My Favorite Excursion and Learning from an Irish MP

Giant’s Causeway
Giant’s Causeway
Stormont Parliament Buildings

So my very most favorite excursion would had to have been walking around Giant’s Causeway, what a beautiful natural sight to see. Declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1986, this was voted one of the top greatest natural wonders in the world today. Just walking around in Giant’s Causeway, one gets a sense of the importance and majesty of the place. Luckily we had a nice day to walk around and joy all the sights and sounds of the Causeway. There were also some information booths near the gift shop which showed the history and hypothesized about how the actual Causeway was formed, given enough pressure, ice and time.

I also really enjoyed our discussion with Irish MP Claire Hanna. Nothing really to new here. She again confirmed the concerns about Brexit and how utterly ridiculous it is in practical terms. Terrible trouble for the movement of goods, services and people if Brexit happens. MP Hanna also thought it would bring about the end of the United Kingdom. And she talked about how flawed the process was and really a disrespectful gesture on the part of the MP’s in London town. If you don’t take into consideration the best interests of the people you mean to rule, you won’t rule them for very long.

Maynooth University/QueensUniversity Shankill/Falls Road Tour

The National University of Ireland at Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland
Queens University Belfast, Northern Ireland
Shankill/Falls Road Tour
Shankill/Falls Road Tour

With this post, we get into some of the most interesting parts of the trip with the discussion of 800 lb elephant in the room, which of course is Brexit. I also wanted to include our discussion with Maynooth University, President Dr. Phillip Nolan because it was so poignant and personal with his take on the “Troubles: time period in Ireland and Northern Ireland and of course his take on Brexit. I would say that our wide-ranging discussion with Dr. Nolan was certainly one of the highlights of the trip. To get an opportunity to talk to a University President while visiting another country and get his personal take on current events and being able to benefit from his personal experience and to be able to hear his personal perspective was unique. The issue of Brexit has the potential to tear the hard won Belfast peace agreement (also known as the Good Friday Agreement) apart and Ireland and Northern Ireland right along with it. Perhaps turning back to the time of the the “Troubles,” if a hard border is reintroduced due to Brexit. Dr. Nolan also acknowledged that Brexit could lead to the undoing of the U.K. itself.

We then went to Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland for further discussions of related to Brexit and other things Northern Irish. Two (2) takeaways about Brexit would include that it was poorly done and that politicians in the U.K. tried to back away from it. From the discussions we had with the two speakers at Queens University, it seems as though the Brexiters are a minority in the U.K. that perhaps did not think this Brexit thing all the way through. Completely forgetting about how Brexit might effect the rest of the countries within the U.K. itself. This of course has led members of the U.K. (including Ireland, Wales, and Scotland) to rethink actually staying in the European Union (or E.U.). It is simply beyond comprehension that MP’s in London just simply forgot about the boarder with Northern Ireland…rather shameful….

One of the other most interesting parts of the trip was the walk around the wall that separates the protestant and catholic communities along the Shankill/Falls Road. This tour of the area was interesting because it gave you a first hand look at what is still going on in terms dislike between Protestants and Catholics. Although of the two () the Catholics seem to have the better argument, still the old hate and the old animosity exists.

Trip to Hill of Tara and Newgrange

Hill of Tara

Hmm… Interesting going to this Hill of Tara and Newgrange historical sites. interesting in how old they are, some 5,000 years old. Interesting to see the depth and understanding of ancient people and the way that they did things and the ideas they attempted to communicate through their art and architecture. At first glance, not seemingly to sophisticated but upon further investigation while inside the ancient structure, the true artistry and shear weight and placement of the stones used would lead one to believe there was something almost magical happen in these structures. Fascinating how the builders were able to sink the sunlight coming through the building at just the correct angle to allow one strip of sunlight through at a certain time during the day. That is very sophisticated for 5,000 or more years ago.

