The Gathering shines new light on post Famine Irish worldwide
Welcome home to Ireland still vital for those families who left
The Gathering has shone a particular light on the question of why do 70 million people around the world regard their identity as Irish – what is such a sense of connection by so many people, including after several generations, all about?
I suppose one of the thoughts that I have had on this as the year has progressed is that it may perhaps have to do with the DNA of the Irish. I asked a scholar friend of mine to put a number on the length of time Irish had been the spoken language of the people of the island of Ireland until its decline and loss in the 19th century. He said about 2,500 years.
So the case can be made that the Irish – and I know there can be a big debate about that term, but let’s at least say “the people living on this island” – were a communal, clan-centred, cohesive, close-knit society with our own language for over two and a half millennia. And then, less than two hundred years ago, two seismic events intervened to change everything – the dramatic decline in the use of Irish as a spoken language, and the Great Famine which resulted in a huge portion of our people either dying or emigrating. As we know, that process of emigration has continued apace in the 170 years or so since then, accelerating in the decades after independence in 1922. As a result, there are now multiple times more people of Irish identity living overseas than there are in Ireland itself, a remarkable reality.
A thought occurred to me from all of that – it could be argued that the 170 years or so period since the Famine is actually a very brief block of time in the context of two and half millennia and not enough to alter the fundamental DNA of the Irish in terms of being a people of community and kinship.
And that therefore, whether we are aware of it or not, that context has meant that the process of separation involved in emigration over the generations has resulted in a sense of, can I call it, psychic loss, for BOTH sides – both for those who left and for those who stayed. A bit like the sensation for twins who are separated at an early stage in life and experience during their subsequent lives apart a sense of not being quite fully whole.
Before I’m taken to task by the scholars, let me fully acknowledge that there is a further dimension of course in the Ireland story in the form of the relationship with England and the consequences of that, including through the plantations of the Northern part of the island of the 17th century. The story of the Ulster Scots in the Ireland narrative and the significant numbers of that community who emigrated during the 18th and 19th century, particularly to North America, is an important piece of our demographic and diaspora jig-saw in its own right and deserving of a full study of its own. But I don’t believe it takes from the basic point I’m making above about what I would call the indigenous Irish.
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This is one time that I have to agree with you chuck, except for the Socialist part of your comment. I think that you are bang on. I believe that withOffensive NFL sign outside restaurant just a symptom of a larger problem
Why not simply remove red from the American language. I am sure that communists are offended by it as well. St.Johns was once the Red Storm, now theyThe New York Times questions Ireland’s highly-praised economic recovery
If the article did not specify Ireland, one might think it was about the U S. Ireland shrinks its unemployment via emigration, we shrink it by not cou62-year-old Boston priest caught with prostitute behind cemetery
Another error of judgement I suppose, being human and all that. Bloody disgusting.