Tuesday, January 25, 2011


We are well into 2011 and New Year's Day seems like months ago. I've been thinking that maybe I should start some resolutions for 2011 but then I'm useless at keeping them. So I've decided to articulate my hopes and resolutions for the rest of the year. Stay tuned as i'm going of offer my 10 predictions for 2011 later this week.

1. Start Smoking - the smoking ban is one of the best laws enacted in the history of the Irish state. The smoking ban had been in effect in the Republic of a number of year's when on a trip across the border into Northern Ireland I walking into the Merchant Hotel in Belfast. The Merchant had only recently been converted from a bank into one of the most stunning hotel's in Belfast but when I walked into the bar it looked like someone had set the place on fire. The smoke was everywhere. That is my abiding memory of the place...not the stunning decor. My problem with the smoking ban is that, particularly during the summer, the smoking area is the social hub of any pub and as a non-smoker with so many cigarette puffing friends...the bar can be a lonely place.

2. Ban the Recession - talk of the bust has been haunting the print and airwaves in Ireland for four year's now. In that time I've been married, had children, a knee operation, got a degree and gone very grey...enough said. We're all recessioned out. It may be fresh news to the international media but although people have slightly less money, a walk around Dublin even on a Monday would dispel the myth that Ireland is dead. So the word Recession is now retired from OMG's vocab.

3. Change Hotel Ranking System - I read over the weekend that the British authorities were considering doing away with the traditional 1 - 5 star hotel ranking system...great idea. I've been saying it for years. The star system does not do the Irish hotels any favours. Three star hotel's in Dublin are far superior to their British and European counterparts. I've lost count of the amount of times I've been left disappointed with the facilities. Why is complimentary Wi-Fi such a big ask. It is the norm in Dublin. An ironing bord please!!!

4. Get Tourism Ireland to come clean - Our tourism promoters have traditionally done a decent job in promoting Ireland abroad...sure look at the success we've had in attracting tourists over the last decade. Things have quietened down recently and there are a number of reason's for that such as world reccess...oops not allowed use that word, but one of the biggest obstacles to getting visitors to Ireland is to get over the perception that it is a very expensive destination. Breaking news...we are not. Hotel prices are down up to 50% and alcohol and food deals are a plenty. Now that said, if you go to Temple Bar expect to still pay dearly for the privileged. So here's an idea. Why don't we hold our hands up and say "we were wrong". Yes we did get a little greedy, some more than others, but we've learned our lesson. Ireland is still the place to come for a break, cead mile failte and scenery.

5. Visit the Dublin Wheel - Opened in the summer of 2010 down in the Point Village. I had all good intentions of dropping down to see it but ain't made it yet. I'll be honest I get sick going around a roundabout so it is something that I've sort of put off but I'm going to make it over the next few weeks. I'll post pictures. The view should be stunning.

6. Wear a Tie - The suit tie is a relic of the class system. Yep that is just my opinion but this opinion is acted out by the thousands of young business people all over Europe. I'm told that a proper business man wears a tie and that presentation is king. Well let me tell you people you can be dressed like a king but if you have nothing to back it up the suit is as useless as a coat for a dog. It is all about product and personalities. If you don't have either it doesn't matter what you are wearing...as long as it is not a tracksuit. Wear a tie...i think not.

7. Buy some skis - If there is one very important thing that I learned in 2010, it was that suit shoes and ice are not compatible...indeed rather lethal. The snow and ice that crippled the country in November/December almost crippled me aswell. Twice I bounced off the hard concrete and countless times resembled Bambi and that was only going from the office/house to the car. That is two years in a row that we've been hit with those weather conditions so for 2011 I'm going to buy a pair of skis to get around.

