This is not a travelogue, and I’m not part of the Irish Publicity machine. What I write here is basically my own observations, interpretations and analysis, coupled with recent comments gleaned from newspapers. I write it, because I believe that over the next five years the Ireland that I have known and loved for all this time will start to change irrevocably, through so-called progress, the influx of strangers, and the fact that, by modern-day standards, there is the opportunity for tremendous development, and consequently tremendous speculative building..
In General When I came here as a sailor my conception of what I would find and what I did discover, were vastly different, I believe my conception was very common in England at that time, and apart from views of the troubles on television, I believe English people as a whole know little of Ireland. Geographically it is like a bowl, with a coastal area largely comprising high ground, high hills and mountains, with the centre of the island having lakes, arable land, the inevitable bogs, all generally at a low level. The scenery from one end to the other is mainly unspoiled, breathtaking in many cases, and a joy to behold. Apart from arterial roads, driving is still a relaxing exercise, with little ribbon building, few large conurbations, and miles and miles of coastal road with outstanding views, all within comparatively easy reach of our towns and cities.
The influences on Irish life since the 30s, could be divided into sections within which there has been little change. During the war years, ’39 to ’46, apart from the expansion of the shipyard and the aircraft factory, there was little change in our daily lives, the one common to all of the UK as a result of the war. There was little or no development, and our way of life changed little in that period. It was not until the mid 50s when we started to see the beginnings of development, expansion, and the new prosperity, with the introduction of up-to-date cars, holidays abroad and a strong building and infrastructure programme. .This expansion was probably steady until 1969/70, just 17 years, when the Troubles took hold, when public money was diverted to security, damage repair, the police and the military, compensation and to some extent political appeasement. So for those years, from ’69 to nearly 2000, there was nothing like the expansion, development and modernisation that was being achieved in the rest of the United Kingdom, nor for that matter in Eire. In retrospect, seeing what has happened socially in Great Britain, I think we have been saved much of the wrong type of development, that appears prevalent across the water.
In consequence of all this stagnation, we have a lot of ground to make up, but by the same token, it is the fact of our underdevelopment that makes this country so pleasant to live in and pleasant to visit. There is not the same sophistication, the same bustle, it is more relaxed, and behind the times.
Politics Ireland would not be Ireland without politics, so let’s get that out of the way to begin with. Whatever I write is bound to be wrong in the eyes of some of us, but with free speech at least I am allowed to give my viewpoint. Initially I had to learn that basically there were too strong factions functioning here in Northern Ireland. There were those who wanted to remain with Queen and country, and those who wanted a united Ireland, and in theory never the twain would meet. In actual fact a fair proportion of the middle-class, and those in the upper class who were not involved in politics, were not as strongly divided as were the remainder. Not only then, were mixed marriages frowned upon, in some instances they still are, but today the retribution is not as virulent. At different times in recent history the political differences have been used as more than a political ploy, but when the Troubles erupted sectarianism became rampant. There is no shadow of doubt that it will be more than decades before the differences are ignored, as it seems there are two attitudes to the general government for the whole country. Some people in Northern Ireland object to the Eire government having an input into Northern Ireland politics, which they feel should be solely British. By the same token there is a strong movement, and a steady change in the scene, as political parties from the South are considering having a hold in the North of Ireland. So it is likely that there will be an underlying tension. In my view, Northern Ireland politics is basically not about religion, but about the fear of being taken over by a faction that is contrary to your own political beliefs, be it Protestant or Catholic, and will cause one to suffer as a result. Until that fear is totally eradicated, there will always be an underlying political friction. On the other hand, visitors usually only see the beauty, the peaceful countryside, and are always made welcome.