The response to the tragedy in Berkeley was powerful and moving. But it is hard to listen to celebrities claiming a special relationship with God, when there are so many victims of tragedy – and of oppression– to think about...
Now that the dust has settled. It is one of those hoary old cliches that we too readily lapse into after something seismic happens. It fits an earthquake.
A bombing raid. Or the days after a military bombardment.
Now that the dust has settled. The immediate suggestion is that we should be able to see things more clearly. It isn’t just that time has passed, it is that we can begin to breathe clear air once again. And we can also aspire to looking beyond the scenes of carnage that cloud both our vision and our emotions. There is the explosion. People run for cover. Others scan the horizon desperately to see what’s next. The debris is everywhere. No one knows the full human cost yet. Or the cause. The air is filled with grit and grime. Falling slowly. And apprehension too. What does the future hold for the love that we knew? I try to imagine what it must have been like for the six victims of the Berkeley tragedy in that moment when the balcony on which they had been standing gave way. And for the seven friends who survived. The horrible, inescapable truth is that the dust never really settles, after something like this. Those who died leave behind families who have been plunged into depths of grief that no one should ever have to endure. And those who survived will find themselves reliving those terrible few seconds again and again, for so many years to come that it will feel like forever.
We remember the names of those who died: Ashley Donohoe (22), from Rohnert Park, California; her cousin and close friend Olivia Burke (21) from Foxrock; Eimear Walsh (21), also from Foxrock; Eoghan Culligan (21) from Rathfarnham; Niccolai Schuster (21) from Terenure and Lorcán Miller (21) from Shankill. Our hearts are broken for you and for the families from whom you have been stolen. That it was the result of such a shockingly banal twist of fate, arising from a series of low level human failures, only adds to the sense of cosmic injustice.
Nothing can ever fix this.
In so many ways, the picture that has emerged of these young men and women since the accident occurred on June 16, 2015 confirms that this emerging generation has a thing or two to teach the rest of us. They were impressive students. Trusted colleagues. Sports mad. Singers and musicians. Party people. Future professionals. But most of all they were deeply loved by their friends because of the innate decency that seemed to come naturally to them.
In moments of tragedy, we are offered harrowing insights that we might never otherwise be privy to. But in tragedy too, the uplifting fact of the depth of people’s goodness sometimes comes shining through. In this case it has. Hearing the families talk, it has been impossible to avoid tears along the way. On occasion, it has been devastating.
Speaking at Lorcán Miller’s funeral, his father, Ken, remembered the final postcard sent by his son before he died. It was addressed to Lorcán’s younger brother Jamie and his sisters, Lucy and Poppy – and arrived two days after the tragic events in Berkeley had occurred.
“Hi guys,” Lorcán wrote, “I just want to send you a postcard to show you where I am working this summer. Bubba Gumps is a restaurant based on the film Forrest Gump: you should watch it with mum and dad.
“As part of my job I have to talk to customers, and I always tell them about my amazing brother and sisters and how much I miss them. I hope you are having lots of fun like me and being good. I’ll see you soon, lots and lots and lots of love as always, Lorcán.”
The postcard, with its wonderfully thoughtful, kind and loving message was signed off with twelve kisses.
Among those injured was Aoife Beary, whose 21st birthday was being celebrated at the apartment in Library Gardens, when the tragedy occurred. Two weeks later, Aoife remains in critical condition. “A serious head injury remains her major concern,” her family revealed in a statement, released on Monday. “This will be a long and slow road to recovery over many months to come.” Their lives torn asunder, Aoife’s parents, Mike and Angela Beary will remain with her in hospital for the foreseeable future. Her sister Anna and brother Tim plan to travel to Stanford, where Aoife is undergoing treatment. It is in moments like this that people’s extraordinary capacity to love is revealed.
There have been no detailed updates on the condition of Hannah Waters, who is also in a critical condition. Looking through pictures of this brilliantly attractive young woman, you see both her ineluctable individuality, and how representative she is of her generation: the thought that life could have had this appalling moment in store for her is too tragic to contemplate, but for Hannah and her family there is no choice.
