6-29-12 On the One Road


Two days ago an old woman attired in apple green suit shook hands with a smiling, curly-haired man at a charity event in Belfast, Ireland. Martin welcomed Elizabeth with an Irish greeting: Failte!

It was a long time coming. England’s Elizabeth I complained during her reign in the late 1500′s’s that the Lords she sent to subdue Ireland donned bawneen robes and sandals to marry red-haired Irish princesses. In the 1640′s Oliver Cromwell sent the Irish “to hell or Connaught” and brought in the Scots, known as the great Plantation.

Wolfe Tone, a patrician Protestant, sailed with the French across the murky waters to free Ireland from England in 1798 and was hanged for his trouble, despite his request to be shot as a soldier. Catholic Daniel O’Connell broke the religion barrier in 1828. With throngs of Irishmen following him across the green isle, “The Liberator” captured a seat in parliament, but not much else.

A second Protestant, Charles Steward Parnell, almost succeeded in establishing Home Rule in the 1880′s, but lost all in a great scandal. W.B. Yeats wrote in “Come Gather Round Me, Parnellites“:

And here’s a cogent reason

And I have many more,

He fought the might of England

And saved the Irish poor,

Whatever good a farmer’s got

He brought it all to pass;

And here’s another reason,

That Parnell loved a lass.

Nobel Peace Laureate Northern Irishman John Hume fought a war of words with Protestant Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley, in the more recent Troubles, lamenting: “If the word “no” was removed from the English language, Ian Paisley would be speechless.”

America’s own George Mitchell negotiating unsuccessfully between the English and the Irish in the late 1990′s came away a wiser man.  In an interview explaining his failure, Mr. Mitchell said he strongly believed in remembering history, but in the case of the Irish, it might help if they forgot a bit of it.

So, we raise a toast to Queen Elizabeth II of England and Martin McGuinness, former Captain in the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Together, they crossed a barrier built high by centuries of blood-stained bodies to say, Enough.

It is one moment in a turbulent history, both Irish and English may remember with pride.




3 responses so far

  1. Mighty fine, I say. Mighty fine.

  2. Amen! And may I say one lovely apple green ensemble!

  3. Maureen Dowd wrote about this in this morning’s NYT and I thought about you -

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