Damien P Murphy

A writer focusing on international relations, social justice, mental health, travel and the arts.
CPRE Sussex 2012 Environmental Student Journalist of the Year.

Endangered or evolving? Independent bookshops move with the times.

If you don’t know Dublin, College Green is the very heart of the city, the hub from which you can reach Grafton Street, Christchurch or cross the river to O’Connell Street in a handful of minutes. If you drew a regular triangle across the junction between the august facades of Trinity College and the Bank of Ireland, the unassuming old doorway of Books Upstairs could be the unlikely third point. Despite its grand and crowded surroundings, Books Upstairs remained humble and hushed, secretive and almost mysterious, as any good bookshop should be, its disorientating curved shelves and creaking makeshift mezzanine crammed with curious volumes begging for attention. It reminded me of Carl Conrad Coreander’s shop in Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story.

Rampion Wind Farm (Environmental Journalism Awards Winner 2012)

Climate change is now an undeniable fact of life, from the drought plaguing the South East and large parts of the country to the record-breaking April rains and the floods that followed. At the same time, the finite fossil fuels that contribute to climate change are coming under greater demand to serve the energy needs of an increasing population. In the face of these realities, there is a growing imperative – in terms of both supply and demand – to find clean, sustainable energy supplies into the future. As Britain is widely considered to be Europe’s windiest country, channelling that unlimited resource is becoming the aim of both environmentalists and energy companies. Signs of that mutual objective may soon line the Brighton horizon, as E.on Climate and Renewables plans to build up to 195 wind turbines eight miles off the Sussex coast... The methods of generating that energy from wind, however, have been controversial, largely because of the perceived impact of a rampant proliferation of turbines on surrounding countryside. The Campaign to Protect Rural England estimates that there are currently at least 4,000 turbines either built or planned, both onshore and offshore. Writing in its magazine earlier this month, Tom Leveridge said that while the CPRE supported onshore wind farms in principle, protecting the environment should not at the same time compromise the environment. He said that while many areas can accommodate some impact, “some areas are, and should, remain sacrosanct, including… National Parks. These should continue to enjoy the highest levels of protection.”

Press Release: "Neither" by Kate Nolan

Kate Nolan began visiting Kaliningrad in 2009 to explore and try to understand this isolated and uncertain place. She stayed with local women, drinking tea and listening to their hopes and expectations, tales of the past and stories of lost love and found love... Working with the internationally renowned Dutch designer Sybren Kupier, SYB, Kate has developed a book concept that interweaves the words of these women with her arresting and powerful images.

A creative answer to dereliction in Dublin Granby Park

This is Granby Park, in the heart of Dublin’s north inner-city. A few weeks ago, it didn’t have a name. It didn’t have an open-air theatre or a café. There was no library or creative workshop space. There were no art installations, and no children playing here. A few weeks ago, it was just another vacant, derelict site in an area of the city with more than its fair share of vacant, derelict sites. But for the next month, this site has been given a new, creative and inspiring lease of life by the volunteer arts collective, Upstart.

Press Release: "We Make the Path by Walking" by Paul Gaffney

Irish photographer Paul Gaffney’s newly-published book, We Make the Path by Walking, is an evocative visual exploration of long-distance walking as a form of meditation and personal transformation. To create this body of work, Gaffney walked more than 3,500 kilometres throughout Spain, Portugal and the south of France, stopping to capture images that struck him as he passed. We Make the Path by Walking moves through varied landscapes and terrains, capturing subtle details in the seemingly simple. There is a mood of contemplative solitude throughout. A careful use of sequencing, editing and design techniques builds a pace and rhythm that elicits a sense of flow and movement throughout the images. In this way, the images invite the viewer to participate in the journey, while leaving enough space for personal imagination and experience.

Weekend wonderlands, iconic places to stay in Brighton

One of Crown Gardens’ true jewels is Looking Glass Cottage, a cosy, low-ceilinged house that Julia has transformed into an Alice-themed Wonderland. Reputedly Brighton’s oldest house, Looking Glass Cottage is nestled in the heart of the Lanes, an aspect that gave Julia the impression of venturing down a rabbit hole. Inside, every spare inch is filled with details that recall Lewis Carroll’s classic tales, from teacup lamps, to teaspoon handles and pocket-watch doorknobs. Playing cards and upside-down flamingos cavort across the custom-made wallpaper, and a White Rabbit nightlight glows softly in the Flamingo Dreams bedroom.

