Men of Action: Ireland Makes A ‘Huge Impact’ On Astronaut

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Ireland has always been a beacon of beauty and wonder. When Patrick Sarsfield and his followers left in 1691, they took the name ‘The Wild Geese® ‘ in the hope and belief that they would one day return. For The Wild Geese® , Ireland was always in their hearts and motivated their courageous actions.

When Chris Hadfield journeyed into space on his last mission, he experienced this connection from a different perspective:

‘The first glimpse you get of earth after you launch in a space shuttle from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida is the green of Ireland. It is a wonderful sight when the sun shines through the cloud and you see a green, green jewel, after all the blue of the Atlantic’

Like The Wild Geese® , Hadfield is a pioneer in his own right. Born in Canada, Chris’s ambition was fueled when he watched Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk in 1969. He couldn’t shake that ambition, and even though Canada did not have a space programme until 1983, his mind was made up and his path was chosen. He trained in the Canadian air force and was eventually selected as one of four recruits for the country’s space programme.

‘It’s absurd,’ Hadfield admits, ‘but not impossible. But we’re human and that’s what we do. And so I figured, what the heck, it interests me’. Now having returned from his final space mission, he had made it.

And it was on his final space mission that he found a connection to Ireland after posting famous images of the country from space:

‘Looking down from my perch in space, Ireland was just a tiny speck on the western fringes of Europe, yet managed to have a huge impact as I orbited the earth’

Chris Hadfield's photo of Dublin from the International Space Station
Chris Hadfield’s photo of Dublin from the International Space Station
Galway from the International Space Station
Galway from the International Space Station

He soon found that this was a two way dialogue and Irish people from all over the world wanted to connect with him.

‘Sharing emotions and language with the Irish people was phenomenal. The warm gush of acceptance that I experienced on this space flight was special’

While viewing Ireland hundreds of miles above the earth, Hadfield contemplated the legend of The Wild Geese® :

‘A lot of young Irish people have emigrated, but it is possible to be proud and remember where you are from… you can never take away that feeling of home’

Chris Hadfield’s comments come from his extract in ‘The Gathering – Reflections on Ireland’, a book from The Irish Hospice Association. He will be visiting his new found friends in Ireland this December when he travels to Dublin.

 

Wild Geese Stories: Ireland’s Cheeky Blinder

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‘Perfect cheekbones, even better acting’ is how The UK’s Telegraph describes Cillian Murphy’s role in his latest drama series Peaky Blinders. It captures his majesty appropriately, referencing one of his trademarks and rising career.

Originally from Cork, Ireland, this Wild Geese has traversed both independent film and Hollywood blockbusters, and whatever his role – whether it’s surviving a zombie apocalypse or going head-to-head with Robert De Niro – the Irish actor always leaves a lasting impression.

Although he’s worked with some of the big screens most prominent talents, he plays it cool when meeting them for the first time:

‘Until I was 20, I was in a band and wanted to be a musician,’ Murphy admits. ‘So I can be an excited fan around rock stars. But with other actors, you have to be professional and work with them. I’ve been in movies with Robert De Niro and felt a bit star-struck, but he was charming and encouraging so we go through the day’

Cillian Murphy has been a fan of gangster films such as Goodfellas, so it’s not surprising that he stars in the BBC drama Peaky Blighters, which has a huge Scorsese influence. Hailed as an effective combination of ‘style and substance’, Murphy’s lead role proves that he is determined to walk his own path while building his career. Before his jump to the screen, Murphy’s band ‘The Sons of Mr Greengenes’ was offered a five-album deal. But believing that the deal wasn’t favourable for them, the band declined. Like Patrick Sarsfield, other horizons were beckoning Murphy.

