Saturday, November 7, 2009
Missing you already
The panel of Speakers for the United Ireland conference in Toronto.
Left to right: Warren Allmand, Former Solicitor General of Canada; Christopher Axworthy Former Attorney General of Saskatchewan; Eleanor McGrath, writer; Charlie Angus MP of New Democratic Party; myself; and Manon Perron, Treasurer of the Montreal Council of the Federation of National Trade Unions (CSN).
November 6th 09
Missing you already
This Blog has been ridiculed in the past because of my outpourings on the issue of flying. I mean flying in a plane of course.
As is well documented humans, unlike birds, angels or fairies, can’t fly unaided.
We need airships, balloons, gliders, helicopters and airplanes. This morning as we arrived at the airport in New Jersey I watched as flocks of birds showed us how easy it is for them. No check in, security procedures or waiting about the place for sparrows, starlings or seagulls. They just spread their wings and head skywards, showing off above us ground bound mortals.
Now strapped in and squeezed into too small a seat this Blog is airborne once again.
As I scribble furiously in long hand the plane containing me and other jet lagged souls is banking to the left above Newark and away to our right New York and the iconic vista of Manhattan falls away from us.
For a second I reflect on other planes heading towards that vista on that fateful day in September 2001. And then we wheel upwards into the clouds and the earth disappears.
We are heading for Canada. For Toronto, the last leg of a quick but successful trip which started in New York at the annual Friends of Sinn Fein dinner. It was a great event. The Friends of Sinn Fein really are friends. They defied the recession and gathered, around 800 or so to pledge their commitment to the Irish cause and to invest in a free and united Ireland.
Not only did they defy the recession – the New York Yankees were playing the Phillies that evening up the road in the Bronx. It’s called the World Series. By the same logic Kerry are the All Ireland World Champions and Kilkenny and the Aontroim Ladies Football team. World Champions all!!!
But our faithful New York constituency gave the big game a by ball and came to our event instead.
Yesterday Drew University in New Jersey was the venue for a series of more very successful and worthwhile engagements.
And in another few hours another round of interviews, another fundraiser and tomorrow another conference. Canada is good to us as well. The Irish here are not as powerful as their American cousins but they do well.
Canada has long featured in the diaspora. From before An Gorta Mor – the Great Hunger. They say ice hockey is a hybrid which came from native people playing lacrosse and Irish settlers playing hurling.
My Canadian cousin Frank – a one time ice hockey jock – tells me there is a hurling stick in the Ice Hockey Hall of Fame to mark this marriage of sporting cultures.
Canada also gave the Irish peace process Judge Cory, a man of integrity who stood up for truth and for the Finucane family’s right to an enquiry into the murder of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane. John de Chastelain played and continues to play an important role. So did Patten Commission member Clifford Shearing, another Canadian.
In their time the Fenians invaded Canada – the first time the title Irish Republican Army was used. The plan was to hold Canada until the English left Ireland.
Children of An Gorta Mor found a home here and the mass graves of the Irish dead are scattered through this great country.
Brendan Behan was famously deported once. In defence of his intoxicated state he declared ‘when I got to the airport I saw the sign Drink Canada Dry. I did my best to comply with that instruction.’
Brendan was a friend and comrade of my Uncle Dominic. They were in Mountjoy Prison together. Dominic told me that Brendan used to write like a devil in both Irish and English and leave scores of his stories and poems lying in the cell to be lost forever. Is mor an trua.
And with that our plane starts to descend. Two busy days here. I also get to see my favourite Aunt, Rita and her family. And then with the help of God and a good tail wind Belfast beckons on Monday morning. This Blog can’t wait to get back. Missing you already.