"KISS ME! I'M IRISH!"
I'm Irish. Well, partly anyway. My paternal great-grandfather was from Cork in the Republic of Ireland. And my maternal step-grandad was from Belfast in Northern Ireland.
Now as soon as I tell non-Irish people I have an Irish background, they will react in one of three ways. They will ask why I have no accent (I do - it's called Yorkshire!). They will ask if I am a Catholic or a Protestant (neither. I was raised through the Salvation army, but no longer practise).Or they will ask you about the troubles. They assume (incorrectly) that you know everything about it (I don't, but I'm learning) or that you even want to discuss it (most Irish would rather draw a line under the whole thing). Even though the troubles are essentially over, people have asked about them, as if I can give them a detailed history of the troubles. I've learned to live with it. And the first thing I get asked when I mention my name is, "Oh, are you Catholic?". No. I can see why they would make this mistake, but it's not the case. That's why I prefer to be called Terry. It means I don't have to explain all the time.
So how proud am I to be Irish? As proud as it is possible to be. Do I celebrate St Patrick's day? Of course I do! Being Irish is awesome and I wouldn't change it for the world. And I wish everyone on the island of Ireland could be as proud as I am to be just plain old 'Irish'.
Sadly that hasn't happened. From 1969 for nearly thirty years, Northern Ireland was scarred by division and violent conflict. Everyone had to be one side or the other. They were either Loyalist (Unionist) or Republican, and they were either Catholic or protestant. To think of themselves as just one people who lived happily together, but just had a different point of view from one another seemed unthinkable. but then, no-one thought the Berlin Wall would fall down either. Yet in 1989, that's exactly, amazingly, what happened. And on 10 April 1998 the Good Friday agreement was signed.
And here - in 2014 - are the people of Northern Ireland. All one people - just Irish - living happily together (for the most part) who just happen to have differences of opinion and different beliefs. Brilliant! Long may it remain that way. There is still a lot of distrust, of course. In fact there are more walls up in Northern Ireland now, than there ever were during the Troubles. But everything is peaceful. People are no longer trying to destroy each other and that's a great start. Trust, however, takes time, but it will happen. The trust will build up and the walls will fall down. We are all one people - Irish - who just happen to have different beliefs. Nothing more or less than that. We are just plain old Irish. And I for one am proud to be so!
I leave you with this message I wrote on the peace wall.