Today producers are lucky to be able to add ‘starring Cillian Murphy’ to their posters. Peaky Blinders marks a new chapter in his career, shifting back into the lead role. The Telegraph writes:

‘Most importantly, Cillian Murphy as Tommy never faltered, his strange, speaking eyes have been the fulcrum round which all else has spun. Peaky Blinders has surely been Murphy’s finest hour’

 

 

Men of Action: Patrick Sarsfield and The Wild Geese®

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Patrick Sarsfield’s army is defeated at the decisive Battle of The Boyne. From this point on, his attempt to oust the English and place James II on the throne were doomed.

Sarsfield had to decide what to do next and although his heart wanted to fight on, his head knew he had run out of options.

He signed the Treaty of Limerick, which allowed Sarsfield and his men to march out of town with military honours.

In November and December 1691, fleets of ships anchored at Limerick and Cork to take the Irish soldiers to their new lives in France. Believing they had secured freedom for their people, Sarsfield and his followers boarded the ships and journeyed to France.

They took the name The Wild Geese® in the hope and belief that this would be a temporary strategic exile in Europe.

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This was the legendary moment that echoes throughout the centuries. The Flight of The Wild Geese® .

Wherever you are in the world, if you are of Irish descent you are part of this story and entitled to call yourself Wild Geese.

Men of Action: Wild Geese Hoping To Soar At World Championships

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Wild Geese have always longed to share their achievements abroad with home. When they left Ireland in 1691, Patrick Sarsfield and his followers dreamed they would return home. Although many did not, today their dream is realised by Irish talent in all fields.

This weekend Ireland’s boxing team leave for the World Championships held in Kazakhstan with hopes of bring home medals.

One of the leading members of the team is Paddy Barnes who is confident that this will be an opportunity to make a serious impact in the boxing community.

Barnes has already won Olympic, European and Commonwealth medals and his regarded as the best amateur boxer in his native Northern Ireland. He is the world no. 3 and the only major medal missing from the list is a World Championship and Barnes hopes to remedy that in Kazakhstan.

‘I’d be really happy with a medal because it’s the only one I’ve never got, I think this is my year’

‘You’re always training for a gold medal, anything else and you’re second best. But for me, I’d be really happy with a World medal’

A medal win in Kazakhstan may be a turning point for Barnes and present an opportunity to go pro. Despite his success, barnes has not been approached with a professional contract and he’s hoping a win at the World Championship will change that.

But the World Championships are the toughest boxing tournament out there and Barnes is going to have to be on his A game. Fortunately, like the original Wild Geese in 1691, camaraderie runs through the Irish team and their coach, Billy Walsh, thinks it could be his year as well:

‘Paddy is in great shape, he has been working very hard and if he performs to his best there’s no reason why he can’t get a medal’

Over the summer, Barnes took home a silver medal from the European Championship, narrowly missing out on the finals due to injury. Next year he’s also planning to train for Rio 2016 and add to his Olympic medal wins.

Men of Action: The Bite of Adventure

The decision to leave home is never taken lightly. It requires courage and determination, but also a sense of adventure. Adventure was certainly a driving force behind Wild Geese, who have left their home for foreign lands, where they faced the unknown.

Today adventurers tackle an uncertain horizon to achieve extraordinary things, just as The Wild Geese® did.

Ben Saunders (images from Land Rover MENA via Flickr Creative Commons)
Ben Saunders (images from Land Rover MENA via Flickr Creative Commons)

That’s exactly what Ben Saunders and Tarka L’Herpeniere are planning to do. In mid October they will recreate the Terra Nova expedition, Captain Scott’s march to the South Pole.

This will be the longest unsupported polar expedition, which means they will have to take all supplies with them on a specialised sledge called a pulk, weighing approximately 200kg! The journey is 1,800 miles, which equates to 69 back to back marathons – at -50 degrees temperatures!

To do this, Ben and Tarka will walk for 9 hours a day and will need to stop every 90 minutes to refuel, but as Ben explained, it is ‘a physical and mental challenge at the very limits of what’s possible’.

When we think of what Ben and Tarka, it’s amazing what a sense of adventure can achieve. The anticipation they must be feeling is akin to how The Wild Geese® felt on the shores of Limerick.

