Ireland in the Wider World Series 2016

In 2016 I carried out a series of interviews with people with a link to Ireland, who had worked in different ways, in different decades in different parts of the world and in different jobs!  Here you will find a flavour of these interesting conversations which also form an oral history of the Irish connection with the wider world!

Below you will find the following:

  • Maynooth Latin American Conference: July 29, 2016” interviews with Oisin McCongile, Robin Hannan, and Molly Duffy talk about Irish – Latin American links since the 1980s
  • Tadgh Crowley; early 2000s (worked in Zambia)
  • Dr. Jacqui O Riordan; Tanzania 1990s
  • Dr Marian O’Flynn: July 29, 2016 Brigadista in Nicaragua in the 1980s
  • Andy Pollak: July 29, 2016”, Irish activist and journalist in Latin American during 1970s.
  • Brendan Butler: July 29, 2016 regarding El Salvador Solidarity Group
  • Colm Ryder: August 12, 2016” who lived and worked in Yemen with CONCERN in 1970s and 80s
  • Noel Cosgrove: August 12, 2016” who  lived and worked in Tanzania in 1990s, now in Dublin 

Maynooth Latin American Conference: July 29, 2016” [Part of Irish in the Wider World series] 

Gertrude Cotter interviews Oisin McCongile, Robin Hannan, and Molly Duffy talk about Irish – Latin American links since the 1980s 

Summary: Gertrude prefaces the Latin American Conference in Maynooth 2016 by discussing her own personal interest in Latin American justice since her postgraduate degree. Chris O’Connell then talks about LASC, or the Latin American Solidarity Center, which he chairs; this organization was founded in 1996 in conjunction with Maynooth College to promote social justice campaigns and host cross-cultural conferences regarding South America, like Chile, Cuba, and Nicaragua. Andy Pollock on the conference panel discusses his activist background and family that later inspired him to stand in solidarity with Chilean refugees in the later 1900s who were placed in Shannon. He goes on to detail his journalistic work in Mexico and Latin America; he covered the El Salvadorian Civil War. In 1979, he witnessed Sandinistas’ overthrowing of the Nicaragua dictator, one the highlights of his activist career. Lastly, Brendan Butler details his experiences in El Salvador and standing against the brutal regime there by means of raising awareness and contacting governments, non-profit groups to intervene. The Irish Franciscan Brothers and Sisters, he claimed, were instrumental in raising awareness about the dire situations of poverty and authoritarian regimes in Latin America. An example of their advocacy and campaigns includes the “Ring Around Reagan” in the 1980s – to show the public the enthusiasm of solidarity. 

Crowley, Riordan: July 29, 2016 [Part of Irish in the Global World series] 

 Gertrude Cotter interviews: 

  • Tadgh Crowley; early 2000s (worked in Zambia) 
  • Dr. Jacqui O Riordan; Tanzania 1990s 


Summary: Tadgh studied international development in school and thus became interested in the related area of foreign volunteer service in Zambia for the NGO Via Soul. Tadgh worked in northern Zambia, helping to plan urban areas and building community infrastructure in localities. Tadgh says the northern province of Zambia he worked in was sparsely populated with poor infrastructure. His project was to travel to local and provincial councils and attempted to help, improve the way they did their jobs in the community (land-use planning). Tadgh says up to 75% of the population in Zambia lives in settlements. Dr. Jacqui O Riordan says her first degree at university and studies in global development peaked her interest in gender studies in Africa. She volunteered in Tanzania in 1994, worked in a suburb of the capital Dar Es Salaam with her family, and helped research women’s informal involvement in business, like making food on the side of the road. Dr. O Riordan documented the various experiences and support structures the women had in business and the “why” they wanted to be involved. 

(The last part of the program Dr. Marian O’Flynn speaks about her experiences as an activist in Nicaragua – summary in a separate program above) 

Dr Marian O’Flynn: July 29, 2016 [Part of Irish in the Global World series] 

 Gertrude Cotter interviews Dr Marian O’Flynn; now lives in Dublin, Brigadista in Nicaragua in the 1980s 


 Summary: Dr. Marian O’Flynn spent some time on a coffee brigade in Nicaragua after becoming inspired to care about development in college during a history course on revolutions in Latin America, specifically citing her “really enthusiastic” professor as a prime motivation. O’Flynn mentions her personal interest in “the underdog” from childhood and her civically-engaged mother as the roots of why she stood in solidarity with the coffee brigade. The coffee brigades in Nicaragua, starting in 1987, aimed to bring international attention to daily struggles of the “ordinary people” of Nicaragua. O’Flynn says many of the brigadiers stayed with Nicaraguan families, helping them to bring in the coffee harvest. Nicaragua of the 1990s, O’Flynn reports, was very poor—little running water, little modern development, and abject poverty were rampant. O’Flynn says her time in Nicaragua was a critical influence on her life-long love of social activism. 

