This Country Is Better Than This

For our first week we are perched in our house right on the edge of Northern Ireland.  We have gone in and out of Northern Ireland, freely and usually unknowingly.  We don’t notice the difference, until we have to use pounds as opposed to euros.   There are differences.  But not in the way the people have talked to us or treated us.  The shop keepers and restaurants have treated us all as kindly as any where else we travel in Ireland.   So apart from their different accent there is no difference.    But if I am to be totally honest my heart is with the Republic.

Today we wondered in to Omagh.  As we walked around a corner of a very large building  there was a fairly large man, over 6 foot tall.  He was wearing a security badge and a blue suit.  His name was Leslie.  David asked if this was the court house.  He said yes and did we want a tour.  Why not?  It was after hours so the building was empty but for the security crew.  He showed us the court rooms, one for the magistrate.  Then the one for the judge with criminal cases.  There was a man just sentenced today to 9 years.  The man was one of four brothers who “interfered with children” through the sixties, seventies, and in to the eighties.  When they were caught the first brother to go on trial hung himself.  The ‘joke’ in the courthouse was that he got a “suspended sentence”.    I took comfort that in Ireland child molesters are charged and tried even decades after the crime.

He took us through the courthouse, asked us if we wanted to see the cells.  If he wasn’t keeping us there I told him sure.  He was very nice.

When we left and went outside he stood there to talk with us.  He told us a little about Omagh.  Then he said “you know the bomb was set off here and killed 29 people”.  I asked him which year he was talking about.  August 15, 1998.  The courthouse was told there was a bomb so they evacuated down the hill to safety.  Where the 300 lb bomb sat on a sidewalk.  Exploding.  Killing 29 innocent people.  Men, women, children.  One woman was pregnant with twin daughters.  This took the count to 31.   He looked at us.  I said to him “too many people are dying” and he replied “all over the world”.

He directed us to the monument that sat at the spot of the bomb explosion.  Then to the Memorial Garden.   We walked down the hill to the spot that changed this world forever.  And worlds all over.  The people killed were locals, tourists, men, women, teen agers.  Pregnant women.

This is the spot where the bomb changed real people’s worlds.

Regardless of your political ties.  Your loyal inclinations.  Your opinion.  This was a sad and terrible act.

To what end did that bomb serve?

My heart and ideals are with the Republic and the men and women who want Ireland to be one country.    I have no business commenting on the politics that I surely would not understand.   But I know when innocent people are killed it does not prove the point.   And as I read their names today, carved in granite, my heart ached  for the hopes and dreams they were robbed of.