This never was my town, I was not born or bred nor schooled here and she will not have me alive or dead. But yet she holds my mind with her seedy elegance, with her gentle veils of rain. And all that hide behind her Georgian facades. The catcalls and the pain, and the glamour of her squalor. This piece of verse was written by Donagh MacDonagh last century.
Donagh MacDonagh (1912-1968) was an Irish writer, judge, presenter, broadcaster, and playwright. Although the mind-set might remain the same for a while, some of us would come to serenity, some might try different land and the rest will choose to revert to the homeland. The Irish Sudanese relationships goes back as early as the 19th century as part of the British Empire.
James Joseph O’Kelly (1845–1916), journalist, Irish nationalist, journalist, politician and member of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. He was born near Westland Row, Dublin. In the mid-1880s he was the Parnellites’ chief spokesman on British foreign policy. As war correspondent for the Daily News, his reports from Sudan during the war (1883–5), made from the frontline, received much praise in Britain. Secretly, however, he was supporting the Mahdi against the British and attempted to persuade the Clan (Irish republican organisation in the United States in the late 19th century) to give the Mahdi military assistance. During the same time period, British governments were displaying renewed interest in imperial expansion, in what was later dubbed ‘new imperialism’.
Michael Davitt (1846 – 1906) was an Irish republican and the founder of the Irish National Land League. As a journalist, he frequently commented on international affairs, and his nationalism led him to criticize empires in principle, on the basis of the right of peoples to self-determination. When the British war subsequently spread to Sudan, where British forces fought the Sudanese leader, El Mahdi, Davitt was firmly on the Sudanese side. In 1885, while visiting Rome, he and his friends teased some English travelers by threatening ‘to propose the Mahdi for an Irish constituency or at least a seat in Dublin town council’.
A recently published fifth volume of the Royal Irish Academy’s Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series, offers some insight into this topic. Joseph Walshe was the head of the Irish diplomatic service from 1922 to 1946. During the 1930s Walshe travelled widely during his annual leave on unofficial fact-finding missions ‘encouraged’ by the Taoiseach de Valera, who was kept ‘informed of conditions’ wherever Walshewent. Walshe arrived in the Sudanese capital Khartoum in early May 1938. A week later he wrote to de Valera that he had ‘done quite a lot of exploring in spite of a blistering temperatures’. Omdurman, north of Khartoum, was ‘very interesting’; as quoted by Walshe. In an apparently genuine suggestion to de Valera, Walshe asked the Taoiseach to ‘give a little thought to the question of a colony when you have leisure. It would be a splendid training ground for our people, and colonial budgets can be made to balance without subsidies from the home government’. The two sentences stand out in the history of Irish foreign policy as probably the only time that any Irish diplomat suggested to de Valera or any other senior political figure that Ireland develop an empire in Africa. Walshe never developed the idea further and one can speculate that de Valera did not give the request much thought either.
Up to today’s date, Irish Sudanese relationship continues. The collaboration can be seen in many aspects. In May 2012, Minister of State for Trade and Development, Joe Costello, announced €3 million in funding to assist communities in Sudan and South Sudan who have been severely affected by conflict and poor harvests. The funding is to be channeled through the United Nations. Another partnership, between Cork University Hospital and the Omdurman Maternity Hospital in Sudan "is associated with an 86 per cent reduction in maternal mortality and a 50 percent drop in stillbirths and early neonatal deaths," according to the Irish Minister for Trade and Development, Joe Costello.
In January 2013, the Intensive Care Society of Ireland coordinated a trip by a delegation of five specialists in intensive care and cardiothoracic anaesthesia and four intensive care nurses from Cork University Hospital to travel to Khartoum and Medani in Sudan. They aimed to help address a perceived need for better critical care medical services in one of the world’s poorest regions. The project entailed educational aspects with structured and open lectures scheduled. On a different discipline, in February 2012, a Dublin-based telecoms technology company i-conX Solutions has been chosen to deploy its routing optimisation technology by Sudanese telecoms company Canar.
These collaborations helped establish strong links between Sudan and Ireland across medical and non-medical discipline and should benefit practitioners and academics in both countries in the future. Further collaborative partnerships and investment in key areas can be and should be secured between our two nations It provides a platform for the exchange of ideas and expertise on many levels