There was an outstanding response to the Write Here, Write Now competition, as thousands of students all over Ireland were inspired to get creative by Lia Mills'Fallen. In the process, these aspiring young writers confirmed that there’s a tsunami of talent out there to be nurtured and developed. Here we present the cream of the crop, with 50 students from second and third level still in the running for the big prizes. There is great writing in abundance here, so get reading – and let us know which entries you like most by clicking on the 'Tell Us You Like This' button. By doing so, you can have your say in will be presented with the special Write Here Write Now Readers' Award. We look forward to hearing from you!

A Story of Ireland is a Hot Press initiative and forms part of Ireland 2016, the state programme to mark the events of the 1916 Rising, to reflect on our achievements over the last 100 years and to look towards Ireland’s future. This major national writing competition is run in association with Two Cities One Book, April 2016 with the support of Paperblanks.


The Finalists

After a lot of soul searching, much debate and plenty of agonising, 50 entries were eventually shortlisted between the 2nd Level and 3rd Level strands of Write Here, Write Now. Below, you can read all of the entries from the talented young writers and press the ‘TELL US YOU LIKE THIS’ this button to have your say in who will be presented with the special Write Here Write Now Readers' Award.

2nd Level

  • School: Holy Child School
    County: Dublin
    About: A sixth year student with a passion for reading, drawing and learning languages, Caoimhe finds it easiest to write in the small windows she can carve out of an otherwise busy day. Not looking to slow down, she’s eagerly looking forward to hitting university next year.


    I feel more Irish when I’m abroad.
    I break out the cúpla focail and
    Use them to insult the locals
    Without them knowing.
    I watch the watery foreign milk
    Dissolving my Especial K,
    And say: ‘It just tastes better at home'.
    But when I get back, I remember
    How much I hate it here.
    It’s cold and dull here, there’s no
    People here, there’s two sheep
    For every one of me, all of my
    Relatives put bricks on my head
    And fill my veins with tea,
    I don’t want to stay.
    I want to run away like everyone
    My age, and at 18 my parents
    Were the same, and their parents
    Too, on and on from the generations
    Chased out by skeletons and the
    Fear of rotting among potatoes
    In the grave. You’re not really
    Irish if you never emigrate.
    In 10 years I will be wishing
    My parents ‘Merry Christmas’
    From behind a computer screen.
    I’ll argue with my fiancé over
    Which country we have
    Our wedding in. It would
    Be cruel to call my son Oisín.
    What is emigration to the
    Irish but an extended holiday?
    A mandatory, sometimes
    Life-long excursion where you
    Lose only half your accent and
    Your heart breaks every time
    You look across the sea. Being
    Irish is a backwards nationality.
    I only feel like I’m from Ireland
    If I leave.

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  • School: Royal School Cavan
    County: Monaghan

    What does it mean to be Irish? I’ve never asked myself this question before. Is there something more to being Irish, than simply being born here?

    I believe that before you can understand what it means to be Irish, you must first understand Ireland. Ireland has always been in my opinion a funny or even a strange country. It is a land that has existed for centuries but at the same time the Ireland that we know today is a young nation. It is a country that has been divided by religion, torn apart by war and undermined by oppression. Other countries may look upon us with amusement or condescension. No, we are not a powerful nation and perhaps we are sometimes set in our ways, old fashioned or even stubborn. We are happy to settle with a good cup of tea and a Massey Ferguson 135, but ask yourself, is there anything wrong with this.

    For over 800 years Ireland was ruled by the overwhelming might of the British Empire and I’ve always wondered how, after all that time, Ireland never gave in. Perhaps it would have been easier for our ancestors to put up their hands and accept that they would never live in a country that they could call free. Instead, they made a stand, they refused to go quietly into the night, they stood up and declared that Ireland would be a nation free from tyranny. Some would call this brave and some would call this stubborn: I personally would call it both. Our ancestors carried pride for their country in their hearts and wouldn’t allow oppression, both violent and psychological, to diminish this pride.

    Maybe this is what it means to be Irish: we are old fashioned because we are proud of where we came from; we are stubborn because we do not allow bullies to tell us how we should live or what we should believe. It is this pride that still unites us today. And no matter where we go, it is this pride that will call us back to the land we call home.

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  • School: Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana
    County: Donegal
    About: Hailing from Muff, 17-year-old Gavan enjoys athletics, hiking and reading. He aspires to enter the field of law, politics or economics, but is also very much into history and creative writing.

    A Conflict of Loyalty

    Dublin,Tuesday, 25th April 1916

    British reinforcements arrive in Dublin and position themselves around the city. Artillery rains down on rebel outposts and British Army snipers cover the streets.

    When Patrick Murphy joined the British Army, he believed he had done it for Ireland. He felt with all his heart that by following John Redmond’s advice and donning the khaki green uniform, he was helping to establish a positive relationship between Britain and an Ireland under Home Rule. This mentality didn’t belong to Murphy alone; some 25,000 ordinary Irish men had signed up. The move had shocked his community back in Meath; they had witnessed him abandon the mundane work on the farm, instead opting for the dangerous and somewhat exciting employment that accompanied joining the Irish Volunteers, and later, the British Army. Indeed, the idea of making a difference definitely appealed to the young man. Murphy, although living in ordinary circumstances, wanted nothing more than to see Ireland flourish, something he believed was a very real possibility under Home Rule.

    However, as he lay on the damp roof of a house in Dublin, the relentless rain lashing down, Murphy began to seriously question his decision. He had been ordered to shoot to kill every Volunteer that appeared. Essentially, he was being given a rifle and told to murder his fellow citizens. Of course, Murphy considered these rebels to be anything but Irish patriots. They were washing away Redmond’s work in a sea of blood, rescinding any hope of a trusting Britain. Of course their rebellion, something Murphy viewed with exasperation, needed to be halted. How could they not see the damage they were causing? Yet at the same time, these people were Irish, just like him. And as he scoured the grey Phibsborough streets below him through the sight of his Enfield rifle, Murphy wondered whether he could actually pull the trigger.

    He tried to focus. After enlisting in the Army, Murphy had opted to undertake special marksmanship training. He received excellent instruction and was recognised as a remarkable sniper. It was this schooling that Murphy called upon now. He didn’t use his eyes alone to identify his target; rather listening to every move, to every commotion, utilising his ears as well as his vision. Nevertheless Dublin was near silent; the only sound being the occasional burst of gunfire as the British soldiers stationed at Phibsborough Bridge exchanged shots with rebels. Murphy began to feel grateful for his loneliness when suddenly he froze. A boy not older than fifteen rounded Byrne’s Corner, a rebel band around his arm and a scrap of paper clutched in one hand. That piece of paper could spell disaster for a soldier’s life; there was simply no way of knowing. Murphy realised that he had to follow orders, yet he hesitated. The rebel was so young; how could he murder him? But Murphy buried his thoughts, raised his Enfield, and prayed that his action was the lesser of two evils.

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  • School: St. Mary's College - Derry High School
    County: Derry
    About: A passion for writing was born at an early age for the young Derry-born Cayla, who reckons Write Here Write Now the perfect opportunity to develop her talent. Still just 14 years of age, the ambitious young scribe turns her hand towards prose and poetry with equal aplomb.

    Yesterday Do you ever realise how quickly things can change? How one minute everyone can be at peace and the next war can break out? Do you get the feeling nothing will ever be the same again?
    People can change quickly too. My old friend, Parker, back- stabbed me about a year ago and after that I vowed never to trust someone again, unless I knew them for a very long time.
    Things changed in Derry, and things changed fast. Within a year, police patrolled the streets. The bridge now had checkpoints and the peace that once pranced around the town grew to hatred.
    Is all this drama necessary? Why can’t everyone just get along? It’s not like I say any of these things out loud. People wouldn’t listen anyway, because ‘I’m just a child.’
    I don’t have a problem with either religion if I’m being honest. What I’m not okay with is people treating others like aliens, or that one dish of school dinner that no-one eats because it’s “disgusting” or “clean rotten” – but I think it’s just the fact that no-one has the guts to try it.
    People say they ‘pity’ the man who treats people who others hate fairly, saying he is a “traitor” or “betrayer.” I pity the people who create these unwritten rules. I now spend every day longing for the peace that was the past.
    I quote Paul McCartney: “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away.” But that’s the thing, yesterday is so far away.

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  • School: Banbridge Academy
    County: Down

    One Hundred

    Gunshots rang out through the air,
    Bringing more pain than men can bear.
    The fallen lay across the Bridge,
    Their ‘enemies’ shot them from the ridge.

    Rebellion’s rowdy, painful cries,
    Filled the city and darkened skies.
    Bright blood was spilt and lives were lost.
    ‘Freedom’ comes at a great cost.

    Innocent in all this trouble,
    Little Annie played among some rubble.
    She ran and jumped, content to play,
    As men and women died streets away.

    Parents thought her with a friend,
    Far from the fierce fighting’s end.
    One little boy had the same plan,
    And into each other our pair ran.

    A friendship bloomed in those few hours,
    And old fate worked its magic powers.
    The sun sank low and still they talked,
    ‘Til angry parents came and off they stalked.

    Each parent thought their child alone,
    A mistake that time had later shown.
    For the next few days the strange pair met,
    Sean and Annie’s peace was still whole yet.

    But fate said it was not to be,
    For the two to live so happily.
    Instead of searching for bright eggs,
    Kin were searched for among the dregs.

    Running down devastated street,
    She looked for brother in his defeat.
    Instead she found her dearest friend,
    Looking near to his last ‘the end.’

    She ran to help him, as friends should,
    But her father grabbed her before she could.
    He dragged her away from where Sean lay,
    And told her they must never play.

    “His father’s a soldier, you must see,
    He took away our victory.
    Your brother’s gone, and I’m near too.
    I can’t trust him to not hurt you.”

    Although she didn’t understand,
    The little girl took her father’s hand.
    “If Daddy says it, it must be right.”
    And so she left her friend in plight.

    Happy endings were few and far between,
    Even more so in 1916.
    A blooming friendship, nipped in the bud,
    Was left at once to rot in the mud.

    One hundred years are spent and past,
    Those pages turned until at last,
    2016 dawns bright and new,
    And an old love time seeks to renew.

    Generations fought and died,
    But in peace now their children abide.
    Love is blooming all around,
    As fragile snowflakes fall to the ground.

    Another Annie runs and plays,
    While to the side old anger lays.
    Old walls of hate came tumbling down,
    Healing this once divided town.

    Just down at the end of her street,
    A boy, Sean, runs to Annie meet.
    No-one now can tear them apart,
    Both are free to follow their heart.

    Prejudice forgotten at last,
    Allows no more echoes of the past.
    Mistakes were made and lives were lost,
    But true love time cannot exhaust.

    Although we do not all agree,
    We’re opening up our eyes to see.
    Spread the message throughout the land,
    We are uniting, hand in hand.

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  • School: Maryfield College
    County: Dublin
    About: A 17-year-old Santry native, Eimear spends a good chunk of her spare time listening to music, reading, watching films and – of course – writing. And it’s in the field of writing that she hopes to work, in almost any form she can.

    Fear and Loathing in Dublin

    A man and his friend loudly comment on a passing woman's physique But the black tar obscuring his throat and mind makes this an arduous task

    And all that escapes is a brisk “Nice...

    Assimilation is evident when the flocks of people all salivate at the rows and rows of capitalist displays,

    Regardless of gender, of race, of age

    It's cold, I need a coffee to heat my hands.

    A man was stabbed in a nearby hotel

    Over money

    I think.

    An ambulance just passed me by,

    The blue light doesn't do our complexion justice, The city light makes us look grey.

    There's at least fourteen shops selling the same shit and calling it couture

    There's at least fourteen shops selling the same shit I can't afford.

    I told someone to go to hell earlier Does God take that seriously?

    I'm sorry.

    I'm still cold.

    I saw a fight between a couple,

    Well, the woman stood stock still while He yelled abuse at her.

    I've never liked it when men raise their voices,

    It makes me want to yell back

    But the words get stuck in my throat,

    I saw a man, asleep.

    I saw a needle,

    My mother taught me what a prick off a hypodermic needle can do. It rained at some stage,

    He only slept.

    I passed through a group of tall men

    And felt myself curl in,

    I tried to speed up but a traffic light stopped me.

    I saw red.

    I passed a charity bucket, a vaguely racist petition, a charity bucket, a church.

    I lost some money and tried to calm my breaths.

    I smiled at some strangers

    I don't think it looked sincere, but I did.

    I saw another charity bucket

    “I don't have any change” (And apparently I'm also a pathological liar)

    I smirked at a teenage boys comment about the phallic symbolism behind the spire




    There's bullet holes in the buildings from a hundred years ago. The city smells faintly of urine and cheap marijuana.

    It's still fucking cold.

    The city breathes and consumes us all.

    I love it here, I hate it.

    The tall buildings make me crane my neck to see the fine detail on the rooftops

    And miss the grime beneath my feet.

    The Liffey isn't beautiful, it's rank with bilge.

    It still gleams and shines.

    The buildings are mainly greying with age.

    Molly Malone's breast is eroding from human sweat,

    Dublin I take you in with every breath.

    The chill wind is cold on my ankles and my teeth ache as well.

    I'm a cynic

    You're a star.

    Don't hate me Dublin.

    I really don't blame you if you do.

    I want to scream down your dark streets

    And curse your name.

    Actually hate me all you like Dublin.

    I'm too tired to deny.

    I'm fucked and hateful,

    You're foul and cold.

    Dublin, I love you, I live you,

    And so it goes on until I die.

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  • School: Maryfield College
    County: Dublin
    About: Passionate about poetry slams and photography, Emer says she gets her best ideas when sleep deprived – so the holidays are always something of a creative purple patch. Once school is comprehensively completed, she plans on studying psychology.


    I watch your lights shimmer off the Liffey
    And the last of this march day
    Bounces off your walls.
    I find myself drawn towards you
    Fingers itching
    And bouncing off camera.

    But how many lives have you taken Dublin?
    Your cars may be slow but knives are quick
    And guns are faster
    Two shootings, four days.
    Their bones and dreams
    shattered in an instant.
    You turn away, oblivious.

    How many girls lost their way?
    Their screams not loud enough.
    Only to be found with tear stained cheeks and clothes torn
    Their bloodied lips quivering.
    With a dress cut like that?
    She was obviously asking for it
    Just like the girl in the track suit
    And the girl in her school uniform
    You turn away, oblivious.

