CASTLEBAR — At first it was supposed to be around 5pm, then 6pm, then “maybe another half hour.” But it was only at 8.45pm on Saturday, as Taoiseach Enda Kenny edged through a throng of paparazzi and well-wishers, that Mayo’s first count showed the Fine Gael leader to have crossed the 12,730 quota. A lot of impatient pacing in a county that knows all about long waits – particularly in football. And even the so-called “short campaign” was a long wait, according to Michael Ring, the junior minister for tourism and sport and another Mayo Fine Gael seat winner. “We were campaigning since last summer and we thought we would have a November election” said Ring, who mentioned the word “tired” several times in a short interview. Unlike on Sunday when Ring was hoisted onto supporters’ shoulders after taking Mayo’s second seat, Kenny, weighed down by other concerns, kept his feet on the ground. Or maybe even the party die-hards were too tired waiting to shoulder the burden. “This is a disappointing say for our party and a particularly disappointing say for those who lost their seats,” was Kenny’s first comment to the encroaching press pack.
KOLKATA/CALCUTTA — Multinational businesses such as IBM and Vodafone have offices nearby, a five-star Marriott hotel is going up on the main airport road — all within walking distance of pricey pastel apartment blocks that look like Legoland in the hazy sun-baked distance. Half-built condos, still encased in scaffolding, are shooting up all overin eastern Kolkata and will be serviced by a new metro line linked to the airport. But a mile or so away from the Marriott site is Kolkata dhapa, or rubbish dump, a vast, decades-old hill of plastic, rubber, tin and old clothes, perhaps 10-12 acres in area and 60ft-70ft high.
JUBA — The dateline here and now says ‘Sudan’, but later this year it will likely read ‘South Sudan’ or ‘Nile Republic’. Biblical references such as ‘Cushitia’ or ‘Azania’ are also being touted as names for the what will be world’s newest country. Four million voters in southern Sudan are likely to vote to leave Africa’s largest state in a referendum that started early on Sunday. Just before 8am, Charles Juma-Seyis was at the end of a 500 yard long queue at Konyo-Konyo polling station in central Juba, the usually low-key and ramshackle would-be capital. “I don’t mind waiting to vote, we have been waiting more than fifty years for this day,” he said. Since independence from Great Britain in 1956 Sudan has seen only 11 years of peace. A landmark 2005 peace deal brokered by the United States saw southern Sudan gain autonomy within Sudan, with the option to vote on independence after a six-year interim period.
SUKKUR — On the road in from the airport, the water shimmered under the moonlight as men, women and children sat in the dark, near the would-be lakeshore. During the day, river dolphins can usually be spotted in the nearby river. It sounds idyllic, you might think, but not so. This dusty and ramshackle town is at the front-line of one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters in living memory. Usually there is no water lapping up at the roadside, and the only people there would be those out for an evening snack after the daytime Ramadan fast.
BANGKOK — Home to over half the world’s population, Asia’s array of growing, dynamic economies will become an increasingly important place for Irish business going forward. That was the key message delivered at the Asia Pacific Ireland Business Forum held in Bangkok recently. Hosted by the Irish Thai Chamber of Commerce, the forum brought together over 400 Irish business leaders with operations across Asia and follows up on the recent Global Ireland event held at Farmleigh. However, despite Asia’s potential and resistance to the current downturn, Liam O’Keefe – a Farmleigh attendee and leading Irish businessman in Asia – told the Bangkok gathering that that Asia was not originally on the Farmleigh agenda. Jerome Kelly is President of the Chamber. He told the Irish Examiner that “we aim see how we can create opportunities for the Irish businesses looking to expand and invest in Asia.”
DIRE DAWA, EASTERN ETHIOPIA — When drought and food shortages hit, it is the very young who suffer first, and most. Weighing only 4.5 kg, Ayaan is among the almost 100,000 children whose lives are at risk across Ethiopia. Just four days before her first birthday, she weighs no more than an average 3 month old baby. This clinic, about 15 miles outside Ethiopia’s second city Dire Dawa, is seeing an increasing amount of such cases over recent weeks. Here land is used to grow the cash-crop narcotic known as khat. In over a dozen villages on the northbound road out of the city, this reporter witnessed groups of mainly young men, but also some women, getting high in the shade on the chewed leaves. Khat is an appetite-suppressant, and local culture means that children often only eat after adults. And that means “if parents are on khat, the whole family goes hungry,” according to a doctor at the clinic.