I had the great pleasure of visiting Blarney Castle yesterday. What a magnificent place, it's almost magical. However, after facing the terrific climb to the top of the castle, I did not bring myself to kiss the stone, for in the words of George Bernard Shaw,
Not really - in fact, my natural gifts in that direction are somewhat questionable - the actual reason for refraining from kissing the stone was due to the horrific rumours I'd heard about the treatment of the stone by devious miscreants. How true those rumours are, I'll never know, but I didn't want to find out, much less smear them all over my mouth.
The day before, Ireland became aware of its new President. Labour man-of-letters, Michael D. Higgins is now the 9th President of Ireland. Fair play to him, it was pretty much a certainty from the beginning. Well, that is until failed businessman Sean Gallagher inexplicably emerged as the front-runner for a while. Mr Gallagher could well have been crowned, I mean, inaugurated as our new President, if it were not for Martin McGuinness' revelation that Gallagher had been involved in some shifty financial dealings as part of Fianna Fáil, thus reminding the electorate of all that Gallagher stood for.
And so it was, Michael D. Higgins swept home to victory, leaving Gallagher in his wake, with your man from 'up-there' coming in third - can you imagine what might have happened had a northerner been elected again? Perish the thought. They're not allowed the vote, why should they be allowed to be Uachtarán?
So now we should see the development of the "New Ireland" that Michael D. Higgins of the Labour Party envisions. He wants to examine and re-examine Irishness, to redefine it. He will invest in our national character, our predilection for the arts. One wonders will he continue to trot out the line of Enda Kenny that "Ireland is open for business" (was it ever "closed"?) as though he were the pimp of the nation?
From my own point of view, I truly hope that Higgins does not forget the Irish people of the counties of Derry, Antrim, Down, Armagh, Tyrone and Fermanagh and I hope he finds room for them in his re-imagination of Irishness. Partitionists from both sides of the border may chime and chide that he's just for the 26 counties, (that's the Republic, ya hear!), but they are deluded. A state is nothing without its citizens.