Men of Action: Wild Geese At Fontenoy

In every part of the world, in every major conflict, the Irish have demonstrated their loyalty to their adopted homeland. The successes continued in their descendants, who went on to achieve so much, especially in France where The Wild Geese® first landed in 1691.

In France they often attained the highest ranks, integrating fully into French society. Today their names are emblazoned on the monuments and boulevards of Paris.

One of these Parisian boulevards is Place de Fontenoy, named after the famous battle, in which Wild Geese played a significant role.

The Battle of Fontenoy
In 1745 France was engaged in the War of the Austrian Succession. On an battlefield near Tournai, French troops were struggling to hold their defensive lines against Britain’s Duke of Cumberland.

That was until their reserve troops arrived. Amongst them was the Irish Brigade. The infantry regiments of Dillion, Berwick, Burkeley, Clare, Lally, and Roth charged into battle shouting ‘Cuimhaigidh are Luimnech!’ – ‘Remember Limerick!’.

Limerick was where Patrick Sarsfield and his followers left Ireland in 1691. Its shores were most likely fresh in the memories of these Wild Geese as they stormed the battlefield. For many, the shores of Limerick were a link to home, the last time they had seen their beloved Ireland. Each battle they believed would bring them a step closer to home.

The arrival of the Irish Brigade was a game changer. The Duke of Cumberland could no longer push past the French defences. The Irish regiments captured fifteen cannons and the Berkley regiment courageously captured the flag of the retreating British Guards.

The victory at Fontenoy is won of the most revered in French history. Napoleon would later declare that this victory prolonged the Ancien Regime monarchy by 30 years.

To commemorate the contribution of the brave soldiers of the Irish Brigade, the Celtic Cross was erected on the battlefield in 1907. The cross remembers those who fought at the Battle of Fontenoy and the Treaty of Limerick, signed in that fateful year 1691.

The world remembers the actions of The Wild Geese® .

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Men of Action: Jon Riley’s Fight For Freedom

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1691 was a fateful year. When the Irish exiles, under the command of Patrick Sarsfield, left Ireland they did so in the pursuit of freedom. The took the name ‘The Wild Geese® ‘ in the hope and belief that they would one day return to Ireland.

Many ‘Wild Geese’ have since journeyed abroad and played vital roles in their host communities. One such Wild Geese was Jon Riley.

John Riley travelled from his native Co. Galway in Ireland, to Canada and served in the US army. This offered the chance of adventure and a fight for freedom. However, when the US army started to arrange an invasion of Mexico, like Patrick Sarsfield before him, Jon Riley faced a stark choice.

Empathising with the Mexican struggle for freedom, he risked death by deserting the US army to stand with Mexico.

Riley was already an experienced private and he was welcomed into the Mexican army. He fought with a company of 48 Irishmen at the Siege of Fort Texas, where he manned artillery.

His skill and determination shone through on the battlefield, and the Mexican army soon saw his potential as a great leader. Riley formed the Battalon de San Patricio (which translated as ‘St Patrick’s Battalion’), made up of mostly Irish and German exiles. They first fought in the Battle of Monterrey as an artillery battery. Although the battle was ultimately lost, the battalion proved itself as an effective unit and would contribute to vital future battles. 

Toward the end of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), many in the Battalon de San Patricios were tried and executed. As Jon Riley had deserted the US army before it declared war on Mexico, he was not executed. Instead, he was imprisoned and branded with a ‘D’ on each cheek to symbolise his desertion.

However, Riley’s actions have been honoured in both Ireland and Mexico. Mexico produced a bronze statue commemorating the Battalon de San Patricio, which it gave to Ireland as a gift. This has been laced in Cliften, Co. Galway, the birthplace of Jon Riley.

The actions of The Wild Geese® have never been forgotten.

Hunter Gatherer: Clarissa Ward

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‘Oh, they know who I am – I’m on a blacklist,’ journalist Clarissa Ward says of the Syrian Government.

