you’re 25 and you cannot get anywhere to live in Dublin and you’re a student, or you’re finishing your studies, and you want to become U2, how do you get the place to live in the city to produce the next generation of rock musicians or poets?”

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These little-known towns and villages have become pandemic property hotspots

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Moving to the country became every city-dweller’s daydream during Covid, with some 700,000 people quitting London for the good life.

Cornwall, the most searched for place on Rightmove, was a favourite destination, while searches for the Cotswolds more than doubled. 

Yet it wasn’t just these two expensive destinations that saw their popularity soar.

Escape to the country: Llangollen on the River Dee in Denbighshire, North Wales, is popular with tourists

Escape to the country: Llangollen on the River Dee in Denbighshire, North Wales, is popular with tourists

Estate agents Hamptons discovered four relatively anonymous regions which, due to Covid, have become property hotspots, recording staggering price increases for 2020-2021.

In demand Daventry: Price growth 17 per cent

Although a pleasant market town, it’s unlikely anyone would describe Daventry, in West Northamptonshire, as a ‘beauty’. Could Hamptons have been mistaken when they named it the No 1 hotspot?

‘Absolutely not,’ says Natasha Cawsey, of Laurence Tremayne estate agents. ‘Our figures show growth of about 30 per cent in the past 18 months.

‘Daventry has good amenities, yet prices are well below those in neighbouring Oxfordshire and Warwickshire.’

The villages outside Daventry are also an attraction. Braunston, on the hill above the two canals, has a busy marina and Everdon is lovely.

‘These gorgeous villages are 30 per cent cheaper than the Cotswolds,’ says property search agent Jonathan Harrington. ‘They have excellent communications, making them ideal for people who work from home.’

Desired Denbighshire: Price growth 15 per cent

The remarkable price growth in Denbighshire, a low-profile county in North Wales extending inland from the Irish Sea, is largely down to Covid.

‘Nearly all my buyers in the past 18 months have been southerners in search of open space,’ says Mark Gilbertson of Fine & Country. 

‘They can walk out of their doors here and meet nobody, which makes them feel safe.’ 

Ruthin has been described as ‘the most charming small town in Wales’ by National Trust chairman Simon Jenkins. 

Llangollen, with its colourful craft on the canal and River Dee, is popular with tourists.

Denbighshire has become so popular, according to Gilbertson, that some wealthy buyers hire helicopters in their rush to view homes like this.

Rutland rockets: Price growth 14 per cent

It may be England’s smallest county, tucked away in the East Midlands, but Rutland’s property prices have boomed since the lockdowns.

‘Lots of our buyers have looked first in the Cotswolds,’ says Jan von Draczek, of Fine & Country estate agents. 

‘Finding nothing suitable for sale they spread their nets wider and discover Rutland.’

Rutland Water, the largest reservoir in England, is a popular with bird watchers and used for watersports and fishing. 

Rutland Water, the largest reservoir in England, is a popular with bird watchers and used for watersports and fishing

Rutland Water, the largest reservoir in England, is a popular with bird watchers and used for watersports and fishing

Villages are speckled with stone cottages under roofs of collyweston slate.

Barrowden, with its Grade II-listed church, is charming while Exton with its green overlooked by the Fox & Hounds pub is pure chocolate box. 

Much of Rutland is within easy reach of Peterborough, 50 minutes from King’s Cross.

Vale of Glamorgan value: Price growth 14 per cent

Drive west along the M4 and you won’t find a signpost for the Vale of Glamorgan, yet this strip of land to the west of Cardiff has seen the most dramatic property price appreciation in Wales.

‘The Vale has always been home for businessmen based in Cardiff,’ says Robert Calcaterra, of HRT estate agents. ‘Now we are also getting incomers from London who snap up the £1 million-plus homes.’

Cowbridge — with its hotel, The Bear, where Tom Jones stops for a pint when he is home — oozes affluence and nearby you find pretty villages like Bonvilston, St Hilary and Llantwit Major before you hit the beautiful Heritage Coast. 

Be warned: 70 per cent of homes advertised are under offer in this booming market. 

On the market… and in demand 

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Leinster hoping lightning won’t strike twice for Connacht at the RDS

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Leinster v Connacht,  RDS, Friday, 7.45pm – Live TG4 and Premier Sports

Lightning, goes the saying, tends not to strike twice, and Leinster tend not to lose twice in a row. Although it did happen last April/May against Munster in the Rainbow Cup and then La Rochelle, it has never happened to them at the RDS.

In making 10 changes in personnel to an all-international XV following last week’s defeat by Ulster, as well as restoring Rónan Kelleher and Andrew Porter to the bench, Leinster have made their intentions clear. A week out from their December marquee fixture against Bath at the Aviva Stadium, they are pretty much as locked and loaded as they could be.

Jamison Gibson-Park came through training this week and should be available for next week. Johnny Sexton and Jack Conan might return the following week away to Montpellier.

As James Ryan is still adhering to World Rugby guidelines, which has included seeing an independent concussion consultant, there is no clear timeframe on his return.

Beaten here by Connacht last January, Leinster won’t lack for motivation. “The guys were pretty gutted afterwards last week because it only takes the smallest percentage to be off against a team that’s highly motivated, like Ulster were, and like we know Connacht will be this week, exactly the same,” said Leo Cullen on Thursday.

