Sunday, March 29, 2009

Some Final Thoughts on Ireland

Visiting Ireland was a real treat for Laura and I. The countryside is beautiful; it is emerald green as far as the eye can see, with stone walls snaking over the rolling hills. It sometimes reminded me of a greener southeastern United States; as we drove, we would alternately pass areas of immense natural beauty and stunning neglect. Even the latter, however, was charming in its own way and a gentle reminder that Ireland is still largely rural, with a population of just over 4 million. We were also surprised and delighted to see that the traffic signs are largely bilingual - in English and Irish Gaelic (or just Irish as a local would tell you). Less than 5% of the Irish can speak Irish Gaelic today, but that hasn't stopped a wave of nationalism from trying to revive its use.

You may have read in the news about the two British soldiers who were murdered in Northern Ireland on March 7th. Two days later a policeman was also killed. These were the first terrorist slayings in over a decade in Northern Ireland, and they were certainly dominant topics in the Republic of Ireland news during our stay (March 13-18). It was very sobering, but fascinating, to see the discourse play out from within the Republic, even if just from newspaper headlines and short newscasts. The political parties have widely condemned a return to violence. But even without violence, Laura and I learned quickly from our sojourn through Irish history that a "32 county solution," - or united Ireland - is a dream that will never die.

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