The Abbey Theater Dublin

The National Theater of Ireland: The Abby Theater
Traditional Dance Artist Colin Dunne Performs: Session

So, I absolutely love to go to the theater..something my loving Mother instilled in me. And I was happy to hear that our group would be able to attend a performance of some interactive and interpretive dance commissioned for the fifteenth edition of the Dublin Dance Festival. A piece entitled, “Session,” a three (3) year collaboration by (dancer) Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, (dancer) Colin Dunne, (composer) Michael Gallen, and (musician) Soumik Datta. Interesting with the different sights and sounds that were implemented throughout the performance. Not really a big fan of this type of dance, although it was entertaining. The dancers were very good knew their stuff. There was a interesting juxtaposition of the different types of dancing and the odd sounds. I was trying to following the music and the dancing with knees, feet, and the rest of the body. Lots of hand movement, foot movement, different kind of clapping, hand gestures…

I did like the incorporation of traditional Irish dance in to the mix. I have a friend who has a daughter who participates in Irish dance competitively and some of the dance moves I saw from Colin Dunne reminded me of her and he performances. I am glad folks enjoyed it…

The “Ballad Walk” and Dublin v. Howth

Our Balladier Sean

There were many songs that got sung by our balladier Sean today, I liked the first the best (no pun intended). If I am recalling it correctly it was called, “I am a darling and it was catchy, because the hook-line went like this: “madam, I’m a darlin’, a die-ro-dither-o, Madam, I’m a darlin’, a die-ro-day. I don’t really know what that actually means, but it has a nice ring to it. So, then we proceeded on to walk through out the city of Dublin with our guide Sean serenading us with one Irish ballad after another. I rather enjoyed his commentary on everything Irish during points of interest in like Dublin Castle.

We then went to Howth on the DART light rail train, after I got lost while following Siri and google maps to the Tara Street DART station. Howth was about a 45-50 minuet comfortable ride outside the city of Dublin and had all the charm and beauty of a coastal port town that one might find in Nantucket Island in Massachusetts or perhaps Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Cozy, comfortable, and familiar like the dog who waits for you by the door and jumps on you when you come home from literally anywhere. Or biting into a homemade chocolate chip cookie, freshly baked out of the oven. Howth was warm and fuzzy like that.

Not a cosmopolitan as Dublin, as Dublin reminds me of a smaller version of London. Busy and bustling, teaming with life, and people and work, then at night revelries…And Dublin is cultured and wild all at the same time. People, young people from everywhere in the world. I met people from China, the U.K., Japan, India, the Netherlands and of course the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. So friendly, so nice, so welcoming.

GAA Museum/GAA Croke Park Sports Stadium and Glasnevin Cemetery

GAA Museum
Glasnevin Cemetery Ireland

Interesting places we visited today, GAA Stadium and Glasnevin Cemetery. The GAA, or the Irish international amateur sporting and cultural organization operates a museum and stadium complex in Dublin and has an estimated 500.000 members worldwide. The membership participates in amateur sports on a professional level and have regular jobs like, doctors and lawyers and participate in the sporting events in their free time 4 to 5 times a week. The sporting events include traditional Irish sports like Gaelic Association Football, Hurling, and Camogie, Rounders and Gaelic Handball.

One other interesting aspect of Gaelic sports is that one place for ones county in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland, however in other part of the world like say the U.S. one plays for and represents ones city. Like New York City for example, yes, there is a Gaelic football team there…

