Sunday, July 31, 2011

"Summertime, and the livin' is easy" - George Gershwin

It's not over yet, but the kids are having a great summer. They spend the mornings at camp, and the afternoons playing with friends, or we go to the beach or to a park. Every night they fall into bed exhausted. They are real little kids now. This is the best age! But I think that every year.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"They breed like rabbits and multiply like vermin." Ian Paisley on Catholics in 1969

Reverend Ian Paisley in 1969

Yikes! Yesterday was July 12, a day in which some British Loyalists in Northern Ireland celebrate William of Orange's victory over Catholic King James II at the "Battle of the Boyne" in 1690. William, King James' nephew and son-in-law was a Protestant and his victory ensured his place as King William III of England, Scotland and Ireland and restored Protestantism to the throne. His wife Mary, was Catholic King James' daughter (of College of William and Mary fame).

Today, the Orange Order commemorates this day every year with parades and celebrations around Northern Ireland and Scotland. Named for William of Orange and founded in 1795, it seems that this organization and its lodges of members was created in order to protect protestants. Incidentally, the Irish flag is Green, representing the 26 counties, Orange, representing the 6 Northern counties with white in the middle representing peace. It is based on the French flag- early revolutionaries such as Theobald Wolfe Tone (a protestant) and Robert Emmet visited France to learn about how they planned their revolution.

July 12th Parade Banner

The Grand Orange Lodge says:

"In 1795, following the culmination of attacks on Protestants in County Armagh at the Battle of the Diamond, in which Protestants routed those who had attacked them and attempted to burn properties, it was decided to form an organisation which would protect Protestants."

The ILOI says:

"An Orange Association was formed in England in 1688 to assist the Prince of Orange in defence of the Protestant Religion and the Liberties of England. The Orange Order, as we know it, was formed by the victorious Protestants after the Battle of the Diamond in 1795.

Its aims were to defend Protestantism, Protestant property and the Constitution."

Earlier this year, Tom and I watched a documentary on BBC about the Orangewomen, the Women of the Orange order. They have their own meetings, hierarchy and lodges- and are able to march in the parades only if invited by the men.

I found a posting on from someone who also saw the same documentary:

"I watched the excellent documentary on BBC NI on Monday evening about the Women's Orange Order in the north.
Still alive and thriving today, their rule book forbids mixed marriages.
Most of the members were 50+, with one exception. A pretty lady whose parents are members of their respective Lodges and so too is she.
I thought I was watching a documentary about the FreeMasons in Dublin with all the pomp and ceremony performed at one stage!!
But I came away thinking how sad that these people oppose Catholics marrying Protestants, given they admitted to mixing well with their neighbours.
I thought we had moved on since the Good Friday Agreement but clearly not when it comes to this bigoted view across the north.
When asked if they would support a rule change relating to mixed marriages, those interviewed gave a definitive 'no'.
Obviously, they are still living back in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s.
Times have moved on.
The young lady interviewed joked that if she ever decided to marry a Catholic she would have to change her partner's religious beliefs and he would agree to bring up their children as Protestants.
Very sad. Because she could just meet a Catholic she is compatible with and likes. And she wouldn't be allowed marry him because of some silly, historically, bigoted rule."

Mural in Belfast

This year, chaos ensued once again as some republicans rioted and threw petrol bombs injuring police. Although it has been 13 years since the Good Friday Agreement, there are still some people who are very angry that Ireland is divided. Fewer still are so angry that they think that violence is way to go. But I am fascinated by those who celebrate on July 12th. It seems so archaic and irrelevant. It appears that people get caught up in the hierarchy and surround themselves with similar small minded people. Let's face it, there is more than one way to express anger.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

"A landscape fossilized, / Its stone-wall patternings / Repeated before our eyes / In the stone walls of Mayo." -- Seamus Heaney

The beautiful West Coast

Another opportunity for driving practice. Big improvements were made.

The Swan boats at Westport House

New York & Dublin friends- and we found them in Westport!

We have to find a playground on all trips

"Can we play that game where you whack the balls?"

Ferry around Killary Fjord

Dolphins followed us almost the whole way!

Instructions for pilgrims

We climbed as far as the Statue of St. Patrick- maybe when they are a little older we will go all the way up to the top

Murrisk Abbey- founded in the 15th Century by Pope Callistus, who I had not heard of before today.

The famine monument near Croagh Patrick. Notice the skeletons.

After our quick trip to Galway in the dead of winter, we promised ourselves that we would come back to the area when the sun sets later than 4:30! This time we based ourselves out of Westport, Mayo. Westport is a cute little Irish town, and the Hotel had a great pool which all of us love when we go away.

The first day we went to Westport House, an old estate that has small amusement park and swan boats, and a little train. It was a great day and coincidentally, we ran into our Irish New York friends who happened to be on a getaway to the west as well.

The second day was very wet, and so we drove down to Leenane and took a cruise around Ireland's only Fjord. It was perfect for a rainy day. The boys loved it and there were Dolphins that followed us the whole way!

We also went up to Croagh Patrick. Also called "the Reek" Croagh Patrick is the mountain that St. Patrick is said to have climbed barefoot in the 5th Century. It is told that he stayed up there and fasted for 40 days and at the end of the fast he threw a silver bell down the side of the mountain killing Corra the she-demon and banishing all the snakes from Ireland. Each year about 20,000 pilgrims clim Croagh Patrick on the third Sunday in July. Many climb barefoot and some have died. We decided not to go all the way up. This year.

We had little issue on the last night, the T man may have had his second migraine. But he is doing great now. My favorite part of these getaways is that we get to spend all the days together away from regular life. It was a great trip.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A different language is a different vision of life. ~Federico Fellini

This weekend, we went to see "Translations" at the Abbey Theatre. I really enjoy seeing plays written by Irish playwrights.

"Translations" was written by Brian Friel, and the first production was in Derry in 1980. It takes place in a small village in Donegal called Baile Beag and really captures the colonial relationship between Ireland and England. Set in 1833, post Act of Union, post failed rebellion, and post growing sense that the English language was the path to modernization.

The story illustrates how, through an land ordinance survey, the Irish names of towns and villages were renamed to reflect a more anglican influence. Even though the new names made sense to no one. The whole play asks the question: "How important is a language to it's people?"

Since moving to Ireland, I have seen that public road signs are in both Irish and English. Not all Irish people speak fluent Irish, but many do. It is a required subject in schools. Some will go to Irish language schools, or summer camps, or have lived with an Irish speaking family in Galway to work on their Irish. I understand that if you take your leaving certificate (the Irish SAT's) in Irish you get extra points. The police have to speak irish, and it seems that most politicians do as well.

Towards the end of the 19th Century and the early 20th, there was a big push to revive the Irish language, Gaelic sports, Irish music and literature in order to reclaim Ireland. These ideas were very unifying and helped fuel the rising in 1916. The IRB and the Irish Volunteers communicated and recruited through these Irish interests. Irish is still the national language of Ireland, though there has been talk of dropping it as a required course, and accepting non Irish-speaking Gardai.

Ireland would be a different place if the Irish language had not been so diluted. The play's characters represent some of the emotions that were present at the time. The teacher who felt that the English had taken enough from the Irish and that they had to hold on to their language, the girl who wanted to be modern and leave the small village and who saw English as a way out. Both are very sympathetic.

The theme was relevant in 1833 and it is relevant today. The Irish tell these stories like no one else could. And I love to hear them.