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Book review: Island of Shame

BOOK OF THE DAY in the Irish Times: Island of Shame: The Secret History of the US Military Base on Diego Garcia by David Vine Princeton University Press 259pp; £20.95 ‘YOUR ISLAND has been sold,” Rita was told. “You will never go there again.” As author and anthropologist David Vine records, “Rita felt like she’d… read more +

Review: ‘The Challenge for Africa’

In 1960, a young Kenyan woman named Mary Jo arrived in the United States. She was one of about 300 students in the ‘Kennedy Airlift’ scholarship programme, and amongst her peers was a young man named Barack Hussein Obama. In 2004, the year that Obama’s son gave the keynote speech at the Democratic Convention in… read more +

Reporting on refugee issues

Speech given at the launch of a new guide for journalists on reporting on refugee issues. I came into journalism relatively late. In early 2000, I found myself in Angola in Southern Africa, as an aid worker with an Irish NGO, where the main focus of our work was the people displaced by the Angolan… read more +

The Dublin Review of Books: on ‘Africa’

I’ve just had this essay published in the Dublin Review of Books: Not so dark. Africa without clichés. A review of ‘Africa’, by Richard Dowden ‘Here is Dowden’s description of Angola at the height of the civil war, in the 1980s: “a marxist regime armed by the Soviet Union and protected by Cuban troops is… read more +

World Report: tragedy off the Libyan coast

Listen to a World Report on the phenomenon of migrants drowning in the Mediterranean, broadcast on April 4, 2009. Below is the original text of the report. — Smile flashed me this week. Let me clarify that. ‘Flash’ is African mobile phone slang for giving someone a missed call – letting them know you want… read more +

From Angola to Athlone: a royal tale

The official in Westmeath County Council was bemused by the name on the voter registration application. Something had to be wrong. She picked up the phone. In Athlone, Beetriz Bailundo answered. “You’ve ticked the box that says you’re Irish,” said the official. “I am Irish,” said Beetriz. The official paused. “I’m an Irish citizen,” said… read more +

Aid that works, and aid that doesn’t

The first thing that you notice when you step into a feeding centre in Africa is the stench. It is the smell of the effort to clutch onto life, fetid, desperate. It is difficult to conceive of anyone being able to put up with it for long. But, when you work in such a centre,… read more +

Interview: Steve Collins on famine relief

Steve Collins, doctor and aid worker, director of Valid International and Valid Nutrition. As told to Colin Murphy. Published in the Irish Independent. I went to Africa in the summer of 1985, on my holidays from medical school. I travelled through Uganda (where there was a coup), Congo on a bicycle, Chad (where a civil… read more +

Election night, November 4, Harlem

“Everybody here that voted for John McCain, raise your hand!” said Michael Hardy into the microphone. Nobody raised their hand. On 145th Street in Upper Harlem, the crowd in the meeting room of the House of Justice (motto: “No Justice, No Peace”) was feeling good. “It certainly looks like there’s gonna be a new day… read more +

What is the What

Originally published in the Irish Times. Posted here again now due to Valentino Achak’s Deng’s visit to Dublin. One night in the summer of 2001, I stood in a field, in thick mud, holding a clipboard and a torch. The torch showed up a row of primitive huts, and I moved from hut to hut,… read more +