Under the Shelter of Each Other

A Letter from The Road

a Chara, n

This is mostly a politics-free letter. Last Thursday I turned on my out-of-office notifications and headed out on holiday.

I wanted to the use the opportunity to spend some time with family, meet up with friends, and see parts of the US that I normally miss.

The starting point was Washington, a town I know well, but one my family had never visited. Days were spent in Smithsonian Museums, we were given an incredibly informative tour of Congress thanks to Tom, Will, Zach and Lizzy. As Will said, “The day you don’t get that nervous going into the Congress is probably the day to leave.”

Evenings were spent catching up with friends. Normally I am rushed for time, but not on this trip. The craic was good with stories told and laughs shared.

Then onto Nashville and Memphis. As a music buff, this is Mecca, but also my first time in the South. Soul, blues, country, and barbecue. A bit of a cliche, perhaps, but a very enjoyable one. I even tried my hand at honkytonk dancing. There is a reason why Belfast men don’t dance. Apologies for any broken toes.

All of this felt very familiar, but also very new and different. I grew up listening to these songs and these genres of music, as well as watching TV programs where the men wear Stetsons and cowboy boots. I’ve seen some in Tyrone do the same, but they looked out of place. Here it was natural.

In Washington I was too excited when I saw Evel Knievel’s motor bike. Growing up in the 1970’s in Belfast, I was obsessed with him and the wind up Evel bike I got one Christmas.

Just as Ireland and our exiles have shaped lives and culture in the US, so too has US culture shaped our lives in Ireland. The world is a small place, and we all shape each others lives.

‘Ar scáth a cheile a mhaireann na daoine’ is an old Irish proverb, translated as “we all live in each others shadow/shelter.”

There is more in common than that which separates us, and we owe each a debt of care.

One who understood that well was Sean Harte, a Tyrone man, who emigrated to Canada. He built a life and raised a family. He never forgot his home. Sean died at the weekend. He was a committed and well respected Irish Republican. I shared a platform with him at this years Easter Commemoration in Toronto. A GAA man, he was chair of the body in North America and was voted Irish Canadian of the year. He will be sorely missed by his friends and comrades in Canada and Ireland.

He was always there with careful words and a warm welcome. He touched the lives of many who sought to build a life away from home.

Condolences to Noelle and Justin and Catherine. Thank you for sharing Sean with us. Sean lived by the meaning of Ar scáth a cheile a mhaireann an daoine.

Ar Dreiser dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Is mise,


Ciarán Quinn is the Sinn Féin Representative to North America. Each week he writes a letter from Ireland with news and analysis. It is featured in the weekly Friends of Sinn Féin USA Newsletter. Be sure you are subscribed to stay up to date.