Monday 25 January 2010



Go to to pre-order these items and receive them well ahead of their respective release dates on March 2nd and Feb. 23rd.

Bankers & Gangsters t-shirt available the first week of February.

Both Bankers and Gangsters and Rockin' The Bronx will be available pre-release at the following events:

Feb. 11 Larry Kirwan reading at Ireland House, NYU 212-998-3950 for reservations
Feb. 13 Black 47 at Connolly's, 121 W. 45th St. NYC
Feb. 19 Black 47 at The Stone Pony, Asbury Park, NJ
Feb. 20 Black 47 at Connolly's
Feb. 26 Black 47 at The Half-Door, Hartford CT and at a 7pm reading by Larry kirwan at the Mark Twain House, 860-247-0998
Feb. 27 Black 47 at Connolly's
Mar. 8 Larry Kirwan reading at Barnes & Nobel, 97 Warren St., NYC 212-587-3185
Mar. 10 Larry Kirwan reading at Book Revue, Huntington, Long Island, 631-271-1442

Wednesday 20 January 2010

Belfast Celtic in East Baghdad

I first met Mike Shinners in Kansas City. Black 47 was on tour with two days to travel from Denver to Chicago. I received an email from him suggesting a stop in KC.
“Sure,” said I. “Just get us a gig.”
I thought no more about it. But, lo and behold, not only did he set us up in the Hurricane, a great club downtown, he also handled publicity and much else.
I should have guessed that he was in the military. Everything was taken care of in a very precise and low-key manner.
The next email he wrote was from Iraq. Not alone was he in the military but a Lt. Colonel in the 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division. It was a long dispatch but, as ever, perfectly detailed and replete with certain theories that he and his unit were putting into effect in East Baghdad and a nearby rural area.
He felt that the cities of Belfast and Glasgow, while sharing much culturally, differed in that one was far less stable over the last half-century. This, he was sure, had something to do with Belfast Celtic Football Club being forced to opt out of the NIFA back in the '50s; whereas, Glasgow's Catholics could always compete with Protestant-dominated Rangers on a literally level playing field on any given Saturday. This contact, he rationalized, enabled both sides to interact more fully within the fields of business and politics during the rest of the week.
Belfast's Catholics enjoyed no such demonstration of respect; hence, its Protestants lost an opportunity to recognize the humanity of, and the common ground they shared with, their Catholic neighbors.
Mike is a student of soccer – the beautiful game – and along with his military comrades he believes that sports is a human right, an essential service as important as electricity and sewage. They feel that a culture lacking such service is not intrinsically stable, and unstable cultures breed insurgency and violence.
They have been aided in their mission by London based group FC Unity and the Kick for Nick Foundation, a CT based organization set up by the family of Pvt. Nick Madaras to give out soccer balls, as a way of breaking down cultural barriers.
All are convinced that on-field competition can sow seeds of unity in the soccer mad, but highly sectarian and ethnically mixed communities, of Iraq. Get Shia, Sunni, Christian, Turkemen, and Kurdish children kicking a ball around a pitch and they’ll ultimate learn to respect each other.
Obviously this man who was part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade's parachute assault into Northern Iraq back in 2003 - followed by operations in and around Kirkuk – knows whereof he speaks.
The question goes a-begging however: how many Irish people are now even aware of the Mighty Belfast Celtic? And is Mike correct in his theory? If the tragedy of St. Stephen’s Day, 1949, had been averted – or should I say prevented – might Belfast have escaped the disaster of the last half-century?
On that day Celtic and Linfield, their traditional rivals, were playing their annual Boxing Day game in Windsor Park in Unionist dominated South Belfast. Celtic were leading 1-0 up until the final minutes when Linfield equalized.
Immediately hordes of Linfield supporters broke onto the pitch and attacked the Celtic players. Many were bruised, some seriously beaten and Jimmy Jones, their star center forward, was thrown over a parapet, kicked repeatedly and had his leg broken. Oddly enough, he and five other teammates were from a Unionist background.
The RUC made only token efforts to protect the players. Soon after Celtic withdrew from the NIFA, figuring that it could not protect its players. Eventually, Celtic Park, aka Paradise, was sold to developers.
Mike recently returned to Fort Bragg. I purposely waited to write this until I was sure he was safely home. These days, you never know.
His hope is that the kids of East Baghdad will get a government that will protect their freedoms, opportunities, and human rights, while giving them an opportunity to compete in the beautiful game.
He’s still a mad Irish music, soccer enthusing, fan as eager to discuss the WolfeTones and Dropkick Murphys as Inter-Milan and Manchester United.
I couldn’t help wondering if things might have been different if those Linfield supporters had not been allowed to run amok back on Dec. 26th, 1949. Would Belfast have had a different fate if the Mighty Celtic had been there to help hold back the red tide of sectarian violence that followed?
Thanks for the thought, Lt. Col. Mike. Welcome home.

