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Karen Mchugh

Brussels, Belgium
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About Karen
Karen McHugh is an Irish journalist based in Brussels, Belgium.
Freelance writer for UITP and The Bulletin. I write on public transport, cities, culture, music, Brussels
English French
Feature Stories Research Interview (Print / Radio / Podcast)
Current Affairs Technology Science & Environment

Phone-free comedy: What’s it like to surrender your phone to Tommy Tiernan?

13 Apr 2023  |  irishtimes.com
Tommy Tiernan has introduced a phone-free environment at his Tomfoolery shows using Yondr pouches, a service also adopted by other artists. The initiative promises heightened senses without the technology crutch. Attendees at Vicar Street in Dublin experienced mixed feelings, with some appreciating the forced digital detox and enhanced engagement with the performance, while others were concerned about missing emergencies or social media opportunities. The article reflects on the potential for Yondr to shape future social interactions and the nostalgia of a time before mobile phones.

How has the Ukraine war changed life in Ireland?

25 Nov 2022  |  www.euronews.com
The Ukraine war has influenced Ireland in several ways, including sparking debates on its neutrality, exacerbating an existing accommodation crisis, contributing to higher gas and electricity prices, and pushing inflation to its highest level since 1984. Despite these challenges, public satisfaction with the Irish government's response remains high. Key stakeholders include the Irish Neutrality Group, the Irish Red Cross, and various energy providers. The war has also led to significant financial strain on consumers, with notable price increases in energy and consumer goods.

Next Stop Hollywood for Clare’s controversial Púca?

26 Jun 2022  |  The Irish Times
Aidan Harte's Púca sculpture, initially rejected by the town of Ennistymon due to local opposition, has found a new home in Carron, Co Clare, at the Michael Cusack Centre. The statue, part of a tourist attraction, was unveiled with a ceremony featuring piper Blackie O’Connell. The move has been positively received, with Dónal Ó hAiniféin of the Michael Cusack Centre expressing enthusiasm for the sculpture's new location. The article highlights the cultural significance of the Púca and its connection to Irish heritage, suggesting a potential for future cultural revivals and even Hollywood interest.

The picnic that changed Brussels: How a Bulletin campaign 50 years ago helped pedestrianise the Grand Place

01 May 2022  |  The Bulletin
The Grand Place in Brussels, once a car park, was transformed into a pedestrian zone through a campaign initiated by John Lambert, a British journalist for The Bulletin, in 1971. The campaign, which included a sit-down protest picnic, led to a temporary ban on parking in 1972 and eventually to the complete pedestrianisation of the square in 1991. The movement inspired future pedestrianisation efforts in Brussels, including the successful campaign for Boulevard Anspach. The Grand Place is now a UNESCO world heritage site and a major tourist attraction.

Why is music not given the same status as the GAA?

24 Aug 2021  |  The Irish Times
The article highlights the disparity in how music and sports are treated in Ireland, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. While sports events like GAA matches are allowed to host large crowds, music events face severe restrictions. The author argues that this reflects a broader cultural bias and calls for equal recognition and support for musicians, who are also an integral part of Irish culture. The piece criticizes the government and major sponsors for prioritizing sports over music, despite both being forms of entertainment that contribute to mental health and community spirit.

How Belgium’s beloved biscuit is unifying a divided nation

10 Nov 2020  |  euronews.com
Belgium, a nation divided by language and politics, finds unity in its love for speculoos, a traditional biscuit. Lotus Bakeries, the family business that popularized speculoos, faced backlash for rebranding it as 'Biscoff' for international markets. The move sparked social media protests and calls for boycotts, with Belgians feeling their cultural heritage was being compromised. Lotus CEO Jan Boone cited brand protection and global ambitions as reasons for the change. A compromise was reached with packaging in Belgium, the Netherlands, and France to include 'The Original Speculoos' alongside the Biscoff logo. Marketing experts and locals alike emphasize the importance of speculoos in Belgian culture, viewing it as a unifying element amidst the country's divisions.

Isolation training: From lockdown in Dublin to life on Great Blasket

04 Jul 2020  |  The Irish Times
Dublin couple Annie Birney and Eoin Boyle, selected from 42,000 applicants, have begun their roles as caretakers of Great Blasket Island after delays due to the pandemic. Their lockdown experience in Dublin prepared them for the isolation and challenges of island life. The couple will manage tourist accommodations and a cafe on the island. Despite the pandemic's impact, they remain grateful for the opportunity. Previous caretakers and island owners reflect on the unique and transformative nature of life on Great Blasket Island.

Ireland, get ready to drink like Europeans - here's what to expect in bars when they reopen

10 Jun 2020  |  www.independent.ie
The new restrictions for pubs in Ireland, which may seem drastic to locals, are compared to the normal pub life in Belgium and other European countries. The author reflects on how these changes will alter the Irish pub culture to align more closely with European norms.

The airport is eerie - it feels like I've been locked in a shop after everyone has gone home

25 May 2020  |  independent.ie
The author describes the airport as eerily quiet, a stark contrast to its usual bustling state, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. With only 25 flights scheduled, mostly to the UK, Europe, and a few to America, the airport's atmosphere is likened to being locked in a shop after closing. The quietness is emphasized by the ability to hear the clicking of a Ryanair employee's heels, and the departure lounge still displays signs wishing travelers a Happy Mother's Day from mid-March, highlighting the prolonged effect of the pandemic on travel.

How do I get social insurance number after Ireland return?

13 May 2019  |  www.independent.ie
The article provides detailed guidance on obtaining a Personal Public Service Number (PPSN) upon returning to Ireland, including necessary documentation and steps to follow. It also addresses issues related to opening a bank account in Ireland, emphasizing the importance of proof of address. Additionally, it discusses the eligibility criteria for the carer's allowance, focusing on the habitual residency requirement and offering advice on how to appeal a denied claim or reapply in the future. The article is authored by Karen McHugh, chief executive of Safe Home Ireland.

The former farmhouse that has become a unique music venue

03 Apr 2019  |  The Bulletin
Ferme du Biéreau, originally a barn, has transformed into a renowned music venue in Belgium under the directorship of Gabriel Alloing. It was acquired by the Université Catholique de Louvain in the 1970s and later dedicated to the arts. The venue, known for its intimate setting and unique experience due to its location and structure, hosts a variety of music genres and has seen performances by notable Belgian artists like Hooverphonic and Stromae. It receives funding from Wallonia’s culture ministry and the city council, and maintains a strong partnership with the university. Ferme du Biéreau is also involved in new projects, including a Nina Simone musical, and plans to renovate its yard and stables.

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