The actually anniversary dates don’t come until later in April, but the movable Holy Week calendar reminds us of two important anniversaries: the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and the Easter Rising of 1916.
“Fifteen years on, despite periodic setbacks, [the GFA] has delivered on its promise by bringing a deadly conflict with centuries-old political and religious roots almost to end,” World News Forecast says in a preview piece. Of course Union Jack demonstrations and the reemergence of dissident republican groups remind us that not all “the troubles” are in the past.
As for the 1916 Easter proclamation, it famously begins, “Irishmen and Irishwomen…” Here’s a piece from Dublin People headlined “The women of 1916.”
Loyalists demonstrators continue to protest restrictions on flying the British Union Jack flag over Belfast City Hall. Police claimed Saturday they were fired upon by someone in an unruly mob of about 1,000 people.
The protests have reached the one-month mark. Here’s a BBC Q & A explaining the issue, which so far is drawing only lite media attention in the U.S.
But the story could heat up more in the coming week if bus loads of protesters make good on their vow to bring the demonstrations across the boarder to the Republic of Ireland. The Irish Examiner reports the demonstrators want to demand removal of the Irish Tricolour from Leinster House, the seat of government. Said one protest leader:
“Under the Good Friday Agreement we were promised that this would remain part of the United Kingdom. Now we are continually told to move on, and that this is an island of equals. If that’s the case, how do the people in Dublin feel when we come down and ask them to take the flag off the capital in their country? Very annoyed, I would say.”
For me, the issue resonates from my newspaper coverage more than a decade ago about changing representations of the Confederate period in the City of Mobile, Ala., city seal. Confederate partisans wanted to keep the controversial Battle flag image in place, while many African-Americans and tourism/economic development-focused whites wanted it replaced by a less offensive (and less familiar) flag of the Confederate government. Similar controversies have flared across the American South for years.
In Mobile, protests and debate lasted for 18 months before the city government and “Southern Heritage” supporters finally reached a “Dixie détente.” Here’s hoping the flag issue on the island of Ireland doesn’t take as long to resolve, or get any nastier than it’s already been.
I’ve been remiss in blogging about three big stories out of Ireland and the north of Ireland. So let’s get caught up.
- Abortion: The October death of a 31-year-old Indian woman refused an abortion in a Dublin hospital after being told she would miscarry, and the opening of an abortion clinic in Belfast has put the contentious issue in the headlines. Activists on both sides have rallied to voice their views. Abortion is subject to different laws in each place because of the island’s political partition.
- Finucane: A new report about the 1989 murder of IRA attorney Pat Finucane has revealed “a shocking level of state collusion” by the British government and prompted an apology by Prime Minister David Cameron. Finucane’s widow calls the report “a sham” and “a whitewash,” while Irish Central founder and columnist Naill O’Dowd alleges former PM Margaret Thatcher ordered the killing.
- Flags: Unionists/loyalists in Northern Ireland have erupted in numerous violent protests over reducing the number of days the Union Jack flies at Belfast City Hall.
- Finally, Dan Rooney has stepped down as U.S. ambassador to Ireland after three years. Rooney is also chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I’ve never met him in person, but I’ve long admired him as a native of Pittsburgh. Like his late father, team founder Art Rooney, the son is a regular Mass-goer. I shared the sign of peace with him at St. Mary of Mercy Catholic Church in December 2008, shortly before his appointment by President Obama. For all he has done for Pittsburgh and for Ireland, “Thanks Dan.”