A photo of the George Bush Library and Museum in College Station, Texas. The flags were flying at half-pole for Memorial Day in 2016, but it makes the picture appropriate for today.
A photo of the George Bush Library and Museum in College Station, Texas. The flags were flying at half-pole for Memorial Day in 2016, but it makes the picture appropriate for today.
From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
Washington and Lee University has decided to make changes to the names of some campus buildings after concerns from students and faculty.
On Tuesday, the Board of Trustees announced that it will rename Robinson Hall as Chavis Hall, in honor of John Chavis, the first African-American to receive a college education in the United States. He graduated from Washington Academy, the predecessor of W&L, in 1799. Also, Lee-Jackson House will be renamed Simpson Hall in honor of Pamela Hemenway Simpson, who served as an associate dean of the college and helped move to a co-ed environment in the 1980s.
The board also announced that effective immediately, it will replace portraits of Robert E. Lee and George Washington in military uniforms inside Lee Chapel with portraits of the two men in civilian clothing. The board also ordered the doors to the statue chamber in the 1883 addition to Lee Chapel to be closed during university events.
These changes are not particularly radical, although I would be keen to know exactly how many “students and faculty” we are actually talking about here (university administrators love to sniff out mandates to do things they want to do anyway). Dropping the “Lee” from the university’s name, so that it reverts to “Washington University,” or changing the name entirely (cf. “Arcadia University“), would be very radical indeed. (Robert E. Lee was president of Washington College after the Civil War and promoted some innovative changes; the trustees appended his name to the place immediately upon his death in 1870.)
Here are some photos from the last time we were in Lexington, Virginia (2006). It is really quite a pretty town – featuring not just Washington and Lee, but also the Virginia Military Institute, the alpha chapter of Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc., and the grave of Stonewall Jackson.
This time we stopped at the George Dickel Distillery in Tullahoma, Tennessee. I had visited the Old Bushmills Distillery in Northern Ireland and was keen to learn how American whiskey was different from Irish. (Answers: the composition of the mash, the state of the aging barrels, and in Tennessee, the Lincoln County Process.)
In St. Louis itself we got to see the refurbished and newly-reopened Museum at the Gateway Arch. It’s larger than the previous one, and deals with westward expansion in more detail and from a greater variety of perspectives. There’s also some good background on the arch itself, and no longer an animatronic Red Cloud.
The City Museum is like nothing you’ve ever seen. It occupies the former International Shoe Company building and is constantly colonizing new areas of it. The “museum” aspect consists largely of architectural detailing (I was pleased to discover the St. George pictured above), recovered nineteenth-century trash, a large insect collection, and other found objects; these are interspersed throughout an artificial cave system, a ten-story spiral slide, a ferris wheel on the roof, giant ball pits, skateboard ramps, a miniature train for people to ride, a space for circus performers, welded creations to climb on, and much, much more, all eccentrically decorated. As you can probably surmise, the museum appeals mostly to children, although it is fun for anyone to visit; what I like about it is that it’s dark and mysterious, even slightly sinister, an exciting contrast to much of the pabulum served up to kids these days.
Our event took place at the Contemporary Art Center, which we had never before seen. It’s what you’d expect: a brutalist building, with installation art like that depicted above (Jacob Stanley, TIME). It’s worth a visit, and it’s free.
At the St. Louis Science Center we saw a traveling Smithsonian exhibition entitled “Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission.” The showpiece is the actual Columbia capsule that took Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins to the Moon and back; this was accompanied by Aldrin’s helmet, a part of one of the Saturn V engines that Jeff Bezos fished out of the Atlantic, and other such objects. I especially liked all the Space Race newspaper headlines, videos of Kennedy speaking to Congress and giving his “We choose to go to the Moon” speech at Rice, and the midcentury-modern living room that you entered through (although I doubt that the television depicted above was all that common in middle America!).
On our way back, we stopped at something called the Arant Confederate Memorial Park, an SCV project situated beside I-24 just outside Paducah, Kentucky. This has appeared recently, and advertises itself, like a car dealership, with a massive flag. But the Battle Flag is not the only one on display: as you can see in the photo above, there are other ones, including all three national flags of the CSA, and the Bonnie Blue Flag.
The flag I was most curious about (as I had never seen it before): the flag of the Orphan Brigade, a Confederate brigade recruited in Kentucky (so-called as Kentucky was not really a member state of the Confederacy).
The flea market next door was festooned with American flags, and I can’t help but think this was some sort of a riposte to Arant Park.
One final round of photos, a supplement to the previous post.
Some Historic Cartoons
Political Commemoration in the Republic of Ireland
In the Bogside, Derry
Fountain Estate, Londonderry
Falls Road, Belfast: a Catholic, Nationalist, and Republican Area
Expressions of Common Cause on the Falls Road
From the Eileen Hickey Republican History Museum, Belfast
Republican Plot, Milltown Cemetery, Falls Road, Belfast
Shankill, Belfast: A Protestant, Unionist, and Loyalist Area
Between the Two Communities
Unionist Propaganda from the Ulster Museum and Belfast City Hall Museum
Photographs of things Irish not included in other blog posts.
Our first stop after arrival: Bunratty, Co. Clare, home of Bunratty Castle, heavily restored in the twentieth century and now the centerpiece of a folk park, which includes transplanted farmhouses and village shops from the nineteenth century.
This bench in Bunratty is in the shape of a Celtic torc necklace, which I thought was a nice touch. We saw some real ones in the National Museum of Ireland.
Ewan Morris in Our Own Devices (2004) describes how the Irish Free State, as a statement of independence, painted all the pillar boxes green (they remain red in Northern Ireland, although I noticed one on the Falls Road whose color the locals had taken the liberty of changing – presumably there are others in other nationalist areas in NI). However, the royal monograms (of King Edward VII, in this case) tend to remain. Even now there are people who think that green paint isn’t enough, and who would like to get rid of these reminders of the bad old days; in return, local governments in some areas have listed them as protected structures, meaning that they can only be replaced by special permission.
(As an aside: could there be anything more British than the Letter Box Study Group?)
Three styles of architecture at Dublin Castle. In the center, the original Norman tower, the only one of the four original towers still standing. To the left, the Georgian-era State Apartments, once the headquarters of the Lord Lieutenant and his British regime, now used for formal functions by the Republic. And to the right, the Chapel Royal, in nineteenth-century “wedding cake Gothic,” currently deconsecrated.
