In the fields of Donegal

PROLOGUE
The reporting was terse, taking perhaps three column inches to tell the tale. It must be fully ten years ago since I read it, but I remember it still.

Indeed, I have fully recreated it in my own mind’s eye. Because it was the saddest story I had ever heard.

It happened here, in Donegal. This county that is exactly like any other part of Ireland, only more so.

CHAPTER ONE
It sometimes amazes me that young men make it through to full adulthood at all.

From the age of about 16 through 24, the complexity in their lives ramps up to an enormous degree.

There are many strands to these challenges: deciding what to do with their lives, how to build a career, how to stay popular with mates, how to break out and become men – separate from their parents, how to connect and be seen to connect with women, how to deal with difference – be it anything from baldness through sexual orientation, how to cope with absences, of a parent or grandparent.

Then, they have the added burden of expectation – heralded by our society as princes, young men are expected to be joyful as they play out their lives to an adoring public.

And all of this whilst they are emotionally still maturing, and operating with the planning functions of the cerebral cortex some years away from full development.

It is no cake walk for young women, of course, but they have the support of a friendship network and a culture which celebrates communication. Young men, and indeed men in general, tend to go it alone.

Our laws declare adulthood at 18 years old. In truth, maturity is not reached until 25. Between the two, many risky decisions are taken.

CHAPTER TWO
There is a three kilometre coastal stretch of Leitrim which lies as a buffer between the coastal counties of Sligo and Donegal. It reminds me of Poland.

Cycling along a very narrow byroad on this gloried coast, an incident occurred.

A revving car slowed behind me. For about 10 metres the driver waited, impatiently, for opportunity to pass me.

Then, enough of that.

He began, unrelentingly and aggressively, honking his horn; again, again. His message: cyclist be damned, I’m in a hurry!

He forced me off the road (well, almost) and passed by. Just then, the road widened, but he was already in Donegal.

Viewed from the side, he was perhaps nineteen years old. I started swearing like hell and then I thought…. Youth.

Youth does strange things, and has its own logic.

CHAPTER THREE
It happened, all those years ago in Donegal, in winter. I know this for sure, as there was snow on the ground. Loads of snow; deep snow. Indeed, that was the principal problem.

The young man in question had been out on a Saturday night. It was a big night; many drinks were had, but he was young and it was the weekend. The world was his oyster.

He had taken a lift into town with one of his mates. The four kilometres in took longer than usual. The snow was falling again, temperatures had dropped. But no worries. It was a big night out. Worth it.

At 12.30pm, and for reasons not fully explained, he decided to leave for home. His friends did not do much to dissuade him; they too were drunk.

It must have been only when he stepped out that he realised how cold it was. But by then he was committed.

There were no taxis. He walked.

With just a light jacket, and in sub-zero temperatures, the young man made for home. He knew the area well, of course, yet it was transformed by the snow. An altered land.

Two kilometres in, he was deeply cold and wondering why he had chosen to walk home at all.

We know this because that was when he made a fatal error.

He decided to take a short-cut, through the fields.

The snow continued to fall, more heavily now, and he marched into the dead of the dark night.

It was only in the early afternoon of Sunday that the alert was raised; his mother did not miss him until she went to awaken him for lunch.

His body was found, curled up, in a ditch.

The snow had stopped falling before daylight that Sunday morning.

For this reason, they could track his final movements, traced out on a canvas of white.

Across two fields he had gone, on his short-cut, ending up less than 800 metres from home. And then – disorientation.

His tracks became erratic, confused.

Finally, his footprints told a sorry tale: the young man ended his life trudging around the same field in massive circles. Around. Around.

In the end, he did not know where he was. He simply lay down, assumed the foetal position, and died.

EPILOGUE
His story stays with me although I do not even know his name. It is, for me, emblematic of those vulnerabilities we carry until we fully mature into ourselves.

As I cycle through exotic and beautiful Donegal, in the height of summer, I will spare a thought for one of its young men who lay down and died in its fields.

