Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Irish eyes aren't always smiling

Dublin GPO
My reader would have noticed that I haven't updated this blog since late August. Last month I travelled through England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Our tour guide gave a potted version of the history of The Troubles. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) was quite active during my childhood and adolescence, but from Australia, those events seemed so far away. It's only when you visit some of the places where some of the attacks and incidents happened that these things seem more real.

On one overcast and windswept day we passed through the coastal area of Mullaghmore, County Sligo. This was the location of the August 1979 assassination of Lord Mountbatten, second cousin to Queen Elizabeth II and uncle to Prince Philip. Mountbatten was out fishing on Donegal Bay when an IRA operative remotely detonated a bomb placed on his boat. 

We also spent two days in Dublin. I remember sending a postcard from Dublin General Post Office. This was the headquarters of the 1916 Easter uprising against British rule. To this day, bullet holes are visible in the walls and columns out the front. I stopped in there on my way back from visiting Trinity College to look at the Book of Kells. I didn't know at the time that the Trinity campus was also associated with those events.

As a Christian it grieves me that religion and Catholic/Protestant sectarianism has at least partially caused so much anger, hatred, and bloodshed. While this never came up in conversation with locals, just being in Ireland, which to this day is a divided country, was a reminder of what happens when humanity corrupts the teachings of Christ, which are meant to be about reconciling humanity with God and with one another, and uses it as a pretext to do the opposite. That sat uneasily with me during the Irish leg of my trip. Rather than dwell on this too much, I chose to enjoy the richness of their history and culture, and the spectacular natural scenery.

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