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A BIT OF “EIRE” IN MACEDONIA


National.

We’ve come across this interesting article about an Irishmen in Macedonia! Enjoy…

At first, Mark Murphy’s story might seem common enough; Western peacekeeper stationed in the Balkans falls in love with local girl whom he meets on the job. However, what happened after for this Irish soldier and resident of Kumanovo, a city of 100,000 in Macedonia’s northeast, is much more remarkable. For rather than returning home with the emigrant native daughter, a scenario witnessed countless times since the Yugoslav wars of the 1990’s, Murphy stayed on to create a business, becoming an improbable investor in a small country by bringing a bit of his own culture to it- appropriately enough, in the form of an Irish pub, The Harp.

Although it has only been operating for about two months, The Harp has become a popular place. While Macedonia already has several Irish pubs, the new one of Kumanovo is the most authentic. Murphy spent loving attention to details, decking out the spacious, two-floor bar with clan insignia, Celtic symbols, Irish flags and, of course, Irish music. Unlike the many Macedonian cafés with their bland décor and identical pop or techno music, the Harp has a warmth to it reminiscent of what you might find in Cork or Galway or Dublin- with the exception, of course, of the Macedonian language that prevails in it.

The pub has been full quite often during its opening run and has started to attract ‘regulars.’ What’s most unusual, considering the average Macedonian eating habits, is that some of these regulars are coming in for the famed full Irish breakfasts. The Harp also offers an extensive menu of local and international food for lunch and dinner as well. Murphy makes a perhaps embarrassing but ultimately positive revelation: he recently ran out of Guinness. “Have you ever heard of an Irish pub without Guinness?” he laughs. Fortunately the problem has been rectified.

While Murphy’s is a story of love and adventure, it is also a cautionary tale for any individual foreign investor interested in coming to Macedonia. The encounters that Murphy has had over the past year since deciding to open the bar have run the gamut from petty officials fishing for bribes to racketeering from armed thugs. However, by standing his ground, Murphy has been far braver than could be expected from the average foreigner.

Of course, the 29-year-old Irishman is not just any foreigner. A member of the Irish Special Forces and specialist sniper, Murphy has patrolled the volatile front lines in East Timor, disarmed a Hezbollah fighter in hand-to-hand combat on the Lebanese-Israeli border and served in always interesting Kosovo before coming to Macedonia. Compared to these experiences, Kumanovo thuggery was almost a joke.

Macedonian officialdom has been known for bribery and the new pub was not excluded. The usual array of inspectors, most of them not even sure what they were inspecting and without the proper qualifications, bore down on the bar to measure the ceilings, check the ventilation and even, following a tip from confused locals, hunted for a non-existent bathroom shower. Indeed, many of the complaints were fairly petty. “Some people in the building even protested when I wanted to paint my stretch of the outside walls green,” he laughs. “The old people were shocked, saying ‘who does he think he is, to come in here and paint the walls green?’" .... to be continued...

MD: More on this great story will be published tomorrow in part II!

[Balkananalyses]

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February 27 2010:
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