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Brian McIntyre. August 2013

About Rothar Republic

My name is Brian McIntyre. During late July and August 2013 I am cycling the coast and borders of the Republic of Ireland, and using the opportunity to raise money for charity (The Peter McVerry Trust).

In the lead-up to the 100th anniversary of 1916, I’m interested to see how our little country is doing. Cycling its perimeter, observing and talking to its people, is my own way of taking the lie of the land.

I figure this is a 27 day-long expedition covering about 2,200km.

All monies go directly to the Peter McVerry Trust which supports young homeless people in Dublin to break the cycle of homelessness and move towards independent living.

http://www.mycharity.ie/event/rotharrepublic

If easier, consider sending me a pledge through private message.

Many thanks.

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Casting a cold eye, in Drumcliff

When I think of the works of WB Yeats, it is mostly to his early love poetry that I am first drawn.

In it, his impassioned, naturalistic articulation of the bliss and frustrations of love, enveloped in a cloak of natural beauty, are things that deeply move. He manages to express the complex experience that it is to feel at all – towards person or place – and how such feelings can change a soul.

“And I shall have some peace there
For peace comes dropping slow
Dropping from the veils of the morning
To where the crickets sing”

Yeats, for me, is the one-eyed king of gentle sensitivities, at least in my personal kingdom-of-the-blind, where the daily cares of life conspire to make me believe that success is simply about being efficient.

As I cycle around Yeats’ country, here in Sligo, I am struck by the natural vividness of the place – all the more redolent for the number of boarded-up and derelict buildings which seem to emanate, like ribbons of disappointment, from the heart of Sligo town.

“We’ll always have Paris”, is Rick’s consolation to Ilsa as he urges her to move on from Casablanca. Bogart’s character knows that, even when her world changes, conjuring true feelings of the past will help her endure.

Sligo, I thought, may indeed be down on its uppers, but at least it has Yeats – spinner of dreams and talisman of peace – to haul it through.

I am here now, at Yeats’ grave, which lies in Drumcliff, as decreed in his poem ‘Under Benbulben’.

“Under bare Ben Bulben’s head
In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid.
An ancestor was rector there
Long years ago, a church stands near,
By the road an ancient cross.
No marble, no conventional phrase;
On limestone quarried near the spot
By his command these words are cut:
Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!”

To my distraction, in his death, his is a most unquiet sleep.

Unquiet because the N15, a national route linking Sligo with Donegal, lies immediately on the perimeter of the graveyard, and the whizzing of vehicles is not just a gentle murmur but a constant, rolling thunder.

Visiting his grave is an experience dissonant in the extreme.

This has made me think about our responsibilities, as a people, not just to our daily lives – the important stuff of hand and mouth – but to the honouring of the things that make us who we are.

I recall a dear friend telling me that the most upsetting part of a flood which destroyed her home was the obliteration of most of her family’s photo albums.

Getting from Sligo to Bundoran is indeed important. And so is the preservation of the burial place of one of our great poets, the location of which he prescribed is versed detail.

We are often, by our politicians, presented scenarios such as these as if they are a matter of needing to choose. But in fact it is a false choice.

I demand both a great route to Bundoran and a great acknowledgment of the role of Yeats in our cultural narrative.

To solve such knotted issues we need to attract the smartest people into Irish politics, and remunerate them accordingly. I have in mind a politics that is mature enough to wisely weigh national purpose with local desires, and not believe it is a trade-off.

Whatever happened in the planning of the N15 roadway, the result is patently wrong-headed.

Yet it was built nonetheless.

Yeats, a senator in his latter years, described himself as ‘a smiling public man’, an implicit acknowledgement of the impotence of political life.

I’m done with the ‘smiling public men’ of politics who have led our country on a merry dance, diluting our lives by a lack of vision, talent and empathy.

When I look at the blind politics which placed a teeming national route on the steps of Yeats’ grave, I feel it is time for us all to cast a cold eye, next time we visit the ballot box.

