‘The Ireland that we dreamed of.’ Eamon De Valera 1943
The ideal Ireland that we would have, the Ireland that we dreamed of, would be the home of a people who valued material wealth only as a basis for right living, of a people who, satisfied with frugal comfort, devoted their leisure to the things of the spirit – a land whose countryside would be bright with cosy homesteads, whose fields and villages would be joyous with the sounds of industry, with the romping of sturdy children, the contest of athletic youths and the laughter of happy maidens, whose firesides would be forums for the wisdom of serene old age.
Aiden is a main character in The Wicklow Boys. This is the fourth novel in The Liverpool Mystery Series. The following sketch is the shape of his world from the 1940s.
The ghosts of the civil war haunted Ireland, they never left us alone, they walked among us alive or dead. They crowded our streets, filled our books and TV screens. Our lives celebrated their victories and paid for their failures. The names of Breen, O Malley, Treacy, were up there with Connolly and Pearce, in the pantheon of martyrs and heroes so great there was no room for us to live among them.
Paddy was nobody’s hero, but then most of us aren’t. We are lucky if we get to star in our own lives, usually we are extras there too. Caught between the wheels of history and the dreams of the future. De Valera’s republic was too good for us, we could not live in it, the joyous fields of athletic youths and happy maidens were on a vista unopened for us. To achieve the material wealth for our right living, we gave our strength in the motorways and slum clearances, the new houses and hospitals of England. The factories and docks in Liverpool and London.
Until yet more heroes and martyrs came along, and we still worked in Birmingham and Guildford but now we couldn’t laugh out loud, we were silent as they marched to hang the IRA, and locked us innocents up, our silence was policed by comedians who placed us with an Englishman and a Scotsman to show why we were only good for the work, too stupid, and drunk, to deserve more than we got.
When the motorways were built, and the factories closed, we were the aul fella who nursed our pint in the corner, too long here for home, no one would know us now, so we shed a few quiet tears when Dev passed, raised a glass when the innocents were released. In our not so serene old age, many already under the ground but not the fields of athletic youth and happy maidens, they kept for Dev.
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