Did they ever consider that Irish culture and identity would be so undermined?
I went for a walk in the park yesterday and there were some beautiful trees that people had carved their names and the names of their friends and lovers into from many years ago. And some people had dated the carvings, I saw years like 1997, 1986 and 1977. All etched in time within the bark of those long-lived trees. The mighty oak trees themselves no doubt had many a story to tell.
I envy those people of the past. Did they ever think that their carvings would reach across time to be read by someone like me from a very different Ireland? Could they ever have imagined how much lreland would change over the subsequent decades? Or how much its people would be demoralised, defeated and deracinated? Did they ever consider that Irish culture and identity would be so undermined and devalued or that the people would become so compliant, docile, dislocated, fearful and distrustful of each other? Could they ever have imagined the existential threat now facing their decedents?
I wish more than anything I could carve a warning into those trees today and that it would reach backwards across time to be read by those Irish people of the past. Maybe I could tell them what went wrong or how to stop it? But I think mostly I would simply tell them that they should cherish the Ireland they have because it will never come again.
Alas linear time being what it is I find myself quarantined in 2020 unable to journey back to those years like a man in a temporal lockdown. I would be ashamed to carve the year 2020 into those trees, it is unworthy to be seen next to all those past versions of Ireland and an affront to the memory of a once great people. Nevertheless I pray that those same wise and ancient oak trees will stand proud and tall for a future generation of Irish people to one day carve into their bark, the stories of better years to come.
Erin go bragh
Dave Cullen, Friday September 25th 2020.