Béal na mBláth


Béal na mBláth

I often wonder how that young Private felt,
when he saw the blood flow from Collins,
to mingle with the dirt in Beal na mBláth,
struck down by a ricochet,
the echoes still reverberating,
ringing through the decades.

At 19 a killer,
hands stained with English and Irish blood,
armoured in the green of Éire,
sworn by oath to the free state,
the pathway to our republic,
Risen rebel soldier,
with hand grenade & Lewis gun,
bayonet & faith.

To watch Micheal dead,
the dark stains spreading out trickling to the ditch,
like civil war cancer which spread from shore to shore,
Did it fall silent?
Did the peal of rifles cease?
Did they lament & weep?
At another mothers son snuffed out amongst the ancient hills of Cork.

What genius did we lose in the moment,
as that cursed round tore his head off at the side,
what cursed luck has Ireland,
that traitors oft chose to stab her in the back,
they felled the most loyal one on the roadside,
The Big Fella lay dead in the mouth of flowers.

My Grand-Uncle William Barry was the driver of the armoured car providing security for the detail in Beal na mBláth.
Sliabh na mBan, referred to as ‘Slievenamon’ in its earlier, anglicised form, is one of thirteen 1920 pattern Armoured Rolls Royce cars acquired from the British by the fledgeling Irish Free State.
All the males in my paternal line have worn the uniform of the state, for over 100 years a Barry has served beneath the tri-colour with Óglaigh na hÉireann.

Soldier Still


Soldier Still

I saw the reverent hands unfold the cloth,
the medals laid with old memories to rest,
blanketed in a white shroud,
serving to muffle the scraping sounds,
like April’s soil absorbed the impact of screeching mortars.

The pride in the aged serge cloth,
snug fitted belonging to a younger man,
witness to the pain at Qana,
where Jesus turned water to wine and artillery turned all to death & dust,
the familiar hug of peaker cap about the brow,
historical brass centred on the head,
burrowing into the mind with patriotic dreams.

Those gentle hands that hold a son, fighter like his father,
the mounted crests on arms that shield a family,
and a voice that roared no more,
spat upon with infamy,
as cowards strike with calumny.

Soldier still, with hands that have both shook & struck,
fighting for all sisters & brothers of sacred oath,
plastic keys replacing plastic rifle,
barbed comment replacing barbed wire,
from Bekaa to Finglas the defiance is simmering,
like a bayonet,

Those honest hands that put words upon the page,
have erred yet have not lied,
nor have they shyed away,
steadfast day after day,
urging all to engage, no wasted energy on rage,
the naked truth cannot hide,



Centre stage,

a volunteer remains bent unto their duty,
a soldier still fights for right,
for life.


The soldier featured in the video below and in the work above is Dr Tom Clonan a retired army officer, author and security expert.

Soldier Still is about violence. A new dance theatre work that blends movement, text, music, real stories and real people, creating a harrowing tale of beauty and brutality. A cast of Irish and international dancers and former soldiers collaborate with an exceptional creative team to explore the viciousness, the vulnerability and the trauma of violence. Previous Artists-in-Residence at Tate Britain, award-winning Junk Ensemble have built a reputation in Ireland as dance innovators. 

“Junk Ensemble has created some of the most impressive contemporary dance in Ireland … Enthralling and exact.” The Sunday Times



Torch light flickers over university grass,
where imposing bronzes are as hollow as their deliberate message,
rewriting history and celebrating ignorance,
demonising orange pickers and glorifying slavers.

Blood & soil chants,
fat Nazis in combat pants,
fake fatherland hero’s,
cowards in cheap swastikas,
shaming Old Glory with runes of death,
grasping at history which never was,
for a future that will never be.

From Omaha beach to Virginia,
people died to resist the last tidal wave,
these thugs always so quick with a list,
automatic rifle army surplus lynch mobs,
longing to burn flesh instead of crosses.

Failed weekend warriors,
praying to Jesus while spitting on Jesús,
beer bellied Teutons emboldened by arch degenerates,
wizards, grand dragons and clowns,
the manipulation of the poor and ignorant by the most deviant rich.

In a garden store Nuremberg rally,
desperate for their boot to find somebodies neck,
to stand for a moment above another,
for that instant feel so superior in a miserable wasted life,
in fevered white supremacy dreams.

Fascism emboldened, suited and booted,
standing in rows on ordinary streets,
militias in chest rigs armed to teeth,
decrying all signs of past progress,
dragging the world back to the past,
when segregation was instituted and apartheid was openly preached.




As the rain it fell,
they stood in silent sentinel,
the youth whose life barely fills a page,
for those alas who will never age,
most gave their life on foreign soil,
where the cedar bleeds or hewn in Katangian dust.

One fell at Derrada Wood & earned his star,
one lost far out on the unforgiving sea,
borne away on Scuabtuinne,
another in distant hills of Fataurlo,
more lost in flight on that darkest night,
one more rolled in Bantry waves, seven lives for to save.

The eternal flame,
the unknown dreams,
the bronze busts and limp half mast flag,
the sympathy & sighs from those who linger and remain,
to keep a fleeting vigil as heroes sleep.

Pause for a second,
wet your eye,
think of those who lie,
where and whence they died,
did they breath with that last gasp,
wives, sons, mothers or their daughters name?

Families baring such pain,
aching loss as gun carriage rattles past,
the click of leather heel and clink of brass,
mournful last post bugle call,
rifles bark the final retort,
shock & quiver the teardrops fall,
and all is quiet,
and all is still,
as the rain falls.