(Never thought I’d have to do this, and probably dont have to now, but given my role, let me just say any comments made here are purely my personal ones, and I would prefer, however hard, to keep all political comments out of any replies, should there be any)
Its fair to say that my Irish ancestry has an interesting background, though given both sides of my family moved to the UK at the start of the 20th Century, its too distant (by 1 generation on both sides) to apply for an Irish passport now, if I wanted to. Interesting? Well, my father was from Irish Catholic ancestry from Kerry, my mother from Irish Protestant roots from Offaly. Yes, somehow or other, a few generations later, in the UK, they got married, and the rest is history! Well, me, anyway! It means that my first 9 years (until my father left my mother) I was brought up as Catholic, before quickly going to Protestant roots once he was gone.
So to say that to me, the Troubles in Ireland was an even more complex issue than for most, would be putting it mildly. Lets not comment too much on that, as a view from either side, as my ancestry was from the South, anyway. By the time I first visited Northern Ireland (I was about 30 by then), my look at it would be from the Protestant side, its fair to say.
Eventually, in the 90’s, the peace process came to Northern Ireland. One of the figures behind that, was Martin McGuinness, of Sinn Fein, and IRA background. To say he had a shady background would be putting it mildly, but fine, some of the Democrats past wasnt a lot cleaner, but anyway… The rest is history, the 2 sides came together, and peace was born out of the troubles. Yes, its had a few less than perfect moments over the years, but we still have peace! Yes, as you’ve probably heard on the news everywhere, Martin McGuinness has just died, at 66.
Thankfully, I have nothing to forgive, or not forgive him for, as the case may be. Others have a less easy choice, and I can understand their views, whichever way they look at it. But lets just remember one thing, without him, the peace process may not have got started as soon, and even more innocent people may have lost their lives.
Its funny, I remember back in the ‘bad old days’ being whisked around the edge of Belfast, on the ring road, as no one wanted to go into the city. Now, several times, I’ve been to Belfast for cricket, and not seen any trouble. That, at least is something. The irony, the ground is at Stormont, not a long way from the parliament building!
Having said I wont get political, there is one song that relates strongly to the events of the troubles, so it was hard to ignore.
I know, I know, the traditional tune for this is another city in Northern Ireland, but given I’ve been breathing in the Belfast air for a few days now…I could also have called it, Oh Maxy boy, but that joke would have sailed over non cricket fans heads!
Ah, the cricket. Yes, the Max is Max Sorensen, taker of 5 Australian wickets in the 88 overs of play managed over the last 2 days, most of them yesterday. We managed a whole 16 overs today before the rain came in, and blew the rest of the days play away. Mind, that has its moments too. After a short while, I went in the pavilion to get shelter indoors, and ordered a coffee, to try and warm myself up. I turn round, and almost bump into Paul Stirling stood behind me, one of Ireland’s leading players. Shortly after, Kevin O’Brien walks in, and after a while, Trent Johnston sits down at a table, literally across the passageway from me.
And before anyone says anything about only Irish players mingling, Steve Smith was seen chatting to several spectators before we got started this morning too. Maybe its the Belfast air, maybe its just natural politeness, but either way, its a lovely sight.
Anyway, about 3.00, it was clear there was unlikely to be any more play today (there wasnt), so I headed back into the city. I wasnt really shopping for anything, though I did find one wonderful shop selling vintage stuff, but didnt buy, though I might have been tempted to some degree.
Then back to the hotel, and during this evening, I got a reminder of ‘old Belfast’ when a parade of marching band(s?) went down the street nearby. Just remember, I used to be over here during the ‘Troubles’, and marching parades used to be a major catalyst for riots, and other delights. Nowadays, no one even blinks, thats how much things have changed for the better.
Tomorrow is back to England, hopefully I can get back here next year, though it may be more fun arranging dates, given the World Cup is being held in Brazil next summer. But fingers are crossed…though I may have seen the last of Trent playing, but I wouldnt put too much money on that. His form is still red hot, unfortunately his body is aging, a fact I too know only too well lol!
So, in tribute to my location, and to the bands, lets end with a song that will ever be linked to Northern Ireland. Sung by a Canadian actress, who only died 2 months ago, I was surprised to read on Wiki.