Wednesday, 28 February 2018

The Wednesday poem #40 - The Ballad of Kevin Barry

The Ballad of Kevin Barry
Early on a Sunday morning high upon the gallows tree
Kevin Barry gave his young life for the cause of liberty
Just a lad of eighteen summers yet there’s no-one can deny
As he walked to death that morning he proudly held his head on high

Just before he faced the hangman in his dreary prison cell
British soldiers tortured Barry because he would not tell
The names of his brave comrades and other things they wished to know
Turn informer or we’ll kill you Kevin Barry answered no

Calmly standing to attention as he bade his last farewell
To his broken hearted mother whose sad grief no-one can tell
For the cause he proudly cherished this sad parting had to be
Then to the death went proudly smiling that his country might be free

Another martyr for old Ireland another murder for the crown
Whose cruel laws may crush the Irish but can’t keep their spirit down

Lads like Barry are not cowards from their foes they will not fly
Lads like Barry will free Ireland for her cause they’ll fight and die


Yesterday, the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson stated that a hard Irish border would be no different to the boundary between Camden and Islington. It beggars belief that the man in charge of foreign policy in the UK could be so stupid.

Thousands died in the troubles. My Grandfathers cousin was Irish Rebel Kevin Barry. Leonard Cohen chose to commemorate him in this notable appearance on his 1972 tour of Israel. To make such glib comments about a conflict that ruined generations of lives in Ireland is beyond contempt.

I honestly thought we'd moved beyond the Irish troubles and that songs such as the Ballad of Kevin Barry were consigned to the "Irish History" section of the music library.

Whatever your views on #Brexit, I don't believe that anyone wants to see a return to the Troubles. The reason that the bombing, the shootings, the abductions and the terror stopped is because the border disappeared and there was no logical reason to keep killing each other.

The Irish border is perhaps the biggest challenge to those trying to implement Brexit. To trivialise it in the way Boris has simply makes the case that he hasn't got a grasp on reality or the issues. I am proud to be British, I cheer the English football team, but I also am proud of my Irish and Australian roots. Like many Londoners I am a complete mash up of different backgrounds and heritages. I am an avid reader of history and Irish history is one that delivers dire warnings. We have had a couple of decades of peace. Whatever transpires as a result of Brexit and the Irish border, it would be criminal to throw it all away. I implore Theresa May to move Boris to a role more in keeping with his talents (Minister for Whelk Stalls) and to get a Foreign secretary who at least has a grip on the history of Great Britains most dangerous political problem. It is always worth having a bit of Leonard Cohen on a freezing Wednesday, so if nothing else I hope you enjoy the work of this genius.

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