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And your point was?


This is a date which Londoners will remember. Others, maybe – maybe not. And of those, some will remember for all the wrong reasons. I was in Dublin at the time, researching online in a public library. A newsflash appeared on the screen. My reaction surprised me with its visceral shock, followed fast by rage. “My people! My city!” And “again? More?”  This time it was different, for not only was the death toll higher but also we learnt that more stupid – and stupidly destructive – people had been growing up among us.

The Irish government declared a 2-minute silence in honour of the victims of that day’s carnage, a gesture that was observed all over Dublin – save for some bollock-brained bastards at a game in Croke Park, who booed and jeered in triumph at the thought of the horrific deaths of their fellow human beings. For they thought the deaths of people in London meant a blow to ‘the enemy’ – ‘the English’ – in the face of overwhelming evidence that London is (a) an enormous, multi-national metropolis, and (b) most people there would wish Ireland, all of it, well. But no, ‘the English’ … swine, all of us, eh? All designated in a certain way so as to appear united in and characterised by our presumed perfidy rather than our common humanity (try substituting ‘Jews’ for ‘English’ as the clichéd yet still powerful rhetorical trick has it).

‘English’ I am, as born and bred there – but I’m Welsh, Scots, Irish, too, as are so many of my compatriots. An Englishwoman born in the south to a mother from the north; born in a place, a time and into a stratum – none of my choice but all marking me for life.  Why not? These differences are matters of identity, of interest and of quiet – not uncritical (never that) – pride. They’re not, and should never be, divisions dividing us from the main point: our common humanity. Our similarities are as precious as our freedoms and hard-won rights – and the former are based firmly on a recognition of the latter.

Up ’till now I’d go to Mass and pray for the victims of this day in 2005. All of them, for there were so many more involved than those who lost their lives or limbs. Now, having been reminded yet again of the silly, petty and exclusive nature of today’s church in its many manifestations, I’m not so sure there’s a formal place for those prayers; but I’ll say them just the same. A wise nun once remarked to me after we’d both been appalled by an especially smug, small-minded and self-regarding homily: “God is bigger than that.”  I bloody well hope so, otherwise we’re even deeper in it than I’d thought. But if man really is made in God’s image, then it doesn’t exactly bode well, does it?

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