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“The Word in Flames” confirms Dave Lordan’s stature as the most original, incendiary and impassioned voice writing in Ireland today. The combined lyricism and potency of his writing confronts the reader, forcing us, as all great writers do, to see the things we are unwilling or forbidden to know.
Dr. Sinéad Kennedy Department of English, Maynooth University & Secretary, Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment (pc)
Irish writing has not seen prose as brilliant as this since the Enlightenment. With the clarity of Orwell and an indignation reminiscent of Swift, Dave Lordan identifies the tensions and responsibilities that crystallise within great art, whenever artists are brave enough to allow them to do so.
Dr Deaglán Ó Donghaile. Author of Blasted Literature: Victorian Political Fiction and the Shock of Modernism. Senior Lecturer in English Literature Liverpool John Moores University
If you like polemic to be scalding, defiant, revolutionary and erotic, then you’ll relish this book. By turn erudite, poetic, auto-biographical and scholarly (often all of these at once), this is an important anthology of essays by Ireland’s only literary prophet. Beware, it will make you a disciple.
Conor Kostick, Author of Revolution in Ireland (Cork University Press,) 2009
“Every once in a while an organic intellectual pushes through, by sheer strength of will and intellectual capability, the dense network of disciplinary and punitive systems that are designed to control the working class. Such a person is rare in Ireland, because public life works to hedge around and make precarious the voice of the outsider who has not been to the right school or played the right games. Dave Lordan is one such voice.”
William Wall, Author of This is The Country.
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A good few people have been asking me about the direct provision system in Ireland over the last while and I was kind of shamed myself to realise that lots of people don’t really know what it is. As part of my attempt to not be stuck in an echo chamber talking only to people who are already engaged I thought I’d write up a small basic explanation of what it actually entails – I am no human rights lawyer so I am only doing my best to explain it simply and in a way that some people might find useful. Please feel free to share or correct or jump in.
Every country in the UN is obliged to allow people to seek protection from persecution they face in another country. We all have this right, its from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 14.1 Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution. ‘Persecution’ means that the person is in danger and this can be for any number of reasons, war, political or religious beliefs or activities trade union activity, famine, ethnic cleansing, sexuality and lots of other reasons.
Direct provision is the method by which Ireland responds to its obligation under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to allow people to ask the state to give them asylum. It was started in the year 2000 as a temporary measure because there were an increase in applications for asylum around then. Before reading the next piece I must tell you that at the moment in Ireland there are people who have lived for up to 11 years in direct provision. I also heard from a teacher in Galway of a child in her class who has lived ten years of her life in direct provision so far.
Basically it means that the needs of asylum seekers are to be provided directly to them rather than allowing them the means or opportunities to do that themselves. Direct provision centres are like big hostels where people live while waiting for a decision on whether their request to be allowed to have asylum in Ireland will be granted. If the asylum seeker is decided to be genuinely fleeing persecution then they must be granted ‘refugee status’ which means they get to live here in Ireland with the same rights and entitlements that citizens have. Ireland has one of the lower rates in the EU (we are 21st out of 30 countries) for granting refugee status to people (3% of applications).
But back to direct provision- the people who live in direct provision live for the most part in dorm type 4 bed rooms which they share with strangers, family groupings often get a room to themselves, usually with parents sharing with their children. Whilst living in these centres people must eat canteen style food at certain fixed hours every day and they are not except in a few exceptional places allowed any cooking facilities of their own. Asylum seekers may not be away from the centres for extended periods of time without seeking the permission of staff and they are often required to sign in daily so as not to forfeit their place.
During their time in DP as it’s known the adult asylum seekers receive a ‘comfort payment’ of €19.10 per week and for each child they receive about €14 (this was increased by about €5.00 recently which is why I am not sure of the figure) The adult amount has not increased since direct provision started. Although asylum seekers are given medical cards they receive no other payments and are prohibited from seeking employment of any kind while their cases are being heard so unless they have independent means they are maintained in poverty.
The lack of money, or permission to work and the isolated locations of many centres mean that many asylum seekers despite living in Ireland are not in any real way able to be part of the communities and places that they live. In my own experience many asylum seekers manage to circumvent all these difficulties and restrictions by making huge efforts to volunteer or join religious or sporting communities but it is very difficult for them.
Depression and poor mental health as well as post-traumatic stress from the situations they have fled from are prevalent in the centres often making life worrisome and dangerous for young children who especially should not be living in such situations.