    Holding my girlfriend's hand
    Becomes a strategic game.
    Drunken melodies can sour
    And turn in an instant.
    Throwing slurs that echo through minds and walls
    From an arsenal that is almost as colourful as our flag.
    You turn away, oblivious.

    I play tight rope on the white lines of lonely dart stations
    And chicken with double decker busses.
    I live with the hope of death
    And the fear of living.
    But Dublin I'd be damned if I let your streets take my bones.

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  • School: Maryfield College College
    County: Dublin
    About: Aspiring to study English and History in college, the 17-year-old  Leaving Cert student spends the vast majority of her time reading, writing and listening to music. She hopes to forge a career as a journalist or a writer.


    My Dear Old Éire

    “Suss girlos?” is yelled down the road, from one ‘hun' to the next. Hair buns bounce up and down as they walk, clutching long blanket scarves, decked out in their new tracksuits and Adidas trainers.

    I felt like I was seeing modern Shakespearean drama being born; a language so similar, yet so strange.

    To translate, “what is currently going on my good friends who happen to be female?” Or something to that effect. There are times when I feel like a little old dear walking home from Sunday mass, witnessing teenagers on a green, downing naggins of vodka, cursing and making a right racket. A sight more common than cows in field. I'm left questioning, what the hell is going on with kids today? Our lives seem to revolve around cans, house music and vapes. All anyone wants to do is go out, get drunk, pass out, rinse and repeat. All anyone wants to know is who’s shifting who and the drama that went down on Facebook last night. Arguments juicier than did Kenny phone Martin or did Martin phone Kenny? If that’s even possible.

    And then there’s school, where you either give it your all or nothing at all. You’re either constantly stressed or couldn’t be arsed. Do you even need to study? Sure your granny’s lit a candle for you. Leaving cert? What Leaving Cert? You can repeat the leaving, you can't repeat the sesh. Jam making for fifteen points, thanks very much. All common sayings amongst students. But there’s more to it than that, at least I think so. At least I hope so.

    While the future of dear old Éire looks as dodgy as the kids hanging around Central Bank in Dublin, there’s more than enough reason to be optimistic. More and more people are applying to the CAO, each year higher than the last. We’re educating ourselves, going beyond jam making. We’re involved in our society. Have you ever asked a teenager about the eight amendment? Quick tip, don’t do it unless you want a good ten-minute-long rant. We value equality and freedom of expression. We care about this country and we’re paying attention to what’s going on. We’re learning from the many, many (many) mistakes of the last few years so we can move forward and progress.

    And yes, we can be unmotivated and lazy. And yes, we may enjoy taking selfies a bit too much. And yes, while we do have a tendency to go out and get drunk quite a bit, aren’t we always taught “you learn from your mistakes”? We’re learning, we’re growing, we’re changing.

    Just do us a favour, don’t mention the Leaving Cert.

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  • School: Loreto Secondary Kilkenny
    About:An 18-year-old Leaving Cert student, Rachael’s unwavering interest in the music industry means she aspires to a career as a sound engineer. In her spare time she volunteers in the Set Theatre as a runner for band rehearsals in the Set Theatre.

    Stately, plump Fr. Ted made his way down the N17 when he happened on Mrs. Brown and her boys. “Good morning to you Mrs. Brown and boys, how are you today?” “Ah sure we were just below in the field and we’re heading home there now; will you join us for a nice cup of tea?” “I won’t, thank you. I’m not long from the lake isle of Innisfree, I was just checking on the bean rows. I have a long road ahead and I need to call on McCabe before I set out further.” “McCabe, sure he is a quiet man.” “Indeed he is, the quiet man alright. Good day and God bless.”

    As Fr. Ted carried on, he was greeted by a few more chaps. “Ah, ‘tis yourselves lads.” “It is Fr. just the four of us. How are you today?” “Grand lads just grand and your good selves?” “We’re in fine form Fr. just enjoying the benefits of a modest proposal offered to us down at the red rose café,” they said laughing. “Well, I won’t keep you. Good luck lads.” “Good luck Fr.”

    Finally some time to enjoy his walk. As he contiuned along enjoying the intermission, he spotted a rather odd looking animal in the field. “Well, would you look at the horse lips on him,” he thought to himself . “What a terrible beauty.” As he raised his face to the sunshine he thought “I’d better get a-moving before something happens.” And as if the universe took it as a challenge, didn’t he come across the Guard. “How are the criminal element today Guard?” “Oh fine Fr. sure haven’t I got a right few boyo’s in the back. I’m sure you know Podge and Rodge O’Leprosy, and of course their turkey.”

    “Fr. will you put in a good word for us? Go on Fr. nothing compares to you. We were only having a bit of fun on mid-term break.” “Will you two shut up and behave?” “Sure we’re doing nothing, just on the voyage of life,” they laughed. “I’ll leave you to it,” said Fr. Ted as he carried on dipping into his pocket to munch on the Cranberries put there by Peig. He didn’t really care for them but anything to avoid the great hunger. She always thought he had a poor mouth on him; at least he had his favourite coat. He had a habit of leaving it in the hot press to freshen.

    His mind wandered again to the time he had spent in Brooklyn and the people he’d met: Adam and Paul. A different time: he’d even received the freedom of the city at once. His attention was again divided when he met up with Mick Collins. “How are you today young Collins?” “To tell the truth Fr. I’ve a pain in my left foot.” “That certainly is a startling opening line,” he said. “Could do with some whiskey in a jar, will you take me to church?”

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  • School: CIC Summerhill College
    County: Sligo


    I think that I’m a good person. Not Mother Teresa good, not charity worker good, not even favourite professor good; but a fundamentally decent human being. That’s what I tell myself anyway, whenever harsh rivers of doubt erode my stomach, depositing the question of my morality. I hate those moments, I hate my hesitation.

    Of course I’m good. I’m not evil. Hitler was evil. The Crown is evil – I know that. People say that we’re bad, claim we’re sadists but we’re not. Not me anyway. I can prove it too. There was a car crash today, on the road outside my house. I didn’t see it happen but I saw the wreckage as I was walking home. I noticed the policeman immediately, there on my road, solitary and robotic in his hi-viz yellow jacket that bestows more unquestioning authority on the wearer than any uniform; I very nearly bolted.

    I noticed the car then, for the first time. The officer was standing in the middle of the road directing traffic, his legs planted between two black scars that detailed the sudden skidding career the car had taken. The vehicle itself was half in a ditch; rear lights blinking with exasperation, explaining in some flashing dialect of Morse code that it had crashed. My first thought then – after the initial brief wave of guilty relief at the realisation that the guard was outside my house merely as a whim of circumstance – was “I hope nobody’s hurt.”

    I remember noticing that thought. I plucked it from my consciousness like an anomalous toy from a production line, which had deviated curiously from the template. I examined the thought, the subconscious shred of humanity, took comfort in its suggestion of my own empathy. I used it; bore it as proof of righteousness to the jury of my conscience. The confidence I held my argument in quickly faltered, as the prosecution stood: retorting that the very fact I had noticed this flash of mercy at all; the fact that it was unusual enough a sensation even to draw my attention was damning evidence in itself. Shit. Court adjourned for deliberation.

    I blow things up. I blow people up, too. I am part of an organisation that isn’t afraid to use extortion and violence when necessary. It’s for the greater good. The end justifies the means – I’m sure of that. I don’t talk to my family anymore. They don’t agree. They’re unpatriotic. They’re traitors. I do what I do because I believe in its cause: a Thirty-Two County Republic. That will be worth all the madness.

    I have decided to stop believing in God. I know what I do is justified, but doubt whether God really acknowledges context. If I believed in him I’m pretty sure I’d be going to hell. So I don’t. That doesn’t make me bad though, because I sin. Everybody sins. “A just man sins seven times a day.” I think I’m a just man. That needs to be enough.

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  • School: Tullow Community School
    County: Carlow
    A Story of Ireland

    The story of Ireland is a long, winding tale as old as the mighty mountains of Connemara, as captivating as the legends of fierce Fionn and as mysterious as the fig within the fig roll. The story of Ireland is character driven, written by the people of Ireland. It is passed down through the ages from father to son, from mother to daughter, from cat to goldfish. Above all it is a love story greater than any Nicholas Sparks’ novel, more moving than any episode of “First Dates”. It features the greatest love of all, the love one has for their country, the pride one has for their ancestors and their struggles. One hundred years on from 1916 it is important that we remember the passionate people that gave their lives for their country, the people that held ideas that were well ahead of a time when women were expected to remain in the kitchen boiling spuds and rearing children. They had the crazy idea that every man, woman and child in this country should be treated as an equal. In 2016 we still strive for that aim. We move towards an Ireland where everyone regardless of their race, regardless of their gender, their religion or their preferred brand of tea is treated in society with the respect they deserve.

    Our story has had many enemies and obstacles; poverty, famine, our English neighbours and at one point ourselves. During the notorious noughties, we all became wannabe Kim Kardashians without the colossal rear end or the ridiculously named children. We bought houses we couldn’t afford, negotiated loans that we could never repay. We thought that the Boom would last forever. Unfortunately, that chapter in our story was considerably shorter than the others but it was to affect the storyline and its characters for many pages to come.

    After our buying bubble burst, an official state funeral was held for our beloved Celtic Tiger, wrapped in the tri-colour and laid to rest in Glasnevin. We moved on to a chapter that seemed to never end, a chapter that most people would prefer to forget, titled “The Recession”. A recurring theme of ours began to emerge again – the everlasting emigration crisis. This is the reason our people live in all corners of the globe, from Ballinasloe to Beirut, from Tullow to Timbuktu. We are respected throughout the world and canonized by all American tourists whose mother’s sister’s great uncle’s Chihuahua came from the Emerald Isle.

    One hundred years on from 1916 the North and the South are finally at peace. We are a democracy, free to speak our minds, free to play our own games and watch our own television, free to make a positive impact on the big bad world surrounding us. We are now a New Ireland. We have accepted people from all walks of life into our modern society making us more successful than ever ready to welcome with open arms anything the future throws at us. I think if the signatories of the Proclamation could walk down O’Connell Street and see the peaceful, innovative country we have become they would be extremely proud.

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  • School: Pobalscoil na Trionóide, Youghal
    County: Cork
    About:A previous winner of the National Newspapers of Ireland Press Pass Award, fifth year student Ciara loves the idea that of creating something personal out of words. Her other hobby is procrastination, but unfortunately that doesn't leave much time for anything else...

    Me, Myself and Ireland

    Call me what you will; Ireland, Éire, the Emerald Isle – I’ve heard them all before. If you don’t know me, then I must say you have not being paying enough attention in history class, because to be frank I am a pretty big deal in Western Europe and indeed further afield. However, if you truly have no recollection of the land that gave you “Father Ted”, Roy Keane and U2, then maybe we should just start over. Yes, let me start by formally introducing myself as the small island nation where people work hard and where getting a sun-tan hardly works. If I hear another reference to shamrocks or leprechauns, I think I will just sink to the bottom of the ocean and disappear without trace. Stereotyping sucks.

    I hope you understand that my small size doesn’t mean I lack spirit and heart. You may indeed have noticed that there is a particular lump of rock that resides not far from where I’m situated – most people have taken to calling it “Britain”. You might say we’ve had a history together, and if that is indeed your opinion you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. Yes, Britain and I used to be an item, but as with a lot of relationships, we eventually ended up going our separate ways. Real-life break-ups are a lot different to those portrayed in the movies. Instead of being left to watch “The Notebook” with a tub of cookie-dough ice-cream, I found myself struggling with a broken economy and a questionable future. But let me tell you this; never in my life could I say was I prouder of my people. There was something remarkable about the way Irish citizens banded together against the odds to achieve the freedom they believed was rightfully theirs.

    Of course as a nation, the Irish were aware that freedom was an expensive dream to purchase; many of my people paid the price in blood to ensure that the future ahead was one of hope. I can safely say that I will forever be indebted, for their sacrifice; they showed the world that small nations can achieve big things. I am now delighted to inform you that I stand strong and independent. Although we ‘friend-zoned’ Britain all those years ago, we are on good talking terms now – friendly even.

    Although Kermit the frog has exclaimed “It’s not easy being green!” I beg to differ; because with our luscious scenery and legendary rugby team, who can deny that the colour green is something to be admired? My people have worn their colours with pride ever since we struck independence, and will continue to do so until time itself comes to a halt. So yes, you may call me what you want; Ireland, Éire or the Emerald Isle; but to the Irish I am home, and that’s the best name I could ever be given.

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  • School: Pobalscoil na Tríonóide, Youghal
    County: Cork
    About:Born in the Philippines but living in Ireland since the age of six, 17-year-old Myles enjoys watching movies and spending time with family and friends when not indulging her interest in the written word. A fifth year student, she hopes to pursue a career as a doctor.


    “Seamus!” I shouted, as my rusty voice echoed throughout the ship. No answer. I called out a second time; still nothing but coughing and whispering could be heard. It was the only way I could find him. It was too dark to see anything. No windows, one door which was shut since we got on. I shouldn’t have let his hand go. I promised mother as we waved goodbye from the port that I would look after him. Anger was the only thing I held onto, as I thought about how we’d ended up in this hell in the first place. If that stupid blight hadn’t come, dad would still be here and mom wouldn’t have had to send us away. Now we have to live with Aunt Mary in America.

    I felt for the ground, sat still for a moment and thought about what I’m going to do. I was scared, weak and tired. But I had to find my brother. I got up. Just then I felt someone bump in to me. “Sorry,” a gentle voice said. I recognise that voice. It was Seamus. I hugged on to him so tightly; he had to tell me to stop. We sat down, ate some of the corn mom packed for us and went to sleep. We woke up to the ship swaying from side to side. I could hear bloody thunder, wind and the younger children’s cries.

    For what felt like several days already, food was sparse. Seamus and I had our last meal the night before. Everyone was hungry. This was the reality of the ship. I could hear two young lads arguing. I ignored it at first, for this was a common occurrence since we were here. But they seemed to get closer. In fact they were very near. The fear I felt then was different to the fear I felt when I lost Seamus. I knew something was very wrong. Things were starting to heat up. I covered Seamus as I was afraid things were going to get violent. I was right. I was knocked out.

    I could feel nothing but death on my shoulders. I woke up bewildered. Then it all came back to me gradually. “We’re on a ship.” “Seamus, where is he?” I asked myself. I didn’t feel him next to me. I could hear crying in the distance. It sounded familiar. I walked towards the sound. Then I heard a woman say his name, “Seamus”, trying to hush him down but he wouldn’t stop. I called out to him but he seemed to ignore me, as if I was invisible.

