Monday, March 26, 2007

The North: Papa Doc From Ballymena He Say "Yuss"

"Rearranging the deckchairs on The Titanic" is a metaphor for futility. But rearranging the tables and chairs at Stormont was the last necessary step in securing historic agreement in the North of Ireland, The Mirror and the BBC have coverage.

A straight line would have suggested too much agreement. A face to face would have required eye contact and looked like conflict. Turning the corner seems about right.

"The Troubles" have been part of my life since I was three years old and spent my birthday and a few months either side of it in Derry, not so far from the Bog Side. Until 1969 we were regular visitors to the North and I would join my cousins running errands for soldiers by day but not their stoning by night. Shaving foam at noon. Close shave at midnight. But we then stopped the visits.

Several family members caught plastic and rubber bullets and broken bones. Some were not too far from the para shooters on Bloody Sunday (mural, left). But it has been generations since they had any empathy with the IRA.

My mother's cousin Hugh was shot dead in mysterious circumstances by soldiers in the same month that Bobby Sands (right) was on hunger strike.

Uncle Colm has written a civil rights/rite of passage novel set against the troubles which I'm trying to read at the moment, parts in dialect.

My youngest brother who was the first to start going back was twice arrested and once all but deported for offences in Derry with replica guns. For the last fifteen years or so he has been a missionary. So you never know. Out of the frying pan into the fire I call it.

One day in 1998 we were on our way from Cork (where my dad's side have connections) all the way up the West Coast to Donegal and onwards to North Antrim where my parents and middle brother now live. The radio was on in the car and repercussions of the horror of Omagh Town were the news of the day. We heard or saw it unfold live. And we stopped early in Galway Town.

Today's news is great news. I'll resist the temptation to run Papa Doc's back story for at least a day or two.

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