Floral emblems have been often adopted. The houses of York and Lancaster had their roses, the Bourbons of France, the fleur-de-lis, Scotland her thistle, and Ireland her shamrock.
I do think culture is an argument, and that was part of the way I was brought up. People at a social occasion in Ireland will start shouting and arguing. When the Yeats family lived in Bedford Park, they had to go round to the neighbours to say, ‘You might think we are fighting, but this is the way we talk to each other.’
They won’t break me because the desire for freedom, and the freedom of the Irish people, is in my heart. The day will dawn when all the people of Ireland will have the desire for freedom to show. It is then that we will see the rising of the moon.
My parents were Northern Ireland Labour party people. We read the ‘Guardian’ and the ‘New Statesman,’ listened to the BBC. The house was full of books. We didn’t get a television until ‘That Was The Week That Was’ started. There was nothing to do but read.
The Ireland I now inhabit is one that these Irish contemporaries have helped to imagine.
On the other hand, at some level the mass of unresolved issues in Northern Ireland does influence the fact that there are so many good writers in the place.
We are bound to lose Ireland in consequence of years of cruelty, stupidity and misgovernment and I would rather lose her as a friend than as a foe.
I was born in Northern Ireland in 1951. I lived most of my life there until 1986 or 1987.