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Brian McIntyre. August 2013

About Rothar Republic

My name is Brian McIntyre. During late July and August 2013 I am cycling the coast and borders of the Republic of Ireland, and using the opportunity to raise money for charity (The Peter McVerry Trust).

In the lead-up to the 100th anniversary of 1916, I’m interested to see how our little country is doing. Cycling its perimeter, observing and talking to its people, is my own way of taking the lie of the land.

I figure this is a 27 day-long expedition covering about 2,200km.

All monies go directly to the Peter McVerry Trust which supports young homeless people in Dublin to break the cycle of homelessness and move towards independent living.

http://www.mycharity.ie/event/rotharrepublic

If easier, consider sending me a pledge through private message.

Many thanks.

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The Wayfarer

The day after, they killed his brother too.

As I looked around the three-roomed cottage which seemed, for all the world, like some quaint Hollywood vision of Ireland, I was sobered by the dire consequences of their actions on a personal level.

Pat and Willie may have participated in the creation of something deeply important, but my God, how did Mrs Pearse survive it all?

In the first instance, I was more interested in the historic events than the place itself.

The Black and Tans torched Padraig Pearse’s cottage in Rosmuc County Galway in 1921 and, as a result, all of its interior furnishings on display are replicas.

At the age of about thirty I flipped, from hanging prints of the most beautiful paintings in the world on my walls to hanging the most beautiful original paintings I could find or afford.

Not that beauty and price are perfectly aligned – one of my favourite pictures in my home is a sketch of a young man, in charcoal, bought off the streets in Paris in 1999 for the princely sum of 200 French francs – about €30 in today’s money. There is something human in his eyes that, to me, is very touching.

My decision to switch to real rather than replica had clear intent; a desire to connect with the actual artist, to live with her or his work, and to feel the spirit of that work.

Authenticity is one of the biggest ideas in our Western world for good reason: it is only when we experience ‘real’ that we can fully be real in ourselves.

As I pondered the replica single beds in each of the two bedrooms (a reminder of the cultural norms attending a young, single man), I was struck with force by a chance comment of the resident historian of Pearse Cottage.

Pearse had bought the plot himself in 1909, and then commissioned the building of the house.

He chose the site and the aspect. I may have been looking at a reconstruction of its furnishings but the view from door and windows – all these were as Pearse himself experienced as he penned his oration for that crusty old Fenian O’Donovan Rossa:

“…I hold it a Christian thing, as O’Donovan Rossa held it, to hate evil, to hate untruth, to hate oppression, and, hating them, to strive to overthrow them”

Pearse was an educator, not a fighter; at least not to start. His dream, informed presumably by his mother who came from native Irish-speaking stock in Co Meath and who herself was an MP, was to reintegrate the Irish language into the education system – pursuing a bilingual approach.

This was his project with St Enda’s in Rathfarnham – and one to which he dedicated his all.

History is a catalogue of ‘moments of truth’ – and Pearse’s was the permanent delay of the Home Rule Bill in 1912.

His dream was dead if a fundamental shift of power in Ireland could not be effected.

This simple cottage on a hill, I thought as I walked its interior and its lands, was owned by a romantic. Its bucolic setting, its aspect towards lake and hills, its traditional architecture – all spoke to a dreamer’s vision.

And this dreamer knew that to embark on revolution would mean certain death. Teachers and lawyers didn’t usually bear up well against the grandest army of them all.

Pearse was executed on May 3rd 1916 by the British. His brother on the 4th. Their mother outlived her sons by 16 years.

Fr Aloysius, a Capuchin, stayed and prayed with Pearse and each of the men as they awaited execution.This trusty priest at the centre of the fray was a friend of Pearse, and, indeed, my great grand-uncle.

The events of that month would pass down, through my Mum’s family, as a searing event that defined the life of Fr Aloysius, or ‘Uncle Pa’ as he was known by his family.

