MScPR Rolling Offers…

Rolling offers…
Applications for DCU’s MSc in Public Relations & Strategic Communications will now be considered on a monthly rolling basis, i.e. applications made in one calendar month will be considered, interviewed and offered / declined the following month until the available places have been taken.
Applications (for Sept 2017) made by the end of February will be considered, interviewed and offered / declined by 31st March 2017.
Information about the programme is available here:

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Barry’s Tea Radio Adv

Greatest Irish Christmas advertisement?

Is “Christmas Train Set” – or “the Barry’s Tea Christmas radio ad” – written by the late Catherine Donnelly and voiced by the late Peter Caffrey the greatest Irish Christmas advertisement? Believe it, or not, it is enjoying it’s 21st Christmas this year.


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Visit a University!

This time of the year sees third level colleges inviting people to visit their campuses to learn about the opportunities that lie within. No matter what your interest, age or experience, there is something for you on one of the many colleges across the country.dcu entrance

My own university, DCU, is holding Open Days this Friday and Saturday, 20th and 21st November.
Come along to meet staff and students, tour the campus and discover the many courses we have on offer – with a range of entry methods for school leavers, mature students and all points between!

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Easter Sunday Marian Finucane Show

I’m part of the panel on Easter Sunday’s Marian Finucane Show on RTE Radio 1 (11am – 1pm). I will be joined by fellow panelists Lynn Ruane (TCD Students Union President), John RTE Radio 1Downing (Irish Independent Political Correspondent), Niamh Lyons (Political Journalist), Ken Murphy (DG Law Society). Topics might include education, Dunnes Stores strike, housing / mortgages and young people’s mental health.

Any other thoughts?

What else is in the news this weekend?

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The Scenic Route

Scenic_Route_plate_blue_500pxAs third level students settle into university life, there are those who will have not achieved a place on their chosen course. This will have been a disappointing and frustrating time for them. Their plans seem to have been derailed. Their chosen careers may now seem out-of-reach. Many will have had to watch their friends go to college as their lives seem to be going exactly to plan.

While such disappointment is understandable, these young people shouldn’t despair too much at this pothole in the road.

Firstly, there are now many ways through which one can get a third level education. Universities have multiple entry routes. If someone didn’t gain entry on foot of their Leaving Certificate results, then they could pursue a similar course at a slightly lower level at another institution, allowing them to get a place on their first-choice course later using their success in that subject area.

Secondly, career paths are now far more diverse and less predictable than had been the case in Ireland in the past. New careers and professions are forming on the basis of niches, specialisms and on the crossover of two or more subject areas. There may be another course or programme that, albeit in a different discipline, will ultimately educate you for the role you have in mind.

Thirdly, working in your chosen field now may provide an excellent basis on which to apply to university as a mature student (23 years old). University experience is dramatically different – and so much more worthwhile – for those who have not come directly from secondary education. As a teacher, it is always such a pleasure to encounter the enthusiasm of mature students. It is gratifying to watch them seamlessly join their life experience to the knowledge and learning of university life.

So, while not getting your preferred course may seem awful just now, there are other opportunities. Having taken the scenic route, your eventual arrival at your chosen career will be greatly enhanced by that experience.

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My Seamus Heaney Encounter

On the occasion of the first anniversary of the death of Seamus Heaney…

Seamus Heaney RIP

The following is the text of welcome remarks I made at a Rotary Conference in Dublin in September 2005:

“In preparation for the conference we considered all sorts of ways in which we might present a real sense of Dublin to you all. Some of the suggestions were very dramatic indeed, but still didn’t get across the essence of the city today.

Then, last Friday evening, I was returning from a club visit and, as I made my way home through Connolly Station, I found myself at the back of a group of people who were rushing for their train. I noticed a white-haired man striding purposefully alongside me, very much at his own pace, taking in the world about him. I glanced to my right and thought I recognised him. When we reached the platform, I realised that I had been staring at the man. He nodded to me and offered a broad smile. I asked him gingerly: “It is Seamus Heaney, isn’t it?” – to which he replied, in that wonderfully rich Derry accent, “It is”. I apologised for staring, and suggested that he must get that all the time from strangers. His smile grew larger as he threw back his head and told me not to worry about it and we went our separate ways.

For our visitors, Seamus Heaney is effectively Ireland’s Poet Laureate, having won the Nobel Prize for literature in the mid-nineties. That encounter last week encapsulated for me what Dublin is all about – that, despite the success of the Celtic Tiger, and amidst the hurly-burly of a capital city on a Friday evening, a poet can still contemplate life at his own pace and share a smile with a stranger.

Fáilte go Baile Átha Cliath. Welcome to Dublin.”

Seamus Heaney inscription


I was thrilled to receive, courtesy of my sister Ann,
a copy of Heaney’s “District and Circle”
with the following inscription:

“To Martin –

you should have stopped me in the station that day –

Seamus Heaney,

Christmas 2008”

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Taoiseach – all in the eye of the beholder?

Taoiseach Enda KennyEnda Kenny has become Taoiseach. Election results and recent polls suggest that the vast majority of Irish citizens regard him as being more than up to the task. His handling of the first set of Leader’s Questions has received generally positive media coverage.