Amid the carnage that also left Clodagh Cogley, Niall Murray, Sean Fahey, Jack Halpin and Conor Flynn among the injured, there were examples of heroism that also reveal the very best in ordinary people. Clodagh Cogley, who is very seriously injured, has publicly thanked Jack Halpin for grabbing her and breaking her fall. It is such a powerful image: the first instinct of a kind and decent young man was to reach out to the woman closest to him and see what he could do to help, even as they plunged down towards a fate that no one could know or predict...
Clodagh posted a comment on her Facebook page, in which she revealed that her chances of walking again are “pretty bleak.” But the remarkable strength of the human spirit was also evident in what she said. “The thing I am taking from this tragedy,” she wrote, very movingly, “is that life is short and I intend to honour those who died by living the happiest and most fulfilling life possible. Enjoy a good dance and the feeling of the grass beneath your feet like it’s the last time because in this crazy world you never know when it might be.”
It is hard to believe, reading words of such grace and dignity, that the New York Times could have published such a disgracefully stupid and insensitive article about Irish J-1 students, the morning after the tragedy occurred. It was a slovenly piece which depicted our J-1 students as an embarrassment to the country and implied that the students were somehow at fault for the collapse of the balcony. It was an example of victim blaming at its worst: you didn’t need to know that it was a very bad case of dry rot that caused the collapse to see that, or to predict the grotesquely unnecessary hurt that it would cause to the victims and their families. The article was widely and rightly condemned, notably and powerfully by the former President Mary McAleese, as well as by our own Roe McDermott, and the New York Times offered a grudging apology. But the piece was left to fester on the newspaper’s website. Presumably someone got paid for writing it.
Over the days that followed, it was difficult at times to process everything. The gatherings and the funerals. The tributes and the homilies. Raw emotion alongside messages that were intended to offer comfort where comfort is impossible, or next to impossible, to find. The solidarity that was shown, both in California and in Ireland, and the support from communities and extended families of friends, neighbours and colleagues was inspiring. The priests and others officiating did their best in an atmosphere of shock and hurt, with so many feeling bereft, and you had to respect them for it. I know that in times of grief, people often turn to religion and I have no intention of intruding on what the bereaved felt or are feeling in that regard. People find comfort in whatever way works for them.
But at the funeral of Eimear Walsh, in Bayside, Father Paul Ward, said something that resonated.
“The experience of death is always disturbing,” he said, “but the death of a young person is very difficult. It raises questions we can’t answer. It challenges the very meaning and purpose of life. It faces us with our own mortality and it challenges our faith.”
He went on, in the best way he could, to try to get people thinking beyond the tragedy and the grief. It is what a priest must do. But as an atheist, I couldn’t help thinking of another hoary old cliche. God is good. It stuck in my craw.
And I thought: I don’t ever want to see Katie Taylor thanking God if she wins another gold medal. I don’t want to see Neymar de Silvos Santos Junior blessing himself and looking to the skies after he scores a goal. I don’t want to see a gushing thanks to the Almighty on the sleeve of an album by any artist, black or white. Because, far from being a statement of humility, the exceptionalism which is implied – that any God would single you out above everyone else for attention and support – is the worst form of arrogance and conceit.
Whether you believe in God or otherwise, the idea that there is a benign Deity out there taking an interest in your life, or mine, or Neymar’s, or Katie Taylor’s, or Beyoncé’s is an insult to the victims of the Berkeley tragedy. It is an insult to the migrants who have drowned off the coast of Europe trying to make their way from Africa. It is an insult to the people brutally murdered by the gunman, Seifeddine Rezgui, in Tunisia. It is an insult to the victims of the Gaza war and of the ongoing wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and to those suffering through civil wars in so many parts of Africa. It is an insult to the victims of drone attacks in Yemen and Pakistan.
If God can take an interest in your life, I want to ask The Game, then why did he, she or it not take an interest in the lives of every woman who has had her hands chopped off for ‘adultery’ or in the lives of the African Americans gunned down by Dylan Roof?
So let’s have an end to this self-centred exceptionalism. And think of what really matters: the people trying to piece their lives together after the explosion. Because it is hard to imagine that this dust will ever really settle...