Wednesday 13 January 2010


I began writing this column back in the salad day when the Dow was rocketing towards fourteen grand and property values were going through the ceiling. But even then
I could smell trouble brewing for the middle and working classes.
“What’s he on about now?” Mutters yer man up in Pearl River. “Health insurance? The price of turnips? For God’s sake, not Iraq again!”
No, indeed, my first column was about pensions, social security, and the dependence of 401(ks) on the financial markets.
“Oh, me bloody stomach! This is the last thing I want to be thinking about on a Wednesday evening with the tea poured and the spuds and cabbage going cold in front of me.”
I merely mention this troubling matter because (a) no one else ever does, and (b) it’s time we stopped burying our heads like ostriches and came up with some manner of an alternative before we’re all on the Bowery.
Now kindly note that I did not broach the subject while the stock market was lower than a skirt in a convent.
I might also add that barring a Tsunami hitting Manhattan or even worse - Steve Duggan having a bad run out in Belmont - I believe the Dow will continue to appreciate, if only because corporate profits will keep rising due to all the layoffs.
Nonetheless, with a dysfunctional education system, ongoing nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Eileen Murphy’s addiction to boy bands, you don’t have to be Charlie Haughey to predict rocky times ahead.
So, what’s your solution?” Demands yer man up in Pearl River as he shunts the spuds and cabbage into the microwave.
“The Post Office!” Says I.
“Have you totally lost the run of yourself? Sure isn’t that the place where you queue up for hours to buy a couple of stamps, and God help you if you ever want to send a few screeds of used clothes back to Ireland where the children are running around naked in the rain?”
“The self-same establishment,” I agree. “But hold your horses, I’m actually referring to the old Irish Post Office Savings Account and the wonders of compound interest! I mean, what would be so wrong if Barack, Rahm, Nancy, Harry and the other commies down in DC were to set up a system of national savings bonds paying a rate of 2 or even 3% PA to be redeemed when – or rather if - you hit the big 70!
“Why not 62?” Replies Pearl River. “Isn’t that the age you get your first whack at Social Security?”
Well to quote Malachy McCourt, “62 – Mar yeah! The way things are going we’ll all be working ‘til we’re 90 - if we’re lucky!”
Now I know well that the current rate of interest being paid by bankers and gangsters is negligible, but 2 or even 3% will eventually be less than the Chinese are charging us to restore Fallujah and Kabul. So, at least, we won’t have to keep going hat in hand to those sons of er…Mao!
Compound interest may not sound very sexy but it’s like a Cavan man - safe, sound, and still bringing home the bacon when fancy Jackeens and Yellowbellies alike have long gone on the dole. Compared to the stock market of the last decade it’s akin to Viagra – dust off your Christian Brothers compound interest tables, if you don’t believe me.
Besides compound interest can guarantee you a sound night’s sleep and you won’t be biting your fingernails every time you steal a glance at the Dow.
“That bloody microwave!” Roars yer man up in Pearl River. “The mouth is burned off of me! Heats the damned spuds too much on the inside.”
How right he is. The market is equally untrustworthy - a bit too much like Belmont when it comes to supplementing the paltry Social Security check.
Of course, I probably shouldn’t be promoting pipe dreams - the financial industry would curl up and die before allowing such a scheme to pass Congress, for what fees could they extract from compound interest? It would be just you and your sexy little Post Office Saving Book.
Still and all, someone better come up with a long term solution because the Bowery is full of condos now and the owners don’t want you lying around on their pavement guzzling your bottles of Irish Rose.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah!” Says yer man up in Pearl River. “Didn’t this guy never of Powerball?”

