‘…. when my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written. I have done.‘ – (extract from the speech of the Irish Patriot Robert Emmet prior to his execution 1803).
Tieing history, peacekeeping and poetry together…
Lt Gearoid O’ Briain with a signed copy of PEACEKEEPER in the Irish Air Corps Museum on Poetry Ireland Day 2016. Photo: Michael J. Whelan
Well today is Poetry Day in Ireland and it was a really fantastic day for me on the literary and history side of things as it falls in the middle of the Centenary week of the 1916 Rising (calendar). The Irish Defence Forces (and Irish Air Corps, of which I am a member) requested and posted some poems and images from my recently published collection ‘PEACEKEEPER,‘ (Doire Press); and they did a great job putting the pieces into context on their facebook and twitter pages. I’m very happy indeed to have this support from the defence forces, it means a lot.
The other really cool thing that happened today was that Lieutenant Gearoid O’ Briain came down to the Air Corps Museum, where I work, to purchase a copy of PEACEKEEPER from me and to get me to sign it for him, which I did. I also asked him if I could take a photo of him with the book as this was an important occasion for me as a writer and historian because you see not only is Gearoid a flying instructor in the Irish Air Corps, he also led the parade carrying the national colours of Ireland for the state commemorations of the 1916 Centenary at Easter this year. He is also the Great-Grandson of Cathal Brugha and Great-Grandnephew of Terence MacSwiney both of whom are very famous Irish patriots involved in the 1916 Rising and the revolutionary period as well being intrinsically tied into the Irish historical narrative. He is also a very humble and terribly nice guy and I’m really glad that I got the opportunity to come to know him over the last number of years.
The quote above is taken from the words of the other famous Irish patriot Robert Emmet, which he spoke from the courtroom dock just before he died, and it’s those words, which I use here, to tie my collection of poems about the experiences of Irish citizens engaged on international peace support missions across the globe for the last fifty eight years through Lt Gearoid O’ Briain, the Irish Defence Forces, peacekeeping and all the strands of history and symbolism which crossed over in the Air Corps Museum at Baldonnel today on Poetry Ireland Day.
Baldonnel (Casement Aerodrome as it is now) is the location where the first Irish troops to serve on United Nations peacekeeping service in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (1960-61) departed from in 1960 and where many still fly out to various peace support missions around the world to this day.
Lt Gearoid O’ Briain with a signed copy of PEACEKEEPER in the Air Corps Museum next to Colonel James FitzMaurice – Atlantic Conqueror on Poetry Ireland Day 2016. Photo: Michael J. Whelan
Peacekeeping is just one form, but a very important manifestation, of Ireland taking her place among the nations of the Earth!
I would like to say a big THANK YOU to the Irish Defence Forces and Air Corps Press offices and to Lt Gearoid O’ Briain for today, #PoetryDayIRL