Happy St. Patrick's Day ladies and gents.
The story of the quest for a Free Ireland has been talked about over and over. Some of our family members here in the states may have even given their lives for either side. Over the past two weeks all that has been gained since the GFA was threatened. For those who don't know:
Two British soldiers died Saturday in a hail of bullets outside an army barracks, and a veteran policeman was shot to death Monday while responding to a call for help in a strongly republican neighborhood. Republican splinter groups have claimed responsibility for the shootings, the first violent deaths of British security personnel in Northern Ireland since the so-called Good Friday peace accord in 1998.
These helpless young men were killed as they ordered a pizza. Several days later another policemen, a Prot from Northern Ireland, was killed investigating a call at an elementary school in Cty Antrim. Several people have been arrested in the surrounding communities after the Real IRA and Continuity IRA claimed they had carried out the attacks. However, this time was different. Men who had killed in the past turned their backs.
There was the sight of top government ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, two men who would once have spat at each other -- or worse -- across the sectarian divide, standing side by side demanding that the gunmen be brought to justice. McGuinness, who supported the killing of British soldiers during his time as an Irish Republican Army commander, then shocked everyone by denouncing the attackers as "traitors," an epithet fraught with historical meaning here.
Each of these men are seen as crackpots across the sectarian divide. However, this last week they have done what many had hoped for. Peace in our time. It appears that a united Ireland will happen within a generation or two. That was almost threatened this March. So they may riot in Derry but they will not succeed. Finally, proof that diplomacy can and does work in the most fragile of situations. There may be violence, but those perpetrators no longer have the pockets of Americans. They no longer have the hearts and minds of some in the North. No, my grandparents would be proud. We will see a United Ireland without the blood of our Protestant brothers and sisters spilled.
Happy St. Patrick's Day in deed.
Now go have a Smithwicks.