In the latest issue of Hot Press, editor Niall Stokes asks Simon Coveney to reconsider his position on abortion.Read More
A message from Hot Press editor, Niall Stokes, from our special Dolores O'Riordan tribute issue.Read More
Ireland were humiliated by Denmark, in the worst defeat suffered by an Irish team at home in years. The question now is: can Martin O'Neill stay on as manager?Read More
Darren Randolph was Man of the Match. But how did our other players fare last night? And what team will Martin O'Neill pick for the crunch World Cup tie on Tuesday?Read More
Storms have been afoot, with devastating consequences in parts of Ireland. Step back, however, and they illustrate the extraordinary power of the wind. So why is Ireland not a world leader in wind-generated power?Read More
Women in Ireland should be allowed to control their own fertility.Read More
The emphasis in Mental Health Week is on the well being of everyone who has to grapple with any of a variety of Mental Health issues. Indeed, at some point, that probably includes almost everyone in Irish society.Read More
It was a tough and gruelling encounter - but Ireland deserved to win the crunch World Cup tie against Wales, and to progress to the play-off stage.Read More
Over the past fortnight, a Facebook post by long-time Hot Press contributor Adrienne Murphy highlighted in the most heart-rending way the difficulties of living with a young man with severe autism...Read More
The Ireland and Leinster rugby star tells Hot Press that it is time for change.Read More
As the controversy about the Newstalk presenter refuses to die, the question needs to be asked: where does this poisonous stuff come from?Read More
When you are told that you need a Public Services Card to avail of social welfare or to renew a driving licence, it is mere semantics to claim that the cards are not compulsory…Read More
When you are told that you need a Public Services Card to avail of social welfare or to renew a driving licence, it is mere semantics to claim that the cards are not compulsory…Read More
Ireland’s World Cup hopes hinge on tonight’s do-or-die encounter with Serbia in Dublin. But as Niall Stokes writes, the paucity of tactical ideas on Saturday against Georgia – a recurring theme of O’Neill’s tenure – suggests the omens aren’t good. And if the result doesn’t go our way, it might just signal the end of his time in charge…Read More
Already one of the songs of the new century, Brendan Graham’s ‘You Raise Me Up’ has been selected as the end title track in a 30-episode epic on the man who is credited – along with his daughters – as a founding figure, in the People’s Republic of ChinaRead More
The time for hiding from the lights was over. In so many respects modern Ireland was born in 1987. And central to that was the huge artistic and commercial success of The Joshua Tree...Read More
Niall Stokes draws on his best-selling book Into The Heart: The Stories Behind The Songs Of U2 to offer a unique insight into the way in which some of the greatest songs in the history of popular music came into being.Read More
From Hot Press' 2002 Annual, Bono spoke to Niall Stokes about all matters personal and political.Read More
20 years ago, U2 came out with one of their most highly-anticipated albums, Pop. Niall Stokes met the band following its release for an in-depth interview.Read More
With the damaging impact of Brexit on the UK becoming clearer by the week, the threat of a hard border in Northern Ireland is likely to be used as a bargaining chip in Britain’s increasingly threadbare negotiating strategy.Read More
The Irish Music Rights Organisation has confirmed the appointment of the multi-award winning Irish songwriter, singer and composer Eleanor McEvoy as its new Chairperson, in succession to Keith DonaldRead More
There was what might have seemed like a dramatic development in the controversy surrounding the proposed new ownership of the National Maternity Hospital. But if all that is involved is shifting ownership from one religious interest group to another, then the issue remains as fraught as ever. By Niall StokesRead More
Once upon a time, there was a vision of a digital utopia. Instead, we now have global tech monopolies, surveillance capitalism and extraordinary levels of political manipulation. Welcome to the modern world...Read More
With the decision of Enda Kenny to step down – finally! – as leader of the party with the highest number of TDs in Leinster House, a new Taoiseach is on the way. Here’s an opportunity to check back over our Hot Press interviews with the leading candidates, to see what can be gleaned...Read More
The recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly may not be as far ahead of the public as politicians are claiming. But we also need legislation to prevent the covert use, and abuse, of personal data in the context of a referendum.Read More
