Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Midlands Eviction

"It's well I do remember on a bleak November's day,
The landlord and his agent came to drive us all away;
He set my house on fire with his demon English spleen
And that's another reason why I left Old Skibbereen."

Today's news that the Minister for Justice, Mr Michael McDowell, and his wife, Professor Niamh Brennan, have finally been granted planning permission for their home outside Roosky, Co Roscommmon, will have come as a relief to all concerned citizens of the Republic. Not alone is the Minister's decision to move to Roosky a fine blow in the Government's continuing fight for decentralisation, as, of course, most people in that area are high-tailing it in the opposite direction, but the memory of eight hundred years of oppression and eviction is far too strong in the peasant folk memory for the nation to have been able to withstand the pain of seeing Mr McDowell and Professor Brennan put out on the road while the henchmen and hired thugs of Roscommon County Council razed the little homestead to its very foundations.

How terrible it would have looked on television, the battering ram of the Ros (and how appropriate that is in the land of the sheep stealer) crashing through the front door of the family home, that same door that had sheltered Michael and Niamh and all the little McDowells from the harsh winter of the Irish midlands. The Council overseer twirls the ends of his moustache, watching Michael make one last dash for the house, the home, the castle that he had raised from the mortal clay with his very hands, only for McDowell to be fiercely and fiendishly driven back by the scoundrels in Roscommon County Council's employ, smelling vilely of today's Woodbines and last night's plain porter.

Professor Brennan, the ever-loyal wife, rushes to where her man lies beaten and broken on the roadside, lying in the ditch among the nettles. She cradles his head in her arms and wraps him in her shawl to protect him from the driving sleet. "A Mhícheál, a stór, a rún," she croons, "don't be worrying yourself - tomorrow is another day, and the if the green land of Erin can find no place for you and I and our family, then the golden island of Amerikay, where you can look a man in the eye without tipping your cap to the gentry, will find us refuge."

"Do you hear that, you black hearted swine!," she cries, fiercely shaking a wiry fist at the moustachioed overseer, "there've been McDowells in the Ros, the constant heart of Ireland, since 2002 and it's neither you nor your sleevens that'll be driving us away!"

And then she goes back to comforting her man, while collecting the shards of his shattered spectacles that lie on the roadside. The children huddle together, numb from the cold and frightened of the future, while the flames begin to break through the roof of that place that once they had called home.

I'm telling you, it would have looked just terrible on the Six O'Clock News this evening. I am relieved.