The Passenger: Ireland
Publication is all about timing, and there is something prescient about this collection of essays, when our very existence seems threatened and the world feels dangerously fragile, both environmentally and politically.
The Passenger: Ireland takes us along our jagged coast, where the last Irish-speaking communities barely cling; beyond that there is no more mackerel for Irish mouths in Irish waters. “I look down at the Dingle town pier and all I see are huge boats from Spain and Portugal landing their fish and sending it straight home,” says fisherman Seainin Mac Eoin. of Kerry in Manchán Magan’s article, An Ocean of Wisdom.
The late Lyra McKee, in her essay Ceasefire Babies, explores the staggering fact that more people have died by suicide in the North since the ceasefire than in the conflict itself. Opposite this essay is a photograph of a mural with words from adult Lyra to herself, aged 14: “It won’t always be like this. It will get better. All the more poignant as the journalist was later shot and killed during riots in Derry.
Throughout this fascinating collection of essays and photographs there is a sense of pride and optimism at our significant progress. We are, as Catherine Dunne points out in her essay The Mass has Ended, the only country in the world to have legalized same-sex marriage through a referendum. We have a thriving economy finally freed from the shackles of the Catholic Church and a time when abortion was illegal and “we all knew someone who knew someone, who knew someone else who had traveled to England for shopping. Or else we ourselves were that someone else.
These evocative and beautifully written essays and photographic images are sometimes nostalgic but always lucid, perfectly capturing our contradictory essence: a country that has endured 30 years of civil war while supporting the same rugby team, whose war songs are joyous and whose love songs are sad, and where, to quote Colum McCann, “we don’t care much about despair”.