Children’s allowance which is supposedly available without discrimination to every child in the state cannot be claimed by asylum seekers. Children from direct provision centres go to school like any other child here although this too is very difficult for many as simple things like having their friends home to play or going to birthday parties are made really difficult by the lack of private space and funds. Also when they finish school as many of them already have they have no access to Irish Universities unless they can pay the overseas student fees which can be up to €15,000 per year – an impossibility if they live on €19.10 per week and they may not enter the workforce either meaning that they leave school and have no opportunities available. *Thanks to Annie Asgard for the reminder: This year a scheme was launched to allow certain people in the protection system(asylum seekers) to apply for grants to attend university however while welcome the conditions attached rule out almost everyone as people must have been 5 years in direct provision and 5 years in the irish school system and not be subject to a deportation order – which rules out all but a tiny number.
People living in the DP system usually have no idea how long their cases are going to take and so they exist in a limbo of enforced poverty, idleness and isolation. Very often their skills are going out of date. They are forced into a position where they have been strategically and structurally dis-empowered. They often endure this for years without hearing any news on their cases. The decisions eventually made are often apparently arbitrary and seemingly senseless. If they come to a stage where they are finally denied asylum here they face a deportation order – this means that the Gardai or immigration officials can come for them at any time and forcibly deport them from the state.
Deportation as you can probably imagine is a terrifying prospect. I remember when I worked for Amnesty International in Galway city one of our occasional volunteers ( a cheerful and outgoing young man who could do almost anything from computer programming to building shelves) came to us in absolute and total terror because he had received a letter saying he was being deported- he was certain he would be killed if he was returned home and I have never seem or heard from him again. In international human rights law it is supposed to be illegal and a breach of the Convention relating to the status of Refugees to return a person to a state where they may be in danger. Ireland has behaved haphazardly in this regard with at least one deported asylum seeker being killed almost immediately
One hugely important thing to say about Direct Provision is that many of the centres in Ireland are run by private business owners who profit hugely from the lucrative state contracts. Companies such as Aramark and Bridgestock and East Coast Catering are also contracted to run the state owned companies. The company that runs Mosney Direct provision centre in Meath declared 5.6 million profits before it offshored itself and didn’t have to publish them anymore. More info on that here
One last thing to say is that currently in the Globe House Direct Provision Centre there is an Iranian man Amjad Rosstami on hunger strike so far for 34 days because he has been issued with a deportation order to send him back to Iran. He fears so much what will happen to him on his return that he has been reported as saying that he would rather die here than be sent back. His situation is desperate and his health is declining and this system is being run by our governments with our taxes and we need to do our very very best to end it.
after Dennis O’Driscoll
That this cannot be avoided by everyone wearing protective glasses.
That the contents of their half-full cups are about to evaporate.
That the University will remain closed until further notice.
That Kim Kardashian’s arse has been abolished.
That the idea of tomorrow is suddenly quaint as a dinner plate made in West Germany.
That the price of house insurance just went up ten thousand per cent.
That the lack of reception on their mobile phones isn’t because they’re going through a tunnel.
That even the hairstyle of the Fox News anchor woman is no longer perfect.
That Adolf is now the second most hated politician in history.
That the station at which this train terminates no longer exists.
That the priest who’ll give them last rites is just a guy in an outfit
his brother recently wore to a fancy dress.
That God is a skeleton who knows everything and will one day talk.
KEVIN HIGGINS is The Bogman’s Cannon satirist-in-residence.
Edition 2 of the Pirate Show will feature Voices From Standing Rock, The Blackfoot Confederacy, Zona Marginal, Lillian Allen, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Benjamin Zephaniah, Olive Groove , King Mob, Andrea Gibson, Pyschic TV, David ‘the rabbi’ Lawrence, Thomas McCarthy, Christy Hennessy, Johnny Darko, The 5th Dimension, Jinx Lennon….Hip-Hop, pow-wow, Dub, Spoken Word, Acappella, Folk, Soul, Hybrid, Cult….broadcast on Dublin Digital Radio Sat Nov 5th at 4pm & Clonline Radio on Sat Nov 12th at 8pm. Show will also be uploaded to Dublin Digital Radio’s mixcloud.
after Carolyn Forché
Beamed into one’s living room via satellite,
or framed in syndicated photographs
on the quality papers’ foreign pages, even
their black or missing front teeth
have a strange beauty.
The shanty town dwellers of La Paz,
in their hand woven red and green ponchos,
carry themselves in a fashion
which puts to shame the post office queue
scraggy mother of two, with change
in her slovenly wallet for lottery tickets,
but not shampoo.
