Before I begin this entry, I should say that I fully appreciate that my few hardy readers are probably getting bored with the repetitious nature of the daily offerings. I am sorry about that but it really is the oft-quoted “circumstances beyond my control” as previously discussed.
Tuesday the 26th started OK weatherwise although a little more overcast than on previous days. My brother and sister-in-law called round in the morning and she told me that the Bulgarian holiday she had returned from late the previous evening had thrown up three cloudy / rainy days out of the seven. She would have done better to have stayed at home and sunbathed in the back garden but she enjoyed it all the same.
Breakfast was a Canadian affair which sadly saw the demise of the maple syrup so an urgent re-supply trip to Portadown and the big supermarket is in the offing pretty soon.
The morning was spent writing up these entries and watching some documentaries on Yesterday channel. I have fallen into rather a TV routine as I watch Secrets of the Bible, Forbidden History and then Time Team one after the other. I am thoroughly enjoying all of them and learning lots which suits me.
A glance at the local newspaper, the XXX Belfast Telegraph revealed a fascinating story and which serves to illustrate just how far my home country has changed since I left in 1988. It related to the appointment of the appointment of the Deputy Chief Constable of the PSNI (the Northern Ireland police force) as head of An Garda Siochana which is the police force in the Irish Republic. It is difficult to overstate how momentous a move this is and I do not propose to go into the whole history of policing on the island of Ireland or I will be here for a month but, believe me, it is big news.
Drew Harris is the man in question and the fact that is causing most controversy is that he was a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) which was the police force in Northern Ireland from Partition in 1922 until they were disbanded as part of the concessions to Republicans in the Good Friday agreement. DCC Harris’ father, an RUC Superintendent, was killed in 1989 by a booby trap bomb placed under his car by the IRA (Republican terrorists) whilst he was getting ready to go to Church. His wife was lucky to escape with minor injuries. Harris Jr. was already a serving RUC officer at the time and it is his service in the RUC that is causing a furore in some Republican quarters.
The RUC had a fairly acrimonious relationship with sections of the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland during what is euphemistically referred to as “the Troubles” and the overwhelming majority of their 302 losses in that period were as the result of being murdered by Republican terrorists. The Republic of Ireland was a safe haven for these terrorists, most of their munitions arrived in Northern Ireland through that country and there are even instances of Garda officers “fingering” various RUC men and one elderly judge for murder.
That a former RUC man was even allowed to apply for the post surprised me and that he was selected amazed me but Ireland on both sides of the border is changing so rapidly it is making my head spin. Ultimately Commissioner Harris will be answerable to the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar who is a non-white and openly homosexual politician and whose own appointment caused some controversy. When I left home, the Republic was an ultra conservative country fairly much in the grip of the Roman Catholic Church and issues like contraception, abortion and divorce were hugely contentious with homosexuality relatively recently decriminalised so you can see how interesting this appointment is.
In truth, the new Commissioner will have his work cut out as his predecessor Norin O’Sullivan left under something of a cloud regarding a number of issues and it is generally believed that she had not been a good appointment.
As if all this was not enough it comes hard on the heels of the previous Sunday where Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP, attended the GAA Ulster football final in another almost unbelievable event. I am quite sure that the island of Ireland runs on acronyms so I shall try to make some sense out of this lot and explain the significance.
In the same way as Sinn Fein are the political wing of the IRA so the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) were and are the political wing of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and to a lesser extent the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) who are both Protestant / Unionist paramilitary organisations with the UDA being more involved in street demonstrations, strikes etc. and the UVF more terrorist inclined. The DUP are extremely conservative (with a small c) and until recently were fairly open in their views on homosexuality and abortion to name but two issues.
The GAA is the Gaelic Athletic Association and is very much rooted in the Catholic / Nationalist tradition. It is not so long ago that members of the British armed forces were debarred from playing the game not that I am sure many of them would have felt so inclined. The main GAA sports are Gaelic football, hurling and camogie (female hurling) and it would take me far too long to explain even the little I know about them all so if you are interested, please have a look at the attached website.
Ms. Foster travelled across the border to Clones for the match between her native Fermanagh in Northern Ireland and Donegal in the Irish Republic. She stood for the Irish national anthem and shook hands with the Sinn Fein leader in Northern Ireland before the game. Any of these things would have been unthinkable when I lived here and indeed a lot more recently than that. She is also on a charm offensive with the Muslim and LGBT communities and, as I say, my head really is spinning.
The latest talk is that Michelle O’Neill, the Sinn Fein leader mentioned, may be invited to a parade of the Orange Order this summer as we get into the marching season. In the current climate just about anything is possible.
Sadly for Ms. Foster Fermanagh were well beaten in the game but I suspect the events off the field of play will be remembered long after the result is forgotten.
The afternoon football offered Australia vs. Peru and Denmark vs. France and I watched the latter which was a mistake. The games finished 2 – 0 to Peru and a scoreless draw in the second match which was a complete disgrace with neither side looking remotely interested. It suited them both to draw and qualify and I would have been very annoyed had I paid good money to watch that.
An evening meal of corned beef, beans and champ was taken at about 1930 whilst watching Iceland vs. Croatia. I have to explain that I cannot present corned beef if I am cooking for Father and I as he absolutely loathes the stuff. My Dad is not at all a picky eater but he hates corned beef with a passion which he ascribes to having had to eat so much of it in the last war when meat was rationed and damn nigh unobtainable. Conversely, I adore it and have been known to just sit and eat a large can of it with some Branston pickle. Gorgeous.
I should explain champ here, yet another Irish culinary delicacy which is actually nothing more than mashed potato with scallions (spring onions / green onions) mixed through. Smple though it sounds it is absoulutely beautiful and I love it. I put lots of butter and milk in mine although some people use cream. Historically I believe buttermilk was used. I find cream too heavy although a 50 / 50 cream and milk mix is OK.
In the evening games Argentina finally found their shooting boots to beat Nigeria 2 – 1 although they left it late with the deciding goal scored by the unlikely figure of Marcos Rojo. Messi was superb throughout after being pretty anonymous in the previous game.
In the other evening match Croatia beat Iceland by the same scoreline to send the minnows home but the team and their supporters really have enriched this World Cup. They certainly did not disgrace themselves and can get off the plane at Keflavik airport with their heads held high. I’ll bet they get a tremendous reception and rightly so.
I didn’t bother with the pub and had a bit of a read before going to sleep.
Stay tuned and spread the word.