I’d been following the conversations broadcast to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement as I was going about my business in the city of Belfast.
I wrote this poem some years ago, moved by the incredibly hopeful relationship between Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness during their time as First and Deputy First Ministers of the Northern Ireland Assembly, by a visit they made to New York, which was televised, and by the work of artist Jonathan Aiken , particularly his painting ‘Faith, Hope and Variety’, shown above. You can read more about Jonathan’s painting here.
On Twitter, Eamon Mallie shared one of the powerful photographic images of Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness that inspired the lines that I wrote.
I hadn’t intended to share this poem, but seeing that image again of the two men together, both now departed, has prompted me to do so.
I can’t get my head round the politics of this place that I call home, but I am thankful for the last 20 years of relative peace.
Theirs was no match
made in Heaven by any stretch
of a human imagination.
Two hard-liners. Funerals,
marches, massive demonstrations.
How come they make it
seem so good? What happened
off-screen, heretofore, behind closed doors?
Wouldn’t we love to know.
Two honeymooners. Laughter,
bright eyes, smiling faces.
A lady in New York says
“Blessed are the peacemakers”
I felt tears. Maybe, we can believe,
it’s an absolute miracle.