- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Categories: Blog, Feature
by Joyce Watson AM
Recently I was in Dublin for a meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. It was one of the regular meetings of the group, which was established in 1990 to bring together Irish and British legislators. Speakers included Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD and Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary.
As the daughter of a veteran of the Second World War, I was greatly moved by our visit to the Irish War Memorial Gardens at Islandbridge. There, in front of a very dignified and imposing War Memorial, were two wreaths. One British, one Irish.
The poetry of the First World War is studied by each generation of pupils and students. For me, one of the most chilling and powerful poems that came out of that war was one by W. B. Yeats about an Irish airman.
I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public man, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.
This year we commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. In Dublin I was reminded of how much history we and our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents have lived through. When, little more than a month ago, we saw on our televisions President Michael D. Higgins of the Republic of Ireland paying a state visit to Her Majesty the Queen, I was again reminded of how much has changed – for the worse and for the better – between our countries during the last hundred years.
There are the perennial pessimists who think that everything gets worse and that the old days were always better. I happen to think that we should always be striving to make things better. The history of Britain and Ireland shows even after deep hatred and appalling acts of violence, that tolerance, mutual understanding and the determination not give way to the forces of evil can eventually win the day.
Joyce Watson, Labour Assembly Member for Mid and West Wales, is a full member of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembl. For more information about her work contact 02920 898614 / www.joycewatson.co.uk