I snapped this photo in Dublin Castle of the arms of Ireland, blazoned Azure a Celtic harp Or stringed Argent. These are the arms that appear in the third quarter of the British royal arms (although that harp is not designated a Celtic harp as such, and is often depicted as a topless female). Like Dublin Castle itself, here is something that the Free State retained from the British regime.
And here is an interesting rendition of the Irish arms that I saw, I believe at Taylors Three Rock, a dinner theater that we enjoyed in Dublin. This one uses the Brian Boru harp of the Free State, but it also includes the crest of the arms (A tower triple towered or, from the portal a hart springing argent, attired and unguled also or), created for the ascension of King James I in 1603 and not used by the Republic of Ireland. It also includes two Irish wolfhounds (?) for supporters, a novelty.
The Papal Cross in Phoenix Park, built for the visit of Pope John Paul II to Ireland in 1979.
Speaking of things Catholic: you’ll know it’s a Catholic church by a number of things, including the stations of the cross around the nave, and the Marian shrine outside.
And you’ll know it’s a Presbyterian church by the prominent place of the pulpit, which is front and center (unfortunately, my photo of the interior of the First Derry Presbyterian Church didn’t really turn out).
I did get a good shot of the Presbyterian emblem of the burning bush, with its motto “burning but prospering.”
More floor tiles: these are from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. I don’t know whether these are medieval or Victorian in origin but I do find them very appealing.
This is the Long Room at the Old Library of Trinity College, Dublin, housing its oldest books. You get to see this after you see the Book of Kells, on display in the basement. Both are impressive but I wonder how much they are famous for being famous? The Book of Kells is an important medieval manuscript but by no means the only one; all the same, it is apparently the number one tourist attraction in Dublin! If so, kudos to Trinity College for its successful marketing efforts. (If only Reinhardt could possess something like this…)
More signification: this is a photo of Gracehill House, built c. 1775 near Armoy, Co. Antrim. It’s not particularly distinguished, as far as country houses go (note the irritating asymmetry!), but the driveway leading up to it is interesting. This is now a road, and the beech trees that the owners planted still stand over two hundred years later.
Thus do we have something called the Dark Hedges, which is pretty evocative anyway, but which has been made really famous by the television show Game of Thrones. (I doubt that we would have stopped here otherwise.)
A view of Carrick-a-Rede, a small island off the coast of Co. Antrim in Northern Ireland. Salmon fishermen once lived there, and a fisherman’s cottage still stands, although no one lives in it anymore. Nowadays the island is maintained by the National Trust, is home to different wild bird and wildflower species, and sometimes enshrouded by fog, as it was when we visited. You get to it by crossing a rope bridge, which is not for everyone!
The Europa Hotel, Belfast, which is claimed to be “the most bombed hotel in Europe,” having suffered 36 such incidents during the Troubles. Happily, it appears to be doing just fine these days.
Finally, a view of Stormont, which I had my taxi driver take me to see on my way to the airport. This building was opened in 1932 and housed the parliament for Northern Ireland until 1972, when the British reasserted direct rule from Westminster. It now houses the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly, although this too is currently suspended for some reason or other.
I did get in to see the Oireachtas Éireann in Dublin, although the exterior of Leinster House, where it meets, was covered by scaffolding for renovations. No photographs of the interior were allowed, but the Dáil chamber looked just like it does on television! The Seanad, by contrast, was temporarily meeting in a room of National Gallery of Ireland, where some ceramic sculptures were still hanging on the walls.
I was pleased to be able to visit Croke Park with two of my students while we were in Dublin. Named after the prominent Irish nationalist Thomas Croke, Archbishop of Cashel (1875-1902), it is the headquarters and national stadium of the Gaelic Athletic Association, which governs the Irish sports of hurling and Gaelic football. Croke Park, they claim, is the third largest stadium in Europe but the largest stadium for amateur sports in the world and, like the GAA itself, has a prominent place in Irish national history: on Sunday, November 21, 1920, during the Irish War of Independence, the Royal Irish Constabulary thought it would be a great idea to go to Croke Park and shoot the place up during a Dublin-Tipperary match, in revenge for the IRA’s assassination of fifteen British intelligence officers earlier that day. At Croke Park, fourteen people were killed and over sixty wounded in what became known as the original Bloody Sunday. It was a moral victory for the IRA – whereas their operation was targeted at specific individuals, the RIC’s was indiscriminate and against civilians out enjoying themselves. One player, Michael Hogan of Tipperary, died in the event, and in 1924 a stand at Croke Park was named in his memory.
The GAA itself was founded in 1884 in Thurles, Co. Tipperary, by seven people including Michael Cusack, whose statue stands outside the main entrance to Croke Park. It was part of an international movement to codify rules for sports and to organize teams to play them, such as the National Association of Base Ball Players (1857), the Football Association (1863), the Rugby Football Union (1871), or the modern Olympic Games (1896). The Gaelic Athletic Association was set up as a specifically Irish organization. Hurling, which involves running around on a field and hitting a ball (“sliotar”) with a stick (“hurley”), has a long pedigree in Ireland – the mythological hero Cú Chulainn plays it in the medieval Ulster Cycle, and one of the Statues of Kilkenny in 1361 forbade it to English settlers.
The hurling game that the GAA formalized ended up with fifteen men a side, a 90 by 145 meter field, and two ways of scoring (in the net for three points, over the net for one), along with various permissible ways of handling and passing the ball and of contact between opponents. Gaelic football does not have as long a history as hurling, but it was devised in tandem with modern hurling, and so deliberately uses the same size of pitch, number of players, and methods of scoring. More to the point, Gaelic football was to be different from rugby and soccer, the two other major codes of football, which were English in origin and thus morally tainted.
