An Irishman in Cairo on the night of liberation


When I spoke to Bernard O'Kane in Cairo on Friday evening local time, he was just a few miles from Tahrir Square, driving to join the jubilant throngs who had just received the incredible word that Hosni Mubarak was gone.

Bernard, a native of Belfast, has spent thirty years in Cairo, lecturing in Islamic architecture at the American University there.

This day he considered one of the greatest of his life.

He had driven from the suburb of Maadi, ten miles away, and could barely inch along given the tens of thousands out on the street celebrating.

"The people are so joyful, there are incredible scenes the whole way in" he said. "The people have done it."

These are incredible moments" he said, "the last few days nobody knew what was going to happen, but today has seen such an amazing moment."

In Tahrir Square yesetrday people had come up to him, realizing he was a foreigner and told him their hopes and dreams for the new Egypt.

That new Egypt was still in the balance until today's events.

Once Mubarak quit It was like a damn had burst and the spirit of a great and ancient civilization was suddenly unleashed.

Asked what was the tipping point for the departure of Mubarak he said it was most definitely the economy.

Everything was at a standstill and the protesters were not going away he explained, the Egyptian leaders were destroying the economy by not conceding , so they only had one recourse open to them.

He had been in the square last night but left before the Mubarak broadcast when he said he was staying. The mood suddenly turned very sombre.

But today the hopes and dreams had been fulfilled.

With Bernard was a young Egyptian artist, May Kaddah who suddenly saw a whole new future for her three year old son.

The joy and elation in her voice was clearly audible.

'This was the people's revolution" she said, "there was no leader, the people altogether spoke."

She explained how she had spent days on Facebook, communing with other Egyptians, swapping articles and debating the future.

"Now the future is here:" she said "and my country is free."

A quote from Irish labor leader James Larkin came to mind when I put down the phone.

"The great appear great only because we are on our knees. Arise"

The Egyptians are a risen people

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