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  • Writer's pictureGreg O'Loughlin

The Good Friday Agreement: Great heart and great vulnerability

By Dylan Egan

My first thoughts of ending partition were inspired by Queen Elizabeth’s visit to the republic. It seemed just a regular day on Dublin’s north side, and I couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about. My nine years of wisdom and curiosity asked my mother, “You think Enda Kenny will ask the Queen if we can have Northern Ireland back?”

Her amusement at my naivety lit a spark in me. I began to ask myself the 800 year old “Irish question” and tried to comprehend how generations of academics failed to solve it. Much to my parent’s bemusement, I followed the rest of the trip with interest on TV.

As I got older, my athleticism and curiosity progressed at a commensurate rate. Through my water polo team, I travelled to all corners of Erin’s Isle, but primarily Dublin and “Northern Ireland”.

I travelled all over the north, from the DUP leader’s constituency of Lisburn to Gerry Adams’ Falls Road. While I always played better in Lisburn, it was impossible to live this lifestyle without noticing the community divisions.

Traveling with the previous generations of players offered frequent insights. I’d hear stories of being held at gunpoint while the car was searched (due to the suspicious smell of chlorine that a swimming pool often gives you) and only being let go after a triumphant soldier ridiculously proclaimed he was confiscating a soggy speedo.

I’d listen passively, as we drove up the freeway through Ireland's countryside and wait for the familiar metallic sign informing me, I was in “Northern Ireland” and speeds were in MPH.

In time I was selected for the National team. Being a cross Island sport, I now practiced and travelled with teammates from all 4 provinces. That team was the making of us, we had fun through the hard work we did for one another all in the pursuit of success for our country.

Being either too stupid or too smart to even think about each other’s cultural or religious backgrounds meant we never quarrelled over it. I look back and realise how much hope this gave me for our complicated islands future.

Condensing a life story into a paragraph I ended up winning a scholarship at Wagner College in NYC, where I now play D1 water polo. The late nature of my fortune meant I had just under a month to prepare my things and explain to my unsuspecting mother that I was leaving.

So, I landed in JFK like so many Irishmen before me and with the breeze of Irish America at my back countered by a healthy apprehension about knowing nothing and no one.

Admittedly I never appreciated the power of Irish-America until after I’d arrived. Realising my experience of a peaceful and prosperous island came from its influence, admittedly humbled me.

The Good Friday Agreement in its heart houses a peace deal that shocked the world. Unfortunately, a deal with such a big heart means great vulnerability. As such, the DUP and British government seem hell bent on shattering it through an irresponsible lunge at retrieving a lost empire. All the while bringing a united Ireland closer yet still out of reach unless we truly capitalise on it.

It's times like this I feel the burden of youth on my shoulders. The necessity of my generation to bring innovation and toleration to help break 25 years of deadlock. Still, comfort comes through my admiration for Americans. Inspired by the realisation that given a fair chance Americans have never let their nation down. And so, that’s our job in Irish-America, to give our comrades a fair chance, through us they will get it and our day will come.

Dylan Egan is a student at Wagner College.

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