Presbyterian poet's tribute to Connolly
Published 27/03/2016 | 02:30
It was good to see Martin McGuinness and Arlene Foster together in America for the St Patrick's Day celebrations. It is Arlene's first experience there in her new role as First Minister. My feeling is that she is right on. There couldn't be a better choice to represent the two most influential parties in Northern Ireland.
Martin is simply magnificent holding the fort for so long without ever seeming to miss a step in a perilously dangerous journey. Arlene, among all the Unionist politicians, seems to have an understanding of the aspirations of the minority in Northern Ireland.
I am sure she is acquainted with the poetry of John Hewitt, that magnificent Belfast poet who was a Presbyterian and wrote poetry of the Seamus Heaney class. Hewitt's take on Ireland was "This is my home and country. Later on, perhaps, I will find this nation is my own".
Hewitt, I think, would look kindly on these two who are representing Northern Ireland in New York for St Patrick's Day celebrations. Here is his inspired poem on James Connolly, who was of Monaghan stock and who was co-leader with Pádraig Pearse in the Easter Rising.
To the Memory of James Connolly
A dozen years have passed since then,
The memory has died away
Of Connolly and the martyred men
Who rose on Easter Day.
When I was six years old I heard
Connolly address a Labour crowd -
I cannot recollect a word
Yet I am very proud -
As one who stood upon the edge
Of Galilee to watch the ship
That waders pushed beyond the sedge
While bright oars flash and dip;
But not indeed as one who stood
Among the crowd on Calvary
To see Christ die for Brotherhood,
As Connolly died for me.
John Hewitt 1907-1987