Opinion

Monday 22 October 2018

Searching for the soul of the 'true' Ireland ...

'This Ireland is neither, for example, "conservative" nor "liberal". To know what this Ireland thinks, you'd need to cross-examine each and every one of the human conundrums who populate it. And if you did, you'd end up confused'. In his first column for the 'Sunday Independent', John Waters reflects on the sensibility of the Ireland he intends to continue writing about.

John Waters
John Waters

There's an essence of Ireland that does not reside in landscape, or institutions, that rarely manifests nowadays in formal culture. It's to be encountered chiefly in fleeting encounters with people - benign explosions of mirth and knowingness that leave you changed for the day. It cannot be communicated as a blow-by-blow account of an encounter.

You had to be there. It speaks of a spirit devoid of claptrap, ideology or political correctness. It is gently ironic, mischievous, anarchistic. It sees through things without stopping to parse them. It is not cute-hoorism, or 'crack', still less 'craic' (awful makey-uppy word). It's astute and empathetic and deeply affectionate - a hug for the soul when you least expect it.

You used to be certain of meeting it in the hours just before or after dawn - in a Spar or a roadside cafe, or unloading newspapers at a crossroads. I remember as a child going around with my father on his mail run - being thrilled by the way the postmen and sorters would talk to one another about their lives, how they saw things. Or the way, when awoken abruptly by my father's rapping on the window, a sub-postmistress would greet him with a weary resignation - like the prophecy of a Martin McDonagh opener: 'Wet again, Tom?' Of course, wet.

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