    There was stillness. I heard people, lots and lots of people. “Could this be real?” I said to myself. We finally arrived. The door opened wide just like my jaw. There, shining in the sunlight were bodies but one stood out the most. Tears rolled down my eyes as I disappeared into the darkness whispering in my brother’s ear: “Goodbye Seamus.”

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  • School: Pobalscoil Inbhear Scéine, Kerry
    County: Kenmare
    About: A 16-year-old who loves theatre and acting, though not quite as much as writing, Aoife aspires to a career authoring YA fiction. She enjoys observing things in life and exploring the ways to turn them into fiction, since ‘life is one big story to tell’.


    We all remember the blocks we used to play with as children. For the nineties babies, it was easier than the wooden boards. We were given a plastic hollow block with the slots on the sides. The slots fell straight into the hollow part, so when we got the right shape in, we were able to clap our hands and laugh and look at our parents as though to say, “Look! It fell! Did I did good!”

    Why was this easier? Because when we wanted to slam the triangle into the rectangle slot, if we were clever enough, we managed it. We just needed to hold it a weird way and shove it in.

    And it fit and we got to clap our hands and laugh even as our parents said, “No, that’s not the right one.” Because we didn’t know that it wasn’t the right one. We made it fit, and that’s all that mattered.

    It’s kind of like society in Ireland today. Everyone has a box that they have to fit into.

    Girls; pink, dresses, fairies, emotions, boys, cooking, English, Arts, college, marriage, children.

    Boys; blue, jeans, sports, no emotions, girls, woodwork, metalwork, gym, universities, sexdriven, one-night stands.

    Irish; alcohol, cultural, Gaeilge, sweaters, complaining, ignorance.

    And if someone doesn’t fit into the box, society makes them fit.

    If we want a triangle to fit in the circle slot, it won’t work. Because a triangle has corners and straight edges and just won’t fall through the slot. But if we want to fit it into the rectangle box, with the right amount of pushing and shoving, it will work.

    And no one will say, “No; that’s not the right one,” because it’s people and they want us to be like them.

    Hi, I’m Fiona. I’m an Irish girl that loves hip-hop, soccer and anything sporty.

    Hi, I’m Alex. I’m a six foot two fourteen year old who’s straight but I love musicals and theatre.

    Hi, I’m Merlin. I’m a trans boy who still likes wearing dresses but doesn’t want to be a girl again.

    Hi, I’m George. I like soccer, but I prefer writing romance novels, and as a child, I loved ballet.

    No matter what society says, not everyone fits into slots. Everyone is different.

    People change. Slots and grooves don’t. Sometimes we can’t force the triangle into the slot we want it to go into. We have to accept that it’s not a circle.

    Hi, I’m Jessica. I can’t seem to do anything right at home. My dad can’t accept the fact that I’m trans and refuses to call me by my chosen name.

    Hi, I’m Matty. I’m standing in my bathroom staring at my wrists with a razor in my hand because I can’t stand being bullied in school and at home and everywhere because I have a boyfriend.

    We’re not blocks. There are no grooves for us to fit into that were made by someone else. We need to make our own grooves.

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  • School: Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh
    County: Limerick

    The Story of Ireland.

    20:00. Half-seven mass came to an abrupt finish, the priest himself stumbling over the final blessing in his rush to get home in time for the X Factor final. The time has sprung upon us where the evenings are growing rapidly shorter, providing one extra line of script to pipe to your neighbour in another Aldi-queue encounter. Rain hammers a steady beat upon the windscreen of our reliable Micra. We sit silently in mass traffic, serenaded by Mary Black’s son on the radio. The left car speaker blew three months ago and the poor, cracked audio somehow compliments the young singer’s voice.

    ‘We stoppin’ at Donkeys, yeh?’ Damo pipes up from the back, his head appearing between the two front seats like a donkey through a fence. If there were two things to be said about Damo, it’s that (a) he is more freckle then man, and (b) he’s always thinking three meals ahead of everyone else. I nod quickly, praying he’ll sit back again. He was banished to the backseat for a reason. I’m reminded of a back*seat cage I saw for sale online recently, almost identical to the ones seen in Garda cars. I search the vague memory for a price of some kind. With a theatrical sigh, Damo flops back into the backseat and I refrain from repeating my no*seatbelt rule.

    ‘Oh! Thomas, can you turn it up? I love this song!’ The song she’s referring to is the eight o’clock news report. Seeing no reason to dwell, I twist it up a few notches and my Mother dances a small shimmy of happiness while Catherine O’Rourke lists off the daily tragedies. From the backseat, Damo poorly disguises his laughter with a barking cough. Smooth.

    Traffic inches forward a small bit more and then, the second the heifer had crossed, we drive fluidly into town without a stall in sight. Next up on the radio is a bit of Cascada. Fortunately she’s cut off seconds before her queue, as we pull up outside Donkeys. The chipper was no bigger than our dining room, yet it remained an iconic landmark of the city. The stench of grease and old kebabs clung to the air, soaked the walls and buried itself into every fibre of your clothing. Still it felt like a second home to me. Damo steps out of the car, and I follow. Donkey’s:!You!bring,!we!batter.!Damo claims to have seen someone batter a full turkey once.

    ‘You comin’, ma?’ I turn to her, noticing she hasn’t followed.

    ‘No, dear, I’ve just eaten.’

    ‘Communion won’t fill you, ma. C’mon or you’ll be starved later.’

    Damo has already gone ahead and ordered the usual while I help my Mother out of the car. We step inside, welcomed by the sizzling grills and peeling linoleum floor. It may not be much, but it’s tradition. After-mass chips on Saturday night in plastic stool thrones with a battered feast fit for a family of forty.

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  • School: St. Columba's College, Stranorlar
    County: Donegal
    About:A native of Drumkeen, the fifth-year hopes to study Journalism in DCU once the pesky matter of the Leaving Cert is done and dusted. In the meantime, he’ll continue to juggle his passion for writing with his other interests including going to concerts and reading.

    This is a story of Ireland
    whose land built and broken,
    who’s record, rebuilt and reborn
    shall never have gone unspoken.
    I have seen the land be changed
    and the people too matured
    A culture lost and regained,
    but by God; we endured.

    I have seen virgins first taste war,
    as the Wolfe and Lion came to blows,
    We had bloodshed and therefore,
    we martyred dead; in prose -
    But we shan’t speak of those who lost,
    much more than pride or demurred
    their sons being an incremental cost.
    For Ireland whole endured.

    I have seen the heart be invaded,
    and innocent lives lie to waste,
    chanting it was necessary to gain,
    no matter how large the take.
    I have seen young bodies be Pearsed
    by gunfire and naive minds lured
    at the idea of revolution.
    Such sacrifice was necessary? For we endured.

    I have seen the soil be scarred,
    and Royal oceans invade the open ground,
    and those who fought, fought hard until,
    they split, and most drowned.
    I have seen De Valera and Collins clash
    and batter the land till it tremored,
    Both men fought for freedom but
    the freedom they fought for was theirs.

    I have seen some men starve
    surrounded my meal and Maze
    yet fasted on salt and water,
    taking in as much as their mothers gave,
    And all Ireland’s person watched,
    as these men emaciated,
    ashes to ashes, Sands to sand,
    Ireland endured. They did not.

    I have seen a 30 year trouble brew
    Used neighbours as pawns or bait
    and mere strangers as fodder
    and to this day a stalemate,
    I have seen lovers split for,
    having flags wrongly coloured,
    And questioning the fidelity of Jesus’ mother,
    For they are so holy yet bled on the Sabbath.

    All this I have seen,
    and much more since then.
    We fought for our freedom;
    hard times; and time again.
    But we also worked on building bridges,
    and divorce and equality. And
    foreign aid swapping knives for syringes.
    We did so diplomatically.

    Be proud not of what we did,
    But honour those who died,
    Let go of all religious grudges,
    that helped in our divide.
    Feel pride when we hear our anthem,
    But do not mock our neighbours,
    Ireland grows and repairs,
    And we endure and labour.

    Pro Fide Et Patria:
    For Faith and Fatherland

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  • School: Borris Vocational School
    County: Carlow

    Death in Ireland

    Death could not deny he had a certain fondness for the Irish. As he stood outside a small cottage in rural Ireland, and he could already feel the strange mix of Christianity and paganism in the burial rites that were taking place inside. It was evening, the busiest time for wakes and the small white house was ringed by cars. Flowers fell like waterfalls from hanging baskets and a shaggy dog watched quietly from his doghouse as mourners tramped in and out, wondering why his master hadn’t brought him for a walk in days.

    As Death passed inside the house he was welcomed by the smell of freshly baked bread and apple tarts. The inside of the house was bathed in golden light from the setting sun. Men gathered in clusters clutching glasses and glancing in at the dead man, while their wives murmured condolences to the family and gave offerings of food. Beside a mirror shrouded in a sheet, a priest spoke quietly with the dead man’s widow. A man bent over the coffin to kiss the corpse’s forehead before apologising and explaining he had to leave to the man’s son, citing cows near calving as a reason. It took him another twenty minutes to actually leave. Giving up on finding the man’s soul in the wake room, Death moved to the kitchen where women bustled about getting drinks, fixing sandwiches’ and handing out buns. He passed through the room unseen and unnoticed. At the moment the atmosphere was light, almost as if it was any other gathering. As the night moved on, the crowd gradually diminished until, finally, the family was left alone with their dead.

    In the wake room he noticed the man’s adult granddaughter had taken up her vigil and was glaring at the wall in front of her. Her gaze snapped onto Death as he passed, as if she could see him. It almost offended him. Nevertheless, he continued on through the dark, silent rooms of the house. He found the soul standing morosely at the top of the hallway, outside what used to be his room. Death knew the man well, and knew what played on his mind. He’d always tried to protect his family but as the Troubles wore on he had begun to worry his family would get caught up in it all. He’d lost brothers on both sides of the 1916 rising and had known the pain of one being celebrated as a hero, while the other was detested as a traitor, even though all he wanted was to ease the financial burden on his parents. One had been the shame of the family, the other the pride. Dublin was poison to him after the rising. So he left. He ensured that his family remained safe. But it was staring up again, and there was nothing he could do for his family. His mouth twisted but, like everyone else, he had no choice but to go with death.

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  • School: St Angelas Secondary
    County: Waterford
    About:A Leaving Cert student from Waterford City, 18-year-old Rose harbours ambitions of a writing career; suitable, since she identifies her main hobbies as writing things down and sleeping. Having learnt her craft through local creative arts group Waterford Young Arts Critics, she's had various pieces published in the local press.

    Once upon a time, there was...

    Lukewarm tea, chipped mugs and Tesco value digestives. School pinafores and times tables. First communions that taste like silk and incense; angelus touch. Rosary beads. Stained glass stone monster licking at your skin. Jade light leaking down your arms. Bread and wine. This is my body, this is my blood, given up for you. The Sacrifice; the story was always about the Sacrifice, wasn't it?

    History classes at 11:30am. Sepia faces dripping time. Gods of Olympus in Éire. All our angels and saints. Names becoming prayers. Connelly and Collins and Devalera and Pearse. Humans beyond the human. Ireland becoming more; the moment. All changed, changed utterly. And the Terrible Beauty is born; it grows. 100 years of echoes, GPO and lockouts. Gunshot vibrations ringing through our veins and copper taste in your mouth. Crimson splashes. Our roots are drenched in that moment. Saoirse agus daoirse.
    An bhfuil cead agam dul go dtí an leithreas?

    Hedge schools and canz in the fields with the boiz. Trollies thrown in rivers. Mary was here 2k11. An Island of poetry. Saints and scholars and chicken rolls. Castles beside Centras. Brand spanking new ancient world.

    The beautiful mutation.

    We are the faerie-touched come away o' human child changeling nation. Caught between worlds. Tír na nÓg always that half-step away from dole lines and urban sprawl and the alleyways that smell like piss and the poverty and the sickenking wealth and the homeless man that I don't know how to help and the inefficient systems that make it that way and politicians that probably taste like chip pan grease. But Cú Chulainn is pounding beneath your skin and it's about to rip.

    The forest in August. Night. Dark. Shadows. Air that smells like if summer could bleed. Close your eyes. Breathe in all that green gore. It will throb. The feeling of something Other. The Waters and the Wild. Come away. Come away. The pulse throb, pulse throb. Our Islands heart beats.

    Leave, and walk to a McDonald's and check your Tinder.

    The Terrible Beauty; it grows.

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  • Somhairle Quigley Brennan

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    School: St.Eunans College
    County: Donegal
    About: Currently procrastinating over the Leaving Cert, Somhairle like to play guitar and scowl at inanimate objects. He hopes to study English at 3rd Level, with the end goal of supplying existential crises to the masses.  

    I'm sick of this country. Everywhere I go I am met with people expecting me to get belligerently drunk.

    There’s no escape.

    Sure the Irish are gas craic, aren't we?

    When I was 18 I went to my first house party. I understand this was quite late in life to be
    experiencing a first anything but I wasn't the partying type. I was a bookish young man who spent more time alone in my room than enjoying the delights of teenage rebellion.

    I arrived a fashionably twenty minutes late for this ‘coming of age/baptism of fire’; was met with cheering and a shower of beer cans and cigarette butts. That night was to be the first night I consumed alcohol, kissed a girl and passed out.

    I was astounded by the stench of tobacco. Nearly everyone was sucking smoke into their lungs with reckless abandon. The teens in my town were bored delinquents. Sure there was
    nothing else to do. Break stuff, then smoke on a street corner while OAPs scowled at you, then maybe go home and take a nap. Repeat this till you die (or go to college).

    My first beer did nothing for me. My second gave a nice buzz. After my third I hugged everyone
    explaining why they were my best friend. After my fourth I threw caution to the wind. Niamh O’Connor was possibly the prettiest girl in Ireland (looking back I realise that, in a small town, I didn't have much to judge against). I approached her as one might approach a free kebab, with glee and unbridled confidence. Her boyfriend, Ciaran Donnelly, the local hardman (legend had it he knocked out 9 lads in one night. Legend also had it that he achieved this by hitting them with his Honda Civic) looked on with the correct amount of suspicion. Throwing my arm around her I launched into a speech about how we were both young and we should just do what felt right. I then bogged into her. She took it quite well. She graciously kissed me back, her tongue probing my uvula as if we were dying tomorrow.

    I woke up the next morning face down on a carpet with a ringing noise in my head. It sounded like my ringtone. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and massaged my aching jaw.

    It was my ringtone.

