At some time St. Patrick may have walked down from Slemish, stood at the edge of Black Mountain, and he too may have gazed over the Lagan Valley. Beauty and tragedy. I live on the banks of the Lagan where the Vikings and Irish battled, my town-land Aughnafosker – ‘fields of slaughter’, a remnant of the long lost lives. I grew up in 1970s Belfast, a place of more lost lives.
More has been written about St. Patrick, than he wrote. Claimed by more people than he ever knew. A slave, taken captive again and again by religious, political and cultural groups to support their ends, many well meaning, some not. I hear there was a parade in New York! The organisers finally invited the PSNI to parade alongside An Garda Síochána but were then pressured to divide these Irish men and women, who wanted to parade in celebration of their patron saint.
People, first divided, it then becomes divisive, fellow humans driven apart, excluded, expelled, rejected, despised, to a stage where they can ultimately be de-humanised. In Belfast this weekend it was great to hear the steps taken to reverse this and to include more sections of our community, to try to include. Yet the job is not finished.
We need open arms and a generous spirit toward one another.
We still need to ask: Who are we still excluding?
Maybe next year we can have a St. Patrick’s Day, even more, for everyone.