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A Letter from Ireland:
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The Irish President and The Irish Poet.

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Upon the death of a leading Irish Poet – who captured the hope of a nation during a lockdown, the Irish President sent the following message.

The Sun rises and sets in spite of everything

Céad Míle Fáilte – and welcome to this week’s Letter from Ireland. How are things in your part of the world today? We’ve back into storm season here in County Cork – with a newly-named storm turning up on our doorstep every other week. This weekend we have Storm Alex – so it looks like we have a “good day for the pub” ahead of us this Sunday.

I’m having a cup of Barry’s tea as I write – and I hope you’ll have a cup of whatever you fancy yourself as we start into today’s letter.

One of the things we are most proud of here in Ireland are the work of our writers and poets. These wonderful characters manage to capture the mood and thoughts of a whole nation when they’re performing at their peak. A member of this mighty band of Bards – Derek Mahon – passed away earlier this week. In the body of work he left behind was a simple poem that captured the hopes and fears of a nation as we went into the Covid-19 related lockdown last March. The words of this poem helped many to realise that “this too shall come to pass”.His simple words (always a complicated matter to get simple words onto the page) were read aloud as a wave of fear and uncertainty washed over households across the world – and assured us that “everything is going to be alright”.

Everything Is Going To Be Alright.

How should I not be glad to contemplate

the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window

and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?

There will be dying, there will be dying,but there is no need to go into that.

The poems flow from the hand unbidden

and the hidden source is the watchful heart.

The sun rises in spite of everything

and the far cities are beautiful and bright.I lie here in a riot of sunlight

watching the day break and the clouds flying.

Everything is going to be all right. 

By Derek Mahon – from New and Selected Poems

Did you know that Ireland has a President? It isn’t an executive position as with many other countries and until recently was seen as a “retirement” position for some politician who had survived intact into their 70s.

However, that changed with the arrival of President Mary Robinson in the 1990s and subsequently with President Mary McAleese. Both forged what was a ceremonial position into something quite unique and relevant. The Irish President became a totem for the Irish people – someone who could voice the mood and feeling of a whole people as we tried to make sense of our place in this complicated world.

As an example, Michael D. Higgins (our current President), had the following to say on the death of Derek Mahon:

His “greatest strength was his poetic instinct to continually dredge for what was human about us; what was contradictory as well as what was full of possibility. The loss of Derek Mahon, yet another artist gone from us in recent times, is like the falling of oak trees. We are left with hope from the fruit of the acorns in which the writing and its encouragement represents as legacy. To his partner, family and many friends, I send my deepest sympathy.”

President Michael D. Higgins on the death of Derek Mahon.

It is wonderful to have a president who can draw our attention to the sad, the great and the good in our lives – and remind us of the human condition that we all share. When done well, the job of a Poet and a President is not very different. What do you think?

So, as we say goodbye to another of our wonderful Irish poets – we do hope that you find a feeling of peace somewhere in your day and realise that “Everything Is Going To Be Alright.”

That’s it for this week – do feel free to leave a comment below to share the stories and surnames from your own Irish family tree. We do look forward to you joining us again next week. Slán for now, Mike & Carina.

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