Moving on to the next part of our day, which was spent walking around the haunts of Glasnevin Cemetery. Which is a sort of national non-denominational cemetery which contains many Irish historical figures of great importance that opened in 1832. In fact, there are more people interred at Glasnevin Cemetery (1.4 million (est.) then are currently walking around the lively streets of Dublin. In visiting the graves of famous people like Danielle O’Connell, Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera, Constance Markievicz, and Christy Brown brings to mind the somewhat tortured history of the people of Ireland’s quest for independence from the British Crown. Daniel O’Connell for example, was an Irish political leader who was a proponent of Irish Catholic participation in government which had been ruthlessly denied by the British Crown for well over a hundred years prior to the reforms set out by O’Connell. The ideas and ideals that were part and parcel of the 1916 Easter Uprising and its aftermath. In my humble opinion there is no good argument against full Irish autonomy and one nation/one republic. The British Crown has no real good reason behind stealing and misappropriating Irish land in Northern Ireland for themselves. It is a sad and old vestige of a conquest of a former colonial superpower that has seen much better days. I feel that Brexit has opened these old wounds and actually threatens the demise of the entire United Kingdom. It will be interesting to see that the future will hold.

First Day in Ireland

After a long flight from Phoenix, AZ to Dublin, Ireland and a wonderful welcome dinner and a well deserved good night’s rest, we were up and at it early on the first day of our study abroad trip to Dublin, Ireland and surrounding communities and Dublin, Ireland and surrounding communities.

So, today we visited the National Museum of Ireland Collins Barracks along with a tour of Kilmainham Gaol Prison. Both were equally interesting to me, but, I really enjoyed the Irish military exhibit at Collins Barracks because I am a Navy Veteran and to see the involvement of the Irish people in numerous world conflicts, wars, and expeditions was simply amazing. What I saw at this museum today was the welcoming and intrepid spirit of the Irish people participating, experiencing, and being involved in their family, local communities, counties, country, united kingdom and the world.

A people that are happy to engage with the world on its own terms, giving of themselves to be involved in almost every major conflict in world history. Whether it is fighting the Norman invasion, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, or the American Civil War, the Irish were there. It could have been World War I, World War II, or various conflicts on the African continent, again the Irish were there. Most recently the Irish have been involved in the wars as United Nations Peacekeepers from August 1998 through May 1991 on the border between Iraq and Iran, to help supervise the withdrawal from both sides. In 1993, involved in another UN mission in Somalia and Eritrea. An Irish Police unit was deployed to Bosnia and Kosovo as part of NATO-led stabilization force after hostilities broke out there. Other conflicts where the Irish participated include: East Timor, Liberia, Chad, and in 2013, Syria.

The Kilmainham Jail was also interesting, a former prison in Dublin, Ireland that is now a museum run by the Office of Public Works. Our tour guide recounted the numerous Irish revolutionaries, were housed there. Most notably members of the Easter Rising in 1916, who were kept there until they were mostly all executed by the British Crown. Our tour guide told us that public hangings used to take place at this prison and that children that had been arrested for larceny or petty thefts were often housed there. One of the many interesting stories related to the prison is that Eamon de Valera, an eventual Irish statesman and the longest serving Head of the Irish government, the third (3) President, and a Republican Conservative was once a prisoner there. He would eventually led the political movement that introduced the Irish Constitution.


The Hill

May 20th, 2019

On Sunday May 19th, 2019, we traveled to more rural parts of Northern Ireland which included Giants Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede, and Dunlace Castle. At Giants Causeway we did a train that took us to the beautiful stones and up to a breathtaking scenery. Then we went to Dunlace Castle where we saw where the famous Game of Thrones Show was filmed. We then took a trip to Carrick-a-Rede, which was home to a rope bridge. It was at this time and at the Giants Causeway that I really enjoyed the feeling and excitement of learning and adventuring to new places. Places that make your heart stop and take a beat. Places like these make you reflect on your life and make your find yourself. I felt at peace while I was in these places. When I was on the bridge it was exiting and exhilarating. There was fear inside me of heights. Overcoming that fear was an empowering feeling, one that I will never forget.
Today, we visited Stormont, where we met Claire Hanna. Claire Hanna gave us a unique perspective on Brexit. She not only was able to voice her opinion which came from an international standpoint not just a Northern Ireland one but also one from an international platform. She was able to step out of her party’s opinions and her own and explain the different opposing views that have been an important to the conversation. I learned that no matter who you are or where you may come from you have to choose a proposal that has backing and that has a solid plan and foundation behind it to support it if it were to become reality, which Brexit Does not.

