There was something surreal about this past week. It was caused by the fact that I did decided to take a week off work but not to go away anywhere for that week, or as I said, “I have a few things to do around the house and I want to get them done.”
Sitting here on Sunday morning, I realize that the list of jobs has gotten no shorter and in fact has grown by one or two items. Yesterday I got a bookcase and said bookcase is still sitting in the middle of the sitting room. After we had finished our prayers this morning, all the while aware of this monstrosity sitting two feet from the table, right slap bang in the middle of the room, I said to Mrs Q, “When you decide where you want to put that, tell me and I’ll give you a hand to move it.”
Needless to say, like all Irish husbands, decisions about what goes where in Casa Turlough are left to ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed.’
Are You Lost
My week off work began with a trip to Derry on the Saturday. A friend of mine, who goes by the name of Pat, and I got the bus from Clady corner to the Casteldawson roundabout and then from there we caught the Maiden City Flyer to Stroke City. The bus was about three quarters full and we sat and chatted and looked at the heaps of pallets which were built up in various places as we drove along.
It was the 11th of July. I wonder what they were celebrating: maybe July 11th is the National Unity Day of the New North!
On arriving in Derry Pat and I headed for a cup of tea. Immediately, before we entered the shopping centre, we were accosted by a young lady, “Are yous ones lost? Are yous the ones that is on the bus trip? They’re waiting on yous, yous is holding them up.”
The poor girl was devastated when Pat said serenely, and obviously with full control of his mental faculties, “We are not lost, dear. We have just got off the wonderful Maiden City Flyer and we are here to do a day’s shopping.”
Yous haven’t time for tae
We walked on towards the café, one of those open ones that they have in the middle of the larger shopping centres, and where a couple of ‘oul fellas’ can sit and watch the world go by. I thought we were barred: “Yous haven’t time for tae, the bus is waiting for yous and the whole place is looking for yous,” said the man behind the counter.
“I assure you,” this time I spoke, wanting to show that I too had full control of my mental faculties, “We have all the time in the world. My next appointment is with the 6pm bus to Belfast. We are not lost, have never been lost and have no intentions of getting lost. So, could we have one tea and one coffee.”
The young man went off and soon came back with two of the most delicious beverages I have ever tasted.
A wee hint for you all
Derry is a hilly place; once you get off the bus and head towards the shops you have to walk up hills, and quite steep hills at that. My friend Pat has been here many times before: “I would rather go to Derry than Belfast. When you get off the bus in Belfast you have to walk a good bit before you get to the shops, but here you are at the shops in two minutes.”
I mentioned the hills and how I didn’t like the idea of walking up them but my friend, a wiley and knowledgeable man, came back with, “It’s no bother. What you do is go into the shopping centre and get the escalator up to the third floor and you come out you are at the top of the street, simple as that.”
Would you ever have thought of it; just go into the shopping centre and take the escalators to you get to the top and there you are, at the top of the hill. Now that’s how you deal with the hills of Derry!
The economics of it all
I don’t think we made Derry up. The total spend for the day would have run to less than a score. A score, for those of you who came along after decimalization, is twenty pounds. We had a good lunch in Casa Turlough before we left, bought tea a couple of times in Derry and I came home with a banana bread loaf. Pat bought a few items, all of which together we were able to put in one bag. Mrs Q collected us at the bus stop and the divvy up of the purchases took place at Pat’s front door. All in all a good day out.
There is certainly an advantage in getting that bit older while still having your health. The free bus pass also helps but it is that feeling of being able to slow down a bit and not feel guilty that is the best of all. When you are younger you feel that you have to be doing something every day; now that I am older, a lot less work does me. I couldn’t be bothered with the rat race any more.
Birdwatching in Donegal
On Monday, the day of the big parades and the show of whatever it is the 12th is meant to show, I headed off to Donegal to visit my brother in the morning and then to do a bit of bird watching in the afternoon.
It was wet and misty on the Inishowen Peninsula and I can tell you there is nothing as boring as a wet day in Donegal. We sat and chatted for a while and in the afternoon I headed over to Buncrana to visit a friend with whom I was staying for the night. On the way I did manage to get an hour’s birdwatching. It had cleared up and I went into the village of Malin; the tide was out and there were quite a few birds in the mouth of whatever river flows into the sea at Malin. I saw nothing new, but that is not what birdwatching is about; I had a nice hour of peace and quiet where I could forget all about the world and the problems in my life.
Tuesday morning still surreal
After a lovely breakfast in a wee café in Carndonagh, my friend and I parted and I headed off back to the New North and home to see Mrs Q. I stopped just over the border, filled with diesel and had an ice cream: there is still that old thing in me that does not want to be in the North around the 12th. It is amazing how deep that feeling runs in us.
Overall it was a quiet 12th, especially when you compare it to the ones that we have had in the past. We can all recall the times when taxi drivers were shot as birthday presents for loyalist killers and rubber bullets were used much more frequently against Catholics than Protestant protesters.
Those days are past us for the time being, though I would not hasten to say that they are gone forever. There is still a lurching feeling of hatred in the air. We were relatively unscathed this year, other than the incident in which two girls were run down by an Orange Order protester. For the young lady with the broken pelvis I am sure this was a horrible 12th, but overall things were peaceful.