The controversy about the ownership of the National Maternity Hospital has invited a new focus on the charitable status of Church institutions – and the extraordinary and unwarranted financial privileges which they have enjoyed since the foundation of the State.Read More
And no, this is not another Hot Press article encouraging mass promiscuity. It is about Brexit, and the push from the far right to completely undermine democratic politics.Read More
The cover of Hot Press is a national institution, coveted by emerging musicians and established stars alike. Now, the historic covers of the magazine – signed by the cover stars, and beautifully printed on specially chosen art paper – have been gathered together for a free exhibition, in the National Photographic Archive, Dublin. Introduction by Niall Stokes…Read More
Confirmation of the fact that the remains of hundreds of babies were buried in a so called ‘Mother and Baby’ home in Tuam, Co. Galway is testament to just how sick the attitude to sexuality promulgated by the dominant Church in Ireland really was. In special edition of The Message, on International Women’s Day, Hot Press editor, Niall Stokes reflects on an issue that has provoked outrage and anger.Read More
On March 9, it will be 30 years since the release of The Joshua Tree, a record that transformed U2 into the biggest rock band in the world. In this issue of Hot Press, we look back to the genesis of the album, how it was put together and and what made it work. And ask: has it stood the test of time?Read More
Over the past week, astonishing revelations have emerged about Garda collusion in a campaign of vilification which painted the whistleblower, Sergeant Maurice McCabe, as a sex offender. With the ‘Child and Family Agency’ Tusla being dragged into it, this has become a real horror story...Read More
With Steve Bannon directing operations, and aided and abetted by a bunch of power-crazed loonies, the answer is probably very far indeed. Things could get extremely nasty...Read More
There's a rocky road ahead. And we’re not talking about the one from Galway to Dublin. The good news is that Irish musicians have become far more politically involved than ever before. The bad news is that we are all facing into a particularly difficult and uncertain future. So how can we all – citizens, musicians and the media alike – deal with the political challenges ahead, from the Referendum to Repeal the 8th to the effects of Donald Trump’s presidency, knowing that we have entered the post-truth world – and that this is the backdrop against which fascism has been gaining momentum?Read More
It took the combined force of Hot Press' Editor Niall Stokes and U2 journalist extraordinaire Bill Graham to thrash it out with the four members of U2 back in 1987 to uncover the method and the magic behind their seminal album THe Joshua Tree.Read More
Speculation has been mounting about a special U2 tour that would celebrate the release of their global smash hit album The Joshua Tree, 30 years on. Well, the announcement will be made this morning...Read More
The funeral took place yesterday of Frank Murray – the man who began his career as tour manager with Thin Lizzy, and worked with Elton John and The Specials, before managing The Pogues, as well as The Frames, The Lost Brothers and more, in what was a highly distinguished career.Read More
Christmas may be coming - but in the wake of the most astonishing US Presidential election in living memory, the fear that a cadre of white supremacists may get their hands on the levers of power is growing. And it feels like uncharted territory...Read More
One of the leading lights of Irish music for the past 25 years, Glen Hansard has been chosen as the recipient of the Oscar Wilde Award for 2017 – which will be presented during Oscar week in the Los Angeles. No one is more deserving...Read More
This is 2016 and very strange and deeply disquieting things have been happening in the US and here in Ireland. It might help if we stopped singing the praises of people guilty of butchering their families, Niall Stokes said in The Message, written in that pregnant pause between the opening of the polling booths and the calculation of the result in the US election. Clearly an afterword is required…Read More
There was an Irish winner tonight, as the novel Solar Bones found favour with the judges, in an award which aims to reward genuine innovation...Read More
The decision of the Nobel Committee to award the Nobel Prize for Literature to Bob Dylan had some culture snobs frothing at the mouth. Even Bob doesn’t seem to know what to make of it all.Read More
It was an emotional occasion when the home-spun Irish epic was unvelied in Dublin’s Savoy Cinema last night.Read More
The World’s Greatest Rock Journalist has broken a decade-long silence to discuss his potential role in the Presidential stakes…Read More