    -Ciaran left me. Do you wanna meet me?
    -I’m sorry who is this?

    The haze lifted. I remembered the taste of her cherry lip-gloss, the feeling of her hand groping my lower back like a drowning man, and the taste of blood as Ciaran’s fist collided with my jaw.
    This was an occurrence, I presumed, that was replicated every weekend around Ireland. I swore to myself I wouldn't drink again.

    I didn't want to be like the others.

    I needed to escape.

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  • School: Sacred Heart Grammar School
    County: Down
    About:Currently busy revising for my GCSEs, Niamh enjoys spending her spare time immersing herself in the musical joys of her piano and violin. The ultimate hobby for the 16-year-old poetry enthusiast, however, is reading timeless classics by the likes of Dickens, Austen and Wilde.

    An Réimse

    By Niamh Owens

    Hush. The lark doth sing its praise and
    The green blades, verdant, rough and lush,
    Encompass the ebullient, ethereal field,
    Lilting in their tranquil brush.

    The linen, gleaming, white and pure,
    Hath immortal childhood in its seams,
    And the golden sun doth escalate among
    The insects as it gleams.

    Their mellifluous singing doth emulate still,
    The pagan falsehoods which beckoned them close,
    But a new song they sing now as ardent in voice,
    With the coming of He who so greatly arose.

    The shamrocks, they preach a new meaning now,
    Nebulous and idyllic to the myriad quaint.
    For soothed hath they been by the dulcet tones,
    Of our most resplendent, sagacious saint.

    The reticent field hath welcomed now,
    The sonorous symphony of more settlers yet.
    Their chipping and chirping which began in discord,
    Doth harmonise into an insect quartet.

    The crocuses’ soothing lullabies by night,
    Accompany the locusts’ susurrations by day,
    But Heaven forbid they should sing a duet,
    Lest either should lead the other astray.

    And here, each lie perished and slain,
    Indiscriminately upon Drogheda fair,
    The linen is coarse with their rancid blood
    As the meadow’s sepulchre cries for prayer.

    Now it laments, more imploringly yet,
    As Aughrim auctions the pasture’s flaxen goods.
    The gavel, it strikes, slow, serene, solemn,
    Summoning William to rekindle the wood.

    Standing valiant and refusing to shift,
    The boughs whip, inexorable, incandescent.
    Wolfe Tone and O’Connell carried forth by the wind,
    Rebellious, robust, relentless in essence.

    Heave now, this field may yield something yet.
    Cannot you see the fair harvest o’er yonder?
    Putrid these potatoes appear, repugnant, unctuous,
    Shall we ever receive aid, I wonder?

    Near one million now the field has slaughtered,
    Barren and futile, it grimaces, decrepit.
    The ephemeral millions have scattered or died,
    And one by one, they have upped and left it.

    Fifteen now have expired in the bleak ash,
    Of rattling gun shots over the field.
    Too true serves the thought, ‘To strive,
    To seek, to find and not to yield’.

    Martyrs they hath departed this existence,
    Martyrs upon the field lie they,
    Martyrs in the history books,
    Martyrs, revolution’s prey.

    Many hath joined them, coalesced
    In crossing the paddock’s partition.
    Many hath joined them, confined
    In heart, in spirit, in mind and in prison.

    Bloody the linen flies over the pasture,
    Bloody the linen in complexion and name.
    The Lord’s own day is dissolved in the mixture,
    Sighing, crying, praying and lame.

    Alas flies the linen, gleaming, white and pure!
    No longer shall crimson tarnish its sweep.
    The field, although cleaved, is forming its stitches,
    To harmonise, to love, to fuse and to keep.

    Thence the field lies,
    And so I shall leave it,
    Glorious as springtime, celestial as day.
    O’er the lark flies,
    And o’er the boughs reach it,
    In connection, in harmony, in endless agape.

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  • School: Duiske College, Graiguenamanagh
    County: Kilkenny
    About:While Sean’s main focus is on developing as a playwright, he also enjoys writing fiction and poetry. When not indulging his writing passions, he can be found reading, listening to music, and having very deep, philosophical discussions with his dog Marley.

    Thoughts from a Bus Stop in Rural Ireland


    It's nuts for me to think about it today. If we were born twenty, even ten years earlier, our friendship would be close to impossible. It's hard enough as it is, seeing as he lives on the other side of the country.

    I stand at the quietest bus stop in Ireland and wait for him to arrive. It can hardly even be called a bus stop. It's a place on the side of the road some bus drivers are willing to pull into to let you off. I have explicit instructions for him to wait at the top of the bus and remind the bus driver to stop there as soon as he knew he was in County Kilkenny. I do hope he has a friendly bus driver. What I failed to mention while giving these instructions is that some of the esteemed men and women who operate Bus Eireann's buses can be quite stubborn when it comes to stopping their red and grey bullets. Some flat out refuse to stop in the middle of nowhere to let me off sometimes.

    I check the time, the bus is due about now but they're never on time. To be fair, buses not being on time is not something uniquely Irish. What is very Irish is to complain about buses not being on time, I shall do that later.

    I make a mental note to mention that to him once he arrives. I know I'll instantly forget once we meet, but I do it anyway. I always feel after he goes that I had so much more to say.

    I hear the bus coming before I see it. Whistling as it rushes down the hill, and breaking as it meets the bend preceding the little village in which I am sitting. It's close to the only man-made thing to be heard. The bus destroys the silence as it hurtles towards its destination. No, not silence; there's the din of cattle lowing and bird's singing. But that's something you tend to drown out when you're used to it. You only really hear it again when you think you're alone.

    The bus emerges into view and I stand, hoping to attract the driver's attention. It would be a pain to have to go collect him at the next stop. I'd never hear the end of his apologies either. I see him half standing, half sitting at the front seat of the bus, beside the driver. There's a massive grin plastered across his face. I beam back as the bus slows to a stop. The door opens and he hops out, embracing me in a giant hug.

    "Six hours on a bus to the middle of nowhere."

    I grab his bag and say nothing about the half-hour walk we're about to take from the middle of nowhere to my house.

    I still haven't told my parents he's a Protestant. I'll leave that till after dinner.

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  • School: Homeschooled

    We Reap What We Sow

    A is for Assurance.
    For accidents, as I stumbled over clumsy feet like a fawn, clad in cumbersome boots. The ground never failed to cushion the descent; my trust never faltered, though painful patterns appeared on my knees. Polished upturned crescents comforted me at every baby–proofed corner, every innocently rounded edge. Picture books portrayed an innocuously two-dimensional fantasy, entirely composed of primary colours. A crude impressionist painting, saturated in positivity.

    E is for Education.
    For enlightenment; as I stacked novels upon the caricatures, torn and faded, to climb to the highest shelf of the library. Aid was provided by concerned hands, grasping my own to assist the gradual ascent. With upturned palms and averted eyes, they approached the edge of the meadow and equipped me with binoculars. The view was left to my own interpretation. Trial and error ensued, a guessing game to fill in the blanks, join the dots.

    R is for Reality.
    For rebellion. The realisation that scarlet once stained the green sanctuary through which my clumsy boots tread daily. I’m caught in the headlights of the history books. They weave a disturbingly authentic tale which paves the roads we traverse and dents the pillars keeping us upright. The illusion of the characters being fictional is dispelled; they were parents, cousins, siblings. Even those enshrouded by their cushioned cradles were in the midst of the climax, the conflict. For beneath the safety of their cocoons were firearms transported by fearful guardians.

    P is for Peace.
    For partial conclusion. Perseverance. Progress. This autobiography is incomplete, the authors: inconsistent. Some were not even aware of the pen grasped between their trembling fingers as they trudged through sodden parchment. Though they may never reach the printing press, rough drafts are pumped vehemently through the engines of speeding vehicles. Mobile cages of cautioned armour, which are so easily swayed from their original routes. Antlers are more fragile than they look. Collisions are inevitable, avenues are blockaded and tensions reach a crescendo in the blaring brass section of the traffic jam’s orchestra. The conductor may be absent, but the acceleration pedal is pressed firmly to the ground. I strive to obtain a greater understanding, to read between the lettering, to empathise with the century-old tailors of the present day. To learn, to study; in truth I haven’t written a word,

    Yet this generation’s hands are also stained with ink.

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  • School: Ursuline College
    County: Sligo
    About:An appreciator of stardust and tea – in equal measure – Aoife equates writing to a form of taxidermy. When not committing pen to paper, she enjoys maths, music and untranslatable words, and hopes to follow a career picking music for TV ads or naming chocolates.


    The Story of Ireland is a complex fabric, woven of dreams, ideals, hopes, achievements – and beauty.

    Beauty has been instrumental in inspiring the heroes that changed our country. The beauty of nature and love, but also of nationalism, of sacrifice, redemption, creation and destruction.

    Beauty is still a central part of Ireland today. Our idea of beauty has changed – from Pearse’s vision of "a leaping squirrel in a tree" and "a red lady-bird upon a stalk" to eyes that are almost like stained glass coiling in disintegrating colour, ultraviolet fragility cracking underneath eyelashes like thin ice, or nights wrapped up in stars and streetlights, or smiles of beautiful demolition; but this is beauty nonetheless, and what an abundance there is of it.

    But can force cause beauty? Some would disagree, yet it’s the collision of night and day that causes the beauty of sunrise and sunset.

    Terrible beauty exists. Broken glass makes the air sparkle – some things are prettier when they’re falling apart. Autumn is beautiful, yet everything is drying.

    The story of Ireland lacks all sense of self-preservation – but self-preservation is the enemy of anything worth doing.

    The ideals that Ireland was built on were poetry in a world still learning the alphabet.

    Come hell or high water
    In the land of saints and scholars
    With inspiration running dry.
    The rivers fill up with tears,
    Of the heroes of bygone years
    Who cry, who cry, who cry.

    The story of Ireland has a backbone of dreams and a hint of reckless idealism.

    Idealism can be dangerous. It’s easy to get swallowed up by dreams and forget to live. Throwing rocks at the window may seem romantic – until the glass cracks. People are not snow or rain or autumn leaves– they do not look pretty when they fall down.

    But idealism is necessary. Turning idealism into realism is all about figuring out that not everyone drives off into the sunset at the end, but that if we don’ t have a sunset, we can find someone with a car who’s willing to drive till we find one. Everyone has asunset somewhere. They say dreamers never go anywhere in life but I’m writing this on the moon.

    There’s a concept called the high place phenomenon or “L’appel du vide” (the call of the void), where people get an indescribable urge to do the most inappropriate thing their minds can conjure up, like shouting in a silent room, or dropping a precious object – or jumping off a rooftop just because you’re capable.

    {or maybe we’re all a little in love with the unknown.}

    The revolutionaries 100 years ago couldn’t possibly have known what 2016 Ireland would be like. We do not yet know the final chapter in the story of Ireland.

    But does that not add to the beauty of the whole thing? There’s mysticism in not knowing, a little charm in uncertainty.

    We’re all in love with the unknown.

    Once upon a time, there was nothing. the end. the end.

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  • School: St Killian's College, Carnlough
    County: Antrim
    About:Since moving to the Glens of Antrim at a young age, Matthew has had an interest in the arts. His spare time is spent reading and writing – or watching pretentious films – and everything from Greek Mythology to aspects of biology, inform his work. If a career in writing doesn’t materialise, then filmmaking is another field that tickles his fancy.

    A forgotten evening, grey with age, falls on the roads and dies in a haze.

    To my left, a field and a broken path,
    My mind wanders still and my feet come at last.
    I trip and tangle in the gloom, wading through weaves of rushes and brome,
    And in a sleep, I am carried along to stones that rattle until they are gone

    Over the cliff to a rolling sea, barred by a gate, but opened for me,
    The fence is broken but ferns fill the gaps, the Council has banned and barred the path:
    “Its display is distasteful and the danger is disgraceful, and the jingle in our pockets deems it far, far too wasteful”
    Indeed, protest, the horror of such a mess. The dragonfly pest! The raven’s barren nest.
    And the wildflowers, well, they are weeds as much the rest!

    (I apologise, dear reader, I did digress.)

    The boards sound dull beneath my feet, one breaks in my wake and crumbles to peat.
    I notice now the grasses have gone and in their place brambles live on.
    Nettles and briars follow suit, and soon a thorn springs from every shoot.

    Haze that rushes from the road, traces my footprints in swirling forebode.
    Ice crystals form in the tracks, but just look ahead. Never look back.

    (Stop. I’m sorry, but despite what I’ve said, in a place like this, Romance is dead.
    Nature’s bounty in its might, showed me a splendour tainted by blight.
    How can I talk of dreams and light when modern Ireland would rather fight?
    And not with steel: pen or sword, but with flags and hags that hate who they ward.

    For Ireland’s woe and Ireland’s end is in these lines I can barely pen.
    When time by time we vote for change yet refuse to save our dying age.
    It is the rivals and marches and banners and flags that laden the layman who is just getting by.
    Gone is the emerald in the isle when it has been sold to fund our revile.
    What is Ireland? Who are we? Lost is the world of the old poetry.

    My mind reels in the coming cold, the pressure, the anger, that I’ve never told.
    A looming question I must address, why live in a place where I feel bereft?
    The problem is, I can’t decide: to stay at home or to stay alive.
    For here, it’s clear, I’ll fade away when a damned cliff-path can barely stay.
    They’ll dig me up from a bracken grave for I have grown sour from my time in Knocklayde.)


    Until we join, green and gold, and truly make amends,
    We’ll be cursed, forevermore, to fight ‘till bitter ends.
    All the horrors of the past have never truly gone,
    And until they’re put to rest, the North shall never belong.

