We are in Dublin for a few days. Some of you will remember my piece on the expression Beyond the Pale: now I can report from The Pale itself. In some ways Dublin is quite like any other capital city in the world – it has its shops and shows – but in others it is unmistakably Irish. The National Museum, for example, has one of the greatest collection of Bronze Age artefacts anywhere – and some Rock Art…
…while Trinity College Library, Dublin, is the home of the Book of Kells – an equally impressive medieval treasure. This unfinished manuscript dates possibly from the eighth century and tradition has it that it could have been begun by St Columba himself and that it was worked on for at least three centuries.
Away from the centre of things we discovered a little gem: Cabinteely Park. This publicly accessible amenity spans 45 hectares and provides city dwellers with walks, woodland, playground and cafe. It was once the estate of the Earls of Clare and now belongs to the local council. The ‘big house’ itself still stands and is undergoing slow restoration. The park is within minutes of where we are staying, and provides us with evening walks in the sunshine – and breakfast treats.
Being an Irish city, the music sessions are good. We went to O’Donoghue’s pub on Friday lunchtime and found 18 musicians gathered: fiddles, concertinas, flutes – and even a bagpipes played by a Scottish visitor.
In the heart of Dublin City is St Stephen’s Green – which presents a collection of statues of various Irish figures who are known to the world through the arts: Oscar Wilde, W B Yeats, James Joyce et al, but also nationalists who fought for the cause of Irish independence.
At present the media is full of the state visit of the President of Ireland to Britain: it can only be a good thing that the two nations should become closer, and it’s great to hear the pretty universal enthusiasm for it from this side of the Irish Sea. So while this new era of better relations is taking off, I am dismayed to read of the rise of nationalistic right wing politics in Britain itself: could these lunatic press-inspired extremists really derail Britain’s place in the European Union? Will common sense ultimately prevail? I can only look on from the shores of a very firmly European country and hope.