By this little personal thread of truth, I connect myself to the real soul of Patrick Pearse – his character as educator, romantic, friend and troubadour.

History takes care of everything else.

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Brian McIntyre. August 2013

About Rothar Republic

My name is Brian McIntyre. During late July and August 2013 I am cycling the coast and borders of the Republic of Ireland, and using the opportunity to raise money for charity (The Peter McVerry Trust).

In the lead-up to the 100th anniversary of 1916, I’m interested to see how our little country is doing. Cycling its perimeter, observing and talking to its people, is my own way of taking the lie of the land.

I figure this is a 27 day-long expedition covering about 2,200km.

All monies go directly to the Peter McVerry Trust which supports young homeless people in Dublin to break the cycle of homelessness and move towards independent living.

http://www.mycharity.ie/event/rotharrepublic

If easier, consider sending me a pledge through private message.

Many thanks.

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Blixen remix: My song of the West

If I know a song of the West of Ireland, does the West of Ireland know a song of me?

Does the ruddy face of a lonesome farmer, rubbing his fingers as he points in the far distance to a shorter route, bear lines that trace my name?

Do the wild confettied islands of Clew Bay invite winds to whisper between their rocky shores, gently whistling a tune I once knew?

Or do the blackened pools of Blacksod reflect, in their portholes of blue skies, clouds that once resembled my form?

Will the billowing mists, making their determined way to kiss the brow of towering Croagh Patrick, also cradle some desire for me?

Or might the water lilies, lying low in placid waters beneath rolling drumlins sworn to protect their beauty, delight in knowing my face?

If I know a song of the West of Ireland, does the West of Ireland know a song of me?

(Variations on a passage from Out of Africa, by Karen Blixen)

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Bewitched, Bothered & Bisexual

CHAPTER ONE
In the absence of good friends or great theatre, a single man should always remember his option of having a tryst.

It is abroad, in the popular moral culture, that hook-ups are everything from tawdry, to dangerous, to immoral to perhaps vaguely sad.

Personally, I find such judgements lacking in nuance, as a tryst is a distillation of life in all its merry hues. It may be relived as an occasion of rapture or regret, but, in the moment, it is the keeper of dreams.

And dreams are never tawdry.

One of the great benefits that the smartphone brings to the mating game is that of GPS, and the realisation that one becomes more attractive simply by dint of being near.

In social psychology this nearness is termed ‘propinquity’, and constitutes one of the leading predictors of exactly who you will choose as your life partner (education and social class are two others).

It is a sobering thought that the majority of those who profess to having finally found their ‘one true love’ in life also report to have grown up in a 20km radius of their beloved. Propinquity rocks.

But I ramble.

Because this is the account of a particular tryst which very swiftly became a talking shop, and a very interesting one at that.

CHAPTER TWO
It was a grey, damp evening.

Needless to say, once he and I agreed to meet, he was knocking on my Cork city hotel room door within ten minutes. Being close by is, as psychology and my experience can attest, so darned attractive.

In he bounded, positively bursting with happy energy. He was in his late 20s and, something remarkable, more handsome than his photo suggested.

Usually, Grindr (our smartphone application of choice, dedicated to finding ‘the right guy, right now’) operates on the premise that you display the best photo you’ve ever had taken. Often, to a point that you are rendered unrecognisable.

A core principle of marketing is also the online dater’s mantra: best foot forward.

He was an exception.

We chatted for a bit. He was all talk about the rain (absolutely desperate and pelting), his day (hectic) and the reason for my being in Cork (Cycling around Ireland? Fair fucks to ya).

It became evident after some time that things were not going to progress far on the romantic front. The connection was good but the chemistry less so.

Sorry, he said. It’s not going to happen for me. I dunno. I always get freaked out when I realise it’s a man in front of me. He smiled and shook his head as he said it.

I’m bisexual.

The final words were uttered as if an admission. He seemed perplexed, but somehow more relaxed for having told me.