Nothing against the locals.
But even the skeletal colosseum cats have a grace
which the one I ran over on my way
to this morning’s Amnesty
International meeting absolutely lacked.
The ongoing pain of the Yazidi women
and the entire Choctaw nation (every generation)
is best struggled with over a fair trade salad
in one of the more radical tea shops
on Sandymount Strand.
In comparison, one admits,
our local Others – with their dole
day drunkenness, and lack of imagination
which has seen them prosaically wander the roads
these past thousand years – just
don’t cut the whole grain mustard.
When they start mouthing Civil Rights
and municipal water cannon or
police batons get over enthusiastic
on their irresponsibly positioned skulls,
people like me will feel forced to pass by
on the other side, checking our messages
for pictures of unfamiliars being
(poem commissioned in 2009 by Irish left Review to honour our then Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who has just released his official autobiography. This is the unofficial biography.)
Nearly all politicians are
dummies and mimics,
as are most junkies and drunks,
Just as in nature
victims & predators
learn off their roles
by long-settled rote
Dissent is a kind of seeing deformity
that shows a way out.
This much I’m used to and sure of.
Last night I strolled
the Liffeyside boardwalk
being reminded, as usual,
by every new scene of cackling debauch,
of the clear-sighted canvas upheld
to the hellish medieval grotesque,
(That triptych of self-mutiliation,
passed-on oppression, interior rot.)
by artists like Brueghel and Bosch.
I wasn’t all that affected
by the scores of drunk addicts,
some of them children,
reciprocally miming sewer-pipe mouths,
canine grimaces, anteater snouts.
Nor was I more than expectedly saddened
that each had the same
or similiar names and nicknames,
Ryan, Bonzer and Jayzee
and that each had these same or similar
names and nicknames
of dead infants
and partners and friends
scribbled in prisoner’s ink
among epidemical scabs and scars
torn out of their Hep-yellow flesh
by needles and blades
on their bellies and forearms.
I didn’t find it occasion
for chuck-up or freak-out to watch,
wriggling from all of their noses,
those short, pale, corpulent worms
that lead a suspended, blissful existence
at the bottom of bottles
of tequila and absinthe.
The thought that last night surprised me
round here the brown river
muddies the sky
and carries it off
and the sun only rises
out of corporate towers
so it’s joining the dots
and stating the obvious
to say that these terminal addicts
who rot on the boardwalk
like the trays of unsellable fruit
in the tips around Smithfield
are the bottom familiars
of the contagious filth
at the top.
Last night on the boardwalk
I watched one drunkjunky pimp
pretending to be Taoiseach.
He was your absolute image
sketching you out completely
on the very edge of the Liffey,
ten yards from O Connell Bridge
on Batchelor’s Quay.
This drug-addled lunatic
mimed so precisely
the unsteady condition
that everyone’s heard
you ever so occasionally
might get yourself into
at, to take only one out of many,
a sinister off-record networking soiree,
ending-up like Amy Winehouse’s birthday
at four in the morning
in your showbander bedroom
trying to satisfy the unsatisfiable
with the remains
of a very rare steak
carried away from the banquet
beneath your wine-spattered shirt.
Well, after only two minutes
in charge of the totterer’s nation,
faith swooped in like a wrecking ball
to crush this parroting citizen
(just as the gigantic wrecking ball of time
will be slamming down sooner or later
upon the culture of apartment blocks
and shopping centres)
and the poor demented animal crumbled
into the tarflow of the nightriver
and then straightaway another one-
there is always straightaway another one,
the aping of sovereigns unstoppable here-
struggled heroically paralytically out
from under a soiled duvet
and had a go at doing you when,
four or five hours later,
you’re stranded like your own amnesiac ghost
in the plasmic aftermath
of a blackout
naked and quaking
like the smartphone’s on vibrate
and you’ve downed it like a toad,
trying to whip into line
the chaotic neuronal gloop
a-whirl in your brain
and rev-up that unreliable throat
(praying then that the rest of you will follow)
by shouting half-recollected
ancient gaelic oaths
into a cloud of steam
in the bathroom mirror
another day’s scrip
for the war on the people.
Watch out though, look!
I bet you the Easter Rising
and raise you two-thirds of the future
that it’s your hobo doppelganger
forming up in the optical mist
in that mirror.
