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Hard times when the party's over

You don't always have to shout loud to make your point.

For the last few Fridays, Kim and Ross Bartley's fine series The New Irish: After the Bust has been quietly and unassumingly piecing together a picture of post-Celtic Tiger Ireland more compelling and poignant than any of the bigger, noisier documentaries we've seen on the subject in the last couple of years.

This week's instalment took us to Galway town of Gort, which had been labelled "little Brazil" because of the number of Brazilian immigrants who'd flooded there to work in the meat factory, swelling the population from 1,700 to 3,400 in just four years.

With the factory closed since 2007, there are fewer than 800 Brazilians left in Gort.

That figure will probably have shrunk by the time you read this, as more opt to go back to Brazil or move to another country to become the New Something Else.

Duda, a welder, hasn't worked steadily in 10 months.

A married father of two, whose wife is lucky enough to have a job, he's put down roots here he doesn't want to pull up. "I love Ireland, I want to stay here for the rest of my life," he said.

Improbably, that love extends even to the Irish weather.

But with work virtually impossible to come by, he's been forced to go to London, commuting home when he can to grab a few days with his family.

When he failed to get paid for a job he'd done, he was back in Gort and back signing on.

"I don't want to stay on the dole," he said, "I want to work, to get my own money." At the end of the film, we were informed that Duda was trying his luck in Britain again.

Bruno and Eduardo were known locally as "the party boys" because they'd organise Brazilian parties in a local pub.

They don't do that so much anymore.

Bruno, a plasterer, was struggling to pick up a few days' work here and there, usually by joining a group of other Brazilian men in Gort's main street every morning in the hope a local businessmen or farmer might need some casual labour.

Midway through the programme, he decided to go back to Brazil.

It was an emotional wrench for Eduardo, who's currently working as a truck driver, and paying tax, but fears it won't last now that his work permit has expired and the State is cracking down on illegal immigrants -- a vicious irony, considering how many undocumented Irish have made lives in America and certainly wouldn't be welcomed back by the Government in the current financial crisis. "I have plans to stay until the end of the year," he said, "but if they catch me, I have to go.

"My dream is destroyed in half an hour."

Hell on Wheels, a new western series about the bloody birth of the transcontinental railroad in the aftermath of the American Civil War, opened with a scene that was pure Sergio Leone: the hero, Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount), a former Confederate soldier out for revenge on the men who murdered his wife, blew a fellow's brains out in a confession box.

Alas, the rest of the episode didn't live up to this inspired moment.

The series, which takes its name from the ramshackle town that exploded out of the ground as the tracks were being laid across America, co-stars Colm Meaney as a real-life figure, corrupt businessman Thomas 'Doc' Durant, so presumably historical accuracy is high on its list of priorities.

It's a pity, then, that for much of the time you never believe you're watching anything other than a bunch of actors playing an elaborate game of cowboys and Indians, while Meaney's performance has to be the hammiest he's ever given.

It might pick up momentum, but at the moment Hell on Wheels is as exciting as Meals on Wheels.



THE NEW IRISH: AFTER THE BUST HHHII HELL ON WHEELS HHIII TOUGH: Bruno is among the Brazilians who've come to Ireland


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