In 834 blogs, a similar number of newspaper columns and over 25 years engaged in politics you will find little mention of Ireland. This is not because of indifference to that beautiful island or to its fellow Celtic people and the culture with which they have enriched the world, especially the USA. The reason is that, since becoming an adult in the sixties with an active interest in current affairs, the venomous thread of The Troubles saddened me on a regular basis until influential people finally managed to see out of their respective bunkers and, encouraged by supportive neighbours, signed the Good Friday Accord twenty years ago.
In speaking of ‘Ireland’ as a whole, I mean no disrespect to the Republic of Ireland and the responsible and constructive way it did its best to diffuse The Troubles, nor to those caught up in them. But my personal position had always been that there are three nations on the island of Britain bit only one on the island of Ireland. That said, it is none of my business—solely that of the people living on said island. So, for fear of simply stirring it to no purpose, I have shut my face, and kept it shut.
Having seen the open border, the growing prosperity and self-confidence of the North coming more in line with the outward-looking, cosmopolitan ebullience of the South, despite DNA-deep intransigence from Assembly members I felt, as many did, real progress was being made. Then came the Derry riots around the 103rd anniversary of the Rising, at which journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead by ‘The New IRA’. They have issued an apology.But any organisation venal enough to use guns in furthering their political ends should learn to shoot straight or disband.
I knew nothing of Lyra beforre April 18th but fully believe and would associate myself with the fulsome praise she received as a journalist and open-minded human being from those who shared her work and young life. Her death was clearly a loss. But in such a loss, I found hope in the way in which all six parties united in clear condemnation of the act as unacceptable in any part of Ireland in the 21st century. Politicians whose utterances normally jar in me like fingernails on a windowpane made heartfelt, diplomatic statements, with which I found myself agreeing. Several hundred residents of the normally recalcitrant Crreggan district where the riot occurred, cam forward with information. The PSNI have desisted from the boots-and-truncheons of yore and tried to work with the community to solve this.
So on this, the day of her funeral, I mourn, along with so many others, the loss of a woman who had already made a difference in her young life but whose brutal death highlights the progress made by two decades of the peace process.
It is not for outsiders like me to say but, perhaps this sharp contrast with such progress and all the many such incidents stretching into history may be the incentive for political leaders, gathered in common grief round Lyra’s grave, may forge a future of peaceful and prosperous sharing of their beautiful island as a fitting legacy for Lyra.
Today may be more hopeful than it appears.