8. Be more Cultured - i made a couple of forays into the dramatic world last year when I went to see Hairspray and then Scrooge in the Grand Canal Theatre. Both were very enjoyable. If you've been reading my blogs then you'll know that I particularly enjoyed Tommy Steel in Scrooge. So this year I'm going to make a big effort. There is plenty to chose from with Calendar Girls (and not just for the ladies), Mamma Mia, Peter Pan, Grease and Jekyll and Hyde to name just a few of the show's visiting the Grand Canal Theatre this year. Keep your eye out for reviews.

9. Learn French or Spanish or Polish or Irish. Irish people have to be one of the worst nations in the world for learning languages. Maybe it is because we were forced to learn Irish in school, a language which had not daily use. Maybe it was the way it was taught. Either way, I think we were left with a strong dislike for learning another tongue. But things are slowly changing. Irish is once again a very popular language. People have rediscovered their love for our native tongue. So over the next year I'm going to learn a foreign language. Which one I haven't decided. Any suggestions?

10. Visit the O2 - Our O2 Package has taken on a life its own over the last year. The package offers pre-show meal, return transfer to The O2, Night's Accommodation and Full Irish breakfast. When you consider that you get all that for €79pps with complimentary car parking then it is easy to see why it has gone so well. But I've a confession to make. I've not been to the O2 since it was re-built. I believe it is a superb venue, or so the reviews say. I'd been a regular to its former incarnation...the Point but I either have had no interest in the gigs there or if I did want to go tickets were like gold dust.

Click back for 2011 Predictions.

Lots of love,

Thursday, January 13, 2011


January is a big month for the Irish homosexual community with civil partnerships becoming a reality.

Some of the great legacies of the boom in Ireland are not the three lane motorways or the gleaming architectural marvels littered around the city but maturing of our laws.

Strolling around post Celtic Tiger Ireland it is hard to imagine that condoms were illegal in this country just 20 years ago. Indeed most people don't realise how quickly we have grown up on the Emerald Isle.

The latest strides towards adulthood are taken this week with the commencement of the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010, which provides legal recognition for same-sex couples in Ireland for the first time. The Act was signed into law by President Mary McAleese at Áras an Uachtaráin back in July 2010.

Changes to the tax and social welfare code were made in the recent finance and social welfare Bills made way for the introduction of the Act. The first Civil Partnerships will be taking place in April, however, if couples have already had a foreign marriage then they will be recognised as Partnered from January, so congrats from the Grand Canal Hotel.

Previously same sex couples had to travel to other jurisdictions such as Northern Ireland or England to get married. The Act will give the civil partners rights over shared homes, maintenance payments and pensions.

Progressive laws like the above do more for the development of Irish society than any IMF/EU bailout. Another step on the road to adulthood has been taken.

The Registrar of Civil Marriages is located Grand Canal Street Lower, Dublin 2, just a two minute stroll from the Grand Canal Hotel. Check out our website www.grandcanalhotel.com for details on our wedding packages. The Registrar is contactable by phone on 00353-1-6787114 or 00353-1-6787115.


Monday, January 10, 2011


This week sees the return of the BT Young Scientist and Techology Exhibition to the RDS from the 12th to the 15th of January.

The exhibition, in it's 47th year, is the final stage of a nationwide science competition which is open to all second level students both north and south of the border.

The first competition was held in 1965 in the Round Room of the Mansion House in Dublin and attracted 230 entries. The first ever winner, John Monaghan, has recently retired as Chief Executive Officer of Avigen, a US Biotech company. The success of the first year was such that the exhibition moved to the much larger venue of the RDS in year two and it has remained there ever since.

Students pick from four Project Categories including Social Behavioral Science and Technology. The winner of the competition goes on to represent Ireland in a European competition, which was won by Donal Keane from Abbey Grammer School, Newry, in 1993.

The competition can act as springboard to much greater things for the participants. Indeed Patrick Collinson from Castletroy College, Limerick, who won for his Croma - "A New Dialect of Lisp" in 2005 went on to study in MIT Boston and founded a company called Auctomatic which was subsequently sold for $5 million.