Considerable controversy has surrounded the trail-blazing Galway restaurant – but the Michelin judges say that it’s still right up there, at the top of the game.Read More
It is just over 40 years, since Larry Mullen put the note on the noticeboard in Mount Temple Comprehensive, which led to the formation of U2. As various contributions to this special issue of Hot Press confirm, that gesture changed the world for millions of people all over the globe. But that they are still together is perhaps the band’s greatest achievement...Read More
The Hot Press Collective sends a message to the people of IrelandRead More
Hot Press alumni are among the leading attractions at the upcoming Write By The Sea festival in Kilmore QuayRead More
The Minister for Skills, Training and Innovation, John Halligan put his head above the parapet in relation to the laws on prostitution in Ireland. As it happens, he was right.Read More
Irish people have moved on in a way that is genuinely impressive. Dr. Lara Kelly’s testimony on abortion is one example. But there is a new honesty among Irish politicians too that gives cause for optimism.Read More
The family of the Mayo woman, who disappeared in December 2000, have called for an inquest into her death...Read More
Anyone who has experienced the manifest beauty and wonderful joie-de-vivre of Nice at its best will have been deeply moved at the shocking mass murder on the Promenade des Anglais July 18. But Europe must look into its own heart too, to find answers..Read More
Reports that HMV are to close down their four Irish stores have been confirmed – but news reports that the company’s new online platform will go head to head with streaming giant, Netflix, are not accurate.Read More
Details are emerging of the deal, concluded yesterday, which saw Virgin Media – owners of TV3 – buy UTV IrelandRead More
The UK referendum was won by the Leave side on the promise that Britain would take back control of its borders. Their victory will stoke far right, anti-immigrant sentiment across the continent.Read More
For a wonderful 60 minutes, it seemed that Ireland might just oust the hosts France from Euro 2016. That dream may have died as a result of errors in Lyons yesterday – but the sense that Irish football is on the rise once more is a wonderfully encouraging one. By Niall Stokes.Read More
It was an enthralling day of football at Euro 2016, with Ireland getting off to a solid start in Group E – only to be trumped by a brilliant Italian win over Belgium.Read More
Irish Water and Repealing the 8th can take a back-seat as the Euros kick-off in France. Now all we need are a few Shane Long hat-tricks to seal the deal...Read More
A year on from our historic and momentous 'Yes' vote on Ireland's same-sex marriage referendum, we look back at Niall Stokes' pre-vote message urging the citizens of Ireland to vote for freedom, equality and mutual respectRead More
Religious control of schools promotes inequality, prejudice, division – and worse. It is also against the founding spirit of the Republic. It must be challenged now.Read More
Guy Clark was one of the greatest songwriters of the modern era – and in Old No.1, he made one of the most extraordinary and enduring albums of all time. By Hot Press editor, Niall StokesRead More
Prince was the latest in a long line of black artists - from Sam Cooke and Otis Redding to Jimi Hendrix and Marvin Gaye - to push the envelope, both musically and culturally...Read More
Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil need to end the posturing and hammer out a deal, which will provide the country with a sustainable government.Read More
The Proclamation of 1916 was a powerful document. In recalling the momentous events of a hundred years ago, it is important not just to honour those who took part in the Rising, but- even more so- to see what we can learn in order to best shape our future...Read More
Where now for the Labour Party, after an electoral annihilation the scale of which outstripped all their worst fears?Read More
As the nation heads to the polls, it’s vital to consider not just the candidates vying for our votes, but the type of country in which we want to liveRead More
When Enya released Watermark in 1988, it WAS the beginning of one of the most remarkable chapters in the story of Irish music. With Nicky Ryan and Roma Ryan ever-present as collaborators, 80 million album sales and dozens of awards followed. Now, after a seven year hiatus, she is back with a new record, Dark Sky Island, and a determination to take the collective’s music to the world in a different way.Read More
Darkness seemed to be everywhere in 2015. It is hard to maintain any sense of hope, when barbarism is so militantly on the rise. But if we don't, we surely will be lost...Read More
The orchestrated jihadist attacks on Paris were an abomination. And the worst of the atrocities took place at a rock gig in the Bataclan, where 89 people died. So where do we go from here?Read More
