Donnybrook: Coming Home Again
By John Myers
The Irish American Archives Society (IAAS) focuses on preserving the history and heritage of the Irish Community in the Greater Cleveland Area. Annually, the Society holds a “Walks of Life” Award dinner, where a few members of the Irish American Community are honored and recognized. This year of pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2021 Walks of Life event, which is usually held on the last Thursday in February.
In its place, the IAAS Board of Trustees commissioned artist Kevin Toolis, from Achill Island, County Mayo, to create a short video paying homage to our Irish Immigrant ancestors and the joys and sorrows related to immigration. The video specifically focuses on immigration to Cleveland.
It is a short twelve-minute video, with great visuals showcasing Achill’s beauty punctuated with iconic photos of Cleveland. The drone photography is remarkable, and you will be happy to have watched for that reason alone.
This is not a documentary, but rather an artistic piece which is tied together with poetry and music. You can find it on Youtube: “Kevin Toolis Coming Home Again.” It is a creative piece well worth taking a look, you will not regret it. Toolis has several other videos of his own producing also on Youtube that you likely will find interesting and very worthwhile as well.
The leader of the largest loyalist party, The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), in the Six Counties has resigned. Arlene Foster, the first woman to head the DUP, served as the leader of the Party since 2015. Foster also served as the First Minister of Northern Ireland, presiding as the Executive of the government in the North of Ireland created by the Good Friday Agreement.
Currently Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill serves as Deputy First Minister in the power sharing government. Both are members of the ninety-person Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly. Foster is also a member of the British Parliament, sitting at the Palace of Westminster in London, where she famously held the balance of DUP votes necessary to keep former PM Theresa May in power.
Foster was pushed out by the right-wing elements of the DUP. The hard liners were not happy with the “Northern Ireland Protocol” instituted last year by PM Boris Johnson. The NI Protocol created the trade barrier down the Irish Sea, differentiating the Six Counties’ trade rules from the rest of the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales).
The DUP rank and file are furious at being treated differently than the rest of the UK. While campaigning, Boris notably stated he would never allow the Six Counties to be treated differently than any other part of the UK; but changed his posture once in power.
Boris no longer needed the DUP votes and was under great pressure from President Biden, the EU and US House Speaker Pelosi to avoid creating a land border on the island of Ireland. The DUP is in the midst of a serious melt down. Edwin Poots, MLA from Langan Valley, has been elected as the new DUP leader. His DUP colleague, Paul Given, MLA is to be the new Northern Ireland First Minister.
What this portends for the future of the Northern Ireland Assembly and government is not clear. Foster was considered a “moderate” compared to the Poots and Given crowd. The DUP will likely emerge as too radical to grow, and in fact, will likely shrink.
Many raise concerns that the right-wing element will tolerate or even inspire violence to give voice to Loyalist frustration with the NI Protocol. This could set the stage for a new election for the Northern Ireland Assembly this fall, which would test Sinn Fein’s growing popularity, with the possible outcome leading to a Nationalist (Michelle O’Neil) becoming the First Minister.
Shake out in the Loyalist parties in a post Brexit world will be part of the journey towards a referendum on the reunification of the Island of Ireland. As this debate and discussion plays out, remember that the Six Counties represent only 2.8% of the population of the United Kingdom. It is not a major issue to the average citizen who lives on the island of Great Britain (England, Scotland & Wales).
Covid Ireland Opening Up
For the past year, travel from Ohio to Ireland has been almost impossible for non-Irish Citizens, except for certain waivers and formal exceptions. Even for essential travel, a Non-Irish Citizen would have had to show evidence of a negative COVID test and then self-quarantine in an Irish hotel for fourteen days upon arrival.
The Country has been in heavy lockdown, with most Irish Citizens expected to stay within 5km of their home. With the advance of vaccinations, Ireland has started to allow greater movement and social interaction. A recent RTE report showed pubs and restaurants in Westport, Co. Mayo with active outdoor seating available last month.
For international travelers, The Irish Government has indicated that July 19th, 2021 will be the date Eire will greatly ease up on restrictions. As rules will change based upon the control of the virus, make sure you check the Irish Embassy in Washington’s website.
It will be crucial to be able to document your status as fully vaccinated. Get used to keeping your vax card with your passport to ease travel.