Quite literally on a wing and a prayer

I watched a TV program last week about a man called Duddy from Derry who acted as an intermediary between the British government and the IRA with the help of a mysterious spook from the intelligence service known only as Robert, negotiations which eventually led to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. Like most of Peter Taylor’s investigations it was all very interesting, but I won’t comment so much on the content of the documentary. There are other institutions which could do a better job – like Bugger O’Foole with Rick Kielty or whatever he calls himself, where contributors can discuss what a shower of sectarian bigots the GAA/Northern Ireland soccer team (delete as appropriate) are. But what caught my imagination was the final scene. The man called Duddy who in the previous scene had broken down with emotion was now seen on a remote hilltop looking out over a breathtaking landscape – probably somewhere in Donegal – with the wind in his hair and the dark silhouette of a large bird soaring overhead. The camera didn’t pan in close enough for me to indentify the bird, but it looked like a golden eagle, a bird which became extinct in Ireland after relentless persecution many moons ago, but is now making a comeback after a successful breeding programme in the Glenveagh National Park. I could get all pretentious now and say how the return of this majestic bird was a symbol of peace and stability on the island – but I won’t, as it would sound rather tacky. What I will say is that the return of the eagle, the red kite, the buzzard, the peregrine falcon and other such formerly rare raptors to the skies of these Hiberno-Britannic isles is a welcome sight. Just last weekend, while out rambling in the Chilterns I observed a spectacular aerial tussle between a kite (the bird, not the wind-assisted stringed contraption) and a buzzard, something which will linger in the memory for times to come.



  1. Lol. A bird which grabs small animals and tears them to pieces. Sounds like Ian Paisley’s role in the peace process.

    I’d have to disagree about Taylor. I think he’s an appalling journalist. He wrote a history of the IRA which barely acknowledged they’d committed any atrocities. Enniskillen was merely mentioned as a bit of an unfortunate reverse for the lads!

  2. Chekov, I think the bird you could best compare Paisley to is the vulture – it waits for other animals to do all the work in catching the prey, then scavenges on the remains.

    As for Taylor, well he’s certainly not the most accurate of journalists. I presume you’re referring to his book “Provos” – in which he refers to Strabane as being in “South Derry” and describes a meeting which apparently took place in “Co. Navan” – so whether he meant Co. Cavan or Navan, Co. Meath is unclear.

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