for those who don't want to just wait it out

like the song says this is a blog for someone who wants to say something (anything) and who's happy to wait and see what time will bring...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The day I meet the IRA

You see movies of the IRA (Brad Pitt comes to mind in one of them) and I’ve always had the image of them being hardened snarly criminal looking types… not nice older men who offer you a cuppa, tell you your ‘grand’ and want to have a wee chat in the early morning light.

I don’t know what I was expecting last week when I got up early to wander around L’Derry/Free Derry (or just plain old Derry). I wasn’t expecting to feel like a fraud and I wasn’t expecting to want to weep with a stranger. I got up early on a day when I needed to drive for ages to get down to Galway. And so before the rest of the town and the tourist were up and about, I headed over to some well-known artwork that display and describe some of the pain that this town has seen over the years. I felt like a fraud as I walked around and took photos, somehow turning someone’s tragedy into a tourist happy snap…

As I kept walking though, I came across a man hoisting up a republic of Ireland flag. Now, if you’re slower on your Irish political history (like I am) then what you need to know is that, as far as I can tell, this is an illegal act because Derry/Nrth Ireland is a part of the UK and so shouldn’t be flying another countries flag. So I walked up to the man and politely asked him to fill me in – “was the flag actually raised each morning and night, or…?”.

I saw him take in the innocent confusion on my face as well as the camera and backpack and watched him decide whether or not to talk to me. He decided to share and informed me that no, the flag wasn’t supposed to be up, but there was a small group of people that would raise it on the anniversary of “one of the death’s” as he nodded to the moment with the names of, I think, 12 people. These were the people who, as political prisoners along with Bobby Sands died as a result of refusing to eat whilst in jail as a protest to British occupation of Nth Ireland.

I’m not going to get into politics, into the rights and wrongs, but what I will say is that I felt like weeping with this man who has seen, and struggled, more than most – and almost certainly more than you and I combined. I found him on a morning where he was remembering those who he had played with as a child, had grown through puberty and first loves with and watched as they slowly and painfully died for their cause.

It was a sharp reminder that we go to places, we see their beauty (and Ireland is certainly a beautiful country) but we can’t forget to scratch below the surface and see what makes up the blood as well as the beauty of the place we find our selves in.

My time in Ireland was wonderful. It was full of beauty and discovery and I’m thankful that I got to share some of it with a wonderful friend from Sydney… But I also can’t help wishing I could go back to that morning, stay on the bench a little longer and hear more of the stories of what makes Ireland as unique as it is.


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