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  • School: Loreto College Mullingar
    County: Westmeath

    They march in, each following their own beat
    Every one carried on the tide of dead men’s dreams

    The warrior women and martyr men who rose at Easter
    Had hopes and machinations and ideals
    They died for a cause: vain or foolish or heroic as it was
    Take your pick: it’s not the question here

    They march in, each following their own beat
    Students. Identity drowned in uniform
    Whose once wide-open and curious child-minds longed to know and ask and see
    Now they are a battered broken lot
    Taught that they are unimportant and unexceptional
    For not fitting on a narrow shelf of narrow education
    Many angered by their loss of independent thought
    Cry out at the loud injustice

    Imprisoned where outside the box is worthless and wrong
    Where opinions die in the back of throats, words lose their potent taste
    Because it’s not about learning
    It’s about pointless points
    Unattainably high goals
    Passion a lucky aside where subjects are forced upon them Obliterating all else outside the four walled world of school
    They are nothing, no one, nada, nil if they cannot learn off
    the opinions of others to be regurgitated on a page for a twisted
    version of English, unoriginal and suffocating

    They cry
    Stress turns them into a shadow of themselves
    Their health lies in tatters around them
    School becomes a naked torment
    They cut off their releases, music, sport, writing
    To make way for the more “important” things, for a promised future
    they have forgotten they can build with their own hands
    They are brainwashed to be incompetent, to wait for instruction and
    never take the initiative
    And then tossed out into real life, bewildered and lost
    Expected to know how to think for themselves after years of being squashed down
    The antithesis of Pearse’s vision

    He dreamed of places where passions were pursued and interests encouraged
    Talents honed to perfection
    Children not losing what they love for the sake of a subject they don’t care for
    Would he weep?
    “Was it for this the wild geese spread the grey wings upon every tide?”
    For a broken system that blood was shed and people died?
    A century on, how much do we disappoint?
    But who am I to stand for change
    Make a revolution
    And give Ireland a new story?

    I am not nothing
    I am not no one, nada, nil
    I am the voice of the lost
    Breaking the fourth wall

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  • Entry:
    'An entry in the form of an unsent letter.'

    For the mind of one, Kavanagh
    A dear friend

    I stood in a bubble. A place where a person could stand for a great Length of time and be enveloped by the cold air and brightness of stars
    And not be judged by the red chested birds and foxes in the darkness, whilst smoking when they shouldn't be. That's what it drives you to, being something you don't want to be.
    It happened in a swiftness, a sort of rope tied to the flesh above your foot and tugging at you to be something that in the green land of glory you most certainly could not live up to.
    The postmen carried rumours and the women who peeled their potatoes were greater than you because they had the bravery and all you have is a lingering desire to be a part of something, when all along you weren't even a messenger. Your job was to witness all the heroes be heroes, the kickers make their long goals for points, the speakers changing the lives of the good common people. What of the ones who could not make sense of the culture? What were we to do? We couldn't join the craic because all we see are faces of dead, the lost pointless men and ladies of faith.
    A lie is amongst the lot, a carry-on attitude after a war that doesn't exist. The unity of islands split the lives of the border children before we even knew 1969. There are so many empty questions sitting on our lips. Why does everyone leave for the little while, there is no promise of coming back. No one is safe between the north and south of no man’s land.
    People speak of fairness in a modern day. As if all this fairness could fix what a holy man’s hands did. Like a line of peace will create something, when in all reality we had truly nothing to protect. Babies buried under soldiers’ shrines.
    Was it really as epic as all life? I can't sleep whilst knowing people inches from my own warm face had died in a siege when they could have been like myself, waiting on an open future that may not come – but at least they would have the chance to see one.
    Glasses brimmed with stout are breathed on by stories of uncles battered by their own camogie sticks and whispering to the wind their own names and a banishment of the plague.
    I have written a poem – lost are the souls of Sundays – a better Ireland's truth.

    So you think it’s funny living amongst the dead.
    Where the strong men marched and the sixteen lead.
    a line of dust shakes the floor,
    the rebels are fleeing from door to door.

    A bomb explodes and Markievicz screams; nobody
    was prepared for a siege it seemed.
    a never ending one hundred years of ‘spiritus Mundi’,
    The bloody mess of a wretched Sunday.
    The human clouds stuck on a street
    where some island had failed to meet.

    Living nearly free on a cut off isle
    nobody agrees within a good five mile.
    A stigma of Kings and bands.
    a city, a college, Fenians and ‘dirty red hands’.
    When and where and why and who
    murals of sands streak the fights on Patrick’s faithful cue.
    Orange faced drunkards burn through bushes.

    No clinking of tall glasses in Crossmaglen,
    only smashed bottles filled with fire by men.

    on lengthy cruel duel with a master of wars
    the Irish can move on from a plight of sorrow
    Trinity, infinity and open doors
    a new generation and plenty to follow.

    Yours sincerely
    an unremarkable, Carroll

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3rd Level

  • University/College: NUIG
    County: Limerick
    About:Layla Hehir is 26 years old and was born in Limerick. She was shortlisted in the Hot Press Write Here Write Now competition 2015 and has had poetry published in Ropes literary Journal 2016. Her poem ‘Beware of the Hey Man’ was featured as poem of the week on Headstuff literary website in September 2015. She enjoys writing poetry and fiction when she is not drinking wine with her cats.

    Entry: A Cautionary Tale

    They no longer laughed,
    they just said, ‘That’s funny’.
    They wore flowery beach shorts
    when it wasn’t sunny.
    They started calling flip flops ‘thongs’;
    That was the first sign of something wrong.

    They had left laughing,
    ‘i’m off down under’,
    but when they returned
    we sensed something asunder.
    An eeriness lay in those sundrained eyes
    that hinted at secrets and terrible lies.

    Calling every enemy ‘mate’,
    giving rise to our wild debate;
    What had happened our friends down there?
    We sensed it coming, yet weren’t prepared.

    It wasn’t long ‘til it all went south,
    they started foaming at their lipglossed mouths.
    They’d developed a taste for human flesh,
    ‘Come on mate, let’s get it fresh’.
    The grisly barbecues that thus ensued
    with salads made from neighbours, stewed,
    are stuck with me to this very day,
    One thing’s certain,
    I’ll stay away.

    Now I think back,
    it wasn’t that bad,
    as genocides go
    there was fun to be had.
    All is forgiven,
    let’s hear the applause,
    Because I just got offered a job in Oz!

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  • University/College: Mary Immaculate College
    County: Limerick
    About:My name is Jason Reddan aka Jay Red. I am a Rapper, Writer / Director from Kileely Limerick. My time consists of making music, writing and filmmaking. I also like to promote positive mental health awareness any way I can. My plan at the moment is to finish writing and start shooting my first feature film (4acres) this year. I will be dropping a new rap track this summer titled “Hide from you”. I love writing, I’ve always been fascinated with words and stories, I have dropped two albums to date and made over ten short films and music videos so storytelling has always been something I am deeply passionate about. It runs in my family.

    Blacks, Dogs and Irish
    By Jason Reddan “You black basturd,” they called me. I ran home crying as quickly as fast my little
    eight year old legs could run, and I jumped onto the couch where my grandad was sitting and I cried. “What’s the matter” he asked? “Dadda, they’re calling me black”. He looked at me with a soft grin and said, “sure your not black at all.” I felt a strong sense of relief and comfort hearing these words as if they were the fastest most effective paracetamol tablets for the world’s most spontaneous headache. I asked him, “Why are they calling me black then?” He then picked up his cup of tea as if he was buying some time to answer my question. He looked like he was deep in thought, but then put the cup back down and stared dead straight into my face and said “look you’re not black you’re just a browned off Irish man”. We both laughed. He then got in the mood to tell one of his usual jokes, “Here’s one: what has four legs and says meowe?” I said “a cat” with the excitement of knowing the answer; he looked at me with utter disappointment and said “ahh someone told you.” He gave me a little dig in the arm and told me to go out and never mind the bolloxes.
    An attractive girl walks up to me in a night club. “You’re that rapper fella aren’t you, I love your songs.” I’m going to bang this anyway, I said to myself. “You’re not from this country are ya,” she said. I got annoyed but responded “no I’m just a browned off Irishman”, putting my good granddad’s lessons to work. She smiled and we ended up going back to my aunt’s house where I was residing at the time. After an impressive ten minutes of drunken sex, I called it a night by ejaculating. To impress the girl I tied a knot on the condom and flung it off my thumb like Robin Hood towards the corner of the room. It was dark, but I was confident it would just hit the corner of the wall and fall into the empty bin that was there.
    The next day we woke and she left, I laid on the bed thinking of my childhood how being dark was a curse and a benefit. I smiled to myself. Suddenly I heard my Aunt scream up the stairs. I got a fright and ran towards her and said “what’s wrong?” She looked at me like a demon and said “look out the back window?” I ran back up and looked out and there it was hanging like a Christmas ball on a tree. The condom flew out the window and wrapped around the neighbors satellite dish. I ran downstairs tied a fork to the sweeping brush and tried to get it off. It eventually fell down into the neighbors back yard, whose dog decided to play with it.

    The Irish Robot

    Once upon a time, a robot wobbled into the restroom of a bar. He sees his own reflection in a broken mirror; a soft concerning voice speaks to him...

    “Sure you can drink all day
    And party all night
    Sure it’s all just a laugh
    But every night is not right
    Yeah you use to have a laugh
    That’s a fact it’s true
    But you don’t drink from the bottle
    That bottle drinks from you
    I see the pain as the devil
    Drains drink from your veins
    Till there’s nothing fucking left
    just the blame and shame
    You’re in denial, you answer back
    with the mind of a child
    you jump around pure wild
    I won’t see you for awhile
    You fuck off to the pub
    You leave the kids behind
    Until you fall on your back
    With a pacified mind
    You wake up in regret
    In a panicking sweat
    How the fuck did you get home?
    Yeah, I know, you forget.
    Look you just need to stop drinking
    And acting the clown
    Before your mind gets fucked
    And your body shuts down
    Look everybody falls at times it’s true
    But you don’t drink from the bottle
    That bottle drinks from you.”

    The robot exits the restroom.

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  • University/College: I.T. Tralee
    About:Recently returned from living in New York for the previous four years & enrolled in a Creative Writing for Digitial Media course in the IT Tralee in her home county of Kerry.

    It’s not a rebel song, It’s an emigrant one.

    It was raining the day I heard my Father died.
    Usually, New York in July is relentlessly hot.
    Unmoored streets, where tepid air descends quickly, spreading out and settling into each crack
    and gap and crevice. But today it was raining.
    And I couldn’t go home.
    So I went out.
    That was when the wheels came off completely.

    C’mon make a call, we’ll get a bag, yerra fuck work tomorrow.
    All the boys are in Sunnyside, asking for the shift and chancing the ride.
    C’mon, sure them Bronx boys are wild.
    Paddy? Aye, sure every time he comes to Queens it snows.
    Ya fuck it so, it’ll be a bit of craic, the game is on at nine and we’ll just go straight through.
    I made $500 last night and I feel like waking up with nothing.

    ‘Til morning comes, bringing with it the hollow after the high.
    It finds you sitting alone in your apartment crying, and not small, girlish tears either, but ugly
    heaving sobs, and a misery that sets in your marrow.

    Then you turn around, you get a new job and you’re back on the sauce.
    You’ve one of those nights, and it’s only our ones about, it’s witching hour and none can touch
    us in our high Irish tower.
    Voices weakened by cigarettes smoked and friends greeted.
    We tell stories acted out like we should be on stage and we laugh ‘til we ache.
    We sing songs and our hearts break.
    Dead heroes and the immigrant’s tale.
    The smoke hangs low and heavy above our heads, and we keep it together for another night.

    We do it for our brothers in Australia who went willingly in planes, not in coffin ships in chains.
    For all the boys out in Rikers, for fighting cab drivers.
    For all our ones at home with small town blues, restlessness and dole queues.
    Where you from yourself?
    Ah we’ll not hold it against you, we all have to be from somewhere.
    What can I get ye boys?
    Shots of Jamo bro, set the lads up for me when you get a chance love.
    All the fear dubhs and all the primos.
    How long ya you here now?
    Came for two weeks and it will be eight years in October.
    Time flies
    Aye surely
    High stool philosophy.

    In the Summer my house is full to the seams with human beings.
    But a flurry of activity quickly returns to silence.
    Bodies replaced by dirty sheets and heavy hearts.
    Fake socials, tax I.D.’s and health and safety cards.
    Screensavers of kids you never get to see grow up.
    We can’t go home.
    So we go out.

    Still there is a lot to be said for a Summer’s evening in New York City.
    The air is pregnant with possibility.
    Our makeshift family with makeshift accents are all assembled, and this is our mass.
    The work may be seventy but by God the craic is ninety.
    The tears of laughter are rolling fast and fat down our cheeks.
    The city skyline lights the night from a cracked cab window on the 59th street bridge and Jaysus
    what a view.
    Could you ever go home after seeing that?
    I don’t think so.
    Me neither.
    And what can I say, but it’s a sick cat that doesn’t drink milk.

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  • University/College: DCU
    About:Currently putting the finishing touches on the dissertation for his Communications degree, Tiernan’s spare time is spent listening to music and trying to get to as many gigs as possible. Already experienced in writing for a music publication, it’s a career in the same game – or perhaps in radio – that appeals to him most.

    A Story of Ireland: The View from Starbucks

    Starbucks gets loud at lunchtime. Amidst the grinding coffee machinery and indecipherable jabbering of strangers it’s possible to make out an array of different accents floating around the place.

    A suited man in the queue in front of me is shouting into his iPhone. He looks and barks like a business man. The barista hands him his coffee, which he snatches without a word before storming off. His immaculately greased hair remains perfectly in place in spite of the pace of his exit.

    When eventually the burden of the queue has been conquered, I take my modestly sized beverage (a tall Vanilla Spice Latte) to a table looking out onto a rainy Dame Street. To my left, a group of teenage girls are blabbing loudly in semi-American accents about their friends Kim and Khloe. Apparently Khloe looks like shit these days.

    To my right, two men are sitting opposite one another, holding hands. A few brief glances are thrown in their direction, but the pair generally goes unnoted by the throng of people.

    I notice a significant portion of the people around me looking at their MacBooks. I feel odd for not doing the same, so take out mine and place it on the table.

    Upon opening the sleek contraption, I’m immediately greeted by a news site I had been looking at the day before. Images of desperate people sailing the Mediterranean on flimsy dinghies are plastered all over the screen. I’m peering into a snapshot of misery, but find it difficult to envision the actualities of their suffering. I suppose this little island I’ve lived on for all my twenty-four years is isolated from that particular reality.

    I slam the Mac shut and peer out the window. A different reality stares back at me. Across the road, in direct line of my vision, a man is huddled up in a sleeping bag on the street. He’s gazing blankly into space, holding out a paper cup which is slowly disintegrating from the rain. A group of well-dressed men and women holding high street shopping bags walk straight past him without even a glance in his direction. A little further down the street they stop to applaud a woman putting up a poster that reads “SAY NO TO WATER CHARGES!” The well dressed folk and the woman appear to be sharing in a moment, a shared “Fuck you!” to the injustices of society.

    Meanwhile, the homeless man’s cup has completely dissolved in the rain.

    I gulp down the remnants of my now lukewarm drink and head out onto the street. Someone tries to hand me a leaflet telling me that “Christ is the answer”. I, like most others out here, ignore them.