Having now seen a Gaelic football match in Dingle, I will say that it seems to be a well-designed game. One cannot argue with the immense worldwide popularity of soccer, which is cheap to play and easy to understand, but I am reminded again in this World Cup season about Adam Gopnick’s observation that:
The game has achieved a kind of tactical stasis. Things start off briskly and then fritter away into desultory shin-kicking, like a Wall Street Journal editorial. In soccer, the defense has too big an edge to keep the contest interesting, like basketball before the coming of the twenty-four second clock or the Western Front before the invention of the tank…
Since a defensive system keeps players from getting a decent chance to score, the idea is to get an indecent one: to draw a foul so that the referee awards a penalty, which is essentially a free goal. This creates an enormous disproportion between the foul and the reward… The customary method is to walk into the “area” with the ball, get breathed on hard, and then immediately collapse, like a man shot by a sniper, arms and legs splayed out, while you twist in agony and beg for morphine, and your teammates smite their heads at the tragic waste of a young life. The referee buys this more often than you think.
More fundamentally, as Steve Sailer notes:
There’s a cost to abjuring the use of the opposable thumb: competence. While the average National Basketball Association team sinks three dozen field goals per 48-minute game, the all-star squads in the knockout rounds of the 2002 World Cup averaged less than one goal per 90-minute game. The reason soccer so often seems like an exercise in futility is that it’s played with the wrong part of the anatomy.
Rugby (founded, according to legend, by William Webb Ellis, who “in a fine disregard for the rules of football, picked up the ball and ran with it, thus originating the distinctive feature of the game of rugby football”) does not have this problem, but it is immensely more complicated – I played the sport in high school and have been watching it for years, and even now I have to have the commentators explaining its minutia to me. Moreover, the trouble with the sport right now is that it is too easy to commit penalties. Often you simply can’t prevent going over the top of the ruck, or collapsing the scrum – and, like soccer, there is a disproportion between the foul and the consequence, since a penalty equals a kick for the other team and thus a pretty good chance for them to score three points. England won the Rugby World Cup in 2003 using this strategy.
Gaelic football thus seems like the sport that Goldilocks chose. Players can pick up the ball with their hands, and run with it, although every four steps they have to kick it back up to themselves, or bounce it off the ground. They can pass the ball by hand, but only by holding it in one hand and hitting it with the other (a feature shared with Australian Rules Football if I’m not mistaken). They can kick it along the ground and at the goal as in soccer if they wish. Rugby-style tackling is not allowed, but shoulder-to-shoulder body checking certainly is, and as a consequence there is a minimum of play-acting. Forward passing by hand is allowed, and thus there are no knock-ons like in rugby, and there are no offsides, meaning that the game is open in way that soccer or rugby aren’t (my brother-in-law insists that the key to improving soccer is to get rid of the offside rule). Our guide at Croke Park, a hurling man himself, did claim that Gaelic football is currently dominated by the defense, but that is not the impression I got in Dingle, whose junior team lost to Ballyduff by a total score of 22-21.
It’s a shame this sport is not more popular, but something tells me that the Irish wouldn’t want it that way. The GAA was, and remains, very much a nationalist organization. In addition to promoting indigenous sports, it set itself the task of promoting the Irish language, Irish dance, and Irish music. In the late nineteenth century the organization was infiltrated by members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who recruited through it. During the War of Independence, apparently some GAA teams were simply front organizations for IRA units, and in response at some point the British banned the playing of Gaelic sports, something that the Irish happily ignored in a coordinated effort. (As late as the 1980s, numerous county GAA boards supported the IRA and INLA hunger strikers in the Maze prison in Northern Ireland.)
But the GAA did some banning of its own: from 1897, members of the Royal Irish Constabulary were forbidden from joining the organization (Rule 21), and from 1901, GAA members were forbidden from taking part in or even watching non-Gaelic games (Rule 27). The most famous victim of this policy was Douglas Hyde, who in his capacity as Ireland’s first president, attended an Ireland-Poland soccer match in Dublin in 1937, and who was subsequently removed as patron of the GAA! I saw a book about this episode in a shop at Inch Strand. This does seem a bit self-righteous and psychologically insecure.
Since then both Rule 21 and Rule 27 have been abolished, and even Rule 42, which prohibits GAA grounds from being used to play “garrison games,” has been relaxed. When Lansdowne Road, the Irish national stadium for rugby and soccer, was being redeveloped over the period 2007-2010, the GAA graciously allowed the Ireland rugby team to play its home games in Croke Park, including against England. A sculpture in honor of this event greeted us as we arrived at Shannon Airport.
Our guide at Croke Park said that some people protested this game outside the stadium, but that there was dead silence for the playing of “God Save the Queen” before the match, indicating a certain maturity on the part of the Irish. I suppose it helped that Ireland handily won the match, 43-13, although I would be curious to know what the reaction would have been if Croke Park had been filled with fans of the GAA, and not the IRFU.
Apart from the politics, it does seem that the GAA is something that binds the country together. The organization remains amateur, with all the romance that this entails, and it is organized by county, the fundamental subunit of the Irish state. The sports, I discover, are very popular – people walk around in replica jerseys, and county colors fly from pubs and from private homes.
The museum is pretty good too. I did not recognize anyone in the GAA hall of fame, but the exhibits on the history of the organization are well done, and a visitor can even get the opportunity to see how hard he can hit a sliotar with a hurley (I kept missing it, to my students’ mirth).
Lots of heraldry in Ireland too. The cities of Dublin, Derry, and Belfast all make extensive use of their coats of arms.
1. The arms of the City of Dublin feature three towers, often in flames. Numerous theories exist about about them: that they are watch towers outside the city walls, that they represent Dublin Castle repeated three times, and they are actually three gates into the ancient Viking city.
The arms themselves were granted in 1607 by Daniel Molyneux, Ulster Herald of Arms, acting on royal authority, but were based on something older. Above is the thirteenth-century seal of Dublin Corporation, scanned from a pamphlet I picked up at Dublin City Hall (the floor mosaic above is also at City Hall). The seal shows that the three towers of the coat of arms were originally just one tower with three turrets, and that each turret had a crossbowman defending the city.
Apparently, the crossbowmen are symbolic; they don’t refer to an actual siege that Dublin endured. And in a similar way, the fire of the three towers in the coat of arms is also symbolic, referring to the zeal of Dubliners to defend their city. This fits nicely with the motto, which means “the obedience of the citizens is the happiness of the city.”
The majority of streetlight posts feature Dublin’s coat of arms, sometimes painted over, other times with all the details in different colors. It’s always a pleasure to see such civic pride on display!
The flames are not necessary, though – in fact, the three towers can be extracted and displayed as a minimalist logo.