Ok, I said. Does anyone know?

He shook his head, and said nothing at all.

Ok, I said again.

I was lying stretched out on the bed. He was sitting up, beside me. We chatted for a long time.

I was studying psychology recently, and completed a piece of primary research regarding the reasons and mechanisms for LGB people to come out in their workplaces.

One of the stark findings was that, whilst gay men and lesbians tended to act in similar ways regarding coming out to their colleagues and the bosses, bisexual respondents had a different experience.

Overall, they were far less likely to come out at all in work, and frequently reported an atmosphere of hostility and judgement in their regard. Notably, they perceived that this judgment came from straight and gay people alike.

During that study I began to see bisexuals as a forgotten tribe, a little left behind in all of the fanfare of positive social change.

I was myself aware that this guy sitting on the bed in front of me was the first bisexual man I had ever knowingly and openly conversed with.

I told him so.

People assume that I’m selfish, that I can’t choose. He looked dismayed at the difficult situation this placed him in.

I just don’t want to be put in a box.

He had acted, during our little Grindr preamble, in a way that meant privacy was important to him.

He connected with me using a blank profile (with no public picture), only sending a picture privately. When I suggested we meet in the hotel bar he thought that would ‘defeat the purpose’. I began to wonder what this ‘purpose’ was.

He was dealing with two things – being in a smallish city where people know people, and becoming comfortable with a sexual identity which placed him somewhat on the outside track.

It’s not that I don’t know what I want, he said. It’s that I freak out easily. It happens.

He was not in a relationship right now.

Of course not!

He was a little indignant that I should ask the question.

I changed the subject. He loved his work, had completed his Masters, was enjoying the professional challenge. The same boundless energy returned as he spoke. I imagined his employers totally loved having him as part of their team.

We also spoke about my work, my experiences living abroad, and how life was in Dublin.

After a long and enriching chat – there is a unique intimacy to be found in strangers – he left my hotel room, a little furtively, lest anyone would see him go.

CHAPTER THREE
On his departure, I returned to see his profile and our original conversation on Grindr. I wanted to send him a message, to tell him how much I enjoyed meeting him.

But his profile was already zapped. Wiped clean by one hit on the ‘block’ button. His choice. His way.

The man I had just spent the evening getting to know no longer existed.

The rain continued outside, and there was talk of twisters.

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Brian McIntyre. August 2013

About Rothar Republic

My name is Brian McIntyre. During late July and August 2013 I am cycling the coast and borders of the Republic of Ireland, and using the opportunity to raise money for charity (The Peter McVerry Trust).

In the lead-up to the 100th anniversary of 1916, I’m interested to see how our little country is doing. Cycling its perimeter, observing and talking to its people, is my own way of taking the lie of the land.

I figure this is a 27 day-long expedition covering about 2,200km.

All monies go directly to the Peter McVerry Trust which supports young homeless people in Dublin to break the cycle of homelessness and move towards independent living.

http://www.mycharity.ie/event/rotharrepublic

If easier, consider sending me a pledge through private message.

Many thanks.

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The man as old as Ireland

What did he say to her, Dad?

Treasa repeated the question emphatically, so that he might hear it better. Being 91 years old brought its gentle challenges.

The table had fallen to silence, all attention directed warmly to Muiris, sitting at its head, and to the moment of history he was about to describe.

What did Parnell say to your mother?

Growing up, Muiris Leahy was the first parent of friends to become fully a person. In 1979, he had undergone bypass surgery, part of the first wave of Irish people to do so. His ill-health was a cause of much concern for my parents – they were neighbours and friends – and, in consequence, for me.

Awareness of his mortality brought him more to life; he was no longer Mr Leahy, he was Muiris.

I can still see him now, disciplined, methodical, as he would take his brisk daily walks after heart surgery, past our house – determined to mend, and to stay mended.