“It’s been a short week for us to prepare but we just need to get going now into this block and get excited about the challenge, and playing in front of a home crowd. There’s plenty of doom and gloom out there in the world at the moment, as we know, so it’s getting back and creating that connection with our supporters, and going out and doing great things on a rugby pitch, and that’s what the team wants to do. I’m sure that’s what the fans that turn up and pay good money to watch the team play, that’s what they want to see as well.”

Three changes

Connacht arrive on the back of sparkling bonus-point wins either side of the Autumn Series hiatus over Ulster and the Ospreys. Andy Friend has made three changes, promoting centre Peter Robb, lock Oisín Dowling and Eoghan Masterson, who replaces the injured Paul Boyle, with Jarrad Butler moving to eight.

Ulster won here with a restricted if well-executed game plan, playing territory and retaining possession, before upping their line speed in forcing errors from their misfiring hosts.

But true to Friend’s mantra of fast/relentless/adaptable, Connacht are committed to their ambitious ball-in-hand brand of rugby. Jack Carty, one of five internationals in Connacht’s side, has a liking for this venue, having scored 39 points on his last two visits here. In December 2018 he contributed handsomely to a 29-12 lead with 12 minutes remaining before Porter completed Leinster’s late three-try salvo in overtime after 41 phases, while last time Carty scored 25 points in their 35-24 win.

Yet to put last January’s win in context, it is Connacht’s only victory in the last six clashes between the two; it was sandwiched by Leinster twice running up a half century against them, and it was their only win on Leinster soil since September 2002.

Accordingly, Paddy Power makes Leinster 1-10 favourites, with Connacht 6-1 to spring another surprise.

LEINSTER: H Keenan; J Larmour, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, J Lowe; H Byrne, L McGrath (capt); C Healy, D Sheehan, M Ala’alatoa; R Baird, D Toner; R Ruddock, J van der Flier, C Doris.

Replacements: R Kelleher, A Porter, V Abdaladze, J Murphy, M Deegan, N McCarthy, R Byrne, TO’Brien.

CONNACHT: O McNulty; A Wootton, S Arnold, P Robb, M Hansen; J Carty (capt), K Marmion; M Burke, D Heffernan, F Bealham; O Dowling, U Dillane; E Masterson, C Oliver, J Butler.

Replacements: S Delahunt, J Duggan, J Aungier, L Fifita, C Prendergast, C Blade, C Fitzgerald, T Farrell.

Referee: Chris Busby (IRFU)

Forecast: Leinster to win.

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‘I was so proud to be Navajo and so proud to be Irish’

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“For the first time in my lifetime my two cultures were intertwined in the most beautiful way … I was so proud to be Navajo and so proud to be Irish.”

Doreen McPaul was speaking as she received a Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad for 2021. President Higgins granted the awards to 11 people at a ceremony in Áras an Uachtaráin on December 2nd.

McPaul, of Irish and Navajo heritage, is attorney general for the Navajo Nation. Her award, under the category of charitable works, is in recognition of her fundraising for the Navajo, who experienced extreme hardship during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Her efforts led to a collaboration with the Irish Cultural Centre and McClelland Library in Phoenix, Arizona, which gathered more than $30,000 worth of donated supplies to assist the Navajo Nation at the peak of the pandemic.

“The Navajo Nation was so devastated by Covid-19, as a culture and as a community. [It] was really tragic and stressful, and we worked literally non-stop. The highlight of this was talking to people from all over the world …. Specifically with Ireland, we had this huge outpouring of support, and that was really overwhelming because of my own dual heritage and growing up as a half-Navajo half-Irish girl,” she told The Irish Times.

“As soon as people learned that the Navajo Nation attorney general was part-Irish, people reached out to me and claimed me as their own and invited me to all these things and celebrated my dual heritage in a way I’ve never experienced before. Literally they put me on the highest pedestal and that’s what this award signifies to me.”

A graduate of Princeton University, Doreen McPaul has worked as a tribal attorney for 20 years and has spent two years serving as attorney general. “I didn’t know I was nominated for the award first of all. So when the Irish council called to let me know I would be receiving a notice of the award, I literally cried.”

In all, 11 people received awards on Thursday, in a variety of fields. They were: Arts, Culture and Sport: Susan Feldman (USA), Roy Foster (Britain) and Br Colm O’Connell (Kenya). Business and Education: Sr Orla Treacy (South Sudan). Charitable Works: Doreen Nanibaa McPaul (USA), Phyllis Morgan-Fann and Jim O’Hara (Britain). Irish Community Support: Adrian Flannelly and Billy Lawless (USA). Peace, Reconciliation & Development: Bridget Brownlow (Canada). Science, Technology & Innovation: Susan Hopkins (Britain).

Colm Brophy, Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora said: “As Minister of State for the Diaspora I am aware of the profound impact our global family has had around the world in a variety of fields. There were 107 nominations for these awards this year, and the level and breadth of the achievements of the people nominated are, by any measure, remarkable.

The contribution of the Irish abroad has been immense, and the diversity of their achievements in their many walks of life, can be seen in this year’s 11 awardees.”

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