Photos of these and of many, many other versions of Dublin’s coat of arms may be seen in a delightful book I discovered in Hodges Figgis: Michael English, The Three Castles of Dublin: An eclectic history of Dublin through the evolution of the city’s Coat of Arms (Four Courts Press, 2016).
2. According to Wikipedia, the arms of Derry may be blazoned:
Sable, a human skeleton Or seated upon a mossy stone proper and in dexter chief a castle triple towered argent on a chief also argent a cross gules thereon a harp or and in the first quarter a sword erect gules
These were confirmed by Daniel Molyneux in 1613, around the time that the city was renamed “Londonderry.” This would explain the chief of these arms, which are in fact the arms of the City of London: the cross of St. George, with the sword of St. Paul in the upper left. (St. Paul, of course, is the patron of London’s cathedral.)
Here’s a rendition of these arms on the Tower Bridge that I snapped in the week following our trip to Ireland.
You’d think, therefore, if “Londonderry” is so offensive to nationalists, that they would efface the chief of the arms of the city, just as they blot out the “London” part of “Londonderry” on road signage. But this does not seem to be an issue.
Instead, what matters is the harp at the fess point of the chief. It’s recorded in Molyneux’s 1613 blazon, but it fell out of use over the years, as it has on this streetlight pole.
This one also doesn’t have it…
…but this one does, along with most of the other versions I saw. (The council officially restored it in 2003.) Apparently defacing the arms of London with an Irish harp counts enough!
But that’s not the really interesting part of these arms. What on Earth do the tower and skeleton mean? As with the arms of Dublin, numerous theories exist:
• The castle refers to the early fourteenth-century castle of Richard de Burgh, earl of Ulster, and the skeleton is that of his cousin, whom Richard had starved to death in the dungeon in 1332.
• Others hold that the skeleton refers to Cahir O’Doherty, the last Gaelic Lord of Inishowen who, after serving the English, launched an ill-fated rebellion against them and was subsequently executed in 1608.
• In the twentieth century, Roman Catholics used to joke sardonically that the skeleton was a Catholic waiting for help from the local council.
But in 1979, after thoroughly studying the question, the city council determined that the skeleton refers to no identifiable person.
Be that as it may, it is great that Derry still uses these arms, which are wonderfully enigmatic, as good heraldry often is.
3. The arms of Belfast are described as:
Party per fesse argent and azure, in chief a pile vair and on a canton gules a bell argent, in base a ship with sails set argent on waves of the sea proper.
The motto is taken from Psalm 116 and may be translated as “For so much, what shall we repay?”
The arms themselves date from 1613 when Belfast became a town, but were only officially granted in 1890 when Belfast became a city. I do not know what the “pile vair” in the chief refers to, but the bell is canting on Belfast, and the ship is an obvious reference to the city’s status as a port, and to its shipbuilding industry.
As bad as things can get between the two “communities” in Belfast, it does not appear that the coat of arms is an issue, as it is in Derry.
The Central Fact of Irish ecclesiastical history can produce some heraldic confusion: both the Church of Ireland and the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland claim legitimate descent from the pre-Reformation church. They both sponsor identical diocesan structures, with identical names and coats of arms (although the Church of Ireland has amalgamated its dioceses to a greater extent than the Roman Catholic Church has).
Here are two coats of arms of Archbishops of Dublin, one Protestant, the other Catholic. As you can see, they both bear Azure, an episcopal staff in pale or, ensigned with a cross pattée argent, surmounted of a pall of the last, edged and fringed of the second charged with five crosses pattée fitchée sable. A bishop impales his personal arms with the arms of his diocese, so in the first photo we have the arms of Joseph Ferguson Peacocke, Archbishop of Dublin 1897-1915 in the Church of Ireland, and in the second John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin 1940-1971 in the Roman Catholic Church.
Fortunately, the churches use different peripherals – the Church of Ireland adheres to the older custom of placing a bishop’s mitre over the shield, while the Roman Catholic Church tends to show an archbishop’s hat, which is green, with ten tassels depending from each side.
Lots of flags to see in Ireland! This post includes some thirty images, most of which are photographs from our recent trip.
In the Republic of Ireland, the Irish tricolor is very popular and widely flown. It helps, of course, that it is a simple and striking design, and meaningful to boot: as is commonly stated, the green represents Catholicism, the Orange represents Protestantism, and white the hope for peace between them. Its form is also a deliberate reference to the flag of republican France. It dates from the abortive revolution of 1848, and its status was assured forever when it flew from the General Post Office during the Easter Rising in 1916. This meant that it was contested between pro- and anti-Treaty forces during the Irish Civil War 1922-23, a story detailed by Ewan Morris in his book Our Own Devices: National Symbols and Political Conflict in Twentieth-Century Ireland (2004). So not only does it represent the 26-county Republic of Ireland, the successor to the Irish Free State, but also all the dissident republican groups that descend from the losing side in the Irish Civil War and who reject that state.
The photo above shows the flag flying from Bunratty Castle, Co. Clare.
Another way to express Irish unity: four flags for the four traditional provinces of Ireland. In the photo above, from left to right, these are Ulster, Munster, Leinster, and Connacht. I took this photo in the Bogside neighborhood in Derry.
You can get all four flags in one, if you want, although there is no set order to the quarters (no one has taken up my brilliant proposal, sadly).
Here is another example of the four-provinces motif. I took this at the GAA Museum at Croke Park in Dublin. Note also the Round Tower, the Irish wolfhound, and the Celtic cross, other symbols of Ireland.
UPDATE: From the Facebook group Vexillology Ireland, here is an illustration of all 24 possible combinations!
This is the James Connolly room in Dublin Castle. It’s very interesting – in the midst of the throne room, the state drawing room, the state dining room, and all the other remnants of the ancien régime, we have a monument to James Connolly, one of the leaders of the rebellion of 1916. Connolly was injured in the fighting and brought to the castle, which was serving as a hospital; the British executed him by firing squad in Kilmainham Gaol on May 12, 1916. He had been so badly wounded that his doctor gave him only a day or two to live, but they executed him anyway, bringing him to the prison courtyard on a stretcher and tying him to a chair before shooting him. This was especially outrageous to the Irish public, and was a major reason why Sinn Fein took 75% of Irish seats in the election of 1918.