You simply do not know
in your twisted, tormented condition
if or how, going forward
-rather than your natural
sideways or backwards-
you’re going to get it together
til the one or two little sips
your handlers allow
to settle you through
or how you’ll keep a straight face
through another ten-thousand
delirious, farcical minutes
of counted-down lies
that you are going to spend,
whether you like it or not,
in the grip of an irrational
and eventually overwhelming
goo to get totally out-of-it
like the rest of the chronics
on the Liffeyside boardwalk
whom you poisonously envy
while signing orders to persecute.
Whenever you hear
the disposable gods
of interchangeable talk-shows
blunderbussing on the airwaves
for a round-up of the scumbags
your blood cells,
like a choir of slaves in a galley-boat,
cry out in instinctual sympathy
for a fix or a shot
and while your fellow shades
upon the boardwalk
like the flies
and, in your imitation,
suppering on the national scapegoats
sure you’ll struggle on
towards your cosseted downfall
but all along you’ll be nowt
but a mime and a dummy
strung out and doomed
and vainly attempting
to clear the unclearable gravels and tars
that are clogging and sliming
in the sewer of your throat
in the wasted highways of your mind
in the empty estates of your soul
in the incinerated rubbish of your heart
and pretending, always pretending
always always pretending
because there never ever was
and there never ever could be
anymore than pretending
in this pastiche of a lush we call taoiseach.
Ode To Minister for State Security Frances Fitzgerald
for Maurice McCabe & John Wilson
You like being photographed
with men in uniform
who all work for you. The law
is what you think appropriate
any particular day.
You’re the Traffic Cops.
You’re the latest report from Army Intelligence.
You’re everything the Special Branch
choose to tell you about
your enemies. In your brief case: things
about them even God’s forgotten.
You see their smiley faces
but hear tell of their
via a joke told you
on the fringes of a classified
national security briefing.
You’re the glorious portrait
of yourself that, for now, hangs
above the Garda Commissioner’s
thick brown desk.
You don’t suffer fools except
the journalist who, in mitigation – it must be said –
was too hammered last night to make bad
the promises he threw the Polish barmaid’s way,
as she assisted to the exit
his absolute confidence
in what you’re trying to do
with the new broom
you inherited from the previous guy
Things remain whatever you prefer to call them,
given every legally held
Uzi submachine gun
in the state is technically
answerable to you.
KEVIN HIGGINS is The Bogmans Cannon satirist-in-residence
Spoken word is all about having a voice. At Lingo, we believe there is something brave about being this kind of poet –an artist alone, in front of a crowd, offering their contribution from the contents of their memory. There is no lectern, notes, or marked pages. It is a bare communion between artist and audience.
Spoken word is a constantly evolving thing in Ireland. With that evolution comes an evergrowing community. From warehouses lit by candles to bars to basements to slick official openings to rallies to poets shouting their piece knee-deep in festival mud – the options are always changing, renewing, and offering new opportunities for words to rise.
Lingo – created by members of that community – seeks to lift up and honour those voices, that current of energy that keeps this art form thriving in Ireland. We talk about spoken word as a new trend here, but there’s nothing new about it. Spoken word is the poetic form at its earliest, and it continues to exist outside the realm of the salon or the library. When football fans chant at matches, they chant in rhyme. When people offer consolation, congratulation, or wisdom, they recite. We turn poems into songs and carry them in us as part of a national identity.
Spoken word is all about having a voice. This year we decided to ask: What are we using it for? We wanted to look more closely at what voice can mean for the world more broadly. How can art – specifically, this kind of art– be used for transformation? When campaigners shout in protests, they shout in rhyme. We wanted to explore what role spoken word has to play. How can we amplify voices calling for change? What should they say? YOUR VOICE!
What Lingo hopes to offer you is a chance to experience the brilliance of Irish spoken word, and that you’ll come away inspired. We are featuring spoken word artists from around the world –luminaries from the United States, United Kingdom, beyond, alongside some of the most talented Irish spoken word poets breathing air. From American legend Sage Francis to Palestinian star Rafeef Ziadah, to Blind Boy and Panti Bliss, to Sarah Clancy, our Poet Laureate, to All-Ireland Poetry Slam Champions, from hip-hop to charity events to workshops to youth programmes and world premieres of new work: we have something for everyone. We’ve collaborated with some of the leading event creators around Ireland to curate new formats for poetry over the course of the festival.
Over and over throughout the weekend, we will be exploring how art can be used to affect change. The talent of artists in Ireland continues to be an enduring national resource.
The Lingo Team