Top of the Beanstalk & New Concepts

Out of the many steps trudged through yesterday, Giant’s Causeway exuberated breathtaking views.

The hike definitely helped boost my calves of steel campaign! Nevertheless, as I hiked the path and also ensured I didn’t slip, there was a feeling of calm while the waves crashed amongst the aged basalt rocks. Not only was just about every spot picturesque, but they all had something interesting to look at ranging from various rock types and sizes, mountain views, farmlands, and even the ocean view. Living as a Phoenician, taking Stuart Neville’s words, Arizona is like Mars. So, experiencing a 180° view of the water was a bit baffling to me coming from the house of rocks.

Hexagon Styled Rock at Giant’s Causeway

I think throughout this entire trip, my conception of Brexit has undergone a trial. Initially, I suppose I had the outlook that Brexit was what the British people wanted to escape from Brussels grasp and expand in the economy and the trade market. However, visiting both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, I have heard countless of times how much multifaceted Brexit truly is as well consequences I had not considered.

Outside of Stormont

 Thus far, we’ve heard the depths of a hard border issued by Brexit – such as poignantly the rise of conflict reflecting the Troubles, identity conflict, and the lack of consideration of the island’s relationship with each other in the UK. With our conversation with Claire Hanna, the MLA for the Social Democratic & Labour Party,

she gave some insight into the option I had not considered. Not having a border. To be honest, I do not perceive a no-border possibility to be viable, but it was a new conception.  

At Queen’s University, the professors discussed how a hard Brexit would create a perfect storm that could lead to a second Troubles here on the island of Ireland. They did mention the economic aspect and damage with customs creating a harder transport of animals. However, Claire rose the question of how true the ease of these animal transport customs will go – because the reality she depicted shows it as an impossible nightmare. 

I think Claire also noted how much Brexit has brought about identity dialogues, but how under the circumstances brought it has led to these discussions in somewhat harmful or inappropriate spaces. The conversation we had with Claire was undeniably insightful and allowed me to think that there is still so much for me to consider on what are my personal opinions on Brexit, a unified Ireland, and the implications of both.

Appreciating the Views After a Long Hike

Giant’s Causeway and Claire Hanna

For the last couple days in Northern Ireland, we visited the ancient Giant’s Causeway and and a modern politician named Claire Hanna. First, Giant’s Causeway. This legitimately looked to me as a part of the movies that I grew up on– the Lord Of The Rings. It was astounding to me that such a place could have been created from nature, Of course, there was steps, that those who were afraid of heights, found it difficult to climb down from, but after overcoming those (because if we’re being honest, any step that could be your last, is a terrifying one) we found the path to be beautiful and much worth the wait. The trip to Giant’s causeway was above and beyond my favorite part of the day Sunday. It was shocking that I could be so close to everyday, yeoman life (referencing the farmers who had owned and taken care of sheep on top of this great hill) and seen the best of what the historic landmark could provide, When we reached the bottom, the group of girls and I could hardly believe what we were walking on. It was like a cobble stone road, but we knew better because it was formed naturally, thousands of years before us.

Secondly, we talked briefly with policy maker Claire Hanna. Of all of the opinions we heard, and all of the information we received about Brexit, she was the most rational. She gave us insight of what a “soft brexit” would look like, and it was almost as bad, if not worse than, a hard Brexit. According to her, if there were to be a soft brexit, then it would be a failure on the Brexitire’s part, and leave them hungry for more. A soft Brexit gives Brexiter’s nothing more than more fuel for the fire, and if Brexit happens anyway but the most extreme way, then it fuels the fire for the extremists to come back and demand hard Brexit, if it is achieved. However, with that said, Hanna believes that Brexit will fall through, and that Northern Ireland will not have to deal with the mistakes that Great Britain has made.