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2008-02 The Celtic Tenors: Ireland is on the right track

by Harry de Jong
for de Gelderlander

The Celtic Tenors, three Irishmen from the north and the south, protestant and catholic, are touring the country. They share the stage as friends.

Two Protestants and a Catholic from the north and the south of Ireland who share the stage as friends. The famous three tenors of The Celtic Tenors claim to represent the New Ireland. For according to Daryl Simpson, Matthew Gilsenan and James Nelson, Irishmen with a background like theirs would have beaten each other's brains in thirty years ago.

Daryl Simpson: "I come from a protestant family in the north of Ireland and witnessed a bombing in my hometown of Omagh. The date of 15 August 1998 is engraved in my memory forever. A car bomb had been planted in a shopping street, killing 29 people. I was out on the street when it happened. Smoke and flames, people screaming, dead bodies on the street; it was like watching a war movie. After the attack in Omagh, I set up a youth choir, through which I want to unite protestant and catholic youths by singing together. That was my answer to the violence."

James Nelson: "In the south of Ireland, where I grew up, 95 percent of the population is catholic. As southern Irish protestants, my family and I were a minority. Add to that the fact that my mother was originally from Northern Ireland and my father from the south, and you have a practically impossible marriage. I never knew my mother's side of the family, because they refused to visit us. And now it's too late for that; they have all died."

Matthew Gilsenan: "I am a Catholic from the south of Ireland and come from a family with republican ideals. When I was ten years old, my parents and I lived near the border with Northern Ireland. Because everything was cheaper there, we usually went grocery shopping in Northern Ireland. And, almost without fail, a machine gun would be stuck through the car window by a soldier who wanted to know exactly what we were there for. For us children, this was pretty frightening."

"In the Ireland of today, not all Catholics and Protestants get along, but the fact that The Celtic Tenors with their different backgrounds can share the stage as friends, shows that we are on the right track."