The Other Ireland

Traveling around the countryside of Ireland, you see a lot of junk. There is trash everywhere along the roads, crap dumped in ditches, stuff chucked into streams and the ocean. There are abandoned lots with old furniture, holes in the ground full of discarded clothing. Houses are abandoned, unfinished. Nowhere is this blight more evident than on some of the western islands.

Now, you’d think – wait, the islands are supposed to be beautiful, aren’t they? The natural setting is indeed unbeatable. If treated well, the islands should be world heritage sites. However, all too often the islanders view them as dumping grounds. And the human presence itself can be, shall we say, unlovely. Cars are left on blocks, basic signs are broken or missing. Garbage is piled on streets. Plastic bags stream from wire fences. It’s like Port-au-Prince in the North Atlantic. The scene is not unlike what you’d see on some Native American reservations in the US.

This shameful neglect and damage of the land points to something that initially shocked me – the complete absence of any kind of environmental ethic in Ireland today. There is almost no concern for any of the standard ecological principles that are taken for granted at this point in most of the first world. How could people in such a beautiful place with a long history of living close to the land treat it like such a cesspool? The Irish should be leaders in the environmental field. But they are in fact still living in some previous age where, when you’re done with that car battery, you throw it in the woods.

Remember those 1970 era TV ads with the Native American on a horse shedding a tear as he surveys a stream choked with car tires and trash? That’s about where Ireland is today.

The land weeps. And the people would weep – if anyone cared.

Here are a few scenes on Tory Island, off the north coast of County Donegal.

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Theatre as Justice

One of this weekend’s events commemorating the 40th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Derry was a dramatic rendering of the Saville Report, in particular the details surrounding the death of 17 year old Gerald Donaghey. The audience was completely rapt as evidence was sifted, scripts were read, and holes in the official version of events were suggested. Theatre as community justice.

From the programme:

The Saville Report and Gerald Donaghey – Unfinished Business

Using the medium of drama this event will examine the conclusions of the Saville Report in respect of Gerald Donaghey. The report was quite unequivocal in finding that there was no justification whatsoever for his murder. However the report came to no firm conclusions on the controversial issue of whether nail bombs had been planted on his body after he was shot. This hour long event will present civilian, British Army and RUC evidence as heard at the Tribunal and examine why this question was not resolved. This remains unfinished business not only for the Donaghey family but for the wider community.

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Michael Mansfield

Radical UK barrister Michael Mansfield gave the Saturday night 2012 Bloody Sunday Lecture (full programme).

Mansfield has been instrumental over the years in several inquiries and court cases involving Northern Ireland.

He had many interesting things to say – including some interesting hints that he is involved in a new investigation into the death of Princess Diana, which he says was not an accident.

The truth will out. But not without a fight. Michael Mansfield is a fighter.

Derry

So far this trip is all about not planning anything (mostly) and improvising along the way. In keeping with the great luck I have had so far bumping into stuff, turns out this weekend is the 40th anniversary of Bloody Sunday (30 Jan 1972) in Derry. As part of that, a Uniting Ireland conference is going on. I drove the coast from Belfast to Derry and rolled in to town just in time to catch the first panel on Saturday. Back tonight for the keynote lecture.

I recorded about an hour and a half of audio, which I will upload when I can figure out how to.

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