Portlaoise: Florence, Colorado
Where do the Americans put their most dastardly criminals? Somewhere deep in the heart of the continent, where any escapees would be surrounded by untold miles of hostile desolation if they were to get past the razor wire and guard towers. America puts these dangerous characters in the federal supermax prison deep in the Rocky Mountains of Florence, Colorado.
Following this example, the Irish built their own max facility in Portlaoise — deep in the bogs of the Irish midlands. Anyone escaping from Ireland’s Alcatraz would find herself…in County Laois. Not a promising prospect for anyone doing a stretch in the prison, and more than enough of a deterrent for any would-be Houdinis.
Wexford: Miami, Florida
The sunniest and beachiest of Ireland’s sunny, beachy southeast, Wexford is Ireland’s hottest, tannest, sweatiest melting pot. In fact, Will Smith is said to have re-thought the lyrics to his nineties hit “Miami” after a visit to this exotic Irish getaway:
“Hottest pub in the city and it’s right on the beach!
Temperature, get to ya, it’s about to reach
Umm…three degrees in the Irish seas
and all the hot mammies screamin’
‘Sure ye’ll have a cuppa tea!’
I’m goin’ down ta Wexford!
‘Fáilte go Loch Garman!’”
Belfast: Toronto, Canada
Just across the northern border, boasting a free healthcare system and better infrastructure than its southern neighbors, and still flashing the Queen on its money, “De North” is the Canada of Ireland. And like Canada, Northern Ireland has a city on the east coast, a city on the west coast, and a whole lotta woods, lakes, and small towns in the middle.
Toronto is the natural compliment to Belfast: Both have a long history of industry and shipping; both are colorful, welcoming, and vibrant; and both are home to a local government that answers to an elderly woman and a tiny baby who have God-given powers to rule over others because a syphilis-crazed Henry VIII once said so.
Letterkenny, Co. Donegal: Minneapolis, Minnesota
These two cities are isolated in the desolate northern reaches of the country and often overlooked and laughed at by those in the big coastal cities as “so dull the cows die of boredom!” But despite the scorn, Letterkenny and Minneapolis — despite being a bit out of the way — are fun, close-knit communities of friendly folks doing what it takes to pass the long days of summer and stay warm through the freezing winter nights.
Limerick: Detroit, Michigan
Begin with a picturesque town on the water. Knead well with a booming economy based on agriculture, manufacturing, and shipping. Let rise unchecked until it bursts and deflates. With a sifter, top liberally with a few decades of economic stagnation and an exaggerated reputation for crime and poverty.
This is the recipe for both Limerick City and America’s former auto manufacturing capital Detroit. Both have seen some economic decline, and both are looked upon by others in their country with a mix of suspicion and pity. This bad rap isn’t helped by the rhymes spewed by the local hip hop artists: Detroit’s Eminem and Limerick’s Weenz.
Follow along with the rest of my series on Ireland’s American spiritual sister cities!