To the left of the Irish tricolor in the Connolly room, we have a reproduction of the “Irish Republic” flag. While not as well known (or well designed) as the tricolor, this flag was also hallowed by the Easter Rising, and I saw a souvenir vendor selling reproductions of it on O’Connell Street. According to an article in the Irish Times, the original was made of wool, and painted by a man named Theobald Wolfe Tone Fitzgerald at the home of the revolutionary leader Constance Markievicz. It flew over the General Post Office in 1916, but survived because its pole was shot through and it lay undisturbed on the roof. Taken by the British as a souvenir, it was kept at the Imperial War Museum and returned to Ireland as a gesture of goodwill in 1966. It is now on display at the National Museum in Dublin.
To the right of the tricolor on the Connolly room, the Starry Plough flag. This was employed by the paramilitary Irish Citizen Army, which Connolly had founded with Jim Larkin and Jack White in 1913. The ICA’s main aim was to protect workers’ demonstrations from the police, but it joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood and the Irish Volunteers to carry out the Easter Rising. The idea is that “a free Ireland would control its own destiny from the plough to the stars.” The original is also in the possession of the National Museum (enter “the plough and the stars” in the search field).
I saw numerous examples of it flying around the Bogside in Derry, and I bought one in a republican shop there.
According to Wikipedia, in 1934 the Irish Transport and General Workers Union introduced a simplified version of the Starry Plough with a blue field, and it was adopted as the emblem of the Irish labor movement, including the Irish Labour Party, although they eventually dropped it. I understand that the Irish National Liberation Army liked to use it during the Troubles.
Here is a copy (with six-pointed stars) on display at the Museum of Free Derry.
The Irish Republican Socialist Party, the political wing of INLA, has a flag of sorts. I saw this one flying on the Bogside. Note the use of the Starry Plough.
A flag on display at the Eileen Hickey Irish Republican History Museum: the sunburst flag. The sunburst, as an emblem, is inspired by the Fianna (warrior bands) of Irish mythology, and was first employed by the Irish Republican Brotherhood in the mid-nineteenth century. This modern version, I understand, is largely associated with Republican youth.
I saw a few examples of this flag flying and I took this photo in a shop in Derry. Turns out it’s the flag of Cumann na mBan, and features an abbreviation of their name, with a gun.
Cumann na mBan (“The Women’s Council”) was founded in April 1914, and during the Easter Rising acted as an auxiliary of the Irish Volunteers. Constance Markievicz acted as its president for ten years after the Rising, and it still exists, although it is a proscribed organization in the UK.
If the Unionists hearken back to the time when they fought for Britain during the First and Second World Wars (and a great deal of their propaganda does), then Irish republicans will remember the time when some of them fought against Franco in Spain, as members of the Abraham Lincoln International Brigade. The flag above (flying on the Bogside in Derry) is the flag of the Brigade, with writing added: “XV Brigada Internacional” on the top band, and “No Pasaran” on the bottom.
This freestanding gable end, bearing the words “YOU ARE NOW ENTERING FREE DERRY,” is one of the icons of the Troubles, and of the Bogside in Derry. I did not know that it is repainted every now and then with a different theme: a friend of mine said he saw it done up for Joe Hill, and a souvenir in the Free Derry Museum showed it decorated for the referendum on same-sex marriage in 2015. As you can see, when we were there it showed a large Palestinian flag, and I saw plenty of other Palestinian flags flying throughout the Bogside. Irish nationalists, of course, tend to identify with the Palestinians, on the principle that both are supposedly engaged in the same struggle.
Irish republicans also identify with the Catalans, Basques, Kurds, and (from what I can gather) the Tamils of Sri Lanka. (I do not know about Cyprus, Quebec, Xinjiang, or Tibet.) Catalonia in particular is especially meaningful to them, given that it was the heartland of the republican side in the Spanish Civil War. I did not see any Catalan flags flying but I did see it for sale in the store in Derry. The picture is from a mural in Belfast.
And on the other side…
The most common emblem of Ulster loyalism is the Royal Union Flag, which is of course the official flag of the United Kingdom. One problem with it is that you have to make sure that it’s not flying upside down, like it is here, in the unionist Fountain area in Londonderry. Another problem is that it is offensive to about half the population of Northern Ireland, and so does not fly officially very much anymore. This means that private citizens of unionist persuasion wave it all the more.
Flying beneath the Union Flag is the Ulster Banner, a cross of St. George with the red hand of Ulster on a crowned, six pointed star at the center. This was the official flag of Northern Ireland from 1953 to 1972, when it went into abeyance with the suspension of Northern Ireland’s parliament at Stormont. It has not been reintroduced by the current, power-sharing parliament, and attempts to find a neutral flag for the province have so far been unsuccessful. However, ESPN does identify (e.g.) the golfer Rory McIlroy and the Northern Ireland football team with the Ulster Banner, for lack of an alternative. Needless to say, the unionist community waves it almost as much as the Union Flag.
A riposte to the four provinces display of the nationalists: the flags of the four countries that make up the United Kingdom! In the photo, left to right we have Scotland, Northern Ireland, England, and Wales (mostly obscured, but you can see a bit of the green poking out behind England’s cross of St. George). The Union Flag flies in the middle, and in the foreground is a made-up flag featuring the logo of the NI Football team (out of the frame), an outline map of NI with the Ulster Banner on top of it, and the legend “Our Wee Country” in comic sans.
I took the photo above outside the Northern Ireland Supporters Club on the Shankill Road. I guess that the football team draws most of its support from the unionist community? You’d think that they wouldn’t fly the flags of their potential competitors, but apparently politics reigns supreme here.
Also in the Fountain area in Londonderry: the flag of the Loyal Orange Institution, a fraternal organization for Protestants founded in 1795, and so called on account of William of Orange, the hero of the Battle of the Boyne.
They have a distinctive flag (orange in color, with a cross of St. George in the canton and a Williamite purple star on the fly), but they’re most known for getting dressed up in dark suits, bowler hats, white gloves, and orange sashes, and marching around on July 12, often through nationalist neighborhoods, to great consternation. A man in a unionist souvenir shop claimed, however, that the Orange Order is not as popular as it once was. The police have cracked down on some of their more provocative parade routes.