Andy Pollak: July 29, 2016” [Part of Irish in the Global World series] 

 Gertrude Cotter interviews Andy Pollak; Irish activist and journalist in Latin American during 1970s. 

 Summary: Andy Pollak, who worked in Chile during the 1970s as an activist and journalist, speaks about his left-wing, activist family background which helped influence me to travel to Chile after the democratically-elected government coup in 1973. Pollak recounts his work with Father Joe O’Donohue and Patty Smith to protest the Chilean situation, picketing the offices of the FAI concerning the Republic of Ireland’s football match in Santiago where their was a post-coup detention center. Pollak says he was moved when he saw the Chilean refugees in Galway and their often-dismal situation. Later, in the 70s, Pollak became a BBC journalist in Mexico City and Belfast, covering revolutions and nationalist coups like in Nicaragua. Pollak says the conclusion to his time in Latin America is that governments must focus, like Catholic liberation theology, on the poor, first and foremost. 

Brendan Butler: July 29, 2016” [Part of Irish in the Global World series] 

 Gertrude Cotter interviews Brendan Butler, El Salvador Solidarity Group 

Summary: Brendan Butler, drawn to Latin America activism because of his Franciscan brother-in-law based in El Salvador, recounts mounting El Salvadoran government repression in the 1970s. Butler and several Franciscans as well as groups like Trocaire in Ireland formed an El Salvador solidarity group to keep political pressure on Irish and European governments to keep a watch on the Central American nation. Butler and others in his solidarity group raised the alarm particularly after the 1980 government killings and found cross-party support because of the Franciscans and Sisters of St. Claire’s affirmation (especially to Communist-concerned America) that the root cause of the conflict is poverty and unequal land distribution. Butler says that after Latin American Archbishop Romero was killed in the 1980s, a “rightful insurrection of the people” was led by the FMLM. In 1990, thought there was a peace agreement in El Salvador, the power still remained with the original elite families and gangs. 

Colm Ryder: August 12, 2016” [Part of Irish in the Global World series] 

Gertrude Cotter interviews Colm Ryder; lived and worked in Yemen with CONCERN in 1970s and 80s 

Summary: Colm Ryder, who worked with the Irish development agency CONCERN in 1970s and 80s, first talks about the incidents of terrorism in Yemen as well as the situation with radicalized individuals worldwide. Ryder says Yemen was in a hard place economically after the government sided with Iraq in the Gulf War and that the wars going on in the Middle East have affected the growing population in Yemen’s comparatively small arable land and resources. Ryder, a civil engineer by trade, attributes his work in Yemen to his desire to be a “do-gooder” and helped the Confederation of Yemen Development Associations plan and construct roads for localities. Ryder then goes on to detail the underdeveloped economic status of Yemeni modern history as well as having a “language issue” because he did not speak Arabic dialect and a lack of adequate translators. Ryder says he and others would “spend days” exploring and photographing land to plan and construct roads between localities. 

Noel Cosgrove: August 12, 2016” [Part of Irish in the Global World series] 

Gertrude Cotter interviews Noel Cosgrove; lived and worked in Tanzania in 1990s, now in Dublin 

Summary: Noel Cosgrove, speaking as a participant of the Irish in the Global World series, details his experiences of wanting to work overseas—for the social good—after becoming an adult and says going to Tanzania to help build a secondary school a “vocation” inspired by his Catholic familial influences. Cosgrove says “Tanzania [was] not your typical colony”, with Tanzania being very underdeveloped and experimented with socialism in its early post-colonial days in the 90s. Cosgrove calls Tanzania, at that time, “rural”, “agricultural”, and “water came from holes in the ground”. As such, with no welfare state, Cosgrove accounts the day-to-day survival mode of many who lived there at that time and the “rush” toward capitalism after the fall of socialism and the “huge corruption” in the country, as with the police. Cosgrove then goes on to describe the global refugee crisis, particularly in south-central Africa like those who fled Rwanda and Burundi.