Resourceful and determined, Ward has already snuck into Syria 9 times (often without a phone) to report on the civil war.  Her famous segment on CBS News’ 60 Minutes proved that she is a force to be reckoned with. After being told by a rebel leader that his prisoners were well treated, she presented him with a video that showed them being executed, opening the worlds’ eyes to the brutality of the conflict.

Ward is well versed in not just the politics of these conflicted regions, but also the culture, always finding the humanity at the centre of the politics. She speaks arabic, Mandarin and Russian and is often the only American reporting from conflicted areas. As the only America at a Gaza press conference, she confronted the Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal, shouting to be heard, asking if he truly wanted to see peace with Israel.

She’s certainly earned herself a reputation. After the exchange, Meshaal’s aide came up to her and said ‘You’re a hunter!’, which Ward took as a huge compliment.

In 2012 she won a peabody Ward for her independent journalistic coverage inside Syria.

Courageous. Determined. Like The Wild Geese® , Clarissa Ward has adapted to her surroundings and continues to impact on them.

Men of Action: Clooney’s Satellites Puts Pressure on War Criminals

Photo by Ed Van-West vis Flickr Creative Commons
Photo by Ed Van-West vis Flickr Creative Commons

Leading man George Clooney has revealed he’s taking action to prevent crimes against humanity as part of his on-going commitment to Darfur.

Clooney helps to fund a satellite program that watches the troubled border of Sudan and South Sudan. The satellites spy on the atrocities carried out by the Sudanese government, whose leader Omar Al-Bashir has been found guilty of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.

Akshaya Kumar, who coordinates the Satellite Sentinel Project, is aware that the Sudanese government knows that they are being watched and explained that the project will ‘continue to inform the international community’.

Clooney explained that the project is successful, as attacks have decreased and rarely happen during the day. The next stage will be to introduce infra-red so the project can monitor behaviour during the night. He continued:

‘We want to keep an eye on some of the atrocities going on there because we want not just accountability, but to make it more difficult to act without ramification.’

‘It’s our job to try and shine a light on those places. If it helps at all, it is worth it.’

We salute the actor’s courage and innovative approach to helping those in need.

 

Men of Action: ‘Towering Giant of Humanity’ Honoured

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I rhyme
To see myself, to set the darkness echoing
Seamus Heaney 1939 – 2013

When Death of a Naturalist was published in 1966, the world knew it had just been exposed to one of the greatest writers of a generation. Since then, Seamus Heaney’s words have comforted, entertained, inspired; and tributes have been pouring in at news of the Nobel laureate’s death.

The greatness of Seamus Heaney is three fold: he was an exceptional poet and writer; a giant of human conscience; and a remarkable ambassador.

He’s being remembered as the ‘most important Irish poet since Yeats’ (fellow poet Robert Lowell).

Former US President Bill Clinton called him ‘one of the world’s favourite poets’ and thanked him for his ability to comfort through poetry which had been a ‘gift in difficult times’.

This isn’t surprising, as Heaney also worked with charitable organisations, including Amnesty International, where is was scheduled to speak next month. Patrick Corrigan, from Amnesty recognised the influence Heaney’s words had:

‘Through the beauty and elegance of his writing, Seamus Heaney reminded us of the bonds which unite and our duty to uphold the dignity of all. Ireland has lost a legendary man of letters. The world has lost a towering giant of humanity’

Heaney was renowned for acceptance of invitations to speak, using his voice to inspire and fuel change where it was needed. In 1995 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The following year he was made a Commandeur de L’Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French ministry of culture, another prime example of the Irish-Franco relationship started by The Wild Geese® in 1691.

Ireland’s Minister for the Arts, Jimmy Deenihan recognised this at an event at the Irish Embassy in Paris, where Heaney gave readings.

‘He was a huge figure internationally, a great ambassador for literature obviously, but also for Ireland’

Heaney was born on a small farm near Bellaghy in Co. Derry, Northern Ireland.

He is sure to be remembered for generations to come. His work has crossed every kind of border, just as The Wild Geese® did, and his amazing personality always shone through.

