“Tradition can be cruel you know, and we used to do a very cruel thing on the day after Christmas...”
In his sermon on St Stephen’s Day, a priest from County Cork recalls the now-outmoded wren hunting tradition. Boys on the cusp of manhood would be sent out to kill a wren, and later the parish would gather for the burial of the bird. The tradition symbolised the burial of the past, promising a fresh start in the new year. But it was cruel, and tradition, Father Conor concludes, does not legitimise cruelty.
Later that day, Conor drives his nephew to prison to visit a battle-worn inmate. Their visit is one born of a new 21st Century Ireland, which casts a critical eye on tradition. But within the prison walls, progress operates at a different pace; and runs alongside the threat of violence.