Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Seasons and the Stars: Image credit Agnes Miller Parker

Wiltshire Memories

This County of Wiltshire
holds many memories,
Of old standing stones, and
avenues of trees,
Rolling green hills that are
topped with old sites,
Where battles were fought,
or Druids practised their

White horses carved in
chalk, gaze down
Onto valleys beneath, or over
an old town,
Keeping silent guard over the
White Horse Vale,
And ever-watchful, over a
long lost trail.

On the plains, old barrows
stand in silent array.
Clasping their secrets of
long-ago day,
Chiefs buried here, or even
an old King,
Celtic, Roman, or could even
be an Old Viking.

Many old roads criss-cross
over the downs,
That led from old villages,
and on to the towns,
Where chariots used to
race, and Legions did
Through avenues of Elm,
Yew, Beech and Larch.

Villages scattered, each
side of the Avon,
Set in wooded valleys, the
home of the raven,
These homesteads have not
changed much in all of their
Since village life began, with
landlords and overseers.

And so it is, in this County
of ours,
You can wander at ease,
and while away the hours,
Dreaming of days long ago,
of what it used to be
To be living in a paradise
such as our own County.

Dennis Cannings

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Hill of Tara

Tara abandoned by a generation who prefer soulless symbols

TARA, here I am. I have come all the way from Kerry to be with you before the vultures, with bulldozers and JCBs, open your lower belly. They are impatient to inflict the wounds.

You are abandoned, forsaken and rejected. All the powers that be - Meath County Council, the Government, NRA, An Bord Pleanála and the High Court - have walked out on you. We pay them to protect you but they betrayed us. We trusted them too much.

Tara, I know you sympathise with the people who are forced to commute to Dublin five days a week. But why are they not angry with Meath County Council for not putting in a bypass at Dunshaughlin and a proper one in Navan 20 years ago? They allowed them not only to close down but also to rip up the Dublin/Navan/Trim railway line over 30 years ago. And they still trust them. There were so many other options for this road. Are you the same Tara who was magic for Master O'Connell, the principal of Tarmons National School in Tarbert? He instilled a love of you into our hearts, and I can still see the face of Fr O'Flaherty (our history teacher in St Brendan's, Killarney) come alive at your name. But that was a different generation, other times. You are no longer in fashion. This generation prefers soulless symbols - motorways, shopping malls, four-wheel drives, big trucks and, of course, the euro. I expected all the people in Ireland to have run to protect you. It would have been unacceptable, I thought, to run a motorway through the Tara/Skryne Valley, opening up a wound that no plastic surgery can cure. But this generation was not touched, nor incensed. How sad. Will you forgive us?

The day Environment Minister Dick Roche sanctioned the motorway, I was watching the evening news in a pub. One man said, when he saw Mr Roche on TV, "Isn't he a pity? I wouldn't ask him to mind my chickens, and Bertie Ahern put him in charge of our heritage and environment. He has no bottle, afraid of the hawks." Poor Mr Roche. Maybe he has no power. An Bord Pleanála, which is not comprised of elected representatives, makes all the big decisions. Or does it? Who has real power today?

Democracy, the people's participation in the ordering of their own lives, is now perceived as a meaningless facade that hides the ruthlessness of corporate self-interest. The suspicion that political ideologies and institutions are becoming irrelevant because politics is being reduced to following 'the laws of the market' is creating political unease among people and cynicism among the young about voting. Tara, what else can your support groups and friends do now? Are all avenues closed? Has your hour come? Will we call the lone piper to play a dirge?

Tommy O'Hanlon
Co Kerry