16 January 1997 Edition

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The old boys (and girls) of the brigade

By Laurence McKeown

I saw the Irish Brigade for the first time on 30 December last. Well, I heard them rather than saw them and from what I was told they were a slimmed-down version of what they once were, three members rather than five.

They were playing in Anagaire in the Gaeltacht region of Donegal, in Liam and Tina's hostelry, an absolutely marvellous pub where the craic and ceol added as much warmth to the place as did the coal fire that permanently burned in the grate.

The patrons were a young crowd; with a few exceptions our group made up the oldest in the bar. On this occasion, however, this turned out to be very much a bonus for us as they seemed more willing to stand around, whereas us more senior citizens just wanted to put bums on seats - and preferably seats adjacent to the bar. In no time at all we had them planted in an ideal corner.

It was a pleasant surprise to see such a young crowd at a function which was a fund-raiser for the Prisoners Dependents' Fund. I had already formed the opinion even before hearing the Irish Brigade that it was not the type of group to pose any serious challenge to Oasis or Boyzone, so to have not only a young but also very modern crowd in attendance was encouraging.

It set me thinking about the fear I have that our Movement is a rapidly ageing one and that the new up-and-coming faces are difficult to spot. Granted, there are some but you have to search for them. My anxiety over this issue was heightened all the more last year when Tina in our local cumann said that she was the only member of it under 25 years of age, and the age difference between her and the next youngest was well into double figures. It was heartening therefore to look around at such a young crowd attending a republican function.

During a break in the music I stood up to look closer at a framed plaque on the wall and as I studied it one young lad standing in company nearby turned to me and said, ``That's Caoimhín Mac Bradaigh. He was a Volunteer from this area.'' It was a comment simply by way of passing on information. The words were not uttered in a boastful manner yet nevertheless they were said with a sense of pride that the locality had produced someone of the calibre of Caoimhín. There was no additional information. The lad simply turned back to his company.

Incidents like that haven't exactly changed my opinion that our Movement is any less ageing. Though it is heartening that in the same week in a poll among young people Gerry Adams was voted the most impressive political leader.

On a lighter note we also had the good fortune whilst in Anagaire to meet with Sean and Aodh, the stars of the critically acclaimed sitcom on Teilifís na Gaeilge, C U Burn (which makes it all the more urgent for us to get our TVs correctly tuned in to T na G). It's good to see locals make good. it's good to see the Gaeltacht make good. Gur fada buan a saothair.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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