One place where the Union Flag is forbidden is over Belfast City Hall – or rather, city councillors, in 2012, voted to bring city hall practice into line with UK government practice, meaning that the flag would only be flown there on eighteen designated days of the year. This being Northern Ireland, however, certain unionists took this move as a provocation, and it was greeted with widespread discontent, even rioting. (From 1906 to 2012, the Union Flag had flown every day of the year over Belfast City Hall.) Since then there have been daily protests at lunchtime (pictured). The irony is that June 2, when the photo was taken, was one of the designated days – it was Coronation Day, and the 65th anniversary of the original one in 1953. The Union Flag was indeed flying over the front entrance of City Hall, although the wind wasn’t blowing it and the sun wasn’t shining directly on it, meaning that none of my pictures turned out. But I saw it, I swear!
Another view of the protest reveals that, if the nationalists side with the Palestinians, the unionists side with the Israelis. (In a happy coincidence, both unionists and Zionists employ a six-pointed star as an identifying device.)
But is City Hall the best place to fly the Union Flag anyway? It’s Belfast City Hall – why not fly the flag of Belfast? It’s simply a banner of the arms of the city, but it’s not an overly complicated design. However, I did not see it flying anywhere.
Dublin certainly flies its own flag. It’s a pretty good design to boot, comprising the flag of the province of Leinster (a gold harp on green), with arms of Dublin on the canton.
I saw the Dublin city flag flying in a number of places, including this vertical variant outside Dublin Castle.
One final Irish flag: the St. Patrick’s saltire, a red X-shaped cross on a white background. It is essentially the arms of the Fitzgerald earls of Kildare and (later) dukes of Leinster, repurposed in 1783 for the Order of St. Patrick.
Here are some of the jewels of the Order of St. Patrick, on display in the Ulster Museum. Note the red saltire on all three of them. The motto, “Quis Separabit?” means “Who will separate us?” – biblically, “from the love of God,” but politically, “from the British sovereign.” (The answer to that question, of course, was “Sinn Fein and the IRA.”)
With the Act of Union in 1801, St. Patrick’s Saltire could fit into the Union Flag as it then existed, although they had to modify it slightly for reasons I’ve never quite understood.
In an American context a red saltire on white acts as the flag of Alabama; here it is flying over Fort Gaines in the summer of 2016. However, I did not see St. Patrick’s Saltire flying anywhere in Ireland.
But some people still use it. A group called Vexillology Ireland posted this photo to Facebook for St. Patrick’s Day. I have no idea where it was taken or in exactly what year, but it clearly shows people celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with a red saltire flag. Or maybe they’re all retainers of the Duke of Leinster, who knows.
One sees references to St. Patrick’s Saltire here and there – note the flag on the ship in the arms of Belfast (top left, from Wikipedia), the flag on the castle in the arms of Trinity College, Dublin (top right, from Wikipedia), the badge of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (middle, from Wikipedia), and the coat of arms of the Queen’s University of Belfast (bottom).
I thought that it was most appropriate for this traffic sign in Dublin to take the form of St. Patrick’s Saltire, although I don’t think this was necessarily intended!
Finally, a defunct flag, the banner of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, on display in St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast. The RUC was the police service for Northern Ireland from the state’s founding in 1922 until it was abolished and reconstituted as the Police Service of Northern Ireland in 2001. RUC officers were prime targets for terrorists during the Troubles, and some 300 RUC officers were killed during that conflict. For its courage under such conditions, the organization was collectively awarded the George Cross, Britain’s highest civilian honor for bravery, in 1999. (Thus is the medal displayed on the canton of this flag, like the flag of Malta, which was similarly awarded the George Cross in 1942 in the wake of Nazi bombardment.)
Alas, as brave as RUC officers may have been, the organization had a number of skeletons in its closet, including collusion with Protestant paramilitaries and prejudice against nationalists, both in recruitment and in exercising power. Thus was it replaced by the PSNI, which has strict rules about cross-community membership.
While in Ireland we got to see two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Newgrange (in the Republic, and a “cultural” site), and the Giant’s Causeway (in the North, and a “natural” site). I would have loved to have seen the third, Skellig Michael in Co. Kerry, but access is strictly limited and entails a boat ride across an often choppy sea, and a perilous climb up steep and slippery steps – not ideal for a tour group of 35!
1. Newgrange is the largest monumental structure at Brú na Bóinne (“Palace of the Boyne”), a complex of tombs, stone circles, and other manmade features just north of the River Boyne in County Meath, north of Dublin. Drogheda (the site of a frightful Cromwellian massacre in 1649, and also the site of the famous Battle of the Boyne in 1690) is about ten kilometers to the east of Brú na Bóinne, but we were there to see something much older: a neolithic passage tomb dating from c. 3200 BC, and thus predating Stonehenge and the Giza pyramids.
From the outside, it’s really just a large earthen mound, with a retaining wall on the front made up of white quartz cobblestones. This wall is the work of one Michael O’Kelly, the main twentieth-century archaeologist for the site and is based on his “best guess” of what it might have looked like in the neolithic. Needless to say, this feature is somewhat controversial.
Things get really interesting, however, when you enter the doorway shown above. You squeeze down a dry stone passageway for about twenty meters, and arrive in a corbeled interior chamber with three side “chapels,” each with its own stone “altar” (designated a basin). The guide claimed that this passageway is original and was never reconstructed – in fact, the entrance was covered and hidden until AD 1699, when a local landowner found it and brought it to the attention of antiquarians.
No photography was allowed inside, so I scan some illustrations.
This is a view from the interior chamber looking back towards the entrance. The spiral motif is common at the site, but what it actually means is anyone’s guess.
This is a view of the right-hand side chapel, with basin stone. Apparently cremated human remains were discovered on these stones, but the cremations did not take place in the chamber itself. This has given rise to the theory that bodies were cremated outside, and the remains brought into the chamber for a special ceremony, most likely at the Winter Solstice, then taken out and interred elsewhere (plenty of smaller burial tombs have been found at Brú na Bóinne).
Why the Winter Solstice? Because that’s when sunlight penetrates to the interior. Here is another view of the entrance – note the “roofbox” over the door.
And here is how it works: note the upward slope of the passageway, which blocks out light from the doorway, and allows only the shaft of light from the roofbox to reach the central basin stone. The slight zigzag of the passageway also ensures that the light is focussed by the time it gets to the interior. Our guide turned out the lights in the interior chamber and then lit one that simulated the solstice effect, but she said that it was a poor substitute for the real thing. But to experience this, you have to apply for it. The sunlight gets in for a few minutes a day over a period of about five days, roughly Dec. 19-23. They let ten people in per day, and you can bring a friend, meaning that 100 people can experience the Winter Solstice at Newgrange every year. The trouble is that some 32000 people apply! So the odds really aren’t in your favor, although they have started live streaming it over the Internet.
