seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Death of Tony O’Malley, One of Ireland’s Leading Painters

Irish artist Tony O’Malley dies at his home in Physicianstown, Callan, County Kilkenny, on January 20, 2003.

O’Malley is born in Callan, County Kilkenny, on September 25, 1913. He is a self-taught artist, having drawn and painted for pleasure from childhood. He works as a bank officìal until contracting tuberculosis in the 1940s. He begins painting in earnest while convalescing and, though he does at first return to bank work, he continues to paint and in 1951 he begins exhibiting his work.

In 1955 O’Malley holidays in St. Ives, Cornwall, England, then an important center of abstract art, and home to the artists Peter Lanyon, Patrick Heron, and Bryan Wynter, who he meets and works with. He returns again in 1957 and in 1958 retires from the bank to paint full-time. Prompted by a mixture of frustration at the indifference shown in Ireland to his work, an attraction to the sense of freedom he feels among the artists in Cornwall, and an engagement with the attempt to represent natural forms current in their abstraction, he settles in St. Ives in 1960. While he is strongly influenced by the St. Ives artistic community, his relationship is one of engagement rather than direct participation. His painting never completely assimilates the rigour and formality of the British abstract painters. It retains a muscular extravagance which is central to his artistic identity. O’Malley explains:

“Not so much abstract as essence. I could not paint for the sake of the pigment of whatever, but I like abstract form in the painting which instills it with meaning and power. Abstraction does enable you to get under the surface, to get beyond appearance, and to express the mind. But abstraction for its own sake does not interest me.”

O’Malley adopts a sombre palette in the second half of the 1960s and many of his paintings are dedicated to the memory of his friend and mentor, Peter Lanyon, who is killed when the glider he is piloting crashes in 1964.

In 1973 O’Malley marries Jane Harris, and through the mid-70s they spend time in the Bahamas and in O’Malley’s native Callan. During this period, his paintings become less sombre and the Bahamas paintings are extremely colourful and vibrant. In 1990 they move back to Ireland. In 1993 he is elected a Saoi of Aosdána.

O’Malley dies at his home in Physicianstown, County Kilkenny, on January 20, 2003. At the time he is regarded as one of Ireland’s leading painters.

The Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) displays a major retrospective of his work in 2005, a selection from which is exhibited at the Tate St. Ives in 2006. The Butler Gallery, Kilkenny, stages posthumous exhibitions of his visual diaries in 2005, and his constructions in 2010.

In 2010 under the guidance of Jane O’Malley the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) establishes an artist’s residency in the house where O’Malley grew up in Callan, County Kilkenny. The studio residency is awarded to artists who work primarily in paint. Previous recipients of the Tony O’Malley Studio Residency Award include Magnhild Opdøl, Ciaran Murphy, Ramon Kassan, Mollie Douthit, David Quinn and Paraic Leahy.


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Ireland Approves Same-Sex Marriage by Popular Vote

Ireland becomes the first nation in the world to approve same-sex marriage by a popular vote on May 23, 2015, sweeping aside the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church in a resounding victory for the gay rights movement and placing the country at the vanguard of social change.

With the final ballots counted, the vote is 62.1% in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, and 37.9% opposed. The turnout is large with more than 60% of the 3.2 million eligible voters casting ballots. Only one of the 43 districts, Roscommon-South Leitrim, votes the measure down.

With early vote counts suggesting a comfortable victory, crowds begin to fill the courtyard of Dublin Castle, a government complex that was once the center of British rule. By late morning, the leader of the opposition, David Quinn, director of the Iona Institute, concedes the outcome on Twitter: “Congratulations to the Yes side. Well done.”

Cheers break out among the crowd of supporters in the courtyard of Dublin Castle when Returning Officer Riona Ni Fhlanghaile announces in the evening that the ballot has passed.

In recent history a vote such as this would have been unthinkable. Ireland decriminalizes homosexuality only in 1993, the church dominates the education system, and abortion remains illegal except when a mother’s life is at risk. But the influence of the church has waned amid scandals in recent years, while attitudes, particularly among the young, have shifted.

“Today Ireland made history,” Taoiseach Enda Kenny says at a news conference, adding that “in the privacy of the ballot box, the people made a public statement.” He also adds, “This decision makes every citizen equal and I believe it will strengthen the institution of marriage.”

Alex White, the government’s Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, says, “This didn’t change Ireland — it confirmed the change. We can no longer be regarded as the authoritarian state we once might have been perceived to be. This marks the true separation of church and state.”

Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Féin, says, “There are two Irelands, the elite Ireland and the hidden Ireland. And today the hidden Ireland spoke.”

Nick O’Connell, who is from a rural area in County Kilkenny, cradles a celebratory drink in a Dublin pub. He says he had been too afraid to come out as gay until his mid-20s. “Today I’m thinking of all those young people over the years who were bullied and committed suicide because of their sexuality. This vote was for them, too.” He adds, “This is different from other countries because it was the people who gave it to us, not a legislature.”