    I make for the bus stop, but get that uneasy feeling, like I’ve forgotten something. I check myself, but the confirmation of all my possessions and one-way plane ticket out of here fails to alleviate the uneasy feeling in any way.

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  • University/College: Queens University, Belfast
    About:I'm a life-long Belfast local and a recent graduate from the School of English at Queens University, Belfast. My focus throughout my degree was on contemporary poetry from Belfast and I plan to continue research in this area at a Masters and doctoral level in the near future. I try to write as much as possible (try being the key word there) and my writing style has been influenced mainly by the humour and post-modernist treatment of Irishness in Flann O'Brien's novels, as well as by the works of fellow Belfast writers such as Glenn Patterson, Robert McLiam-Watson and Brian Moore.   

    Medical Records of Dr. J. Bull
    Date: 24th April, 1916

    Notes: Patient Hibernia has become hostile to the treatment. Patient developing distinct paranoia – she accuses members of staff of stealing her possessions and not providing her with daily meals. Several attacks were also made on the patient’s caretakers. I have recommended she be sequestered for further examination - possible diagnosis of female hysteria.

    Date: 29th April, 1916

    Notes: Patient placed in restraints after several turbulent days of passionate fits. I am recommending the use of a tranquillizer which I believe will subdue [REDACTED]

    Date:6th December, 1921

    Notes: The patient, having attempted to escape several times and causing harm to others in the process, has been receiving counselling. Patient now insists on being referred to with masculine pronouns. Initial counselling sessions have been promising and I am recommending unsupervised walks around the grounds in future.

    Date: 28th June, 1922

    Notes: Patient revealing latent signs of multiple-personality disorder. Patient now considered extremely harmful to others and to herself. She is expected to be transferred from the care of the Britannic Psychiatric Ward to the Papal Institute.

    Notes from the health department of the Regulators of Institutions (ROI)
    Date: 18th April, 1949

    Britannic Psychiatric Ward declared non-functional and has been shutdown. Patients found to have been mistreated and in many cases abused. Full inquiry pending. All remaining patients have been given appropriate transitional care and are awaiting release. The records of several employees are either missing or redacted. One employee, Dr. John Bull, has been accused of gross negligence.

    Online extract from Hibernia’s biography “The Struggle” written by Jimmy Eve, published in 1985:

    ...and the full extent of Hibernia’s persecution still, to this day, has not been recognised. Reparations must be paid for the countless crimes committed to him, not to mention the psychological repercussions of those crimes – from serious self-harm to a recent spate of anorexia, Hibernia has battled both externally and internally because of this institution. Let us not forget the grievous oppression for over eight-hundred years...(Continues for 1,323 pages. Purchase book to read further).

    Online extract from a review of “The Struggle” in Northern Star:

    ...Eve’s long-winded propaganda piece tries to sell a simplistic view of Hibernia as an unquestionably heroic figure for whom violence is merely the proper reaction to the suffering done unto him. The book ignores the complex and problematic side of this very controversial character. Brushed over as well are the crimes he himself has committed against... (Continues for 21 pages. Click here to continue).

    Extract from Hibernia’s personal diary: 10th April, 1998

    Picked the grandkids up from the crèche. Wee Aisling had gotten a star for drawing a picture of the whole family smiling happily with me right in the middle. I was chuffed. Kathleen came to pick her up and have a chat with her brothers. All the talk kept going back to politics. Might as well have been speaking another language. I just sat daydreaming, letting my thoughts grow.

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  • University/College: Queen's University Belfast
    About:I'm Chantelle from Holywood, County Down. Currently, I'm a student at Queen's University Belfast, but in my free time you can find in me the studio of our student radio station, where I'm Deputy Station Manager. I'm passionate about writing, broadcasting, and tea, and hope to one day reach my dream of being a published novelist (sadly all the tea-tasting jobs are taken). 

    Entry: Easter 2016

    City walls. Police checks.
    Faceless crowds and tactless cat-calls.
    Ship decks. Shopping bopping passers-by.
    Wild forest treks. River flowing and seconds going.
    Blackbirds flying overhead.
    Talking, shouting, sighing, whispers.
    Honking, beeping, rolling, callers.
    Starry nights and petrol-bomb fights.
    Homeless plights. Avenue murals.
    Loaded colours. Wind-torn flags on dim lampposts.
    Industry funnels. Tourist sights.
    Borders, coastlines, airlines, and language barriers.
    Parties, sharing, future-depending.
    Bombings, history, paramilitaries...

    There’s Betty and there’s Mary, there’s Judy and Bill. There’s Kenny and Georgie, Mylo and Phil. There’s Margaret and Daphne, Gary and Lil. Andy, Louis, Pamela and Jill. There’s Shankill and Falls, East and West, all just labels, not promoting the best. Cork to Carrick, Dublin to Derry, London to Belfast, Cardiff to Kerry. United in that we are all just human; brave and bold, scared in ruins.

    The future is bright – or dim, if you wish. Whether we look back in anger, or forward in shame – let us not remember who dished the blame. We have so much to hope for, live for, and reach. It won't be corrupted by a breach of peace.

    Colour is an illusion,
    A trick of the mind's eye,
    So let’s hope, hope utterly:
    A future of beauty is nigh.

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  • University/College: Queens University Belfast
    County: Down
    About:A 19 year old student of English with Creative Writing, Anna enjoys travelling and exploring new places, whilst also drawing inspiration for her poetry from the scenic Mourne Mountains and beach in her hometown of Newcastle, County Down. Eager to continue developing her style, she’s keen to follow wherever her creative writing may lead...


    And we knew it had begun.
    The brooding wind unhinged at a distance,
    pacing down the august corridor.
    Choking through the sickly:green undergrowth,
    rowdy waves of foliage ruptured from within.

    Fat liquid bullets clapped down hard,
    pinning wounded daisies to the studded lawn and
    smothering indignant petals with offensive drivel.
    As thick-set, leaden clouds dumped down dripping misery,
    a noble fallow doe kept vigil neath the mighty willow.

    Crazed, convulsing seizure of the skies –
    A torrent toppling, spewing a chorus of
    slippery Sumo bodies at the earth. Booming and
    gambolling in the whirlpool air: ten thousand
    dew:drops pregnant with fluid carnage.

    Amidst the grisly accent of decay,
    I discerned her sober voice.
    She, always, watching – calling: “turn back – listen” –
    Soon the guttural howling of delirious beasts waned to the
    weary whimper of a wide:eyed infant child, and so

    The sky bled out.
    Now only tinkling beads slip out of upward nothingness and
    the land is stained with wet regret.
    But the closing blows of the storm are whispered,
    as the incipient breath of her triumph is written in the blooming fields.

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  • University/College: IADT


    I lift my head, suspicious of the sudden silence. This is not the way it should be. The sound of gunfire filled the air not even 30 seconds ago, along with the shouts of men ordering more ammunition and more death. This is not the way it should be.

    The silence continues as I shuffle forwards on my knees, peering over a stone column that once supported one of the many buildings in this city. I can’t see anything, only thick smoke that hangs in the air. Maybe it’s over, maybe we won. I let out a quiet snort at that. It would never be over this quickly, the Irish do not give up that easily. Even when we have them cornered, they keep going, keep fighting for “freedom”. They are willing to die for this “freedom”.

    Is freedom worth dying for? I... I’m not sure about that. And yet here I am, on my knees fighting to prevent others from gaining their freedom. This is not the way it should be.

    Suddenly, there is a sound, a moan. It fills the air and becomes one with the thick smoke. I glance around quickly, is it one of us or them? Then I see him, a boy of no more than 15 years old, on the ground exactly between “us” and “them”. He has been shot, this child, and is moaning for “God to come and save me, please Jesus save me!”

    His cries ring out over no man’s land. I look around and see Commander Winston, talking to his second in command, Darby. They are looking at the boy, and speaking in low voices. The boy cries out again: “Oh God, won’t someone help me, please??”

    I stand up, and cautiously walk towards the Commander, aware that the gunfire could start again at any moment. The Commander notices me approaching and immediately stops talking to Darby. I salute him, then say: “Permission to speak, Commander.” He eyes me, then says: “Permission granted. Make it quick, Jones. We’re in the middle of a war zone here!”

    “I would like to tend to the injured boy, Sir,” I say, surprised by my own boldness. Commander looks at me, and then sighs. “Denied, soldier. He is not one of ours, he is the enemy. We cannot help him now,” he says, turning away from me. “But, Sir!” I cry, forgetting my place, “He is just a child!” Darby grabs me and hisses: “The commander has given his order, soldier, now obey! It is the child’s own fault for being on the losing side. You’d think the Irish would have learned from their own history – they can never win!”

    He lets me go, and I glare at him for a moment. The Commander looks at me and says: “Go back to you post, Jones.”

    Frustrated, I do as I’m told. I am just a pawn in this war game. This is not the way it should be.

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  • University/College: DCU
    County: Westmeath
    About:A student of Multimedia from Mullingar, Laura's passions include reading, writing and going to the cinema, though she enjoys media of all shapes and forms. Taking inspiration from everyday life – conversations with other people, as well as experiences past and present – she aspires to a future in screenwriting and filmmaking.


    Written by

    Laura Berrigan

    FADE IN:


    It’s after eight in an old-fashioned pub in North Dublin.
    Half a dozen male punters sit along the bar. They’re all
    white, over sixty and of similar socioeconomic status. A
    slouched punter, JOHN SMITH, stares into his pint of Guinness
    as CONOR WALSH enters. Conor is young and of mixed race. He
    has an air of confidence about himself, despite his visible
    lack of belonging in this old-Irish, watering hole. A
    calendar reads 16 January 2016.

    What’s the story? Stick us on a
    pint of Hophouse.

    John is surprised by Conor’s thick Dublin accent and unusual
    drink order. Everyone at the bar is drinking Guinness.

    What in the name of God is

    It’s a new lager made by Guinness.
    You not hear of it?

    I only drink the real stuff.

    Conor grins, holding out his hand to introduce himself.

    Conor Walsh. And this is better
    than Guinness, by the way.

    John Smith. No lager or “Hopper
    House” can beat Guinness. I don’t
    care how good it is.

    Ha! Give it a go then.

    John shakes his head.

    Y’afraid I got a disease or
    somethin’? Or just afraid I’m right?

    John mutters to himself and takes the pint.

    Shit. It’s not bad.

    He takes another gulp.

    Not bad at all, but Guinness is an
    Irish tradition. I’m too old to
    change now. When I was your age it
    was the only- Ah it doesn’t matter
    actually, you won’t understand.

    Conor laughs heartily.

    Won’t understand? Is it ‘cause I’m
    black, is it?

    John reddens.

    That’s not what I meant.

    I’m just as Irish as you are, old
    boy. I may be black but I was born
    in the Rotunda and grew up in
    Santry. I speak Irish and I play
    Gaelic. Only difference is I can
    keep a tan, even in the rain.

    You got me wrong there, son.

    Being Irish doesn’t mean just
    drinking Guinness anymore.

    What does it mean then? Being born
    black in the Rotunda?

    Ha! So ya have a sense of humour
    after all. No, but “being Irish” is
    an ever-changing thing. It’s not
    what it was 100 years ago and
    that’s a good thing, John. You can
    accept that or you can fight it,
    but it’s happening. So y’may as
    well embrace the Hophouse, Johnny boy!

    Conor raises his pint in mock salute as his iPhone buzzes.

    Shit! I’m in the wrong pub, I have
    to go. It was nice talking to you,

    John watches Conor leave, turning back to his pint and thinking about what he has said. He fishes around in his pocket, pulling out a silver card. “You are cordially invited to celebrate the wedding of David Smith and Robert Hammond on March 1st 2016”. John studies it and scratches his head, hesitating. He pulls out a pen and scribbles “I will be attending” on the invitation.



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  • University/College: Uni.Sheffield & QUB grad

    My niece is two weeks old. She’s my parent’s first grandchild. The first link in a new generation of the Noble family.

    She forces me to acknowledge that I and my brothers are actual grown>ups. I’m 22. Skylah’s dad is 24 and my younger brother is 20. I think it’s the same for my mum; Skylah sleeps in the Moses basket we all did. Mum couldn’t bear to give it away.

    Skylah is only two weeks. She knows no hurt or pain yet. She is so fragile and innocent.

    I wonder at what age she will realise that she lives in a sectarian society.

    I was 10 years old.

    It was meant to be a fun day out, playing games and sports with other primary schools at a local secondary school. Except we were the only Protestant school, out of four, there. In a Catholic secondary school too.

    And by God we felt it.

    Dirty looks in the toilets from the senior girls. Several of the primary school kids asking if we were Protestants, repeatedly.

    Though I don’t believe it would have been any different, if there’d been three Protestant schools and one Catholic.

    I never want Skylah to feel that unease, but I expect she will. She will most likely go through segregated education. So much of her friendships, where she socialises and her notions of who she is, will be formed out of the denomination of Christianity she happened to be baptised into.

    Some of my happiest childhood memories are the 12th July: ice>cream, sun (if you’re lucky) – a day out with your family. I had a picture of Prince William and Kate’s wedding on my bedroom wall for years.

    I now see myself as Irish. I no longer go to the 12th. I no longer can reconcile my wish for a more equal world with support for the monarchy.

    University years in Belfast enabled me to be educated with Catholics for the first time. My mixed friendships made me challenge all my views and the narrative of the unionist community.

    My generation are the lucky ones. No memories of bombs and bullets. But we feel it in the air: history and hurt. See it, in our deeply divided society.

    I want better for Skylah. It fills me with sadness to think she will grow up in a province with not much less division, hurt and hate, than I did.

    In 2116, I hope for this disputed small corner of Ireland to cherish all the children of the nation, equally. Where integrated education is majority, where no one can assume your religion by your name, where women have abortion rights and where LGBT citizens aren’t second class.

    Where a baby can be born without the weight of history waiting to divide into “them and us.”

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  • University/College: UCD
    County: Meath
    About:Living most of his life in Trim, Ronan is always on the lookout for new experiences. His goal for the future is to to have his poems and prose works published, or make a living in any aspect of the arts

    Entry: Bastard Nation

    Our forefathers, who art in derision

    Deliver us from the evil, greedy pricks,
    Who came after you,
    And built Starbucks to your memories.

    Give us this day our daily dose

    Of the wise and well informed,
    so assertive in their scorn,
    of their own past
    While bemoaning the injustice of occupation,
    Of Middle Eastern countries.

