26 Apr 5 Friyays: April 26
Happy Friday, all! It’s Dr. Hinson back with my 5 Friyays for this past week. For those of you that read Dr. Donnelly’s Friyays from last week, you will have seen her tribute to Lyra McKee, a journalist and writer from Northern Ireland killed by Irish republican dissidents last Thursday evening. Though I usually attempt a diverse list for my Friyays, if I’m honest this week, Lyra’s death has consumed much of my thinking and reading. Lyra was a bright beacon of hope, especially during recent turbulent times in a Northern Ireland grappling with Brexit and without a functioning government. In honor of her life and in her memory, most of my Friyays will be dedicated to her writing, her speaking, her impact (even in death), and the promise of the Northern Ireland she envisioned.
“You brought the flame, here comes the phoenix”
I’m a big fan of including music in my Friyays, and this entry ties to my Lyra McKee dedicated list. Dr. Donnelly introduced me to this song on the new Sara Bareilles album and it’s our new anthem. A powerful song about finding inspiration from the women who have come before you, and using their strength as your armor to continue to fight against the patriarchy, sexism, and discrimination. I will take many lessons from Lyra’s life, her writing, her bravery, and her death, and I will add them to my armor.
“A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”
I’m not sure how many of you are Game of Thrones fans. For those of you sick of hearing about the hit HBO show, my apologies. Dr. Donnelly and I are big fans, and anxiously working our way through it’s final season. In this past Sunday’s episode (title above), the show writers and producers gave many a gift to the long-suffering fans. We all know they were gifts before the coming slaughter, but it didn’t make them any less significant. The most emotional and powerful moment came when Jamie Lannister knighted longtime heroine Brienne of Tarth. You don’t need to know anything about the show to understand the importance of the scene. Brienne is a woman trying to succeed in a man’s world. She is a respected and decorated soldier, driven by the overwhelming need to do what’s right. Yet, she cannot receive the highest honor, a knighthood, simply because she’s a woman. Until Sunday. When Jaime Lannister broke with ‘tradition’ and honored her service, character, and unwavering moral compass, we all cried. Though Brienne wears literal armor, her courage and bravery to be herself at almost all costs, has become the armor for many, many people around the world. That is the power of art.
“I’ll show you that I’m human, just like you.”
Now back to Lyra. One of her most powerful messages was the importance of having difficult conversations. She makes this simple, yet very challenging argument in her TedxStormontWomen talk from 2017. In being brave enough to have these conversations, we can build empathy and understanding, and we can help give people hope, especially the most marginalized, persecuted, and forgotten among us.
“We were the Good Friday Agreement generation, destined to never witness the horrors of war but to reap the spoils of peace. The spoils just never seemed to reach us.”
In honoring Lyra’s journalistic contributions, I wanted to include this moving and relevant article on the suicide rate amongst ‘ceasefire babies’ or children in Northern Ireland born around or after the ceasefires, that experienced little of the everyday violence of the Troubles. She was a gifted writer, seamlessly integrating her North Belfast slang and turns-of-phrase into her clear and concise prose. The article is well researched, and written empathetically, not in the least because Lyra wrote from personal experience. It provides worrisome but necessary nuanced insight into everyday life post-ceasefire. Northern Ireland is a wounded society, still recovering in patchwork ways, from the innumerable traumas suffered during the conflict. The void created by political instability, and lack of proper recognition and treatment of victims and survivors, is being filled with prescription drugs, alcohol abuse, suicides, and continued paramilitary presence. In part, the looming darkness of trauma, educational underachievement, poverty, and job loss in post-ceasefire Northern Ireland, ultimately led to the circumstances of her death.
“Why, in God’s name, does it take the death of a 29-year-old woman, with her whole life in front of her, to get us to this point?”
Lyra’s funeral was yesterday. It was held in Belfast’s St. Anne’s Cathedral and attended by all the major British, Irish, and Northern Irish politicians, including Prime Minister Theresa May, Irish President Michael D. Higgins, and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Father Martin Magill, who gave the homily during the service, asked the above question of the politicians in attendance. Following the reaction over Lyra’s death, many people were hopeful that the collective outrage would prompt movement, and possibly lasting change, from the political establishment, both locally in the Northern Ireland Assembly and nationally in London and Dublin. This article does a yeoman’s job of explaining the significance of her death and it’s potential to motivate change. Yet, only a day after her funeral, and the emotional moment described in the article, statements from the two top parties (Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party) show no appetite for compromise. Though Lyra’s death may not change the province at a governmental level, it has certainly changed society on a fundamental level. With that change, comes hope for the future she imagined.
That wraps up my 5 Friyays – thanks in advance for allowing the dedication of so much space to Lyra McKee. The stories I’ve shared, and lessons we can learn from her death, are not exclusive to Northern Ireland, and so with that I hope you got something out of them whatever your level of familiarity with my beloved province.
Dr. Donnelly will be back next week (probably with some talk of Avengers Endgame) – have a great weekend!!