This is in sharp contrast to earlier perceptions of Enda Kenny as being unsuitable, including, as late as December 2010*, when a third of Fine Gael voters expressed a preference for Eamon Gilmore as Taoiseach. Only six months previously, nine members of the Fine Gael front bench didn’t have confidence in him to lead the party into the General Election. The generally held belief, by most media commentators, that Kenny was a “lame duck” leader was accentuated in Vincent Browne’s ill-advised suggestion involving a darkened room, a bottle of whiskey and a revolver.

Enda was accused, by those supporting Richard Bruton, that he didn’t “connect” with the electorate; that he was a poor media performer; that he wasn’t good on policy detail. Kenny’s political obituary has been written and re-written many times in recent years. Commentators have, more recently, damned him with faint praise as being “more Chairman, than Chief”.

Not only have the reports of Enda’s demise been greatly exaggerated, but it would appear that despite the misgivings of many, the public have already warmed to the notion, now reality, of Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Perhaps Enda has changed beyond recognition since he was written off as Taoiseach material, or perhaps the perception of Taoisigh is in the eye of the beholder?

*Red C poll 13-15 Dec 2010

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Irish Budget – A one-armed bandit?

Image of a slot machineWhile previous Irish budgets have been portrayed as one-armed-bandits, this budget may be far closer to that analogy than we would ever have imagined.
The role of independent Dáil Deputies would appear to be crucial in determining the final numbers for the vote on the budget and the subsequent Finance Bill. However, as has been the practice, independent deputies appear to be bargaining on behalf of their constituencies, regardless of clichéd “national interest”. Although Michael Lowry insists that his support is not dependent on Government support for the Tipperary Venue, including a revision of gambling legislation, news reports suggest that the report on gambling legislation is being fast-tracked through Cabinet. This is presumably so that any new Government will have the published report in their In-boxes.
Michael Lowry, like Jackie Healy-Rae, Finian McGrath and other independent Deputies, answer directly to their local constituents, but too often put local issues above the priority of national issues. A cursory examination of the distribution of the ill-fated decentralisation of Government departments demonstrates the local clientelism with which those departments were relocated. Similarly, the favouritism shown to parts of Kerry for sports and tourism grants during the Arts, Sport & Tourism Ministerial supervision of John O’Donohue
The Dail is a national parliament. We need a system which prioritises the national interest for all the members of that parliament. Until that happens, we have situations such as will happen tomorrow: the decision on the adoption of a national budget may ultimately depend on the whim of the proprietor of a one-armed-bandit emporium.

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Bill Clinton’s horrible word…

Former US President Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton demonstrated his communication prowess once again during his visit to Dublin last week. The 42nd president of the United States told it as it is and used direct language to connect with his audience when referring to Ireland’s financial difficulties: “It’s a horrible time now but you will get out of it. It will get better as long as you hang together”
Contrast this language with that of those elected to lead the Irish public: euphemistic, evasive and filled with financial and economic jargon. Calling a spade a spade, or a horrible time exactly that, is the kind of political communication desperately needed in Ireland today.
Having let his audience know that he understands how they feel, Clinton continued by offering hope: “All the talents, all the abilities, all the incentives. They are still there. I have really no doubt that the country will come back and that you’ll come back with a more diversified economy, less vulnerable to what just happened to you. As long as everybody keeps moving ahead.” Sadly, this sort of inspiration is thin on the ground in Ireland today.
Perhaps the greatest lesson that Irish politicians can take from Clinton’s visit is that you don’t have to avoid telling the bad news while still bringing your audience with you. “Take the bitter medicine you have to take,” he advised, before reminding people of the strengths of today’s environment: “This is not the drab horrible story that drove thousands of emigrants to the shores of the United States almost two hundred years ago.”
Clinton again demonstrated his ease in his use of the vernacular during his Business & Finance speech when he advised that “We just have to get our mojo back”, not only using a conversational tone and language, but invoking “we”, as in we are in this together and we will get through it. Also consider the use of “we” rather than the impersonal “the Irish people”, “the electorate” with which we are familiar from our Irish politicians.
Horrible, just horrible.

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Coveney’s lucky strike

In the midst of the trials and tribulations of Taoiseach Brian Cowen and his lack-lustre performance on Morning Ireland, the role of Simon Coveney in focussing the media spotlight on the issue has been glossed over.
Following his tweet criticising the Taoiseach’s interview, Simon Coveney was feted by a variety of media outlets in a manner which suggested he had stratigically “outed” the country’s leader. However, an examination of Simon Coveney’s Twitter account suggests that this strategic hit could probably best be described as a lucky strike.
The drunk-or-hungover tweet was only the fourteenth issued in five months by the Cork TD, having first opened his Twitter account on April 2nd, 2010. One might be safe to assume that Simon Coveney was prompted by the huge success being enjoyed by his fellow Cork parliamentarian, Senator Dan Boyle. Coveney has struggled to embrace the medium to any significant extent, even tweeting on September 7th, “I’ve been offline on twitter for a while”.
If Simon Coveney hand’t really embraced Twitter before his lucky strike, he now has an opportunity to capitalise on it’s usefullness. As the Cork TD tweeted his opinion about the Taoiseach’s radio peforrmance, he had just over 150 followers; he now enjoys over 1,500 followers – not bad for a lucky strike!

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