Irish Integration

14 Oct



   The most striking part of our weekend in Galway was our trip to the Aran Islands. The first inhabitants on Inis Mór found a southern region of cliffs, and rocky landscape and a more sustained, tree ridden, and coastal northern region. The inhabitants cut down the forests to use as construction material and for fire, however they didn’t realize that the trees protected the landscape, and helped to keep it fertile. The islands took a harsh beating and were ready to be reverted back into an abandoned land of rock. Congregating and fighting the unforgiving environment the people of the Aran Islands rebuilt the landscape, created their own soil, and fought against the punishing Atlantic to catch fish. Their tenacity is incredible and the fact that there is still a sustainable population on these islands to this day shows the resoluteness of people in general, specifically the early Irish settlers. These first inhabitants of the islands were Celtic Pagan tribes who built the monumental stone forts at the islands’ highest points. When Ireland converted to Christianity, several churches and monasteries were built as well, because the Islands were so empty and beautiful it was a tranquil place for worship, and consideration of creation. The forces of English empire did not leave the islands untouched. Cromwell’s troops reached Inis Mór in the late 17th century, ransacking several forts and churches to build their own stronghold at Castle Arkin. For the most part though, the English left this island alone due to its limited resources. Hiking in an ancient burial ground our tour guide pointed out something written on one of the stone walls in Irish. It translated as two cannons, which represents the unity of the different peoples and religions coming together during this time. It seems like a point of surrender on both ends, two cannons that may have faced each other, ready to fire meeting in the middle and remaining unused. With this coming together places such as this burial ground could be built, society was able to be built, peoples were able to move forward with enriched culture and religion. Similar to the unity of the two canons inscription is the unity found in the Celtic cross, and the Irish flag. The Celtic cross was introduced during the time of Saint Patrick converting the Pagan Irish. It is believed to be the combined symbol of the Christian symbol of the cross and the pagan symbol of the sun which both have life giving properties. The cross where Jesus died for us to remain, and the Sun, which sustains the lives that were saved. In Irish history it’s the wild banning together that seems to help sustain culture time and time again. In more modern times the Irish flag represents the unity between the Protestants and the Catholics. While there is still animosity that exists unity has occurred throughout history to create whole nations of shared cultures, and ideas. The white portion of the flag, the two cannons coming together, the peace has helped to create life. Galway with all its beauty, structures, and inhabitants provided me with a window of what amalgamation can accomplish, an astonishing culture with endless viability.



– Nicolette Graham


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