Entries into this year's BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition include "Ultraviolet Perception of Colours by Birds" by St Aloysius College, Cork; "Can fuel tax replace road tax" by Mary Immaculate Secondary School, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare and "A walking aid for the visually impaired" by Abbey Christian Brothers School, Co Down.

Richard O’Shea, 18 year old sixth year student from Scoil Mhuire Gan Smal, Blarney, Co Cork was the winner of the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition 2010 with his project entitled, “A biomass fired cooking stove for developing countries”.

See listed below all the awards that will be made at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition 2011:
BT Young Scientist(s) of the Year 2011 Individual or Group
• BT Young Scientist(s) of the Year Trophy (perpetual).
• Cheque for €5,000 / £4,500.
• The chance to represent Ireland at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists.
Best Individual or Best Group.
• BT Trophy (perpetual).
• Cheque for €2,400 / £2,160.
Runner-up Individual and Runners-up Group
• BT Trophy (perpetual).
• Cheque for €1,200 / £1,080.

Special rates available at the Grand Canal Hotel are as follows:

Single Room €59.00 incl. Full Irish Breakfast
Twin Room €72.00 incl. Full Irish Breakfast
Triple Room €99.00 incl. Full Irish Breakfast.

Contact 01-6461000 to book.

Good luck to everyone involved.


Thursday, January 6, 2011


What a year 2010 proved to be for Dublin. I was going to start naming the landmark events but when I put them down on paper they all proved too depressing to talk about so instead I decided to focus on what there is to look forward to in 2011…and what a year we have in store my friends. I was look for 10 things but could have written 80. There is so much going on in Dublin in 2011…plenty to smile about.

So here we go and in no particular order:

St Patrick's Day – Ireland’s Day. Dublin may not boast the biggest St Patrick’s Day Parade (New York has the largest parade in the world) but there is no better place to be on St Patrick’s Day (or week) than Dublin City. And it is not just the parade. There is so much to do around the streets of Ireland’s capital during the festival. It is a celebration of Irish culture and for the uneducated on the subject…it is a very extensive portfolio. Art, music, literature and theatre and much more. Where ever you go in Dublin in that week you are sure to have some craic. You can find out more about the festival on www.stpatricksfestival.ie. The St Patrick’s Festival runs from the 16th – 20 of March.

Europa Cup Final - Europe's second biggest international club cup competition comes to Dublin this May and what a fitting event for one of the worlds most spectacular stadiums. That may be a bold statement but having watched the old Lansdowne Road pulled down and then view the creation of the stunning structure that is the new Aviva Stadium I'm fairly confident that visitors who see it will agree. As there is no Irish interest n the Europa Cup I'm going to put my money on Liverpool, although I think there is more chance of Shane McGowen becoming Pope, judging by their current form. Our close cousins would make it a night to remember as most are half Irish anyway and it is the closest thing we could get to having a home team in the final. The final takes place on the 18th of May.

Six Nations - Ireland have been fairly successful in recent years at the game of rugby. Led by talisman Brian O'Driscoll this is going to be a massive year for the boys in Green. With the World Cup in New Zealand this September fans are going to get to see their heroes more than they'd be used to. France in February and England in March in the Six Nations. The lads owe me big time. I much prefer to watch rugby from the comfort of my couch but decided, due to the fact that they were going to play their last game in Croke Park almost guaranteed to lift the Triple Crown against lowly Scotland, that I'd go to the game...they lost!!! For visitors rugby is a fascinating and sometimes brutal sport to watch and the beauty about it is the recession means that it may not be impossible to get tickets for the games in the Aviva this year. If you don't make the Six Nations games both France and England return for World Cup warm up games in August.

