“And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow.” – Prince Charles quoting lines by the Sligo poet W B Yeats:
On the final day our plan was to visit Southern Ireland’s most northerly county, Donegal, so far north in fact that at the most northerly point it is further north than Northern Ireland. It is also part of the province of Ulster, which we mistakenly tend to think of as Northern Ireland.
There is a phrase that the Irish frequently use themselves which is “Only in Ireland” which is used to justify the regularly encountered idiosyncrasies of the country without offering any sort of rational explanation.
The partition of Ireland into north and south is a good example…
… The Province of Ulster is nine counties in the north and to make things complicated three of these are in the Republic and the other six make up what we know as Northern Ireland.
Ulster has no political or administrative significance these days and exists only as a historical sub-division of Ireland and one of the four Rugby Union provinces. The others are Connacht, Munster and Leinster. The map above shows the geographical split. The reasons are many and complicated but in the simplest terms these six counties were partitioned from the Irish Free State when it was established in 1920 because these were areas where Protestants were in the majority and had campaigned vigorously to remain part of the Union.
Except that they weren’t because in Counties Fermanagh and Tyrone they were in the minority but they were included anyway. County Donegal was catholic but was separated from the principal border city of Londonderry/Derry and County Londonderry now has a majority catholic population.
How complicated is all that? No wonder that the Irish issue has taken so long to try and resolve.
Anyway, we didn’t concern ourselves today with tangled issues of politics but in the sunshine drove out of Sligo and once again picked up the road which follows the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’.
Although I was uneasy about this (bearing in mind how Kim reacted so badly to a coastal detour just a couple of days previously and just how clear she had been on her thoughts about detours) we chanced a recommended diversion to a small coastal village of Mullaghmore which turned out to be absolutely delightful with a picturesque harbour and a string of bars and cafés so after a stroll we selected one and stopped for drinks.
Mullaghmore is a charming place but it has a grim place in UK/Ireland relations and it has the burden of a horrific legacy. Overlooking the village is Classiebawn Castle which was once the summer residence of Lord Louis Mountbatten of Burma, one of the great British heroes of the Second-World-War. On 27th August 1979, Mountbatten took to sea in his boat out of Mullaghmore harbour and was murdered by an IRA bomb that had been previously planted on board.
It was only a small boat and a 50lb (23 kilo) stash of radio controlled nitro-glycerine planted there the night before blew it completely apart.
An IRA statement boasted… “We claim responsibility for the execution of Lord Louis Mountbatten. This operation is one of the discriminate ways we can bring to the attention of the English people the continuing occupation of our country.”
The thoroughly despicable Gerry Adams, Irish politician and Leader of the political wing of the IRA Sinn Féin, justified the killing in this way…
… “The IRA gave clear reasons for the execution… What the IRA did to him is what Mountbatten had been doing all his life to other people; and with his war record I don’t think he could have objected to dying in what was clearly a war situation. He knew the danger involved in coming to this country.” Hmmm!
Hopefully that unpleasantness is all in the past now (although I do hope that nasty Gerry Adams has recurring nightmares about the time he will spend in the future in Hell) and on a perfect summer day we left a very peaceful Mullaghmore and continued our journey to the very agreeable town of Donegal.
Donegal was much smaller than I imagined it would be (my research was hopelessly inadequate on this point) and although it was vibrant and busy it didn’t take a great deal of our time to walk around the town centre and pay a visit to the splendidly restored castle, stop for lunch in a hotel bar and then make our way back to the car park to begin the journey back to Sligo for our final night in Ireland – for this year anyway.
After the first day which had been spoiled by rain our Irish good weather fortune had returned and we had three days in glorious sunshine enjoying Ireland’s north-west coast. On the way back we planned another recommended detour into the hills behind Sligo in the shadow of the most famous – Benbulbin, which stands out above the land like an enormous beached liner. We made the drive but the weather was changing again now and the blue skies were being rapidly replaced by ominous grey.
The rain held off for the final evening in Sligo but the following morning was wet and miserable and the drive back to Knock Airport for the midday flight was through a series of squally storms. We arrived and departed in the rain but in the middle we had enjoyed a fourth wonderful visit to magnificent Ireland.
But wait. There was a sting in the tail/tale because on the way out through Knock airport departures there was a development tax of 10 euros each to be paid before we could leave. It seems that the Good Lord doesn’t always provide after all, well not all of it anyway!