What makes the Irish unique? Why do over 70 million people worldwide embrace their Irish heritage? What does it mean to be Irish today? These and other questions are addressed in this fascinating new book.
Being Irish gathers a diverse group of 101 people of all ages and backgrounds, each trying to give expression to that special something that is more or less recognisable as Irishness. There is a particular emphasis in this collection on a new generation of Irish, both home-grown and recent arrivals. These young people embrace their Irish identity as fervently as do their elders, but don’t necessarily have the same values, concerns and aspirations. Here the voices of this new generation can now be heard.
No matter the age group, the reflections in this volume show that we can be Irish by birth, Irish by ancestry, Irish by geography, Irish and British, Northern Irish, Irish by accident, Irish by necessity, Irish and European, Irish by association, Irish by culture, Irish by history, Irish and American and Irish by choice.
Among the contributors to Being Irish are Dr Teresa Lambe, co-inventor of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine; Emma deSouza, who took the British Government to Court over her Irish identity; General Martin Dempsey, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the US; LeAnne Howe, who describes the gift the Choctaw Nation sent to Ireland during the Famine; Dr Norah Patten, hoping to be Ireland’s first astronaut; Merlin Holland, Oscar Wilde’s only grandchild; plus many other well known people like Gerry Adams, Sonia O’Sullivan, Eamonn Holmes, Micheál Martin, Lisa McGee, Leo Varadkar, AP McCoy, Keith Wood and Annie MacManus among others.
Taken together, the absorbing life stories contained in Being Irish provide an illuminating and entertaining look at what it means to be Irish today.
About the Editor
Marie-Claire Logue is a solicitor based in Derry, Northern Ireland.
Quotes from BEING IRISH
On a United Ireland? ...
‘It has taken generations, but we are now on the cusp of finding our way back and healing from this trauma. The prospect of Irish unity is a necessary, normalising change which needs to happen for all of the island. This change is happening, and I believe that all of us need to begin preparing for Irish unity and to prepare ourselves for the changes ahead.’ – Mary-Lou McDonald, Leader of Sinn Féin
‘Could I imagine my children living in and being comfortable in a “new” united Ireland? Yes, but only if they don’t carry my baggage and my memories. And that’s because the “new” Ireland would be as new to them as it would be to everyone else...’ – Alex Kane, former director of communications for the Ulster Unionist Party
‘It is said “memories are the architecture of our identity”, this being the case Unionist identity for many, not least my own, has been strengthened not only by the experience of Irish Republican terrorism in living memory, but over four centuries of Irish nationalistic intransigence of failing to embrace the reality of the presence of others.’ – Mervyn Gibson, Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland
On Being Irish, But ...
‘Because [being] Irish looks like the children who are born here with Nigerian names and thick Cork accents, just as much as it looks like old lads in flat caps nursing pints and swapping jokes.’ – Sinéad Blaché-Breen, Irish musician and author
‘I will never forget that moment when I got news that I had been granted Irish naturalisation. I was at my local library studying for my Leaving Cert and suddenly I felt like I was one of you, one of the team, one of the nation’s people. I looked around me and I thought inwards, “yes finally, this is it! I’m accepted now!” How wrong teenage me was. You might cry at the number of times I have been trolled online with phrases like “you’ll never be Irish”, but I laugh and roll my eyes.’ – Ola Majekodunmi, Irish language broadcaster
‘On the surface I might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an Irish woman. And that’s okay. After all, I’m a proud Montserratian also. The black Irish of the Caribbean. I often say that it’s no accident that Caribbean and Irish people are so similar. It’s that same quick-witted sense of humour and the ability to disarm almost everyone when we are being our most honest and authentic.’ – Santis O’Garro, life coach
On Wearing the Green ...
‘I just couldn’t wear the three lions and I could never stand for “God Save the Queen” with pride. . . . Playing for Ireland to me meant standing for the anthem and playing for my people, and as cheesy as that sounds it meant everything to me. I’ll never forget my first call up for Ireland under 21s and the first time I stood for our anthem in Drogheda. I feel honoured and privileged to have represented my country over a hundred times in international football.’ – Kevin Kilbane, former Irish international footballer
‘Wherever I went to the furthest corners of the earth, there was always at least one Irish flag in the stadium. I recall particularly at remote track meetings in India and Qatar seeing a few Irish flags in the packed stadiums. You begin to realise there are more Irish people living outside Ireland and, when there is a reason to connect, they are the first in line. I still experience the Irish welcome wherever I go.’ – Sonia O’Sullivan, Olympian and World Champion
The Great and the Good . . .
‘Irish culture still illuminates my work as a diplomat and has helped me connect with people all over the world, whether I’m Ambassador in Paris speaking about Samuel Beckett, or here at the United Nations standing beside the late Eavan Boland discussing Irish suffragettes.’ – Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the UN
‘There are myriad ways of being Irish, but my indomitable Irishness stems not from touching the surface of daily life, but from living in the wake of our history and arguing with it, being moved by our literature and the physical and intellectual landscape it evokes, and hearing our music chime while having something mysterious inside me sing back.’ – Daniel Mulhall, Ireland’s Ambassador to the US
‘The people who shout loudest about someone not being Irish enough, who cling to a rigid conception of identity, and attempt to deny it to others are cowards who are afraid of what being Irish really means. They are insecure about their own identity and try to over-compensate by lashing out at others. They are really at war with themselves.’ – Leo Varadkar, Tainaste
On Fighting for Rights . . .
