Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long
Sunday afternoon. London. 19C. Went for a walk up through Regent's Park and on up Primrose Hill. From the top of the hill you have possibly the best view in London, the whole of the City spread out before you. The BT Tower. The London Eye. The Gherkin. The Shard. The hill, like the park below it, was packed with people. Families, friends, children and couples, all out enjoying the best day of the year so far.
On a clear day you can see forever. On a cloudy day you can still see pretty far, which is nice.
Primrose Hill, London, 30th March, 2014
Sunday night. Dublin. Considerably colder. At around 11pm a car bomb exploded in my neighbourhood. Outside the Meath Hospital, a man attached a pipebomb to a SUV, and it detonated prematurely. He fled the scene, bleeding and badly injured, and managed to flag down a taxi outside a nearby pub. A number of houses were badly damaged, houses in which people were bedding down, their week over and another one about to begin.
In the year so far, the Army bomb disposal team have been called out 34 times, dealing with 15 "viable devices", almost all related to gang-wars between the rump IRA and other drug gangs.
For almost two months now, the country has been rocked by a series of revelations concerning An Garda Siochana. What began with allegations of police collusion with criminal gangs and the bugging of the Garda Ombudsman by "rogue elements" within the Gardai culminated in the resignation of the Garda Commissioner over his labelling of whistleblowers as "disgusting". Less than twenty-four hours later came the revelation that many police stations had been routinely recording all phone calls in to and out of the station, including confidential calls between prisoners and their solicitors, an illegal practice carried out for many years and only ended in the last few months, a practice that it would appear senior members of the Gardai and Justice department were well aware of, a practice that threatens to overturn an untold number of criminal cases.
This is Ireland in the 21st Century. A country where car bombs are used with impunity by criminal gangs. A country where those gangs are actively supported by the very police whose duty it is to protect the citizenry from them. A country where those who shine a light in these dark places are condemned by the Government for daring to stand up and do so. A country where the rights of the innocent are trampled by the organs of the State and in the ensuing chaos the guilty will walk free. A country so mired in the sickening molasses of corruption that even those untouched by it will fight tooth and nail to prevent any investigation of it lest one single moment of truth brings the whole fetid pile of rotting filth collapsing down and suffocating us all with the weight of our national misdeeds.
Sunday afternoon. London. 19C on Primrose Hill. I sit on the grass as the children run with arms flailing wildly down the hill. Folks throw a frisbee back and forth as a dog leaps up to try and snatch it from the air. A dozen languages chatter unknown around me, but the sound of laughter is universal.
I'm three hundred miles from Dublin and right now that feels just about right.