Thursday 7 January 2010

Apocalypse Now

I watched Apocalypse Now recently. It stood the test of time. If anything, this epic of cinematic poetry was all too relevant.
Like any great poem it contained heightened moments of insight - even exaggeration - yet the spine was always clear: we did not belong in Vietnam. Line by line Coppola’s ode to dislocation, dementia and destruction highlighted our effect on Vietnam and, unfortunately, Vietnam’s lack of effect on us.
One of the most incongruous images is the blown-out wall of an old French cathedral etched against the tropical sky. Who blew it up – Christian American B-52’s or Marxist atheist Vietcong? It hardly matters.
This image, strangely, brought to mind the shattered gothic wall that remained standing in the pit after the collapse of the Trades on 9/11.
For me Apocalypse Now is always twinned with Graham Greene’s novel, The Quiet American. I’ve never seen the movie version, though I’m told it’s very good. There’s little need for it, however, as Greene’s graphic story unreels like a film, chilling in its warning of what happens when cultures and moralities clash, and prophetic in its vision of the effect of intrusive do-gooders on ancient societies.
The jungles have all but swallowed up the hulks of armored vehicles and unexploded bombs, the last vestiges of our influence in Vietnam. Still, all is not lost; the marines of commerce are already stealthily infiltrating Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a lot easier - and more profitable - to peddle cell phones and hamburgers than to prop up corrupt governments.
And what effect did Vietnam, Greene or Coppola have on the DC politicians and West Point generals who dictate American foreign policy? Very little, it would appear.
It’s been one war after another, some justified, the rest as unnecessary as Vietnam. The DC pols and military brass have adapted though. They figured out that demobilizing legions of damaged draftees back into the heartland wasn’t such a good idea.
Better off isolate the whole thing – get a volunteer army to bear the brunt of the fighting; hey, they joined up - it’s their war.
And get someone else to pay for it – preferably, the next generation. Don’t raise taxes – does anyone doubt that these foreign adventures would be over by Monday if we had to pony up for them.
Each war is different but our enemies are bolstered by two principles – patriotism and ideology/religion. In Vietnam, it was the desire of the Vietnamese people to finally end colonialism and unite the country; there was Marxism at play too but as ever Karl’s theories take a back seat to nationalism.
Let’s not even deal with the disaster of Iraq – just declare victory and get the hell out. Shell has nailed down the big petroleum fields around Basra, and the Kurds will eventually deliver oil rich Kirkuk. Shiite nationalists will deal with any remnants of Al Qaeda. What’s there to hang around for?
But the rocky slopes of Afghanistan are a whole different ballgame. Again we’re dealing with nationalism, but it’s less a nationwide deal, more like – I’ll run my valley, you run yours.
These Sunni Pashtun tribesmen want no truck with foreign ideology. They already outlasted the Soviet Army. They’ve got God on their side, and we don’t.
Will General McChrystal’s surge work? Sure, it will – for as long as we can afford it. Our old allies the Mujahadeen know to wait. They’ll bleed our last dollar spent supporting our military and the vast infrastructure of private security and aid firms we employ. Hamid Karzai and his posse will take the rest.
Getting involved in other people’s civil wars is never a good idea. When the smoke and money has cleared, a coalition of warlords will take on the Taliban, much the same as happened when the Soviets cut their losses and went home.
Oddly enough, we seem to have no Graham Greene or Francis Ford Coppola to chronicle the present state of our affairs. Such talents, no doubt, now aspire to the new cultural apotheosis – the reality show.
A pity about that, since we have need of them to make sense of the tragic reality the politicians and generals have created in god forbidding places we have no business lingering.

Friday 1 January 2010

New Year's Eve

What a long decade. We began it with Trouble in the Land – pretty prophetic when all is said and done and now we’re about to release Bankers and Gangsters. For Mychal, Richie and the other cherished fans who departed back in 2001; for Strummer, Danno Laursen and those who worked with us; for the many who have celebrated New Year’s Eve with us over the last 20 years; and, of course, for new friends who’ve joined the family in this decade, thanks to all of you for your support and friendship. This song is only available on the Connolly’s Live in Times Square DVD. But tonight it’s just for you…

New Year’s Eve in Olde Tymes Square

It was always that way at the end of the year
We’d end up down in olde Tymes Square
Holdin’ each other while the pints flowed free
That was the way it always would be
But things fell apart one weird September
Before I knew it was the 31st of December
With my arms wrapped around your memory
That old crystal ball came crashin’ down on me

But you will never be forgot
Or ever left behind
And so I raise my glass to you
For the sake of Auld Lang Syne

And even though you’re far away
You’re always close to mind
Your memory still haunts me, dear
For the sake of Auld lang Syne

For Auld Lang Syne, my dear
For Auld Lang Syne
We’ll drink a cup of kindness yet
For the sake of Auld Lang Syne

Remember the night with the frost in your hair
And the sparks in your eyes when you told me you cared
And the cop on the horse laughed when he said
“Motel time, kids, why don’t yez save it for bed?”
But time and a river stopped dead in September
And I’m back in Connolly’s the 31st of December
Dancing with shadows and might have beens
With that old crystal ball crashin’ down on me

But you will never be forgot
Or ever left behind
And so I raise my glass to you
For the sake of Auld Lang Syne
And even though you’re far away
You’re always close to mind
Your memory still haunts me, dear
For the sake of Auld lang Syne

For Auld Lang Syne, my dear
For Auld Lang Syne
We’ll drink a cup of kindness yet
For the sake of Auld Lang Syne