    Comes the moisture off the mould,
    That put one generation after another,
    Into a spore-induced hold
    “Idealism is bad”
    Is what we are told,
    As we ship off our morals for revenue.

    Jesus, Mary and Joseph

    And all the saints preserved us,
    While a bespectacled beanpole
    Stripped the people of their rights
    And left them naked for the Church.

    God bless you and keep you

    Under the illusion
    that these wax skinned scarecrows,
    Are here for your benefit,
    And not their own.

    Hail the hairy, sweaty hands of men

    Who reached into everyone else’s pockets,
    Breaking a country’s back,
    In the process revealing,
    It possessed no spine.

    Body of Christ? Amen

    To whichever homeless, elderly or sick corpse,
    Has been added to the pile,
    That is resented by those who remain,
    To strive and die,
    To feed and fatten
    Suited, gormless gamblers.

    This poem has ended, go in pieces to love,
    And serve the Lord

    Once we’ve elected a new one.

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  • University/College: UCC
    County: Clare
    About:A second year student of English and French, Niamh originally hails from the countryside of East Clare. She loves the cultural buzz of her new adopted home, and combines interests in reading, writing and playing the harp with a passion for travel..


    I am the girl
    Wearing two wooly jumpers
    at the farmers’ market,
    And I am the hen
    Who laid the eggs she sells.

    I am the smiling potato
    On an empty red and blue packet
    Of Tayto’s cheese and onion crisps.

    I am the cows’ square backside
    Sauntering slowly along the road,
    And the line of cars behind.

    I am the kettle on, and the cups out,
    And the tenth time asking
    “Are you sure now you won’t have a cup,
    Sher, I’ve the kettle on”.

    I am the small corner shop
    With it’s bulky cash register,
    And moaning about the rain.

    I am Kerrygold, Figrolls,
    Montbretia nodding at the road,
    And the crowds in the pub for the All-Ireland.

    I am friendly smiles and waves on the street,
    And talking to strangers.
    I apologize a hundred times daily,
    I am modesty.

    I am the frilly edged stamps
    On dog-eared letters
    In green postboxes.

    I am the tin whistle being blown too hard in second class,
    I am tap-dancing and swimming lessons.

    I am ‘N’ plates and ‘L’ plates
    And the bubbling radio
    In the kitchen in the morning,
    And the right to marry who you love.

    I am Dunne’s Stores and Rory Gallagher,
    And the smell of gossip at the hairdressers.

    I am the airplanes flying out of Dublin, Shannon, Knock,
    I am the hugs at arrivals and the hugs at departures,
    And the fifteen minutes free parking.

    I am twenty-five extra points for honours maths,
    And Granny’s homemade jam.
    I am “don’t upset the fairies”,
    And an inability to go for one.

    I am orchids on the Burren
    And the rich banks of the Shannon,
    And soda bread.

    I am Baileys and a battered bodhran
    I am jigs and reels and a prayer to Saint Anthony.

    I am the colour of happy grass,
    I am “whatever you’re having yourself”.
    I am home.

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  • University/College: DCU
    County: Kildare
    About:Living outside Clane in Co. Kildare, 20-year-old Sarah is a second year Psychology student.  A member of Clane Musical and Dramatic Society, her passion for writing is only matched by her interest in drama.

    Home For Christmas

    I walk into his room, smooth down the covers and sit. Sit and stare. I kept everything the same as when he left, right down to the crisp packet lying beside the bin. I’d pretend like I hadn’t even been in, when he got home. The crisp packet is sunlightAfaded and smothered in dust. Has it been that long?

    I wonder how he is right now, what he’s doing. I know he can’t tell me, can’t speak of it for the horror. His letters don’t describe, it’s like the pen can’t produce the words. My baby boy was never one for writing much anyway. His teachers always told me that he was a “very energetic child”, code for disruptive I think. I didn’t care, his test results were nothing to me, nor to him either. He wasn’t going to university that was known. My son’s path could never be so staid; he loved adventure, battles, daring. He got it.

    The group of young lads he ran around with were the talk of the village. They weren’t bad, no, just wild and reckless, and trapped by the confines of the same old eyes day after day. When one joined up, it was like an avalanche. Within ten days, the whole lot of them had their names in. It was something new, something exciting, something to do that relieved the tedium. You can say their reasons were flawed, I’m not saying they weren’t, but was there malice? No. Did they fully know what they entered into? No.

    He told me he’d be home by Christmas, in that cocksure way of his. “Sure, I wouldn’t leave you to have Christmas on your own, Mam!” There had only ever been the two of us, I relied on him just as much as he relied on me. He threw me a grin over his shoulder, then hefted his bag and walked out into the startling August sunshine. That’s the last time I saw my baby.

    “For the last time Missus, visitors are not allowed into Mountjoy at Christmas. Your son is in solitary again, like the rest of that gang. There’s a reason he’s not allowed visitors, you know! Goodbye!”

    Home by Christmas, that’s what he said, like a soldier in the Great War. It turns out, the battles he was fighting are less conventional.

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  • University/College: NUIG

    A Story of Ireland

    A cold wind picked up as I trudged my way up a slippery Harcourt Street. For the most part it was deserted, given the ludicrously early hour, however a curious mix of early risers and late partiers peppered my morning commute.

    It always seemed to me that two cities coincided within one. The students of Dublin’s many colleges spilled out onto the streets every Thursday night, and every Friday morning the lingering few would walk side by side with the older generation. One city, two populations.

    A light drizzle started to fall and the wind whipped against my face. Head bowed, I picked-up speed and focused on my destination. I was already late.

    I pulled my scarf up higher to cover the exposed skin on my face as I approached St Stephen’s Green. In my haste I almost didn’t see a laminated poster lying on the ground in front of me. No doubt it had been left over from the weekend’s commemorations.

    I picked up the Proclamation from the rain-soaked street and propped it up against the railings of the park. I continued on towards Grafton Street, but I wasn’t alone anymore. The ghosts of my ancestors followed me. The sound of the rain seemed to fade, only to be replaced with the echoes of gunfire and panicked commands.

    The ghosts and gunshots followed me all the way to Trinity College. The longer I walked with them, the more I understood.

    I paused and looked through the gates of the college and was struck by a powerful surge of nostalgia. In my first semester there, I had taken a class in Irish history. It mostly consisted of case studies of the Easter Rebellion, but I remembered becoming engrossed in it. I was in awe of the tragedy of it all. Tragedy that had occurred on the streets that I walk every day.

    I tried to comprehend my feelings. I could sense a sadness within me. A sadness that I think I had been feeling for some time. Every day I rushed from place to place. I stopped smiling at friendly strangers as they passed by. I didn’t know the name of my local shopkeeper. In a city full of people, I was lonely.

    Memories from my childhood began to surface. Friday evenings were reserved for céilís. Stories and jokes were told around the fire. Drinks were poured and then poured again. I heard legends of the Fianna and I learned the words to Raglan Road. That was the Dublin of my childhood. The Dublin I had somehow managed to forget.

    I turned away from the college and continued on. I was definitely late now, but I walked slower. The wind and rain persisted but I was lost in thought. I hummed the tune of Dawning of the Day as I approached O’Connell Street.

    The GPO stood as grand and magnificent as ever as I navigated the slick pavement towards it. It was just another day at work yet somehow it felt different. This time I paused and gazed at the bullet holes before crossing the threshold.

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  • University/College: IADT Dun Laoghaire
    County: Louth
    About: Living in Dundalk, Co. Louth, Shauna spends her spare time writing, reading horror novels and going to gigs. Her two favourite places are the local book shop and music store, and she hopes to be a published author and a teacher of English and History.

    Entry: The dew from the grass was soaking into the back of Fionn’s trousers as he sat watching the sun dip below the hilltop. The orange glow accentuated the shadows on his face: deep burrows carved by years of worry, lines inscribed by moments of laughter. He pulled the flat cap off his head, wiped his brow and placed the hat on his lap before leaning back on his elbows.

    “Nice day,” he said, turning his head to the side. The figure beside him was laying down, arm draped across his eyes to block out sun, his face unmarred by age. Unspoiled, save for a dark purple blossom near the temple.

    “Splendid,” the man answered. His foot moved from side to side, and nudged against Fionn’s calf. “Great day for doing nothing.”

    They fell silent, listening to the birds nesting in the tree behind them until the man cleared his throat. “How’s your mam?”

    Fionn shook his head. “The cancer’s back again, but she’s in good spirits. You might get to see her soon. I don’t know if you’ll be glad about that or not.”

    “Of course not. No one wants to... Never mind. Tell me about you. Something happy.”

    Fionn smiled, his teeth gleaming. “She’s pregnant. Julie I mean. Three months.”

    “Congratulations,” the man said.

    “It perked ma right up. Started talking about cots and prams and everything. Even though this is baby number four.”

    “She’s a good woman. She deserves to be happy.” He said it with an air of sadness that made Fionn turn and study him. He could see the harsh set of his jaw peeking out underneath the arm still covering his eyes.

    “She talks about you all the time, you know,” Fionn said, sitting up to get a better look. “Even now. My children probably know you better than they know me. You’re her hero – don’t ever doubt that.”

    The man laughed, but there was no humour in it. “I was stupid. Put pride and glory before my family.”

    “It wasn’t for nothing.”

    The man lifted his arm, and bright green eyes so much like Fionn’s own stared back at him. Years of pain and ghosts of unshed tears misted over the irises, and disappeared again with a blink. “I miss her. I’ve always missed her.”
    They said nothing else, and sat until the sun fell completely from the sky, a fat yellow moon taking it’s place.

    “I have to–” Fionn began, but stopped short when he saw the space beside him had been vacated. He sighed, stood, and wiped his hands on the seat of his pants before he ran his hand over the small, chipped gravestone to his left.

    “See you again, granddad,” he said, tracing his fingers over the inscription.

    James Murphy

    19 May 1874 – 26 April 1916

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  • University/College: DCU
    County: Dublin
    About:A final year Multimedia student from Castleknock, Ronan loves motion graphics and animation, and hopes to pursue a career in those areas – though with interest in writing and direction too, he’s not opposed to juggling the lot!

    Our tapestry is long and musty, dusty and rugged as it has been
    hugged and kissed by the pissed and the patriotic
    We etched it on stone and rock, then wove it to the ticking of a
    grandfather clock, stock still for centuries by the malevolent will
    of a shrill empire
    O’Connell’s chuggers, the buggers, could not grant amnesty to the
    lion that committed this travesty
    Who set his bulldog weighed in pounds, on wolfhounds, ripping native
    tongues from their mouths whilst they played rounders
    They floundered as salmon without knowledge of our perfect dialect
    At a time when the soil spoiled, despite the hands that toiled:

    Our destiny perverted, our culture subverted,
    By their choice, we had lost our voice.

    Our greatest tragedy happens to be amongst our mother’s youngers
    Her children did not yearn for the melody of their native tongue to
    be sung any longer, we may be stronger, but we no longer wonder as
    we wander, seeking the perfect pitch of the harp over a pitcher of

    Our hopes lay dormant, lost at sea in the first submarine, but keen
    to resurface, this time with purpose
    One hundred years ago a small band of brave women and men raised a
    hand as a fist, and proclaimed the start of the battle to unshackle
    the cackling chains of oppression.
    These martyrs chartered our course to freedom; we must heed them

    Our mother was set free;
    All but three plus three

    And how we have grown, their war cry marred by the incessant drone
    of our moaning
    Imbued with hatred not yet abated but escalated and demonstrated in
    the war for shelter and water, preceded by the bankers and liars
    that sired a tiger, then proceeded to not feed it while the
    daughters and sons of our fair nation took the situation with
    lamentation for their stolen futures

    These suitors fall like conkers on foreign shores, romancing the
    Relatives watch them go racked with sadness, and pride
    Saying please bring a jacket, It’s freezing outside

    But we are so much more than the whining, we are shining gold at the
    end of the rainbow
    Lo, Eire’s children are fretters and fighters, betters and writers;
    firelighters for the blaze of combustible creative courage as we
    forage for prosperity against the austerity.

    We need to strive forward, despite shop windows boarded, to reclaim
    treasures hoarded
    We breed warriors in sport, supported by our kin and county, the
    bounty of ecstasy recklessly chased by the brash and the brazen.

    We are resilient and brilliant, despite our past, which cast us from
    an ore much lighter, so that we may soar in the expectations of our
    international peers, over bacon fries and beers
    The kings of craic agus ceoil, we roll with the punches and are here
    to take over.

    Our land is a haven, the world knows our people; they crave them
    Across the globe, we will always be welcome
    But to us, there can only be one home.

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  • University/College: NUIG
    County: Kilkenny
    About:Currently studying Arts with Creative Writing, Mark originally hails from the Marble City of Kilkenny. His short stories have previously been published in SIN and The Munster Express – and he's also made quite the impression on other media, making well over 100 YouTube videos.

    I’ve Been To Foxrock

    The hall was wonderful. “This has to be the fanciest place I’ve ever seen,” breathed Zada. She was exaggerating, but she was only ten, so it was her first time in a house this size.
    Megan giggled and shrugged. “Not really.”
    “But this is way, way bigger than where I live.” The chandelier was so cool, like on the telly.
    “What’s your house like?”
    “No, it’s fine. It’s just that my mammy says we’re gonna move into a house someday.”
    A smile clicked across Megan’s face easily. “Like this house here! So when are you
    gonna move?”
    Scrunched-up nose. “There’s a whole thing. I don’t get it, it’s kinda... it’s about being in
    the country?”
    Megan fell to bouncing from wall to wall like some burst of energetic pacing, threatening
    to topple everything in her wake.
    “They’ve been a bit worried about it,” said Zada, “but I think it’s okay. It’s just gonna
    take a while. I don’t know how long.”
    As she ran, Megan half-panted: “That’s because you’re not Irish, is it?”
    A perplexed blink from Zada. “I am Irish. I am.”
    “Yeah, but not like...” There was a moment’s pause for thought, before she gestured
    vaguely. “You know what I mean.”
    Though her forehead crinkled and her eyes went wibbly, Zada kept her mouth shut. “Come on! I wanna show you my dolly house.”

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  • University/College: UCD
    County: Kildare
    About:Caitríona O’Malley is an anguished soul straight outta Maynooth. She has a good sense of humour, loves long walks on the beach, and cites Jarvis Cocker’s on stage bum rush at the Brits in 1996 as her favourite awards moment. She submitted a piece about the absurdity of small-town life, and vows to bring the bum waggle back into music.