Brú na Bóinne is by no means the only such neolithic site in Europe. All along the west coast, from Spain to Scandinavia, one finds the remains of these monumental structures, usually circular and astronomically aligned, indicating surplus wealth generated by agriculture, political organization to order them constructed, and far-flung communication networks to spread knowledge of building techniques, and trade networks to import construction materials (Brú na Bóinne contains material from as far south as the Wicklow Mountains, and as far north as Slieve Croob in County Down). Alas, they are definitely prehistoric, in that nothing resembling a script has ever been discovered at any of them, so much of our knowledge of this period must remain speculative.
2. The Giant’s Causeway is a volcanic formation of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns on the north coast of Northern Ireland. Similar sorts of formations may be seen elsewhere on the Earth (the one I’m most familiar with is Devil’s Tower in Wyoming), but they are rare and distinctive enough to be intensely captivating.
The standard theory is that the columns were created some sixty million years ago, when a large and thick lava flow cooled very slowly and, due to the chemistry of the basalt, formed regular polygonal columns. These were hidden deep underground, as the top layer of the basalt, exposed to the air, cooled much more rapidly and thus did not develop the distinctive pattern. Successive Ice Ages, however, stripped away those top layers, revealing the basalt columns and creating what, to a human, is a bizarre, ethereal sight.
But our tour guide, Jamie Kerr of EF Tours, mockingly denigrated this theory. She preferred the original, mythological explanation, and the reason why it bears the name “Giant’s Causeway.” A similar basalt formation may be found in Scotland on the Isle of Staffa, which gave rise to the idea that:
Finn McCool was a giant who, for the most part, lived a quiet life with his family here on the Northern Irish coast. But there were rivals, other giants, and perhaps to pre-empt a challenge from his Scottish neighbour, Benandonner, Finn laid down the gauntlet and then built the Giant’s Causeway so they could meet and do battle.
However, on his way over to Scotland, Finn spied Benandonner in the distance and realised that his rival was much bigger, taller and stronger than he had appeared from across the water. Finn decided he didn’t want to fight Benandonner any more and ran back home as fast as he could – so fast that he lost his boot on the shore.
Finn found his wife Oonagh and explained the terrible mistake he had made. Oonagh, being the brains of the pair, devised the plan of dressing up Finn as a baby and putting him into their son Oisin’s cot, covering him with blankets and wrapping a shawl around his head.
Just then there was a loud banging at the door – Benandonner! ‘Where’s Finn?’ he demanded, ‘I want to fight him!’
‘Calm down!’ said Oonagh, ‘Finn’s out herding the cows… but while you’re here why don’t you let me introduce you to our son Oisin?’
When Benandonner saw the giant baby in the cot he got scared. He thought, if that’s the size of the baby, how big is the father?
Benandonner immediately ran out of the house and home across the Causeway, tearing it behind him to make sure Finn couldn’t follow him.*
The current visitors’ center, which opened in 2012, is architecturally very well done (more at dezeen – check it out). It lies unobtrusively low to the ground, but its walls reflect the Causeway’s geological formation.
After our visit I kept seeing references to the Giant’s Causeway all over the place, and it seems to me it’s a symbol of Northern Ireland. This is a memento on display in the Belfast City Hall Museum. A bonus is that the six-sided columns (and in this case, six columns) can refer to the six counties of Northern Ireland.
I never made this connection, but the Giant’s Causeway is the setting for the cover of Led Zeppelin’s fifth studio album Houses of the Holy (1973). I loved this record in high school! Where’s that confounded bridge?
* From Anna Groves, A Souvenir Guide to the Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim (National Trust, 2016). The funny thing is that in recent times there really was a science vs. mythology dispute at the Causeway: some of the exhibits in the new visitors’ center, when it opened in 2012, gave a Young Earth creationist view of the site, soliciting praise from Answers in Genesis, and condemnation by Brian Cox, Richard Dawkins, et al. (Following a review, the creationist interpretation was downplayed.)
A cathedral, of course, is nothing more than a church building where a bishop has his seat – his cathedra, hence the name. But usually, much attention and expense is lavished on cathedrals, making them aesthetically pleasing and architecturally and historically significant. I do enjoy visiting a cathedral when I get a chance. Here are some of the ones I got to see in Ireland.
1. The “Rock of Cashel,” Cashel, Co. Tipperary
This is essentially a ruin atop a hill, but it has a very rich history, and it is one of the more popular tourist attractions in Ireland (the Queen visited in 2011). The hill itself is associated with one of St. Patrick’s conversions, and was the seat of the kings of Munster until 1101, when King Muirchertach Ua Briain bequeathed it to a resurgent and reorganized Church (meaning that the Church would now take his side in his disputes with others). Cashel was established as an archbishopric at the Synod of Ráth Breasail in 1118, and shortly thereafter a chapel for Cormac McCarthy, king of Munster, was constructed on the rock, a small but handsome building of German influence, complete with a characteristically Irish round tower (pictured) some distance away. The cathedral itself was built over the course of the thirteenth century, connecting the chapel with the tower. Given the cathedral’s strategic location, the west end of the nave was enclosed and fortified as a residential castle, a feature I have never before seen. Alas, it was not enough to save the people who had taken shelter there during the Confederate Wars, when in 1647 Parliamentarian troops sacked it and massacred the royalists within. In the eighteenth century, the Rock ceased to act as the cathedral for the archdiocese (the seat was moved to the Church of St. John the Baptist and St. Patrick in Cashel, which we did not get a chance to see), and the archbishop, who was somehow connected with the Guinness family of beer fame, removed the roof for reasons known best to himself, rendering the building liturgically unusable. People are still interred in the graveyard, however.
Here is a better view of the Rock of Cashel, and on a nicer day, scanned from a postcard I bought.
2. Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin
Seat of the Archbishop of Dublin and Glendalough. The church dates from 1028 when Sitriuc Silkbeard, the “Hiberno-Norse” king of Dublin, and Flannacán Ua Cellaig, king of Brega, returned from a pilgrimage to Rome. The Synod of Kells in 1152 elevated Dublin to the status of an archbishopric, joining Cashel, Armagh, and Tuam. Laurence O’Toole, the second archbishop of Dublin (1162-82), was canonized in 1225 and became the patron saint of the city; a relic of his heart was stolen from Christ Church in 2012. Most of the church fabric dates from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, but it was extensively renovated in the nineteenth, so there is a great deal of Victorian gothic as well (e.g., the floor tiles). The church is also known for hosting the grave of Richard de Clare, the second earl of Pembroke (commonly called “Strongbow”) who, allied with Dermot MacMurrough, was the first Englishman to invade Ireland in 1170, and for being the venue for the coronation of Lambert Simnel, an anti-Tudor pretender to the English throne in 1487. Also, the crypt housed an interesting exhibit on Magna Carta Hiberniae, that is, an issue of Magna Carta (1215), but for Ireland, with the appropriate substitutions (“Irish Church” for “English Church,” “Dublin” for “London,” etc.)
I scanned this view of the interior in from the visitor’s guide I bought.
The seal of the cathedral chapter illustrates that its formal dedication is to the Holy Trinity, thus the depiction of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
3. St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin
Just down the street from Christ Church, another cathedral, this one dedicated to St. Patrick. Why does Dublin have two cathedrals, both elaborate and within a short walking distance of each other? A good question! In the thirteenth century, this collegiate church was somehow elevated to cathedral status, and it may have been that someone was hoping to replace the monastic Christ Church with the secular St. Patrick’s. Many years of bickering produced an accord between the two in 1300, with Christ Church retaining supremacy, but St. Patrick’s having certain privileges including full cathedral status, and both cathedrals committing to work together if need be – like when the choirs of both churches combined to perform Handel’s Messiah at its debut in Dublin in 1742.
Since the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in 1871, St. Patrick’s has been designated the “national cathedral,” while Christ Church remains the cathedral for the diocese of Dublin and Glendalough.
One distinguishing feature of St. Patrick’s is that it acted as the chapel of the Order of St. Patrick, which is technically still in existence, although no new members have been admitted since the 1930s. (The Republic of Ireland may have continued to grant coats of arms through a Chief Herald, but it has no interest in maintaining an order of chivalry.) On display: the banners of arms the knights as they were at the time of disestablishment in 1871.
The most famous dean of St. Patrick’s is of course the great Jonathan Swift, who held the office 1713-45 and who is memorialized and buried in the church.
The rose, royal arms, and portcullis of the cathedral seal mark it as particularly Tudor. I’m not exactly sure what the other symbols are supposed to mean, although I assume that’s St. Patrick in the base.
4. St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin
Still in Dublin, on the north side of the River Liffey, we find yet another cathedral, or rather a “pro-Cathedral,” dedicated to St. Mary. It is now that I must mention a central fact of Irish history: King Henry VIII (1509-47) tried to impose the Reformation on Ireland as he did on England, but he had much more control over the latter than the former. As a consequence, most English people accepted the Reformation, however grudgingly; only eccentrics like Thomas More held out, and paid for it with their lives. In Ireland, by contrast, there are parallel church organizations: Henry’s Church of Ireland, until 1871 the established church and to this day a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the Roman Catholic Church, obedient to the Pope. The Church of Ireland took over all the extant church buildings and diocesan structure, but the Roman Catholic Church, despite all the government’s penal laws and other knavish tricks, retained the loyalty of most Irish people and did not go away. The Catholic church presumed to continue its own diocesan structure, a copy of the Church of Ireland’s, and to claim legitimate descent from the pre-Reformation church. Of necessity the Catholics were compelled to build their own church buildings, thus St. Mary’s, which dates from 1825 and is classical in form, predating the gothic revival by a few years. That it’s a “pro-Cathedral” (i.e., an acting cathedral) is a cheeky way by the Catholics of saying that they would like Christ Church back. (And why not, really? Let the Church of Ireland have St. Patrick’s, and let the Catholics get Christ Church. If nothing else it would make things simpler.)
5. St. Columb’s Cathedral, Londonderry
St. Columb’s is within the walls of the old city, perched atop a hill. It is Londonderry’s oldest extant building, dating from 1633. As you can probably guess this makes it Church of Ireland. I could not take any pictures inside but here is a scan of a postcard I bought:
Many regimental colours and flags are displayed within. The caretaker kindly showed me a 48-star American flag, kept in a display drawer, left by the US troops who were stationed at Londonderry during the Second World War.
The seal of the dean and chapter is emblematic, showing a dove of peace bringing an olive branch to a castle, under the watchful eye of God.
6. St. Eugene’s Cathedral, Derry
As you look out from the walls of the old city toward the Bogside, you can’t miss St. Eugene’s, which stands out above the residential streets. The Roman Catholic cathedral was begun in 1849, opened for business in 1873, and finished in 1903. As you can see, this was a time when the gothic revival was in full swing. Many Irish-American Catholics gave money to help build it.
I enjoyed visiting this handsome, peaceful church.
7. St. Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast
The distinguishing feature of the Church of Ireland cathedral is the tall, needlelike spire where you’d expect something a bit more substantive. This “Spire of Hope” looks like the Spire of Dublin and, as this one dates from 2007, may have been inspired by Dublin’s. The lady at the desk said that St. Anne’s is built on what was once a swamp, and that the church is subsiding; the weight of a traditional spire would have compounded this problem.
Within the church, a number of things, including the “science pillar,” a Titanic memorial pall, the grave of Edward Carson (founder of Northern Ireland), a labyrinth that leads nowhere if you follow “the path of sin,” and numerous interesting side chapels.
The Cathedral identifies itself with a display of four coats of arms, three of the amalgamated dioceses for which it is the cathedral (Connor, Down, and Dromore) and one of the city of Belfast.
8. St. Peter’s Cathedral, Belfast
Alas, I didn’t actually get into the Roman Catholic cathedral for Belfast, as I arrived too early. But I did find a postcard of the interior which I have scanned:
This church was opened for worship in 1866, and as you can see is another gothic structure, but it wasn’t named a cathedral until 1986. It is in the Divis Street area near the Falls Road, i.e. what was once Ground Zero for the Troubles, and I can’t help but think the decision to move the bishop’s seat here was political somehow.