Beyond sticks and stones: Bullying and mental health

Probably due in many ways to such horrific results of cyberbullying, bullying is being discussed more openly and being taken increasingly seriously... It is encouraging to see that there is also some political will behind this, with cyberbullying being addressed by the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) Communications Committee (even if certain of the committee’s members catastrophically failed to properly research the concepts involved). As with mental health issues, the increasing discussion and discourse around bullying is a positive development. Since bullying can lead to depression, mental health issues and suicide, the key again is to understand the problem and then to speak of it. Bullies thrive on fostering a sense of powerlessness. Actions like these are about fostering the power to do something about it.

Camus at 100: “Live to the point of tears”

The absurdist philosophy of Albert Camus held that life had inherent worth, even if it had no inherent meaning  – a notion that has important parallels in approaching depression and suicide. ...To live one’s life in spite of its inherent meaninglessness constituted a revolt against the absurd, and emphasised the highest quality of the human individual... In that revolt, we create our own meaning, and so overcome the despair and angst that might otherwise result from the absurd. He writes: “The true greatness of man is to fight against that which is greater than he”. There is a parallel here with the mental health issues that I have written about in the past. In the last week or so – the week of Camus’ centenary – there have been some extraordinary and courageous testimonials in the Irish media from high-profile men about their struggles with mental health issues. Radio presenter John Murray returned to RTÉ after seven months off-air due to an “undisclosed illness” – and opened the show with a frank discussion about the difficulty of his struggle with depression. When Cork hurler Conor Cusack described his own breakdown as “the crack to allow the light in” that helped him face his suicidal depression, he was speaking of a similar experience to Camus’ encounter with the absurd: “It happens when the stage-sets collapse… It awakens consciousness and provokes what follows.”

Ireland must answer for its complicity in extraordinary rendition and torture

It has not been a good week for Ireland’s human rights record. Not just one, but two, reports released on Tuesday revealed a state that was complicit in enabling systematic human rights abuses to occur. The findings of the McAleese report into abuse at the Magdalene laundries rightly made front page news, as did state’s continuing prevarication over granting the full apology the survivors called for and deserve. However, the second report did not get anything like the same coverage, even though 

Gig Review: Joe Pug at the The Borderline, London

Relativity is key with Joe’s songs, in that they can become different beasts in different settings. On his unadorned debut EP, Nation of Heat, he delivers songs such as “I Do My Father’s Drugs” and “Nobody’s Man” with a fierce desperation. Live, however, they become pleading and fragile, taking on the greater restraint found on follow-up EP In the Meantime. On the title song of that latter collection (available for free on his website), he strips the mournful confessional down even further. He sings the aching “Unsophisticated Heart”, from his current album Messenger, as though no one were in the room but himself and whatever sad, imagined face he seems to see on the back wall of the club.

Promo: "Where the Wave Broke" by Danae Economou

Danae Economou’s book dives beneath these formulaic billboard generalisations to find crisis reflected not just in the places depicted, but in the faces that live there. Amidst scenes of Athens and Dublin, both chaotic and quiet, are images of the ordinary young people of those cities, people who have no alternative but to live through their shared crisis. Many seem solitary, even lonely; pensive, even frustrated; isolated, even within a crowd. But here and there, Economou captures a simple gesture of friendship or even love, solidarity or even just empathy – a touch, a hug, a kiss, a burden shared. These gestures are evidence of interdependence, mutual understanding and compassion. Though their lives and cultures and even their reactions to crisis may be different, the affinity between the people of those places emerge in faces that display shared emotions – fear, love, anger, joy. Crisis is something that is felt, and it is people who feel it and the anxiety that attends it. That is the common humanity that underlies the differing circumstances.

Downing Street's Double Standards

[page 13] Whatever the truth about national security, the threat to Britain's financial interests certainly was real. If Saudi Arabia pulled out of the latest contract, thousands of British jobs would be put at risk and BAE’s viability would be seriously threatened. Nick Hildyard, of the British social justice advocacy group, The Corner House, suggests that the UK government's approach to alleged corruption itself constitutes a double standard, tantamount to corruption...