As the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE tour finally approaches Irish shores, it's time to once again celebrate U2 - not just the best of Irish, but the greatest rock band in the world.Read More
As recently highlighted by Roopesh Panicker, it is outrageous that, in 2015, educational discrimination on the basis of religion is still the norm in Ireland.Read More
After the high of beating the World Champions, neanderthal tactics and selections by Martin O'Neill ensured that The Boys In Green could not match the Sunday heroics of our rugby team...Read More
We've come a long way since the '60s, with music, literature, movies, TV and journalism all playing their part to reduce the stigma of mental illness. But reason must still prevail if we are to continue to make strides.Read More
With Europe's response to the refugee crisis lacking in effectiveness and empathy, the threat of ISIS suggests WB Yeats' most chilling words are now perfectly fitting for these times...Read More
Amidst the shock and grief of Johnny Lyons' premature passing, we pause to give thanks to a truly unique character for the countless laughs and many golden memories he gave us. Shine on, sir...Read More
As rental prices of houses and apartments skyrocket, especially in Dublin, thousands of Irish men, women and – unforgivably – children find themselves at grave risk of homelessness. Between them, local politicians and the Government must find a solution – and fast...Read More
It is easy to vilify those who take banned substances in the pursuit of sporting glory, but some of those who would be named and shamed are far more sympathetic figures than we would like to admit...Read More
...Or Ireland at least. Blazing rows erupted and staff members had to be pried apart, but the votes are in and the 50 best Irish gigs since Hot Press's inception have been settled on.Read More
Sunday June 14 marks the 20th anniversary of the legendary Rory Gallagher's tragic death. While the world has changed in many ways, the trail-blazing guitarist's impact is still keenly felt...Read More
It was a joy to be alive in Dublin on the day the result of the referendum was announced. But there is still some way to go in the campaign for the separation of Church and State...Read More
"We're uncompromising. We're uncompromising to a fault I think. Because sometimes we're wrong. Sometimes we wind-up up blind alleys. You know. Maybe Radio Ethiopia sucks. I Don't know. Me and Patti are the only ones that like it in the world. But I don't care 'cos when we put that on we feel great." - Lenny Kaye [First Published in Hot Press Volume 2 No 7, September 1978]Read More
The referendum on same sex marriage is an opportunity for the citizens of Ireland to vote for freedom, equality and mutual respect – and in doing so to show the rest of the world what these words can really mean...Read More
With Hozier, HamsandwicH, Paul Brady, Le Galaxie and Kodaline all doing well, we are witnessing a small boom in Irish music. So how can we ensure that it lifts an even greater number of Ireland’s finest into the charts?Read More
Irish people who genuinely believe in free speech need to support the scrapping of our blasphemy laws.Read More
These are turbulent times, as Sinn Fein and socialist Independents find themselves in the unprecedented situation of topping the opinion polls. However you view this, pause to be thankful that there is no hard-Right movement of significance in Ireland, and no apparent appetite for one...Read More
It was one of those special Dublin nights. The occasion was a fund-raiser for a new short film, entitled Descend, directed by Hedi Rose, and written by Irish-based Texan screenwriter Margaret Miller. The location was upstairs in The 51 Bar on Haddington Road.Read More
Like paying to have your rubbish collected, Irish Water is another stealth charge, the genesis of which goes back to the decision to abolish household rates...Read More
Check out her take on 'Dreaming'...Read More
When U2 released their latest album Songs of Innocence, it was the subject of heated controversy. While the arguments aren't over yet, the attention is gradually turning to the music...Read More
The hacking of Jennifer Lawrence's phone, and the leaking of her private photos, was a criminal action – and much of the subsequent reaction was downright nasty.Read More
If we want to end the stigma associated with suicide, we first have to acknowledge the right to die. Far from being a threat, it is empowering to know that our future is in our own hands.Read More
Well known Dublin band are back with a crash, bang and wallop...Read More
Ours is an increasingly multi-cultural society. However, our vast State bureaucracy has refused to move with the times. Fundamental changes are needed if asylum seekers coming to Ireland are to receive justice.Read More