Sound of Music – I’ve been harping on about the brilliance of the Grand Canal Theatre for ages at this stage and it appears that many people agree. The Theatre had a stunning 2010 and bucked the trend in recession hit Ireland. 2011 is going to be another big year for the guys down in the stunning venue with a host of fanctastic shows including Calendar Girls, Josephs & His Technicolor Dreamcoat, Peter Pan, Greece, Mamma Mia and Sister Act to name just some of the shows coming to Dublin this year. But the big one for us is the Sound of Music. Maybe it is the child in me but I think this particular tale holds a special place in most people’s hearts…particularly after the festive season when the film is strewn across the small screen. Sound of Music runs in the Grand Canal Theatre from the 4th to the 30th of April. Click here to book the Theatre Package.

The Script at Aviva Stadium - These lads are really making a name for themselves across the globe but their success at home is literally stunning. Three night's in The O2 sold out in March and then they return for the big one...a sell out show in the Aviva Stadium. One of the reasons that I like these lads, apart from the fact they release consistently good music, is that they are so humble. They may be international start but the fact that they've sold out the Aviva Stadium is not lost with them. On a recent appearance on the Graham Norton Show the lads could not hold in their excitement about playing the venue...much to the confusion of Norton, who despite being Irish claimed ignorance to its existence. Hmm!!! The Script play the Aviva Stadium on the 2nd of July.

All Ireland Finals - Attended the Tipperary/Kilkenny final last year with a friend from the UK and both us went away equally impressed. It is hard to comprehend that these ridiculously talented sports men play the sport for nothing. Apparently a group of American troops stopping over in Shannon on their way to a year's tour of duty in Iraq were so inspired by an ad they saw on TV in the airport that they started their own team. Now the American military are making available the sloitar, hurleys and helmets available to all serving troops. They need to get down to Croke Park in September to really appreciate the spectacle. A must...if you can get a ticket that is.

Riverdance - Behind Guinness and U2, is there another Irish brand that stands out so clearly to tourists? Well to be fair to the tapping feet of the Riverdance crew they are much more than a brand and their highly and acclaimed spectacle returns to the Gaiety Theatre this summer from the 28th of June till the 28th of August. I've seen it around five times at this stage. Roll on the sixth. I’ve a feeling this show is going to become a permanent fixture every summer in Dublin, although that is a statement of the obvious considering it has been running in the Gaiety Theatre for 150 years at this stage. It is well worth the visit…even for the atmosphere after the show when everyone spills out on to St Stephen’s Green. Riverdance runs in the Gaiety Theatre from June 28th – August 28th. Click here to book the Package.

U2 - Rumors were rife around the internet last year that Dublin's favorite sons were going to make an October appearance in the Aviva Stadium but unfortunately it didn't happen. Well U2 are due to finish off their World Tour in Europe this year and the Beautiful Day hit makers are almost certain to make the Aviva Stadium a date...maybe up to five times???? Fingers crossed. Watch this space.

Dublin Theatre Festival – The Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival is dedicated to presenting the very best of national and international theatre every Autumn…or so www.dublintheatrefestival.com tells us. I’m a novice when it comes to theatre but the one thing I do know is that Ireland produces a serious amount of talented actors, writers and directors. Liam Neeson, Colm Meaney, Peter O’Toole, Brendan Gleeson, Neil Jordan, Colin Farrell, Jim Sheridan, Roddy Doyle, Soirse Ronan, Cillian Murphy, Richard Harris, Martin McDonagh and Paddy Breathnach to name just a few. Dublin also boasts some of the most renowned theatre’s on the planet with the Abbey and the Gate in particular having hosted some of the greatest stage productions. Check out the aforementioned website for announcements. The Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival runs from September 29th till the 16th of October.

If I missed anything let me know. But special mention to the Dublin Chinese New Year Festival (1st – 14th Feb), Jameson Dubln International Film Festival (17th – 27th Feb), Dublin Book Festival (March 4th – 6th), Carling Nations Cup (February 8/9th and May 24th – 29th), AIB Street Performance World Championship (June 16th – 19th) and Bloomsday Festival (June 16th – 19th).

Yours Ollie McGrath.