Let’s say it’s 5:30 p.m. on a hot, lazy Monday afternoon in a cool corner of Langan’s pub, on West 47th Street in Manhattan. We cozy up to a pint of Guinness and from under our arm pull out the papers we’ve been toting, our links to the auld sod, where the news is not of universal health care and auto industry bailouts, but of things closer to the Gaelic heart and the fiery Irish temper.
The Irish Examiner, “America’s Leading Irish Newspaper,” describes government plans to alter the hooligan laws. At last! Among the proposals: a hefty fine for singing “hateful songs” or invading a pitch. Thoughtfully, the plan would apply to soccer, rugby and GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) stadiums the length and breadth of the republic.
Scattered here and there among the news items are the columnists—and there’s nothing like an Irish columnist for strong opinion or sweet sentimentality. One anonymous writer recalls dining years ago with the late author Frank McCourt and offering his sympathies because of Frank’s supposed concern that his daughter was (gasp!) a Dead Head. Elsewhere, Charley Brady unloads on Bono for digging up the turf at Ireland’s Croke Park stadium, to be replaced by “specially imported grass” from Scunthorpe, England, for the U2 concert planned there.
“As for you, Bono,” writes Brady, “while you have 200 vans a day taking out the turf and spending a fortune to bolster your image just because you’re an elevator-shoe-wearing little egomaniac who looks as if he just escaped from Oompa-Loompa Land…” Well, you get the idea. Even the adverts are full of character. There are the ones for pubs (The Galway Hooker, Rosie O’Grady’s, Eamonn’s, P.J. Moran’s), ones for Irish-American lawyers, ones congratulating Garret Doyle, The Irish Examiner’s Man of the Year 2009, and ads for real estate in those Irish-friendly neighborhoods of Yonkers and Woodside, Queens.
And just as we come to the end of our paper, a fresh Guinness arrives to accompany the unraveling of our much-folded copy of Home & Away. As a literary creation, it runs second to the Examiner, but it has features you won’t find anywhere else: Irish Sudoku, Top 20 Singles From Across the Pond, Top News Stories From Ireland (“Killarney Brothers Convicted of Manslaughter”), and the Celtic Corner Irish sports wrap-up. Just as in the Examiner, ads are weighted toward pubs (the Cuckoo’s Nest in Woodside, Kelly Ryan’s in the Bronx, the Mean Fiddler in Midtown) and attorneys. A theme seems to emerge, but we're reluctant to make any connections.
My own kinship with Ireland is tenuous (a bit on me Ma’s side), but I’ve come to love it from my travels there and the many books I’ve read. Irish-American newspapers, for me, are an entertainment. But for others who have crossed the sea to get here, newspapers with news from home are an emotional lifeline. And it’s not just the Irish. Los Angeles’s Vien Dong Daily News has news for the local Vietnamese community. The Portuguese Times keeps the Portuguese-Americans of New Bedford, Massachusetts, in the loop. Homesick Russians in St. Paul keep up-to-date by reading Nash Dom Minnesota, and on and on.
But on this particular afternoon, in this particular Irish pub, we want news of Eire. And sure enough isn’t that a copy of the Irish Echo, "The USA's Most Widely Read Irish-American Newspaper," that someone has kindly left behind on their barstool? We retrieve it and scan the headlines. It appears there are protests about former president Mary Robinson getting an award from the White House. In sports, Kerry has demolished the Dubs in the All Ireland football quarter finals. And the business news is enough to make you weep. “Irish Economy Continues To Slip,” says the headline. And it’s true that the Celtic Tiger appears to have been tamed, at least temporarily, by the worldwide economic downturn.
We turn the page and order another Guinness. So we have something to cry into.
Mark Orwoll is the international editor at Travel + Leisure.