The Irish view of history is amazing. We were sitting in McColgan’s pub in Dunfanaghy, Co Donegal, gently internalising some Guinness and watching RTE doing the build-up to the Ireland-England match. They turned to ‘The Stats’ – which said, I think, that Ireland had beaten England four times between 1940 and 1949 ‘with a break for the Second World War’. Good to have a proper sense of priorities.
Meanwhile, all attention has been focused on the playing of God Save the Queen at Croke Park – a truly eye-watering moment because of what it says about political movement and political maturity in Ireland. Historian John A Murphy is quoted in today’s Irish Times as saying, ‘When our English neighbours are made warmly welcome next Saturday in such a splendid stadium in the capital of a mature and sovereign republic, the innocent Croke Park dead of November 21st, 1920, will be honoured, not insulted.
And change continues apace elsewhere. The Northern Ireland Assembly Elections are coming close – Sinn Fein having declared support for the police. I was interested to see that the election slogan for Ian Paisley’s DUP, ‘Getting it right’. Could it really be that empty posturing about the Union is gone and people are being encouraged to adopt a pragmatic readiness to engage and share.
And I should mention the astonishing economic dynamism of today’s Ireland. It’s two months since we were here. Within half a mile of our house, I think I can count 11 houses being built and the road west from Letterkenny is being transformed. I see nothing like it in Scotland. It’s as if we hadn’t been to Blairgowrie for a while and then found that they had moved it while we were away.