Dear Northern Ireland, hold firm because we are on our way back

The heinous actions of a rogue minority won’t destroy the breathtaking beauty NI has to offer
Daragh and family (Sarah, Chloe and Mia) in front of the famous H&W port in Belfast last summer

Daragh and family (Sarah, Chloe and Mia) in front of the famous H&W port in Belfast last summer

Daragh and Mia at Fratelli's in Belfast in 2019

Daragh and Mia at Fratelli's in Belfast in 2019

Daragh Keany

Dear Northern Ireland,

It’s your old pal Daragh from Dublin here and I just want to let you know that we are here for you, honestly we are.

I know you are going through a bit of a bad time right now but we know it is just a phase you are going through. Every family has to deal with the tear away teen or the rogue kid who insists on acting against everyone else. It just so happens that your splinter group is making headlines due to some of their actions.

But we have been through too much together to let some narrow-minded thugs ruin our relationship. We have history together; a context that allows me to watch the various videos of cars and busses being petrol bombed and know that it does not represent the real you.

Sure, some of those idiotic louts weren’t even born when the Good Friday Agreement was signed so they don’t realise how far we’ve come as a family. And let’s face it, they probably feel abandoned by the mainland right now as talk of Brexit and a United Ireland is front-page news.

But they are a tiny sample of the Northern Irish people and as a proud Dubliner I just want you to know that we won’t forget the good times. We won’t ignore the memories, the trips, the weddings, the life-long pals we’ve made through the years just because of some shocking videos and pictures on Twitter.

My love affair started with a day trip up to Belfast in 1994 with my parents. Just weeks after the initial ceasefire was announced, we headed north. Sheryl Crow’s ‘All I Wanna Do’ was the big hit at the time and was played constantly all the way up the M1.

That love affair still continues 26 years later culminating with my own family heading north for an unforgettable summer holiday in Portrush last August that my kids are still talking about eight months later. Not cool that you kept that little slice of northern coastline heaven a secret for so long though.

The Game of Thrones walks, the Giant’s Causeway, the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, the beaches, the funfairs, the people and sweet baby Jesus the food. Over four days we ate in 55 Degrees North, Ramore and Harry’s Shack and all four members of Team Keany were treated like royalty.

Daragh and Mia at Fratelli's in Belfast in 2019

Daragh and Mia at Fratelli's in Belfast in 2019

There have been other family breaks to Belfast with excursions to W5, the Titanic, We Are Vertigo inflatable park and an unforgettable evening in Fratellis where we made our own pizzas and brought the leftovers back to the hotel room to gorge on.

Not to forget the weekend in Armagh that we had a few years back for the Cider Festival (the kids still think mummy and daddy were drinking apple juice all weekend by the way) that opened our eyes to yet another city north of the border and another gem.

You don’t just look after the kids too when we head up. There have been romantic getaways both pre and post kids that stick out in my mind. The Dunadry welcomed us as newlyweds back in 2007 (which included a daytrip to the Bushmills distillery) and three years later we spent 48 hours in the capital at the Merchant Hotel.

My wife was seven months pregnant at the time and we used our last ever break away before we became parents to stock up on excessive-yet-discounted baby paraphernalia. Although I think my wife’s eternal memory was meeting Jimmy Nesbitt in a lift.

There was my cousin’s wedding in Derry city back in 2012 that brought me to the Walled City for the first time and hosted one of the best nights of the last decade. We’ll be back.

There have also been countless visits to our pals in Downpatrick that have varied from overnight stays watching Conor McGregor fights to family walks along the Newcastle promenade jumping into local arcades before grabbing lunch in some welcoming gastro pub and heading back home to Dublin.

You see, Northern Ireland won’t be defined by the actions of some disenfranchised eejits over the last couple of weeks. I think you know that already, but I want to assure you that as soon as the pandemic is over we will travel across the border again in our hundreds of thousands.

Personally, there will be some revisits but there is also a whole lot more I have to discover about stunning six counties.


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