He was a man whose spirit was shaped by the landscape of his birthplace in the West Kerry Gaelteacht – expansive, inviting, and with a softness of line that pulled one in. My parents may have called him ‘Maurice’ but, to me, his name as Gaeilge always felt more beautiful, and more essentially true.

As I went through Irish exams, he and his wife, Treasa Mór, were the only reference a student could ever need. And the blas on their Gaeilge would make you cry anew for the pity of the Penal Laws.

In 1987, having retired from a life of teaching in Dublin, Muiris acted as one of my second readers for my college thesis, laboriously going through jargonistic marketing prose – in English this time – in pursuit of weak grammar or bad spelling.
‘You might think of a better way to say that’, he would gently suggest. And I would.

Today I returned, cycling the bóthar fada from Dingle, through blood-orange explosions of montbretia and fuschia, to Ballyferriter, to see him and his two daughters. It has been several years now since he has lived back in West Kerry, all the closer to his beloved GAA and to his people.

‘There is a gathering tonight. You may sing for your supper’, Treasa’s text said.
‘Leg of lamb looking good. Maurice’s legs looking dodgy’

We were a table of eight, old friends and family, and together we ate that West Kerry lamb, drank wine, laughed, sang and told stories. Stories of generations past and of young kids vibrantly alive-but-absent, busy making their ways in the world.

Muiris listened, smiled and even joined in on The Cliffs of Dooneen.

His movements were now frail and his daily exercise had become much circumscribed. It consisted of a walk, on black stone flags, around the kitchen table.

And still, he walked resolute and with spirit.

The facts of his life were both ordinary and mythic. This man’s parents were married in 1903, 110 years ago. He himself was born, the youngest of ten, in 1922, the year of the creation of the Irish Free State. He had married his late and beloved Treasa Mór, from a neighbouring parish, young. They each qualified as teachers and became principals of National Schools (he the boys, she the girls) in Crumlin, Dublin. They had four children, one of whom had recently been ordained a bishop.

I reflected on how much he had seen in his life. Through those clear blue eyes, how much he had observed our country grow and convulse, and how, through thick and thin, he had just kept walking on.

And his mother! His mother had actually met Charles Stewart Parnell.

‘So, did Parnell say anything to her, Dad?’, Treasa asked again.

There was a pause.

‘No!’ came his emphatic response.

And we all laughed, in appreciation of all that had come before, and that which lay ahead.

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Brian McIntyre. August 2013

About Rothar Republic

My name is Brian McIntyre. During late July and August 2013 I am cycling the coast and borders of the Republic of Ireland, and using the opportunity to raise money for charity (The Peter McVerry Trust).

In the lead-up to the 100th anniversary of 1916, I’m interested to see how our little country is doing. Cycling its perimeter, observing and talking to its people, is my own way of taking the lie of the land.

I figure this is a 28 day-long expedition covering about 2,500km.

All monies go directly to the Peter McVerry Trust which supports young homeless people in Dublin to break the cycle of homelessness and move towards independent living.

http://www.mycharity.ie/event/rotharrepublic

If easier, consider sending me a pledge through private message.

Many thanks.

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Passing through Abbeydorney

The power of Abbeydorney lies not in the value of its real estate, the fertility of its land or, indeed, the reputations of its once prodigious ploughing champions.

No.

This small north Kerry village packs an emotional punch because it once acted as a vector for one of Ireland’s coming of age struggles – with a misogynist, paternalist justice system and a perverted interpretation of morality, all seen through the prism of a young woman’s affair with a married man.

As the yellow paint peels from the walls of a main street pub, long-since boarded up, the code of yellow, symbol of those who rallied in support of this 20 year old local girl caught in a maelstrom, has a transporting effect still.

To my eyes, this is a village that seems exhausted. The church, a functional build for the swelling faithful in the 1960s or 1970s, has a struggling quality to it; its brickwork is intact, but it seems lacking for care nonetheless.

‘It did its job back then, but it no longer has the people.’

An elderly gentleman, crossing the road with his bicycle, has stopped to chat.

