I notice that our Christmas street lights have been upgraded, especially in Barronstrand Street, over the last few years.  This, as I have already said, was long overdue, but will the opportunity be taken to really extend the areas covered by festive lights.

It is stated City Council policy to increase the retail centre of the city and as Christmas is the ultimate retail season why not literally go to town on the lighting scene.  Will we see sweetness of festive glow spread into Patrick’s Street, Black Friars Street, High Street, Little Patrick Street, O’Connell Street?  Johnstown could certainly do with cheering up and wouldn’t the Waterside be just gorgeous suitably all aglow.  Could something special be done with the Apple Market area and does not Lady Lane/Bakehouse Lane et al all present illuminating challenges?  And then what about Ballybricken itself and into the Mayor’s Walk and why not Barrack Street?

Remember the years in the ‘hungry 80’s’ when there were no city lights whatsoever!!  Though there’s now less tiger in the tank, let’s not take this recession lying down. So let’s go the full hog and brighten up. Those stunning lights in George’s Street of recent years are a shining example! As a report last week indicated we need to revitalise certain areas of the city – big time!

Talking of Christmas atmospherics and stuff, I’ve heard quite a few people remark that carol singing in places such as John Robert’s Square and outside the Catholic Cathedral in Barronstrand Street is becoming a rarity in recent times. Could anyone suggest a reason for this, as they are surely missed?
One theory I’ve heard expressed is that the WLR outside broadcast unit dominates the centre city sounds during the Lion’s Club Appeal.  While both together and combined with the public’s great generosity raise massive amounts of money for this wonderful cause and more power to their elbows again this year.  However, it is argued by some, that the on-street broadcasting could be less dominant and take more time-out periods, so as to allow other Christmas sounds to emerge from amongst yuletide bustling crowds.  Maybe they have a point.  Therefore last week I was delighted to read of an initiative by city centre traders, led by the good offices of the Chamber of Commerce, to organise a whole series of festive related activities into the city centre to restore a much needed vibrancy there.

Clear the way

Until the city is eventually bypassed, the N25 runs up and down the Quay and at busy times becomes choc-a-bloc with traffic but come Christmas time things can go ‘bananas’ altogether. Now while it’s good to see a greater influx of shoppers  Now what does not help at all at all is the double, even treble parking that goes on along parts of that crucial stretch of the  N25, especially outside the GPO and the old Clyde offices area reducing that side of the Quay effectively to one lane.  This needs more rigorous patrolling by both gardai and wardens.  God save us from the introduction of the dreaded clamping but it is such nuisance parking that it pushes some Local Authorities to justify their introduction. So be warned and better still, let such people get out of the way and not be clogging up the town for the rest of us – it’s always the other guy’s fault, isn’t it?

The enigma variations

Now as we are talking about roads and traffic and stuff, I’d like to reflect awhile on a local phenomenon that literally puzzles me.
Churchill said of Russia that it was an enigma wrapped in a puzzle, or was that the other way around?  But though my query is much more mundane and local I’m still trying to figure it out.  Oh, what can ail thee, knight at arms (as the poet put it)?  Well can any of my good readers puzzle this one for me? We are all only too aware of what a long string of misery the seemingly endless traffic trudge can be each morning. But some mornings, believe it or not, there is hardly any, with a clear run all the ways to the Park!

It is not a case of the weather being better or any obvious variant like that. Now I am talking circa 8.45 am but nevertheless why the dramatic variation between one dry morning having to join the traffic at my dear friend’s hang-out, the Brasscock, and then inch forward, sometimes at mm pace. While in similar weather the following morning at the same time one zooms in without a thing in sight, you know the grumble-mumble stuff!
That strange phenomenon occurs once every so often but I want to know why it happens and when it happens.  Why should the pattern be suddenly different?  Is it because the Ballinakill lights by chance happen to be in sync with the Powerscourt lights as opposed to being in counter harmony, putting us all out of tune and driving us nuts?

Back to the Republic

There was a fair bit of interest in my piece on the origin of the concept of true republicanism from the concepts of Plato and Aristotle through to the American and French revolutions to Wolfe Tone’s dream of a united egalitarian country of Irishmen. We looked briefly at the constitutional parliamentary movements of O’Connell and Parnell. This in time culminated in the passing of the Home Rule Bill of 1914 in the House of Commons, to have effect after the Great War.  This would have established an Irish Parliament with powers to legislate on domestic matters only but under the overall control of Westminster and the monarch as head of state.

However, this scenario changed.  Republicans organised as the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), succeeded in having the Irish Republic declared at the Rising of 1916. The backlash from the executions of the leaders of the Rising had the result of installing the Republic as the paramount nationalist demand. So on to the First Dail, War of Independence, Treaty Debates and divisions, founding of the new state and sadly civil war.

They mostly divided into those who were prepared to accept the Treaty as a stepping-stone to a republic and those who were not. The anti-treaty side lost.  The defeated republicans held themselves aloof from the politics of the Irish Free State and the gradualism of WT Cosgrave and his government until 1926 when Eamon De Valera founded the Fianna Fail Party and led them back into the political arena. De Valera, when he came to power in 1932, used the provisions of the Constitution of the Irish Free State and the constitutional developments within the British Commonwealth to enable him to propose a de facto republican constitution to the people – Bunreacht na hEireann – in 1937 which they enacted.

The small number of republicans who refused to obey the will of the people and who committed themselves to the achievement of re-unification through violent rather than peaceful democratic means were the tradition from which sprang the Provisional IRA and all that ensued from that, but now consigned to history. The Republic of Ireland Act 1948 came into effect on 18th April 1949 under Taoiseach John A Costello – 33 years after it was declared a republic at the Easter Rising of !916.

Now in 2008 we can all proudly reclaim the proud title of true republicanism, a republicanism that is tolerant of other traditions, cultures, races and creeds, one that supports the rights of fellow citizens, for example, to wear the poppy if they so desire. I hope this thumb-nail sketch proved interesting as an addition to last week’s column.

Go seachtain eile, slan.