Tom Mulligan said I was witnessing history last night.
I’m not aware of all the subtleties of the situation but, essentially, a group of folks from Northern Ireland was in Dublin for the unveiling of a monument. A friend of the group — a regular at the Cobblestone who hails from Dublin — invited the group over to Tom’s pub after the formal event to hear traditional Irish music. [Note: I’ve posted more on this topic since. See Making History with Fergus and Francis.]
Quite by chance, Jerry Crilly, Frank Cullen, and I happened to be there. We were celebrating Kevin Donleavy’s radio program that happened earlier in the day. It had featured quite a few songs from Jerry’s CD. Jerry rang us up (as in, called us on the phone) because he wanted to give us copies of the CD.
And while we were at the Cobblestone my musical friends / drinking buddies got invited to the back to sing.
Because I was there with these musical stars, I got to enjoy an evening full of song! I actually had a seat front and center and felt completely, 100% included.
As much as I love instrumentals, it’s the singing that moves me most. So this was an incredible find for me — I really lucked out last night!
I sat cozily in a room full of people who, not so long ago, took up arms against each other.
Here, in the shelter of a unified Ireland and the warm embrace of the Mulligans’ pub, men from north and south sang together and reveled in the island’s newly found peace.
When Dave and I visited Ireland in 2003, the tone was much different from today. Political tensions still ran deep and pub songs recounted strife.
I feel honored to have been part of this event that helped promote peace among nations. I am proud that an American president helped negotiate the peace accord that paved the way for this evening’s events. (In The Journal of Conflict Studies, Rodger MacGinty noted “that the American influence on the peace process, both from influential Irish-Americans and the Clinton administration, has been profound.”)
I will remain eternally grateful that our nation supports Fulbright programs designed to promote cultural understanding and celebrate — and grow — human knowledge. We do many things that don’t make sense. And we fight all too often. But in the name of Senator Fulbright, we do have programs designed to help us do better.
I take the cultural understanding part of my Fulbright very seriously. I thank you for sharing in the effort by reading along.
It was amazing to be part of a cultural healing process last night and watch stale old tensions dissolve into the night air. As an added bonus, I also got to meet Jerry’s and Tom’s significant others for the first time. This place feels more and more like home every day.
Incidentally, Tom has taken to introducing me as a long-lost cousin, and that term’s growing on me. It’s much nicer than wee-distant relation, or third cousin twice removed….