Another famous writer, John Steinbeck, said, "I am half-Irish, the rest of my blood being watered down with German and Massachusetts English. But Irish blood doesn't water down very well; the strain must be very strong."
It know that's true. That despite everything we encounter, somewhere in the landscape of the heart those Irish genes refuse to lie quiet, but sing out no matter in what country, no mater with who they intermingle. Didn't we learn in school that "the Viking became more Irish than the Irish themselves"?
My niece Caitlin, American by birth, with an English mother and and Irish father, loves Irish dance. I think of her with her red hair flying as she dances for my mother's 80th birthday, in San Francisco. Am I going to tell her that she's not Irish? Or my French cousins that they are not entitled to their Irish heritage?
What makes a person Irish, according to G.B. Shaw (who the New York Times insists on calling British), is a state of mind. Something to ponder as Ireland grapples with its first immigration "problem," and Lithuanians, Romanians, Bosnians, and refugees from Africa become the new Irish.
Note to readers: This essay appeared in a book called Being Irish edited by Paddy Logue.