DUNGANNISTAN, March 17th 2006 – In this small Irish town where more than once in the past a horse has went missing, a quiet St Patrick's Day dawned over the steep streets where the Irish Republican Army allegedly once killed a donkey by mistake.
It's all true. My local newspaper, the Tyrone Courier, once ran a headline: 'Horse has went missing.' In case you didn't notice, the first line of the story continued: 'A horse has went missing from a field near...' And many years ago, a donkey apparently did step on some sort of home-made hidden landmine and, well, went missing. The two incidents are not connected. A horse is helping police with their equerries.
Listening to ever-strident BBC Radio Ulster yesterday it was clear that St Patrick's Day drunks and bad singing were escapable only by re-tuning to Radio 4. Oddly, though, Dungannistan remained half-busy, half on holiday. Mainly Protestant-owned shops opened for the day, whereas Catholic traders took the day off. Leaving my house at around 10am, I glimpsed a marching pipe band scuttling out Thomas Street with a faint squeak of The Fields of Athenry, but otherwise, a silent, grand spring day. I thought about buying a wee shamrock plant for my mother, then -- make of this what you will, shrinks and social anthropologists -- decided I could get one today for half-price.