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Sunday, June 12, 2011

National pride

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It's a funny thing coming from a mixed Irish/British background.  I was born and grew up in Ireland and moved to the UK when I was thirteen.  My father is English and my mother is Irish.  If I am honest, most of the time, I feel too English to be Irish and too Irish to be English, forever bobbing somewhere on the Irish Sea.  

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I was away three weeks ago so it was only today that I watched the highlights of the Queen's visit to Ireland on RTE, the Irish television station.  It was about 10 minutes' long.  And I cried the whole way through.

I'm not sure I can articulate why exactly.  My family has never been touched by the troubles (no, I don't like that expressions either, but it's a convenient shorthand for the nightmare that some went through).  I remember sporadic reports of armed robberies on post offices which I now understand to have been related to funding the IRA.  And I have a vivid memory of a day out in Dublin when I was ten, where we got caught up in a hunger strike demonstration.  There were men in balaclavas carrying cardboard coffins and, for a brief panicky moment, we lost my Mum in the crowd.  But apart from that, we were as far from being 'involved' as it was possible to be. But at school, in practically every lesson - history, literature, religion, sport, music - we were expected to remember our past.  And as the children of an English father, this wasn't always easy.
It's years since I have consciously thought about all this.  I have travelled extensively and lived in many places where other nationalities, with their histories, have influenced me more.  But I have to tell you that, watching the images of the Queen visiting Croke Park, sitting under a picture of Michael Collins, laying a wreath in the Garden of Remembrance, I had tears streaming down my face.  I am Irish and English, and proud of it.

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(Needless to say, the photos aren't mine for this posting.  They all came from Google images.)


  1. My daughter is the same - half English and half Irish and although it doesn't really affect her now at age 10 I think it will do in the future.

    I myself used to live in Northern Ireland in the 1970's as my father was in the RAF so I do understand what happened in those times. One of my most vivid memories is going to school on the bus - armed soldiers would sit at the back and front of the bus and this was to just take us to school! I also remember first arriving in Belfast and walking through the airport through this concrete corridor that had slits in the walls where security or similar would watch you through the slits as you walked through. For a child that was pretty terrifying I can tell you! But I have to say I loved my time in Ireland - I used to love school trips to Lough Neagh!!

  2. This is such an interesting and heartfelt post. My knowledge of Irish history is so rubbish, you make me want to investigate it more.


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