Visiting a former Superpower
Cill Cainnigh visit (above): Avril Owens, Cllr Seán Tyrrell, Kathleen Funchion TD, former Mayor of Waterford Cllr John Hearne, Cllr Breda Brennan of Waterford
I’ve been meaning to visit Kilkenny for some time now.
Probably since about 1959 when I was born, to be honest.
I finally got to realise that ambition yesterday when I made the jaunt up to Kilkenny to brief Sinn Féin members on the recent Talks’ process.
And an auspicious day it was too. Not because of my visit mind you but rather because, later the same day, Waterford beat the once mighty hurling superpower of Kilkenny for the first time since…1959.
Más mall is mithid, both the Waterford team and myself might have said. Better late than never.
And what did I find there? An upbeat, highly-motivated group of republicans pleased with their recent successes – Kathleen Funchion was returned as TD for Carlow-Kilkenny in 2016 ending a drought going back a lifetime. Of all ages, ranging from campaign-hardened veterans to engagingly enthusiastic students, the group also contained several people who had joined Sinn Féin after returning to Ireland from abroad.
I enjoyed our conversation. Most of the comrades could answer their own questions — a testament to their interest in matters north off the border — and all referred to the important role social media plays in countering some of the wilder establishment media fodder about Sinn Féin. Rights, respect, equality have been much in the news since the Executive collapsed in the North but for this group those were values which underpinned Sinn Féin’s approach across all 32 Counties of Ireland.
I have pledged to return, and soon, to Kilkenny though perhaps outside of the hurling season which, until now, usually went right on to September in the county. “Hurling is my religion,” one Sinn Féin member told me as he introduced himself. So there will be some praying to be done as the Cats rebuild for the future.
My plans for the future are more temporal: I would love to see a new drive to encourage cross-border links in a thousand different dimensions. Small, positive bridge-building initiatives which would negate borders and Brexit and bring the people who share this small island closer together. I’ve made my own start. I’ve made it to Kilkenny.
On Wednesday, I had an early-morning knockabout on BBC Radio 4 with Today presenter John Humphrys. Who says there’s no fun in politics anymore? Enjoy.