    “Yes, it is colder than I expected. No,” she said, looking around the park, noticing for the first time how casually she spoke. From the phone she heard the cavernous echo of her voice as it reaffirmed her answer. “No, I think I’m going to be okay. Really, you have no idea, even the view from the plane was... positive, somehow. The silvers, the golds, Dublin’s heart glowing – she’s opened her heart to me, Claire. She spread her cliff-wrists in an embrace I’ll never forget.”
    Bottles of sunlight swung past the old man, rousing him from his dream of old friends, of moments long and fleeting. The swan did not acknowledge him as it sailed past, white as the shock of lightning over a midnight sea. In the swan’s wake there rippled a tapestry of time, flashing brightly in the afternoon sun. He witnessed tragedy scar the sky with fire; saw divisive walls crumble; and smiled at the slow-stepping figure of his wife, dressed in the frost of winter windows, as she wavered in the pond, approaching him down the aisle, her eyes two bright bowls of wildflowers.
    A young girl saw an old man staring at the pond and he was alone. She ran toward him because she had just learned to count all the way to her own age, and he would want to congratulate her. Then she saw a small green pebble flaunt its glossy sheen in a glance of light, and it was just for her, so she stopped. The child knelt as the man rose and stepped through tunnels of brightness, filtered through hot leaves raised high, green hands in a classroom of branches. She fished the pebble out of the pond, thinking nothing but green, summer moss, paper hats in the garden, the sound of breath in green glass bottles.
    “What took you so long? I’m lonely.”
    A smile appeared on Joseph’s face, shyly luminous as a curved moon relieved of its clouds, when Will kneeled down beside him, clutching two bottles of a particularly disgusting brand of beer.
    “‘Bertha’s Brewery,’” he accused. “As requested. Will that be all? Is my Prince content?” Joseph, sipping the brown fizz, smiled his gummy smile.
    Loops of laughter encircled them, as Joseph removed his filthy sneakers, reclining among the dandelions, his hand perfectly sweaty in Will’s. Leaning in a wind, the trees let spill the voices of the past, the dandelions rose like brass instruments, somewhere a child laughed and a bird chirped assent. A swerve of sunlight set the world ablaze, and in Joseph’s eyes there gleamed the yellow waves of a summer brimming with possibilities. Turning with burning retinas, Joseph felt the gravity of Will’s wide smile ask him is he content; he saw phantoms of green and red rise up like stars beside him, vast with freedom, anchored only by a nodding field. The sky a struck gong, he parted his lips and answered, “Yes.”

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  • University/College: TCD
    County: Carlow
    About:Barry has enjoyed writing since childhood and has a particular interest in humour, superheroes, and humorous superheroes. A Carlow native, he hopes to make a living writing novels and for television – but if that doesn't work out, working in a library would suit him just fine.

    The Islander remembered.

    The Islander remembered the hard work put into moving huge, rounded stones; the mystical structures, rustic but elaborate, built with care. Nothing was more important in those early days than death itself. The good favour of the gods had to be won if the frail lives on the Island were to survive.

    The Islander remembered the curious crowds who gathered to see the man from abroad, excitedly passing on the promises of his new God; how he had used a small and humble leaf to demonstrate how one thing could be three.

    The Islander remembered the centuries of slow change. The constant stream of invaders; the ones who left, the ones who stayed. The ones who ruled. The ones who, with time, became the Islander. The Islander hid in stone towers from howling, bearded raiders; the Islander laid siege to castles built by blonde knights; and the Islander tried in vain, again and again, to defy the will of the Island's closest and most powerful Neighbour.

    The Islander remembered the Hunger. The crops turned black. There was no food. The Neighbour was of no help. Only hard, pointless labour came as aid. The Islander died, and died, and died. Finally the Islander fled. There was nowhere to turn but the sea. The Islander remembered. The Islander would never be able to forget. The Islander remembered the rebellions. Each one was a bitter memory of life lost. Every defeat had been so crushing at the time. Each one had felt like such a waste. The Islander remembered the final one in particular: a dramatic last stand at the capital, doomed before it began. Again, the Islander died – there were panicked, red memories of battles, of shells, of stray bullets. Once the corpses were cleared and the arrests were made, life moved on. But all had changed.

    The Islander remembered the struggles of the century since then. The Island was divided in two and fell into civil war, Islander versus Islander. The Islander could still feel the scars. The Mainland was gripped in another terrible war; this time, the Islander looked away and survived the horror. There were arguments with the Neighbour, but over time they evolved into petty squabbles, and finally, something like a peace. The economy was good; the economy was awful. The Islander came and went, and met with new people, made new allies. The Islander persisted, prospered, and lived.

    And now the Islander was Kazia, a six year old girl whose parents had come to the Island to find work several years ago. Kazia was playing a game on the family's tablet, waiting for her father to bring her to school.

    Kazia didn't remember what the Islander remembered. She might, in time. The Islander was Kazia, but Kazia wasn't the Islander. No-one was. The Islander was everyone on the Island, and none of them. The Islander always would be.

    And the Islander would always remember.

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  • University/College: DCU

    A Story of Ireland
    Shauna Bowers

    My brother, Stephen, was sixteen years old when he met the love of his life. I never believed he would find someone who could complement his audacious personality and irritating yet accurate wit, but he did and Ashley is perfect for him. Absolutely perfect.

    The first day they met was a day when Ireland’s summer weather was in full swing. Upon first light the sky opened, bringing with it a deluge of rain. The grey blanket of cloud overhead created a tranquillity that was almost suffocating. Stephen and I were going to get a cup of tea and a muffin when he stopped dead in his track, as if he was frozen by the sight before him.

    Iridescent sapphire eyes met with Ashley’s sumptuous brown eyes as they gazed at each other across a street in our hometown. I remember the faintest red blush crept up on my brother’s cheeks, as he assessed the beauty before him. I was left dumbfounded when Stephen actually crossed the road to introduce himself, because my brother had never been someone who exuded confidence. In fact, Stephen used to be timid and reserved around those he did not know but Ashley revivified his spirit and confidence.

    After their first meeting they became inseparable and it was evident to everyone that they were meant to be together. Nobody could question their matching affable personalities or their ability to fight like cats and dogs as to whether Criminal Minds or Gossip Girl was put on the television. I’ve always suspected that Stephen secretly loved the drama of Gossip Girl but he denies it even to this day.

    It was Christmas Day 2013 when I really accepted Ashley into our family. Ashley was never overly expressive and I was always worried that my brother would one day be hurt by their relationship. Yes, I was and still am an overNprotective older sister. Then Christmas came and I saw the two of them cuddled by the fire. There was something distinctive about the love shared between their gazes. It made me realise the depth of their love, a love so profound that even I crave at times.

    Now Stephen is twenty. Four years have passed since their first meeting. Everybody bore witness to the scintillating smiles that were everNpresent on the faces of my family members. I never believed this day would arrive, a day where Stephen and Ashley could be who they really are: man and man in holy matrimony. It’s the 23rd of May 2015 and he can legally get married. Ireland is where love blossoms. Ireland is where every form of friendship is acceptable. Most importantly, Ireland is home where we can be true to ourselves.

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  • University/College: IADT
    County: Wicklow
    About:A first year student of English Media and Cultural Studies, Greystones native Fionn has a love of hip-hop and enjoys writing about contemporary life in Ireland, especially for people his age. After graduating, he aspires to a career within the journalism industry.

    An eloquent discussion in an Irish nightclub.

    Outside was the parka/wearing geez, reciting with ease his pleas about 3 for 20. “These yokes are mad chewy, do’s a favour, pick your flavour, this labour obsessed society is incomplete without the illicit desires that transpire when you’re open to such, don’t act butch and lose touch with what I’m saying, there’s no delaying, no spraying, I’m praying you come to your senses, because if I don’t sell these, I won’t be featured on the census, ya dig?” You’re astounded, your brain’s pounded with the pros and cons, and it dawns that life’s too short, before you can abort you say fuck it, give your fingers a lick, flick through your bills and whack out the blue note, no vote needed or prior advice heeded.

    “By the time you’re done,” he says, “your tongue will be numb, your jaw might be falling, your speech stalling but god damn your legs will feel nice, you won’t think once about hugging the nearest thing with a pulse, you’ll be wide/eyed, satisfied with all that life can give, deliver on any promise that you’ve ever made, realise you love your friends for a reason, anyone who offends, you’ll forgive their treason, and the music, oh the music, it’ll be the sweetest thing your ears have ever heard, your body will move in ways you’d normally think absurd, you won’t hear the beat as much as feel, you’ll be the real deal, the midnight marauder with the movements of a mating minx, energetic, effusive with all your missing links. Those lights will be the prettiest things you’ve ever seen, and I don’t mean just bright, they’re so full of life, reminiscent of the hopeful future, apologies if I sound like a teacher or society’s lecher, the tantalizing teller of the taboo tales from the underground, I just want to make sure you’re well informed, well learned about the implications, the sensations and any deliberations you may have. First time? Have half, full if you’re daring, not caring about any danger, I know you’re no stranger to that, take off your hat, sit back and join me on this journey, I can promise you one thing, it won’t end early.”

    Later, he’s in the same spot, name/dropping his way through a parlay with a pretty girl, who I daresay looks younger than the books would allow, who’d plough through five males for some white powder, gratis of course, and I say, voice hoarse with emotion and devotion to the doors that he’s opened, “My good friend, my old flower, in terms of everything you have all the power, this wish you’ve granted, and how I have ranted praise in your name and the game that you inhabit, I feel I’ve made a friend for life, blood brothers forever man, I’ll go get the knife.” He looks at me, rolled cigarette hanging out his mouth, “Have I met you before bud? Dya want any yokes? 3 for 20 here and they’re bleedin super.”

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  • University/College: TCD
    County: Wicklow
    About:Currently in her final year of English Studies, the Bray native hopes to go on to forge a career in the media, where a lifelong passion for writing can be continued. Outside of that, she loves keeping active and playing sport, particularly Gaelic football.

    “Just think how people must have gathered while they painted them green”, a man remarked to his companion, noting that the post boxes were being painted red again for the sake of authenticity. It was all to do with the commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising.
    The centenary- one hundred years, only.
    “These days, people get coins from the President just for being over a hundred years old”.
    The battle of freedom for a nation fought with a tin of wet paint and the defiant stroke of a brush.


    The post boxes were red again.
    Red- the colour of blood.
    Green- a shade of naivety.


    The schoolboy ripped his t-shirt from his back and dunked it hurriedly into the canal before darting towards the fallen soldier. He momentarily waltzed with the crossfire, a bullet just clipping him on the left temple.
    The soldier lay unaided.
    The boy lay dying.
    His feet danced still, blood pooling into the grass of the bank. An unworn world enraptured his soul in new dress woven from the green.


    A young woman pulled her green shawl around her shoulders, treading a soldier-beaten path towards O’Connell Street. As her eyes caressed the markings on the pillars of the GPO, she knew the city had been a battleground not long before.
    ‘Bullets’, she thought, lamenting the lives of the men whose hearts had been pierced to make ripples in the marble. It was small consolation that they would one day be remembered in stone on this very street. The lives lost sat heavily on her heart and she mourned them as a grieving mother would her own children. All the while she stood in the middle of the pavement, others took care to walk around her.


    A couple stood arm-in-arm as they looked on at the centenary commemorations, holding a small tri-colour flag between them. However, the smiles on their faces had little to do with the parade. They shared a secret; they had just discovered that they were expecting their first child.
    An elderly lady stumbled through the crowd; her wiry grey hair and unwashed coat indicated that she was homeless. The woman dropped her corner of the tri-colour and offered her a hand, then slipped a coin in her tattered pocket.
    “Buy yourself a tea, love”, she whispered, smiling.
    The old lady patted her affectionately and then reached into her pocket. For a mortifying moment, the woman thought that she was offended and would return the money. Instead, the lady placed a card into her palm.
    It read, “A terrible beauty is born”.


    A boy caught up with his mother as they turned off Pearse Street and approached the front steps of where his first music lesson would be held. He snatched her hand, not realising that he had run his fingers along a freshly painted post box. The mother said nothing; the smell of paint had stirred something in her. They each had a green handprint.

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  • University/College: St Patrick's Drumcondra



    D.B Smith

    If you’re going to have your life dictated by the Christian calendar you might as well hitch your milestones to the paramount season of the church year. This is the logic that led me to choose Easter Monday instead of the traditional time of Christmas.

    The thing that wows me about Bryanstown is the possibilities. It gets to me really. Here I am driving around this beautiful town with its pavements glistening, GLISTENING, in the sun and there isn’t a penitent on the street. Save for Tom-Boy. He’s sitting on the town bench hurling chips at crows. We’ve six pubs. The only lads who have the dosh to rent a stool in them are Tom-Boy (from a lucrative gig buying cans for the town youths) and the over thirty five brigade. If we do go into town we’re told we’re loitering. Apparently a half a bag of amber leaf and a scratch card do not count as money in my pocket. Don’t get me wrong. We have a social life. Tins in Padraig’s apartment. It’s just that’s all we do.

    I decide to swing by there. They’re splayed out on the couches nursing fat heads from the night before and watching the Centenary parade. Muireann has mixed some class of diesel with coke and called it a Long Island Ice Tea. I drop my keys on the island in the kitchen. The same as I have a hundred times. This time their clatter seems a commemorative gun shot.

    ‘What’s the parade like?’ I ask. ‘Shite’ says Johnny.

    ‘I’m just dropping in before I head.’

    Johnny gets up then and gives me the most awkward hug. Shoulder to shoulder and about a metre between our lower torsos. The other three form a shuffling queue behind him and each grab me in turn. Muireann. Padraig. CT shakes my hand. He’s from the country. ‘Be safe, be safe.’ I close the door behind me as I leave and collapse against it. There’s too many words spinning around unsaid in my head. I said I’d be back at Christmas. The lie clings to my lips like used cooking oil.

    The airport’s buzzing. I stop in for a pint. It doesn’t have the oomph of pre-Spain lager though. There’s a big screen showing the Centenary. One lad in army gear is standing at the centre of a grey cobblestone circle with thousands around him. The bartender dries his hands with the tea towel on his shoulder and turns up the volume. A hush emanates from the television speakers, even quietening the hen party nursing cocktail pitchers in the corner. The army lad is calling out the proclamation.

    “...she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag...”

    I don’t hear any more. My mind’s back in Bryanstown. The tears break loose. And they aren’t flowing for my going. It’s for what could have been. In the destiny to which I thought I was called.

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Dublin: One City One Book is run by Dublin City Libraries’ Dublin UNESCO City of Literature Office.