to England is something which I have done frequently
since my release from prison ten years ago. During
those visits I have spoken in a number of universities
to audiences interested in something other than the
standard line. Peterhouse Cambridge, was something
else. Being well used to the circuit it held no trepidation
for me. But because it had in a sense been the bosom
in which were nurtured future leaders of the British
ruling class, the challenge that lay ahead seemed
stimulating. There could hardly be a sharper clash
of ideas than that between the intellectual product
of the republican H-Blocks and that of Peterhouse.
struck me immediately as a city built around a university.
It was its reason for existing. Previously my familiarity
with the town was through occasionally watching the
annual boat race - hoping to see the lot of them capsize,
which only happened once I think. There was also Peter
Cooke, the Cambridge rapist whose nefarious activities
captured the media spotlight in the mid 1970s. And
the city also hosted a football team which is probably
best forgotten about.
Simms, who invited me to speak proved an excellent
host. Politically the only thing we seemed to agree
upon was that there had been no revolution in Ireland.
On Palestine, Iraq and US foreign policy we were as
far apart as Long Kesh and Peterhouse. After he and
I walked through the college and discussed its history
I delivered my paper. The audience was gracious and
heard me out politely before asking a range of questions.
Given their background which contrasted so sharply
with my own, I was somewhat surprised by the lack
of sparks. But there was no animosity - just intellectual
departing my sumptuous room in the college, I walked
through the city to the train station, stopping on
my way to buy two books. Long Kesh left Peterhouse
much as it had arrived - polite but not persuaded.
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