There was a time when, if you wanted to know what was happening in Ireland, you made your way to Yarralumla and sneaked a ten-minute read of the previous weekend’s Irish Independent or Irish Times. In other cities, the facility was provided by the Celtic club or an Irish club, but the reality was that you quickly lost touch with the politics and sport, court cases and social trends of the country on the other side of the world.
Then, in 1989, two young Irish lads, Seamus Maher from Tipperary and Billy Cantwell from Meath, published a newspaper dedicated to Irish news. They called it The Irish Exile, in homage to a brave attempt by Patrick O’Donohoe, the only non-professional member of the seven men sentenced to transportation following the infamous Battle of Widow McCormack’s Cabbage Patch in 1848.
To try to keep himself alive, O’Donohoe published his first edition in Hobart in January 1850. It was a financial success, but his fellow-convicts were unimpressed. Here was John Mitchel’s opinion:
The Irish Exile is bepuffing me now most outrageously. God preserve me from organs of opinion! Have I sailed round the terraqueous globe … to find an ‘able editor’ mounted stiltwise upon phrases tall, and blowing deliberate puffs in my face? I was tired, indeed, of the sea, but at sea there are, at any rate, no organs of opinion.
This from a man who would go on to edit a pro-slavery newspaper in America.
Maher and Cantwell’s Irish Exile filled a huge gap and was a success, first as a monthly and then fortnightly. In 1991, Maher left the group and the paper has been bravely steered since then by Cantwell. Along the way, it changed its name to its current one The Irish Echo and continues to publish monthly from its base in Balmain in Sydney.
Since its first edition in February 1989, it has not missed an issue through the advent of the internet and the troubles of much larger and better resourced newspapers. It can be found in most large newsagents in the capital cities and a number of towns. It also has an online edition at https://www.irishecho.com.au/digital-editions with a 12-month subscription for $45.
This month, the efforts and success of the team behind The Irish Echo will be acknowledged at a reception at the Irish consulate in Sydney. In the meantime, the thirtieth anniversary edition is in the shops and can be found at https://www.irishecho.com.au/shopping/irishecho040719