Once again, my friends, we are off on an adventure that promises to be for me, one of great pride in showing not only the beauty and culture of my own Republic of Ireland but also the deep history, the fragmented society, the struggles on both sides of a Christian divide and the path to peace that the North of Ireland pursues today. It's own breathtaking scenery awaits us when we drive across into what is still today the United Kingdom of Great Britain.
This is a story of passion for me. In the late nineteen sixties when "The Troubles" were reawakened with the Civil Rights marches across the North. Irish Catholic men and women seeking equal rights to their Protestant Unionist brethren, "Bloody Sunday" struck a cold chord throughout Ireland when a British paratroop regiment opened fire on innocent people in a peace march and more than a dozen were killed.
I was sixteen years old at the time and an impressionable young man. In the South, we were shocked and being so young, my friends and I were deeply horrified but, we thought, not in any danger. We were watching the news from Vietnam at the same time and it seemed that everything was changing. The music was changing, we were growing up and the trouble in the North seemed far away, but it wasn't and our history had been drilled into us in school and our small island was a potential cauldron, ready to explode.
And explode it did...In 1974 I was walking home from work one Friday evening along St.Stephen's Green and a little after 5pm three bombs exploded in the heart of Dublin city. Close to forty people were killed and many more injured. The most eery thing for me was, I never heard the sound of either one....I still can't understand that to this day. Three massive explosions, they brought their war to our town.
The years have past and much has happened to improve the lives of everyone in this country, north and south. Prosperity arrived with the "Celtic Tiger" in the Republic and much has improved also in the North. Economics today are having the same effect here as they are in many parts of the world and we are now travelling during some tough times.
Despite these rough waters, Irish and Northern Irish people always have a very friendly welcome for travellers and I am truly looking forward to this sojourn with my friends and a wonderful trip awaits us. Oh, and as a wonderful addition, my son Rory is with me and you can't beat that...