His means of transport is a unique result of DIY engineering; an old racing bike with rotated handlebars splayed upwards giving it the form of a stag while easing pressure on the cyclist’s back. To the rear, a supermarket basket lashed to the bicycle frame, carrying the reason for his present afternoon excursion – grocery shopping, including a dozen buns which peaked out the top, invitingly.

He himself is dressed in a haphazard manner that suggests he wants for a mirror, or perhaps for a reason to care about style at all. The fly of his grey pants being half open adds to a first impression of general disarray.

But my cycling companion is no two-dimensional village buffoon, and his thoughtful conversation confirms it.

I only know Abbeydorney for one reason, I say, invoking the unspoken.

‘Joanne?’ he replies, in quiet tones, after a silence. ‘Sure she was only young then. No more than twenty. She’s still here, still around.’

The extraordinary case of Joanne Hayes, accused of giving birth to, and then killing, two infants – one of whose bodies was found, knifed, on the shores of Cahirciveen in south Kerry, the other’s recovered on her farm, having died through indetermined causes, had fully engaged me as a young adult.

The Garda case began to fall apart when blood tests showed that both infants could not have been Hayes’, except for a remote, almost theoretical, possibility that she had been impregnated within 24 hours by two different men.

The six month inquiry, ostensibly into the actions of the Gardaí, became a vivisection of Joanne Hayes’ life – her choices, actions and putative actions were laid bare. Voyeurism ruled the airways as a sexually repressed nation became both obsessed and outraged by what might have happened. For those with a wit to listen, echoes of Salem ran through the land.

‘What’s for sure’, said this man on the streets of Abbeydorney 29 years later, ‘is that she only had one of those babies. The Cahirciveen baby was a pure coincidence and nothing to do with Joanne.’

That murdered infant, found in 1984 on the Kerry shore, has never been identified, nor has any culprit been apprehended. Joanne’s explanation for the death of her own child was deeply sad and troubling, but betrayed much more of familial tragedy than criminal intent.

He shook his head when he thought of the furore.

‘It’s much less now’, he said. ‘Time heals. At one stage though, I’d make a point of telling people I was from Abbeydorney. Just to see the reaction. Mostly they’d show no emotion. Afraid I might be related to her or something…’

He smiled a broad, devilish smile.

Beside the Church was a small, disused building, adrift with unkempt grass and weeds . I figured it was the priest’s house. Surely there was no priest here anymore?

‘That’s not the priest’s house’, he replied to my question. ‘He lives out the road. That was the barracks. Closed now. It will be sold soon, I suppose.’

Without much ado, I left this village – little more than a crossroads – which once found itself in the crosshairs. Cycling northwards,  I reflected on what had transpired there, and what my curious, insightful man on the ground had said. 

Joanne had survived, the village was struggling, its church dwindling. It all seemed pretty miserable.

‘Barracks’ I thought to myself, recalling the disused building next to the church adrift with weeds.

What would the Army be doing having a barracks in Abbeydorney?

It was then that it dawned on me.

He was referring to the Garda Station. That was the barracks that was closed.

Justice had left Abbeydorney, and grass was growing up through its cobbles.

Somehow, I saw this as the seeds of hope for not just a small village, but for the small nation that so disowned it.

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Brian McIntyre. August 2013

About Rothar Republic

My name is Brian McIntyre. During late July and August 2013 I am cycling the coast and borders of the Republic of Ireland, and using the opportunity to raise money for charity (The Peter McVerry Trust).

In the lead-up to the 100th anniversary of 1916, I’m interested to see how our little country is doing. Cycling its perimeter, observing and talking to its people, is my own way of taking the lie of the land.

I figure this is a 28 day-long expedition covering about 2,500km.

All monies go directly to the Peter McVerry Trust which supports young homeless people in Dublin to break the cycle of homelessness and move towards independent living.

http://www.mycharity.ie/event/rotharrepublic

If easier, consider sending me a pledge through private message.

Many thanks.

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