‘The importance of identity, and its complexity, lay at the centre of my own lived experiences after I was ensnared in a half-a-decade long court challenge with the British Home Office over the right to be accepted as Irish.’ – Emma DeSouza, law reform advocate
‘Because let’s face it, my generation is being handed a broken planet unlike the past generations and we are the ones who are going to fix it, but for that to happen we need to understand climate change and how to stop it.’ – Flossie Donnelly, 14-year-old environmental activist
‘Is it any wonder that so few of us are out about our HIV status? Forty years after the first cases of AIDS were reported, people still think that we can pass on HIV from kissing, and from sharing a glass of water or even a toilet seat in Ireland.’ – Robbie Lawlor, HIV activist
A Protestant Perspective . . .
‘Sometimes I feel that as northern Protestants we are the forgotten, ignored Irish. We’re not Catholic, we’re not southerners, we’re not what literature has portrayed as Irish, but that doesn’t make us any less a part of this island or any less Irish.’ – Linda Ervine, first Irish Language Officer in a loyalist area
‘At Glencree . . . Centre for Peace and Reconciliation . . . faith and life intersected in ways they never had before, and presented me with a new vocabulary to describe the possibility of being both Presbyterian and Irish.’ – Rt Rev Dr David Bruce, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland
An American Viewpoint . . .
‘They didn’t tell us about the Irish who fought in the American Revolution, the Civil War, and all the wars since, earning more Medals of Honor citations than any other ethnic group; and they didn’t tell us that the Irish helped build the railroads, and skyscrapers, that they panned for gold, and worked in the copper mines in Butte, Montana, that they would go on to become the face of public service, and even become legends of stage and screen.’ – Patricia Harty, Founder and Editor, Irish America magazine:
‘All things Irish is who I am also, how I was raised, and how we raise our son, Aidan. The Irish sense of tradition, faith, resiliency … the Irish love of literature, art, music … the innate Irish way of taking care of one’s neighbor, the land, trying to take life slower and not so seriously – these encompass ‘Irishness’ to me.’ – Eileen Ivers, musician
On the Irish Abroad . . .
‘Once, crossing the frontier between Montenegro and Albania during the Kosovo war, a Serb military checkpoint asked what country we were from. When we said Irish, the commander declared: ‘The Serbs and Irish are brothers.’ – Tony Connelly, Europe Editor for RTÉ News and Current Affairs
‘The Indonesians sat on the west side and the UN sat on the opposite side. The tension was palpable, fuelled by mistrust on both sides. When the meeting concluded, the Indonesian General stood up, walked slowly towards the back of the tent, in my direction. He pointed to my Ireland flash on my left arm, smiled and said, “You’re from Ireland. Do you know Captain Johnny Murphy?”’ – Major General Maureen O’Brien, Deputy Military Advisor, UN
On Northern Irishness . . .
‘As a Derry woman I am proud to be Irish – but there has to be space for those who are not Irish. In NI one half of the population is pushing something on the other half. If we could only identify the words and terms that we could all agree on.’ – Lisa McGee, creator, writer and executive producer of Derry Girls
‘I joined the police (RUC) in 1976. It was a British police service but its badges and symbols included the harp and the shamrock, and the uniform colour was green whereas every other UK police service had blue uniforms. Much of my adult life has been working in the British system rather than the Irish system, but none of that has diluted my Irishness.’ – Peter Sheridan, former police officer, Northern Ireland
On a New Generation . . .
‘History has always told us to get out of Ireland. How there is nothing for us there, and we have found that hard to move past. But there has been a shift in that tide. Time has moved on and our generation is now starting to reap what was sown by the generations before us. Ireland now has become as much of a paradise as anywhere we were leaving for. And the grass is most certainly greener.’ – Ryan McMullan, singer/songwriter
‘ . . .my perception of ‘being Irish’ certainly evolved with my Rose of Tralee experience. I have long been fascinated by the connection the International Roses have with Ireland, many of whose ancestors left Ireland decades or even centuries ago. One American Rose in my 2019 group became aware of her Irish heritage solely through a commercial DNA test, but was in fact one of the most passionate Irish people I have ever encountered.’– Sinéad Flanagan, current Rose of Tralee
So, after 34 years on this earth, how Irish do I feel? Very much so – and at the same time, not at all. Some days I prefer to be European above all else. Other days I want to leave this country and never come back. But most days, I feel rooted to this small, windy western island. We get so many things wrong here, and we pat ourselves on the back far too much. Ach, ag deireadh an lae, is Éireannach fíor-bhródúil mé (But at the end of the day, I’m a very proud Irish woman). – Sorcha Pollak, Irish Times journalist
- Additional Information
Author Carroll, Eoin Editor Logue, Marie-Claire Print Format Paperback ISBN-10 No ISBN-13 9781838359348 Illustrations 100 B&W photos Date of Publication October 5, 2021 Number of Pages 320