A MOMENTOUS DAY


At about 5.30pm on the 17th of May 1974 three car bombs exploded without warning in Dublin city centre. 27 people died. At 7pm another car bomb exploded in Monaghan. In total 33 people lost their lives that day and a further 300 were injured. It marked the single greatest day of casualties in the period known as ‘The Troubles’. It was one of the darkest days that I can remember, ranking alongside Bloody Sunday in Derry. And it had a personal relevance. My father was attending a meeting in the North Star Hotel on Amiens Street. I can remember the tension at home that evening until we heard he was alright.

There were many such dark days in the recent history of Ireland and Great Britain. Enniskillen, Canary Wharf, Omagh… just some of the place names burned into the consciousness of our peoples as the scenes of brutal atrocities.

The 17th of May 2011 will be a day that will also be burned into my consciousness. I will remember it as the day when I watched, albeit from distance of my living room, as the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese led the British Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II into the Garden of Remembrance, so that she could pay her respects to the memory of all those who gave their lives in the fight for Irish freedom. In the eerily quiet city, the only ambient sound was that of helicopters buzzing overhead, the Head of State of the United Kingdom solemnly laid a wreath and bowed her head. It was a powerful image of understanding and of respect. As I watched I became aware that my cheeks were wet with tears. It was profoundly moving and deeply emotional.

My grandfather fought during the War of Independence and I am very aware, somewhere deep inside my soul, of his bravery and that of other untrained ordinary men and women who pursued an impossible dream and made it real. My generation is the bridge between that past which, to me, seems so reasonably recent and our nation’s future. I feel the passion that drove the final push for freedom in an almost tangible sense. It is beyond explanation but it’s something that I carry in the very essence of my being.

My children are aware of the history attached to the Irish side of their family, the touch of this knowledge no heavier than the sweep of feathers on their skin. They are secure in their Irishness. Their freedom is a given.

So it was fitting that I was alone as I watched this momentous piece of history unfold today. I wiped my tears and I thought of my grandfather, George Power of the North Cork Battalion of the IRA. This was the culmination of the dream he shared with all those who down through the centuries pushed for Ireland’s right to self determination. This was the day was finally Ireland was ready to let go of the victim status and stand tall and equal with our former coloniser. It has taken a long time to get to this place. Many have died along the way.

Let us all remember this day, 17th of May 2011 when it was two women, two mothers who stood side by side and demonstrated so poignantly that one can honour the past while setting our faces most definitely towards the future. What a day.

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10 Comments

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  1. Interesing take on the Royal visit. I am conflicted in my views about it.

  2. A very moving and touching post. It certainly is a great day.

  3. “Let us all remember this day, 17th of May 2011 when it was two women, two mothers who stood side by side and demonstrated so poignantly that one can honour the past while setting our faces most definitely towards the future. “

    This quote said it all. Great article.

  4. It was an interesting day and as I listened to various radio programmes in which the “man in the street” was asked for his reactions, I was surprised as opinions were stated very forcibly varying from “the visit cost way too much money” to “we should have been able to get closer to catch a glimpse of the Queen.” i agree that the visit to the Garden of Remembrance was particularly poignant.

  5. It's been an amazing few days ….

    From a Murray perspective – the Queen wore 'yellow' today which really made him happy! She visited Croke Park and he was really excited watching that! Then tonight not only did she have a tiara on (he loves tiaras and crowns for some reason) but she actually met Santa Claus!

    Well okay it was Nick Robinson (Mary Robinson's husband) but he looks a lot like Santa and Murray was so excited watching them say hello to each other!

    So, there you go, a different 'Murray' perspective on the Queen's visit!

    Loved your post and just visited Garden Spells – really enjoyed that! Thanks so much for the recommendation!

    – Fiona

  6. that should have read 'just finished' Garden Spells!

  7. Hi Ann… thanks for the comment. It is amazing here – a real sense that things have moved on. A new future dawns – fingers crossed. It has lifted us all out of the depts of economic despair.

    Mammy Dolittle and Portlairge – thanks a million for stopping by and leaving a comment.

    Ta Ma x

    Hey Fiona and Murray and Clive.. I love Murrays take on the visit – seems like he is right in step with everyone else – it has been great so far. I hope he will continue to find his favourite things over the next two days!

    Glad you liked Garden Spells – one of my favourite books!

  8. Really good, well written article Barbara.

    It is so interesting to read your perspective, the background, and your own family involvement

    I too loved – “Let us all remember this day, 17th of May 2011 when it was two women, two mothers who stood side by side and demonstrated so poignantly that one can honour the past while setting our faces most definitely towards the future.”

    Nice writing to mark what seems to be quite a symbolic occasion.

  9. My work over looks Baldonnell airport so we saw the plane arrive and then the cavalcade up the N7. The sense of history being made was felt by all my colleagues. It was the first time I realised how hard the queen actually works. Those four days would tire out a 20 year old never mind an 85 and 90 year old couple. I was struck by her professionalism.
    One wonders if it were two men that were heads of state would this day ever come.

  10. of course as there will be a memorable day if there were innocent deaths are emotional Commemorative

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