Paul Stewart, a doctor in Creeslough for 23 years but who had grown up in Belfast, spoke about the sight of destruction that left ten people dead. Being familiar from his time spent in a frequently bombed city, sadly the death and destruction was not a new experience for him. Observing the rubble and wreckage his thoughts were shared by me. Casualties of that magnitude immediately project images of Bloody Sunday, Dublin-Monaghan, the Shankill fish shop bombing. For those much younger than either I or Dr Stewart, it might have looked like a scene from Ukraine or Gaza.
On this occasion a Sinn Fein leader could not be accused of crocodile tears by a media scum eager to devour her. Yesteryear, the party’s previous leader would seek to explain the debris rather than excavate it. If that is progress, Creeslough is not the place to celebrate it.
As I went to watch today’s match between Arsenal and Liverpool my thoughts extended to the family of fourteen-year-old Leona Harper, an avid Liverpool supporter, her dad an Arsenal one. They should have been watching the match together. As I sat on the settee, my teenage son perched next to me, I experienced that cold shudder. What matters the outcome of a soccer match? Liverpool's loss today can never approach the loss of a child.
Donegal often “ignored and even abandoned by national government” is no stranger to tragedy, with a series of fatal misfortunes visiting it over the years. It will emerge from the latest but not unscathed. Disasters are like a thief in the night. They upend everything and forever. The smashed mirror might carefully and painstakingly be put together again but the image we see in it will never be the same.
Una Mullaly suggested that "there is no closure with tragedy, but there can be comfort." Perhaps, therefore, hope and comfort can be drawn from the words of Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Speaking last year about losing two of his own children he said:
routine and getting back with life is the only way. You can’t just stay down. You have to get back up again, and you have to go through the routines of life. There’s always new experiences come in life that will lift you. It’s not easy, and you don’t forget, and you live with it, but you have to try and pick yourself up.
At this stage that might sound an insurmountable task. But in the person of Micheál Martin there is the pallbearer of children who managed to walk through the storm of grief.
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