Modern Combat: Elections and Rugby

Last Saturday, I wound up watching the Ireland vs Wales Six Nations rugby match, in a pub full of Wales supporters! It seems that they all came to Dublin just to wear their red Wales jerseys, watch the match on TV in a pub, and make a lot of noise.

This is an interesting phenomenon: I know people who would drive from D.C. to Baltimore to watch the Redskins play in the Ravens stadium, but I don’t know anyone who would drive there just to watch the game on TV in a bar. Remember, these Wales supporters had to take a ferry or airplane across the Irish Sea to get here, so it was no small effort. No matter, every pub on my block was stuffed with red jerseys, including my local “The Celt” which was just too jammed, so I found myself at O Shea’s across the street.

Despite Wales being heavily favored, Ireland won convincingly, 24-14. The Welshmen took it well and didn’t rip up the place. Marvelous sport rugby: during the match the Head Coach, wearing a suit, is up in a booth rather than on the field, with a camera on him all the time, doing little but watching and reacting to plays.

Saturday was also National Election Day here in the Republic of Ireland. Polls were open from 7am to 10pm and it was hoped that the new weekend voting day would increase turn-out. Sadly, turn-out may have been stunted by lousy weather and was actually down a few percentage points (62%) from the 2016 election. Saturday voting still seems like a good idea to me.

Interestingly, vote counting did not start until 9am Sunday (giving poll workers a night of rest first) and Ireland uses a Ranked voting system, so voters mark their 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. choices. If no candidate is the 1st choice of more than half of the voters, then all votes cast for the candidate with the lowest number of 1st choices are redistributed to the remaining candidates based on who is ranked next on each ballot. Some U.S. states have used ranked voting for some of their primaries, notably the Democratic Party in Virginia.

While I’m in Dublin, I thought I’d check into whether or not I’m eligible for Irish citizenship. If I had an Irish (EU) passport, my concerns about certain visa limits would be nearly erased. My great-grandfather was born in Ireland in 1852 and emigrated to the U.S. so I might be eligible.

My timing is terrible, though, as about half of the U.K. population has gotten the same idea, what with the threat of Brexit in the last few years, so the Irish bureaucracy that handles applications is swamped. Being physically in Dublin was no help at all as I found out all of this is handled by phone and through snail mail. And forget looking up my relatives online in an official Irish citizens database – as it stands now, I can pay about $300 and wait 9-12 months to find out if I even qualify to apply! As part of that I have to furnish official copies of birth and death certificates, some from more than 100 years ago. Yeah, right.

Did you watch the Academy Awards on Sunday night? My friend Robert, with his impeccable taste in movies, urged me last month to see Parasite. It won both Best Picture and Best Foreign Picture on Sunday, and I discovered it was already playing at the Irish Film Institute here, so off I went to see the Tuesday matinee. Bless the Senior Discount – it only cost €7.50 – and I enjoyed a large, modern, well-equipped, and nearly empty theater for my viewing pleasure. No popcorn, but they did have a nice cafe and bar for a pre-show lunch. Parasite is a subtitled Korean movie, a dark comedy about families at opposite ends of the economic scale and the effects of greed. The ending was a little unsatisfying but I still recommend the movie to you if you haven’t seen it. It didn’t win Best Picture, etc. for nada.

And, speaking of foreign languages, I’ve been brushing up on my French and doing my city research in anticipation of moving to Lyon, France in early March. Ça va bien?

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