Back to Normal
Thankfully on Tuesday afternoon Northern Ireland returned to some sort of normality.
“An Orangeman charged with attempted murder after hitting a 16-year-old girl with his car during Twelfth Night disturbances has been released on bail. John Aughey (61), from Ballysillan, appeared at Belfast Magistrates' Court on Wednesday morning facing two charges of attempted murder.
Phoebe Clawson from north Belfast suffered a broken collarbone, broken pelvis and broken ankle when she became trapped under the vehicle outside the Ardoyne shops. Police officers had to lift the car to rescue her.
Dressed in a dark coloured polo shirt he spoke only to confirm he understood the charges. His solicitor described the incident as regrettable and said his client has spoken of his regret at all stages. It also emerged in court that Aughey is recovering from cancer and is the main carer for his seriously ill wife.”
This quite long quote from the Belfast Telegraph shows why the whole feeling of peace over Northern Ireland is surreal and should not be seen as a sign of better times. There is something fundamentally flawed in a society when a man charged with attempted murder can walk out of court after twelve hours on £500 bail.
Does anyone believe that Aughey will serve a day? I have fifty quid says he doesn’t!
Let’s Return to Surreal.
Wednesday morning, the 15th of July, showed, for me, the real dichotomy that lies at the heart of Northern Ireland: Jim Wells broke his silence about his remarks on homosexuals.
Now before we start let me say clearly that I disagree with everything that Wells said about homosexuals, but in actual fact the point is not about homosexuals the point at issue is how we see events in Northern Ireland and their reporting.
“DUP politician Jim Wells has launched a bid to clear his name after he was accused of linking child abuse and gay relationships. He resigned as health minister after a tape from a hustings event in Downpatrick in April was made public.
In the tape, he said: "You don't bring a child up in a homosexual relationship. That a child is far more likely to be abused and neglected." The minister was then interrupted by uproar from the audience,” read the BBC news story.
Do you remember?
I don’t actually remember when Jim Wells broke onto the political scene, he was never a major player in my mind. But he is a member of the DUP and for those of us who remember the worst days of the Troubles and the times that the DUP refused to condemn the murders of innocent Catholics, there is something very surreal about the position Jim Wells finds himself in: he has to resign for insulting homosexuals when he comes from a party and tradition where insulting his Catholic neighbour is part of a day’s work.
How weird does it get?
Homosexuals make up 1% to 1.5% of the population yet almost 50% of the people of Northern Ireland are Catholics. So why is it alright to demean and degrade 50% of the population while on the other hand, a politician has to resign for insulting 1.5%?
Perhaps it’s the reporting
When Wells passed his comments about homosexuals he was hounded by reporters and the media for what he said. However, when a Unionist politician or an Orange Order member insults Catholics there is nowhere near as much pressure put on them.
Have we bad reporters or are they bad people, the reporters who man the radio stations and the TV?
Our reporters are as good as any and they have shown with the Pastor McConnell case and the Jim Wells case that when they get their teeth into something they won’t let it go to the bitter end. But Jim Wells and Pastor McConnell insulted the homosexuals and the Muslims, not the Catholics.
It is fashionable to stand up for the homosexuals and the Muslims. They are ‘safe’ causes in Northern Ireland because in reality there are not that many of them and they are not going to cause too much trouble for us all. If homosexual marriage came along who would really notice—so a reporter can go after Wells or McConnell and know that they are not going to face anything uncomfortable in themselves.
But what about the poor unionist or protestant reporter who sees and hears Catholics being berated? He knows that to confront the politician or Orangeman in question he has to face his own bigotry and may even face the wrath of his people.
Standing up for the rights of Muslims or homosexuals costs us nothing, we have no hard choices to make, we do not have to face our own demons. But when a couple of young Catholic girls are run down and a man gets bail right away, there are no serious questions asked: the demons of bigotry cannot be faced.
Will it ever change?
Things in Northern Ireland are changing and we could learn a lot by imitating how the homosexual movement have run their campaign. Now I am not suggesting that Catholics go out of their way to be insulted and try to set up court cases, as many believe has happened in Great Britain, but I am saying that it would behove our political parties better if instead of nit-picking with unionists over everything, they focused their attention on reporting and the inherent discrimination displayed by so much of the media.
At week’s end the DUP were at it again over some woman’s funeral in Derry.
“The DUP condemned a paramilitary display at the funeral of Peggy O'Hara in the city on Saturday morning. Mrs O'Hara was the mother of an INLA man who died in the 1981 hunger strike.
Ahead of Saturday's funeral, the DUP sought assurances from the police that they would take action against a repeat of paramilitary-style displays.
"Despite our efforts with the police, it would seem that there were no visible signs of police in close proximity to the funeral cortege on Saturday," East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said.
"Men and women dressed in paramilitary garb with faces covered were free to march, for almost two miles, around the streets of Londonderry."
Mr Campbell said the police had questions to answer.” (BBC)
We are back to the days of selective condemnation. There was little or no condemnation of the Loyalist riots in Belfast over the 12th, and definitely nowhere near as much condemnation of certain incidents.
But, sure at the end of the day, they were only a couple of……….
Scratch the surface in Northern Ireland and the hatred is still very strong! That is what’s so surreal about it all.
The views expressed are not necessarily those of the editor but are the views of the writer.
Any comments, please submit to