Irish-Americans vs. 'Irish-English'
Hibernians in Britain are now a ‘market-dominant minority’
One of the clearest childhood memories I have of watching television will never leave me. I was at a friend’s house one Saturday lunchtime, where I can still visualise the small downstairs TV room with a piano next door.
We must have been watching Football Focus, which along with Saint and Greavsie dominated Saturday lunchtimes. The news came on, and what we saw was footage of a mob beating to death two British corporals who had accidentally stumbled into an IRA funeral in Belfast.
The video was incredibly graphic, something I’m not sure would be shown today, and I remember feeling so disturbed and upset. Maybe I was crying. I was only 10, and just couldn’t understand how people could do that to fellow human beings.
There was a back story to this episode — the funeral in question was being held for one of three Catholics shot three days earlier at yet another funeral, in Milltown Cemetery, where a lone Loyalist gunman called Michael Stone had opened fire on mourners. Two of his victims had been civilians; one an IRA member.
Those Milltown funerals were for IRA members killed by the British in Gibraltar, and so the crowd at first thought it was a repeat attack. The IRA, this time heavily in attendance, then murdered the two corporals. It was a grim stage of the Troubles.
As a family we had gone on a mildly terrifying holiday to Northern Ireland that year; I remember the Antrim coast being especially beautiful, and Giant’s Causeway quite special, but we felt tense much of the time, especially in Belfast. It was a huge relief to cross the border, something which didn’t seem to be marked (in my memory) except for the fact that the roads immediately deteriorated in quality.
As we crossed that controversial and resented frontier the tired old family Talbot began to make even louder distressed sounds as it came upon the crumbing tarmac of the 26 counties, and we were all happy to be out of that tense province with its homicidal maniacs who would shoot you for your pronunciation of certain words.
The North felt very alien compared to where my family lived in Dublin, and where we’d spend a great deal of our summer holiday as children, and often Christmas too, taking the Holyhead-Dún Laoghaire ferry in the asthmatic Talbot (which, embarrassed by its lack of prestige, I had told everyone was a Peugeot).