Men of Action: ‘Surreal’ Victory for Irish Gold Medalist

Robert_Heffernan_6377Rob Heffernan will be bringing gold home to Ireland after his ‘surreal’ victory at the World Athletics Championships this week.

Hefferman won the gold medal in the 50km racewalking event, which took him through the streets of Moscow, into the Luzhniki Stadium. This makes him the third Irish athlete to win gold at the World Championships.

The 35 year old has been dedicated to his sport since he was 14, and even though he trains twice a day, everyday championship medals have alluded him.

‘I knew I was motivated. People go on about medals, for the last 11 years I’ve been motivated and challenging for a medal. For some reason or other I hadn’t won one’

This culminated last year at the London Olympics when he came fourth – just missing out on an Olympic medal. But Heffernan is certainly a fighter, believing that ‘you have to take the bad and the good’.

‘I was prepared for everything coming into [the 2013 World Athletics Championship]. I stayed thoroughly motivated this year after London when a lot of people take their foot off the gas.

‘I was very conscious of training hard and i had to be more motivated, because there was less hype for the World Champs. I was prepared for that mentally’

Heffernan kept a steady pace throughout the race. Racewalking has very strict rules and athletes must always keep in contact with the ground. Their supporting leg must remain straight until the raised leg passes it, making it difficult to increase speed in the race. But Hefferman beat all other opponents to the finish line by over a minute, with a time of 3 hours 37 minutes 56 seconds.

‘It’s surreal,’ the gold medal winner explained, ‘it’s just a great feeling. When I came into the stadium it just felt like an out-of-body experience. It’s hard to take it all in at the moment. I’m delighted.’

His wife has been a constant source of support for Heffernan, telling him to ‘go for it’ just before the race:

‘The aim for this year was that he’d get a result here and the fact that he has come back and got the gold is just phenomenal’

Now Heffernan has his eyes set on the Olympics once again and is planning to go to Rio in 2016.

Men of Action: Gunshot Victim Turns Tragedy Around

It takes a special kind of person to turn tragedy around. A year ago Eugene Han was being treated for gunshot wounds and had to receive physiotherapy. Today he’s running and has recently got married.

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Eugene was on a date with Kristin Davis on July 20th 2012, at a midnight screening of the latest Batman film, when the couple were thrust into a fight or flight situation. This was the now infamous Aurora movie theatre in Colorado, USA, that was attacked by James Eagan Holmes.

When the gunfire started, Eugene heroically pulled Kristin to the ground, shielding her from the bullets.

‘Next thing I know,’ explained Kristin, ‘he’s pulling me out of my seat and telling me “Don’t move. Just stay still. Whatever you do don’t move”‘.

Eugene suffered two gunshots – one in the hip, the other in the knee – but when a chance to escape revealed itself, it was time to take flight. He helped Kristin and their friends to an exit, where they hid until the horror had subsided.

Next came the fight. Eugene was treated in hospital and received physiotherapy. Kristin believes his recovery proves that ‘bad things happen, but people can keep going’.

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For Eugene this fight gave him a fresh perspective of things and spurred him on to seize the day and look towards the future:

‘We were still dating and I was planning on proposing even before [the shooting] but I never had the chance. When the theatre shooting happened, that’s when I was like, I really need to do this because you don’t know what’s going to happen after tomorrow’

He proposed earlier this year and after some deliberation Eugene and Kristin decided on marrying on the anniversary of the shooting.

‘I was kind of uncomfortable about the idea because I didn’t think it was okay to take a bad day and turn it into a good day, so I had to really think about it,’ reasoned Kristin. But after contemplating what this date would mean a year from now, she recalled saying:

‘I think it would be a good date to have our wedding. That way we can make good memories and start a new chapter of our lives rather than allowing this memory from a year ago to stick with us every single year’

Eugene and Kristin married on the 20th July this year. At the ceremony they paused to remember all the victims of the shooting, honouring them on their special day.