If I look at Ireland and especially today, I'm reminded of a great vein of humour, culture and stupidity that runs through it. When Pope John Paul II died, it was the Irish who had Father Dougal Maguire running in bookmaker's charts at 1000-1 of being the next pope, which isn't too bad for a ficitional person who also didn't happen to believe in God. I'm also somewhat disappointed with the nation, who in 1910 had more missionarys than any other nation but just 6 years later while Europe was at war, neutral Ireland decended into civil war which still leaves a bloody mark on the doorposts and bullet holes in the stonemasonry today.
When I was a kid, you'd look in the atlas at a map of the world and wonder why there were several countries with the same name. WEST Germany and EAST Germany were separated by a dismal Iron Curtain that had descended after WW2. NORTH Korea and SOUTH Korea were separated by an equally vexing gap of no man's land because of the Korean War but over in Western Europe; far, far, far over Western Europe, there was something that made no sense.
Ireland, was and still is two countries. The Emerald Isle had this very orange bit on the top. Of the four big Counties of Ireland (being Ulster, Leinster, Munster and Connacht) one was owned by the other "country" of the British Isles - The UK, but not entirely.
It's ironic as the Commonwealth Games are going on, that the only country that shares a border with the UK, isn't part of the Commonwealth so isn't represented at the games. It's also ironic that the UK which seemingly prides itself as a secular state should have a disagreement which often boils over into violence on a matter which has a least some basis in a dispute between Protestants and Catholics.
In 1620 when the Pilgrims left for the New World, they were escaping religious persecution. In 1658 with Cromwell, the English Civil War was fought as result of the same undertones. Even Guy Fawkes in 1605 had a dispute on the subject. Clearly 400 years have taught us nothing, the Irish Question is the same question all along. If you go to Scotland the rivalry is played out (also with violence) when Rangers and Celtic play each other. 400 years of Catholics and Protestants firing weapons at each other is just pointless.
It's a real disappointment to me that the land of green should be split. The Rugby, Hurling and Gaelic Football doesn't seem to have a problem so why should the nation? It does not make sense.
Personally I think that the island should be one country either under the administration of the UK (as Ireland) or as a republic (as Ireland). The idea that there should be a line is as preposterous as the latest Irish Inventions (waterproof teabags, fly-screens on submarines, fireproof matches, inflatable dartboards etc). In short, everyone should - put up, shut up and get on with each other. The Irish deserve their reputation for being stupid if all they want to do is blow each other up.
The spiritual serpants are still in Ireland. St Patrick may may driven them out, but they came back... and continue to bite.
The rottenest bits of these islands of ours,
We've left in the hands of three unfriendly powers,
Examine the Irishman, Welshman or Scot,
You'll find hes a stinker as likely as not.
The Irishman, now, our contempt is beneath,
He sleeps in his boots and he lies in his teeth,
He blows up policemen (or so I have heard),
And blames it on Cromwell and William the Third.
That is not to say that Ireland is all bad. I think of the work of Samuel Beckett and his most famous work Waiting for Godot which is surely one of the best written absurdist tragi-comedies of all time (if not the only absurdist tragi-comedy of all time).What about Eddie Irvine who was the self-proclaimed "second best driver in the world"? Sir Terry Wogan who took up British citizenship for one reason only - to claim the title of Sir. He's been sharing his half-baked view of the world with us on both BBC Radio 1 and Radio 2 now since 1967 and every year gives us his unique commentary on the Eurovision song contest (which Ireland have won 7 times).
There's hope for Ireland as well. Their free education policies 20 years ago have now resulted in Ireland being the world's fourth biggest producer of new computer software.
And then there's the famous River Liffey. The river that flows into the Guinness factory but doesn't flow out again... hmm.
My most lasting memory was an advert at Dublin Airport:
Fly Aer Lingus and you'll never walk again.